Shattered Spirit -- #1: Dark Rage

Disclaimer: Digimon and everything connected to it is not mine. Ken Ichijouji isn't mine either. No profit is being made and everything is just being borrowed. It's all belonged to those extremely lucky people at Toei, Saban and Fox Kids. The only thing that's mine is this fic, so don't sue please! ^^

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I'm not really aware of the fact I'm nervous until at last I walk down that hall, towards the large crowd of people already gathered there at the end. My steps are hesitant and slow, as if I take long enough, it'll all be over before I get there. This isn't like me, but I can't help it, it's who I am now. I remember the last time I did this walk. My stride was proud, arrogant, I knew who I was. I was Ken Ichijouji, the one and only boy genius. I was a legend at my school, a famous, desirable legend. No one could do anything to me without paying the consequences.

What I am now? Nobody? Possibly. It's not like that's a bad thing, the fact that I'm not famous anymore is a relief. But part of me longs to be the genius again. I was unique. I liked that, it made me different from everyone else. Now, since becoming one of the Chosen Children, I'm not as obsessed over being perfect or getting the right grades anymore. I'm just average now, just like everyone else. I can't help but remember it was because of my determination to be the best and my anger, that got Wormmon killed. That warped me into something I never want to be again - the Digimon Kaiser.

I'm near the end of the hall now, and my presence is finally known. One girl looks up and sees me. She gasps, eyes widening and soon the news spreads - Ken Ichijouji is here. As they always have, the crowd surges apart. It's an automatic gesture - everyone lets the boy genius go first. While on the outside I am cool and collected, inside I am blatantly cringing. I just want to be like everyone else. Why does everyone else treat me like I'm royalty then?

Before, when I still knew who I was, things were much, much different. I'd walk forward and the crowd would surge apart. Tossing a glance at the board, I would know what my score would be already. Perfect, as usual. My name would be on the top of the list, as it always was. Then the gasps and sighs would begin, as I'd turn on my heel and stalk away, my face full of arrogance as it always was. It was routine, it never, ever changed. I was the boy genius, no one, simple no one, could ever beat me.

Somehow, I don't think that's going to be the case today.

My footsteps seem louder than they should be, impossibly loud, echoing around me. I feel like they are beats of a drum, declaring my death sentence. I am afraid. I don't want to see my score, somewhere, deep inside I know it won't be perfect as it used to be. Things have changed. I have changed. I'm not the boy genius anymore.

Why do people have such a hard time believing that?

Everyone still believes I am Ken Ichijouji, the famous boy genius. People simply believe what they want to believe and they want to believe I am still the immaculate boy they saw on television, the person who's good at everything he tries. More than good; the best. But I'm not. I am not who I used to be. But I can't blame them for what they do, even I find it hard to believe I've changed so much. Even my personality is different. Instead of the cool, calm genius that used to be, who could never be outdone or surprised in anything, I am now a quiet, shy, ordinary boy. The arrogance is forever gone from my face, replaced instead by a shy, uncertain look that doesn't feel like me. Daisuke once remarked that it made my eyes look even larger than they already were, like two sapphire pools. I didn't know how to reply to that. How do you reply to something like that?

I raise my eyes to the sheet of paper, and there is no sound to distract me. Literally, everyone is afraid to breathe. It is a bad omen then. Steeling myself, I focus on the thin black lines spread evenly across the off-white paper and focus on my own name ... four spaces from the top. I came fourth ... I stop myself just in time from gasping, but my eyes widen, just slightly. While I had known I wouldn't have come in top this time, the startling realisation is just beginning to hit me now. I had never come in anything but first for many, many years now. Fourth is a new sensation for me, one I'm not sure I like.

The crowd realise I haven't come top the same moment as I do, and immediately all fear dissipates, as they surge around me. I am no longer perfect Ichijouji, someone to be revered. I'm just an ordinary person. I don't have to be treated differently anymore. There is no reason to keep away any longer.

Biting my lip, as I feel tears sting my eyes, I turn and struggle through the throng, which has crowded around me again. There's no reason to stay away after all. I'm not someone they have to be in awe over anymore, and while that is probably a new, strange revelation to them, they don't show it, and I'm glad. I don't need anything else strange and new to happen today. Clutching my briefcase tightly in my fingers, I quickly leave the school.

The outside grounds are completely deserted. While it does not seem like such an important thing, in reality it is. Before, the grounds were once thronging with media, reporters desperately waving microphones in front of me, while cameras flashed repeatedly. All were there for me. Of course, now it's all changed. While they still did the natural routine for about a fortnight after I returned to the real world, now they don't bother anymore. Why? I haven't done anything spectacular. I'm not a young intellect anymore. No one's interested in me now.

While I know I should be grateful that I have privacy and a life again, some part of me longs for it all to return back to the way it was. Sometimes I admit that this is the part of me that is the Digimon Kaiser, that adores attention, cruelty and pain. That frightens me more than it should. I am not the Kaiser anymore, but he is still in me. He will never truly leave, he is me just as the boy genius was, and he is me just as this new shy Ken is. You can't hide from yourself.

And sometimes ... sometimes I think I hear voices again. His voice again, taunting me because I've grown so weak and stupid again, just as I was before the digivice appeared, all those years ago. When I was just ordinary Ken, never equal in anything his genius older brother did. Ignored and considered plain. It was this ignorance that made the hate begin to show more and more each day, a hate that eventually expressed itself in the arrogant genius and cruel dictator. I never want to be either of them again. But I can feel my defences weakening, just as weak as I am. Sooner or later something is going to happen. Sooner I think, rather than later.

It's when I reach my apartment building that the new realisation hits me. How on earth am I going to explain to my parents that I came fourth? While they claim to love me, and wish me to be ordinary again, a boy with friends, I know inwardly they wish I was the genius again. I can see it in their eyes when they catch me mindlessly staring into space instead of doing my homework, or when I spend time playing games on my computer instead of doing something on it that I used to do as the genius. They claim to want me to be ordinary, but still want me to be exceptional at everything I do. I wonder if they ever realise how they contradict themselves?

The fear and apprehension grows as I walk slowly to my floor. Usually I would have taken the lift, but the thought of meeting anyone nauseates me. I dimly realise that lately I've become quite withdrawn. I don't want human company anymore, save for possibly Daisuke's and Wormmon is the only other close friend I have. The other Digidestined only merely tolerate me because I'm considered one of them. Considered one of them, not truly one of them. They don't want me as a friend. Why should they, considering what I've done? It doesn't matter how much Daisuke tries to convince them I've changed.

What exactly did I do to deserve all of this? Well, besides being a cruel, evil dictator that wanted to control two worlds and everything in one of them. Besides that of course. Ask a stupid question ...

I can't exactly lie to them, they'd discover the truth at the end of the month when they received reports of my progress and whatnot. My father has an exceptional memory and would remember exactly what I would tell him, and what would be on the boring white paper. Then I'd be on trouble, having to endure another of those tedious lectures that I despise. I sigh, my hand pausing on the door. I have to tell them the truth, whether I want to or not. No matter how they react and I know well how they will.

My mother glances up as I shut the door after me, slipping off my shoes, and her face brightens. She greets me, a warm smile spreading across her face, as she sets down the dish she was wiping and steps towards me. Of course she knows what day it is, she always glorified in the fact she had a son who received perfect grades and marks in everything. I inwardly cringe at the thought of her reaction when she learns I came fourth, and not first. Far from perfect, and not a pleasant experience at the whole.

She asks me how my day was and I reply dully that it was fine. I hate this part, it means she still feels guilty over being a terrible parent and wants to bond with me and have the mother-son relationship that is expected with me. It's just meaningless small talk, that neither of us has an interest in, but which she feels she must do and I feel I must reply to. I hate it.

She continues by wondering did I learn anything new or interesting and I reply by muttering about something I learned in physics. I was only half paying attention in the class however, so my explanation isn't that detailed, but is enough to impress her. This is rather alarming in itself. Physics used interest me, I liked the subject. Now I couldn't care less whether gravity completely disappeared or if the solar system suddenly vanished. Not that I had really cared before all this, but still. Like I said, alarming.

Then it comes. The big one. As they say on some game show in Europe, the million pound question. I sneak a quick, short glance at her, and sigh softly as I see her eyes are bright and full of hope as she prepares to ask her next question. Still foolishly hoping that some part of her son's old genius alias remains. Still hoping she can claim he is above average at least. Still the same.

"Did the week's results come out?"

For a moment I don't answer, instead turning my head slightly so my hair momentarily shields me from her. My hair is some sort of protection I think. I've had it described as many things. A crow's wing. Ebony velvet. Midnight silk. Daisuke finds great pleasure in trying to think up new descriptions for my hair and eyes. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in that boy's head. Despite the fact he has a hot temper and is obsessed with soccer and every so often with Hikari, underneath it all he's a hopeless romantic. Once, I correctly guessed this as one of my few teasing remarks, and then was inwardly stunned when Daisuke admitted what I had used as a jib was in fact, true. Even though I never told him, that had been one of the few times my friend had made me completely lose my iron strong control.

My friend. It's so strange to call him that. I called him my enemy for so long and sometimes I still do without thinking, to myself. He was my rival, someone who could never be better at anything than me, like the rivalry he and Takeru had. But now we are equals. He considers me his friend, one of his closet and I ... I'm not sure what to do. I worry that if I assume he is my close friend one day I'll say it and he'll tear it to pieces by laughing or sneering. Some part of me knows I'm overreacting, but the rest of me doesn't care. But it's still scary of sorts. I never overreact. It feels like I'm losing control, losing me, and I have to have control.

"Yes," I answer at last, my voice casual and to even some appearances, bored. "They came." I know I should add where I came, but I don't feel that hospitable right now, and I want to annoy her. I know this is wrong, but the Kaiser part of me briefly gains control and wants to hurt her, wants to let the rage I feel out. My mother is unfortunately the one it is vent upon. I can be rather cruel at this game, but that is what makes me so good at it. But my parents haven't seen it, while the other Digidestined know it well, particularly Daisuke. This should be interesting.

"And?" Her voice is becoming shrill, rising a few octaves at least. The frantic, desperate hope is clear in the high tones. It successfully got on my nerves. Or maybe it's on the Kaiser's nerves. I don't know anymore. "Where did you come?" Desperate hope ...

I don't answer immediately, instead choosing to toy with her, without her or myself realising it. It's something natural to the Kaiser and I don't even directly realise that at first either. Then I chose to be merciful and say shortly and bluntly, "Fourth. I came fourth."

She gasps softly, before drawing in a short breath. I watch her wordlessly, as her eyes widen, as the useless hope inside them is dashed away, replaced by guilt and sheer disappointment. The guilt sings to my dark side, the side of me that I can't get away from, no matter how I try and welcome the few times it gains control. It makes me glad to see her guilty. The disappointment however ... that only makes me angry.

Something must have shown on my face, for she quickly hides her guilt and disappointment and says quickly, "Why that's quite good Ken. Rather different from your usual scores, but good nevertheless. Considering what you've been through lately, it's extremely good." She beams. "You must be so happy!" Yes, make it seem like your first reaction never happened. Make me the guilty one, like you always have.

No more.

I shrug, walking forward, intending to go to my room. "It doesn't really matter does it? It's the tests that are important, not the weekly grades." Inside me I know what I am saying isn't true, the weekly scores are just as important as the tests, but part of me simply doesn't care anymore. Without a glance at her, I breeze past, hurrying into my room.

I blink as I shut my door, something escaping from me. Why had I just done?! I had never been so arrogant to my parents before, they'd never, ever seen that part of me. I had always been extremely careful to hide that side of my personality from them. They had always seen the perfect genius of a son, that could do no wrong. Well, now they were going to get quite a surprise weren't they? Welcome to the real world Mama and Papa.

The covers on my bed move slightly, and moments later Wormmon leans over the side to peer down at me. His pale blue eyes are shining and full of happiness, simply because I am now here. No matter how hard I try, I can never imagine one person being my complete world, relying on them alone. Well ... maybe I could ... no, I can't think of that. Not now.

My mind is full of turmoil as I drop my briefcase on my desk and walk over to climb onto my bed to greet him. Something had taken over me when I had come home, some dark rage that had been the Kaiser's. I knew I couldn't say it wasn't a part of me, or whether it was wrong. The Kaiser is part of me, no matter what I say or do, and that can never be forgotten or ignored. He will always be a shadow following me around, haunting me, taunting me. During brief moments he might even gain control like he had just now in front of my mother, when I let my depression, anger or fear become too much. That could never be helped.

But the point was that I should never have let him take control, not for one moment. I should never have let the opportunity arise. Never. The price might be too high. But I had just let him win now didn't I? What was I to do now? How on earth was I going to explain this to my parents, the reason I had become momentarily arrogant? Maybe I could just say I was shocked over coming fourth. It was partly true, and I could possibly endure another lecture from it. It was better than saying I was evil sometimes.

I frown, as I gather Wormmon in my arms and hold him close. Homework could wait for the time being, this was much more important than anything my textbooks could offer. What was happening to me? Was I becoming even more weaker, even more susceptible than I already was? Was this going to get even worse? I shake my head slightly, wishing things could just be plain and simple for once, instead of being frustratingly complicated. Just one time where things weren't difficult, that was all I asked for. But I could never have that, that was too easy.

Closing my eyes, I shudder slightly. There is no running from the darkness inside myself, the Kaiser and all that comes with him will always be me. You can never run from yourself, no matter how much you try or wish you could.

Deep inside me, the dark rage stirs.