Shoichi didn’t recognize the man knocking at his door, but he looked so impatient, as if Shoichi was making him late for an engagement, or had stood him up altogether, that he felt the need to check just one more time (though he didn’t look any more familiar the second time).
Nonetheless, he opened the door to find a young man (between his and his brother in age he guessed) staring back at him with sharp green eyes that reminded him of something, an old memory he couldn’t quite place.
“Finally,” the man huffed. “It took forever to get here.”
“I’m sorry...I don’t think you’re at the right apartment buddy. Who are you looking for?” Shoichi tried.
The man stared at him strangely. “Well I wanted to see Jin, but I couldn’t, so now I’m here to see you. Obviously.” He waved his hands impatiently as he spoke, as if Shoichi should have somehow been aware of this.
He felt a brief surge of both irritation and relief at the mention of his brother, upset that this stranger had attempted to disturb Jin, but mildly amused that the apparently unsuccessful trip seemed to have greatly inconvenienced him.
Upon closer inspection Shoichi noticed he had dark hair, much like his and his brother’s, mostly tied back, but still curling up at the ends in the way both their hair was prone to do. Perhaps even more strangely, he wore nearly all white.
“Who are you?” Shoichi asked flatly, crossing him arms.
The stranger sighed.
“‘Lightning’ is what you humans call me, don’t you remember?” He rolled his eyes. “Ugh I guess I should come inside if you’re going to have to ask me all these pointless questions first.”
Shoichi let him push past him and into his home, more out of surprise than anything.
Once inside, Lightning appeared to become distracted by the apartment itself. “You have...a lot of books.” He nodded at the bookshelf, his apparent urgency suspended as he took a moment to admire Shoichi’s old collection of coding texts.
Shoichi sighed. “Not that many anymore,” he answered vaguely, his confusion slowly melting to irritation at the situation.
Lightning nodded. “Hmmm, Jin loves to read as well. I think seeing them in your world now I can sort of understand the appeal.”
Shoichi bristled. “I’m aware that my brother likes to read. He used to read a lot more when he believed he could still catch up with his schooling and eventually get back into public school, but he’s gotten too far behind and only reads to pass the time now.” He wasn’t sure why he was sharing this information. Perhaps he wanted to wound Lightning by showing him the damage he’d caused, or prove to him how little he actually knew his brother compared to Shoichi himself. “Why are you trying to see him anyway? His room is set up very specifically without any access to any digital media so that you couldn’t reach him. He’s rather anxious around screens in general ever since Bowman took him.”
Perhaps Shoichi’s posturing had worked, because Lightning had the audacity to look offended for a beat.
“Yes, I figured. I thought it would be easier to visit him as an Android, but I hadn’t anticipated that he would be guarded by humans.” His disgust was evident as he played with the collar of his shirt, revealing a soft blue glow.
Shoichi almost laughed. “Yeah, you need to come during visiting hours. They don’t let anyone in this late at night.” He frowned. “But Jin also has to agree to see you. And I don’t know that he would want to.”
Lightning looked at him strangely. “Why wouldn’t he?”
Shoichi almost didn’t know how to answer. “You only took his memories of the incident. He still remembers you kidnapping him?”
Lightning almost smiled. “Ah, you and he have very different understandings of what happened after Bowman returned him to me.”
Shoichi narrowed his eyes. “Look, I know you tried to help Jin by erasing his memories of the incident, but it’s not that easy. Human brains can’t just be reprogrammed like that! Some of the anxiety has eased up, but he also has other feelings of uneasiness because of it!” he spat. “Look, I don’t know all the details of what happened with you two, and I respect that Jin doesn’t want to talk to me about it,” he continued, “but I’m still going to need to ask him if he’s up to seeing you first. He really doesn’t do so well with big or sudden changes.”
Lightning tapped his foot impatiently in a way reminiscent of how Jin used to behave when he was young and wanted Shoichi to finish his schoolwork so they could play outside. Shoichi sighed. “Is it really that urgent?”
Lightning exhaled pointedly, more to show his distaste at the question than out of necessity.
“I suppose not. Everything in your world just moves so much slower.”
He paused, then looked away. “I know I can never undo what I’ve done to Jin. But…I’d like to try.”
Shoichi opened his mouth to protest.
“—And I don’t mean by changing his coding!” Lightning insisted.
“But I’d like to spend more time with him, and help him with his education or whatever he decides would be most beneficial to him.”
“You really care for him that much?”
Lightning shrugged. “I don’t have a choice. He’s my origin.”
Shoichi raised a brow.
“I mean it. It’s a very different relationship from…” he gestured at Shoichi, “…a familial one. You might share a genetic makeup to some degree, which makes you similar, but Jin and I don’t. Our growth is more directly linked to eachother’s. If you were raised by a different family, that wouldn’t impact your brother at all. But the way Jin grows and changes very directly affects me, and vice versa.”
Shoichi shook his head. “I don’t understand. Jin has been fine not knowing you for years. Your origination may have been the result of his kidnapping and torture, but…” he trailed off as his thoughts caught up to him.
Lightning smiled sadly. “Yes, it’s very difficult for us to stay away from our origins and not interfere with them at all. And even if we did, I’m afraid certain stronger emotions tend to carry over. We were created by observing them and understanding them, and it’s just become too ingrained in who we are.” He sighed. “That being said, I was a very young being, and I didn’t fully understand what I was doing back then. We ignises were born from agony, so I thought creating more was the way to grow, though I was actually just stunting both of our growth,” he mused.
“So you want to help Jin…to help yourself.”
“You could say that. Having such an imperfect origin is admittedly a bit embarrassing among the other ignises. It’s very much a reflection of myself.”
Shoichi wanted to be more upset by the revelation, but rather he found it comforting that Lightning’s intentions had not seemed to have changed.
“I thought Ai said the other ignises had no way of knowing each other’s origins. How would they even be able to see how Jin is doing?”
Lightning laughed. “Of course he would say something like that. That’s a lie. There aren’t a lot of secrets in the cyberse world.” He frowned. “Or lies for that matter. I think that’s why Ai loves lying so much in your world.”
Shoichi couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Yeah, I guess he does.” He yawned. “Hey, I don’t know if you need sleep, but it is getting late, and I definitely do.”
Lightning blinked, but made no move toward the exit.
“Do you…have somewhere you need to be?” Shoichi tried.
Lightning hummed. “Not really. I could go back to the cyberse, but I’d have to find a portal. But then I’d have to find a place to keep this SOLtis too, since I’ll need it later for visiting Jin.”
Shoichi shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I do have an old duel disk that’s connected to the Internet, and a room that’s technically Jin’s, but I suppose you could use it if you want to stay, or at least keep your SOLtis here.” He looked the android in the eye. “But you have to promise me you’ll wait to visit him until I ask and he agrees to it.”
Lightning’s expression lit up immediately. “Of course.” He smiled. “I’m sure he will.”