A lot can happen in seven years. Seven years is the difference between an infant and a child, a child and a teenager, a teenager and a young adult. This is a story about the seven years between then, and now.
This is a story about the Golden Age of Navis, and age when powerful, even legendary Netbattlers can be found cheek by jowl with grade schoolers, an age when computer programs are almost indistinguishable from the humans whose image they were made in, and an age when the police forces of the world's governments are just barely inadequate.
It is a golden age for not only those developing and testing the technological marvels known as NetNavigators, but also for adventurers. The entire world is a melting pot of cultures, and at the bottom of this pot there is no shortage of petty thieves, rebellious adolescents, disgruntled adults, and even real criminals ready to try to grab what they can. In this age, a child can become a feared warlord; or he can become a beloved knight in shining armor. A mother can defend her child; a child can defend his mother. The Internet, once a novelty and a communication network, is now an entire world that exists on a parallel plane with ours.
Our story begins several years after the chain of events that made Lan Hikari and Rockman famous, in a day and age where the two are no longer members of society, but folk heroes of the past, names from the previous generation whose names are no more significant to the young generation than the saints and kings of old.
It was a beautiful, clear, starlit evening, with a sliver of a crescent moon hanging in the night sky like a tiny laceration in the velvet folds of the night, though which the light of Heaven shone through. Kazuhiro Sachio Ishihara was about as cheerful as the night was bright. Yes, there were stars, and you could really see them, even from Circuta, his suburb of Electown, but no, it wasn't one of those bright times. Visiting his parents had put him in an exceptionally sour mood, and what was worse was that he had made some error in coding Toshokan's clothing. The result was interesting to look at, but a scarf that randomly flapped in every direction wouldn't do much to impress girls when he was showing off his PET.
Most of ACDC went to his high school, right? ACDC town. What a joke. No wonder his parents lived there. Calling ACDC a 'town' was too flattering; ACDC was one big suburb. No big franchises wanted to set up there no matter who once called it home, and it wasn't exactly known for its job opportunities. ACDC was a town for old folks with nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing to see while they lived off of their retirement funds and waited to die. No wonder all the ACDC parents sent their kids to his school in Electown.
A male voice in his left ear interrupted him. Kazuhiro? Where are you? Toshokan had apparently just exited standby mode to check on him. Tricky little bastard. He obviously knew his operator very well. That was how it was supposed to be, of course-- but sometimes it proved annoying, as now.
Instinctually adjusting the earpiece, Kazu replied, "I'm on the roof. I'm perfectly safe. Go back to sleep."
Toshokan paused, and Kazu got the distinct feeling that his Navi was contemplating whether to tell him off, or more to the point, how, but when he heard no more word from his Navi for almost a full minute, he decided that Toshokan must have, indeed, gone back to sleep.
He was wrong. The tiny light on his earpiece blinked back to life. If I may be so bold...
"Go to sleep. That's an order."
Kazu hadn't meant to be so harsh to his Navi, and as he sat and contemplated the night sky one last time, he realized that he might as well follow his own advice. After all, out of the two of them, Kazu was the one who needed sleep.
Kazuhiro Sachiro Ishihara sighed as he climbed back in the window, knowing that his Navi would know exactly what was going on, but probably wouldn't say anything. Toshokan was like that. And by "like that," he meant annoyingly good at everything he did.
The last thing Kazu thought before falling asleep was: Thank God my parents live in ACDC.
Kazuhiro awoke next morning, too drowsy to think of anything beyond the immediate moment. He knew he was hungry, and that food was the first matter he must address. "Hmm hmm hmm," his navi laughed, a white grin obscuring the shadow created by the brim of his dark hat. "The morning is the one time you never seem quite yourself."
"Mrgh," Kazu grumbled, opening a refrigerator and fishing out a nearly empty carton of milk. It had passed its expiration date much earlier; the hectic life of a netbattler didn't leave much time for trivial tasks such as eating cereal. "Heh," he thought to himself, "a bit funny that a supposed pass time like netbattling has caused me to forget about my own nutrition."
He shook the thought from his head, thinking that pondering such an idea was sillier than the idea itself.
"Well, there is something to do today, apparently," Kazu commented boredly, flipping through the morning news. "They're holding an amateur netbattling event in ACDC Park. I know we're a bit beyond that level," he commented, running his index finger down the remote as he dismissed the problem, "but the more new opponents we fight, the stronger we'll be. It would be nice to enter a battle that wasn't stacked against us from the very beginning, eh Toshokan?"
"Indeed," the navi replied with a bit of disdain. He didn't seem to take the remembrance of past events as much of a laughing matter.
Kazu quickly readied himself for the tournament, not bothering to comb his hair. "It'll be over so quickly," he thought to himself, "it's not even worth bothering today." After changing out of his pajamas and stepping quickly into his shoes, leaving them untied, he headed for the door. "Toshokan, you're feeling up to it, right?"
"Of course," the navi replied with an obedient nod, but he still slightly resented the idea of fighting navis new to the process.
After stepping off the metroline, which ran from ACDC to Electown, the walk to ACDC Park was a short one, although it was always pleasant. At least, for most, it would have been pleasant; Kazu simply found the place to be insultingly every-day. The good-natured people of the town walking to and fro did help to ease his tension though, and everything looked bright and organic (even though, in reality, very little was in his age). Over by Higure's shop, the pink squirrel statue crafted in the center of the park became visible. "Ah, that looks like the place. Right near Higure's," Kazu noted. "Netbattlers seem to have a way of gathering around him."
"Makes sense. Netbattler's need chips, right?" Toshokan commented detachedly. It was really just small talk; Toshokan couldn't make himself feel excited about the upcoming matches. "What good could fighting amateurs like these do me?" he thought to himself.
"Hmph. Let's size up our opponents," Kazu muttered to his navis. Standing around were several operators, none of them immediately familiar. His eyes shifted through endless young netbattlers, each decked out from head to toe in outfits to match their navis and give them their own personal style. "Amateurs. You can tell just from the way they're conversing."
"It's not like you didn't know beforehand..." Toshokan muttered irritably.
"Demasu!" a voice suddenly rang out. Everyone hushed, turning their attention to the tall, slouching figure in the center of the park. Higure Yamataro waved his hands enthusiastically to grab the netbattlers' acknowledgement. "I thank you all for gathering here today, demasu! It really is wonderful to see so many bright new faces!"
"Get on with it, dopey," a voice called out from one of the less respectable participants, who was garbed in a black sleeveless tee with a hood covering most of his face to give him a rebel look.
"Demasu! I'll get straight to the point then!" Higure gasped. "I've got an extremely rare chip, the reward for first prize! The chip isn't even on the market yet, demasu!" He cried, suddenly embracing it, "It's one of my precious one of a kind battle chips! My precious baby, demasu!"
As Kazu watched Higure wriggle embarrassingly on the stage, his eyes widened at the thought of a one of a kind chip, so easily obtainable. "Sounds like we picked the right tournament."
"Hmmm... I can't help but think we shouldn't let one of the others win. Give them a chance to grow, you know?" Toshokan suggested. His conscience was still bothering him over the whole ordeal.
"Don't worry about it for now. We can't pass up the opportunity to get one of Higure's secret chips," Kazu quieted him, listening intently to Higure. "He's calling out the match-ups now."
"Lawton! Boyd Lawton, you're facing off against the mysterious 'Netbattler K'! First round will start as soon as the contestants have met in the center-" Higure prattled, waving a flag in one hand and holding a microphone in the other. He felt a bit silly pronouncing the name Kazu had come up with to hide his identity. Neither contestant wasted any time taking the center, however. Kazu shouldered quickly through the crowd, eyeing his opponent cautiously. His opponent was a church boy, clad in khaki pants and an ironed white t-shirt. Unlike Kazu, he had obviously put much time into coming his hair that morning.
"Let's have a fair fight, eh?" the boy smiled, shaking hands with Kazu.
Kazu smiled back, attempting to look cordial. "It's hard to think it will be fair by any means," Kazu thought to himself cockily. "I doubt any amateurs have the means to fight Toshokan head to head."
"Contestants link!" Higure instructed, bringing the flag up. "Begin, demasu!" he shouted as he began the match-up. He leaned over each of their shoulders unprofessionally, trying to examine their technique. His jaw dropped as he saw Kazu rapidly input commands. Within moments, Kazu had dominated the battle.
"Wh-What did you do? How did you-?" Lawton asked, falling back as his navi flashed off the battlefield.
"It was really nothing. You should've at least used the terrain to defend yourself," Kazu laughed. "Could have prolonged it for about a minute longer." He stuck his hands into his pockets, then wandered back into the crowd, who murmured viciously about how they suspected he may be using illegal programs.
One by one, contestants dropped until only 4 were left. "Semifinals, demasu! We will divide the contestants into two teams! These teams will consist of two operators and navis each. Red team is Netbattler K and Keaira Nakamura!" he shouted, introducing the two contestants. Kazu walked up, looking over the timid looking girl who was his partner.
"Heh," he laughed to himself, taking his place next to her calmly. "I can pull our team single-handedly if need be," he thought. He was surprised to hear the girl address him in a tone of understanding, as if she was sympathetic with his skepticism of her abilities.
"I hope I won't be a hindrance," she whispered under her breath. Kazu could not tell if it was weakness that made her so complacent or if it was a general concern. He looked mockingly towards his first opponent, who stepped up quickly.
"For the blue team, Hal Belfast!" Higure announced. Hal was a young boy with shining braces, shining hair, and a shining, youthful demeanor. He wore a shirt that was several sizes too long for him in the sleeves and a floppy red tie which lacked any form of coordination with the rest of his outfit. He stuck his hands down into his pockets and faced his opponent, grinning widely and exposing his upper row of teeth. "With him is Aida Ambridge, demasu!" Higure screeched, waving his hand to reveal a trembling girl who had to be pushed to the front of the crowd by the children behind her. "Give them all a hand folks!" The crowd clapped enthusiastically as she shyly made her way to the front.
"Kazu? I-Is it really K-Kazu?" she asked, her eyes widening as she looked at her former friend. Her hands shook as she clasped them together in front of her, tears welling in her eyes. She wanted to say more, but couldn't choke out anything else. The other boy watched her with a bit of a helpless expression, unsure of what the fuss was about.
Kazu simply looked down to his shoes, avoiding his gaze as best as possible. The girl beside him looked at him with a bit of confusion. "I'll fight for you. You don't have to fight your friend."
"Thank you," Kazu replied, not questioning the unnatural knack she seemed to have for sensing people's emotions. "I'm sorry Higure. My navi can no longer participate in your tournament."
"I-I see, demasu" Higure stuttered, adjusting his glasses. "Well, uh, are you-?" he started to ask, but was interrupted.
"I m-must quit as well," Aida mumbled, stepping away from the contestants. She continued to stare at Kazu, who uncomfortably brought up his gaze to meet hers. "I'm s-so sorry, M-Mr. Higure."
"I'm sorry... I'm sorry too," Kazu mumbled. "Sorry to you, I mean," he muttered, looking at Capuchin with some brief fondness. "I'm sorry we had to meet under... those conditions."
The young boy with the tie scratched his head wearily; he was beginning to feel a bit depressed himself. "Uh... guys? What is it you-?"
"The two are disqualified, demasu! There are two contestants now, demasu!" Higure cried, holding a handkerchief to his eyes and weeping bitterly. "I'm sorry you two had to reunite so tearfully, Netbattler K and little Aida! I pray that you will find happiness together!"
"Wh-what did you say?" Kazu burst out indignantly in disbelief.
"Wh-Wh-What?!" Aida stuttered in confusion, a red blush crawling quickly across her face.
The crowd turned their backs on the two, ignoring them and focusing on the battle in front of them.
"The battle then will take place between Hal Belfast and Keaira Nakamura, demasu!" Higure announced, straightening his tie. Hal straightened his tie as well, as if to dignify himself to a similar position. "Netbattlers, begin!" Hal's eyes confidently met those of his contender as he fit his fingers around the grip of his PET.
In the net space, a brilliant silver stream of light announced the appearance of Hal Belfast's netnavi. Clad in a black skin-suit with long, white rows of teeth adorning each arm and making up the entirety of his face, he was a strange yet imposing contender. "Presently entered a conflict field!" TeethMan remarked unintelligibly. "Commencing schedule of network conflict!"
Meanwhile, TeethMan's opponent was transported on to the opposite side of the field...
Chapter 3: In which random battles are just really annoying.
Teethman gazed at his opponent which took the form of some amorphous spirit with a sapphire pendant around its neck and a sapphire gem embedded on a tiara on its forehead.
"Hal, target has entered conflict field." Teethman stated.
"Alright then let's get his battle started." Hal replied.
"Okay then, demasu! Netbattlers ready, demasu?" Higure shouted as Hal and Keaira nodded their heads. "HAJIME, Demasu!"
"What should we do Oberon?" The spirit asked, apparently to itself, in a feminine voice.
"Calculate the opponent's movements and keep attacking from far away," a masculine voice, coming from the same navi replied.
"Roger that." The feminine voice replied as the spirit shifted into a female whose entire body looks to be made of something milky-white, and trails of vapor rise from her extremities, almost as if she is made of congealed smoke, forced into a delicate feminine shape. Her chin and cheeks are slim and her brow is smooth and gentle, but now, the colors of her body and clothing are left to the imagination.
The navi's hair flows down to mid-back, parted away from her eyes by a circlet and fastened in a tight ponytail. She wears a tight tunic and gloves that overlap its sleeves. The right one is a bit more padded along the inner forearm, imitating real gloves worn by archers in order to protect their wrists from their bowstrings. She wears a thin sort of sleeveless cloth top like a poncho, and it drapes over her shoulders only slightly, falling down her front and back separately, tied just above her hips to accentuate her figure and to keep it out of her way. There is a symbol on it but is not quite fully visible. Finishing her outfit are a handmade pair of cloth pants and a thick, tough pair of boots.
"My name is Titania. Prepare to be defeated." Titania stated as she drew out her bow and started firing arrows from seemingly out of nowhere at Teethman.
"Gark!" Teethman yeled as he jumped to the side in order to avoid the oncoming attacks but one of the arrows nicked him in the shoulder. "Ouch! Victim determined like a far-aimed variety!"
"Then we just need to get close and wipe her out." Hal stated as he picked up two chips. "Process Upgrade Level 2! Activate!" Hal yelled as Teethman converted one of his arms into a six-tooth link and whipped off all six individual teeth and shot them towards Titania.
"Sword! Slot-in!" Hal shouted as he downloaded the chip and Teethman reformed his arm into a sword.
"YAAAR!!!" Teethman cried out as he charged towards Titania.
"Stepsword, Slot-in." Keaira whispered as she slotted in the chip.
In a flash Teethman was knocked into the air by a navi that wasn't there before but Titania had disappeared. In her place was a male figure who, like Titania, the only definition on his figure is made by darkened areas of shadow where shadow would normally be. He has a thin but muscular figure, strong chin, and powerful, almost angry facial features, there are pale white eyes and the place where there used to be rich brown irises.
The navi's once black hair extends in every direction from his head. His tunic is rolled up to the shoulders, and fastened there by a pair of metal shoulder pads. Covering his forearms is a pair of light gauntlets that look to be made of some flexible material and then reinforced with armor plating. There is one symbol each on the backs of his gauntlets, but it is not fully visible. His tunic is fastened at the waist by a heavy belt that also bears the scabbard for his light, single-edged blade. Finally, the navi wears a light breastplate, fastened at the underarms and shoulders, connecting to another plate in the back. The navi's pants are much like Titania's, but his boots are much lighter, made for sprinting and duel-style footwork.
"I am Oberon." The figure curtly stated. As Teethman fell onto the floor, defeated.
"Aaaaand... The winner is Keaira Nakamura, demasu!" Higure shouted, the crowd roared at the awesome netbattle that just took place.
Meanwhile, a young man with short, flat black hair, wearing thick sunglasses, a black tanktop, black gloves, black jeans, and black boots, was sitting in a tree not far from the commotion of the tournament. His name was Shin. He was quite impressed how the girl and her navi had defeated Teethman.
"There's going to be a lot of trouble here Shuilong." Shin said to his navi.
Shin's navi, Shuilong, who appeared to be a blue dragon with mutli-sectioned armor and a head of a dragon acting as gloves for his two hands, looked up and replied, "Yeah well, that's why we were sent here weren't we?"
"I guess so. Oh, look Higure's giving out the prize." Shin stated as he stood up on the tree branch he was on, which surprisingly did not crack.
"Now, I shall name Keaira Nakamura, top amateur netbattler, demasu!" Higure announced as he pulled out a chip and presented it Keaira. "You have received my rare rare rare..." Higure continued on with his encore of "rares" as the audience started to yawn and most likely fall asleep until Higure finally shouted, "Meteor chip!" The audience awed at the rarity of the chip as it was presented to Keaira.
"Thanks Higure," Keaira said. "Oberon plug... What?"
Suddenly a barrier appeared preventing navis to plug-out, but it didn't prevent navis from plugging-in. It also had Teethman regain his full HP as he stood up in the area, confused. An army of Heelnavis then descended into the tournament area's Cyberspace and one of them grinned.
"Give us the Meteor chip and we'll let you live!" The above-mentioned Heelnavi shouted out, pointing his buster right at Oberon.
Shin immediatedly saw this and cursed. "Not good!" He then spotted Kazu and Aida talking to each other, not to far away. "Well at least I have backup." He muttered to himself as he jumped out of the tree and ran towards the two.
"So how have you been?" Kazu asked the young netop standing next to him.
"F-fine... y-you?" Aida stuttered. However, before Kazu could answer, the two were interrupted by a speeding dash of black that carried them to the plug-in site.
"What the hell!?" Kazu swore as he reappeared next to the netbattle machine. Of course, he then noticed the army of Heelnavis descending on Oberon and Teethman.
"Wanna help?" Shin questioned as he took out his PET. "Then fight! Plug-in! Shuilong.exe! Transmission!" Shin promptly sent Shuilong into the midst of battle.
"..." Kazu considerd this for a moment and thought, Eh, why not. "Plug-in! Toshokan! Transmission!" He also sent his navi into the field of battle.
"A-alr-right then! P-plug-in! Capuchin! T-transmission." Aida shouted as she plugged her navi into the battlefield.
The three navis descended upon the field of battle ready to help.
Titania/Oberon + Keaira
Toshokan + Kazu
Capuchin + Aida
Shuilong + Shin
Teethman + Hal
American + Bo
Tempoman + Suitachi
Ookami + Adam
Chapter 4: When Random Encounters aren't so Random
Keaira blinked a few times in confusion at the Heelnavi's command as she clutched the burgundy battlechip tightly in her hands - something was definitely wrong with this situation. For one thing, who would expend the resources necessary to fund such a massive force all for a single battlechip? Eccentric as Higure was, even he knew that there were rarer and more valuable chips out there. The sheer zenny needed to purchase that number of Heelnavis far outweighed the value of a Meteor chip.
As a nearby trio of netbattlers rushed forward and sent their navi's into the machine, the petite girl snapped back to reality. "Hey!" she yelled, running over to Shin, Aida, and Kazu, "W-wait... there's a... a jack-out barrier in place! You won't be able to escape once you're in there!"
"Don't worry," Shin turned and smirked, dark shades shimmering in the sunlight and twirling a battlechip between his gloved fingers. "We won't be the ones escaping."
Keaira was about to protest, but shut her mouth abruptly. Now wasn't the time for arguments: Oberon was in danger, and at the moment, that was her primary concern. With a soft "thank you," she carefully withdrew three battlechips from her stack. Now's not the time to hold back anymore, she thought, sighing.
Within the network arena, three beams of light crashed into the ground nearby Oberon. The confused navi gripped his silver sword tightly as three figures stepped out of the light, positioning themselves between Oberon the small army of heelnavis.
"Do not worry," said Toshokan, taking a position to Oberon's right. With a disdainful look, he twirled his revolver and pointed it at the lead heelnavi, "I am confident that our combined abilities will overcome these cowards."
"Yeah!" said Aida's navi, Capuchin, as she flipped over Oberon's head and landed in a crouched position at his feet. The monkey-navi's tail wispily trailing behind her as her signature pink ball materialized at her side. "We'll show these bullies who's boss!"
Shuilong said nothing, instead opting to move in alongside Oberon and point his menacing blue dragon head toward the violet opponent. "I do not know who you are, or who your operator is," he said imposingly, "but my netOp and I have been deployed here to see that scum like you aren't able to mess things up for everyone!"
The lead Heelnavi seemed to falter a bit at the sight of three newly-arrived navis, but quickly regained his composure. "I did not want to have to do this," he said, a blue minibomb materializing in his hand, "but so be it. We are not leaving without that chip." He motioned quickly to one of the Heelnavi's beside him and dropped the bomb directly below him, shrouding the entire area in thick black smoke.
A short distance away at a nearby coffee shop, three netOps shared a table, their PET's plugged into a nearby point. One of them, a tall young man with a brown mullet, slammed his fist onto the table, "Damn," he growled, nearly spilling his coffee over his PET, "I thought you said that the jack-in point would only allow our people through!"
The second one, a taller, trenchcoat-clad male, took a sip of his tea and frowned nervously. "I suppose I made a miscalculation in the programming, but at least our target isn't escaping, right?" he asked hopefully. Seeing his partners' unconvinced faces, he sighed and turned to the third member, "Is Ookami still in good-"
"It's not 'Ookami,'" interrupted the first member, sitting back and shuffling through his battlechips, "We use code names, remember? He's 'Waterboy,' I'm 'Lamaro,' and you're 'Blue-balls.'" The young man drew two chips from his stack and smiled, clearly amused at his own joke.
The second man sighed, then started again, "right, right... is 'Waterboy' still in good shape to handle this?" he asked.
The operator of "Waterboy" nodded quickly and drew three chips of his own. "It'll be a bit tricky," he admitted, running his fingers through his unruly brown hair, "but I think he can handle it."
"Keaira!" yelled Oberon, shielding his eyes from the smokescreen, "I can't see anything, and they're attacking from all sides!" Numerous blasts of energy erupted across the battlefield as the tournament combatants found themselves pinned down under the massive onslaught that awaited them. Keaira hastily shoved two battlechips into her PET and held the small device close to her mouth to communicate. "M-Cannon battlechip, double slot in!" she announced, "You may want to let Titania handle this one, Oberon!"
As it turned out, Keaira's last command was a redundant one, as her navi had already begun the process. As Oberon's features faded into murkiness, a small smile crossed his features. "Be careful, love," he said, as she stepped forward and readied the pure white bow, a slightly remorseful look on her face. A superheated burst of plasma glanced Titania's side as it tore forward, piercing the smoke. Grimacing through the pain, she drew an arrow from the air and took careful aim...
Nearby, Capuchin wasn't faring too well, having taken several blows from what seemed to be dozens of unseen snipers. Clearly frustrated, the monkey navi launched a pair of energybombs at the nearest Heelnavi, but the flashing detonation prevented her from confirming whether or not she had hit. "C-Capuchin!" came a frightened voice over the intercom, "I'm s-sending you th-the aquablade. Please be c-careful."
"Don't worry Aida!" replied Capuchin confidently, "I can handle - Argh!" She winced in pain as a shotgun blast struck her straight in the chest, knocking her flat on her back. Staggering to her feet, the tiny monkey-girl swung the beautiful azure blade threateningly as she addressed her unseen opponent. "Hey you heelnavis!" she growled, "Come out and stop fighting like cowards!"
High above on a nearby pillar, a purple heelnavi drew a bead on the monkey navi's head with what appeared to be an M-16 rifle. Though it struck him as somewhat dishonorable to battle at a distance like this, "Lamaro" knew that this was what had to be done to assure victory. Adjusting his position slightly, his rifle glinted menacingly in the artificial lighting...
...and that glint was all that Miyamoto Toshokan 404 required to understand how bad a situation his monkey counterpart had gotten herself into. "Capuchin! Look out!" he yelled as he darted toward her, lunging at the last instant...
...and falling to the ground, clutching his chest as the sniper's deadly bullets scored his data down to the core files. Fine, wisplike strands of data leaked through his fingers as he concentrated on the sniper's position. The world began to get a lot fuzzier as he blocked out all peripheral sounds and visions and focused on the task at hand. Ignoring Capuchin's scream and using all the energy he had left in his rapidly diminishing reserves, he channeled the chip data that Kazu had sent him through his arm and into the network.
Lamaro swore at his rotten luck and quickly loaded another chip into his M-16. "Dammit," he scowled, "not only did that guy get in the way, but there's no way that I'll be able to finish him off before he counteratta-" Lamaro never finished his sentence as several green bamboo pikes erupted from the ground, tearing cruelly into his chassis and pinning him into position. A harsh noise resounded in the Heelnavi's skull, until he realized it was his own scream of pain from being impaled in a dozen places at once. As he hung there, helplessly suspended by Toshokan's bamboolance, Lamaro slowly realized that the monkey girl he had been aiming at was scampering up to his position. One thought went through his mind as Capuchin's tear-filled eyes met his:
Sweet Lady Liberty, this is going to hurt...
Meanwhile, Shuilong and Teethman found themselves fighting alongside Titania. The three had formed a defensive position behind Teethman's shield, but all were rapidly running out of battlechips.
"There exists anything incorrect regarding this combat!" said Teethman, grunting as three Aquaneedles ricocheted off his shield.
Titania frowned. Teethman was right - though the sniper fire had thankfully ceased, none of them seemed to be able to strike a single member of the Heelnavi army. Even when she was sure her shots had connected, the arrow seemed to simply phase through the opponent. What was even more disturbing was the fact that no Heelnavi bodies could be seen on the ground. Granted, the thick smoke obscured her vision, so she couldn't confirm this, but there was definitely something wrong about the battle.
Suddenly, two of the Heelnavi's leaped out from the smoke, bearing down on the trio's position. Shuilong cursed, but steeled his legs as he breathed in sharply. "Get out of the way!" he grunted at his comrades through gritted teeth, "I'll handle these too!" The noble blue dragon exhaled a wash of cold fire that blasted into the two Heelnavis. Shuilong's frigid flames blazed forward powerfully, freezing the two combatants who promptly fell to the ground and shattered into a million tiny fragments of ice.
Ice?! But that means...
Keaira watched, stunned at the latest development. She was smart enough to know that navi data didn't shatter when frozen — the only explanation was that the majority of the opposing army was made of...
"Water," said Titania, readying her bow and notching several arrows to the string. That's why there are no bodies... we weren't missing them, at all! she thought, aiming skyward. "A strong fire-type attack may be able to evaporate their entire force," she said curtly, "Keaira, please send the Meteors chip. I believe I can use it to end this battle quickly."
Keaira looked from side to side, from a sobbing Aida being comforted by an ashen-faced Kazu, to the young Hal, a frustrated look crossing his features as he slotted in the last of his battlechips. She turned at last to the youth clad in all black, who had long since removed his shades and seemed to be completely focused on operating his dragon navi. All of them are suffering because of me, she thought, a pang of guilt cruelly wrenching her gut. Brushing her dark hair aside and placing the burgundy chip into her PET, she nodded her head. "Titania, do what you need to do!"
The female archer nodded as she raised her bow skyward, countless crimson arrows drawn back and ready to fly...
"She's doing it," said "Waterboy's" netOp. Turning to face his comrades with a perplexed look, he cocked his head to one side. "It is a she, right? I mean... I could have sworn that she was a guy just a few seconds ago."
"Shut up Adam, it's not like it matters," replied the teenager with the mullet, sullenly initializing backup data for his navi, "On that note, what the hell was Ookami doing when American got himself slaughtered back there?"
"Oh I don't know," replied Adam sarcastically, "just doing his job, maybe? You have no idea how much effort it takes to coordinate that many water clones while wearing a GMO." He took a long sip from a bottle of water, idly slotting in chips as he did so. "Besides," said Adam, a coy smirk on his face, "It's not Ookami and American, right? It's Lamaro and Waterboy."
"Why you... Suitachi, did you hear him just now?!"
"Quiet down, Bo," chided the trenchcoat-clad young man, "We're almost done here, so let's not mess it up."
"Tempoman, can you hear me?"
One of the Heelnavi's placed his hand to his ear, "Suitachi?" he asked, "I thought my designation was Blue Ba-"
"Never mind that," interrupted Suitachi, "The champion navi is preparing the Meteors battlechip. Are you in position?"
Tempoman nodded his head and adopted a crouched position. As blasts whizzed past his head causing several purple navis to explode into vapor, he silently cursed the disgusting GMO that the AIPC had forced them to wear. Beside him stood Ookami, similarly disguised and quickly giving directions to his water clones. Cursing as two more melted under the onslaught, he unhooked a flask from his hip and tossed it onto the ground, instantly forming six identical heelnavis from the spilled water. "That's all I have for a while," he said, turning to face Tempoman and nodding his head, "hope you and your netOp can do your part."
Tempoman said nothing, instead opting to squint through the thick smoke at the glowing female figure. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll take it from here."
Shin gave a concerned look to Keaira who was staring intently at her PET, biting her lower lip nervously as Titania charged the Meteors chip. As the petite asian girl rocked on the balls of her feet, the black-clad youth hesitated. Should he say something? He should probably try to be supportive, but nothing suitable came to mind. Just as he was about to open his mouth, however, Shuilong's battle report gave him something substantially more important to worry about. "No worries Shuilong," he yelled, attention directed toward the battle at hand, "Heat-V, Wideshot, slot-in!"
"Take... THIS!" roared Shuilong as he unloaded the devastating Heat-V at two more oncoming Heelnavis. The powerful flames caused the purple navis to dissipate instantaneously, but two more quickly rose up to take their place. Caught off-guard and unable to use the Wideshot due to the close range, the large dragon stumbled backward...
...Only to be saved by a large pink ball that crashed down in front of him, crushing the watery opponents into oblivion. As the ball popped shortly thereafter, Capuchin, supporting the wounded Toshokan stumbled over to the dragon-navi's side. "This isn't good," she said, glancing around nervously, "There's still an awful lot of Heelnavis around. I don't know if we're going to be able to make it."
"Don't worry," replied Shuilong, glancing over at Titania, "that new Meteors chip should even the odds." The blue navi squinted as the red glow surrounding the archer became brighter than ever. "Looks like she's releasing it right... about..."
"Now!" said Suitachi, slotting in a pair of battlechips, "The Meteor chip data has been uploaded. Commence the final stages of the operation."
Tempoman's purple Heelnavi outfit wavered in the wind as a hellish red glow surrounded it. "Affirmative," he said, the GMO altering his voice to a raspy tone, "Waterboy, we're moving out! Executing Battle Routines!"
Shuilong wasn't sure what surprised him more. The fact that one of the Heelnavi's had suddenly started glowing red, or the fact that that Heelnavi's knee was now lodged in his gut. Time seemed to slow down as the massive dragon-navi crumpled to his knees, stunned. "Sorry," said the Heelnavi as he disappeared once again, "but as I said before, we're not leaving without that chip."
"Horse feed!" yelled Teethman, discarding the shield in favor of a long chain of jagged teeth, "Neglect regarding this opposition? This exists your ultimate mishap!" The long whip raked the Heelnavi's back, causing him to stumble to the ground. As Hal sent him the final sword battlechip, Teethman steeled his legs to leap into the air, grasping the luminescent blade tightly in his hands. He was about to press off when a small flask crashed on the floor nearby. Teethman's optical sensors widened in surprise...
...as he found himself suddenly sinking into a pool of water!
Tempoman staggered to his feet, his CPU rapidly reaching its limit and his body burning with the heat from his overclocked processors. Teethman's whip had caught him straight on, and his back was now torn in several places. As the first meteors began to rain down on the field, however, he realized that his window of opportunity was almost up. Activating a yellow blade on his left hand, he utilized the final chip that his netOp had sent him.
Oberon saw it coming from a mile away. He wanted to scream, to get in the way, to do something. He forced with all his might to take control. She had already taken too much punishment... she wouldn't be able to survive the next strike... she needed him to protect her.
...just like he used to when they were...
The yellow blade was at Titania's neck before she could even respond. The unearthly saffron glow lit up her body as the Heelnavi plunged it deep into her chest. She felt data being sucked out of her as the yellow blade extracted the chip data from deep within...
Beneath his GMO disguise, Ookami frowned. He didn't understand how he and Adam had gotten involved with such a venture. All he knew was that unless the Meteors chip was obtained, a lot of bad things were going to happen... at least, that was the way their benefactor had described it. He tried to force out the unsettling vision of Tempoman stabbing the tournament champion with the justification that it was for a good cause...
...but just then, he was confronted by an even more unsettling vision...
"Oh dear lord..." he heard his netOp say out loud, "She's a he... too!"
Tempoman suddenly realized that holding the crumpled form of a girl when her boyfriend erupted from her back was a very bad position to be in.
Particularly when he could see that boyfriend wielding a gigantic blade, easily twice his height and glimmering with all seven colors of the rainbow.
The first stroke slashed his central control unit, disengaging the GMO instantly and disintegrating the jack-out barrier. The newly revealed small blue navi staggered backward, clutching his chest.
He didn't want to stick around to see what the second stroke would do.
"Jack out!" he yelled, eyes widening in fear, "Jack out, Jack out, JACK OU-"