Level 2- Children

Chiaki Ichijouji- Age 16
Born to Ken and Yolei Ichijouji on December 6, 2023
Second year high school student
Currently living in Tamachi, Tokyo with parents Ken and Yolei and brother Masayuki


Stage Six- Control

So many visions ran through Koji’s mind that he registered very few of them. He thought he saw Henry trying to explain the more technical nuances of the Digital World. He thought he saw Mother D-Reaper towering over his city, devouring everything he loved. He thought he saw Guilmon.

“Takato?”

The sound of Yamaki's voice pulled Koji back to reality. His eyes opened and he immediately felt pain in the right side of his neck and his left arm. He was slumped over in an office chair; his chest pinning his arm to the armrest. He freed the limb and rubbed his neck, trying to regain his bearings. The room was small, dimly lit by two overhead lamps. Yamaki sat on the other end of a table. Before Koji could attempt to speak, Yamaki held up his cell phone.

“He’s awake.”

Yamaki set the phone on the table. He reached for a pair of sunglasses in the breast pocket of his suit, leaned back in his chair, and casually cleaned them with a handkerchief until a second man entered. Koji did not recognize him, and he feared the contemptuous look in the stranger’s eyes. Whoever this person was, Koji could tell he was trouble. He quietly bore the brunt of the man's stare until those foul eyes turned to Yamaki. In a flash, Koji quietly slid out of his chair and jumped for the door.

Yamaki noticed, of course, and by turning alerted the man, who quickly spun around and threw his hand in Koji's path. Just as well- Koji had no idea what to do even if he did escape.

"I was hoping we could get through this without resorting to shackles and restraints," the man said calmly as he forced Koji back into the seat. 

Koji's discomfort increased, as did his sense of helplessness. He could tell this wouldn't be pleasant, but until he knew what he was going to suffer through, he would not know his best action.

With perfect neutrality, the man continued, "Takato, just so you understand the situation: we have the ability to destroy you with no consequence. Hope we resort to that later rather than sooner."

Koji tried to bear that bravely, but was choked by the thought of his destruction taken so lightly. "Who are you?" he exhaled between staggered breaths.

"Yasuo. Who are you?"

Koji forced himself to calm down. He stared back at Yasuo and replied, "Koji Mathews."

"Koji Mathews is dead, Takato. There will be no more pretending that you have the right to exist in this world."

"Then why am I here?"

Yamaki replied, "That's what we intend to find out."

Now Koji could feel both men staring down on him. His eyes darted between the two. "So what, if I tell you what I know, you'll let me live?" he asked nervously. It was an ambitious thought, but he was at whatever mercy Yasuo and Yamaki possessed. He had to maintain some hope that he would one day be able to resume his life, Takato's life, or any life for that matter.

Yasuo's glare remained cold. "At this point, it's more about us letting Dwayne, Mimi, and Michi live. Your fate is sealed."

Koji looked at Yamaki, desperate for some reassurance. For a second, Koji thought he saw Yamaki cast a brief sign of disapproval at Yasuo, but lowered his eyes and shook his head just as quickly.

That was that- Koji was pinned against the wall and had no movement. His friends had offered shelter, information, and support. Now they were prisoners of Yasuo's power. Even if he cooperated on their behalf, Koji's only reward would be his own termination- a foregone conclusion to Yasuo. He was in no position to save himself here, but hopefully he could at least protect his friends and look for a way out later.

But even if he was doomed at the hands of the two men, he still had one request: "I just want to know what's going on. Tell me that much and promise that you won't hurt Michi or the others, then I'll tell you how I got here."

"Takato, you may not want to know the truth," Yamaki said, standing. He paced back and forth. "Janyuu and the others went to great lengths to conceal it before. And with good reason."

"Janyuu?" Koji blurted. Yasuo scoffed at the name.

"Yes. It was more than just a pet project, it was more than just some college students, and they created more than just your Digital World," Yamaki replied.

Koji quivered in his seat. He had known that somewhere along the line somebody had to be feeding him lies. He just hadn't considered that it went that far back.

Yasuo sat down as Yamaki explained: "Soon after the Sealing in 2028, a group of Digital World researchers found themselves out of a job. So they began researching ways to reintroduce Digimon to society, or at the very least allow for a healthy relationship between the two."

"This was primarily the work of Rob McCoy and a few of his stooges," Yasuo added.

Slightly annoyed by the interruption, Yamaki continued: "Recent developments in virtual reality and artificial intelligence had resulted in a program- a virtual simulation as real as whatever parameters the programmer sets for it. It was called the MAXIS, developed mostly for medical purposes: identifying the long-term effects of certain treatments and such. Dr. McCoy and his associates used this program to create their own reality... with their own Digital World."

"And that was..." Koji gulped as he realized what he was about to say-

"My world," he mouthed. A simulation. An experiment. A fake.

"And that never should have been created to begin with," Yasuo answered for Koji, shaking his head, "In fact, as soon as the American government found out about the experiment, funding for it was immediately ceased. A deconstruction program, the D-Reaper which I'm sure you're familiar with, was sent in. But somehow your world survived."

"However that happened, Goro Mizuno, one of the researchers, noticed this and began monitoring the project on its own," Yamaki continued, "Eventually the world evolved so much,"

"Artificially motivated by Mr. Mizuno," interrupted Yasuo.

With another head shake, Yamaki corrected Yasuo. "We don't know if Mizuno had a hand in the Digital World's evolution in the MAXIS or not. But whatever the case, the world had evolved so much that Mizuno restarted the project, with financial support from a private donor. Because of this, the government couldn't interfere by taking the money away. So Yasuo volunteered to oversee the project."

"We agreed to establish an organization to monitor the connection between the two worlds within the MAXIS. By now, the technology allowed us to physically enter this world, and we hired Yamaki to develop and head our Hypnos program."

"Hypnos..." whispered Koji.

Yamaki nodded. "Yes. I entered the MAXIS along with a couple assistants and one of the researchers- Janyuu Wong."

Koji stood and slammed his hands on the table. Yasuo made a motion to guard the exit, but stopped when Koji yelled, "Wait a minute! Janyuu had his family in there!"

With a sigh, Yamaki walked around the table and put a hand on Koji's shoulder. Looking him directly in the eye, he said, "Yes. The MAXIS allows for the creation of simulated humans with any predefined traits- appearance, behavior, you name it. Janyuu essentially recreated his entire family in order to keep company."

Koji's eyes trailed from Yamaki to the floor. "Including..."

"Yes. The Henry you befriended was merely a virtual duplication of the real Henry Wong in this world."

Falling back into his chair, Koji stared straight ahead in a dazed stupor. The Henry he knew before was merely a clone- a fake created solely for his father's amusement. That meant the genuine copy was the aggravated, distrusting bully who chewed him out earlier.

Koji probably didn't have to believe it. He certainly didn't want to believe it. Koji perceived Yasuo as the type to orchestrate lies. And yet, he accepted it. Deep down, something sown within him made him accept this story as truth.

"You understand now why your presence is so troubling," Yasuo said, "If something created in the MAXIS can find their way here, imagine the possibilities."

"Yes," Yamaki said with a grave nod, "Long story short- you are not real. Yet you are here. Why?"

Managing to turn to Yamaki, Koji sullenly asked, "Why are you asking me this? You helped us. You were one of the good guys. We could never have beaten D-Reaper without you."

"The more pressing question is why did he help you." Koji quickly turned to Yasuo, his eyes targeting Yamaki, his mouth in a snarling half-smile, awaiting Yamaki's answer.

Taking a nearby seat, Yamaki provided it: "After the battle against Vikaralamon did so much damage, and literally crashed the Hypnos system, the project was deemed a failure and Yasuo sent D-Reaper to eradicate the worlds." Yamaki paused and looked up at Yasuo. "At the time, I guess I wasn't ready to completely destroy the world. One of my co-workers, Riley, convinced me to stand against its destruction. With the rest of the program's creators, we agreed to help fight off D-Reaper."

"And such a heroic effort it was too Mitsuo," Yasuo mocked, "You won, the world was spared, and we all moved on, leaving these simulated beings to live their simulated lives. Because as you all insisted, there couldn't possibly be any harm in that."

As Yasuo continued to stare down Yamaki, Koji felt the urge to stand up for his old ally. He wanted to say something about how thankful he was for Yamaki's support. But he remained silent. Although Yamaki had let Koji live, both men seemed to resent that now. With Koji apparently non-existent in the minds of these two, no amount of his support could help Yamaki.

Instead, he questioned the sole reason for Takato's significance: "So where did I fit into this whole project?"

"For all I know, it was some divine accident," Yamaki answered flatly, "The project had no room to intentionally allow children to tame Digimon. It was one of the many surprises we had to cope with."

"Actually, Mitsuo, you're only half-right." Both Koji and Yamaki turned to Yasuo, who stood and faced the opposite wall. "It's true that the revived project had no intention to partner humans and Digimon. There was some other force at work there. But the original project did account for such a possibility."

"I was never made aware of this."

"Yes, I only found out after looking through the original specifications. But the researchers did want to someday bring Digimon to the real world under the supervision of human children. The proposal called for one child to be created with very specific traits. They specified everything- personality, appearance, social status, residency... name." Yasuo turned around and faced Koji. "They all believed it was the most ideal human for taming a Digimon."

"Let me guess- Ryo?" Koji suggested.

"No..." Yasuo said, momentarily flashing a spiteful sneer. "They named him Takato Matsuki."

 

Mari slept very little that night. Koji never returned from his journey to deliver Takuya's letter and find Michi. Something had obviously happened. No false hope could disguise the circumstances- this endeavor was too risky; it couldn't possibly succeed without incident. But the next day, Mari had few clues to what had happened.

She came to a difficult conclusion when she boarded a train for Takuya's university. Part of her wanted to distance herself from the whole thing. It was already getting too dangerous, and hunting down Koji could only lead to more trouble. But she cared too much to leave him to whatever fate designed for him. He was the first person she been able to open up to in a long time. She had to at least try to help him in return. Her final decision was cemented by the other clear fact- she was genuinely attracted to him.

Mari was doubly nervous as she buzzed Takuya's dorm room. She had never been here before; if anyone was watching they'd certainly be suspicious. But tracing Koji's path was more important than her security. In her mind, Mari made up an excuse about wanting to interview Takuya for a report on his father. Hopefully that was a suitable justification for the trip.

Takuya arrived, but didn't recognize her at first. After a long glance, he scratched his head. "Mari?"

"Oh good. For a second there I was afraid you didn’t remember me. May I come in? I need to talk to you."

"Um... I guess... just hurry up and get in here."

As he led her upstairs, he asked, "Is anyone following you?"

"I don't think so."

He still seemed nervous, and the neighbors on his floor did little to help. After a few tasteless shouts, sparked by the girl accompanying him, Takuya led Mari into his room, slamming the door behind him. Several of the remarks painted Mari's face red.

"Do they think we're going to..."

Takuya laughed. "Hey, better that then something shady. Don't worry about it Mari. You'll never see them again and it only helps my reputation!"

Mari managed a sigh. She began to sit on the bed, but quickly moved to a chair. Takuya noticed this and added, with a wry smile, "Of course, if they tell my girlfriend..."

A chuckle escaped Mari's mouth. "Anyway..." she began, "Did a boy about my age visit you yesterday? His name was Koji Mathews."

Takuya shook his head. "No. Jeez, did you come all the way over here to ask that? I have a phone, you know."

"It's not safe to use the phone. We don't know who else is listening."

His eyes narrowing out of concern, Takuya sat on the bed. "Why? Is something going on?"

"Yeah. And I think somebody got a hold of Koji. He said he was going to talk to you."

"And he never made it? He didn't leave any messages for me downstairs. Who is he?"

Mari looked around nervously, to make sure there was no hidden eavesdropper in the room. She leaned in toward Takuya. "He knows something he's not supposed to. He was coming to tell you."

Takuya blinked, clueless. "Tell me what?"

After looking around again, Mari took a scrap of paper from his desk and a pen. Takuya rose to his feet and looked over her shoulder as she scrawled, "Your father is alive."

He backed away, almost banging his head against his roommate's loft. Mari returned to her seat, letting him have his natural reaction. However, he merely exhaled and turned to her.

"Are you shitting me?"

She shook her head. "Koji had proof as well. A letter. Just as he had one from my father, and from everyone else who disappeared twelve years ago."

"Where are they?"

Lowering her voice, she replied, "Digital World. Koji found a way in, lived with them for a couple years, and found a way out."

Takuya folded his arms. "Huh. No wonder you're worried about someone getting a hold of him. If this is all true, there are a lot of people who would want him out of the way."

"I know. I'm really worried about him."

He left Mari to her worries, once again sitting on the bed. When Mari looked up, he was staring at the paper, still lying on the desk.

"What do you think of TK being alive?" she asked.

"I don't know," he replied, "It probably doesn't mean as much to me as it would to someone whose dad actually cared."

"What do you mean?" Mari asked abruptly. She didn't mean to pry, but Takuya's statement surprised her.

"My parents were heading for divorce anyway. I'm sure they probably loved each other once, but I think they got so tired of each other that they stopped caring. I always got the feeling that Dad just kind of took us for granted."

Mari tried to interrupt, but Takuya kept going: "The worst part was all the praise he got because of those books. He was always getting awards and stuff. And he was a nice guy when it came to all that, but even then it got annoying. He was always giving speeches about improving Digital World relations. And making such a big deal about all of his old adventures. And you can imagine Mom's reaction when he said he should have considered marrying what's-her-face Kari because it would have been a more popular ending."

He took a breath, which calmed him down. "He was a good guy, but that's all everybody saw. Nobody knew that Dad could really be a jerk sometimes. Even after he died, or disappeared or whatever, when that book turned into a cartoon, everybody would joke about my name. No matter what I do, my biggest trademark is being named for a fucking gogglehead."

Mari was speechless. She wasn't expecting Takuya to begin ranting like that. Takuya seemed to notice and immediately apologized. "Sorry. It just bugs me when people say my father, or any of the Chosen for that matter, were all perfect role models.” He paused, and continued, kinder, “But thanks for telling me about Dad. I hope he's happy."

Mari smiled. Takuya's face was more reassuring now, and she was able to reply, "Yes. Koji said they were all doing quite well."

"I hope your friend's alright. Tell you what- I'll get a hold of my mom. She was doing something with the government a few years ago. Maybe she can dig something up on where he is."

Raising her hands, Mari pleaded, "Oh, I don't want to get her into trouble."

"I don't think it'll be too much trouble. And if it is, she's smart enough to stay away from it. But I'll let her know either way."

Takuya's smile convinced her to let him help out with the search. He promised to let her know if anything turned up, and thanked her for the information.

As she began to leave, a second student entered the room and immediately looked at Mari. "Hello..." he said with sly interest.

Takuya sprang to his feet and introduced him, "Mari, this is my roommate Kouta." He turned to Kouta. "This is Mari, a friend."

With Kouta still staring at Mari, and now raising an eyebrow, Mari bowed, and went into her story. "Yes, I'm working on a school project on his father and asked Takuya for some information." She faced Takuya and smiled. "I got a lot more than I was expecting."

She excused herself and hustled out of the dormitory.

 

Michi felt uncomfortable trying on Miho’s clothes. With Yolei’s daughter married and out of the house, Michi was free to delve through whatever she left behind. A shirt was no issue- Michi found something loose and bland enough to not attract anyone’s attention. But jeans were a different issue. If Miho’s closet mostly contained relics from her teen years, as Michi inferred, Miho was obviously a few hairs smaller than Michi. Still, she forced herself into a pair. It was indeed uncomfortable, but she hadn’t felt comfortable in some time. She had no reason to start now.

She walked downstairs, her denim hairshirt wringing her waist. Michi entered the kitchen and found Yolei occupied with a phone call. Half of the dinner table was neatly prepared, the other half a strewn assortment of plates, napkins, and utensils.

“Yes, I was asking about the job…” As Yolei eagerly waited on the other end, she noticed Michi. She tilted her head slightly, a curious expression on her face. The conversation must have resumed, as she quickly turned away.

“Oh… are you sure?” Yolei asked, disappointed. She nodded a few times at whatever response she was given, and replied, “I see. Well, thanks for your time.”

Yolei set the cordless phone aside. She continued to stare at the wall as Michi approached her.

“Didn’t Miho have any dresses up there?” Yolei’s tone hadn’t changed from her conversation on the phone. She turned around once more. “I’d be really surprised if those jeans fit you.”

“They’re fine,” Michi replied.

Yolei began arranging the unkempt side of the table as Michi watched. Neither spoke until they heard Chiaki’s cry of “I’m home!” from the front door.

“Welcome home,” Yolei obliged.

Chiaki happily entered and began helping Yolei set the table.

“Hey Michi, those jeans look a bit small. Didn’t Miho have anything else?” he asked, more concerned with helping his mother.

“These are fine,” Michi replied. She noticed a smile beginning to appear on Yolei’s face.

“So were you helping Dad again today?” Yolei asked her son.

“No. He said the case was pretty much taken care of. There wasn’t much else for me to do, so I just hung out with my friends.”

Michi leaned against the counter and continued to observe Yolei chat, “So what was that case about?”

“Um…” Chiaki looked over at Michi. As soon as their eyes met, he returned his to the table. “Can’t say. Top secret stuff, you know?”

“Lovely,” Yolei replied, with a slight tinge of sarcasm.

They finished setting the table, with Yolei asking Chiaki unimportant questions about his day. Chiaki gave vague and uninteresting answers, to which Yolei always replied “That’s nice” in an attempt to sound encouraging.

Michi said nothing. She didn’t even care about her own social adventures, much less about Chiaki’s. It was all just a way to waste time- idle hours between whatever she was obligated to do later. She once held the notion that these obligations were the reason for being- life was about keeping busy. Friends, relatives, and hobbies existed to provide more obligations to affirm her existence. But those too seemed insignificant now. Her current obligation was to bring herself to remedy the situation with Koji. At the moment, though, she saw no purpose in doing so.

“You know, Michi, if you want, I can show you around.” Upon hearing her name, Michi looked up at Chiaki, who was smiling at her. “I mean, you look like you could use some cheering up. You don’t want to be stuck in here with Mom all day, do you?”

Michi wasn’t sure how to answer. She wouldn’t mind the distraction, but that was all it was- a temporary escape from her problems. She was sure to return to them at the end of the day.

Before she could respond, Chiaki’s little brother ran into the room and took the liberty. “Why don’t you make it more clear- you want to go out with her,” he teased.

“Masayuki!” Chiaki snapped back, a little red.

But the twelve-year-old ignored him and bounced up to his mother. “I saw Dad coming. He’ll be here any second.”

“I’m home,” Ken’s subdued call affirmed Masayuki.

Yolei left to greet her husband, leaving the three children alone in the kitchen. Chiaki continued to nervously look at Michi.

“I... don’t...” he began.

“Good, then I can sit next to her at dinner,” Masayuki announced, and joined Michi at the other end of the table. He smiled broadly at Michi and showed her to her seat. Wordlessly, she sat, wincing a little as her pants constricted her further.

Ken and Yolei entered. Ken looked solemn, especially after he and Michi exchanged troubled glances. After a moment, he turned back to his wife.

“So is dinner almost ready?”

“As a matter of fact it is,” Yolei replied, with pleased surprise, “You came home on time for once. What’s the occasion?”

Ken began to sit down. “The, um...” He nervously looked at Michi. “The investigation is over for the time being. Things are taken care of.”

“Did you get your guy?”

Another worried glance at Michi before he said, “Yeah. From what I can tell they got him.”

Michi had noticed Ken’s nervous looks, and faced Chiaki to see if he did as well. Apparently he had, because his eyes also darted towards her.

“What do you mean?” he asked Ken, “I didn’t know there was a guy.”

Ken didn’t respond verbally. Instead, he and Chiaki stared at each other, with one of the two occasionally nodding or tilting a head toward Michi. Chiaki remained quizzical throughout.

Michi looked at Yolei and Masayuki, who were both watching Ken and Chiaki’s game of motionless charades with immense fascination.

Masayuki broke the long silence by shouting, “Careful Mom, Chiaki’s going to steal second!”

Yolei laughed so hard she almost dropped a bowl of rice. She placed it safely on the table before resuming her laughter. “What were you two doing?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Ken replied, not amused by his wife’s mirth.

Neither Yolei nor Masayuki pursued the issue further. The Ichijouji family, plus Michi, ate quietly for a while. Masayuki broke the silence by talking about his day- a very uninteresting day since he didn’t leave the house. Yolei pretended to be interested; Ken, Chiaki, and Michi didn’t bother. In fact, Michi could tell Ken wasn’t listening. He finished his plate quietly, pausing sometimes to carefully survey Michi.

She turned her attention to Chiaki when he confronted Masayuki. “So basically, you didn’t do anything today.”

“Well what did you do?!” Masayuki replied, defensive.

“It’s none of your business.” Chiaki quickly stuffed his mouth with rice.

“You didn’t do anything either, did you?”

As Chiaki swallowed, his head rose, his eyes meeting Michi’s. “Michi, you have a little brother, don’t you?”

She was a little surprised at the question, but plainly answered, “Yes.”

“Is he the most annoying thing in the world?”

Michi narrowed her eyes. Kori? Annoying?

“I’m sorry...” Chiaki turned to Masayuki, “The second most annoying thing in the world,” he clarified.

“No,” was her simple reply. Kori was one of the few constants in her life. He and Tony were the only people she really confided in. Chiaki and Masayuki’s relationship seemed to be nothing of the sort. It somehow seemed... normal. Everything in the house reeked with normality. No wonder she was uncomfortable here.

By now, Masayuki had also noticed Ken’s silence. “Hey, Dad, something up?” he asked.

Ken sighed, then looked up at Michi. With some hesitance, he began, “Michi... um... about Koji...”

“I’m done,” Michi told Yolei, excusing herself from the table. Not wanting to feel trapped any longer, and especially not willing to discuss Koji, she left the family.

Yolei stood, about to go after her. She took two steps before Ken stopped her.

“Yolei, we need to talk.”

He excused himself from the table and slowly ascended the stairs. Yolei followed, but not before glancing at Michi, lying motionless on the couch. She entered her bedroom, and closed the door behind her. Ken stood patiently next to his dresser.

“What’s going on?” she asked up front.

“Chiaki and I have been investigating Michi and Koji,” he admitted.

Surprised, she stepped closer. “Why? Is Yasuo suspicious or something?”

“Yeah. At first I thought he was just being neurotic. Trying to spy on everybody that does anything that could possibly be questionable.”

“But you did it anyway?” she asked, a little angry. Yasuo had been the biggest enemy of the Chosen for decades, and the idea of Ken taking orders from him sickened Yolei.

“I figured it would be a good way to get him off our backs. I mean, I didn’t think for a minute that those two would be up to something. Davis and Kensuke helped out a bit too. And I also got Chiaki involved.”

Yolei paused, before nodding. “Okay, that makes sense. And I know they weren’t up to something. Mimi e-mailed me and told me they’d be in town for spring break. She wouldn’t have done that if they were trying to be secretive. So what did you learn?”

“Chiaki found out that they were planning to visit Takuya, Mima, Shinya, and Mari.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. So I had Davis and Kensuke find out. Whatever their reasons, Davis told me it wasn’t a problem. I asked Chiaki to try to keep tabs on them, but really I thought that was the end of it.”

With a grim nod, Yolei replied, “Until they broke up... or whatever happened.”

Ken sighed and sat down on the bed. He released another sigh, then said, “This is just a guess, but I think Michi found out who Koji really is.”

Deeply curious, Yolei sat next to Ken, “Who is he?”

“I don’t know. But Yasuo recognized his picture, got really upset, and the next thing I knew he picked Koji up for questioning.”

Yolei’s eyes jolted open. “Jeez. So what about Michi? Is she in trouble?”

“I don’t think so. All Yasuo told me was that Koji was the real threat, and that I should just try to keep an eye on Michi for now. Which leads me to believe that Michi ran out after she found out Koji’s secret, whatever that is. I don’t think she was in on the plan.”

It seemed to make sense. Although Yolei didn’t see Michi as the type to be fooled easily, if she was betrayed by someone she cared for, it would be hard to swallow.

“So what was the plan?” Yolei asked.

“I don’t know. And Yasuo’s not going to tell me.”

Yolei sighed, and placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to get it out of Michi, if that’s what you were thinking. She’s obviously going through a hard time, and you interrogating her won’t make it easier.”

“I understand. Maybe you could talk to her.” He turned to his wife and straightened the glasses on her face.

“I’ll try, but she hasn’t been saying much.”

Ken stood, prompting Yolei to follow. They left the room, pausing for a moment on the landing. Both could see Michi below them, resting on the couch, an occasional deep sigh the only sign of life.

“This is her journey,” Ken said, resting his arms on the banister. “Whatever she’s going through, she has to find her own way to beat it. We all went through the same thing.”

“At least we know she’ll be safe. That’s the important thing.”

The two former Chosen continued to watch Michi, as she remained dormant.

“You know Ken,” Yolei whispered, “If Yasuo considers Koji such a threat...” she faced him, “Wouldn’t that make Koji a good guy?”

“Possibly,” Ken replied, just as quiet, “But I don’t know whether to hope for that or not.”

 

After another day of aggressive interrogation, Koji was punished further by his inability to sleep. Everything from the past two days flew uncontrollably in his mind. He cooperated as much as he could, but was only rewarded by being locked in some underused cell. There were no windows; his only light was a flickering florescent ceiling lamp. His only activity was lying on the dusty cot, the only furniture in the room, and counting the hours until he was no longer useful.

Koji didn’t expect to be alive for long. He realized that he knew so little about the situation. The burning question of how he entered the Digital World was even more unusual than before. Instead of simply breaking through an impenetrable seal, he also unwittingly stepped out of his world altogether. Even Yasuo and Yamaki were stumped.

However it happened, his mission to deliver the letters was an additional strike. Yamaki found the letter to Takuya, forcing Koji to admit everything. He was careful not to implicate Michi, saying he needed a way to contact the other children and essentially forced Michi into helping. He also said they were unable to deliver any of the letters in Japan, which he hoped would keep Mari safe. Whether or not they bought that story, it didn’t help Koji. And as Yamaki calmly retrieved his lighter and burned TK’s letter, Koji knew the mission was over.

He was beyond help. He was an artificial fabrication, a carefully specified product created to tame Digimon. As designed, he had filled his role with enthusiasm, and to great success. And in the end, he was separated from Guilmon and left to a pointless life. But breaking free and finding a new purpose meant losing that too.

Izzy had told him to exist. In the real real world, Koji had. He had spent two of the best years of his life existing. But because he lived where had no right to live, his life was going to end.

For the longest time, Koji had believed that he was doing something right. Living in the Digital World, existing in New York, fulfilling his purpose in Odaiba. Now the truth was in front of him- his creators were finished with him, and his designated place was back in lonely Okinawa. He didn’t regret leaving. He was angry that he never had the right to leave.

Eventually, Koji was able to fall asleep. He was able to dream. He was able to wake the next morning and feel his back complaining about the cot. He was able to fear the day and hope his fate would change. Although he was able to do all of it, he was not able to convince his captors that he could exist.

To Be Continued in “Stage Seven- Escape”

 

Author’s Notes
As this is inspired by Lain, you knew this was going to get existential eventually. Koji and Michi’s angst in this chapter work together to this effect. There’s a few parallels and contrasts that are interesting to note.

The explanation provided may or may not have been what you expected, but you knew it was going to be more complicated than “two parallel worlds,” right? Some have offered theories linking the worlds of Adventure, Tamers, Frontier, the video games, and/or the recent Chronicle manga (which provides the namesake of Takuya's roommate). There is no actual connection (it's really just several different minds offering their own take on the Digital World), but I wanted to explore the possibilities using a very unbalanced connection between the Adventure and Tamers world. Here, one world is clearly superior to the other, which presents a whole lot of issues now and in the future. Naturally, there’s still several holes to be filled (including a giant hole named Ryo), and those will be addressed later.

Takuya’s comments about his father were briefly hinted at in Level 1 and the TK situation gets an interesting twist near the end of this story. It becomes very important in Level 3.

This ends Level 2: Stage 6 of The Connection.