Here Masaru was, stuck in the hospital, unable to do much physically with his bottom half as he toddled around in the wheelchair. Without his usual physical self, he felt completely useless even though DATS was in the middle of a mildly odd, long-term crisis in the Digital World. To that extent, he wanted to get back on his feet as soon as possible.
But there was much more to it than wanting to get back into action, reasons that would only arise to Masaru when he had all this extra time to think about it. In a sense, to remind himself, like Captain Satsuma had said.
That's right. They were in this for the sake of harmony with the Digimon. Even to the extent that he would dive into battle without a second thought for his own self, he was fighting to protect those he held dear.
Yet, as he stared at the beautifully sunny skies outside his hospital room window, he couldn't help but imagine what he would be doing now if he hadn't met Agumon, if he hadn't joined DATS. Things would probably be completely different. No, they definitely would.
Instead of being in the hospital, he'd probably be out in the streets looking for fights. He knew where all of the bullies and delinquents from each of the junior high and high schools in the district hung out. He'd been through every single one of them. And of course, there'd be new ones every semester to replace the ones who had changed, graduated, moved away or whatever. And he'd test those new ones out and break 'em in.
Now that he was back in the real world after all his experiences with the Digimon, he realized he had lost all interest in fighting those bullies and delinquents. In fact, those three weeks where he had obediently done menial tasks at DATS probably would've been impossible for him to tolerate if it had been a year ago. He would've blown up and done some serious damage to the other employees before letting himself do all that boring work.
Had the Digimon really changed him all that much?
Of course, that would lead him to thinking back on what had happened since meeting the Digimon. Starting with Agumon, he had met everyone at DATS, and he had learned it was the very organization that came out of the organization his own father had been working for.
And that his father was still alive.
He still remembered that moment clearly in his mind, when he had heard the boisterous and confident words from Captain Satsuma. His father was still alive. The blueprints for the Digivices he had sent back to the real world were proof of that. It was thanks to his father that he was there, fighting at DATS. Masaru was connected to the Digimon from the start, even before he met Agumon.
Ever since then, he had lost all reason to pick on those insignificant delinquents to kill his open time. Ever since then, he had lost total sense of "open" time. He had found new meaning to staying in DATS, and from then on, his direction in life had taken a new turn.
There was hope to find his father out there in the Digital World. The parental figure who had been missing from his life for ten long years... The parental figure Masaru had been subconsciously chasing after for ten long years... And now he could actively search for him and bring him back.
As naive as he was back then, he thought that moment was the biggest turning point in his (back then) 14-year-old life... when it fact, it was only the start of them.
At some point in his thoughts, he would incidentally touch his neck, and a flash of other memories would rush through him... memories that would set him on a completely different, but not completely unrelated track of thoughts. A confusing, complicated track of thoughts. And a track of thoughts that would invade him more and more as time passed...
"DON'T... Don't talk about him."
Tightly clutching the red-patterned Digiegg in his arms, Masaru brought his forlorn gaze downwards. He didn't want to be thinking about that at such a perilous time.
It was too late.
The scene replayed in his head over and over, refusing to relinquish sleep to him. After each replay, he'd toss and turn in the thin set of sheets he was enveloped in, grumbling as he realized that the discomfort wasn't helping any. And then he'd notice he was making the most noise in the underground shelter where his family and the other DATS members were sleeping. Normally, it'd be Agumon who would be the loudest with all his snoring and sleep talk.
And then he'd remember Agumon. And the regret would come to rewind that scene and play it again.
He thought he'd never have one of these nights. And of all times, right when he needed to conserve all the manpower he had... in various senses of the word.
He tossed again. Why was this cement so freaking difficult to sleep on? At least if Agumon were there, he'd have something less stiff to lean back on. Even if the Digimon was a loud sleeper, he was also a heavy one and wouldn't even notice if he were used as a mattress.
But Agumon wasn't there. Well, he WAS, but not in the way Masaru wanted him to be. Why did things have to end up this way? Was it his fault? Was it... HIS fault...? Mr. I'm-too-good-for-you-we've-been-together-all-this-time-but-now-I've-decided-to-change-sides-and-"make-a-new-world-with-Kurata"-because-I'm-soooo-sane...
And then the possibility of leaning back on that weirdo would tempt him, and he didn't even know WHY it had to be HIM. He wasn't there either. It was pointless thinking about him. But he thought about him anyway.
Agh. That scene again.
Damn it. Damn it all.
"If Kurata's as smart as you think he is, it's not like he's going to come charging at ElDoradimon again after finding out what we did to those other Gizmon:XT. We'll just be sitting around wasting our time while he goes off killing Digimon everywhere else!"
It was midday. After the assembly in the morning that ended up turning into a rally, they were making preparations for the night assault. Or at least, all of the other Digimon inside the capital were. Baromon, extremely persistent in letting "the savior" and his comrades rest until the attack commenced, had led them into luxurious bedrooms... which actually just consisted of masses of the usual crimson cushions they used almost everywhere in the capital. There were shades to cover the windows, but a considerable amount of light still passed through and gave the overall atmosphere a similar crimson hue. Yoshino had gone into her own room with Lalamon, separate from the boys. Ikuto and Yushima, their Digimon, and even Agumon and Gaomon also eventually went to find their own rooms after growing tired with a certain argument going on...
"That isn't my point! I'm saying we need to take some time to develop a strategy to lure Kurata to fight us here where we have the greatest advantage! If we head out there, it'll create a greater risk for ALL of us!"
"Risk? Don't you know how many Digimon we have willing to fight here? What's the risk? If we don't go tonight, I doubt we'll get any better chance to finish Kurata for good!"
"What, do you think everything will be solved if only Kurata is taken down?"
"Think again! We'll still have to take down every single Gizmon:XT he has out there, and those Bio Digimon... We let them off the hook last time, so they might be up to something the next time we meet them."
"Well, whatever! It doesn't matter how many there are or how strong they get! I plan to beat them all up anyway!"
They had been standing on the cushions face-to-face the whole time, when Tohma finally turned his side away and sat down, holding his forehead. He gave a long, heavy sigh.
"Look, it's already been decided. I'm gonna head out with Ikuto tonight, and we're gonna bust Kurata's camp and end this for all. Even if it's a trap, we'll bust through it, and that'll be that." Saying that, Masaru also turned to one side and sat down cross-legged, following Tohma's example, except he brought his arms out to set his hands on his knees. His obviously tense posture glowed with irritation.
Tohma sighed again. "Fine. It's not like I could stop you anyway. Let's just get some rest while we still can."
"Ah? Rest? Like I could do that..."
"Don't you know that's why Baromon brought us to these rooms in the first place?"
"Eh? Oh... I wasn't really paying attention."
"Geez, you're so caught up in defeating Kurata that you even forgot about resting. Go lie down already."
True. Even for the last time he went to sleep, it was because the other Digimon had forced some kind of sleeping gas on them when they had entered ElDoradimon. They had slept right through the broad daylight into the evening, then woken up to find themselves tied up. And it was just about the time for the sleep cycle to kick in...
Masaru half-consciously laid back on the cushions, feeling the tenseness in his system instantly starting to simmer down. He stared straight up at the stone ceiling. Tohma did the same, although he kept his eyes shut.
The silence began to settle in. He knew Tohma was a quiet sleeper, but Masaru oddly felt some white noise was missing. How long had it been since he'd slept alone? He probably hadn't ever since Agumon came and they had joined DATS. Now he was just alone with Tohma... just the two of them...
W... What, huh? His mind had started wandering into some strange, uncharted zone that was making his face heat up and preventing him from sleeping. Concentrate on sleeping. Concentrate...
"Oi," Masaru said in a much lower, reduced-adrenaline tone, "Aren't the others coming back?"
"They're probably asleep already."
"Mm..." He glanced to the sides of the room, noticing the loads of unoccupied cushion space surrounding the two of them. Tohma's shoulder was practically touching his, so he felt like he should move over, but at the same time, he didn't feel like bothering.
Strange. Just moments ago, they were arguing almost like they once were when they had started out in DATS. But something felt different this time. During the early DATS missions, Masaru felt like the genius was just trying to stubbornly stick to his usual procedures and had no toleration for Masaru's methods. That Tohma... he had lightened up about his way of fighting back then, so why was it coming back at a time like this? It was kind of annoying...
But this time, things were more complicated. Tohma was claiming ElDoradimon as a whole was at stake, which Masaru kind of recognized, but ElDoradimon was such a HUGE Digimon and they had so many other Digimon to support it. He just couldn't imagine those silly Gizmon:XT being a major threat to something so huge, especially now that they were there.
'I mean, I can understand why he'd want to be as cautious as possible when it comes to ElDoradimon, being the big 'ol holy capital that houses tons of Digimon... but taking down Kurata as soon as possible will save them all in the end, so isn't this for the best?'
He would've thought Tohma would let up eventually and start to see things his way, but that didn't happen. And he could tell that Tohma still wasn't satisfied with him going after Kurata. What the heck?
"If you think I'm just being overly stubborn, guess again."
The blond cut right through his thoughts.
"Hmph. What else am I supposed to think?" Masaru finally gave up on staring at the ceiling and shut his eyes. He knew he was having a hard time getting to sleep as it was, but at least he could give his eyelids a rest. He did honestly want to get some sleep while he could, but he wasn't so sure about the chances with Tohma being the way he was.
Masaru sensed Tohma's loss for words and took it as a cue to end the idle chat and get back to rest. That genius was the one to bring it up in the first place, after all.
And for some reason, he could feel that genius staring right at him even though he wasn't looking. With all the time they had spent together in DATS, he'd learned to sense these things about Tohma since the blond kept quiet most of the time. He wasn't used to it at first, so it really unnerved him back then, but he had gradually figured out that there was always something more to the silence...
He slowly opened one eye and confirmed that Tohma had turned to his side and was... staring at him. Quite intensely. "W... What..." he said cautiously.
Tohma, unmoving, spoke as if in a state of deep thought. "You remember why we're taking down Kurata, right?"
Masaru smirked, relaxing. That was easy. "For our friends, of course. The Digimon."
Tohma blinked quickly a few times, then smiled lightly in return. "Yeah."
Hmm, so that answer satisfied him. At least they were still thinking on the same lines on that end. Maybe he could turn the situation around... "Then doesn't it make it all the better to know that we're going to defeat him tonight?"
"Masaru..." came the slow response. It was a slow response, yet not a lax one, which set off Masaru slightly.
"Come on, have more confidence. Can't you trust me?"
Tohma's eyes widened, but he gave a solid answer. "I trust you, Masaru. You're quite simple-minded, but that's exactly what makes you trustworthy."
"Gee, thanks," Masaru responded with partial sarcasm. Still, he could feel a little smile creeping inside, knowing that Tohma was feeling in better terms with him at the comment. Although he couldn't quite figure out why he himself felt... a little more happy than he probably should've. But he needed to get to sleep. Hearing enough, he turned to face away from Tohma, resting the arm below him under one layer of the silky, cool cushions, and shut his eyes once more.
There was a long pause before the silence broke again. "It's just... I've had a bad feeling about all this ever since we encountered ElDoradimon."
To Tohma's new words, Masaru blinked his eyes open to see the empty wall at the side of the room. Ah... was he going to get any rest or not?
"'A bad feeling?' Is that part of your calculations, genius?"
He heard Tohma puff air from the bottom of his throat, recognizing the sound whenever the blond felt unsettled about something. "Nevermind I mentioned it."
"No, no, wait, it's fine," Masaru said apologetically. He realized he had been too abrupt with the retort, and he didn't want to go back trying to sleep with a disgruntled Tohma. What happened to that much nicer mood just a short while ago? He groped around for words... "I didn't expect someone like you to... act upon your feelings like that."
"...Act upon my feelings?"
He just noticed at that moment.
That was it. As much as he had thought Tohma as nothing but a cold-hearted genius at first, lately, his view on the blond was drastically changing. He wasn't quite sure when it started, he just knew that he was becoming more and more aware of it as the days passed. During the early stages, he'd just find it entertaining whenever Tohma went out of his way to be thorough, such as his extravagant appearance for Chika's birthday, or his bringing that huge machine into the Daimon residence when Puwamon had arrived.
And then there were times when Masaru found himself really relying on the other's handiness; he could still clearly remember how desperate he had been when he had wanted to get back to the Digital World and had... accidentally broken the Digital Gate equipment. He remembered feeling a little remorse after he decided to bring Ikuto to his parents and left Tohma behind at DATS to fix the equipment. As he had left the base that day, he watched Tohma's back as he endlessly tapped away at the keyboard. But Tohma had only smirked at him and called him a hopeless case like usual back then...
With the new mess they were in, their "war" against Kurata, Tohma seemed to be more serious than ever. While he had been content to go along with Masaru's whims up until then, now he was casting doubt on almost every turn that came up. Masaru didn't understand the reason for the change until now. He smiled faintly.
"Then again... You've always been like that, haven't you. You always seem like you have to plan everything out before you do anything. But in the end, you're doing it all because of what you feel, right? You're just being true to yourself like any man should. Even the reason why you're right here, right now..."
That's right. The reason why Tohma was there right now, like Masaru had said, was for the Digimon. Their friends, their comrades. He was sure Tohma would understand that.
Another long pause. Masaru, confident that he had cleared the atmosphere, went to settle back down to sleep.
...Until he felt something leaning into his back. The heat began to rise up in his cheeks again.
"Toh..." He tried moving a bit, but he found that it only brought him leaning further in. Tohma was... leaning his forehead on his back. "Wha..."
He heard another throat noise.
"I said it before, I'll say it again. This isn't one of your little school fights. If something doesn't go right..."
Masaru swallowed. Huh? He remembered having this feeling before...
Oh yeah, it was when they still had to hide from the Bio Digimon and Tohma had dived into him to keep him out of view. Or at least, he THOUGHT it was the same feeling. Then why was he getting nervous instead of fired up...?
"I-I know, Tohma. Didn't you just say you trust me?"
"I did. I do. But I'm talking about... something else..."
The leaning became heavier and Masaru could feel more warmth surrounding his backside. Tohma was getting awfully close... and what was he saying?
Something seemed very odd all of a sudden, like his senses were being magnified. The sound of his heart thumping seemed louder than he had ever noticed before. He could hear Tohma breathing on him too.
"T-Tohma, what are you doing..."
But no answer came. Masaru took some effort to turn his head around, but he only found that Tohma was leaning up against him, one cheek pressed up on his back, snoozing away.
He could either shove off the blond and risk disturbing him, or he could just let it be. They didn't have any blankets to go with the breeze outside the windows, so maybe he could use the extra warmth. And not like it physically felt any better or worse than leaning up against Agumon. So after a while, he decided to let it be.
Although, Agumon didn't feel this comforting...
Imagine that the next time he made contact with Tohma, they were having a serious fight to the death. A serious, yet ridiculous one. What the hell was this "make a new world with Kurata" shit? Just when he thought he had come to a greater understanding with him, he goes off and makes everything confusing again.
For that moment, he had seriously wanted to kill Tohma. That moment cost ShineGreymon's sanity, and now he was unsure if Agumon would ever come back the same, or even WHEN and IF he would come back.
The same went for Tohma.
Ridiculous. Thinking about it drove him nuts.
But it wasn't just because he didn't get why Tohma would even have the faintest interest in teaming up with a bastard like Kurata. He didn't know if he could forgive Tohma for disappearing on them at such a crucial time. He could forgive and forget a lot of the things that Tohma did to tick him off (he was sure he was the same in Tohma's view), but this one...
Thinking more clearly now, there must've been a hell of a deep reason for his actions. Even if that were so, why did he have to smash it in his face? Especially after saying all that when they were in the holy capital...
Masaru felt a certain emptiness as he realized that he was the only guy in the shelter. Ikuto and Falcomon were missing in action after their tiff with MirageGaogamon and they would go searching for him in the late afternoon. They all knew Ikuto could manage on his own and they needed to stay hidden from Kurata's attention. BanchouLeomon had left... That left his mother, younger sister and the DATS girls. He was surrounded. This must've been similar to what Yoshino felt when they were in the Digital World in search of Mercurimon. But even then, Yoshino had Lalamon.
Agumon, on the other hand...
He reached out to touch Agumon's egg nestled next to him, but it was solid cold.
Damn it. Damn it all.
After having a conversation like they had, just what the hell was that so-called genius thinking? It wasn't just Tohma... It was himself. And that's what made it most difficult. If it were someone else, he could just punch it until he changed its mind. But he couldn't do that easily with himself, naturally...
Because he could still remember the warmth and comfort of Tohma leaning back on him, and something in the back of his mind wished he could have some of that warmth again instead of the thin sheets on the cement floor.
He wanted to beat himself up for feeling this way, but there was nothing he could do.
At least he could tell that Tohma was involved, so he would definitely need to give him a good punch as soon as the opportunity arrived. The next...
Right. They'd meet again. It was inevitable as long as Kurata was around. As long as they took Kurata down, Tohma would be able to come back.
Even if it was only part of the problem, he could fix it. He would. He was a man, and a man has to be able to stand up to his problems.
And a man has to get his sleep while he's at it.
Clinging onto that conviction, he finally managed to fall asleep as his thoughts delved into the depths of his consciousness.