Summary: Ken says his memories of being the Kaiser are fuzzy. This is a possible reason why. One-shot crossover.
Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon or xxxHolic.
A/N: I have a number of hypotheses as to why Ken's memories of being the Kaiser are so fuzzy (none of them involving a split personality), and this is by far the crackiest. Unbetaed, so please tell me if you spot any errors. Also, I tried to get the CLAMP metaphysics right on this one, since Kyia Star pointed out that I didn't follow them in my last attempt at an xxxHolic crossover. Hopefully I succeeded.
Bitter, Like Regret
Ken is sleeping, digging deep down into memories that are painful and unwelcome - memories that he has spent a long time running away from. But he needs to see them, to remember, to figure out why
I'm such a bad person,
I could do something this awful.
He remembers blowing bubbles with Osamu, the skin of them flashing pink and yellow and blue as they fly off the balcony, floating until they burst. Something is different about the memory this time: reflected off one of the bubbles is a face, distorted and grotesque. It's split down the middle, and yet somehow still whole. In the dream, Ken turns around to see a boy standing behind the glass sliding door, looking at the two of them with sad eyes. He blinks, and the boy is gone.
The dream continues.
Gazimon struggle to crawl through the snow, and he becomes impatient. They need to be faster, he thinks - he doesn't have time for weakness. He laughs as he whips them, tells them to pick up the pace, and they cry out. The sound is pitiful, and he revels in it - their pain, their helplessness.
He's being watched.
A boy is standing just beyond the mass of Gazimon, gazing at him sadly with mismatched eyes, one blue and one gold. The boy says, "This is a dream."
"Not always," says the Kaiser. He smirks. "This is my dream. You don't belong here."
"It isn't my choice," says the boy. "I would never choose to see something like this."
The Kaiser whips one of the Gazimon, and his smirk widens into a grin. "This is the dream of a monster." He whips it again. "This is the kind of person I am."
The boy shakes his head. "I don't believe that. Look." He points to the Kaiser's face. "It's just a mask."
The Kaiser reaches up to his face, and his fingers meet cold porcelain. Trembling, he removes it, and discovers that the boy is right - it is a mask: white, with sinister, narrow eyes and a toothless grin. "It should be black," he says, and tastes salt in his mouth.
He finds that he can no longer grin. "Because everything I touch becomes black." He looks up again.
The boy is gone.
And Ken finds himself back in his bedroom, staring up at the ceiling, half-blinded by tears. He doesn't know why, but he pushes himself upright and climbs down from his bunk. His limbs feel weak and wobbly, but he's compelled to keep moving: into the hall, out the door, down the elevator, onto the sidewalk. He continues walking until the world seems to melt away, leaving an old, extravagant house in its wake. And even then, he doesn't stop. Soon, he is inside the house, his nose itching from the overwhelming scents of incense and tobacco.
"...Hello," says a voice.
Ken looks to where its owner is standing. "It's you," he says. "You're the one from the dream."
"Ah," says the boy. "Although I'm not the one you're here to see." The boy turns to open the shoji behind him, but hesitates. "There are other ways of getting what you want - you don't need to ask Yuuko-san."
Ken doesn't understand, but he has a feeling that Yuuko-san is why he's come to this place. "Please...take me to that person."
Watanuki looks sad, but says, "alright," and opens the shoji. He leads Ken to a room where the smell is even stronger, the smoke curling like graceful, nonsensical calligraphy through the air, and Ken starts to feel dizzy.
"Please," says a new voice. "Come closer."
Ken does so, doing his best to keep his steps steady. It's a struggle, though; his head feels like it's filled with the smoke in the air, obscuring his thoughts like a translucent shroud. As he approaches the source of the voice, he begins to see the figure of a woman. "Are you Yuuko-san?" he asks.
"I am," she says. "And what is your name?"
"I..." He swallows, averting his eyes. "I'm not sure."
"Why not?" she asks, resting her head elegantly upon her palm, red eyes keen and clever.
"Because...I tried to change it."
"Alright. What is the name your parents gave you?"
Ken isn't sure he wants to say it - isn't sure that he's ready to acknowledge his wretched existence aloud. But, still, he says, "Ichijouji...Ken." It feels strange upon his tongue, and he's struck by the memory of being taunted by that name, of insisting that it no longer belonged to him. In hindsight, it's almost funny; what kind of person becomes angry because somebody uses their real name?
I'm such a coward, he thinks.
"Hello, Ken-kun." Yuuko smiles languidly, taking a slow drag of her pipe. Once she's exhaled, she asks, "What is your wish?"
"To forget," he says. The words comes easily, even though he doesn't recall ever thinking them. "If I continue to remember everything I've done...I don't think that I'll be able to live with myself."
"You desire to live on?"
I shouldn't, he thinks. In truth, the world would be better off without him. He's known it for a while, ever since he decided to leave the Real World behind forever. Even as he had lied to himself about the nature of those around him, he'd never really forgotten the one who was truly worthless. But, now as then, he is too much of a coward to do everyone a favor and end his own life. Although, unlike then, there is no place left for him to run, no place left to isolate himself from the world that he does not deserve to live in. With a jolt of shame, he finds himself longing after the ignorance of just a few days prior - his sanctuary. Although he had never quite been happy there, he had been able to distract himself from the truth, and that had been good enough.
"Yes," he finally says. Even though I should have died in Osamu-chan's place. "But first I need to forget."
Yuuko looks into his eyes. "I am afraid that I cannot grant the entirety of that wish," she says. "However..."
"I can dull the memories - make them seem distant, like a nightmare. You will not forget, but you will not quite remember." She tilts her head, eyes narrowing slightly. "And there will still be a heavy price."
"Price?" he asks, already knowing that he will very likely pay it.
"You gained knowledge that aided you in your conquest. To grant your wish, I will take it all."
"...I agree to your terms," he says.
At that, Yuuko smiles once more. "Very well. I shall grant your wish."
Ken awakens to find his parents looking at him as if he's died and come back to life, and, for a moment, he doesn't remember his own name.
He tastes salt.
"That's the youngest client you've ever had, Yuuko-san. He couldn't have been older than twelve."
"Does it disturb you?"
"...Ah. He was just a child."
"He is a very special child. You visited him, didn't you?"
"Yes. In that dream - it was almost like he was a different person. Even without the mask..."
"Within every human heart, there exists both cruelty and kindness, and those who are kindest are also the most aware of their capacity for cruelty. Ken-kun sought a refuge where he could express his cruel heart without guilt. It was how he dealt with his pain."
"But nothing comes without a price."
"Exactly, Watanuki-kun." Yuuko grins. "Now, why don't you prepare me something delicious to eat?"