Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon, nor do I own Kibomon, Aiwemon, Velinemon, or Gessmon, who were created by RoyalKnightX, Shire Folk, Silver Kitsune Lunara, and Miss Anonymous hp respectively. These digimon will be appearing in later one-shots.
A/N: Well, here it is, like I promised! Now, to start off, this story is actually going to be a collection of one-shots that will focus on Tal Kuroki and his four friends, and it will be looking back on the time they spent in the Digital World about four years before Tai and his friends came to the Digital World. These one-shots all take place approximately thirty-two years before Following the Footsteps of Destiny, and several of them will in some way have a connection to FTFOD. Some of these events may even be mentioned in FTFOD and will have a direct connection to some of the events that happened pre-FTFOD. Also, some will have a connection to what is still to come. These one-shots WILL NOT fall in chronological order, nor in any order whatsoever, but will be written as I come up with them and when I have the time to write them. Again, I am doing it this way because I will not have time to write their full story and this way I can focus on the important parts that have a connection to FTFOD. (And of course a few interesting ones that don't!) That being said, I will always tell you where each one-shot stands in the main story. So instead of being a multi-chapter story, each new chapter will be a new one-shot. All will be numbered with titles. Enjoy!
One-shot #1: Takes place one day before first arriving in the Digital World. Please make sure you read Moonlight Demons (another one-shot of mine that's separate) before reading this one as I want all of you to meet Tal first before meeting Kenji. This one shot will have a much more profound effect if you do.
A Den of Wolves
"Okay, class, your homework is on the board," Miss. Shibata called out loudly, trying unsuccessfully to be heard over the loud chattering voices of her students. "There's still about twenty minutes before the bell rings so I suggest you get started on it right away. The more you get done now, the less you'll have to take home with you."
"But, teacher, it's so nice outside today! Can't you let us go early, just this once?" a boy sitting near the window complained, gazing hopefully at the frowning Miss. Shibata.
Raising her eyebrows, Miss. Shibata placed her hands on her hips, and waving her finger at the boy who had spoken, she said dryly, "If I did that, you little hooligans would expect me to do it all the time!"
"Your homework isn't going to do itself, Mikihisa, now get to work."
Everyday, it's always the same old thing. The same idiots, the same jerks, the same backstabbers...When is it all going to end? Are we doomed to hurt each other for the rest of eternity? Is the entire human race really so weak at heart? To live in a world that's full of nothing but pain and sadness...How do they stand it? How do they survive day to day? How do they live without feeling responsible for their actions...How do they just ignore everyone they hurt...
Sitting quietly near the front of the classroom between two of his female classmates, his dark head bowed and his deep green eyes squeezed tightly shut, thirteen year old Kenji Iwamoto let out a soft, irritated sigh, trying even more unsuccessfully than Miss. Shibata to block out the noises of his classmates at the local elementary school where he attended class. Although he had been attending the same school for six years now, despite the length of time he had been there, he still felt like an outcast, which was something he doubted would ever change. There was a simple reason for what he considered to be an almost predetermined conclusion to his depressing situation, and it had to do with the students who attended the same school as him day in and day out in a never ending cycle of loneliness. The reason was simple.
He hated them. All of them.
No matter what day of the week it was, every time he dragged himself unwillingly to school he spent almost the entire day trying to ignore the pack of wolves around him, and they in turn either treated him with the same indifference he showed them or they tortured him endlessly, physically, and emotionally, leaving him quick to exit the building if one of them so much as looked in his direction. Ever since he could remember, when it came to bullies and troublemakers at school, he had always been the victim of their brutality, no matter which school he went to. Always the prey, always the bait, it never seemed to end, no matter how much he tried to keep to himself. After a while, it was something that he had started to get used to, but instead of making him feel better, his acceptance of the situation enraged him, making him feel as he had somehow failed himself. Why?
Because no one, no matter who you are, should have to remain content with being treated like a piece of garbage, and to accept what you should not have to accept would be the same as giving up on yourself, something he wondered if perhaps he had not already done a long time ago and was merely denying his own weakness to stand up to those who wanted to hurt him so badly.
I've never done anything to anyone, and yet here I am, nothing but a piece of bait. Meat for the savage pack of wolves who call themselves students...
Thirteen years old and not once had he ever had someone he could truly call a friend.
Pathetic. Truly pathetic.
Oh sure, I've met several people who have claimed to be my friend, and look where that got me. If I could count how many times I've been stabbed in the back...When are these fools going to learn? Real friendship is nothing but a lie. It doesn't exist. It never existed, and I'm not going to let myself be tricked again. Not anymore. Only...it's not just friends. You can't trust anyone. My family is proof enough of that...
His family. His oh so lovely family...
Six years ago, when Kenji was only seven years old, his father, Nobuo Iwamoto, had died unexpectedly in a terrible traffic accident, leaving him completely devastated, and ever since then he had begun to wonder if the entire world, or even fate itself, was against him, especially as life continued to fail him time and time again, despite his efforts to escape the painful world of reality. After the death of his father, it had just been him and his mother, but unable to live with the sad memories of the man they had both loved floating around their house in Shinjuku, the two of them had packed up and moved to the Highton View Terrace Complex a few weeks after the accident, and it was then when he had started going to his current school. And it was then when his mother had met Eiji...
Eiji Kanemitsu. My stepfather.
Despite his protests, his mother had gone ahead and married Eiji about a year after the accident, and the three of them, along with his stepbrother, fourteen year old Kensuke Kanemitsu, had moved in together at the Highton View Terrace Complex, which was where the four of them currently resided, much to Kenji's disgust. His mother had met Eiji because he had lived on the second floor of their apartment building when they moved in, while he and his mother had been living on the ground floor at the time. But thanks to the marriage he now lived in Eiji's apartment on the second floor.
As if his life hadn't been bad enough already, the moment his mother married Eiji, it had reached an all time low.
He's not my father, and no matter how much he tries to pretend he is, it isn't going to change the facts.
Although his mother's marriage had bothered him, what made him angry most of all was her attitude, which was something he didn't think he would ever be able to forgive. These days, the newly named Yuka Kanemitsu walked around the apartment with a smile on her face.
A sappy smile, no less.
It was insulting, and it made Kenji feel as if she had somehow betrayed him.
How can she be so happy when I feel so miserable? How could she have forgotten Dad so easily?
But even that wasn't the root of the problem. What bothered him the most was the fact that she hadn't even consulted him at all about her new marriage. Not once had she asked him what he thought of Eiji, what his opinion on the marriage was, or even what he thought of being stuck with a new stepbrother for that matter. She had never once asked him how he felt about the situation, nor had she shown any sign of caring about what he might want. Instead she had completely disregarded his feelings, as if his opinion on the subject was worthless. In other words, she had completely, utterly betrayed him, which was the part that hurt most of all.
Never trust anybody. In the end, you'll only get hurt...
To make matters worse, his mother often bestowed her affections upon Eiji and Kensuke, a stepbrother he hated almost as much as his stepfather, and no matter what the situation was, he was always ignored, left out, and forgotten.
Eiji, Yuka, and Kensuke. The perfect family. He would never forgive them. Never.
Not that they would even notice one way or the other...
Making a face, Kenji slipped lower in his seat, trying quite successfully to remain inconspicuous, and glancing sullenly at the clock on the wall, he let out a soft groan. There were still a few minutes of class left to endure, which meant he still had a few minutes of torture left.
Just what I need...
"Hey, Tal, tell us that joke you told Takeo the other day!"
"Yeah, the one about the soccer game! You told Yosuke, but I didn't get to hear it!"
Without warning, a sudden loud burst of laughter filled the room, and looking up in surprise, Kenji quickly turned around in his seat, searching for the source of the noise. At the back of the classroom he spotted the captain of the boys' soccer team, thirteen year old Takahiro Kuroki, who at the moment was surrounded by his group of idiotic friends. Apparently he was telling a joke to all of his soccer buddies, who were hovering around his desk like an annoying infestation of flies, and judging from the smile on his face he appeared to be enjoying their company, much to Kenji's annoyance.
Takahiro Kuroki. More commonly referred to as Tal. He was the school's soccer star and the world's biggest idiot.
Dressed in a yellow t-shirt with white stripes circling the ends of the sleeves, white pants, gray sneakers, tousled blond hair, and sparkling gray eyes, he definitely stood out in a crowd, and compared to the pack of fools surrounding his desk, he appeared to be what one might call a decent person, at least on the outside. With rugged good looks and a surfer's tan, he made everyone else around him fade into the back ground, but despite his looks, it was more his personality that seemed to separate him from the usual crowd of lost sheep attending the school.
Every one of them fools, him most of all...
Although Kenji would never admit it to the other boy's face, thus giving the golden-haired soccer star the satisfaction of knowing he cared, he hated Takahiro Kuroki with a passion. Loud, obnoxious, annoying, and exasperating, on the outside it appeared Tal always treated everyone around him with an equal amount of respect, but deep down inside, Kenji knew different.
How can any of that be true when his so-called friends are so worthless...
Normally, Tal was nice to everyone, including those further down the social ladder than him, and even the teachers adored him, despite the fact that he was always getting himself into trouble. Never anything serious, but he did often cause a stir among the ranks of the students, and along with his best friend Yosuke, the two of them were the talk of the school. They always had been, at least in the last six years Kenji had been in attendance, and no doubt they always would be.
And yet, despite all of his reasons for hating Tal, the reason he hated the golden-haired soccer star the most was because he was impossible to hate, and that, in Kenji's opinion, made Tal extremely vulnerable.
Only an idiot can't see what goes on right under his very nose...
Feeling a sudden stab of anger in his heart, Kenji glared in Tal's direction, but as usual Tal was so busy laughing with his friends that he didn't even notice he was the object of much scrutiny. Truthfully, Kenji wasn't really all that surprised, since Tal never seemed to notice he existed. In the last six years they had been attending the same school together, Tal had been in his class twice, including the current grade he was in, and within those two years Tal had never once seemed to notice that he, Kenji, even existed. Not once had they ever spoken to each other, even in class, nor had they ever even so much as made eye contact, and although that kind of thing might have bothered someone else, as far as Kenji was concerned, having Tal ignore him suited him just fine.
After all, the more Tal ignored him, the more chances he had of avoiding the golden-haired soccer star's group of dangerous friends, especially Yosuke.
Ever since switching schools, Tal's friends had treated him with nothing but hatred and dislike, and every time they saw him outside of class they would torture him endlessly, either with physical aggression, hurtful words, or any other type of bullying they could possibly come up with, leaving him more often than not bruised and emotionally battered. Most of the time he tried to avoid them in the hallways, but with Yosuke as their leader, hiding was not always an easy thing to do.
Yosuke. Tal's closest friend and the one responsible for all the pain Kenji had suffered at school within the last six years.
Normally, the others merely followed Yosuke's orders to avoid getting on his bad side, since he was the co-captain of the soccer team and therefore he had a lot of authority among the students, but even so Kenji hated them as much as he hated Yosuke. They were weak, unable to stand up for themselves, and that was what made Kenji hate them most of all.
That was what made him hate Tal more than he had ever hated anyone in his life.
Strangely enough, though, despite Yosuke's habit of terrorizing him, the co-captain of the soccer team never did it in front of Tal, most likely because he knew Tal would never approve of his behaviour, especially since Tal would always yell at the members of his soccer team if they so much as said a single nasty word to anyone who wasn't a part of their group. On top of that, everyone knew the members of the soccer team were desperate to stay on Tal's good side, since it gave them a chance to feed of Tal's popularity like leeches, and Tal was not the type of person who would hesitate to cut someone from they team if they deserved it.
They were pathetic, all of them.
Whenever Tal wasn't in the vicinity, they went after him, Kenji, like sharks who had caught the scent of blood, and for some reason he couldn't understand, torturing him seemed to be their favorite hobby. Why? He didn't know. He had never done anything to them, and yet they still continued to get away with treating him like dirt, right under Tal's stupid, perfect nose.
How can he not see what goes on behind his back? How can anyone possibly be so blind? Either he doesn't know or he just plain doesn't care because I don't see him lifting a finger to help me. Yosuke and the rest of those idiots...they're not really his friends. All they care about is sucking up to him and staying on his good side. If Tal were to suddenly become unpopular they'd kick him to the curb without a second thought. Just another solid piece of proof that friendship is nothing but a lie...
Which was why maybe he was better off not having any friends.
Idiots. They don't care about Tal's feelings at all. They only care about his status. If I ever did have a real friend, I would never treat him like that. They're a joke, but...Tal's no better than they are. He just lets them get away with using him like he's nothing but a piece of garbage. How can he be stupid enough to let them take advantage of him like that? How can he just let them get away with hurting other people behind his back? How can he be so naive...
In that sense, Tal was exactly like his friends. He was weak, and that was something Kenji could never forgive.
You laugh while I suffer. If there was ever any justice in this world it no longer exists. Whether you know or not...that's no excuse. You let them hurt me. You let them treat me like dirt. It's not fair. How can you hurt someone you don't even know? Where is the justice in that?
"Tal, would you please concentrate on your homework?" Miss. Shibata suddenly shouted in exasperation, startling Kenji out of his miserable thoughts.
"Sorry," Tal replied, his voice full of laughter and his gray eyes sparkling brilliantly under the fluorescent lights.
"Relax, teacher, we'll behave," Yosuke smirked, earning himself a glare from Kenji.
With bright blue eyes and sandy-coloured hair, Yosuke Kawada looked innocent enough, but underneath his baby face and freckles, Kenji knew he was nothing more than a demon in disguise.
Never trust anyone. You'll only end up getting hurt...
"You? Behave?" a brunette sitting on Tal's right snorted loudly, rolling her eyes at Yosuke. "Give me a break! When have you ever behaved in class?"
"Thanks a lot, Keiko, you're totally ruining my image!"
"Whatever," Keiko's friend Rini giggled, shaking her blond head in amusement.
"Can you believe him?" a red-head named Ayano giggled, turning in her seat to poke Yosuke flirtatiously in the chest.
"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Tal demanded, coming quickly to his friend's defence.
Fools. Complete fools...
"Duh, exactly what it sounds like!" the girl sitting on Kenji's left shouted towards the back of the room, a teasing smile turning up the corners of her mouth.
Her name was Kameko, and although the dark-haired female never spoke to Kenji, at least she never insulted him either, which came as a bit of a blessing considering his past.
"Oh, ouch! That was so harsh," another of Tal's soccer buddies named Seigi shot back.
"Real good one, Kameko," Takeo laughed.
Up at the front of the classroom, Miss Shibata had a frown of her face, but before she could yell at her students the bell rang, catching Kenji off guard. Immediately all of the students began to scramble out of their seats, and waving to Tal Yosuke called out, "Don't forget about our soccer meeting at lunch tomorrow. I just need to talk to the coach for a minute and then I'll meet you at your locker, okay?"
"Okay," Tal called back, waving in response.
Uttering a silent prayer of thanks that class was finally over, Kenji slowly stood up, a sigh escaping his lips, but no sooner had he got to his feet when someone suddenly slammed into him from behind, nearly knocking him into Kameko's desk. Whirling around in outrage, he opened his mouth to shout out an angry retort, but the words died on his lips when he spotted who was standing behind him.
"Sorry about that," Tal said quickly, sounding a little bit embarrassed. "I didn't mean to run into you. I'm in a bit of a hurry and I didn't see you standing there. Are you okay?"
Instead of responding, Kenji just stared at the golden-haired soccer star, unable to utter a sound. This was the first time Tal had ever noticed his existence, and much to his disgust it was a bit of an unnerving experience.
When he didn't reply, Tal quickly bent down and picked up his books for him, throwing them back on the desk, and giving him a friendly smile, the golden-haired soccer star said, "Hey, listen, I'm really sorry about that. I hope I didn't hurt you too badly."
Growing suddenly angry, Kenji clenched his hands into tight fists, trying unsuccessfully to control the sudden spark of rage he felt growing in his chest, and narrowing his dark green eyes into angry slits he glared at the boy standing in front of him. How could Tal even think about pretending to be nice to him after six years of acting as if he didn't exist? It was insulting, it was disgusting, and it made Kenji hate Tal more at that moment than he had ever hated the other boy at any other time in his life.
"Um...are you sure you're okay?" Tal asked quietly, concern in his voice.
Snatching up his books and pushing past the other boy he snapped, "Don't bother apologizing. No one else ever does!"
I don't need your help, or your pity...
Glancing back over his shoulder, he just had time to register the expression of pure shock and astonishment on Tal's face before striding out the door, his head held high and his heart feeling as if someone had just stabbed a knife through it.