Well, to those of you who have been waiting, here it is (finally): Redemption.
A warning before we begin: this is insanely long, but I really do recommend reading it all at once (if at all possible), so make sure you have time. What's insanely long, you ask? Try 25 pages in Word.
Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon, nor do I own anything that happens in this oneshot. I only own the lens I filtered it all through.
I'm awkward at Redemption - a beginner:
My method is to crucify the sinner.
"Kouichi, you need to know…You have a brother."
From the moment I first heard those words, they echoed in my head. Everywhere I went, I heard Grandma's voice, fighting against the death that was claiming her body. It echoed in my head, distracting me in school, keeping me awake at night. Mama was already stressed enough, so I didn't dare tell her what Grandma had told me… Sometimes I wish I had. Knowing that I had a twin brother out there, knowing that Mama had kept a secret from me, was too much of a burden. Not a day went by that I didn't think it would drive me crazy.
Then again, maybe it did. I mean, how long did I follow Kouji around, hiding in the shadows? I never worked up the courage to talk to him. He seemed so happy…so blissfully ignorant. I would have killed to go back to that ignorance. I would have killed to have a happy family who didn't have to worry about money or being able to get to work in the morning. Who didn't have to have their son bandage their wounds just so they could get dinner on the table.
Funny how we use such dark sayings so casually. I told myself I would kill to be happy like my brother. It didn't even cross my mind that some part of me really meant it. Why would it?
I have to admit, it's kind of weird looking back on all this now. Back then, I was determined to face Kouji that day. I followed him to the subway, but that was too public. I got on the train – too crowded... I would follow him to the elevator, I figured. Maybe there we could be alone.
I wouldn't have talked to him.
Now I know beyond a doubt that it was just like all the other times I stalked him. I always told myself today was the day; I always chased after him, making excuses every time I had an opportunity to start talking. If I had made it onto the elevator, I would have just turned my back and hoped he was too preoccupied to notice what I looked like. I would have reasoned that the elevator ride was too short to bring up something like a broken family and a long-lost brother.
But I was running on adrenaline by the time my hands pressed up against the elevator doors. I saw the numbers tick down and I ran for the stairs. My feet were moving as fast I could manage, but still I pushed myself harder, trying to run faster than the pounding of my heart. That was what did it. In my haste, I lost my balance and fell forward, breath catching as I flew an impossible distance through the air.
I never felt the landing. Like waking from a dream about falling off a cliff, what should have been the moment of impact became the moment I opened my eyes in another world entirely. Black mist roiled, obscuring any land there might have been. I lay there in the chilling silence for several minutes, Grandma's taunting voice repeating that phrase endlessly. It seemed to be echoing in my mind, interrupting and overlapping itself to the point where I could barely make out what was being said.
Pushing myself to my feet, I turned a slow circle, searching for something, anything in that place to reaffirm my sanity. I called out, if only to give that place some sense of reality.
"Hello? Is someone here? Anyone?"
It's the kind of phrase you don't have to think about, that just comes out on its own, no matter what you feel like inside. Considering my insides were more chaotic than the swirling mist, that was probably for the better.
Kouichi…you need to know – Kouichi – need to know – you have a brother…a brother…Kouichi…
"Papa?" I saw my father, but I hardly dared to hope it could be a real human being. "You are my dad, right?" He almost looked at me; so close I was sure he saw me. It was looks like those that drove me back into the shadows on Earth. Every time I was sure he saw me. Every time he looked away, just as he did now. "Papa, I –"
What was I going to say? With my grandmother's voice driving me insane, I could barely form the words. All I could think of was how he never gave me the time of day. In all the weeks I followed his son around, how could he not have seen me – not even once? He abandoned my mother all those years ago; he separated Kouji and me… Of course the only thing left for him to do was ignore me like a gnat, only sparing the barest glance when I buzzed in his ear.
But I was saved from having to blunder on when he disappeared, becoming as insubstantial as the mist around us.
A brother – Kouichi – you need to know…Kouichi…Kouichi!!
"Grandma?" The screaming in my head prompted me to turn around, to where a phantom of my grandma stood, glancing over her shoulder as I called out to her once more. Grandma had never kept a secret from me before… I thought she told me everything. Obviously, I know better now. I wonder if she ever glanced over her shoulder like that before, staring at my back, wondering if I sensed I had a twin, feeling guilty about lying to me. Was that why she told me on her death bed? Just a desperate attempt to soothe her conscience before she died?
I was hardly surprised when she disappeared like my father had.
Kouichi…Kouichi! You need to know! Kouichi! You have a brother! A brother!
Until I felt the light on my back, I hadn't realized how cold and oppressive the dark mist was. The sudden warmth stung my fingers and cheeks, like the heat of a home does when you come in from a winter storm. Curious, I turned around, searching for the source as I shielded my sensitive eyes.
"Kouji. You're Kouji, right?"
You'd think I would have gotten the hint from the first two phantoms. This wasn't Kouji, no matter how much it looked like him. But maybe it could show me what my brother really thought of me, just as the other phantoms had provided me similar insight.
Not really knowing what I was saying – and to this day I don't know if I said anything at all – I gave in to my longing to talk to him, to find my other half. I chased after the phantom of my brother, stretching a hand out as if that would stop him from leaving like everyone else. But then he was gone, taking the precious light with him.
Just like the real Kouji.
Before I knew about Kouji, I was perfectly content with my life. It wasn't much, and I won't pretend it was always pleasant. But I had Mama and Grandma. I helped out where I could, I did what had to be done, and love was my reward. But then I found Kouji. He had more than I ever did. He had a real family – with a mom and a dad – and enough money to cover the costs so he didn't have to worry. So he didn't have to give up his childhood like I did.
And the worst thing of all? As far as I could tell, his home was filled with as much love as mine. He truly had it all, and seeing him opened my eyes to just how bad I had it.
His mom got to stay at home and pamper herself as well as him. My mom had to go to a stressful job for long hours every day, coming home with barely enough energy to make dinner. She tried to pamper me early on, in my faintest memories, but she couldn't keep it up. It was all she could do to make sure I didn't have to take on a job just to pay the bills.
He had a father who gave him a ride to school every day, who took him out to the movies and arranged guitar lessons. Wasn't he my dad too? But he abandoned me. I walked to school alone, found entertainment for myself the few times I could actually spare a minute or two. I never learned anything outside of school except how to take care of myself.
All Kouji ever did was show me how unfair my life was. He showed me what I could have had, and then he walked away with it, leaving me – his own brother – in the shadows.
My desperate chase slowed as the pain and loneliness of the past weeks, of the past years even, finally overwhelmed me. The tears I kept carefully inside around Mama broke through my resolve and I collapsed into a sobbing heap. No one had ever noticed the pain they had caused me. Not Grandma, not Kouji or Dad. Not even Mama.
"Why won't anyone pay attention to me?!"
All the frustrations, all the anger that had been building inside me erupted in that moment, and ultimately, I know that was the reason he showed up: Cherubimon, the one who talked about my darkness, about how he would be the one to set me free. But as I listened to his promises, my eyes were fixed on the Spirit of Darkness, which seemed to promise me power. I'd never had power before. I had always been forced to sit back and watch the world heap blessing upon blessing on people like Kouji while people like me were left with nothing.
Power… The Spirit called to me. It wasn't the siren song Cherubimon sang, tempting me with promises I had no reason to trust; that wasn't what convinced me. Maybe the Spirit's call was destiny, a substitute for the cell phone message I never got, begging me to come be what I was always meant to be… Maybe it was the Legendary Warrior, corrupt or pure I couldn't say, embodied in that Spirit, sensing our bond and urging me to accept it.
Whatever the case, I couldn't come up with one reason why I should resist the darkness. So I let Cherubimon fuse me with the Spirit. I let myself fade into the darkness, hiding in the shadows as I chased after Kouji.
You have a brother…
A brother…you need to know…
You have to find Kouji…
Find him…you have a brother…find Kouji…Kouichi…you need to know…a brother…Kouji…
You have to find Kouji…
His face was the first thing I saw. His brow was furrowed in pain, his jaw clenched to keep from crying out. Even the position of his body, slightly curled in on itself, testified to how much pain he was in. I doubt he even noticed the creature holding him…Agunimon. Where did I know that name from? Where was I? And why was I so…numb?
I knew I should be feeling something. Waking up to see my brother in excruciating pain should have stirred up some emotion – worry, or panic…even satisfaction would have let me know I was still alive. But I was just numb. Instead of trying to figure out what had happened and why I couldn't remember getting here, couldn't remember learning about digimon and Legendary Warriors – and yet somehow I knew about them – all I could think about was how the wind found only my cheeks, as if the rest of my face was covered. And this weight. It was so much heavier than my clothes used to be, but it didn't faze me.
Then I noticed my sword, held familiarly in my right hand. The position of my arm told me I had just completed an attack.
"What…what is this?"
The emotions finally caught up with me. I staggered back, my brother's face filling my mind, feeling something between guilt and confusion. I was scaring myself with what I had become, but the power…the power to make people notice me, to get the respect I deserved…I liked it.
I didn't know how I could like it and despise it at the same time or why I didn't remember anything before now. All I knew for sure was that I had done this to my brother. Whatever I had become, whatever reasons I had for hurting him, I knew I had changed. I was not the human I had been. There was another presence in this body, and I could feel its anger. Anger that a parasite like me had this much control. Or was I the host and he the parasite?
Whatever the case, I couldn't keep my emotions in check. I could feel them escaping as pure darkness, even as the other presence tried to suppress me. The digidestined were enveloped by my darkness, but all I could think about was one name. One name that would haunt me until this nightmare ended:
For a while, I felt like I was drowning in my own darkness. My host's memories quickly became my own. As if I wasn't in enough pain and guilt, my dreams were now plagued by scenes of everything else I had done… Killing innocent digimon, stabbing my own teammate in the back… Was this the kind of power I was destined for? And there was still that part of me that enjoyed it all. Maybe I really was crazy, and this was just my delusion.
The only good thing that resulted was that my grandmother's voice no longer echoed in my mind. But then, why should it? I had found Kouji like she told me to, and there was no way he would ever forget me.
Duskmon was wary of me, seeming to keep watch over me at all times. After the way I had reacted when I woke up, he needed to be sure I wouldn't disrupt his plans any more. As time went on, our thoughts began to merge, and we ventured out after Kouji once more. Within a few days, I had lost all sense of being human. My human memories faded, and, like Duskmon, I wanted answers. All I knew was that Kouji and I shared some kind of bond, and that bond was a source of pain to me. I didn't remember Mama or Grandma, and I certainly didn't remember coming to this place. My memories started the day Duskmon had been unleashed on the Digital World.
I watched the humans for a few days, hiding in the shadows with a sense of déjà vu. I watched as Kouji valiantly but foolishly tried to save his comrades from Ranamon and Mercurymon. I watched as Takuya stepped in to rescue them all. And when Sakkakumon drew them in, I knew it was time to make my move.
I met Kouji alone in the Orb of Darkness, my sole purpose being to extract his memories. His memories would reveal our connection. The first memory I found was from the day he came to the Digital World, when he was in the flower shop, getting a bouquet for his mother.
Back on Earth, scenes like those had hurt me the most – the way Kouji had his own mother, how he didn't need our real mother. And though I couldn't remember why, those emotions – pain, sadness, a sense of betrayal – found their way to the surface. I knew we shared that struggle, the clash he felt over his step-mom and the mother he thought was dead. Slowly, painfully slowly, my memories began to resurface. That was when Cherubimon showed up.
He fueled my darkness with his own, igniting in me the hatred I would need to kill Kouji. I couldn't live with this pain! I had to put an end to it.
So we fought.
My hatred sharpened my senses, making the battle against his Human Spirit pitifully easy. Even when he evolved into KendoGarurumon, he was all too easy to overpower. All it took was one attack, and he was reduced to a screaming little boy. So how could he possibly be hurting me like he was?! In that moment, I was ready to end my pain forever.
But his quiet rant stopped me. He knew he wasn't being fair to his step-mother, and he vowed to do something about it. Once again vague memories began to surface. I remembered chasing Kouji to the elevator. I remembered the helpless look on my face reflected in the elevator doors as I pounded on them. Kouji did something I could never do – he admitted he was wrong and he promised himself he would make things right. What did I ever do? I skulked around and blamed everyone else for my problems.
Those few seconds I spent lost in my human memory saved Kouji's life. While I hesitated, a light pierced the Orb of Darkness, and Kouji was given the power to Fusion Evolve.
What did he have to fight for? How was it that he could go on even after he had given his all? He said he had unfinished business, a second chance. Didn't he see? This was my second chance. I had had the chance to meet him in the Real World, but I was too afraid. Here, as Duskmon, I had the courage I needed. I had the power to go after my brother and make him see me.
"Maybe you're so far gone that you've given up on those you care about…"
He couldn't have been further from the truth. I hadn't given up on the people I cared about; they had given up on me. I didn't see Grandma apologizing for shattering my illusion of a happy life by telling me about Kouji. I didn't see Mama making up for all the years she had lied to me. I certainly didn't see my father making even the slightest move to mend our broken family.
And Kouji. Why shouldn't I give up on him? To him, I was just another enemy to be deleted and scanned. As he charged at me, I knew he was fighting to right all the wrongs he had committed against his father and step-mother. But I was fighting to earn one good thing out of life. Out of all the wrongs against me, I was trying to create one right. Just one! Was that too much to ask out of life? Or had I already ruined my chances by letting everyone else go on with their happy existence while I bled in the shadows?
In Sakkakumon, our passions had a visible presence. Tendrils of light writhed around Kouji, battling the darkness that leaked from me. His emotions were so fervent that his human form burst through his digimon shell, becoming visible to me. From the look of shock on his face, I knew the same thing had happened to me.
But emotions tend to detract from concentration, and our uncontrolled clash propelled us out of Sakkakumon. I had barely landed when Cherubimon came and spoke the same twisted truths that caught my attention in the first place. He promised an end to my suffering if only Kouji were dead. Just as before, my human self became dormant, taking its memories with it, and I was Duskmon again, just as confused as ever as to what connections I had to Kouji.
I don't know when I figured it out, but I know that Kouji somehow awakened the human in me. Whenever I was around him, I remembered Earth, and Mama, and my problems. I became separate from Duskmon, and somehow Duskmon only felt my emotions. He never saw my memories, and so when Cherubimon suppressed the human me again, I remembered that Kouji caused my pain but I could not say why.
Kouji's light was painful, but at the same time I didn't want to leave. Without it, I was an emotionless, empty shell, bent on destroying the source of my pain. But when we were together, my pain was amplified. I was aware of myself, but it came at a high price. The pain from the Light was almost unbearable, but was it worse than remaining lost in the darkness?
The next time we met, the effect was even more immediate. As soon as our blades crossed, my passion was renewed and my human self rose to the surface. We glared at each other for a moment, neither flinching when our human faces were laid bare. After only a moment, we were thrown to opposite sides of the ruins we were battling in.
In the quiet darkness, I began to second guess my actions. All my emotions told me to free myself of the source of my pain, to kill Kouji, and I desperately wanted to indulge myself and rise above the Light. But I've always been the kind of person who held my emotions inside, where they couldn't hurt anyone else. Even if I did let it all out, I had never before been sure it would make me feel better. I knew Duskmon had changed me. What I didn't know was if that change was for the better.
Beowulfmon found and attacked me within moments, and my emotions overruled my doubts. If he was just going to treat me like any other enemy, I had no reason not to repay the favor. He had caused me enough pain, and I could see now that holding it in didn't help anything. I had to fight if I wanted to be free.
Cherubimon watched our battle, lending me his darkness and with it the resolve to fight my brother. I let the emotions that had been building in me fuel my strikes as Kouji and I battled in the darkness. Each time I drew my sword back, another scene flashed through my head: Mama's wounds; our father taking Kouji to school; my daily routine of trying to do homework as I cleaned the house or shopped for groceries or whatever else needed to be done. If there was one person I could blame for everything, it was Kouji, and here in this battle I could make him pay.
There was one time I had my opponent nearly beat. With one swipe of my swords, he would have been dead. But I saw Kouji, the human, my brother, and hesitated. I couldn't fathom what drove me to feel pity in that moment, out of all the times I could have shown weakness, but he didn't let it pass. He retaliated, disarming me and pinning me against a pillar. If not for Cherubimon's intervention, I would have died.
But I had lost Cherubimon's trust. He knew my human loyalty to my brother would not allow me to kill Kouji. Despite everything Cherubimon had tried, he could not force me to finish the job. They say knowledge is power, and in this case, that was true. In the presence of the Light I was reminded of home, and of the truth of my pain. Duskmon knew nothing of my human life, so when I was near Kouji, my knowledge allowed me to rise above Duskmon's influence.
But Cherubimon knew this, and by showing Duskmon my past, he took away the only power I had. As Duskmon saw the day I came to the Digital World, I recognized how Cherubimon had taken advantage of my pain and weakness to turn me against Kouji. My anger still burned against my brother, but I knew deception had led me here. Even if Kouji was responsible for all this, I had to figure that out for myself. I couldn't trust Cherubimon's lies anymore.
When Duskmon became fully aware of the human within him, our two essences separated. He shoved me down to where I could do nothing but watch as he hunted my brother. I had known all along – Duskmon was stronger than I was, both physically and spiritually, and all my struggling was in vain.
Then Cherubimon unlocked the Beast Spirit.
The Spirit tapped into my dark emotions, overriding my rebellious independence. The darkness soothed my soul and calmed my mind. How could something so comforting be bad? It wasn't like the Light, forcing me to see what brought only pain; the Darkness wrapped me in serenity where no one could force me to do anything.
I liked that feeling.
I was numb once again, but this time it was me who was burying my emotions. I watched in total peace as Velgemon circled over Kouji like a vulture. The digimon hated Kouji. He wanted nothing more than to extinguish his Light. But I was safe from the Light, protected by Darkness from every angle. I watched silently, no longer caring what happened. I was simply along for the ride.
Velgemon used his attack, Dark Obliteration. I just blinked at the destruction. Kouji barely escaped. I barely noticed.
Even as Velgemon swooped down for the kill, even as I realized Kouji was paralyzed by his pain, I couldn't rouse myself to caring. Like when I first woke up inside Duskmon, I knew there should be some emotion, but I was empty. I was no longer human. I don't even know if I was alive… I was just a set of eyes watching the inevitable death of a twelve-year-old boy.
Until the light hit me like a brick wall. It shone into my soul, burning away at my apathy, bringing back the pain the Darkness had eased. I hated it for that, for making me relive the weeks before I came to the Digital World. All I wanted was to be left alone!
But it brought back other memories. Memories of the boy I was before Grandma died. Mama was the light in my life, the thing that could cheer me up even if I did feel cheated out of my childhood. Mama taught me that pain is part of life, but as long as you have someone by your side, it doesn't have to consume you.
She never had much for herself, but she managed to keep me happy. She struggled with stress my whole life, but until I was nine, I never noticed. There was pain in our lives, but we never lost sight of the fact that we had each other. It was enough.
When Grandma told me about Kouji, I did lose sight of that. Instead of seeing what Mama had given up for me, instead of seeing the good things I had, I looked at what I didn't have. I never needed luxuries before, so why did it bother me then? Was it because I could have been in Kouji's place? If Mama had taken Kouji and Dad had taken me, would I have been happier? Was that why I was so upset?
I had too many questions. I couldn't just sit back and let Velgemon take control anymore. Velgemon, apparently sensing my inner turmoil, had stopped inches away from Kouji. With a roar, he turned and fled the Light.
Duskmon sought out Cherubimon. The Celestial digimon seemed to have the answers he craved. Duskmon was tormented by the idea of fighting his brother just as I was, so Cherubimon accessed my memories to try to turn Duskmon against Kouji. He showed us the pain Mama suffered at the hands of Kouji and Dad. He tried to blame them for my pain, but I had felt the same way not too long ago. I knew I couldn't blame all this on them.
A crazy idea entered my head. Maybe if I could convince Duskmon not to hate Kouji, we could escape Cherubimon and I could try to free myself. I had to convince him Kouji didn't cause my problems. But it was hard to think straight. I was still nearly dormant, and Cherubimon was depriving my focus further by accessing my memories. So I said the first thing that came to mind.
"I got what I needed… But my mother…"
As soon as those words were spoken, I knew Cherubimon would use them against me. But it was too late to go back now. Duskmon could feel the love I had for my mother; my loyalty to her became his, and her pain hurt him more than mine did. Cherubimon barely had to suggest that Kouji and his father were the source of Mama's pain. It was something I could not deny. If only I could convince Duskmon that they hadn't meant to hurt her.
But Cherubimon let his darkness flow into my body, fueling Duskmon's need for vengeance before I could reason with him. I felt it stirring up my own hatred, and I had to give up on swaying Duskmon, otherwise I would have sunk back into the darkness I had been trapped in for so long.
When Duskmon became Velgemon, the assault on my heart ceased. I was able to think clearly once more, but I could not seem to speak to my host as he flew off to find Kouji. I prayed for an opening before it was too late to save my brother.
After a few unfocused passes at Kouji, who was forced to Fusion Evolve, Velgemon reverted to Duskmon and I had my chance. I at least had some influence over the Human Spirit. My efforts were put on hold, however, when Duskmon and Beowulfmon crossed swords.
"Why do you fight for the side of evil? You're human, just like me!"
Kouji's words tore at my heart. I wanted to listen more than anything, but my own evil still existed in the form of Duskmon, and his negativity affected me as much as my emotions affected him. The human part of me was just like Kouji; we were twins! But I wasn't entirely human anymore. All I wanted at that point was for us to be brothers, not enemies.
"I am just like you! Haven't you figured it out?"
The cry came from me as much as it came from Duskmon. My desire to tell Kouji the truth mixed with Duskmon's desire for vengeance.
"Who are you?"
We both got what we wanted when Duskmon finally came out and said it.
"I am Kouichi Kimura. I'm your twin brother, Kouji!"
I saw it in his eyes. Those words hit Kouji hard. He tried to deny it, saying he didn't have a brother. But I know he sensed the truth. For the first time, he felt the confusion, betrayal, and frustration that had plagued me for weeks. Even as Duskmon explained how our parents were divorced, I could tell Kouji was struggling not to be angry at his father. Struggling not to doubt himself. Did he think because his twin was evil he might be too? That's what it seemed like to me.
I didn't want this! I didn't want to hurt Kouji like this! He had to understand. I had let my hurt and anger get the better of me, and look where that had landed me. I couldn't let the same thing happen to Kouji!
I had to talk to him. I knew I could overpower Duskmon, if I tried hard enough, so I fought my way to the surface. I shoved Duskmon out of my way.
For just a moment I knew I was in control; I knew Kouji could see me for what I was - his brother. I had so much I wanted to say, but I didn't know where to start. I couldn't keep this up forever.
"Kouji…I got what I needed, but my mother…"
I wish he could have grown up with me and Mama. I wish there was some way for him to realize that we were alright. Maybe our parents should have told us the truth sooner, but they hadn't. That didn't mean they didn't love us. We shouldn't hate them or feel betrayed... There was so much more I wanted to say, but my control was wrenched away before I had a chance. Cherubimon wasn't about to let his servant lose because of me, so he trapped me deeper in the Spirit's darkness than I had ever been before.
No longer affected by my emotions, Duskmon stood up. As he leaped into the air, I knew he wouldn't hesitate to kill Kouji. I wanted to scream at Kouji to free me, to save me from myself. He had to stop Duskmon. It was something that I couldn't do on my own.
But Kouji couldn't hear my pleas. In seconds he had devolved, and Velgemon rose into the sky, his intent crystal clear.
"No, wait!" Kouji called. "Please, if you're story is really true, turn back to your human form! I want to hear more about you! I want to hear more about Mom!"
If only I could! I knew from his voice that Kouji couldn't bring himself to fight me any more than I could bring myself to fight him. But I needed him! He was the only one who could save me! Only a Fusion Warrior had any chance of facing the Spirit of Darkness in his element with the power of a Celestial digimon behind him.
I recognized the surge of energy that proceeded Velgemon's Dark Obliteration attack as he prepared to finish the battle. The circle formed on the ground around Kouji, far too large for him to make it out if he didn't move now. I felt a deep ache, and I wondered if Velgemon was impervious to even this strong an emotion. He was.
Kouji didn't move. Even as the black energy rose up out of the ground, he just stood there, staring at me. Instants before the orb sealed him inside, Takuya came running, seemingly from nowhere, and tackled Kouji, saving his life.
For so long I had cared only about finding my brother that I had forgotten about the others. But Takuya earned my respect that day, not only for saving Kouji, but because he convinced Kouji to fight me. While Patamon attempted to distract Velgemon with his Boom Bubbles, I overheard their argument. Kouji told Takuya he couldn't fight his brother. I expected Takuya to back off, but he didn't. He knew I couldn't save my self, and told Kouji he had to save me.
Even then, Kouji wasn't convinced, but Takuya fought me anyway. He didn't have the experience Kouji did, and Fire doesn't damage Darkness nearly as much as Light does, so Velgemon quickly gained the upper hand. I don't know if the threat to Takuya was the only reason Kouji fought me, but even if it was, I was just glad to see him evolve.
I don't know if it was because I had been separated from my host, but in the ensuing battle, I couldn't feel the attacks. I could tell they hurt Velgemon, but it was like I wasn't even in the same body. Until Beowulfmon unleashed his Frozen Hunter, the attack that finally won the battle.
The light pierced my prison, burning away at the darkness that kept me trapped, but it didn't stop there. It radiated throughout my body and soul, ripping out the evil fibers as it separated me from my Spirit. Even once I was separated from the Spirit, though, the pain continued. Light is my antithesis, and as Kouji's light purified me, I felt a greater anguish than I had ever felt before.
Despite the agony, though, I didn't want to be anywhere else. The echoes of my screams reached human ears, and the wind ruffled human hair for the first time in an eternity.
"Unwilling slave of darkness, be purified by the light!"
I could feel consciousness slipping away as Kouji scanned the Spirits of Darkness, but his words soothed my pain. Not just the words, but the little waver in his voice as he began that spoke volumes to my weary soul. I knew before I even met him face to face. He didn't blame me for what I had done.
The relief didn't last long. Within seconds of waking up, the guilt knocked the wind out of me. Sure, my anger was next-to-nothing, and the agony of purification was gone entirely, but there was more than enough guilt to make up for that. 'Unwilling slave of darkness…' The very words that had soothed my heart moments ago now did just the opposite.
Kouji didn't blame me. You'd think I'd be happy, but I wasn't. Because I was to blame. Maybe not entirely, but I let myself fall into darkness. I was the one who fought against him in those battles; up until the last one, I was the one trying to kill him.
But how could I tell him that? How could the first thing I said to my brother be, "You should hate me. I wanted you dead."!? Tears stung my eyes. If that was the only thing I could say, it was no surprise I could never face him before. In fact, I was starting to doubt if I deserved to meet him at all.
"Alright. Spill it." I gasped and looked up as Kouji approached. His tone was hard, demanding an answer. I dreaded hearing the question. Did he want to know why I hated him, why I became Duskmon? I don't know the answer to that, not even now. It would be easy to say it was Cherubimon who corrupted me, and that I wasn't to blame. But that wasn't the truth. "Is it true? I have to know. And I need to hear it from you." Then again, was it fair to me if I took full responsibility for it? Could I even live with that guilt?
"Are you my brother, and if you are, is our mother still alive?" I stood up, turning away from what had the tone of an accusation. "Tell me. Right now!"
My head pounded, screaming a dozen bitter comebacks. Like you care! You're perfectly happy without 'our' mother! I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to drown out my own spite.
"Hey!" For a moment, I thought – maybe – he was concerned. His voice seemed a little softer, like a brother should sound like. "What's the matter with you?!" Then he was back to accusing me. Maybe he never really forgave me. Maybe what I though was sympathy was just fear and self-pity that his brother was a monster like me.
I opened my eyes, lowering my hands from where they had grasped at my hair. Mustering all my anger, I glared at Kouji. I went through all that to find him, and how does he repay me?
But then I met his eyes, which were glistening ever-so-slightly, trying to hide his uncertainty from the world. He was afraid to show any weakness, so he hid behind a cold, uncaring mask. Maybe we weren't so different after all. My anger melted as I tried to find the words to answer his question.
"It's all true," I whispered lamely, my shoulders slumped in resign. I began to tell him everything, from how Grandma told me about my twin to the days I wandered the streets, desperate to find my other half. I tried to explain why I couldn't talk to him, but my explanation felt empty. What could I say?
Takuya just had to bring up the one thing I didn't want to explain. He said he saw me at the elevator, even though I was sure no one noticed me. I knew the question was coming even before he asked it, but I didn't know what to say.
"But, wait, you didn't get on the train, so how did you end up in the Digital World without a Trailmon?"
I should have told them the truth, I know, but that's not easy when you don't know what the truth it. I didn't want them to hate me, but I couldn't just pretend I was the helpless victim either. So I lied.
"Actually, I don't remember."
I told them some half-truths, about falling down the stairs and ending up in a void thinking I was dead. I told them I was haunted by visions of Mama and of Kouji's family, and that Cherubimon used my feelings of anger and betrayal to turn me into Duskmon. But I couldn't bring myself to tell Kouji how much I hated him, how I was fully aware of myself and our relationship while we fought.
When the others arrived on the Trailmon, I stared at my feet while Takuya explained who I was. I'm sure he tried to do it without making me sound like a freak, but I felt myself blush in humiliation anyway. It didn't help that I could feel Kouji's eyes on me until I we boarded the Trailmon to head for the Rose Morning Star.
I sat in a separate car, resting my elbows on my knees and letting my hands dangle between my legs. I wished the door between the cars would have been closed so I couldn't hear the murmur of conversation that no doubt revolved around some combination of me, Kouji, and Duskmon.
But my thoughts soon drew my attention away from their voices as I wondered why I had to accompany them on their mission. The last thing I wanted was to be left alone where Cherubimon could find me, but I didn't want to be stuck with a bunch of strangers, either. I didn't even know if I wanted to be around Kouji right now.
Besides, I would just get in their way. Bokomon, Neemon, and Patamon could hide easily enough, but it would be harder for me, and the others would have to divert their attention to protect me. Why couldn't I just go home?
Sometime later, the Trailmon, complaining of hunger, stopped, and Zoe leaned her head in.
"Hey…Kouichi?" she called gently. "We're at a rest stop, and we're going to see if there's some vending machines or something. Wanna come?"
I looked up at her, her green eyes bright and sincere, if a little hesitant. I shook my head. "Thanks for asking, but I'll just stay here."
Her smile faltered. "Oh." I would've had to be deaf not to hear her disappointment. "I hope it's not because you feel like you're not welcome," she said.
I shook my head again. "It's not that."
For a moment she seemed to be judging my words, but then she nodded slightly. "Alright. If we find food or anything, do you want some?"
As she walked out, I let my head drop. Why don't they hate me, after everything I did? I tried to destroy them. I can't even stand me right now.
I pressed my hands to my temples, focusing on holding my tears back in case Zoe or one of the others came back. They had already forgiven what didn't deserve to be forgiven. I didn't want pity too. But the others left me alone when they got back onboard. Well, until Patamon came in, that is.
"Did you know that Light and Dark are brothers? It's true, Kouichi. One can't even live without the other one. Darkness isn't a bad thing unless you choose to make it that way."
I had to smile at the way he spoke so matter-of-factly with such an innocent voice. And with the way he kept talking, it was like he knew I would protest if he gave me half a chance. Then again, that was probably true. But I had to make sure he wasn't just trying to cheer me up.
"You're right. And I guess you would know, having been a great Celestial digimon. Unless you're just trying to make me feel better. Did you really mean that?"
Patamon's innocence did help. He didn't over-think the situation like I did. I had been purified, and as far as he was concerned, that was the end of the story. I would have liked to talk to him more, but Cherubimon chose that moment to derail our Trailmon.
Him. I couldn't help but hate Cherubimon for everything he had put me through. I didn't want to hate, but I did. He was the one I could truly blame for the mess my life had become. Not Kouji, or Dad, or Grandma. Just Cherubimon and myself. Ironically, the one I wanted to make pay I couldn't and the one I could make pay I wouldn't. Even if I could get away with it, what good would killing myself do?
The others evolved to fight Cherubimon. I wished I was out there with them, but all I could do was sit and watch. I crouched behind the train, hoping in vain that Cherubimon didn't see me so no one would have to risk their life for me.
I knew the sky filling with pink and purple clouds couldn't be a good omen, but I didn't expect it to be as bad as it turned out to be. Lighting from Cherubimon's Storm of Judgment attack touched down dangerously close; I would have been hit eventually, but Beowulfmon threw himself over me just in time.
When the attack subsided, everyone else was on the ground, nearly unconscious. Only the digimon and I were in decent condition.
I can only imagine the pain he must have been in. But he wouldn't show it. He just hid behind his tough mask and choked out the kind of cocky reply I've since come to expect from Takuya: "Never felt better!"
"Well, I'm disappointed. I expected at least a shred of challenge today. And you." Cherubimon turned his heartless gaze on me. "How pathetic losing to them."
"I'm glad! I lost when I listened to you! You made me fight my own brother!" In my rage, I ran forward, stopping only a few yards from Cherubimon. I was so angry, I barely heard his retort. I just continued my rant. "You lied to me! You used me!"
Those words caught my attention, probably because it was exactly what I was thinking. I wanted to blame Cherubimon, but in reality, I blamed myself more.
"I merely set the stage. The Spirit of Darkness chooses its owner. To be selected, one must posses a very dark heart…" Cherubimon's words faded as I thought back to the day I received the Spirit. Hadn't I felt that connection? Could it be that part of me had always been just like Duskmon? "The power of Darkness is your destiny, Kouichi. It's where you belong. Accept it and be my servant once more."
As he continued on, tempting me with power, I lowered my eyes. Power. It was all I wanted, right? The power to make Kouji see me.
"Time to choose. What's it going to be, Kouichi?"
Kouji had definitely seen me when I was Duskmon. But he hated and feared me; I didn't want that. He had also seen me when I rose above Duskmon in that battle, when I wanted to tell him not to blame our parents. The only problem was that had left me helpless. There was no power there. So what did I really want?
"Don't listen to him! He's lying!" Kouji cried.
"No, it's true. My heart was filled with anger and jealousy, and darkness became the only comfort for my pain." I remembered the first time I evolved into Velgemon; the way the Darkness soothed me. I did fit with darkness. Maybe it was my destiny. Darkness protected me from the Light. Cherubimon chuckled and raised his arms, ready to bring me back under his control.
"But that's in the past." The calm firmness in my voice surprised me. I didn't know what my destiny was, but Kouji's Light didn't hurt me now. It only hurt me when Cherubimon was in control, feeding me lies about how my brother was responsible for my pain. I met Cherubimon's eyes.
"I don't want revenge anymore." I had been thinking of Kouji, of how Cherubimon made me want to make him pay for all my pain, but the statement was equally true of Cherubimon. He may have caused me pain, but I was just as much to blame as he was, and revenge wouldn't fix anything I had done. Like Kouji had realized in Sakkakumon just before he Fusion Evolved, he had to face his problem. He couldn't blame anyone else; the best thing to do was to work to make things right. The same was true for me.
"I'm done hiding in the dark."
Turning, I looked at Kouji. He and the others had saved me. How could I forget that? No more hiding in the dark. Maybe in Kouji I had found someone who I could share my feelings with, rather than bottling them up. I turned back around.
"I'd rather die than betray my brother."
I knew I'd sealed my fate the moment Cherubimon's face contorted into a scowl. "So be it," he growled, raising his hands to finish me.
Kouji's cry was accompanied by a beam of light that shone against my back. In front of me, the light surrounded a cone of darkness – the shadow of my body. The grim symbolism of the moment faded to awe as a D-Tector appeared before me and the Spirits of Darkness changed form and entered it.
I guess the Darkness was my destiny after all. But this time I knew this was the way Darkness was supposed to feel: gentle and sincere rather than cold and reticent. I grabbed my D-Tector, noting the awe in the others' voices as they spoke in words that entered my mind as gibberish. All that mattered now was setting things right.
Entering the void where my Spirits could transform me into a digimon, my emotions began to fuel my movements. I don't know what prompted me to move the way that I did, reaching my left hand over my head, but that moment stretched on as I remembered all the times I had struck a similar pose. When Duskmon betrayed his ally by attacking and scanning Arbormon. When I nearly killed Kouji; the day I first saw the Digital World. When I lifted Kouji above my head, draining his memories in Sakkakumon…
I stared up at my hand as Fractal Code surrounded it. I didn't even flinch at the light; I barely noticed it. My hands had caused so much pain; all because I wanted to get revenge for the pain I had felt. I lowered my eyes in shame as my left hand came down and my right hand, holding my D-Tector, rose above my head. Kouji had saved me from that. This was my second chance, or maybe my third, if my second chance had come and gone while I was Duskmon, and I couldn't let it go to waste. My hands began to move together, and two words echoed in my head, becoming a solemn promise:
"Execute: Spirit Evolution! Lowemon!"
I hardly remember the battle that followed. It was half Lowemon himself fighting, anyway. But I do remember how right it felt, and how Kouji called out to encourage me. His support strengthened me. 'Darkness and Light are brothers…One can't even live without the other.' Patamon didn't know how right he was. Or maybe he did, and I just didn't realize it until that moment. But I knew then there was no going back.
The Cherubimon I fought that day may have been just a projection, but that was the most important victory I ever won. And afterwards, when I tried to go off after the real Cherubimon alone, the others wouldn't hear it. They all made up excuses as to why they were coming, but their eyes told a different story. I was part of a team now. They were my friends, and the trials the following weeks presented us with only brought us closer. Not only could I share my feelings with Kouji; I found it easier than I expected to open up to them all.
But there was one thing I couldn't tell them. Well, two, really. I never told Kouji the truth about Duskmon, let alone the others. It was too painful, and I couldn't get rid of the guilt. It was always there, souring the joy I gained from the others almost as much as the sight of the war-torn Digital World did. But when I was with my friends, I could forget about the guilt for a moment. I wasn't Duskmon to them; I was Kouichi, and Kouichi had nothing to feel guilty about.
The other thing, though, was something that just wasn't necessary for them to know. At least, that's what I told myself when I made Bokomon promise not to tell them. I didn't want them to worry over nothing. I guess it wasn't really nothing, but they couldn't do anything about it and neither could I, so I may as well have kept it to myself... Right?
"In this world, data comes only from those with a physical form. You, Kouichi, have no physical form. Terribly sorry."
"No…Then I'm just…"
"A spirit only."
I always knew there had to be consequences. A spirit only… Did that mean I was dead? Or was I just stuck in the Digital World forever? And was it because I had been freed? Had I had physical form as Duskmon?
Go ahead; call me crazy. I know you're thinking it. But didn't I already tell you? I started down that road a long time ago. This whole story is really just about that journey. Secrets, guilt, having my non-human status confirmed… Is it really that hard to believe I finally lost it? But there is one more thing I have to tell you before my story is over – my death.
"Light and Darkness appear to be opposites, never together in the same place at the same time. Imagine what it would take to bring them together. But you don't have to imagine; allow me the pleasure of showing you. Shall I? It's just too bad…you won't survive the experience."
We had gone into the Dark Area of the Digital World in one last attempt to stop Lucemon from going to the Real World. Four Human Spirits and Two Fusion Warriors against that monster… Not good odds. Suffice it to say we got our butts kicked. Lucemon combined Light and Darkness against me first, throwing me backwards into the wall. As I pried myself out, I heard my friends' anguished screams just before Lucemon's attack forced them to devolve. So much for not-so-good odds. Things were downright hopeless now.
So that was when Lucemon made his little speech about Light and Darkness, which happened to give me an idea.
"Light and Darkness…together?"
"I hope you enjoy oblivion, because it's the last thing you'll ever experience."
Oblivion would be better than what I had now. Or so I thought. But in any case, I had to save Kouji and the others. Humans were the Digital World's last hope, if there was any hope left.
"I call Light."
No time to decide. I kicked off the wall as the pure white orb engulfed my friends.
I was faster than the falling indigo orb, managing to catch it before it reached the others. Darkness licked at my fingers, calling out to the feral anger of Velgemon. Anger at my situation; anger at my life (or lack thereof). Light burned at my back, igniting the pain of Duskmon. Pain that I had never been able to express, and now, that I would never have the chance to ease.
Kouji. He had become my light, just as Mama was. I hoped he would keep his promise to go see her. It wasn't fair of me to leave either of them, but I knew my destiny wouldn't take me home.
"You fool! Not even the Warrior of Darkness can stand against the power of Darkness that I command."
Darkness. My destiny. My body was gone, probably dead in the Human World. I had forgotten about my fall down the stairs, but it came back to me now. That had to have been the moment I died. I was just a spirit now. The Spirit of Darkness. I would fade into the Darkness of oblivion and hope my Spirit could give Kouji the power to stop Lucemon.
I couldn't do it anymore. The pain and the anger drained my strength, and finally I let the two orbs converge on me. I expected the worst, but I felt nothing. Not pain, not anger. Just a weight lifting from my heart.
I had to tell them…my guilt was gone now. All the weeks I had known them, it had been crushing me, reminding me that whatever I did wasn't enough to outweigh my past. The others had forgiven me, but I had never forgiven myself. I came to the world searching for a brother, but since meeting him, all I had been searching for was redemption. I needed to know I was still human, somewhere deep inside, and now, moments away from my own death, I had risen above Duskmon and Velgemon. I had found myself again; I finally felt whole. And it only took my entire life.
"I know now why I came to the Digital World. I wasn't Cherubimon's pawn; I was his greatest gift!" I tried to feel proud that I was helping to save the world, but the world doesn't seem all that important when you know you'll never see it again. "Lucemon! You are not the only one who can bring Light and Darkness together."
I looked down at the dirty, frightened faces below me. "I'm glad I met all of you. Thank you for being my friends." They had no idea how much they had helped me. What better way to show my thanks than completing the battle they had started so long ago. The battle to free me from my own darkness. "I wish I could see you back in the Real World, but I don't think I'll be able to."
I saw the shock on their faces, Kouji's most of all. I wonder if he felt like I did when I thought he had turned his back on me. I hope not. That's not how I want to be remembered.
"What does he mean?" Tommy asked.
Tommy. I didn't realize how important he was for a long time. He was always just a kid to me, and even though he was obviously more mature than most nine-year-olds, I always saw him as someone to be protected. But he had been the one who convinced us to build the snowball catapult to help Kouji and Takuya fight the Royal Knights. He never gave up, even when I was beyond hope. But his question reminded me he really was just a kid. He was too young and innocent to have to watch the death of a friend.
I'm sorry, Tommy, for not protecting you today.
My eyes found JP, who was slowly shaking his head. Another friendship I never invested in. I don't really know much about him; just that he's the clown of the team and that he has a crush on Zoe. I think the crush is starting to fade…but how would I know? There's so much more to him than I've seen, I can tell. He's like Kouji, or me, for that matter, hiding his emotions behind a mask. But his mask is jokes.
So I'm sorry, JP, for not being the friend I should have been.
Zoe's hands had drifted up to her mouth, and I could tell she was holding back tears. I remembered when she approached me on the Trailmon just after we met. She was always like that – inviting me to open up but not pressing. She was always ready to listen. Of course, she was pretty flirtatious, too, being the only girl in the group. She likes making Kouji blush. And trust me, it is kind of funny... I can't say I like being the object of her charm, but the only one who does is probably JP. At least Zoe knows when to stop. I've never thought of her as being a tease or flat-out annoying. By now, all it really does is distract me from my problems, which probably isn't a bad thing.
Zoe…I'm sorry. You were so kind to me, and I took you for granted.
"Protect our world. That's all I ask."
"Kouichi…" Kouji's voice wavered. It was like I could see his mask of indifference beginning to slide away. All of our masks were sliding. We just didn't care any more if our friends saw us cry. I guess the Digital World really does change you.
"I…I think…" I could see my body, lying at the bottom of the stairs in the subway. Businessmen, gathering around, hesitant to touch me. A pair of elementary schoolers, wondering what had happened. Off to the side, a mother trying to soothe her sobbing toddler. "I'm ready."
"No, please!" Kouji cried, but it was too late. The orb shattered, stripping both my digimon and human shell. I lay there for a moment, staring at the Dark Area with new eyes. It was blurred and bright like an overexposed picture, but my hearing was sharper than ever.
I heard Takuya whisper my name, and I felt that little tingle in my nose that usually accompanies tears. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Takuya has had my respect since the day Kouji purified me, and he's earned it many times over since then. I know we all criticize him for being reckless, but I wouldn't have anyone else lead our team. I don't think he even knows the meaning of despair. He'll always come back and try again and again until he wins or just can't move anymore.
Don't tell Kouji, but I wish I had some of Takuya's courage – and yes, even some of his goggleheadedness. There are so many things I wish I could have said, but I never found the courage. Maybe if I was more like him, I could have met Kouji without becoming Duskmon first… I think if it were possible, Takuya would have forgiven me for everything I did as Duskmon before I even did anything. If I were more like him, I wouldn't have to sacrifice myself to feel redeemed.
Sorry, Takuya; I'm just not like you.
I turned over and floated towards my friends. They weren't blurred like everything else, but I wasn't seeing them the way I always had. JP's fists were clenched, crackling with electricity, as were his eyes. Tommy was just frozen, his eyes glued to me. Snow dusted his clothing and hair, which was mysteriously missing the giant yellow hat. Between them, Zoe's eyes were wide, her long blonde hair waving in a wind no one else seemed to feel. As she blinked, the wind caught a few tears and flung them, glittering, into the haze.
Takuya must have been the only one not on the verge of tears. His stance was wide, his fists raised, waiting to be unleashed on Lucemon. A small, white-hot flame burned in place of his heart, somehow visible to me through his clothes.
And Kouji. Kouji was the light that allowed me to see all their faces. His light drove back the haze around us, and guided me down towards them. His expression was more heart-wrenching than the others. Whatever layer of him I was seeing, the mask had been completely torn away. Silvery tears slid down his face, leaving radiant streaks. Once our eyes met, I couldn't look away.
I had never thought of the personalities of our elements, at least not to the extent that I did now. I gave up wondering why I received the Spirits of Darkness a long time ago. Why search for the answer that always eluded me when it was so much easier to simply say destiny? But looking at my friends, I could see exactly why each of them had gotten their element. Not all of what I saw was obvious, but I couldn't deny its accuracy:
Kouji guided us, Takuya and me especially, sometimes subtly, just as he was doing now by clearing my vision of the others…
Takuya has the intense passion I can't associate with anything other than fire…
Zoe is compassionate; not the first thing I think of in connection with wind, but something I've always associated with her…
Innocence. There's nothing else that really describes Tommy. He has the innocence of waking up to the year's first snow, to running out, making snowmen, and having snowball fights with friends…
And JP. He seemed so protective. I guess you could say he was trying to protect us all from depression. It's funny. I've never associated thunder with protection; fear would be more like it. I guess even the elements can wear masks sometimes.
So then, I wonder, what is darkness? What am I? I don't think that's something we can answer about ourselves. The best I can say is it's what I was about to do. In order for the Light to shine, the Darkness has to retreat.
"It's up to you now, Kouji. Take the Spirits of Darkness." As Kouji reached out his hands to accept my Spirits, his Light flared, stinging my eyes and pushing the haze back farther.
"My brother, I can't tell you what it means to me to have met you. I have no regrets. No regrets."
Kouji. My brother. My twin. He is the most important person in the world to me, and I know he must be hurt the most by this. What more can I say? He's my other half. He taught me how to forgive myself; he showed me how to be redeemed.
…I'm sorry, Kouji.
On Earth, we have all these poetic images we associate with death. The light at the end of the tunnel. Seeing our lives flash before our eyes. Coldness overtaking our limbs. A slow transition into sleep.
This was nothing like that. Maybe it was because I wasn't really dying; I was being deleted. It didn't feel poetic or peaceful…it was unearthly, something beyond numbness. I simply ceased to be. The last thing I saw was Kouji, clutching my Spirits to his chest and watching me with terrified eyes.
So I guess this is it. I'm here, wherever I am, waiting to fade into oblivion. You'll forgive me if some parts of my story seemed rushed or vague. I'm not here to tell you about how I saved the world, because I didn't. To be honest, I didn't even intend to tell you my story. But I had to tell someone all the things I've kept inside. All the things I tried so hard to keep secret. Until it was too late, of course.
Now I don't even know if there's anyone but me here at all. Does insanity carry over into death? Oh, well. It doesn't matter any more. I can already feel myself becoming part of this…I want to say darkness, but I don't know if that's true. I don't think I can see in this place, but that might just be because I don't have eyes.
But like I said, I'm becoming part of it. In a few minutes, it will all be over. All the pain and anger of my past; all the joy and potential of the last few weeks of my life. I just hope my friends remember me in a good light…Light. I wonder how Kouji's doing. Can you ever forgive me? I never wanted to hurt you…Kouji…
What's that? There's a little white dot floating in front of my face… Do I even have a face for it to float in front of? And how can I be sure it's not a big white thing a long way away? I can't focus on it; whenever I try, it blurs.
It's growing. I can feel warmth coming through it, and something cool and wet on my forehead. Maybe I spoke too soon. A light at the end of the tunnel? Coldness taking over my limbs? Okay, so it's not really my limbs, and it's not entirely cold, but… Now that I think about it, didn't the most emotional parts of my life just flash before my eyes? And this is definitely a slow transition. Maybe it's not like falling asleep, but the not-so-coldness wasn't in my limbs either. Hey, how many dead people do we have to give us an accurate account of dying?
Maybe I shouldn't try to figure it out. If I just let it happen, maybe it will seem faster.
Kouji! But…how!? I'm dead! Oh, no... Kouji isn't dead, too, is he? He has to be alive! He has to!
My eyes feel suddenly dry, but it takes a moment to remember how to blink. Wherever I am – was – I'm not there anymore. There's someone… Kouji! Tears are leaking unchallenged from his eyes, and the sight is so…weird that I almost don't recognize him.
"K-Kouji?" My throat is dry, making it hard to speak. But Kouji reacts, jumping at my pathetic excuse for a voice. Raising my hand off whatever I'm laying on, I continue. "I didn't think I'd…see you." Kouji grabs my hand, hesitant, then, seeming to realize he isn't dreaming, he clasps it in both of his, being careful not to hurt me. "But you're…here!"
I feel my own tears on my face as a squeal breaks the stunned silence. I don't want to take my eyes off Kouji, but I see several flashes of light out of the corner of my eye. Takuya mutters something about a miracle that I don't quite catch. Everyone's here! They're all alright!
Kouji pulls me into a hug, his tears splashing onto my bare back. Over his shoulder, I see our friends drop their cell phones and run towards me. Someone – Takuya, I think – bumps my foot and my ankle screams in protest. I must have sprained it or something. Pain! It seems like so long since I've actually been hurt. It's almost a relief - I'm really alive!
Four bodies careen into Kouji, and I fall back onto the thing I was lying on before. Behind me, someone cries out in alarm.
I have so many questions begging to be answered – the hows and whys of this...this miracle as Takuya called it, and even when and where I am – but for once I'm perfectly content to just let my emotions wash over me. There's no reason to ruin this impossibly happy moment.
Once upon a time, I was fighting to get just one good thing out of life. That battle seems like a lifetime ago, with everything that's happened to me since then. But in a way, it was a lifetime ago. That happened in a life where I was alone and bitter. I have a new life now, thanks to my friends. Thanks to Kouji. Things really will be better from here on out, because I'm free of guilt now.
I've found redemption.
The ending gave me some trouble (I went through 4 versions of the last three paragraphs), but other than that, I really like how this turned out. I originally intended this to be MAYBE 4000 words, but…it took off. I think I spent 10 hours writing this! And a whole truck-load of editing.
Oh, right. I used quotes and/or scenes from episodes 21, 27, 30, 32, 33, 45, 48, and 50 (in case you were wondering and so no one can acuse me of plagerism). And I guess I lied - I did come up with the scene with Zoe on the Trailmon, but that's hardly worth mentioning.
So, anyway, exams are over now, so I'm off to ATTWT! ("Forgiveness" will probably be my next oneshot, FYI)
-Child of Healing
Word count: 11,915 (Wow…Insanely long, I tell you!)