The Place Where Light Reaches
Author’s Note: After a long absence, I’m reviving this mega-fic, which I never uploaded years ago and which was deleted, so I’m starting again from scratch. The original plot drew on everything from the anime up to EXE 4 of the games, while here I will be drawing from the entire series, now that the series has ended. Enjoy the story and R&R.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to or of the Rockman EXE series.
Pairing: Established Netto x Tohru, others in future chapters.
After an accident, Hikari Raito and his NetNavi partner Trill find themselves reliving the cherished tale of his parents’ love.
Six-year-old Hikari Raito stood on the tips of his toes as high as he could reach, just a little more than halfway below the sink with potato peeler in hand. He rotated the vegetable in his left palm while applying the peeler with his right, leaving awkwardly carved ribbons on the floor. He stared diligently at his potato as he worked, glancing over at his father every few seconds, and silently panicking when he saw how perfectly rounded his father’s potato was by comparison.
Hikawa Tohru noticed his son’s distressed expression. He dropped his last potato into the basket with the rest of the veggies in the sink, moved the tap aside and rinsed his hands. After a quick pat down on a towel, he turned to Raito and ruffled the boy’s strawberry-red hair. Smiling, he offered simply, “You did good, champ.”
“But Otosan’s is much better.” Raito pointed to his own, which still bore sizeable slivers of brown atop the yellow core.
“I think it’s perfect. Wouldn’t you say, Netto?” Tohru called to the older one who sat tapping away at his laptop across the room.
Netto stopped typing, and allowed his computer to continue running its calculations independently in the background. He absentmindedly adjusted the worn blue bandana around his neck so it rested more comfortably against the large collar of his sleeveless orange sweatshirt, and flashed a big grin his son’s way upon seeing the results of the boy’s labour. The tiny hologram of Rockman that hovered above Netto’s shoulder matched his operator’s toothy expression.
“It’s amazing kiddo! Papa’s so proud of you!”
“Really?” Raito’s eyes instantly lit up. With a burst of enthusiasm, he presented the vegetable to Tohru, who deposited it in the basket alongside its finished brethren.
Tohru lifted Raito up from behind so his son could wash up, before setting him back down and pulling something out from his back pocket.
“Now that you’ve helped out, you can play with Trill until it’s time for dinner.”
“Thank you, Otosan!” Raito took his PET from his father and flipped it open to reveal his giddy child Navi pressed up against and making funny faces into the glass. Lord knows how long he had been doing that until his operator came to collect him.
“Ahahahaha!” Trill laughed his trademark infectious laugh. “Raito, let’s play!”
Raito bolted from the kitchen with his PET in tow, while Tohru wrapped up with the potatoes, cleaning and transferring them from the basket into a pot on the stove. Replacing the pot cover, he left them to boil, and then took a seat next to Netto at the table.
Tohru leaned into Netto’s collarbone, examining the glut of text and images emitted from the laptop. Netto had pages of scanned notes belonging to the elder Dr. Hikari – Netto’s father, Yuichiro – that is, splashed across every available inch of his screen. Rockman was rifling through the notes at an astounding speed, searching for something, while Netto was taking in all the information being regurgitated at him.
“Are these for a case?” the paler one asked.
After years of marriage, Netto was well accustomed to Tohru’s probing. In the early days, Tohru’s inquisitiveness and tendency to ramble on about facts sometimes came off as annoying (since Netto really just wanted to get into the onsen already, darn it!), but ultimately, Netto loved Tohru, braininess and all.
“No, there haven’t been many NetCrimes lately, surprisingly. Manabe-san and the Net Police took down a small Dark Chip smuggling ring last week, but other than that, it’s been pretty quiet.”
Beneath his superficial calm, Tohru knew how juggling Net Saviour duties and expanding research at the Ministry of Science weighed down on Netto. It was only two years ago that Netto and his Science Labs team had been able to successfully replicate the technology necessary to open a Fossa Ambience rift to the parallel world of Beyondard in a controlled setting. Bridging the gap between the two worlds had catapulted Netto to the top of his field, so much so that many believed Netto’s accomplishment had outpaced his father Yuichiro’s achievements, but thankfully, Yuichiro had nothing but reverence for his son. To think, his oversleeping, Prince of Curry, impulsive dimwit hero son could come to overshadow his own scientific prowess. What pride! That, and Yuichiro-hakase and Haruka-obaasan were now spending their retirement vacationing all around the globe.
Those were some of the longest days, though. Netto was gone for weeks at a time, leading rigorous expeditions through the seam between worlds into terrain they had no idea how had changed in over a decade since Netto had first set foot on the alien soil all those years ago. Even from only a four-year-old’s perspective, Raito would later recount to Tohru how his daddy spent restless nights wordlessly pacing the hallway outside his bedroom, jittery and hoping for Papa’s safe return.
It was during that period that Tohru found himself increasingly relying on outside help. Unlike Netto, double-duty under that level of stress was not doable in the slightest. His job overseeing the waterworks was hectic, even with Iceman’s assistance, and he did not want to subject Raito to valve checks and talk of purification tanks all day long. In swooped Meiru-chan and Dekao with the rather obvious suggestion of hiring a babysitter, only who they proposed wasn’t exactly who Tohru had in mind. Netto may have forgiven the ex-World Three members for their past trespasses, and Dekao may have been their #1 curry chef protégé, but it was always a tougher topic for Tohru, seeing as how Madoi held his father hostage back in the day when the WWW were actually full-blown Net Terrorists. Then again, if it weren’t for Madoi’s failed scheme to take down the waterworks, Tohru may have never met and had the opportunity to fall for Netto. He had her to thank for that, he guessed.
Raito took after Netto in this regard. With his unbridled optimism and belief in the purity of others (coupled with the kindness he inherited from Tohru, of course), it was easy for Raito to bond with Hinoken over their shared passion in NetBattling (even though Raito was not due to receive his own promised NetNavi yet); with Madoi over her well-meaning if vapid beauty tips (which eventually prompted Netto to permit their six-year-old son to dye his auburn hair bright red so he could be twinsies with his favourite aunt Madoi-san); with Mahajarama over Raito’s love of curry (another trait passed down from Netto); and with Count Elec, who gave him guitar lessons. Even “Uncle” Gauss would pitch in when he felt it necessary to drop by Maha Ichiban to torment his younger brother. Raito was always amused by the crossdressing old man’s theatrics. Tohru, not so much, given the embarrassing memories Gauss stirred of Netto managing to get Tohru to cosplay as Aki-chan with him when they were eleven (mental note: never again!).
In the end, he supposes the sacrifices were worth it. The fresh trip to Beyondard was a huge personal win for Netto, and with the crack to the other dimension remaining stable and open, it was a chance for those who had already passed through to the other side before to reunite with old friends and for a new joint society to be formed. Faces Tohru did not recognize: Phakchi Faran, a former luxury liner chef with a mastery of the knife; Aragaki Kojirou, a bratty kid with a heart of gold; Dark Kirisaki, a gloomy assassin-turned-messenger; and Dotarou Horisugi and Mister Press, a pair of hole-digging construction junkies. And alternate versions of familiar faces too! Tohru had to admit, Netto did get a kick out of introducing Beyondard’s Captain Mask to this world’s Commander Beef. Both Masa-sans were the spitting image of each other, down to telling everyone to take their calcium. It was quite a riot.
Then there was the Synchronizer himself: Trill. The child Navi had quite a lot of catching up to do with his oniisan Rockman, and expressed his elation in true Trill fashion, persistently and loudly. The whole network literally shook with his laughter as soon as he launched himself into Rockman’s arms. As promised, Trill had been brave and remained behind with Iris to aid in recovery efforts and usher in an era of prosperity for Beyondard after Netto and company successfully cleansed the world of the virulent Beast Factor. With Beyondard finally at peace and a new unity emerging between the two Earths via Netto’s project, now was truly the moment that Trill could return.
And come back he did. Netto offered Trill a surprising proposition: a permanent home with himself, Rockman, and their family back in Akihara Town. Trill would become Raito’s Navi, Papa’s homecoming present to his son. Trill had accepted in a nanosecond, thrilled by the prospect of having an operator of his very own. The smiles those two kids traded when they first met were big enough to eclipse the sun, and Netto and his family basked in the radiance. Thus began Raito and Trill’s newly minted, yet already unbreakable friendship.
Netto continued, interrupting Tohru’s thoughts, “We’ve been detecting abnormal tachyon emissions and localized distortions in space-time throughout Densan City. That’s why I’m looking through Papa’s old notes, to find any clues as to what could be the source of the disturbances. The energy readings we’ve been getting are similar to those of Dr. Wily’s Spectrum program.”
Tohru winced at the mention. Back when they were in the sixth grade, the evil Dr. Regal had unleashed the now-defunct program in a bid to evolve himself as Nebula Grey and convert the entire world into data and invert cyberspace. Tohru vaguely recalled the brief but shocking pain of disintegration, but he knew it was worse for Netto, who had survived Regal’s first salvo, only to discover his friends had been seemingly obliterated by the beams of light tearing across land and sea. Netto still had nightmares of losing his loved ones to Regal’s rampage.
“Have they shown up here in Akihara Town? Is it bad?” Tohru inquired with a concerned tone.
“Not yet. As far as we can tell, Densan Town is taking the brunt of it. No reported casualties, so at least that’s good news.”
Tohru did not look any more put at ease. On cue, Netto embraced him from the side, trying to bring him back to the happier scenes of Raito and Trill he knew Tohru had been reminiscing about earlier. He felt like an idiot for being such a motormouth and spooking Tohru like this.
“It’s okay. I’m okay, Tohru. We’re okay.” He rubbed Tohru’s arms reassuringly. Then, he deadpanned, “’cept now I’m hungry.”
Tohru laughed at that, perking up. Typical. But then he remembered. “Ah, the potatoes!”