Author's Note: Hi! It's finally posted! I apologize for the shortness of the chapter. I've rewritten this about three times and it was the most acceptable one. The next thing coming up is Daybreak. Thank you Great Hero and all those who faved and alerted! Have a Happy New Year!
Chapter 1: Heartfelt Words
(But they're so hard to say…)
The words echoed in their minds bizarrely as the boy shook before their eyes, arm still bleeding and general appearance disheveled and frightened. Nerves, decided thirteen-year-old Kudo Taiki. Nerves had this boy wound up tighter than a toy. The green eyes that had caught his attention were panicky yet full of a resolve that would make a lesser man tremble. He did not know how to use that resolve clearly but it existed. Taiki smiled again. Ah, it was more like he didn't know he had it. It was like Dracomon all over again. Well then, he would have to take a leaf from Shoutmon's book. Or was it the other way around?
"Y-Yes," the boy continued quietly, answering Yuu's unspoken query. He fidgeted. This was awkward. "I… you see I…" Butterflies fluttered in his stomach and he shook his head anxiously, trying for it, for that brief grasp of words he had. Taiki couldn't help but feel sympathetic. Complete strangers were bad enough for any normal person. For someone like that it must have been sheer hell. Finally, he got the words out. "I saw your battle and I… I thought it would only be right to-"
"You saw what now?" Kiriha's query was sharper than usual, the after-battle tension littering his words like scattered flyers. The male, silver hair carefully hiding his eyes from casual view; flinched at his tone and stepped away. Nene gave the blond a reproachful stare while Taiki held back his own chuckle. Kiriha did have a kind heart: it didn't make him any less of a barbed fence. The other boy clenched a fist, trying to steady what must have been heartbeats like drumrolls.
Slowly, the silver male drew up strength from what they all believed a nearly dry well. "I saw that battle… of those creatures… You… all of you… you saved us all so I… I just wanted to…" The strength vanished quickly and he quailed in front of the blue eyes, which were calm but still edged with impatience. Kiriha stepped forward and the boy bolted, headed in the opposite direction. The blonde motioned to move after him, but a shorter male beat him to the punch, Yuu chasing after him on exhausted legs. Beside him, Nene reached out.
"Wait Yuu!" He had to be exhausted, she thought, instantly hurrying to chase her brother. However Taiki blocked her path, shaking his head. She frowned at him, the expression almost like a glare on her normally placid face. "Taiki-kun…"
Taiki gently stepped back from her line of fire. "Let's give him a minute. It's not like Kiriha helped much." A pink flush graced the blonde's face before vanishing, replaced with a smirk of carefully fabricated amusement. Seeing Nene about to move, Taiki shifted again to grab her by the wrist. She really had a one-track mind… maybe the two of them got it from their parents? "Nene." The simple word made her hesitate, if only long enough for the redhead nearby to pull her away. "Trust him."
Meanwhile, Yuu was hurrying across the oddly empty streets, whole body still worn from the fight. Why am I doing this? He hadn't exactly been thinking when he rushed out like that. He hadn't been thinking much at all since… since he had been saved.
Come to think of it, it wasn't much of being saved. It was more like ice-cold water had been dumped on his head and he had been able to see. He had been able to see a couple of things. He was afraid of getting hurt, just like everybody else. It was something a normal person dealt with.
Like anybody was going to be normal after this. Whether they fought or they saw… normal sounded rather ridiculous.
"W-Wait a minute!" He could see the slightly taller male up ahead, running pretty much full tilt. Boy could adrenaline move a person. Yuu wasn't exactly in the best of health at the moment either. The boy actually did pause though, stopping by grabbing a pole. "H-Hold on…" Yuu coughed. Now that he was sound of mind, he really did not want to know what DarkKnightmon's machine had done to him to make him this worn out.
The other boy watched him, anxiously glancing toward Yuu himself and down the street. "What… what is it?" He seemed a little calmer… or possibly more embarrassed. Yuu couldn't quite tell.
"Sorry," Yuu replied abruptly, finally managing to gain a solid breath of air. "I... Kiriha-san's rather… hard to get along with… he wasn't trying to… freak you out." The other boy stared blankly before raising an eyebrow. His eyes flickered in disbelief and Yuu laughed. "I know; he can seem pretty frightening. He just needs to work on this… friendship thing a little longer."
"W-What about you?" Yuu paused, letting the other elaborate. "Why are you here?"
The blonde frowned, thinking pensively about it for a few moments. Then a sheepish smile rose to his lips. "I guess I'm here to work on this friendship thing a little more." He laughed. "Not all of us can be like Taiki-san after all." The other frowned, deep in thought. Then, with some hesitance, he smiled a little bit, scratching the pavement with his shoes. Yuu blinked. He wondered what the other was thinking now. He would have to work on this a bit more; realizing what others were feeling.
"I shouldn't have run off should I?" The other scratched his head nervously. "Sorry… I'm not… used to… groups." He shifted onto the back of his right foot, suddenly scratching at a noticeable scab forming on his arm.
"I know the feeling," Yuu admitted with a small chuckle. His legs having stopped wobbling, he cautiously took a step toward him. "Neh, want to be friends?" The other blinked and Yuu shrugged. "We don't exactly have much to lose." He bowed, a bit stiffly as he still felt like passing out. "I'm Amano Yuu. Nice to meet you(1)." It was a bit formal, sure, but a distant start was a start.
Slowly, the other bowed back. "Mogami Ryouma. Nice to meet you too."
For a moment, they both stood awkwardly, not sure what to say. Then the sound of calm, measured footsteps caused them both to jump. "Easy, it's just us." The three Generals were walking together, Kiriha keeping a firm hand on Nene's shoulder to keep her from tackling her brother in her sisterly henning. Taiki waved at them both, smiling as casually as ever. "The others went home," he informed them with a grin. "They had a long run ahead of them."
Nene managed a nervous smile, watching her brother sway like a poorly-dressed leaf. "We should go too. I think," She shot Kiriha a pointed glare. "We've frightened enough people recently." The other flushed and glared and Taiki laughed quietly. With a bow of her head, Nene calmly and firmly grasped her younger brother's wrist and dragged him away. Kiriha nodded briskly before following the pair.
Taiki watched Ryouma's confusion rise and grinned. "He's a gentleman… when he wants to be. Can you make it home all right?" He received a reluctant bob of the head and grinned. "Need a companion?"
Ryouma hesitated before nodding slowly. "If… If it isn't too much trouble…" The sun was already pretty low.
Taiki smiled. "Not a bit." It would be a quiet walk, but after all of this… Taiki knew quiet was what he wanted quite a lot.
Taiki looked around slowly, smelling dinner being made. It was too quiet for them, much too quiet. Well, she was definitely home then. The one thing his mother always remembered to do was turn the stove off. "Okaa-san?" he called, fingers reflexively curling around the Xros Loader. Had a Digimon somehow slipped in and attacked her? Well… not that he could really do much about that except bargain… but thankfully they had a lot of sharp and pointy objects in the kitchen that he could flying tackle toward.
"Sorry I'm late," he called, tentatively poking his head into the room. Taiki knew she really didn't mind. According to her she was normally out until dawn from the age of fifteen to… well some indescribable time. It was rude to ask a woman her age. Instead of meeting angry Digimon, he found himself enveloped in a warm, trembling hug. Reflexively he froze, every part of him screaming fight-or-flight. Then he smiled. "… Hi mom." It was okay now, he realized. Taiki relaxed gently, easing the tension out of his shoulders and loosening his grip on his Xros Loader until he could return it to his pocket.
She was silent for a while, simply holding her son while the spoon dripped broth onto the floor. "…We… We won." He was a normal kid now, not a leader or a warrior. Summer was almost over and now… now he wouldn't have to fight. However, now that he thought about it, that wasn't a good excuse for coming home late twice in a row. Well, so much for anime laws huh?
However, his mother smiled over his chocolate-brown, spiky head and laughed softly. "I know." Her eyes glittered with the tiniest hint of mischief. She did enjoy knowing what others didn't.
"Eh?" Taiki stepped back to face her, their grey eyes flickering to each other in reflex, in respect.
"I saw it," the woman replied airily, pulling away to of course, go back to the stove. Cooking, it was his mother's third love. "I saw the Digimon flying away. How was it?" Taiki smothered laughter. Only she could make the most abnormal seem natural. "How's Shoutmon?" The fact that she believed him was minor, but that she said Shoutmon's name… well, simply it turned his veins into a frigid ice. It was casual as always, yet somehow… in those moments… that casualness hurt. His throat almost swelled, the walls practically crashing into each other as Taiki struggled for words.
He's alive, were the first words on his lips, the immediate response he reflexively swallowed. He's king. He's fighting to help everyone with my dream. None of these would define Shoutmon. None of these could encompass the boisterous partner that had followed him and he had chased after for what felt like years. None of these could say what he had become, could explain the pride he had for his friend. No thoughts in his mind could convey the magnitude of everything that had happened to them all and how much he treasured those moments.
So Taiki looked at her and replied. "I don't regret doing it."
His mother hummed, going to chop up some cilantro. "Nor would your father." She added the nearby meat to the pan, listening to the oil hiss and crackle at its intrusion. "You should go wash up; this shouldn't take long."
"Mm!" He was happy to obey someone else's orders, even if it was just for something as trivial as this.
If he had to, Taiki would willingly listen to anyone else if it meant that both worlds were all right.
Midnight had walked up to him casually and then left, leaving him out on the balcony with the stars and his discordant thoughts. He didn't even remember half of what had run through his mind in truth. Kiriha glanced back at Nene and the tea mug in her hand, watching the steam, so much like smoke from dragon fire, rise over and blur her face. Silently he took the drink, blowing on it with practiced care. Before he sipped, he replied. "Old habits don't die easily."
"They don't die," the young woman commented solemnly. "They simply hide." He snorted at her and drank. He never really minded heat, not even in Dragon Land. All it made him think of was fire, powerful fire with love and loyalty in each little molecule. So, as the liquid traveled down his throat and into his system, warmth rushed his limbs, bringing back gooseflesh and reminding him that yes, wind could be very cold. "You shouldn't get rid of them Kiriha-kun," informed the young woman. "We need Taiki-kun's faith… and your paranoia."
"The fight is over," he informed her flatly, trying to force himself to believe, to accept. It couldn't be so sudden, could it? All the dead were back, the enemy vanquished. Over and over they could say it to themselves. Over and over, the words would flow and live in their minds, weak from their inability to accept. The battle couldn't be over, just like none of them could simply go back.
Nene didn't have to look at his eyes to know what he was actually thinking. "But what's next?" she asked softly. "We can't drift apart…" Kiriha, only mere weeks ago, would have scoffed at her. Now however, he shook his head rather helplessly. The Digimon had pulled them together… along with these accursed… Xros Loaders. It almost seemed to buzz at the thought, unable to let him go. The Digital World had pulled the six of them and forced them to depend on each other. It just… it was impossible for that to be broken so easily, if at all.
"Do you want to?" he finally inquired, looking her up and down over the framing locks of his hair. She raised an eyebrow at him, causing Blue Flare's General to snort. She giggled at the noise. "What?"
"Laugh more," Nene replied swiftly. "It's good for you." He glowered, causing her to laugh more. She smiled rather lopsidedly at him, allowing herself to recline away from the sky onto the railing. He returned this with a small bit of relief, allowing the tension of the day to ease from his shoulders and a sigh to leave his lips.
They stood in this silent comfort for a while, as they used to in Dragon Land, before the young man asked quietly. "How's Yuu?" Nene looked at him slowly, purple gaze rather disconcerted and solemn. She jerked her head toward one of the many large couches that made up the extravagant apartment her parents had bought whimsically for their marriage. She never would understand that. On that sofa, Yuu was curled loosely around a pillow, sound asleep. He hoped it was peaceful for the kid; they all needed that peace, even if it was just for a few hours.
Nene's gaze attracted his again and she sighed. "He's not okay."
"No," Kiriha agreed. He shook his head loosely, feeling the cold again. "But we can help him. Taiki will help him." It was the quiet decisiveness in his own tone that caused him to grin sheepishly despite himself. "He won't be able to stop himself."
Nene giggled. "No, he can't do that." Her eyes sparkled rather lightly now and the two of them, silent companions once more, eventually went inside together, talking softly of the pleasant minor things they had abandoned for survival.
Because now was their time.
It was quiet now.
It was quiet and dark like a winter evening. Then a voice. It was a soft, genderless voice. It was rather like a child.
"Daddy," it whispered. "Where are you?" The child formed, a completely colorless creature floating in a dark sea. "Daddy? It's dark…"
In the child's arm floated an egg, a large, pulsing egg.
"Daddy," the child called. "I'm scared."
(1) "Nice to meet you." This is a translation of what's said, the more commonly known. It could also be translated as: "I am in your care" or "Please take care of me."