Life was a weird thing. Just like that, Tohma was back with them like nothing
horrible had ever happened between them in the first place. Well, at least
there'd be times when Masaru could think it was like that. But eventually,
something would remind him again that life wasn't such a simple repetitive
cycle. Something would be different at every revolution.
He'd never admit it, but thanks to Tohma's return, Masaru was able to pick himself back up with renewed strength and stand up to Kurata, willing Agumon to come back to the fight. And all went well. They defeated Belphemon. They defeated Kurata and his ambitions. After he'd gone and merged himself with Belphemon, Masaru and the others got their sweet taste of victory with ShineGreymon's Burst Mode. The menacing scientist would no longer be a threat to their world or the Digital World. He'd been solidly arrested and placed under the government's custody.
But that menace had left a lot of work behind for the old DATS group.
The human world had taken a great deal of damage from Kurata's work, and it was still prone to having Digimon slip through from the Digital World. Having lost Mercurimon and the holy capital, the Digital World would be in no happy situation either. The struggle against the Seven Deadly Sins would come back into action.
After finally clearing the case with the Confidentiality Ministry, DATS was given permission to re-establish itself with the immediate order to help stabilize the situation between both worlds. Yushima showed up and spoke to the Ministry in Satsuma's stead, as their Captain was still missing in action. Yushima had reassured them that Satsuma was fine, however. He had no solid proof, but somehow his usual light-hearted attitude was enough to give everyone that reassurance.
Their old HQ had been burnt down, yet they were in need of a large area where they could set up necessary equipment. There was limited space in what had previously been Kurata's research facilities, and a majority of usable buildings in the area had been destroyed as well, so their hopes of finding an open building were close to zilch...
Until Tohma offered his mansion as a temporary station.
The Ministry explained the situation to the father Norstein, who was still at the Japanese Norstein residence with his daughter. He easily complied, saying that he was going back to Austria anyway, and his son was free to do whatever he pleased with the Japan mansion.
The DATS members who had fought in the final battle against Kurata were all there when the head Norstein had given permission to the Ministry. As well as the little girl in the wheelchair... She merely sat quietly during the entire procedure, however, as it was only when the crowd started to disperse from the Norstein residence did she start speaking... to the older man that was Tohma's father as she was carried away. The rest of the DATS members all waited to leave, curious about the supposed Norsteins they had never seen before, until Tohma implied they get going.
But just before they left the door, Masaru remembered something. " Hey guys, anybody up for a celebration at my place tonight? My mom's making a feast!"
" Really?" Yoshino's eyes seemed to dance at the word "feast." " Oh, but I already made some plans with my friends. I kind of need to calm them down about the situation too."
With the magnitude of the recent incident as massive as it was, the Ministry knew they couldn't cover up everything anymore. The situation was far beyond reverse, with so many buildings destroyed and perhaps distant witnesses, for whoever would have been in the area around the early morning when they fought Belphemon. For now, they had forsaken the memory-erasing device, since the media was already catching onto them and they didn't want to risk making the mess worse. They had to do their best to keep the situation manageable and to let DATS do their job without obstruction. It was the least they could do after letting a guy like Kurata slip through their system.
" Thanks, but the two of us have people we need to contact too, and then we want to go relax in hotsprings!" Megumi slung an arm around Miki as she spoke, grinning.
" Whatever suits you girls." Masaru shrugged. " I'll see you around some other time then."
" Sure thing, Masaru!" the girls said as they continued their way out. " Hey, why don't we let PawnChessmon give the hotsprings a try too? I'm sure they'd love it!"
" Good idea, Miki! Let's do it!"
" Although my mom will be kind of sad... Hmm, I guess that just leaves you, Tohma." Masaru turned to face the blond. " Or are you going to be busy with the setup here?"
" No, we won't be able to bring in any of the equipment until tomorrow afternoon."
He paused there, however, hesitant to say more.
" Then all should be good!" Masaru chimed, grinning. " Mom and Chika have been wanting to see you too, so don't feel the need to hold back or anything."
" ....." Tohma seemed to just stare in deep thought at Masaru for a moment, but then he nodded in his usual curt fashion. " All right then. If they insist..."
" Hey, I'M the one who's inviting you." Masaru's raised his eyebrows.
Tohma gave a small laugh. " Of course. Then I'll be counting on you as the host, Masaru."
" Hmph. I'll give you the time of your life!"
The words had slipped out so naturally. He witnessed Tohma flushing slightly at his words and Masaru blinked a few times.
" Oh... okay then! If you're ready, then come on over," he said as he started marching out on the long pavement.
He sensed Tohma reach into step at his side.
They walked in silence to the outside of the gate and went down several blocks.
Strange. Just hours ago, he couldn't even imagine this kind of calm visiting them. All he could think about was defeating Kurata and getting his comrades back. Getting Agumon back. Getting Tohma back...
" Tohma, don't think that punch back there settles everything."
Tohma didn't say anything at first; he just turned to look at Masaru.
" I know."
They had a slight staring contest as they walked, but the bustle of the street noise around them prevented Masaru from speaking the other question nagging his mind. He decided to clear the atmosphere instead.
" But for now, it's time for celebrating. We just saved the world! Who knows if we'll ever have this kind of opportunity again."
" Mom's really going to enjoy having you over. She's been sad that you couldn't eat with us while we were in the shelter..."
He'd ask later...
Although he really did want to know what was up with Tohma's behavior on ElDoradimon followed by the Kurata mess, he figured it wasn't so important to know after all. When they had been in the middle of the fight against Belphemon, the memories naturally didn't come to his mind, but now that he was given the opportunity, he had realized there were gaps between them that still existed. And normally he wouldn't even concern himself with those kinds of things, but they were bugging him now. He wasn't even sure why...
" Say, what day is it today?"
" It's April the 5th."
" Uwa, seriously?!"
" My birthday was on the 2nd... I completely didn't realize."
" It was a pretty hectic couple of weeks. We all lost track of the date."
" Yeah, but still..."
" Then tonight's celebration can make up for it, right?"
A tall figure suddenly shadowed them as they turned the corner to the street of the Daimon residence. Instincts kicking in, Masaru twisted to sock the threat in the face, only to see his fist colliding with something big... and furry. He blinked.
With the sunset glaring behind the tall figure, Masaru had to squint, but he could readily tell it was the banchou. Again, the banchou had caught Masaru's fist inside his own. But unlike the previous time, there was no resent in his grip.
" Heading home, Masaru?" BanchouLeomon asked with a light smile spreading through his wide lion mouth.
" Yeah," Masaru replied, retracting his fist. " Wanna come? Mom's hosting a feast, but so far Tohma's the only other person coming."
" Hmm, a feast. That sounds nice. I'll accept your invitation."
Just like that, they continued on their way to the Daimon residence, large Digimon trailing with them. Even if BanchouLeomon had snuck up on them, he was still their guiding ally and a banchou. A banchou, like any other man, didn't need words to explain himself. Only his fists.
Luckily, no one else in the neighborhood seemed to notice the lion man walking down the street. Tohma, however, looked perplexed.
" What are you doing here, BanchouLeomon?"
" How long have you been here?"
" I arrived here in the human world not long after all of you returned. I've been watching over all of you since then."
Tohma seemed like he wanted to ask another question, but he instead fell silent.
" I won't ask why you did what you did, but it's good that you came back. Tohma, was it?"
" Yes," Tohma replied in respect.
" Hm. Aside from that, I was a little surprised to see your combination with Masaru work so well. I was watching your battle against Belphemon."
" Your instincts were able to tell Masaru what to do when the Burst Mode power appeared. I probably would've had to step in and instruct this boy myself if it weren't for you." He pointed to the boy in front of him.
" Ah?" Masaru turned around as if to take offense in the banchou's words, but all thought of doing so fled as he saw Tohma's expression. The blond looked like he'd come to a huge, shocking realization. Of what, Masaru had no idea. He could only sense the raw strength of that realization through the intensity of Tohma's blank gaze.
A large, furry hand settling on Masaru's hair and ruffling it up distracted him again.
" Of course, you did well in achieving that Burst Mode itself. Congratulations, Masaru."
Masaru felt himself blushing at the compliment. There was something very nostalgic about getting his hair ruffled in this situation. In fact, it was right around that time, and right around that street area where he last saw his father ten years ago...
" THANKS FOR THE FOOD!"
Mountains of tamagoyaki and curry covered the table. Ikuto and Falcomon were already inhaling the food, which led to Masaru yelling at them as he went to secure his share. Agumon took the opportunity to dive in as well, resulting in building chaos.
" Oh, Ikuto, you're still here," Tohma commented among the noise.
" Mom and Dad come for me tomorrow. Trip to Yokohama is too long to come today."
" See? Aren't you glad you have family in this world, Ikuto?" Masaru said between gobbles of curry.
" I hear your father wants to help DATS again, so we'll still get to see each other," said Tohma, " You guys were a great help, Ikuto, Falcomon."
Falcomon gave an honest little blush at the compliment, while Ikuto just "hmped" with a grin and continued to chow down.
" Friends are always strong! It's a given!" he proclaimed.
" I won't be there to make sure you're staying clean, but make sure you take your baths regularly!" Chika said to Ikuto. " If you don't..."
Tohma turned towards Masaru while Chika and Ikuto's (one-sided) conversation continued on the other end of the table. " Your little sister is fearsome as always."
" Hmm?" Masaru hadn't even been paying attention since all of it had been going into the food in front of him. " Hurry up and eat before it's all gone, you guys."
Tohma, Gaomon and BanchouLeomon still hadn't touched their chopsticks. Tohma and Gaomon quickly joined in, but BanchouLeomon just kept on watching the scene at the table. Sayuri was sitting next to BanchouLeomon on their side of the table, except she hadn't started eating either. In fact, she seemed to be completely dazed out.
" Oi, Mom. You okay?" Masaru had never really seen his mother daze out like that. BanchouLeomon waved a hand in front of her face.
" Oh!" she said with a slight jump. " I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. Please, help yourself all you like, BanchouLeomon-san."
The banchou nodded and took a tamagoyaki in one bite. The others watched in awe and slight shock as an uncharacteristically satisfied smile arose on his muzzle.
And as such, their meal was lively as ever, as if welcoming the return to peace with open arms.
BanchouLeomon excused himself not long after the meal, promising that they'd meet again soon. Sayuri asked where he'd be going, but he made no answer and simply left. She could have easily insisted, but instead she merely watched as the Digimon departed into the distance, gakuran flapping against the wind.
The nightly activities consisted of mostly board games, as usual, and even Tohma managed to get his forehead flicked at several times. Before they knew it, the sun was long gone from the horizon and Sayuri had to interrupt the games to tell Ikuto to take a bath. Usually, Agumon and Falcomon would go after Ikuto and Masaru, but...
" I suppose I should be heading back then," Tohma rose to his feet, game pieces still covering the board on the floor.
Sayuri stepped in with her usual courteous manner. " Tohma-kun, why don't you stay for the night?"
Tohma's eyebrows visibly raised. " Eh, but I couldn't.."
" No need to hold back. I was hoping the others would've come because I would have asked them as well. I'm sure you have much to catch up with Masaru. How about it, Masaru?"
" Huh?" He had actually felt his heart jump at his mother's words. Tohma... sleeping over...? After everything they had gone through, this was... a little sudden, wasn't it? Wait, why was he thinking that he needed that kind of mental preparation anyway? It was just Tohma... Just...
" Sure," he said before he could really think against it.
He could feel Tohma staring at him now as Sayuri clapped her hands together, satisfied. What had he just gotten himself into?
Not only that, but he was going to be bathing WITH Tohma. Sayuri arranged it so that Agumon and Falcomon went with Ikuto, and Gaomon wasn't the type to need baths daily. In fact, he had already gone to sleep in the Digivice. That just left the two of them...
Masaru was already on his last soak inside the bathtub before Tohma even entered the washroom.
When Tohma walked in, he saw Masaru sitting back on the wall, "casually" soaking up the water heat. He sighed.
And as Tohma started up the shower head next to the tub, he started off a conversation at the same time. " You went off to unlock a power beyond the Ultimate level. Reckless as always. You really are something."
" Hey, that recklessness saved two worlds. You're still complaining?"
Tohma chuckled. " I'm not complaining. I'm just still a little..."
Silence. Whatever it was, he definitely didn't look like he was going to tell Masaru. Maybe he didn't want to know. Either way, that attitude was bugging him.
" Whatever. We won. It's the results that matter, remember?"
" Results... ah."
Tohma went on to rinse his hair, ending their conversation.
...Where was the opposition? Normally, Masaru would expect Tohma to hold a better argument than this, but something was obviously bothering the blond. He changed his mind. He DID want to know.
" So what's your deal? Bitter about not being so Mr. Perfect anymore?" He asked as Tohma finished washing his hair.
Tohma didn't reply at first. Turning off the shower, he just stood up and stepped leg first between Masaru's legs in the bathtub.
" Move over."
Tohma brought his other leg in, refusing Masaru any extra leg space.
" Okay, okay, I got it. I got it," he said hastily as he retreated to half the tub.
They soaked up the water heat for about a minute before Tohma spoke. " How long has it been since I've used a Japanese style bath..."
But it wasn't like Masaru could say anything about that. Instead of answering, he squirted some water at Tohma with his palms.
" Enough dawdling. Tell me what's on your mind already."
Seeing Masaru's piercing gaze, Tohma sighed in defeat. " Masaru, back then, you... you said I should atone with my life."
" ......" A whirl of bad memories came back to him at the reminder. He'd said that in the midst of the bout of rage he was regretting the most now. How... deeply had Tohma taken those words?
" ...I mean, what I really wanted to say is that... the Burst power... It really saved us back there. I'm glad you found it, Masaru."
Huh? He'd said something so terrible to Tohma and now he was getting complimented? " The... The others have Burst Modes, right?"
" I would safely assume so," Tohma replied. " We have Burst Digivices, after all. It's just a matter of bringing them out... if it's ever necessary from this point."
" Hmph. Who knows. ...Speaking of which, how DID you know how to activate the Burst Mode when it showed up? BanchouLeomon was talking about it... and you weren't even around when he explained its existence..."
" ......I sensed it in my heart."
Masaru froze. Sure, he'd heard something similar earlier, when he had punched the lights out of Tohma before fighting Belphemon... but this time, something seemed way out of context.
" The warmth of your Digisoul... it reached us all, Masaru. It's your power."
" Geez, I thought there was an actual scientific explanation to it." Masaru tried to sound disappointed, but somehow it wasn't quite coming out.
" Nope. When it comes to you, it's just that simple sometimes."
" Hey, what's that supposed to mean? What do you mean, simple?"
" I'm just saying that you're not a very complicated person. Take it as a compliment if you must."
" Haa?" Masaru stared in disbelief at the blond for a moment. That guy... why did he have to say it so callously? It ticked him off.
He remembered hearing somewhere, probably from his own father, that being naked symbolized opening up oneself, away from the walls people put up when they have clothes on. It symbolized being honest and a willingness to share thoughts normally kept reserved. He thought it would be an all meditative, empathetic kind of experience if it were with another guy around his age.
Instead, he felt all sort of tension building in him, yet not all of it was negative tension. Some of it was simply because it was his first time being with another guy like this. Well, he'd taken baths with his father when he was really little, and he took baths with Ikuto, but those were both completely different to him. Where was all this other tension coming from?
" Whatever, I'm out," he said as he got up from the tub.
" So soon?"
" You said it's been a long time since you've used a Japanese style bath, right? Go enjoy it while you can. I'll be back in the room."
Any longer like that and his thoughts would be going down an odd end, he sensed.
Agumon, Ikuto and Falcomon were already sprawled on the floor, snoozing away with the room lights still on. That wasn't surprising. It'd been a long day for them, seeing as they'd been awake since fighting Belphemon even before daybreak.
Wait... Normally, he'd share the bed with Agumon. If Agumon and the other two were on the floor, where would Tohma...
He contemplated waking up Agumon to sleep next to his usual partner. He nudged the reptile and even gave him a light kick, but the yellow guy wouldn't even grumble a response. Che.
Tohma came in (wearing a set of Masaru's nightwear) and observed the scene below him. Masaru still had a foot on Agumon.
" What are you doing?" the guest asked.
" ...Nothing. Geez, they all went to sleep before we even got here."
" That's fine. I was getting sleepy anyway. Where am I going to..." he glanced around for space on the floor.
" On the bed, with me," Masaru said straight to the point.
Without another word, Masaru dived down like he habitually did onto his bed. " Ah...~ It's been a while." He closed his eyes. He sensed Tohma getting on the other side, but when he opened his eyes again, Tohma was facing away and already trying to get to sleep.
" Oi, turn off the lights."
" Oh..." the blond lethargically lifted his head up to look near the bed for a light switch, expecting to find them there.
For once, it was Masaru's turn to sigh. " It's fine. I got it."
He swiftly jumped off the bed and went to switch off the lights near the door. He trotted back to the bed, partially feeling his way to avoid the floor sleepers. Moonlight and streetlights seeped in through the window to guide his way.
" Good night, Masaru..." came Tohma's voice as soon as he hit the sheets again.
That was all? Wait, was he expecting more? Or was Tohma expecting something? Huh?
Well, did it matter? Peace had returned to them for now. Let bygones be bygones...
" Hey Tohma."
In the moonlight, Masaru could clearly see the silhouette of Tohma's back facing him. His blond hair was reflecting against the light as well, making him illuminate in a way Masaru had never seen before. He stared, mesmerized by the color effect. Stared... and stared...
Memories of ElDoradimon popped back into his head. If Tohma could do it... it wouldn't be surprising for him to do it too, right? He was just a little... curious.
He nudged himself closer until he could press his forehead onto Tohma's back.
No sudden reaction came. He could feel Tohma's deep breathing moving him ever so slightly. Tohma... he'd seriously fallen asleep already. Well, that sort of ruined the moment, he first thought.
Up that close, he could smell Tohma's scent enveloping his senses. He found it unusually... pleasant for a guy. Maybe it had something to do with his whole being-a-nobleman deal? Not that he was trying to generalize or anything, but he couldn't help but let the thought come across his mind.
He shuffled in a little closer, just like how Tohma did back then, even though they had a blanket this time. And he didn't find anything uncomfortable about it.
But he knew he should've found it uncomfortable. This guy used to piss him off so much. Even now, there were things that he hadn't cleared up with Tohma. He didn't get why Tohma did the things he did after they met ElDoradimon. He didn't get Tohma.
He didn't get himself, for that matter. He didn't get why things about Tohma were bugging him so much in the first place. He thought he could get it all out when he had punched him a big one before their final showdown against Belphemon, but something was still missing. If only he knew exactly what it was, he wouldn't be feeling this constant frustration in the back of his mind. Even if he was comfortable for the moment, it wasn't a complete comfort. Not like the old days before he had joined DATS.
Is that when it had really begun? All the way back then? No, he thought he had been fine up until recently... Just when had it really begun then? Masaru had the slightest feeling that there was a lot more to it than he was aware of at the moment. Now he was just confusing himself... Giving up for the moment, he told himself to look ahead, and as he did, he met Tohma's back right up in his face.
...Tohma was there. That was good enough for now.
Masaru was the first of the two to wake up. He sat up on his bed and looked around to see that Ikuto and the Digimon were out of the room already. Strange, he thought. Normally, he would've woken up from all the noise they made in the morning. Maybe he was just that dead tired. He never did have much of a knack for knowing when he was exhausted, and during times like that, it was almost impossible for anything to wake him up.
He heard a slight mumble, then saw two sapphire eyes open and turn towards him. " ...Masaru?" the blond said as if just noticing he had woken up in an unfamiliar room.
Masaru almost felt chills down his spine. It was odd hearing Tohma sound so... unaware. " O... Oh. Mornin'."
" ...Morning." Tohma took his gaze off and closed his eyes again, seeming to go back to sleep.
" You still tired?"
" Not really. I slept well," Tohma commented. " But..."
" I was too sleepy last night. Come back down here."
" Eh?" Masaru wasn't sure he understood what Tohma was talking about.
Before he could react, Tohma brought an arm around him and pushed him back down on the bed. Tohma let go of Masaru and laid back to face the ceiling.
" I've always wanted to do this."
After some fussing from being pushed down, Masaru paused as he lifted himself back up with his elbows. " Do what?" Masaru said skeptically.
" Have a sleepover."
" Oh." He blinked. " That's it?"
" What do you mean, 'That's it?'"
" Uh... so wait, you've never had a sleepover before?"
Masaru felt like he should've known. He scratched his head. " Well, then that just means even you've got stuff to learn still, yeah? Now that Kurata's gone, it's time to go back to learning the joys of life... kind of thing~"
" I'm looking forward to teaming up with you again."
That caught Masaru's attention. Tohma looked at him straight in the eyes. There was an earnest flare of anticipation within that gaze. Masaru found himself smiling. For a moment, he could forget about all of the odd occurrences and look forward to the daily fights in the streets and eating his mother's good cooking and generally enjoying his Yokohama lifestyle... with even tighter bonds among his comrades. " Yeah. Me too."
" Good to hear. The others are probably waiting for us to come down." Tohma rolled to his side and got up from the bed. " I ought to invite you for a sleepover at my place next time. What do you eat for breakfast here?"
Tohma stared at Masaru for a moment, as if to say something insulting in his typical manner, but he soon gave up and went to change out of Masaru's pajamas right in the middle of the room.
There he went again, Masaru noticed. There was something on Tohma's mind and he wasn't telling him...
" Hey Tohma."
" I've got something to ask you. On ElDora-"
" ANIKIIIIIII ARE YOU UP YET?! Breakfast is ready! If you aren't up yet, I'm gonna eat your share!"
Just then, Agumon nearly busted the door open, right in the midst of Tohma changing with nothing but his briefs on. The blond gave a little jump at the sudden interruption as the yellow reptile sauntered in.
" Hey, is that the way to treat your Aniki?! Oi, keep the door closed, Agumon!" Masaru yelled.
" Huh? What for?"
" Masaru-niichan! Aren't you guys up yet? What's keeping you?"
" Aah, Chika! Don't come in he-"
They had a day off as a break before recommencing DATS activities. Ikuto's parents had come to pick up their son, so the boy from the Digital World wasn't with them, but they all knew they would meet from time to time.
And Masaru went to school for the first time in what felt like ages to him. He sensed that it would be a really warm day, so he rode his bike to catch some cool air on the way. The days were getting pretty hot anyway, so he'd figure he'd go back to his bike-riding habit since after school, it would help him get to Tohma's mansion and back home faster.
His classmates met him with their usual mixed reactions; most just went on their own business since they didn't want to have anything to do with Japan's biggest fighter, while his buddies struck up cheerful greetings and started joking with him once again, just like old times. He was honestly glad to see them.
He was never interested in the classes, of course... his teachers would admonish him for not paying attention and they would emphasize the fact that he was behind the rest of the class, but he never cared. For the moment, he was just enjoying the nostalgia, because everything else around him was changing...
He pedaled the bike towards Tohma's mansion after school for their recommencement meeting. Now that he thought of it, it was his first time riding his bike towards the nobleman's area. There was a ridiculously steep upwards slope on the way, very near the mansion gates, and he almost had to get off his bike to walk up it, but he mustered up his manly will and biked through it to the top. And he laughed victoriously to himself for it. At least it'd be something to look forward to going the other way. He continued on to the Norstein mansion gates and was allowed inside after identifying himself at the intercom.
It'd be something he'd need to get used to, having to identify himself at the intercom every time. With the old DATS building, he could just identify himself with his thumbprint for access. Now it was one of the blacksuit male Norstein attendants who let him in. He knew it was all part of stepping up the security, but it still felt a little awkward.
Everything had happened so quickly, they hardly had been given time to see how far they had come until now. As far as Masaru was concerned, he was just happy things could go back to how they were before Kurata... so he kept telling himself. In fact, while chatting with the old DATS girls upon arriving at the Norstein mansion, they had all come to the consensus of using terms like "pre-Kurata" "Kurata-DATS war" "post-Kurata" and such for the future. It was an odd feeling for them.
" We've just made history, haven't we," Shirakawa said with a mix of anticipation and concern.
" There's still much left to be made!" a new voice roared in from the hallway outside.
BanchouLeomon stepped in through the grand doors which had been left open. He took a quick glance around, surveying the temporary facilities. The ballroom had been converted to the main headquarters, so while there were strange massive machines set in the wide space, the chandeliers, ornate decorations and huge balcony windows gave the place a very different atmosphere. Not that BanchouLeomon knew it felt different to the others.
" Now that the human world is fully aware of the Digital World's existence, things could get very ugly if not handled cautiously from here on in. Don't loosen up just because Kurata's not around to make things worse. There could be many more like him in the future."
" No way am I gonna let that happen," Masaru growled. " I've had enough of guys like him. I'll pummel every last one of them off my turf."
" Yeah! You get 'em, Aniki! Say, how big's your turf? Your turf's called Japan or something, right?"
" Yep! Hey awesome, you remembered!"
" Yeah, 'cause it's Aniki! No one beats Aniki on his turf!"
A small, collective sigh from the girls resonated in the room.
" You haven't changed at all..." Yoshino muttered.
" Hey, wait. Are you joining DATS or something, BanchouLeomon?" Masaru asked, looking up at the lion man with some confusion.
" I'll stick around... to a certain degree."
" What's that supposed to mean?" Yoshino said, lifting an eyebrow.
" That is, I'll be doing as I selfishly please, as usual," the banchou replied in light humor.
Tohma entered at that moment, followed by... Captain Satsuma and Kudamon. Satsuma was wearing his DATS uniform like nothing had ever changed. The rest of the DATS team stared in awe.
" Captain Satsuma! You really are alive!" Masaru was the first to exclaim.
" Of course. Did you really think Kudamon and I would get taken down? We've got a lot of work to do. There's no time to celebrate now that we've got the organization set back up."
Just as ever, their Captain left no room for joking around or arguing. The others couldn't help but silently revel in the nostalgia of his presence. That is, except for BanchouLeomon, who looked mildly... surprised?
" So you're their... Captain, I take it?" BanchouLeomon asked.
" Yes, and you are...?"
" He showed us how to bring out the Burst Digivice's power," Masaru added.
" Hmm. So you've all obtained the power of the Ultimate." Satsuma stated objectively.
" Yoshino, Masaru, Ikuto and I have at least. Masaru has even reached the Burst Mode," Tohma said.
" Burst Mode?" Kudamon asked. " Even I've not heard of that."
" Don't know if you'll get an opportunity to ever see it," Masaru said with a shrug. " Unless another guy as powerful as Belphemon comes along."
" What, are you TRYING to jinx it?" Yoshino lashed out. " Once is enough!"
" Hmm, maybe I am," Masaru replied with a distinct carefreeness in his tone. But he quickly switched to a firmer tone. " Things'll get pretty boring if all the other challenges aren't as challenging."
" Not all challenges come in the form of stronger opponents, Masaru," Tohma said as he came to stand between Masaru and Yoshino.
" Dude, I know."
" As I thought you would."
" Then why bother mentioning it?"
" ......Captain Satsuma, I know you just got back, but if you'd have the honors of starting us off..."
" Hey, did you even hear me?"
" Masaru." The strain in Satsuma's voice was enough to quiet him up.
Captain Satsuma cleared his throat with a cough, then realigned his standing position to face everyone in the room.
" You've come such a long way since the last time I saw you all. Especially you three, who have obtained the power of the Ultimate. You have a lot to be proud of." He and Kudamon shared their gaze on Masaru, Tohma and Yoshino.
" In the past, priority of our activities remained in maintaining confidentiality, and thus close-knit cooperation amongst our members was a necessity. Now that the general public knows about our activities, our method of operations will have to change drastically to fit the new demand. Our first step in doing this involves reaching out to that general public to assure every person out there that our organization means to secure their safety."
" You may be wondering exactly how involved DATS will be for this step. As you already know, the Ministry has taken up responsibility for this, but even they have their limits on how much they can convince the public on their own. As such, we have the duty to uphold our part of the involvement."
Masaru was already kind of dazing out at the talk. As much as he was excited to be at his first day back at DATS, he still didn't feel much towards general motivational speeches. He looked at Agumon, who looked just about as attention-deficient as Masaru himself was. The yellow guy's large eyes seemed glazed over.
" The general public will not be convinced simply by the Ministry's words. They will want to see exactly what is being done on the technical side, the people directly handling the cases, ecetera. That would be us."
" And here is where things will change, at least for the time being. The Ministry has suggested that we run programs on various media that offer insight to our organization. There will be a public website, and our other members will handle most of the other mediums. The biggest and most important one however, would be a special television program to run weekly for several months. And that's where we come in."
" Seeing how far the three of you have come, it's about time you all took your own steps as individuals. Therefore, the three of you will all be assigned different shifts, and you will all be participating in the television program."
...Wait, this was just a motivational speech, right?
Things were... going to be back to normal, weren't they?
" I'll give you one warning. They'll break you if you're not aware of yourself. Always keep your goals in mind."
" Wait, are you saying we won't be fighting together anymore?"
" Just right when we really started getting along as a team..."
They all stared at the freshly-returned Captain. Was this really him?
Yet all he did was stand tall as he always did and speak in loud volumes for the rest of the room to hear him. " Henceforth, Digital Accident Tactics Squad will re-commence!"
Basically, I just took away Kurata's toys so he had no buttons to press in his defeat. And then this happened.