Chapter 32: We Have Come to Terms
"I don't get it," Hino Ken complained, leaning on the counter while resting his chin in one hand. "Why did Watanabe's navi revert back to its original data?"
Saloma, her face hidden behind her Net Agent disguise, swallowed the large amount of curry in her mouth before speaking. "In order for the NetWorld to access the depths of a person's mind, it needed the ability to invade quickly and do its job without being seen as a threat. A navi's protocol is perfect for such actions, because a computer system recognizes the navi as a piece of its own data and not as a virus. Copy's codes were kept intact, therefore, to have the same effect."
She took a second to look around the small curry house. The place was devoid of customers, but it was surprisingly clean, and delicious smells were coming from the cooking area. The food was good too, she noticed as she took another bite. Hino Ken was resting on the employee side of the counter, watching her as she surveyed the room.
"And in doing so, anything and everything connected to it in the slightest could not separate from the NetWorld," Hino Ken mumbled, pondering Saloma's words. "But why was Copy able to be uploaded without a power source sustaining him? The system crashed before then."
"We're not sure," Saloma admitted. "It seems although the electrical system was down long before he got out, he was able to independently sustain his data until he could be evacuated from Enzan's mind, the last remnants of the NetWorld. Dr. Hikari has theories on converting data to organic material, or brain impulses, and back again, but we have no solid evidence of that being the case."
"I have a theory," Mahajarama said, appearing behind Saloma. The Net Agent did her best not to jump, but failed.
"Oh?" Hino Ken raised an eyebrow.
"Copy loved Ijuuin Enzan. The personalities of both Copy Blues and Copy Rockman were combined with his mind. Yuuhi betrayed him and left him for dead." Mahajarama shrugged. "He turned his childlike affection to Enzan, the only other person to treat him with kindness. With those facts in mind, he was able to do what most would consider impossible, just so he could be with Enzan."
"And what about Copy Blues?" Hino Ken pressed. "According to what I know, he was an actual copy of the real Blues. Like the other copy navis, he was deleted. How did Copy manage to bring him back?"
"We don't know," Saloma said with a sigh. "Enzan said it was because he was a part of the NetWorld, but from the evidence we gathered he was a copy, right down to the code. Dr. Hikari had a slim theory in which Copy retained the navi's data instead of deleting it, but we have no clue as to why he would do that, and the current version of him, CopyRock.EXE, certainly can't tell us. We do know a data transfer wouldn't explain for the personality of the copy navi to remain intact."
"Mahajarama?" Hino Ken turned toward the dark-skinned man.
"Like Copy, he too had reasons to stick around," Mahajarama replied. "Love for another is a powerful thing."
"It sounds shaky to me," Hino Ken said with a snort, turning back toward Saloma. "And what's this business about Enzan being the NetWorld again? You went over it three times already, and I still don't get it."
"Copy's programming allowed him to use the human imagination—" Saloma started.
Hino Ken waved his hand, cutting her off. "I understand that part. What I don't understand is why they used Enzan as originator when Netto was where all their attention was focused."
"That's not so hard, once you think about it," Mahajarama said. "Netto was the source of their energy. They needed his emotions to power their machine and their plans. In order to do that, they needed a different person to create the world he was in. Hikari Netto may have been the subject, but Ijuuin Enzan was always the focus of the project. What they failed to realize is that by creating the world, Enzan would be immune to its illusions; at least, the false memories part. Somewhere in his mind he recognized them as being his own creation, and therefore not real."
"Once Enzan created it, Copy.EXE's programming allowed him to sustain it easily," Saloma added. "When he needed more data, he just pulled it from Enzan's mind without the boy realizing it. The NetWorld began to fall apart because Enzan resisted the manipulation, whether he was aware of doing it or not."
"And so he couldn't really leave the NetWorld," Hino Ken said thoughtfully, stroking his goatee. "Because Copy could control the illusions Enzan made so easily, he was able to keep the last server running until Enzan came back to shut down the NetWorld completely. But from what you tell me, Hikari Enzan wasn't a part of Copy.EXE at all?"
"Hikari Enzan represented one of two things," Mahajarama replied. "One was the malice and hate Watanabe programmed into Copy.EXE. That had to go somewhere, even if it was a part of his data, and when Copy tried to purge it he ended up warping the NetWorld to the corrupted data's designs. Hikari Enzan was not made of the data Copy removed from his program, just influenced by it."
"And the other?" Saloma asked, interested. Her studies of the case had not led her this far.
"The other was the part of Enzan which created Hikari Enzan to begin with," Mahajarama said. "The memories, personality, and whole being of Hikari Enzan were unused and still in the NetWorld, the piece of his mind which he left behind. In order to become whole again, he had to defeat the part of himself that he wanted to deny existed. Only by confronting its existence was he able to defeat it."
Madoi pushed open the kitchen door and leaned against it, shaking her head. She had been listening to the conversation from behind the door, but had decided to abandon that method. She preferred to be in the middle of a conversation. "That's way too philosophical for me," she complained.
"I know," Mahajarama smiled thinly. "However, it's the best description of what took place in the remains of the NetWorld."
"But what about this new navi, CopyRock? He's a mixture of Copy.EXE and the two copies of Blues and Rockman, but the NetWorld must have damaged his data somehow," Madoi argued. In the corner of her eye she watched with amusement Count Elec curse as he tried to make a new batch of curry.
"It did," Saloma admitted. "He can't use his copying ability, yet he still has the mindset of a child. He may never improve; his data is permanently corrupted."
"That's sad," Hino Ken said softly. "It's sad that someone would go through so much to get revenge that she would hurt an innocent, even if the innocent is made up of data."
"An innocent is still an innocent," Saloma replied.
"How did you—Mahajarama?" Hino Ken stared at the spot where the tall, dark-skinned man had been standing. "Curse it, he vanished again!"
"Just as well," Saloma said with a sigh. "We've never managed to figure out what happened last in the first NetWorld venture. Netto and Enzan refuse to say a word about it."
"Wait," Madoi muttered, holding up a finger. "Why couldn't the NetWorld create a disaster for Dr. Hikari to have caused? That was the main reason everything was different, right? So why was it overlooked?"
"That part is easy to explain, going by Mahajarama's theory," Hino Ken drawled. "Enzan created the NetWorld; he knew it wasn't real, yet was fooled by how real it seemed. It only makes sense he would leave himself clues to prove it wasn't real."
"What?" Madoi asked, lost after the second "real."
"The Net Agents have no explanation for it," Saloma replied. "Sounds good to me—"
"Hino Ken, Elec just set his hair on fire," Madoi interrupted, leaving her position at the kitchen door. "Help me put it out. Again."
Hino Ken mumbled some very impolite things under his breath and hurriedly followed Madoi into the kitchen. Saloma could hear Elec swearing in English loudly and was glad she wasn't fluent in the language.
"What happens next?" Mahajarama asked, slowly pushing the door to the kitchen closed. Saloma stared at him wide-eyed for a moment; the man's ability to appear and disappear at will was astonishing.
"The major heads of Immersion are standing trial," she replied. "The rest of the Net Agents are currently testifying in court. It's a pretty solid case, and with Ijuuin's influence, they should stay behind bars for a long time. Life is back to normal for Netto and his friends. Dr. Hikari is as busy as ever with his work and his theories, and the other adults who were in the NetWorld seem to be adjusting to real life again well. Ijuuin Enzan has a new, demanding navi to look after, but I think after all he's been through, he can handle it."
"And Watanabe Yuuhi?" Mahajarama asked.
"She committed suicide shortly after being jailed," Saloma said softly. "From her records, it looks like she's been mentally unstable for a long time." She pushed her empty plate away from her and stood up. "Your curry is delicious."
"Thank you," Mahajarama said graciously. He watched the Net Agent leave and politely wished her goodbye.
"All's well that ends well, then," Hino Ken said, opening the kitchen door and shooting a glowering glance at Mahajarama. "The story ends here."
"Ends?" Mahajarama raised an eyebrow. "No story ever ends, Hino Ken. This story will have repercussions far into the future, and will affect many other stories to come. We have just to anticipate the journey."
"Well, anticipate it while you help us clean up the mess Elec made," Hino Ken replied.
"Don't tell me you doused his hair with my curry," Mahajarama said emotionlessly.
"Afraid so. We did it out back. You should have heard his scream." Hino Ken smirked at the memory. "C'mon, we'll have more customers soon."
Mahajarama followed Hino Ken through the kitchen door, pausing to look back at the entrance. The next story to come will be interesting indeed…
-- -- --
The door in front of his face looked solid and real. The brightness of sun shone full force into his eyes, making them water, and he squinted, trying to shut the light out. He raised his hand, his fingers curled into a fist. He hesitated; why? Why was this so hard for him?
The sternness of the order made him look at his PET in surprise. Turquoise eyes met his gaze evenly.
"But…" he protested weakly.
"It will only get harder the more you wait," Blues put in.
Great, now Blues was ganging up on him. With a sigh, he turned toward the door again, his hand posed to knock.
The door flew open, causing him to leap back, startled. Hikari Haruka stood there, staring wide-eyed at him.
The boy only had time to yelp sharply as Haruka dragged him through the door. "Haruk—Hikari-san!" was all Enzan could manage.
"I was so worried about you!" Haruka exclaimed, gripping his arms tightly as she looked him over. "You're so pale and thin! Are you eating enough now?" She tsked over his hair. "And your dye is growing out! You'll have to re-dye it soon."
Enzan felt his face grow hot. It was one thing for her to fuss over him when she thought he was her son. Now, however, he wasn't sure how to react.
"My dear, he's not a pet," the amused Dr. Hikari said as he entered the room. "I'm sure the young Ijuuin is just fine."
"But look at him!" Haruka cooed. She wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "He's just so handsome for his age, isn't he?"
Enzan felt his face burn. "Hi-Hikari-san—"
"Please call me Haruka," she replied, smiling brightly at him.
Netto came bounding down the stairs, giving his mother an exasperated look. "He's here to see me," the young netbattler said pointedly.
Haruka sighed and gave Enzan a quick hug before releasing him. "You take care of yourself," she said. "Don't forget to visit sometime soon."
Enzan stumbled away, trying to hide his blush, and searched for an appropriate response. Netto saved him from both by grabbing onto his sleeve and yanking him in the direction of the stairway.
"Is he more handsome than I am?" Dr. Hikari asked mournfully.
Haruka clasped her hands together, playing along. "In my eyes, you're the handsomest man in the world."
"Said the prettiest woman around," Dr. Hikari replied, grinning.
"Papa!" Netto complained loudly. "Let's get out of here before they do something gross," he said to Enzan.
Enzan smirked at the remark and followed Netto up the stairs. "I really like your mother," he commented thoughtfully.
Netto made a face, pausing on the stairway. "Ewwwwww!"
"Not in that way, Hikari!" Enzan shoved the younger boy away from him as they reached the top of the steps. "Where has your mind been lately? The gutter?"
"Well, what do you expect me to think?" Netto replied. "It's not every day I hear my friends talk about my mama."
"Whatever," Enzan said. "Just forget I said anything. Let's get this over with."
Netto gave him a strange look, but decided not to comment on the last sentence. "Do you have it?" he asked.
Enzan showed him a small purple device connected to his PET. Netto smiled at the sight, nodded at the older boy, and opened the door to his room.
"It's about time you got back!" Dekao grunted as he heard the sound of the door swing open. He was sitting on the floor fiddling with Netto's battlechip collection, his back to the door. "This is boring!"
"Enzan!" Meiru exclaimed with some surprise from her kneeling position on the floor, causing the other three in the room, Yaito, Tohru, and Dekao, to look toward the door. "I never expected to see you here!"
Enzan winced a little at the attention he was getting. It reminded him of the way Netto's friends had treated him in the NetWorld, although now their expressions were curious, not hostile. He looked around the room with some surprise; it was different than it had been in the NetWorld. Of course it would be, he told himself. The room I had in the NetWorld came from my imagination of what Netto's room looked like, not the actual thing. The house had differed in appearance too, but not by much.
"I invited him," Netto explained. "He was given a few days off to fully recover, so I figured I might was well."
"And you agreed?" Yaito asked Enzan with some surprise. She was sitting on the only chair in the room, her PET held tightly in her hands.
"I'm not a complete ass," Enzan responded, almost smirking as Yaito's eyes grew wider at the comment. He knew she was wondering how he had known his status as an "ass" was how the group defined him. It hadn't been hard to reach that conclusion, even without the NetWorld beating him over the head with it. "Besides, Netto wanted me to show you guys something."
Yaito's eyes couldn't grow any wider, but she noted carefully the name Enzan had chosen to call the brown-haired boy. She wasn't the only one; Meiru discreetly made a note of it as well, while Dekao and Tohru openly gaped at Enzan.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Netto asked impatiently after a few moments of silence. "Plug him in already! Everyone else is already in Internet City."
"And wondering why," Tohru pointed out. He was stretched out on Netto's bed, a magazine in one hand and his PET in the other.
"You'll see," Netto said, grinning; he sat down on the floor and scooped up his PET from the desk, motioning for Enzan to sit next to him.
Enzan glanced at his PET. "Ready for this, Blues?"
"By now, I'm ready for anything, Enzan-sama."
"Here we go then," Enzan replied, plugging him in. "Transmission!"
-- -- --
CopyRock, or just Copy for short, Enzan had decided after a few weeks, was too cute for his own good. His short stature, strange mixture of Blues and Rockman's frame designs, and bubbly personality made him seem like a little kid most of the time. He seemed almost deliriously happy with his new home, and never got tired of bouncing off anything he could find. At first, he had shared Blues' PET, but Enzan had worried about Blues' sanity if he spent too much time with the hyperactive navi. Copy tended to have the effect of wearing down mental stability on people, and Blues' low tolerance for foolishness made the two navis a bad combination.
To solve that problem, Enzan had commandeered a new PET and transferred Copy's data to it. However, this created a new problem. Copy hated being out of Enzan's sight, but Enzan didn't find it practical to carry around two PETs. The first time he left Copy at home to go somewhere, the servants had informed him the navi had cried uncontrollably for hours. The news had made Enzan feel terrible, and even Blues, who had never made an effort to acknowledge the small navi, seemed to feel sorry for Copy.
After that, Enzan finally broke down and asked Hikari Yuuichirou for help. Dr. Hikari had immediately designed a small device which would contain Copy's data. It could be directly connected to Enzan's PET through the chip slot so he could deal with both Blues and Copy at the same time, or it could act as its own little world for Copy, complete with a screen similar to the PET so Enzan could keep an eye on the navi. If Blues ever got tired of Copy, he was able to shove the smaller navi out of the PET and into Copy's PI, or Portable Interface, as Hikari-hakase had called it.
Surprisingly enough, Blues was very tolerant of Copy. He listened to the navi's chattering without complaint, and answered Copy's questions—most of the time. He usually allowed the smaller navi to play with his hair or hang on his limbs, although Enzan sometimes saw Blues shove Copy off. While Blues treated Copy with an indifferent tolerance, Copy completely adored Blues and called him oniichan, meaning older brother. The small navi could usually take the hint when Blues got really annoyed, but he never took it personally.
He had received the call from Netto earlier in the week. The boy claimed he wanted to show off CopyRock to his friends in order to explain how the whole NetWorld saga had ended. He had also hinted Hikari Haruka had wanted to see Enzan again. That had been all to the phone call, but Enzan thought he had sensed something else in the younger boy's voice. It made him curious, and he decided to accept Netto's invitation. He too wanted to see Haruka again, and he had a feeling the trip would not be without some benefit.
Copy had been thrilled. His mental capacity was still in question, for he spoke and acted like a child, but he still retained Copy Rockman and Copy Blues' memory. Enzan suspected the personalities of the copy navis were buried somewhere in Copy's program; it saddened him to think about it, but he was hopeful Copy's intelligence would eventually recover. Maybe then he would be able to speak with Copy Rockman again. In the meantime, Copy was just Copy, and he tried very hard to please his master. Enzan could not hold anything against the happy little navi, no matter how hard he tried.
In preparation for the trip, Enzan rescheduled meetings and worked overtime to complete a project. Blues had enough on his hands with trying to calm Copy down. Enzan made sure he had properly equipped Blues to deal with the small navi once inside Internet City. Then the time had come, and he had traveled to Netto's home in Akihara. Now he sat crossed-legged, watching the large computer screen which displayed Internet City. This was going to be very interesting.
-- -- --
"Is he here?" Rockman asked, searching the park carefully.
"I don't know," Roll replied, covering her mouth with a fist. The other was tightly wound around Rockman's arm, where it had been ever since they arrived in Internet City.
"I don't see him," Glyde admitted. "But the view is quite lovely."
The park in Internet City resembled a real park, with simulated trees and grass. There were a few groups of navis wandering around; a few of the smaller ones were playing on a playset in the middle of the park.
"There he is, guts!" Gutsman said, pointing. The others followed his gaze to see the tall navi staring at the playset, a frown on his face. His silver hair flowed gently around him in the wind, also simulated by Internet City, but the navi took no notice.
"Sheesh, can't he ever smile?" Iceman wondered softly. "This isn't a netbattle."
"I would be very scared if I saw Blues smile," Gutsman said. After a moment's pause, he added, "Guts."
"Hush, you guys, he'll hear you," Rockman chastised. "Oi! Blues! We're over here!"
Blues uncrossed his arms and made his way toward them. Rockman noted with curiosity the strange device in the taller navi's hand.
"What is that?" Roll asked, pointing at the device as the navi stopped in front of the group.
Blues spared it a glance. "This? It's a leash."
The group of navis was silent for a long moment.
"A leash?" Rockman repeated.
Blues raised the device and clicked a button. A beam of light shot out from one end and solidified into a thin rope. "A leash," he repeated, pressing another button. The rope began to retract into the device rapidly. The other navis watched as if entranced.
Iceman, who was on the outer edge of the group, heard a thumping noise coming from behind him and glanced over his shoulder. "Incoming!" he cried, diving to the side. Gutsman and Rockman were not so fortunate, and were knocked off their feet by a small object jetting past. This caused Gutsman to land on Iceman, and Rockman to knock over Glyde. Roll, the only one to escape unscratched, watched with a mixture of horror and amusement.
No one noticed the small, turquoise navi scramble to his feet and make faces at Blues. The navi had a thick data rope around his waist, and with a press of another button, Blues released it from the smaller navi and retracted it back into the device.
"Leashes come in handy," Blues commented over the confusion.
Roll finally turned to face the red navi. She froze upon spotting the source of the mess, and stared for a moment.
Rockman rubbed his side as he helped Glyde up with one hand. He too spotted the navi and frowned. "What is that?"
"IT'S SO CUTE!" Roll shrilled. She scooped the small navi up into her arms and began fussing over it.
"Roll-chan, maybe you should ask his… its permission first?" Glyde said hesitantly.
"His name is CopyRock," Blues said calmly. "And I'm sure he doesn't mind."
CopyRock didn't look like he minded at all; he was grinning from ear to ear and jabbering excitedly. Roll couldn't understand a word of what he was saying, but she cooed and fussed over him anyway.
-- -- --
"What the hell is that?" Dekao roared, pointing at the green navi in Roll's arms.
"That's CopyRock.EXE," Enzan replied calmly. "Or Copy for short. He's what Dr. Hikari managed to salvage out of Copy Rockman, Copy Blues, and Copy.EXE."
"Watanabe's navi?" Meiru repeated, frowning.
"He's got the mentality of a six-year-old," Enzan replied. "He barely recalls the NetWorld, nor is he dangerous. He isn't programmed for netbattling."
"Then what is he programmed to do?" Tohru asked, interested.
Enzan shrugged. "To annoy people?"
Netto snickered, covering his mouth with one hand. He could easily see how CopyRock could become annoying.
"He is a really cute navi," Yaito said, jabbing Netto with her elbow.
"Yes," Enzan said dryly. "He's extremely aware of that fact. He uses it to his advantage every day."
"I thought he had the mentality of a six-year-old," Tohru said, confused.
"You'd be amazed at what a six-year-old knows," Enzan replied, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I could already speak two languages at six!" Yaito exclaimed.
"Not all of us are geniuses," Tohru replied, scoffing.
Enzan listened to the conversation uncomfortably; he wasn't used to being in such an atmosphere. He wondered if he ever would be used to it. Netto listened with a grin; he was used to it, and he was usually the one who started the conversation. Today, however, he seemed content to just listen. That was unusual for him; he had been doing a lot of things which were unusual for him lately. Enzan couldn't help wondering why.
"Copy, why don't you introduce yourself properly instead of begging for attention," he said, turning his attention back toward Internet City.
-- -- --
"Hai, Enzan-sama," Copy replied, climbing down from Roll's embrace. Once on the ground, he grinned impishly at the group; standing straight, he was almost a head shorter than Rockman and had the same build. "Boku wa CopiiRokku da," he said, bowing.
"Desu," Blues corrected.
"Desu," Copy repeated sheepishly. "Nice to meet you." He stared at them, his eyes growing larger by the minute, and then hid behind Blues' leg.
"Oniichan, oniichan," Copy chanted, pulling on the taller navi's hair. "Issat Rockman?"
Blues swatted at the offending hand and pulled Copy out in front of him. "Yes," he replied shortly.
Copy stuck a finger in his mouth and chewed on it, the behavior causing both his operator and Blues to shake their heads. He then walked up to Rockman and stuck out a hand. "Shake," he said solemnly.
Rockman took the hand gingerly, making sure it wasn't the hand the small navi had been chewing on a moment ago. Copy yanked downward once he had a good grip, pulling the surprised Rockman down to his level. "Copy Blues says hi," he whispered, the words heard by Rockman alone. Then he released taller navi and ran back to Roll, chanting, "Roll-chan! Roll-chan! Play with me!"
The other navis had watched this happen in puzzlement, but Copy soon began running circles around them; quite literally. His enthusiasm was infectious; soon Gutsman was letting him swing back and forth on his arm and Iceman was making ice cubes shaped like various animals for him. Glyde refrained from participating, though he watched with a smile, and Roll would occasionally exclaim over Copy's cuteness and embrace the navi again.
"He seems quite the handful," Rockman commented, walking up to Blues. Like Glyde, he chose to watch the navi, and managed to escape unnoticed so far. "I don't envy you."
"Hm," Blues snorted. "He is that."
"Does he…?" Rockman let the question dangle.
"You mean, does he still have the personalities of Copy Blues and Copy Rockman within him?" Blues replied softly.
"Yeah," Rockman said. "He told me…" The navi trailed off again. A number of emotions had run through him at Copy's words, and he was still struggling to pin them down.
"We can't be sure yet who he is," Blues replied, watching Copy jump up and down with glee as Gutsman made faces at the small navi. "His programming is a jumbled mess, according to Dr. Hikari. He can't risk disturbing any of it, because it's too complex and interconnected. If he did something wrong, Copy may be deleted. Yet despite his programming, he can still function, and it doesn't seem to inhibit his abilities, limited those are at the moment."
"He is pretty cute," Rockman said, giving Blues a side glance.
"He has his charms," Blues responded. "I'm learning to deal with his vices."
"I bet we all will after he's exhausted us and still bouncing off the walls," Rockman muttered, eyeing the childish navi thoughtfully.
"Yes, he does that too," Blues said.
"Will he get any better?" Rockman asked. "Will he ever be able to straighten his programming out on his own?"
"Enzan-sama thinks so," Blues replied. "I hope, for all our sakes, that he does. Right now, though, he's just fine as he is."
-- -- --
"Does he ever stop?" Meiru wondered, watching the turquoise navi with wide eyes.
"If he does, I have yet to see it," Enzan replied. "Fortunately he's pretty good at amusing himself. He's just a little excited right now."
"A little?" Tohru exclaimed.
"Hey, Netto, when are you going to get us some snacks?" Dekao demanded. The energetic navi had bored him already, and he had gone back to shifting through Netto's chip collection.
"You could get your own snacks for once, Dekao," Netto replied, but he got up from his spot on the floor. "Enzan, can you help me with them?"
Enzan opened his mouth to protest, but he saw the serious look in Netto's eyes. "All right," he said instead.
The trip downstairs was a silent one, as was the brief walk to the kitchen. Dr. Hikari and his wife were no where in sight, although two trays of snacks were awaiting them on the table. Haruka really is the perfect mother, Enzan thought.
"My parents went for a walk," Netto said, answering the anticipated question. "They don't often get time to themselves."
Enzan looked at him for a moment. Netto was staring out a window, refusing to look back. "What is it?" Enzan asked quietly.
Netto did not respond for a moment. "Blues sent me an e-mail last week," he said. "Did you know that?"
"No, I didn't," Enzan replied, surprised. It was unlike Blues to do anything of that sort without informing him.
"He apologized for not saving Copy Blues," Netto continued softly. "And he said he was sorry I had to suffer such pain."
Enzan was struck speechless. He wondered what had prompted Blues to do such a thing; the red-toned navi rarely regretted his decisions, much less apologized for them. Was it the pain in my eyes he saw? Enzan wondered. Or something else to make him think of Netto?
Netto made a choked off sound, grabbing the older boy's attention again. He turned toward Enzan, tears in his eyes. "Papa said CopyRock still retains Copy Blues' data, although he may never recover them." He stopped, too choked up to continue. "I miss him," he whispered. "I have my old life back, my parents and Rockman, and nothing can take that from me for the world, but I still… miss him."
"I know," Enzan said sadly. He sat down on a chair, folded his arms on the table, and rested his head on them. "CopyRock tries, but he is more of Watanabe's original navi than anything else. I know he has the data within him, somewhere. But… he's afraid. I know he's afraid to try and access it. He's been hurt so badly over the years… I can't make him do it, Netto. I can't make him go through that."
"Do you think they know?" Netto asked. "Do you think they're aware?"
"I think they're aware," Enzan replied. "I think they know what's going on." He took a deep breath. "And I know if we were in danger, they would try to help. Right now, all Copy needs is time. According to your father, he's probably going to have the mindset of a child forever. I don't believe that. It can't be easy to have three personalities in one mind, and I won't ask Copy to do that. However, I think the solution is something he'll come to on his own."
"He's very smart," Netto agreed. "I saw it in his eyes. I just wish… one day I would like to speak with Copy Blues again, to have him scold me, like Rockman does, or laugh at me when I get too full of myself. I still can't believe it may never happen."
"It will," Enzan said confidently, standing up. "I know it will. I won't accept the fact that I'll never see Copy Rockman smiling at me again, although I couldn't be more happier being reunited with Blues. One day I will." He shrugged. "You just have to believe it."
Netto looked at him for a long moment. "Thank you, Enzan. That helped." He grabbed a tray and headed for the stairs. "Better go before Dekao starts bellowing."
"Netto," Enzan said, stopping the younger boy in his tracks. "You've changed," he said quietly. "You've changed for the better, I think."
Netto looked back at him and grinned, all signs of his previous sadness gone. "So have you," he replied.
Enzan smirked. So have I, and for the better. Whatever happened next in his life, he could handle it with Blues and CopyRock at his side. Picking up the tray, he followed Netto up the stairs and back into the real world.
So have I.
Epilogue notes: The younger the child, the more likely they'll use "oniichan" instead of "oniisan".
Watch me mess with timelines. This fanfic does take place between the introduction to Internet City and the coming of Gospel, with the intent of sliding the story in the anime timeline without having to affect the plot. You could call it a "side-story," or something of the like. It stuck me that later in the series Enzan eventually refers to Netto by his first name, without any transition (that I could see) to it. I wrote this whole story to explain that (well, not really, but that was part of my motivation).
I didn't translate Copy's introduction of himself because it's hard to explain within the story. He said "I am/My name is CopyRock" using a mixture of polite form and plain form (the difference between da and desu), which is why Blues corrected him.
This story did not end on a happy, cheerful note, which surprised me because that's what I was aiming for, but I'm satisfied with the end just the same. It's hopeful that Copy will once again be able to resurrect the personalities of Copy Rockman and Copy Blues, and it shows that even when life returns to normal, Enzan and Netto will never be the same. They've changed for the better, although I doubt Netto will display that change very much.
You people all have Marisa of the Pineapple-likeness (or The Original Marisa) to thank for this, who insisted on reading it and then pestered me to post it. Go thank her, and then tell her to finish her Red Dwarf fic, dangit! I wasn't even going to continue writing it at the time, but once I post something I finish it, which led to the nearly year-long journey of the Hikari Enzan/Immersion story 'arch.' It wasn't so bad, since I got to watch tons of Rockman.EXE episodes to do background research, but it was also peppered with long breaks of schoolwork demands and boot camp (yes, boot camp).
This story is the direct result of very odd thoughts and dreams late at night, one question in particular. If something doesn't exist yet thinks it does, what right do you have to tell it otherwise? It made me think about life, reality, and what is real and what is not. Somehow that thought process led to this fic, especially the conversation in Chapter 21 between Yuuichirou and Enzan. Believe it or not, that spawned the whole NetWorld concept.
The copies navis were not exactly my original idea. I was inspired by Hitoshi Ariga's Copy Rock, may his comics forever tell the glory of Rockman and the hotness of Blues in a trench coat. The NetWorld was inspired mostly by the concepts in Vivian Vande Velde's fantastic book, User Unfriendly, some themes used by Mysterio, the Spider-Man bad guy in the Amazing Spider-Man comic books (yes, I read American comics. Shut it, Spidey rules!), and many wickedly cool Doctor Who episodes.
And now for the huge list of thank yous. First, I have to thank everyone who read Hikari Enzan and especially the reviewers; I love you guys and appreciate your willingness to stick it out to the end. Many thanks to those who encouraged me, especially Marisa (if it weren't for her, I might have never finished), Song (fangirl to Hikari Enzan and channels the spirit of Momiji Souma, though she does not know it), Toby (my "new" beta-reader who I've been shoving stuff on for a while >>), Z. Knightblade (my cool lil' bro), ChibiAnubis/ChibiA-sama (little sister, biter of many, stalker of BluesLight, and up-chucker of hairballs), and Chee-san (my best/insane friend), who's characteristic battle-cry and attack pattern of "CHEEEEEEE!" GLOMP can cheer up any writer in a slump. …Hey, that rhymes. *is bricked*
I also want to thank people who've encouraged and inspired me in general, including Malik-chan (owner of TO!), Shimegami/Izumi-chan (for supplying the world with Rockman.EXE subs!), BluesLight (for fueling my weirdness), Wytwolf (you're so cool!), Enzan.exe/Chiriijaden (fellow Rockman fanfiction vigilante!), Ryouko-san (for her awesome website), Catalyst (for being cool and supplying me with stories during boot camp), Robin and Rioni (you two are inseparable in my mind, for some reason. Thanks for being fans), Cool Fire Bird (for everything, but especially drawing a picture of Hikari Enzan ), and all those cool fanfic writers that just make you say "Woah… that was a cool fanfic."