Chapter 26: Hikari Enzan’s Revenge
Enzan groaned and rolled over. He was lying on something flat and hard, and—as he grew more aware of his limbs—extremely uncomfortable. Something was bothering him in the back of his mind, but he ignored it, focusing on more immediate concerns. He slowly pushed himself into a sitting position and opened his eyes.
He could see nothing.
He blinked and rubbed his eyes, trying to make sure he had really opened them. They were open, according his fingers, but still he could see nothing. He shakily got to his feet, unable to see where to place them or what he was standing on. His probing hands revealed nothing; only an odd smoothness of the ground that could have been metal or glass.
“Am I dead?” he asked quietly. His own voice echoed in his ears, doing nothing to soothe his worries.
You aren’t dead, Ijuuin Enzan.
“W-what?” Enzan started, trying to jerk away from a voice that seemed to come from everywhere. “Where am I? Who are you?”
You aren’t dead, although you should be. Yuuhi-chan wanted you to be dead.
“Where am I?” Enzan asked again.
You’re within my realm. Although you won’t be for long.
“Why is that?” Enzan asked suspiciously. Now that he knew he wasn’t dead, he could dismiss his irrational feelings and get to the bottom of the situation.
Because, Ijuuin Enzan, you’ll soon be dead.” The voice solidified in the middle of the sentence and came from his right. Enzan tried to locate the owner of the voice, but not before he felt something connect with his jaw. He fell backwards and landed hard; unable to see, he couldn’t possible brace himself.
And then there was light, and he found himself looking into the cold, hard eyes of someone he knew too well. Someone who was almost a mirror image of himself, without the hair dye.
“You’re…. You’re Hikari Enzan?” he gasped.
“No,” the boy replied, smirking. “I made Hikari Enzan.” Blue eyes flashed with anger as the figure continued to glare at Enzan. “I am the NetWorld, which you seem so eager to destroy.”
“You… you’re trying to kill me!” Enzan snapped.
The boy shrugged. “Yuuhi-chan wants you dead. I don’t care either way… or I didn’t,” he continued darkly, “until you began destroying parts of me.”
Enzan scrambled to his feet. There seemed to be some light now, but he couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. He could see the ground, but he couldn’t distinguish it from the blackness surrounding him.
“I haven’t destroyed anything!” Enzan spat angrily. “I only want to go home!”
“Then what did you do to Yuuhi-chan?” the NetWorld in the form of Hikari Enzan demanded. “Where is she?”
“I don’t even know who she is!” Enzan exclaimed.
“You lie.” His double narrowed its eyes. “Yuuhi-chan said you were dangerous. That’s why she wanted you dead.”
“And how are you going to accomplish that?” Enzan asked skeptically.
Hikari Enzan grinned. “Like this.”
Enzan didn’t remember how it happened, but the next moment he was on the ground again, his clone’s fingers wrapped around his neck. Hikari Enzan’s grip was strong, so strong that no air could escape from Enzan’s lungs. He choked, unable to speak, and tried to kick the double.
“Why are you fighting me?” Hikari Enzan asked, his voice mocking. “What life do you have to go back to? Your father doesn’t love you; he thinks you’re worthless. The rest of the world laughs at you behind your back and patronize you for your money to your face. Your netbattling status couldn’t impress most people over fifteen—unlike you, they have real things to think about. And your navi? Well, he’s probably better off without you. Maybe his next master won’t be so cold.”
Enzan managed to knee his double in the stomach, knocking Hikari Enzan away from him. He tried to get onto feet, but his lungs ached, and all he could manage was to shakily get on his knees.
“Look at you,” Hikari Enzan hissed. “The world should thank me for this, getting rid of someone like you. Yuuhi-chan will be pleased.” He stood up and approached his crouching foe, pausing to study the gasping boy. “You were better off being me,” the double said. “Good—ack!”
Hikari Enzan jerked and choked on his words. There was a deep cut in his side, nearly splitting his body in two. Without another word he fell, Enzan watching him in disbelief.
The double lay there for a moment, his eyes wide and staring. “Yuuhi… chan…” he whispered, a dark liquid pouring from his mouth. Then he simply disappeared.
Enzan stumbled to his feet, staring apprehensively into the darkness. It slowly began to fade, revealing a typical grid-patterned area and a crouching figure, one arm formed into a sword and hidden eyes locked on the boy.
“Enzan-sama,” Blues said as he stood up, his sword morphing back into his hand. “Are you all right?”
Enzan stared at him for a long moment. “Did you… did you just call me Enzan… sama?”
Enzan turned to see Netto stumbling toward him. The younger boy grabbed his shoulders and stared hard into Enzan’s face. “Enzan, are you all right?” he gasped. “Miyuki shot you!”
“She did, didn’t she?” Enzan said in a dazed tone, looking down at his chest. There was no blood or hole there, and he felt it with his hands to make sure.
“I don’t know what happened,” Netto confessed in a bewildered tone. “First you fell, then Miyuki disappeared, then everything disappeared… and now I’m here!”
“Miyuki shot you?” Blues cut in, studying his operator with worry.
“Blues?” Netto stared at the navi in shock. “You—you’re real,” he stammered.
A smaller, blue figure popped up from behind the tall navi. “Netto-kun!” Rockman cried. “You’re okay!”
Netto jerked back as if he had just been shot. “You told me we switched lives…” he breathed, looking at Enzan. “But I never dreamed we’d switch navis too.”
“Netto-kun?” Rockman looked hurt at his operator’s words.
Blues placed a hand on the smaller navi’s shoulder briefly. “They’re still believing what the NetWorld has told them,” he said. “It’s only natural they won’t remember us.”
Enzan took a few jerking steps forward and grasped Blues’ arms, staring into his face hopefully. “Are you real?” he whispered.
“Of course I am,” Blues said, sounding surprised. “Are you all right, Enzan-sama?”
“I-I’m fine, now that you’re here,” Enzan replied, smiling broadly. He surprised everyone by hugging the tall navi. He had been through too much and had missed Blues too much in the past few days to care about his reputation anymore. The red-toned navi alone had seen the tears in his operator’s eyes.
“Netto-kun, we’re going to get you two out of here, and back home,” Rockman said firmly, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Netto looked at him oddly, trying to accept the fact that this was his navi. “Home,” he repeated softly. “With… you?”
Rockman nodded, eager to have his operator act like normal again. “And Mama and Papa. We’ll be together again, Netto-kun.”
“Enzan-sama, your father is worried about you,” Blues said quietly.
Enzan released the navi in surprise. “He’s… worried about me?”
“We have company!” Rockman said sharply, shoving Netto behind him protectively. Blues followed suit, whirling around and forming his sword to face the approaching threat.
“More defense programs,” the taller navi growled.
“Only five of them this time,” Rockman observed. “And they don’t look too healthy. We should be able to take them.”
The defense programs lurched toward the small group, resembling something out of a horror film. Their movements would be comical if it weren’t for the deadly arm cannons each of them sported.
Blues and Rockman braced for an attack, but they were taken aback when the defense programs disappeared in a swirl of data. Another dark figure stood behind them, one arm wielding a sword and the other holding a slumped form.
“Another Rockman and Blues?” Netto whispered. “Now I’m really confused…”
“Stay back, Enzan-sama,” Blues warned. “He could be dangerous.”
The figure looked up. “Only to defense programs,” he said quietly. “I am Copy Blues, the replacement navi for Netto.”
Enzan’s mind raced. If this was the Blues that Netto had operated in the NetWorld, then the navi in his arm was the Rockman he had been dealing with through this whole ordeal. “Is he all right?” he asked worriedly, taking a step forward.
Blues clamped a hand on Enzan’s shoulder, holding him back. “He could be lying,” he replied to Enzan’s puzzled look.
“Rockma—Copy Rockman will be all right,” Copy Blues assured the boy. “He was attacked by a defense program while coming to save you, but he should wake up soon.”
“To save them?” Rockman snorted. “More like help the NetWorld kill them!”
Copy Blues sighed. “You don’t understand what we are, do you? After Immersion had kidnapped everyone they could get their hands on to put in the NetWorld, they copied the data of all your navis, right down to the personality. However, the copied navis memories were altered to fit into this world. All of them, including Copy Rockman, never knew they were living a lie. All but one.”
“Which would be you,” Blues stated, gazing at his double steadily.
Copy Blues nodded hesitantly. “I knew the truth, but I didn’t know all of Immersion’s plans. I didn’t know they were going to kill Enzan. Still… that’s no excuse. I wanted… I wanted to be Netto-ku… Netto’s navi, and I didn’t care what it took. I was given a code that would activate the memories of the truth in each navi—in case something went wrong and in case Immersion needed our help.” He laughed bitterly. “Needless to say, when the time came, Immersion was the last thing we wanted to help.”
“Where are the other navis?” Netto asked, looking around.
“Deleted, probably,” Blues said, his voice still filled with bitterness. “We barely made it here. Immersion doesn’t take traitors lightly.”
“And everyone else who was kidnapped?” Blues asked.
“Gone by now, I’m sure,” Copy Blues assured him. “Your companions took them to the Gate.”
“So…” Enzan said quietly, speaking for the first time. “Rock—Copy Rockman knew I didn’t belong here?”
“No!” Copy Blues shook his head firmly. “Copy Rockman would do anything for you. If he knew you were right, and this wasn’t your world, he would have done anything to help you out.”
“You knew?” Rockman repeated, looking at Enzan.
“For some reason,” Enzan replied, glancing at the blue navi briefly. “I was the only one not given false memories.”
“We’re here to help,” Copy Blues said, meeting Blues’ hostile glare steadily. “I know my way around the NetWorld.”
Copy Rockman’s eyes fluttered open, and he looked around in confusion before his gaze settled on Enzan. “Enzan-sama!” he cried out, sounding relieved. “You’re okay!”
Copy Blues carefully set the navi down, and Enzan took that moment to look into Copy Rockman’s eyes. Somehow he had never wondered what the copy navi actually was—he had taken his presence for granted, just like he took Blues’ presence for granted. And yet, now that he knew what Copy Rockman was—a mere copy—he couldn’t bring himself to think of the navi any differently. The only difference he could sense in Copy Rockman’s eyes was a deep sadness. He could understand that.
“You can trust them, Blues,” he said quietly, glancing at his own navi. “They’re copies of you and Rockman, remember? Exact copies. That means they care about us just as much as you do.”
“We should go,” Copy Blues said. “The NetWorld has taken too much damage, and is losing control. Soon it will collapse under its own power, taking Netto and Enzan with it.”
“Lead the way,” Blues replied, his voice still hostile. Enzan gave him a dirty look, but there was no way of telling if the tall navi saw it. Copy Blues nodded and turned around. With a sigh, Copy Rockman followed without a second glance at Enzan. Netto and Enzan started after them without hesitation, and, after Blues and Rockman exchanged a look, the other navis followed.
“Blues?” Netto said softly, addressing the copy navi.
Copy Blues looked over his shoulder to indicate he was listening.
“I’m glad to see you’re all right,” Netto continued, smiling to emphasize his words.
Copy Blues nodded and returned the smile before turning his attention back to the way ahead. Enzan couldn’t figure out how he knew he was going—it all looked the same to him. He half suspected the real navis felt that way as well, which may be why they didn’t fight the copy navi’s suggestion.
Enzan stared at the back of Copy Rockman. He seemed to be walking slumped, like he had been defeated somehow. Giving Blues an uncertain glance, Enzan came to a decision and quickened his pace to catch up to the copy navi. He was very glad to see Blues, and hated leaving the tall navi’s side, but he couldn’t watch Copy Rockman’s misery and be unmoved. Maybe the navi had been his partner for too long—or the NetWorld had, in some way, gotten to him too.
“Rockman,” he said quietly, falling in step with the blue copy navi. “This isn’t your fault. I’m not angry with you about anything.”
Copy Rockman looked at him quickly, but he looked away before Enzan could identify the emotion in the smaller navi’s eyes. “I’m nothing more than Copy Rockman now, Enzan-sama,” he said sadly.
“That doesn’t matter to me,” Enzan protested. “It shouldn’t matter to you, either. You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, you helped me out—in a lot of ways,” he added, realizing how true the words were.
“Really?” Copy Rockman asked, eyeing Enzan hopefully.
“Really,” Enzan replied. “Tell you what—I’m sure there’s a way you can come with us. Netto’s father should be able to figure it out—he can do practically anything with navis.”
“You think so?” Copy Rockman asked.
Copy Blues tilted his head, about to protest, but he stopped himself. There was no reason Copy Rockman should lose his hope, not now. Not when his time left to live was limited. “We’re here,” he said instead, stopping.
Rockman put a protective hand on Netto’s shoulder and looked around the area with a frown. “I don’t see anything. And that didn’t take us any time at all!”
“The NetWorld is a very small place if you know how to navigate around it,” Copy Blues replied. He too frowned at the surrounding area. “And it should be here…”
“And it was,” Blues said, studying the area through his visor scanner. “Until someone shut it by force. I don’t think we’re going to get it open by ourselves.”
“Oh, no,” Copy Rockman moaned. “We’re running out of time! I can feel the NetWorld shutting down around us!”
“We may be low on time, but not on hope,” Copy Blues said grimly. “There’s another place we can get out of. It’ll be rough and risky, but it’s the only choice. Follow me!” He turned and started sprinting. Without much hesitation the others followed.
Copy Rockman grabbed Enzan’s arm, helping steady the boy as he ran. The pace may have been easy for the navis, but the copy navi could tell it would wear his operator quickly down. “I don’t want to get separated!” he explained. Enzan smiled at him.
Blues curled one hand into a fist, but refrained from doing anything. His scanner had picked up the signs of decay and destruction the copy navis spoke of, just underneath the surface of the misleading peaceful grid.
Netto, having no navi to steady him, tripped over his feet and fell onto his knees. Rockman cried out and turn to help his operator, but somehow, even though he had been in front, Copy Blues had gotten there first. He had already pulled Netto to his feet when Rockman got to them. For a moment, Rockman felt jealous—until he saw the smile on Copy Blues’ lips as he looked the boy over. He cares about him just as much as I do, Rockman realized. That’s why he was so hesitant to let him go.
Copy Blues looked up. “Rockman, can you help Netto-kun while I lead the way?” he asked, ignoring Netto protests.
“Un,” Rockman replied, nodding. He placed a hand on Netto’s shoulder and encouraged the boy forward, trying to ignore the uneasy look Netto was giving him.
Then they were off again. Soon, however, Enzan felt a stitch developing in his side, and by the sound of Netto’s panting, the younger netbattler wasn’t doing much better.
“We should stop,” Rockman said finally. “Our operators can’t take this pace much longer.”
“It’s not a good idea,” Copy Blues warned, but he relented once he was the look of exhaustion on the boys’ faces. “For just a short time,” he said firmly.
“Slave driver,” Enzan grumbled as he sank to his knees.
“He’s just worried,” Copy Rockman said, but he had to cover his mouth to hide his smile.
The real Rockman and Blues stood together a few feet away, keeping watch on both the surroundings and the copy navis. Copy Rockman reminded hovering near Enzan, while Copy Blues focused his attention on their surroundings. The real navis were obviously hostile toward the copy navis—but Enzan couldn’t blame them, knowing they couldn’t be sure of anything the Immersion creations had said. He just wished Blues weren’t so openly hostile toward Copy Rockman.
“I don’t know,” Netto said softly, catching his breath. “Rockman—the other Rockman, seems to know me extremely well, but the memories I have seem so real.” He looked at Enzan helplessly.
“All I can say is that what Rockman tells you is the truth,” Enzan replied. “You don’t have to accept it just yet; give it time to sink in.”
“Yeah…” Netto gave him a slanted look. “So you’re not really a chip-stealing, obnoxious jerk?”
Enzan laughed. He surprised himself at how easy it was, and by the looks the real Blues and Rockman were giving him, he had surprised them as well. Netto, not knowing to be surprised, smiled back.
“Well,” Enzan said, still smiling. “I don’t know about the chip-stealing part.”
Netto’s expression melted into disbelief. “You’re not—”
“We should go now,” Copy Blues interrupted loudly.
“They haven’t even recovered fully yet!” Rockman protested.
“There’s no more time,” Copy Blues said, gesturing for Enzan and Netto to get up. They stood reluctantly, but they could hear the undercurrent of urgency in the copy navi’s voice. “We should—” He stopped speaking suddenly, his remaining words freezing in his throat.
“What’s wrong?” Copy Rockman cried.
Enzan had already spotted Blues’ problem, and he watched in horror as a blade slowly pushed through the copy navi’s chest, cutting the symbol in half. The real Blues disappeared in a blur, his sword formed and ready. He swung it at the defense program hiding in the copy navi’s shadow, but it simply bounced off. Shocked, Blues jumped back, unable to tear his eyes away from the horrible sight before him.
“Blues!” Netto screamed, rushing toward the copy navi. Rockman surged forward with unusual speed and grabbed the boy firmly from behind, preventing him from moving.
“It—It’s too late,” Enzan whispered. The symbol on a navi held all the valuable data, and it was being deleted in front of their eyes. It was already too late the second the blade had pierced the copy navi’s body.
“No!” Copy Rockman cried.
Copy Blues’ body became blurry and unfocused as his data turned into pixels. He was upright, his only support the blade through his chest. Somehow he managed to raise his head. “Run,” he rasped. “Go!”
Copy Rockman shook his head and ran up to the mortally wounded navi. “We won’t leave you!” he cried.
Copy Blues rested a hand on Rockman’s chest, touching the Hikari symbol centered there. Then his body exploded in a shower of fading pixels.
“Blues—” Netto choked.
Copy Rockman remained frozen, his eyes unseeing. He didn’t move when the defense program swung its sword to bring it down on the copy navi’s head.
“Rockman!” Enzan yelled.