A Gemini Star Announcement: I will be out of town for the next week or so, visiting relatives on my father's side of the family in Austin. As such, updating will be limited, except perhaps around Wednesday or so when I hope to access my e-mail and get the beta of the next KoEH chapter set up. See you then.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kouji, Kouichi or anything else involved with Digimon Frontier. I'm just a bit of a history buff.

Manzanar

Chapter 9: Around to the End

Kouichi stared around him in shock, panting heavily. He was on the ground, as expected after such a fall, but he was not wrist-and-ankle deep in mud as he should have been. Instead, he was nearly submerged in cool, moist silver mist, swirling and hovering over an unseen ground that felt as smooth as glass. The fog glowed a bit with a dim violet light of its own, which was good, because the only other thing in this…place…was darkness.

Kouichi's eyes widened a bit in recognition as his eyes drifted up to the never-ending darkness, laced with a few washed-out shades of purple, almost like clouds. "I've been here…"

Just in front of him, Kouji was standing with his arms raised in a hopeless defense. When he realized that his apparently swift death had, in fact, not occurred, he peaked between his arms to view the sudden change of surrounding for the first time.

"What the…" He turned around, eyes wide. "Nii-san?"

"I'm okay." Gulped the older twin, pulling himself slowly to his feet. "And Kouji…I've been here before."

"Indeed you have."

Both boys jumped and spun around. Behind them was a relatively young solider, an officer, with blonde hair and a pleasant, warm smile. "This is a sub-pocket of the Digital world, a sort of transition zone buffering the two worlds so they do not abrade each other too much.

Kouji blinked and took a step back, his body tensing. "Colonel…Colonel Troy?"

"No, Kouji." Kouichi smiled up at the man. "He's the other Colonel, the one who came to get us. "

"That's right." Troy's face smiled pleasantly and the man nodded. "Though don't think the real Colonel wasn't a help - he was the one watching out for you in the camp."

"He saved me." Kouichi nodded in understanding. "And all those times with Iwamoto…that was him, too. The real Troy."

Kouji didn't understand at all, and it was obvious on his face. "But then...who are you?"

The second Colonel laughed, a deep familiar sound that echoed nicely through the shadows. As the sound faded away, so did the image of the man, reveal instead black armor lined with soft, bright gold…

A wide smile spread over Kouichi's face. "Lowemon!" He gasped, coming to greet his warrior friend with a happy hug.

The Warrior of Darkness chuckled behind his mask and returned the embrace warmly. "I am glad to find you safe, my friends."

Kouji followed after his brother a bit more slowly, but his expression was much more bewildered. "But how…why…"

"Lobomon wanted to come as well, but…" Lowemon's smile echoed in his brown eyes again. "We simply did not have the energy for a round trip all four."

"That's not what I mean!" Kouji exclaimed. "I mean what's going on here? What the hell is this all about? What's been happening to us?"

Lowemon smiled at the two boys behind his mask, taking a step back from them both and bowing slightly at the waist. "Before I begin, Ophanimon wished me to… apologize."

"For what?" Kouichi asked.

"For not warning the two of you before sending you off." Sighed the warrior. "However, we all agreed it was truly for the best…"

"For the best?" Kouji exclaimed. "We got dropped into that hell-hole of a camp for two months for the best?"

Lowemon raised a placating hand. "Please, allow me to explain."

"Explain what?"

"Kouji, please." Kouichi urged, touching his brother's arm. Kouji sighed, but forced himself to calm down. Kouichi smiled and nodded to his 'alter ego' warmly. "Please continue, Lowemon."

Lowemon nodded and cleared his throat lightly. "We weren't able to tell you beforehand because it was necessary to prevent as much needless alteration of past events as possible."

"Needless alteration?" Kouji raised a skeptical eyebrow.

Lowemon nodded with a distant expression in his deep brown eyes. "Had you known the details of what was going to happen at Manzanar that day, you would no doubt have tried to prevent it, would you not?"

Both twins nodded automatically. "However, that is precisely what we could not allow."

"But why?" Kouji demanded. "That was a disaster!"

"True." Lowemon sighed. "But it was a disaster that we needed to occur…and that they two of you needed to be a part of."

Kouichi blinked and turned his head in a curious manner. "What do you mean?"

"Who's 'we'?" Kouji scowled.

"'We' is really more like 'they'…The Three Angels." Lowemon looked off into the distance thoughtfully. "And Baromon, actually. He was one who uncovered the modification in the time line…Lucemon's fault. He tried to rearrange the Digital World's history before his defeat, attempting to eliminate the Ten before they even existed."

Kouji frowned. "How?"

"Reaching backwards in time, Lucemon eliminated a key character - a young orphan boy living in the camp. The change was so minute that it almost went completely unnoticed. If we hadn't found it when we did, the entire history of the Digital World would have fallen to pieces."

Kouichi blinked again in confusion. "But then…why send us?"

"By the time the alteration was found, it was too late to return the boy to his place - his personal timeline was set in permanence. We needed someone there who would do the same as the missing child, one whose personality would react in an exactly similar way." Lowemon's brown eyes fell on Kouji and reflected a hint of amusement. "Luckily, there was already a match readily available."

Kouji pointed to himself, and when Lowemon nodded, he scowled. "So why send both of us?"

Lowemon's eyes brightened a bit more. "Because the two of you always take care of each other. It wouldn't do for you to die before you were even born, now would it?"

Kouji glanced at his brother, who smiled at him before turning back to Lowemon. "So the Digimon were behind it all, just like we thought."

"But…" Kouji let the scowl slide from his face, but he still crossed his arms over his chest in annoyance. "We didn't do anything."

Lowemon laughed. "You did more than you know."

"Like what?"

"Surly you haven't forgotten Daniel already." Lowemon chuckled. "After the failed uprising, that boy became quite a bit more contentious about his actions. That alone probably saved his life, and in his peace of mind he began to miss his family. Eventually, he allowed himself to be deported to Japan, where he was married to a nice young girl. And then, two generations later…"

"Takuya." Both twins chorused. The resemblance had been obvious from the start.

"Indeed." Lowemon nodded. "And not just him. Daisuke Iwamoto remained in America after his release from the camp, completely reformed. He turned over a new leaf after watching his friend die to protect him. He entered the military as soon as he could, the only Japanese-American unit of the war, and played a crucial point in several battles. After retiring with a Purple Heart, he spent the rest of his life to anti-violence campaigns. It was a complete reform."

"Wow." Kouichi whispered in a bit of awe. "That's great!"

Lowemon nodded. "Of course, Colonel Troy - the real one - is the real kicker. Though his only family…that is, his wife's family…was caught in the Nagasaki bombing and killed, he managed to carry on. Turned against violence and the war by both the uprising and his family's death, he quit the military as soon as he was allowed to. In memory of his younger brother-in-law, who always loved electronics and computers, he moved to Japan and became a programmer. Eventually, a basic viral-defense program of his because the basis for the Ten Warriors ourselves."

"Troy did all that?" Kouji deadpanned, obviously surprised.

"Indeed he did." Lowemon nodded. "And it was the influence of that riot, and of the actions and experiences of one brave boy…or rather now, the two of you…that made the difference for Troy, Iwamoto and Daniel all the same.

"So, do you understand now, why we had to do what we did?"

Kouji sighed and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, I guess."

"Good." Lowemon smiled, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. "And now it's time for you two to be getting back to your really lives."

Before either of the twins could quite register what this meant, the Warrior of Darkness gave them a light push and they both toppled backwards into the vast, unending void.

( - )

"Kimura-san!"

Kouichi shot awake and nearly fell out of his desk. He blinked up at the stern, annoyed face of his teacher, her arms crossed over her chest. "Y-Yes, sensei?"

The teacher's angry expression tightened as several of his classmates giggled. "Since you seem so confident about your knowledge of the subject, please be so kind as to answer question four from the board."

Kouichi turned his head slightly, getting a good look at the classroom that part of him knew so well, but another part found it completely alien, then looked up at the board for his question:

"#4 - Where did the only known event of detainee insurrection during the American interment of Japanese immigrant internment occur?"

Kouichi stared at the question for a long while, and the answer burst from his lips before his mind had quite registered it. "Manzanar."

The teacher raised her eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"Manzanar, California." Kouichi said quietly, looking back up at her. "In 1942... December, ma'am."

If the teacher was surprised, which she probably was, she did a rather nice job of not showing it.

"Correct. Very well, then." She turned on her heel and marched to the front of the room. "Let's continue with the lecture, then."

But Kouichi couldn't listen to the lecture. He spent the rest of class counting down the seconds to the end of school, and asking the same question over and over in his mind.

"Was it all just a dream…?"

( - )

When school let out, Kouichi forgot his normal swing by the library to head straight out the school gates and to the park. It was his meeting place with Kouji, a hill that overlooked the entire area of city. They had to meet…had to talk…

"Kouichi!"

The older twin spun around. Kouji was coming up the side of the hill, pushing his bike as he did. He was out of breath, and it was apparent that he'd ridden over as quickly as he could.

Kouichi sighed with relief. "He made it!"

"Kouji!" He hurried to meet his brother and help. It was also the perfect chance to get close enough that, even if anyone was nearby, they wouldn't be overheard. "Hey…did you…"

"Yeah, I checked." Kouji sighed, running a hand through his finally-clean ponytail. "The mark's completely gone. Yours too?"

Kouichi nodded. "Not a trace of it…"

Kouji sighed. "Typical. Drop us right back in like nothing happened…that's so like them."

Kouichi sighed as well, but his was more concerned than anything else. "Kouji…did all of that really happen? I mean…it wasn't just a dream?"

"No." Kouji smirked and reached into his pocket. "It definitely happened."

He out a flat piece of cloth, a bandana, decorated with the pattern of the American stars and stripes. Running vertically across it were several more stripes of red, these dark and lightly crispy - dried blood, as though the cloth had been wrapped around a wound.

Kouichi stared at it a moment as they came to a stop at the top of the hill, then smiled. "Daniel?"

"Daniel." Kouji reached up and tied the cloth tightly around the silver handlebars of his bike. The loose ends of the knot blew quietly in the wind without a sound.

For a moment, they just looked at it, then Kouji sighed again and mounted the bike. "Hop on. We gotta go."

"Where?" Kouichi asked, planting his foot on one of the spokes of the back wheel. He swung the other leg over and rested his foot on the opposite spine, balancing skillfully on the balls of his feet.

"Takuya's." Kouji's smirk widened. "He wants us to meet his grandfather."

Kouichi smiled as well, centering his gravity with his brother's. "Let's go, then."

Kouji kicked off and only had to pedal a few times before gravity took over. As the bike fell over the edge of the hill and started down the sidewalk, the gleam of the city below hit their eyes, and something delightful just seemed to fill them both.

So they laughed.

Fin.

Historical notes: Manzanar Camp in southern California was one of the first camps established for Japanese-American Internment after the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941. In December 1945, a guard was found murdered within the camp, and a popular cook named Harry Ueno (also called Donnie Niwa by some records) was arrested in connection with the crime, though no hard evidence was ever found.

A few days later, the only recorded incident of internment rebellion occurred in the form of a riot within the camp. Gunshots were fired, leaving two second-generation Japanese immigrants (Niisei) dead. Afterwards, there no problems of such a magnitude for the remainder of the internment, which ended with the war.

Manzanar is a memorial to that period of internment.