Wall Slum's Ninth Avenue.
When Eiji went up the stairs out of the subway exit and stood agape at his surroundings, he wanted to turn right back around.
"What is this, another country? A real slum?” Eiji asked. "This is crazy! I’ll lose my life here!"
The air was dank with soot.
The abandoned building that he’d seen earlier was one thing, but this place... It was something else. If this place was listed in a tourist book, Eiji was sure that it would say things like "has the highest crime rate on the planet" or "don't go anywhere near here."
"What do you call this sort of place... Kowloon City?" Eiji asked. "Kabukicho in the Showa-era?"
He looked up the city block from below the densely packed buildings built on illegal construction.
A place that was like Kowloon City, a slum that had once existed in Hong Kong before the reversion to China, built by illegal immigrants on land that had been ungoverned by the government. Or like the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku in the Showa era, a city that never slept and was alight with neon signs for restaurants, brothels, hotels, and other establishments.
A red-light district.
"Wall Slum is the boundary between the real world and the Digital World," Loogamon explained. "Real information is always flowing in through the network, so it's constantly changing. Because of that, everything here changes from one day to the next.
"Would you happen to be really intelligent?!" Eiji said, his eyes shining.
"Digimon are intelligent."
"Maybe I’ll have you help me with the hard stuff from now on," Eiji said. "Can I call you Senpai?"
"But I love you, Loogamon! You're so reliable!"
If Eiji had a tail, he'd be wagging it right now.
"This is exactly why your dog looked down on you... Let’s hurry up and get to work!"
With Loogamon verbally whipping him back into gear, Eiji launched the tool on his virtual monitor.
He initiated the mapping.
Now all they had to do was fill in the map by walking around.
"Mapping this red-light district, huh..."
Eiji was so overwhelmed by the visual absurdity of Ninth Avenue that if he tried to describe it in words, he would lose his mind.
There were no straight streets. Alleyways were nothing more than gaps between buildings. The width and direction of the streets were a mess and there was clearly no urban planning. There were no restrictions on the building coverage ratio, oblique restrictions, earthquake resistance standards, or any other legal regulations based on the Building Standards Act.
To add insult to injury, not even architectural mechanics seemed to exist here. If one were to bring in realistic human sensibilities to this city that ignored all safety and construction standards, they would feel uneasy just by being here and would forever walk around thinking of the inevitable "collapse" that was sure to happen two seconds later.
Like, for instance, if a sign hanging from a single screw fell, the steel frame over there would snap, and all the buildings around it would collapse like dominoes…
Eiji checked on the map as he walked around.
"Looks like there are Digimon around here. Hiding, though."
He could feel eyes watching him all over from the alley.
"Ninth Avenue is the worst neighborhood in Wall Slum," Loogamon said. "If outsiders walked through it, they’d be stripped of their clothes within 50 meters and left for dead within 100 meters."
"Our destination is the heart of Ninth Avenue— the Castle of Nine Wolves."
Eiji and Loogamon continued their work. It was a bit of a letdown in the end, but they were able to proceed with mapping without hassle. There were no Digimon to be seen anywhere. It was as if they were in the middle of nowhere.
Although Loogamon insisted that he could sense them close by…
A dead end street.
There was a tiled-roofed building in a small plaza surrounded by overhanging, ramshackle buildings. It looked more like an imperial house in Chinatown than a castle.
"Is that the Castle of Nine Wolves? We need to map that and what’s ahead of it."
Eiji walked up to the imperial house.
"What's wrong, Loogamon?" Eiji had gone ahead of him, but he couldn’t go too far as he was Hololized.
"This is my home… or, it was."
"...? Did you remember something?"
"It has a faint smell. Markings that I’d left behind... But it’s me and not me. It's much, much stronger…!"
"Maybe it could be…" Eiji had an idea. "The evolved version of you?!"
"...! Something's coming!"
Loogamon turned his nose to the narrow strip of sky between the buildings.
BRAP BRAP BRAP BRAP BRAP!
It was a thunderous roar.
Winds picked up. The sound seemed to hit the ground and blew away the surrounding garbage data.
Eiji was forced to his knees. Loogamon dug in his claws.
"What is it?!” Eiji cried. "What's coming?!"
A winged monstrosity cast a shadow over the Castle of Nine Wolves.
Eiji had shut his eyes to protect them from the billowy dust, but now he held up a hand over his eyes and squinted up at the sky. "Is that a bird? A dragon?"
"No, neither... That’s…!"
The thing had engines on both wings.
It was a machine-type Digimon based on a tilt-rotor aircraft that was capable of vertical takeoff and landing.
—Cargodramon. Perfect-level. Machine type. Virus species.
On its fuselage was the word "POLICE" in intimidating letters.
"It’s the DigiPolice!" Eiji shouted.
"The police? What are they doing in Wall Slum?"
Digimon affiliated with the DigiPolice descended off the hovering Cargodramon from a rope. They were Commandramon.
The heliborne squad spread out, quickly securing the base.
An alert rang.
At the sound, Eiji looked at his map on the virtual monitor.
Markers indicating Commandramon appeared in the vicinity of the Castle of Nine Wolves. The castle was being surrounded.
"They’re demanding that we open up voice chat... on the GriMM channel?!" Eiji cried out. He had received a warning notification from the police in the operation channel.
GriMM was not a service that belonged to any particular company. So if you didn’t comply with police demands, that wouldn’t be an immediate criminal act by itself… However, it would mean that you have taken a defiant attitude towards a state power.
"What do we do?" Loogamon asked.
"It doesn’t matter one way or the other. That interviewer’s the only one with administrative power for this operation channel.."
Eiji didn’t have the authority to open it.
—The hell! Don't ignore me, you shitty code cracker!
A shrill voice came from the Cargodramon above.
The voice was loud and shrieked like a cartoon character. It rang directly through Eiji's Mindlinked sense of hearing.
Character design/illustration: malo