Chapter Six: Truce
Kari stared in horror at the dead man as a thin line of blood slid down the side of his forehead. Everything went out of focus except for his still body and the knife that had penetrated his flesh. She felt sick and could taste bile in her throat.
She didn't notice when the two men holding onto her backed away. It wasn't until she felt Asato's breath on her cheek and his hand running along her thigh that she returned to the scene at hand.
"Such strange material," Asato mused as he stroked the jean fabric. "This must have cost quite a bit."
"Yes," Kari answered instantly, not really sure what she was doing. "My father is a very wealthy man. If you let us go–unharmed–then I'm sure he would give you a great reward."
"Is that a fact? A thousand pardons Pet, but if we wanted your father's money then we would just kill him and take it."
"Isn't that what all this is about? Didn't you want a stupid toll?"
Asato pointed an accusatory finger towards Ken. "It was he that assumed that I wanted a monetary toll. Truly all I desire is your body and both of your lives."
Ken struggled against the rope that bound him. The bandits had wrapped it around him four times before tying it off, extending from the center of his upper arms to his wrists. The hilt of his sword was also roped in so Ken could not somehow manage to put it from the scabbard. Not that he would know what to do with it if he did grab hold of it.
"And my men want the same," Asato finished.
Ken remained silent as he tried to figure some way to save himself and Kari. It would be a lot easier to think clearly if I had the confidence that Kari suddenly does.
It was as if she was a different person; Kari's voice was strong with confidence and determination and tears no longer blurred her vision. Fear no longer halted her movements, either.
She backed away from Asato slowly, but he matched each of her steps with even larger strides. Asato laid his hand on Kari's shoulder and pulled her closer to him. "There is no where to run, Pet."
Kari drew her dagger with unexpected speed and plunged it into Asato's chest. He stared down at her for a moment; a mixture of shock and anger contorted his features.
"Not smart, Pet."
A crunching sound could be heard and the back of Asato's shirt tore as a set of wings were pushed out and spread. His mustache lengthened and morphed into feelers, his nose caved in and his eyes became long slits that angled upwards.
The bandits had known that Asato was not human, but they fled upon seeing his true form. Asato growled in frustration as the last of the men hid their backs as they ran further into the forest.
The dagger was pulled out and tossed backwards, ending up stuck to the tree that Ken was captive to. It pierced through between two wraps of the rope. Why couldn't it have sliced through the rope?
"Now I will have to kill you," Asato threatened, grabbing onto Kari's throat before she could run. She clawed at his extended arm as he lifted her off the ground. Her throat closed from the pressure he applied and her strength was fading quickly. He tossed Kari aside and she fell limply like a rag doll.
She did not get up.
Ken began his struggle anew; now trying to shift the rope enough to catch the blade. This is going to take forever!
The dagger began to glow with a dark blue light. It tore through the bark as it traveled downward, slicing the rope as it went.
Ken threw the rope to the ground and drew his sword. "I should have practiced," he mumbled regrettably. His grip was tight around the hilt but the blade noticeably shook–.
Why hadn't Kari gotten up yet?
He'd never realized before that moment the exact dangers that accompanied two fighting parties. Sure, he'd engaged in many a battle between the digidestined and himself, but he'd always been safe atop one of his controlled digimon. He'd never actively partaken in one of the battles unlike Kari and the others who always stood by their digimon. They were always there, always in the line of fire. He'd targeted Davis and the others on more than one occasion but it never occurred to him the consequences of his actions. He'd been fighting a war without understanding the basic facts:
People died in wars.
He'd always put himself out of harm's way and therefore he'd remained oblivious to it all.
Kari had been fighting longer than him and yet she still stood at the front of the lines every time. She understood the possibilities and still she fought.
Then again, she'd always fought for something bigger than herself.
He'd always fought for his own personal gain.
Ken cringed, realizing that he was no better than a coward, forcing others to do the dirty work for him. He sent digimon off to die if need be; sent them off to kill if that's what it came to.
Ken was filled with an overpowering desire to protect Kari from that kind of torment; starting with Asato. He gripped the blade expertly, letting instinct take over.
"Asato." Ken's voice was low and strong and it carried over to Asato in the wind.
Kari still hadn't moved.
Asato's gaze left her limp body, which was only a few feet from him now, and fell upon the resolute figure holding his sword out straight. "Think you can take me, boy? That weapon of yours may be quite fancy, but it won't help you if you don't know how to use it."
"I'm sure I can manage," Ken replied coolly. "Especially against someone who was about to attack an unarmed and incapacitated woman."
Asato's face twisted into a snarl and he charged at Ken, kicking off the ground and flapping his wings to raise himself into the air. He slammed his body into Ken's and sent the dark haired teen to the ground.
Ken quickly scrambled to his feet and thrust his blade forward. It plunged into Asato's abdomen but the demon kicked Ken in the stomach. "You do not know whom you're trying to fight. I am unbeatable."
The sword was pulled from Asato's side by the demon himself and tossed aside carelessly. Ken jumped up and punched Asato in the jaw before quickly circling around and kicking his lower back.
Falling onto his knees, Asato rubbed his jaw delicately. The boy had spirit, he would allot him that much, but he was inexperienced. His wings flapped out and he rose into the air again, attacking downward at Ken with his extended claws.
Neither noticed as Kari lifted her head crudely. Nor did they see her as she used her elbows to snake along the ground, too weak to stand. She reached her discarded belongings and grabbed at her bow. She hadn't practiced with it earlier that day and now she wished that she had.
She bit her lip to concentrate pain on anything but her aching body as she rose into a sitting position. Taking an arrow, she lined it up experimentally on the arrow rest and pulled at the bow string. It was stiff and difficult to wield, as if it had been out of commission for many years. But she managed to pull it back, bringing her palm to her ear, and took aim.
"Please don't miss."
The arrow spun through the air after its release and buried itself just below Asato's shoulder blade. A second arrow tore right through his wing, into the second, and disappeared in the forestry.
Ken ducked out of the way and dived for his blade. Asato landed heavily, his eyes burning as the arrow was pulled out of his flesh.
He was livid.
"No woman is worth the trouble you cause," he growled. He started towards her as she tried to will herself to her feet.
"Did you forget about me already?" Ken demanded with false disappointment. He held his blade above his head and swept it downward diagonally. Asato held his hands up to shield himself but it was too late. The blade cut down through his clavicle bone and sliced through his torso before exiting just above his hip.
He fell to the ground in two pieces.
Kari covered her mouth to mask her scream and turned away from the bloody scene. Ken dropped the sword from his hands and ran to her, falling onto his knees and wrapping his arms around her before he even commanded his body to.
She melted into his arms immediately, not questioning his reasons for coming to comfort her. She just accepted his warm embrace, letting her head rest against his chest, not crying but shaking with grief.
Ken held onto her like she would be carried off by the wind if he loosened up in the least. He stroked her hair amorously and rocked her gently in his arms.
It only took Kari a moment to rationalize what was truly happening: she was seeking comfort in the arms of her sworn enemy. It wasn't right, she knew it and there was no way around it. What would the others think? What would Tai think?
The horrifying realization that she might not see Tai again struck her painfully. It tormented her enough to hang on to Ken a moment longer, absorbed in her own irrational delusions. What if they never found a way home and the last memory Tai would have of her would be her ignoring him because of Matt?
She pulled away so suddenly that Ken nearly fell flat on his face. It took her a minute to steady herself onto her feet, but Kari would not accept his help. She dragged her feet over to where her dagger was still embedded in the tree.
Ken reached his hand out to her but something stopped him.
She doesn't want you to touch her.
The voice did not belong to Ken but it appeared so often in his head that it might as well have been.
Not now. Go away.
Ken grabbed the sides of his head in anticipation of the headache that always accompanied the voice, but it never came. Nothing happened; it had left as quickly as it had come. But the words still stung at his mind with a sharp and painful honesty in them that sobered him. But for Christ's sake he was the Kaiser and he was above all of this! Wasn't he?
Ken looked up, startled. Kari was looking down on him with concern etched into her features. "Are you alright?"
Ken let his hands drop back down to his sides. "I'm fine."
"Then we should get moving."
"You think the other bandits will come back?" Ken guessed.
"No–they were loyal to Asato only because they feared him. They won't come back after they see–that." She pointed towards the two heaps of flesh and bone that had once been known as the bandit Asato. "I just don't want to be near two corpses."
Ken nodded and brought himself to his feet. His sword was stained in blood and the dark haired teen used the fabric from Asato's pant leg to wipe the odorous liquid away.
They started off in silence, neither really having anything to contribute to start a healthy conversation. Ken fought with himself to find something to say–anything. "Kari?"
She granted him a quick glance, to show that he had her attention, before setting her gaze on the ground.
She stopped, genuinely confused by the statement. "For what? You saved my life back there. Why would you be apologizing?"
He swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat, "for the other day–in the Digital World."
Her eyes lightened in realization of what he was talking about. "Oh… To tell you the truth, I'd forgotten about it."
Ken thought it would have been a really good time to face fault in the dirt and never get up.
"I see." He sighed deeply. "I can't believe I'm doing this, but I suggest we call a truce."
"Yes. We obviously won't make it out of here alive unless we work together, so let's call a truce now until we get out of here. Then when this is all done, you can go back to doing whatever it is you do and I'll go back to being the Kaiser." He hadn't planned on saying that; he had no desire of saying that. But the last words came out with such certainty that it would be foolish to try to deny them.
She nodded slightly in understanding. "Of course," she answered softly, disappointment evident in her voice.
They picked out the spot where they would set up camp for the night, even though darkness had already fallen and the moonlight was all they had to use. There was a small clearing not far from the path they had been walking on.
Kari held the bag upside down and let the items within tumble to the ground. She rummaged through the items Usma had gathered for her: two blankets, a hairbrush, some sort of toothpaste from what she could guess, soap, shampoo, a pouch for carrying water, and some food.
She grabbed onto the soap bar and small container of shampoo and sighed happily. "I'm going to take a bath," she announced.
"Did she pack a bathtub for you?" Ken inquired icily.
"We passed a pond or lake or pool or something not five minutes before we stopped."
"You are not going to bathe in a lake."
"Yes, I am."
"No, you aren't. It's going to be freezing and then you'll get sick and I'll have to put up with you. Besides, there might be something in the water."
Kari sighed, irritated. "You just focus on getting a fire started. I'll be back in less than a half hour." She got up, ignoring his annoyed expression. "And don't even think of coming to get me," she added threateningly.
Kari took one of the blankets to use as a towel and made her way back to where she'd seen the small pool. She had to find the path again and then cut through on the other side, but it was secluded and the moon lit up the water majestically. Though she was surprised at how she found it when she couldn't see it from the pathway the second time around. It was more like she knew it was there, rather than having seen it.
Looking around cautiously, Kari inspected the area for any unwanted onlookers. Satisfied that she was alone, Kari stripped down and put her clothes into a neat pile beneath the blanket. Her dagger was placed just before the edge of the water, as was the soap and shampoo.
Dipping her foot into the water, a shiver ran through her body. Ignoring the icy temperature, Kari slipped into the lake until the water was at her shoulders. Her teeth chattered and her body shook, but she still tilted her head backwards until her hair was completely wet. She pulled out the hair band and let the long black tresses fall against her back and shoulders.
She heard a twig snap.
"Ken?" she called out nervously, "Ken, is that you?"
She returned to the water's edge, where the water level only reached her waist. She shivered and covered her exposed upper body with one hand while searching the grass with the other.
She found a rock the size of her palm and threw it in the direction of the noise. She waited for a reaction of some sort, an animal running or something, but nothing happened.
Kari decided to try again. She felt around for another rock but there wasn't one to be found. She sighed and grabbed her belt. Throwing it in the same direction as the rock, the belt disappeared into the shrubbery.
"You're getting paranoid, Kari," she scolded lightly, sinking back into the water.
Ken stared darkly at the twigs and grass he'd thrown together inside a rock circle. He'd gathered enough wood to last for a while, but had no way of lighting the twigs. He sank down to the ground in defeat and leaned against a tree.
His eyes felt heavy and he knew he shouldn't fall asleep before Kari came back, but he couldn't help himself.
"Not a chance, Hikari."
"Because that water will be freezing and you'll catch your death of cold. Besides, you just aren't dirty enough."
Ken groaned and smacked his hand against his face. Was he really watching another one of these dream sequences play out?
Hikari raised an eyebrow and set her hands comfortably on her hips. "Not dirty enough? Isn't that a matter of opinion? Come on, it will be fun."
Sir Ken wrapped his arms around Hikari's waist and laced his fingers together around the small of her back. "Icy water and fun don't really go together," he whispered in a hushed voice.
He caught her in a passionate kiss, pulling her against his hard chest. Hikari lifted her hand to touch his face and his fingers trailed down the length of her back.
"This is just peachy," Ken growled, leaning back further against the tree. "Just what I need to see. At least show me something believable, something that could actually happen!" He didn't know exactly who he was yelling at, but it felt good to blame someone for these disturbing images.
He watched, growing ever more irritable as Sir Ken lowered the queen to the ground, never releasing her lips. The knight stabilized himself above her, trailing kissed along her jaw and down her neck. Her arm fell to the side and her hand dipped into the small pool of water they had been previously arguing over. She wanted them to take a bath; he thought it was a ridiculous idea. It was almost like the conversation he had with Kari a few moments prior, except for the part where she invited him to join her, or the kissing–of course.
Hikari cupped her hand underneath the surface of the water and let a handful gather in her palm. She then let the water drip down onto the nape of the knight's neck.
"Hikari!" he cried loudly, jumping back and sitting on his knees, "what was that for?"
She smiled mischievously, shrugging ever so slightly. She turned from him and sat down beside the pool, raising herself up on her knees and staring down at the water.
"I suppose it is a bit chilly?" she offered.
Sir Ken merely grunted as he stood and crossed his arms over his chest.
Queen Hikari began moving her hands horizontally in the air. Ken sat up a little straighter to get a better look and saw that on the surface of the water little waves began following her movements. Hikari dipped her hand in the water once more; steam began rising from the small pool of water.
"I know you didn't want to come in, so I promise to be quick," Hikari teased when Sir Ken ran his fingers along the surface of the now steaming water.
"Wake up!" Ken demanded of himself. "This is bull shit and I'm sick of watching. Wake up!" Ken's hands felt heated as his anger rose, and a dark blue mist wrapped around the palm and fingers of his left hand.
The image around Ken faded into nothingness and he allowed a relieved sigh to escape his lips. The flickering of fire caught Ken's eye. A small fire blazed before him, in the pathetic little pit he had constructed. But how had the fire started?
Ken glared down at his tingling left hand. "Impossible," he muttered aloud. Still, there was fire where there previously wasn't, and that could not be ignored.
He glanced around, pulling himself into an upright position. It didn't look like Kari was back yet. His thoughts jumped back to the dream he had. He didn't believe for one second that he was actually watching himself in those visions, nor was that the same girl he was traveling with now.
They were look-alikes.
None of it was real; it never was and it never will be. Someone was obviously trying to convince him that in some lifetime or another he and Kari were lovers.
It was impossible–unrealistic. Kari would never want to be with someone like him–no, he knew he was too good for the Digidestined of Light.
I don't want her…no one can convince me that I want to be with her. Don't dwell on dreams that couldn't possibly be real.
He didn't understand why it was so hard for him to believe the sincerity in his own thoughts.
His eyes were instantly drawn to her, his mind filling itself with the sound of her voice. Her hair had been brushed through, though water droplets still sparkled from the black tresses in the moonlight. It was all thrown over one shoulder, bound by the hair band Usma had given her.
"How was the water," he asked, leaning back against the tree.
"Freezing," Kari admitted. She tossed him the dry blanket and sat down in front of the fire. She laid the blanket over her legs so that the fire might dry it. She had tried not to get it too wet, but she had been in such a rush to get out of there that when she dropped it on the ground to begin dressing, the corner dipped into the pool. She even left her belt behind in order to leave faster.
Ken left the blanket folded up beside him and just watched Kari for a moment. He had half expected her to tell him that she had warmed up the pool.
Kari visibly shivered as she settled down to go to sleep. She drew her knees up to her chin and pulled her arms between her thighs and stomach. The blanket was still wet and did little for her.
Ken took the blanket and stood up, went over to where Kari was, and slowly, with much mental debate, sat down beside her.
"What are you doing," Kari inquired, turning her head up to look at him.
"We're sharing," he replied, sounding harsher than he intended. "Besides, my body heat will warm you up."
"You don't have to–,"
"I can't just let you get sick. I'll have to put up with you." He settled down next to her. He lay on his side, holding his head up with his hand. "Just don't tell your boyfriend."
Kari's leg straightened out and she turned onto her back. "Who said I have a boyfriend?"
He found it increasingly difficult to think at this point, he mind kept returning to the realization that his face wasn't far from hers. "Usma mentioned it," he answered, trying to sound indifferent. "That Matt guy."
"I'm not dating 'That Matt Guy'" Kari whispered. "Not anymore. I told Usma that he was my ex."
Her boyfriend, Matt X Ishida. Well, that explains the weird middle initial.
"Why aren't you dating anymore?"
Kari paused, surprised that the conversation had carried so long. It almost seemed like he actually cared…
"He wasn't ready to be in a real relationship. He needed to be free to flirt and make out with whomever he desired. But, it doesn't matter; I'm over it."
Ken noticed that her voice was unusually somber as she explained. It made him question whether she really was over Matt.
There faces seemed closer now–had he done that?
He found her nose to be only an inch or two from his now, his face directly above hers. He tilted his head just slightly, as he began to close the gap between them.
"We should probably get to sleep," Kari quickly said, turning onto her side and nearly whacking Ken with her shoulder. He withdrew just in time, mentally cursing himself for what he was about to do.
Was he really about to kiss her?
"We should leave as soon as the sun rises, so we can make it to the next village as early as possible," she continued, not looking at him.
"Yeah…sure." Ken draped his arm over Kari's waist and pressed his chest against his back.
Body heat, he reminded himself. It's just so I won't have to put up with her getting sick.
I made it longer to make up for the delay.
I probably won't have many postings for a while, only because I'm too depressed to write anything. If I do, it will be Obsession or maybe I'll write up some parts of Adeliea where either Ken or Kari get into trouble or angsty Ken moments. I only decided to finish this chapter now because it was almost done. If I try to write anything 'fluffy' it will be horribly forced and yuck. Hopefully I'll snap out of this and return to my normal level of depression, where I can actually write.
Chapter Started July 26, 2006
Chapter Completed and Posted August 15, 2006