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This one-shot takes place while the younger kids are chasing Ken's base. It has been accepted into the Adventure 2002 project as "episode 16.50"
The campsite at Lake Yamanaka was a relatively popular one, but the party of Hiroaki Ishida had found a particular ground beside a river with no one around. It contained a small group of picnic tables and a grill that happened to have a few pieces of unburned charcoal within it. Izzy had quickly set up a little base for himself on one of the tables, with the two older boys crowding behind him to keep up on the progress.
Meanwhile, Hiroaki stalked off to the side and washed a few of his tools and containers in the river. "Why me?" he grumbled.
As he reached for another canteen to clean out, he noticed a beer can poking out of one of the bags set next to him. "Huh, I'd almost forgotten I'd brought those drinks with me." He set down the canteen and pulled the can to him. "It's kind of early…eh, but why not? I'm on vacation."
Jun gripped the map in her hands tightly as she crossed the street toward the bus station. "Honestly, I should have just gone straight to the camping site myself and surprised everyone there," she muttered to herself. She paused a moment to check her map again. "Lake Yamanaka…so I just need to take this bus to here…and transfer to that line…"
Her concentration was broken by the sound of an engine ignition. She looked up just in time to see the bus she was supposed to board drive off.
"No! Wait! Don't leave me here!"
After that was Plan B. She stepped beside the street and tried to wave down one of the passing cars.
"Come on!" she cried angrily. "Why won't you stop?"
It was almost an hour before an elderly couple stopped for her. Given their fancy red convertible, they were probably an old couple trying to recapture their lost youth and therefore sympathetic to Jun's story. Jun didn't care either way. The convertible looked like it could go really fast.
She sighed and hung her head as the red car slowly petered down the street while the old couple chattered on and on about the joys of youthful love. Even the bicycles were passing them.
"Dad, are you drunk?"
Hiroaki Ishida shook his head furiously and slapped his hand on his knee. "What kind of question is that to ask your father?"
Matt looked at the small pile of empty beer cans that had steadily built up over the afternoon. The sun was starting to set, and the three had built a small fire and hung a few lamps around the picnic tables. Hiroaki had tried to help, but with his impaired hand-eye coordination the kids had essentially done all the work.
Matt leaned over to Tai and Izzy and whispered "Yeah, he's drunk." Tai and Izzy both nodded, doing their best not to smile or show their amusement. Drunk Mr. Ishida was an almost completely different man than sober Mr. Ishida.
"Now listen here," said Hiroaki. "What I've been drinking has nothing to do with what I've been telling you. I know you kids think you have life all figured out, and that an old man like me certainly doesn't have any real advice worth giving. I was like that too when I was your age."
Matt got up from his seat and set his hands on his father's arm. "Come on, maybe you should lie down for a bit."
Hiroaki ignored his son's grip and instead sent his free hand into the bag next to him and pulled out a single glass bottle of strong liquor and three small drinking glasses. "You're all happy with your friends now, but if you're not careful one day you'll wake up to find that all your friends vanished years ago!" He set down the bottle and the glasses on the table. "You can't leave it unsaid, alright? You have to make a real promise, a real commitment! Otherwise, people grow apart and lose contact."
Matt helped his father up from the table and began leading him to the tent. "Right dad, whatever you say."
"Friendship is ill-defined," continued Hiroaki in as elegant a tone as he could given his situation. "Brotherhood is not. You either are or you are not."
Matt led his father into the tent while Tai and Izzy turned their attention back to the laptop. There was still no message from the other world. A few minutes later Matt had returned and sat down on the other side of the table, opposite the others.
The bottle and the glasses were set between them. The three noted that the bottle had already been opened.
Tai cleared his throat. "Well that was a little weird."
The other two gave a little laugh of agreement. It had been a gradual change over the afternoon. Hiroaki Ishida had begun with a few comments about how nice it was for the kids to be working together, and by the end he had been ranting on the merits of sworn brotherhood and the proper ceremonies involved. The laughter slowly died down, and an awkward silence reigned for a few minutes.
"You know, the bottle's open," said Tai.
"So it is," said Matt.
Another silence reigned.
Tai coughed. "Well, since it's opened, we could just…Maybe one glass"
"Tai!" said Izzy. "You can't really mean…"
Matt shifted uncomfortably. "I mean, if you think about it, with these glasses, it's not even really one drink…"
"We're barely even teenagers," replied Izzy. "We shouldn't be drinking."
Tai shrugged. "I mean, if you really think about, Matt's dad did have kind of a point…You guys are my…" He trailed off and turned slightly red. "I mean, unless you two don't want to…"
The next silence was the longest. It was finally broken when Izzy slowly reached out and took the bottle in his hand, pouring out a small mouthful into each of the three small glasses before them. "Just this once for this occasion," he whispered. "And we don't tell anyone else about the liquor, especially our parents."
"So we're really going to do this?" said Matt.
Tai shrugged, but his face wore a broad smile. "After all the three of us have been through together, why not? Yeah, let's do this."
"I heard that in America they make small cuts on their hands and hold the cuts together to mix their blood," said Matt.
"Can't that make you sick?" said Tai, frowning at the unpleasant thought of cutting himself.
"Let's just keep this one simple," said Izzy, trying to hide his own discomfort at the idea. "Sharing a drink is enough for us, right?"
"Sure," replied Matt with a smile. "After all, it's the feelings that really count, right? The ceremony's just an expression." He reached out and took one of the glasses. The others followed suit.
For a moment, they merely sat there, holding their glasses. After a while, Tai cleared his throat. "So…do we just drink it?"
"No," laughed Matt. "We need to say an oath first, right? Go on Tai, say something."
"Why me?" protested Tai.
"You're the oldest of us three," replied Matt. "It's only fair."
"Fine," grumbled Tai. He lifted up his glass and wet his lips. "We are gathered here today…"
"That sounds like something you'd say at a wedding," said Izzy.
Tai flushed red. "Hey, I've never done anything like this before."
He cleared his throat and tried again, suddenly speaking in an oddly formal tone with flowery language. "We are gathered here today to make a promise to one another. Though we were born with different surnames, now we bind ourselves as brothers, uniting our strength and resolve to support one another through all challenges. We ask not to be born on the same day of the same month of the same year. We only ask to die that way."
The others smiled, but they weren't too impressed. "You stole that from Three Kingdoms," said Matt.
"I'm surprised you even know about Three Kingdoms," added Izzy.
Tai set down his glass and spoke normally. "Why shouldn't I know about Three Kingdoms? What, do you think I'm too dumb for it or something?"
Matt leaned over to Izzy. "He probably just watched some anime adaptation or something," he whispered.
"I heard that," growled Tai. "Come on, it's a good oath! Why shouldn't we use it?"
Izzy shrugged. "I don't know, I always thought the whole promise to die together was kind of morbid."
"Nah, you're just looking at it the wrong way," said Matt with a smile. "You see, it's not a promise to die together so much as a promise to live together. It's a promise to never hurt your brothers by making them have to grieve for you."
"Well look at who's the big shot literature professor now," laughed Tai.
Matt blushed, but raised his glass again to call attention to it. "So are we doing this or not?"
"Yes, yes, we're doing it," said Tai, lifting up his glass and bringing it up to touch Matt's.
"You know, if you count the whole being deleted by Apocalymon incident, technically we have already died together at the same time," said Izzy.
"Izzy!" said both of the other boys at once.
"Yes, yes, we're doing it," said Izzy, lifting up his glass to touch the other two.
Tai once again resumed using his most solemn sounding voice. "As we now share this drink, we share our blood and our lives as brothers. Let heaven strike us down if we ever betray one another. So we swear."
"So we swear," echoed the others.
Tai smiled and his voice returned to normal. "So let's drink up."
And all dropped their glasses and cringed.
"Oh god!" cried Izzy between coughs, his eyes welling up in tears. "It's like my esophagus is on fire!"
"How do adults drink this stuff?" cried Matt.
"Even my tears feel like they're burning!" said Tai. "I am never touching alcohol again!"
They did manage to recover eventually from their first real drink, and promptly capped the bottle and returned it and the glasses to Hiroaki Ishida's bag. "That is the last time I ever listen to my dad's advice," muttered Matt as he washed his face in the nearby river.
Tai dropped by next to him to wash up as well. "Still…I'm glad we did it."
"When we're older, we should do a more formal one," laughed Matt, looking out over the river. "Like go to China and find a big temple of Guan Yu or something. And get a full meal to share and burn incense and all that fancy stuff."
Tai laughed softly, and the two were quiet for a moment.
"Hey guys," called Izzy from over the table where his laptop was set. "I got a message from Kari and the others."
"We'll be right there," Matt called back. He dried his hands and stood up, as did Tai.
"Sworn brothers forever," said Tai with a little smile. "Let nothing ever come between us."
"Nothing," agreed Matt.
Jun looked around. Night had fallen, but she had no idea what time it was and it was too dark to check her watch. In front of her was a large lake, marked with an illuminated billboard that read "Lake Hamana."
Slowly, she turned around to where the old couple had parked their car. They smiled and waved.
Jun turned back to the sign and then hung her head in defeat. "But I said Lake Yamanaka…"
First they had driven off without her. Then she had missed the only bus line to the camp site. Now she had spent an entire day hitching a ride...to the wrong place.
Jun looked up into the sky and cried out a single name.
Tai turned to his friend as they walked back to rejoin Izzy. "Why'd you shudder just now?"
Matt frowned and rubbed his arms. He looked around and strained his ears, but he only heard the gentle rustling of leaves in the wind. "I don't know…"