This very moment reminded Gundham of another memory - one that persisted in his mind, uncleaned by the program. Through the brambles and thorns and wretched maws of the despairing years, there was a memory.
Before despair had overcome them all - before they could be turned - there was a moment.
Gundham could watch the sky darkening, feeling the crevice within his soul that held home to his care for the others grow stronger. They were all in danger now. Imminent despair, coming to swallow them whole.
They were gathered outside. Not all were well - some classmates having sustained injuries and blows and emotional distresses.
Together, it was time.
The Reserve Course students had already begun to storm - rallied under a banner of despair - perhaps jealousy - perhaps a lot of things, for Tanaka could never know what truly drove humans to kill one another aside from selfish need.
He'd never had belief in humans. But he had belief in them... his classmates.
As he watched the scarlet parade storming from his hidden location, he turned briefly. The time had finally come to unseal his powers.
He'd practiced the ritual and magical arts for so long - and now was finally his chance to use that power to spare the lives of his friends. Even if it took his life.
But he didn't intend to die today.
However - he had not been the only one to volunteer to fight off the slowly gaining members of the Reserve Course. There was one more.
An able ally, he supposed. He wished perhaps they'd talked more, but Gundham's respect did not grow from words, but actions.
The dark wizard would be accompanied by none other than Nekomaru Nidai, the Team Manager.
There were goodbyes to their fellow classmates, although they had been brief.
They had no time to dawdle on the existence of danger. They had both chosen to fight for the rest of them.
And, if they had to, they would die.
But there was reason for the brief goodbyes, for Gundham could tell they both knew.
They didn't intend to die today.
Stalking upon the familiar grounds of his school, Gundham breathed in the reality of the dark despair drawing closer. The spores of the fallen, already having infected the Reserve Course.
Those students intended to see them die. Ha! Gundham would not fall at the hands of mere mortals.
He allowed his gaze to travel askance, landing on his partner. Nekomaru... He respected him from a distance. As much respect as a fiend could gain, anyways.
Gundham had intended to divert his gaze again, but it was silently returned by the Team Manager, so it held.
They were marching, two proud soldiers, to almost certain demise. But they would not die.
The very thought rose a smirk to Gundham's lips, as he breathed out a brief 'kehehe.'
"...Well met, Nekomaru," he pronounced, dipping his head once. There was no need to be impolite or prideful towards someone who shared your side of the battlefield, who shared a common cause.
To think how far I've come... allowing my own life to be put at stake for theirs... how unlike me. Are my mental defenses growing weaker!? But he'd chosen, and he didn't have time to consider trivial things like that anymore.
For he already knew why.
Care. So simple. So complex, so difficult. And yet, it was his motive. Their motive.
"Good to see you, Gundham!" Nekomaru confirmed, riling another, more genuine smile out of the Breeder.
"...Fate awaits with bated breath. I suppose now is the hour of dire consequence! Let us never fail! Steadfast, companion!"
Gundham grinned, giving a delighted 'kehehe' as he posed. Adorning his shoulders, his arms, the pockets of his coat, was his most trusted army -- The Zodiac Generals! Hamsters of all shapes and sizes.
They were loyal. They'd remain at his side - just as he'd remain at theirs. And, Tanaka supposed, that extended to Nekomaru now, for as long as this battle held out.
"This scorching, stinging, tense atmosphere..." Nekomaru gave an excited 'gahaha.'
It seemed both parties were prepared for this fatalistic showdown. Nekomaru's voice was boisterous, as always. "I've been a team manager for so long, I'd nearly forgotten this... This is great! What a comforting atmosphere!"
Gundham's smile persisted as he gazed out at the approaching death parade. They wanted nothing more then to tear the two interlopers limb from limb, was that right?
But neither would let that happen.
If they were the only thing standing between certain death and their class, then they would never stand down.
"...Hm. That's a good line."
Gundham didn't realize then, but he realized now, how often their paths seemed to cross in this exact manner.
Their lives, for the others'.
It was high time that they'd made their pact.
"Our saga does not end yet!" Gundham had punctuated, adopting a combative pose accentuated in dramatics. "My name is Gundham Tanaka! And together, we shall rain pandemonium upon those in our path! Come then, Nekomaru, what do you say to my terms!?"
Nekomaru seemed to be adopting his own offensive stance. "Sounds good!"
And pandemonium, indeed.
Again and again there would be pandemonium upon them.
And it seemed, as destiny had shown time and time again, they would face these times together.
Standing there, two against an army, Gundham's smile still persisted.
Fighting to the death for the lives of their classmates.
But not against one another -- with one another.
And if it was only their own wills keeping them alive, then they would be immortal.