He was fast asleep, oblivious to the passing of time and the rising sun, despite the fact it was thirty minutes passed the time he was supposed to wake up. I could only smile ruefully. He always did this, every single morning. No matter how many times he was scolded by his friends or Mariko-sensei, his teacher, and especially by me, he still did it. I would have to use the direct approach once again to wake him up.
“NETTO-KUN! YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE
Netto jerked upright in panic, and in the process got tangled up in his sheets. He yelped and fought the sheet’s hold, still half asleep.
“Netto-kun, you’re going to—”
Netto’s struggling rolled him off the bed, and he hit the ground with a loud thump.
“—fall,” I finished, wincing. Netto was always a bit cranky when he got up in the morning, but this was really going to set him off.
“ROCKMAN!” Netto sputtered, finally untangling himself from the blankets. “Why did you do that?” He then glanced at his clock, and I watched his eyes go wide. “Why didn’t you wake me sooner? I’m going to be late!”
I resisted the urge to sigh. Netto’s one track mind had kicked into gear once again. “I tried. Nothing I do ever wakes you up.”
“Yelling at me seemed to work!” Netto grumbled as he struggled to get dressed. “What I want to know is, why didn’t you do that to begin with?”
His last words had turned teasing, and I smiled in response. “I guess it never occurs to me that yelling at you can be anything but a last resort.”
“Figures,” Netto said. He grabbed my PET and raced out of his room, bounding down the stairs. One of these days he was going to trip and bounce down the stairs instead, I just knew it. “Yelling would be the first thing I’d do.”
~Huh? What’s a PET, you ask? Oh, I forgot, you’re not from around here, are you? Well, let me backtrack and explain. I am a personal net navi—a navigator of the Internet and all computer systems, to be exact. You would probably think of it like an advanced computer program, although that’s not a very close comparison. I am much more advanced than any program you could name, I assure you. My name is Rockman.EXE, the personal net navi and friend of my operator, Hikari Netto. I was created to be his navi by his father, Hikari Yuuichiro. A PET, short for PErsonal Terminal, is just a small portable device that carries my data around. And now back to what I was saying…~
“That’s what I thought,” I teased, grinning. Netto’s personality and mine are completely different, and sometimes we clash because of it, but Netto and I are best friends. We may get into fights, but they never last long.
We got to the bottom of the stairs, and Netto looked around. “Where’s my backpack?”
This time I didn’t hold back my groan. If Netto were more careful, he wouldn’t have these problems, and now we were going to be even later for school!
“It’s not in the corner you threw it in?” I asked. If Netto was more careful with his stuff, he wouldn’t have this problem either. I supposed I had a disapproving tone to my voice, but Netto didn’t pick up on it. He can be a bit thick at times, especially in the mornings.
“Netto!” A voice to our left called, causing Netto to spin around toward the kitchen. A woman wearing a skirt and a purple shirt was holding his backpack. She smiled at him. “There you are, Netto. I didn’t think I would get to see you this morning.”
That was Netto’s mother, Hikari Haruka. She’s a very kind and loving mother, and always seemed to be in a cheerful mood. Mama’s also a great cook—
~What? You think it’s strange that I call her Mama? She doesn’t mind, and besides, she’s my mother too. What do you mean, that makes no sense? It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Now, do you want to hear the rest of the story? You do? Then stop interrupting.~
“He overslept again, Mama,” I said loudly.
“Rockman!” Netto shushed me. Mama laughed and handed Netto his backpack. We both knew how lazy Netto could be in the mornings. I think Mama’s grateful that I’m around, otherwise she would have to wake Netto up every morning.
“Why don’t you eat breakfast really quickly, before you go?” Mama suggested. “It’s not good for you to learn on an empty stomach.”
“Netto-kun, you were supposed to meet Meiru-chan at the corner today,” I reminded him.
“Oh, I forgot!” Netto spun around and raced for the door. I couldn’t help but snicker as he hesitated at the door, turned and ran back, grabbed a roll from the kitchen, and then ran out the door. I swear sometimes his brain is controlled by his stomach .
“Itte kimasu!” Netto and I called as Netto ran out the door.
“Itte rasshai!” Mama called back before the door slammed shut.
Netto ran out to the sidewalk and paused. Sure enough, Meiru was waiting at the corner, her back to Netto and her arms crossed. Meiru is one of Netto’s friends and is in the same fifth grade class he is. Sometimes I wonder how they came to become friends, because their personalities are vastly different. Meiru’s responsible, and Netto is… well, not responsible most of the time. I think you can guess the rest of their personalities from there.
“She doesn’t look happy…” I muttered.
“She can’t be too mad,” Netto said, but he sounded doubtful. “I’m not that late.”
At that moment, Meiru turned around and spotted Netto, and boy, did she look mad. Let me pause to explain something. Remember the fights I mentioned that Netto and I sometimes get in? They’re nothing compared to the rows Netto and Meiru can have.
Her voice carried down the street, almost amplified by the houses on either side of it. Netto winced. “Why is everyone yelling at me today?” he complained, slowly approaching Meiru. “Anou, Ohayo, Meiru-chan.”
Netto and Meiru have what you would call a “love/hate” relationship, although I believe those words are too strong for their situation. They’re good friends, most of the time, but when they get into a fight, you can hear it from across town. I suspect Netto has a crush on Meiru, but if I asked him, he would never admit it. I think he’s afraid I’ll tell Roll, who is Meiru’s navi, Roll.EXE. She and I are good friends, and we don’t fight like Netto and Meiru do. Roll tells me that Meiru likes Netto back, but the way they act, you would never be able to tell. Sometimes I feel tempted to “help” things along, but I could never really do a thing like that. Netto might never forgive me if he found out.
“You’re late, Hikari Netto!” Meiru snapped. She was holding her PET in her hand, and I could see Roll looking resigned within the PET. I waved at her, and she waved back, bowing slightly as if to apologize for Meiru’s temper. I shook my head; Meiru, in my opinion, had every right to be angry. Roll and I are good at silent communicating. We do it a lot during Netto and Meiru’s fights. We’ve even developed simple hand gestures for more complex words and sentences.
~What’s that you ask? Do I have a crush on Roll-chan? Well, she and I are friends… um, let’s get back to what I was talking about, shall we?~
Netto and Meiru’s fight was rising in volume. “Netto-kun!” I hissed urgently. “People are starting to stare!” It was true. I could feel their stares from across the street and out of nearby windows.
“Meiru-chan!” Roll cried, trying to get her operator’s attention. “You’ll be late for school!”
“Netto-kun? Meiru-chan?” A new voice broke in, sounding puzzled. Netto and Meiru turned with twin looks of surprise, and I peered out my PET to see the source of the voice. A small, blonde, pigtailed girl—Yaito—was staring at Netto from the window of her limousine.
Yaito is another friend of Netto. She’s the daughter of the president of Gabcom, so she has a lot of money. She’s very smart too, and she’s in the same grade Netto is, even though she’s only eight. She can have a superior attitude sometimes, but her navi, Glyde.EXE, is very polite and nice. He has a lot of patience, which is something you would need around Yaito, I suppose.
“Yaito-chan?” Netto looked as puzzled as Yaito. I bet he had forgotten his fight with Meiru already, judging by the look on his face. “What are you doing here? You should have gone to school already!”
Yaito turned red. “Well, I had something I needed to do before class, and it took longer than I thought it would. But we’re all going to be late for class if we stay here talking. Get in!”
That was strange; Yaito was usually the first to get to school. What could she consider important enough to risk being late? Netto didn’t hesitate before opening the door of the limousine and piling in.
I caught a brief glimpse of Meiru following with more dignity. “Thank you, Yaito-chan, for giving us a ride.”
“Yeah, it was nice of you to pick us up, Yaito-chan,” Netto chimed in. The limousine started forward.
“Netto, you’re squishing me,” I complained. My PET had been pressed against the interior side of the limousine, and I couldn’t see a thing.
“Gomen, Rockman,” Netto apologized, moving a bit. He seemed to think for a second. Then he pulled the PET out and positioned it so I could see everything he could. For all his faults, Netto could be very thoughtful in his own way.
“Actually,” Yaito looked embarrassed. “I was almost considering not stopping for you. We’re very late for school, and I thought… I thought you two might have other plans to get there.”
“Oh,” Netto said.
That was very typical of Yaito. It wasn’t that she was rude; it was just that she could be brutally honest at times. Sometimes I think Netto needs a little brutal honesty to get through to him.
“Well!” Meiru smiled, looking uncomfortable. “It was nice of you to change your mind.”
“No problem!” Yaito smiled, seeming unaware of the discomforting situation she had caused.
“Hey,” Netto said, looking out the window. “This isn’t the way to school.” I followed his gaze.
“Oh,” Yaito glanced out the window. “This is a shortcut.”
“Are you sure?” Netto looked doubtful. I couldn’t blame him. The area we were passing through was an old neighborhood, with many traditional houses lining the sides of the street. I thought Netto and I had explored the entire town, but this area looked unfamiliar.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Yaito said firmly. She didn’t like people doubting her much.
Meiru and Yaito started a conversation about hairclips. I noticed that Netto seemed distracted. He was staring out the window with a distant look in his eyes. Frankly, I couldn’t blame him for being disinterested in the girls’ conversation.
“Netto-kun?” I said, trying to get his attention. It was a rare moment whenever he was so quiet. “What’s wrong?”
“I think I’ve been here before,” Netto said softly.
“What? When?” I didn’t recognize the area, and Netto rarely went anywhere without me.
“It was before I got you,” Netto explained. “When I was really young. I remember walking down these streets with Mama.” He frowned. “That’s funny; I can’t remember where we were going.”
“It must have been really important, for it to stick in your memory like that,” Yaito said teasingly, breaking in to our conversation.
Netto and I turned back to the girls, both of us surprised. I realized by the looks on their faces that they had been listening intently. Instead of saying something joking back, like I had expected him to, Netto merely frowned and turned back to the window. Meiru and Yaito exchanged surprised looks.
“Netto-kun?” I said, worried. This was extremely unlike him.
“Netto, I didn’t mean to upset you…” Yaito trailed off, hesitating.
“It’s not that,” Netto said. He scowled at the window, his reflection scowling back at him. “I can’t remember why I was here before and it’s bothering me.”
“Why don’t you ask your mother after school?” Meiru suggested.
Netto frowned, but nodded reluctantly. “Yeah, I guess you’re—hey, there’s Enzan!”
It was true. I could see the
dyed-white hair of Ijuuin Enzan, one of the best, if not the best netbattler in
“What?” Yaito and Meiru exclaimed, just as surprised as we were at Enzan’s appearance.
Yaito shoved Netto away from the window and peered through it. For a moment, all I could see was the red color of her dress as she climbed over Netto to see out his window. “It is Enzan, that jerk!” she exclaimed. “Driver, stop the car!”
The limousine came to a screeching halt, causing Netto and Yaito to fall forward. Once again I was blinded momentarily as Netto and Yaito struggled to get up.
“Hey!” I protested loudly. I was getting very tired of being blinded and tossed around, intentional or not.
Yaito somehow managed to grab the door handle and get out of the car, leaving Netto and my PET in a jumbled heap on the limousine’s floor. I found myself staring at the ceiling of the limousine. Meiru’s face appeared in my view as she leaned forward. I assumed she was trying to see what Yaito was up to.
“What is she doing?” Meiru asked, confusion clouding her features.
“I dunno,” Netto grunted, pulling himself to his feet. The PET bounced around like crazy, and I had to look away to keep from becoming dizzy.
~What? Of course I can get dizzy! I told you, my programming is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Now stop interrupting, I’m almost finished.~
Finally, Netto righted himself, and I could see Yaito talking to Enzan. We were too far to hear what they were saying, but Yaito looked angry. As we watched, Enzan said something, his expression calm. Yaito stamped her foot and turned away, looking furious. Enzan moved as if to walk away.
“That does it,” Netto mumbled. He hooked my PET to its carrying case on his belt and ran out of the limousine. “Oi! Enzan!”
“Netto-kun, wait for me!” Meiru called, following him.
Enzan paused as Netto ran up to him. Yaito continued to ignore him, scowling.
“What is it you want, Hikari?” Enzan asked flatly.
Netto took a breath. “What did you do to Yaito?” he demanded. Yaito looked surprised at Netto’s outburst.
“I did nothing to her,” Enzan said. “She asked me a question, and I gave her an answer. Apparently, it wasn’t the answer she wanted.”
“Is that so?” Netto shot back. He had a fierce competition with Enzan to be the top netbattler, but I think he was more concerned for Yaito’s feelings at the moment. Once again, it was one of the rare moments when Netto proved he could be thoughtful.
“It’s all right, Netto-kun,” Yaito broke in. “He’s telling the truth.” Meiru had gone to her side and was watching her with interest. I think she was resisting the urge to demand there and then what question it was and why was she asking Enzan. I know I was curious about it.
“Well…” Netto hesitated. I think he was searching his mind for something else he could argue with Enzan about.
“If that is all you want, then I will leave now,” Enzan said, turning away.
“Wait a second!” Netto demanded angrily. “Just what were you doing in this neighborhood anyway?”
I half expected Enzan to tell him that it wasn’t any of his business. Instead, he said, “I was looking for your father. Someone told me I could find him at the graveyard. I didn’t see him there, however, so now I’m leaving. Is that all right with you?”
“My father? What graveyard?” Netto sounded confused.
Enzan sighed as if we were being a great burden on him, and pointed. “That graveyard. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” I watched him continue down the road. Something was wrong with this. Why would Papa be in a graveyard? Unless… unless it was…
“It is a graveyard…” Netto said, his expression puzzled as he stared at the entrance to the graveyard.
The word “graveyard” burned into my brain. Suddenly, I knew why Papa was visiting the graveyard, and why Mama had been here before.
“Netto-kun, we’re going to be late for school,” I pleaded. “Let’s just go.”
“I want to know why Papa was in a graveyard,” Netto argued back.
“Netto-kun, Rockman’s right,” Meiru said, gesturing for him to follow her. “We can’t be late for school.”
“You guys go on ahead,” Netto replied, walking slowly towards the gate. “I want to see what Papa is up to.”
“Well…” Meiru still looked uncertain.
“C’mon, we’re going to be late,” Yaito interrupted, pulling on Meiru’s skirt. “Mariko-sensei will be mad if we’re late. Netto-kun will be fine; the school’s not that far from here.”
“Thanks for the concern, Yaito-chan,” Netto mumbled, still walking away. Frankly, I couldn’t help but agree with him, but Yaito did like to be the teacher’s pet sometimes. It was just the way she was.
“Well, all right,” Meiru said hesitantly. “I’ll see you later, Netto-kun.”
Netto waved a hand at her and walked on. With every step he took into the graveyard, the more desperate I got. I had to stop him before he found out the truth. I promised Papa…
“Netto-kun, please, just go back to school,” I begged. “You’re going to get in so much trouble!”
Netto paused and looked around, taking in the shrine in one corner and the engraved headstones. “If I didn’t know any better,” he said, “I’d say you were trying to stop me from finding something.”
If I had a heart, it would have frozen right there at the spot. “Netto-kun, you’re being ridiculous,” I snapped.
“And you’re acting funny!” Netto snapped back. “I want to know why!”
“Netto-kun, we’re in a graveyard!” I hissed. “Try to keep it down.”
“Oh, yeah,” Netto looked around sheepishly before bowing apologetically to the closest grave. He began walking again, still holding my PET in his hands. “I know all you’re worried about is school, Rockman, but I hardly get to see Papa. He’s always off on some kind of business trip or at work. If he’s here, then I at least want to know why.”
He sounded determined, and I could see by the look on his face that he was. I sighed heavily; there was no arguing with Netto when he got in this mood. “All right,” I said, defeated. “But if we don’t find him soon, you have to promise to head straight for school.”
“Daijoubu,” Netto said. “Don’t worry. You have a deal.”
I had never wished harder than at that moment to be able to chew on my nails, or pull on my hair, or do something to release the nervousness that I was feeling. Netto was my responsibility, and I had promised Papa that I would never tell him. What would I do if he found out on his own?
Fortunately for me, I was saved.
Netto spun around. “Papa!” he cried.
Hikari Yuuichirou, Netto’s father, was staring at his son in amazement. I would be staring too if I was in his position. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in school?”
Now it was my turn to see Netto fidget, and after arguing with him for so long, it was kind of nice to see him squirm.
“Anou… I heard that you were here, and I wanted to see you,” Netto looked down at his feet. “I’m sorry for missing school, Papa.”
Papa sighed. “Well, I suppose I can forgive this little incident for once. Just don’t tell your Mama, all right?”
“Okay!” Netto beamed, his guilt forgotten. That was Netto for you; thick as a log and as forgetful as an old man.
“Papa, Enzan was looking for you, but he said he didn’t see you here,” I informed him. I was still a little angry with Netto and had resolved not to talk to him unless I had to.
“Really? I must have missed him,” Papa said, looking thoughtful. “I wonder what he wanted?”
“Papa, what are you doing in a graveyard?” Netto asked.
I cringed. How was Papa going to answer this one?
“I was visiting some relatives,” Papa answered smoothly, not missing a beat. I swear I’ll never learn how to do that.
“Why? It’s not the Obon festival,” Netto said.
Papa laughed. “It doesn’t have to be the Obon festival to visit a graveyard, Netto. One of these days you’ll find that out for yourself. Now, how’s your schoolwork coming? You must be pretty confidant to skip school at your leisure.”
Netto looked uncomfortable. “Actually…”
The rest of the day went by, like it usually did. Netto got scolded from Mariko-sensei for being late, but she forgave him after Papa stepped in and said he had been responsible for Netto’s absence. It wasn’t true, but it let Netto off the hook. Yaito was unusually silent for the first part of the day, but later on, Netto informed me that he had seen her drawing pictures of Enzan with horns and was taking great pleasure in ripping them up. Meiru was still worried about her, but that sounded like typical Yaito behavior to me. She would be fine.
Netto made it home without becoming involved with any WWW plots to take over the world, or exploding buses, or mad robotic animals running amok, and it seemed that the morning had never happened. When we got home, Papa was there, which was an unusual surprise, but not a bad one. The only other unusual thing that happened was that Papa asked to see me and my PET after dinner.
Netto had looked surprised. “Sure, Papa, as long as it’s all right with Rockman.”
I was touched by his thoughtfulness. Most operators—Ijuuin Enzan being a good example—didn’t bother asking their navis what they wanted to do, they just told them. That was another reason why Netto and I are more than just partners—we’re friends.
“It’s fine with me,” I replied.
Papa carefully took my PET from Netto and got up from the table. “I’ll be in my study for a few minutes. I just want to check on Rockman’s operating systems.”
“Can I come too?” Netto asked.
“Why don’t you stay and help Mama with the dishes?” Papa suggested, already leaving the room.
“Ahhhh,” Netto groaned, but the last I saw of him, he was helping Mama clean off the plates.
Papa quickly entered the study and shut the door. “How are you doing, Rockman?” he asked quietly, hooking the PET up to his computer.
“I’m fine,” I answered. “It’s tough keeping up with Netto sometimes, but I get by.” I hesitated before saying my next words. “I didn’t realize you had the grave so close to the house.”
“We weren’t really thinking of location then,” Papa sighed, as if realizing his almost lighthearted words sounded wrong. “I’m sorry, Rockman. We’ve never taken you there. I would have, but with Netto around—”
“I understand,” I said, smiling slightly. “Besides, it would feel strange, looking at my own grave.”
“I’m checking your systems, just so I wouldn’t be telling a lie to Netto,” Papa said. “How do you feel about all… this?”
“You mean, keeping it a secret from Netto?” I asked, sighing. “It’s hard sometimes, but I knew it’s for the best. For now, I’m happy with just being close to him, even if I can’t be his brother.”
~What’s this about brothers? Just wait.~
The conversation lapsed into silence, and I found myself thinking of why the graveyard had sent me into such a panic. If Netto had gone any farther, he might have found the grave marked Hikari Saito. The grave of his twin brother, someone he never even knew had existed. My grave, or the grave of who I used to be. Some of my programming still carries the DNA of Saito, even though I am now Rockman. Papa and Mama are planning on waiting until Netto is older to tell him about his brother, and the truth about me. I’m happy with that plan; I don’t want him to treat me differently than he does now.
“I’m done with the checking,” Papa announced. “Are you ready to rejoin the family?”
I nodded, and together we left the study. Even if I cannot enjoy this world as Saito, I know I’ll always be a part of the Hikari family as Rockman, no matter what.
~Well, that’s my story. Thanks for sticking around and listening to me. It’s hard to hold it all in, keeping all these secrets from Netto and the rest of my friends. I appreciate any chance to tell someone. Sayonara. Rockman.EXE, jacking out.~
Author’s note: I wondered how Rockman/Saito saw things from the confinement of his PET, and I wanted to get his possible point of view of events and people. The first game (as I remember it) seemed to indicate that Rockman knew he had been Saito, and I wondered how he dealt with that information and the life he now leads (even though the story is based mostly on the show). This story is dedicated to Shimegami.EXE/Izumi, for being such a cool, generous person and a huge Saito fan. ^_^
…Who’s Rockman talking to? Why, you, the reader, of course!
Glossary of Japanese words:
Itte kimasu—“I’m off.” Loose translation. A phrase that you always, always say when leaving the house or home.
Anou—Japanese for—believe it or not—“um, uh, er.” Can be said to get someone’s attention, but usually something you say when searching for a word.
Gomen—short, informal form of gomen nasai, “I’m sorry.”
Ohayo—Short, informal form of ohayo gozaimasu, “good morning.”
-chan—suffix. Used for close friends or siblings younger than yourself as a term of endearment.
-kun—yet another suffix, -kun is usually used for boys. It can be used for those “equal” (in age, grade, or rank), or “below” you.
Daijoubu—It can be used for more than one meaning, such as “it’s all right,” or, if it’s in a question (daijoubu desu ka?) “are you all right?” Netto is using it in the context of “don’t worry.”
Obon festival—The Buddist festival of Obon takes place over a few days in July or August, depending on the area. Graves are cleaned and offerings made to welcome back the spirits of ancestors.
Sayonara—A formal good-bye. It indicates that the speaker will not see the person they’re addressing for a long time.