Author's Note: And I'm back to the land of the living! No, I haven't forgotten my 02 fic – I swear I'm going to continue it, I've just gotten sidetracked. Now this . . . this fic is a whole new idea for me. First of all, I've never written Tamers before (let alone an AU Tamers fic), second I've never attempted a fic of this magnitude, and third, I've got more of this planned out than in any other fic I've written. Most of the time I just wing it. This, at least, has about half the plot worked out. So, with any luck, this will be one of my best works ever. Or it could be my biggest flop. Let's see how it works out. If it's a flop, it's a flop. People who don't tolerate creative license, don't read.
On another note, I don't know how long it will take me between updates. I tend to be sporadic, and occasionally lose my inspiration, or just write myself into a corner. I will say that I have some of the second chapter done now, and reviewers can have an influence on how fast I get it out. I also have another thing interfering with my free-writing time: A.P. classes. Oh yes, the joys of A.P. U.S. History and A.P. English. The second will improve my writing, but they both will detract, on the whole, from my writing time. (Term papers. Blech. xD)
FEEDBACK is welcome. FLAMES are not. Feedback can be positive or negative, but it has reason behind it and doesn't throw in an inordinate amount of derogatory language, Flames aren't worth my time and I'd much rather be working on my English than dealing with them. So if I get too many flames, I will remove this fic rather than put up with being harassed. Thank you.
Mostly unbetaed, but I did go over it two or three times with a fine tooth comb. Still, I know I missed at least a few things. Nobody's perfect. (Heck, I've had fics that were betaed still come out with errors.)
Disclaimer: Well, I own the storyline, I don't know who owns the idea of gijinkas (if anyone), and I know I don't own the characters. I just play with them. Oh, and some of the names contained herein are, to my knowledge, nonexistent in real life. I made them up. If there are real names that bear resemblance to my creations, it's pure chance. And since there is no info forthcoming, I took it upon myself to name Ai and Makoto's parents, - plus give them their surname -, but that doesn't mean I own them. Oh, and I'm using the Japanese names for the characters, but I don't know how much else yet.
One last little thing in my notoriously long author's note – there's a sequence near the end of this chapter that I'll admit might be a trifle OOC, but this is an AU and I'm not really certain if this character's personality might be a bit different in this situation.
Dedicated to: Sphynx! For being my best buddy and putting up with my randomly insane ideas – and for betaeing, too.
'The Last of the Gijinka'
The Digital World: Many knew of it, some knew that it was real, but very few truly understood it or the races that inhabited it. The Digimon were, of course, the most well known of the world's inhabitants, with the Digignomes a close second. However, there was a third race – so rare and secretive that very little information was available, and most of it based on rumors.
Long ago, at the same time the other races of the Digital World developed, the third race of creatures came to be. This race was remarkably similar to the Digimon, yet at the same time, vastly different. So-called 'Gijinka Digimon' were a blend of humanity and data like no other race before or after their time. It is unknown how they first developed, being that they bore such a physical resemblance to the human race, yet it is undoubtable that they matched their Digimon cousins in power and distinctiveness.
These beings appeared virtually human, yet they retained some of the features of their Digimon counterparts. Depending on the particular gijinka, they shared the ears, the tail, and/or other features. Of course, some gijinka were nearly indistinguishable from humans. However, gijinka possessed a trait singular to their species: They could alter their appearance into that of their Digimon counterpart, or assume a completely human identity. When in their Digimon form, they were identical in every way with the true Digimon denizens of the Digital World.
Gijinka were an enigmatic race. They preferred to keep to themselves and avoided openly interacting with anyone. If they were forced to interact with the true Digimon, they would always adopt their Digimon form so as to go about undetected. Given their secrecy, it did not take long for vicious rumors to circulate. Curiosity turned into distrust, distrust became fear; fear developed into hatred.
This hatred was strengthened considerably when a particular gijinka started making a reputation for himself – a bad one. Originally the one most rumors circulated about, this particular gijinka soon took pleasure in spreading his own rumors, further discrediting his people. He played an instrumental role in what was to become the Digital world's first true genocide.
Sovereigns Qinglongmon, Xuanwumon, and Baihumon were aware of this growing problem, yet didn't think much of it. They had greater problems to worry about. Zhuquiaomon, on the other hand, had at least a partial idea of what might happen if this trend in opinion continued. He did not deign to stop it, as privately he harbored a distrust of the gijinka too – mainly because of their resemblance to the humans.
Gradually, the gijinka were sought out and destroyed. In an already brutal world, no one thought much of this massacre. After all, they didn't know how many gijinka there were in the first place – how could they keep track of a species that can disappear into the crowd? Even if they could have known just how many were being cut down, it's unknown as to whether anything would be done to halt the slaughter. The fear and hatred ran far too deep.
"Imouku! Run! We have to get out of here!"
"But . . . Mama . . . what about . . . ?"
Golden eyes filled with tears. The gijinka Black Tailmon squeezed her young son's hand as she dragged him along. Her lengthy violet hair was ragged and disheveled; her ears lay flat and her tail twitched anxiously. She refused to say anything at first, and simply kept moving. Her son tried to keep up with her, but his legs were considerably shorter than his mother's and he tripped.
The tiny gijinka Yaamon was only five years old, but already had seen much suffering and death. His bright green eyes were wide with fright, but he was confident that his mother could protect him. Even so, his mother's fear was a powerful motivator, and he raced after her despite his stumbling. His mother looked down at him and knew that he wouldn't be able to run much farther.
The sounds of battle echoed on the air behind the two. At the first sign of attack Imouku's mother had taken her son and fled, as her husband distracted their attackers and gave them time to get away. Both of them had known that there was no way he would survive – he wouldn't be able to fend off a large-scale attack of over a score of assailants. But of course, little Imouku didn't know that.
"He'll catch up, Imouku. Now run!"
An angry shout from close by sent a new wave of fear through the twosome, and Imouku found himself in his mother's arms as she ran with all the speed and agility of her Digimon counterpart. The virus type aimed for a small rock cave that would sufficiently hide a very small form. Reaching it, she set her son down, looked straight into his eyes and spoke calmly, yet forcefully.
"Imouku, I need you to listen to me. There isn't much time. Will you promise me something?"
The little one nodded, nervously sucking his middle and ring fingers. His mother smiled, "Good. I need you to shift forms and hide in that cave. Don't come out, no matter what happens. Do you understand?"
"Alright then. Promise me, Imouku – promise me that you won't let anyone find out what you are. It's too dangerous for the gijinka anymore. If you are found out, I won't be able to protect you," She glanced behind her and continued in a rushed manner, " Promise me, Imouku! Promise that you'll stay safe, no matter what happens! Promise!"
Bright green eyes blinked solemnly, "I promise, mama."
A genuine smile lit up the adult's worried face before her features hardened. "Now Imouku! Hide now!"
Terrified, Imouku did as he was told, and a small Yaamon hopped into the cave. He looked up, hoping to catch a glimpse of his mother, and saw an angry Black Tailmon leap into a hopeless battle. He couldn't take his eyes off of the fight, even when his mother fell to the ground, data fizzling. Only when she disintegrated in front of him did he shut his eyes and try to block out the world.
"Impmon-chan! Wake up!"
The voices were pleading, impatient, and impossible to resist. Impmon cracked an eye open and found the faces of his twin Tamers, Ai and Makoto, less than six inches from his own. He sat up, blinking repeatedly.
"I'm up already, you don't have to yell!"
The two children exchanged a look, and spoke in unison,
"But we've been trying to wake you up for ten minutes!"
Impmon blinked at them, still a bit sleepy and not thinking too clearly. His Tamers were already dressed and carried their backpacks. Apparently it was already time for them to go to school – he had slept in. It was just about a year after the Parisimon attack, and Impmon had gotten in the habit of following his Tamers to school. Now the twins wouldn't leave the house without making sure he was with them. Most of the time he didn't mind, but this particular morning he didn't really want to. He had other things to do today.
Still, his Tamers would not be denied, and Impmon was soon bounding along the rooftops just a little ways behind the twins. Oh well, perhaps he could find something to entertain himself with. Maybe he could slip away for a bit and have some alone time.
He hardly ever got that anymore, and while he loved his Tamers, he had spent so much time living on his own that he sometimes felt a little crowded. Even so, he preferred making sure that the twins were safely in school before he went off. He couldn't bear it if something were to happen to them. It didn't take very long for Ai and Makoto to reach the schoolyard, and Impmon watched them enter from his position on a streetlamp.
"Bye Impmon! See you later!"
Impmon waved back at them as they went into the school building, then left. He didn't have any particular destination in mind, other than perhaps stopping to get some breakfast. Today was Saturday, so the twins would be out of school relatively soon, and there was supposed to be a meeting of some sort this afternoon. The small purple Digimon had no intention of really 'attending' said meeting, but he would probably drop in on it anyway.
For now, though, he had nothing to do. . . except find a way to fill his stomach. He could always go back to the house, but the twins' mother tended to annoy him with her overly sweet personality. Oh she was a nice lady, that was a given. She was just too nice. She could be rather scary at times.
No, Impmon really didn't want to go back there. Another option crossed his mind: Takato's parents were always seeking help, and it was a well-known fact that they would feed any Digimon who volunteered some of their time. Not that Impmon really wanted to work for his breakfast, but maybe he could get them to feed him first so he could leave without working.
His stomach made the decision for him. If and how he could get out of the work would come later. He needed to eat now!
Several hours and a full stomach later, Impmon was reclining in a tree, watching the Tamers meeting. They weren't all there – Hirokazu had gotten himself grounded, and Makoto had decided to go to a friend's house. Impmon wasn't too pleased with that idea – he had a fear of his Tamers forgetting and abandoning him, even if he was the one who had left the first time - but he had gotten over it.
He had picked this tree because it offered him a decent view of the proceedings while being relatively secluded. The only way they'd see him was if he drew attention to himself. Of course, Renamon would still know he was there, but she wouldn't disturb him while there were more important things to do.
Impmon was bored. All the Tamers were discussing were recent BioEmerges, and those had been few and far between and fairly easy to take care of. Impmon found himself watching Ai, who had attached herself to Jenrya – somehow or other the little girl had gotten the idea that she would marry the half Chinese boy. Jenrya, however, did not share this opinion, and it was obvious to everyone . . . except Ai.
It was too bad Makoto wasn't here. He was the only one who could keep Ai from bothering Jenrya . . . if only because he had a similar fascination with Ruki. This was something neither his twin nor the older girl appreciated, so it usually worked out this way: Makoto would keep Ai away from Jenrya, and Ai would keep Makoto away from Ruki – partially for his own safety, of course.
Impmon attempted to put his mind on the whatever-it-was going on down below, but he really didn't care about stuff like that – too boring. Plus Renamon was standing right underneath the tree he was hiding in and he had a strange urge to set her tail on fire – something that would undoubtedly get him in more trouble than he could deal with right now.
He weighed it in his mind for a few minutes – whether or not the thrill of seeing Renamon's face was worth it when she got angry. The purple Digimon was fairly certain it wouldn't hurt her . . . but he was another story altogether. There was no telling what Renamon would do to him if –and he most certainly would with Renamon being the target – get caught.
'Aw, to heck with it. At least it'll stir up some excitement around here.'
He looked around cautiously. Good, no one noticed him. Oh, they knew he was there, but he preferred not to draw attention to himself at the moment. He took careful aim at the very tip of Renamon's tail. Just as he was about to set his plan into motion, she turned her head towards him.
"Don't even consider it."
Impmon 'wilted', and plastered a false hurt look on his face.
"Who, me? I wasn't gonna do anything!"
"Of course you weren't."
Was it just him, or was there a flicker of amusement in her eyes? Nah, probably not – who could tell? Nevertheless, Impmon sat back on his tree limb and began to sulk.
"And stop sulking. It just makes you look childish."
'Shows how much you know,' Impmon thought and resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at her. Giving up on having anything fun happen for the next half-hour or so, Impmon lay back on his tree limb and took an impromptu nap. Surely his dreams would contain more excitement than this . . .
"Yes, little one . . . sleep . . . dream . . . let your mind take you back to where it began. Remember me – and your reason to fear. Remember me . . . and face your future!"
His mother was tucking him in for the night – not that what he was sleeping on was an actual bed, as his family had been forced to flee their home just a few weeks before. He was frightened; this place was unpleasant and cold, and the darkness pressed in all around him.
"Mama . . . I wanna go home."
His mother responded in the way she usually had for the past two weeks – with a half annoyed, half sad sigh.
"We can't go home right now, 'Mouku. Maybe we'll find a new home."
The promise was an empty one, and even a four-and-a-half-year-old could tell that. He glared at her, pouting.
This time his mother didn't meet his eyes, and went to sit next to his father on the other side of the small campfire.
"Go to sleep, Imouku. We need to go on tomorrow."
Imouku pouted, but then proceeded to lie down and close his eyes. He lay there for a while, listening to his parents' conversation.
"What are we going to do, Youkano? This kind of travel . . . it's too hard on someone his age! He's just a baby!"
"I know, Anikana, but what other choice do we have? It's either take him and run, leave him at the mercy of the 'True ones', or let –"
"Don't even mention that, Youkano! I will not leave my son in the hands of that monster! I will not allow that . . . that . . . repulsive beast anywhere near him!"
Imouku was startled at the venom in his mother's voice. Startled and terrified. He had no idea who she was talking about, but whoever it was sounded scary – mean, even – if it got his mother upset like that. She hardly ever yelled about anything . . . He heard her breathing, harsh and choked at the same time, and realized that she was crying. Now he knew something was wrong. His mother never cried. Ever.
"Hush, Ani – you'll wake him."
A long, drawn out, shuddering sigh, "I know, 'Kan. I'm sorry, it's just – "
"Listen to me, Ani. I promise you, I will not let anything happen to either you or Imouku. I swear that I will die before I let Kuuhei lay one filthy claw on you or our son."
"Don't say that . . . or it might happen."
"It won't. I won't let it."
Kuuhei. . . Imouku didn't know why that name made him so terrified, but he knew that whoever-it-was was not a friend of his Mama or his Father. Unlike his mother, though, he had every confidence that his father could protect him – after all, weren't Fathers invincible?
Suddenly the darkness closed in around him, snuffing out the campfire as well as his parents' voices. A strange sound filled the air, and he recognized it as heavy breathing. Then he was falling, falling into the nothingness below him with no idea when he'd stop or if he ever would.
With a loud 'THUMP', the darkness parted, and Impmon awoke to find himself staring up into about a dozen faces – most concerned, one trying to stifle his laughter. Somewhat disoriented, Impmon still knew just who was laughing and glared at him, only to send the smaller Digimon into a full-blown giggle fit.
"Terriermon . . . " Jenrya moaned, giving his tactless partner an admonishing look.
"But . . . but Jen . . ."
Jenrya took his partner off to have a talk about laughing at others when they've had an accident while Ai grabbed Impmon in a tight hug.
"Impmon-chan, are you alright? You fell out of the tree and hit your head!"
Oh. Well, that explained the headache, at least. What a nightmare . . . he had thought he had seen the last of dreams like that a long time ago, before he met Ai and Makoto, even. But this was the second one in less than twenty-four hours. Something wasn't right, and he would have to figure it out or risk more accidents happening. He probably shouldn't fall asleep in any high places for a while, that was for certain.
It was only when a hand waved in front of his face that he realized he was being spoken to.
"Impmon? Maybe you should go home. You hit your head pretty hard and you don't look all that good. . . "
"There was a time when he looked good?"
Impmon ignored the smaller Digimon and focused on Takato's face. The human looked pretty worried, and now that he thought about it, so did everyone around him. So he nodded, despite the fact that it pained him. Odd. . . if his Digimon healing abilities were still intact the pain should have dulled a bit by now.
"I'm fine. A little tumble like that can't hurt me! Now leave me alone and go back to your get-together."
Ai instantly saw through her partner's attempt at glossing over his pain by bragging. She knew all-too-well that Impmon never wanted to admit when he was hurt. She also knew that he would sit there and glower at anyone who chanced to look at him. So she knew what she needed to do. With one last wistful glance at Jenrya, she grabbed her partner by the arm and pulled him to his feet.
"Come on, Impmon-chan – we'd better go. I have that math test on Monday an' Mama said that if I don't pass it I won't get that Beelzebumon figure I saw at the store."
She smiled at everyone, blew a kiss at Jenrya –Terriermon promptly teased Jenrya about his 'girlfriend', which earned him an exasperated look - and dragged Impmon away through the park. Once they were out of earshot, and in a relatively secluded place, she let go and stared at him. He stared back.
She narrowed her eyes.
He narrowed his eyes.
She glared at him.
He glared right back.
Then, "What was that about?"
Impmon crossed his arms and looked away.
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You never fall out of trees for no reason, Impmon. Never, ever. What's wrong?"
"Liar-liar. Tell me," Her gaze softened. "Please, Impmon-chan . . . I want to help!"
Impmon looked down, then around, as if he expected someone to be listening in on them right at this moment.
"I . . . I had a nightmare, alright?"
Ai's response was instantaneous. Throwing her arms around him, she hugged him tightly, "Poor Impmon-chan! It must've been a bad nightmare to make you fall!"
"Yeah, well . . . Don't tell anyone, okay?"
Ai blinked in confusion. Telling people about her nightmares made it better, so why wouldn't Impmon want anyone to know?
"Okay . . . Not even Makoto?"
". . . You can tell him. Just no-one else."
"Alright, Impmon-chan. Let's go home and get a snack."
Impmon nodded in agreement, reaching up to rub his still-aching head. He didn't really want to travel in his usual manner, so they walked for a few minutes in silence. Then he looked over at her and grinned.
"What was that you said about a Beelzebumon figure?"
"Now who's lying?"
In response, Ai simply blew him a raspberry.
Two days after the accident in the park, Impmon was sitting on the couch watching television. His head still ached from the bump he'd gotten when he'd fallen out of the tree, and he was in a bad mood. Of course, the fact that he kept having nightmares didn't help, either. To make matters worse, they were nearly all half-buried memories – things that he wanted to stay buried.
Ai and Makoto had tried to get him to tell them just what he was having nightmares about, but he stubbornly refused to say. This was mostly because they wouldn't understand and it would mean revealing his greatest secret to them – and that was something he could not do. Now and then he wanted to tell the twins, wanted someone to – at last – know his real name, not just his identifier. But always, something held him back.
He was never entirely sure of what it was: Perhaps a fear of rejection, of having to live on the streets again; perhaps of what the 'true' Digimon would think when they found out – would they react differently than the rest of their kind? To be honest he didn't think they'd out-and-out try to kill him, but he knew that it would certainly change things between them.
To make matters worse, there was nothing to watch. He supposed he should be grateful that his Tamers hadn't insisted on his accompanying them to school, but really, he missed the opportunity to get out of the house in the morning. Since Ai had brought him home, still dizzy and somewhat disoriented, the twins' mother wouldn't let him out of her sight.
Kobayashi Amarante was a rather . . . overprotective woman who had a tendency to worry too much, hence the reason why Impmon was spending the day on the couch. He was okay with T.V., but he could only take so much of it.
He flipped idly through the channels, not really looking for anything in particular, and not expecting to find anything. He kept an eye on the redheaded woman in the corner of the room. To all appearances she was ignoring him, happily absorbed in a book of some kind.
Of course, Impmon knew better. The second he so much as looked out the window she'd be all over him.
Nothing got past that woman – at least not anything alive. Ai and Makoto's puppy even knew better than to try anything. Amarante saw everything. Which sometimes made Impmon wonder how he had managed to get away from the twins that one night. He suspected she had let him go – she had to have known. The woman was as bad as Renamon in some ways.
Quietly, slowly, Impmon put the remote down, and glanced over at her. Her eyes remained fixed on her book. Still, he waited another few minutes before attempting his next move. Ever so slowly he slid off of the couch, until he was sitting on the floor. This didn't get past her, but she returned her gaze to the book quickly enough.
Now came the hard part. He edged over towards the twins' room – he stood a better chance of escaping from in there. To his surprise she didn't seem to care. Feeling more confident now, he strode boldly into the room and towards the window – only to find it closed.
Oh well, no matter – he'd just have to find a way to open it. Glancing around the room revealed little that cold help him in his quest. Time to get creative, then. After all, if she had let him get this far there was a good chance she'd go ahead and let him leave. If she hadn't wanted him to, she'd have stopped him by now.
Shortly thereafter there ensued a series of bangs, crashes, and odd hammering sounds from within the twins' room. Ai and Makoto's mother looked up from her book and watched Impmon carry something - was that a spatula – into the twins' room. A minute later he came back out empty-handed. Then he came back, this time carrying the music box from her dresser. Just what was the little demon up to?
Laying her book aside, Amarante stood up and walked into the twins' room. Impmon wasn't there, and the window was open. The floor was dotted by various pieces of 'equipment': a pen, a feather duster, the vacuum cleaner's motor, etc. Some sort of 'contraption' was hooked to the window and had obviously opened it. The contraption was composed of more random things than Amarante could count, and lots of string, tape, and glue.
With a shrug, she started cleaning up – after all, if he had gone to such elaborate lengths to get out, who was she to stop Impmon? The twins had made him promise to be there when they came home, so she wasn't worried about him coming back late.
On a crowded street some distance away from the Kobayashi house, a boy of about twelve as walking – well, perhaps 'grooving' was a better word – along. He wasn't particularly short or particularly tall; he was small of frame but looked like he might be a fast runner; he had remote signs of a tan; and he had shocking red hair and bright green eyes. He had an MP3 player clipped onto his shorts and wore a set of headphones – the apparent reason why he was dancing.
He presented an odd picture, dressed all in purple with a red bandanna and gloves, but why should he care? He was seemingly lost in his own little world, dancing to a song only he could hear – until he tripped over someone's foot and nearly smashed his face into that person's garbage. Thankfully his quick reflexes and considerable flexibility let him remain on his feet, and he continued on as if nothing had happened. (With the exception of discreetly setting fire to said person's shoe.)
Imouku didn't do this often, and it wasn't quite as comfortable as his proper form, but it was a good way for him to stretch and relax a bit – not to mention letting him be taller. He got tired of being the size of a human toddler all the time, and this was a lot of fun. The only catch would be if the Tamers caught sight of him, but he doubted they'd recognize him even then.
The only one he really worried about catching him was Renamon. If she figured it out, she'd call him on it. That much he was sure of. Still, he didn't worry too much about that. He had taken some human painkiller for his headache – not the smartest thing to do when you weren't really human -, and it had worked wonderfully. His headache was gone and he felt better than he had in weeks . . .
For no apparent reason he closed his eyes and kept them closed, unaware that he was heading straight past the Matsuda bakery. He continued the strange half-dance, half walk, until he crashed into something. He opened his eyes to see what or whom he hit, and found himself eye-to-eye with Matsuda Takato himself, just arriving home from school. Imouku let out a strangled yelp, and in a moment of panic, ran off as fast as he could go.
Takato blinked and shook his head, staring at where the crazy kid had gone. 'What was that all about? He acted like he thought I was going to eat him or something.' Then he shrugged and went in, hoping to get in and get out before he got another homework lecture. That kid did seem awfully familiar though . . . was it the way he dressed? Takato tried to recall what he could in the instant he'd seen the boy, and then it hit him. The kid's outfit made him appear an awful lot like Impmon. Huh. He'd have to tell Impmon he had a fan – the egotistic little thing would love to hear that!
Imouku ran until he could run no further, and then stopped to catch his breath. He really didn't think Takato had seen him long enough to draw any conclusions –at least he hoped not-, but he'd have to avoid any of the Tamers for a while unless he wanted to be asked about it. After a few minutes, he calmed down somewhat, and then the redhead realized that he had overreacted a little bit. Takato had no clue that gijinka even existed, let alone what they might look like.
He relaxed for a minute and took in his surroundings. Great. He'd panicked over nothing and gave the gogglehead more reason to mention his encounter to his friends, and gotten himself about a two-hour's walk home on top of it all! Could this day get any worse? 'Probably not.' He mused, as he decided to relax and try to enjoy the sights. He'd get home eventually, and Ai and Makoto -
Ai and Makoto! They would have gotten out of school a while ago – if they had gone home and found him missing when he'd promised he'd be there, they might think he'd left them again! He had to get back to them, and quickly! Only . . . where exactly was the house from here?
"This just isn't my day."
"It doesn't seem to be, does it?"
Imouku jumped, startled, and looked in the direction of the speaker. Although partially hidden in the shadows, it was still obvious who had spoken. Cool blue eyes regarded the seemingly human child with an unreadable expression. This was just great – he'd gotten away from one Tamer and run smack into another. . . and this one would be more than capable of putting two-and-two together.
'Can this day get any worse?"