An Immortal Emperor in a Mundane Universe
for nemsei and ainokitsune
The silence under the towering redwood trees was total.
No staged growth, no succession… the comfortable calm misting out from the morning twilight had always been, and always would be. Arcades of light touched lovingly the brush underneath the vaults of the forest's incomprehensibly high ceiling, while the hollyhocks and evergreens underneath crouched pleasantly, without significance.
Such a place could tolerate no passing rule. Here life did not pulse or stream, but instead prodded forward in a steady course. Here-- were it a place on earth, one might be struck by an alien sense of belonging. The emptiness of our great and voidful universe could not be detected here. Here, only one idea could be dominant. Here, life ruled.
The Digimon Kaizer walked alone.
Powerful and proud, he surveyed the land which rejected his rule. There was no rage. There was no insanity, no cruelty, no caprice. For a brilliant moment, the Kaizer seemed almost-- serene.
Stepping lightly, occasionally bounding, the Kaizer made his way through the seemingly endless forest. He could not see the tops of the trees he walked under. Occasionally, because there is a logic and need to such things, the Kaizer would step up to the massive trunk of one of these companion monsters. He would touch the bark, examine it carefully through warworn leather gloves. He would look up.
No sentient being had ever seen Ken, our Kaizer, like this. None could; his soul was in hiding, sleeping in hibernation. Touched by the beauty of a perfect place, even then he could hardly be aroused from the centre of his heart's drowsy stupor. But he was. When he looked up, he was beautiful.
Some might say that the Kaizer was a slave to possibility, captured by his own limitless need. Some might say that he was lonely. When he looked at himself, however, the Kaizer saw something that no-one outside of him might suspect.
When he looked at himself, the Kaizer saw nothing at all.
Carrying a dizzying array of parcels, Motomiya Daisuke shrugged his way past an irate sister. He didn't see why she was being so pissy; close-calls hardly count, and mama's collection of angel bear figurines remained entirely intact. He was in a hurry, anyway. On important business, the salvation of the Digital World! Surely a few curios could be sacrificed for his quest.
"Whatever, Jun. I'm totally careful." Moving quickly, he was halfway down the hall before he caught his sister's acid retort.
"And Matt's freakin' gay. Sheesh."
Daisuke hid a wince. Matt, gay? The idea was… preposterous.
Score one for Jun.
Daisuke dropped his parcels in a waiting elevator, and turned to scowl at his sister, who was smirking back at him from the doorframe or their apartment. She didn't look inclined to say anything further, but as the doors began to close before him, Daisuke risked one final jab.
Daisuke stooped to pick up his things almost as soon as the doorway closed. It was only a few seconds that his hands were free, but it allowed him to choose his exiting floor (in this case, the lobby), and gave him a chance to rearrange his grips on the different packages. When the elevator stopped, he had everything secure.
Stepping out onto the street, the small and often impetuous boy squared himself. "This is it. You can do it, Daisuke."
He just wished he could believe it.
Better then anyone, Daisuke knew the limitations of leadership. His power began and ended with Tai's faith in him, a peculiar commodity indeed. He had no experience. He had no tactical skills. He had no fighting skills. In reality, he had nothing, offered nothing.
Like many outwardly cheerful people, Daisuke struggled against bitterness, a morose acceptance of his own second-rate nature. More then anything he hated the fact that his closeness with the others (perfect Takeru, gentle and beautiful Hikari, Feminazi Miyako, and Iori the Prodigy) brought him daily nearer to what Jun always called the "Inevitable Disappointment."
Things will be different this time, Daisuke vowed.
He was tired of coming home and crying to himself because a soccer buddy turned out to be a liar, or a cheat, or because a trusted schoolmate had laughed at him and scorned his friendship. In his small life, Daisuke was tired of being let down. It hurt. This was a terrible cycle, one which had seeded a certain desperation into Daisuke's heart, a need for genuine affection. Daisuke wondered what it would be like, to have a real friendship with one of the other Digidestined. Tai didn't count… wasn't it true that he was more mentor then friend?
"Right now, they have to like me. But soon… maybe they'll like me just the way I am. All I have to do is…" Daisuke had walked from his apartment to school, and now paused before the doors to Odaiba Elementary. He inhaled, a steadying breath. "All I have to do is… be who they want me to be."
Daisuke snapped his goggles into place.
Like a great magician in communion with the occult planes, the Digimon Kaizer had ways of accessing any remote data pertinent to his realm. Whether in fortress or forest, hiddenly his channels of influence pulsed with streams of information. Wireless signals rode upon waves of invisible light, daemon programs which tracked and hunted for intelligence like prey.
The Digivice was the Kaizer's access port.
"No…" The Kaizer held forth his left hand, and stared off into the distance. Surprisingly, he began to laugh, squeezing mirth and disbelief from his heart. The haunting resonance mastered him wholly, and he was overcome. Echoing, the report of this child's delight shattered the calm of the eternal forest in which he stood. Birds called out, small forest mammals scattered under the fallen leaves, and the sunlight that fractured through the misty vales of morning shook. Falling into himself, the Kaizer collapsed against a nearby tree, spending himself in impossible triumph.
"I can't believe… is he truly such a fool?"
Soon his giggles trailed off into gasps, which were then replaced by an irreducible calm. The Kaizer took a moment to assess the situation: His principle rival, that fulsome idiot Motomiya Daisuke, dared enter his realm alone. Alone! There he was, a blinking blue dot in a field of data… completely helpless, and apparently at the Kaizer's mercy. And yet… the Kaizer's eyes narrowed in thought. Digging for his D Terminal, the Kaizer punched up a 3-dimensional NetMap and zoomed in for a visual.
"Ah… I see."
A live feed uploaded from the on-site spy presented the Kaizer a clear (if somewhat granular) view of the intruder. Motomiya had picked a Gate somewhere in the Theta region, an artic tundra blessed with clear summer heat. Tactically, the situation was… not unimpressive. The Kaizer lifted his eyebrows. The mossy plain extended flat and nearly featureless for miles around the Gate, and no indigenous Digimon seemed available for capture. An Airdramon could be sent quite easily, but Motomiya refused to move…
The Gate that represented Motomiya's only retreat to the real world was like a television set, but apparently quite sturdy. It must be sturdy… the Digidestined of Courage and Friendship was sitting on it.
"That bastard…" the Kaizer breathed. He watched as his normally impatient and impulsive enemy unfurled a white poster board, and held it up like a banner. Sloppy hiragana were painted on the side, but the young ruler could make out the words.
Come talk to me.
Twisting his rather thin lips into a charmingly feral grin, the Kaizer lowered his eyes to examine the look on Motomiya's face, watching the play of concerns wash across his open expression. Obviously, he had doubts. Clearly, he was afraid. And yet… the slender arms that were lifted above him held steady, and the banner did not waver.
"Very well. Parlay it is."
"ETA, fifteen minutes and 43 seconds," Daisuke said outloud, more to hear himself speak then anything else. Predicting when… or if… the Kaizer might arrive seemed rather futile, but holding a bet against himself helped Daisuke ignore the disquiet in his mind. The idea for this tactic (if "tactic" it could be truly called), had come to him in a dream a few nights before, and had left him sleepless ever since.
He was angry. Ichijouji Ken, one of the many boys in a long line of boys that Daisuke had worshipped, had turned out to be another cheat. Looking back, it seemed all too clear to Daisuke that the cool and aloof Ken was a perfect alter ego for the implacably wicked Digimon Kaizer. How could he not have seen it? Why did he have to go and be so damn impressed? A flaw, and perhaps a fatal one… if it drove him to execute risky and possibly dangerous plans like this.
And yet, Daisuke felt like he couldn't help it.
Was he even coming? Daisuke half-hoped, half-feared that the Kaizer would not show. He hadn't planned out anything to say, no words of persuasion… nor words to accuse. In fact, he was at a loss. He felt inadequate to the challenge before him, his heart leapt and he felt a nervous tightness in his chest. He was queasy too.
"You couldn't lead us out of a bucket," Miyako had said acidly, recently.
"The Digital World doesn't work that way," Takeru had said on another occasion, trying to be helpful. "You're just a rookie, you know."
"That doesn't seem too logical." Iori said this to Daisuke every day.
"I think we should ask Tai." Hikari. Or…
"Takeru's right." Hikari.
No. Daisuke shook his head, as he searched the empty sky. This was not the time to entertain indulgent self-pity. So what if he'd bungled up everything there was to being a leader? So what? Did he really need to be respected that much?
"ETA, 13 minutes and two seconds."
All of Saturday morning had been set aside by Daisuke for his experimental probe. In theory he could wait for hours, but even after ten minutes Daisuke felt himself itching to leave. It felt like a dumb idea anyway. Stupid, ignorant of the ways of the Digital World… Ken was probably laughing his ass off as Daisuke shivered in the brisk spring-like breeze. Probably. And yet… "He called me his worthy adversary," Daisuke whispered. "Maybe he won't laugh at me. Maybe…"
Daisuke had many questions.
What if he never came? Daisuke would truly feel like a fool.
"ETA, 10 minutes and…thirty…"
Pausing in his countdown, Daisuke squinted into the sunlight. Something was circling, directly overhead. Daisuke slowly lowered the banner, and then dropped it at his side. Swinging his feet in front of the Gate's entrance, Daisuke held his seat. He gripped his Digivice tightly.
An Airdramon. Without warning, it circled into a steep dive, bearing down straight at Daisuke. Daisuke scrambled to the top of the set, and stood. "Digiport, open!" he shouted out. Light streamed forth from the television, searching for a human to transport… Daisuke was ready to jump at a moment's notice.
He wasn't as stupid as some people thought.
The Airdramon pitched it's angle slightly to the west, and was soon barreling towards a point no less then 150 meters distant from behind the Gate's entrance. Daisuke turned to watch. Just as Daisuke's eyes widened as he made out the figure of Ken, the Digimon Kaizer slipped from the glittering dragon's back and dropped lightly… from 50 meters in the sky! Ken made contact with the ground like a cat, his knees bending a bit while his arms reached out to the sides, giving him balance. He landed like a gymnast coming off the Vault.
Involuntarily, Daisuke sucked in a deep breath. That was fucking cool.
Spent, the Gate winked shut. Daisuke turned his head to watch the light fade. This would have been easier if Ken had had the bad sense to approach from the front of the gate. It would be tricky now, watching for any sign of treachery on Ken's part with his means of escape now behind him.
Daisuke elected to stay standing. He would jump backwards, blind, if he had to. And his eyes would not leave Ken for an instant.
The Kaizer brushed off some imaginary dust from the front of his military-style jumpsuit, and then pushed the edges of his dark cape back. His pale blue eyes were hidden behind the customary sunglasses, and Daisuke suspected that he would not be allowed a peak of Ken's naked face. Such revelations were unnecessary now.
Slowly, the Kaizer began walking towards Daisuke. The air was quiet, and crisp… Daisuke could hear the crunch of lichen under Ken's boots as he approached. Somehow, the sunlight seamed clearer and the air fresher… could it be that the Kaizer had bonded with the Digital World? Daisuke shivered.
Ken stopped approximately 15 meters from the Gate. Inclining his head upwards, Daisuke thought he saw a slight frown mar the Kaizer's otherwise neutral expression. Maybe it was his imagination, but perhaps Ken did not altogether like that he had to look up to view Daisuke. "This is as close as I come," the Kaizer said lazily, and then his tone sharpened: "Now what do you want?"
Daisuke opened his mouth, but nothing clever came forth. What do I want?
The Kaizer didn't bother to hide his impatience. "Come now. I don't like to be summoned. If you have something to say, say it."
"I…I…just w..w..anted to talk." Daisuke stuttered a little, his voice sounding as breathless as if he had just dashed down a soccer field for a wicked goal.
"Well, aren't we the genius communicator?" The Kaizer snickered. "I'd gathered that already."
"Do you hate me?" Daisuke asked suddenly, quickly.
Ken flushed. Daisuke could see it, the blush of rage. "Hate… you? You're nothing but an insect."
Daisuke nodded to himself. He didn't know why he decided to make this personal, it was just an impulse as he cast about in his mind for something, anything, to say. But as stratagems go, at least it wasn't cowardly. Best of all… it put the Kaizer off his game. Daisuke didn't understand why his heart continued to race, or why he suddenly felt so tense. But if he couldn't rise to meet Ken in the realm of the mind, like hell if he wouldn't drag him down into the basement of gut emotions. Daisuke had lived in that basement for so long, it was comfortable to him even when he didn't understand.
"Yes," Daisuke whispered. "I'd like to know."
He'd just have to figure out later why.
"You're not worth it." Ken said in dangerous calm, but soon ramped up. Daisuke watched warily as the Kaizer began to finger his whip. "You…you. I can't stand you, I despise you. You… and your annoying little friends. You are all worthless insects, beetles. I do… I do hate you!"
The words stung, and yet Daisuke smiled. He tried to look cunning, fingering his jaw thoughtfully. "I thought I.. we… weren't worth it."
"Ahhrrgh!" The Kaizer began kicking at the rocks around him, spraying small pebbles in all directions. It was a really legendary tantrum, with spittle and muttered expletives and… and… everything. Even the sun seemed to darken. Daisuke was transfixed, almost breathless. Something about the Kaizer… Ken… was so pure, and he couldn't help but admire it.
This went on for some time. And then, it stopped. Without warning or seeming cause, the Kaizer calmed, his bristling fury dissipating like a bad dream. "You're not." The scorn in the Kaizer's tone was quite refined as he gathered himself together, and he drew himself up in a stately way. "Not worth it." Even his breathing was still. "The fact of my hatred however…mmm. It's a regrettable weakness. But it's true. I hate you, absolutely." His tone was glacial, and suggested that any commentary on his momentary collapse of reason would be most unwelcome.
"What else?" Daisuke asked. He would not let his heart crumple under the weight of an insane boy's dislike, but something still burned anyway. Perhaps it was not Ken's dislike, but his distaste, that touched Daisuke so. Clearly, the Kaizer saw Daisuke as unworthy. This would mean little except that Daisuke felt it. Maybe Ichijouji had become corrupt, and maybe he was now evil and borderline psychotic too. But he was also higher, better. These were the truths that hurt.
"Except for hating you, I hardly think of you at all."
"Oh." Daisuke looked down. This was what he thought. And for the moment he didn't know what to say.
"Except for hating you, I hardly think of you at all."
Ah, of course… now the Motomiya boy looked so crestfallen.
The Kaizer enjoyed the hesitant and open idiocy of his enemy so much, that he was distracted from reflecting on the disturbing fact that he'd lied.
Truth was, the Kaizer thought about Motomiya… a lot. It wasn't a matter of having an opinion, though. The Kaizer didn't have an opinion. It wasn't like he had a catalogue in his head of the many faults of this stubborn and pigheaded and obnoxious…fucking… opponent. He didn't need to… he'd written a program which did all that work for him, tracking Motomiya Daisuke's strength and response time, humor and intellect, as if he were a boss in a computer game.
Why he'd bother to target Motomiya instead of focusing solely on his Digimon (as he had done with the others), was simply a matter of strategy. Elegantly, the Kaizer had deduced that despite his mental damages, Motomiya was the only human threat to his eventual eternal reign.
Mm… this was actually nice. The Kaizer liked the look of confusion on Motomiya's face. Maybe he'd just kick back, code himself a root beer, and watch. It was fitting that Motomiya stood atop a television set… his whole life was some kind of entertaining show. Now… yes. The Kaizer wondered what would happen if he tweaked the signal a bit… maybe this day would not be utterly wasted. It was already such a refreshing relief to contemplate playing with this exasperating human.
"You're not looking at me," the Kaizer said quietly. "Is that wise?"
Daisuke's head shot up, and the Kaizer caught a glimpse of the shattering self-doubt that the russet-haired boy tried so carefully to hide.
"What's wrong with you, Ken?" Motomiya asked quietly.
"Kaizer," the small emperor corrected crisply.
The Kaizer narrowed his eyes. Should he press the point, or let it pass? Envisioning a kindergarten-style face-off, he chose "pass." Kaizer, Ken. Kaizer, Ken. It was all mere semantics anyway.
"There is nothing wrong with me. Such an assumption is narrow-minded and petty. I am… exactly who I wish to be."
"And who's that?" Motomiya asked with a sarcastic sneer. "An isolated tight-ass maniac with a god-complex?"
"More or less." The Kaizer shrugged. Tight-ass? "I'm not uptight," he said with a little heat.
"…'And girls? He's single'…" Motomiya simpered a bit, making as if to twirl, and then showing off a high-kick. Whether it was supposed to be a soccer or judo move, the Kaizer couldn't tell. Yes, very entertaining. Even Motomiya's jealousy was interesting.
"Girls are a distraction. I don't care for them."
"I'll bet you don't!" The Motomiya boy gave him an earnestly disbelieving look, and said this with such gusto and relish that the Kaizer found it within himself to be annoyed.
"I don't think with my groin. That's pathetic."
"Don't, or can't? Admit it, you're just a big girl yourself. All touchy and hysterical. That tantrum you threw was classic."
"It… was… not… a… tantrum."
"Look at you! You've got your whip out already! What are you going to do, flay me?"
The Kaizer looked down. Indeed, he was holding his whip, and holding it tightly. Now he ordered his gaze to fall on Motomiya, who through all his bravado and sass still looked quite scared. He was… beautiful… in a way. Full of contradictions, even if they were stupid ones.
"Maybe." He hissed. "Would you like that?"
Motomiya first seemed taken aback, and then transformed to aghast… and finally, defensive disgust. "If you crack that whip, I'm gone."
"Mmm." The Kaizer decided to stalk closer. "Is this what you wanted? To call me a girl and exchange idle threats?"
"No…" Motomiya shook his head in frustration. "I really… wanted to talk."
"But about what? We clearly have little to offer each other. Shall we discuss quantum physics…? Or the inherent hypocrisy of man?" The Kaizer sighed, and stretched the leather of his gloves as he mussed his hair. "Admit it, you are really here for battle."
"I don't want to fight you."
Interesting. Either the boy Motomiya was a brain-damaged defective… or he really wanted to make some kind of wrong-headed connection. Maybe both. The Kaizer began to laugh, and the world seemed to laugh with him.
"Don't laugh at me." Motomiya said, and then he seemed to explode. "Don't… laugh!" Abandoning what little sense he had, he jumped down from his perch and charged.
The Kaizer evaded the boy expertly. "You say you don't want it, but seem to spoil for it easily enough." This was better then opera, better then soccer. A one-on-one where he held all the cards, with his belovedly ridiculous opponent. That silly flame-painted jacket, those impractical shorts… it was as if the Digital World saw it too.
"Why won't you talk to me?" Motomiya asked, and there was a taste of despair to his words. "I… liked you. Don't laugh…" Biting back his weakness, the goggle-headed boy shook himself, and then made as if to charge again.
The Kaizer curled his fingers into fists, and tightened his grip on the whip. "I'll mark you," he promised in bloodthirsty tones.
"What, so I can wear the burden of your cruelty, even in the real world? I don't think so…"
At the last minute, the Kaizer saw it. Motomiya wasn't going to try hit him this time. Apparently he had repented of his rashness, and was going to now make a dash for the Gate which he had so heedlessly abandoned. As the brown-toned boy wound up for the escape, the clever emperor neglected to dodge… and crashed into his enemy instead, clasping him to the ground and defeating him in a single throw.
"You're not leaving."
Daisuke… Motomiya's… face was twisted as he coughed, his mouth full of dust and his face dirty. The spongy layer of life over the crumbling ground cushioned the fall, but the heavy weight of the Kaizer's larger body had caused Motomiya to gasp for air… when his lungs were filled with a fistful of dirt which had been thrown up, somehow. Was the whole world conspiring with the Kaizer?
"Don't…" Motomiya gasped.
"Oh, don't worry," the Kaizer promised, almost tenderly. "We'll talk." He whistled, calling down the Airdramon from on high. "On my terms."
A look of desperation set Motomiya's face alight, and the Kaizer suddenly felt warm, and so glad that he'd captured his only worthy rival. He was truly amazing.
"Digiport…open!" Daisuke called out, with the last of his strength.
"Oh, that won't work," The Kaizer began indulgently. "The Gate is too far away, and it faces the wrong…" His words were clipped as an impossible light tortured his eyes, and caused him to blink in sudden and unexpected worry. Something he hadn't felt in so long… that irresistible pull, that kalidiscoping distraction of the senses…
Oh no… he couldn't…
"Don't… ever… laugh at me," Motomiya growled, and as the Kaizer attempted to disengage, he found himself pulled tightly and suffocatingly against the other boy's unnaturally warm body, the heat lifting into his face as his cheeks were pressed against the lime-green shirt and hidden by the fluffs of fur and flame…
The Kaizer couldn't speak, could not even protest, as he was ripped away from his chosen home… and divested of the trappings of rule.
No… it was not mere semantics. He didn't want to be that boy, that Ichijouji Ken… ever again… no…
Flames of change enveloped him.
The first thing that he did was smash the computer, monitor and tower both.
Daisuke was in a terrible panic. Capturing Ken had not been in the plan. Destroying the Gate certainly hadn't been either, and Daisuke winced to think of it. How stupid, exactly, am I?
Daisuke knew that in pure strength, guile, and intelligence, he was hopelessly outclassed, and his only advantage now was that Ken couldn't instantly fly back to the kingdom from whence he came. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, it was hard to say. Only one of the computer's in the Odaiba computer lab seemed to be able to synchronize with the Digital World. Destroying it was terribly impulsive and risky… stupid… and yet… it seemed right.
Necessary, at least.
On the floor, surrounded by shards of glass, Ichijouji Ken lay on his side, rubbing his head and wincing as if it ached. Daisuke staggered nearby, his eyes wide as he looked down on the boy who had cheated him so badly. Cheated him of faith.
The cape and jumpsuit, sunglasses and golden armor, had all disappeared. So had the funky hair… apparently Ken didn't achieve that look with mere hair gel alone. Dark… and yet fair of face. Daisuke saw the majesty, of course he did… and he wondered at his own nerve. Ken's lashes were long, and his disorientation left him looking drowsy… deceptively fragile.
"Oh god, Ken…" Daisuke said in hushed tones. "Are you okay?"
"You tricked me…" Ken accused in low, sticky tones.
"Not true," Daisuke negated quickly. "I was just scared…" Even as he spoke, his native impulses charged him to kneel, and he attempted to move Ken's hand so that he could look at Ken's forehead. Not surprisingly, his hand was slapped away… but not before Daisuke say that a trickle of blood was streaming from the scalp. "Stop it, you're hurt!"
Daisuke was very frightened, and yet he saw the innate absurdity of his enemy's words, and cracked a smile. "You were going to turn me into your little bitch-slave or something… what else was I going to do? No way did I want to spend the rest of my days polishing your silver and wiping your ass."
Ken gave him a doubtful look, drawing his eyebrows together in perplexion. "What?"
"Oh you know…" Daisuke lifted his gaze to the ceiling, and clutched at his chest in mock tragedy. Maybe he was simple… it was so easy for him to forget the gravity of any given situation, and just plunge forward with his own penchant for fantasy. "Using perverted torture to bend me to your will, destroying my mind through the keen application of pain and evil technology. It's what all fascist mastermind dictators are like. Famous for, even."
The most amazing thing of the morning was that… Ken bought it. He laughed, and for the first time in dozens of months, his laugh was genuine. "You're stupid," he said at last, but not in an unkind way.
Daisuke was shocked, and continued to forget himself. The Kaizer was still dangerous, perhaps trebly so now that he was in some ways cornered. "What were you going to do, then?"
"Take your Digivice and then banish you back to the real world," Ken said matter-of-factly. "You're a distraction."
"You wouldn't!" Daisuke breathed. "What about Veemon?"
"Oh, I'd ring him my first chance, and then use him to destroy the remaining alliance of Digidestined. I want your Digimon… I don't want you." Ken frowned as some of the blood dripped into the corner of his eye. "I need some gauze," he said with annoyance.
"How can you say that?" Daisuke didn't know what offended him more… that Ken persisted in this punishing delusion that it was acceptable to enslave Digimon… or that he himself was seen as so easily disposable. Overcome with moral grief and righteous outrage, Daisuke slapped Ken.
Ken sighed, blowing some hair out of his face… then kneed Daisuke forcefully, capturing his wrists and turning him over as he writhed in real pain. "You forget yourself. Never let yourself think for a moment that you are entitled to touch me." As he leaned over Daisuke, the blood from his scalp flowed down to the tip of his nose, and a drop fell into Daisuke's screaming mouth. "Bother," Ken said… but his eyes narrowed and he winced in something like sympathy as he watched Daisuke attempt (unsuccessfully) to curl himself up as a way to nurse the pain.
Daisuke was crying now, and he felt utterly humiliated. But even then, he would not allow himself to be defeated. It wasn't for him, you see… it was for Veemon. And the others. He would be who he needed to be, nothing more.
"I don't hate you, you know…" Daisuke hissed. "I used to… even admire…"
His eyes closed in suffering, Daisuke couldn't see the way Ken blinked in surprise. But he felt the brush of cool leather against his brow, as his choppy fringe of hair was manipulated by the Kaizer. "I'm… sorry." Daisuke heard Ken say simply. His wrists were released, and Daisuke immediately pushed his hand towards his groin, pressing away the hurt as best he could.
"Ow… fuck! Ken, that hurts like a motherfucker…"
"Yeah, I know. I do have a black belt in judo. I hope you will be so kind as to remember this the next time you try to hit me."
Daisuke opened his eyes. "Okay." He tried to sit up, but it was too hard, so he just sprawled back onto the floor. Really, the Kaizer could escape anytime he wanted to… Daisuke began to wonder why he didn't. Obviously, the boy know of some other way to get to the Digital World besides this one gate… so why didn't he snap-to? Daisuke started to cast his gaze this way and that, his confusion transparent in his honest face.
Ken looked down at him, and smiled bitterly as he divined Daisuke's thoughts. "I can't leave yet. I'm either a famous runaway, or a famous kidnapping victim… it won't be as easy as you might think for me to walk the streets of Tokyo undetected. And I… dislike… the idea of going home. Your plan was better then you thought."
"Thanks," Daisuke said with heavy irony. Some plan.
"So…" Ken looked around curiously. "Is this your school?"
"Yes," Daisuke said weakly. "What about it?"
"Where's the infirmary? Let's get some stuff for my head, and maybe they have some Tylenol. We could both use that, I suppose."
Daisuke looked at Ken, disbelief heavy in his eyes. "I can't move!"
Ken cocked an eyebrow. "I really don't care. I need some medical attention, even if I have to bandage my head up all by myself. You are going to show me where to go. Anyway, it will help you to walk." He started to get up, and tugged Daisuke along with him.
"Are you always… this fucking… imperial?"
Ken smiled. "Naturally."
The Kaizer had a bad headache, but at least he could walk without assistance. Motomiya led the way, but he was stumbling like a cripple and clutching at the wall. I guess I don't know my own strength, he mused with mordent cheerfulness. That really looks painful…
None of the overhead fluorescent lights were on (the school being closed and all), and the Kaizer was pleased to see the big windows which generously lit the way with the sun's natural light. It was real, and the young emperor surprised himself by experiencing a feeling of nostalgia, and regret. My parents… do they miss me?
That line of thought must be trimmed ruthlessly, so the Kaizer thought himself thinking about the boy who led him instead. Such a odd person. That bizarre idea that he might have kept Motomiya as a captive slave, no different from a ringed Digimon. Weird…
"Why did you think that about me?" he asked, breaking the crippled silence.
"Think… what?" Motomiya replied through his teeth.
"That I'd torture you."
"Um… I don't know. You just seem like the type."
The Kaizer came up alongside the struggling boy, and offered his arm. "What 'type' is that, precisely?"
"The sadistic kind, I guess." Risking a glance at Motomiya, he was surprised to see his face alight with a certain kittenish sort of… gratitude. So stupid, and yet… nice. "I'm glad I was sort of wrong."
"Well, I can't forgive what you've done to all the Digimon, that's a fact."
The Kaizer looked away. He didn't like the prickly look of disappointment that flourished in Daisuke's… no, Motomiya's… eyes. What right did he have of burdening him with any expectations, negative or otherwise?
"Whatever," the Kaizer said awkwardly.
There was silence again. For such a small little boy, Motomiya was not exactly a lightweight, and the Kaizer found himself having to apply considerable effort to keep him on course. "I hope you're not faking," the Kaizer warned after the two almost fell over. "Come on, stop being a baby."
"Damn, you have no idea…" Motomiya groaned. "Let me get a vice and smash your dick, and then we'll see how chipper you are."
The Kaizer shuddered. "I'll pass."
"Well then," Motomiya said… smugly. "Just be glad you don't have to carry me."
Hmm… the Kaizer looked at Motomiya speculatively, and then… before there was any opportunity for reaction… he ducked and jabbed his shoulder into the other boy's stomach, using the floor as a lever to lift him up over his arm. He had to lean mightily to one side just to maintain balance, but it was totally worth the splutters of outrage he heard spouting from his defeated foe. Draped over his shoulder and back, Motomiya began slapping his ribs and spine… but the Kaizer was amused to note that he wasn't pounding very hard. Obviously, the idiot was very carefully trying to avoid having to suffer another "lesson" in cruel pain.
"Damn, you're heavy," was all the Kaizer said as the pounding let up.
"Turn right at the end of the corridor," was the petulant reply. "We're almost there."
Fuck. The Kaizer was enduring one killer headache. The dizziness was not going away. He probably shouldn't have picked up the boy, just to prove he could… little blue stars flashed like comets before his bewildered eyes. He needed to lie down…
"Um…Ken…" Daisuke said after a moment. "You're um… crushing… it." His voice conveyed a multitude of horror.
Having shifted to purchase a better grip, the Kaizer's arm slung under a good part of Motomiya's chest and hips… and now, groin. Oops. Blushing, he used the surprise of the revelation as an excuse to drop Motomiya unceremoniously to the floor. He allowed the boy to roll off him like a potato sack, and then looked down at him as accusingly as possible, to cover both his embarrassment and weakness.
Motomiya looked back up at him with a grimace just as accusing.
"Let's get going, then," the Kaizer said after some mutual glares were exchanged.
The infirmary was a neatly appointed room, clean and white. The Kaizer immediately opened one of the windows, pretending not to hear Motomiya's prissy warnings about being "discovered." The Kaizer had learned a long time ago that people don't see what they don't expect to, and thus even if anyone happened to be walking by and looking at the school, they probably wouldn't think anything was amiss. He began looking for bandages and antiseptic ointments, when he felt a tug on the edge of his grey coat. The Kaizer glanced over his shoulder to see Motomiya hunched over, but with a look of determination.
"Get down on the bed. I'll gather everything." He groaned a bit, but then made a manly effort to straighten up. "I guess I'll take care of you." Motomiya stretched gingerly. "There, see?"
A sense of weakness almost overtook the Kaizer, and he nodded, sitting down on the edge of a tightly made-up bed. He kicked off his shoes, and then watched Motomiya as his eyes lidded in fatigue. Motomiya shuffled around, and the Kaizer barked out orders, yawning now and again... and sometimes wincing in pain. "Get… gauze… hydrogen peroxide…it'll be in a brown bottle. Yeah, that. Tweezers. Alcohol pads… mmm… sterile water. Not from the tap, it's in a bottle. I see some on the shelf…."
Motomiya systematically found each item, dropping them down next to the Kaizer, one by one. "Don't you need Band Aids too?"
"Well, maybe. Get some, and see if there's any other types of bandages while you're at it."
"Sure thing. Ah, Ken… If you need stitches, I'm not doing it…" he warned.
"That's okay, I will… if I have to." It was hard to think of everything in the right order, but he'd get it all… "Can you find a syringe…?"
"Oh, fuck… you know…" The Kaizer tried to conceive of it in terms that the young boy might understand… "A medicine squirter."
"One of these?" Daisuke held up a big syringe
"Good enough," the Kaizer moaned slightly. "Oh, wait… no. Try find one that's smaller. We might need to put a needle on it…"
"A needle? What for?"
"If I'm going to have to give myself stitches, I'm damn well going to numb myself up with lidocaine first."
Motomiya stopped what he was doing, and gave the Kaizer one of the most satisfyingly big-eyed looks of bafflement and amazement he'd ever seen. "You weren't kidding?"
"I take care of myself," the Kaizer replied coolly, and then looked away. Why was he showing off to this loony kid?
"Wow. That's awesome…" Motomiya said, nodding in fervent appreciation. "Are you like a superzen Tibetan monk or something?"
"No, I'm an evil fascist dictator with a god-complex and tight ass," the Kaizer said wearily. It would be sooo nice, just to lie back and be taken care of… but he couldn't allow that. He wouldn't.
Motomiya had the grace to blush. "Um, sorry…"
"No, that's okay. Just… first things first. Go clean your hands then come look at my cut."
Dutifully, Motomiya washed his hands… frenetically sudsing up as if her were preparing to dive into the Kaizer's brain for neurological surgery. "That's enough," the Kaizer said with a wry grin as two minutes of unrelenting scrubbing passed. "You're going to give your fingers a hard-on."
Motomiya ignored the lewd comment. "What next?"
The Kaizer pursed his lips, as if weighing his next comment. "Get a throw-up bucket. And some towels. You need to wash my head and find the spot that's bleeding, and I don't want you messing up my clothes." He leaned forward, despising himself for not doing this part himself. He was surprised when he felt Motomiya's small hand cup his cheek, and he heard a whispered… "You can count on me." The boy sounded like he actually cared. The Kaizer counted his heartbeats while he was touched. One… two… three… four…
Their eyes met, blue melting into gold.
Motomiya removed his hand.
The Kaizer angled his head down, and said nothing when a moon-shaped bucket was pressed into his hands. Motomiya arranged a few towels around the Kaizer's shoulder, and in turn, the Kaizer held the curve of the bucket against his forehead where it pressed against both fresh and crusting blood. He had… or has… a crush on me… the Kaizer thought with some confusion. Such things were easy for him to recognize… back in his days as Ichijouji Ken, such crushes had been as common as mayflies. There was a sting as Motomiya began to slowly pour the saline water over his wound, and the Kaizer tried not to flinch.
The Kaizer was willing to bet that Motomiya himself didn't even realize that this was what he felt. The boy certainly didn't seem the type to lead an examined life… undoubtedly, he simply acted, without measuring consequence.
"I see it," Motomiya whispered excitedly.
"Um… what does it look like?" the Kaizer asked, after having to remind himself just what "it" was. The cut… oh, yeah.
"It's small! About…" The Kaizer felt his hair shifted aside, and then a biting pain as Motomiya brushed the edge of something jagged on his head. "Oh, it's not even one centimeter! Amazing how such a small cut can bleed so much. I guess… you won't need to do stitches after all?"
"No, I won't."
"Shall I clean it up, then?"
Oooh… this would be hard to say… "Not yet." The Kaizer wanted to leave out this part altogether, but it needed to be done. "Take the tweezers, and look for glass."
Motomiya surprised him by kneeling, so that he could look the Kaizer in the eyes. The emperor wanted to look away, knowing the kind of compassion he would see there, the sort of understanding kindness that usually made him wild with fury. But no… Motomiya actually looked excited, bubbling over with some unsurpressed joy.
"Are you serious? That's so cool! It's like I'm a regular M.D. Yay, me! Don't you worry Ken, this won't hurt a bit..."
The Kaizer blinked, and then grinned, a bit shyly. He actually felt reassured… remarkable.
As Motomiya… no, Daisuke… began digging for slivers of renegade glass, the Kaizer cast about in his mind, for ways to use the information he had just gathered. It's a crush, no doubt about it. When he was Ken, the Kaizer had tended to throw away such crushes, rejecting the affection offered… although he often tried to manipulate things as well. It seemed like thousands of girls (and a few boys) had cast their fortunes at his feet, and Ken had used them all.
But this was different. The Kaizer didn't feel a need to use his hard-bought knowledge. For the moment, all he wanted to do was… enjoy.
"So you're not completely harmless after all," the Kaizer said softly and absently, speaking more to himself.
"What's that?" Daisuke asked, not quite hearing what had been said.
"You're healed," Daisuke said with some satisfaction, then collapsed onto the pillow-side of the bed, legs and head dangling over the sides. "Damn, that fucking still hurts…" he muttered as he carefully adjusted everything contained within his boxer shorts.
After a moment, Ken lowered himself so that he was lying down next to Daisuke, legs similarly dangling, although his toes at least touched the ground.
Daisuke looked over at Ken and then smiled hesitantly. "This is nice, you know… just hanging out."
"No offense, but I'd rather not be." Ken examined Daisuke's open expression, hinting nothing of his own interior emotions. "I hate this world."
"…Why?" Daisuke asked idly, enjoying just to look at the Kaizer like this. Such freedom was rare, and the answer… although important… was not as interesting as the grave and chilly perfection of the face that looked back at him.
"Well… nothing is distinctive, to start. Everything shifts and changes, and as child I'm not allowed to chart my own way… despite my own clear capacity to do so."
Ken offered one of his rare genuine smiles. "Aaaand… No Digimon. There's a big flaw right there."
That made Daisuke uncomfortable but he didn't know what to say, and was disinclined to break the beauty of the moment. He knew accountability would come, should come… but right now he was ensnared by a reprise of feelings that he had thought were buried and dead. Dangerous, and deadly… Daisuke had never been allowed to come so close to someone he had worshipped before, and to be spoken to like an equal… it was seductive as bliss.
As if to confirm Daisuke's temptations, Ken allowed his right hand to entwine with Daisuke's left. "You like me, don't you?"
Daisuke felt like he'd been goosed, and tensed right up. He hadn't thought of it…well, like that…before. But wasn't it true?
"Maybe…" Daisuke delivered slowly, not wanting to say too much.
"Maybe?" Ken asked, amused. "I think I'm right." He squeezed Daisuke's hand just a little bit, and was rewarded when Daisuke's breath began to quicken.
"You're… twisted, though…" Daisuke said, a bit defensively. This didn't stop him from thumbing the tiny bones of Ken's wrist.
"Just because I don't believe in….mmm… compassion; well, that doesn't make me twisted," Ken said reproachfully.
"What do you believe in, then?" Daisuke asked breathlessly, bring his face forward so that it slipped from the edge of the pillow. He could feel the outlines of Ken's breath fogging his lips, he was that close.
"Nothing at all…" Ken, the Digimon Kaizer, admitted.
That was when Daisuke dared to kiss him.
Ken's lips were very very soft, and his breath was sweet. Daisuke let go of Ken's hand so that he could touch his neck just under the line of the dove-coloured sport coat, which used to be a school uniform when he still was going to school. Was he cast adrift in his new reality? Was he drowning? Daisuke opened his mouth and licked the tiniest corner of Ken's mouth.
It was delicious.
"Well, well…" the Kaizer said when Daisuke retreated a bit. "Aren't you the surprising one?"
Daisuke wanted to hide his face away, bury himself in the pillow: not because it felt bad or because he was ashamed, but because… it just didn't seem real. But that didn't strike him as appropriately brave, so instead he just looked at Ken, admiring the shadows of blue that painted his hair, and the smile that lit even his eyes.
It was strange how Ken seemed so much older, even though he was actually a few months younger then Daisuke. It wasn't just the added height… it was the added everything. Experience, prestige, beauty, grace… Daisuke leaned in for another kiss.
Ken's lips were irresistible.
Daisuke's fingertips wandered along the lifted side of Ken's body, mapping both contour and the lines beyond contour, finding the negative space and filling it with his newly birthed desire. The kiss was a quiet one, still more experiment then experience, but the tender smack of mouths opening and shutting produced a faint snap resembling the crisp destruction of a young swamp weed. Together, their wet mouths fed each other.
And again… just as Ken had relaxed his mouth into enough surrender so that Daisuke might slip his tongue between sharp incisors… Daisuke retreated, pulling back so that he could look at him.
"Are you real?" Daisuke asked. Such shimmering of mass and light; perhaps Ken was no human, but an angel disguised in the flesh of earth.
Idolatry cannot die so long as love lives.
"Third time… is for keeps," the Kaizer replied mysteriously.
Wordless, the olive-skinned young boy lifted his hand, and slipped off Tai's goggles. For this, Daisuke would be his own person… for better, or whatever else came… for worse. Daisuke nodded.
When a god descends, the heavens weep. A third kiss is a seal, a holy promise with untold significance. Ken lifted himself, flattening his hands and pressing them to either side if Daisuke's elvin face. He did not ignore he lights that flashed before his eyes, but accepted them as emblems of his own frailty. When his lips bumped the dent above Daisuke's mouth, he opened his heart. Where the emptiness was.
Strafing from side to side, Ken felt the nearly invisible down hair of Daisuke's cheek… the slightest amount of moisture soon erased that sensation, though. Here, and here. The blood in Daisuke's capillaries was lively, quick to follow Ken's touches with a blaze of warm rose color.
Daisuke could only accept the teasing touches for so long. When a last braising kiss failed to produce the deeper penetration that he desired, Daisuke opened his mouth wide with a tiny, tormented gasp. Bitch-slave. Maybe this was the unholy plan all along… but for such agreeable torture, Daisuke acceded quite readily.
His hands were not idle. Daisuke had made a point of slipping his body up onto the bed, sliding one leg and then the other under Ken's raised body, and turning so that there was more room for them both on the antiseptically clean bed. And so now, with baby-light kisses being rained down from above, Daisuke set his hands in motion, rubbing the Kaizer's ridiculously slender body through the layers of his clothes. He could feel the pebbling of Ken's spine, and followed the edges of the ribs that form the heart's cage.
It was at this point that Ken collapsed.
There are many. London. Harare. Manila. Athens. Madrid. Budapest.
At one point, the Kaizer had experienced them all. Travel was one thing his family had never cheated him of, and he collected points on the map the way other boys collected bottlecaps.
When was it that he wearied of the domed mosques, the cathedrals, the aqueducts? Why did not the Taj Mahal cause him to shiver in despair, or the big Jesus in Rio de Janeiro induce him to laugh in pure delight? When did he tire of walking the Great Wall, and where was he when David of Florence stood naked and proud, just for him?
Who was he, to have daily walked the streets of Tokyo and remain unmoved by the flashing neon beauty?
Experience that can be purchased with money is cheap. One can explore the deepest reaches of this inscrutable planet Earth… and be shielded from all adventure, all discovery.
The only experience that matters is the sort that is purchased with risk.
The Kaizer used to dream. Sometimes… remembering his noon-day kisses with Motomiya Daisuke… his soul awoke enough so that he could dream again.
Was it real?
Yes. It had happened. The things he remembered were true.
First is for discovery.
The Kaizer's first task when he returned was to erect a spire in Daisuke's tundra, taking that lonely Gate. Fierce Mammothmon from the nearby steppes were duly ringed and appointed guardians, and digital ravens watched the skies.
No human has been seen there since.
The battles had been long and difficult. Not unsurprisingly, the first casualty of the Kaizer's plodding and yet decisive conquests had been his own Digimon.
It had almost been a disaster for the Kaizer, for on that day his Digivice died.
Until then, the Kaizer had never understood the true significance of his link to the Digital World. Hunted and lonely, the Kaizer made his way to the Primary Village where Wormmon's soul rested in slumber, buried in an egg. He could not be revived.
In despair, the Kaizer opened up his D3, and with the aid of a still-functional D-terminal, he upgraded his link to the Digital World, and summoned to himself a new Digimon partner through a completely reformatted Digivice. In this, the Kaizer scored a major coup, because the Digimon that he captured was truly exceptional. Qinglongmon, the seiryuu.
The blue dragon.
One of the holy beasts of the Digital World, Quinlongmon was a god of sorts, a Mega-level Digimon with attacks of both lightning and wind. The chains that bound his ethereal body became the key to taming him to the Kaizer's will.
At last, a suitable partner worthy of his glory.
The Kaizer never forgot his original Digimon, however. One day… when every spire had been placed, and the last Digidestined pretender had been defeated… Wormmon would wake. The Kaizer would have the power to make it so, because power is a function of the will… and by then his will would be absolutely limitless.
When Wormmon broke the shell that imprisoned him in dreamless slumber… on that day, the Kaizer's triumph would be nearly complete.
Thrice… to keep.
Ichijouji Ken was dead.
His promises still lived, however, and the Kaizer could not forget his last kiss as a human boy.
He remembered falling…
He thought he could do it. He wanted to be the one to seal the connection between him and his rival. Maybe… maybe he could be normal, and diminish… to become nothing more then a human little boy. Would that be so bad, being able to play soccer and watch television again? Would it be horrible to have friends… to have Daisuke?
Maybe a place could be found for him in such a mundane world.
Unfortunately, he continued to be dizzy, and as he descended to kiss Daisuke his vision darkened and his skin grew clammy and cold.
"Ken… Ken…" Daisuke cried out to him, and he felt his mouth fill with a rush of air in a life giving kiss.
He couldn't remember much of what happened, after.
Sometimes, when he wanted to think, the Kaizer would return to the eternal forest at the end of the world. Nothing ever changed there, and it was so so beautiful.
Daisuke never came to the Digital World, and the Kaizer had not seen him since that day. Since that kiss.
He wondered about him, how he was growing, how he was changing. Daisuke was probably twelve now. Soon he would graduate to high school, and the Kaizer would no longer be able to imagine him walking the halls of Odaiba elementary.
There were so many things that the Kaizer wanted to know. What kind of ice cream did Daisuke like? Did he still play soccer, and if so… was he still center forward? Was he still wearing those goggles of his, or had he quit them ever since the boy who once had been Ken had given to him his heart instead? Did he giggle? Did he laugh?
Small things. Unimportant things.
Did Daisuke still remember?
The other ten Digidestined still came to the Digital World, still fought. Somewhere along the line the younger set learned Jogress Evolution, and so a threat that should have waned still continued on, strong. They were growing up too.
Pride kept him from asking after Daisuke. Pride, and fear.
He knew what they all thought of him. Plainly, he had become a ghost in their eyes, an evil spirit given substance only in the Digital World. What fools they were, and yet were he brave enough, he might seek them out… for the only information that his spies could not tell him was the only data that was really worth anything to know.
Is Daisuke okay? Does he love me?
Does he miss me?
The Kaizer had a plan.
It had come to him in a dream. There was a Gate that opened in the Theta region… an arctic tundra now blanketed with the snows of a prolonged winter. One day, when everything that could be conquered, was… when every last spire had been erected…when Wormmon was born again… well, then.
"I keep my promises," the Kaizer told the immortal trees, as he sat crouching under their boughs, without significance.
He would open the Gate. With whatever strength and power he had, he would cross that threshold.
Was Daisuke waiting? The Kaizer didn't know, didn't care.
"Third time… is for keeps…."