xii. britomart comes to isis church
Like the difference between analog and digital, or the difference between physical and spiritual, humans vary from Digimon as much as they differ from… angels. It is a separation both profound and subtle.
Well situated on an immodestly apocalyptic throne, the creature known as Angemon lounges elegantly, like a giant man in form. In truth he is an angel. His face is like that of a medieval knight, chilly and proud and carefully devoid of lines of worry. Instead of clothes he appears to wear scraps, which ribbon about his form and his gleaming armor in a way that suggests nakedness but does not disclose it. In fact, everything he wears is curiously mismatched, almost beggarly… but he carries it all with such aplomb and alien poise that, on him, the coverings look like the rarest uniform of privilege.
Attending him are a collection of human servants, all clad in the simplest white, all completely mind-wiped and subservient. Incapable of anything other then following orders or adoring their master, the humans (chosen for their loveliness and youth) stand respectfully around the perimeter of the throne, awaiting the wise and sensible commands of the benevolent Servant of God.
"It will most certainly be too late for a direct capture," Angemon muses aloud, in an agreeably neutral tone. His servants perk up, but do not comment. "By the time Oikawa finishes up in Grytviken, the Prince will be well secured within his fortress."
The outsized divine begins to tap his fingers together, thoughtfully.
"The boy will not attempt South Georgia again this season. Shame really— all the lovely things he'll miss." A twitch of the lips. "A true shame."
The angel laughs brightly, softly, with a kind of compassion. After all the work that the child Prince had gone through to force his parents into hiding (without once allowing them to know how completely, how horridly he had changed-- a brilliant feat), Oikawa found them anyway. But instead of capturing them and bringing them back to Angemon as he had been ordered to do, the hapless man has killed them instead, an unlooked-for act of pity.
"Such lovely things." He does not entirely disapprove of his prize servant's initiative, despite the tiresome fact that he will have to punish him for it. In fact, Angemon has come to grant Oikawa a certain odd favour for his unpredictable and fascinating application of scruples.
"It will be interesting to see what my Oikawa does now," he muses.
He would very much enjoy the day when that deplorable Prince finally got a good look at his parent's bones.
It is good to be alive.
Daisuke opens his mouth and drinks the air, which is still, frosty, and real. His eyes are closed, and he takes a moment to feel for the sense of his limbs, the shape of his body in his mind as he crouches… wet and surprised… with his arms extended and his hands clasped against the boy who is trapped underwater, beneath him.
"Oh, shit!" His mouth and eyes fly open as he suddenly apprehends the situation. "Fucking, fucking shit…"
The Prince is struggling, held down by Daisuke's weight and the clever hands which are wrapped around a slender neck. In the split second that it takes for Daisuke to return to full conciousness, Ken begins to choke… which causes him to swallow water into his overtaxed lungs.
It seems nothing for Daisuke to deliver His Royal Highness from certain death, because all he needs to do is forcefully lift him out of the shallow pool. Daisuke has very strong arms. Stumbling over to the pool's quiet edge, Daisuke transfers the Prince's surprisingly light body in seven staggering steps. Ken struggles to breathe as water dribbles from his mouth, from his hair, into his panicked blue eyes. He is still drowning.
Daisuke presses on Ken's ribs, and he does it correctly because they crack. Tears well in Daisuke's eyes when he feels the crunch but he does not stop. The churning sound of bone grinding on bone sickens him, and yet Daisuke knows that the breaking of bones is trivial when compared to the necessity of restoring breath. After a moment Antarctica's Prince coughs weakly. Gagging, he releases the water plug.
Lukewarm water washes Ken's cheek. A flurry of thoughts spin into Daisuke's head, even though he's not so sure it's safe to think. All the guilt he feels blends with all the foreign memories he sifted. His heart breaks for Hikari but it also bleeds for a boy he never knew. His is confused and feels profane, and yet burns with a new feeling that he hasn't allowed himself to taste since he killed. Hope. He begins absently wiping the Prince's face, sluicing the water off almost tenderly.
He is like me. He is just like me.
"Shhh…. Shh…" Daisuke cocks his head to the side and encourages the Prince to soften his breathing. Ken's cheek is pressed to the cool white stones of the hall, and although the rhythm of his breathing is splintered, his face has stilled into a blank and unreadable calm as he looks off into the shadowed distance.
The impracticality of the Prince's outfit seems to be an illusion, because the thin fibers are already bone dry, and the clammy cold of the Prince's face is replaced by a externally induced flush. Daisuke continues to encourage calm, but now he bites his lips as his fingers trace down from jaw to sternum, gingerly touching the damaged rib cage.
Daisuke's skin pricks coldly, burning with a gasoline-like fire. The Prince must be in so much pain, and yet he has made barely a sound. That doesn't seem ideal.
"You'll be alright… shh. God, I'm so sorry…" Daisuke's voice trails off. He did what he had to, and he did what is right. Why does that always have to be so destructive? "I'll take care of you, you'll see."
A tiny, indifferent nod.
"How did all this happen?" Daisuke wonders, leaning in closer as he slips a hand under the Prince's back, lifting him into easier position. The Prince's face twists in pain at the effort, and he gasps. Daisuke winces, and holds the blue eyed boy even more carefully. "Easy. How… how can I help?" His questions are measured and thoughtful. "Where are we?"
The Prince rouses, enough to shake his head, but he does not speak.
Daisuke pivots his body so that he can slip the Prince's damp head into his soaking wet lap. "No rush." He presumes that the Prince feels as exhausted as he looks, and doesn't question him again for several minutes, carefully watching the other boy's chest rise and fall. Daisuke forbids himself to worry, and worries anyway. Eventually the Prince calms, and closes his eyes.
Finding himself making circles in the pale boy's moist spikes, Daisuke sighs. It occurs to him how confused he is by everything, and home feels so far away. The Prince has curled himself up slightly, hitching his arms to his body in a fetal pose, but he is not tense. Daisuke wonders why his own body feels so heavy.
"What is it that you rule?" he whispers to the recovering Prince. It is not really meant to be a question, and he continues: "A boy shouldn't have to take care of an abandoned continent. Who…" He clears his throat. I won't ask who you are. "Who made you do this?"
Daisuke feels so small. This vivid and imperious boy should not be languishing in his lap. Something went very wrong. In his mind he sees Stingmon, and wishes desperately that he knew of a way to summon it. Stingmon could make things better, could make everything better. He has a vision of Stingmon taking him back home to his parents and sister, and he wants to bring the Prince there, and take him away from whatever it is that requires him to stand sentry over the Ice. Together they can fly, away from obligations. Away from pain. Away from death.
"What do you remember?" The Prince interrupts Daisuke's reverie. His voice sounds rough and moodless. Daisuke's fingers stop moving.
What is the right answer? "Not much," Daisuke offers at last, not wanting to break the fragile moment.
The Prince struggles to get up.
The final gate is an imposing structure.
Lit by a clear silver light, two giant statues stand on either side of the plain iron barrier. Raised to a height of three stories, each copper-plated figure wears the face and form of a woman of unearthly beauty. The statues are similar in attitude and expression, but otherwise are as different as can be.
To the left is a Teutonic woman, garbed as a warrior. She has a gleaming red sword and spikes on her shoulders. She looks fierce, human, and mortal.
To the right is a woman who has the face of one who has seen the Nile at the dawn of civilization. Her hair is flowing and gold flowers bloom eternally at her bare feet. There is a gaping hole where her heart should be, but her expression is serene.
She is a goddess.
"Who… who are they?" Daisuke dares to ask. The walk through Ken's many quiet halls had been almost entirely devoid of conversation, but this sight is so unabashedly magnificent that the young hunter cannot hold back the question in his mind.
"Britomart and Isis," the Prince answers after a moment's pause.
"Do they have a story together?"
"Yes." The Prince turns to look at Daisuke, and the expression on his face is inscrutable. "What happens when a human looks upon the face of a god?"
Daisuke thought about that for a moment. "I don't know."
Not offering an immediate answer, the Prince snaps his fingers and the gate opens. The quiet shatters like a thunderclap as the sound of a thousand, thousand voices cheering is raised. Daisuke stares. The gate is far enough away that the forms beyond it are not entirely distinct, but he can see clearly that not a single cheering voice comes from the throat of a human being.
"KAIZER! KAIZER! KAIZER!"
The cheer is deafening. "What they call me," the Prince explains emotionlessly. Ever since calling Daisuke a liar he has behaved as a scrupulously correct young monarch. His tone is utterly distant.
"Um… that's nice." Daisuke thinks that the word sounds familiar, but he cannot place it. He has more important concerns in any case. "Are you really okay?"
The Prince nods. As the cheering finally subsides, one of the Prince's lieutenant creatures comes out to greet him. Daisuke thought that Stingmon and Airdramon had prepared him for any sort of strangeness in his liege's subjects, but is struck dumb when a graceful looking tree makes its way towards them.
Daisuke draws in a startled breath. A tree!
"Cherrymon," the Prince acknowledges his subject in gravely formal tones. The tree rustles its leaves a little, and after a moment Daisuke realizes that this is the tree version of bowing.
"My Lord. Welcome home."
The Prince turns to Daisuke. "Follow me," he says coolly, with no explanation.
Daisuke lowers his eyes. He's not sure what's wrong, but he knows that the Prince is angry at him and knows further that there is nothing he can do about it. He accepts this as a part of his fate. And yet, a spark of unexplainable stubbornness forces him to pick of the Princes earlier question. "What happens?" he asks quietly. "When the face of a god is seen, I mean?"
The Prince begins walking towards the gate, and does not pause to makes sure his new servant is following. His pace is slow to accommodate his broken ribs and stripped lungs. He is halfway there before he answers.
"The god dies, human."