Wish In A Bottle: A Digimon Fanfiction
It all started so innocuously, on a hot, sweltering summer day.
Takeru could never look at a packet of flour the same way again.
8th May, Saturday
About one or two Saturdays a month, the boys of the new group of Chosen Children met up for a little fun together. A boys-only outing, that was what it was called – no girls allowed. It sounded childish, and Miyako and Hikari were fun to hang out with, but sometimes what they wanted was a trip to the mall without any shopping, or a little crude-joke sharing without any disgusted comments.
The weather was too hot to do anything productive that particular day ("Thirty-five degrees Celcius!" Iori had exclaimed in horror), so when Takeru, Daisuke, Ken and Iori met up, they decided to spend a good part of the day at the mall's ice-cream parlour.
"Ahhh," Daisuke sighed, licking whipped cream off his spoon. "This is the life."
"Are we really going to spend the entire day here?" Iori asked, casting a worried glance at the bunch of waiters and waitresses gathered near the counter. "The staff might not be happy with that..."
"Geez, Iori, relax!" Daisuke laughed. "We're giving them business, after all. I might order another ice-cream, I don't feel cool enough."
"Another?" Takeru stared at him in amazement. "This is what, your third bowl?"
Daisuke smiled sheepishly, and everyone chuckled. "We could go and walk around, or something." Ken offered.
"Walk around where?" Iori asked.
"I heard that there're a new bunch of roadside stalls behind the mall, selling some weird stuff." Ken said thoughtfully. "They might have some interesting things..."
"It'll be blazing! There's no air-con outside the mall." Daisuke complained. The others were, however, all for exploring the stalls as they had been in the ice-cream parlour for nearly two hours. So, after paying, the quartet left for the stalls.
The stalls were a weird bunch of things, really. Colourful and exotic-looking, they looked pretty out-of-place next to the modern exterior of the shopping centre. They looked like part of a carnival – wooden tables with merchandise displayed all over, and colourful cloth shelters overhead. There were about three of them, and the boys approached the first one (the cloth shelter was brightly coloured: bold orange and red stripes) with slight trepidation.
"Who told you about these stalls, Ken?" Daisuke asked.
"My grandmother," Ken replied. He smiled politely at the vendor, a plump, middle-aged woman, and picked up a magnet shaped like a toilet bowl. He opened it and jumped slightly at the surprisingly loud farting sound. "Erm, I'm guessing she hasn't visited them personally..."
Daisuke laughed and took the magnet from Ken. "This is so kooky, it's actually funny!"
"Well, you've got to admit, this is interesting," Takeru said, opening an intricately carved musical box. A snake slowly uncoiled itself from the middle of the box, twirling to the melody of the music. "I've never seen such a musical box before!"
"All the items sold here are on discount right now," the vendor said eagerly. "That musical box is selling at a low, low price of six hundred and fifty-five yen!"
"Oh, er, thanks, but it's alright." Takeru said, closing the musical box. It emitted a strange hissing sound as the lid snapped shut. Putting it back onto the table, he turned to his friends. "I'll go take a look at the next stall." He told them.
"Right," the trio replied; each one of them was apparently transfixed with a different item from that particular stall.
Takeru wandered off by himself to the next stall. It was as bright and colourful as the rest (green polka dots on a yellow background), but strangely enough, instead of all sorts of merchandise, only a few glass bottles were displayed on the table. Takeru examined the bottles; each contained some sort of white-coloured powder that looked like flour. There were no labels on the bottles. Mystified, he turned to the vendor.
"What are these?" He queried, pointing at the powder.
"Ooh," the vendor said as he stood up. His appearance, Takeru thought, was as strange as the rest of the stall – he wore oversized glasses that looked as though they were falling off, and a huge, flowing white cloak. Strongly reminded of Professor Trelawney from the Harry Potter books, Takeru resisted the urge to laugh.
"This is my special Miracle Powder," the vendor told him, lowering his voice in a most mysterious manner. Takeru leaned closer. "Use them properly, and they will make any wish you have come true..."
"Seriously?" Takeru laughed, unable to stop himself. "How do you use it, then?"
The vendor did not seem perturbed by his incredulity. Instead, he picked up a bottle and held it in an almost reverent manner. "It's very simple, really. If the wish is regarding yourself, you mix the miracle powder with water and drink it. Any drink will do, as long as it's not milk. If the wish is regarding someone else, get them to drink it. You yourself are not to drink it, however, if other people are involved in your wish."
"And how do I know if it's reliable?" Takeru asked sceptically. He couldn't believe that such a stall was able to exist next to a huge shopping mall. How could it possibly profit?
"You will know once you try," the vendor said, giving him a small smile. "Hope is enough to achieve anything," he added, his smile widening.
Takeru blinked. "Er, I guess." He didn't know why he suddenly felt ashamed – ashamed for feeling sceptical about this when he was, after all, the child of Hope.
"So, my dear child..." the vendor looked at him meaningfully. "Do you have any wish you would like to grant?"
"Well..." Takeru hesitated, uncertain. He thought for a while, but nothing came to his mind. "I guess-"
"Hey, Takeru!" Daisuke called, interrupting his train of thoughts. He turned around to see the others making their way over; Daisuke was swinging a plastic bag from his hands. "I bought the toilet bowl magnet!"
"Sorry, but I have to go now," Takeru said. The vendor looked a little disappointed, but did not say anything; he simply waved in his strange, mysterious manner. Takeru hurried over to his friends, now engaged in a most ridiculous conversation about what Daisuke was going to do with his newly-purchased magnet.
The next day was a free day for Takeru; he lay in bed, irritated by the sunrays that were streaming in through the window. His curtains were so thin that the rays could easily pass through. He groaned and rolled over, wanting to get back to sleep.
"Takeru dear!" His mother called chirpily, opening his bedroom door. "It's time to wake up!"
"Blearrgah," Takeru replied into his pillow, annoyed. "I'm still sleeping."
"Well, if you're replying me then I suppose you're not sleeping anymore, are you?" Natsuko Takaishi replied cheerfully. "It's too hot to sleep." She went over to the window and drew the curtains. "Besides, it's almost ten in the morning!"
Ten in the morning. That was far too early for Takeru. Next to him, Patamon rolled over and snored softly. "Don't you have to work today, mum?" His mother's working hours were pretty irregular, and she often had to work on weekends.
"Oh, no, I took a day off to clean the house." Natsuko Takaishi smiled at him. "Besides, it's been awhile since we spent the day together!"
Takeru groaned and forced himself to sit up. Every once in awhile his mother got guilty about not spending enough time with him. On the pretext of cleaning the house/falling sick/or some other reason, she would take a day off to spend it with him. Takeru had never blamed her for having to work – she had to support the family, after all – but he wasn't complaining. However, sometimes it got a bit awkward, just the two of them together.
"I was thinking of cleaning out the set of drawers in the living room. The one next to the television," Natsuko continued as Takeru got out of bed grudgingly and headed to the bathroom.
"That drawer?" Takeru said miserably, squeezing toothpaste onto his green toothbrush. "It'll take forever! We haven't touched it for years."
"I know," Natsuko replied at once, "That's why we should clean it out today. I don't want it in a mess for any longer!"
After washing up and a quick breakfast of cereal and milk, Takeru and his mother headed over to the chest of drawers. It was actually a pretty nice set – made of dark cherry wood, and with cute little drawer knobs. In fact, Natsuko had placed it in the living room more for decorative purposes than anything else. What it contained, though... Takeru didn't even want to think about it.
As they approached the drawers, Natsuko turned toward Takeru and gave him a mask, similar to the sort that surgeons wore during an operation. Takeru rolled his eyes as his mother began putting her own on.
"Just put it on!"
Sighing, Takeru put the mask on. Natsuko was approaching the drawer extremely slowly, and he was reminded of a silent ninja tiptoeing across a narrow wall. "Mum, let's just open it, okay?" He told her, before pulling the first drawer open with a flourish.
A think cloud of dust burst – that was the only word Takeru could think of to describe it at that moment – out of the drawer. He backed away at once, and Natsuko shot him a reproachful look. Takeru stared in amazement. He knew the drawer hadn't been opened in years, but still...
They waited for the dust to settle, then peered into the drawer. Its contents were endless – old books, photograph albums, unwanted junk, used stationery, bits of threads and buttons, old stuffed toys and photo frames... Takeru picked up a silver photo frame gingerly. It was empty and covered with dust. "Hey! Didn't Grandma give this to us for Christmas years ago?"
Natsuko sighed. "We already have so many photo frames in the house, I didn't need another one! It would hurt her feelings if we gave it away or something, so I just kept it in here."
"Well, we're never going to use it, right?" Takeru said firmly. He grabbed the black trash bag that Natsuko had brought in earlier. "We should get rid of it. Or give it away, though I don't see why the needy would need a photo frame."
"Oh, I suppose," Natsuko sighed, and Takeru threw the frame into the trash bag.
For the next few hours the duo examined every ancient artefact in the drawer, either throwing it into the trash bag or putting it in a pile that was for keeps. Natsuko picked up an old stuffed bear in wonderment – she said it had been Takeru's favourite toy when he was a toddler, but he simply had no recollection of it. Natsuko had looked at it fondly, then put it on top of the pile for keeps.
Finally, sweaty and tired, Takeru pulled up the final item from the bottom-most drawer.
"It's a book," Takeru said, wiping the dust off the cover. "Looks like an organiser of some sort... there's no year on it, though."
He opened the book. "It's empty!" He flipped through the first few pages. "Well, you could still use it for a planner or something..." There was no reply, and he looked up. "Er, Mum?"
Natsuko was staring at the book, a strange expression on her face. "Let me see that, Takeru," she said softly, holding out her hands.
He looked down at the book, puzzled. "Come on, Takeru," she repeated more urgently, and he handed it to her.
Natsuko opened the book slightly and shook it. A slip of paper fell from it and onto the floor. She picked it up and examined it, her expression unreadable.
"Mum, are you okay?" Takeru was beginning to feel worried. "Mum!" He tapped her gently on the shoulders and she jumped.
"Oh, sorry," She smiled at him. "I was just thinking about something."
"I could see that," Takeru said, staring curiously at the paper. "What are you holding?"
Natsuko looked down at the paper in her hands, looking uncertain. Feeling a sudden rush of impatience, Takeru pulled the paper out of her hands. She wasn't holding it tightly, and it slipped out of her grasp easily.
It wasn't a piece of paper after all. It was a photograph. It was slightly yellowed and dog-eared around the edges, but the three people within the frame wore bright, cheery smiles. Takeru recognised his older brother, young and toothy, beaming up into the camera; he couldn't have been more than three years old. His mother and father stood behind Yamato. Natsuko was heavily pregnant in the picture – with me, Takeru realised with a jolt – and her smile was gentle and sweet; his father had an arm around her and looked happier than Takeru had ever seen him.
His parents looked so young and carefree, so full of life and love. Takeru did not have many memories of his parents being so happy together; in fact, it was the memories of them arguing that stood out more. But yet – his family looked so happy here... without me there, an unbidden thought sprang into his mind. What had changed them so much?
Another memory floated into his mind: the Digidestineds' final battle against BelialVamdemon, just a couple of months ago. He could still remember, vividly, what his dream had been then. He was surprised at himself afterward, because it had never occurred to him that having his whole family together again was something he had wanted so badly. It was funny how the subconscious mind works...
His mother's voice was soft and tentative, and Takeru looked up quickly, trying to clear his head. It was absurd that an old photograph would have so much effect on him. Don't think too much, it's all in the past, he told himself firmly.
Takeru smiled at his mother. "You guys look really happy in this photo."
Natsuko smiled sadly. "I was eight months pregnant with you then." She told him.
Takeru stared at the photo for awhile longer, the question fighting to get out of him. Finally, unable to stop himself, he asked it, the words coming out in a rush.
"Why did it all change? When? Was it after I was born?"
A look of understanding spread across Natsuko's face, and she shook her head firmly. "No, Takeru, you had nothing to do with it." Seeing the doubt in her son's eyes, she grabbed his hand. "We were happy; you being born was one of the best things that could've happened to us. It was just that... other things happened."
It occurred to Takeru, then, that he never knew the real reason behind his parents' divorce. Yamato had told him before, rather vaguely, that it was something to do with money.
"Come on, dear," Natsuko said, holding out her hand for the photograph. "We've had a tiring time cleaning out the drawers. Let's go and have a snack or something, okay?"
"Sure," Takeru replied at once, flashing his mother a smile. The last thing he wanted was for his mother to worry; she was busy enough with her job already. He stood up and so did she, and together, they headed for the kitchen.
A rather uneventful week followed the incident with the photograph. Takeru had a pretty busy week at school. He had a math quiz to study for, and basketball practices to attend. The digidestined also had a visit to the Digital World planned, so that their Digimon, most of whom were now living with them, could visit their old home. The incident slipped to the back of his mind, and he quite forgot about it.
It was Friday evening, and Takeru was rushing home for dinner. The visit to the Digital World had lasted rather long, with everyone caught up with the memories and nostalgia, coupled with a slightly uncomfortable talk about whether they could still go back when they become adults. Patamon had decided to stay over at the Digital World for a while. His neighbours, Miyako and Iori, were heading back with him.
As they reached a turning, Miyako bade them goodbye – she was going to her parents' shop. Iori and him continued on, chatting idly, until they reached Iori's grandfather's place – then they bade goodbye too. Takeru continued on his way home alone.
"Excuse me, boy?"
Takeru turned. A man wearing oversized glasses and a flowing, brown cloak was tottering behind him, his arms full of bags. Takeru thought he looked strangely familiar, and then he remembered – the man was one of the vendors of the quaint little stalls behind the shopping mall – the vendor of those so-called "Miracle Powder"!
"Do you think you could help me with these?" The man asked him, nodding at the bags in his hands. "They contain fragile things, and I'm afraid I'll drop them..."
"Sure," Takeru said at once. He relieved the man of three bags, and he sighed in relief. "Thanks so much, boy."
"You're the stall vendor of one of those stalls near the mall, aren't you?" Takeru asked.
The man looked surprised and confused for a moment. "Er, do I know you?"
"I visited your stall recently," Takeru replied, seeing that the man had absolutely no idea who he was. "I don't think you remember..."
The man chuckled. "I'm sorry. Seeing people walk by my stall day and night, it's difficult to remember their faces." He looked at Takeru. "My name is Mike, by the way."
"I'm Takeru," Takeru replied politely.
"Takeru... nice to meet you," Mike shot him a sudden, mysterious look. "You do know that in your hands are my precious bottles of Miracle Powder, don't you... do be careful with them."
"I will," Takeru replied. The man looked thoughtful for a while, then suddenly assumed what looked like a business-like smile. All at once, Takeru knew what was coming.
It was most unfortunate that Takeru and Mike shared much of the same route home. For the next ten minutes, he endured Mike's constant praise of the Miracle Powder, its effects described in an unearthly, mysterious manner – his way of promoting his products, Takeru thought with annoyance.
Mike was beginning to look a little desperate now, for they were reaching the corner where they would go their separate ways. All manners of mystery gone, he said quickly, "As you've done me a good deed today, Takeru, I will give you a special discount for my Miracle Powder. One bottle for five hundred yen – it's normally sold at a thousand! Half-price! How about that?"
Takeru looked at the man. He was highly unconvinced that the Powder had any special powers. He had the feeling that Mike was a big phony, rapidly losing business because his products were, well, fakes. But the desperation laced in the man's voice was evident. He probably really needs to sell his products, a small voice in Takeru's head spoke. Five hundred yen wouldn't hurt; Mum gives me more than enough for allowance.
If Miyako was still here, she would have dragged Takeru off before he gave in. As it was, he made his decision on his own – pulling out his wallet, he took out five hundred yen and gave it to Mike.
"I'll have a bottle, then."
Alright, no surprises or cliffhangers here, I'm pretty sure it's obvious where this story is leading to. I hope it's still an enjoyable read though, because... sometimes clichéd stuff are the best! Digimon was my favourite anime when I was young, and probably still is (since I've only watched like, what, three animes?) and it's great revisiting it in terms of fanfiction writing. I don't think I've ever written such a long chapter before, and I hope it wasn't too much rambling. So guys, please review and tell me what you think! Constructive (i.e. polite) criticisms are most welcome!