Chapter 1: Glances Of What Shouldn't Be
-by Ajora Fravashi
-Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Duh.
-Warning: This is the story of a relationship through the eyes of an outsider. As such, it is heavily biased. Do keep this in mind.
-Note: Takes place fourteen years after the D-Reaper incident and ten years after "Infinite Obsession," which is also on this site under the account name "Anokaso."
People change a lot over the years. This was a fact that Li Jianliang was quite aware of, having gone through so many subtle changes in his life that it really didn't surprise him when he was reminded of an old friend's not-so-recent arrangement. How could someone who practically championed justice let things go so wrong?
Okay, so it didn't surprise him, but that didn't mean he had to like it. Once upon a time, he had a crush on Akiyama Ryo. It remained secret, as so many of his personal desires did, and he behaved as if no such thing was even possible. Early on, if anyone noticed a flicker of worry pass over his eyes or any attention paid to rumors about Ryo, it was easily dismissed as the concern of a friend. And, since Ryo seldom ever talked about the truly unpleasant things in his life, Jianliang often had to wrangle information from other sources. Ruki had been the first to attempt to pry anything out of Ryo directly, but even the few facts reluctantly given up were so swaddled in half-truths that it had taken a good deal more investigation and deductive reasoning to extricate the gems of full truth from the rumors and those games supposedly based on Ryo's past.
Of course, none of those games ever stated Millenniumon's plethora of issues outright. The total disregard of digital life was heavily implied, but the games never actually said he was genocidal. There were hints of the digimon's desire to rise above his kind and become a god, but no one ever said that Millenniumon's mind somehow equated humans with gods and that he wanted to be human as well. One could reconcile oneself with the concept of Millenniumon's rather undefined desire for Ryo, but being smacked upside the head by the reality of it was another thing altogether. Two worlds had nearly been overtaken in the name of, well, whatever it was. Reality had a nasty habit of taking up those half-truths and elaborating on them until the full truth shone with an ugly, entirely unavoidable light.
Jianliang found that he didn't enjoy reality all that much. In fantasy, the people he wanted to be with would return the feeling. They didn't run off to get married to a girl like Takato had or start sleeping with the enemy, as Jianliang suspected Ryo was doing. They didn't disappear for years at a time and come back with bruises and cuts eerily suggestive of domestic abuse. No, he didn't like reality at all.
Unfortunately, he had to deal with it anyway. It was all well and good when Ryo was out of reach and everyone thought they'd never see the eldest Tamer again. Then, Jianliang could have been content with would-haves and what-ifs. Then a few years ago Ryo was back from wherever he had been for the past ten years; supposedly "on vacation," as if that was the whole truth and not one of those half-truths that left more questions than answers. With him came a rather odd-looking man with wheat-blond hair and cold, ice-blue eyes. What was particularly odd about him was that he looked neither young or old or even middle-aged, but had an eerily ageless quality to him. This man, introduced as Miroslav Nikanov, remained silent when he accompanied Ryo to the monthly Tamer get-togethers and had a habit of staring down his nose contemptuously at everyone else. When Jianliang had asked what Miroslav did for a living, Ryo had blinked, looked away, and muttered "physicist." He wondered why Ryo had lied, but didn't press the issue at the time. When Miroslav proved to be every bit as forbidding and asocial as he looked, the other Tamers simply stopped trying to talk to him after awhile. Surely some of the others must have wondered why Miroslav insisted on accompanying Ryo and always seemed to hover so possessively over him, but no one else seemed to bother asking. The one time Jianliang had asked, Ryo had again given another of his half-truths, that Miroslav was sick and needed watching. Why was the eldest Tamer being so damn evasive about Miroslav? Was he hiding something? Nevertheless, life would have gone quite well if Shaochung hadn't decided to make it her mission to get Miroslav to talk to them.
It had been during a private party at the Makino house (Ruki herself tended to abandon the gatherings once she had enough socializing for the day, leaving her mother as the all-too-happy hostess) that they found out who Miroslav really was. Whatever Shaochung said had struck a nerve with the man, and soon everyone in the room turned their heads in surprise as Miroslav started ranting at her. Jianliang could hardly remember what exactly he was ranting about, since shock had already started settling in and he was caught in the unique quandary of cold rationality conflicting with the urge to attack the man for having a go at Shaochung, but at that moment he knew. Miroslav's voice was still familiar, despite the fact that none of them had heard it in ten years. Those ice blue eyes flashed a red that would have struck fear into them all ten years ago. "Milek" was the diminutive by which Ryo called Miroslav during the few times they thought they weren't being watched. During those quiet, if rather undemonstrative, moments that betrayed a relationship that Jianliang would have preferred to share with Ryo instead of letting that... that monster...
Milek. Subtract the "k." Mille, then. Short for...
He remembered what happened afterwards with the sort of detached quality of an old video camera. A brief look of despair passed over Ryo's eyes as he tried to calm Millenniumon down, something Jianliang would not have noticed if he hadn't leapt to Shaochung's side in an attempt to defend her. The noise attracted Ruki, who was working for a security firm at the time, and time seemed to stop when she pulled out an illegal pistol she had confiscated from a yakuza and aimed it at Millenniumon's head. It would have been so easy, wouldn't it? Millenniumon was responsible for that period of terror that started four years after the defeat of the D-Reaper, for nearly killing Takato, for the murder of so many humans and digimon in his quest to regain Ryo. Millenniumon deserved to die and he was never so vulnerable before now.
Then why did Ryo have to step so calmly in the line of fire? If anyone should want Millenniumon dead, wouldn't it be Ryo? After all, Millenniumon's very existence had practically ruined Ryo's life. It made no sense at all.
Why? Like it or not, it was starting to add up: the diminutive, the looks of silent understanding and communication that passed between the two when they thought no one was watching, Millenniumon's possessive hovering and the way he seemed to bite down a snarl if anyone got too close to Ryo... It was like something out of a nightmare. People like Ryo weren't supposed to succumb to poison like that. They weren't supposed to sleep with the enemy.
One comes to realize that addiction to certain kinds of poisons never make any sense.
Once Ryo had Millenniumon sedated (apparently he kept a syringe on him for just such an event) and Ruki had reluctantly put her pistol away, the explanations finally came. Even if more personal details had been left out, at least it was something. Seventeen years ago, Millenniumon had taken over the Digital World of another universe in his search for something that wasn't there for him during the formative period of a young digimon. Millenniumon's Chosen Child was trained by Gennai and the Holy Beasts to battle him in hopes of defeating him. Circumstances landed them in this universe and, fourteen years ago, Takato and the others were gifted with the ability to actually be able to choose their digimon partners (this was said with significant bitterness on Ryo's part, since he never had that choice). Then, ten years ago, Millenniumon broke the Jogress with Monodramon and went on a rampage reminiscent of his first takeover of another universe's Digital World. It had been his own bond to Ryo that ended up defeating him, and everyone had thought they would never see the trio of Ryo, Millenniumon, and Monodramon again. With both Ryo and Millenniumon too ill to control their shared power, Monodramon made an emergency plea to the ENIAC and had the three recalled.
From there, Ryo gave even less details. All they learned was that Millenniumon had tried several more times to take over a few worlds, and each time Monodramon and Ryo had to defeat him. Eventually, the ENIAC made a last-ditch effort and had a human clone generated for the occupation of Millenniumon's digicore. The transfer itself went off without a hitch, since Millenniumon had never really been anything more than the projection of a digicore since Ryo destroyed his original body in 2000. Even the former digimon's adjustment to a human body was surprisingly free of hassle. So, naturally, the task of finding antipsychotics that actually worked on Millenniumon's new body was the real problem.
Which brought them to then. Medication could only go so far in assisting the healing process, but the care of another was said to be far more beneficial. So, the ENIAC had appointed Ryo as Millenniumon's caretaker until such a time that Millenniumon could regain his post without giving in to the urge of killing random digimon or trying to take over the world again. Given that Ryo was familiar enough with his partner that he wouldn't take the usual bullshit a clever digimon like Millenniumon could come up with to convince everyone that he was recovering, the eldest Tamer was naturally the best choice. That was where Ryo dropped the tale.
For the most part, almost everyone accepted it at first. It certainly wasn't the whole story, but no one was inclined to ask Ryo about it when he already had more on his hands than most people could handle. In the five years since then, Takato had gotten married to one of Juri's friends and then divorced her after a couple of years, Kenta went and got his masters in marine biology, Hirokazu had won a few car races, Ai decided to court Shaochung when they had a bit of free time from their work at Ruki's new security firm, Ruki and Ryo had gotten drunk enough at the wedding party to do something they both regretted and now their kid was the only actual child of any of the Tamers, and-
Ah, yes, that was where it started. Millenniumon had been so furious about that particular indiscretion that it had taken all the digimon available at the party to hold him down, and his rage was such that he was wholly unintelligible the few times he managed to speak. At least, that was what Lopmon said. Jianliang only vaguely remembered anything that happened because he was busy drinking away his own problems. After all, reality had decided once again to remind him of his bachelor status and of all the injustice in the world. They were all very fortunate that the former digimon was allowed so little of his original power.
After that incident, Ryo's appearances at the monthly gatherings were sporadic at best, and once an entire two years passed before he'd turn up again. When asked about it, he always responded with "I was busy" or "Sorry, business trip. Couldn't come along." When asked about the bruises he always came with, he shrugged them off as inconsequential and blamed it on his clumsiness. After all, the-job-with-no-name was very taxing on his reserves. That didn't make sense, though, since Ryo wasn't the kind of person one would think of as clumsy. And again, the question of "why" haunted him. The answers to that "why" haunted him even more. It was one thing to pretend Millenniumon had actually become human and might even act like a decent one on a good day, if he was inclined to be optimistic. It was quite another thing to realize that some poisons remain in the body for years and never change their composition. Quite another thing to realize that Millenniumon had most likely never actually changed and was taking out his predisposition for violence on his own partner. The only person he voiced this hypothesis to was Shaochung, whom he was sure wouldn't mention it to the others before he had a chance to gather real evidence.
Therefore, it was only natural that Shaochung picked last week's gathering to point it out, when Jianliang still had nothing more tangible to support his hypothesis than the bruises Ryo kept lying about and Millenniumon's past behavioral record. She was getting to be quite intrusive and insisted on revealing it all to the group regardless of Jianliang's misgivings over saying anything outright. Ruki simply gave a snort and said that Ryo and Millenniumon deserved each other, and Jianliang suspected that she was still offended over being denied the right to kill Millenniumon while he was still weak. Considering the conclusions Jianliang had come to as well as the lives lost during the war, he would have appreciated to opportunity to kill Millenniumon as well. Ruki was, after all, a proud and strong woman, and being unable to take her revenge surely must have hurt. Kenta's concern was dampened by having to force Hirokazu to sit down lest he and Takato run off to that backwater town Ryo lived at, and probably splatter themselves on a mountain road more dangerous than Hirokazu's race courses. Takato had to be held down by Ruki once Jianliang had to explain what Shaochung was getting at with her attempt at subtext, since his first urge was to go charging as if he were a knight in shining armor. At least that charming aspect of Takato never changed. Ai, having never really gotten to know Ryo that well, didn't say much of anything. She did, however, show some sympathy for Shaochung's plight.
The meeting had lasted most of the night, and only Takato had left briefly to tuck the group mascot into bed and return with a tray of pastries. They discussed the situation, avenues of approach and intervention, what to do and how to handle it all. Takato and Hirokazu would try their little rescue plan, and if that didn't work, they believed Jianliang could reason with Ryo. After that, well, who knows. Maybe they might even let Ruki have revenge for them all with a well-placed bullet.
The Takato/Hirokazu plan failed spectacularly when they realized that no one had a clear idea where Ryo and Millenniumon had hidden themselves. When Takato had finally gotten in touch with Ryo through e-mail, he was told on no uncertain terms that the situation was perfectly fine and Ryo knew what he was doing. This didn't allay Hirokazu's mood, but Takato was optimistic enough to accept it. And so, Jianliang was next in the mission to pry Ryo and Millenniumon apart, or at least find out what was really going on. After all, one does not allow one's friend to fall into an abusive and poisonous relationship.
Which led him to now. Ryo had proven more amiable to his e-mail than he had to Takato's, and given him an address at which to meet him. It was some little bar called Shuan in Tokamachi, from the looks of it, and he was told to come alone. Okay, it was only some backwater town in the middle of nowhere compared to Tokyo, but the JR Iiyama line did run through it, so it shouldn't be too hard to get to. He just hoped reason would work where pleading could not.
Jianliang took a deep, calming breath as his eyes set upon the western horizon with grim determination. Once he confronted Ryo, he would ask his questions and demand the whole truth, even if the truth tasted like ash and venom. He wouldn't allow for any more evasion. And, while he did have a personal interest in separating Millenniumon from Ryo, he was far more concerned with getting the abuse to stop. Come hell or high water, he would do something about the situation. This kind of thing should never be allowed to go on.
-Note: Miroslav is a Slavic name meaning "great glory" and has the diminutive "Milek." It was chosen because Mille and Milek sound similar enough that Ryo can usually avoid calling him "Millenniumon" outright ("Mille" converts to "Mire" in katakana, and "Milek" converts to "Mireku"). It tends to be a touchy subject.