Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.

Digimon Trinity

Chapter: 67/The Two Hearts

Ophanimon pursed her lips together as she gazed into her seeing-orb, not happy with the death of her soldiers.

The Renamon shows no respect for life, she thought, dismissing the orb's vision and stepping away. I need someone stronger…

Reaching up, she tapped the air and a screen materialized in front of her, revealing one of her closest servants. She was avian in appearance with powerful looking, white-feathered wings. She was garbed in bright armor with a humanoid facial mask, and great powerful talons shone on her feet.

She was known as Harpymon, descended from ancient digimon from a time when the normal means of digivolving was difficult, and she carried on the proud traditions of her ancestors by serving the forces of Light. None were more loyal to the cause of Light than her, and being a beast digimon, she was perhaps better suited to combating the Renamon.

"My lady Ophanimon," she greeted, crossing her wings in front of her and bowing. "How may I serve you?"

"Go to the human world," the angelic Celestial commanded. "There is a Renamon that is a criminal. Bring her here alive, if possible, but be wary. She is dangerous. She has already deleted and loaded three of your companions sent to apprehend her. The Flybeemon siblings."

Harpymon made a low, angry, keening sound at the news, clearly angry. She had known the three well and served with them in many a peacekeeping action.

She will miss them, Ophanimon thought, tapping the screen again. "I am sending you all the necessary information. Again, be careful, Harpymon. Do not take her lightly."

"As you command, my lady," Harpymon replied before her screen winked out. Ophanimo sighed, wishing that she could do more. She hated putting her agents at risk, yet the current treaties forbade her from involving herself directly.

I trust that this matter is resolved quickly and quietly. The balance between the two worlds is already strained and…eh?

The seeing orb shone brightly and then projected an image of Cherubimon into the room. His form was shrouded in shadow, though that was hardly surprising. The Continent of Darkness by its very nature often made visual communications difficult.

"Lady Ophanimon," Cherubimon said, his voice deep and gravelly. "If I may be permitted to ask, how goes the operation regarding the beast digimon?"

"There has been a minor setback," Ophanimon replied. "She is a powerful and illusive digimon for her level. I suspect that she will be brought here soon however, and then we can get to the business of our investigation into the matter."

"All very well then," Cherubimon replied. "However, I have an urgent matter to discuss with you in private, as it cannot be done through our communications. I humbly request that you come to the Rose Morning Star at your soonest convenience. I must go now. My warriors have matters that require my attending."

With that, Cherubimon's visage winked out of existence, leaving a very puzzled and concerned Ophanimon.

"His warriors…?" she wondered aloud. "Is there some conflict occurring in the Continent of Darkness?"

She puzzled over his words for a moment before deciding to head out to the dark land. Surely this was a matter of great concern if he was summoning soldiers.

Still… Taking a moment, she passed a hand over her orb to contact Seraphimon, however no reply came from his end. Frowning beneath her helm, she dismissed the orb.

Perhaps he too has been summoned by Cherubimon. It could very well be that the Nightmare Soldiers are within his land and he requires assistance.

Rising into the air, she tapped the air again, and a new screen appeared, this time of a beastial, cat-like woman with wings and a facial mask. Her tail flicked as she turned toward the screen and bowed her head politely.

"My lady Ophanimon," Nefertimon greeted. "How may I be of service?"

"I am leaving for the Rose Morning Star," Ophanimon replied. "You are in charge of the castle while I am gone."

"Yes my lady."

###

"Is she going to be okay?"

Sora looked through the window at her partner, still laying in the isolation unit that kept her stabilized. Her condition, Joe had told her, was definitely improving, but she was still a ways off from being released.

From Sora's perspective, seeing her covered in wires and still unconscious, she didn't look like it. She looked…fragile.

"She will be," Joe repeated, looking down at his clipboard. "She's at 75 percent recovery rate now. All that's left is to do when the over-write is finished is to defragment her data and then…" He turned over a page. "…that should be it."

"I hate to leave her though…" Sora said mournfully. Joe raised an eyebrow at her.

"Um…I hate to be the one to point this out, but…it is visiting hours still. We're not throwing you out."

Sora pulled herself away from the window, one hand hugging her arm as she frowned.

"I have to though," she said, dropping her hand to her side. "There's something I need to do. Someone else who I think needs some help, and…I wasn't there for her. Being in the hospital after all…"

Joe looked no less confused, but he turned to look back at Biyomon.

"If it's that important, go on ahead. Biyomon's out of the worst of it. We can take things from here." He glanced back at the girl, smiling. "She'll still be here when you get back. I promise."

Sora laughed and ruffled the taller man's hair good-naturedly. "Good old reliable Joe. Where would we be without you?"

"I could think of a few places," Joe replied with a grin. "I think it'd be the same place we'd be if we didn't have any one of us together."

Sora retracted her hand, her smile declining a little as she thought of Takeru. Joe must have had the same thought because he nodded to her, his own expression sobering as well.

"Better get going so you can be back before visiting hours are over," he said. Nodding, the Digidestined of Love left her friend and her partner for the one whose heart needed healing the most at the moment.

###

This may be the absolute dumbest thing I've ever done, thought Takato as he led Jeri up the stairs to Guilmon's hideout, and with good reason. The confidence he felt from her eagerness evaporated with every step, destroyed by memories of Kazu and Kenta's reaction to Guilmon. He couldn't expect Jeri to react any better.

Heck, I got pretty freaked out by Guilmon back when I first met him. I thought he was going to eat me! I mean, sure, Guilmon is pretty cool, but…

He swallowed nervously upon reaching the gate.

…he's still a Hazard digimon and he's also a fire breathing dinosaur.

Takato felt sick to his stomach. If he had known he would be bringing his partner into the world with so many difficulties, he probably would have considered rethinking things.

Where did the Digital Hazard come from in the first place? he wondered distractedly before brushing it off.

Jeri peaked over his shoulder, peering into the concrete hut. "Does he live here?" she whispered, causing Takato to blink, startled.

There I go again, getting lost in my own head.

"Oh! Yeah, that's right."

"A real digimon?"

Takato smiled at her curiosity, feeling a little bit better upon seeing her shining eyes. There was a warm openness about them that he found a bit soothing. It didn't wholly settle his fears, but he could move again.

"Amazing, huh?" he replied. "Wait until you see him. I created him you know."

"You did?! Wow! What kind of digimon is he?" Jeri asked, a smile blooming on her face. Takato felt even better at how impressed she sounded by this. Emboldened, Takato turned toward her and raised his hands excitedly.

"He's tough and baby can he fight! His special attack is Pyro Sphere!"

Seeing movement out of the corner of her eye, Jeri turned to find a pair of golden, yellow eyes gleaming in the darkness approaching them. Following her gaze, Takato immediately remembered Kazu and Kenta again and tensed up, expecting the worst.

Whoops. This could get ugly, he thought as Guilmon made a snarling snort from the darkness, causing Jeri to look anxious.

It was time for damage control.

"I was just kidding!" he said suddenly interposing himself between Jeri and the gate. "It's fake! You know, rubber eyes; flashlight. I had you going there, didn't I? You know how us boys are."

Jeri looked at him first in confusion, and then with a hurt expression. "Huh? But…you…" she began, trying to understand what he was saying. He had seemed so confident before, and she never pegged him as the sort to lie to someone, especially over something like this. What was going on?

Before she could finish sorting out the puzzle to Takato's behavior, a crimson-scaled dinosaur emerged from the shadows and turned his big, child-like, golden eyes at the boy before speaking in what could only be the most adorable and innocent sounding voice she ever heard.

"Hey Takato. I'm hungry. Did you bring some bread?"

"I'm sorry if I…" Takato continued babbling before he abruptly ground to a halt. Panic set in and he froze in place, fearing Jeri's reaction.

Sure enough, she pointed at Guilmon and screamed.

Takato groaned and planted his face in the palms of his hands just in time to miss Jeri rush right past him and clasp her arms around the dinosaur in a powerful, happy hug.

"Cute!" she exclaimed as Guilmon raised his arms uncertainly and looked at Takato, not sure at all what to do in this situation.

"You brought a friend instead," was all he could say as Jeri smothered him with hugs. Takato pulled his head out of his hands and looked at Jeri, taken aback by the unexpected display of affection. This was far from everything he thought would happen.

Well… It sure beats the alternative.

"Did you say cute?" he asked her. "You meant cool, didn't you?"

"I don't mind cute," Guilmon replied as Jeri pulled back, brushing the bangs of her hair out of her eyes. "But who is she?"

"Oops, I'm sorry," she apologized, taking hold of Guilmon's clawed hand and shaking it. "I'm Jeri."

"I'm Guilmon," the dinosaur replied. "Nice to meet'cha." He turned toward Takato curiously. "Is she your girlfriend?"

At this, Takato twitched and blushed, wondering how he knew about that. He didn't remember ever telling Guilmon about boyfriends and girlfriends.

Terriermon… He thought in Henry's voice, scratching the back of his head in embarrassment.

"Uh… Well…she's a friend."

"Guilmon, guess what?" Jeri asked, reaching into her pocket, rummaging around inside. "I've got a little present for you."

Pulling out her hand, she produced a sticker. Peeling it off, she approached the dinosaur and stuck it on his nose.

"I'm gonna put it right…here!" she giggled. "Perfect!"

Guilmon smiled and looked at Takato. Whatever it was, it didn't smell nor did it hurt, which he supposed was… "Not bad. What do you think?"

Takato's expression twitched a little. "It's…cute all right," he admitted reluctantly.

I can't believe I just said that… he thought as both girl and digital dinosaur began to laugh.

###

Renamon stood atop a building, staring out over the city, her blue eyes searching it.

I won the fight, she thought quietly. So why do I feel like I lost? Something doesn't feel right. Something is missing.

Almost against her will, her eyes fell in the direction of Rika's home, and she thought of her discussion with Henry following the battle with the Flybeemon.

"Renamon," pressed Henry. "You two fit together. You should be partners, not enemies."

"Partners?!" Renamon asked in disbelief, as if the word were completely alien to her. "You keep using that word. Am I supposed to know what it means?"

"It's like this," Henry began, trying not to be exasperated by Renamon's tone. "Terriermon and I are both friends and equals."

"Equals." Renamon narrowed her eyes at the boy. Henry bobbed his head up and down in response.

"Exactly. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Like I said; we fit together. You and Rika fit together. Takato's teacher…one of the Digidestined… She and her partner, Gatomon, told me something yesterday. When I was having my…difficulties, they were reflected in Terriermon. When he digivolved, he ran out of control, and that was because I was so worried about not being in control. Both of you must have had something in common or you wouldn't have become partners in the first place. It was no coincidence, I'm sure of it."

Renamon tore her gaze away from the direction of Rika's home, anger flashing through her. There was nothing there for her anymore, yet everyone kept trying to tell her otherwise.

Why? Why does it matter to them? Why…?

Movement caught her attention, and she zeroed in on the form of Impmon, hopping from rooftop to rooftop.

"Now what is he up to?" she wondered aloud. She found her curiosity caught now. There were certainly many digimon in the real world, but not many existed in this city save for a handful who escaped detection or were otherwise partnered with a human. Impmon fell into the former category and didn't seem to experience any trouble that she saw for his lack of a partner.

Questions on her mind, she vanished into thin air, following him.

###

Another day found Impmon bored. Humans were, as usual, predictable. Stand out, make some spooky noises and a show of fire and they ran off screaming. So routine. So familiar.

Sheesh. I've gotten so used to things being the same that I'm treading on old ground, he thought, finding himself in a familiar neighborhood. Making an annoyed tsking sound, he continued on. Well, it's not like I've got anything better to do…

Coming to a rest at last on a rooftop, he set himself down and looked into the window of the home across the street. Inside were two children, locked in a tug of war with a teddy bear.

Humans… he thought disdainfully as they pulled all the more tightly on the poor bear's arms. Look at them. Dogs have more sense!

Now that he thought about it though, he felt as though he were being insulting to dogs, treating them as though they were just barely above humans. Going a step further, humans had no sense at all as far as he was concerned. Everything that existed in this world had more sense. Blades of grass had more sense. Worms had more sense. Humans? They only thought of themselves, and here he was proven correct.

As he watched, the teddy bear's arms stretched and a seam began to tear.

"Come on!" the girl shouting so loudly that Impmon could hear her from where he sat. "It's my turn!"

"No way! Momma said he's mine!" cried the boy, pulling back even harder, causing the tear to widen unseen.

"Oh yeah? Well you gotta share!" the girl yelled back, giving a particularly hard tug just in time for the boy's yank. Sure enough, because they weren't paying attention…because of their complete and utter focus on themselves – their own selfishness – the bear's arm tore off, sending the two children collapsing to the floor, stuffing spilling out of the gaping wound.

The fall wasn't serious. Indeed, the two children looked more startled by what happened than anything else. However, the second passed and what happened sunk into them and they both began balling loudly; not for what they did to the poor Mr. Bear, but because they fell and most assuredly blamed the other for what happened to their beloved toy.

"Impmon!"

The memory of the loud, demanding voice played through the diminutive digimon's mind as he clutched hold of his trembling arms.

That could have been me, he thought, his whole body joining his arms in their shivering. I'm glad I got out of there when I did.

He twitched just then, something tugging at the corners of his senses. Growling angrily, he turned to find Renamon standing behind him, gazing at him curiously.

"Well what?" he demanded heatedly, not liking how she snuck up on him.

"What is wrong with you?" she asked, having seen his unusual behavior. Spinning back around, Impmon composed himself, pushing the scene…and the memory…out of his mind.

"Not a blasted thing, toots!" he replied. "Now toodles!"

With that, he shot off into the air, leaving Renamon behind. The kitsune's tail slashed through the air and turned her attention to the house below, uncertain as to what it was about the two crying children that would have upset him so. Dismissing it, she turned and vanished back into thin air, following after Impmon.

###

Sora arrived at the Nonaka residence in record time. Stepping through the gate's main entrance, she looked around the yard, half expecting – hoping – to find Seiko or Rika. Rika especially, but if not her than at least Seiko, so that she could be directed to the girl.

She noted that Rika was nowhere to be seen.

Normally she'd be lounging around on a day like today, she thought. Well, if she stuck around that is.

She suspected that Rika did. She knew the girl well. In the absence of her mother's presence, she had the tendency to lock herself away inside her room when upset about something.

"Hello?" she called out, walking up the path to the front door. "Is anyone home?"

A door slid open, and Seiko appeared and smiled upon seeing Sora. The Digidestined of Love returned it and bowed politely.

"Hello Seiko," she greeted. "It is good to see you?"

"And you," Seiko nodded. "I'm glad you're all right." She angled her head and furrowed her brow, noticing the absence of someone.

"Biyomon is still in the hospital," Sora clarified. "She's doing better, but recovery is, well, a bit slow considering what she went through."

"I see. Well…as long as she's doing well. I do worry about her though." Pausing, she drew her hands together in front of her. "I'm sorry that we haven't visited you. I wanted to go when Rika was ready, but…" She cast a meaningful glance down in the direction of Rika's room.

"That's fine," Sora replied, understanding what she meant. "I actually came down here to talk to her. Did she…tell you anything?"

"No." Seiko shook her head. "I'm afraid I haven't had any luck with her. I haven't seen her partner around since you were admitted to the hospital." There was a flash of concern in her eyes just then. "She wasn't…"

"No," Sora shook her head. "Renamon was alive and well when I last saw her. She and Rika… Well… Let me have a talk with her. I'll tell you about it later if you want. Hope you don't mind."

"Not at all. I last saw her in her room. She's been quiet since then, so I don't think she's left."

"Thank you," Sora bowed politely again, and Seiko returned it. Taking off her shoes, she padded down the porch and arrived at the slide door in question and pulled it open, revealing the girl, still lying with her head on her table. She scrunched her eyes up at the sudden burst of light and sat up with the start of an annoyed grumble, only to stop upon seeing Sora.

Rika's mouth moved, her name a whisper on her lips, but she stopped herself from saying it out loud. Looking ashamed, she turned away, hands clutching at the edges of the table.

Well… She's not telling me to get out. That's a good sign.

"Hey," Sora began, stepping inside and closing the door behind her. "Mind if I come in?"

Rika's fingers curled into her palms, but she made no comment. Taking this as something approaching consent, Sora set herself down close by, but not too close.

"I'm glad to see that you're doing okay," she said to Rika after a moment of silence between them. "Biyomon's doing good as well. She should be out of the hospital soon."

Rika pressed her lips together, still not answering. Sora leaned forward, looking at her in concern.

"I hear that you haven't been talking much lately. That Renamon hasn't been around either."

Rika's fists tightened and an angry expression crossed her features. "She doesn't need me," she said bitterly. "She never did."

"Maybe," Sora admitted. "It wouldn't be the first time we had a Digidestined or a Tamer who worked on the side of darkness. Or even their partners."

"What…?" Rika blinked. "Oh. You mean Ken, right?"

"Gatomon too," Sora said, causing Rika to blink again in surprise at that. "It's not a well-known story. Not really. Gatomon doesn't like to talk about it. The first time we met her was in the digital world, when we were trying to get back home to find Kari. We didn't know she was the Eighth Child. Neither did her boss, Myotismon…" She paused, realizing she was drifting off topic. "Anyway, our first meeting with Gatomon had her slugging it out with all of us. She packs quite the punch for someone so small, and she fought us to a standstill before retreating into the portal to the real world, shutting it in our faces.

"It was a while later that we met her again, and by then she had already met Kari and found out who she was."

Sora met Rika's violet eyes with her brown ones. "She had been alone with her for most of the day, and had standing orders to kill her."

Rika glanced away, looking sick. "She didn't though."

"No, she didn't, but Gatomon, by her own admission, was close to doing just that. If she had acted a second sooner, things would be…very different."

"Why are you telling me this?" Rika asked irritably. "You're hoping that I'm going to go find Renamon and see if we can be partners again, huh? Or even…friends."

She nearly spat out the last word, hating its taste in her mouth. Why bother with making friends? They always seemed to leave in the end.

"I'll admit that it's on my mind," Sora replied truthfully. "You know Renamon better than I do of course, but… I don't know. You received a digivice for a reason after all. I don't think the digital world would give you one if the two of you weren't meant to be together. It wouldn't be the first time that a digimon or a human pulled the other out of the shadows."

"Renamon's real friends were there when I got my digivice," Rika snorted. "I'm pretty sure it came from them."

"Maybe, but that doesn't mean they own it. It's your digivice, not theirs. Only you can decide what to do with it."

Rika narrowed her eyes angrily. "You're trying to tell me what I should decide."

Sora's expression softened. "I just…don't like seeing two people who care about each other decide that they can't be together. I want you to be open to the possibility that maybe you and Renamon can work something out. I remember how she nearly died saving you from Dokugumon."

"She lied to me, Sora," Rika growled, her fists shaking now. "She used me and she left. She never wanted to have me for her partner. I was just…just a battery to her! If she cared at all…she…she wouldn't have left me."

There was a flash of pain across her face and Rika clenched her eyes shut, fighting to keep the tears that wanted out caged within. Approaching the girl, Sora placed her hands on her shoulders and gave them a soft squeeze. The display of affection caused Rika to utter a sharp gasp and the floodgates nearly broke open. She caught hold of them at the last minute though and held firm before closing them tightly.

"Maybe Renamon left…because she felt she was hurting you," Sora suggested quietly. Rika stiffened at that. The thought hadn't occurred to her. She had been so…angry that night. She had even punched Takato without even thinking even though the boy hadn't meant her any harm.

Do people leave you when they think they're hurting you?

"Why…Why are you defending her?" Rika rasped.

Sora remained silent for a moment before replying.

"Maybe I'm being silly. But…I believe that even the guilty sometimes deserve a second chance."

Second chances… Rika thought quietly. Her mind recoiled at the notion while her heart hesitated in its beating for a brief moment before continuing. She wanted to believe Sora was right, but…after so long a time of people leaving her, she just didn't believe there were any more second chances left for her to give. She…

"I'm home!" came the all of Rumiko as she entered through the main gate, causing both the girl and the woman to sigh as one. Giving Rika a quick squeeze, Sora got to her feet.

"I'll keep her occupied," she said, heading out of the room and leaving Rika alone.

Alone that is, save for the still form of Calumon, who now occupied a space atop Rika's dresser, looking down at her with worry.

###

Impmon hummed quietly to himself as he trailed along the railing. His ears twitched and he drew to a halt. He scowled, listening intently.

Is there someone behind me?

Deciding to test his theory, he started up again. Yes. Sure enough, he heard the soft sound of steps starting up again somewhere up on the billboard above him. He instantly knew who it was and he spun around angrily.

"Quit following me!" he shouted, shaking a gloved fist at Renamon.

"I have a question," she said, looking down at him, somewhat bemused by his temperamental behavior. He never seemed to change no matter how many times he got kicked down by those more powerful than he.

"And you think I care?" Impmon shot back, only to change his track almost immediately. "Actually I do care. Surprised? I care because I'm sure it's something stupid!"

What a strange, little digimon, Renamon thought before jumping down to the railing beside the diminutive Rookie with an easy grace. Smirking, Impmon turned away and planted his hands on his hips, looking quite pleased with himself that she would even deign to seek him about anything.

"I've learned not to expect much from the human-loving digi-duds, but maybe there's hope for you darling coming to yours truly for the answers. Guess I shouldn't be surprised since you were with the Nightmare Soldiers first, so you already knew about their ugly side." Raising one hand to his chin, he massaged it lightly, glancing at the vulpine digimon smugly. "So tell me, Foxy. What can I do ya for?"

Renamon got right to the point. "Why don't you have a partner?"

At that, Impmon squawked in surprise and nearly lost his balance. Of all the questions it was that?

Renamon dismissed his antics and simply continued on as he rebalanced himself. "Why should a digimon have a partner? You know as well as I do that we were told that in order to grow stronger we needed the help of humans. Why?"

Settling back down, Impmon sighed in exasperation and threw his hands up emptily.

"You got me," he said before pointing a finger at her accusingly. "No self-respecting digimon needs a partner. Especially a human."

"Are you sure?" Renamon pressed. She couldn't understand this line of thinking. She digivolved because of Rika – or at least she thought she did – while Impmon never seemed to grow in power at all.

"Of course I am!" Impmon exclaimed, remembering the scene from the house with the two children. He shuddered involuntarily at the memory before continuing. I'd stay far away from them if I were you. They're trouble with a capital T! I'm sorry, Fox Face. Did I go too fast for you? Ah, forget about it!"

With an annoyed grunt, he hopped to the other end of the railing, preparing to catapult himself into the air once more before Renamon's next question caught his attention.

"How can we digivolve or increase our strength unless we have a partner?"

"Ah, come on!" Impmon whirled about. "You're not really buying that one? Apocalymon may have sold you that garbage, but it's stupid! The power's inside of you! Forget all the rest!"

The power's inside of me? Renamon wondered, a bit surprised by this. Everything and everyone she knew looked to humans for power. Never from within. It sounded like…odd to her ears.

Still, if Impmon knew something she didn't…

"How do I find it?"

At this, Impmon suddenly looked uncertain and hesitated in his answer before falling back on what appeared to her eyes to be his default attitude. Bravado and dismissal of the intelligence of others.

"I guess you're not very bright," he replied, stamping his foot on the railing. "Don't expect me to tell you what to do. You've got to figure it out for yourself."

At least, that's what all those stories that I read keep saying, Impmon thought, remembering his stash of reading material that he stole a while back. It made sense after all. If the power was inside everyone all along, then why bother needing anyone else?

"I…see," Renamon replied with a narrowing of her eyes. "I…think I get what you're trying to say."

She knew that she didn't sound at all convincing, but at this point she wasn't sure if there was anything more to be gained by this conversation. She supposed she could simply destroy the tiny Rookie and load his data, but there didn't seem to be any point to that either as he was far too weak for her.

As she suspected, her ruse didn't work at all, and only served to make Impmon even more angry with her.

"You get what I'm trying to say?" he growled, stabbing that finger of his at her again before shaking both of his hands up and down like a child throwing a tantrum. "You're just a know-it-all like the rest of them! I get it. I get it. Well you're not Einstein, and frankly you make me sick to my stomach!"

And that's my cue…

"I'll leave you alone then," Renamon replied, turning away and jumping over to the next roof. This caused Impmon's mouth to drop open in surprise, having not expected her to just decide to up and leave rather than listen to him rant some more.

"You'll wha…?" he began before darting after her. "Hey! I got a lot more to say! Don't you want to hear!"

Renamon disappearance over the roof clearly gave her answer, and Impmon dropped his fist in frustration.

"Ah, ba-boom…" he muttered.

Once, Renamon would have smiled to herself at his deflating ego, but with so much on her mind, she couldn't spare a thought for it. Landing atop a construction crane, Renamon rose and stared out over the city. The sun was setting, casting all of Shinjuku and its sky in a golden glow. She thought of Rika, and how she always became a bit more solemn during sunsets and would sometimes take a moment to watch them before going about her business. It was a strange peculiarity of hers that she never asked her about.

Talk… We hardly ever talked about anything except battle and our training. That was the only thing we shared in common. Perhaps we never needed each other. Do I need Rika to fulfill my destiny?

Her destiny. From the time she was a Viximon, she had been told that her only destiny was to the forces of Darkness. To become their greatest soldier and destroy the armies of Light.

Only…she was no longer a part of the Nightmare Soldiers. They cast her out when she stood against IceDevimon. What was more…she digivolved on her own even though Rika refused to help her.

I hate to admit it…but Impmon may be right. Maybe I don't need Rika. And maybe…maybe she doesn't need me.

That thought left her feeling depressed, and she clenched her paws together. The sun dipped further toward the horizon, and the golden glow bathing the city vanished as the shadows grew.

I must rely on the power within me, she thought. I am alone in this world. Rika does not need me. She does not care for me. Just as before, there is no one else who will stand by me…except…me.

A column of light erupted from the park, and a fog quickly spread throughout the trees. A bio-emergence!

Another battle, Renamon thought, though she found, curiously, that she could no longer summon the eagerness she once held for combat. Only…sorrow, and utter emptiness.

Frustrated, she leapt into the air and started toward the direction of the site of the bio-emergence. Perhaps there, she would find answers.

###

Rika sat up at the sound of her digivice's alarm and found her trash basket glowing. Knowing what it meant, Rika turned away and groaned, clamping her hands around her ears.

No… she thought. I…I can't. Don't…listen. She doesn't need me.

###

The fog was thick amidst the trees, obscuring nearly all of her surroundings. Renamon frowned as she hid within the brush, listening. The screeches of some digimon – a bird-like one she assumed judging from the sounds – could be heard on the wind, loud and shrill. She wracked her memory for the particular digimon, but at the moment nothing came to mind.

It stays out of sight well, she mused. It won't give itself away easily. It needs…prey.

Stepping out into the open now, Renamon presented herself as one such target. Many digimon preferred melee combat, but even in the event that this one didn't, a single shot would tell her a great deal about where to look. She only need to wait.

She didn't have to wait for very long. A gust of wind and a shriek of victory caught her attention and Renamon just barely dodged out of the way as the massive form of Harpymon came flying on in, her claws crashing into the earth where the vulpine digimon had just been. Renamon somersaulted through the air as the avian rose up after her, barely losing a second.

Powerful…and skilled, Renamon thought. This will be a challenge. If Rika were…

No. She couldn't think of her. Not now. She had only herself after all. There was no one else to aid her.

###

The night sky twinkled with the light of stars as Jeri waved goodbye to Takato and Guilmon.

"See ya," the brunette called, starting down the stairs. "I'll come visit again."

Takato's eyebrows rose at that. She wanted to see Guilmon again? "Oh. Uh… Okay. Anytime."

Lowering his arm, the goggle-wearing boy gazed at her retreating back in contemplation. He and Jeri had…become friends, as hard as it was to believe. Never in a million years did he believe such a thing would happen. He was supposed to be the weird, awkward one who constantly stumbled over his own feet and she was supposed to avoid him at all costs, or at the very least laugh at him and his odd quirks.

This just…doesn't happen to me I think, he thought. I don't think it's supposed to happen to anybody like me. What's going on here?

"Guilmon?" he asked quietly as the girl disappeared down the curve of the stairs. "Do you think she likes me?"

Guilmon sneezed suddenly and the flower sticker came flying off his nose. Rubbing at his face, he looked around, trying to find it before quickly giving up.

"Well… She likes you more than Rika, that's for sure," the crimson dinosaur replied. "I don't think she'd punch you anyway."

Rika…

The angry face of the red-haired Digimon Queen came to mind and his mood sobered.

"I guess…" he began distractedly, scratching the back of his head. "Well…never mind. I think I should get going now. I'll see about…"

Before he could continue, Guilmon's pupils suddenly dilated and he crouched down, growling viciously.

"Ah! Something the matter, Guilmon?"

The sound of a screeching…thing…emanating from deep within the park more than told him what he needed to know.

A digimon.

Why didn't you go off? he wondered, frowning down at his digivice. Takato quickly rushed after him.

Boy, it's never a dull day around here…

"That's either a digimon or a train wreck!" came Terriermon's worried cry from down in the park path as they both reached the bottom. A smile bloomed across Takato's face as he saw a familiar Tamer emerge at a run from the shadows.

"Henry!"

"Good, I'm glad to see you're here," Henry said. "It's pretty close by and it's a strong signal!"

"Oh great. Guess that means we're going to be on the news tonight," Takato groaned, rolling his eyes. "Why can we never get anything like Calumon anymore?"

"Because you're the universe's chew toy?" Terriermon suggested, earning him an annoyed look from the two boys. "What? It's possible!"

Frowning, Henry turned away and poured on the speed. "Let's go!"

###

Rika's digivice continued to buzz and beep from within the confines of the trash basket, and Rika continued to try to shut it out.

I shouldn't have fished it out last time… she thought, tightening her hands against her ears. The beeping didn't stop, and it told her that the battle continued on. Renamon could be there, or one of the other Tamers or their doofus Digidestined friends.

I don't care! I don't…care… They…could be…hurt…

She clenched her eyes shut all the more tightly. Why should she care? None of them cared about her? No one did. They all left sooner or later anyway. Why…?

"Oh, I'd better see what it wants?"

Looking up in surprise, she saw Calumon circle around her and run straight over to the basket. Dunking himself inside, he rummaged around and then he grunted in surprise as the basket tipped over. Rika gasped, moving over to him with surprising concern beating in her heart for the little digimon.

Rolling on out, Calumon lifted the digivice and looked at the screen. He turned it over and furrowed his brow questioningly.

"Ohhh… Well, it's not saying much but the light sure is pretty."

"Give it here!"

Her curiosity no longer deniable, she snatched her digivice out of Calumon's tiny paws and took a quick look at the screen. She was greeted by a confusing jumble of images as Renamon leapt around repeatedly, clearly dealing with a considerably powerful opponent. Closing her eyes, she lowered the digivice, knowing that if she kept watching, her resolve would only crumble.

Renamon's in danger…

Her grip tightened around the digivice for a brief moment before she let go of it and spun back around to her table, trying to shut out the noise of its incessant beeping. Seeing her reaction, Calumon picked it back up and looked at the screen.

"Whatever it said didn't go over very well," he bemoaned before glancing back up at Rika. The girl felt her whole body shivering as she wrestled with the decision before her.

Can I really let her fight this by herself? Or…should I…just let her die?

She gasped as that last thought fully bloomed in her mind and at once she surged to her feet, snatching up the digivice out of Calumon's tiny paws. Ignoring his excited cry, Rika raced out of her room and blew past her mother and Sora as they were giving each other their goodbyes at the gate.

"Rika!" Rumiko shouted, but it was too late. She was gone like a shot. Sora and Rumiko stared after her, bewildered before Rumiko moaned and lowered her hands to her hips.

"Honestly…I don't know what I'm going to do with her."

Sora didn't answer right away, wondering just what it was that set such a sharp gust of wind into Rika's sails to make her run so. She quickly replayed the memory…and noticed the glowing blue light, beeping loudly, strapped to her belt.

Rika was wearing her digivice again.

"I'm sure she'll be all right," Sora soothed, stepping outside the gate. "I hate to cut this short, Rumi, but I've got to get going. We'll discuss business tomorrow, how's that?"

"All right," Rumiko replied, looking down in the direction Rika ran worriedly. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Sora waved goodbye and headed off at a quick, but measured pace. Upon ascertaining that Rumiko was no longer watching her, she took a quick look around and took notice of the digital field off in the direction of the park.

Rika's heading there, she thought. With that, she took off at a run.

###

Guilmon broke through the barrier, quickly followed by Terriermon, Takato and Henry. The brown-haired boy pulled up his goggles as soon as he heard the loud screech of their quarry and his eyes widened upon seeing a familiar vulpine form, dodging back and forth from the attacks of a humanoid bird.

"Renamon's in a fight!" he exclaimed, raising his digivice to identify their opponent. The holographic circle rose above its screen, providing detailed information to him. "Whoa! It's Harpymon! That's one nasty digimon with a screech like nails down a chalkboard!" The holo-circle receded and he looked back up. "Renamon's going to have a tough time dealing with her Wind Seeker attack."

"Rika!" called Henry, looking around as Takato did likewise.

"I don't see her anywhere!"

"Forget about her," Terriermon said. "If she's not here, than she's not here. Now how about we get in there and mix it up before Renamon gets killed!"

Suiting action to words, Terriermon rushed toward the battlefield, neck in neck with Guilmon. Catching sight of their approach, Harpymon crossed her wings together and slashed them to the side, sending a razor-sharp blade of energy surging toward them. Crying out in surprise, Terriermon and Guilmon dodged out of the way, the blade carving a trench in the ground where they once stood.

"Well that was close…" Terriermon gasped.

"And if you know what's good for you, you'll come no closer!" Harpymon shouted, startling the group. It was rare that digimon ever spoke to them, let alone warn them off from a battle. Not bothering to explain herself, Harpymon began to circle back around to Renamon just as she crossed her arms together.

"Diamond Storm!" she shouted, slashing her own arms outward and breaking the glowing sphere that formed before her. Dozens of glowing, crystalline shards flew out toward Harpymon, only for the Armor digimon to easily dodge them and fly toward her without breaking a sweat. Renamon however did not feel the least bit concerned by this. Now that her target entered melee range, she cut loose, slamming a fist into the side of her armored face, sending her careening off to the side.

"We've got to do something," Henry began, eyeing the fight. Like Renamon, Harpymon was a data type, so there would be no type advantage here, and as an Armor, she could withstand more punishment than Renamon. Renamon was good in close quarters, but Harpymon proved to have the advantage in the air. Renamon could jump well, but she was largely grounded.

We need to take away Harpymon's advantage.

"Takato! Quick! Use your Hyper Wing car-!"

Henry hesitated as he caught sight of movement from within the fog, and the familiar shape of Rika Nonaka, surprisingly with Calumon bounding behind her, emerged.

"Rika!" he exclaimed in surprise while a smile bloomed into existence on Takato's face at her mention.

"Just in time!"

Rika frowned in annoyance at the two boys, a part of her confused as to why Takato of all people looked happy to see her. He never seemed to take a disliking to her no matter how much she belittled or…hurt him.

It's probably because he's such a stupid Gogglehead, she thought distractedly before turning her mind away from them and over to Renamon, who had just now taken notice of her. Rika's breath caught in her throat as their eyes met, and for the briefest of moments, the whole world around them vanished. She could still feel their link between them…calling to her.

"Hey, hey!" Terriermon crowed. "Look who finally made an entrance!"

What…is this? Harpymon wondered at the scene as she flapped her wings. Another human… Wait. This is the one from Ophanimon's files? The one partnered to the Renamon?

She narrowed her eyes beneath her mask, but she didn't have time to think on the matter for very long, for Renamon suddenly leapt up and delivered a powerful, punishing punch to Harpymon's face before spinning around and doing the same with a spinning kick. With a cry of pain, the Armored avian crashed to the ground and laid there…stunned. Renamon landed in front of her, glaring at her fallen opponent, breathing heavily. She felt…different somehow. As though she had just proven something now that Rika was here.

It has to be because of that, she thought. Impmon was right. I willed myself strength and it came!

She glanced over at Rika, seeing the fear in her face and then dropped her gaze back down to her fallen adversary. This was her victory, not hers and Rika's.

Her thoughts stopped right there and she took a moment to focus on that.

Just hers. Not hers and Rika's. Just hers.

Tentatively, she reached out through the void and touched Rika's mind, and through their link, she felt the panicked thought that coursed through it.

Renamon was powerful without my help. I knew she didn't want me…

The vulpine digimon closed her eyes and sighed inwardly, realizing why her battle with the Flybeemon had felt so empty and unsatisfying. Why she felt so hurt and lost since leaving Rika.

"She's frozen like a statue!" Takato said in confusion, a sentiment shared by Henry as well.

"Isn't she going to finish off Harpymon and load her data?"

Hearing this, Renamon opened her eyes and once more her azure gaze met that of Rika's violet ones. She could see the anxiety in them; feel the terror that beat in her chest, afraid of what she was going to do. Would she leave her again? Or…

No.

"I could load the data of every opponent I fight and take them apart one by one," she said darkly, her claws tightening against her palms. She loosened them and closed her eyes again as she continued in a softer voice. "But what's the point after it's all over?"

Without someone to share victory with…my battles are meaningless. Without Rika… I am empty and devoid of purpose. Rika… I should have seen it sooner. You are my purpose. I'm sorry for not seeing it sooner.

Unseen by her, Harpymon struggled to raise her head, confused at still being alive and with the Renamon standing before her, but not moving.

She didn't understand what was going on, but she knew an opportunity when she saw one.

She slashed her wings and a sharp blast of energy slammed into Renamon, sending her flying backward as she cried out in pain – a cry that was matched by all the others who watched it happen.

Renamon hit the ground hard, and the Harpymon was on her just as she struggled to recover. She rolled to the side, narrowly missing getting the Armored digimon's claws stabbed into her, but no sooner did she do so was Harpymon's other set of claws rushing for her as well, and she rolled to the side again to the opposite end, barely evading injury. The action repeated itself, Renamon having no time to use her momentum to escape out of reach, and what was worse, sooner or later…Harpymon was going to catch her, and then it would be over.

And then Harpymon screamed.

Rika didn't know how she got there. The last thing she could immediately remember was a blanket of red covering her vision and the horror upon realizing that she had forgotten to bring her cards along for battle.

There was the stick next to her though; sharp on one end. She fancied seeing a swirl of blue around her body in the form of digital numbers, but it vanished as quickly as it came. Snatching up the stick, she bolted past Takato and Henry and in the next moment, she howled a fearsome battle cry and stabbed the stick into Harpymon's back, just underneath the plate of her armor where her spine met.

The Harpymon screamed, loud and long, surprisingly hurt by the attack. Enraged, she spun around on the girl and shrieked in anger. Human or digimon, no one attacked her from behind!

Oh, you are going to pay! she thought, crossing her wings together.

No! Renamon exclaimed mentally, struggling to rise to her feet. Rika was going to die! No… This is all my fault! If I had acted…

Understanding flooded Renamon's mind. Why Takato and Henry fought so vehemently for their partners. Why they defended them and why they valued them so much despite being made of data.

They were the same reasons why she now fought for Rika. Why…they now fought for her.

"Rika!" shouted Takato as both he and Takato began to run forward, hoping beyond hope to save her before it was too late.

Behind them, the small, red triangle on Calumon's forehead glowed, and suddenly white light burst free from Renamon's body, signaling her digivolution. White hot lightning scorched through her bond with the girl and strength beyond anything she knew before flooded the very essence of her being.

"Renamon! Digivolve tooo…Kyubimon!"

The shell of data that surrounded the vixen exploded, and Kyubimon dropped down on all fours and slammed into Harpymon from behind. Crying out in surprise, the bird digimon tumbled through the air for a moment before righting herself and crossing her wings together.

"Wind Seeker!" she shouted, preparing to launch her attack. However, as fast as she was, Kyubimon was faster. Blue fire lit up on the ends of all nine of her tails and she launched them all at once at her opponent, putting as much of her power into them as she could. The fireballs slammed into Harpymon repeatedly with burning, punishing blows that not even her armor could protect her from. Overwhelmed by the brutality of the attacks, Harpymon screamed one last time before dissolving into a cloud of sparkling data. Kyubimon walked underneath them, but much to Rika's surprise, she let the shards go.

"You're not loading her data?" she asked, to which Kyubimon shook her head.

"No."

"But why not?"

"Because I don't need it anymore," Kyubimon replied, turning toward her as the light of Harpymon's death died down, dousing the park back into darkness. Rika looked at her, confused.

"I don't understand."

"I don't need an opponent's data," Kyubimon clarified, approaching her, "because I have you."

Rika blinked and jerked reflexively, having not expected that.

"Because of me?"

Kyubimon drew to a stop in front of her. "Rika. You just saved my life. Why did you do it?"

"S-Someone had to," she stammered out, unable to look her partner in the face. "You saved my life once."

"You were just repaying a debt?" Kyubimon prompted.

"No. That's not what I meant," she replied, realizing that there was no longer any getting around this. She had to tell the truth, if not for Kyubimon, then…for herself. "You're my partner."

With that, Rika felt as though a weight just slid off her shoulders, and quite unexpectedly she felt a smile draw across her face in response to those words, as though she herself had been waiting to hear them.

"And that's what partners do," Kyubimon continued from her words. "We protect each other, is that what you're saying?"

Rika felt there was more to it now. Something in her heart told her as much, but for the time being she didn't have the words to describe that strange, but comforting warmth she felt glowing inside of her.

"Something like that," she laughed lightly in response. "We'll watch each other's back."

Takato scratched the back of his head as he watched the two talk to each other, feeling as though he had just missed something. Couldn't they just admit that they cared about each other? Was it really that hard for them?

"Uh…I don't get it."

Smiling at his friend's confusion, Henry turned toward him. "It's obvious they were worried about each other. Problem is, they're too hard-headed to admit it. They'll go on playing silly games until they drop."

Takato couldn't help but laugh at that. "Being honest with each other would be too hard."

Rika heard the combined laugh of the four behind her, but she let them have it for now. As much as she hated to admit it, she had been stupid. She had lied to herself as well. Renamon had been honest with her, at first wanting nothing but a human who would make her stronger, and the digimon who were with her had promised her that she could go to the digital world once she had done that. There had been no deception there, but no one expected for the two of them to come to care about each other. Reaching out, she brushed her hands against Kyubimon's muzzle, and the kitsune leaned into her touch. It took every scrap of willpower to not bury her face into her partner's fur and hold her, not wanting to ever let her go.

This was what she wanted for so long. Someone she could trust unconditionally. A friend.

###

Sora watched the scene with a small smile on her face, and after a moment withdrew and started to walk away from the group. She was tempted to join them and congratulate Rika for getting back together with her partner, but another part of her, the part who knew Rika so very well, told her to let her be for now. To let her have this moment without further interruption.

With nothing more to see, Sora started down the park path and left the trinity to their future.

17