Chapter 30: Enzan VS Enzan
“I don’t like it,” Ijuuin said, pacing back and forth. It had only been five minutes since Enzan had been hooked up, or “uploaded” may have been the better term, into the NetWorld, yet the silence that had followed did nothing to reassure Ijuuin he had made the right decision. He had tried watching the monitors Dr. Hikari and Commander Beef were using, but although he had built his company on technology, the words and numbers which flashed by made no sense to him. It forced him to do something he was unaccustomed to doing; trusting someone else.
“We explained it in the e-mail, Ijuuin-san,” Miyuki replied from her position by the door. Unlike Saloma, who was watching another monitor next to the unconscious body of Enzan, she seemed to serve no purpose in the room except to watch from a distance. Ijuuin’s business instincts told him she was useless to the operation if that was her only purpose, but the Net Agents were not businessmen. They obviously had methods he was unfamiliar with.
“Yes, but plugging my son into the remnants of the NetWorld in the hopes that he might regain a piece of his mind he had lost to it is what you call a plan?” Ijuuin allowed an incredulous tone slip into his voice. “It sounds risky and based on uncertain logic to me.”
“Ah, but you agreed to it, now didn’t you?” Miyuki pointed out.
“I realize, Ijuuin-san,” Dr. Hikari broke in, never taking his eyes away from the screen. “This doesn’t make sense to a practical man like yourself. You know all about technology, having built your capitalistic empire on it, and what we are attempting to do defies both logic and reason. However, you must trust us.”
“You’re talking about the life of my son, not some stupid experiment,” Ijuuin hissed.
“I am a scientist,” Dr. Hikari replied. “I know what we are doing is possible, and I know the probable outcome is what we all desire. I am also a father,” Dr. Hikari’s voice became lower and thick with emotion. “And I know how you feel. You have my word that I will do everything in my power to help your son.”
Ijuuin glared at him for a moment. His gaze flickered over to his son, taking in the pale, unhealthy-looking skin of Enzan’s face and the shallow, almost gasping breaths. It was as if the boy was struggling within himself with an unseen foe. Ijuuin twisted around angrily and found himself looking at a wall; he couldn’t bear the sight of his son’s peril any longer.
“He does have a point,” Miyuki said softly. “How can it be possible for a part of Enzan’s mind to be converted to data? And if that is the case, can we change it back?”
“No, we can’t, that’s the bad thing,” Dr. Hikari said. “We aren’t capable of converting it back into an organic impulse his brain would accept.”
“Is that even possible?” Beef asked quietly.
“I know it’s possible to convert organic material to data,” Dr. Hikari replied. “I’ve spent much of my career researching it. It’s also possible for the data to retain some organic components. However, converting it back… it’s something we can’t do with the current technology available.”
“So what was the whole point of plugging Enzan back into the NetWorld?” Saloma asked.
“The human mind is capable of things technology can only dream of,” Dr. Hikari responded. “It was a long shot, but he may be able to reconnect the pieces himself, given the opportunity.”
Ijuuin moaned and rubbed the sides of his temples. “I can’t believe I agreed to this,” he muttered.
“That’s it,” Dr. Hikari said suddenly. “The system is shutting down. Pull him out now.”
Saloma typed in the command and watched words scrawl across her computer screen, her panic growing. “It won’t let me!”
“We’ll have to disconnect him manually,” Beef announced.
Dr. Hikari looked at him as if he was insane. “That will kill him for sure!”
In a dark corner, far from the ruckus, Miyuki had gravitated away from the sudden chaos. She dialed a number on her cell phone and exchanged a few words with the person on the other end; then hung up, looking satisfied.
“What’s going on?” Ijuuin demanded loudly. “What’s wrong with my son?”
“Nothing,” Dr. Hikari replied, his eyes never leaving the screen. “Yet,” he added grimly. “Blues, I may need you to force your way into the NetWorld’s last server. Can you do that?”
“Would it hurt Enzan-sama?” Blues asked. His PET was connected to Dr. Hikari’s computer, but he had yet to be uploaded into the system. The scientist had not wanted to take any chances with his data if the system unexpectedly crashed.
“We don’t know,” Dr. Hikari replied. “But it may be our only chance.”
“I say,” Miyuki broke in, eyeing them all from her shadowy position. “I say we wait and see what happens.”
Everyone in the room turned to stare at her.
“Are you crazy?” Saloma demanded, waving her PET in the air in emphasis. It was likely she had forgotten it was in her hand, and poor Woodman looked a little worse for the wear because of it.
“Not crazy,” Miyuki replied. She smiled faintly. “I’m… prepared.”
“Is it yours?” Saloma asked, taking it.
“No, it’s not mine,” he replied. “But I think you’ll find it useful.”
“Here they come now,” she added, stepping across the room to open the door. Two figures stood on the other side of it. Beef visibly started, and Dr. Hikari stared with his mouth agape.
“The number is Mahajarama’s,” Hino Ken continued.
“You’re kidding me,” Saloma said in disbelief.
“He is not,” Miyuki intoned.
“She’s right,” Hino Ken said, gesturing toward Miyuki. “I’m perfectly serious. Mahajarama has many talents, and I think you’ll find him useful. I’ll explain to him what’s going on; I’m sure he won’t mind helping. To defeat an opponent is one thing, but to leave him an empty shell, especially since he’s so young, is another.”
“But what makes you think he can help us with the NetWorld?” Saloma asked.
“He’s the one who figured out how to unplug the people trapped in the NetWorld, was he not?” Hino Ken said, raising an eyebrow. “Mahajarama knows a lot more than he lets on. Sometimes I wonder why he sticks around with the rest of us.”
“We’re here to help, Papa,” Netto announced, stepping in front of Mahajarama purposely. “And we won’t take no for an answer.”
… … …
Around them, the green of the grass and the brilliant blue of the sky faded, turning gray in color. Soon the world around them was nothing but a pulsing black, painful to the eyes. Somehow Enzan could still see the two entities—he didn’t know what they were now, programs, navis, or something else—although it seemed like the blackness would have swallowed any available light.
Hikari Enzan laughed. “So you do remember me!” He waved the lead pipe in his hands mockingly. “I’m surprised.”
“You’re the NetWorld!” Enzan hissed.
“I’m the NetWorld,” Hikari Enzan agreed.
“But…” Enzan glanced at Copy. “He’s the NetWorld!”
Copy’s soulless eyes remained unblinking, and when he spoke, his voice sounded hollow and distant, like he was losing his strength. “Copy Rockman saved me from more than deletion. He helped me get rid of the bad part. But the bad part didn’t go away. I told you that you should have left!”
Hikari Enzan lunged forward, cutting down savagely with the pipe. Enzan rolled, dodging the blow, and scrambled to his feet. He backed away from Hikari Enzan, his hands held up in front of him to ward off anymore attacks. “So you split the data,” he muttered.
“Exactly,” Hikari Enzan grinned savagely. “It was easy, once most of the inhibitors shut down. That fool sat around and guarded the little bit of your mind I managed to grab before you escaped.”
He was talking as the NetWorld, Enzan realized. “So what do you want now?” he demanded. “Watanabe’s in jail.”
“So?” Hikari Enzan said, shrugging. He swung his pipe cockily. “I’m still gonna kill you.”
Enzan felt his stomach turn. Fear was not something he experienced often, but he had already seen what the NetWorld was capable of. “Rockman—Copy—whoever you are, you have to help me out here!” Enzan yelled, narrowly dodging a blow.
“I can’t,” Copy whispered. His words were lost to Enzan, who was stumbling over his own feet trying to get away from his double.
“Will you—hold—still!” Hikari Enzan barked, slashing down with the pipe.
The words try and make me crossed Enzan’s mind, but he knew better than to tempt fate. He rolled backwards and onto his knees in one fluid motion. With a lurching motion which was clumsier than he had hoped it would be, he propelled himself forward and buried his fist into his evil counterpart’s face.
Hikari Enzan laughed. “That was stupid,” he remarked, smirking down at the boy clutching his bloody hand.
Enzan swore loudly as he got to his feet, clutching his throbbing fist to his chest. “What are you?” he rasped, backing away. He worried for a moment about broken bones, flexing his hand experimentally. It still moved, albeit painfully, and he assumed it was sprained at the most.
“I’m the NetWorld!” His double laughed and spread his arms in a wide gesture. “I control everything you see around you. I can do anything you can’t do. I can make your death very painful.” He grinned, a sick pleasure alit in his eyes at the thought.
“Rockman!” Enzan gasped, concentrating on putting as much distance between himself and his counterpart as possible. He gave up trying to fight back; Hikari Enzan was too strong. He looked human, except for the inhuman hatred in his eyes, but his strength and speed were far superior. He was a computer program with the ability to control his surroundings. Enzan, a mere human, was not only facing off against Hikari Enzan—the entire world he was in was against him.
“Rockman!” he cried again. “Help me!”
Copy stood frozen, his face expressionless.
“Rockman?” Enzan looked at him. He knew Rockman was in Copy.EXE somewhere—there was no explanation for the navi’s behavior otherwise. Why would Rockman go through so much trouble to help him only to stop now?
Hikari Enzan laughed mockingly. “He can’t help you, Ijuuin. He can’t even move anymore.”
“What did you do to him?” Enzan roared.
His double shrugged, but the malicious smirk still tugged on the corners of his mouth. “Me?” he said innocently. “I did nothing. That foolish navi merged with his own creations, only to use all of his power protecting that chunk of your mind you left behind. He’s using all his power to keep the NetWorld from crashing even now. Sad, really, when it’s such a lost cause. He’s only prolonging your death.”
Enzan blinked, trying to process the information. He thought Hikari Enzan and Copy were the NetWorld, yet why was his opponent using it in third person when only moments ago he claimed he was the NetWorld? Then again, they couldn’t both be the NetWorld, if the data had truly been split between them.
“What’s going on, Copy?” he asked, his eyes never straying from Hikari Enzan’s face. If he was going to try something, Enzan wanted to be ready.
“It takes all my power to sustain this form and this world, Enzan-sama,” Copy replied, his tone and voice flat. “My influence over the NetWorld ends there. I do not control it completely, and neither does Hikari Enzan.”
The emphasis was so unexpected it nearly caused Enzan to miss its significance. “If you don’t control it, and he doesn’t control it, then who does?” he asked.
“Are you two quite finished?” his double complained. “I want to kill him before lunch.” He began to approach Enzan again, tightening his grip on the pipe.
“Why?” Enzan snapped, backing away. “I didn’t do anything to you!”
“You made me, you little fool,” Hikari Enzan shot back. “Do you think the NetWorld could have constructed something like that without anything to work on? All it had to do was take your personality and place it in a new environment. Without your wealth and family standing, I’m what you would have been.” He made a sweeping gesture. “I am what you truly are, stripped bare of everything you surround yourself to convince you of otherwise.”
Enzan clenched his fist. His double was trying to make him angry on purpose, to keep him from thinking.
“He’s lying,” Copy said quietly, grabbing Enzan’s attention. “The NetWorld works from what it finds in the human mind, true, but it has the ability to warp anything. Primal emotions like anger and fear can produce anything, manipulated the right way. Yet with you the NetWorld didn’t succeed. It couldn’t make you Hikari Enzan. You must figure out why.”
“Shut up, you!” the evil program snapped. “Why should he believe the navi of his would-be killer?”
“Why can’t you tell me why it couldn’t make me be him?” Enzan asked. “What is it I’m missing here?”
“He—won’t—let me!” Copy hissed, sounding like he was in pain.
“Enough of this,” Hikari Enzan snarled. He ran toward the frozen Copy, pipe raised for a cutting blow.
“No!” Enzan leaped to action, determined to cut his evil doppelganger off. He tackled the black-haired boy from the side, and they landed in a heap. Almost immediately they were interlocked in a struggle. The pipe clattered to the side, and disappeared almost unnoticed.
Almost unnoticed, because Enzan saw it disappear out of the corner of his eye. One moment it was there, the next it wasn’t, without the slightest ripple of reality or flashy special effect.
Enzan’s eyes widened. “That’s it!” he gasped.
… … …
“Are you ready?” Mahajarama asked.
Netto nodded, a look of determination on his face. “I’m ready.”
“Are you sure, Netto?” Dr. Hikari asked his son, unable to keep the worry out of his voice.
“If it weren’t for Enzan, I would still be in the NetWorld. If it weren’t for him, I’d probably be dead, Papa,” Netto replied. “Besides,” he added, taking a breath, “Enzan’s my friend.”
“And we won’t let him do this alone,” Rockman added.
“We’ve managed to slow down the shutdown,” Beef said, staring hard at his computer screen. “But it doesn’t leave you with much time. Time differs from what you experience in the NetWorld and what happens in this reality—but you have to remember to get out as quickly as possible. We can give you five minutes at the most, but then you have to get out of there. Understand?”
“Un!” Netto and Rockman nodded.
“All right,” Dr. Hikari replied, turning back to his work. He was extremely proud of Netto, and he knew it must have shown on his face. “Are you ready for this, Blues?”
“I am,” Blues replied.
“This is asinine,” Ijuuin moaned. “It will never work! You don’t have the equipment to connect them to the server!”
“Technology is a wonderful thing, but limited in its own way,” Mahajarama replied. “There are always other ways to do the impossible. Most people just can’t see them.” He smiled faintly. “It will work, I assure you.”
“Here it goes,” Commander Beef said. “Get ready.”
Netto slipped on the helmet, the last article of the ancient virtual reality gear which Mahajarama had brought with them. They had spent the last five minutes hooking the technology up to the computers, trying to figure out which cable went where and what commands did what. The VR suit, complete with gloves, boots, and a helmet resembling something a net navi would wear, was in good working condition for its age; it had to be over fifty years old, at least. It was unlikely to connect him to the NetWorld, and if it did, he wouldn’t be able to interact with anything, but it was worth a try. Mahajarama stood next to him, his arms crossed serenely and his eyes closed with concentration. Unlike Netto, he wore nothing to connect him to the NetWorld. Not even his PET was plugged in. He claimed he didn’t need it.
“I’m plugging Rockman in now,” Saloma called out.
“This is ludicrous,” Ijuuin said pointedly.
“Connection made,” Dr. Hikari said, ignoring him. “Uploading in five… four… three… two…”
Netto sucked in his breath. Please let this work.
… … …
“Copy, which one of you am I speaking to now?” Enzan yelled, struggling to pin his opponent.
Copy hesitated. “What?” he asked haltingly.
“I was talking to Copy.EXE at fir—” Hikari Enzan slugged him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him and forcing him sideways. The NetWorld clone then jumped on the boy and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“First you were speaking as Copy,” Enzan panted, trying to force the words out. “Then you spoke to me as—” His double began bashing his head against the floor repeatedly, making it hard to both think and speak. “As—Rockman! Who are—you speakin—itai—as now?”
“Shut up!” Hikari Enzan snarled. “Shut up and die already!”
Enzan managed to wedge his knee between himself and his opponent. He pushed it against his double with all of his strength. Hikari Enzan held onto his shoulders with an iron grip, but Enzan had stopped him from bashing the boy’s head against the ground.
“Who are you now?” the young netbattler demanded again.
“Blues,” Copy said.
“Tell me this, Blues,” Enzan hissed, trying to pry his double’s hand away from his left shoulder. “Why was that pipe underneath my bed?”
“Rockman told you once before,” Copy replied. “It was there because you were looking for it.”
“Yes…” Enzan muttered softly. “It was, wasn’t it? Who controls the NetWorld, Blues?”
“Stop it!” Hikari Enzan cried, his voice nearly hysterical. “Shut up, you filthy piece of trash! I’ll kill you!” With a roar, he twisted his hands around Enzan’s neck, choking the boy.
If he cuts off my blood veins, I’m finished! Enzan thought, panicked. He also had no doubt Hikari Enzan could break his neck with a sharp twist, if he wanted. But his enraged opponent seemed to want to watch him suffer, and settled for cutting off his oxygen instead. Good, that gave Enzan some time.
“Who… controls… the NetWorld?” Enzan gasped again.
Copy struggled, his dark eyes reflecting more emotion than Enzan thought possible. “I can’t… we must… you… Enzan-sama!” The voice of Copy Rockman rang out, high and panicked. “You have to say it, Enzan-sama! We can’t do it for you!”
Enzan opened his mouth, but only a choking sound came out. He was starting to see bright spots form in the back of his eyes, and Hikari Enzan’s savage smile was growing blurry.
“It’s over for you,” Hikari Enzan whispered. “This all ends here.”
“I don’t think so!”
Hikari Enzan barely grunted as something metallic and solid hit him squarely in the back. He slowly released his victim, ignoring Enzan’s gasp for air, and turned to face his attacker.
Netto cringed at Hikari Enzan’s glower, but he shouldered the pipe like a baseball bat and set his face in a look of determination. “Leave my friend alone,” he growled.
… … …
“What’s happening?” Beef cried. “Those numbers are climbing off the chart!”
“This can’t possibly be for real,” Saloma added, her face frozen with disbelief.
“Can he do that?” Miyuki wondered, watching the video feed.
Dr. Hikari grinned, watching Netto bait Enzan’s double. “That’s my boy,” he said proudly. “Blues! Rockman! How’s the connection coming?”
“It’s almost complete,” Blues’ voice replied. Unseen, he and Rockman were working on the last connection to the system outside of the NetWorld’s server. It was because of their presence so close to the NetWorld the gathered group could see what was happening, although audio was extremely poor.
“Papa!” Rockman called out. “There’s something strange going on here. According to what we’re seeing, the NetWorld shouldn’t be operating at all! There’s no power source for it to run.”
“I thought so,” Dr. Hikari said grimly. “That only means one thing.” He was silent for a moment.
“What?” Saloma asked with exasperation. Dr. Hikari’s silence had lasted too long for a dramatic effect.
“It means Watanabe’s navi has reverted back into his original form,” Dr. Hikari replied. “It means Enzan, Mahajarama, and Netto have less time than we thought.”
… … …
“You fool,” Hikari Enzan said simply. He raised his hand and pointed his index finger at Netto. “You have no idea what danger you have put yourself in.” He smirked. “Bang, bang.”
Netto opened his mouth to reply, and instead cried out as he was flung backwards by an unseen blow. He hit the ground hard and clutched his chest. There was no wound or blood, but from the amount of pain he was in, he could have sworn he had been shot. The pipe clattered off, the hollow ringing of its vibrations suddenly cutting off as it disappeared into darkness.
“Idiot,” Hikari Enzan said. “You should have—” He was cut off by a blow across his face. Enzan had escaped his hold while he had been distracted and was crouched not far away, another shiny pipe in his hands. He was breathing hard and his hands were slick with sweat, making it hard to keep a good grip on the pipe, but he glared at his double with more energy than he had felt in a long time.
“Never take your eyes off your opponent,” Enzan snarled. “First rule of self-defense.”
“Where the hell are all of these pipes coming from?” Hikari Enzan hissed.
Enzan threw the pipe at him and bolted, heading for the fallen Netto’s side. His double simply dodged the pipe and stood up, watching Enzan coldly, but made no move to intercept.
“Are you okay, Netto?” he asked, grabbing the younger netbattler and pulling him to his feet, despite Netto’s pain-filled yipping.
“I’ll live,” Netto murmured, bent over slightly and still clutching his chest. He frowned up at Enzan. “You called me Netto.”
“It isn’t real,” Enzan replied.
“The pain you’re feeling isn’t real,” Enzan said, keeping a steady hand on Netto’s shoulder. He glared at his double. “Isn’t that right?”
Hikari Enzan said nothing.
“None of this is real,” Enzan continued, gesturing at the blackness. “It’s not even data. It’s just something the NetWorld has pulled from our minds, created from our subconscious thoughts. All you have to do, Netto, is tell yourself the pain isn’t real, and believe it, and it will go away.”
“Really?” Netto rasped.
“Really,” Enzan said, nodding.
Netto closed his eyes and concentrated hard. “Hey… I do feel better.”
Enzan smiled. “I knew it,” he said softly. “I’ve figured this all out. This place isn’t real, it’s just something inside my mind, created by manipulation.” He waved his hand in the air, and suddenly another pipe was in it, identical in every way to each pipe which had been there before. “When the NetWorld shot me, disguised as Miyuki, that wasn’t real either. The NetWorld is nothing but a digitally inserted image; it couldn’t really hurt me. I saw the blood because I expected it to be there, and I fell because I thought I was on top of a building—but I didn’t die.”
Netto straightened up. The pain was gone, as Enzan said it would be. “What are you saying?”
“Don’t you get it?” Enzan looked at his friend’s face and saw that he did not. “It’s so easy,” Enzan said, laughing a little. “I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner!” He turned toward Copy. Watanabe’s navi was still frozen in the form of Rockman, watching everything with black orbs for eyes, but those orbs twinkled, as if he knew what Enzan was thinking. “Copy, who am I?”
“You’re Ijuuin Enzan, Enzan-sama,” Copy replied. “You are the NetWorld.”
Author’s Notes: Confused yet?