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a comet's tail

Chapter Text

Light was rare beyond the aurora of the Rose Morning Star. The eternal night was preferred in these recent centuries, leaving plants to crumble and earth to decay. Only the hardiest and gentlest creatures survived here. It was only fitting.

In the only place of light a woman remained trapped in a cage, confined in a cold starkness that followed logic and pain, the wisdom of being an elder. Or a kind of it. Behind her visor, the angel opened her eyes and looked towards the solitary window to allow darkness to enter this room. She knew better than to try anything here. He would feel it, in his experiments. Her mouth etched into a sorrowful frown. How could he have fallen so far, so quickly? Perhaps… perhaps she could save him, heal him. The three of them were meant to be friends, were they not? They were meant to be bonded beyond breaking, to support God's will.

What did that say about God's will, if they fractured like this… no. No. She shook her head. They could get through this, they could stop these plans.

… But what if they couldn't?

She looked out that solitary window and before her eyes, something streaked over the night sky. Ah… the stars were falling. Yet her eyes caught sight of one, one streaking slowly, growing no closer, as if merely observing.

The idea came to her then, and the room glittered with the intensity of it. She set to work.

"I'm home for break, I told you, I can't come over right now."

Yutaka managed to turn to the side to dodge his brother's rapid footsteps, rolling his eyes as he did so. "Could have hit me, you know," he said as he covered the mouthpiece of the phone. His brother, shorter than he thought most people at the age of nine, merely glared at him. The glare would have been effective if his eyes weren't wobbling with tears. Yutaka merely lifted a single eyebrow, silently encouraging him to do something. Of course, he never would because Himi Tomoki would rather everyone else do the hard work instead of him.

He couldn't be too pissed though, the kid was nine. Didn't make him any less annoying, but it did make him a nice test subject for his friend in child psychology. He probably ought to ask him.

"Come on, Yuta!" Sasaki's voice was almost whinier than Tomoki himself, who was busy looking away at the floor and pulling on his shoes with way too much intensity. "Just come back! Your parents won't miss ya."

Ain't that the truth. "They would. They'd think I was dead or something." Tomoki flinched as he spoke. Yutaka rolled his eyes. Freaking wuss kid. "I've got better things to do than sit back and watch you try to beat the record of consumed sake cups anyway."

"But you promised to help for the next mixer!" There was a scraping sound from a distant area of the earpiece, like she had just scuffed her heels. He almost laughed. It would have been cute from anyone else but he knew she did it on purpose, the brat.

With her, brat was affectionate.

"I'm going," he heard Tomoki say under his breath as he shoved the door open.

"Take care," Yutaka called back without really meaning it. The kid was nine. Even he didn't get into stupid shit at nine. But Tomoki probably did. He had heard stray things while getting a glass of water, his parents murmuring about bullying boys and scraps from band-aids left on the bathroom floor. People probably just got tired of him, that was all.

He went back to the phone. "Sasaki, I'm not taking three trains just to do this mixer. I'll work on stuff for the next one, like I said I would. So just be patient. Seriously, you guys will be fine."

She was quiet for three seconds, just long enough for her to come up with a counter argument. "But all the boys Ringo picks are jerks." She didn't whine this time, not really, but she had a tone that was specific to her and her behavior. "They're always handsy and it feels weird."

Yutaka's eye visibly twitched, even though no one could see it. No one except Tomoki, who edged out the door like he had seen the devil from Christian mythology. "That's a sign you shouldn't go, Saki-chan." He stressed the honorific and almost imagined her twitch.

She groaned. "I guess." Then she perked up. "So why can't you come back up here, huh? Your brother being a pain again?"

"He always is." He sighed. "Mom and dad think he's being bullied and won't tell them. I'm supposed to find out."

"He's nine." The girl made a noise of discontent. "You can be a real asshole at nine."


"Whatever. It's true."

Yeah, it was true. He had been a right wound-up little snot at nine. Of course at the time, Tomoki had been nearly born and already dominating their parents like the black hole he was. Of course he had acted out. But he had never managed to tick off anybody he hadn't given back whatever they dished out. They learned to be wary of him. Tomoki? They just knocked him over, it was pretty pitiful. At least, he was assuming that was what it was.

"Still." Yutaka sighs. "He's a brat, you know."

"He's your brother. I expect nothing less."

"Oi." He snorted. "All right, fine you got me."

"He can't be that bad, Yuta."

"They literally buy him everything. He hasn't had to pay back anything."


"Hates me too." The last words were meant to be an afterthought. They really were. But it bothered him. He was just trying to help the kid before he hurt everyone around him and himself. Because completely spoiled people did that in the worst way and if it was his own sibling then everything would be put on him for not being a good enough brother. But he had to be harsh about it. No one listened if you were just nice to them.

"He doesn't like that you're right, that's all. Anyway, go stalk the kid before he breaks an elbow."

Yutaka made a face. "I'm not stalking him."


It totally wasn't stalking if it was your brother, right?

No it probably was, darn it Sasaki.

Yutaka pretended that it wasn't, pretended that all was fine and dandy and that he was being a better brother than he felt like because he had to be. Following your brother wasn't very hard when he tended to wear an orange hat the size of a stoplight and like the top of a mushroom. Even when he was running for his life (which he seemed to be, because those two boys were close to ignoring streetlights to get at him. Either his brother did something bad, which was possible, or these kids were vehement and stupid.

… Wait no, at nine it was usually both.

Growth spurts were a wonderful thing. It made it twice as easy to keep up with them and still stay out of sight. A couple people looked, but apparently connected the dots pretty fast base on the hair. He hadn't heard any police officers at any rate.

They made it all the way to… a park. Really? Where anyone could see you and call you out. Yutaka wanted to sigh, but there was a loud sobbing cry.

Yutaka put a hand to his face, resisting the urge to react that that gut tug of 'how dare those brats hurt my brother?' because that was just asking for some problems. (And it wasn't like he really liked Tomoki anyway, siblings were just supposed to look after each other. That was it.) He went over at the next sob, however, because if they were actually punching the kid, there had to be some problems.

"Give it back!" he heard now. He chewed on his lip a little too hard. Yutaka made himself breathe for a moment.

"Come on, get it yourself, you're a big boy, right?"

That thud was way too loud for some kid antics. Yutaka gave up on any pretense of chill and crossed the last bit of distance, seeing his brother crumpled under a tree with two boys towering over him with those shit-eating grins that had always made Himi Yutaka see red at Tomoki's age. Didn't help to see those swelling bruises on his brother's cheek, or the slight drip of red from the left nostril.

They didn't seem to notice him, even though he hadn't really been trying to hide. Tomoki however, peeked red rimmed eyes open and the teal gaze widened and looked away. Shame. Guilt.

Two could play at that. Yutaka swallowed his own and spoke instead, voice stern. "Hard to imagine one kid taking down two thugs." he looked to the smaller one, who had something white clutched in one fist. Huh. Smart. Keep Tomoki from calling for help. Cept it was stupid because all it would take is one button on speed dial.

The two kids turned, blinking and then coiling up. "Come on, Nii-san. We're just having some fun."

"Are ya now?" Yutaka beamed at the first. He had to pick on some ten-year-olds now, whee. Didn't that make a fellow feel like a heel? "Those bruises don't look fun."

"Well, he won't play along," grumbled the second.

Yutaka's gaze flicked to his brother once more, who lowered his head, as if in shame. "I..."

"Then it's not playing and it's not fun," Yutaka interrupted, keeping his hands in his pockets. "If all you're doing is making people cry and they're not having fun, then, well, it's not right, is it? It's just you, being a d- bully." Hoo boy, damn Mitsuko and her American colloquialisms.

Before either kid could try and counter older-kid logic, however, all four of their cell-phones went off at the same time. Yutaka glanced at his and almost smirked to see Tomoki take initiative and snatch his own.

"Do you want to play?" blinked leisurely on his screen with a simple 'yes' or 'no'.

Chapter Text

Yutaka, being too old for this by far and also not liking anyone just randomly sending him emails, almost deleted it. But he saw the way his brother's eyes went wide as the audio faded out, leaving only a blinking cursor and the writing on the page.

Yutaka would have shrugged this off as a scam if it wasn't for just how creepy it was. All the kids had it, he had it, and it seemed harmless. Really, really harmless. It was talking about a game. Now, he knew that stores would do that sort of thing but there would at least be a logo or a copyright. There would even be advertising, something would make sense. The thing was that nothing made sense right now and this made Yutaka twitch. Besides, it was deviating from his main task here, which was to get some sense (and parents) to deal with these children and keep his brother safe from actual bullies. He had thought people had taught their kids better by now, but then again, his brother was only a decade away from him. He felt something like guilt, but not enough.

Especially when he saw his brother click yes and dash off like a bat out of hell within the span of a minute. The other two kids squawked and raced after him, but they lacked Yutaka's longer legs and stronger stamina and he overtook them within that gasp of breath.

It also didn't take him long to catch up with his brother. Tomoki took a second to whimper, just as Yutaka grabbed him and pulled him around away from the sight of those two. He didn't even hesitate to lean forward, just led them down another street.

"… Let me go."

Yutaka paused. "Oh so you can sound tough, can't you?" His brother went silent, glaring at the street lines. "Do you even know where you're going?"

"I can read a map!"

"Shush." Yutaka paused, listened, thought about what he had said. "Yeah, and you read a map slower than anyone I know, even people who actually have trouble reading maps. Come on."

Tomoki stared at him under the brim of his hat. "You're not…?"

"You're ten, Tomoki. Make your bed and lie in it." He kept his voice short to avoid the self-loathing that was in his gut. Tomoki was right about that, he should just take him home and avoid the potential rerun-in with the knights of asshole children.

The yes flickered annoyingly on screen and with a decisive scowl, he pressed it. "Besides, I'm coming with you. That way if you get into trouble, we'll both be responsible for getting out. And I have longer legs."

The last part was meant to be a joke, but judging by the way Tomoki was looking at him, it fell flat. Yutaka sighed. Couldn't win 'em all. "Come on, we've got a train to catch."

He could give his brother credit: he could follow orders. So he had one survival skill down. Now could he think and act for himself? Maybe. He'd have to see. But for now, Yutaka scanned the train car and the people on their cell phones. He had to just sit and wait for the next message to come and see who else got it. It would be obvious.

"… Why are you watching them?" Tomoki sat in a seat, playing with his own phone. "That's rude. Mom and dad tell you off about that all the time."

Yutaka tried not to scoff. It was true, they did, because he was coming across as antisocial and paranoid. "We all got that message at the same time. I need to see if it keep happening."

"Why? Do you think they're a bad guy?"

His brother almost sounded… rude. This tended to happen a lot. Yutaka swallowed the prickle of feelings before he spoke. "Fun fact little brother, I have no reason not to. We have cults and other awful people in the streets every day, remember? I'm looking after you, since I'm here."

Tomoki looked up at him for a moment, like he was actually planning to say something really scathing. But then his gaze dropped.

Yutaka, not being a complete idiot, asked it for him. "Why didn't I do it before?" He sighed. "Cause I'm not your piece to play with. I have a life of my own. So I wouldn't know, and our parents can't. Cause you don't tell them." Tomoki's face turned red under his hat, eyes watering with tears. Yutaka made himself ignore it and listened to the sound of many ringing speakers. "And there we go. Get ready to run."


Yutaka seemed to smile. "Crowds suck. Get to the door."

Reluctantly his brother obeyed. As he caught him by the back, he caught one boy staring at another, the brim of his baseball cap drooped deliberately low. He trailed after the second as if trying to be inconspicuous. The second was looking at his phone, peering at the message that sat placidly on his own phone screen.

The doors opened and Yutaka used his height to over. "Go to the elevator, huh?" He gestured through a gap in the crowd as they exited. The second boy, being followed and somehow still not noticing. How self-absorbed was this kid? "Tomoki, follow the ponytail guy and hold the door open."

Tomoki sputtered and looked between them. "But you're faster than me!"

"And you're better at getting your way." He gave his brother a careful shove. Tomoki stumbled but kept running forward before he could think of a reply. Yutaka, being a thinker when there weren't people ready to jab his backside, moved quickly to grab a hold of the stalker kid. Said boy yelped like he was being burned. He looked around wildly until he found Yutaka's hand on his arm.

Yutaka tried to grin. "You have business with that guy?"

The kid jerked away. "No, n-not at all! Let me go please, I'm in a-"

"Well I mean if you do, I got my brother holding the elevator." Yutaka kept his tone perfectiy reasonable and not at all suspicious. "He's following a cell phone message, like what I've got. Come on." Yutaka made sure to point to where long-haired and grumpy was glaring at his brother's general direction. He let go and for a moment, it looked like mouse-mc-bitter was going to run away after all. Then his eyes seemed to come into focus for him and he darted into the crowd towards the elevator's open doors. Yutaka jogged after him, making it there at roughly the same time.

As the door shut behind them, Yutaka thought he heard a solid thump. But there were no dents. Finishing inspecting the door, he turned to his brother. Tomoki's gaze was fastened on the floor, face obscured by his oversized hat. Why did he even wear that thing?

"Good job," he said instead of asking the burning question in his head.

Tomoki made a face and shuffled back "I didn't do anything..."

Yutaka regarded him thoughtfully and watched the floors just keep dropping and dropping. "We have no idea if you did anything or not. But you did what I asked." His eyes flickered to the look of practical constipation on the first boy's part and the fidgeting of the second one. "And you got what you wanted."

The tiny elevator shaft suddenly felt very hot. Unbearably, awfully hot. Yutaka toyed with his collar, but the other three didn't react to it at all. Then they were all gone and there was, quite simply, a monster, staring at him with large, terrified green eyes.

It was legit something out of that one American comic, only smaller. His orange hair was slightly lighter than his skin, and literally all over the place and covering the trembling, nearly naked form of his body. If it weren't for the shaved off horns, he kinda figured he would just look like a feral child caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know, except for that whole part where he hadn't been around like: twelve seconds ago.

Yutaka knew, realistically, that he should be shaking right about now, but all he could think was: you have claws and teeth and strength, what are you so afraid of?

"It's happening," it said, in a human, childlike voice. Relief filled those words. "It's happening. It worked! I… things will be different now. I'm not going there this time!" He looked about. "There's no other way down that far but for those elevators. There aren't any stairs. So… It's over for me. Good."

Yutaka couldn't manage a sound but he was able to raise an eyebrow.

That movement was seemingly enough to catch the monster kid's attention again. He looked Yutaka up and down. "You're his brother," he said, suddenly sounding older and decisive. "Yeah. You're an adult, huh?"

I'm nineteen, Yutaka thought, slightly insulted. He was hardly an adult. Just a lot older and had different things to deal with.

The child monster let out a snort. "That's still pretty old for us. Still, that's probably fine. No one said it wasn't." It sighed, then yawned, showing its too large fangs that reasonably shouldn't fit in a small mouth. "Sorry," he said abruptly. "But I just. I can't do this anymore. I screwed up everything. I..." He shook his head. "Someone died because of my stupid hero plan. It wasn't even a good one. The others are probably all dead by now. In my time."

The gaze snapped to him again and Yutaka felt a chill run up his spine. He didn't like that look. In fact, he kinda hated it. Hated it in a way you would about the bubbling feeling in your stomach after a long bout of nausea. "But cause this is the past, someone else can fight. Like everyone fought. Junpei, Izumi, Tomoki… they might still have a chance. So, you've gotta help them, okay? I tried and I got them into this mess. I'm pretty sure this is the only way I can make things right."

Coward, Yutaka wanted to snap, but before he could actually say the words deep in his chest, his pocket burned his leg. He reached for it and let out a yelp of pain. The elevator returned into view, leaving Tomoki staring at him with fear and his pocket burning. Yutaka shoved his hand around his phone again, pulling it out and hurling it to the floor. It was almost like a temper tantrum. Except the phone didn't shatter. It glowed instead, shifting to something black and red and with two symbols on the screen. The first was like a letter of kanji, one you should never write. The second was a star, black and pulsing like a heart. Familiar.

The stars seemed to let out a whisper. "I'm sorry."

The elevator clattered to a halt.

Chapter Text

The doors opened to reveal a multicolored array of trains much larger than any Japanese train station should have underground. It looked barely even close to the larger, Western train stations he had visited in his internship. Tomoki's own eyes were wide, briefly distracted from the smoking device on the ground by the sheer array of sensory information. Yutaka took a moment to pick up what had been a smoking phone and now looked like a funky version of the latest toy. He touched the now cool, rough casing.

"It's up to you now," chimed all around the room from the cellphones of various children. "Which one will you choose?"

What. Was this like a giant children's cult or something?

Yutaka forced himself to breathe, feeling now three pairs of eyes staring at his head with the same delusional concern that kids got for adults, like they could really do much of anything. "Pick the train Tomoki," he said absently. If he had to look after the little asshole (which there was no way he couldn't now, that creepy voice deserved a kick in the pants), the kid was going to become independent. And make decisions.

That's what he does anyway, an irritated voice reminded him. He tells people what to do without doing it.


Yutaka glanced at his brother, watching the boy with the ponytail scowl and make to run away. Yutaka glared at him pointedly, unruffled by the response of sheer irritation that came hurtling back in dark blue eyes. Seriously, where had this kid learned to glare. "You got all the way here and you're just gonna quit?"

The other blue-haired kid (okay, seriously, they had to be related. It was freaking obvious even without the way the kid in the baseball cap twitched rather than look at him.)

"Yeah." Tomoki's voice trembled. "I wanna go home."

The other boy let out a quiet scoff and shoved past them, ponytail flapping in his hurry. Baseball boy jumped and ran after him, the scowl now crossing his own features.

I feel like I'm in a god damn drama.

Yutaka reined in the anxiety and terror jumping at his temple. "Do you want to go home?" he asked in something like kindness. "Or do you want me to leave you here?"

Tomoki paused, and it was a moment too long. He fought with himself.

Yutaka only shrugged, a worn out smile coming onto his face. "Then we'll give you what you want." He strode away from his brother and to the nearest train. Guilt twitched his lower jaw at the thought of his brother standing there with that typical helpless look on his face. But really, the kid was in the elevator. He could go up, escape the bullies, and get home. That would be better for him. It was what he wanted. And the kid always had to get what he wanted.

He made it down the stairs and was heading to a door when he heard loud steps chasing after him. Unfortunately, unlike his parents, Yutaka did not wait and hopped onto the area of the caboose. He made to head inside.

Then a bell began to toll and the train shifted beneath his feet. Tomoki wasted air to shriek and threw himself forward, chasing on thin, weak legs. (You'd think with bullies he would be better at running.)

Yutaka almost didn't reach out his hand, but then he remembered the third rail, remembered his brother's too big shoes and inability to walk very far. If he tried to keep going, which his brother would now that he had the thought in his head, he would probably trip and crack his head open and die.

(At some point, Yutaka would acknowledge his uncommonly morbid imagination and thought process and promptly blame his still developing brain, but at the moment he was kind of stuck on keeping his brother alive.)

So he got a good grip on the rail of the caboose as quickly as possible and reached out, grabbing his brother's wrist as he leaped. Of course, because this was reality, and his brother was nine years old and not air they both nearly went down. Then spindly thin arms looped about his waist and yanked with all of their strength. The three of them landed awkwardly on the caboose platform, Yutaka feeling a clang of pain as his linger limbs and developed torso meant his head slammed into the railing. He saw stars for the briefest moment, barely feeling Tomoki's weight on top of his.

Then there was a groan of pain in his back, dragging Yutaka miserably up from the daze into reality. He hefted himself up, moving Tomoki with him to the side in the tiny space.

"Thanks, kid," Yutaka wheezed, patting Tomoki to check for bruises. His eyes watered from pain but thinking of the others and their disappointment ("you got knocked out by a caboose, Yuta?") brought him back to a harsh, firm reality.

"You're welcome..." rasped the other boy, his baseball cap long gone. If Yutaka squinted he could almost see it flying down the tunnel. Speaking of flying…

He looked down at a still whimpering Tomoki. "What were you thinking?"

Tomoki, for once in his life, looked distinctly unimpressed. "You jumped on the train! You thought this was dumb!"

Yutaka only scowled, recognizing logic (worst of all, his own logic). "I don't think I've gotta choice."

"So leaving me there was fine?" His brother's voice wobbled and Yutaka heard the unspoken, do you hate me that much?

Yutaka lifted himself up, helping Tomoki to his feet. "You said you didn't want to be there. My phone decided to warp into something. Clearly we're dealing with something way out of your league, and it might not be in mine." He wasn't even sure why he was going. But maybe that young, scared little animal kid, who had looked at Tomoki so rawly, so full of hope. Anyone who looked at his little brother and saw that… well. He wasn't sure about it in the slightest.

It did mean Tomoki was in danger, more than likely.

"You could have gone back up the elevator, told mom and dad, and brought them." Yutaka took a deep breath before letting out a soft, weary exhale. "But neither of us did that. So we're stuck. Let's get inside this train car." He glanced at their help. "Thanks again…?"

"Kouichi." The word whooshed out of him like a sigh of relief. "Kimura Kouichi." He glanced towards the teal door.

Yutaka nodded. "Yutaka, and this is Tomoki." He paused, noticing Kouich not moving any closer to the door. "Your brother in there?"

Kouichi visibly jumped. "How did you know he was my brother?"

"You twitch about him a lot, but he didn't pay you any mind."

"He's good at that," Kouichi muttered.

Yutaka quirked an eyebrow. I think we've walked into a soap opera conspiracy.

He fought down the urge to sneak a cigarette he didn't have and looked at Tomoki. "Come on. Let's go sit down. I think we've had enough excitement until the train ride is over."

Tomoki nodded, but sniffled a little as they went inside. Yutaka let him, for once. If that weird vision he had was any indication, he was probably not going to have many more times to cry.

They weren't the only poor fools who had apparently picked this train. A heavyset boy and a blonde girl sat in opposite benches. Both were looking out the window. Then, the girl heard the door open and turned to them. She smiled. "Oh, good, it's not as empty in here now."

The boy made a face. "Hey!"

"You know what I mean, Junpei-kun."

So far the most interesting thing in the room was the accent from the blond girl. Some kind of European language tinged it and she spoke with slow caution. Like she remembered the sentence structure but not what created the sentence.

The boy perked up to grin at her. "I guess so. It was pretty quiet in here."

Puppy love. Boy, did Yutaka not miss that at all. "Hello to you too." He stepped to the side to let the other two through. Tomoki bolted to a seat, still sniffling. Yutaka raised an eyebrow but let him. At least this time, crying made sense. Everyone cries, I guess. Yutaka tried to recall the last time he had that wasn't from onions.

Kouichi soon did the same, instead looking down at his shoes. The girl took more interest in Tomoki. Yutaka tried not to roll his eyes and went to sit down. His heart was still pounding from, well, all of that. He looked into his pocket and glanced at the device, thumbing at its side. Honestly if this had just stayed a phone, there would have been so many less problems like being here at all.

As he thought about that, the device made a soft, almost cajoling chirp. Three other chirps resonated in the air and Yutaka felt distinctly sick. The train then lurched horribly to the left, then the right, throwing them all to the floor. In the dark of the train carriage, the spinning and light only succeeded in making Yutaka nauseous and

with a headache. Tomoki let out a sob of pain and it was actually worrying.

"Whoever designed this thing needs a lawsuit!" Yutaka shouted, incensed.

The kid in the jumpsuit – Junpei, he thought – actually laughed, the little bastard.

Then, the tunnel ended and they all had to blink stars from their eyes as the blinding sun shone through the windows.

It took Yutaka a few minutes to realize that wasn't the sun. That was fire.

The train screamed, quite literally.

Yutaka however, felt, strangely calm. He lifted himself up, slowly, gingerly. His whole body still ached. He reached out his head to the window. The Device flew into his hand. Yutaka moved towards the door and without hesitation, pushed it open.

Realizing what he was doing, the college student resisted, or tried to. His body rebelled against the idea of stepping out, especially at the sight of the cavernous depths below. However, he didn't take another step. He reached his hand out instead and a strange ring passed over it.

For a moment, he could see the demon boy out of the corner of his eye, mouthing a single word.


Then something leaped towards him, three fiery heads and great sharp fangs. His free arm lifted and dragged the weird toy over said ring.

Yutaka, simply put, lost consciousness.

A/N: Sorry for the delay on this (Yutaka just did not want to have a Fire Spirit for a long time darn him), I got fairly sick and busy with real life work. There will likely be a chapter on Sunday to make up for it. At any rate, it's time to start moving forward with the rest of the plot. So long as it behaves of course! Please leave a review!

Chapter Text

Tomoki didn't recognize the person in front of him.

Visually, that was because his brother was now at least seven or eight feet tall with blonde hair and red armor and the cockiest grin since Katsuharu plastered over a fanged mouth. But most of all was because the look in those blue eyes was almost nostalgic, except Tomoki was too young to understand proper nostalgia. Still, he could remember his parents whispering when they thought he was asleep, about a solid year of Yutaka getting into fights, of whispered conferences and a nearly permanent bandage on his right cheek. But it had all changed at the end of the year, like a fad that had gone out of style. The sullen look had never quite left his face, and his brother had never been as nice to him as before.

Though, if anything, his parents had been more so. It was, now that he was in a place that they couldn't help him, painful.

But his brother had that look now as he smacked the dog monster back.

"Enjoy beating up kids, do ya?" the monster-like his brother shouted, landing on a piece of floating earth. Tomoki had played enough video games to not be bothered by that. "Come on, you've got a real opponent here! Bring it!"

The monster snarled and Tomoki edged back from the door at the sound. It was nothing like the barks and growls from yards and shut doors. It wasn't meant as 'leave! My humans live here!' rather 'you are a morsel I will snack on.' and also something Tomoki wasn't sure he wanted to articulate. "You! Stealing my prey!"

Yutaka didn't move much but Tomoki guessed if he had, it was to raise an eyebrow. Tomoki was very familiar with that expression at this point in his life. "Yeah, okay. We're not getting long conversations out of you are we?" He shrugged his armored shoulders. "Fine by me." Almost like a boxer, he smashed his fists together and flames roared to life, forming up his arms in swirls. The dog responded, rightfully, with a burst of green fire.

All Tomoki can think of is acid.

Yutaka? Yutaka merely punched into it, and through it, right into the dog's snout. It leaped back with a howl of pain and nearly fell into the abyss below.

"Okay is anyone going to ask what the heck is going on?" The boy in the jumpsuit, Junpei, was as far from the open door as possible. And if that wasn't his brother out there, Tomoki would be in a whole other car by now. Tomoki squinted at the image of his fighting brother. Wait a second… was he getting smarter?

Then he almost palmed his face. They were on a train, a moving train. He looked around. There were no phones to contact the conductor anywhere in sight. "Hey! Mister Conductor!" he shouted, praying he wasn't just looking crazy. "We have to go back! that's my brother! We have to help him!"

"Sorry kiddo!" The booming voice sounded at least a little sheepish. "This Trailmon is express one-way only! I've got deliveries to make today!" For a second he thought there were just speakers he couldn't see, but then he realized: the voice was echoing through the car. The train could talk. (And yes, that hadn't really sunk in earlier.)

… Okay in any other situation, that would have been so cool.

Right now, it was just bad. "What do you mean, one-way? That's my brother!" Granted, his brother could be a jerk. (Never a bully, but a jerk, yes.) He was always critical of everything, even their parents, and he was hardly ever around to have fun. And he hogged the phone. But that was still his big brother, who also showed him how to dribble a basketball and checked his homework. He couldn't just be left behind!

"He'll be fine, kid!" the train shouted. "We're close to land anyway, we can get reinforcements!" The door Yutaka had gone through shut violently, a gust of wind picking up inside. Tomoki rushed to the window again to see a sign of his brother, of anything. But there was only the sky and brilliant trees rushing by and seeming to sparkle. They had left his brother there, for some reason. If he wasn't okay if he didn't come back then-

Tomoki would never forgive this train. Or who wanted them here in the first place.

He knew that didn't mean much but to him, it meant more than he realized.

The fire-child opened his eyes and looked down to see what should be human hands. The five digits were there, flexing on command. But his feet were bare and rough, and the nails that protruded from his fingertips were strong and pointed. Sharp, deadly.

He groaned a sound that came from his gut more than his windpipe. He had failed. Somehow. He had seen himself, his human self, not getting on the train. Heck, he hadn't even gotten him to the elevator on time. And all it had taken was some misdirection. Go figure.

So then why… why was he still here?

"Did you think it would be that easy?" The low, groaning voice reverberated all around him, like a whining child close to his ears. Like Shinya at his lowest. "Did you think if you changed one thing, you could whimsically change all things and right the wrong you made?" There was no laughter, though the demon child innocently believed it would be better. It would make the game complete: the evil villain taunting the hero. "Time and space do not always land on your victory."

He was not the hero, never had been. What did that leave Kanbara Takuya with?

A villain would hurt his friends. A villain already had. So had he.

Flamon sighed again. Why couldn't things just be simple?

Still. He ought to be happy. He had succeeded in getting rid of that future where-



Kouji had died. Right? Now he was alive and this person (Tomoki's brother? Tomoki had a brother?) would keep Kouji alive and away from Duskmon's blades and all that darkness.

The voice let out a sound like a mourning call. "Are you certain that is the case?"

Takuya hesitated. Was there a way to make sure? His last plan hadn't exactly turned out sunshine and rainbows after all. But… He couldn't help but grin. This was different. This was all him. No help. This would be his winning play. All he had to do was work alone and go after Cherubimon. He didn't even have to win. He just had to weaken him. And keep Duskmon from the group. That would be easy! He could do that.

"It seems you have come to a decision."

Takuya grinned. "You betcha."

"I see..." Light flooded the empty train station. "Then, come aboard. You have work to do."

It took a few minutes, but Yutaka found his brain in the midst of roiling flames. He wasn't quite sure how he was there, or how he was punching a giant angry dog in the first place. At the moment, considering he would die if he stopped punching, that was more than enough for him to worry Future Yutaka with, rather than present one. In fact, he had to focus more on keeping his own flames going. Otherwise, though it seemed unlikely, he probably would get burned.

"Give me the spirit!" The dog's snarl was remarkably well-articulated for something intent on eating him alive or at the very least committing savage murder. He supposed he could acknowledge that, once he figured out what he was talking about.

"How about no?" He lifted the dog up by the two heads that seemed more like armor. He couldn't help but consider this a design flaw as he smashed him into the crumbling ground. The howl of pain made it very much worth it, but the land beneath his feet shattering?

Oh no, he jumped and ran from that, leaving his opponent supposedly to fall into the abyss below. He landed on another, much larger piece and then looked around him. The train was gone. Probably far down the track to whatever station it was supposed to be going. Yutaka looked about.

"Now which way do I go?"

He didn't know how long this form would last and he wasn't keen on the idea of crawling along the track on his belly to make it to shelter or until he fell off the rail and died. He couldn't die. He had to get to Tomoki. Though now… it was a little difficult to remember why. He was free. HE could go anywhere in this wide ass world and punch it if it got in his way. It wouldn't get him in trouble anymore. It wouldn't matter.

But then he'd never get home. Tomoki would never get home.

So what?

So everything.

Yutaka took a deep breath and then exhaled just the same. Then a low snarl came from behind him and he whirled, fists flying and instead hitting the ground himself with a painful thump. Hot, smog breath hit his nose through the red faceplate. He swung his knee up by reflex, gagging and coughing at the smell. The dog howled and Yutaka sprang up.

"How did you survive that?" He shook it off. That wasn't important. Right now he had to crush this little bastard's windpipe as quickly as possible.

That thought scared something at the back of his mind. However, it didn't make things any less true. He swung and chopped at the face, punching right into the dog's mouth. It squeaked pain and Yutaka brought up his leg in a burning arc. It however, swung back and kicked him with both feet, nearly knocking him over the edge.

Yutaka caught himself and lunged gracelessly, grabbing the dog once more. Raising a fist, he gave one punch and leaped forward to cause another and another. If his body wasn't still moving, Yutaka would have found a moment to just gape in awe as a dragon of flame grew from his punches, hissing and spitting like a whelp but still striking with inhumanly large fangs. And at the last punch, something grew around his fingers. The device that had once been his phone fit neatly into his palm, screen aglow. The dog's whines went soft and pained and then silent as his large body fell still. He lifted the device, unable to stop himself.

"Time to go to sleep," he heard himself say in a soft, reverent voice. "Let the flames burn your pain away. Scan."

Something blue raced out of the dog with a lurch and it raced into the top of the strange toy, leaving the dog disintegrating and something like an oval flying away in the sky.

Yutaka almost dropped his arm, but then the weird toy (D-Scanner, his mind whispered in that demon boy's voice) spun him about and pointed, three dots blinking on the screen.

Yutaka felt his arms trying to fall off of his shoulders, but he ignored it. "Well," he managed. "Here goes nothing."

He leaped onto the track and started to run.

Chapter Text

Tomoki wanted to cry.

Nii-san would have told him that was nothing new for him but his big brother wasn't here to smack his back and knock the tears out of him. He never had, not physically anyway, but the emotional slap tended to ignite anger. And now they had left him.

To his credit, Junpei was yelling after the train as it left, taking a different path of railroad tracks. It wasn't the one that they had gone down, but it easily could have been. How could he just leave one of the people they had wanted to be here behind? How could he have let them?

"He'll be here soon."

But would it be his brother who came back? That was the important question. That thing could not have been his brother. They were too much like that bad kid who got in trouble. They were the bully who got away with everything.

But if being that meant his brother would survive then-

Tomoki made himself look up through snot and tears at the girl with the purple hat, Izumi-chan, he recalled. "How do you know?"

Izumi shook her head. "I honestly don't know. But I mean, he jumped in the way to fight, to protect you didn't he? He came all this way to look after you. I don't think he'd just leave you here like this."

Tomoki stared at her aghast. "But you not knowing means it might not be true."

Izumi squirmed with discomfort. That was true but… okay, what did this kid want? "Why shouldn't he come back then?"

Tomoki looked down at his shoes. "I… I dunno..." Because it was better for him if he didn't? Because there were so many other better things to do? Because it was Tomoki's fault that that happened to him in the first place?

Don't be so conceited, whispered a voice that sounded like himself, only harsher, split at the corners. He's a grown adult. He can make decisions just fine. So could you if you tried. He didn't want to sound like this when he got older. Not this bitter and mean and unhappy.

Then stop sitting here and crying, you idiot.

That, he actually did agree with. Tomoki made himself look up at Izumi, wiping his face. "Thanks, Izumi-chan," he managed to say with a weak smile. Her mouth clapped shut in surprise. Honestly, he wasn't even sure what she had said. "I'm okay now, I just panicked. I get nervous. I'm okay!"

Her eyebrow arched a little. She didn't believe him. Honestly, he couldn't blame her, but there was nothing she could do about it. Or him. This was his fault. He had to fix it. That was what his parents had told him. How was he supposed to this time?

Well, his brother's cell phone had been transformed like that. He reached into his pocket for his own and then let out a shriek of surprise.

"My phone!" Izumi, Junpei and Kouichi all turned to look at him as he held it out. "Look, look! It transformed." Did that mean that he could end up like his brother? Or something like that? His brother had protected them. Sure it had been… wild and rough but-

"It was kind of cool," he whispered to himself. It was, wasn't it? To have the ability to fight back, which he and his tiny limbs did not. To be able to stop bullies yourself. Then Tomoki shook his head, looking determinedly up at the older kids. Doing that would just make him another bully. He was going to be better than that.

"Izumi-chan's is pretty," he blurted out to distract himself. It wasn't like it wasn't true, hers was a nice shade of purple and teal, matched with blue and yellow for their senpai. Junpei's was a strange mismatched set of colors but they fit against his jumpsuit so there was nothing wrong with that. He looked at the boy his brother had… accosted? Followed? Saved from falling down the stairs? Tomoki wasn't sure. He'd need to ask. Turning around, he found him staring into the metal depths of the train station. Tomoki wracked his brain to remember his name.

"Kouichi-san!" There we go. "Did you get one of these too?" He waved the strange device, taking care not to drop it.

Kouichi turned around, brushing his blue hat's brim with his thumb and index finger. He patted his pockets and shook his head no. "I think I need a cell phone to do that," he admitted. "I don't have one, so there's nothing to transform."

That's silly, Tomoki wanted to say, but what actually came to mind was, "That's dangerous! We need to get you home!"

"How about you kiddo?" Junpei commented, not unkindly. "I dunno about you but even transforming like that doesn't look like a good time, and your brother would probably rather want you safe and sound." Izumi agreed.

Tomoki shook his head. "He followed me here, not the other way around. So I'm gonna stay!" And then I'll probe him wrong.

He would be strong because of this place. Strong and cool.

"Besides," Izumi said worriedly. "The trains are gone."

"No train stays at one spot for long, I'm afraid."

All four kids looked around until they saw a small white creature staring at them with its paws in its waistband. Beside it was an upright yellow rabbit with pants.

"Uh." Junpei managed eloquently.

"What are you?" Izumi asked. Kouichi thought her eyes were sparkling somehow. Well, that was uncomfortable.

Before either small creature could answer, Tomoki saw the flaming man that had been his brother leap over their heads out of the corner of his eye. And sure enough, his brother skidded to a halt and promptly shrank down to his brother's normal features, panting hard. Then, in a distinctly, unheroic way, Yutaka pitched forward and passed out.

Tomoki, naturally, almost screamed loud enough to wake him. "Nii-chan!"

With a team effort, the kids managed to get Yutaka into the area that the two digital monsters (Bokomon and Naemon) were currenty staying in.

"Only a few people still have their homes outside of Fire Terminal anymore," Bokomon explained, waving his paws. "No one has a stable enough structure to survive."

It was said very matter-of-factly, but all the same it gave Izumi memories of the streets of Italy that weren't beautiful, which were so many of them, to be honest, and the sideways looks people sometimes gave each other, and the time she had traveled from one end of her home to another and saw very different gazes from the exact same people. "But if everything is on fire here, is this metal less flammable than the rest?"

"It has to be." Bokomon's nasally voice was almost dismissive. "The terminal is a living shrine to the Ancient Warrior of Flame." He yanked a book from his waistband (boy was that disturbing to her, for entirely different reasons than everybody else) and propped it open to a random, but also perfectly placed page. "There are ten areas in our world, dedicated to each warrior who saved us from the traitor to god, Lucemon himself. Each has to be able to take in the power of their warrior, otherwise, how else would they be strongholds?"

"You sound like you speak from more experience than you should," Junpei muttered under his breath.

Bokomon squinted at him. "I am afraid not. That would be Naemon's domain of expertise, much as it pains me to say it."

All the humans barring one looked at the said yellow rabbit, who only grinned at them in the laziest way possible. The other three promptly turned away. Even Kouichi, who was standing outside due to lack of room, did so as quickly as possible. Tomoki turned back to his brother, who was breathing slowly, sweat dripping down his face. The red and black device sat innocently in his hand. Like it hadn't caused this or so other many problems….

Tomoki looked at the book Bokomon was turning through as he replaced the wet cloth. He froze. "Ah, Bokomon! That red symbol there… it was on Onii-chan's body! I saw it!"

"That would be Agnimon's symbol, inheritor of the power of fire," Bokomon explained. He was relatively unperturbed. He had, after all, seen Yutaka collapse on the ground like that. "I'm surprised they chose to let it rest here, but then again, AncientGreymon was a straightforward spirit so they say."

"But why were spirits sealed here or anywhere?" Izumi ducked and ended up leaning against Junpei. "Why were we called here?"

Bokomon glowered at her. "How would I know such present day matters?!" She didn't jump, only scowled back at him. He relented ever so slightly. "The history might provide a clue… but I won't lie that it isn't much. Our world, you see, it goes through many cycles of incarnation. It, as we do, evolves. During its most recent recreation, the earliest classification of Digimon was humanoid and bestial. They went to war."

"Kinda figured," Junpei muttered under his breath. Then he yelped as Izumi elbowed him in the arm.

Bokomon coughed, scowling. "Desperate to prevent a reboot, a young Digimon was born to quell the fighting. An angel of God. A hero. He was called Lucemon. And he did what he was bid. The small angel traveled, performed miracles, created peace. He created the very system our world is based on."

"Then what?"

Tomoki jumped and looked into his brother's open, narrowed eyes. "You don't spend your entire life picking up after people." He made a face. "You have a life outside of the whims of others."

Tomoki swallowed. Bokomon looked uneasily at his book for a moment. Then he sighed.

"That was the problem," he admitted. "Lucemon had no idea. He wasn't fit for ruling over others. He knew this. He wanted to only continue helping people, to raise the little apprentices he had found in his travels. But people grew greedy for such things and preyed on his ability to provide them, touching on the vulnerable parts of him. And then the comet arrived."

Flamon opened his eyes. The train was still going, down and down, further and further. He wasn't even sure if there was a track for the train to ride on anymore.

"And then what?"

He couldn't see outside anymore, he could barely even see the cushions around his hands and feet or the floor. He wasn't sure if he cared or not anymore. He was almost where he needed to be now, to make things right. He hoped, oh god did he hope.

"And they made him proud, proud and desperate and scared. They asked a young boy to stop a comet that fell to earth, to stop a force of nature. And he, so it was said, did so. The meteor, however, was not ordinary. The records from others say that it was a meteor drawn by the war we had made of ourselves, years and years ago by then. It was divine punishment."

Then, sparks of electricity shot into view as the trailmon began to slow. Flamon shot to his feet, looking about.

"You have nothing to fear," groaned the train. "You are useful to him. He needs a companion."

Somehow, Flamon thought, that's not comforting.

"And by taking on the burden of those sins, it changed him. Darkened his heart. Filled it with the very things he had been meant to repel. And so the Ancient Warriors, hypocrites though they were, rose up to defeat him. "

The doors opened and Flamon stepped cautiously out onto the ground he couldn't see. "Hello?" he called, cautiously.

"Hello," chirped a voice, soft and warm and sweet.

"Shinya?" Takuya whispered.

The voice laughed. "Who is Shinya?"

"Some stories say the ten sealed him inside the earth, giving up their lives and devoting their spirits to chain him. Others say they failed and he is letting us think otherwise. My personal hypothesis is somewhere in the middle. Because if they had succeeded, surely we would maintain peace. But we are at war again, with someone. Furthermore, there is another comet heading our way, with the same malice, the same certainty."

"So they lost?"

"Come over here! I can't see you like this! I'm sorry."

Flamon's ears could pick up more now than they could have before, as humans, as people. It was something worth leaving behind, his weakness. "Why can't you see me?"

"Well, can you see me?"

"Well no."

"I think they must have won. But I think they lost in a different way. Lucemon was a child of god. You cannot simply kill one of those, they revive faster than a DigiEgg. Perhaps they did seal him, but then their spirits couldn't have awoken like the Warrior of Fire did. So if he isn't sealed, and the Ancient Ten are still dead, then he must still exist somewhere. Causing this chaos he once tried to end, and so the heroes are rising up to try and complete their roles. If it is possible, in the end."

"Are we here for that then?"

"Perhaps. Or maybe he called you here himself. It's much too convenient, isn't it?"

"Hey," the voice said. "Look up. Look up at this world's demise."

Kanbara Takuya did and he felt a chill run up his spine.

Lucemon, behind him, let out a blissful, broken sigh.

Chapter Text

"So, you want to make things right, do you?"

Lucemon examined Takuya once the lad had metaphorically spilled his guts, draped over a rock like it was an ornate throne. Despite the lazy, arrogant posture that Takuya recognized from his own classroom, and if he was self-aware enough, from himself once or twice. "Well, sorry, friend, but that's not how it works."

Takuya, to his credit, did not sputter with rage or even quail in front of him. Lucemon found that honestly refreshing. He'd always been defiant in that sense. Takuya loved destroying breaking people's expectations of him as a matter of pride.

Plus he was honestly too tired to possibly lose control and attack who he remembered from Bokomon's many, many fireside tales as the one who had nearly destroyed the world, ruining it after saving it. Judging by the smirk on the cherubic face, Takuya could see that.

"Well, things are already better," Takuya finally said after a short period of thought.

The angel boy laughed. "Young flame devil, you have lost your supposed humanity. By what definition is this better?" Granted it was better than his own situation but he wasn't dead and he was actually himself. He just lost his ego. Not exactly the same.

Petulance washed up like a heater in winter. "My friend's not dead."

"He still could die," Lucemon replied blandly, picking at his nails. "That Duskmon or whoever is probably still around and he can just get in a peachy mood and go and kill him. For all you know, he's on the prowl now, hunting for him." He frowned. "I've never heard of a Duskmon though, and I should have heard of somebody that tough. Maybe he only pretended to be real and was made from something else."

Takuya choked on spit and fear.

He hadn't even thought of that.

"You should get going," Lucemon said mildly. He closed his eyes and leaned on the soft plushness of the rugs the fools had left with him. There wasn't much else he could do, trapped as he was.

Takuya didn't hesitate to go, didn't even act on the suspicions he should have had, didn't even question the clear authority figure before his eyes. Lucemon felt nostalgic just looking at him.

"He's a doomed little martyr," he mused, sighing pleasantly at the blanket he floated around his fingers. He looked out at the sky beneath the Venus Rose, at the comet that made his blood tingle. "Old habits die hard, don't they, my apprentices?"

At the end of that storytelling session, Yutaka felt his head throb. They were here to clean up the mess of adults if he had to simplify it. But he wasn't going to simplify it. He couldn't afford that. They turned a kid into a martyr and when he couldn't handle it and lost his head he became the bad guy. History really was written bey the winners, honestly. Everyone knew that. But that explained literally nothing. What about that demon kid? Had he been here before, tried to stop Lucemon? Or was it way different? He didn't even seem to be mentioned anywhere in that story, so he was like new or something.

He hadn't gone into the sciences like well, any of his friends. Not those theoretical sciences. He was a veterinary student. He knew biology, anatomy, physiology. Heck, he could make an argument for psychology if he really wanted to be a jerk about the whole thing. The one thing that Sasaki had chattered about over convenient store sandwiches with him was the existence of parallel worlds. And he was pretty sure he was standing in one. Or well, laying in one. And he had felt himself punch a giant fire-breathing dog in the face of it. So that science was starting to sound a lot less theoretical and a lot more absolutely real in one sense. Which left a lot to be desired. Or to be interested in. He really didn't like it.

Yutaka glanced at his brother, who was holding his hat. He had an unreadable look on his face as he stared at it. Maybe it would suck him in and save him. At least in this world, Yutaka kind of hoped so. But he doubted he would be that lucky.

Yutaka closed his eyes and looked away because the bruises that had been threatening to puff up his brother's face like a balloon were no longer there. He wasn't sure how that made him feel. The fact that they had been about to happen at all didn't help him either.

Tomoki watched the others go, Bokomon and Naemon, who already struck him as someone who wasn't very good with directions, led the others to go find food for the night. Because no one was leaving Fire Terminal to go… wherever! Not today anyway, his brother was too exhausted. Of course, that meant they had left him with said older brother and he was sleeping again. At least he wasn't being a jerk. But still… he could have died out there and Tomoki would have had to tell their parents. And they would have been sad. Right? Would they have been? His brother could be a jerk sometimes but did that mean it wouldn't bother them that he was gone? They didn't seem to mind that he was in school all the time.

"They'd be upset for a minute and then lock you in your room."

Tomoki jumped and muffled a shriek of fear. Yutaka looked at him from the pallet on the floor, his grey-green eyes regarding him with that same unreadable gleam that he'd been seeing there for years. It would usually come out right before he was going to say something that just didn't make sense.

"Were those kids from your school?"

Tomoki floundered in his head for a minute. The ones they had just met? Then, he stopped. The bullies. The bullies his brother had stopped. "Yeah," he said after a while. "They're in my class."

"And they're always like that."

"Yeah." Where was he even going with this?

Yutaka let out a snort. "Man," he said with a bitter note in his voice. "They're starting younger and younger now."

"… You sound like an old man." Tomoki immediately covered his mouth. Yutaka laughed.

"I do." The room hung with quiet. Tomoki chewed on his lip for a while.

After a few minutes of doing that, Tomoki finally said, "It's not my fault they bully me." Yutaka didn't make a sound, so Tomoki continued. "It's not my fault. They're jerks, okay? And, and they get jealous of me because I do well in school. And that mom makes good lunches! Or they just go after me because I'm short! I don't know! And..." He almost didn't say it. "And sometimes, you remind me of them. You don't believe me when that stuff happens! You act like it's my fault! They're not my fault! And Mom and Dad aren't my fault either! It's not my fault they like me moe!"

This silence hung in the air for a long time. Tomoki used it to rub the angry tears out of his eyes, hating where they had come from. He risked glancing over at his brother. Yutaka was still just looking at him, thoughtful still. He didn't blink.

"You're right," Yutaka said and Tomoki jerked his head away. "It's not your fault. I'm sorry."

Tomoki wanted to tell him that that wasn't good enough, wanted to say it didn't make up for the endless snubs and the angry looks and responses and the way he looked at Mom and Dad like they had done him a great wrong.

There was a too big lump in his stomach to let him do it though. There was a very different thought churning in the back of his head.

"They aren't your fault," Yutaka said after a moment, eyes closed. "Only we can handle our own misfortune. So I'm not yours either."

Tomoki wanted to cry. He did. He wasn't sure why he was crying exactly, but he felt like, somewhere in his heart, he had needed to hear some of those words, somehow.

Kouichi was officially lost.

It was all Naemon's fault, in retrospect, for giving him the directions. It was also his own fault for attempting to follow said directions but still! THe smar thing to do was ask a native of the area to get the answers you were looking for right? Right? And Bokomon had directed the others so he was on his lonesome out here. Which was kind of good. After everything that was going on, after everything he had heard, he needed some time to process well, everything.

Some random children were being pulled into an inter-dimensional conflict and they had ways to combat it per se, but he did not. He was just here. He was here and could possibly die and leave his mother all alone.

And to think, he'd just wanted to muster up the courage to talk to his brother today, and he couldn't even do that. They'd been in the same elevator and he couldn't do that.

Kouichi sighed and started looking for branches and berries. The two little digimon lived in a spot by the rocks and a boiler space. They were perfectly willing to make it larger, they simply had lacked a reason to until now. But now they had heroes and heroes needed somewhere with a roof over their heads, at least until they moved on.

And what are you going to do? He asked himself in a bitter voice. He didn't have one of those devices. He didn't have the potential for a superpower. He wasn't even supposed to be here either. Was he just supposed to be cannon fodder or something?

It would be best for him to find another train and go back. Well, wait. Kouji was still here, wasn't he? He couldn't just leave him here to die. He couldn't just leave without telling him-

His whole body deflated and Kouichi paused, staring up at the trees in deep thought. He hadn't even managed to talk to him before the world had gone to hell in a handbasket and he had lost him in the rush of the crowd. Like he had been trying all that hard anyway. How did you start that conversation? 'I'm your brother and your mother is alive?' Come on.

He really was stuck in either an anime or a K-drama.

As he leaned up to examine the nearest tree, the bushes rustled. And out fell the object of his thoughts, bruised and dirty and carrying a bent pipe.

Minamoto Kouji took one look at him and croaked, "Run."

A tree fell in the forest and the entire Flame Terminal heard it.

Chapter Text

The Venus Rose had once been a place for a romantic night out. It had been a long time since those days. Since the days before all the plants that had lived on starlight and heavy storms had been wiped out by fires. Regardless, it was still beautiful and held wonders of its own.

The five spirits thrummed their agreement to that statement of fact. Perhaps with the ten of them, it all could be restored once more to its former grandeur. With Ofanimon at his side, it would be simple enough.

Though Darkness could stand to be a little more cooperative. It's always been rather rude, that was true. But still, enough experiments were enough. He'd have to start going to other continents soon. If only he had a human.

There was a small crash down below. Cherubimon floated away from the great gap in his castle, puzzled.

Then there was another crash. And another. And another. Then, the whole building trembled. Cherubimon snapped his paws together.

His warriors leaped to his side but before he could give them a single order, planets exploded beneath his feet.

Ofanimon wanted a chair.

Of all the things to complain about in the state of the universe, her lacking a chair should not be one of them. The problem was that she also lacked a floor to sit on without electrocuting herself. Eventually, she knew that she wouldn't care but that time simply had not come. So she stayed defiant, let the pain come for as long as she could bear it. She was an Ultimate Digimon of old. Her pain tolerance was quite high.

Many moons had passed, however, and she was not capable of much more. Her legs were too stiff and uncomfortable in the normally wonderful skirt. Not even the fear of the shock of the lights would keep her from staying upright anymore, she feared.

Still, she could not give her former friend the satisfaction of calling out. Instead, she sank to the ground in silence, resting on no ground whatsoever.

To her surprise, there was no pain. There was only a solid presence on the ground below. Relief filled her throat, if only for a moment. She hid her expression with care. He would quite like to see her as the shadow of herself, her elegant form reduced to a huddling child on the floor of a cage, a beast she claimed he bemoaned. At the time she had certainly disagreed, but now… well. She wasn't quite sure she could disagree anymore.

Still, the prison of prisms remained silent and still. He never arrived, as if not alerted. So, desperately, she slept, the exhaustion of merely existing simply too much. She had called the warriors. She had made them a way to fight. She had called to her spirits and Seraphimon's both. There was little else she could do until she knew they contained the powers they needed to.

That too seemed tainted somehow.

She awoke to the sound of something shattering, like glass. Ophanimon tensed, at once awake and eyes open behind her visor. Someone was here. Someone was… breaking something. Was Cherubimon on another rampage perhaps? Was someone invading? The Warriors could not possibly be ready so soon how long had she slept?

There was another shattering sound. Her cage wobbled, forcing her to move to investigate.

What stood there trying to break things was a small, furry, humanoid creature. It was like the small devils from human entertainment. And yet it looked so very familiar.

It grunted with annoyance, punching at another part of the room of pure light. As more darkness flooded the room, Ophanimon's shoulders slumped.

"Who are you?" she managed to say. "What are you doing here?"

"Saving you, ma'am. Like you tried to help me." The voice that came from that voice was slightly high, human in a sense, but definitely a child. "I mean… I wanted to help my friends but that guy said helping you first could help them. Because you called us here, you could tell everyone what to do and stop that sword guy from killing Kouji and stop me from doing all the stupid things I did."

It would have been babbling from anyone else. But to Ophanimon, it made a wicked amount of sense. "Are you a Legendary Warrior then?" They were only here for a few days, there was no way-

"I… I used to be." The little demon paused and turned to look at her. She could see the Symbol of Fire on his belt now, white and chalky and faded. But how? Someone else had claimed it. She had felt it in her bones and core! "In another time like this. But I screwed up. And I wanted to fix it and run away and now I'm just stuck like this. And I… I want to save my friends. I want to show them I know what I'm doing! I'm-" He clenched his fists and punched another hole. The cage of light began to touch the floor. "I'm better than this! I'm going to show them! I'm going to beat that hunk of eyes! I'm gonna stop Cherubimon and then we're all. Gonna. Go. Home!" The last few words were punctuated with punches and now the room looked similar to a poor attempt at redecorating.

The bottom of the cage gave way and Ophanimon floated to the floor. The Digimon panted and wheezed. But then he smiled.

"Eat that Kouji," he whispered, a little tremble in his voice. "I can do it! Without you butting in."

Kouji. That poor boy. The boy who she had to unravel for the sake of the world. The boy who was supposed to face his demons and heal them with the light of his heart.

The child turned back to her, lips pursed in a distinctly human way. "Come on, we need to get going. Before those two-" The castle, building and all, shook, the floor beginning to split beneath their feet. "Never mind. Run!"

Ofanimon almost wanted to say that it would be easier said than done. But self-preservation ran next to adrenaline, and so she turned on her battered heels and ran.

Chaos reigned outside of her prison. The abyss flowing around the stairs flashed with lightning and crackled the unsteady steps beneath her feet. Without hesitation, Ofanimon ducked her head as low as she could, dodging the frustrated wraiths and sparks of lightning.

Poor dead souls. Poor, poor souls.

Dancing through them all, planets forming and exploding in their palms, was-


The sound of her voice made the battle freeze. The angel turned to her, a sweet smile on his lips and a light in his eyes that she'd thought long gone, gone from the lies of royalty and the sweet lure of power.

"Hello, Ophanimon," he sang and her core and all its data thrummed with joy at hearing her designation, at seeing him look at her and look well and sane and good. "Are we going to fight as well?"

Dread rose up in her throat and she prepared to answer with the hope that they wouldn't-

Then lightning caught her in the shoulder and she tumbled.

The demon child screamed and the world erupted into flames.

For a city full of tiny monsters, they all sure understood the meaning of run and hide way better than Yutaka would have expected. Tomoki had barely gotten down at the sound of the thud before Bokomon and Naemon had crammed themselves inside, leaving Junpei and Izumi in another area with the broken track. It was a bit hard for him to fit, but he was kind of okay with that because Kouichi was still missing and the job of a good person was to help other people. The least he could do was keep an eye out, he supposed. Considering how weird the guy was, he would need all the help he could get.

"The heck's goin' on?" Yutaka mumbled, jostled awake by all the sound.

"Something large is in the forest!" Naemon shouted, causing Bokomon to snap his waistband.

"Ssh!" he hissed. "Do you want them to hear us?" Naemon squeaked in pain.

"That's not helping!" Still, he went quiet, and soon all of Fire Terminal was a strange, still mass of monsters.

Then a tree fell again and following it was a great, awful roar and a shuddering of ethe arth. Junpei and Izumi looked at each other and he pressed a hand to her shoulder. She nodded.

"I've got you," she whispered.

Junpei's legs trembled as another tremor shook the ground. Then came the smell. It was like rotten meat on the market, left to bake in the summer sun, the too dead scent of milky fish eyes staring at you. It rolled off in terrible waves.

Junpei breathed through his mouth and immediately regretted it.

Izumi ducked back under the track but not before she heard Bokomon's high voice whimper,


Junpei made himself stumble at that point, moving to Bokomon and Naemon's hiding spot. Izumi swallowed a gulp of air and was right behind him. "We, we need to get this guy out of here." He gestured to Yutaka, who quivered in place.

"Kouichi-san is still out there!" Tomoki's voice wasn't loud but there was an extra, not-frightened edge to it.

"Why?" Yutaka wheezed and Junpei watched him sit up slowly, a twitching grated edge to his movements. Whatever the hell turning into a digimon was like it had to suck.

"To get food. He's probably running back here as we speak," Bokomon piped up and looked rather sternly about them. "He might have seen the Raremon, if he hasn't smelled it already."

"All the more reason to run!"

"And get him lost," Izumi mumbled, but she didn't look any less willing to run.

"I'll stay here!"

Everyone, everyone looked at Tomoki.

"No," Yutaka croaked immediately. "You're a slow runner. You'd get squashed by that thing."

"I'm small enough to dodge!" Tomoki's eyes were wet and he shook with clenched fists. "I'm can dodge better htan you can now and I know what Kouichi-san looks like! I can do it! I'm gonna do it!" And he turned and hopped back under the tracks where Bokomon and Naemon had slept.

Yutaka stared at the space his brother had vacated and then beside him where he was now. Then, as if afraid to hesitate, he struggled to his feet and to climb out.

"Fine," he said in a pant for air. "Be the hero. It'll be a nice change."

Tomoki sniffed, but no tears came, nothing but anger and hurt and the faintest hope.

"If you die, I'll bring you back and kill you a second time."

Tomoki nodded jerkily, unable to word even the concern he had every time his brother winced in pain.

This was his fault. His brother in pain, the bullies doing this, it was all his fault and he was going to do something about it even if that meant helping a stranger. Because that was the right thing to do.