Chapter 15: Unwanted
Enzan blinked at the harsh light of the waiting room. It made his head throb even more, and he covered his eyes with his unharmed arm. They had given him his clothes back, even though there were bloodstains on his vest and shirt. Haruka was at the nurse office counter, sighing paperwork. How much is this going to cost her? Enzan wondered. Have I just become a bigger burden to her now?
“You look awful,” a voice said. Someone else shushed the voice.
“What?” Enzan lowered his arm and saw the whole gang sitting in chairs in the room, Netto included. Not the whole gang, he realized as he saw the big one—Dekao—wasn’t there.
Netto stood up and walked toward Enzan. “I may not agree with what you do,” Netto said quietly. “I still think people who hurt their navis intentionally should be locked up. But no one deserves to be beaten by goons for no reason.” He held out a blue PET. “Your navi has been frantic about you.”
“Rockman? Is he all right?” Enzan snatched the PET from Netto’s hand and looked at it worriedly. “Rockman?”
“Enzan-sama!” Rockman cried, appearing on the screen. He bit his lower lip as he stared at his operator.
“Yeah, I know I look horrible,” Enzan said. He had a large bandage wrapped around his head to cover a gash on his forehead. His cheek had another bandage on it. Discolored flesh surrounded the bandage, and the eye on the opposite side of his face was swollen shut. Enzan looked up at Netto. “Thank you for watching over him,” he said.
Netto looked surprised. “No problem,” he replied, the surprise evident in his voice.
Higure stood up and leaned over Netto’s shoulder. “Will you be able to netbattle?” he asked.
Dream Aura! Enzan remembered. “Higure-san, gomen nasai!” he gasped, bowing as much as he dared. Even the slightest downward motion sent his head spinning. “I’m sorry! They stole the Dream Aura chip you let me borrow.”
Higure sighed. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said, but his voice quivered. He was obviously devastated by the loss.
“I’ll work it off,” Enzan promised. “I’ll find some way to pay you back.”
“That’s quite all right,” Higure said quickly, waving his arms. “I’m sure you have much better things to do, and I don’t really need the help.”
They told him about the chip stealing, Enzan realized, glancing at the others in the room. The ones from his class were giving him hostile looks, and he could have sworn he saw Tohru smirking. Netto had a blank expression on his face, but Enzan could recognize it as a perfected mask to hide his true emotions. Yaito was the only one who looked sympathetic, but when their gazes met, she turned away. That’s why he doesn’t want my help.
“If that’s what you want,” Enzan replied, looking over his shoulder for Haruka. He wanted nothing more than to get out of here as quickly as he could.
Netto looked uncomfortable. “Well, we should be getting back to the N1,” he said. “It’s good that you’re okay.”
“Yeah,” Enzan said, unsure of how to respond. Without another word, the group filed out of the waiting room. Meiru and Higure cast doubtful looks at him as they left. So much for my friends, Enzan thought bitterly.
“Have your friends left?” Haruka said brightly as she walked up to him. “It’s too bad. I wanted thank them for taking care of you.”
“My head hurts,” Enzan said softly. “Can we go home?”
~ ~ ~
Enzan stared at the wall of his room from his lying position on the covers of the bed. His bloody clothes were being washed downstairs, and he was wearing a plain t-shirt and jeans. Haruka was making dinner and Rockman’s PET was charging. Enzan had to order the navi to let himself recharge because the navi had been so worried over the white-haired boy, he didn’t want to. Now Enzan wondered if that was a smart move. Without Rockman’s chattering, the room felt empty and cold.
And lonely, Enzan thought, hugging the pillow slightly. His head throbbed and the pain killers had worn off on his wrist. The bruises on his back kept him lying on his stomach, and any move he made caused pain to shoot through his body. Mild concussion, my ass. My head feels like a truck ran over it.
Don’t trust anyone, Hino Ken had said. Not even your navi. That did him no good. Rockman was the only one he could trust in this crazy reality. Rockman was the only one willing to trust him.
Why should I believe him? Enzan asked himself. He’s a World Three agent! He has every reason to lead me wrong. Yet… he seems to be the only one who knows there’s something wrong with all of this. What if I’m not in another reality? What if something else happened to cause it to be this way?
Enzan got up slowly, wincing at the pain it brought. He felt restless, and the more he thought about things, the more his head spun. He stumbled down the stairs, having no other place to go.
The minute his foot touched the bottom of the stairs he heard it. He crept toward the kitchen and peered in. Haruka was staring down at a half-chopped onion, tears streaking her cheeks. A cutting knife was lying forgotten beside the onion. As Enzan watched, more tears dripped off her face and splattered against the cutting board.
“Mama,” he whispered. The word had come unbidden to his lips, surprising him.
“Enzan!” she gasped, catching sight of his half-hidden face. “I was just… the onions, you know, they…”
“I’m sorry,” Enzan said softly. “I made you cry. I’m making your life miserable, aren’t I?”
Haruka stared at him for a moment. “Come here, Enzan,” she said softly.
Enzan walked toward her, looking at the ground. His eyes stung, and he desperately blinked back tears. Haruka wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him into her embrace. “The happiest day of my life was the day you were born, Enzan,” she whispered, resting her head against the top of his. “I’ve never regretted deciding to have you for a moment.” She rubbed the top of his head. “Why would you get that idea?”
Enzan didn’t answer her.
“I know things are hard for us right now,” she continued. “And I worry too much. I worry about you when you’re not home, I worry about you when you’re home, I worry about money, I worry about food… I worry about everything, it seems. Do I worry too much, Enzan?”
“It’s nice to have someone worry about you,” Enzan whispered.
“It is, isn’t it?” Haruka hugged him tightly again. “It will turn out all right, you’ll see,” she said.
Enzan shook his head. “You deserve better,” he said sadly. “All I’ve done is been a burden.”
“Don’t say that!” Haruka exclaimed. “Oh Enzan, is that what you think? You couldn’t be more wrong. I’m so proud of you, Enzan, especially now that you’re doing better. You’re the one that makes my life worth living, not the other way around!” She brushed the hair from his face and studied him for a moment. “If you like, you can keep competing in the N1 Grand Prix,” she said, smiling at him. “I know it’s important to you. Are you hungry?”
Enzan shook his head.
“Well, maybe you should get some sleep,” Haruka said, releasing him. She rubbed at her eyes. “Maybe I should cut up some carrots instead. These onions are really bothering my eyes.”
Enzan turned and left the kitchen. He wanted to raise his head and thank her, but the hollow feeling in his chest wouldn’t go away. He climbed up the stairs to his room, stumbling over a few steps.
“What about your son, Ijuuin-sama?”
“My son? Are you crazy? Do you know what the press would say if they knew I wasn’t married to his mother? They would tear me apart!”
His father hadn’t known he was under the table listening. Even if the man had, he would have never thought the boy, only five years of age, would remember it.
“You mean the boy is…?”
“Yes! I had a moment of weakness, and for that I was punished. At least his mother died during the birth. If she had sued me for child support, think of what it would have done to the company’s reputation.”
“That’s a very cold thing to say.”
It had been a very cold thing to say, but it had enlightened Enzan on why his father treated him the way he did. He was a sign of weakness, something his father despised. He was a mistake that was never supposed to happen. He wasn’t wanted.
“It’s the truth, cold or not,” his father had replied emotionlessly. “At least the boy has his uses.”
That was when Enzan learned a hard lesson. He was only wanted in the world if he could be useful. He could only be useful if he did things that pleased his father. The day he was born, his father had been horrified. He had tried to deny that Enzan was his son, but DNA tests proved otherwise. Enzan had heard some of the servants talk about it.
Enzan stumbled into the room and curled up on the bed. He was back to staring at the wall again.
Enzan turned his head slightly. “You’re supposed to be recharging, Rockman.”
The room was silent. Then Rockman spoke again. “Why does Hikari-san bother you?”
“She doesn’t bother me,” Enzan said, surprised. “She’s one of the nicest people I’ve met. She works so hard to provide for her family, and she loves her son with all her heart. She’s perfect.”
“You’re upset,” Rockman said quietly. “I can hear it in your voice.”
“How is that your business?” Enzan snapped. He turned on his back, despite the pain it brought, and rubbed his eyes. “I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just…”
“Upset,” Rockman put in.
“Yes,” Enzan replied, too tired to deny it anymore.
“You have to ask that question,” Enzan said with a sigh. “Would you like to hear my whole life story while I’m at it?”
“You know mine,” Rockman said.
“Good point,” Enzan admitted. He sighed again. “I might as well tell you. It’s not like it makes much of a difference. Where do you want me to start?”
Rockman blinked. “I don’t know. From birth?”
Enzan rubbed his bandaged wrist. “That far, huh?” he asked bitterly. “Not much to tell. I’m a bastard.”
“I mean my father never bothered to marry my mother,” Enzan explained crossly.
“I know what you meant, Enzan-sama,” Rockman replied quietly.
“My mother died when I was born,” Enzan said, ignoring Rockman’s statement. “My father couldn’t have been more overjoyed—after all, she could have made his life miserable—but he had one problem. Me. Because of my existence, he couldn’t go back to his normal life and pretend nothing had happened.”
“Enzan-sama, I don’t believe anyone could be so cold,” Rockman protested.
“Oh, you don’t?” Enzan replied, raising an eyebrow. “What about your operator? He was just as cold, if not colder. My father is a business man, Rockman. He has no time to deal with children or other unnecessary details of life. I was raised by servants when anyone paid attention to me at all. I barely saw my father when I was young. I wasn’t even sure I had one.”
Rockman watched Enzan sadly. The bitter yet matter-of-fact way he spoke was very revealing. The navi wondered how long it took Enzan to force himself to believe what he was saying. “But something happened to change that, didn’t it?” he asked.
Enzan smiled. It was a twisted, angry smile. Funny how things had changed—now Rockman was the one prying for information. “When I was three, they discovered I was a genius. I could speak better Japanese than most adults, knew both hiragana and katakana, and I could read several kanji. I had learned on my own without any help. Upon hearing that news, my father finally saw me as something more than a burden. He saw me as a potential successor.” Enzan closed his eyes for a moment. Someone useful to my father at last.
“So from then on,” the white-haired boy continued, “I was given tutors instead of maids, study books and computer tools instead of toys. I was drilled on everything I was taught at the end of the week by my father to make sure I was making progress. I learned things from computer programming to business dealing.”
“That must have been hard, even if you were smarter than most children,” Rockman said.
“I hated it,” Enzan replied bitterly. His eyes narrowed. “I hated every moment of it. My tutors cared nothing for me; they only worked for the money my father dangled in front of them. My life was focused on studying. I had no time to develop interests in anything else. When I was eight, however, things changed.” His expression lightened with the memory. “By chance I learned about net navis. I had known about them before, but I never paid much attention. I saw a netbattle on TV from one of the local city tournaments. From then on I was hooked. I decided I had to netbattle, no matter what.”
“Why?” Rockman asked. “I mean, I know most children find netbattles exciting, but you…”
“I don’t strike you as the type to be interested just because of that?” Enzan smiled, remembering how enthusiastic he had been. “I saw an opportunity to do something that required mind and body, something I could do and accomplish on my own. I started studying how to program a net navi, the advantages and disadvantages of traits that could be programmed in, and netbattling techniques. I told my father I wanted to program a custom net navi. He saw it as an opportunity for me to learn more skills, and gave me the materials I needed.”
“You programmed your net navi when you were eight?” Rockman exclaimed.
“It wasn’t easy,” Enzan admitted. “But I managed. It took me a full year to create Blues, and for months after that I kept worrying that I had done something wrong. But Blues proved to be perfect.”
“The perfect net navi,” Rockman said, sounding wistful.
“To the eyes of a nine-year-old,” Enzan interjected. “After he was fully programmed, I became obsessed with netbattling. I practiced whenever I had the free time. It required skipping sleep and missing meals, but I built my skills up. I started to dye my hair around that age. I wanted—I guess I wanted to look distinctive. I wanted to be remembered by those I netbattled, and others who saw me. I was sick of being ignored and shoved in the background.”
“Your determination must have worked for you to gain the reputation you have,” Rockman replied. His raised an eyebrow. “Or claim to have anyway.”
Enzan grinned at the teasing. “You’ll never believe me on some things, will you?”
Rockman smiled, but it faded quickly. “What… what did your father think?” he asked hesitantly.
Enzan stared at the ceiling for a second, trying to think of a good way to answer the question. “My father disapproved,” he said finally. “It was a waste of time, he said. He couldn’t believe I would do something so pointless. He demanded that I stop netbattling and dye my hair back to the way it normally was. He even threatened to get rid of Blues if I continued.”
“And?” Rockman asked after a few seconds of silence.
“And I said no,” Enzan replied. “That was the first time I had ever said no to my father. He screamed at me when I said it, using insults about my—my mother, and calling me worthless. I screamed back, saying he had no right to take away what was mine. I had made Blues myself and worked hard to become a skilled netbattler. That was mine, not his, and he couldn’t take that away. And it worked.”
“It worked?” Rockman repeated.
“I made an impression on him, I think,” Enzan said. “He loosened up on my studies and allowed me to keep netbattling. I kept getting better and better, coming through battles undefeated and gaining more skill with each one. My father was keeping track of my progress, although I didn’t know it at the time. When I was eleven, he invited me to one of the company’s board meetings.” Enzan smirked at the memory. “He announced to the astonishment of the other board members that he was making me vice president of IPC, his company.”
“I should probably be surprised, but nothing you say surprises me anymore, Enzan-sama,” Rockman said.
“You don’t believe me?” Enzan asked. “It’s true!”
“I know it’s true,” Rockman replied with a smile. “That’s why you don’t surprise me anymore. I know I can trust anything you say.”
Enzan thought about that for a moment. While he had to work hard to maintain his father’s trust, all he had to do with Rockman was prove his trustworthiness, and the navi would follow him everywhere. It wasn’t like Blues. It would never occur to Blues to doubt Enzan for a moment. He was too much like the operator to distrust him. He was a reflection of Enzan, more confident and in control of his emotions, but a close match just the same. With Rockman, Enzan had to loosen up to communicate with the navi. They were so different, it was hard for Enzan to act the way he usually did.
“So, you’re still the vice president?” Rockman asked, startling him out of his thoughts.
“Yes. It’s not an easy job, but I deal with it,” Enzan said. He sighed. “I admit, it’s nice to get a break, even if that break includes nearly being beaten to death, waking up as someone else, and dealing with you.”
“Hey!” Rockman cried. Enzan’s words had been teasing, and he realized it. “I’m not that bad, am I?”
“No. You’re worse,” Enzan answered. “You fret about everything, you don’t believe in your own abilities, and you worry too much about peoples’ reactions. You need to relax a bit.”
“I have good reason to fret, with you running around getting beat up,” Rockman shot back. “You have to admit I’m getting more confident in my abilities, and you worry too much about peoples’ reactions too. Admit it.”
Enzan didn’t answer. His eyes were closed and his breath came at an even pace.
“You faker,” Rockman grumbled. “You just don’t want to answer me.”
Enzan tried very hard, but he couldn’t help smiling slightly.
“Ha! I knew it!” Rockman chortled, seeing the smile. He laughed, dropping the annoyed attitude. “Oyasumi, Enzan-sama.”
“Good night,” Enzan replied.
It had been the first time he had ever told his life story to anyone. He expected to be bitter, yet his closing exchange with Rockman made him feel like he had removed a weight from his chest. I’m getting comfortable here, he realized. I’m slowly getting used to being Hikari Enzan. That’s why I’m acting differently; I don’t have to be the person I was. That frightened him. If he became Hikari Enzan, he may never get home. Is that what Hino Ken meant by not trusting Rockman? Could he have figured out that the navi was changing me in some way?
It was ridiculous. He needed Rockman. He was just loosening his control on his emotions because he didn’t need to wear a mask in this reality. He wasn’t under the constant scrutiny of his father or others. He could be himself. That’s all he was doing. Being himself.
So why does it frighten me so much? Enzan wondered. He found no answer by the time sleep came.
… … …
Saloma studied the data she had just decoded.
“Well?” Commander Beef asked.
Saloma sighed. “They discovered him. That’s all I can figure out from this mess. Whoever encoded it accidentally deleted half the material!”
“On purpose, no doubt,” Beef replied. “They knew we’re watching them, and this information was too easy to get.”
Saloma gave him an exasperated look. “I spent five hours trying to get this!”
“No matter,” Beef said. “They know we know they’re up to something.”
Saloma counted on her fingers, trying to make sense of Beef’s sentence.
“We have to face it. We’re outnumbered, outgunned, and out of our league,” Beef said heavily. “If this keeps up, someone could get hurt before we stop them. We need to fight fire with fire.”
“We just lost our fire,” Saloma said gloomily.
“There’s more where it came from,” Beef replied. “I’m relying on you to get it for us.”
“More where… oh, no,” Saloma said, the meaning of Beef’s words dawning on her. “We can’t!”
Beef gave her a look. It was one he knew she couldn’t argue with it.
“Oh, no,” Saloma groaned.
… … …
The cheering of the crowd roared in Enzan’s ears as Midorikawa Kero proclaimed him the victor of the match. It was three days since his “accident” and he was back to competing. His arm had healed remarkably fast, as had the rest of his body. He could see out of his blackened eye now, which had turned into an interesting shade of yellow. It wasn’t attractive, but at least it was functional. He still had dizzy spells, but during the netbattle, he let nothing but the match matter.
“And that wraps up our first session of netbattles!” Kero cried. “For the semifinals, we have a special treat for you. They will be tag team battles, and the last surviving tag team will face each other in the final round! It will be the ultimate test of teamwork and friendship!”
“Does that woman ever stop over-dramatizing?” Enzan asked.
“I don’t believe so,” Rockman replied. “It’s her job.”
“I have just received word on the first tag team face-off!” Kero yelled. She never stopped yelling, as far as Enzan was concerned. “The first tag team is Hikari Enzan’s Rockman and Ijuuin Netto’s Blues!”
“What?” Rockman gasped.
Enzan only smiled grimly. He had been expecting it, but it was interesting to hear. He wasn’t sure if Rockman was ready for such a match yet.
“They will be facing—what’s this?” Kero stopped, sounding genuinely surprised. “It seems these navis have no operators! According to my information, they claim to be true net navis, or independent net navis, programmed to act without an operator.”
Enzan frowned. The “true” net navis he had faced turned out to be the creations of Wily, the leader of World Three. What was an independent net navi doing in a reality without World Three?
“These independent net navis are Shiningman and Fireman!” Kero called.
Enzan felt his blood run cold. “Fireman?”
“Yes, it’s true!” Kero boomed. “You heard it here first, everyone! Fireman and Shiningman, independent net navis, will be facing the tag team of Blues and Rockman in three hours! Reserve your seat now, folks, because it’ll be a battle to remember!”
“There must be some mistake,” Enzan stammered. “This can’t be right!”
“What’s wrong, Enzan-sama?” Rockman asked.
“Fireman is Hino Ken’s navi, don’t you remember?” Enzan said.
“I didn’t know Hino Ken had a navi,” Rockman replied. “I never saw it.”
“Oh. Well, he is,” Enzan explained impatiently. “He can’t be a independent net navi; that stupid announcer woman got it wrong!”
“Enzan-sama, she’s getting her information from the officials themselves,” Rockman replied. “She can’t make a mistake like that.”
“But she’s wrong, unless…” Enzan stopped, his eyes wide. “Unless something happened to Hino Ken,” he said slowly.
“You don’t think…” Rockman began.
“He warned me that something would,” Enzan said grimly. “But how can that be? Wasn’t he an official of the N1?”
“If he was, I can check the database,” Rockman replied. “But I think you’re right; he was an official. Why would his net navi be participating in the tournament?”
Enzan plugged Rockman into the nearest computer terminal and waited patiently for the navi to return. It didn’t take Rockman long to appear back on the screen.
“Well?” Enzan asked.
Rockman was staring at Enzan grimly. “He’s not listed under any database of the officials or participants. I think you may be right, Enzan-sama. Something happened to him.”
Author’s notes: All speculation about Enzan and his history is—I repeat—purely speculation, and I take the rights of a fanfiction writer to write my ideas about him into my story. Wait… fanfiction writers don’t have rights…
It’s so much easier to write Kero, her first name, than her family name, and she isn’t referred to directly by name very often in the show, so I’ll stick to using Kero. I realize she isn’t as annoying or irritating as I make her out to be in the story, but since it is mostly from Enzan’s point of view, that’s the way she’ll appear.