-by Ajora Fravashi
*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei/Bandai does. Dammit.
*Note: Normally I hate character death, but this is a Day of the Dead fic.
Inky shadows draped over the floors, over the furnishings, over everything that was not lit by the few tiny candles that somehow still managed to maintain a flame. This place was so silent that his footsteps echoed with alarming loudness. But for the life of him, he couldn't recall why he was here or what he was here for.
Ryo gave up trying to sneak around when it became apparent that any walking he did was making some sort of sound. All he could figure out was that he wanted to be out of this creepy place as soon as possible. Yet there was something oddly familiar about this place. He had been here before, time and again. Each time this nightmare got worse.
Nightmare. A humorless smirk tugged at Ryo's lips at the thought. Nightmare for him, perhaps, but he was sure Millenniumon was more than enjoying himself by torturing him like this. The nightmares started when he had first defeated Millenniumon, possibly as retribution, then started up whenever Millenniumon was close. It was as if Millenniumon's spirit was lurking in the back of his mind and at the corner of his eye, waiting for the opportunity to leap in and rip him to shreds when he least expected it. Or to drive him mad. Either way it was very unpleasant and he was really disturbed by this little dance he was forced into.
"So what will it be this time," the Tamer called out into the darkness. "A repeat of last month's gorefest? I really should stop playing so many horror games, they're giving you way too many ideas."
An inhuman chuckle resounded all around him, the voice a mixture of reptilian hiss and rumbling mechanics, the buzz of an insect and lupine growl, angelic tenor and demonic bass. Millenniumon, the fusion of Chimeramon and MugenDramon. A chill crept up Ryo's spine at the unusually pleasant note in Millenniumon's multilayered voice. That was definitely not good. "That was nothing more than a little bit of fun, nemesis mine. Tonight is a night I'm sure your little Ken might have told you about once. In some parts of your world, your people celebrate a day when the dead are said to rise from the grave. So many names your people have for it, it's a wonder they all maintain the same ideals."
Standing still as he glanced around for the source of the voice, Ryo sighed and decided to ask something that could at least clue him in on what point Millenniumon was trying to get at. "Yeah. Halloween or something, Samhaine, Día de los Muertos. Ken has a thing for folklore. Big deal, what's the point?"
The candles went out at once then, plunging him into darkness. The night never bothered him, but there was no light reflected anywhere, no sound other than his own heart beating loudly in his chest. He would have been content with the idea that he was alone, but he knew too well that Millenniumon was watching him. He couldn't tell how much time had passed, but eventually the silence was broken by a voice that was neither his or Millenniumon's.
Ryo blinked into the darkness as he tried to figure out who the new voice was. There was something familiar about it and the traces of memory indicated friendship with that person, but it had been years since he heard it. "Come again?"
"You're a failure, Akiyama," the voice whispered into his ear. Ryo turned to grab whoever was speaking, but ended up with nothing but a fistful of air. "Oh, all the times you could have prevented what happened to my little brother. All the times I warned you against taking him to the Digital World. But you never listened."
"Osamu." The memory finally clicked into place, and with it came a tightening in his chest. Oh, that certainly was nice of Millenniumon. Revive some unresolved issues. Great. Where was a nice deep hole when he needed one? "It was never intentional, you know."
A dry, thin hand grabbed his then, guiding him into a bizarre dance to nonexistent music. "You should have heeded my warning. I could say that it's your fault, but that would be pointless. I simply came to say this: there's no need for you there anymore. Join me."
Another blink and then appeared a dim film of light from a distant candle that just barely displayed his friend's features. Even in the scant illumination Osamu looked so pale in the black formal suit he wore, and even in the unreality of the situation Ryo could feel a solid hand pressed into one of his and the other resting on his shoulder. Uncertain as to the nature of this particular sequence, Ryo simply shrugged and decided to go along with whatever the game was. "Join you where?"
"There's nothing for you anymore," Osamu stated as he led the other through the waltz steps. "Ken no longer needs you. Your parents consider you dead. All that's left now is death."
"You want me to join you in death?" Ryo would have stopped in surprise at the idea, but Osamu's pace was insistent and he would only end up making a fool of himself if he tried to step out of it. "But I have so much to do in the Digital World. There's Millenniumon, and my job, and-"
A gentle, almost sad smile crossed Osamu's lips. "Others can do your job, and you and Millenniumon are linked on a scale even I cannot fully comprehend. When you die, he will die. You two are destined to battle for eternity or destroy each other. Everyone dies eventually, Ryo, and the sooner it comes, the less suffering there is for you. It's so lonely where I am."
Sighing, Ryo simply settled into the slow dance. He had never really thought of dying, not since the end of '99, when he had first encountered the Digital World, but there was so much he still had to do. "I have my entire life ahead of me, Osamu, I want to be able to live out that life and make up for my mistakes."
Osamu made a small noise of exasperation at his words. "There's no need for you to make amends with anyone, what's done is done. And what kind of life awaits you, should you manage to escape this never-ending cycle of nightmares? Monotonous school work that will later turn into monotonous office work? You are not one who would ever be content to settle into the drone-like lifestyle that is expected of our culture nowadays. Join me instead and end it all. End the stress, the guilt, the pain, the horror that awaits you each time you dream. Aren't you tired yet of Millenniumon's attentions?"
"I'm sick of it," the Tamer responded in agreement. "But I have to put up with it. If I don't, then Millenniumon's attention would return to the Digital World."
The dance never faltered as Osamu looked up at him with a chilling, penetrating stare. "What kind of a life is that? Why should you accept your lot? You'd be better off with me, away from this."
Ryo winced internally at the subtle note of frustration in his friend's voice. If he wasn't careful, this would end up dissolving into yet another fight. Day of the Dead, and here he was getting into an argument with the dead. Good going. Perhaps he could turn the conversation somewhere else. "So, why did it take you this long to come for me?"
"Because for the first time, your mind is clear enough for me to reach you. I would try to reach Ken, but it is not yet his time." Osamu stepped away then to break the dance. "I will come for you again, when he isn't watching. When I return, I expect an answer. You're lucky, you know. Death does not always give its victims a choice."
As Osamu retreated into the darkness, the single candle went out once again. Alone, again, in a void where the only thing he could sense was himself and the cobbled floor on which he stood.
Failure. The word and all its connotations echoed in his mind. He could remember when a group of other Tamers surrounded him, mocking him for being unable to fully eliminate Millenniumon. He hadn't stood up for himself simply because they were right. Failure. He could remember the first time Ken called him that, during the time when Ken was starting to turn into the Kaiser. It was because he had failed to get rid of that Dark Seed. Failure. He could remember when he had heard the news of Osamu's death from Ken. He hadn't gone to the funeral because he failed to face his fears and deal with the loss of his best friend. Failure. It fit.
There was a grunt of disapproval from behind him, and despite the darkness Ryo was tempted to glance back. As he expected, nothing appeared from the void. Nothing more than Millenniumon's voice.
"Not a complete failure." Ryo could just imagine his nemesis smirking behind him. Something akin to a window opened up before him, glowing a blinding white before toning down to reveal the proud image of a conqueror. "After all, it was your training and my Dark Seed that created that."
The image of the Kaiser cut to another image, this one of a memory he only wished he could forget. The window depicted a younger version of himself with whip in hand, demonstrating to the younger boy beside him how to use the weapon in hopes that he would be able to teach Ken how to defend himself. There was no sound from the window, but he knew the words he had spoken too well. "The whip is a wonderful weapon. With it you can strike things at a distance, cut, and a good whipcracker can use it to wrap around things too."
Ken's face had lit up then, the boy had previously been frowning at the thought that he'd even need a way to defend himself in the Digital World. "Oh, like in those Indiana Jones movies from America!"
"Exactly! It takes a bit of practice to be that good, but I'm sure you'll master it soon enough. Just do what I did..."
The image faded out for awhile, leaving behind several shades of grey. Ryo's hands clenched into fists as he fought down the rising self- loathing. He didn't want to remember. When the window to his buried memories displayed another of his mistakes, he looked away. Didn't want to remember.
It was only when one of Millenniumon's many claws reached out to shatter the screen that he looked up to glare into the darkness. The massive digimon seemed to be relishing his pain. Before he knew it, one of Millenniumon's claws wrapped around his neck and forced him to look ahead. The single candle lit again, but brighter. An image of the Kaiser grinned arrogantly at him.
"You're the one who taught me everything I needed to know," stated the boy that embodied the sum of his mistakes. The Kaiser's eyes drifted above him, possibly looking at Millenniumon. "I applied that knowledge to become what I am." Then those ice cold eyes returned to Ryo's, widening slightly in half-mad delight. "Thank you, Ryo-san."
He felt ill under that icy gaze. It wasn't supposed to turn out this way, nothing was supposed to turn out this way. The image of the Kaiser flickered and dissipated into a nebulous cloud before solidifying into the image of Ken after the Kaiser's fall. This version of Ken stared solemnly at him, eyes full of self-loathing, pain, loss... And it was all his fault.
All his fault.
The image of Ken then disappeared completely when the candle's flame sputtered and went so low that it might as well have been put out completely. It was then that Millenniumon let him go to collapse on the floor. Embracing what freedom it allowed him, Ryo sat and hugged his knees close to hide the tears that were starting to form.
"I'm quite proud of myself. Oh, that Dark Seed was meant for you, but Ken proved to be a far better choice of carrier," Millenniumon quipped as he circled the Tamer, voice laced with delight at what Ryo was going through. "After all, look at what just the image of that boy has done to you. I must say, I do love seeing you in pain like this. Let's call it my revenge for all the times you defeated me."
As he fought down his emotions, Ryo then recalled Osamu's voice during their strange little dance earlier. Revenge. Millenniumon wanted him broken, but he was not going to give the digimon that pleasure. Not when there was one last option. Closing his eyes, he attempted to block out his nemesis's mocking words. He could have his revenge too.
Only when it was silent did he look up. There was no Millenniumon now. All that was audible now was the beating of his own heart and the single candle's flame. The flame rose high then, casting a light stronger than it ever had before. A hand reached out to take it from its sconce, and when the figure turned to look at him, the flame revealed Osamu's features.
Deep in the heart of the Digital World, hidden from all but the few Tamers that were employed under Gennai, was a vast chamber. Within this chamber were two vast crystals. One of these imprisoned Millenniumon's spirit. The other kept a legendary Tamer known as Akiyama Ryo in a deep sleep.
It was necessary, one of the Holy Beasts had explained to the man who once called himself Kaiser. They had gotten so tired of Millenniumon's constant resurrections that they had decided it best to lock Ryo away with Millenniumon. Since then there had been no recurrence, no more Millenniumon to disrupt the Digital World. The sacrifice was worth it. At least, it was worth it to them.
Every now and then Ken visited this place. He could forgive Ryo for teaching him, for it was his own fault that he had twisted those teachings to his own purposes. Every now and then he watched the stable vital signs, hoping that maybe some day Ryo would wake up. But the years had passed and neither Ryo or Millenniumon ever awoke, nor did Ryo show any signs of being able to hear his words when he tried to tell his friend of what was happening outside. The two were locked together, and who knew what might have been going on inside their crystal prisons.
He was in the midst of telling the sleeping figure about his promotion to detective when he noticed that Ryo's eyes were fluttering open. Stunned, he rose to place a hand on the crystal in hopes of finding some way to open it. Ryo tapped on the clear prison wall to get his attention and smiled sadly.
"Don't bother," Ryo's muffled voice called out. Ken's hand touched where Ryo's rested against the thick crystal, and were it not for that wall their hands would have touched. "Sorry, kiddo. Just have one last act of revenge of my own against him before I go with Osamu." The gaze then shifted over to Millenniumon's crystal, and a tiny smirk crossed Ryo's face. "Game over."
Then Ryo's eyes closed and the hand dropped, boneless, back to its original position. Stunned, Ken spared a quick glance at the display by the crystal that depicted Ryo's vital signs. Heart rate, brain activity, respiration, everything was flat lined.
Minutes later, Millenniumon's spirit decompiled into a spray of digital dust.
Ajora: There is a very good reason this is called Danse Macabre. The
idea was born from research into French traditions concerning
Halloween and the Day of the Dead.