The Shadow Game
Chapter 2: Objects In Motion

NB: Blame the delay of this chapter on me having to finish the D-1 Tamers walkthrough and transcription. Maybe I'll even translate someday. The numbers for the D-1 tamers and their digimon are accurate according to two different game guide books, and all names are taken from those books. The D-1 tamers themselves have little personality beyond a few lines in the games, so they're largely OCs with names tacked on. Sorry about that.

Also, this site screws up my formatting, so the fancy e-mail header formatting in the fic is lost. It and the link at the end can be seen in proper form on AO3.


Naomi had noticed it first: a group of bakumon drifting though groups of Chosen Children and digimon. It alarmed her for reasons she couldn't quite fathom and she ran to their shining one, the one who was supposed to beat Akiyama before they realized that this entire goddamned tournament was a hoax. Genki looked at her in surprise, then at the scene she pointed out. He understood and started corralling the remaining tamers. It was too late for the tamers and digimon lingering too close to the Chosen Children, and later the victims would have no memory of anything transpiring. At first they ran haphazardly, but Rei's PicoDevimon managed to herd them into a more cohesive group. The tomboy and... Kazuya, was it? stood at either side of a monitor that would take them to the outside world. Tsuyoshi nearly barreled into Kazuya in the effort to stop; he'd been running so fast. The others slowed, and someone fumbled with a digivice and someone else typed away at a laptop computer with lightning speed until they managed to force open the digiport. They needed no words, for they had all seen the threat posed by the group of bakumon. Some had even seen a Chosen Child or two collapse under the soporific effect of Nightmare Syndrome. They pushed and shoved, but eventually everyone managed to go through. The last to fall in was Kazuya, who kicked over the computer they arrived through in the real world. They were in some darkened classroom and crowded with both devolved digimon and humans, but at the moment no one cared.

Then there was silence. Rieko's eyes darted around the group as if begging for an explanation she knew that no one had. Several shrugged or shook their heads. Others did a head count; of the thirty tamers and eighty-four digimon that had started with this tournament, excluding the Chosen Children and Akiyama, there were twenty-two tamers and fifty-eight digimon left. It was several moments more before Burr spoke up to break the stifling silence. "Someone died," he muttered, his fists jammed into his pockets and his eyes on no one in particular. "The Holy Beasts must be trying to make sure that that doesn't get out."

"But why?" someone to the back asked.

"Can we really be sure he's dead, though?" Kazuya glanced in the general direction of the speaker. Akiyama's most vocal opponent, she recalled, and sharper than he let on. He and Rei exchanged a glance and he went on. "Maybe he never really defeats Millenniumon for some reason. Why else would Millenniumon come back time and again? Shouldn't the third time be a charm?"

Genki frowned, as did several others. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," Kazuya started, his voice exasperated, "that it's really weird that Millenniumon keeps not dying, and Akiyama's supposed to be the only one to defeat him. Why is that? What, are they partners or something?" Fewer people looked shocked at the suggestion than they should have been, which suggested that Kazuya had been going over these thoughts with several of them before. "If so, then doesn't it make sense that Millenniumon keeps trying to lure in Akiyama in particular? Like when that mountain blew and the Digital World split? And then the Holy Beasts come in, stage this grand production, for what? Training Akiyama? What, he's not stupidly skilled already? And when he bungled up, he was just allowed to try again when the rest of us weren't. So now he and Millenniumon disappear and the Holy Beasts are trying to get rid of the evidence. I just don't think they're completely gone."

"So what do we do?"

Kazuya's eyes lit up, and he smirked in anticipation of… something Naomi couldn't pin. "Keep in touch. Train. Wait for the day Akiyama and Millenniumon return."

.*.

For all that Osamu had been prepared for Ryo to leave, due largely to the Akiyamas going wherever a decent job was, he never expected it to happen so... permanently. He never had cause to believe in this notion of a Digital World until Ryo disappeared. Ken said he had to be alive, but the reality was that Ryo hadn't been in class. When he called the Akiyama residence, Ryo's father mumbled something about Ryo being indisposed and hung up. He didn't mind it so much the first day, but by Wednesday he keenly felt the absence. There was no one he trusted enough to exchange lunch boxes with, he didn't feel eyes on the back of his neck, and he had nothing to discuss with the kids who saw Ryo's absence as an opportunity to move in to fill the niche. At first he had carried on like he had before Ryo sauntered into his life with that easy grin of his, but now he was constantly distracted and actually missed a point in a class quiz.

Friday morning came along and he booted up his computer to check his mail purely out of reflex. For the past few months, he would be expecting something from Ryo about either their weekend plans or some stupid thing he found online that he thought Osamu might get a chuckle out of, but now… Osamu left the computer to boot up and resumed getting dressed for school. Halfway through buttoning up his shirt, however, he heard the ping of a new e-mail in his in-box. Curious, because he seldom gave his private e-mail account to anyone but Ryo and a few of his favorite teachers, he sat to read it.

from: 1k
to: augustus_caesar
date: Friday, March 24, 2000 at 00:00:00 AM
subject: Regarding something lost

Mr. Ichijouji;
It approached me that you may be interested in the whereabouts of a friend of yours. As his current location is of the utmost secrecy, I recommend that we meet with his parents to discuss his situation. Should you be amenable to the meeting, be there at eight in the evening. You must be prepared to lie to everyone to maintain his secret.

There was no signature, the language was so formal that he couldn't recognize the sender by word choice alone, and the domain IP of the sender was his own router. Given that the e-mail apparently came from his computer, running a traceroute to find the culprit would have been useless. He closed the window and shut down his computer. He had the entire day to figure out how it was done, after all.

An eight o' clock meeting he might be able to swing, barely, if he convinced his parents that he would be in the library. As for Ken, well... Ken had been getting increasingly standoffish with every day that he recovered from his mysterious illness and would likely appreciate the distance. If Osamu had been paying better attention, he might have considered Ken's attitude disturbing. As it was, though, it seemed to him that Ken was just in a mood and unable to deal with his grief. Better to let Ken figure out how to deal with it on his own than to push him more than he had to. With that decided he grabbed his bag and went to the kitchen for breakfast.

The day went by much too slowly for Osamu's tastes, his mind more preoccupied by the chance to find out what happened to Ryo and how someone managed to send him an e-mail from his own computer than by his classes. He'd already done all the reading he needed to a week ahead of time, and he dismissed the missed point in a test as inconsequential. He had his lunch alone; thankful for the hundredth time that he managed to talk the chemistry teacher into letting him in to focus on his work. Before he knew it, his eyes had fallen on the door to the storage closet and his stomach felt like it was full of lead.

Ever since he'd convinced himself to finally kiss Ryo and figure out his real feelings about whatever it was they had, he'd been avoiding the issue. They were kids. It was just a silly crush brought on by the fact that Ryo had ignored his self-imposed isolation and the pedestal people set him upon, and proved to be bright enough and different enough to be interesting. It couldn't be anything more. Unfortunately, he couldn't seem to convince himself that it was as pointless as he'd like. At least he could package up his conflicting emotions and forget them now that Ryo was gone. It was easier to focus on his work that way. The hollow feeling in his chest had to go away some time.

The rest of the day continued as any other day did, and at times he wished that he was allowed to skip grades like students in other countries did. But no, in this highly conformist society, both slow and gifted students had to stay within their year. He spent most of his time completing the day's homework or flipping through his textbooks for some excuse to give his parents for his upcoming absence. As chemistry came fairly easily to him, he made a note to himself to pick up a more advanced book at the library before heading to the Akiyama residence. By the time art class came around, he had his plan in place and excused himself from class under the pretense of going to the restroom.

There was a pea green payphone near the front of the school that he used to call home. At this hour, his mother was probably home by now. The phone rang twice before she picked it up.

"Mother," he began in what he secretly thought as his cajole-the-adults voice, "I need to peruse the city library this evening and acquire sufficient material that I hope would elucidate on some points regarding organic chemistry that my textbook has referred to only in the most oblique of terms. May I?"

He could imagine her smiling adoringly like she always did when he used vocabulary that children his age usually didn't. It was irritating at times, because all he ever really did was look up anything he didn't understand and read until he felt he fully understood the subject, but he had long since given up protesting the misplaced adoration. "Of course, dear." Her voice was sweet to the point of cloying, and he was glad that there was no one in the hall to see him rub the skin under the nose pads of his glasses. "Will you be taking Ken with you?"

Osamu tried not to sigh into the phone. With Ken acting the way he had been over the entire week, he felt uncomfortable with the thought of infringing more on his little brother's personal space than he had to. The more resentful Ken grew of him, the more he wanted to smack his brother upside the head for being completely ridiculous. Why his brother didn't understand that he was concerned about this Digital World, especially after Ryo's disappearance, he had no idea. Maybe he should throw out the cursed device, it would be better if the temptation wasn't there for Ken. "I think he'd prefer to go home on his own."

"All right. Please let him know I'll pick him up instead," his mother said, her voice tinged with worry. When even his parents noticed Ken's moods, he was sure things had gotten too far. It was time to start planning for the eventual confrontation. "Would you like your father to take you?"

This time he did sigh closer to the receiver than he liked. His extremely close call had left him with a significant amount of anxiety about motor vehicles, which hadn't been helped by the fact that he kept replaying the scene in his head ever time he laid awake in bed. "I'll be fine."

He expected her to croon over him again, but she simply reminded him to be careful. The conversation wound down until he had to remind her that he was at school, after which he finally managed to get her to hang up. At least with Ryo, he didn't feel the need for filler words and small talk.

The rest of the day went by with little variation. He managed to get a hold of Ken between his final two classes, and Ken tried not to look too pleased at the change of plans. It annoyed him, but what could he do? He knew that he was no real substitute for their parents' attention, but at least he tried to give Ken what their parents didn't. If his little brother would prefer that their mother picked him up from school instead, then so be it. He could use the time more constructively, anyway.

It didn't take long to swing by the public library, or to flip through books until he found a couple that weren't obfuscated by the unnecessary verbiage of early 20th century academia. He spent much longer on literature that was supposed to be out of his age range, mostly due to keeping an eye out for anyone who might be looking. Then he realized that it would look suspicious if he stayed in this part of the stacks and made his way to the check-out desk and out the library. He could figure out that part of himself later. Hopefully years later.

Save for the clenching of anxiety in his chest and shortness of breath that was starting to become a regular reaction to motor vehicles, the bus ride to the current Akiyama apartment was uneventful. He was just early enough that he didn't feel the need to rush up, and took a moment to breathe. This panic reaction had to go away sometime.

A well-dressed man walked up to him with steps entirely too measured to be quite human. The copper-rimmed glasses drew attention to intense brown eyes that appeared almost red; if Osamu hadn't already figured out that the man wasn't human, he might have passed this off as a trick his own eyes were playing on him. The face was almost hawkish, and much too uniform to be natural. The dark hair, too, looked a little too tamed to be real. Osamu, naturally, was fascinated. Then the man's face turned thoughtful in much the same way a computer might mimic the process of creating an expression.

"I can see where he got some of his proclivities," the man stated, apparently trying to figure him out as well. "I'd wondered where the glasses complex came from."

Osamu tried not to frown; as much as he hated feeling lost, he hated revealing his lack of critical information more. Instead he opted to substitute his first query with an observation. "You're not human."

But for the slightest rise of eyebrows in surprise, the man's face remained still. "Very observant. This is but a partial shell, a projection with a rough physical framework. A proper body would be much more responsive to stimuli and would require the use of an autonomic nervous system in addition to a central processing unit."

"You're an artificial intelligence, then."

The man gave a brusque, acknowledging nod. "Yes. I was a digimon, once. You know me as Azaziel."

Ah. Osamu managed not to react much to the revelation. He hadn't told Ryo about the other details in the man's choice of pseudonyms, or of his theories as to who would take on such a name. They were best left to himself. "You know where he is."

"In a time and place far beyond your reach." At this, Osamu tried not to grimace. He was starting to hate his lack of access to anywhere interesting. "How well do you do in streamlining difficult concepts for laymen?"

"Well enough. I tutor some classmates at times." Mostly at his parents' behest. If left to his own devices, he'd rather spend his time reading.

"Good. You will translate for me when we approach the Akiyamas and tell them why their son is no longer in this reality. How is your grasp of superstring theory?"

Osamu tried to talk himself out of feeling ignorant. The problem with some higher levels of science was that he lacked the tools to learn them, and the school system's insistence on keeping all students within their age groups hampered his access to classes in which he could gain those tools. "Not as strong as I would like."

The shell's face didn't express frustration, but a bit of it lingered in his voice. "Very well. I will be brief. A quirk of the Digital World allows time travel to those who have the ability to manipulate time within its physical framework. Ryo and I were flung to opposite ends of the Digital World's history; this happened only last week for you, but it's been a thousand years for me. Therefore, we assume that time travel is only allowed within the frame of the ENIAC's awakening to the end of the Digital World. Ryo went back to 1953, my younger self to 2004. When our final battle was over and I was ensnared in a Jogress with Monodramon, Ryo had to go to another universe because this timeline would be unstable from the time of our departure from it to my own fall. Once time was stable again, he chose to remain in the other universe. His repression of trauma visited upon him by his experiences as a child soldier ended up blowing up in his face upon adulthood. He entered a downward spiral that would kill both of us sooner or later. In the interest of repairing the damage, I chose to go back and, ah, adjust an element in his past. So far the timelines are mostly in sync. However, he now has incentive to return."

"Brief" indeed. Not that so much information could be condensed even more, he supposed. "But why tell his parents any of this? Or me?"

"I need to convince his father to come with me. His mother was born during the time the ENIAC functioned in the real world, so there is a chance of damaging the timeline even more if I send her through the Digital World before going to the other universe. Less of a chance of that with his father. You are involved to help facilitate that."

Osamu considered this carefully, then filed it all away for later introspection. Preferably when he better understood theoretical physics. As it was, too little of this made sense and it bothered him. "May I ask what it was about his past that you changed?"

There was a quick flash of white teeth; the former digimon seemed amused. "You may ask, but I would rather keep that to myself for the time being. Eventually you might even figure it out."

Osamu blinked and his stomach dropped as realization hit... like a... "... Truck."

"Aren't you the clever one," Azaziel said with a bald-faced grin, and gave him no time to respond. "Shall we go?"

Osamu closed his eyes and tried not to think about it, focusing instead on taking deep breaths and on a puzzle he found at the back of his math textbook to stave off any emotional reaction before it started. It helped, a little, and he nodded.

The amusement seemed to disappear, and the shell watched him for a moment with an expression that Osamu could only identify as mildly speculative. "Do you want to talk about it instead? I am in no hurry."

"No," Osamu responded, clutching his bag's straps so tightly that his knuckles had gone white. Another stabilizing breath and his voice evened out. "I'll manage."

"If you do need to talk," Azaziel offered, the words coming out slightly quicker than his usual cadence, "send an e-mail."

Though he tried not to think of what was unspoken, Osamu couldn't help but feel a little worse. It was probably something that might throw his recent experience in his face, surely. He nodded and led the way to the Akiyama apartment. The shock soon subsided, replaced by a low-burning anxiety that ate at the lining of his stomach. He was so tired of living like this, with anxiety quashing all desire to do anything but angst.

Meeting with the Akiyamas, the mother in particular, brought on another set of problems. The last sleepover he had with Ryo ended up with him urging Ryo onto the bed, because surely it'd be more comfortable than a sleeping bag on the floor. He had set an alarm on his watch just so he could crawl into the sleeping bag before the rest of the apartment woke up in the morning, but either he'd slept right through it or had been too tired to verify the time set. Consequently, he woke up when Mrs. Akiyama came to wake them up for class and he'd been absolutely mortified. Not that they did anything more than talk late into the night, but he still felt ridiculously guilty for being caught. Ryo had brushed it off, of course, but his parents didn't have the same expectations that Osamu's did. It hadn't help at all that Ryo's mother didn't say anything about it afterwards, or that she'd been giving him long, considering looks over breakfast.

It had been a week since then, and the embarrassment returned as if it had never left. Azaziel introduced himself as Miroslav Nikanovich Sanin, which got a sharp look from Mrs. Akiyama, and began. He focused on relaying Azaziel's explanation of what happened to their son, though the addition of a secret government organization called Hypnos that he claimed to work for had been a surprise. Mrs. Akiyama's eyes narrowed in suspicion at the mention of a shadow organization, but she said nothing. Ryo's father simply nodded along, though Osamu suspected that he understood more than he was letting on. The cover story was simply that Hypnos had been experimenting with access to another universe, which Azaziel had padded out with so much technobabble that Osamu was hard pressed to keep up the translation, and Ryo had gotten caught up in it. Ryo couldn't return until after 2004 due to the instabilities in the software used, which would take that long to reprogram and repair. They could, however, send one of his parents along to watch over him until it was safe for them to return.

And the ball was squarely in their court.

The Akiyamas glanced at each other for several long, silent moments, though Osamu suspected that there was some sort of communication between them. Finally, Mr. Akiyama sighed and crossed his arms, and his wife spoke for him. "I am much too old to be traipsing around somewhere alien. Toshio will go with you. Do you need him to go now, or might we have a night to get our affairs in order?"

Azaziel gave them a considering look, then nodded. "I will return by this time tomorrow." He then gave a slight bow that was not nearly as formal as it should have been for the enormity of his request, then turned and seemed to disappear into the stairwell. Osamu was prepared to leave, except—

"Why don't you come inside," Mrs. Akiyama said in a tone that brooked no argument. He stopped and turned back, and Mr. Akiyama already had the door open for the retreat. Osamu supposed he couldn't blame the man; he didn't want to speak to anyone half the time, either.

He followed them inside and the anxiety returned. Mrs. Akiyama's piles of books and papers hadn't changed much beyond some repositioning on the desk she worked at, and the only real change to the corner where Mr. Akiyama kept his instruments was that the upright bass was out of its case and propped up on its stand. Everything else was as it had been last week: a battered couch in front of a television that had seen better days, Ryo's game systems in the entertainment center's niches, pictures of foreign countries that Osamu could only vaguely identify. It was lived in in a way that his mother wouldn't tolerate, given how orderly she liked to keep things.

Then they turned to face him. Mr. Akiyama looked contemplative, his wife suspicious. "What is the real story," Mrs. Akiyama asked quietly, though there was an underlying sharpness in the clipped words that made it not so much a question as it was an order. Osamu suspected that she'd breathe fire if she could.

"What makes you think—"

The speed at which he was cut off was astounding, in retrospect. "'Sanin', really? I am expected to accept such an obviously fake name?"

Osamu blinked, surprised. That was what she chose to focus on? "I hardly think—"

"And this story about another universe?" Mr. Akiyama spoke up, cool and calm and contrasting sharply against his wife's temper. "Our technology isn't nearly so advanced. We're still at the level of theories and smashing particles together."

Osamu's eyes darted between both of them, and he knew why Azaziel had chosen to tell his lies. It was so that Ryo's parents would be more amenable to Osamu's understanding of things. So, he began with his outline of his theories of the existence of the Digital World, bringing up Ryo's abrupt personality change on New Year's Eve as supporting evidence, and dove into a rough approximation of Ryo's history in the Digital World up to his disappearance. Interspersed with this was mention of his brother's presence during several events, and he hoped it helped reinforce the idea that he had a vested interested in Ryo's welfare as well. By the end of it, after he answered all the questions he could, he was exhausted. Mr. Akiyama's eyes practically lit up at the verification of several theories, and he scribbled on a notepad as Osamu explained. Looking at it afterwards gave him a headache, for the math used was so beyond him that Osamu could barely make heads or tails of it. Mrs. Akiyama gave him some chamomile tea and sandwiches while her husband asked his questions.

Finally, things wound down and the Akiyamas seemed to be mostly satisfied. Osamu readily accepted a ride home, which didn't make him as anxious as riding something bigger than a small sedan. Given that Mr. Akiyama had to prepare for the morrow, his wife drove instead.

"Why focus on the name?" he finally managed to ask. He was curious, especially since there seemed to be something he missed.

Mrs. Akiyama didn't look away from the road as she explained. "'Sanin' is the name of the main character of Torrents of Spring, and of the novel Sanin. It's also a pseudonym for an anti-Soviet activist back during the Great Patriotic War, and the name of a reknown explorer. As Russian surnames go, it's not terribly common, but that in conjunction with mention of a secret government project set off my suspicions." She glanced at him and smirked. "I grew up during the Cold War, conspiracies were the status quo."

Osamu nodded; it made more sense now that he knew where she was coming from. Then he thought more on the subject. He missed Ryo, but Mrs. Akiyama would be losing her husband as well as her son, and it didn't seem fair to let her deal with the loss alone. "Will you be okay?"

Her lips drew tight, though she tried to smile at him in reassurance. "It will be difficult, but us Zakharovs are survivors. I'll manage. How about you?"

"Me? Um, well." Surprised as he was, it took him a moment to gather his wits. "I'll deal with it. Sorry for last week."

To his surprise, she laughed lightly. "I saw nothing you should be ashamed of. Do not worry about it. Is this your building?"

He nodded, and they were silent as she drove into the visitors' parking area. He got out with a quick thanks, and with an impulsiveness that surprised him, he leaned in and asked. "Say, might I visit sometime? I'd like to learn more about Russia, and our history books generally only offer one perspective."

The smile she gave him was warm, sincere. "You don't need an excuse to visit. I'd appreciate the company. Make sure you ask your mother, first."

"All right. I'll call."

The elevator trip gave him just enough time to cobble up a good story. By the time he made it to his apartment, everything was in order and he was sure he'd be able to answer any questions easily. His mother greeted him with a worried smile, which he responded to with an awkward smile of his own and pushed on to his room to dump his bag. Ken's bedroom door was closed, which he paid no mind to, and he set his bag aside to dig into the top drawer of his desk. He'd just lob the blasted digivice off the top story's landing and gravity would do the rest.

And the blasted thing wasn't there. Osamu frowned, rearranged the things in his desk just to make sure, and stormed off to Ken's room. He raised his fist to bang on the door, then paused. He remembered the sting of the slap on his palm and the betrayal on Ken's face, and swore to himself. It had been a moment of weakness, because Ken was always getting into his things, but still inexcusable. He still had yet to apologize, largely because he was unused to doing so. With a sigh, he lowered his hand and went to talk to his parents. Ken could always be dealt with later.

.*.

He remembered waking up submerged in a cultivation tank that was not quite of his own devising. It was years after the D-Reaper war and two years after his own war to reclaim his partner when the boy was eighteen. That one actually ended in casualties, and at the end his own connection with Ryo conquered him. The ENIAC had gone and tampered with his technology afterwards to seal him up in a human body, which didn't make him quite as irate as it would have decades ago. After several tries at it, for clones were always weakest just out of the tank, he hauled himself out of it and took the towel Monodramon offered. Once he hated the little stammering pest, but the Jogress union served to stabilize him in a way he never expected. Monodramon said something, patted his arm, and he wandered off to get dressed.

Then he and Ryo fought, though he mostly just let Ryo at it just to clear the air a little. By the end of it, Ryo was straddling him and he might have been turned on if it wasn't for the throbbing bump at the back of his head. The growing bruises might have contributed, too. Ryo asked why he wasn't fighting back, and he responded simply that Ryo needed release. Then, damn him, he actually started flirting with his partner. He thought it inappropriate in retrospect, but it finally broke the tension between them. It got Ryo to finally talk to him.

"Why couldn't you be like any normal digimon," Ryo asked quietly, once they were both cleaned up. "There wouldn't be this weird stuff between us."

He tried not to laugh, though he was sure the amusement was in his voice. "We are not, and have never been, 'normal.' Besides, it was always so much fun to play with you when you came so willingly."

Ryo flustered, but chose to ignore the subtext for the moment in favor of a change in topic. "I never did ask, how weird was Matrix evolution for you?"

Oh. Oh ho ho, it was a perfect opening. "Was it as good for you as it was for me," he asked with an almost impish grin. Ryo fought down the heat rising in his face. He spared his partner the embarrassment of responding. "An intriguing experience, but I would rather we remain in our own bodies. I prefer unions of a different kind."

At this point, Ryo really did go red, and he was thankful that at this point, his partner was legal. "Well, uh, there was something else I wanted to bring up, too."

That brought him up short. He didn't dare hope for anything, not with the extent of their history. "Do go on."

Ryo spoke carefully, as if he was still thinking the whole thing over and considering it a bad idea. "We're stuck together. Everyone knows what you want, either by rumor or by observation. I can't seem to stick to a relationship and your flirting... well. I'm going to offer you something, but you can't abuse it. Ever. If I feel threatened, it's off."

His world ground to a halt. Surely Ryo didn't mean... Did he? "Do not toy with me," he growled.

"I'm not. It's just... I'm tired and have no prospects anymore." Ryo sighed and scrubbed his face with a hand, and damned if Millenniumon wasn't going to take advantage of the proposal. "We can... you know, but don't expect me to feel the same for you." Then Ryo paused, as if to appeal to his taste for dramatics, then: "But this time, you're going to have to come after me."

With that, Ryo walked out the room. Millenniumon remembered watching and wondering whether the offer was genuine.

He blinked the blurring away from his vision, unsure of where the memory had come from. Digimon and humans responded differently to the Dark Ocean, but never had he heard of it bringing up memories quite like that. Ryo's memories he had stashed away with the ancient pillars of the Digital World that few knew of, and he was confident that they'd be safe until he went back for them. But now he had loose ends to tie off and awaited Dagomon on the shore. While he never trusted any of the various powers attempting to take over the Digital World, Dagomon had his own realm and was less likely to get involved with whichever evil digimon was on the rise to power at the moment. With his own lairs gone to rubble and shards, Millenniumon had few other options.

With a body, the damp, chill, rotting air might have smothered him and stuck to the back of the throat. The grey sands of Innsmouth would have sucked at his feet and made traversing it difficult. He was not without appreciation for the effect it had on others, but now he had other things to think about.

Dagomon came shortly and was as much a shadow as Millenniumon was at the moment, and he was glad for both their lack of bodies. Aquatic digimon tended to reek. "Lord Millenniumon? I thought—"

"That I was gone? For the most part, I am. I would rather you kept my presence to yourself."

The eldritch horror dipped his head in acknowledgement. "How may I serve, my lord?"

Every bit of this kowtowing was an artifice, but Millenniumon could hardly bring himself to care. Evil digimon usually scraped and bowed and kissed the hems of more powerful evils so long as it suited them, after all. "Simply keep an eye on something for me. A little thing, hardly worth mention. Keep it from others until I return for it and I shall reward you. Will you consider this favor?"

"Of course. What is it?"

He had it appear between them, a bluish-white orb stretched out from a circular base by what looked like tree branches, with a swirling maroon vortex stamped on the top. The associated crest he had hidden elsewhere, but the Digimental of Darkness was powerful enough without it. "An artifact, nothing more."

A hangyomon scurried forth to take it for Dagomon, who gave a slight bow. "It shall be here when you need it."

Far be it for him to trust Dagomon, but it was better to have the remaining digimentals hidden away than to leave them out for children to stumble upon. They might even be useful at some point.


Note 1: Okay, Sanin is sort of a really really insular reference. In Salva Nos, San'in is the name of Mimi's son by Ryo. It was a complicated situation. Years after I named the boy, I found references to main characters in two examples of Russian literature named Sanin, which Mrs. Akiyama lists above. So basically, Mille's either naming himself after Ryo's son in an alternative timeline or a few Russian people/characters. Only he would be in on the joke.

Note 2: Wasn't sure if I should bring in flashbacks or not, because I know some people hate that. This flashback exists in an earlier form on DW. There's a link on the AO3 version of this chapter.

Note 3: Digimental of Darkness exists in Tag Tamers and the card game, and the description comes from the cards. The crest image itself comes from a set of crest images on some of the WS cards — as all the other crest images were accounted for (e.g. Courage, Friendship), I'm running on the assumption that Darkness is the one that I couldn't identify.