Sweet gosh that was a mild pain in my butt. Worth it though, definitely. Okay, so the deal is FFN screwed up the formatting of the story and the site I'm making has a character limit that this chapter broke not even halfway through. Yes, this chapter is long. To put it into perspective, it was fifteen pages on Word and twelve in its initial first draft on paper. I had a blast.

Now... *clears throat* Onto the formalities.

My name is Aiko Isari. For those of you who have read some of my other works, hello there and welcome back. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do writing it. For all of you newcomers to my world, I would recommend strapping on a seatbelt because this will most certainly be a bumpy foray into my writing style. If it gets to be too much, I welcome you to read my other stories for a while. The whiplash will pass I promise you.

Regardless of who you are, I welcome you formally to Marionette, a quartet telling the story of Kudo Taiki, of Xros Heart and the future of their world. The story you knew is likely true. However, it could also quite possibly be a lie, a comforting way to pass on the messages the world wanted you to see. I am not going to say if it is false or reality. I am simply going to present you with an alternate idea of what may have been. Whether you believe the story I tell you now or not is your decision. I hope you can read on. I hope you can enjoy yourselves and tell me your thoughts. I hope you can inform me of how my storytelling is.

This story is currently unedited and the edit will be placed up soon after I receive it. Thank you IronicNarwhal and Acid.

This series is rated M, rated this way for violent themes, cursing, hints of citrus, Umineko and Higurashi references, and death, among other adult themes. You have been warned. I also warn of alternate character interpretation and possible OOC.

Marionette is a story set. However, there is more to it than that. In order to possibly gain a richer experience, please go to my website (which is on my profile) and click the link for Marionette. There is a playlist section there. I would recommend using Youtube to locate these songs. I will also be listing the playlist here. Again this is only an option but it will certainly... bring more to light, particularly with the way this story is written. There are also other tidbits of information that give more information about the world. It is being updated frequently so please go there if something happens to the story on here. Also, if you want to ask questions or see previews, please check the tumblr, of which there will also be a link on my profile.

This story does not follow an entirely linear path of time as the episodes did. I believe I should warn you

One last important thing pertaining to this: The key. Ascension names are typically placed in this format while Taiki's particular Ascension appears "-like so-". On every other site, Taiki's Ascension will appear with music notes instead. I believe it was important to mention such.

Now I have dawdled long enough. Please sit back and keep an open mind. I welcome you to Marionette: A Plea For Requiem.

Playlist:

A Plea for Requiem Opening: Hikari no Sora no Qualia (The Qualia of the Shining Sky) by Cyua (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kizuna Rasen)

Omoide no Summer (Summer Memory) by Arisawa Takinori (Digimon Adventure 02 Senpen: Hurricane Touchdown)

Kunou (Distress) by Yamashita Kosuke (Digimon Xros Wars: The Boy Hunters Who Leapt Through Time)

Kibou wo Mune Ni (With a Heart Full of Hope) by Unknown (Digimon Xros Wars)

Boku wo Boku Datte (Because I'm Me) by Wada Kouji (Digimon Adventure 02)

Taiki no Theme (Taiki's Theme) by Yamashia Kosuke (Digimon Xros Wars)

Streets to the Summer by Miyahara Nami (Digimon Adventure 02 Drama CD: Natsu e no Tobira)

Shuurai (Invasion) by Unknown (Digimon Xros Wars)

Kusen (A Hard Fight) by Unknown (Digimon Xros Wars)

Untitled by Takanashi Yatsuharu (Shiki)

Red Moon by Kalafina (Red Moon Studio Album)

A Plea for Requiem Ending Theme: Let it Out by Fukuhara Miho (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)


Chapter 1: Intro ~My World~

"The phenomenon known formally as Ascension Break is inexplicable and reoccurring, a present 'disease' whose symptoms appear as early as postnatal in the child and as late as pre-pubescence. The symptoms vary from life to life and seem to have no correlation from one person to the other, even within generations and family relations. Symptoms show an inclination toward affecting the human personae and physical construct, yet no sign can be located in brain patterns. It is, simply stated, a fascinating topic for the human race to linger over even in this current technological age."

-Professor Sebastian Leosk, Scientific Inquirer, January 19th, 2014

Routine was always a mockery in summertime.

She knew this. Hinomoto Akari knew this with the same part of her brain that ticked the balmy days off her mental calendar. Hence why she was lying on her bed in a silent, sticky sweat and watching her fan blades' shadow against the seven-in-the-morning sunrise. Her eyes observed their whipping movements with the barest of attention, without a blink or active twitch of the semi-visible eyelids. Her left arm, in the oddest position brought about by sleep in a long while, twitched. Akari let those fingers twist languidly around a stray strand of red hair near her, sweat sliding from her flesh and drying in the overly-warm air. She breathed a long, loose sigh, smiling droopily in the early morning haze that trapped even the most diligent into procrastination and apathy.

I should get up, thought the prepubescent girl, willing her limbs to twitch into activity. Today was meant to be busy she knew. There were plans for today, fun and excellent plans that after everything were said and done, would be worth the work. Trying to even recall the basics of these, let alone her part in them, in this baking warmth, was dangerous and next to impossible. Each glimmer of an idea sprinkled away like a leaf floating on pond water. The more Akari tried, the tighter her sheets stuck to her skin with sweat, the heat mocking. Unbidden, her consciousness began to dim, almost to the time of evening club lights.

Her eyes shot open fully at the feeling of something rumbling under her spine. The sensation was followed by an excited, high-pitched screech. The sound was distinctly male and giggly, followed by a deeper sound of reproach. Akari groaned miserably, forcing herself to roll onto her right side with a sound similar to ripping off plastic wrap. The pain only registered vaguely, insignificant in comparison to the cracks and pops of bones righting themselves. Damn it Mori… "Stupid Noise… stupid talents more like…" Too early for this crap one of my many little brothers… This was her penance for being born to a family the size of a small apartment. Her head pounded with the grace of God as sunlight burned her eye sockets.

She really hated talents.

Ascensions, her mind corrected without deliberation in her mother's voice. It scratched at the topic, a subconscious AutoCorrect for the brain with a chime that she did not desire full understanding of. The name disregarded, it was for the same thing as it was. It was a difference from human to human, an expansion of something in their abilities, be it magnetism or sensitive hearing or even murder. There was yet to be one for eternal life but Akari suspected divine intervention on that matter. Short and sweet, they were abilities that ranged from awesome to pointless. This was how the public saw no matter what way you swayed it. Rankings, numbers, a burst of statistics, this was all it appeared to be. For their sake, Akari was happy to leave them in the dark, figuratively or otherwise. Awareness never ended well.

-Someone is troubled today.-

The words swayed in her mind without warning, sweet like a bird singing. The redhead jumped and spun, nearly rolling into her bedroom wall with the shock. Her head thankfully missed the wall, leaving her to sigh painfully. "Thanks for that. I really did need the heart attack as an alarm clock." Slowly, the young woman rose up to sit haphazardly on filthy covers. There went her once-in-a-lifetime chance of sleeping in. Looking down at her summer-slick body in her nightgown, she wrinkled her nose and yawned. Sweet god, help me… A ghostly chuckle twirled its way through her head and she rolled her eyes dismissively. "I feel gross. Go away."

-Seek and you shall find, even if it's the wrong answer.- The reply was utterly cheerful and slightly distracted. She could almost smell his toast, or whatever today's concoction from his mother was. The redhead scowled at thin air as the words registered. He would say that; only he had the courage to joke about it. Rolling her eyes, Akari yanked at casual clothing and went to go bang on the bathroom door. It was not the nicest of gestures but living in a male-dominated house tended to corrupt your idea of nice.

"I did not call you," she grumbled irritably, or at least half-irritably. Akari smiled as she did so, chortling over the kitten humming that made her forgive him for his casual romp past mental shielding and impossibly friendly wake-up hours. Slamming the door open, she nearly tripped over a small ball of dark-blue fur lying on the bath mat. "Yuri, march." The pup yawned sleepily and tottered off, shaking cold bathwater onto her bare legs. She hissed. "Go dry off before Mom takes the brush to you." Her little brother skittered away, shifting before her eyes into a naked half-human child. "And GET DRESSED!" She slammed the door behind her, snickering impatiently at the screech of skin on wood.

Underneath this controlled chaos, the reply reached her. It was playful yet petulant in a sweet sort of way, the closest to genuine apology as he would go. -…You always have all the answers. You always are able to find them.- Akari snorted gently, running her fingers down bristled red locks in a desperate attempt to drench them out of the bedhead and summer heat. She glared at her reflection through her bangs, trying to out-do the amber-honey scowl from the puddle before her.

Seeker. He always had to joke about it. He always had to remind her of what she was, of what her damned Ascension was. In a nutshell was that accursed thing; or it was her to be more precise. She wondered what blindness would be like instead. She supposed it would be like him being deaf: unimaginable. She kind of thought it would be infinitely more preferable and about five times less complicated.

Akari sighed, spitting out soapy water by reflex and distorting her reflection. They needed new shampoo. It was coconut. Who in their right mind liked that? "I only happen to have all the answers I don't want," she corrected lightly, wiping her eyes.

-That's why you don't know its seven-thirty right?-

She was silent for a few moments, letting this information sink in. Then, her twelve-year-old eyes darkened and Akari cursed, trying to cut off the gentle laughter that followed this. "Shit." He laughed again and she growled at the air. "You did this on purpose."

-I did not.- His reply was full of affront, yet she could see mirth twinkling in his eyes.

"Bullroar you manipulative little ass!" She shouted this and winced, in part from her curse and also from the echo of her own voice on tile walls. Lowering her voice, she continued. "You have a game today!"

-Two actually.-

She puffed out her cheeks and controlled a very harsh scream. "Tell me these things!" Groaning with dismay, Akari went to finish her shower.

This was routine, a plan she knew almost as well as her parent's names. He would run around freely until he passed out while she would raise him up to do it all over again. They were light and shadow. He was calm where she was passionate, kind where she was honest. He was a dreamer, but she had given up on dreams long before. The opposition brought them closer. However it also led to funny incidents… like today.

She wouldn't trade it for any riches anyone gave.


There was a frantic pounding above her head, causing the woman to sigh and smile, turning the page of her magazine. A child's face swam up on the page and Hinomoto Akane tutted miserably. "'Aonuma heir disappearance…' Don't reporters have better topics than torturing this poor family… honestly now…" The woman shook her head as the pounding of feet slowed to what had to be frantic bouncing on heels by a dresser. "Akari, Akari… you should know better."

On the other side of the table, silverware clanged against porcelain and she smiled at the little boy studiously trying to clean his plate. "It's all right Yuri. You did fine. Go rush your sister yes?" The little boy nodded; tail swishing as he dropped to the floor. A trail of thin, black hairs followed him, leaving the doctor to sigh. "He's shedding… I'll have to make a note to my co-workers…" Being a scientist had its perks, but reporting the Ascension effects in your children was not one of them, no matter what the level.

Pulling herself from the table, the mother went to go get the dustpan, grateful there was a moment of silence above her ears. As she did, rapid footsteps went to greet her. Yuri bounced anxiously in his bare feet, looking up at her with deep blue eyes. "Mama," he said softly when she focused on him, looking nervously up the stairs. "Seeker."

Instantly the red woman sighed and hushed him. "Not again. Go get dressed now. I'll take care of her." He complied without delay, scurrying off to his room. She shook her head tiredly, gently reaching into her white labcoat for a small case. Once again, you are overthinking this…

Akane went placidly up the stairs and now heard the quiet sounds of rustling fabric and disobedient zippers yanked through the teeth. Reaching the doorway, she paused at the open mouth, watching the movements with the patience that only befitted a scientist, a pediatric examiner. Despite the fact that this was her daughter, this process was also very valuable information. She examined the surroundings, the slightly sweating room and in her ears the faint tinkling of an old tune from a half-dead radio. The air whispered instead.

"Seeker… Seek and find…" Blankly it whispered into her ears, trying to pull her in. Akane disregarded it, blowing it away as you would a ring of smoke.

Her daughter sighed softly through her hair, eyes mechanically focusing on the task at hand. She pulled the heart shirt over her ears, unaware of the brown stare on her back. "Seek it out," the young girl murmured, continuing ceaselessly onward. Again, her mother shook her head. Oh the irony… I, a mere Iota Illumi, knowing the dangers of an Alpha Nox… survival of the fittest indeed. That was the trouble with Ascensions, she believed, they could pose anything from no threat, an Iota Illumi, to the equivalent of a nuclear meltdown, if left unchecked. Unfortunately, her daughter had potential to be just that, Alpha Nox, First Black.

That didn't mean lose her head of course. She was trained for this. Without a word, she opened the case and removed a syringe. It was best to be safe than sorry. Stepping over, she bowed her head as she entered the room. Akane approached her daughter and gently placed a hand on your shoulder. "Sweetie," she murmured soothingly. "You need to relax." As her hand reached for her daughter's left arm, the fingers curled around her own wrist. The air shifted soothingly, wrapping warmly around the pair for a few moments. Slowly, Akane released her daughter's arm, stepping away. "Be careful Taiki."

Whether he heard her or not, she was uncertain. However, instincts made her return to the edge of her daughter's space. If anyone could calm the wrath of a "blackout", it was certainly another Alpha Nox, especially one of this power. Akane had personal testimony to this. So she watched, envisioning the events in her mind.

The walls… they were likely the mediocre blending of white and blue pastel, blurring and dripping into darkness. There was only a pinprick of light in the distance, a destination a goal. It was the most literal tunnel vision every imagined, complete with the sound of gears shifting and only her own footsteps to remind her of where she was going. That was the description that haunted her little girl. The clear starless night and the arrival of the approaching train on her tracks… And she would move forward, endlessly forward, until the light engulfed her, body and mind, and she found her answer.

That could be moments. That could be months. For Seeker, time was meaningless.

What would come next would be a soft rumble. It was almost like purring, a pleased, lonely sort of purring. There would be clouds, the gentle ominous thunderheads that warned of sorrow. Then someone would hum; an old tune your mother used to rock you to sleep. Over this, he would plea, likely in these exact words. -Akari. It's all right Akari. Wake up.-

Akane watched her daughter's expression twist slowly, blankness rising into slow irritation. "You're going to be late Akari dear," she commented over the goings-on, like a rude person in a movie theater. The expression twisted again and the woman laughed outwardly. Inwardly, she made a mental tick. This was only a mild circumstance… for now. "Such a trouble of Alpha Nox," the woman murmured aloud. "You are so improbably difficult and utterly complicated."

"… I love you too Mom." Akari was blinking slowly, growling at thin airs she went back to her haphazard attempt at getting out the door. "Damn idiot… was his fault anyway… late…" Her indecipherable mumbling made the woman laugh, made the tension ease. If there was anything that made her daughter's skin crawl: it was being helpless or being late. The injustice grinded against her very bones. "Come on Mum move. I'm takin' too long. He's gonna pass out." She crossed her arms and huffed, tapping a blue-socked foot against the carpeting. Her mother gave her a hesitant look, and she sighed. "Mama I'm fine."

"Prove it dearie," was the woman's firm reply. "I have to be sure."

Akari scoffed and snarled all in one gesture, reluctantly lifting her eyes to lock gazes with the woman. Ascension level, the only stigma since race and religion to remain timeless. Alpha Nox, Blackouts, whatever they were called, the name haunted her more than any torture she gave herself. As her mother looked at her, through her, she held back the urge to quail and cower. Hawk's Eye, gods curse it that was her way and if genetics didn't play a part in Ascension she would kick someone in the stomach. There was never any accusation in that look no matter how many times it pressed inward toward her soul, but that didn't make it any less frightened. Because no one could let it go. No one could let anything go.

Slowly, the gaze left hers and her mother stepped back, leaving her to bolt down the stairs to where her back was resting on the coat rack. "Where's the green bottle?" Akari shouted as she ran, nearly sliding on the wood floor.

"The refrigerator," her mother replied, going to knock on Yuri's door. "You'd better hurry if you want to go with her." The little boy obediently trotted out the door and went down the stairs. "Make sure to thank him."

"I'm preventing him from getting a concussion!" Akari replied cheekily, forcing her feet into her shoes. She couldn't stay angry at any of them. It was too teenager. Besides, it was counterproductive to hate a doctor for doing their job properly. Not even the head of Ascension Investigations could break protocol for sentimentality.

"He's still a good boy," Akane hummed. "He's a misguided but good boy." The redhead laughed as she yanked a piece of cold toast from the plate. "Take care of your little brother," she commanded the middle child as she grabbed the nostalgic pink bag and run.

"If he can keep up with me!" was the sharp but playful retort. "I'm off!" Without waiting for the customary reply, Akari ran out the door, not looking back to even see her little brother's dark hair in the wind.

"Someone took a slow start," teased the deep tenor from a car.

"Go to work Dad," she yelled over the sound of the motor, laughing.

The incident was already forgotten, just another mishap in a day of mishaps and wild adventures. She would thank Taiki later of course. They always did take care of each other after all.

Basketball was not a complicated sport. It was team-oriented, but certainly not a big debacle. Unless of course, you were watching. Then it was simply needlessly complicated. If you were playing, all you had was the field around you and the ball occasionally hitting your hand. Everything else was second-best info. To any normal player, this was how things went.

To Kudo Taiki, thirteen-year-old prodigy of sound, the background was the best information he could find. The squeaks of the shoes warned him of surrounding people, the ball near his fingers warned him of where to move, the crowd warned of things he could not see. The environment was everything and only a true master of the environment could play remotely to their best. Though that rang true for all.

When it came to the dreams of others, he would give nothing if not his best.

This was of course, he knew as he dodged to the right, why Akari got upset with him. She simply didn't see the value of doing such a thing. He liked that about her, honestly. I'll make it up to her this afternoon. There are no plans then. Unless someone hit the street in front of him, he would happily give her his day. He just couldn't stop helping people though. It was in his nature. He mused that it would likely bite him in the butt. However, that moment could not be now.

Taiki glanced over brown fringe to see his teammate Shizuo waving frantically over a blue jerseyed punk, as his mother put it. He shook his head with a friendly grin, spinning in a sparkle of a twist onto his back foot. "Come on now," he challenged. "Come and snatch it…"

"Go for it Taiki!" he heard over the din. Taiki laughed. Late to the party but early to the fighting. That was his girl. Akari slumped by the bench, panting with her brother at her side. Yuri glanced at him and smiled weakly, nodding at him.

Taiki nodded back as he spun. Oof, was he going to be dizzy in a minute. "Come on, here now… not! Shizuo!" He stopped abruptly and threw the orange sphere over his head, allowing Shizuo to cradle it for a grand total of multiple milliseconds.

"Thanks Taiki!" barked the blond, diving back into the fray. The brunette saluted with one hand and dogged his steps.

"I'll cover you! Make the shot!" He haphazardly twisted from lunging hands and unintentional fists to cover at his back. As he did, Taiki heard the drumbeats. They burst and thrummed, dancing and laughing with a delight only he could hear. His sound… Taiki realized without a noise. All around him, lives danced in and out of each other, melding and merging into a cadence whirlpool. Shizuo's in particular picked up tempo, striking on the adrenaline rush that specialized in endgame force. Taiki felt his fingers twitch, itching to conduct and play… to act…

His grey gaze caught sight of Akari at that moment, saw the honey eyes glimmer with lingering effects from only twenty minutes ago. Once was enough, he told himself. No one else needed to play in the traffic today. Besides, he reflected gently. I'm not yet. I would just cause her pain. We have a game to win… for now. The announcer gave the seconds' warning and he called brightly. "Shoot Shizuo!" As he spoke, he shut his mouth abruptly as a stray teen limb struck him in the head, knocking him off balance. Ow… he had time to process, as he fell back. The ball struck and pierced net, making him grin weakly. "Game… over…" he remarked dazedly over the sound of the buzzer. Taiki tried to move and catch himself but his body didn't respond properly and instead he fell backwards. Oops… he giggled meekly as his eyes slipped shut.

Akari cursed tiredly. "Stay Yuri!" Screw people in the way! She jumped to her feet and practically flew across the gymnasium, knocking wayward testosterone to the side. Without hesitation, she dove, barely letting the fragile cranium meet the cotton pillow in her bag. People just stared as she sighed in relief. "Idiot…" muttered the preteen as she flicked the goggles in his hair, wishing to all that was holy that she could get a day off.

The other team members crowded around her, looking over the unconscious playmate with concern. "Hey, is he okay?" an opponent asked, sweat dripping down his blue jersey as he kneeled over her friend. One actually checked his pulse, making her mentally applaud. Who said good sportsmanship was dead?

Akari waved off the concern, though it was appreciated. "He's fine; just passed out again."

"Again?" repeated the opponent team in chorus, causing the rest of Koto Middle School to shake their heads.

"Yep," was Shizuo's merry, measured reply. He hadn't forgotten the victory and neither had they. However, he was in favor of getting his friend off the gym floor. So he went to yank the young man by his ankles. "He always does this sorta' stuff. If someone needs him, he'll do it." Shizuo chuckled. "Taiki's a funny guy like that." One of the opponents, still puzzled, went to help him carry the unconscious teen onto the nearest bench. Akari trotted after them, looking woefully unconcerned by the situation. Unless his blood pressure abruptly spiked, she tended not to pitch a fit after all was said and done.

Once her friend was properly settled, the redhead proceeded to shoo everyone away. "I'll take it from here. Thanks for panicking." They all shifted nervously like a choppy wave, causing her to groan. "Look, this is my job. Don't worry. Go clean off. You all smell." Various grumbles met this remark but she was obeyed this time. Shizuo remained loyally there, making her pout in false anger. "Go saunter away little Sigma. I'm his manager and I declare he will be fine." Shizuo's ears colored pink at the remark, opening his mouth to reprimand her lack of… well tact. You just didn't call out people's ranks willy-nilly. That was like declaring their sexual orientation to their crush. Naturally, Akari regarded this as simply a ridiculous notion and ignored it.

Before this scolding could be given however, Taiki let out a low-pitched groan. His eyes opened in a slit and he let out a dazed little wheeze. "Akari stop pesterin' him…" the brunette muttered hazily. "Go on Shiz'o, 'll be good in a minute…" This time, the blond was only too happy to comply. The second Taiki was sitting up; he bolted off, shooting Akari a dark glare as he did. Taiki sighed, returning to coherency. "You really need to work on this diplomacy problem."

Akari glared at him before huffing. "Who cares?" She was now officially grumpy again. "Nurses don't have to be nice." She pulled a water bottle from her bag and ungracefully threw it at his head. Taiki yanked it out of the air with a grateful smile and drank, cool liquid dripping down his face by accident. "So… are we done?" She certainly hoped they were.

"With my requests, yes," he replied, wiping his mouth. "This conversation, no. He's leaving Akari. The least you can do is not make him hate you in ten years." Akari scowled at this, turning her irritable look to the ceiling. He sighed kindly. "A-ka-ri."

"…Fine," she groused. "He's such a kid though." It wasn't such a big deal anyway. This was seriously the other reason she sometimes wanted to slap Taiki upside the head. The silliest things mattered to him. And he never got angry or upset, never. She wasn't even going to go into his lack of stress. That was just unhealthy. She continued to brood, not noticing her brother climbing onto the free space of her lap until he was right there. "Yuri!"

Taiki chuckled as the little boy curled up where he was, stubbornly combating his sister's cloudy mood. Akari only huffed, watching the people empty the stands. Indulgent chatter filtered in and out of her ears, muddling into messy snow. It was almost irritating, though in case no one had figured it out, she was very high strung. Taiki always found it rather funny. She made such a big deal out of things. I wonder if I could get her to relax a little… it's a vacation after all.

Softly, Taiki smiled at the air and closed his eyes. For a moment, he simply listened. He listened to what was not precisely a sound or silence. It was musical, but a musical sort of being. That was the only way he could put to words this frightful, entrancing ability. That was the only way people accurately described him, according to teacher reports. Slowly, he laughed a little and exhaled, letting the words reach him. "-Let's open the door to summertime,-" he smiled, peals ringing in each note. "-Because there's someone waiting up ahead.-"

Akari jumped at the sudden music and her brother's ears twitched slowly. Then a blissful sigh left his lips while she herself whipped her head to see his expression. She wanted to tell him off, to slap him and break his little spell. However… he was doing this for her. Always, always he did this for her. It… it was obnoxious. Likely… it was too late too. She was already hearing the pings of jazz piano mixed with guitar. The beauty was already sweeping the world away. Even the harsh sunlight of the season dimmed to a serene sort of gold, smiling at them with love and not strength.

This wasn't happening though. She knew that. She knew… but it might as well have been real. That was what made it so potent, so poisonous. "Nocturne," she whispered softly, reverently. It was dangerous… to let it go on in this crowded place, to let him fall deeper and make the sky darken. And yet…

And yet.

"Nocturne," she repeated in awe, unable to even hear herself over the melodic voices that were joining in, the childlike sing-song of a lonely little girl. Yet Taiki heard her and opened his eyes to appraise her reaction. The grey irises were dim and sparkling, glass instead of organic in the blissful illusion, a smile that was slightly chilled as though after a winter storm. Her brother breathed deeply as though in a deep sleep, the deep REM sleep that only came from the latest part of the night. Through Taiki that night was singing, bringing them to rest on a featureless ocean floor.

She didn't mind. How could she? It was the voice of power, the voice that was louder than the commands. He was the clouds over her blinding sun.

Taiki was her Blackout.


Voices. They were calling her name. They were calling over the dream, a sweet, warm dream. Did she really want to wake up? But one needed her. One needed her awake and alive, but she couldn't quite remember why? It escaped in the night, the answer. All of the answers seemed to do that…. Unless she opened her eyes

"Akari," begged a high-pitched whine, fingers wrapped on one side of her arm. A voice repeated this, its request a wet growl from a deep, menacing muzzle. The final was loud, a bellowing beat from a snare. Urgh, she despised drums. They overpowered rhythm, overpowered song. People simply did not know how to use them properly.

-Akari.-

She coughed, eyes shifting open through a viscous fluid. She regretted this instantly, agony trickling down though her torso like a wild beast was clawing her from the inside. Akari coughed a second time, grasping for breath. Then her lungs calmed, though it wasn't exactly smooth sailing. "Mother of the March..." She groaned. "What truck ran me over?"

"A blue one called Greymon," came the low growl, this time at a distance. Behind her head, the answering creature sat on its haunches, scoffing with disquiet. "Reckless brat… his strength will destroy his kingdom before it can go up…" Sitting up, Akari made the effort to examine her surroundings. It was hard, as she realized quickly that not only did pain swell her gaze closed, but the area was dark. The air was cold and scented with earth and rock, cooling the red on her chest. Akari finally managed to pick him out, that white and orange wolf. She examined his dinged armor and frowned, face paling slowly further at the injuries marring him. New scars, she realized. Because of her, this one would have new war marks, ones that invited more challenges, more troublesome things.

"Thank you…" she uttered quietly at the unspoken implications. He waved a front paw in disregard, almost smiling through his fur. A small hand clamped around her arm and she tensed, only to see Yuri's dark eyes outlined in the pitch. His small face was pinched with a cherubic anxiety and she reached with her other hand. "Let go," she scolded. "I'm still here. See?" He nodded nervously, allowing her to glimpse the tears welling up in those eyes. "Stop with that. I'll be all right." When Yuri didn't let go, she firmly pried her arm from his grip, stern and demanding. "Enough of that."

"Why?" Akari looked to the third, the boy with the kendo stick. He gave her a gaze of admonishment. "You were hit badly and you expect him to be calm?"

"No Zenjirou," she replied acidly. "I expect him to be brave." Yuri flinched, shame burning his face. The brunette in front of her saw this and scowled, resisting the urge to hit her by the looks of things.

"That's your brother," he retorted, not with offense but simply anger. "You got thrown into a tree Akari-kun."

"Well, I bet the tree came out worse," she countered with a roll of the eyes. "We don't have time to be scared, not him and not us." Akari got to her feet gingerly, leaning on a cave wall. "I sure as hell don't have it." She limped slowly toward the mouth of the cave; her ears now clear enough to catch the sounds of mechanized lightning. That was the only way she could accurately put to words the diving energy beams that were now making the earth tremble and the outside sky roar. At the edge of the safety area, the redhead stopped and stared outside.

Once the land had been lush and green, she had seen it herself. Once there had been blue sky and stone buildings. Now, mere days after their arrival, there was merely ruin, ruin of a meadowland whose name she didn't even recall. However, it didn't concern her now because it wasn't Earth… and this battle meant nothing to her. She knew it should, just as her brother's feelings and Zenjirou's ignorance ought to have mattered… but they simply did not. They were blips on her radar of life. Still, she would regret them later. She always did.

"You humans… you are very fragile." The wolf padded up to her, watching the lightning and the attacks reflect off of her eyes. Akari smiled humorlessly. "Does that statement seem funny?"

"It's funny because it's true." She paused. "Is that guy still out there Dorulumon?"

He nodded and snorted. "Yes. He won't give up until he finds his partner. I can't say I blame him for being concerned. As long as that guy keeps this up… no one is safe." The wolf saw her free hand clench tightly into a fist, small, lanky body shaking with suppressed feelings that ground themselves from her teeth. "After your little speech… Don't tell me you're frightened."

Akari whipped around to glare at him, amber to amber. Before she would have been terrified by the casually snarling face, by the amused smirk that was examining her body for just the right place to strike but now… now she knew better. It only made her angry. It only reminded her of what was missing. "Frightened?" She asked him. "I'm only in your world where people blow each other up for a living over a golden bauble! I'm sitting here in a cave as an ego tripped idiot bombs a village after I nearly got vaporized. Yeah, I'm not frightened. Yeah there is nothing to be scared of." Before Dorulumon could interrupt. "No, I'm not scared at all. I'm angry. I want to rip open these idiots' throats with my bare hands. I want to tear your world apart and find what I'm looking for. I want to go home alive so forgive me if I have to take feelings out of the equation!"

As she turned away from him, the Digimon only smiled. "All of these things that are happening now… don't humans do the exact same thing?"

Akari snorted. "I didn't ever say I liked humans much either." She shook her head. "I'm not the social butterfly, the good one. I don't want to be either. I do what I need to do for my own sake." Yet here you are worrying, she added to herself.

Zenjirou stepped toward her. "How cold of you," he observed, her brother silently standing by his knee. His tears were gone, eyes stony. "Why?"

Akari smiled at him. Why was the most foolish questions to ever be formed. "You'll see soon enough. We all will." He scoffed softly and Akari reflected that baiting him like this was hazardous to her health. Supposedly Zenjirou was able to squash her like a gumball. He was nothing to squawk at. This naturally didn't stop her. Nor of course, did the hellish outdoors, which she stepped out into with a shout. "Shoutmon!"

The response was a brutal, joy-filled roar over her head. A small body spun through the air, grinning excited battle lust as he landed at her feet. "Finally awake Sleeping Beauty? Then let's get movin'!" She scoffed, reaching into one of her pockets. At the touch of unfamiliar metal on fingertips, the device grew warm, beginning to burn. Akari hissed sharply and the red dragon groaned, trying and failing to negate an attack and ending up sprawled on the ground. Akari snarled and vainly tried to wrap her fingers around the increasingly burning device. The smell of oily meat rose near her nostrils and the redhead jerked her hand back, seeing blistered fingers steaming in the air.

Grinning with strained distaste, Akari frantically waved the others away. "Get back! You too Shoutmon!" The monster glowered blue eyes at her, standing back up with the assistance of a microphone-shaped bludgeon. "Yes you! We can't do anything if we're dead okay?" As much as I want to go… as much as I want to do something… is this the world's way of shoving me back into a stereotype? Thankfully not privy to her thoughts, the creature followed her in retreating back inside.

"No luck again…" a mechanical voice grunted by way of greeting. Shoutmon nodded slowly, glaring painfully at the air. "That human… is a strong General… he's won… this place." A red arm reached out and gently patted Shoutmon's head. "It will be all right."

"Like hell!" the creature spat, stamping his white foot in frustration. "We were supposed to protect this place… to protect every single Zone! But we can't! Damn it! Damn this!" He took a deep breath and roared to the outside world. "At least let me thank your ass! You saved my damn life! Where are you?" Akari winced at his screams, her blistered hand struggling to stop trembling.

Taiki…

They had fallen here together. But he wasn't here. So… where was he? She wouldn't go back, not without him. She couldn't; it was simply an impossible feat. They were foils; but they were friends first, and she would not give up her first friend that easily.

For a moment, weak notes danced on a fading music line.


Water droplets were his first sound.

He stirred gently, pain registering like the deep thrums of a cello. He almost moved in reply, a reflexive grasp at quelling the sensation. Yet he found himself immobile the instant he dared and reflected against further attempts. This was not the worst pain he had experienced, not even humiliation was the worst, yet he decided against making more of something that there really did not need to be. I wonder… His thoughts murmured lazily. I wonder… where I am… Sound trickled into his ears with the water and he began to make out a soft, measured breathing. It was slightly frantic, as if the other occupant was struggling to contain their mirth.

He stirred, as if to speak, but a sensation halted this, the soothing touch a melody of cold bliss on his skin. Let me, it said simply, as it said many times before. He acquiesced, not putting too much thought into the matter. He never did. As he let go, the tense position he wore loosened and rattled the chains. Chains?

The occupant started, silent for a moment before the mirth broke, laughter in his delighted words. "How wonderful! You've lived! Quite sturdy aren't you… for a human especially." The term was scoffed rather than spoken, nobility in its own twisted way he supposed. "Why don't you open your eyes boy? I will not bite!"

His mouth curved slowly without volition, curving into a cloying smile. "I am frightened I will go blind sir," sang a voice from his lips, tender and warm. Airily it hummed, muffling the grind of metal against metal in his ears. Armor, perhaps? His chin was abruptly lifted, held by large, gloved fingers. Despite the apparent care, the yank sent pain swimming through him, bursting through the dull numbness his wrists and ankles had been experiencing. He almost gasped but the child could not. After all, it was not him at the moment.

"Aren't you foolish," rasped the voice with amusement, heavy breathing puffing heatedly into his face. He received a small laugh in return.

"Perhaps dear friend," he answered softly. "Or perhaps you simply aren't frightening."

The occupant released him. He almost opened his eyes to see the large creature-for that was what it must be, to grip him in that manner- yet it, likely out of pride now, simply did not occur. What happened… he finally asked himself, the question dwindling away in his head after being thought of. The memories of prior to now did not linger in his mind and he could not hope to seek them out.

Over his thoughts, the other spoke, smiling through his annoyance it seemed. "I shall have to change that." He paused, baritone threat humming like a faulty massage chair. When he continued, it was almost to himself, casual thoughts unthinking. "Perhaps this will be more than I anticipated…. He has never made things easy for me." There was another silent pause, leaving him to be addressed moments after. "I suppose you are confused."

"I am chained to a wall dear friend," the child answered. "Naturally, I am quite concerned for my well-being."

This earned a laugh, if nothing else. "Clever." The occupant collected himself gradually, like a child with its toys. "You are my prisoner in my humble abode. You see, you are a very important puzzle piece to someone I know. I don't want him to beat me easily. Unfortunately you were injured in the retrieval. My apologies."

"Your concern is very kind of you," he murmured.

"You're welcome," the noble sniffed. "Now I'm afraid these chains were for your benefit. No need to make your injuries worse after all. Don't fret, more comfortable quarters will be made for you soon. You are a guest and a nobleman must show at least some courtesy."

The speech filtered in and out of his ears and in his silence the other slipped away in contemplation. Then he felt his lips quiver and he smiled himself and asked warmly, "What should I call you then… my savior?"

There was a moment, and endless instant, when he at last felt the eyes on him. They were enraged, pulsing with power and desperation. There was disdain too. Oh yes…. Plenty of that. Then it vanished and like a honey liquor, evened the air in the room once more. Yet he remained still, unwavering. "I am called DarkKnightmon. What are you, little human?"

Taiki smiled. "People have called me a fair few things in my short life… but you can call me Nocturne, if it suits you fine. I certainly enjoy the title." Even as the gesture etched itself onto his face, sweat trickled from his head to the floor. It burned at his cheeks, his likely marred cheeks. Was it so horrible, he wondered, what had happened? Had such a thing happened to the others? If so… there would be a price to pay. And forgiveness of course. Always people would be forgiven?

Stay safe Akari… everyone. I'll be all right.

For his sake, he would have to be fine.