Author’s note: Disclaimer: This story and all the characters in it were taken from or based on Rockman.EXE, and I do not own anything. This story takes place in the anime storyline, between the beginning of the second season and the introduction of Internet City. Gospel is still a new Net Mafia, and many have not heard of it yet. It is based, for the most part, solely on the anime, and although most of it does not require watching the anime to understand, some elements may be confusing to those who haven’t seen the anime. It also contains some spoilers for Season One.
My style of writing is to have a character say a Japanese word and then have them repeat it in English. They’re not really repeating the word; I do it that way so that those who don’t understand the Japanese word will the second time around. I apologize for the redundancy it causes to those who understood the word the first time.
Enzan groaned and pulled the blanket over his head. Whoever was bothering him could wait until morning.
“Enzan-sama, it is morning.”
Had he said that out loud? Enzan turned over, deciding to ignore the person, no matter what they said. His head felt strange, almost like the inside of it was encased in cotton, and his body was sore. He tried to think about what had happened to make him so sore, but his brain rebelled. For some reason, all it wanted to do was sleep, and that was fine with him.
“Enzan-sama, please wake up. You’ll be late for school.”
What? Against his wishes, Enzan opened his eyes. The bright red underside of his blankets filled his view. For a moment it blurred, and Enzan rubbed his eyes to clear his vision. “What are you talking about? I don’t go to school.”
“Yes you do, Enzan-sama,” the voice said patiently. “You’ve always gone to school. Please get up.”
That didn’t seem right. Enzan knew he had taken several tests that proved his intelligence matched those of college-level students. By proving that, he had been able to skip going to school altogether, and instead he spent his days working at his father’s company and netbattling. Even before he had taken the tests, he had always had a private tutor. Enzan wasn’t aware of actually stepping into a classroom in his lifetime.
The clouds in Enzan’s mind slowly cleared, and he realized the voice he was hearing wasn’t the voice of Blues, his navi. “What do you mean?” he asked, sitting up. What he saw made him gasp.
He was in a small room that he had never seen before. A set of shelves, a bedside table, and a desk filled up much of the space. Bright sunlight poured into the room from a sliding door which led to a balcony. Enzan looked at the desk, and his eyes widened. A laptop and a blue PET were sitting on the desk, but it was who was in the PET that shocked Enzan the most.
The navi looked puzzled at the boy’s tone. “Yes, Enzan-sama?”
“What—what happened to me?” Enzan cried, looking around. “Where am I?”
“In your room, Enzan-sama,” Rockman replied. His face creased with worry. “Is something wrong?”
“Yes!” Enzan barked. He climbed out of the bed, his legs nearly tangling in the bed sheets as he moved. “This isn’t my room! Where’s Hikari?”
“Hikari?” Rockman repeated.
“Hikari, Hikari!” Enzan snapped impatiently. “You know, your operator.”
“Enzan-sama…” Rockman said softly. His tone was neutral, but Enzan could see the worry in his eyes. “You are my operator.”
“No!” Enzan gasped. He looked around the room wildly as if he could find Hikari Netto hiding in some corner. “What’s gotten into you? Where’s Hikari?”
“Enzan-sama, I don’t know what you mean,” Rockman said. “Are you all right? Maybe you should calm down.”
Enzan was about to snap something else when he realized the blue navi had a point. He sat down on the bed, placed his head in his hands, and took a deep breath. The intense panic he had felt slowly subsided, and he risked a peek at his surroundings. It hadn’t worked; he was still in the room, with Rockman watching him worriedly from the PET.
Okay, let’s try this again without the blind, irrational panic, Enzan thought. He removed his head from his hands and looked at Rockman. “Rockman, I need to know what’s going on here. Where am I?”
Rockman looked slightly relieved. Enzan’s face had slid into his usual expression, and his voice was in its normal tone. “You are in the Hikari residence, located in the town of Akihara—”
“That’s enough for now,” Enzan interrupted. “Where is Hikari Netto?”
Rockman looked startled for a moment. “Forgive me, Enzan-sama, but I do not know of a Hikari Netto.”
Enzan frowned. What Rockman had said was absurd, yet the navi’s eyes betrayed no lie. “All right,” he said finally. “In that case, Rockman, tell me who I am.”
Rockman looked slightly happier. It was hard to tell, for every time Rockman displayed a new emotion, he quickly made his face blank. Enzan got the feeling the navi was doing it on purpose, but he couldn’t figure out why. In his past encounters with the navi, Rockman had been almost as emotional as his operator, Netto.
“You are Hikari Enzan,” Rockman said. “The only son of Hikari Yuuichirou and Hikari Haruka—”
“Enough!” Enzan cried. He shook his head, his panic returning. “You’re wrong; you’re wrong! My name is Ijuuin Enzan!”
“Enzan-sama, please!” Rockman cried. His face was blank, but his eyes showed his fear. “I don’t know why you are saying that, but I am telling the truth! You are Hikari Enzan.”
“How—How can that be?” Enzan whispered. He stared at his hands for a moment; then his head snapped up, his eyes blazing. “This is some kind of trick, a lie! Where’s Blues?”
“Blues?” Rockman echoed.
“Blues! My navi!” Enzan cried. He grabbed the PET and yanked it out of the charger. “Tell me where he is now!”
“Enzan-sama, I do not know anything about a navi called Blues,” Rockman said softly, nearly whimpering. “I am your navi, remember?”
Enzan stared at Rockman hard. What he had said seemed to have a startling effect on the blue navi. Rockman’s eyes had become obscured by dark shadows, and his head was bent forward slightly, making his eyes even more difficult to see. Even his posture had changed from a confident one to that of someone who had been defeated. His shoulders were slumped, and as Enzan watched, his head bent forward even more.
“Of course you are,” Enzan said, carefully making sure his tone and face were lacking emotion. He would get nothing acting the way he was now, and he decided to play along until he found out more. “I’m just a little confused at the moment.”
Rockman raised his head slightly, and Enzan saw a gleam of hope in his eyes. The abrupt changes in the navi were almost as puzzling as Rockman’s earlier statements. It was almost as if Rockman was fearful of Enzan’s reaction.
“Maybe you are not feeling well?” the navi suggested.
“That must be it,” Enzan replied. He felt his own forehead with his free hand. “I could be coming down with something.”
“Then I should tell your mother,” Rockman said. “If you are not feeling well, you should not go to school. Enzan-sama, please plug me into the house’s system so that I may find Hikari-san and tell her.”
“O-of course,” Enzan said shakily. Things were happening so quickly that he hardly had the time to think. He plugged the PET into the panel next to the bedroom’s door and watched Rockman disappear from it. Once the navi was gone, he sighed and rubbed his temple. He was more confused than ever now, but his questions only seemed to upset Rockman. The last thing Enzan wanted was to be branded crazy before he could figure out what was going on.
“What happened to me?” he wondered out loud. “How did I get here? And more importantly, where is Hikari Netto, and why am I here in his place?”
Enzan looked down at his PET to see that Rockman had returned. For some reason, the navi looked slightly ashamed. “Yes, Rockman?” Enzan asked.
“I told your mother,” Rockman replied, rubbing the back of his head. “And she reacted in the usual way. If I may suggest, you might want to prepare yourself.”
The usual way? Enzan blinked. He had no clue what Rockman was talking about. Unfortunately, he did not get the time to figure it out.
Enzan spun to face the door, halfway into a defensive stance before the door burst open and someone—something—came through. Enzan only caught a sight of a purple flash before he was pulled into a crushing embrace and nearly smothered as his face was buried in someone’s shirt.
“My poor child!” the thing cried, rocking Enzan back and forth. Enzan’s struggles did not free him, and the creature holding him did not seem inclined to let him go anytime soon.
“Hikari-san!” Rockman cried. “Please be careful! Enzan-sama might be very sick.”
The arms that encircled Enzan’s shoulders eased, and Enzan pulled himself backwards in a jerking, nearly violent motion, gasping for breath. His vision unblocked, he realized he was standing in front of a brown-haired woman wearing a purple shirt—explaining the flash of purple he had seen earlier—and a skirt. She had her arms crossed and was frowning.
“Enzan,” she said, her tone sharp. “Are you going to allow that program to talk so disrespectfully to me?”
Enzan blinked. “I don’t see anything wrong with what he said. He was telling the truth.”
The woman—Hikari Haruka, Enzan realized—made an angry noise. “That is no excuse for rudeness. I thought you had trained that thing to be polite.”
“Gomen nasai, Hikari-san,” Rockman said from within the PET. He bowed low on the screen. “I am very sorry. It will not happen again.”
“It had better not,” Haruka muttered. She then looked at Enzan with such an intense expression of motherly care that the boy could hardly believe she was the same woman who had been chewing out Rockman in such a harsh tone seconds ago. “Enzan, are you really feeling bad?” she asked, her voice filled with concern.
“H-hai,” Enzan answered, feeling a bit unnerved. “Yes. I feel slightly dizzy, and a bit confused. May I stay home for today?”
Haruka smiled brightly. “Of course you can. I’ll go get the thermometer and some medicine. You’ll feel better in no time!” She left the room without giving Enzan a chance to reply.
What a bizarre woman, Enzan thought. No wonder Hikari acts so strangely with someone like that taking care of him.
“Enzan-sama, you have my deepest apologies,” Rockman said. Enzan glanced at the PET and saw that Rockman was staring at his hands, looking miserable. “I am not supposed to talk to your mother without your strict permission, and to speak to her so rudely is unforgivable. If you wish that I be given the usual punishment, I can administrate it to myself while you rest.”
“The usual punishment?” Enzan repeated, puzzled.
Rockman nodded, his expression getting even sadder, something Enzan hadn’t thought possible. “As you wish, Enzan-sama. If you place my PET in the charger, I can do it without disturbing you further.”
“Hold on!” Enzan cried. “Rockman, I’m not going to punish you for a simple mistake. You’ve apologized for it, and I accept your apology. You won’t be punished.”
Rockman visibly perked up. “Arigatou, Enzan-sama,” he said, trying hard to hide a smile. “Thank you.”
Enzan rubbed his head, feeling a real headache coming on. None of this made any sense, and it was making less sense as time when on. First he was suppose to be Hikari Enzan, then his “mother” acts like his navi was a disgusting animal acting out of place when all Rockman did was try to protect his operator, and now the small, blue navi was speaking of being punished as something that happened frequently. In Enzan’s mind, he hadn’t done anything wrong to begin with. Besides, Enzan would have never dreamed to punish his navi or any other navi for any mistake, no matter how great. It wasn’t right to exercise such power over something as helpless as a navi was to an operator. Even World Three hadn’t been that cruel to their own personal navis.
“Rockman, I’m going to lie down,” he said finally. “If Hika… if my mother returns, tell her to leave the medicine and such on my desk. And don’t worry about being rude to her or not.”
“As you wish, Enzan-sama,” Rockman said doubtfully. Then his tone changed to one of concern. “Please feel better soon.”
Enzan smiled, surprised slightly by the genuine worry in Rockman’s voice. “I will try.”
Mentally he was trying to figure out what he had learned so far. This is place is too real to be a nightmare, he thought. Rockman’s told me too much detail about Hikari’s family that I had no way of knowing. So if it’s not a dream, then what is it?
He carefully set Rockman’s PET in the charger and got back into bed, feeling Rockman’s gaze follow him all the way. As he pulled the covers over his body, he noticed for the first time the clothes he wore. He was dressed in a pair of red pajamas, a long-sleeved shirt and pants; his feet bare. The cuffs of his shirt were frayed slightly at the edges, a detail Enzan noted as he pulled the blankets over his shoulders. It was surprising, because although his normal clothes were modest for the son of a rich company president, they were top quality. Any sign of wear, and he could and usually did replace them. The wear and tear on the pajamas not only suggested that they had been in use for some time, but that there was not enough money to replace worn clothing at leisure.
Enzan closed his eyes, realizing he was reading too much from one pair of clothing. For all he knew, it could be a favorite pair of pajamas. Still, from what he had seen of this life so far, it was drastically different from his old one. The thought made Enzan remember his mysterious situation, and he vowed to get to the bottom of it. He would have dwelled on it longer, but his eyelids already felt heavy, and soon he was asleep.
… … …
In the darkness, the machines hummed, buzzed, clicked, and whirled. The only light came from a single computer screen. This light was obscured by five people bent over the screen, all of them peering intently at it.
“This is boring,” one complained loudly. “All the subject did was go back to sleep!”
“Be patient!” another snapped. “We’ve only just begun the experience. We must give the subject time to adjust.”
“Indeed,” a feminine voice said quietly. It belonged to the only woman in the group. She tapped a few commands on the keyboard in front of her. “His body is still getting used to it. By sleeping, he will unwittingly allow the computer to make the complete adjustments without him noticing. You have to remember—”
“Yeah, yeah,” the first interrupted. “New technology, first test run, all that. I know that, I just wish something would happen. This is boring.”
“Things will pick up soon,” someone else said. “You’ll see. Don’t forget who we’re dealing with. Things will most definitely get interesting soon.”
The last figure had remained silent throughout the conversation. He watched both the screen and the rest of the group halfheartedly, for his mind was elsewhere. His orders were clear, but achieving his goals was going to be harder than he thought. The deeper he got into this place, the more complicated things got. This will not be easy, he thought, glancing at the screen. If I am not successful, the “test subject” will be on his own.
Author’s notes: Some things I could not explain in the context of the story without ruining the effect. The suffixes I used in the story were “sama” (usually translated as “lord”) and “san” (Mr. or Mrs./Ms.); they are common in the Rockman.EXE anime and manga, so I did not feel I should explain them during the story. All suffixes will not be italicized, because I feel it breaks the flow of the name. In Japan, the family name is always said before a person’s first name when referring to someone’s full name, such as in introductions, etc. Most other Japanese words and phrases will either be repeated in English or, in the case of common suffixes, will be explained at the end of the chapter. Scene changes between "worlds" will be designated by ( … … …), and scene changes between the same "world" will be indicated by (-- -- --).