For as long as Hida Hiroki had known of Oikawa Yukio's existence (about a month), he had only seen him alone. Noticing this, a few over-held, common thoughts had often run through his head; things like "doesn't he have any friends?" and "isn't he kind of strange?" -- the same thoughts everyone else held.
As far as most people were concerned, that was where so much as thinking of him ended. Even his classmates had almost forgotten about his presence; he always was the sort to fade into the background. Hiroki, on the other hand, had watched him, bits of curiosity and sympathy creeping into his heart -- but never said anything more.
Until now. Now, when only the two of them were around, both of them having arrived far too early at school. (leave it to someone as "traditional" as his father to forget completely about daylight savings, though in his own tired state, he supposed he didn't remember either). Now, when he was dying to share with someone all those things he had so recently seen.
"Oikawa-san?" Hiroki asked, fighting back his nervousness, trying to phrase his next statement properly.
The brown-haired boy pondered, attempting to overcome his own meager shyness, find a reason to talk to the other kid, anything to make conversation... He ended up failing miserably, getting right to the point – which might actually have been better, considering who he was talking to.
"Want to hang out today, after school?"
Yukio paused, taken back not by the suddenness, but simply – what was it, the absurdity? The pointlessness? "Why?"
Hiroki shrugged. Surely, he just wasn't the sociable type... never talked to anyone, yet shrugged off friendliness, demanded a purpose even for hanging out, though he never seemed to have anywhere else to be...
In short, a child who seemed bored by humanity, out of place in this world. He always was looking out the window, trying to find something better beyond the sky. Was there anyone more suitable?
Hiroki lowered his voice to a conspiratorial tone, eyes focusing on Oikawa's, then gave his reason: "I think I've discovered another world."
"That looks more like a video-game system than another world... Hida-san, I just don't get what you were talking about."
"Just wait, Oikawa-san. You'll see soon enough – what shall appear on the screen is hardly what is possible in a video game." Hiroki answered, a glint of discovery in his eye. The black-haired boy glanced at the console, noticing the utter lack of cartridge even as Hiroki reached for the power button – a cheat code for an entire console, some kind of glitch where the cartridge-less device displayed something bizarre and amazing?
Still, calling it another world? Barring something bizarre and amazing, it was an exaggeration of immense proportions, no matter how powerfully escapist the glitch-game was. But since the console was turning on, he might as well wait, at least until he saw what his new acquaintance meant.
As the "game" turned on, Oikawa noticed Hiroki clutching his hands in prayer. His mutterings were something like "let us see it again", topped off by a few nonsense words Yukio didn't recognize, couldn't recognize – but he noticed "mon" showing up a good deal.
He felt a slight sucking motion, heard some bizarre voice calling out to him, pulling him slowly towards the television, yet when he looked to the ground, he hadn't moved a single inch. Hallucinating from anticipation, was it? Still, he had to get a hold of himself, it couldn't possibly live up to this excitement, no matter how much Hiroki was convinced.
The voice cursed its weak power and technology, retreating back into the screen, which Oikawa at last turned towards, his young mouth agape in awe.
"C-can video games really portray that kind of graphics?" His eyes panned over the scenery – it wasn't great, wasn't even comparable to what a nature documentary would show. But when the age of Famicom was only now dawning, this 16-bit rendering of File Island was truly something to be amazed at.
A small black creature bounced into view, some kind of ball with cat ears and freakishly yellow eyes.
"No, they can't." Hiroki answered plainly. "But that's not all... At the very least, if this is a game, then the programmers have produced a genuine artificial intelligence, but human technology just isn't at that level."
The black creature's eyes glanced around the room – the room? He was in a field, yet his eyesight wasn't focused on his own surroundings at all, but looking through the television's screen, focused mainly on Oikawa.
It was unnerving, to say the least. And disturbing; as he altered his position, dropping his controller, the creature's eyes followed him.
It then spun around a few times, skin falling off to bare wireframe as it wrapped itself in 1s and 0s, and its body began to change shape, the word for evolution nestled between two nonsense words as it shouted.
When the shouting was complete and the binary dispersed, Yukio Oikawa glanced again at the bizarre creature. The wireframe was no longer, replaced by whitish-pink skin, two long mixes of antennae and ears extending from the back of its more oval-like body. (More like a bouncing head, from the looks of it – but there was no "body" beyond that.)
"Hiroki, who'd you bring?"
The oft-lonely boy blinked twice, hearing the creature's words. It had definitely talked, for one. And not just an in-game statement, though even just saying "your princess is in another castle" was unheard of, it was always text on a screen.
But to make matters more amazing, it had spoke the name of the kid sitting next to him, and asked a relevant question at that. This was no game, no glitch, no computer program.
"Koromon-san, just introduce yourself to him."
"Hello. I'm Koromon. Nice to meet you."
"Ahh, right... My name is Yukio Oikawa, nice to meet you as well. I look forward to learning more about your world."
"I don't know much about it, just seen one room, Hiroki seems like such a kind, good-hearted creature, but I don't know if all humans are like that... But I look forward to the same of yours."
Holding this conversation, speaking with this intriguing lifeform, even glancing at the background, one thing had become obvious: This was truly another world, a fascinating one. And whatever the cost – someday, it wouldn't just be looking through a television screen, he was going to enter it.
Someday. Somehow. Whatever it took.
Their introductions finished, Oikawa was still pondering the implications of the digital world, wanting to learn more. His attention quickly found itself drawn to the sight of a cracking green-and-white egg at the bottom of the television's screen, which soon hatched into another small creature.
Upon looking at it, the black-haired boy's first thought was that it looked like an unripe tomato – but upon closer inspection, it was just too adorable to compare to a tomato, no matter how similar the appearance.
"Yukio!" the creature yelled, bouncing at the screen, then careening off it helplessly, a sudden sadness appearing in its black newborn eyes. "I've been waiting, hoping to meet you..."
"You... have?" Yukio nodded, shocked, yet with a slight understanding – what was this, destiny? Like that ever worked out for him.
"Yeah. It took you coming by for me to finally hatch, but the gate's still more like a window..."
"Little one..." He began, his voice turned to match his digimon's seriousness, "you know all this about me, but I haven't even learned your name..."
"It's Pipimon," the green digimon answered, attempting an introductory bow.
"You wanted to cross the gate pretty badly, didn't you?" His partner nodded. "In that case, though I'm sure it'll take a while... we'll exist in the same world someday, Pipimon. I swear it."
It is considered something of a truism, agreed upon by five separate generations of chosen children in four different universes, that the digital world could be a very dangerous place.
But in a separate dimension from Takato, Takuya, and Masaru, in a time period before Taichi was born (to say nothing of Ken and the status of a certain e-mail's sender) Hiroki and Yukio had no way of knowing this unfortunate truth.
Other than the rampaging, hungry Tyrannomon that had just begun to attack.
"Behind you!" As the flames came towards them, hearing Hiroki's panicked yell, the two low-level digimon spun around, glanced behind themselves, and desperately tried to bounce away.
According to virtually all forms of reckoning, Koromon and Pipimon are both considered baby-level digimon(Albeit one a higher phase of baby than the other), while Tyrannomon, far stronger, is held to be of the adult level.
As such, for all their effort, they had about as much chance as two infants do of toppling a grown man – and the first attack still saw them thoroughly, almost fatally singed.
"Koromon... I just met you, just found this world, and now, for such a thing to happen..." A teardrop fell from Hiroki's eyes; even if he only stood at the TV, he could do nothing but cry in sorrow. "Live!"
Pipimon and Koromon obeyed Hiroki's instructions, but both of them clearly couldn't survive another burst of flame – and unlike Mimi in the distant future, Hiroki's tears had no magical powers.
Oikawa clasped his hands together, pondering tactics. The terrain – there were trees to hide behind, but trees burn. A pit would seem good, but the fire would suck up the air. Their opponent – even if the digimon were strong enough to fight back, there wasn't any weak spot, anything as simplistic as "go for the legs and watch them fall" simply wouldn't work against such a thick-skeletoned opponent.
"What attacks do you guys have?"
"All we can do is blow bubbles." Koromon answered, "and they aren't enough to fight back the flames."
Oikawa nodded, absorbing the information, trying to formulate a plan. "If you do this right, that should still be enough." The black-haired boy answered, pointing first to a tree branch, then to the dinosaur's eye.
Were he actually in the digital world, he would've added something like "I'll distract him!", made a lot of noise, and brought the plan to something nearing success. As it was, he could only close his eyes and pray.
"Yukio? Why won't you look at me, Yukio?"
"I..." He opened his eyes, and sitting on the digital side of the gate between worlds, an odd object began to glow.
"Pipimon shinka, Tanemon! Tanemon shinka, Betamon!" The digimon transformed to a leafy creature, its green becoming more defined, but its front turning white – then, just as quickly, to a bizarre, electric frog, tied to Pipimon only by similarity of color,
"Cutter fin!" The amphibian's large, orange fin sharpened to an edge and flew at his would-be-predator, hitting it square in the legs.
"Now!" the young boy shouted, from beyond the digital gate, as Koromon unleashed a torrent of bubbles, one of them hitting the dinosaur's eye.
Tyrannomon thrashed around helplessly, then fell – their first battle, Pipimon's first and second time evolving, and both digimon were thankfully safe.
It had been an interesting beginning.
After a few more hours discussing their various worlds, a long bit of reluctance, a reassurance that the two of them would be safe from marauding digimon at night in their well-hidden homes, and the realization that it was late enough that his family would worry otherwise, Oikawa at last prepared to leave.
On the way out, with the television screen that acted as a digital gate too far for him to even cast back to it a nostalgic glance (though he had gained a promise that he could come back tomorrow to keep exploring,) the oft-lonely child still had one question to ask.
"It was fun and all, but... Why? Why did you show me all this, why did you even talk to me?" Yukio asked, still confused.
"I needed someone to share this world with, someone who would believe me long enough to look, who wouldn't freak out and run away -- you seemed like just that kind of person. And honestly, I don't mind being with you." Hiroki's answer, pleasant as ever.
"Really? But I'm so creepy."
"So? Just because you're creepy doesn't mean you're evil."
Oikawa smiled. It wasn't a pretty smile or anything of that sort, but the mix of pure happiness and restored hope behind said smile was completely unmistakable. "Thank you... Hiroki, was it? You're the only one who ever realized..."
Hiroki tried to hold back his tears, but it wasn't easy. For someone like this to have felt such horrific loneliness, just for being shy and a bit creepy... It wasn't right, it wasn't fair.
Besides, from what he could tell, the black-haired boy seemed like a cool enough kid. And as for the digimon -- Koromon didn't mind Yukio in the slightest, and the way Pipimon was acting around him, it was almost like meeting him was what he hatched for, to say nothing of his strategic skill keeping the two of them alive.
Of one thing, the Hida boy was certain: Yukio deserved far better than this devastating loneliness, better than being without a single person he could call a friend.
"And I want to be a hero of righteousness," Hiroki thought, "so I'll just have to fix this injustice."