Word Count: chapter: 4,425||story: 22,914
No one said a word for several moments. All of them were too busy simply staring at Daisuke, trying to take in what he'd just said. It was Takeru who broke the silence. “Don't be stupid. We do trust you. It's what the Kaiser might make you do that we don't trust.”
Daisuke's eyes shot quickly over the blond, warming at the friendship and the concern implied in the words. “I guess you're right.” He reached up lightly to touch the collar, feeling as if he'd done that a thousand times since that morning. The familiarity was comforting and disturbing at the same time. “So what now?”
“Now I take a look at that thing and see what I can figure out about it.” Koushirou said, moving closer to him, his laptop on the table in front of him. “Would you prefer going somewhere a little more private?” The redhead looked around briefly, indicating the crowded lunchroom. “This might be a bit more than they're ready to handle.”
Daisuke nodded quickly, standing up almost as quickly as he'd sat down in the first place. Making a spectacle of yourself was one thing. Being dumb enough to accidentally betray the existence of the Digital world was something else altogether.
“How about we go to the computer room?” Miyako suggested, clearing off the remains of what they'd had quickly and dumped them into the nearest trashcan. “We should have some privacy there.” Hardly anyone used it around this time of day, anyway, except for them.
As they headed down the corridor together, Daisuke found his gaze slightly drawn to the room he'd caught himself staring at earlier. He knew there hadn't been anyone in there, but at the same time, he shivered just at the sight of the place. Maybe I had a nightmare about that place or something? It would make as much sense as everything else that had been going on since the previous night. Which meant it made none at all, really.
That almost made him stop and think. It really had only been a few hours, not even a full day and night, since he'd first opened his eyes in the Kaiser's throne room and this whole nightmare merry go round had gotten started. How swiftly his life had flipped around boggled him.
“All right, sit down, please,” Koushirou motioned Daisuke to a chair as they filed into the computer room. As the door closed behind them, Chibimon, Poromon, Upamon, Tailmon, and Patamon all began to peek carefully out of their hiding places to see what was going on. Chibimon crawled his way into Daisuke's lap and peered up at him.
“What's going on, Daisuke?” The tiny lump of blue digital flesh wondered. Daisuke petted him lightly, pushing the faint memory of Ken doing the same thing to him out of his mind. This was because he liked his partner, not because of...whatever reason it was that Ken was doing it.
“Koushirou's just doing something to help me with whatever the Kaiser's been doing,” Daisuke reassured him. “It's nothing to worry about.”
Chibimon turned his ruby gaze onto the older Chosen then. “Can you help Daisuke?”
“That's what we're going to find out, Chibimon.” Koushirou opened his laptop and started to tap at various buttons. “This shouldn't take very long.” There was a kind of smug certainty about him that sent Daisuke's fingers curling into fists briefly. This kid wasn't that much older than he was, how could anyone have that kind of confidence?
Who isn't you or Ken? Something seemed almost to whisper in his mind, and he mentally jerked back. He wasn't like that, was he? Sure, he didn't doubt that he could do anything he really put his mind to, but that wasn't the same thing! Not at all! He didn't even bother qualifying why he'd thought of Ken in the same sentence.
Reassured on that level, he started to pay a little more attention to what the other redhead was doing. Koushirou muttered softly to himself as he watched some kind of bar growing across his screen. Daisuke wasn't the biggest fan of computers, but he was pretty sure that meant something. It usually did in the movies, anyway.
“It's ready.” Koushirou said as he turned his laptop to face Daisuke and held it up to just about neck level. “Just hold still. You won't feel a thing.”
“I've heard that before.” Daisuke muttered. “Usually right before some nurse sticks a needle in my butt.”
He was almost certain he heard the laptop humming as it did whatever it did. The skin underneath the collar seemed to prickle a little, slowly growing colder and colder. “Um, Koushirou, I don't think this thing likes whatever it is you're doing.”
“It's not animate, Daisuke, it can't like or dislike anything. It just does whatever it does.” Koushirou replied absently, staring at the screen in fascination. “This is remarkable. Absolutely remarkable.”
Miyako stamped her foot imperially, brown eyes flashing. “So what's so great about it? What the heck is that thing?” Daisuke recognized her 'I want to know what's going on right now and if you don't tell me you are going to be in serious trouble' mode. This was getting creepy.
Daisuke stared at the laptop, then clenched his fists around Chibimon a little harder. “Koushirou...that really doesn't feel so...” There was some kind of pulse pulsating at the collar, then a wave of intense cold blasted outward. Daisuke had time to see Koushirou's laptop falling to the floor before complete darkness enveloped him completely.
But it wasn't quite as complete as all that. There was something there. Some kind of a presence. There was no other way he could think of to describe it. Presence, awareness, person. No, not a person.
Two people. Two voices he could hear as if from a very long way off. He tried to listen, to figure out what it was they were saying, and slowly the sounds became a little clearer. He still couldn't see anything, but it was better than nothing.
--thing to do?” Curiosity, and something that sounded a great deal like worry, tinged this voice. It sounded somewhat like a girl's voice.
“Of course it's right!” Arrogance. Not quite like the Kaiser's, but somehow stronger, more intense, if that were possible, and in the same masculine type of tones. “What else would it be? Even if it wasn't, which it is, this is the only thing I can do!”
A quiet sigh from the other person. “I just don't think you're going about this the right way. It's not like he didn't try something like this once before, and it blew up in his face. Badly.”
“This is different. I'm not going to fail. I know exactly what I'm doing. I know where he went wrong, and I won't make those kinds of mistakes.”
“He thought that too.”
Whoever they were speaking to let loose with a furious growl. “Don't ever compare me to that failure! I'm a thousand times the mind he could have ever dreamed of being!”
“Daisuke...Daisuke!” Dark brown eyes opened up, and Daisuke saw Chibimon standing on his chest, stamping with his little feet with every repeating of his partner's name. “Daisuke! Wake up!”
Koushirou loomed over him as soon as he spoke, and Daisuke realized just then that he was laying flat out on the floor of the computer room. “Daisuke? How are you feeling?”
“Fine, fine...” That was Daisuke's immediate response to anything, and it was usually true. He couldn't recall having felt anything but for ages. No, there was that one time when we fought that SeaDramon brigade. He vaguely recalled having been pulled underwater, and seeing a pair of heads swimming out towards him as swiftly as they could. One brilliant blond, that had been Yamato, the other...blue? Yeah, it had been blue. Jyou? No, that didn't quite seem right. But who else could it have been?
He sat up slowly, edging Chibimon to his lap, and frowned, the half-formed memory flickering away as swiftly as it had come. “What happened? I remember Koushirou was checking out the collar, and then...” His hand reached up as if of it's own will to touch the silver band around his neck. Relief of some kind flooded through him as he realized it was still there, and didn't appear to be harmed. He tried not to think about what that might mean, shoving it into the same category as the voices that had echoed in his mind before he had opened his eyes.
“I wish I knew what happened.” Koushirou shook his head, patting the laptop that was now beside him. “I just managed not to lose everything. Some sort of pulse came from that thing and knocked you out, and almost made me drop the laptop.”
He touched the laptop once again. “But I did find out one thing about the collar. Not what I really wanted to, which would be how we can get it off of you when none of us seem to be able to touch it, but still, it's something we didn't know before.”
“What is it?” Daisuke fingered the collar again, settling it a little more comfortably around his neck. Maybe he found out something about the voices? No, that wasn't possible. The laptop was good, but it couldn't read minds. Could it?
“The collar is made of essentially the same digital matter that the Kaiser's Evil Rings and Spirals are made of. It most likely has most of their same functions as well.”
No one said anything for a few moments, then Iori shook his head. “I thought we'd already come to that kind of conclusion when we first told you about it.”
“Yes, but that was just a guess. Now we know. Or are on the way to knowing, to be more accurate. It can have those functions, as it's made from what they are. Not to mention, that this is digital matter. It shouldn't be able to express itself in our world. Our Digimon are different. They're connected to us, and have a life of their own beyond us. But this is non-sentient matter. Something else altogether, and it should not be happening.”
Daisuke ignored most of that. Ken could do things like that if he tried, he was certain of it. Besides, the fact the collar was there at all proved rather handily that it could exist in their world. He trailed his fingers across the collar again, then yanked them away as hard as he could, closing his hands gently around Chibimon. “It does have the same abilities that the rings and spirals do.” He spoke without even thinking. “But that's not all it can do.”
“Really?” Koushirou turned to him, fascination in his black eyes. “How do you know? And why didn't you say anything before?”
“I...” Daisuke blinked several times, trying to clear his mind. “I don't know.” For a heartbeat or two, he thought he was kneeling somewhere, with Ken standing in front of him, that arrogant smirk twisting his usually calm and fair features, and heard his smug voice telling him, Partially. But not entirely. You'll find out other things it does soon enough.
Then, as if a sponge had wiped it away, the mental image and voice were both gone. Daisuke blinked again, then looked up at the others. “All right, if that's all, I think we need to get on into the Digital World. I don't care what the Kaiser's trying to do, we've got dark towers that need to be destroyed.”
“Daisuke, I'm not certain it's such a good idea for you to be going there as long as you have that on.” Koushirou looked at him, concern in his eyes. “You know why.”
Daisuke met Koushirou's eyes firmly. “I know. But I'm going anyway. I'm not going to let anyone stop me from doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Not even the Kaiser.” He touched the collar firmly, a faint prickle surging through his fingers as he did. “Or this.”
Without another word, he turned on the computer and pulled out his D-3. Chibimon scampered up to sit firmly on his shoulder as he pulled up the gate program. “Digital Gate, open!”
As Daisuke and Chibimon were downloaded, for a heartbeat or two he thought he heard those same voices from before, flickering through his mind again. There was nothing he could hear clearly, no matter how hard he tried, and before he could even try for more than an instant, he stood outside of one of the TVs. The brilliant blue Digital World sky spread out over him, and the usual weird vegetation echoed the spread around him.
“Daisuke?” He looked down to see V-mon looking around, confusion written all over his face. “Where are the others? They should be here by now.”
“I dunno.” Daisuke turned to look at the TV and dropped to his knees beside it. He tapped it lightly with one finger, trying to get a picture to come up. “Hey, guys, what's the hold up?”
“Daisuke!” For a moment he saw the computer room, with Koushirou seated at the desk as he usually was, then the screen rippled, a flicker of snow filling the screen. When it cleared, the Kaiser's face was looking calmly back at him.
“Welcome back to our world, Daisuke. Did you enjoy your little foray into faux freedom?”
Daisuke had no idea how he managed to keep himself from punching a whole right through the TV screen. The fact it probably would've shattered his hand more than likely helped, but he couldn't swear to it. “What are you talking about?” Ken's cryptic comments were enough to send someone over the edge.
“Now, Daisuke, there's no need to get caught up in mundane trivia. If I somehow failed to inform you, I will let you know what you need to know.”
Somewhere, somehow, Daisuke was quite certain that someone was laughing at him because of this. Whatever Ken was going on about, only Ken knew, and he apparently got quite the thrill from yanking Daisuke around with things like this. “So what is it you think I need to know?” He sneered as much as he could, careless of what the consequences might be. “Who my 'master' is?”
“Oh, I'm quite certain you already know that, and that's why you're on your knees before me.” The smirk was so full of smugness that Daisuke seriously reconsidered punching the screen out. Instead, he just leaped to his feet and glared down at the TV hotly.
“Get on with it! I'm getting bored here. What did you do with the others?”
Ken didn't seem to be disturbed at all by Daisuke's temper. Indeed, he mostly seemed to be amused. It reminded the goggle-wearer most strongly of their first meeting on the cliffs. Ken had been so smug, so confident, so completely contemptuous of them all.
I liked him a lot more when he wasn't like that. The random thought flickered through his mind, and Daisuke shook his head, trying to clear it. What was with him all of a sudden? He couldn't keep thinking things like this. He did not like the Kaiser, not at all!
“Very well. It's simple. I was able to alter where your Gate and theirs opened. Your friends are indeed somewhere in the Digital World. As am I. As are you. If you want to find them, you'll have to look for them. But I'll be looking for you at the same time.”
Daisuke rolled his eyes; couldn't Ken come up with something original, just this once? “Let me guess, if I find them first, I can go free. But if you find me, then I have to stay with you.”
The Kaiser's laugh was almost pleasant. “No, no, no, Daisuke. You're going to stay with me no matter what. You have no choice in that.” The collar pulsed warmly suddenly, and Daisuke had the strangest feeling he was back in the Kaiser's throne room, seated beside Ken, with a strong hand going through his hair over and over again. “But what will happen is this. If you find them first, I'll let you all go home...today...without a fight. If I find them first, then you'll all play a game of my choosing.”
“What kind of game?”
“Would it be any fun if I told you ahead of time?” Ken's lips curved gently into a not-smile. “I rather like the idea of you worrying about it and not being able to tell them anything.”
Daisuke's hand fell at once to his D-Terminal. “What makes you think I can't tell them anything? You can't keep us apart!”
“Go right ahead.” That irritating confidence surged up one more time, and Daisuke began to wonder if he appeared like this to some people, so convinced he was right that he was infuriating. No, they'd say something about it to him. “You have until the sun goes down, in which case the win automatically defaults to me.”
Brown eyes narrowed suddenly. “So what happens if you find me in this thing? Or if I find you?”
“That, my Daisuke, you will see when it happens.” The scene on the TV blinked out at once, and then the small device exploded, sending both V-mon and Daisuke skipping back from it.
“Whoa, he's got a real hot temper, doesn't he?” V-mon cracked, leaning forward a little to examine the smoking remains. “So, what are we going to do, Daisuke?”
The young Chosen worried at his lip for a few moments, then sighed. “I don't think there's anything we can do but play his game, V-mon. If we just sit around, he's going to claim he won when the sun goes down anyway. At least if we try, we might be able to find them before he does, and get out of here. And maybe we can blow up a few s while we're at it, so it won't be a totally wasted trip.”
He fingered the collar again absently. How had Ken managed to twist where he'd landed, and where the others had arrived? Was this one of the other things the collar could do? It sounded vaguely reasonable to him, since it hadn't ever happened until he'd been bound by the glistening thing. He didn't even say anything about it. That seemed a little wrong, but there was nothing he could put his finger on that made it wrong just yet.
“I don't like the Kaiser's games, Daisuke. They usually wind up with you getting hurt. But if you think that's what's right.” There was a nervous twinge to V-mon's voice that betrayed his dislike with the whole situation, and Daisuke couldn't argue with him on that. Then something else seemed to occur to his partner. “Aren't you going to try and get them on your D-Terminal?” V-mon tugged at his pants leg a little when there was no immediate answer, and Daisuke remembered what was going on around him. This sort of drifting off really wasn't like him. He tugged the device out of his jacket and typed up the message as quickly as he could, hoping he didn't mis-spell anything. Touch typing still wasn't his forte, even after all the practice he'd had doing it running from things wanting to eat him.
He waited a few minutes once hitting 'send', then a grin broke over his face as the beep for a returned message sounded. Ha! Ken's not as smart as he thinks he is. He quickly opened it up, then just as quickly groaned.
I told you that you wouldn't be able to contact them, Daisuke. Now stop lazing around and get on the game-trail. Every moment counts, you know.
Daisuke slammed the D-Terminal shut and stared out at the terrain surrounding them. “We still have a few hours until sunset. I don't think Ken would've put them too far away. I think we can do this.”
“What makes you think he wouldn't do that?” V-mon wondered as they started to walk. “Wouldn't he want to make this really hard for us, so he can win?”
“I don't think so.” Daisuke had no idea where he was getting his information. He just knew it was right. This was what Ken would do. Of course that was counterbalanced by the fact Ken hadn't ever done anything like this whole situation in the first place. Just putting up towers and having them be torn down had always been the extent of the game before. Maybe he'd gotten bored, though. He was only human, after all. “He wants it to be a challenge, but if we don't have a chance of winning, it's not a real game.”
He stopped as they came to a clearing and looked down at his partner. “There's no need for us to walk all the way through this. Come on, the faster we can find them, the faster we go home, and I don't remember Ken saying anything about you not armor evolving in this game.” He pulled out his D-3 and one flash of light later, the sleek Armor Digimon of Friendship was coursing through the terrain, Daisuke firmly attached to his back.
I hope we can find the others. He was convinced his reasoning on Ken was right, but that one small deviance kept on nagging at him. There was something wrong with the way Ken had been acting all this time, and he couldn't pin it down. I have to figure this out. There was something achingly important about it.
He clenched carefully at Lighdramon's armor, dodging and weaving to avoid being hit by random tree branches. A few moments later, the trees began to thin out and soon another clearing spilled out ahead of them. Daisuke could feel his partner's muscles bunching and reaching out underneath him, starting to gain a little speed. They were going to do this! They were going to win, somehow! The fact their friends could be virtually anywhere in the Digital World meant absolutely nothing.
“Uh oh.” Lighdramon pulled to a stop and turned slightly. Daisuke had no idea what the problem was at first, then he saw it. It was a slender, elegant dark tower, standing a short distance away from them. They had a clear view of it, and encircling the tower's base was a small group of Digimon, obviously waiting for them. He counted at least half a dozen of them, shivering slightly as he got a good enough look at just what kind of Digimon they were.
For a second there, I thought he'd cloned Gabumon somehow! The Digimon that stood in a row there were almost identical to the other Chosen Digimon of Friendship. What made these different was their coloring, more than just about anything else. Where Gabumon's stomach was blue with red markings, these things had green stomachs with darker green markings. Where his skin was yellow, theirs was a not very attractive shade of pink, and their fur covering was much paler and whiter than his was. The brilliant gold of his horn was not shared by them. Instead, they had much darker coloring there, almost grayish black.
One other thing made them different from Gabumon: around each leg was firmly set one of the Kaiser's rings.
“I don't think they're just going to let us go on by. I think they're called Psychemon, by the way. They're Data types, and they're usually pretty peaceful. But I don't think that means they are right now.” Lighdramon eyed them warily, ready to unleash an attack whenever it seemed necessary. “They look like they're looking at us, anyway.”
“No kidding.” Daisuke flexed his hands a little, feeling the collar almost quivering around his neck. Was it going to have some other kind of reaction to being near other creatures wearing the Kaiser's band now? The possibilities of that joined the every growing list of things he just didn't want to think about. “Guess we're going to have to break those things and bring that tower down before we keep moving.”
Lighdramon waited for nothing more than that as he surged towards the Psychemon. “Blue Thunder!” He blasted the attack at the first of them in line, moving on swiftly to the next without waiting to see what effect it had. Daisuke caught sight of the ring cracking and falling off into dust, and grinned. This wasn't going to be so hard after all!
A few more passes, and not only had all the Psychemon been freed, but a powerful blast by Lighdramon had the tower in ruins. Daisuke patted his partner's shoulder happily. “That was awesome, Lighdramon! You're the best!”
“I bet you say that to all the Digimon.” The armored Digimon almost seemed to be blushing! “Now what do we do?”
One of the Psychemon answered that as he stepped closer to them, bowing a little. “Thank you for freeing us from the Kaiser. If there's ever anything we can do as repayment, please let us know.”
“We're looking for the other Chosen right now. The Kaiser is playing one of his usual sick games with us, and we have to find them as fast as possible.” Daisuke hoped they didn't see the collar. While they were under the Kaiser's control they might have minded, but now, he preferred not to take that kind of chance. “Have you seen them anywhere?”
“Unfortunately, no. But if we see them, we'll--”
“You won't do anything.” The Kaiser's voice cut through the conversation coldly. “And unless you want to be wearing the very latest in fashion where my spirals are concerned, you'll all clear out of here. Now.”
Daisuke couldn't blame the Psychemon for vanishing as swiftly as they could into the underbrush. He wouldn't have been surprised if he'd done the same thing, if he could. Since that wasn't possible, he just glared above to where Ken was hovering on an AirDramon, Wormmon curled up at his feet as was usual. “What are you doing here?”
“Just checking on you.” The icy voice was a trifle warmer now, but it did nothing to soothe Daisuke's irritation. “You're being slowed down quite a bit by tending to this kind of thing, you know. Your friends could be close and you wouldn't know it because you're too busy blowing up my property.”
“Very funny.” Daisuke was not in the mood right now. “What do you really want, Ken?”
“Nothing at all, except for the game to continue.” He leaped down to stand before Daisuke, all graceful flowing cloak and arrogant tilt to his head. “Even though you're so far behind it's impossible for you to win even if I let you.”
“Only because you won't let me contact them so I know where they are! What kind of a sick game is this?”
Ken reached out and placed one gloved finger underneath Daisuke's mouth, shutting it firmly. “Enough. I suppose I should be a little more sporting. I'll give you one clue to where they are, but you have to give me something else in return.”
Daisuke couldn't speak with Ken still holding him firm and silent, but his furious cinnamon-tinged gaze was all that he really needed. Ken chuckled softly, then murmured what he wanted, the words floating across the brief distance between them gently. Daisuke shivered visibly, and Ken simply waited for his answer, dropping his hold on Daisuke's chin.
“You have got to be kidding!” Daisuke gasped, shaking his head and gripping Lighdramon even more closely. “You want me to kiss you?”
To Be Continued