Chapter 31: Ye Not Guilty
“We’re out of time,” Dr. Hikari said, his voice strained. “We’ll have to pull them out now.”
“Pulling them out now will cause brain damage to the both of them!” Beef cried. “They have to pull themselves out of the NetWorld, that’s why Blues and Rockman set out the escape connection for them!”
“I know,” Dr. Hikari replied. His voice was thick, and for a moment, Saloma thought she saw tears in his eyes. “The system will shut down in thirty seconds. We no longer have the time for them to use that route!”
“Let it shut down.”
Silence reigned as the group slowly turned toward Miyuki. She gave them a confused look and shrugged.
“Let the system shut down,” the voice repeated. It was masculine, and it was coming from…
“Mahajarama?” Saloma gasped.
The World Three agent had not moved from his meditative position. If they hadn’t been looking for it, they would not have spotted the slight movement of his lips as he spoke.
“You want us to stand by and watch our sons die?” Ijuuin gasped. If he had not been so shocked, he would have tried to strangle the bizarre man.
“They will not die,” Mahajarama replied. “It is not the NetWorld’s system they are trapped in. Leave the connection up, it will be needed for other things. But do nothing else.”
Dr. Hikari took a moment to absorb this information. He then turned to the blue PET by his computer, his only connection to Rockman, who was somewhere deep in his computer’s mainframe. “Rockman?”
“Trust him, Papa.” Rockman’s voice came back without hesitation. “He won’t let Netto-kun and Enzan die.”
“Blues? What about you?” Dr. Hikari asked.
“Oh my God, he’s consulting net navis instead of using sanity!” Ijuuin groaned. “I’ve had enough! I’ll unplug my son myself!”
Miyuki clasped a thin hand on his shoulder before the business man even moved to carry out his threat. “I think not,” she said softly.
“I believe Mahajarama,” Blues said, his voice disrupted more than usual from the powerful systems of the mainframe. “Please listen to him, Ijuuin-sama. He’s the only one who can save my operator.”
“That’s good enough for me,” Dr. Hikari said shortly.
Beef grinned. “I’m in. Let’s get this over with once and for all.”
“Mahajarama, we’re all yours,” Dr. Hikari said, turning back to his screen. “Just tell us what you need.”
Ijuuin muttered an expletive and sat down in a corner, his head in his hands. Miyuki watched him closely, ready to move if he tried anything again.
“Thank you,” Mahajarama replied. “You won’t regret this.”
“Hopefully,” Saloma muttered, eyeing her monitor. The system had shut down while they had been discussing it, taking with it the video feed. It would only be a matter of time before Netto and Enzan would begin to die.
… … …
“What?” Netto shrilled. “You’re the NetWorld?”
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” Enzan said, crossing his arms.
“‘Hard to believe?’” Netto repeated. “It doesn’t make any sense!”
“Not at first, no,” the taller boy replied. He grinned at his double, who seemed to be frozen in place. “I’m not the only one, either. You’re the NetWorld too, or were at one time.”
“That clone of yours didn’t bash your head in with that pipe a few times, did he?” Netto asked skeptically.
“He certainly tried, but no,” Enzan said. “You heard Copy. I’m the NetWorld. I created this place. This place is me.”
A number of questions ran through Netto’s mind, but seeing as how Enzan was holding a large, dangerous pipe in his hands, he settled for one that wouldn’t make the white-haired boy angry. “How?”
“The NetWorld isn’t some massive virtual reality program,” Enzan said, never taking his eyes off of his counterpart. Hikari Enzan seemed as frozen in place as Copy, but Enzan knew better than to believe that to be the truth. “Its abilities are limited to forcing a piece of itself into the mind of a person, and making that person believe he or she is interacting with a whole world. The idea is of connecting many people at once, even though they’re all in separate worlds and shouldn’t be able to interact with each other, is what the NetWorld was trying to achieve. It managed to do so because it projects one person’s actions into another person’s world, causing the interaction.”
“That’s what Commander Beef was trying to say,” Netto replied. “I still don’t see how that makes you the NetWorld.”
“Well, that’s how we thought it worked. But Commander Beef was wrong; we all were,” Enzan said. “There is nothing powerful enough to do that to the human mind, not to mention several minds at once. It’s impossible. Those machines weren’t needed to support the NetWorld’s reality—they were needed to connect it with everyone else’s reality.”
“Are you sure he didn’t hit you in the head?” Netto demanded.
“No, listen to me!” Enzan snapped. “The only thing the NetWorld did was to create things in your head, a reality that was different from the real one. It used your thoughts, your emotions, and your reactions to make something that seemed real to you at the time, your mind couldn’t tell the difference between the real world and the fake one inside your head. But you created it. It was your world. If you had known that, you would have been able to control it as well.” He turned toward Copy. “Am I right, Copy Blues?”
Netto gasped. “Copy…Blues?”
“You’re right,” Copy replied, his voice taking on the authoritative tone which Enzan had learned to recognize as Copy Blues speaking. “The NetWorld was a merely a ruse in its name itself, designed to mislead those trying to pry into its secrets. The real power of the NetWorld came from the human imagination, from the taste of food to the color of a flower. The program—Copy.EXE—was designed to work with past experiences, emotions, and memories to design a world with seemingly small changes, but vast effects. It worked on events which already occurred, making it easier to create what took place. Commander Beef’s theory wasn’t far from the truth, after all—it was just missing a few key facts.” Copy’s face never changed its blank expression, but his eyes smiled. “Hello, Netto-kun. I missed you.”
“Enzan… that’s… he’s… it’s not possible,” Netto said weakly. He grabbed onto Enzan’s arm as if he didn’t trust his legs to support himself. “That’s not possible; Copy Blues was deleted…”
“No,” Enzan said softly. “Copy Blues was nothing more than a branch of Copy.EXE. When we saw him deleted, it was only Copy.EXE’s way of taking back the data he used to create Copy Blues. Copy Rockman, however, managed to keep a piece of Copy Blues through the data transfer—and using that piece while he merged with Copy Rockman, he not only kept his own consciousness intact, he somehow resurrected Copy Blues’ mind.”
“So then…” Netto drifted off, unable to connect his whirling thoughts.
“They’re merged,” Enzan replied grimly. “Soon we won’t be able to talk to them as individuals.”
“I’m sorry, Netto-kun,” Copy whispered. “There was no other way.”
“It’s okay, Blues,” Netto replied. He wiped at his eyes quickly; Enzan pretended not to notice. “I’m just glad you’re alive.”
“So our minds created the NetWorld,” Enzan said, continuing on. “And in doing so, we were actually in control. But because we didn’t know it, Wata—Copy was able to manipulate us into situations. That’s how they planned to get you to kill me. They would put you in a place where you would believe you weren’t in control, and had no other choice. It may have been planned as an accident of some kind.”
“Oh?” Netto said, sounding slightly ill.
“I’d rather not know the details myself,” Enzan replied, making a face.
“This is all very good and well.” Hikari Enzan crossed his arms and smirked, speaking for the first time. He looked like an eerie mirror of Enzan, and Netto found the blackness of the clone’s hair was the only way he could distinguish between them. “How do you explain me, then, Mr. NetWorld?” Hikari Enzan asked coldly. “And hurry up with your explanation; I want to kill you sometime soon.”
Enzan gave his double a thin smile. “Actually, you’re the one who helped me to figure it out.” He waved the pipe in his hand. “Rockman told me the pipe I found underneath my bed was there because I was looking for it. Later I figured he had used the NetWorld to put it there himself, but it didn’t explain how he knew I was looking for a pipe to begin with. Then I saw you with it—and better yet, I saw it disappear when you dropped it.”
“And this led you to the delusion that you’re the NetWorld,” Hikari Enzan snorted.
“Blues, the reason I was not under the NetWorld’s illusion wasn’t because of a detail Immersion missed, was it?” Enzan’s words sounded more like a statement than a question, and he continued on without waiting for an answer. “Immersion needed someone’s mind to build their reality on, and that someone was me. Because they used my mind to create the reality inflicted on everyone else, however, they overlooked the fact I may have been immune to my own illusion. And because it was my illusion, they didn’t notice I wasn’t under my own spell because they were concentrating on Netto. I didn’t die, like Immersion wanted, simply because my mind wouldn’t allow my own illusion to kill me. I am, in effect, the NetWorld.”
“Makes sense to me,” Netto admitted. “But why you?”
Enzan shrugged. “I’ve repressed my imagination and dreams over the years for success and knowledge. Maybe I had a large, unused amount of it stored.”
“Yes,” Copy said. His tone was higher, and Enzan was sure it was now Copy Rockman speaking. “You were the perfect host, Enzan-sama. Your memory was sharp enough to provide details others would forget, and your natural determination helped spread the NetWorld’s reality.”
“Hello, I’m still here!” Hikari Enzan snapped, waving his hands in the air.
“Yeah… what does that make him?” Netto wondered out loud.
“There was no data split. I assumed that to be the cause, and Hikari Enzan only played on that fact,” Enzan replied. “He’s nothing more than another loose piece of the NetWorld. A figment of my imagination.”
Hikari Enzan grinned at this. “Wrong, Ijuuin. Your presence just gave me a physical form, but I’ve always been here.” He clapped his hands together, and disappeared. Netto and Enzan whirled, but there was no sign of the double.
“The NetWorld was made up of your mind, Ijuuin Enzan.” Hikari Enzan’s voice rang out. “And you were the last one out of Copy.EXE’s little matrix, remember? You left a piece of yourself behind, just large enough to give that stupid navi something to cling to. It was also large enough to produce the most dangerous enemy you have—yourself.”
The clone appeared between the two netbattlers, and before they could utter a sound he had them by their necks and lifted them a foot in the air. “Poor Copy Rockman. All he wanted to do was give you back what was yours,” Hikari Enzan mocked. “He had no idea it would try to kill you rather than become one with you again.”
“You’re… lying,” Enzan gasped.
“Me? Lie? Now why would I do that?” Hikari Enzan cocked his head; then threw them away simultaneously. Netto landed hard and rolled a few times before stopping. Enzan landed on his arm—and cried out when he heard something break.
“I thought you were in control, Ijuuin?” Hikari Enzan mocked. “I thought you could fix that broken arm with just a thought?”
“Netto—” Enzan sucked in his breath as a wave of pain hit him. “Netto, are you all right?”
“Netto-kun, get up!” Copy ordered. “Netto-kun! You can’t lose consciousness now!”
Netto blinked and shook his head a few times. Everything looked fuzzy, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t pry his eyes any wider. He blinked again as something wet covered one eye. He wiped at it futilely; for some reason, his hand wouldn’t do what he told it to do. He got a good look at the wet stuff with his clear eye; it was blood, bright red and sticky.
“Rockman, what did I get wrong?” Enzan croaked. “I thought I was right.”
“You are right, Enzan-sama!” Copy cried. “You just don’t believe it yet. You can stop Hikari Enzan if you believe you can!”
“Wrong again!” Hikari Enzan cried out cheerfully. “He’s right about a lot of things, dear old Copy—he did create the NetWorld. However, he’s no longer in control; I am. Thanks to you, Copy, and the way you crashed the system on yourself, I was able to form my own little consciousness. I think I’ve found a proper way to thank my creator, don’t you?”
Copy ignored the mockery. “Netto, get up! You have to stay awake. Netto-kun!”
“Lose consciousness in my world, and you’ll never open your eyes again.” Hikari Enzan grinned. “That’s what he gets for meddling.” He walked up to Enzan and grabbed him by his collar, pulling him to his feet. Enzan couldn’t stop himself from crying out as his arm hung loosely at his side.
“Why… do this?” Enzan asked, gasping.
“Ever hear of irony, Ijuuin?” Hikari Enzan asked. “Remember those memories Immersion made for you, that, ironically, the NetWorld you created never put into your mind? Well, they had to go somewhere. They were in your mind after all—but not in a place you could have reached. When Copy.EXE began losing control, he unconsciously grabbed the last bit of untainted NetWorld he could find—Me. Those memories, created by you for you which never got put into their place. With that, I admit, he took a chunk of your mind you needed, but those are minor details.” The double laughed at the expression on Enzan’s face. “You’re starting to get it now! You were the one who created the scenario which would have killed you! Isn’t that ironic? Watanabe Yuuhi thought so.”
“Yuuhi…chan…” Copy whispered. The mention of his former operator drove Copy Blues’ concern for Netto out of his mind. The image of a young woman filled it instead. He remembered her as she giggled, watching him transform into various things, dreaming of what she would accomplish once out of college. That was his operator, not the bitter, twisted person who warped his data. He recalled other feelings; alien feelings which didn’t belong to him. A brotherly fondness of an energetic boy; a feeling of complete trust, despite a history of pain. He could no longer separate what feeling was truly his. He could not remember why he would want to.
Netto could no longer keep his eyes open. Copy’s screams at him to do so had stopped, and he couldn’t remember why it was so important that he stay awake. A little nap wouldn’t hurt anyone…
“So you’re going to kill me now?” Enzan asked in disbelief, struggling feebly in his double’s hold.
“Nope. You’re gonna kill yourself. Funny, no? I think it’s hilarious.” As if to prove his point he laughed again, a sharp, bitter laugh tainted with evil thoughts and desires.
“Netto—” Enzan’s eyes grew wide when he saw that Netto was gone. “Netto!”
… … …
Netto opened his eyes to see a boring-looking ceiling. He twisted his head to the side to see a frantic group of people he knew, one of them being his father, running around jabbering a lot of things which made no sense to him. He turned his head in the other direction and saw Enzan’s body, still except for the slight rise and fall of his chest. Mahajarama was meditating serenely next to the body, oblivious to the chaos in the room.
Netto sat up, removed the virtual reality helmet from his head, and declared in a very loud voice, “Dammit! He did it to me again!”
“Netto!” Saloma cried, rushing to his side. “Are you all right?”
Netto quickly felt his forehead. There was no sign of a cut or blood. “I’m fine,” he said dejectedly. “But now I can’t help Enzan.”
“On the contrary, you’ve helped him a lot,” Commander Beef said, coming to the boy’s side. “The system which contained the NetWorld has shut down completely, yet we’re still getting energy signals from it. Enzan’s life signs are still in good shape—for the time being. Mahajarama told us he was pulling you out a few seconds before you woke up.”
Netto cast a dubious glance at the meditating Namasutejin. “He did?”
“Long story,” Saloma replied. “What did you mean by ‘he did it to me again’?”
“Long story,” Netto threw back at her. He then sighed. “What’s going on?”
“We’re working on the fact that Enzan’s mind is still in the NetWorld’s last operating system because of the energy signals we’re getting, but we can’t figure out how to get him out,” Saloma explained quickly. The more Netto knew, the bigger help he could be. “Blues and Rockman are maintaining a connection to the system because of that, though with the system down it’s more like a closed gate which they’ll pry open given the opportunity. If only we could figure out what that energy signal is…”
“Oh, that’s Copy.EXE,” Netto said.
“What?” Beef and Saloma roared.
Dr. Hikari actually looked up from his screen. “What do you mean, Copy.EXE, son?” he asked. “According to our data, he had to have been deleted once the system shut down.”
“Boy, do I have a lot to tell you,” Netto replied.
“Better do it quickly,” Miyuki intoned. “We’re running out of time.”
… … …
“Must have fallen asleep,” Hikari Enzan commented without emotion. “That’s what’ll happen to you; you’ll simply disappear, defeated by your own mind.” He slid his hand around Enzan’s throat again, his smirk growing wider.
Enzan screamed, unable to do anything else. He could feel the grip on his throat tighten, and he screamed louder. It was a scream of frustration, not fear; frustration that the best he could do was still not good enough. Now it would never be good enough. Netto was gone, probably dead. Copy was next, if the NetWorld collapsed when he died. There was nothing else he could do but scream.
“What?” Hikari Enzan made the mistake of turning toward the voice that spoke. Copy.EXE slugged him in the face, forcing him to release his hold on Enzan’s neck.
… … …
“This is bad,” Dr. Hikari muttered, shaking his head. “Very bad. It throws everything we’ve been working on out the window!”
“So we’ll adjust,” Beef said grimly. “It sounds like the gate idea can still work, if we can make the connection to the right place.”
“Enzan’s life signs are dropping,” Saloma announced. She was studying the monitor by Enzan’s side. It was designed to observe such things like his pulse and breathing without being attached to the actual patient. “His heartbeat is slowing down. We don’t have emergency life support systems which can deal with a total shutdown—we’ll have to make our change of plans quickly.”
“To make things worse, it sounds like Enzan’s fighting a nightmare of his own design,” Beef added grimly.
Netto sat in a far corner, feeling useless. Not only had he failed Enzan, he had knocked himself out of the game. In this reality, he was useless to the current task at hand.
“Netto, I think you may be able to help us here,” Miyuki announced, drawing him forward with a hand motion.
“Yeah?” Netto said eagerly, ready to help if he could.
“Tell me everything you know about Copy.EXE,” Dr. Hikari said, taking his eyes away from the screen once again to give his full concentration to his son.
… … …
“Copy!” Enzan cried, rubbing his throat with his good hand. The navi turned to face Enzan, still in Rockman’s form.
“The only one who can stop this is you, Enzan-sama,” he said. “You can’t give in to what your double says. You are the NetWorld!”
“But… my arm…”
“It will heal if you let it heal. It isn’t really broken, don’t you see?” Copy grabbed Enzan’s good shoulder and gave him a firm shake. “You had it figured out before you started doubting yourself. You let him get to you, Enzan-sama. You have to get over that.”
“Shut up, you useless puppet!” Hikari Enzan snarled. He launched himself at the navi, but Copy was expecting the attack. He met the double in midair, connecting the heel of his foot in a side kick with Hikari Enzan’s stomach.
“Enzan…” Copy said, not bothering to see how far away his opponent would land. “You have to stop this!”
Enzan stared down at his limp arm. It no longer hurt him. Slowly he curled the fist of that arm and raised it to his chest. He shook it, as if to see if it would come apart under the strain. “How do I stop myself?” he asked weakly.
“You’re trapped in the NetWorld because you won’t let yourself out,” Copy pointed out. “This place is merely a projection of that world—a projection of your mind! All you have to do is believe that this isn’t real, and it will all disappear.”
“And you?” Enzan demanded. “Are you not real too, or will you be deleted without an energy source to cling onto?”
Copy didn’t answer for a moment. “I’m not Copy Rockman. I have merged completely now.”
“I don’t care!” Enzan yelled. “I don’t care if you were still devoted to Watanabe and were trying to kill me. I will not abandon you, you hear me?”
Copy made no move to defend himself as Hikari Enzan jumped him from behind, wrapping an arm around his slim neck. “So sad,” the double sneered. “The once callous netbattler would rather die than watch a piece of mere data be deleted! I shudder to think it was you who created me.”
“Who are you?” Enzan demanded. “This time I want the truth.”
“I’m your fears, Ijuuin,” Hikari Enzan replied. “I’m those nightmares you never told anyone about. I’m the thoughts you have when your father makes you angry, the ones where you wish he would just die and leave you alone. I’m the realization that no matter how good you are, you’ll never be good enough. It is all that and more that created Hikari Enzan.”
“Let Copy go,” Enzan growled.
“Or what?” his double shot back. “Even if you take his advice, you’ll never be able to forget me. I’ll always haunt you, in both waking hours and the depths of your nightmares.”
“Good,” Enzan hissed. He walked toward his double purposely.
“W-What are you doing?” Hikari Enzan demanded. He tightened his hold on Copy’s neck.
“I don’t want to forget you. Ever,” Enzan spat. “I don’t want to forget what happens to someone when they give into anger and hate. I don’t want to forget what bitterness and regret could do to me, if I allowed it. I don’t want to forget what it feels like to be feared by someone who loves you at the same time. I’ll never forget you, Hikari Enzan.” Enzan stood a few meters away from his evil counterpart, his double and yet opposite at the same time. He grinned and raised a finger. “And because of that, I will become a better person for it.” He braced his finger against his thumb and aimed it between Hikari Enzan’s eyes. “Goodbye.”
He flicked his finger at his double. The image of Hikari Enzan shattered, like a mirror which had been dropped on the ground. Enzan thought he imagined tinkling noises as the pieces bounced off of the floor—then again, he probably had created the noises for that purpose.
Copy smiled. “You defeated him.”
“Yes,” Enzan admitted. “It wasn’t easy.”
“I know,” Copy replied. “You should leave now. If you don’t, you’ll end up dying like Hikari Enzan said. You can’t sustain this world for much longer without him to concentrate on.”
“No,” Enzan snapped. “I won’t abandon you. I’m not Watanabe Yuuhi.”
“Promise?” Copy whispered.
“I promise,” Enzan said softly.
Copy wrapped his arms around the netbattler’s waist without another word and held him tightly. In Rockman’s form, he was only a little bit shorter than the human boy he was embracing. Enzan hugged him back, holding back tears.
“I promise, I promise,” he repeated, the tears spilling down despite his best efforts. “It’s okay, Copy. You don’t have to suffer anymore.”
“Enzan-sama,” Copy whispered, pulling away to look at the boy. “Thank you. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, but you can’t stay here. What about Blues?”
“I—Copy, you’re glowing!” Enzan cried out in alarm.
“Enzan!” Netto’s voice rang out, causing the boy to whirl in an effort to locate the source. “We’re downloading Copy’s data now!”
“Netto!” Enzan replied. “You’re alive!”
“Yeah, isn’t that cool?” Netto replied.
Enzan couldn’t help but smirk at the cocky tone in the younger netbattler’s voice.
“Blues says to tell you to get out as soon as Copy disappears!”
“How?” Enzan asked.
“Mahajarama will help! See you soon!”
“Netto, wait—” Enzan began.
Enzan whirled to see Copy was engulfed in brilliant flecks of light. He was almost painful to look at; he was so bright, and he kept getting brighter. “What? What is it? Does it hurt?” Enzan asked quickly.
“I-I’m scared,” Copy replied, his voice shaking. He reached out for Enzan with one hand. “I’m scared, Enzan-sama!”
“Don’t be scared,” Enzan said softly. He grabbed the net navi’s hand; it felt warm and tingled underneath his skin. “It will be all right. My friends are going to help you.”
“Promise?” Copy asked, his voice quivering.
“I promise,” Enzan replied, smiling.
Copy smiled back, and opened his mouth to reply. Then, in a flash of light, he was gone, and Enzan was alone in the darkness.
-- -- --
Now where am I?
He could see nothing, and when he tried to raise his hand, he found that he could not even feel it.
Am I dreaming? If this has all been a dream, someone will die.
“You aren’t dreaming, young Ijuuin.”
“Mahajarama,” Enzan replied. “If I’m not dreaming, then where am I?”
“Still in the NetWorld,” Mahajarama replied. “Still in the depths of your mind.”
“How do I get out?” Enzan asked.
“That’s the frustrating part, isn’t it? Now that you’ve got here, you have no idea how to leave.”
“That’s not helping!” Enzan snapped.
Mahajarama chuckled. “I apologize. You’ve been through a lot; I should make this easier for you.”
A light appeared in front of Enzan's face; with a start, he realized he could see Mahajarama’s upper body illuminated in front of him. “That’s better,” Mahajarama said.
“How do I get out of here?” Enzan demanded.
“Close your eyes,” Mahajarama replied. “It’s like escaping from a bad dream. All you have to do is close your eyes, and it all goes away.”
That seemed simple enough, until Enzan tried and failed. “I can’t!”
“Ah, that comes from the dream philosophy too, I’m afraid,” Mahajarama said. “You can never close your eyes when it counts the most. I’ll help you, this time.” He raised his hands and placed them on Enzan’s face. Enzan could see his dark arms stretching away from his head.
“You’ve done a good job, Enzan,” Mahajarama said softly. “If nothing else, be proud of that.” He slid his fingers down Enzan’s face, and Enzan felt his eyes close under the gentle pressure. Then he remembered nothing else.
… … …
“That does it,” Beef announced heavily. “The power source is gone. The NetWorld, or whatever it was, is no more.”
“Indeed,” Dr. Hikari muttered underneath his breath, tapping away at his keyboard. “It damaged some files on the way out, I’m afraid. Blues, Rockman, are you two okay?”
“Daijoubu,” Rockman replied, safe in his PET. “I’m not damaged.”
“My data is unharmed,” Blues said. “What about Enzan-sama?”
“From what I can tell, this information could put years on our research,” Dr. Hikari said, staring thoughtfully at his screen. “It’s amazing it held up for this long, which such an inadequate power source.”
“Papa, what about Enzan?” Netto broke in, plucking at his father’s sleeve. He grabbed his PET with his other hand, gripping its familiar handle with relief.
“Just one moment…” Dr. Hikari responded, sounding distracted.
“Papa!” Netto and Rockman yelled.
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” Mahajarama asked, moving from his meditative position at last. “He’s been awake for at least a couple of minutes.”
“Enzan…” Ijuuin whispered. Before Netto could move, the businessman was at his son’s side, staring down at him with an unreadable expression. For a moment, nothing happened. Netto grabbed Blues’ PET and hovered nearby, staring at his friend with a hopeful expression. The room seemed to be frozen, waiting for something to happen.
“Hello, father,” Enzan said softly, opening his eyes. “I’m sorry I’ve been so much trouble.”
“Enzan… you’re…” Ijuuin couldn’t finish his sentence.
Enzan carefully propped himself up onto his elbows in an attempt to sit up. He was shaky, however, and his body felt weak. Ijuuin grabbed him and pulled him forward, into a sitting position. Enzan found himself staring at the fabric of his father’s shirt as Ijuuin steadied him, and for a moment was nearly overwhelmed by the desire to bury his head into his father’s chest and just cry. The feeling passed, and Ijuuin let go of his son’s shoulders and took a step back. The man’s eyes looked suspiciously wet, and Enzan tried not to notice.
“Enzan! You’re alive!” Netto shouted. “Yatta!” He launched himself at Enzan, grabbing the older boy by the neck and nearly choking him in the process.
“Gaa! Netto, get off me!” Enzan protested, trying to push the boy away. “Get off, are you crazy?”
Netto finally let go and grinned at the older boy. Enzan watched him suspiciously in case he attempted to do it again. “I have something of yours,” Netto announced, holding out the red PET. “I think you want it back.”
“Blues…” Enzan grabbed the PET and stared into it anxiously, all other things forgotten. “Blues!”
Blues smiled. “Hello, Enzan-sama. Do you feel better now?”
“Yes, much better,” Enzan replied, smiling at his navi. “I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating you.”
“Don’t be,” Blues assured him. “You were not yourself.”
Ijuuin watched this scene, his expression as hard as stone. Commander Beef watched him, and wondered what emotion truly lay underneath the skin.
“I got it!” Dr. Hikari announced joyfully.
“Got what?” Saloma asked. She looked over his shoulder and gasped. “What the…”
“Got what? What the what?” Netto cried, jumping up and down.
“Enzan, would you please come here?” Dr. Hikari asked, shooting the boy a wide grin. “I have something for you.”
Enzan slowly tried to climb off of the table. Netto grabbed him and pulled him off, and half-dragged, half-carried the boy over to scientist’s workstation. Enzan made a mental note to get Hikari Netto for it later. “What am I supposed to be looking at?” Enzan asked.
Unnoticed in the background, Mahajarama took his leave. Only Miyuki, who had been reading a status report that Skullman had given her, looked up to see him disappear through the doorway, taking his ancient virtual reality gear with him. She smiled, and whispered an unheard thank you.
Enzan froze, staring at Dr. Hikari’s screen. “Copy Rockman?” he cried, spotting what had rendered the others speechless.
The navi looked itself over carefully. “No… I don’t think so…”
He wasn’t, Enzan realized with despair. He was too small to be Rockman, and the coloring of his armor and body suit was turquoise with light green stripes down the sides. His helmet was shaped differently from Rockman; it had two small spikes on each upper side, and small rivets that resembled Blues’ where his hearing receptors were located. Light blue hair spilled out from beneath his helmet, reaching to his shoulders. His eyes were visible through a clear visor, one that was obviously attached to his helmet and could be pushed up manually. The navi did so, demonstrating it as well as moving his arm, revealing a familiar jagged symbol on his chest. The symbol Blues wore.
He wasn’t Rockman, but he looked very close.
“I think I’m CopyRock,” he said, smiling at the boy. “CopyRock.EXE. I missed you so much, Enzan-sama!”
Author’s notes: CopyRock’s design, especially his hair, resembles Searchman.EXE slightly. That irritates me to no end because I came up with the design for CopyRock months before I saw Searchman, but since it was the best design I could come up with, I decided to keep it. Yatta is used frequently by small children, meaning “yay!” or “hoorah!”