Knight of Swords
Chapter 1: The Magicians
-by Ajora Fravashi

*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei does.
*Warning: Shounen ai, violence, all that good stuff. Pay attention to the rating, people. Main pairing is Takeru/Ken but there will be mention of other pairings too. This is a sequel to "Götterdämmerung", and it is advised that anyone just entering this fic universe should read "Phantom Codewalker" and "Götterdämmerung" first. You'll be lost if you don't read those fics first. Trust me.

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Their crusader had failed and was eventually killed by Vandemon's life drain. With Oikawa gone, they had no one to act as a puppet and driving force for their missions. And so they waited patiently for another to fall into their lap. After all, time was on their side.

Then, one day, a mother came to their notice. She had lost a son to the Digital World, someone named Oshiro. Yoshinaka Oshiro had departed many years ago and never returned, and yet his mother had never gone to anyone other than the local authorities about it until the Akiyama boy turned up again after the several years when he was considered lost. The boy had sought her out and told her about Oshiro's death in the Digital World and that Oshiro had been his mentor. Mrs. Yoshinaka, seeing how closely he resembled her son, begged him to stay. She was disappointed when he had to return home.

It was a month later that she had come to them, hoping to take revenge on the world that stole her son from her and killed him off. This was the opportunity that they were looking for, and they embraced it. The tale she gave them about Oshiro's demise did not interest them, it was some sob story concerning the destruction of a research center by someone named Piemon. This Piemon had implanted a virus package into Oshiro's back that had eventually destroyed his physiology and killed him. While the idea of such a thing might be worth researching, their goals were greater.

The gates to the Digital World were blown open by BelialVandemon, yet it still would not allow them to enter it. This was quite frustrating, for there was an entire new world out there, an entire world where they would be able to do as they wished, and it was eternally out of their reach.

The first Dark Seed project had been filed away once the host, Sakimoto Kageko, died and the Dark Seed became inert. The second, also spearheaded by Oikawa, failed when Vandemon took over Oikawa's intentions and Black Wargreymon's sacrifice recalibrated the coordinates to the Digital World's dimension. According to their spies, the original subject of #DS-002 was no longer host to his Dark Seed, and was therefore useless. Trying to recapture him and plant Sakimoto's Dark Seed in him would attract too much attention, as Ichijouji Ken was closely watched by his family now.

Oh yes, they did still have Sakimoto's Dark Seed floating in a pressurized chamber in one of their Tokyo University labs. It would remain inert until they found a new host for it. If all went as their scientists hypothesized, cultivating this Dark Seed would give them great power. Just what kind was still in question.

One by one they looked through the information files of the so-called Chosen Children, trying to find one that would be easiest to capture. Those with siblings were bypassed, those with two parents overlooked. The youth they needed had to be one that shared an apartment with only one parent, preferably one that was out working most of the time. This left them with two boys, brothers separated by divorce. They went over these files again to figure out which was most suitable as a new host, talking amongst themselves as they did so. Finally one of them pointed out that the younger of the two was best suited, and they all agreed. With the younger boy's relationship to Ichijouji being the type one would not mention to one's parents, blackmail could be used to convince the boy to go along with their plans if all else failed.

With their choice made they set out to call Mrs. Yoshinaka and give her the first assignment: the abduction of Takaishi Takeru.

.~*~.

He wondered sometimes just what his relationship with Ken really meant. He was certainly attracted to the other boy and had felt, since Ken's effortless kidnapping by Mixcoatlmon, that Ken was beginning to mean a lot more to him than he originally thought. Takeru needed someone to protect and someone he could understand, and Ken needed someone who would be able to do so.

This might have brought forth the question of his orientation, had he not already learned of Ryo's bisexuality through Ken. So he simply assumed he was bisexual too since he had crushes on girls before as well. But these crushes rarely lasted long, and never as long as his relationship with Ken. So he wondered again and again if things went deeper than he thought. Was he actually in love with Ken?

That question always brought even more questions, so he simply never took the time to think about it. With all the threats to Ken gone, he would always have later to think about it. Unfortunately, his mind was starting to gravitate elsewhere when he was around Ken and 'later' became 'much later'... preferably once he got his boyfriend in bed and willing to do things he had only read about. Ryo really hadn't been very good about hiding some more... explicit reading material in one of the study's bookshelves. Several of those books had not been helpful in stilling his hormones at all.

However, there was still the issue of Ken's phobias concerning sex. He waited patiently in hopes that Ken would eventually get over those phobias, but the wait was frustrating at times. There was nothing else he could do.

Takeru stared across the intersection as he waited for one of the lights to turn green, peering out under an umbrella as he did so. Rain pelted heavily upon the green fabric, fell in sheets all around him, and the umbrella was pretty much useless given how the winds were tossing countless droplets around. He shouldn't have volunteered to run down to the Ai-Mart for food and the bookstore for something Ken needed, but then he didn't think it would rain so soon. There had been weather warnings, yes, but things didn't seem like they would be this severe.

The others were studying at Miyako's apartment this time around, and his own was in the same building. Perhaps he should stop by his apartment first to dry off before going to offload the junk food in front of the rest of the group. Yeah, that made sense, he had Patamon in his apartment and would have to fetch him beforehand. Ken would be there too, and he wanted to at least look somewhat presentable.

Finally the light turned green and the pedestrian signal flashed an image of a walking stick figure. He moved forward to cross the street, school uniform shoes splashing through puddles that had already formed in the more shallow areas. When he reached the middle of the street he heard the clapping sound of a woman's hard-soled shoes against the asphalt but paid it little heed. Nothing really unusual.

Two-thirds of the way across he heard the woman's pace come closer and closer, and once he was across he felt something hard and cold press against his ribs. Something that might have felt like a lead pipe or... Takeru's eyes widened as he felt it dig further against his ribs, surprise and fear rising up within him. A gun? Guns were illegal in Japan, weren't they?

"Keep walking and don't make any sudden moves, boy," the woman's cold voice hissed into his ear. A heavy weight seemed to settle in his stomach as he walked along at the woman's insistence.

This couldn't be happening... Why was it happening?... Oh gods, why him of all people? But maybe he could jab his elbow back and into her chest in an attempt to stun her. Ken said it would work, so he could at least try. Whatever it was she wanted, he didn't want to surrender so easily. He tensed just a bit in preparation for the move, but the woman jabbed her gun barrel against his ribs again.

"Don't be stupid and make any moves like that. I'm sure you wouldn't want us to take your boyfriend as a substitute."

Icy terror threaded through Takeru's veins at the woman's words. How could she have known? Only the other Chosen knew about their relationship, and none of them were likely to speak of that to any outsiders. And she had threatened to take away Ken if he didn't go along. Any threat to Ken's safety he could not allow. So, go along he would, and hopefully the others could track his D-3.

The woman motioned that he should enter a car parked near his apartment, and he did as he was told. It was an unassuming little car, just like any other in Tokyo. He held on to the hope that the others would find him when they realized that he wouldn't show up, that Ken would be safe.

As the grey Subaru pulled out of its spot and accessed the road, a bony, well-manicured hand reached out an open window and tossed out a green-toned device. The D-3 splashed into a puddle by the side of the road.

Yoshinaka Reiko settled back in her seat as she rolled up her window and watched the buildings pass by. Soon enough they would cross the Rainbow Bridge that would lead to downtown Tokyo, and it was there she could offload the boy for the moment. Even now the Takaishi boy slept, his slumber induced by the injection of tranquilizers. He was the same age her own son had been before his disappearance, and she would have questioned her own motives had she not reminded herself that this boy was a representative of the world that had killed her Oshiro.

She did not regret going to the syndicate, nor did she regret doing what she did now. It was all for revenge, and no words from the yakuza beside her could sway her decisions. He had no right to judge her, and once he was reminded of that he simply went back to the task of driving.

This boy was the one they planned to host the seed that would help her take her revenge, of that she was certain.

.~*~.

Ken sighed to himself as he stared down at the trigonometry book opened out in front of him. Takeru was supposed to have come back a while ago, but since it had been raining so hard once the blond stepped outside, he simply assumed that Takeru decided to stay in the Ai-Mart until things let up. But it had more or less been half an hour now since the clouds parted and the rain ceased, and still there was no sign of Takeru. Where could Takeru be?

Oddly enough, he was barely aware of how distressed he really was until Daisuke slammed a hand down on the surface of his book and startled him. Barely a second passed before he found himself eye to eye with the other boy.

"Ken, I'm due for some fresh air. Come outside with me?"

"If you want to look for Takeru, Daisuke, there's no need to hide it," Iori admonished lightly, eyes never leaving his history textbook. The tiniest of smirks quirked at the corners of the boy's lips as Daisuke whipped around to glare at him. "But by all means go ahead."

As Miyako rebuked Iori for ruining Daisuke's attempt at subtlety, the auburn-haired boy rose from his seat on the floor and straightened. Minomon and Chibimon scrambled out of his way as he did so, leaving in their wake a flurry of loose paper. Nahualmon, whose presence had been explained to the others as simply a digimon who had latched to Ken, looked up quizzically from where it had been gnawing on someone's dried-out pen. "So come on, Ken, let's look for Takeru and that food we were supposed to have an hour ago."

Before Ken could respond, Hikari's voice rose from the bed she was studying on with Miyako. "Takeru can take care of himself. Besides, if there was any trouble, Patamon would let us know or handle it on his own. I'm sure Takeru's just fine."

"I would still like a breath of fresh air," Ken stated as he followed Daisuke's example and rose from the floor. Despite Hikari's attempt at reassurance, he was still worried about Takeru and Minomon echoed his agitation. The digimon flailed for his attention, stopping only when he picked up the little green bagworm and cradled it. As if it had perceived that it might be left behind, Nahualmon launched itself from its perch on a bookshelf and fluttered the short distance it took to situate itself on its usual place over Ken's left shoulder. Incapable of speech in this form, the feathered reptile simply crooned at him in what he assumed was a reassuring manner.

Miyako waved them off before returning her attention to her textbook. "Have fun boys. I'm sure you know the way out."

Once clear of the Inoue apartment, neither spoke for awhile. They walked in silence, though Ken was well aware of Daisuke's darting glances that every now and then settled back on him. Daisuke was more concerned over him than Takeru, most likely, which explained why the other boy's gaze kept falling on him at predictable intervals.

Ken sighed as he stepped outside of the apartment building with his friend, still hugging his bagworm of a digimon partner close. With each step the Archaeopterix-like digimon dug its claws deeper into the cloth of his shirt, but he was used to that by now. There still was no sign of Takeru in the building or anywhere around the building. All he could focus on now was Takeru. Where was Takeru, why wasn't he back? But Takeru would be okay, right? It was probably nothing serious, maybe Takeru just had to go back to the school to grab a forgotten book or something and would soon be back.

They walked to the Ai-mart and asked Miyako's father when Takeru left. The answer offered them no help, as Takeru left the store roughly an hour ago. As Daisuke thanked Mr. Inoue for the information, Ken squeezed his digimon partner close once again, taking what comfort he could from the action. The hope he clung to that suggested that Takeru was alright was beginning to slip through his fingers and he could do nothing about it.

His steps were almost mechanical as he followed Daisuke's lead across the street back to the apartment building. Since they became friends, Takeru had always been there for him, always available. But now Takeru was gone and he had no idea where. Daisuke suggested checking Takeru's apartment, but Ken was beginning to have doubts that anything could be found there.

The moment they reached the general vicinity of the Takaishi apartment, the sounds of something hard raking against wood became louder the closer they drew. Nahualmon squawked at the noise, feathers bristling in what Ken assumed was discomfort. Perhaps it was out of curiosity that he stepped forward to turn the knob of the door. It wasn't locked, much to his surprise, and an agitated Patamon fluttered out from behind the door. The creature nearly crashed into his face before stopping short in front of him.

"Takeru's in trouble," Patamon exclaimed, his words just barely registering in Ken's mind before he continued. "We have to find him!"

Patamon's words resounded in his mind, drawing from the depths of his soul a familiar ache. It was happening again. Someone dear to him was going to leave him all alone again. Why did this always have to happen when he became so attached to anyone?

Daisuke's hand clapped on his right shoulder and squeezed lightly in an attempt to grab his attention. Blinking, Ken looked up to see Daisuke with a reassuring smile on that tanned face and waving the blue D-3 in front of his face. "Hey, y'know, I bet we can track him down on our D-3s. Then when we find him, I'll give him a good whack for making you worry so much! Okay?"

"Daisuke, you don't-" Before Ken could finish, Daisuke's hand grabbed his free wrist and began tugging him down the street, only pausing every now and then to get a good look at the digivice. They trotted together for several blocks, their pace causing Nahualmon to squawk indignantly until it launched itself from Ken's left shoulder and fluttered after them with Patamon close behind.

The buildings and people they passed did not attract their attention, for all they could concentrate on was the little dot showing on the screen of Daisuke's D-3. The nearer they drew to it, a dark layer of despair was shed from the heart of the Child of Kindness with every building passed. They would find Takeru after all.

A few more buildings were passed and ignored, people sidestepped or pushed aside. Few now questioned the presence of digimon, for in the years since BelialVandemon's defeat, they had become a regular occurrence. Finally, as they reached the area near the Odaiba-Kaihinkoen train station, their pace slowed and the dots on the digivice that indicated both their position and Takeru's overlapped. But Takeru simply wasn't around.

Sighing, Daisuke released Ken's wrist and went to look around for Takeru's digivice. If he ever saw Takeru again, he was going to beat the crap out of the boy for doing this to his best friend. It was in a puddle where the street met the curb that he found Takeru's digivice. Tossed aside like trash. Well shit, maybe if he hid this in a pocket he could spare Ken any more distress by not voicing the suggestion that Takeru might either have run away or had been kidnapped.

As he rose with as much of a nonchalant air as he could muster, Daisuke moved to slip the thing into his pants pocket. A tiny noise drew his attention, however, and he looked up to see Ken gazing back at him. Ken was wearing the same expression he had seen the day of Wormmon's death: hopeless, lost... Shattered.

.~*~.

Akiyama Kumi was not a woman to be taken lightly, due more to her rigid upbringing than anything else. Russian born and raised, she was originally a botany student named Khynika Svetlana Zakharova. She had been stationed in Kuznetsovo, a town on the tip of the island of Ostrov Sakhalin before meeting Akiyama Toshio. There were supposed to have been laws against allowing the denizens of Hokkaido into Russian territory, but those laws were rarely enforced and often ignored. Only a tiny strait separated Sakhalin from the northernmost tip of Hokkaido and was regularly crossed by merchants and fishermen seeking new business on either side.

It was through Toshio's smuggling of Hokkaido's alpine flowers and selling them in Sakhalin that she met him, and he had been drawn to her the moment she gave him the plants' scientific names. Somewhere along the line a courtship started and she moved with him to Sapporo, and their son was born soon after.

Toshio had given Ryo his name, explaining to her that the name meant 'distant'. The name had soon turned to be quite fitting, as Ryo had always been distant around them and constantly bored with their life. Shortly after Ryo's first brief disappearance around New Year's Eve of 1999, he had come back with tales of another world. Neither she or Toshio believed him, and he no longer dropped mention of it. Then he disappeared again after she sent him to Tokyo for schooling, and did not return until the last year. With him came a strange purple creature that was proof of the world he once spoke of, and that digimon now acted as a regular member of the family. The verbal sparring matches she had with it were quite refreshing, something she missed since leaving Russia.

Even now the creature was preparing another sarcastic comment to counter her own, continuing a conversation about miscellaneous matters that did not seem to draw her son's attention from his computer screen. It was rare when Ryo touched that computer now, only once in a week did he turn it on, and only to check e-mail. There had been a time that he couldn't be peeled from it for hours. Now he would leave it for hours if she called for his help, and she wondered just what happened to cause this change. She never asked, though, for there simply was no great need to do so.

As the verbal swordplay wound down to a draw, she glanced over to her son's computer screen in hopes of finding something to talk to him about. She had never really seen what fascinated him so much about that little world of electronics he always withdrew into when other kids would treat him badly for being born of foreign blood. He even looked far more like her than his Ainu-born father. But it was time she made the attempt, at least. "Any interesting e-mail?"

Ryo looked up at her with eyes as blue as her own, curious as to just why she was asking him such a thing. "Uhm... Daisuke's e-mailed asking about a dungeon in a game. I don't see why he can't dig up a FAQ on his own, though. There's also a big multiple-response e-mail from Ken, but that's it. Why?"

His mother pointed to the blinking icon that indicated that there was new mail waiting to be downloaded. "Does that mean there's more?"

Even more curious now, Ryo looked back at his screen and clicked on the icon. What came in was a simple, one-line note from Ken that listed his friend's phone number and the short request of "Call me now. Please."

Glancing up from the screen, Ryo looked back at his mother. "Can I make a long distance phone call? Ken wouldn't ask me this if it wasn't an emergency."

Kumi simply shrugged and stepped out of the way to allow her son to rise and head for the phone. "I hope you have enough money to pay the bill when it comes in."

Thanking his mother as he passed her to access the only phone in the house, Ryo dialed out to Tokyo, pointedly ignoring whatever snide comment Savali was trying to give him at the moment. It wasn't long until he got ahold of the Ichijouji residence and asked for Ken.

"Ryo," Ken's soft, quavering voice queried over the static that occupied the phone line. "Ryo, is that you?"

Concern crossed Ryo's face as he recognized the tone for what it was. "The one and only. What happened? You don't sound well."

There was a pause as the other boy seemed to be... sniffling? What could have happened to reduce Ken to that? "We can't find him. We've looked everywhere, even his parents are out looking for him right now. He's nowhere." Another pause, and then Ryo heard a distinctive crack in Ken's voice. "Ryo, please help."

"Wait, who can't you find?"

"Ta- Takeru, he's missing. We can't track his digivice because it was found on the side of the road. We can't find him anywhere," murmured Ken. Ryo absently squeezed the spiraled phone cord as the desperate tone in Ken's voice struck at an ancient need within him. The need to comfort Ken and say that everything was going to be alright. But false hope was useless in this situation.

Ryo sighed as he considered the options. Takeru came across as too loyal a person to run away, and if the D-3 was dropped off then the kidnappers would know of Takeru's significance as a Chosen Child. That limited their options to parents and several other interested parties. Parents could be ruled out, the other parties he would have to investigate. "I'll look, but I won't guarantee that I'll find anything. Can you take care of Patamon for the time being?"

There was a tiny noise of acknowledgment at the the other end of the line. "Yes, Ms. Takaishi says I can drop by and grab extra food for Patamon if I can't afford it myself."

"Taking care of three digimon at once is a challenge. Good luck, Ken," Ryo offered, pausing only to untwine his fingers from the cord. "And take care of yourself. I'll e-mail you if I find anything."

"Thanks. Please find Takeru, I need him." Ken's voice was barely above a whisper now. "Later, Ryo."

After the connection was closed, Ryo settled the phone back on its cradle and glanced at the two pairs of eyes staring back at him. Shaking off their concern for the time being, he returned to his computer and began his specialized search programs. Investigate what he can, send Koushiro to crack into what he can't. As it was, he had a pretty good idea where to start.

While the company logo of a particular branch of a syndicate rendered, Ryo turned back to look at his mother and the tsukaimon. "In a week, if I can't find what I'm looking for, I'm going to Tokyo myself. Either of you want to come with me?"

"Someone has to keep you out of trouble," Savali snorted. "Yes, I'll go along."

"It's been awhile since I've seen your grandmother, so count me in," his mother added. "I'm sure your father can keep track of the Fishery on his own for the time being."

"Oh good, the moment we take off the Fishery is going to fail, I just know it." Savali smirked to himself as the brown-haired woman narrowed her eyes at him.

Reaching out faster than the tsukaimon could react, Kumi picked up the creature by its wings and shook it slightly. "Keep believing that, because it'll only happen in your dreams."

Ryo sighed to himself as another minor battle commenced and returned his attention to his screen. He had an idea of who might have been behind it and why, but he just wasn't certain of it yet.

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Ajora: Yes, we're going to see a lot more of Kumi and Reiko, both of which are actually original characters. I also have permission now to play more with Meimi's original character, Kageko, so more will be seen of her too... in flashbacks at least.