Today I awoke on the couch in a half sitting position and according to the clock on the DVD player it was six-o-three in the morning. Last night I ended up tossing and turning for an hour before deciding to watch some television to distract me long enough to fall asleep. It had eventually worked around midnight when a boring documentary had put me to sleep.
"About six hours," I yawned, reflecting on the amount of sleep I believed I had gotten. "Maybe I'll just get a little more…"
Before I could finish my thought something cold was pressed against the side of my neck, making me jump away from it. Looking up I found Sora dressed in her yellow track suit and holding two water bottles, one which she had placed against my neck.
"Don't even think about it," she glared at me. "It's time for our morning run."
"Right…" I sighed, knowing it wouldn't do any good to protest; either way I was going to end up going.
Every morning since our first trip to the Digital World we had gone running for half an hour. It was a good practice to get into and really helped with our performance in our different clubs and activities. We only skipped on busy or rainy days. The first day of school counted as a busy day so we took a break, but today it was back to our normal routine.
"Get dressed," she ordered, pointing down the hall to my room.
"Fine…" I groaned as I pushed myself up from the couch and headed to my room to change.
"And don't you dare go back to sleep," she added, making me twitch; giving away the fact that she had caught onto my plan.
A minute later I returned to the living room dressed in my black exercise shirt and red shorts. Sora tossed me my water bottle, which she had filled for me, and we headed out. We followed our normal route through the neighborhood, looped through the small forest of a local park, and back towards the apartment. By the time we got back it was six-forty and we were drenched in sweat.
Sora was the first to hit the shower since she needed more time to get ready and make breakfast, so that left me to cool down in the living room. Ten minutes later she emerged from the bathroom and told me I could go in. Thanks to me becoming lost in the thoughts of what had happened four days ago now, plus what we had found out yesterday, I ended up taking nearly fifteen minutes in the shower compared to my normal five.
When I came back out I could smell breakfast cooking and hear Sora getting her stuff sorted out on the kitchen table. I hurried to my room and changed into my school uniform before making my way to the kitchen. I tossed my backpack onto the sofa and prepared to ask my sister what was for breakfast, but through the opening in the kitchen I saw someone else standing before the stove.
"Morning mom," I greeted her politely.
"Good morning, Takuya," she greeted me back with a smile as she stirred something on the stovetop, sending delicious sounding sizzles and crackles into the air.
"I thought you'd be gone by now," I inquired as I sat at the table.
"Nope, there isn't a flower delivery today, so I don't have to be there until opening time," my mother answered with a smile. "So I thought I'd give your sister a break today and do the cooking."
"I'll also be nice to eat together considering it's been a while since we have," Sora added, slipping her notebook into her messenger bag before closing the flap and setting it on the floor next to her.
"Sorry, things have been pretty busy at the shop lately, but hopefully they'll calm down for a while," my mother tiredly smiled at us as she scrapped three servings of whatever was in the frying pan onto plates and passed my sister and I's food through the kitchen archway.
I was glad it was the three of us eating breakfast together since it meant two things. First, it had been a while since we had enjoyed a family meal besides from dinner. And second, it meant that Sora would be too distracted by talking with mom to ask me if I wanted to talk about what was bothering me.
"You two can leave the dishes to me, so get going," mother told us as she stacked our dirty plates and headed for the kitchen.
The task of cleanup taken care of Sora and I gathered our stuff and headed out the door. It only took us six minutes to reach the spot where we meant to meet Tai the other day. Today, he was waiting for us, sprawled out on the bus bench and staring off into the sky. It seemed that my sisters glaring warning last night about not making us wait again was enough to get him motivated this morning.
"Hey," I greeted him with a yawn as I leaned over the back of the bench.
"Hey," Tai yawned back before beginning to get up.
"Neither one of you look like you got much sleep last night," Sora sighed as she shook her head in disappointment.
"Of course not, I was too excited to sleep," Tai replied, apparently believing that his claim would justify his bad habit. "We are heading back to the Digital World today after all. Well, it'll be my second time today, but both of your firsts in four years."
In response to his announcement all I could do was let out a depressed sigh. Hearing my sigh of displeasure Sora took it upon herself to explain my mood to Tai. "Unfortunately, Takuya's going to be sitting this one out since he's going out for the karate team after school today. If he doesn't show, he doesn't get a spot."
"That sucks," Tai gave me a sympathetic laugh before a concerned look spread across his face. "Wait! You're still going to join the soccer team this year, right? I mean you can do both? I can't lose both Sora and you from the team."
"I can definitely do both, so don't worry. I'm not going to abandon you like certain other people," I remarked and quickly received a blow to my shoulder from my sister.
"I didn't abandon anyone. I just grew up," she coyly smiled at us she began to continue the walk to school.
"Hey, are you insulting soccer or us," Tai growled, but my sister never gave an answer besides from a victorious laugh.
It only took us a few more minutes to reach the school and settle into another day of lessons. Hours later the final bell rang and we filed out into the school entrance.
"Another day down…" I sighed as I watched the others get ready to leave.
"Yeah, so when's your tryout," Matt turned to me and asked as he slid a text book from his locker into his bag.
"About an hour from now. Why? Do you want to come and cheer me on?" I responded with a mocking smile.
"No matter how entertaining seeing you get kicked around might be, I've got another band meeting to get to," he answered back. "Anyways, isn't that what you have a sister and Tai for?"
"You'd think," I rejoined as I glared at the two who were avoiding my gaze while hurrying to get packed and ready to leave. "They're heading to the Digital World without me today and are leaving me to tryout all alone."
"Sucks to be you," Matt laughed as he closed his locker and headed out. "Then good luck and see you tomorrow," he added as he walked out the double door and went off to his meeting.
"So I guess you two are off too," I sighed as they closed their lockers and zipped up their bags.
"Sorry, bro, but it's not like you need us here. I'm pretty sure once they see what you can do they'll make you the team captain," my sister tried to placate me with such a big compliment.
"Yeah, you'll be fine," Tai added with his best apologetic smile. "You can already probably kick my ass."
"First, I know I'll be fine. Second, I've already proven I can kick your ass. I site the first day we meet as proof. And third, the tryouts have nothing to do with my bad mood. My bad mood is being caused by the two people closest to me going off to the Digital World without me," I growled back.
"Whoa, we were six then, so that doesn't count," Tai barked back.
"I completely forgot about that," Sora chimed in with a coy smile. "You two got in a big argument about who would be the captain of our soccer team and it ended with you to getting into a fight. And strangely enough, the next day the two of you were best friends."
"I don't know why I started to like him, but him and Matt becoming good friends suggests that he just likes people he fights with. Which is really weird," I laughed, giving Tai a suspect look.
"Hey," he mumbled back as he searched for a retort.
"Okay, we're off," Sora announced, returning to avoiding eye contact with me.
"Fine… go…" I sighed as I watched to two head out the door on their way to the middle school while I had another hour to wait before tryouts started. I spent the time flexing and warming up my body so that I could be sure of doing my best and not hurting myself.
When it got close to the start time I made my way from the sports field to the gym, getting a few good wishes good luck from random kids I knew, but never really took the time to learn their names. Thinking about it I wondered how they even knew about what I was doing today and where I was going. It was strange that random people just knew what I was doing.
Before I stepped into the gym a ping emanated from my D-Power and I stopped to check whatever message had been sent to me. Opening it I found the message:
GOOD LUCK. KICK BUTT. I KNOW YOU CAN.
The text made me smile and encouraged me forward. I wrote up and sent out a quick thanks in reply before selecting the delete command and erasing the message she had sent me. I couldn't run the risk that someone would see it by accident.
The gym was a large area, covering about the same area as the schools soccer field and covered in polished light brown wooden planks. A full length basketball court ran down the middle while along the walls four extra nets had been put up for pick-up games. You couldn't exactly have a whole gym class playing a single game at one. Today the nets and board and been hoisted up and out of the way while large dark blue gym mats had been laid out in a large square.
"Ah, Takuya, good to see you showed up. Come here a second," an upbeat voice called out to me from the far corner of the room by the mats. Standing at the edge of the sparring mat stood a five and a half foot woman with long black hair tied up in a ponytail wearing a brown track suit, a whistle around her neck, and waving to me from over the clipboard in his hands.
It was Mrs. Keller, our soccer team's assistant coach and apparently the head coach of the Karate team now; unless I was misreading her presence there.
"Sure, Mrs. Keller," I responded as I hurried over to her. Before saying her name I had to remind myself that it had changed after she had gotten married, which in turn got me thinking about how marriage had led her to accidently comment about wanting to have a baby during our last meet at the end of summer. It was a strange thing to come up, so I quickly brushed it off. "What's up?"
"I just wanted to say that considering how skilled I know you are today's just more of a formality for you. Actually, I suspect that won't have enough people showing up to be turning them away. According to the sign up sheet we'll have just enough to make up a team. We'll probably just use today to see what everyone's capable of and figure out what we have to work with," Mrs. Keller admitted to me with a sigh. It seem that she was well aware that the other athletic clubs, like, soccer, track, and basketball, had the greatest pull; which seemed to bother her, either because this was the first team she was the head coach of, or because she really liked karate.
"We?" I picked up on her word usage. Considering I didn't see an assistant coach around I couldn't figure out who the, we, she was talking about was.
"Yeah, you and me. I was think that since I already know that you're very good at the fighting aspect and have experience being a team leader from your time as assistant captain of the soccer team, I would make you team captain and my assistant coach; especially since there's no money in the budget for one," Mrs. Keller explained with such praise that I couldn't help but be excited by the prospect.
"Sure, anything I can do to help," I gave her a big smile as the sign of my acceptance while ignoring the last comment.
Over the next three hours Mrs. Keller introduced herself, the club structure, and held the tryouts which were really just exhibition matches since we had just enough people to fill the starter and reserve team spots. Strangely, the tryouts brought in more girls than I expected, both as spectators and participants. While some of the guys might have laughed at the idea of getting beat by a girl, my time with my sister and practice matches with Mrs. Keller after soccer last year, I wasn't going to doubt any of their abilities. At the end of the auditions Mrs. Keller introduced me as the team captain and her assistant coach; and the others accepted it right away. One of the main reasons why they accepted so quickly was thanks to Mrs. Keller putting up against everyone in one-on-one matches, none of which I lost. With everything taken care of everyone headed home and I made my final check with the coach.
"The mats are all away and everyone's gone," I reported to who I guess I could consider my boss now.
"That's good. Thanks again Takuya for agreeing to give me a hand. I hope it won't be too much extra work for you," Coach Keller gave me a smile that told me she was glad to have my support, but was now worried that it might interfere with my school work and other activities.
"Naw, I have plenty of extra energy to spend. If you don't need anything else, I'll be heading home now," I smiled reassuringly as I pumped my arms.
"Nope, nothing else. Though tomorrow I'm going to need to see you after school to help me pick who are going to be our starts and our reserves," Coach Keller put her camcorder, which she used to film every match, and clipboard bursting with papers into her bag before hoisting it over her shoulder.
"Sure… see you tomorrow," I did a halfway decent job at hiding my disappointment at the fact that if I had to stay after tomorrow, I would miss going to the Digital World for a second time. However, I couldn't be mad since obligations were obligations.
Speaking of obligations, that's what was on my mind from the minute I left the gym and pulled my cell phone from my pocket. Who was I obligated to call first? Was it Sora since she's my sister? Tai, because he's my best friend? Or Kari because she's now my girlfriend? Great, just what I needed, more stress.
Eventually, my choice was made for me when my cell phone began to ring. "Hey, Kari," I smiled into the phone.
"Takuya," Kari enthusiastically chirped into the phone. She sounded excited for some reason.
"You sound excited. What happened?" I questioned.
"A lot, but I'm mostly excited for you," Kari happily replied.
"For me?" I couldn't understand the why since I hadn't told anyone anything yet.
"Yeah, considering it's you, I'm sure everything went great," her confidence in me made my heart beat faster and brought a big smile to my face.
"Thanks," I rejoined and prepared to tell her about my day. "Well, when I-"
"Not over the phone," Kari insisted and cut me off. "Let's meet at our normal place and have a real talk. Besides, we haven't seen each other all day and I miss you."
"I can't argue with that," I smiled softly at the idea. "I'll see you there."
"Okay," Kari replied before we both hung up.
I arrived at the secluded garden much faster than I normally did. It wasn't that I ran or anything, it was the fact that I was so charged from being named the assistant coach and that the karate club was actually going to happen, that I was unconsciously walking at a much faster stride. Arriving early afforded me more time to think about what I had been thinking about for a while in the light of who I was meeting up with.
"It's only three years… I've heard of seniors in high school dating freshman…" Last night I had switched from beating myself up over the matter and move onto justifying it with myself.
"Yeah, but your both not in high school and she's the little sister of one of your best friends," I groaned quietly to myself and lay down on the stone bench before I could convince myself. "Why do those two facts bother me so much? And why do they both pale in comparison to the fact that up until that day I thought of her like a little sister."
I gave up on thinking after that and just shut my mind down as I stared up into the light of the sun pouring through the branches of the tree above me. After a few minutes my vision blurred and turned to dark as my mounting exhaustion, accumulated after having to fight upwards of thirty matches, three points each, in the tryouts, took over.
I awoke an unknown amount of time later, but judging by the fact that the bright white light coming through the leaves had turned to a soft orange, I assumed it had been around an hour; enough time for the sun to start setting at least. However, the light wasn't the only change that had occurred while I napped. Now, my head was resting on something soft and warm; something very soft actually. Looking up I found a smiling face shaded by brown hair looking up at the leaves and humming a small tone to herself.
I'll spare myself the comparisons of her to a shimmering angel or some ancient muse that inspired painters and their work, and just admit to what she is; my girlfriend and source of emotional turmoil.
"Hey," I smiled and raised a hand up and ran it through her hair, catching her by surprise.
"Takuya, you scared me. I thought you were still asleep," Kari gazed down at me with her best pouty look; which was difficult to pull off since her eyes were betraying the fact that she was obviously enjoying my hand running through her hair.
"Sorry, but don't you think I should be a bit scared too. Waking up in some lap that I didn't fall asleep in," I playfully teased back.
"I guess… I was surprised that I was able to pick your head up and get under it without you waking up. And on another note, your heads heavy," she chuckled to herself, which only grew louder when I gave her my mock hurt expression.
"I wonder if I was really that tired that I slept right through that," I sighed happily as I relaxed again, enjoying the warmth crawling up my neck and down my shoulders.
"Or maybe you're not on guard around me," Kari looked my face over to see how I reacted to that statement.
During our time in the digital four years ago I had always been the one on permanent guard duty. It wasn't that I was always picked to be the one on duty, but it was kind of like that since I always slept so lightly. I used to wake up every time a twig snapped or some digimon made a sound. Despite how deeply I appear to sleep, my years of martial arts training had made me very alert of my surroundings. The only people who didn't seem to register on my radar were my sister and partner, and now Kari might have been added to that list.
"Maybe…" I yawned and prepared to get up, not wanting to discuss the topic anymore; however, before I could get up Kari grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me back down.
"Can't we talk like this? I'm really enjoying the contact, especially since we don't get much time like this since the others are always around," Kari's eyes begged me to remain as we were.
"Sure," With those eye's looking down at me I couldn't deny her request. I had to wonder if I was already whipped. "So what did I miss today?"
"You first," Kari insisted with her eyes as she gently ran a hand through me hair, returning the sentiment from earlier.
"Why? I'm pretty sure you had the much more interesting day," I countered quizzically.
"That's not true," she rejoined almost too forcefully. "I want to hear all about it. Anyways, I could really do with a break from thinking about the Digital World to help me unwind."
"Are you okay? You're not hurt or anything, are you?" I suddenly felt a wave of shame and guilt wash over me at the fact that I had been so distracted by Kari's abrupt appearance that I hadn't even asked her if she was hurt or tired. She had spent a whole afternoon in the Digital World which is a pretty dangerous place, especially with the Digimon Emperor in the mix.
"I'm fine. There were some close calls, but we all came out of it without a scratch," she reassured me with a gentle smile. "Now back to your day."
"Okay, okay. I'm still sure your story's going to be a lot more interesting than mine, but, oh well," I surrendered before I started into my own story.
As I recounted the tryouts I watched Kari's expression change along with the story. She beamed proudly at me when I told her I was tapped to be the assistant coach. She even commented that even Tai had never been asked to be an assistant coach, which fed my athletic competitive edge with her older brother. During the part where I described my different victories in the sparring matches I noticed a lustful look appear in her eyes. Kari wasn't one who liked violence, but I can't imagine there's any girlfriend who doesn't like the idea that her boyfriends tough. Looking at the enticing reaction I was getting out of her I decided to really play up my descriptions, namely my movements and easy victories, and see how I could make her feel. By the end she looked like she was fighting the urge to attack me, but being the good girl that she was, she was able to suppress it.
"That's amazing Takuya. Congratulations!" She leaned down and gave me a quick kiss on the lips. The romantic sentiment while nice, still dredged up some guilt.
"Thanks, but it's going to mean a lot of extra work and having to stay after school often. Which means less time for the Digital World," I admitted with a sigh at the idea. I never thought the day would come when I'd have to choose school and clubs over the Digital World.
"That's got to be a difficult choice for you, but at least you're being responsible about it. The team and Mrs. Keller seem like they're going to need you if they're going to be ready to compete," she really had a way of lightening my burden and raising my spirits.
"Yeah, thanks. Okay, now it's your turn to share," I finally got to the topic I have been waiting hours to hear about.
"If I have to," she playfully pouted back.
Kari went on to tell me about how Tai had been robbed of his second trip to the Digital World by the sudden appearance of one of our old teachers from middle school. There was a kind smile on her face when she talked about my sister and Izzy meeting up with Biyomon and Tentomon again after so long, it made me kind of jealous of them to be reunited like that. She waxed on in great detail about how Cody and Yolei reacted to their first visit to the Digital World. Apparently it had been going well until they were attacked and scattered about after falling into a big sinkhole. After that Davis had been capture and the two new ones had to hunt down the signals to two digi-eggs. In a temple they found the digi-eggs of love and knowledge, which when they were lifted introduced the two to their partners. Following that was the rescue of Davis and the new Digidestined handing another lose to the Digimon Emperor.
"It seems that your sister's taken a liking to Yolei. And Yolei to her," Kari smiled at the thought.
"Of course she has. My sister's the perpetual big sister to almost everyone," of course I still had my pride as a big brother to defend, even though at times I had to admit she made me feel like the younger one. "Back to your story, it seems that the new recruits held up pretty well for their first time."
"They did at that," Kari smiled weakly, a definite indication that something was wrong.
Looking at her face I knew that her concern was the same as mine. "Are you worried about the fact that we might be out of a job? And reduced to the support staff?"
"Not exactly in those words, but I am worried about that," Kari admitted with little prodding. Her quickness to give up the information was proof that she must have wanted to talk about it for a while now.
"Well, you're not alone in that thought, but something tells me neither one of us is done just yet," I gave her a reassuring smile.
"I'm sure you're right," she seemed to accept it with a stronger smile.
My comment wasn't just an attempt to cheer Kari up or reassure myself. Ever since I had heard that the Digital World was open again, I had this feeling that there was still some unfinished business for the both of us. Looking at Kari now I knew she had a much bigger part to play in the coming battle; and knowing that only made the feeling that the past was coming back at me much stronger. I really hoped that wasn't the case.
"Okay," I finally sat up and stretched my arms and back. "We both need to start heading home or we're going to start getting some calls."
"Right…" Kari sighed as she rubbed her lap a few times before standing up as well.
Before the sun had gone down I walked Kari to the corner of her apartment building and said goodbye. She requested a quick kiss farewell, which I obliged, hoping that no one from her building would spot us. After that I ran home and arrived just in time for my mother to set dinner down on the table. I had expected dinner to be awkwardly quiet due to the fact that my sister couldn't talk about her day, but I did the good brotherly thing and handled all of the nights talking. They were both excited for my news and my mother even suggested that we go out to eat tomorrow night to celebrate. Of course I was onboard with that. The night was capped off with my sister retelling me everything I had already heard from Kari when our mother went to her room to read a book.
"So what do you think?" She asked once she was done with her story.
"It seems that the new recruits held up pretty well for their first time," I reused the same capping statement I had with Kari. It was the response that seemed the most authentic since it had been once that day. I even made sure to make the same face and gestures I had when I had first used it.
I wasn't one for reusing lines and dialogue, but I couldn't risk another close call like I had during her story. Twice in fact I had almost said something that was ahead of the story; namely almost saying I was jealous of her for finding Biyomon only a few minutes after returning, which hadn't happened yet, and I almost began to speak the name of the two new partner digimon. I could have covered all of it up by saying that Tai had told me everything on the phone, but I really wanted to save that excuse for the future.
"They really did," Sora smiled at me before her expression turned inquisitive. "With your new duties are you going to be able to go to the Digital World tomorrow?"
"Unfortunately, no. Mrs. Keller wants to go over her notes and tapes, and get my input on everyone since I fought each of them. From there we'll have to pick who'll be the starters and who'll be the back ups," I sighed as I slouched back in the recliner.
"Ouch, that's going to be a pain. I've never envied the coaches for having to tell people that they aren't good enough to start and make them benchwarmers," my sister gave me a compassionate smile before picking up the remote before I could and turned the television on.
"Crap… I didn't think about that. When she said that we'd be taking everyone who applied I was so relieved that I wouldn't have to cut anyone that I didn't give feelings about starting status any though. Tomorrows going to suck on multiple levels," I groaned at my own oversight. It's not like it would have stopped me from accepting the job, but it wasn't a thought I wanted in my head right before bed. "Thanks for putting that in my head sis."
"Sorry," she honestly seemed apologetic, which meant I had to accept right away. "Watch some television and try and forget about it."
"That won't be possible with the shows you've been choosing lately," I lamented over her recent viewing preferences. "Seriously, sis, when did you start getting into these fashion shows?"
"I can't really remember," her eyes looked upward in reflective thought, but didn't come back down with anything.
"…" I quietly grumbled as she selected one of the many model/design/runway/who-knows-what shows that were out now and settled in for an hour of boredom until it would be my turn to pick what to watch.
To be continued…