Level 1: Worlds

In 2003, the darkness was contained when Malomyotismon was defeated.
In 2003, the real world was fully exposed to the Digital World.
In 2003, the world's population attained the status of "digi-destined."
In 2003, each person on Earth became partners with a Digimon.

Stage One- Ending

Takato Matsuki was not meant for this world. That much was clear. After all he had been through, there was nothing left to convince him that he, who had lost everything else, could find happiness again. There was no place left for him. There was no one left for him. After everything was taken away, all that remained was an empty void, and a fifteen-year-old soul to call it the future.

He didn't want that as his future. Takato would be better off without one at all. He knew the danger he'd be facing. He had heard the warnings and demands of the higher authority. He knew very well that he wouldn't come back. He also knew that he may not even arrive in the first place. He understood that he may not even be happier when he arrived.

It was still worth the risk. Anything was better than where he was at now. He'd prefer the face of death that he was staring into over the remnants of life he currently possessed.

----January, 20X5----
All he could see was smoke. An haze of black, all but absorbing the orange blaze from the fire below. He had heard the instructions. He knew how to stay low. He knew how to feel the door. It was safe, so he opened it. Takato, along with the masses of smoke, forced himself onto the terrace.

It was only a slight improvement, but it was an improvement nonetheless. He was at least able to breathe again, although the thick smoke still made it difficult. He looked down below. The streets, usually quiet at this hour, were bustling with the sound of ambulances blaring their sirens, the sight of concerned neighbors watching and praying in their pajamas, and the mist of water  trying to extinguish the flame. A ladder was forced onto the side of the building. Immediately, a firefighter was climbing it, scaling the tower to rescue a child in distress. The brave soul helped Takato down the ladder, to the waiting arms of more rescue workers. A stretcher to lie down in, a mask to give him air, and a pillow to rest his head on. He desperately needed them, and Takato was not denied. Takato was safe, destined to live another day regardless of what else was lost. Takato's mind didn't stray on what was lost, but he couldn't get the thought of who was lost out of his head. His parents were nowhere to be found.

Before he could find them, he was loaded into an ambulance and carted off towards the hospital. He kept asking, and he kept receiving the same answer- "I don't know." By the time the next afternoon arrived, it was all Takato could think about. He was only in the hospital for that day, but it happened to the longest day in his life.

"Takato?" Henry peered through the doorway. Rika and Jeri were at his side.

"Come on in." Takato was able to put his fears aside for a moment and smile, inviting his friends in.

"Where should I put these things?" Rika had flowers, and she was visibly uncomfortable holding them. She set them on a nearby table, most likely reserved for such sentiments.

"Where's Kazu and Kenta?"

"Cram school. They were going to skip, but we didn't want them failing again."

"Either way, it's nice to see that you're doing well." Jeri leaned over and kissed Takato on the cheek. He couldn't help but force a smile at the kind gesture.

Henry, noting the smile, decided to start interrogating him about the incident. "So do you have any idea what happened?"

"I don't know. They haven't really finished investigating or anything but their guess is that one of our breadmakers started it. Maybe it wasn't shut off right or something. I don't know."

"Well, as long as you're safe. That's all that matters." Jeri reassured Takato.

More than his friends, Jeri's presence really made Takato feel a lot better. They had been together ever since the D-Reaper was destroyed, almost four months ago. As far as Takato knew, the months could have been years, or even decades, and he would still be just as happy with Jeri by his side.

A doctor entered the room, interrupting the moment. He coughed, signaling Takato's attention. "Mr. Matsuki?" He seemed somewhat fidgety. He obviously wasn't bearing good news. "Can I speak to you in private for a moment?"

"Um… sure." Takato's affirmation was all his visitors needed to know when to leave.

"We'll wait outside." Rika said quietly.

Henry simply nodded. He had a premonition that what the doctor was going to say wasn't pleasant. Henry and Jeri immediately looked at each other. They knew what was coming. They had been through it before. 

Once they were in the hall, Takato took a breath, and asked the question. "How are they?"

The doctor also took a deep breath. "We tried. We really did. But by the time we found them… it was too late to save them."

Takato grew wide-eyed. This couldn't be happening. It had to be some dream. "You… you mean…"

The doctor didn't sugar-coat it, but his empathy was easily distinguishable. "Your mother passed away about fifteen minutes ago. Your father followed eight minutes later."

The color drained from Takato's face. "No… it can't be…"

"We've notified your aunt. She'll be coming by later to check on you." The doctor was sympathetic, but Takato gave no indication that he was hearing anything. "Obviously, this is very hard for you to deal with. We offer grief counseling in order to help you through this difficult time…" Takato wasn't responding to anything, just staring blankly at the wall. Tears were beginning to form. Finally, the doctor gave up. "Maybe your friends are better suited for this than I am. Should I send them in?" Takato didn't respond, so the doctor did so anyway, stepping out at the same time.

"Are you okay Takato?" Henry was the first to ask. Jeri was already running up and embracing Takato, crying all the while. Rika was unsuccessfully trying to control a few tears. Henry maintained his composure, but he obviously felt it as well.

"I don't know Henry. I mean… Mom… Dad…" Takato was still at a loss. He held Jeri. He needed Jeri. But at the moment, not even Jeri was enough.

"Look, you're going to get through this eventually." It was Rika's turn to talk. "It just takes a while. And we're all here for you, too. We were all here for Henry and we're going to get you through this too."

Henry put a hand on Rika's shoulder, as if to accentuate the point. "That's right. No matter what happens, we'll get through it together."
--------


Yet here today, they were nowhere in sight. Nobody to pick him up when he was down.

The boat sped through the East China Sea en route to its destination. The view was spectacular. No pesky clouds were obstructing the azure sky, while the sea stretched out endlessly towards the horizon. Takato didn't care. He had seen it all before. Okinawa was a great place to visit, but living there… it wasn't right for him.

----January, 20X5----
Takato's parents were dead, but he was alive and still willing to tame life. But a fourteen-year-old can't make a jump into reality immediately. He still needed to be supported. He still needed a family. His friends were there for him, but he couldn't live with them. He couldn't intrude and make himself a Wong or a Shioda or a Kitagawa. It wasn't right of him to ask a family to take on such a burden, and none of his friends' families were willing to extend a hand. Worse yet, his own family wasn't all that helpful either. His aunt had succeeded in the task of filling out paperwork for the hospital, but that was about all she was willing to do. She didn't have the income to support Takato. In fact, every single one of Takato's relatives in the Tokyo area was unable to support an extra family member at the time- his grandparents were in a nursing home, his uncle's apartment was infinitesimally small and only suitable for one person, while his other aunt was expecting a baby, and couldn't handle getting two extra mouths to feed at the same time (ironically enough, she ended up having twins). After spending a fortnight crashing wherever he could, he finally found somebody that could take him in.

"Hey, Takato, you handling okay?"

Takato turned towards the source of the voice. "Yeah Kai… just peachy." He returned to his previous position- leaning on the railing of the boat, looking at the Okinawan sunset. It was almost as if somebody was teasing him. The view was stunning. The setting sun reflected against the clouds to create a stunning palette of color. The wind, however, was a different matter entirely; as the gusts frequently slammed into Takato's face while creating waves to guide him on a very unsteady ride towards his new home. The atmosphere created two conflicting moods, and Takato was unsure which one was accurate.

He'd have to give it his all. He'd have to try to adjust to this new life on the distant island. But he felt stranded. He was nine hundred miles away from Tokyo. Nine hundred miles from his friends and everything he had grown to be familiar and comfortable with. Nine hundred miles away from Jeri.

They promised each other they'd make it work somehow. Distance was not a concern for e-mails or telephone service. Communication would not be a problem. It was the little things he'd miss. Seeing her smile everyday, reassuring him that good things were ahead. The smile he sorely needed was out of reach, and the good things seemed even farther away.

"Takato? You don't have anything to worry about, okay? We're going to take care of you here." Kai was trying to give Takato some solace. No matter how much Kai tried, it wasn't his greatest skill. He was too laid-back for serious sympathy, and was in no position to offer a quick-fix to his cousin's trauma. He continued to persist, however, "We already did all the paperwork for school. You're transferred in with no problem, and we get back in a week."

Takato didn't acknowledge the statement. How was he supposed to concentrate on school with all this going on? Nine hundred miles…

"You know Minami Uehara's also going to the same school now. I'm sure you two will get reacquainted real fast." Takato shook his head. He and Kai met Minami under some… unusual circumstances some time prior. It was somewhat comforting knowing that he would have friends at his new destination. He was sailing towards a new life. That was all he knew. Maybe it was just that- "new" instead of "worse."
--------

"When is the next available flight to Tokyo?"

Takato knew exactly what he was doing. He had dealt with airports forever. There were flights from Okinawa to Tokyo and vice versa several times over the course of the day. He took them whenever he could afford it. At the very least, he had to visit Jeri once a year. That much was a prerequisite, and it did not matter how much money he or the Urazoe household had to spend- he needed at least that.

"The next flight is fully booked, but a flight departing at 4:35 this afternoon does have a seat or two available."

"I'll take a one-way ticket."

The receptionist was somewhat unsure about this fifteen year old buying a one-way ticket, but continued to look up the needed information. "Including processing fees, that will cost thirty-six thousand yen."

Takato silently pulled the money out of his wallet and on the counter. The cost didn't matter this time either. Takato continued to remain silent as he waited for the ticket to be processed. This was going to be his last time doing this. He didn't know what was going to happen when he arrived, but in all likelihood it was going to be better than the last time he had made the trip.

----November, 20X5----
Mr. Katou picked up the telephone. "Hello?"

"Um… hi… is Jeri home?"

Mr. Katou sighed. "Who should I say is calling? If this is Takato, you better not be calling collect again."

"No! No… tell her it's Terry. I go to school with her."

Jeri's father called his daughter over to the phone. She wasn't entirely sure what the purpose of the call was, but was cheerful nonetheless. "Hi Terry!"

Terry stumbled for a moment. "Hi Jeri, this is Terry. Um… I was wondering if you wanted to… um…" Terry paused, summoned his courage, and continued. "The fall festival is coming up and I was wondering if I could go with you." He took a moment to catch his breath. That wasn't so bad, but the hard part was around the corner.

Jeri frowned. "Well… you mean like a date?"

Terry nodded, until he realized that Jeri couldn't see that. "Um… yeah."

"Well… you see… I already have a boyfriend."

Terry exhaled. It was a good thing he did his homework. "Yeah. I know. Henry told me. But, I mean, he lives in Okinawa. That's nine hundred miles away. Down there, they don't even consider themselves part of Japan. And I mean… well it seems unfair that you don't have a date for the festival." Terry paused. "Sorry. I've never done this before. I'm a little new at this."

Jeri couldn't help but smile. "You should get advice from your father."

Terry sighed. "Actually… my father died when I was little."

Jeri bit her lip. "Oh. I'm sorry. I guess I know how it feels though. I lost my mother when I was little."

The ensuing uncomfortable silence was inevitable as both reflected on their pasts. Finally, Terry broke the silence with a snicker. "Why are we talking about this?" Jeri chuckled quietly. "So how about it? I'm sure it'll be fun."

Jeri paused. He seemed innocent. He was nice, he was friendly. She didn't want to get his hopes up, but it definitely seemed a good chance to make another friend. That… and she definitely didn't want to reject him; it was clearly what he was fearing most.

"Sure."

Terry smiled. He was confident he could handle everything from there.

"Great! I'll pick you up at seven!"
--------


Takato was almost getting used to it. He had almost grown accustomed to the Okinawa life. It was strange, but in the company of Kai and Minami, he was able to get through it. By the time he made the trip back home in January, he was confident that he was going to be able to get through whatever.

He remembered his thoughts on the plane at the time. He was both somber and optimistic. His sadness stemmed from the one year anniversary of the deaths of his parents. Fortunately, although he was still adjusting, he was able to visit their grave bearing a sunny forecast. At least he was trying, and at least he still could return to West Shinjuku at any time to find friends… and Jeri.

"This is the captain speaking- we are experiencing slight turbulence. Please keep your seatbelts fastened. This should clear up in a few minutes, so please be patient."

The pilot's voice over the intercom jolted Takato out of his recollection.

"They always say the turbulence is temporary." He thought. "And just when you think you're in the clear, something else shows up to make the flight a living hell."

He knew that from last time. The storm he flew into was unexpected and unforeseen. This time, however, the flight would be different. Unlike his last visit, he was going to be in control.

----January, 20X6----
"Takato!"

As always, he was dying to see her. As always, she was waiting for him at the airport. And as always, she couldn't keep her arms off him when he exited the plane.

"Hi, Jeri. Man, have I missed you." Takato fell silent as the two enjoyed their embrace for a few more seconds while Jeri's father quietly picked up Takato's carry-on.

"Takato. I'll go pick up your luggage while you two…" Mr. Katou trailed off. As much as he wanted to, he could find nothing wrong with the relationship between his daughter and Takato. The natural anxiety regarding Jeri growing up and finding love was still present, however, and he sought to distance himself from any personal moments.

Takato handed his ticket over, while still enjoying the moment. "I'm trying Jeri… I know I can get used to this one of these days… I just…"

"Shh…" Jeri put a finger to Takato's lips. "Not now." Takato obeyed. He had so much he wanted to say, but he too wanted to enjoy the moment.

"Ahh… winter… I missed you!" Takato was freezing and loving it. The chilly winds would have rendered anyone else uncomfortable, but Takato was enjoying it. "Jeri, you have no idea how freaky it was last February." The tropical climate of Okinawa, even in winter months, was the first thing Takato had to get used to. Although the weather was far from his biggest problem, he was happy to be in a spot where he could freeze his butt off every January like people were supposed to. "Has it snowed yet?"

Jeri wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck and smiled. "It snowed last week, but not enough to stay on the ground."

"Shame… I'd kill to make a snow angel right about now." Takato was just trying to enjoy the familiarity of Shinjuku Park. "Look at this place- it hasn't changed a bit."

"Jeri!!"

Takato looked towards the source of the voice. It was the first unfamiliar thing that presented itself. Takato walked over to Jeri to get a better look at who was calling her- a boy about their age was running towards them. The kid's messy brown hair and smiling face seemed nothing out of the ordinary. It was just unfamiliar… a problem Takato wanted to fix immediately.

"New friend?" Takato asked, curious.

Jeri was not eager to greet the boy. She tried to hide her concern from Takato, mumbling "You might say that."

As the boy arrived, Jeri forced a smile. "Hi Terry. What brings you here?"

"I was just heading off to work and saw you there." Terry replied, the friendly smile still on his face.

"Wait… you work?" At least Takato thought the kid was the same age as himself and Jeri.

"Yeah. I help out with a ramen cart. It's a long story. You must be Takato." Terry extended a hand.

Takato received the handshake. "Yeah. Jeri must have told you about me. She didn't say anything to me about you though."

Terry let out a slight chuckle. "Why am I not surprised? Name's Terry."

Takato smiled. "Nice to meet you. So are you just friends with Jeri or have you met the whole group?"

"Whole group. Henry, Rika, Kazu, Kenta… we're all good. Henry introduced me and we just sort of connected. It's a little strange. Hey, Jer', what's that name Kazu always calls me behind my back?"

Jeri was sheepish, and was obviously anxious about something. Still, she answered the innocent question. "Neo-Ryo?"

"Neo-Ryo! That's it. I don't get it myself, but it's kinda funny."

"Ryo was a Tamer like the rest of us. He took off a couple years ago." Takato provided the explanation. "I think he went back to the Digital World." He added.

"Yeah… I knew it was something like that… I don't know. I'm not into that whole Digimon thing." Terry stopped smiling for a second, and looked down at his watch. "Shoot, I have to get going. Look, I'll talk to you later. See ya."

Before Takato knew what hit him, Terry was gone.

"Seems like a nice guy. I hope I can get to know him better." Takato looked back at Jeri. She was still nervous, almost on the verge of tears. "What's wrong?"

Jeri found a nearby bench to sit down at. Takato sat next to her, awaiting her answer. Nothing was coming out, so Takato was forced to lead her on. "Does it have something to do with Terry?"

Jeri nodded.

Takato gulped. All signs pointed to one thing. "Something tells me he's more than just a new friend."

Again Jeri nodded, but was able to explain further. "He asked me out a couple months ago. He's a nice kid, I didn't have the heart to say no. And… well… he likes me."

"How do you know?"

Jeri sniffled back a tear. "Because he told me last Christmas."

"Oh." While he was obviously concerned about the matter, Takato was happy in a way- for a year Jeri was the one that always been there to help Takato through his problems. Now, he was finally going to be able to help her through her difficult situation. He took her hand. "Jeri, you know you can't string him along like that. The longer you wait, the more it will hurt him."

"That's not the half of it. He thinks I like him too."

"Why does he think that?"

Jeri couldn't hold back her tears any longer. "Because that's what I told him."

"Jeri… why? I know you don't want to hurt his feelings, but if you don't, he's going to keep thinking that he has a chance. I mean, you don't really like him, do you?" Takato wasn't letting any of this bother him. Terry just happened to have good taste in the girls he liked. This kind of thing was bound to happen, and he was determined to get Jeri through this without losing his cool.

"That's just it Takato… I kinda do."

All of the color in Takato's face fell at that moment. Their relationship would never be the same.
--------

It seemed so out of the blue. It seemed like it was something unforeseen. The idea that Jeri could possible fall in love with another boy wasn't completely impossible, but for some reason Takato thought it was. He was too optimistic. He had Jeri, Jeri had him, and all was right with the world.

Unfortunately, the world didn't work like that. Despite the situation, and despite their history, there was nothing preventing anybody from stealing Jeri away.

Perhaps it was only a warning instead of a serious threat. Jeri never said one way or another- she said that she had to get to know Terry a little better, and determine who she really was in love with. She needed time, and that was the only certainty Takato had when he left later in the month. Needless to say, he was a nervous wreck for the rest of the semester.

As a result, his schoolwork suffered greatly. Adapting to high school, especially high school in Okinawa, was difficult enough for Takato. But after days spent trying to receive solace from Kai and Minami, weeks spent lying awake at night worrying that she'd choose Terry, and months spent talking to Henry in an attempt to get some information on what she was thinking (and with no real news to speak of)… school just didn't matter anymore.

Until he failed his freshman year.

"Shinjuku Park, please." His parents were dead, he lived nine hundred miles away from familiarity, his love life was in limbo, and he couldn't even survive his first year of high school. The future wasn't bright. In fact, odds were that he didn't have a future at all in this world.

Never was suicide on his mind. He wasn't one for that. He wasn't meant for this world… but another world may be willing to accept him. He reached into his bag of personal items. It was one of the few possessions that survived the fire. Takato clutched it as he neared his final destination. Hopefully his D-Power still had the power to take him there.

----October, 20X4----
"…and please exhale." Henry followed the doctor's instructions while he was examined with a stethoscope. "Good. That should be all." Henry put his shirt back on and joined Takato, Kazu, and Kenta as they exited the examination room to join the girls.

It was about a month after D-Reaper was destroyed, and while it wasn't out of their minds, it didn't dominate their thoughts.

Kenta wasn't complaining. He was merely confused. "I understand why they need to check up on you and Henry, but why me and Kazu? We never bio-merged."

"I know… and why the drug testing?" Kazu asked. "Felt like a total invasion of my privacy."

"I don't know. Probably just a precautionary measure." Henry replied, as they joined Rika, Jeri, and Suzy. They didn't get much of a chance to talk with one another, as three others entered the room.

"Yamaki… what brings you here?" Takato asked.

Yamaki, flanked as always by Riley and Tally, was grim. "Please have a seat." They were in a lounge area, so finding a seat presented no problem to the seven Tamers. "I'm sorry about the examinations. We felt it was necessary to make periodic check-ups on your physical and mental health after everything that happened."

"But those were all physical tests."

"Yes. The mental part is next week. A counselor will be talking to each one of you privately, getting your thoughts on the matter and such. We've arranged it so she can meet with you periodically if necessary. Yamaki flashed a glance at Jeri. His last comment was particularly directed at her. "Are there any questions before I give you the news?"

"Where's Ryo? How'd he get out of all this?" Kazu had his question asked before either Suzy, Henry, or Takato could get their hands up.

Yamaki sighed, and looked back at Riley before turning to Kazu. "We have reason to believe that Ryo has disappeared again into the Digital World… against our wishes. We can't confirm this, and even if we could, we have no way of getting him back. I honestly can't say for certain whether or not any of us will ever see him again."

Henry put his hand down. That was a bombshell in itself. Unfortunately, Suzy was still determined to have her query fielded. "Will we ever see Terriermon or Lopmon again?"

Her lisp made it all the more cute, and all the more heartbreaking for Riley and Tally to witness. Both looked aside, hoping that Yamaki could handle the question in a dignified manner.

However, Yamaki exhaled once, then made it plain and simple. "No."

Every Tamer in the room was in shock. Was that it? Being separated from their Digimon was bad enough, but to be told that they would never be seen again?

"Yeesh… sugar-coat it a little bit." Tally mumbled to Riley, who responded with a nod of agreement.

Before the Tamers could begin their barrage of questions, Yamaki began his explanation. "Unfortunately, the Digital World and the Real World have both been affected severely by the incident. Both can repair themselves, but it takes time. The best way, and the safest way, to do that is to restrict the ties between the worlds as much as possible. Restoring the Real World to its form before D-Reaper will be much easier without the presence of Digimon, and restoring the Digital World will be easier without the presence of carbon-based life forms."

Having concluded that point, Yamaki added another argument for good measure. "Even if it was safe… or even possible… to send you to the Digital World again, we exhausted too much of our resources to bring you children back last time. We can't afford to do it a second time. Do you understand?"

None of the seven responded. Deep down, they all understood, but it was still an emotional moment- knowing that it was the end. They would have to carry on without their digital companions, a barrier separating their two worlds eternally.

"Takato? I saw your hand up. Did you have a question?"

Takato looked up at Yamaki. After staring at him for a second, Takato retracted his eyes back towards the ground. "Never mind."

It was only yesterday that he had discovered that the gate to the Digital World was still open. He was going to tell everybody the exciting news. Now… it was useless information. His promise to Guilmon wasn't going to be kept after all.
--------

His life in this world was over. The words "can't" and "shouldn't" held no meaning. There were so many uncertainties, and one life had already been lost in the process. But there was always a chance.

"Right here, sir." The taxi pulled up to the stop, and Takato paid him handsomely after retrieving his bags. As the cab drove off, Takato took a look around the park. Nobody was around. Perfect. He began the climb.

A rush of nostalgia filled him as he entered Guilmon's old "house." It was all so familiar, even though he hadn't been there in over a year. The gate was locked, but Takato climbed over it with relatively little trouble. He fell a little on the descent, but little more than skinned his knee.

He headed into the shed and proceeded towards the back.  The hole was still there. Takato looked around. There were no friends accompanying him on the journey this time. He looked down into the hole. There was no white rabbit named Calumon to chase this time. It was just Alice and her need to find something different. Takato slipped down, praying that the gateway would still be open.

It was as shimmering as ever.

Takato couldn't help but smile. His land of opportunity. He was going to live in a land where nothing was guaranteed. Death was avoidable. Taxes weren't monetary and were only as taxing as his soul would allow. He took a deep breath and entered the portal.

Nothing happened.

"The heck?"

The gate looked exactly the same as it did when Takato and his fellow Tamers entered before. Takato slumped to his knees, set his duffel bag on his lap and pulled out his D-Power. At least that still worked. It appeared to be reacting to the portal, but nothing seemed to be working.

"No…" He shook his head. It was so hard to believe. Was the dream of entering the Digital World just that- a dream? An impossible fantasy residing only in a child's head?

He was about ready to give up. He was ready to turn around and hail another taxi. Maybe he could talk to Henry or something. He took another look at the D-Power. "What am I supposed to do?" Frustrated, he held the D-Power towards the gate. "Digi-Port Open?" What the heck, it worked in the cartoon.

Without warning, he felt a force pulling him. It was different than before, but something was definitely happening. Takato grabbed his duffel bag, hoping that he could hang on to it. Ten seconds later, he was gone, flying through the mess of wires and data streams, heading towards the Digital World.

He braced himself for the thud that he knew was coming. It came, but at least it was on a soft grass surface. He picked himself up and did a status check- everything on his person was in one piece, he had his bag with him, and his D-Power was still residing in the palm of his right hand. He looked around. It was a forested area, greener than any park he had ever been to. He was most definitely not in Shinjuku Park.

Takato smiled, set his bag down, and rested his head on it. There were a million things he had to do. Finding Guilmon was of utmost priority. For now, however, leaning back and taking in the unpolluted air was enough. He wanted to take a minute to forget about everything that had happened, and to forget about the things he left. He would probably never see Jeri Katou again. A major sacrifice perhaps, but a necessary one in the end. Perhaps she'd be happier with Terry anyway. She'd definitely prefer not having to deal with Takato and Terry fighting over her. Terry could have her. What Takato had could make up for it in the long run. 

A rustling in the bushes startled Takato for a brief moment, until a small, green creature with leaves sticking out of its head popped in and stared at Takato. Takato held up his D-Power, which recognized the creature as a Tanemon without missing a beat.

Tanemon skipped away harmlessly. Takato didn't disturb it. He was too busy realizing what its presence meant. It was official.

Takato had found his new home.

To Be Continued in "Stage Two- Missing"

Author's Notes
Despite the way this starts out, this is not an angst fic. This is actually going to be the one… er rather… the three, that tie all of the seasons together. Subtle hints have already begun to take shape, and the less I explain, the better the experience will be.

Unlike previous fics, the lengths of each chapter will probably fluctuate a lot. Some will be longer, some will be shorter, and some will be right in the middle. Also unlike previous fics, I'm keeping the Author's Notes to a bare minimum... meaning no more Next Chapter previews. Please leave any questions in an e-mail or review and I promise I'll answer them via e-mail.

The rating of this will probably end up as an R later on. There will be strong language, violence, and adult themes… I just don't know to what extent I'm going to take them.

A lot of thanks go out to Rb and Crest of Empathy for beta-reading this guy. Also, major props go out to Chris McFeely and the timelines for both the Adventure and Tamers series he has up on his site, which have become an indispensable tool for writing this (it's nice to be able to look at something I'm messing around with). Also thanks to Andy Taft, the guy that showed me Chris McFeely's site… even if it was just to brag about a page he contributed to.

This ends Level 1: Stage One of The Connection.