Word Count: chapter: 4,589||story: 46,259
Dark. More dark. And then, just for some variety, shadows. Deep dark
ones. Ken really needed to seek professional help when it came to his
decorating tastes. If he was the one who had fixed this place up in
the first place. Daisuke couldn't be certain. It felt
like it was Ken's fortress, but his feelings really weren't anything
to be depended on anymore.
couldn't hear V-mon anymore. The sad cries had died out not that long
ago. Ken wasn't talking to him either. If he'd had to pick between
the two, he would much rather have heard V-mon. He'd much rather have
been with V-mon, and been as far away
from this place and all the confusing confusions as possible.
thick were the shadows around him that when they finally parted and
light burst into begin all around him, Daisuke still
couldn't see. He jumped a little, freezing in place, and tried to
cover his furiously stinging eyes with one hand. “That was not
was rather amused by it.” Ken's voice. Of course. Who else would it
other's. It wasn't so much a voice in his mind as it was a simple
awareness. He had no idea what to call it, only that it just said
those two words, and then faded away. Daisuke shook his head a
little; he was losing it. Badly.
he knew how this kind of thing went. Memories were flickering through
his mind, himself and Ken, over and over, always with Ken being
stronger, more powerful, dominant, sneering at him with that peculiar
light in his eyes. He knew where he'd heard the voice coming from and
he started over here, still carefully taking each step one at a time
so he wouldn't risk falling.
couldn't have said how he knew, but he wasn't surprised when he
dropped down on his knees, and felt Ken's unmistakeable presence
beside him. A quickly outstretched hand brushed against the side of
the throne, then he stiffened. Someone else's
hand was touching the top of his head.
suppose next you're going to tell me that I'm well trained or
something?” He just sighed the words out. The script was being
followed, and he was almost too tired to care. As much as it burned
in him to just let all of it happen and not
fight, he was so tired of it all. No matter which way he turned, he
always ended up right back here anyway. He was stubborn, but he
wasn't stupid. He had a vague notion of when to quit. He'd just never
thought it would end up like this.
only laughed, not moving his hand, just touching the tips of
Daisuke's hair. “Why should I bother with what we both know?”
Traditional cocky Kaiser remark. Yes, he had the script memorized as
well as Daisuke did. And he'd probably had it memorized before
Daisuke had as well. Just to annoy him.
where's V-mon?” He wasn't going to forget his real goals that
easily. He noticed somewhere in his mind vaguely that he was rubbing
his lower left cheek. Wasn't there supposed to be something other
than smooth skin there?
Daisuke looked up, noting briefly that he was able to see more now.
The blinding light hadn't quite ripped
his sight away permanently, though it had definitely done a good job
of trying. He blinked a few times, waiting for the stinging to
finally stop, and then finally saw where he was.
was almost exactly where he'd thought he'd be. Right where this had
all begun, at least as far as he was sure it had. In Ken's fortress
throne room. Floating in front of him were Ken's monitors, and all of
them showed the same image: V-mon, with an Evil Spiral firmly clamped
around one arm. There was the familiar red tinge of those who were
under the Kaiser's control around his eyes as well. Daisuke clenched
his fists, longing more than anything to rip that thing off of his
partner and shove it into Ken's face. Or perhaps through his face.
That had an appeal to it.
are you happy now, Ken? You've got both
of us right where you want us.” Daisuke growled the words out,
glaring up at the violet-eyed boy beside him. Ken glanced down
towards him calmly, then reached out to place one gloved hand on
have no idea how happy this makes me, Daisuke. I know you're going to
keep fighting me, even in the smallest of ways. I want that.” His
voice was a mere whisper. “The more you fight me, the stronger I
will tell you this, Motomiya. That stubbornness might've worked to
your advantage before, but that's exactly what's going to work in my
favor this time. Fight me all you want.” He leaned closer, dark
eyes gleaming in reflected light, his breath a warm whisper in
Daisuke's ear. “Fighting me only lets me win in the end.”
memory flashed through his mind like a bolt of fire, and Daisuke
jerked away, eyes round with shock. Who had that been? It wasn't Ken,
that was obvious. This person was older, hadn't bothered with
concealing their face, and had an entirely different voice. The
attitude was identical, down to the last bit, though.
back here, Daisuke.” Ken's command was, as usual, obeyed without
the slightest bit of thought on Daisuke's part. The collared boy
found himself seated once more beside Ken, his eyes lowered and his
emotions in turmoil. “Tell me what you're thinking about.”
instant obedience could get really
annoying. “When you said that it makes you stronger the more I
fight you, I had a vision or something. I saw someone else who said
just about the same thing. That me fighting him only lets him win in
the end. I was wondering who it was.”
said nothing, but his fingers began to toy through Daisuke's hair.
The other boy fought hard to keep his mind from sliding away under
the caress, digging his nails into his skin. I
have to think! I have to know what's going on!
am the only one you need to think about, Daisuke.” There was no
edge of command there. It was merely a simple statement of fact. At
the same moment, Daisuke felt the collar tightening slightly around
his neck. “I am the only one you will
think about. Your obedience to me is the central factor of your
ground his nails harder into his skin and did what he could to pull
away. He made more progress than he ever had before with that. He
inched a full inch away before Ken's hand tightened just enough to
keep him where he was.
not going to have to teach you with another method, am I?” That
insufferable smugness was about to make
Daisuke hurt something. Or someone. Ken himself came fairly high on
the list of those who would be damaged. “I've been quite generous
with you so far. Don't make me regret it.”
began to radiate downward from his neck, scorching along his nerves
for a brief instant or two. Daisuke flinched away, then straightened
up as something else swept through him.
It had been so long since he felt it, it took a few seconds before he
could name it, but it was there.
didn't feel the compulsion to do what Ken said, no matter what. He
could think for himself. He wanted out of this place, and he knew he
would get out of it. Nothing could stand
in his way for long. His friends would be there when he got out, no
matter how much time had passed. Even if it had been a thousand
years, somehow he'd find them again. It didn't matter that it
didn't make sense, what mattered was the faith he had in them, and
the faith he knew they had in him.
with that faith came a second surge, something that ripped the pain
away and replaced it with a warmth that filled him from the inside
out. Only now did he realize that when he had armor-evolved
Lighdramon, there had been nothing inside
of him like there usually was. There had been the flash of light, but
the feeling of the Digimental itself...
hadn't been there. That should've been his first clue that something
was going wrong around here. No, wait, there
were a lot weirder things going on before that. He touched the
collar lightly, ignoring the hand going through his hair, and
wondered briefly where his goggles were. Had Ken really broken
them? Or had someone else? Or were they even broken at all?
been even more things than that. The fact Ken kept doing
this. The way that his mind shattered and floated whenever the Kaiser
touched him. He wasn't a pet, who got his only pleasure from his
master's touch. He was a Chosen Child, who fought against evil
wherever it intruded into the Digital World, in whatever form it
decided to take.
Ken, this was really great, but I've got to be going. I've got
answers to find, and you're not giving them to me, so thanks but no
thanks. I'm out of here.”
surged up to his feet, snapping the leash away from the Kaiser before
anything could stop him. He didn't dare wonder about what could
happen if he were right, or wrong. Either way, Ken could
stop him. The real Ken had reflexes to put a cat to shame, and in
this screwed up world of the mind or illusion, this Ken might have
even better ones. Or worse, he might still be able to stop Daisuke
with a word. If that happened...
no time to worry about that now! He charged for the door, scampering
as fast as his feet could take him. It was almost there, almost
within his reach, and then his hands closed on the edges of it. He
was through it, and halfway down the hall before he tried looking
corridor stretched on in both directions for what looked like
forever, white as ivory on all sides, up and down and all around.
There were no doors, and it was all as straight as an arrow, no
curves or offshoots or anything. Daisuke stared both ways, then took
a step back the way he'd come.
is too weird. Even for Ken. Even for the Digital World.
it really wasn't Ken. There was always
Demon, after all. He could've found a way back, and who knew what
kind of wacko powers he'd have after all that time in the Dark Ocean.
They'd never even been able to defeat him the first time. But why
would he do something like this? Not that Daisuke could pin down
offhand just what was going on.
there was the possibility of that other person. The one he'd thought
of while he was beside Ken. Of course he had even less of an idea on
why they would do this than anyone else. And even if he knew why,
there was always how that he had to figure out.
why bother?” Daisuke finally decided, starting down the hall
briskly. “I'll just find out what's going on when I do, and play it
by ear from then on.” It had worked before. Lots of times. Of
course some of the time it had involved a great deal of pain of
multiple kinds, but things tended to work out in the end anyway. That
was what really counted. Besides, he didn't exactly have any other
options at the moment.
three steps of his resolution, everything changed around him. Daisuke
stared at it, shaking his head slowly. Someone somewhere had a very
twisted sense of...something. What had
been a simple white corridor now spread out before him in a maze that
would've made that guy who drew some of the really weird and screwy
paintings of labyrinths run for the headache medicine. Hallways
turned back on themselves, doors led into other doors, stairs went
nowhere, and there was nothing that resembled a way out. “Someone
has definitely been watching too many bad American movies.”
jerked around to stare behind him, jaw dropping at what he saw.
Someone somewhere, somehow, had to be
doing this on purpose. He'd been suspecting that anyway, but the fact
that not only was everything in front of him a labyrinth from
hell, but everything behind him was as well tipped the scales
in favor of confirmation. All he needed now was some kind of weird
dwarf to show up and start grumping at him. He'd pass all the same,
if it were up to him.
this means I have to get through this. I guess. Daisuke looked
back over the maze, trying to see anything that might resemble a
clue. If there was one in there, it was hiding extremely well. “I
hate things like this.” Ken had absolutely loved them, though. He
adored things that could make him think, challenge his mind so it
would get back to the way it was. Not that it really ever had, but
Daisuke had never minded. He liked Ken just the way he was.
cinnamon-haired teen sighed to himself. He wanted this whole mess
over with, just so he could figure out what he was thinking that was
real and what was someone else's idea of a fun time with his head. He
wanted to have his idea of fun, which involved anything from soccer
to blowing up things on his game system to hanging out with a small
group of people and Digimon in the Digital World. Or just bothering
his sister if he got the chance. That was always good for a laugh or
don't want to do this. Daisuke stared out at the infinite
appearing maze, his fists clenching as he sought any sort of shortcut
or answer. I really don't want to do this. Where was
V-mon? Where were the others? Being on his own wasn't a feeling he
liked all that much. Chills whispered down his spine as that solitude
began to press in all around him.
shot through his hands as he clenched them again, and he looked down
to see the half-crescents where his fingers had dug in while he was
trying to escape Ken. That was real? He
touched one lightly, wincing even more as the agony increased. Yeah,
that was real. Ken might or might not have been, but this was. It
was something to hold on to that he'd given himself, unlike the
if the thought of that had somehow made the collar, or whoever it was
that was responsible for it, more 'aware', the band began to tighten
faintly around his neck. Daisuke seized onto it, doing his best to
loosen it. I have to get this thing off of
me. If I can find someone, maybe they can do it. Hopefully
whoever he found, if anyone, wasn't going to be the person who had
put it on him in the first place. That was the kind of luck he'd been
having time and time again.
The word echoed around in his mind as it had an importance he hadn't
yet figured out yet. This time. Time and time again. All those
times I found myself somewhere and had no idea on where I was or how
I'd gotten there. They had something in common that wasn't the
collar or that Ken was almost always there.
always ended in time. And the time wasn't
all that long, either. The more he thought about things, the more he
began to pick up on some patterns. There was always a build-up and
some point where things just seemed to stop, and when he was
aware of things again, they'd changed. Sometimes a great one,
sometimes not, but that was how things had been going.
maybe if I just wait here, this'll end too? No, things couldn't
be that simple. Even if they did end, he couldn't control what
would happen next, and that was what he knew he needed to do.
Somehow, in some way, he had to find reality. Wherever it was. If
such a thing even existed anymore. He'd never had any idea that
figuring out the meaning of everything would be such a pain. It had
all been so simple before. Friends, family, and fun, and that was all
he'd ever needed. None of those were giving him any help right now.
His name floated somewhere between his ears and his mind, in a voice
that he'd heard all too recently. Daisuke, where are you? Are you
His fists clenched automatically as he tried to pull the word back
behind his lips. Even if it was Ken, he
had no idea if it was a Ken he wanted to talk to. Or even if it was
Ken. How could he be sure? Too many deceptions, too many things
twisting his mind around...
Daisuke! I think I heard him! The voice seemed like Ken's, warm
and caring and full of a special kind of emotion that Daisuke feared
to name, only it was stronger, deeper, and fuller. Older. I think
came something else, something he hadn't heard in a while. Ken,
be careful. I know you want to find him, but we have to think
logically. It was Iori. He could remember seeing the younger boy
in one of those moments, not long after this has begun, but this
voice was different, as different as his own reflection had been, and
changed by the same way: time. This voice was mature, older,
stronger, and more confident.
eyes darted all around, to the sides, above, behind, anywhere he
could look. The same thing met his gaze every time: the boundless
maze. No Ken. No Iori. No one and nothing but something laid out to
confuse and disorient him. Typical.
did you think you heard him?” This time it was Takeru, and his
voice had went through the same changes that Iori and Ken's had. “Are
you feeling anything, V-mon?”
Daisuke lurched himself to his feet, leaning on one of the walls for
support as his legs tried to fall from underneath him. “V-mon! Can
you hear me? Can any of you hear me?”
hear him!” It was V-mon, and his voice
hadn't changed, it was still the same wonderful voice, full of life
and caring that it had always been. “Where are you, Daisuke?”
was a really good question. Daisuke would've loved to have an answer
for it himself. “I'm not really sure. All I can see is a maze. A
really nasty one, too.”
maze?” Ken's baffled tones caressed Daisuke's ears like golden
balm. This was the Ken his heart had yearned for when he'd been
staring into the Kaiser's eyes. The Ken that, underneath all the
illusions and masks and whatever else had been going on, he had been
looking for. Answers began to tease on the edge of his awareness,
ready to collapse over him at a moment's notice. “There's no maze
everything else that's going on, I wouldn't be surprised if he's
seeing something we're not.” Koushirou's clipped, informative
tones, the same ones he used every time he was on the verge of a
solution no one else could see. “He could be right next to us and
if the conditions were performed properly, we couldn't see him, or he
snort that could only have come from Yamato. “I think that's pretty
obvious, Koushirou, since that's what's actually happening.”
friends. They were all there, all looking for him. Well, at least
he'd heard some of them. He was certain they were all there, though.
The warm spot inside of him that was their friendship grew only
stronger with every second, with every word he could hear of them
muttering to themselves about where they were, where he was, and what
was going on. Most of it he couldn't hear clearly enough, but it
didn't matter. Understanding wasn't what he wanted. Just hearing did
all he could have imagined and more.
long has this been going on?” Daisuke asked, hoping for an answer
that made sense. “I don't even remember how long I've been gone. If
I've been gone.” He hated sounding so
plaintive, but it was true. Besides, if you couldn't whine with your
friends, who could you whine with?
was Ken who answered, and Daisuke melted almost to the point of
puddleization at that. “We haven't seen you in almost two weeks. We
have no idea where you've been, or where you are now, for that
matter. I just woke up and you weren't there that morning.”
up?” Was he hearing that right? Was Ken implying that he'd expected
to find Daisuke there when he'd woken up?
He could still feel those answers hovering in his mind, as if behind
the thinnest of barriers. What could shred it? What would shred it?
Could it be shredded?
I hunted all over the apartment for you, but it was like you'd just
vanished.” Pain wove all in the voice, and clutched at Daisuke's
heart. “There wasn't any sign of a forced entry or anything. I'd
thought you'd just left for something, but you ...” Ken hesitated,
the ache increasing syllable by syllable, “you never came back.”
interrupted what might've been an extremely touching moment. Daisuke
made a note to get back at him at some point. Maybe screwing up his
next date with Miyako. Huh? Oh, that's right.
Two years now. Huh. At least I remembered something that didn't have
to do with me. Maybe the rest of it's wearing off? Whatever it is.
He pulled his attention back to what the older redhead was saying, or
could you repeat that?” He had been being mind-screwed for almost
fourteen days now. He couldn't be expected to pay that
much attention, could he?
have you been going through, from your point of view?” Koushirou
repeated, sounding a bit annoyed. Oh, so that was what he wanted.
That was easy enough.
I'm not all that sure. I can't remember a whole lot.” He hesitated,
should he tell them everything? If this was yet another trick, if
things had changed and he hadn't noticed, this could all be
meaningless. I have to try. “The last
thing I'm really sure of is Iori getting the Digimental of Faith.
After that, everything's really blurry.” He fidgeted a little,
wishing he could see more than the twisting corridors and trees all
around him. Hearing and not seeing was absolutely nuts. “Except for
a few places, I mean. I remember being with Ken...the
Kaiser...um...I'm not really sure how to describe it.”
couldn't even hear them talking to each other, if they were. Had they
just stopped talking? Were they not there anymore? Daisuke ran things
over in his mind, hoping that the fact he could still remember
talking them meant something.
Ken again, and full of both wonder and fright. “I haven't been the
Kaiser in nearly nine years. How old do you think we are?”
hated how hopeless he sounded right now. It just wasn't him.
“I don't even know anymore. I've seen us in school, just like we
were kids. I've seen myself in a mirror, grown up. Eighteen at
least.” He rubbed the lower left side of his face. “And I've got
scars in that reflection.”
course you've got scars! They're on your face!” Miyako's sharp
tones couldn't have changed, no matter what. It added a sense of
familiarity that made things a little more normal in his mind. “A
rogue Togemon blasted you with his needles there. You've had the
scars ever since.” She snorted openly. “You kept wondering if
they'd make you look hideous, but once the bandages came off, you
liked them. Kept saying that they make you look 'rakishly handsome
that sounded like him to him. It sounded more like him than anything
the Kaiser had been saying the last few times they'd run into each
other. The warmth that was his friendship and his confidence in that
friendship was getting stronger and stronger.
there anything else?” Koushirou overrode his girlfriend's annoyed
tones. “Anything that could help us get this solved?”
ran things through his mind as quickly as he could. There had to be
something. Wait, he knew! “It's a
little fuzzy, but I think I might know what's going on. Kind of.”
keep it to yourself!” Yamato's patience was obviously reaching its
limit. “Spill it!”
I said, it's fuzzy, but I think I met
whoever is doing this. I can't remember his name or what he looked
like, but he was kind of like you used to be, Ken. All...arrogant and
stuck up.” Daisuke racked his brain, seeking anything else that
could help. “I think I've been running from him, but I can't
remember why. Or why he'd let me run if he has been keeping me
all this time.”
grumbled softly, “I wish you could remember more. If I know who is
doing this, I might be able to figure out more of how
they're doing it and how we can get ourselves back into the same
plane of reference. There isn't much we can do until we can all see
each other. Then I can find out exactly what kind of physical and
mental changes have been done to you and how to reverse them, if
tell me 'if possible',” Daisuke stepped forward, turning
automatically in the direction the genius' voice seemed to be coming
from. “I've been putting up with reality being Swiss cheese for way
too long, Koushirou.”
Daisuke, please,” Ken interrupted his rant, his voice soothing and
relaxing. “We'll find a way to get this all fixed, I promise.
You'll be back with us in no time.”
couldn't bring himself to say anything that would deny Ken's promise.
He wanted to believe it, the way people
believe in air and light and reality. “I know you will.” He did.
They'd done stranger things. “If I remember anything else, I'll let
you know, I promise.”
I'm terribly afraid that you won't be
telling them, Daisuke.” The voice was unfamiliarly familiar. He
knew he'd heard it somewhere, but where he couldn't decide. “I was
willing to let you roam around free, but inviting unwanted guests
into my kingdom is really quite rude. You're going to have to
come back now. I've got some nice things prepared for you so this
won't happen again.” Thoughtfulness touched the voice. “I see I
did make a mild error in having you go unleashed, but that's easily
between one word and the next, the voice changed from a stranger's to
something as familiar as his own heartbeat. “It's time to come back
home, Daisuke. I've missed you.” The Kaiser spoke firmly, and
Daisuke found himself walking back the way he'd come. The last thing
he heard was a fading and familiar voice.
To Be Continued