CASTAWAY CHAPTER 1: LAND OF THE LIVING

It had been a warm start to summer in Japan, and the children of Odaiba Primary School had taken it as a very hopeful sign of things to come- namely, the summer holiday, soon to grace the course of their bright young lives. The result, as is the case in schools all over the world, this particular Friday afternoon had been more than a little chaotic. Not very surprising, and even less pleasing to the teacher of the class who had been left to clear up the mess.

And so, twenty year old Kari Takaishi responded in the best possible way that she could, given her situation- leant back in her chair and rubbed the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger. This was, according to the class' normal teacher Mrs Horaki, one of the worst times of the year. She sincerely hoped she was right.

She didn't mind working with children of course, no, it wasn't that. She had willingly made them her career-to-be, but when she accepted the school's offer to let her get some experience here this wasn't exactly what she had had in mind.

It was her personal opinion that the school's willingness for her to work for them and at this time of year was more than a simple coincidence. Mrs. Horaki must have had enough of a hyper class, and so made the arrangement for a student teacher to escape for a while. All Kari could do now was grin and bear it... But at least they were paying her.

Aside from a new entry for her C.V., it got her much needed money to support herself and her husband whilst he finished off his first book. Takeru had become quite skilled at writing, gaining recognition by writing articles for newspapers and magazines, and was now moving into the realm of novels, using his experience of the Digital Wars as a source of endless ideas. When he was done, they were quite confident that the sales would keep them well financed for quite a long time, and she would be able to concentrate on finishing her course on childcare at university.

But until then, she would have to stick with jobs like this, even if it meant cleaning up all the time.

Kari stood and frowned at some of the scattered chairs, willing them to tidy themselves. When they did nothing, she decided to go with the more realistic option and moved a few back to their places.

"You needn't worry about them dear" someone sad from behind her. She turned to see one of the school's cleaners. "You look worn out, a tough day?"

Kari smiled at her.

"You might say that," she said, with a lopsided grin. "These kids are going to be the death of me."

"Heh, I don't envy your job. We might have to clean, but at least we don't have to put up with the little monsters!"

"Well, they aren't so bad all of the time. Just depends on what the time is, really."

"I'll believe it when I see it dear. You go on home, I'll finish up here- you look like you could use a rest."

Kari thanked her and picked up her shoulder bag from the large teacher's desk. She departed the classroom after looking briefly out of a window-covered wall. It was a nice room really, built alongside the corridor to the rest of the school. To compensate for how this limited the light that would get in from that direction, the opposite wall was covered with large windows. It gave a free airy feeling, one which she and the children enjoyed.

As she got into her small blue car, and turned her thoughts towards spending her weekend with her husband, she couldn't help but smile. She was going shopping with Sora on Saturday- that was always something to look forward to.

----------

In the east, a young man looked at the fruits of his labour. A small wooden raft- nothing special, but hopefully enough to get him to the mainland. It had taken him six years to get the parts to make it, and a further few months waiting for the right time to try it out.

The weather had been good for a few days, and as had been shown in the past it remained fairly warm around this time of year. Soon he would have his chance... Soon, the wind would be blowing in the right direction.

It was just a matter of time, and then... Perhaps... He could see them again.

----------

Takeru, known as 'TK' to his friends, smiled at the man across the desk as he handed over some money.

"Thank you, sir," The redhead said, "and I hope you enjoy your alcohol and it's yummy goodness!"

"No, thank you for your incredible service! My, were it not for your apron, I would think I was in a top class restaurant!"

Davis laughed at his friend's sarcasm.

"Yeah, well, just you wait! Soon I'll have enough money to get my own place- somewhere really posh, an' all the rich folks will come and eat my food, and then I'll be rich!"

"Or you'll get a noodle stand or something."

"Hey, whatever goes."

Ever since he left school, Davis had discovered he had quite a talent for cooking (at least for a male, anyway). Being one to brag, he had displayed his superiority over TK in that department as often as he could, and had one day told them all that he had got a job in a top class restaurant. In fact, he had a job on the till in a café, but he didn't need to mention that. Sora had found out soon enough anyway, when she came in to buy a Pepsi.

Besides, it was a nice enough place. Not the best, but better than most: the tables were clean and were arranged neatly, plus the staff were polite. Finally, it was placed right between TK's apartment and Sora's, so it was convenient for meeting up.

It was Davis' goal to work in a fancy place, so he was working here now to get some money stashed for when he needed it, and so far he had been doing rather well.

"So, heard from any of the others recently?" he asked.

TK let out a small sigh. "No, not for a while. It's hard to contact them nowadays, especially Matt- always on tour or recording something. Him and his band..."

"Well if ya ask me, Sora did the right thing getting away from him before he became popular outta Japan. God knows what she would have done, him being away all the time and her in university."

"Yeah, I agree, I suppose. Besides, last I heard, he'd met some nice lady in America."

"Who? The Pink One?"

TK grinned at the nickname.

"No! Mimi isn't a two-timer, and she isn't going to give up Izzy that quick. It's some other girl he met on tour, part of the stage crew I think. She's quite nice too, apparently."

Davis opened his mouth to reply, when a voice interrupted him.

"Hey! I hate to break you guys up, but there IS a queue back here, you know!"

TK looked back at the people behind him, and gave them an innocent smile, before gathering the three cans of beer he had bought for his friend and wife.

"Sorry! Hey, it's good to see you again Davis- perhaps we could meet up one evening?"

"Sure. I should be free next week- you have my number, right?"

"Yep. I'll give you a call then, bye!"

TK turned and headed towards the seating area of the rather large café, where the rest of the group were waiting, a smile on his face. Between writing and his part time job at the local council office, he didn't get too much free time to see his old friends- having a laugh with Davis would make a nice break. He arrived at the table to find Kari and Sora talking about something that had happened the other week at Odaiba Primary.

"The kid did what?" Sora said, grinning at her friend from across the table.

"Painted his face! I mean, he really painted it with those poster paints in the big tubes. He thought it would come off easily like the proper face paint does, and when he realised it wouldn't..." Kari paused, laughing a bit with the older woman. "When his mother saw him, she went ballistic! She started to try and wash it off right away, but of course it wouldn't come off!"

TK sat down at his seat and handed out the canned drinks whilst bathing in the warm and friendly atmosphere that had developed around them.

"Bright blue too," he added. Sora popped her can burst out laughing.

"It sounds like something Tai would so," she replied whilst lifting the beer to her lips. As soon as the words had left her mouth, they all paused and fell silent.

Immediately, the carefree air that has been present drained away, leaving one of guilt- most of all, over the oldest of the group.

"I wish he was here," Sora said quietly.

"So do we."

----------

Sora lay in bed, looking up at her ceiling. She didn't know how long she had been there- minutes? Hours? She didn't care, because it didn't matter. All that did was her guilt of her assistance with driving Tai to his depression and departure from this world.

"So, um, Sora, you goin' to the concert with anybody? I mean, not that it matters to me...just wondering."

"...I wanna be available in case Matt is free afterwards..."

"Oh, I see...Matt, huh?"

Matt…

"I-It's okay..."

"Y-you're not mad at me, Tai?"

"No, of course not! Now get in there and say hi to Matt for me!"

Of course he couldn't be mad. He was their leader! He couldn't show any weakness, any sadness, else it might undermine their morale! How could she have been such a fool not to have realised that! And yet, she didn't notice. He appeared happy when she spoke to him, but as time went on, she saw him less and less in favour for Matt…

After he left, at his funeral, Kari had told her how it had been all of them that had destroyed him. How they all appeared to abandon him- how they had failed him, as his friends. Even though she knew that there was no body, she broke down completely at his empty coffin. Because after all had been said and done, she felt something for Matt- yet, it had taken Tai's death for her to realise that she felt something much deeper for him.

Her recent troubles did not help. The clothing business that she had started was not going well, and if she didn't get some more customers soon, she would be in serious financial trouble...

She knew that if Tai were here, he would do something. He would make things okay. Because he always did.

Sora stayed there for a long time, but eventually cried herself to sleep. And, when she did, she felt very cold and very alone.

----------

"He's depressed TK, I mean really depressed! It's scaring me! What if he goes and does something stupid?"

"I know, but surely he wouldn't... He has too much to live for. He has good grades now, so he'll be able to do whatever he wants in life..."

"I know, but you know how the others treat him now..."

"...yeah, I know. But what can we do? We can't force them to see him if they're busy..."

"They're always busy, even Sora and Matt! They were supposed to be his best friends!"

"Most likely they are 'busy' with each other."

"..."

"Tell you what, Kari. It's his eighteenth birthday in a couple of weeks, isn't it? How about we get him to come to America about a week after we go, and whilst we're waiting for him to arrive we can set up something to show him that someone cares."

"Like what?"

"How about an enormous-"

"...party for his retirement dinner, and they invited me to go along!"

TK grinned at his wife over the lasagne that he had cooked especially for her, yet his smile felt false and wooden. She had developed quite a thing for Italian foods over the last few years, and whilst there were many dishes that he disliked, he had to admit that this one was pretty good. Regardless, he would have cooked anything for her right now- heck, he would get Davis to do it if it would help. Kari needed cheering up soon. He hated it when she was depressed.

And it was always for the same reason.

"That's great dear," she mumbled absently over her dinner whilst poking at it with her fork.

He mentally winced as his face dropped. Not even news of his boss' retirement party (whom he rather disliked) had made any effect. Nothing had, since Sora had made that slip up in Davis' café. Sora would be just as bad, but he couldn't stay with her- she had to go home early due to her having the early shift in her mother's flower shop in the morning. They were both going to be thinking about Tai for a while now.

"Kari... You can't go on like this. I know it's hard, I mean, he was a like a role model to me, but he's gone... You have to-

"-finish packing, else you'll miss your plane."

"I have a bit of time. TK and his mother should be here in an hour, so I have till then."

"Good. I'm glad that he will be there- He'll look after you. If it were Davis, then I wouldn't even give you a week head start."

"You'd better catch up with us soon! I don't want to see all the sights without you around, Tai."

"I'll be right behind you."

"Maybe you can see Sora before you go?"

"Nah. She's been trying to get into uni, so… I don't want to bother her."

"She's busy? But... She's been going around with Matt…"

"..."

"Are you sure you'll be okay?"

"..."

"Tai?"

"...yeah. Don't worry about me. I'm-"

"-not coming back," he finished, as she blinked and snapped back to the present, though with awfully bad timing.

Kari let out a loud sob, and TK immediately moved around their dinner table to her side. He embraced her as she clung onto him for dear life- crying for her lost brother.

It was a cruel twist of fate that had befallen Taichi. After the wars, the Digidestined had returned home, and over the course of a few months had become reliant on communication through e-mail and such. No longer fighting to protect a world, they had no reason to need a leader- Tai lost his position among them.

It was no reason to lose their friendship though. He didn't lose it overnight- it faded as the others became more and more involved with each other. Sora's blossoming relationship with Matt was a crushing blow to him. He did his best to carry on and fight his jealousy of the blonde, which he did quite well, but once Jun saw them together she began to (surprisingly) pine for Joe. Mimi came back to Japan a year later, and Izzy stuck to her like glue. Kari had, for the most part, stayed around TK, who had remained in the new group of Digidestined.

The result was that Tai was left alone. He hated that more than anything. It changed him- he became quiet and withdrawn, which Kari found disturbing to say the least. She did her best to keep him company, TK helping whenever he could, but it didn't seem to help much. The leader of the Digidestined became a shadow of his former self, only speaking when he had to, rarely leaving the family's apartment.

It was soon before Tai's eighteenth birthday when TK invited Kari on holiday to America with him. She was worried about leaving her brother, but TK had an idea- how to show him that some people cared about him. A party, to which they would get as many of the Digidestined to go as possible. When they had been told of the state Tai was in, they had all agreed to the idea. They all arrived in America a day or two before, and all prepared a celebration for him, a special eighteenth birthday party.

But the plane... and Tai... never arrived.

Why, they did not know until hours later.

Something had happened, quite what they didn't know, but the plane had gone straight down. By the time rescue teams had arrived, the plane wreck had long since sunk. There were no bodies.

Taichi Kamiya was presumed dead.

Kari had been distraught. She loved her brother, and for him to go so sadly, after being practically forgotten by those whom he was closest to, was devastating. And, two years ago, her parents had died in a car accident, leaving the poor girl alone. She needed support, someone to rely on, and so TK had married her soon afterwards.

Some said that it was form desperation, but Takeru didn't believe so. They were happy, and they had money to set themselves up (thanks to Tai's bank savings being given to them). They had been doing okay, but sometimes she would just fall apart like this...

It truly frightened him.