An Immortal Emperor in a Mundane Universe

for nemsei and ainokitsune

. + .

The silence under the towering redwood trees was total.

No staged growth, no succession… the comfortable calm misting out from the morning twilight had always been, and always would be. Arcades of light touched lovingly the brush underneath the vaults of the forest's incomprehensibly high ceiling, while the hollyhocks and evergreens underneath crouched pleasantly, without significance.

Such a place could tolerate no passing rule. Here life did not pulse or stream, but instead prodded forward in a steady course. Here-- were it a place on earth, one might be struck by an alien sense of belonging. The emptiness of our great and voidful universe could not be detected here. Here, only one idea could be dominant. Here, life ruled.

The Digimon Kaizer walked alone.

Powerful and proud, he surveyed the land which rejected his rule. There was no rage. There was no insanity, no cruelty, no caprice. For a brilliant moment, the Kaizer seemed almost-- serene.

Stepping lightly, occasionally bounding, the Kaizer made his way through the seemingly endless forest. He could not see the tops of the trees he walked under. Occasionally, because there is a logic and need to such things, the Kaizer would step up to the massive trunk of one of these companion monsters. He would touch the bark, examine it carefully through warworn leather gloves. He would look up.

No sentient being had ever seen Ken, the Kaizer, like this. None could; his soul was in hiding, sleeping in hibernation. Touched by the beauty of a perfect place, even then he could hardly be aroused from the center of his heart's drowsy stupor. But he was. When he looked up, he was beautiful.

Some might say that the Kaizer was a slave to possibility, captured by his own limitless need. Some might say that he was lonely. When he looked at himself, however, the Kaizer saw something that no one outside of him might suspect.

When he looked at himself, the Kaizer saw nothing at all.

. + .

"Careful… "

Carrying a dizzying array of parcels, Motomiya Daisuke shrugged his way past an irate sister. He didn't see why she was being so pissy; close-calls hardly count, and mama's collection of angel bear figurines remained entirely intact. He was in a hurry, anyway. On important business, the salvation of the Digital World. Surely a few curios could be sacrificed for his quest.

"Whatever, Jun. I'm totally careful." Moving quickly, he was halfway down the hall before he caught his sister's acid retort.

"And Matt's freakin' gay. Sheesh."

Daisuke hid a wince. Matt, gay? The idea was… preposterous.

Daisuke dropped his parcels in a waiting elevator, and turned to scowl at his sister, who was smirking back at him from the doorframe or their apartment. She didn't look inclined to say anything further, but as the doors began to close before him, Daisuke risked one final jab.

"Shut up."

So satisfying. Daisuke stooped to pick up his things almost as soon as the doorway closed. It was only a few seconds that his hands were free, but it allowed him to choose his exiting floor (in this case, the lobby), and gave him a chance to rearrange his grips on the different packages. When the elevator stopped, he had everything secure.

Stepping out onto the street, the small and often impetuous boy squared himself. "This is it. You can do it, Daisuke."

He just wished he could believe it.

Better then anyone, Daisuke knew the limitations of leadership. His power began and ended with Tai's faith in him, a peculiar commodity indeed. He had no experience. He had no tactical skills. He had no fighting skills. In reality, he had nothing, offered nothing.

Like many outwardly cheerful people, Daisuke struggled against bitterness, a morose acceptance of his own second-rate nature. More then anything he hated the fact that his closeness with the others (perfect Takeru, gentle and beautiful Hikari, budding fashion terrorist Miyako, and Iori the Prodigy) brought him daily nearer to what Jun always called the "Inevitable Disappointment."

Things will be different this time, Daisuke vowed.

He was tired of coming home and lying in bed, staring at the ceiling for hours with sometimes tearstained cheeks, because a soccer buddy turned out to be a liar, or because a trusted schoolmate had laughed at him and scorned his friendship. In his small life, Daisuke was tired of being let down. It hurt. This was a terrible cycle, one which seeded a certain desperation into Daisuke's heart, a need for genuine affection. Daisuke wondered what it would be like, to have a real friendship with one of the other Chosen Children. Tai didn't count. Wasn't it true that he was more mentor then friend, anyway?

"Right now, they have to like me. But soon… maybe they'll like me just the way I am. All I have to do is…" Daisuke had walked from his apartment to school, and now paused before the doors to Odaiba Elementary. He inhaled, a steadying breath. "All I have to do is… be who they want me to be."

Daisuke snapped his goggles into place.

. + .

Like a great magician in communion with the occult planes, the Digimon Kaizer had ways of accessing any remote data pertinent to his realm. Whether in fortress or forest, hiddenly his channels of influence pulsed with streams of information. Wireless signals rode upon waves of invisible light, daemon programs which tracked and hunted for intelligence like prey.

* beep *

The D-3 was the Kaizer's access port.

"No…" The Kaizer held forth his left hand, and stared off into the distance. Surprisingly, he began to laugh, squeezing mirth and disbelief from his heart. The haunting resonance mastered him wholly, and he was overcome. Echoing, the report of this child's delight shattered the calm of the eternal forest in which he stood. Birds called out, small forest mammals scattered under the fallen leaves, and the sunlight that fractured through the misty vales of morning shook. Falling into himself, the Kaizer collapsed against a nearby tree, spending himself in impossible triumph.

"I can't believe… is he truly such a fool?"

Soon his giggles trailed off into gasps, which were then replaced by an irreducible calm. The Kaizer took a moment to assess the situation: His principle rival, that fulsome idiot Motomiya Daisuke, dared enter his realm alone. Alone. There he was, a blinking blue dot in a field of data… completely helpless, and apparently at the Kaizer's mercy. And yet… the Kaizer's eyes narrowed in thought. Digging for his D Terminal, the Kaizer punched up a 3-dimensional map and zoomed in for a visual.

"Ah… I see."

A live feed uploaded from the on-site spy presented the Kaizer a clear (if somewhat granular) view of the intruder. Motomiya had picked a Gate somewhere in the Theta region, an arctic tundra blessed with clear spring skies. Tactically, the situation was… not unimpressive. The Kaizer lifted his eyebrows. The mossy plain extended flat and nearly featureless for miles around the Gate, and no indigenous Digimon seemed available for capture. An Airdramon could be sent quite easily, but if Motomiya refused to move…

The Gate that represented Motomiya's only retreat to the real world was like a television set, but apparently quite sturdy. It must be sturdy… the Chosen Children of Courage and Friendship was sitting on it.

"No way." The Kaizer breathed in. He watched as his normally impatient and impulsive enemy unfurled a white poster board, and held it up like a banner. Sloppy hiragana were painted on the side, but the young ruler could make out the words. "He can't be serious."

Come talk to me.

Twisting his rather thin lips into a charmingly feral grin, the Kaizer lowered his eyes to examine the look on Motomiya's face, watching the play of concerns wash across his open expression. Obviously, he had doubts. Clearly, he was afraid. And yet. The slender arms that were lifted above him held steady, and the banner did not waver.

"Very well. Parlay it is."

. + .

"ETA, fifteen minutes and 43 seconds," Daisuke said out loud, more to hear himself speak then for any other cause. Predicting when… or if… the Kaizer might arrive seemed rather futile, but holding a bet against himself helped Daisuke ignore the disquiet in his mind. The idea for this tactic (if "tactic" it could be truly called), had come to him in a dream a few nights before, and had left him sleepless ever since.

He was angry. Ichijouji Ken, one of the many boys in a long line of boys that Daisuke had worshipped, had turned out to be another cheat. Looking back, it seemed all too clear to Daisuke that the cool and aloof Ken was a perfect alter ego for the implacably wicked Digimon Kaizer. How could he not have seen it? Why did he have to go and be so damn impressed? A flaw, and perhaps a fatal one… if it drove him to execute risky and possibly dangerous plans like this.

And yet, Daisuke felt like he couldn't help it.

Was he even coming? Daisuke half-hoped, half-feared that the Kaizer would not show. He hadn't planned out anything to say, no words of persuasion… nor words to accuse. In fact, he was at a loss. He felt inadequate to the challenge before him, his heart leapt and he felt a nervous tightness in his chest. He was queasy too.

"You couldn't lead us out of a bucket," Miyako had said acidly, recently.

"The Digital World doesn't work that way," Takeru had said on another occasion, trying to be helpful. "You're just a rookie, you know."

"That doesn't seem too logical." Iori said this to Daisuke every day.

"I think we should ask Tai." Hikari. Or…

"Takeru's right." Hikari.


"No, Daisuke."


No. Daisuke shook his head, as he searched the empty sky. This was not the time to entertain indulgent self-pity. So what if he'd bungled up everything there was to being a leader? So what?

"ETA, 13 minutes and two seconds."

All of Saturday morning had been set aside by Daisuke for this experimental probe. In theory he could wait for hours, but even after ten minutes Daisuke felt himself itching to leave. It was a dumb idea anyway. Stupid, ignorant of the ways of the Digital World… Ken was probably laughing his ass off as Daisuke shivered in the brisk spring-like breeze. Probably. And yet… "He called me his worthy adversary," Daisuke whispered. "Maybe he won't laugh at me. Maybe…"

Daisuke had many questions.

What if he never came? Daisuke would truly feel like a fool.

"ETA, 10 minutes and…thirty…"

Pausing in his countdown, Daisuke squinted into the sunlight. Something was circling, directly overhead. Daisuke slowly lowered the banner, and then dropped it at his side. Swinging his feet in front of the Gate's entrance, Daisuke held his seat. He gripped his D-3 tightly.

An Airdramon. Without warning, it circled into a steep dive, bearing down straight at Daisuke. Daisuke scrambled to the top of the set, and stood. "Digiport, open!" he shouted out. Light streamed forth from the television, searching for a human to transport… Daisuke was ready to jump at a moment's notice.

He wasn't as stupid as some people thought.

The Airdramon pitched its angle slightly to the west, and was soon barreling towards a point no less then 150 meters distant from behind the Gate's entrance. Daisuke turned to watch. Just as Daisuke's eyes widened as he made out the figure of Ken, the Digimon Kaizer slipped from the glittering dragon's back and dropped lightly… from several meters in the sky! Ken made contact with the ground like a cat, his knees bending a bit while his arms reached out to the sides, giving him balance. He landed like a gymnast coming off the vault.

Involuntarily, Daisuke sucked in a deep breath. That was so cool.

Spent, the Gate winked shut. Daisuke turned his head to watch the light fade. This would have been easier if Ken had had the bad sense to approach from the front of the gate. It would be tricky now, watching for any sign of treachery on Ken's part with his means of escape now behind him.

Daisuke elected to stay standing. He would jump backwards, blind, if he had to. And his eyes would not leave Ken for an instant.

The Kaizer brushed off some imaginary dust from the front of his military-style jumpsuit, and then pushed the edges of his dark cape back. His pale blue eyes were hidden behind the customary sunglasses, and Daisuke suspected that he would not be allowed a peek of Ken's naked face. Such revelations were unnecessary now.

Slowly, the Kaizer began walking towards Daisuke. The air was quiet, and crisp… Daisuke could hear the crunch of lichen under Ken's boots as he approached. Somehow, the sunlight seamed clearer and the air fresher with Ken nearby. Daisuke shivered.

Ken stopped approximately fifteen meters from the Gate. Inclining his head upwards, Daisuke thought he saw a slight frown mar the Kaizer's otherwise neutral expression. Maybe it was his imagination, but perhaps Ken did not altogether like that he had to look up to view Daisuke. "This is as close as I come," the Kaizer said lazily, and then his tone sharpened: "Now what do you want?"

Daisuke opened his mouth, but nothing clever came forth. What do I want?

The Kaizer didn't bother to hide his impatience. "Come now. I don't like to be summoned. If you have something to say, say it."

"I…I…just w-wanted to talk." Daisuke stuttered a little, his voice sounding as breathless as if he had just dashed down a soccer field for a wicked goal.

"Well, aren't we the genius communicator?" The Kaizer snickered. "I'd gathered that already."

"Do you hate me?" Daisuke asked suddenly, quickly.

Ken straightened himself. Daisuke could see it, the first flush of rage. "What? You're nothing but an insect."

Daisuke nodded to himself. He didn't know why he decided to make this personal, it was just an impulse as he cast about in his mind for something, anything, to say. But as stratagems go, at least it wasn't cowardly. Best of all, it put the Kaizer off his game. Ken's eyes were hard to read behind the dark glass, but it didn't take genius to read the wrathful twisting of his lips. Daisuke didn't understand why his heart continued to race, or why he suddenly felt so tense. But if he couldn't rise to meet Ken in the realm of the mind, like hell if he wouldn't drag him down into the basement of gut emotions. Daisuke had lived in that basement for so long, it was comfortable to him even when he didn't understand.

"Yes," Daisuke whispered. "I'd like to know."

He'd just have to figure out later why.

"You're not worth it." Ken said in dangerous calm, but soon ramped up. Daisuke watched warily as the Kaizer began to finger his whip. "I don't hate you. I despise you." Ken pulled the whip taut between his hands, a line of negation. "You are nothing but a worthless insect. A beetle." Ken was shaking. "A grub."

The words stung, and yet Daisuke smiled. He was always good at making himself smile. "Kind of like your Digimon?"

"What? You dare?!" The Kaizer began kicking at the rocks around him, spraying small pebbles in all directions. It was a really legendary tantrum, with spittle and muttered expletives and… and… everything. Even the sun seemed to darken. Daisuke was transfixed, almost breathless. Something about the Kaizer… Ken… was so pure, and he couldn't help but admire it.

This went on for some time. And then, it stopped. Without warning or seeming cause, the Kaizer calmed, his bristling fury dissipating like a bad dream. "You're not." The glacial scorn in the Kaizer's tone was quite refined as he gathered himself together, and he drew himself up in a stately way. "You're. Not. Worth. It." Even his breathing was still. "Insect."

"What else?" Daisuke asked. He would not let his heart crumple under the weight of an insane boy's dislike, but something still burned anyway. Perhaps it was not Ken's dislike, but his distaste, that touched Daisuke so. Clearly, the Kaizer saw Daisuke as unworthy. This would mean little except that Daisuke feltit. Maybe Ichijouji had become corrupt, and maybe he was now evil and borderline psychotic too. But he was also higher, better. These were the truths that hurt. "Is that all you think of me? That I'm a bug?"

"Don't be childish." Ken let the body of the whip fall from one hand, holding it only by the handle now. "I hardly think of you at all."

"Oh." Daisuke looked down.

He'd expected that.


. + .

Don't be childish. I hardly think of you at all.

Ah, of course… now the Motomiya boy looked so crestfallen.


The Kaizer enjoyed the hesitant and open idiocy of his enemy so much, that he was distracted from reflecting on the disturbing fact that he'd lied.

Truth was, the Kaizer thought about Motomiya. A lot. It wasn't a matter of having an opinion, though. The Kaizer didn't have an opinion. It wasn't like he had a catalogue in his head of the many faults of this stubborn and pigheaded and obnoxious… insignificant… opponent. He didn't need to… he'd written a program which did all that work for him, tracking Motomiya Daisuke's strength and response time, humor and intellect, as if he were a boss in a computer game.

Why he'd bother to target Motomiya instead of focusing solely on his Digimon (as he had done with the others) was simply a matter of strategy. Elegantly, the Kaizer had deduced that despite his obvious mental defects, Motomiya was the only human threat to his eternal reign.

Mm… this was actually nice. The Kaizer liked the look of confusion on Motomiya's face. Maybe he'd just kick back, code himself a root beer, and watch. It was fitting that Motomiya stood atop a television set… his whole life was some kind of entertaining show. Now… yes. The Kaizer wondered what would happen if he tweaked the signal a bit. Maybe this day would not be utterly wasted after all.

"You're not looking at me," the Kaizer said quietly. "Is that wise?"

Motomiya's head shot up, and the Kaizer caught a glimpse of the shattering self-doubt that the russet-haired boy tried so carefully to hide.

"What's wrong with you, Ken?" Motomiya asked quietly. "What gives?"

"Kaizer," the small emperor corrected crisply.


The Kaizer narrowed his eyes. Should he press the point, or let it pass? Envisioning a kindergarten-style face-off, he chose "pass." Kaizer, Ken. It was all mere semantics anyway.

"There is nothing wrong with me. Such an assumption is narrow-minded and petty. I am exactly who I wish to be."

"And who's that?" Motomiya asked with a sarcastic sneer. "An isolated uptight maniac with a god-complex?"

"More or less." The Kaizer shrugged. "I'm not uptight," he added, with a little heat.

"What a prize. No wonder the girls are falling all over you." Motomiya simpered a bit, a faux fawning gesture apparently intended to represent the legions of the Kaizer's swooning fans. He ended with a twirl and a high-kick. Whether it was supposed to be a soccer or judo move, the Kaizer couldn't tell.

Yes, very entertaining. "Girls are a distraction. I don't care for them."

"I'll bet you don't." The Motomiya boy gave him an earnestly disbelieving look, and said this with such gusto and relish that the Kaizer found it within himself to be annoyed.

"I don't think with my gonads. That's pathetic."

"Don't, or can't? Admit it, you're just a freak. A touchy, hysterical freak." Daisuke's smile was becoming brittle. "That tantrum you threw? Classic."

The Kaizer breathed in. He breathed out.

Mm. That was not very respectful, was it. Motomiya certainly didn't have a future as a diplomat. The Kaizer wondered if he should teach this insect a lesson. "Tantrum?" He pitched his voice low and bared his teeth.

"Yeah, tantrum." Odd. Something in this current turn of conversation was stinging the boy, when being called an insect before hadn't. What was it?

"Do you resent my popularity?" The Kaizer said after a moment, after he'd thought it through. It was almost worth having thrown a… having vented his rage, to give Daisuke an opening to expose himself like that. The real question had never been 'do you hate me?'

"No," Motomiya said, looking away again. The Kaizer took a few steps forward, advancing on his prey.

The real question probably was 'why don't you like me?'

"Mmm." The Kaizer continued to stalk closer, step by quiet step. "Is this what you wanted? To call me a freak?" The boy was so stupid: bravado crumbling, downcast. He was forgetting one essential thing. "You could have sent a text."

To be scared.

"No…" Motomiya shook his head in frustration, turning to face the Kaizer once more. The Kaizer stopped walking. "I really… wanted to talk."

"But about what? We clearly have little to offer each other. Shall we discuss quantum physics? Or the inherent hypocrisy of man?" The Kaizer sighed, and stretched the leather of his gloves as he mussed his hair. "Admit it, you are really here for battle."

"I don't want to fight you."

Interesting. Either the boy Motomiya was a brain-damaged defective… or he really wanted to make some kind of wrong-headed connection. Maybe both. The Kaizer began to laugh, and the world seemed to laugh with him.

"Don't laugh at me." Motomiya said, and then he seemed to explode. "Don't… laugh!"

Abandoning what little sense he had, Motomiya jumped down from his perch and charged.

The Kaizer evaded the boy expertly. "You say you don't want it, but seem to spoil for it easily enough." This was better then opera, better then soccer. A one-on-one where he held all the cards, with his belovedly ridiculous opponent. That silly flame-painted jacket, those impractical shorts… it was as if the Digital World saw it too. Delightful. As with his rage earlier, the Kaizer gave himself over to his emotions completely, the waves of his laughter sheeting off him like a monsoon storm.

"Why won't you talk to me?" Motomiya asked, and there was a taste of despair to his words. "Don't laugh…" The goggle-headed boy shook himself, and then made as if to charge again.

The Kaizer curled his fingers into fists, and tightened his grip on the whip. "I'll mark you," he promised, filled with feral glee. "That's the only kind of exchange I covet." Motomiya went to strike him on the cheek, but the Kaizer sidestepped, elbowing Motomiya in the back as he slid past, pushing the boy so that he stumbled, scraping his hands and knees in a fall.

Now it was the Kaizer who stood closest to the Digiport, blocking escape. Suddenly his laughter ceased, although his strange and beguiling joy remained intact. The Kaizer looked up to the Airdramon, circling above in the sky.

"You're not leaving."

Motomiya's face twisted as he coughed, his mouth full of dust and his face dirty.

"Don't…" Motomiya gasped.

"Oh, don't worry," the Kaizer promised, almost tenderly. "We'll talk." He whistled, calling down the Airdramon from on high. Obediently the ringed Digimon began its descent. "On my terms."

A look of desperation set Motomiya's face alight, and the Kaizer suddenly felt warm. "Digiport…open!" Daisuke called out, and pounced, with the last of his strength.

"Oh, that won't work," The Kaizer began indulgently. "The Gate is too far away, and it faces the wrong…" His words were clipped as an impossible light tortured his eyes, and caused him to blink in sudden and unexpected worry. Something he hadn't felt in so long… that irresistible pull, that kaleidoscoping distraction of the senses…

Oh no… he couldn't

The Kaizer turned. At some point during the struggle, Motomiya had called on his Digimon partner, who was even now waving at the two of them from atop the Gate, a thumbs up gesture of triumph that turned into an indignant pose once Veemon saw that he'd attracted the Kaizer's attention.

"Don't… ever… laugh at me," Motomiya growled. As the Kaizer attempted to disengage, he found himself pulled tightly and suffocatingly against the other boy's unnaturally warm body, the heat lifting into his face as his cheeks were pressed against the lime-green shirt and hidden by the fluffs of fur and flame…

The Kaizer couldn't speak, could not even protest, as he was ripped away from his chosen home… and divested of the trappings of rule.

No… it was not mere semantics. He didn't want to be that boy, that Ichijouji Ken… ever again… no

Flames of change enveloped him.

. + .

The first thing that he did was smash the computer, monitor and tower both.

forgive me forgive me forgive me

Well, the second thing, really. First had been landing on his back with Ken in his arms, the back of his head striking the floor. Painfully enough that he blacked out for a moment. How long of a moment, of course he couldn't say.

Daisuke came to in a terrible, disoriented panic. Capturing Ken had not been in the plan. But now that he had him, he could not in good conscience let Ken escape. Even if that meant destroying the main access port through which he and the other Chosen Children accessed the Digital World. So when Daisuke became aware of his surroundings again, he pushed the strangely stiff Ken to the side, scrambling to get up off the floor and get to the computer before Ken could stop him.

Now the deed was done. Daisuke looked around wildly; shards of glass from the shattered monitor were at his feet, and the tower was tipped over and dented from where Daisuke had jumped on it, desperately breaking it with his weight. The back of his head throbbed; his vision seemed strangely blurred, and his lips felt slightly numb.

forgive me

Why didn't Ken try to stop him? Had he even moved? Daisuke closed his eyes as sudden headache washed over him; he covered his eyes with his hand, listing a bit as nausea claimed him as well. Damn, that must have been some bump. Probably a mild concussion?

When the pain and nausea subsided, Daisuke finally took a look at his captive. On the floor, also surrounded by shards of glass, Ichijouji Ken lay on his side, with his back to Daisuke. Daisuke stepped closer, peering over Ken's side to look at his face and limbs, trying to discern what was wrong.

The cape and jumpsuit, sunglasses and golden armor, had all disappeared. The Kaizer was gone. The boy left behind after the Kaizer's departure was dark, and yet fair of face. Ken's lashes were long, his body slim. So what was… ? Daisuke paled, finding the problem. Ken's left arm was gashed, cutting through his grey uniform jacket. It was not large but appeared deep: blood was seeping from the wound. How did that happen?

Daisuke dropped to his knees.

"Oh god, Ken…" Daisuke said in hushed tones. "Are you okay?" He then touched Ken's shoulder. In other circumstances, he might wonder at his nerve.

"You tricked me." Ken accused in low, sticky tones.

This was bad. Trembling, Daisuke slipped out of his flame jacket and winced his shirt over his head, and after a slight pause he pushed Ken onto his back and took his arm. Not easy, because Ken was stiff and clutched his arm tightly to his chest, glaring up at Daisuke with pain-filled, tearless eyes. But once he got it free, Daisuke wrapped the shirt around Ken's arm.

"Does it hurt?"

"What do you think?" Ken struggled to sit up now, not taking his eyes off Daisuke. It was intimidating, and Daisuke's heart wrenched. Despite everything, despite the betrayal and subsequent loathing, it sure did hurt to have Ken staring at him with such hate.

"I'm sorry," Daisuke said, another stab of pain in his head causing him to close his eyes, blinking back tears.

When he opened them again, Ken's expression had changed. The hatred was gone, or perhaps masked. "You're hurt too?" When Daisuke nodded, Ken did too, and surprisingly quirked a smile his way. It was not a friendly smile, and yet still it was the kindest Ken had looked at him ever since Daisuke had discovered Ken's identity. "Good."

What a jerk. "I take it back. I'm not sorry after all."

"Of course not. This is all your fault. Why should you be sorry when this is all your fault?"

His fault? Daisuke felt himself relaxing at the words, seeing the absurdity of the situation. If Ken was going to be like that, he obviously couldn't be that hurt. "Yeah right." Daisuke moved away from Ken so as to crawl over to the wall, where he could lean and steady himself. If he was careful and didn't move too much, that desire to throw up would mostly disappear. "You were going to turn me into your little bitch or slave or something. What else was I going to do?" The cool cement of the wall felt good when he turned his head to rest his cheek against it. ""No way was I going to spend the rest of my life polishing your silver and sucking your--"

Daisuke stopped when he saw Ken giving him a doubtful look, eyebrows drawn together in perplexion. "What?"

"Oh you know…" Daisuke lifted his gaze to the ceiling. Maybe he was simple… it was so easy for him to forget the gravity of any given situation, and just plunge forward with his own penchant for fantasy. He even forgot about his headache for a moment. "Using perverted torture to bend me to your will, destroying my mind through the keen application of pain and evil technology. It's what all fascist mastermind dictators are like. Famous for, even."

The most amazing thing of the morning was that… Ken bought it. He laughed, and for the first time in dozens of months, his laugh was genuine. "You're stupid," he said at last, but not in an unkind way.

Daisuke was shocked. Both that the evil Digimon Kaizer was showing some genuine humanity for a change, and that it somehow had the power to make him feel this good. Dangerously so. "You wouldn't do that?"


"What were you going to do, then?"

"Take your D-3 and then banish you back to the real world," Ken said matter-of-factly. "After roughing you up a bit, of course. You're a distraction."

"You wouldn't!" Daisuke lurched forward in outrage. It made him feel queasy and his face ached but he didn't care. "What about Veemon?"

"Oh, I'd ring him my first chance, and then use him to destroy the remaining alliance of Chosen Children. I want your Digimon… I don't want you." Ken frowned as he examined Daisuke's makeshift tourniquet. "I need gauze," he said with annoyance.

"How can you say that?" Daisuke didn't know what offended him more… that Ken persisted in this punishing delusion that it was acceptable to enslave Digimon… or that he himself was seen as so easily disposable.

"That I need gauze? Easy."

Daisuke stood up, stalking back to Ken so he could take the taller boy by the shirtfront and lift him up. "You know what I mean."

Ken sighed, blowing some hair out of his face… then punched Daisuke forcefully, pushing him back hard with both arms, pushing so hard that unsteady Daisuke stumbled backwards and hit the back of his head again. Daisuke didn't pass out, but. For a moment his entire world floated, and when it slammed into place he was punished with the most exquisite pain. Not seeming to care, Ken moved to crouch over him, capturing Daisuke wrists and watching impassively as he slowly writhed. "You forget yourself."

Daisuke was crying now, and he felt utterly humiliated, even through the pain. His eyes were closed in suffering. Some leader he was.

Maybe the others had been right all along.

"I forget myself too," Ken added, after a long moment of silence. "I don't… prefer… to hurt humans."

Primed to surrender, to just let Ken go and not to even care, Daisuke felt the brush of cool fingers against his brow, Ken releasing his wrists. When Daisuke opened his eyes at last, Ken was looking down at him almost tenderly.

No regret, of course. But the tenderness was very surprising.

Daisuke began to sit up, and then groaned. "Ow… ow ow mrrg that hurt. Ken…"

"Yeah, I know." Ken backed away so that Daisuke could sit up once more. "I have a black belt in judo, you know. Remember that, next time."

What a headache. It was the worst he'd ever felt. Daisuke was tempted to lie back down again, sprawling until some magic pain fairy brought him pain pills. "O-okay." Ow.

Suddenly it occurred to Daisuke that Ken could easily slip away. Daisuke might not be bleeding but he was in no condition to run after Ken if he decided to run away. Really, the Kaizer could escape anytime he wanted to. And why didn't he? Only one of the computer's in the Odaiba computer lab seemed to be able to synchronize with the Digital World, but Ken had to know of some other way to get there. "Why haven't you left yet?" Daisuke blurted, fundamental honesty (some would call it his fundamental stupid honesty) compelling him to ask.

Ken smiled bitterly. "I can't leave yet. I'm either a famous runaway, or a famous kidnapping victim… it won't be as easy as you might think for me to walk the streets of Tokyo undetected. And I dislike the idea of going home. Your plan was better then you thought."

"Thanks," Daisuke said with heavy irony. Some plan.

"So…" Ken looked around, standing up. "Is this your school?"

"Yes," Daisuke said weakly. "What about it?"

"Where's the infirmary? Let's get some stuff for my wound, and we can get something for your head while we are at it. Maybe some paracetamol." Ken lightly tugged on Daisuke's shirt, which was still tied around his arm. "We could both use that, I suppose."

Daisuke looked at Ken, disbelief heavy in his eyes. "You want me to walk?"

Ken cocked an eyebrow. "Yes. I need some medical attention. Don't worry, I'll bandage it up myself, but you need to show me where to go. I assume you were not fool enough to come on a school day?"

What? Didn't Ken know what day of the week it was? Had Ken been in the Digital world so long he'd lost track?

Ken stooped to tug on Daisuke's arm. "Come on. I'll help you walk. So get up already."

Obediently, Daisuke did.

. + .

None of the overhead fluorescent lights were on as Ken helped Daisuke stumble through the hall, but the Kaizer was pleased that the school had many large windows which generously lit the way with the sun's natural light.

It had been so long since the Kaizer had graced any school with his presence. That felt like a different life.

This was the world that the boy Motomiya belonged to. Somehow this fact sparked his curiosity, and Ken found himself looking around, taking in the poster displays and chalky smell. School. He would never go again, but he supposed that for someone like Motomiya, this kind of place was good.

Even insects had their place.

For such a small little boy, Motomiya was not exactly a lightweight, and the Kaizer found himself having to apply considerable effort to keep him on course. "I hope you're not faking," the Kaizer warned after the two almost fell over.

"You have no idea," Motomiya groaned.

There was silence again. "Come on, stop being a baby," Ken urged.

Strange, Motomiya took that reproach and delivered back a look of gratitude. What on earth could the fool be grateful for? "Thanks for helping me out." The boy was breathing a bit hard; the pain had to be genuine.

"Whatever," the Kaizer said awkwardly.

Again, a silence stretched between he and the boy. Was it an awkward silence? The Kaizer couldn't really tell. "Turn right at the end of the corridor," Motomiya said in a bit. "We're almost there."

The infirmary was a neatly appointed room, clean and white. The Kaizer immediately opened one of the windows, pretending not to hear Motomiya's moaned warnings about being "discovered." The Kaizer had learned a long time ago that people didn't see what they didn't expect to, and thus even if anyone happened to be walking by and looking at the school, they probably wouldn't think anything was amiss. He began looking for bandages and antiseptic ointments.

Motomiya, meanwhile, sort of drifted over to one of the curtained-off beds, pulled back the curtain, and dropped himself in, face first.

Must be some headache.

Silently, the Kaizer gathered supplies. Gauze. Hydrogen peroxide. Tweezers. He then walked over to the sink, turning on the cold water and undressing his wound, taking off Motomiya's shirt. The blood streaking the inner portion was red and bright.

"How does it look?" From the 'bleachers' the Kaizer's only spectator had rolled over onto his side, situated so he could watch over the proceedings with a bleary eye.

"It's fine." Ken said shortly, taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeve. He put the arm in under the running water and gritted his teeth; on top of the regular sting, this wound was deep enough that he felt a more complicated, duller pang that ran up his arm.

"You're like a superzen Tibetan monk or something," Motomiya said, woozy and appreciative.

"No, I'm an evil fascist dictator with a god-complex," the Kaizer replied, a small smile on his face before he remembered himself, and then he looked away.

Was he actually showing off for this insignificant insect?

"I take care of myself," he amended, coolly.

The Kaizer finished up, and then went over to the bed where Motomiya was still lying, sitting down on the edge. The boy-- no, the child-- looked up, wan smile making him look strangely fragile. Motomiya shyly reached for the Kaizer's hand, giving it a small squeeze. "All better?"

"Yes. Too bad we can't say the same for you."

Their eyes met, blue melting into gold.

Oh my.

Motomiya slowly removed his hand.

He has… or had… a crush on me.

Such things were easy for the Kaizer to recognize. Back in his days as Ichijouji Ken, such crushes had been as common as mayflies.

A crush.

The Kaizer was willing to bet that Motomiya himself didn't even realize that this was what he felt. The boy certainly didn't seem the type to lead an examined life. Besides, he was so young. The Kaizer was aware that the two of them were chronologically of similar age, but Daisuke… Motomiya… was so small. And he still obviously knew how to play.

The Kaizer had left that behind long, long ago. Ichijouji Ken? Was dead.

"You won't need stitches?"

Crushes weren't so common to the Kaizer anymore. He began brushing back the boy's hair like he had earlier, mussing the spikes with a feeling that was almost like fondness. Daisuke's, Motomiya's skin felt warm, and yet a little clammy. "If I did, I'd do them myself," the Kaizer said, and for once he didn't feel his usual boastful, superior pride.

"Are you serious? That's so cool."

What a fool. How easy it was, to draw out honest admiration. It was as if Daisuke had forgotten who he was talking to.

Still, somehow the Kaizer actually felt reassured. He grinned a little. Remarkable.

"You're not completely harmless after all," the Kaizer said softly and absently, speaking more to himself.

"What's that?" Daisuke asked, his headache obviously making him inattentive and drowsy.

"Oh, nothing."

. + .

Daisuke's head really, really hurt.

But he didn't have time to care about trivial things like that, not when Ken was seated right next to him. For some reason being nice to him despite having a completely perverted worldview which urged him differently.

Just hanging out. It was nice.

"Why don't you come home anymore?" Daisuke asked, the sleepiness removing any normal apprehension or dread he'd feel in asking such a loaded question.

For a moment it looked like that had been the exact wrong thing to ask, because Ken's expression darkened alarmingly. Ken stopped playing with his hair, too. But only for a moment. The look of anger didn't quite dissipate, but Ken's touch remained gentle. "I don't have a home."

Daisuke marveled at the grave and chilly perfection of the face looking down at him.

How could such a boy ever be cast away? Daisuke didn't believe it.

There had to be some kind of misunderstanding; how could someone as perfect and as loved as Ken not feel like he had a home?

Before Daisuke could press for more details, however, Ken moved his fingers from forehead down to Daisuke's lips. "You like me, don't you?"


No way.

… Was it true?

He thought about it some, while Ken touched his face. It was entirely possible Ken was teasing him, drawing him out in order to turn Daisuke's feelings into a cruel weapon. In the end, though, Daisuke didn't say no.

"I think I'm right." Ken smiled, at him. By everything Daisuke found holy, that smile appeared genuine. It hurt. Daisuke's heart quickened, shuddering into a staccato pace.

"No comment," Daisuke said faintly, at last. That was as good as a confession, but he didn't care. The admiration he'd always felt for Ken was flooding back into him, never mind that he felt like the biggest traitor ever for having such feelings.

Ken removed his fingers from Daisuke's face, only to take one of Daisuke's hands in his own.

Did Ken return the feelings? Could he?

Did he even care?

Even though it was difficult, Daisuke forced himself to sit up. Even though it was reckless and dumb, he leaned forward. Even though it was painful, in the way a breaking heart was painful, he gently pressed his lips to Ken's.

Ken's lips were very very soft, and his breath was sweet. Daisuke let go of Ken's hand so that he could touch his neck. Was he cast adrift in a new reality? Was he drowning? Daisuke opened his mouth and tasted the tiniest corner of Ken's lips.

He was delicious.

"Well, well…" Ken-- the Kaizer-- said when Daisuke retreated a bit. "Aren't you the surprising one?"

Daisuke wanted to hide his face away, to lie back and bury him face in the pillow: not because it felt bad or because he was ashamed, but because the exertion was making him feel ill. But that didn't strike him as appropriately brave, so instead he just looked at Ken, admiring the shadows of blue that painted his hair, and the smile that lit even his eyes.

It was strange how Ken seemed so much older. It wasn't just the added height… it was the added everything. Experience, prestige, beauty, grace…


Ken's fingertips wandered up to Daisuke's sides, holding him gently at the waist as he leaned forward to kiss Daisuke back. It was quiet, still more experiment than experience.

And again they drew apart, Ken evaluating Daisuke, Daisuke breathing heavy and hard.

His head hurt again; sharply. He felt so sick. He wanted to lie down again. But with Ken here, seemingly willing to touch him, in a way no one ever had before… Daisuke steadied himself.

"Third time… is for keeps," said Daisuke.

A third kiss is a seal, a sacred promise. Daisuke tried to ignore the lights that flashed before his eyes.

. + .

The Kaizer raised his hands from Daisuke's flank to press them on either side of Daisuke's elfin face. The cut in his arm still hurt, but the Kaizer accepted that as an emblem of his own frailty. When his lips bumped the dent above Daisuke's mouth, he opened his heart. Where the emptiness was.

Strafing from side to side, Ken felt the nearly invisible down hair of Daisuke's cheek… the slightest amount of moisture soon erased that sensation, though. Here, and here. The blood in Daisuke's capillaries was lively, quick to follow Ken's touches with a blaze of warm rose color.

Ken was sure that Daisuke could only accept the teasing touches for so long. And sure enough, when a last braising kiss failed to alight for longer than a moment, Daisuke opened his mouth with a tiny, tormented gasp.

It was at this point that Daisuke collapsed.

. + .

Unreal city.

There are many. London. Harare. Manila. Athens. Madrid. Budapest.


At one point, the Kaizer had experienced them all. Travel was one thing his family had never cheated him of, and he had collected points on the map the way other boys collected bottlecaps.

When was it that he wearied of the domed mosques, the cathedrals, the aqueducts? Why did not the Taj Mahal cause him to shiver in delight, or the Parthenon give him shudders of despair? When did he tire of walking the Great Wall, and where was he when David of Florence stood naked and proud, just for him?

Who was he, to have daily walked the streets of Tokyo and remain unmoved by the flashing neon beauty?

Experience that could be purchased with money was cheap. One could explore the deepest reaches of this inscrutable planet and be shielded from all adventure, all discovery.

The only experience that mattered was the sort purchased with risk.

The Kaizer used to dream. Sometimes… remembering his noon-day kisses with Motomiya Daisuke… his soul awoke enough so that he could dream again.

Was it real?

Yes. It had happened. The things he remembered were true.

First is for discovery.

The Kaizer's first task when he returned was to erect a spire in Daisuke's tundra, taking that lonely Gate. Fierce Mammothmon from the nearby steppes were duly ringed and appointed guardians, and digital ravens watched the skies.

No human had been seen there since.

Second… remembrance.

The battles had been long and difficult. Not unsurprisingly, the first casualty of the Kaizer's plodding and yet decisive conquests had been his own Digimon.


It had almost been a disaster for the Kaizer, for on that day his D-3 died.

Until then, the Kaizer had never understood the true significance of his link to the Digital World. Hunted and lonely, the Kaizer made his way to the Primary Village where Wormmon's soul rested in slumber, buried in an egg. He could not be revived.

In despair, the Kaizer opened up his D-3, and with the aid of a still-functional D-terminal, he upgraded his link to the Digital World, and summoned to himself a new Digimon partner through a completely reformatted D-3 device. In this, the Kaizer scored a major coup, because the Digimon that he captured was truly exceptional. Qinglongmon, the seiryuu.

The blue dragon.

One of the holy beasts of the Digital World, Quinlongmon was a god of sorts, a Mega-level Digimon with attacks of both lightning and wind. The chains that bound his ethereal body became the key to taming him to the Kaizer's will.

At last, a suitable partner worthy of his glory.

The Kaizer never forgot his original Digimon, however. One day… when every spire had been placed, and the last Chosen Children pretender had been defeated… Wormmon would wake. The Kaizer would have the power to make it so, because power is a function of the will… and by then his will would be absolutely limitless.

When Wormmon broke the shell that imprisoned him in dreamless slumber… on that day, the Kaizer's triumph would be nearly complete.

Thrice… to keep.

Ichijouji Ken was dead.

His promises still lived, however, and the Kaizer could not forget his last kiss as a human boy.

He remembered falling…

He thought he could do it. He wanted to be the one to seal the connection between him and his rival.

Maybe… maybe he could have been normal, and diminished… to become nothing more then a human little boy. Would that have been so bad, being able to play soccer and watch television again? Would it be horrible to have friends… to have Daisuke?

Maybe a place could be found for him in such a mundane world.

Unfortunately, as he had descended to kiss Daisuke, the smaller boy fainted.

"Daisuke?" The Kaizer remembered shaking the boy. No response. "… Daisuke?"

He couldn't remember much of what happened, after.

Sometimes, when he wanted to think, the Kaizer would return to the eternal forest at the end of the world. Nothing ever changed there, and it was so beautiful.

Daisuke never came to the Digital World, and the Kaizer had not seen him since that day.

The Kaizer wondered about him, how he was growing, how he was changing. Daisuke was probably twelve now. Soon he would graduate to high school, and the Kaizer would no longer be able to imagine him walking the halls of Odaiba elementary.

There were so many things that the Kaizer wanted to know. What kind of ice cream did Daisuke like? Did he still play soccer, and if so… was he still center forward? Was he still wearing those goggles of his, or had he quit them ever since the boy who once had been Ken had given to him his heart instead? Did he giggle? Did he laugh?

Small things. Unimportant things.

Did Daisuke still remember?

The other ten Chosen Children still came to the Digital World, still fought. Somewhere along the line the younger set learned Jogress Evolution, and so a threat that should have waned continued on, strong. They were growing up too.

Pride kept him from asking after Daisuke. Pride, and fear.

He knew what they all thought of him. Plainly, he had become a ghost in their eyes, an evil spirit given substance only in the Digital World. What fools they were, and yet were he brave enough, he might seek them out… for the only information that his spies could not tell him was the only data that was really worth anything to know.

Is Daisuke okay?

The Kaizer had a plan.

It had come to him in a dream. There was a Gate that opened in the Theta region… an arctic tundra now blanketed with the snows of a prolonged winter. One day, when everything that could be conquered, was… when every last spire had been erected…when Wormmon was born again… well, then.

"I keep my promises," the Kaizer told the immortal trees, as he sat crouching under their boughs, without significance.

He would open the Gate. With whatever strength and power he had, he would cross that threshold.

Was Daisuke waiting? The Kaizer didn't know, didn't care.

"Third time… is for keeps…."


Author's note: This story has been sleeping in hibernation for a long time now. It was always one of my favorites, but it had many flaws, and reading it always used to disappoint me because it never was what I wanted it to be. Well, now I've edited it. It is far closer to my original vision of what I wanted to accomplish. I didn't write too many sad Digimon fics, but perhaps that is why I love this one so much. Thanks for reading.