Legal Disclaimer: All characters within are the legal
property of Toei Entertainment, or were inspired by such. This is
done only for amusement.
Series Title: Fade In, Fade Out
Chapter Title: The Ostrich Method
There was a hard floor beneath him. That was what he was aware of before anything else. He blinked slowly and raised his head, trying to figure out what was going on. Nothing around him was really that familiar. Scratch that, it wasn't familiar at all. It had the dark and slick feel of a nightmare, and the more he saw, the more he wanted it believe that's what it was. No dream of his had ever involved being inside a dark chamber with a lot of screens hovering in front of him.
Being on his knees had also never been part of his usual nighttime fantasies, but he wasn't able to get up, no matter how hard he tried. Where am I? That rang around in his head repeatedly. He didn't wonder who he was, since he was quite aware of that. How could he forget being Motomiya Daisuke, after all? Who else but he could be the leader of the second generation of Chosen Children, sworn enemy of the Digimon Kaiser, V-mon's partner, and bearer of the Digimentals of Courage and Friendship?
His eyes flicked from place to place, trying to get more of an idea of his situation. The floor stretched out beneath him was a cool sort of gray, with some designs on it that appeared to be there just to make it a little more interesting. They didn't seem to mean anything in particular, just whorls and loops and circles. As he turned his head to see the walls, they were much like the floor, the same color and with even more of the designs on them.
His skin prickled lightly in the chill, and he wondered just who would keep this place so cold. He shifted just a little in an attempt to get warmer, but nothing seemed to change. It was impossible for anyone human to enjoy this temperature, wasn't it? Daisuke shuddered softly, thinking of the warm blankets and fluffy pillows that he remembered folding himself into, with Chibimon's giggling and cuddly presence just a few inches away.
Poor little guy. He's probably going crazy trying to figure out where I am. Just like me. He fidgeted again, turning his head a little as he did so. Something tugged at his neck this time, and he frowned; this hadn't happened when he was trying to check out the walls.
He carefully reached up to see if he could figure out what it was, and his fingers closed on something cool, slender, and metallic. He tugged at it a little, but whatever it was, there wasn't any give to it whatsoever. He could just manage to fit one finger in between the metal and his neck, but try as he might, he couldn't find anything that would be a latch or a fastener of any kind. It was as if it had grown there.
Then he knew what it was. He'd seen something similar on uncounted Digimon. It probably wasn't identical; it didn't quite feel like they looked, if that made sense. But it certainly was like them.
It was a collar. Like the Evil Rings or Spirals that Ken used to enslave Digimon.
It's not controlling me, though. I still think he needs a good swift kick in the pants. I don't think I want to bring him all my friends' heads on a platter or anything like that. So it's just some kind of...ornament, I guess. He almost wished it had been controlling him. It would have been a lot more like what he was used to from the superintelligent Kaiser.
He carefully worked his fingers all the way around the collar a second time, testing for any sign of weakness or give, but found nothing of the sort. What he did find was a length of cord or leather, he couldn't be certain which, that led from the collar to somewhere else. That was more than a little odd, since he hadn't encountered it the first time he'd felt around the collar. He didn't think anyone could have put it on and he wouldn't have noticed.
This has to be a dream. If I were awake, I would've heard from His Arrogance already. Wouldn't I? Ken never could resist the chance to boast, especially if he had Daisuke in one of his traps. The two times those had happened had been enough to set a pattern in the young Chosen's mind. Of course part of the pattern was that he was rescued, but just this once, he wouldn't mind handling things on his own. Just to show them that they didn't have to keep saving their leader from their enemy.
One long, in-drawn breath later, he took the next step to figuring out this confusing situation. He ran his fingers along the cord to find where it ended. It was only a couple of feet long, so he wasn't expecting it to lead to anything but a wall or a column or pillar of some kind.
Seconds later, his fingers brushed against something solid, and he looked carefully to see what it was. The leash, for that was the only thing it could be described as, was fastened firmly to a ring set into the side of the Kaiser's chair. That, too, was the only thing it could be, especially since the Kaiser was seated in it with a keyboard floating in air before him. He looked up once or twice at the screens flickering beyond, but paid no attention to anything else in the room, including Daisuke.
Why didn't I see him before? Daisuke's mind gibbered softly. He focused on small things right now, saving the larger ones for later. Ken was practically beside him, he should have at least heard him breathing before now. But it was the same as with the collar and leash: he only noticed them when something seemed to want him to. It was as if someone were having a sadistic form of pleasure in letting him find out things one slow step at a time.
As the awareness that he was leashed to his mortal enemy's throne sank into him, Daisuke knew that in a rational, ordered world he would throw himself to his feet and scream at the top of his lungs to be released. It was what he wanted to do, what burned in every muscle of his body that should be done. But he didn't.
There was no question that he wanted out of here. But something about the unnerving strangeness of this place kept him from doing anything to draw attention to himself. Part of him seemed to be whispering if he hadn't noticed Ken until some unknown condition had been fulfilled, then perhaps Ken wouldn't notice him until something on his part had been completed.
In other words, self, Daisuke couldn't help but grin at the unfamiliar thoughts wandering through his mind. If I don't notice him, he won't notice me. I think Iori called this the ostrich outlook once. I don't think it's going to work, but he keeps on working as if I'm not even here right now. Better than nothing.
He sagged back to his haunches a little, checking out the situation a little more thoroughly as he did so. This sitting and thinking really went against the grain, but he supposed it had some kind of advantage to it, somehow. I'm not really sure how, but it must. The room itself wasn't really all that large, now that he had a better grip on things. It looked much bigger than it was since there was so little actual furniture in it.
The creaking open of a door interrupted the silence briefly, and heralded the arrival of Wormmon. The small Digimon had a sort of harness about himself, which was connected to a moving tray table that he pulled over towards the Kaiser, stopping just a short distance away from Daisuke.
Not a single word was spoken as Ken pulled the tray closer to himself and motioned his partner away with a regal wave of one hand. Daisuke's nose caught the aroma of one of his favorite meals: homemade ramen. Forget whipping me...just letting me smell that and not have any is torture!
The clear clatter of utensils was muted in the almost mausoleum-like silence, but it was obvious Ken was enjoying his dinner. Daisuke clenched his fists, imagining all the delicious noodles he was missing out on. This is cruel and inhuman torture! If he went to all this trouble to get me, shouldn't he feed me, at least? He ignored the violent twisting of his stomach at the very thought of being fed by his enemy. He was going to get out of here, and if that meant he had to eat Ken's food to do it, then he'd do it. Of course that would work better if he were given food, but he knew he'd eat it if it were offered.
He peeked up slightly to see if there were any hopes of getting something, and almost growled out loud to see Ken pushing the empty plate away from himself. That...that...pig! He ate it all! Was someone, anyone, playing some kind of a huge cosmic joke on him? Whether it was or not, he wasn't finding it funny at all.
All right, that was it. He wasn't putting up with this any longer. He could see the knot where the leash was fastened to the chair. That gave him something to work on. He inched a little closer to it, touching it lightly with his fingertips. He really should have listened to Jun about how you did knots and things like that. But at the time he was too busy wondering how she knew things like that in the first place. There were things he really didn't want to know about his sister.
Ken really couldn't be all that much of a genius if his way of restraining his captive archenemy was something like this. Daisuke practically rolled his eyes as he tugged and worked at that knot. It was hard, that was for certain, but it was also just plain silly. He'd always had a little better opinion of Ken's intelligence. Every other time he'd been restrained, it had been by something he couldn't get out of on his own.
Daisuke paused as that crossed his mind. Was Ken toying with him? Did he want him to get out of this somehow? Was it another kind of trap? If he got unhooked, would something worse happen? He almost started to retie the knot, undoing what progress he'd made, then stopped. Whatever happened, good or bad, it had to be better than just tamely sitting here. Ostrich approach be damned...he was going home!
He yanked harder on the leash, which somehow seemed to be resisting him without actually turning into steel or something like that. Had the knot been this hard to undo just a few moments earlier? He couldn't remember. He tugged harder and harder, clawing at the knot with his fingernails when all of his other efforts proved useless. Finally, he was reduced to just glaring nastily at the thing. That didn't help either.
So maybe Ken was somehow better at holding him than he'd thought he was. Or maybe he was just worse at getting out of this sort of thing on his own. It wasn't as if he had experience in it. Stupid Kaiser, never letting him escape on his own. What kind of a sworn enemy was that, he wanted to know.
A very smart one, a small part of his mind told him. He told that small part of his mind to shut up and go away. That wasn't what he wanted to hear right now.
As he sagged down beside the chair, he noticed Ken moving slightly out of the corner of one eye. He froze in place at once; had he been noticed? He held his breath as Ken's hand came closer, landing ever so lightly on his head, and began to move a little back and forth. What the...he's...oh, I don't believe this. This can't be happening.
Ken was petting him.
This is so not my day.
The Kaiser's hand stroked him gently, as if this were a usual occurrence. Daisuke stayed as still as he could, doing his best not to draw any extra attention. How long has he known I was here? Was he just pretending not to notice me before? What is going on here? All his questions, and not one single answer.
He let his eyes slide closed; fighting to get the leash off had taken more out of him than he wanted to admit, and Ken's hand on his head was very soothing. The Kaiser seemed to know just how to make things relaxing. This is so wrong, but it feels so right. He wanted to get away, but squirming out from under his enemy's hand, literally under the hand, was the next thing to impossible. Ken would have him pinned back down in no time. His captor appeared to be treating him relatively nicely at the moment, but that could change in a heartbeat.
Well, if you call putting some kind of weird collar around my neck, tying me to his chair, and petting me like I'm an animal being nice. But compared to how he's usually treated me, he's being positively friendly. That in itself worried Daisuke more than anything else.
Ken's hand roamed through Daisuke's hair for a few more moments, and it was hard to tell which one of them was enjoying it more. Ken made no other motions to indicate he knew Daisuke was there, not even one of the trademark taunts that usually marked their encounters. Daisuke relaxed against the throne, leaning his head a bit closer to Ken, and let his mind drift away in the soft pleasures of being petted. He could see now why dogs enjoyed it so much. It really did feel good.
His eyes snapped wide open at that. He was a person, not some kind of an animal! How could Ken be treating him like this, and how could he just be accepting it? His mind fastened onto the only logical explanation: the collar. Before he'd found that on himself, he'd been normal. But ever since...
I have to get rid of this thing! He started to reach up to it, when Ken's stroking hand reminded him ever so subtly of just where he was and what was going on. If he started to yank around trying to get the collar off, the Kaiser would most definitely notice him there if he hadn't already. Who am I kidding, he does know I'm here, he wouldn't be...petting me if he didn't. So what's the risk of trying something else?
Daisuke still didn't attempt to remove the collar, however. He reached out to the knot again, ready to give it another try. Maybe it'll be easier this time around. He wasn't holding that much hope, however. Ken never made things easy. He preferred mind games, and the more he thought about it, the more this really looked like something Ken was doing on purpose.
His fingers worked at the knot carefully, as he held his head as still as he could. If that didn't move, then he was almost positive Ken wouldn't notice anything unusual. So what do I do when I've got it undone and I'm ready to get out of here? He could grab this thing in a second and pull me back. Or worse. Daisuke's mind could and did quite easily conjure up ways it could be worse.
Every once in a while as he worked, Daisuke glanced up at the screens in front of Ken's chair. They appeared to respond to whatever it was he was typing on. Places in the Digital World? Maybe they're places he's put spires or is planning to put them. He craned his head a little, trying to get a better look, then froze as the petting hand suddenly stopped. Uh-oh.
He stopped work on the knot at once, keeping himself as perfectly still as he could. Ken's hand was still on top of his head; it just wasn't petting any longer. A thousand images flittered through his mind, the tension knotting his stomach as badly as it had on the last surprise quiz his teacher had produced.
Then, ever so slowly, the petting began once more. Daisuke relaxed, sighing softly before he realized what he was doing. As soon as the quiet puff of air slipped out, he froze, wondering if that was going to be the mistake that showed whatever Ken's plan really was.
Luck seemed to be with Daisuke at the moment, however, at least as much as it was at all just then. Ken petted quietly, working one-handed on whatever it was he was doing, and appeared to pay no more attention to Daisuke than if he were a statue placed there for the Kaiser's comfort and convenience. Daisuke sucked in a quiet breath, then started once more on the knot, moving just his fingers and arms to the best of his ability.
I think...yeah! The knot came loose, pulling out of the loop easily, and the leash rested in his hand. Daisuke stared down at it for a brief moment, then lifted his eyes, not disturbing the still-petting hand. Now if he'd just move that, I'd be out of here.
Almost at that same moment, Ken returned his hand to the keyboard and started more intense work. Daisuke stared; this really had to be a trap. It was too convenient. The timing was just wrong But even so, it was a trap that he was going to spring and get out of! Ken wouldn't be able to stop him; he'd trip him up, get him tied up in his cape or something. Sure, Ken was faster than he was, but it didn't matter. He could handle this. He was the Chosen of Courage, after all. This sort of crazy stunt was absolutely, one hundred percent in the job description. It had probably been one of the major requirements.
He didn't bother to give himself any more time to think about things. Surprise was the best weapon he had at the moment, along with his fast moving feet. He leaped up, keeping the leash closed tightly in his fist so Ken couldn't get hold of it, and ran the way he'd seen Wormmon coming with the tray. That had to be the way out of here. What other way could there be?
Indeed, it only took a few seconds for him to find the door, which was open. Daisuke dashed through it as swiftly as he could, and found himself in a long hallway, with a few other doors on each side. One or two of them were open, and two other hallways were visible, one only a few steps down to the right, the other several feet to the left. He stopped just outside the door, part of his attention behind him, keeping an ear out for Ken. All the rest of it was on the hallway and any approaching Digimon.
When several minutes passed, and there wasn't any sign of anything from Ken or from outside, Daisuke started down the hallway. As he came to one of the open doors, he peered inside carefully, ready to jump and run at the first sign of anything unusual. Instead, all he saw was...an empty room. It looked much like his first impressions of Ken's throne room had been, empty and cold, but it was completely bare. It lacked even the designs that the other room had.
This is really weird. Why have an empty room here? He couldn't figure it out and finally just chalked it up to the room having some purpose that meant it didn't need furniture. Maybe this was where Ken kept captive Digimon before shoving them into cages or something.
He moved on quickly, checking on any of the other doors he could for any sign of a way out. Every room he looked into, however, was just like that one: utterly empty. "All right," he muttered to himself, "this is just getting creepy."
Daisuke leaned against a wall and closed his eyes. His stomach was rumbling at him; he'd been running around a lot since he'd gotten out of there, and he'd skipped dinner the night before to boot. Maybe I should go ask Ken for something to eat before I leave. The thought of all of that ramen Ken had wolfed down before was absolutely tantalizing. He really should have saved me some. I'm going to punch his lights out just for that.
He glanced down the hallway, seeing a single door framed in light. That was where he had come from: Ken's main room, as far as he'd been able to learn. As much as he'd searched, he hadn't found any other way out of here. There has to be something, though. Wormmon came from somewhere, and I haven't seen him anywhere around here.
Suddenly, a familiar shadow appeared in the doorway, and Daisuke reacted as quickly as he could by dodging into the nearest open door. He could hear calm footsteps coming down the hall in the same direction he was in, and clenched his fists, determined not to just give up. However Ken had caught him the first time, he wouldn't do it again, not that easily. There'd at least be a fight this time. Maybe just a small one, but there'd be one.
He turned and sent his very best death-glare, picked up from Jun when some guy turned her down for a date, at the door as the footsteps came closer. He could see the familiar shadow of the Kaiser stretching out in front of him, then he could see Ken himself, calmly walking along, every inch the regal conqueror.
The Digimon Kaiser passed the door without so much as glancing to one side. Daisuke stared after him, then craned his neck around the doorway to see what Ken did. His enemy paused briefly in front of a wall, then raised one gloved hand to touch it. Daisuke stared as the wall rippled, then opened up into an arched doorway. Ken walked through it, and as his cape cleared the opening, it faded back into a solid wall with a small 'squelch' sound.
Daisuke could hardly believe what his eyes were telling him. This was so...so space-age that his mind couldn't begin to comprehend it for a few seconds. He dashed over to where Ken had walked through the wall and pounded his fist on it hard. "Let me out of here, Ken!" He yelled as loudly as he could. "You can't keep me here! I'm going to get out! So you'd better just make it easy on yourself and let me out! Let me out! Let me out!"
He yelled and screamed until his voice gave out, but the wall remained as solid and obstinate as it could. Daisuke sank into a miserable heap beside it, denying the tears that slipped down his cheeks as he did, and stared at the blank floor beneath him. I don't understand any of this. He had never really felt as if he were stupid until now. None of this made any kind of sense. Not even the weird sense of the Digital World.
At some point, Daisuke figured he'd gotten up and started wandering, since that was what he found himself doing an unknown time later. He didn't remember doing it, but since he'd been doing things without remembering how he'd started to do them for a while now, that didn't bother him all that much. His feet came to a rest outside of a familiar lighted door and he stared into Ken's room once more.
It didn't appear to have changed since he'd left it, except for Ken not being in it. The cart that Wormmon had brought was gone as well, but the chair and the screens remained the same. He wandered over to it, dropping down into the chair without a second thought. He was in Ken's fortress; what did it matter if he happened to sit on the 'throne of power'. What more could Ken do to him other than separating him from his friends and his Digimon, and he'd already done that. He'd even collared him.
Daisuke absently touched the band once more, and was a little surprised to find that it was warm. He was certain he'd remembered it being cool when he'd first found out it was there. Now it felt more like warm skin than anything else. Guess that comes from wearing it so often. He was certain it had something to do with the strange things that had been going on inside and outside of him since he'd opened his eyes and found himself here. He tugged at it half-heartedly, but like so many other things, it didn't change no matter what he did to it.
The screens above were blank now, and he had no idea where the keyboard was. Not that he really would have known what to do if they were working, if he were honest with himself. Ken's setup was so vastly different from the computers that he was used to that he would hardly know how to turn the thing on without blowing it up. Though if you asked Miyako, that was a problem he had most of the time anyway. Luckily, he had never asked Miyako.
"Are you enjoying yourself in my chair, Daisuke?" The shadow of the Kaiser fell on him just before the words were spoken, and Daisuke looked up to see his enemy standing in the doorway, an amused grin gracing his lips. "That's not really where you belong. It's close...but not quite there."
Daisuke stayed where he was, staring angrily at the other boy. "What's going on here, Ken?"
"That's for me to know and you to learn as I teach it to you." Ken stepped closer, cape flaring about him as he did so. "I think you'll enjoy the lessoning, as well. I've planned it out very carefully."
Daisuke slid out of the chair and stared at the Kaiser as he calmly paced over to him. Ken came to a stop right in front of him, gazing down at the redhead, cold amethyst eyes glinting behind his glasses. Every word that Daisuke wanted to say froze in his throat as he eyed the other.
But as frozen as his throat was, Daisuke's body still was capable of movement. He jerked around Ken and made a run for the door, not bothering to hold the leash as he had earlier. If Ken wanted to grab it, he could. But he was going too fast to be stopped by that. If Ken tried, he'd just yank it right on out of there. The door, and hopeful escape, if only for a few seconds, was just a few paces away, and he started through it...
He never took that step. He couldn't have, not once he saw what was waiting out there now. What had been there wasn't there anymore. The hallways and the rooms were gone. Only one room lay beyond the doorway, and it was a complete and utter impossibility. His mind raced and worked, trying to figure out how this could be, but nothing that even vaguely resembled a sensible answer came out. Try as he might, it was there, in all the blazing illogic that could be mustered.
"Do you see something interesting out there, Daisuke? I'd be happy to explain it to you. I don't think you really want to hear it, though. It's a little confusing. But you don't have to worry. It won't be long until you don't really care anymore."
Daisuke ignored Ken's voice. What he was staring at meant a lot more, even if it made no sense whatsoever. He started to cross the threshold, then hesitated, one foot hovering in mid-air. What if it was just some kind of illusion or trick? Everything else in this place seemed to thrive off of those things, and this was even crazier than everything else he'd seen.
What he was looking at was his bedroom. In his family's apartment on Earth.