Disclaimers and Things: Digimon belongs to Saban and Toei and probably some other people -
animes are so complicated!

Author's Note: This fic gets rated a PG for strong emotions and semi-romantic elements. There,
that's your warning. If you think you're going to be offended by anything, please go elsewhere,
because I'm not out to offend anyone. Abandon all hope of continuity ye who enter here. This fulfils a promise I made to Cynthia to
write a Ken and Wormmon fic.

The Vigil
By: SilvorMoon

There was no one to notice the pair of blue eyes that gleamed out of the shadows. The
room might as well have been empty, for all the attention Wormmon got as he kept silent vigil
over his master. Had the room truly been empty, however the caterpillar would have been much
more at ease, but there had been no peace for him since the Digimon Emperor had chosen to
permanently relocate to the Digital World. Wormmon understood his duty, which was to serve his
master any way he could. Since the emperor refused to send his companion into battle, Wormmon
confined himself to doing what little he could around the emperor's fortress. Now he stood silent
guard, peering worriedly out of the darkness as Ken hunched over his computer, fingers flying
over the keyboard.

"Aren't you ready to take a break yet, Ken?" asked Wormmon plaintively.

"If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times - don't call me Ken! I am the
Digimon Emperor, and you will call me 'master,' nothing else," Ken snapped. He coughed

"Yes, master," said Wormmon. "But you've been working on that all night! You should

"Don't tell me what to do," the emperor replied. He coughed again. "I'll decide when I
need to sleep, and I feel just fine. I don't need you nagging me."

"You don't sound fine," said Wormmon dubiously. He wiggled out of the shadows
to move closer to his master. Ken really didn't look good, he decided. The caterpillar Digimon
didn't know much about human physiology, but he knew what Ken looked like when he was
healthy, and this wasn't it. The boy's face was oddly flushed, and even his tinted glasses couldn't
hide the dark shadows under his eyes.

"I didn't ask your opinion, Wormmon," Ken snarled. "I didn't leave my family just to be
mothered by a slimy bug." He punctuated that remark by another round of coughing, louder this
time, a painful rattle that made him double over his keyboard.

"Listen to you!" Wormmon exclaimed, worry overcoming subordination. "You're sick!
You ought to be in bed!"

Ken spun in his chair, letting his amethyst eyes meet Wormmon's aquamarine ones.
Wormmon felt himself riveted, just as he always was, by the strength of will behind those eyes, so
many times greater than his own. That will had always been there, powerful pride and a drive for
excellence, but now they had an added dimension of fury. The light from the computer screen
shone through the lenses of Ken's glasses, giving his eyes a strange reddish glow.

"Are you trying to tell me what to do?" he asked, soft and dangerous.

Wormmon cringed. "No, master, I just meant-"

"I know what you meant, worm. You meant you think you know better than me. You
thought I was wrong. You, a slimy, spineless, dirt-crawling worm, were correcting your

"I didn't mean it like that! I was just worried about you!" Wormmon protested, trying to
back away from that insane glare.

Ken rose from his chair like a viper from a pit, his whip coiled around his hand. Wormmon
froze, mesmerized, unable to break his master's gaze even in his fear. He'd been beaten like this
many times before, and it was always the same: even when his mind was telling him to flee, some
other part of him longed to just stay where he was and savor being the total focus of those violet
eyes, willing to suffer the coming pain if it meant he could have some connection to his master's
power and grace.

"You need to be taught a lesson," said Ken, letting the coils of the whip slip from his hand
to dangle hypnotically before the hapless worm. "Time to remind you who is the power around

*But I know, Ken,* thought Wormmon helplessly. *I belong to you. I just
wish I could make you see that...*

At the moment, all he could do was sit submissively on the floor, watching the emperor
glide toward him with the predatory grace that Wormmon himself ached to possess... but that
grace faltered. Ken stumbled on the smooth floor, sending him collapsing into a helpless heap just
inches from his intended victim, the whip slipping out of his hand and sliding away. He made an
attempt to rise, but the star athlete seemed to no longer possess the strength to lift himself more
than a few inches, trembling under his own weight.

"Oh, my head," he moaned. "Wormmon, do something, I can't..." He trailed off as a burst
of racking coughs seized him, and he collapsed again.

"Master! Ken, what happened?" cried Wormmon, nearly tying his legs in a knot in his
haste to reach his emperor's side. "Are you all right? Speak to me!"

Ken's only answer was a low moan that turned into another bout of coughing, and he
shivered in the warm room. Wormmon felt like shivering, himself, deeply disturbed at the sight of
the most powerful person in the Digital World and Wormmon's reason for living sprawled
helplessly at his feet.

"Don't do this to me, Ken," he whispered. "I can't take care of you. I'm not strong

The echoes of the room mocked him, reminding him of how alone he was. Wormmon
could not get to the physical world to reach Ken's family, and none of the Digimon would obey
Wormmon, even if it wasn't to ask help for the hated emperor. Tears welled up in the little
caterpillar's eyes as he remembered Ken's last words to him. He'd been commanded to do
something... but what?


"Just another hunting expedition," said TK offhandedly, looking calmly around the digital

"You talk like this is a pleasure trip," Miyako scolded. "Destroying Dark Spires is serious

"Yeah, TB!" said Daisuke, glad to have a chance to annoy his rival. "Quit goofing around!
We've got an emperor to fight, and you're admiring the scenery!"

"TB... isn't that some kind of disease?" asked Iori of no one in particular.

"Same difference," Daisuke muttered.

"How can TK be goofing off if we haven't even found any Dark Spires yet?" asked Kari.
"There's no reason why he can't enjoy being here in the DigiWorld for a while. Besides, Dark
Spires are nothing compared to some of the stuff we did when we were kids."

"Really? What did you do?" asked Daisuke.

TK grinned mischievously. "Oh, you know, fighting fifty-storey tall bloodsucking demons,
being swallowed by whales, playing tag with killer puppets, dodging crazed clowns, getting lost in
dark dimensions... the usual stuff."

For once, Daisuke was struck speechless. While he was still collecting his wits, there was
an avian screech above the group, and a dark shadow fell over them. Then there was a rush of fiery
feathers, and an enormous orange bird landed next to them.

"Birdramon!" said Kari happily. "What brings you here?"

"Rrr, mrrr, murph," Birdramon mumbled. Her mouth was occupied by a small object -
small, at least, compared to her large, toothy beak. Looking up, the kids and Digimon could make
out the shape of something green and squirming. Birdramon spat it out on the ground.


Wormmon tumbled antennae over tail to finally come to a halt at Miyako's feet. He shook
off his dizziness to stare worriedly up at the hostile faces staring down at him.

"Hey! That's Ken's henchmon!" TK exclaimed. "What's he doing out here?"

"Probably spying on us," Daisuke opined. "I say we get rid of him now, before he goes
back to the emperor and starts blabbing."

"No problem," said Veemon. "He doesn't look so tough. C'mere, you little..."

Veemon made a dive at Wormmon, who jumped out of the way with an agility that was
surprising. There was a scuffle as Veemon attempted to apprehend him, kicking up dirt and grass
as they wrestled with each other, with the fight finally ending when Wormmon slipped from
Veemon's grip and hid behind Kari's legs. When Gatomon started glaring at him suspiciously, he
yelped and scrambled up to her shoulders and tried to hide under her hair. The other Digimon
looked at him with expressions ranging from curious to hostile, while the humans did much the
same thing.

"Hey, you!" Daisuke shouted. "Get your hands... or feet, or whatever those things are off

Wormmon, frightened by the angry tone of voice, naturally stayed right where he was,
clamping his pods around Kari's shoulder and hiding his head, trembling.

"Cool it!" Kari shouted. "Can't you see you're scaring him?"

"We're supposed to scare him! He's an enemy," said Daisuke.

"He doesn't look much like an enemy to me," commented Iori. "He looks just like a
frightened little Digimon." He stood up on tiptoes to try to make eye contact with the creature.
"Your name is Wormmon, right? What are you doing here?"

Wormmon peeked down to evaluate this little human staring up at him, and decided he
was nonthreatening.

"I'm here because of Ken," said Wormmon. As Veemon and Daisuke shuffled dangerously,
he continued, "Wait, let me finish! Ken is very sick. I just went looking for help for him. I can't
take care of him myself. He's lying there on the floor, all alone, with no one to take care of him,
and I'm afraid he's going to... going to... die..."

The group stood in shocked silence as tears trickled down the little caterpillar's face. A
few of them shuffled their feet and looked uncomfortable. Veemon looked decidedly abashed.
Finally, Daisuke spoke.

"You mean... Ken is dying?" he asked. "Whoa. I think we're going to need to talk about
this one."

"What's to talk about? He's our enemy," said Miyako. "Think about it! He wouldn't help us
if we were sick, would he? He'd pull out some slimy monster to kick us while we were down."

"Ken doesn't care about anyone," said TK. "He left his family - his whole world! - so he
could come here and make the Digimon's lives miserable."

"But he's still just a kid like us," Kari pointed out. "It wouldn't be right just to leave him
to die."

"What could we do?" asked Daisuke. "We're just kids, too, not doctors. How are we
supposed to help?"

"If you could do anything at all..." said Wormmon pleadingly. "There's nothing I can do
for him myself. Just... nothing. When the rest of his servants found out he was sick, they
abandoned him. There's no food left, even. You're the Digidestined. You're heroes. There's got
to be something you can do."

"Yeah, but do I really want to help the guy who threatened to feed my friends to a
Deltamon?" asked Daisuke.

"He wasn't always so bad," Wormmon protested.

"Yeah, I'll believe that," said Miyako, "when Gotsumon learn to fly! Ken brought this on
himself by his own selfishness. Why would anyone want to help him? Why do YOU want to help

Wormmon was silent for a moment. How could he explain this complicated tangle of fear
and adoration and hope and sadness that his master made him feel? The Digidestined waited with
open skepticism on their faces.

"Ken was a little boy, once," he managed finally. "He used to come here to the Digiworld
to play with me. We were friends, then. I promised him I'd never leave him. A lot of bad things
have happened to him since then, and they've changed him, but they're not his fault. I still believe
that deep down inside, he's still the same person I knew. That's what makes me want to help him.
He's been so unhappy that I want to do anything to make him happy again. Maybe you can get
through to him where I can't. Maybe he'll listen to one of his own kind. Please... if you won't
help the Digimon Emperor, can you at least try to help Ken, for the sake of the little boy he used
to be?"

There was an uncomfortable silence. The people who had been almost hostile moments
before were now staring down at their feet in shame. Finally, someone broke the silence.

"I don't think Ken deserves a friend like you," said Daisuke. "Then again, he probably
doesn't deserve to be left alone to die, either. All right, I'll help."

"You sure about this, Daisuke?" asked Veemon.

"Sure, I'm sure," the boy replied. He grinned slightly. "After all, I'll never have a chance
to play soccer against him again if I let him peg out like this."

Iori nodded decisively. "My grandfather always said it was just as wrong to leave
someone to suffer as it was to hurt them yourself."

"Well..." said Miyako thoughtfully, "I guess it would sort of be a waste of a gorgeous
guy... even if he is evil and rotten."

"Kari, I think we should help Wormmon and Ken," said Gatomon. "It's hard having to live
in darkness."

Kari nodded. "I agree. Daisuke has the right idea, for once."

"I do? Really?" asked Daisuke, brightening. "Wow, that's a first."

"I think we all agree," said TK. "We'll give Ken a chance to prove he's worth saving. We
can always go back to being enemies once he gets well."

"You'll help?" asked Wormmon, teary-eyed with relief. "Oh, THANK you!"

He bounced from his perch on Kari's shoulder to land next to TK, hugging the boy's ankle
in gratitude. TK found himself smiling back down at the bug. Wormmon, he decided, was a nice
little mon, no matter how his master behaved.

"So, now that we've decided we're going to help," said Daisuke, "what exactly are we
going to do? I don't think there's a digi-ambulance we could call."

"I guess the first thing to do would be to pay a visit to Ken's place. He shouldn't just be
left lying on the floor," said TK. "Wormmon, can you show us how to get to him?"

Wormmon fidgeted. "Oh, dear, I'm not going to be very much help for that. The fortress
doesn't stay in one place. If I tried to lead you there just walking, by the time we got to it, it
wouldn't be there anymore."

"How are we supposed to get there, then?" asked Daisuke. "Teleport?"

Iori considered. "Well, we could have our Digimon armor digivolve and carry us there,
but it would be a waste of power. If Ken isn't around to control his monsters, they'll all just be
running wild. It wouldn't be good to run into something while our Digimon were still worn out
from playing taxi."

"We could fly," said Miyako thoughtfully, looking up at Birdramon.

"I can't carry all of you," Birdramon replied. "I'm not strong enough to manage more than
one or two at a time."

"We don't all need to go at once," Kari pointed out. "If just one of us goes, the rest of us
can go back to the real world and follow them by tracking their Digivice signal."

"I can do that. No problem!" said Miyako. "So, who's going?"

"I think Daisuke should go," said TK. "After all, he was the first one to say he wanted to

"What? Hey, I didn't say - I didn't mean-" Daisuke stammered. "I thought you guys were
coming with me!"

"We are," said Kari brightly. "We're just coming a little later, that's all. Actually, I think it
makes more sense for us to go one at a time, anyway. Sick people need peace and quiet, not a
bunch of people running around."

"Well, if you think it's a good idea," Daisuke sighed. "I hope you know, Kari, I'm just
along with this idea because I like you!"

"Isn't that why he does everything?" whispered Armadillomon to Veemon.

"Can we please hurry?" Wormmon begged. "I'm worried about what might be happening
to Ken."

"Wormmon's right. We'll have plenty of time to have arguments later," said Iori. "Right
now, we have more important things to do."

"You've got a lot of sense for a little kid," said TK.

"Hey, don't forget," Kari reminded him, "when you first joined the Digidestined, you were
a little kid, too."

"I wasn't THAT little!"

"Yes you were! You were younger than him!"

As the two of them continued their debate, Iori sighed and Daisuke grinned. It wasn't
often he got to see TK and Kari disagreeing over something.

"Come on, Wormmon," he said. "Let's go check on your emperor."

Wormmon looked nervously at Birdramon. "I don't have to ride in her mouth again, do I?"

"Nah, you can ride on top with me and Veemon," said Daisuke. "You don't mind, do you,

"I don't mind if Wormmon doesn't mind," said Veemon. "Sorry for attacking you earlier,
Worrmon. No hard feelings, huh?"

"I guess not," said Wormmon, still eyeing Birdramon with distrust. "Are you sure that big
bird doesn't want to eat me?"

"I certainly don't!" Birdramon assured him. "Besides, you don't taste very good."

"Thanks... I think," said Wormmon.

Birdramon knelt down to let Daisuke, Veemon, and Wormmon scramble onto her back.
When they were comfortably settled, she flapped her fiery wings and rose into the air, with
Daisuke clinging to her neck while the little Digimon clung to him. They circled above the group of
children and Digimon that stared up at them from the clouds of dust raised by the takeoff.

"So long, gang!" Daisuke called. "See you at the emperor's fortress! By the way, the view
up here is great! Wahoo! You know, Veemon," he added, turning to his Digimon, "one of these
days we're going to have to figure out how to get you some wings."

"I always wanted wings," said Wormmon wistfully. "Ken said I'd get them if I digivolved.
He never liked the idea of me digivolving, though."

"What's the matter with him?" asked Veemon. "You'd think he'd be excited. I know
Daisuke was. Besides, if he'd let you digivolve, you'd be able to take care of him now, and he
wouldn't be in this mess."

Wormmon sighed. "He said I wasn't a useful Digimon, and that I wouldn't be any good to
him no matter what I did, so he didn't want to waste the time and power it would take to make
me digivolve. I wish I could, though. I would love to be able to fly."

"Well, you can steer, anyway," said Daisuke. "You're the only one who knows the way, so
you're going to have to be in charge from now on."

"Me? In charge?" asked Wormmon in surprise. "Hmm. You could be right. All right. We
need to be heading a little more to the east, I think."

"East it is," Birdramon agreed, banking to the side. Daisuke and Veemon hung on for dear
life, but Wormmon trusted his ten caterpillar feet to keep him firmly anchored, so he just closed
his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the sensation of the wind tossing his antennae. Birdramon's
smooth flight was far preferable to trying to cling to the horns of an undulating AirDramon. With
a little imagination, Wormmon could almost make himself believe that he was flying himself,
proud and free, far away from the humble dirt-crawler he was...

With a sigh, he opened his eyes again and fixed them on the horizon. Now was not the
time for daydreams. Somewhere out there, Ken was sick and unprotected, alone in the dark,
trusting in his companion to save him.

*I did it, Ken,* Wormmon thought. *I found the Digidestined for you. I
brought you help, just like you told me to. Now you'll see how useful and loyal I am. I know
you'd let me Digivolve if you just knew how important you are to me...*


"Helloooooo, in there!" Daisuke shouted to the empty building. Echoes reverberated all
around him, bouncing from the slick metal walls. Ken had built himself a remarkable home, a
great catacomb of metal halls and rooms. Shadows lay heavily over everything, and the air felt
chilly. Daisuke could understand why Wormmon felt uneasy about leaving Ken alone in this
creepy place.

"Shh!" Wormmon hissed. "You might wake something up!"

"Oops! Sorry," said Daisuke more quietly, looking sheepish. "Man! It's spooky in here!
Does Ken really live here?"

"Now he does," said Ken. "So do I. It's not so bad, once you get used to it."

Veemon looked around, trying to imagine spending all his time in this dark, chilly, sharp-
cornered place. "I wouldn't want to get used to it. If I this was where I had to sleep at night, I'd
make Daisuke let me stay at his house all the time."

"Not like you don't anyway," Daisuke replied.

Wormmon's antennae drooped. "Ken never took me to his home."

Daisuke decided they needed a change of subject.

"Well, we didn't come out here to talk about the decor," he said. "Where's Ken?"

"This way, in the control room," said Wormmon, scurrying up the hallway toward a large
door. His relief was plain; he was glad that someone else was finally here to take charge.

Daisuke entered the room and looked around. What he saw was a bank of computers, a
swivel chair, and a wall full of square screens. At the moment, they glowed noncommitally, like
blank blue eyes, staring with utter disinterest at the crumpled figure on the floor. Ken lay there,
coughing occasionally and still shivering, even though someone - probably Wormmon - had
clumsily dragged a blanket over his body. It rested there, half-on and half-off of him, draped in
haphazard folds. There was something strange and poignant about seeing the powerful Digimon
Emperor huddled on the floor beneath a fuzzy yellow blanket with prints of animals playing along
its border. It made him look like a little boy taking his afternoon nap - Daisuke almost expected to
find a teddy bear hidden under a fold of the cloth. Wormmon scurried up to Ken and worriedly
nuzzled his cheek.

"Master? Master, are you all right? I've come back, and I got help, just like you told me
to. You're going to be all right now, Ken," he said. "He's still breathing, Daisuke. He's still alive. I
didn't fail him."

"No, you did a good job," Daisuke assured him, thinking, *Man, he was more worried
than I thought! Looks like Ken's not the only one I need to take care of right now.* "Come
on, Veemon. Help me get him off the floor. Wormmon, you show us where he sleeps so we can
put him to bed."

It took some doing before they figured out how exactly to they would manage that task,
but finally they managed to convert the blanket into a kind of stretcher and used it to half-carry,
half-drag the emperor to his rooms. It was awkward, to say the least, but they managed in the
end. As soon as they had Ken resting comfortably, Daisuke collapsed into the nearest chair, and
Veemon settled onto the floor next to him. Wormmon scuttled up onto the bed to sit next to Ken.

"Whew!" said Daisuke. "That was a job!"

"You can say that again. I'm bushed!" Veemon agreed. "No offense, Wormmon, but your
buddy's heavier than he looks!"

"That's 'cause he's an athlete, like me," said Daisuke. "Muscle is heavy, you know."

"Really? Let me see!" Veemon exclaimed. He grabbed at the edge of Daisuke's chair and
gave it a heave, and the whole thing tipped over, spilling Daisuke onto the floor.

"Stop that!" Wormmon scolded. "You'll disturb Ken!"

"Disturb him? What about me?" asked Daisuke, rubbing at his head.

"Oops," said Veemon. "Sorry 'bout that, Daisuke."

"I guess it's okay," said Daisuke, setting the chair upright. "I think I asked for that."

"You aren't going to be angry at him?" asked Wormmon, peering at them both curiously.

"Nah. Why should I be?" asked Daisuke. "Veemon's my pal. I'm not going to get mad at
him just because he does something stupid. Hey, I do enough stupid things myself, so why should
I get mad at my best friend for it?"

Wormmon said nothing. He didn't want to have to tell Daisuke that Ken would have
beaten him practically to a froth for such a transgression. For one thing, it would probably have upset
Daisuke to hear about something like that, and certainly wouldn't think it was very good evidence
to show him why he ought to be tending to his rival. Anyway, he never would have understood that
Wormmon didn't mind the beatings as much as anyone would have imagined. He sighed,
remembering how Ken had looked just before all this had happened, with his eyes looking straight
at him. Just for a minute, he'd been Ken's world...

"You sure you're okay?" asked Veemon, peering curiously at the little caterpillar. "You
look pretty bummed. Don't worry! Your friend will get better."

"I hope so," said Wormmon. *But I've been trying to make him better for a long time,
now. It hasn't worked very well. He's right, I am weak and helpless. The only thing I can do right
is get someone else to help him, someone more capable than me.*

"He'd better get better," said Daisuke. He turned to Ken. "You hear me, don't you? You'd
better come back! You and me, we've got a score to settle!"

"You'll wait until he gets well before you start fighting with him again, won't you?" asked

"Fighting?" Daisuke repeated. "I was talking about soccer!"

"Soccer?" Wormmon repeated. "Oh, that's right, that's one of the things Ken does when
he's not in the Digital World. He's good at it, isn't he?"

Daisuke's face took on a faraway look.

"He's the best," he said softly.

Wormmon knew when to keep his mandibles shut. Daisuke sat there a while, staring at
nothing, but both Digimon had the feeling there was more to come. For a while, there was no
noise but the sound of Ken's labored breathing. At last, Daisuke sighed.

"That didn't sound very good, did it?" he said. "Telling you the only reason I want Ken to
live is so I can play soccer with him. That's a really dumb thing to say. I'm always saying dumb
things and doing dumb stuff. Kari would think I was being insensitive, but, well... I've got this
weird thing about Ken. I mean, he has it ALL, you know?"

"Yes, I know," said Wormmon softly.

Daisuke didn't appear to hear him. "I mean, he gets all the highest grades, invents all these
incredible thingamajigs, he's a video game wizard, chess master, an awesome athlete, he's popular
with the girls... I can see why he thinks he's the perfect human being when he's got all that going
for him. And me? I'm nobody. I'm not smart, and I'm not really talented, and I'm not all that
popular. Even as one of the Digidestined, I'm nothing special. I'm supposed to be the group's
leader, and nobody respects me, not like they would Matt or Tai. The girl I'm nuts about thinks
I'm about a level up from a slug. The only thing I've ever been really good at is soccer, and the
only person who's better than me at soccer is Ken. I played him once. Up until then, I thought I'd
been doing great, but once I went up against Ken, I could have been standing still for all the
progress I made. I thought that if I could beat the great Ken Ichijouji, I'd really be doing
something. I'd be somebody. But he beat me, bad. He called me a worthy rival, though. I
thought that was really something, like I'd at least come close to my dream. And then he turns out
to be my enemy... I dunno. I'm all confused. The only two important things in my life are playing
soccer and being a Digidestined. If Ken's gone, I don't know what I'll have to work for."

"I know how you feel," said Wormmon.

Daisuke couldn't hold on to his uncharacteristic malaise for long. He managed a small

"Nah, you probably feel a lot worse than I do," said Daisuke. "You've got real reasons to
feel bad if something happens to Ken. You actually like him... though I can't really figure out
why, exactly."

"For the same reasons you do," said Wormmon. "Because he's what I want to be."

Veemon blinked. "You want to be the Digimon Emperor?"

"No!" Wormmon protested, antennae standing up in shock. "I wouldn't want to act like
that! I don't like watching the other Digimon suffer. I don't like what Ken does, I like what he is."

"Uh... I don't get it," said Veemon.

"It's like your friend was saying," Wormmon replied. "I can't do anything right. I'm not
strong or fast or intelligent or anything! I'm just a weak, ugly little Digimon."

"Aw, gee, I dunno," said Daisuke. "You're kinda cute, for a bug."

"Not as cute as me!" Veemon piped up.

"Shut up! I'm trying to be helpful here," snapped Daisuke. "Is it doing any good?"

"Thank you, but it's really not necessary," said Wormmon.

Daisuke sighed. "Just trying to help. That's about all we're doing today - just trying to
help. And I'm not any good at that, either!"

"Neither am I," said Wormmon sadly. He was quiet for a while. Then, unexpectedly, he
said, "You like Kari, don't you?"

"What?" asked Daisuke, completely shocked. "How did... how did you...?"

Wormmon flicked his antennae in an insectiod shrug. "Ken watches you all on his screens,
and I watch what Ken watches. I see what you do."

"Great," said Daisuke. "No wonder Ken seems so sure he can beat us. He thinks the leader
of the Digidestined is a total loser who makes an idiot of himself every day over a girl."

"Is that bad?" asked Wormmon.

"Well, sure it's bad. You wouldn't want anyone to think you're a loser, would you?"

"I mean, is it bad to want to do anything to make someone happy?"

"Ohhhh," said Daisuke, as understanding dawned on him. "I get it. You're talking about
you and Ken, right? I think that's a little different than what goes on between guys and girls. I mean,
it's not like falling in love. But... yeah, it isn't easy caring for someone who'll never like you in

There was a moment of silence, as they all sat and mulled over the conversation. Daisuke
felt a bit ill at ease after baring so much of his soul to what was technically an enemy Digimon, as well
as being a bit worried about what was going to happen to Ken. Veemon kept quiet, sensing his
companion's emotions. As for Wormmon, he simply sat and watched the rise and fall of his
master's chest, relief washing over him with each intake of breath, tiny thrills of apprehension
running through him at each exhalation, feeling the split second of dread that struck him just
before Ken took his next breath.

*Keep breathing, master. Just keep breathing.*

Daisuke's Digivice went off like an alarm clock, with very much the same effect. Daisuke,
startled, fell out of his chair again and nearly squashed Veemon as he fell on him. Wormmon, who
was already tense enough as it was, jumped into the air in shock and scurried up the bedpost,
where he looked down on the scuffling pair on the floor.

"Don't do that!" he scolded.

"It wasn't me!" Daisuke protested, scrambling to retrieve his still-beeping Digivice and get
off of Veemon at the same time. It didn't help that his Digimon was kicking at him with his
clawed feet. "Stop that! Lemme go!"

"Get off of me!" Veemon shouted back.

"PLEASE stop yelling!" Wormmon begged.

"Oh. Yeah. Right. Sorry," said Daisuke. He and Veemon managed to untangle themselves,
and then Daisuke finally managed to answer the Digivice.

"What is it? What is it?" asked Veemon, standing up on tiptoe to see.

"It's an e-mail from Miyako," said Daisuke. "She says she's got a lock on the fortress, so
we'll be able to monitor its movements from now on. That means I can go home... but don't worry.
We'll be back later."

"You aren't going to leave me all alone, are you?" asked Wormmon, not sure whether to
be hopeful or apprehensive. He wasn't sure he wanted to be left all alone right now, not with Ken
in this state. If something happened, he'd be completely alone and powerless...

"You won't be alone long," Daisuke replied. "The others will come around later. You'll be
okay until then."

"I'm not so sure..." said Wormmon uncertainly.

"Trust me! Everything will be fine," answered Daisuke. "I gotta go now, before the others
get mad. Bye, Wormmon. Nice talking to you."

Before Wormmon could reply, Daisuke had trotted out the door in search of an exit back
home. Wormmon sighed.

"This just hasn't been my day," he sighed. "I don't want to be left alone! You aren't going
to leave me alone, are you, Ken?"

There was silence. Wormmon let it pile up until he finally had to admit he wasn't going to
get an answer, and then scuttled down from his perch on the bedpost to arrange himself over
Ken's chest, where he could feel the reassuring beat of his heart and the rise and fall of his

*No matter what, I'm not going to let him die,* he thought, with an unusual flash
of stubbornness. He'd come too far now to be beaten. He'd set out alone in search of help, he'd
convinced the Digidestined to help their enemy, he'd ridden a Birdramon... and he'd made friends
with the leader of the Digidestined.

*We're alike,* he thought. *He's right, it is hard to live like this. I wish I knew
how to change things. I'm tired of being small and weak, and I'm tired of the way Ken treats me,
and I'm tired of fighting. But even if I do convince Ken somehow that I can be of use to him with
all of this, how will I tell him that I LIKE the Digidestined? They're kind people. I don't
know why he wants to destroy them. It's all so confusing!*

He sighed miserably. Would there ever be an end to all this uncertainty? Well, perhaps
there would be a temporary release, anyway, for eventually he dropped into a light sleep. In his
dream, he and Ken wore beautifully colored wings, and they flew together over a world with no
problems at all.


It was very, very dark. Ken had never imagined that there could be so much darkness in
the whole wide world combined, but now it was wrapped around him in a suffocating blanket. It
was like the empty spaces between the stars, like the far off fringes of the universe, utterly without
light or sound or warmth. He tried to breathe, but the bitter cold air choked him, and he coughed.
He felt weak from shivering, his muscles too concerned with trying to warm him to be able to
hold him up, and he fell. He was falling, spinning, getting lost deeper and deeper in the darkness,
and he realized it wasn't just empty universal space he was falling through. It was a dead star, a
black hole, trying to suck him into its eternally hungry void, and there wasn't even any air to
scream with as he fell...

He landed. How long had he been falling? He wasn't sure - he had a vague memory of
being jostled around, and now he was here. He looked around, taking in the stark landscape.
What was this place, anyway? How had he gotten here? Such a strange world it was, a place
where stop-lights dangled from the trees like fruit, blinking on and off erratically in the twilight,
and the trees themselves were like nothing ever seen on Earth...

*That's what this is!* Ken thought. *This is the Digital World! I don't have to
be afraid of anything here! I'm the Digimon Emperor, after all. I'll just ring one of the local
Digimon and have it take me back to my fortress.*

He spun around, evaluating the terrain. It was strange, he mused, that he didn't recognize
this part of the Digiworld. He was sure he'd covered most of it as he'd plotted his course to
domination. Oh, well, there was only so much even a genius like himself could be expected to
remember, and memorizing every tree and shrub in his domain wasn't one of them. Shrugging off
the uneasy feeling he was getting, he set off into the forest, following the sound of something
crunching through the bushes.

Ken smiled as he came upon the source of the noise. What luck! He'd found a
Kuwagamon, one of the Champion insect Digimon that were so plentiful in the woods of the
Digital World. One of these giant beetles could airlift him home in no time. That was good,
because he wanted away from this spooky place as soon as possible. Tromping around in the
underbrush was unsuited to his status - he much preferred cruising along on the head of a stately
AirDramon. He reached into his pocket for the Black Digivice that was the source of his great
power... and it wasn't there.

"Uh-oh," he said.

That little noise was enough to attract the Kuwagamon's attention, and it turned it's
scissor-tusked face to glare evilly at him. It snorted and clashed its mandibles together, crawling
slowly towards him.

"Get back!" Ken shouted at the monster. "Stay right where you are! I'm warning you, I'm
the Digimon Emperor, and if you hurt me, I'll make you sorry for it!"

The Kuwagamon didn't look impressed. It continued shuffling forward, making a low
grunting sound, a sound that echoed and reverberated until it boomed like laughter.

"You think you can hurt me, little human?" it chuckled. "I'd like to see you try it. You're
no emperor! You're just a frightened little boy, lost in MY forest."

"The Digital World is MINE!" Ken shouted defiantly. "I am the emperor! I control

"Is that so?" It asked. As Ken stared in horror, the Kuwagamon vanished, only to be
replaced by a patch of darkness seemed to solidify and move toward him, stepping into the red glare of a
hanging light. The boy gasped as he took in a pale, fanged face covered by a dark mask, a head
crowned with wicked horns, arms too long for an emaciated body that were terminated by clawed
hands, and a pair of ragged bat's wings.

"You're... Devimon!" Ken gasped.

"That's right," the monster laughed. "Look on ME, pathetic human! Dare you call
yourself an emperor in MY presence?"

"What about mine?" asked someone else.

There was a high-pitched chittering sound and the fluttering of hundreds of tiny wings,
and a cloud of bats swooped out of the sky. For a moment, they spun above the earth like leaves
in a whirlwind, and then they all seemed to blur together to form a single shape. Now there was a
second humanoid in the clearing, a pale skinned blonde man wearing a batlike mask and a long
cape. He smiled at Ken, revealing a pair of glittering pointed teeth.

"Have you a name for me?" he asked. "I am Myotismon, the vampire lord! It's been a long
time since I've seen a young human like you... a long time since I've tasted human blood..."

"Stay away from me!" cried Ken in panic, trying to back away. He yelped as he ran into
something painfully sharp that pricked his back.

"Would you look at this?" said a faintly amused voice behind him. "I think we have him
surrounded, don't you?"

Ken whirled and found himself staring into a pair of piercing black eyes that peered out
from behind a black and white mask. He was already as terrified as he could get, so he only felt a
kind of sinking resignation as he realized who he was staring at. He'd done his homework when
he'd begun trying to take over the Digiworld, and he knew who had held mastery before him.

"Piedmon," he whispered.

"We heard you were trying to contest our power," said the clown Digimon. "Such bad
manners, to take what isn't yours."

"You see, little human, WE are the Digimon Emperors," said Devimon. "We
claimed the title before you were even thought of."

"We have powers you never dreamed of," Myotismon added. "You see, when all is said
and done, our powers come from within us. YOU are reliant upon a little handheld device...
which I don't believe you have handy right now." He smiled, letting his fangs glitter in the red

"Some emperor you are," Piedmon scoffed. "You have no power! You wouldn't even
make a proper Digidestined human. No Digivice, no Tag, no Crest, not even a companion
Digimon. You're pathetic. I think we would be more than justified if we rubbed you out right
now, and make you stop trying to steal our spotlight."

"I... I do have a companion Digimon," Ken protested. "Where is he? Where's

"Gone," said Devimon. "You didn't want him, so now he's gone. You're on your own

"No! I want my Wormmon back!" Ken shouted.

"Not a chance now!" laughed Myotismon coldly. "You wanted to be like us, and now
you'll belong to us."

"No! I'm not one of you! You're monsters!" cried Ken.

"And you aren't?" asked Piedmon. "Personally, I'd call someone who does nothing but
cause pain and suffering for others a monster. You've done quite an admirable job of carrying on
our legacy, Ken Ichijouji."

"That's right," Myotismon replied. "You've rejected your calling, choosing cruelty over
kindness and isolation over love. You're all alone with us now, and you will stay here forever."

"No!" Ken cried. "I don't believe you! Somebody help me! Get me out of here!"

Devimon laughed. "Do you think anyone is going to listen to you? Think again. You did a
good job of making sure everyone in your life despises you. The Digimon live in fear of you. The
children who should have been your friends are your worst enemies. After what you said to your
parents, they'll never even want to speak to you again. And with the way you've treated your
companion Digimon, he's bound to leave you the first chance he gets. He must hate you after all
you've said and done to him."

"You're wrong! You're all wrong. Wormmon loves me!" said Ken.

"How could anyone love you?" asked Myotismon. "And why would you care if they did?
You are cold and heartless, and no one would ever want you but us. That's why we've come to
take you away. You'll never have to deal with any of your 'inferiors' again," he added

"That's not what I want. I want to go home!" Ken cried. "Mom! Dad! Anybody, can you
hear me? Get me out of here! WORMMON!"

There was a flare of light - warm, gentle light that wrapped around the shadowed forest
and filled it with brightness, and the monsters cringed away from it. Ken stared down at himself,
shocked to see that the brightness was coming from him. It looked as if he had suddenly become
transparent and something was shining through him, just about the level of his heart.

"What's going on?" Myotismon snarled, trying to shield his sensitive eyes.

"Something's decided to help the boy," Devimon replied, "something powerful. I don't
know what it is, but I don't like it! I'm leaving!"

"I'm with you. This boy isn't worth quarreling with," Mytoismon agreed. The two of them
vanished in swirls of darkness.

"Yeah, take that!" said Ken, grinning in exultation. The light was driving away his fears as
well as the monsters, and he was now feeling pleased with himself for overcoming his foes. What
had he been thinking? Of course no mere Digimon could stand up to the mighty Digimon
Emperor! Ken laughed aloud.

"Aren't you forgetting someone?" a voice asked quietly.

The laughter died in Ken's throat as a hand clamped into his shoulder, twisting him around
with irresistible strength. He found himself staring into a pair of black and soulless eyes, squinting
from the still-burning light but still defiant.

"Piedmon," Ken whispered. The Master of the Dark Masters, possibly the most powerful
Mega Virus ever to stalk the Digital world... this was the one monster he found most fearful.

"You can't get rid of me that easily, human," he snarled. "It will take more than some
lights to overcome me or the darkness of this place. You are lost forever, Ken Ichijouji. It is only
a matter of time before you are drawn into eternal darkness. Only a matter of time..."

The words echoed around Ken, filling his mind, forcing out any resisting thoughts he
might have had. All he could do was stand there and let those pitch black eyes bore into him,
filling his world with darkness. The red lights in the trees danced on them, casting crimson sparks
that flickered like fire. Ken stared at them, hypnotized, until his mind slipped away into darkness,
and all was oblivion... for a time.

Far away, and yet very close by, Wormmon woke from his dreams with a start. Something
very strange was going on. He knew the room had been left in total darkness, so as not to distract
from Ken's peaceful sleep, but now he was surrounded by light. He looked around, trying to find
the source of the strange, shimmering glow. Oddly enough, it didn't seem to be shining on
him and Ken. It looked like it was shining from them, rays of brightness moving and
weaving themselves together in a web of light. Wormmon watched it for a while, half-fearful, half-
awed, until the hypnotic ripples of luminance sent him drifting off to sleep again.


"Morning, Wormmon!"

Wormmon jumped, his ten legs going into scrabbling in an instinctive effort to get away.
He actually made it to the foot of the bed before he realized what the situation was: he was still in
Ken's room looking after his sick master, and one of the Digidestined had arrived to check on

"Oh, it's you," said Wormmon, looking at his visitor. "Where's your Patamon?"

"He slept in," said TK with a grin. "He looks so cute when he's asleep, I hate to wake him

"Did you have to wake me up instead?" Wormmon asked plaintively. He'd been having
such nice dreams...

TK looked guilty. "Oh, well, sorry about that. But I brought you some breakfast. Does
that make up for it? I know from experience that Digimon are always hungry."

Wormmon's mouth wasn't set up for drooling, but the mention of food made his antennae
prick up, and he gave TK a soulful look. The boy laughed.

"I thought so! Well, here - take a look and see if there's anything you like. I didn't know
what caterpillars liked, so I brought a little of everything." He held out a picnic basket as proof,
setting it down on the floor and beginning to unpack his contents. "I had fun trying to think of a
way to explain to my mom why I needed a picnic hamper this early in the morning. Good thing
it's Saturday - I don't think I ever could have convinced her I needed it on a school day."

"What did you tell her?" asked Wormmon, watching with interest as the edibles were
spread out on a checkered cloth.

"I told her I was going on a picnic. We Digidestined go on a lot of picnics," TK answered
with a wink.

Wormmon chuckled a little, put in good spirits by the arrival of a friendly face, not to
mention breakfast. "We noticed."


"Ken and I." Wormmon scampered down the bedspread and onto the floor. "He's always
watching you. He doesn't like anything to happen without him knowing about it."

"Yeah, I guess I should have figured as much," sighed TK. "Well, that's all the food. Dig

Wormmon stared at the spread longingly, but he knew where his first duty was. "But what
about Ken? Shouldn't he be eating something?"

"Don't worry," said TK. "Miyako's coming over later with some chicken soup. My mom
says chicken soup will cure just about anything."

"Oh, good," said Wormmon. He lost no more time in attacking the food, and TK laughed.

"You kinda remind me of the little Digis when Miyako brings in candy," he said. "I never
thought about it, but I guess even evil Digimon need breakfast."

Wormmon looked up from his meal to give TK a long, hard stare. TK stopped laughing.

"I'm not an evil Digimon," he said. "I don't do anything bad. I just have to look after Ken,
that's all. Someone has to, or he'd be all alone."

"Oh," said TK, after a long moment of thought. "Yeah, I guess I can understand that, sort
of. In a way, this makes me think of my brother."

"Brother?" asked Wormmon. "I didn't know you had a brother."

"Yeah, sure. You've seen him," said TK. "Remember Matt?"

"The one with the Garurumon? Yes, I remember," Wormmon replied. "Do you get along
with him? Is he nice to you?"

"Um, well, sure," answered TK, surprised by Wormmon's interest. "I mean sure, we
disagree every now and then - Matt's not the easiest guy in the world to get along with sometimes
- but yeah, we get along. We've been through a lot together, and it's made us really close."

"Ken had a brother, once," said Wormmon. "He's gone now, though. Sometimes I
wonder if Ken would be different if his brother had survived."

"His brother's... dead?" TK repeated, shocked. He'd already lost Matt and his father
through a divorce, and it had been the most painful thing ever to happen in his whole young life,
but if Matt were to die...

Wormmon nodded. "Ken doesn't like to talk about it."

"I can see why," TK replied. "Man, if I had known..."

"You'd still be enemies," Wormmon pointed out.

"You're a smart little worm," said TK.

"Ken doesn't think so," said Wormmon. "He says I'm not good for anything."

"Well, he's wrong! You shouldn't listen to things like that," said TK. "You've already
done so much for him. He might already be dead now if you hadn't been here to take care of him.
And it's not your fault if he won't let you help him. Its his fault for underestimating you."

"You really think I've been helpful?" asked Wormmon. "I don't know. I don't feel like
I've done anything yet."

TK smiled a little. "I think a Digimon helps his companion just by being nearby. Even if
he's not awake right now, I think I can feel it, somehow. Digimon and Digidestined need each

*Hold it just a minute!* he thought. *Ken's no Digidestined! Then again, he
does have a Digivice and a Digimon. Maybe Wormmon's right... maybe he could have been different.
Even a nice guy can do some strange things if he's unhappy. Just look at my brother!*

"I sure hope I'm helping," Wormmon sighed. "It's just so hard. I'd do anything to make
him happy, but nothing ever seems to work."

"It's too bad he doesn't appreciate your loyalty more," said TK. "In a way, you sort of
remind me of my brother's Digimon."

"Garurumon?" Wormmon asked, startled. "But he's so big and strong and fast, and I'm...

"I'm not talking about stuff like that," TK replied. "I'm talking about how you act. There
was a time, back when I was still just a kid, when my brother decided he wanted to leave the team
and go it alone for a while. He even got it into his head once that he needed to destroy Tai! But
no matter what, Gabumon wouldn't leave him. He did everything he could to help Matt, and
eventually, his friendship helped bring him back to the rest of the team."

"Really?" asked Wormmon. "I wish I could do that."

"Do what?"

"Make Ken join the team," said Wormmon simply. "I don't want to fight you all. You've
been so nice to me, you bringing me breakfast and Daisuke coming to look after Ken and talk to
me... If Ken knew what nice people you were, maybe he wouldn't want to hurt you anymore."

"It might take a little more than that," said TK. "But it won't hurt to try. Stranger things
have happened. You ought to ask about Gatomon sometime."

"Oh?" asked Wormmon, antennae pricking up with interest.

"It's not really my story to tell," TK replied. "I'll tell you what, though. I'll drop by Kari's
place later today and tell her you'd like to hear about it."

"I think I'd like that," said Wormmon.

TK studied what was left of the breakfast he'd brought... not a lot. He was constantly
amazed at how hungry a Digimon, even such a small one, could get if you didn't feed it for a
while. Hadn't Wormmon said that the other 'mons had left with all the food? He couldn't have
eaten anything since yesterday evening at least, maybe earlier than that. How long had he spent
wandering around in the wilderness looking for help? Had he had anything before he left? It was
no wonder he'd been so hungry! And yet, the first thing he'd done was to make sure there would
be something for Ken...

"Looks like my job is done here," he said, packing up the cleaned plates. "It's been
interesting talking to you, Wormmon. Very interesting."

"Oh, well," said Wormmon, squirming a little, unsure whether or not to feel
complimented. "Goodbye, TK. Thank you."

"Goodbye, Wormmon," TK replied. Picnic basket in hand, he headed for the control room
to send himself back home.


Later that afternoon, the Digidestined were gathered in Daisuke's room, chatting idly as
they waited for the last of their comrades to arrive. So far, Miyako and Kari had shown up, carrying
bags from a weekend shopping expedition. Iori, ever responsible, was lying on the floor with an open
book, dutifully doing his homework. Daisuke paced anxiously, muttering to himself.

"Would you stop that?" asked Miyako. "You're making me dizzy going around in circles
like that."

"Where's TK?" Daisuke exploded. "He's fifteen minutes late!"

"Fourteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds," said Iori, not even looking up from his
book. "And you got his name right this time! Who would have thought?"

"Must have been a freak accident," Daisuke muttered.

"Made by a freak," Miyako whispered to Kari.

"That's not very nice," said Kari. "You shouldn't pick on Daisuke for doing something
right for once."

Daisuke spun around, startled. "Did I actually hear you coming to my defense?"

Kari shrugged. Before she could say anything, however, the door flew open with a bang,
and TK came in.

"That caterpillar!" he exclaimed.

"Who? Wormmon?" asked Miyako.

"He did it to you, too, huh?" said Daisuke.

Iori tore his eyes away from his book. "What? What did he do?"

"There you are!" Kari greeted. "We were worried about you. Even Daisuke was
walking the floor."

"I wasn't worried," said Daisuke sullenly. "I was impatient. I have a right to be impatient,
don't I?"

"Boy, you guys are tense," said TK, dropping into the nearest chair. "But that's okay,
because so am I. I visited Wormmon this morning to bring him something to eat, and we had a
talk, and it's been bugging me ever since. I can't get it out of my mind."

"Yeah, that's kind of how he is," said Daisuke. "He just sits there and stares at you with
those big sad eyes and you wind up telling him all kinds of things you didn't mean to... And did I
just agree with you? That's a first."

"I was kind of thinking more of the things he said to me," said TK. "He was talking about
how Ken used to be as a little kid."

"You mean like what he was saying before, about how he was nicer when he was young?"
said Miyako. "That's hard to believe. It's hard enough imagining Ken as a kid, but I can't think of
him at all as being nice."

"You were the one who was so excited about seeing him at the soccer game," Iori
pointed out, giving her a penetrating glare. "Did you imagine him being nice then?"

Miyako flushed. "What would a kid like you know what I was thinking?"

Iori shrugged and went back to his book. "Yup, that's just what I thought you were

"Iori has a point, sort of," said Kari. "You can't always tell what a person is like just by
how they act. Sometimes they have reasons for doing things... right, TK?"

"Right," said TK. "And that's just what we weren't thinking about all this time.
Somewhere along the line, we forgot that Ken's still a kid, just like we are, with a home and a
family and all that stuff. And Wormmon also told me that Ken's lost part of his family."

"He did? What? Who?" There was a general clamor.

"He had a brother," said TK. "He died a while back, when Ken was still young, and
apparently he's never been the same since."

"I know... how that is," said Iori hesitantly. "I still remember when my father died. I
know how much it hurts to lose someone like that."

"So we're supposed to all feel sorry for him, now?" asked Miyako. "I don't know about
you guys, but I'm certainly not going to sit around going, 'Poor Ken! He's so unhappy!' while he goes
and destroys the Digital World!"

"Neither am I," said TK. "But I just can't go on thinking about him like he's another
monster, too. We've already convinced ourselves of that, and that's what's gotten us this far.
We've always been thinking of him as our enemy first and a person second. But now... I don't
know. It's different. I know what pain does to some people - they don't always take it very well,
and it can change them. I know Matt's like that. He was never quite the same after Mom and Dad
split up. Do you know what it's like to have your worst enemy start reminding you of your
brother? I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to fight him now."

There was a moment of silence.

"So, what are you telling us?" said Daisuke. "That we ought to just give up now? Or are
you bailing out on us, huh?"

"I'm not bailing out!" TK protested. "I just think that we ought to think about all this a
little more, okay?"

"I think you've got a few screws loose," said Daisuke. "Miyako's right - we can't just go to
mush just because Ken's had a few problems. He's still dangerous, and he's still rotten."

"Well, that doesn't mean we can't have a little compassion," TK replied, and the battle
was on. The others watched as the two boys engaged in a shouting match, the girls with shocked
expressions and Iori with his usual impassiveness.

"You all are under way too much stress," he said. "I think I'm going to have to teach you
all to meditate one of these days."

Kari sighed. "You know, Daisuke and TK are really nice guys and all, but sometimes I
look at them and I think that somehow, there's got to be more."

"Maybe you should ask Ken out," said Miyako sarcastically.

"I'm leaving," said Iori. "This atmosphere isn't very conductive to study. Besides, I told
Joe I was going to go visit him today."

"Good idea," said Kari. "I don't have anything to do right now, but I'm sure I'll think of

"Wish I didn't have something to do," sighed Miyako, "but I promised I'd take some soup
to Ken."

"I'll do it, if you want me to," Kari offered.

"No, I said I'll do it and I'll do it," answered Miyako. "What good is the Digidestined of
Sincerity if I can't keep a promise? Besides," she added, as Daisuke took his shouting to a new level
of intensity, "Ken asleep is probably better than these two awake and yelling."

Kari giggled. "You're probably right. Come on! I'll walk with you a little way."

The girls and Iori gathered up their things and left the room, shutting the door with a
slam. Daisuke and TK turned around and stared.

"Where did everybody go?" asked TK.

"I dunno," Daisuke replied. "Guess they got bored and went home."

"Guess so," TK agreed. "Oh, well."

"Oh, well," Daisuke agreed. "You want to go down to the arcade for a while? I have some
tokens in the sock drawer."

"I'll buy my own tokens," said TK. "Come on, I'll race you there."

Quarrel forgotten, the boys raced out of the room.


Wormmon was dozing again, snuggled up against Ken's side. He had, after all, had an
interrupted night, bothered by strange dreams of shifting lights, and an early start that morning.
Up until the point when Ken had made the Digital World his full-time home, his Digimon servants
had been able to sleep late most days, as Ken could only visit them after he got out of school.
Even now, Ken preferred to stay up late working - dark times for dark business. Wormmon
wasn't used to early starts, even when they didn't involve being waited on by Digidestined.

*Who would have imagined that?* he thought drowsily.

Right now, he was feeling relaxed enough not to worry a whole lot. In that hazy state,
drifting half in and half out of dreams, he could even believe that Ken would get well soon. Or
maybe he'd just stay like this, still and warm and safe, and Wormmon could just stay there next to
him. It would be sort of nice, like that. Right now, with a good meal inside him and Ken nearby,
he was feeling perfectly content, warm and sleepy and peaceful and-

"Hey, you!"

For the second time that day, Wormmon came awake with a jolt that all but gave him a
heart attack. He stared around wildly until he spied Miyako staring down sternly at him. He

"Um... what brings you here?" he asked, trying not to let her see him shivering. Miyako
gave him a basilisk stare, and he gulped.

"I brought some chicken soup," she said.

"Soup?" Wormmon asked, perplexed.

"Chicken soup," Miyako replied, still with that scowl fixed on her face. "A whole stupid
quart of chicken soup for your dumb sick emperor."

"Oh," said Wormmon, still confused. After a moment, when Miyako neither handed over
the soup nor stopped glaring, he asked hesitantly, "What's so bad about chicken soup?"

"Oh, forget it," she sighed. "Here."

She shoved a Tupperware cannister full of noodles and broth, the ingredients swirling
around like a kaleidoscope as it moved. Wormmon was just barely fast enough to clamp his pods
around it and prevent it from being spilled on the emperor's bedspread.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" he asked.

"Feed it to him! What else?" asked Miyako impatiently. "Warm it up and give it to him, a
little at a time. You can do that, can't you?" Her tone implied that she didn't believe he could do
any such thing, but he was used to that. His blue eyes lit up happily.

"I can do that," he said. "I'm a good cook. Sometimes Ken even lets me cook for him
instead of the chef."

"You can cook?" Miyako repeated. "Wow. I never heard of a cooking caterpillar before."

Wormmon nodded. "I'm glad you came. I didn't know what to do about feeding Ken until
you came. I know he shouldn't go hungry, but there's nothing left, and TK told me you were
coming but it had been so long and I thought maybe you had changed your mind..."

Miyako flushed a little. It had crossed her mind to conveniently "forget" to make
her delivery, and having this innocent-eyed little creature accuse her of just that thought made her
ashamed. She began talking to cover her embarrassment.

"Of course I came," she said. Then, in a burst of honesty, she added, "I don't like it, but I

The blue eyes stared at her, all amazement. "Why don't you like it?"

"Because I don't trust him," Miyako replied.

"Why not?" asked Wormmon. "He can't hurt you like this. He doesn't even move, doesn't
talk, doesn't do anything. And I'm not going to hurt you. I like having the company."

"Oh, I'm not saying I don't trust you. Just him," said Miyako. "He's dangerous. He's
already tried to kill me and my friends and our Digimon. I don't see any reason why I should trust

Wormmon shook his head, making his antennae flop around. "I'm sorry. I know Ken
hasn't been very nice to you all. I'm sorry for making you do something you don't want to do.
It's just, well, you know..."

"He's your human and you've got to look after him, yeah, I know," said Miyako. "You
don't have to apologize. You didn't make me do anything." She sighed, looking wistfully down at
the sleeping emperor. "You know, it feels so strange. Just a few weeks ago, I would have given
just about anything to be here. I still can't believe I'm actually standing here in Ken Ichijouji's
bedroom... Oh, my goodness, what am I saying? You didn't hear me saying that, did you?"

"What's wrong? You didn't say anything bad, did you?" asked Wormmon.

Miyako shrugged. "Oh, well, never mind. I don't guess Digimon understand about all that
romance stuff anyway." She paused a moment, staring intently at Ken, then turning away with a
frown. "He's still handsome, though, the jerk."

Wormmon nodded in silent agreement. He didn't know a lot about what humans found
attractive in each other, but Ken had always been perfect in his sight. It had been a long time since
he'd been allowed to have any kind of close proximity with his master, unless it involved being
kicked or beaten. This was the first time in years that he was actually free to touch him, to spend
all the time he wanted admiring the graceful lines of his face and the way the light shone off his
hair. It was so nice to be able to snuggle up close to him like this, to have the pleasure without the
pain... he pulled his mind away from that.

*It is going to hurt,* he reminded himself. *This isn't going to last forever.
Sooner or later, he will wake up, and things will go back to the way they were. Keep that in mind.
Enjoy this, but don't get used to it, because it can't last.*

"You liked Ken, then?" asked Wormmon. "I mean, before you found out he was the

"Something like that," Miyako answered evasively. "Well, okay, I admit, maybe I had a
tiny little crush on him, but it was nothing major, okay?"

"I didn't say that," said Wormmon. "You humans are touchy. I thought it was just Ken,
but you all get angry so easily."

Wormmon watched with interest as Miyako turned red again. He'd never seen Digimon
change colors that much before.

"Sorry," she said. "I'm not like this all the time, really. At least, I don't think I am. I hope
I'm not."

"Is it really that bad?" asked Wormmon. "You'll have to explain things to me. I don't
know much about humans."

"I don't know," Miyako answered unhappily. "Sometimes I think I lose my temper too
much. It bothers me, because I want people to like me, and I wind up making them mad at me

"What's so bad about losing your temper? Ken does it all the time, and I like him."

"That's different. You're his Digimon. You're like... hard wired to like him no matter
what," said Miyako. "Kari told me that. Digimon have been designed to suit their companions so
they'll be a perfect match. But people are different - you have to accommodate them. And if they
decide they don't like you, they can just go away and leave you by yourself." She sighed. "Ken
can get away with doing almost anything he wants because he's so close to perfect, anything bad
he does gets outweighed by it. But I'm not perfect. I'm nowhere near perfect. I'm not pretty or
especially talented, and sometimes I do really stupid things... like telling my life story to a

She sighed desolately. Wormmon was torn a moment between wanting to stay by Ken and
wanting to comfort Miyako, but compassion went out. He scuttled down the side of the bed again
to rub up against her ankles like a cat. She picked him up and cuddled him, surprising after the
hostility she'd spoken with earlier. He rubbed his head against her cheek and felt dampness.

"What's wrong, Miyako?" he asked.

Miyako sniffled. "It's nothing, really."

"It's not nothing. Come on, tell me. I promise I won't tell anyone."

"Oh, all right. It won't make any difference, anyway," Miyako sighed. "It's just...
sometimes I just want so bad to be better. I don't stand out. Daisuke stands out all over the place.
You can't stand within a mile of Daisuke and not notice him. Kari is pretty and popular, and way more
of both than me. TK's brave and level-headed. He doesn't go all ditzy like I do. He's always got
something intelligent to say. Iori's just a little kid, and he STILL acts smarter than me
sometimes. Sometimes I wonder why I was ever made a Digidestined. Wormmon, do you ever
get to feeling you'd rather be anyone than who you are? Like anyone would be better than you?"

"Do I ever wish that?" Wormmon repeated. "Do I ever want to be different? Stronger,
faster, smarter... yes. I wish that all the time."

Miyako smiled a little. "We're in the same boat, then."

Wormmon shook his head. His antennae tickled her cheek, making her giggle slightly.

"Not you," said Wormmon. "You can do so much more than I can. Besides, I'll always be
ugly, but you're a very pretty human. You shouldn't feel bad about yourself."

"Really? You mean it?" asked Miyako. Her eyes narrowed a bit. "You wouldn't just say
that to make me feel better, would you?"

Wormmon shook his head no, an Miyako evaluated him. He was still staring at her with
those innocent aquamarine eyes, the eyes of someone who wouldn't ever learn to lie no matter
how often it was done to him. She smiled a little.

"Thanks, Wormmon," she said. "You're a sweetie."

She surprised him by hugging him tightly, but he decided it was all right. Not as nice as
being hugged by Ken would be, but definitely all right. He would accept love from anyone willing
to share it with him.

Miyako left shortly thereafter, depositing Wormmon back at his master's side with a
parting word of thanks and a warning to take good care of the Tupperware. Then she returned to the
computer room in her home world, where she found Kari waiting for her.

"Miyako, you've been crying!" she exclaimed. "What happened?"

"Oh, not much," said Miyako offhandedly. "I've just been having a nice talk. You really
ought to go visit Wormmon sometime soon, though. He really does have an effect on you... but I
think I liked it."

And she walked away smiling, tears still shining on her face, leaving Kari deeply


Ken looked around, trying to figure out where he was this time. The scenery was
confusing, dancing around and wavering as if he viewed it through waves of rising heat.
Everything bent wildly from one possibility to another, showing him forest, desert, mountains,
oceans, deep space, caverns, meadows, all in a dizzying rush. Ken could feel his head spinning
from the speed of it all, and he gritted his teeth against the nausea.

*Stop it!* he thought fiercely. *Stop moving around! I have control here, and I
will make this world obey me! STOP!*

The spinning stopped so fast he lurched and fell, crunching onto rough pavement. He lay
there a moment, panting and waiting for the shock of impact and the dizziness left from the
spinning to go away. Then, slowly and carefully, he pulled himself upright and took in his

He seemed to be in a city. There were long blue-grey ribbons of asphalt beaming away
from him, and stark silvery buildings rose up from the earth, their tops lost in milky white clouds,
their sides pitted with dark windows. Shy sidewalks skirted the edges of the streets, hugging close
to the skyscrapers until they could vanish into shadow again. Street lamps sprouted at intervals,
their bulbs drooping over the roads like the heads of dead flowers. Even the stop lights were dull
and lifeless. The streets were utterly silent, lacking the rush of cars, the movement of people, even
the coo of a pigeon to enliven it.

"I'm the only one here," said Ken aloud, trying to break the all-pervasive silence. It didn't
work. He could feel his words being sucked up into the void around him, snuffing them out as if
they had never been. He shivered a little, throttling down the impulse to scream, to bang a trash
can, to do anything to make himself heard and recognized. He felt too small here, like nothing he
could do was important...

"Nothing you can do is important," said a cold voice. It was also a familiar voice. Ken

"Where are you?" he demanded. "Come out! I want to see you."

"Why would you want to see me?" the voice demanded. "You always hated me, Ken. You
were always jealous."

"No! I didn't hate you!" Ken shouted back. "You've got to believe that!"

"But you were jealous," the voice repeated. "You're still jealous, aren't you? You have to
take over a whole world just to prove you're better than me."

"That - that's not it!" Ken tried to speak defiantly, but his voice shook.

"If that's not it, what other reason is there?" the voice demanded. "Pride? Greed? Not a
pretty choice, no matter how you look at it."

"I'm not doing anything that isn't my right," said Ken. "I am a superior human being, and
I deserve whatever I'm taking. The Digital World needs someone to rule it properly."

"And you could do the job?" said the voice. "Do you really think you're so perfect? Even
after you did this to me?"

"I didn't do anything! It's not my fault!" Ken shouted. "You know it isn't true! I dare you
to come out and say it to my face!"

"I can't do that," said the voice, and it sounded like it was taking malicious pleasure in the
words. "I can't speak to you face to face because I am Osamu Ichijouji, and I died because of

"No! It isn't true, it isn't possible!" Ken shouted back. "I wasn't even there at the time,

Ken waited for whatever cruel retort his brother would think of, but there was no reply.
Instead, he heard other voices, and he turned warily to face...

...his mother and father. They stood with their backs turned to him, taking no notice of
him. They stared instead at a point of glowing golden light somewhere above them. From the way
he could see right through them, he surmised that they probably wouldn't pay any attention to him
no matter what he did, because he doubted they could even see him. However, there was no
rationale for the way they ignored the small, dark-haired child that clamored around their knees.

"Mommy, Daddy, will you play with me? Please?" begged the little boy.

"Not now, Ken," said his father absently, waving his hand as if shooing flies. "Can't you
see we're paying attention to your brother right now."

"Yes, son," said his mother. "You know Osamu is much more important than you. You
shouldn't get in our way while we're admiring him."

"But Mom..." the little boy pleaded. "I'm so lonely. I want someone to look after me."

"We can't do that," said his father. "You see, we don't love you. We only care about
Osamu. You'll never be as good as he is, so why should we bother?"

"That's right," said his mother. "You'll never be as perfect as Osamu is."

"Never," his father agreed.

"Never," little Ken sighed, and the image blew away like smoke on the wind.

The real, flesh and blood Ken stood stock still in the center of the crossroads, biting his lip
and trying to refuse passage to the tears that pressed at his eyes. He failed, and wet warmth ran
down his face. He couldn't even find the strength of will to brush the tears away. He needed every
resource he had to hold his emotions in check.

*What you saw wasn't real,* he told himself sternly. *It was never like that.
My parents... my parents love me. They still love me, wherever they are. I... I might not have been
good enough then, but I am now. They love me. They HAVE to.*

Another voice caught his attention, and he turned again. This time, he could see a desk
sitting on the sidewalk corner, strewn with books, pencils, papers, and lit by a small lamp. Osamu
sat at the desk, working away on a long column of complex math problems. Young Ken stood at
his side, leaving the older version to watch the drama unfold.

"Osamu, what are you doing?" asked the little boy.

"Homework," said Osamu. "I'd like you to leave me alone. This isn't something for little
kids to get involved in."

"Can you play with me when you're done, Osamu?" the little boy persisted. "I'll be good,
I promise. I just want to spend some time with you."

"Ken, I'm busy right now. I don't have time for you."

"You're always busy," Ken complained. "You NEVER have time for me. You say
you'll do something with me, and then when I come back, you just say later, later, later. I want
you to play with me now!"

"You're acting like a spoiled brat, Ken," Osamu snapped. "Go away. I have to finish my

"You're always doing your stupid homework. I hate it!"

Ken hit the desk, making books and papers fly everywhere. The lamp crashed to the floor,
and the bulb shattered. Osamu's face went dark. He stood up, turning to glare down at his
younger brother. Even as a bystander, the older Ken could put himself in the place of the child,
feeling those fierce eyes boring into him, seeing someone so much larger and more powerful than
himself about to bring his wrath down upon him.

"Ken," he snarled. "How DARE you!" Osamu slapped the boy, making him cry out.
"Just look what you've done!"

"I didn't mean to!" Ken whimpered.

"Of course you meant to! You knew what you were doing," growled Osamu. "Look at
this mess! How do you expect me to finish my homework now, huh?"

"I don't care!" shouted Ken. "I don't care about your stupid old homework! I don't care
about you! I hate you!"

"Take that back, Ken!"

"I hate you, Osamu! I hate you! I hate you! I wish you'd die!"

Osamu's face twisted into an evil leer as all his hot anger drained into cold darkness.

"You'll have your wish," he said, and the scene vanished in smoke again.

There was a sudden scream - not a human one, but the scream of tires on pavement as a
car spun out of control. The Ken of reality forced himself not to turn around, but he could hear
the sounds. There was the gut-wrenching crunch of steel smashing into steel, the crash of
shattering glass, the screams of humans being crushed in their metal boxes, cars becoming coffins.
He tried to blot out the noise, but Osamu's agonized death cry rang in his mind.

"See? It is your fault," whispered the voice of his dead brother. "You were jealous. You
hated me. You wished I was dead, and now I am."

"It wasn't what I wanted! Really!" Ken shouted back. "You've got to believe me, Osamu!
I never wanted you to die!"

"Yes, you did," the voice insisted. "And now... now it's payback time. You're going to die
in this place, Ken, and you're going to die in agony, just as I did."

"No!" begged Ken. Tears were still running down his face. "Please, no, don't do this to

"Why shouldn't we?" asked his mother's voice.

"That's right, you don't care," said his father. "You treated us exactly the way Osamu
treated you. You never cared about any of us. All you cared about was test scores, inventions,
soccer, press conferences..."

"... being admired, being important, being powerful," added a new voice. Ken turned
around, filled with dread at what he might see, and found himself facing the Digidestined, all of
them giving him death looks. Daisuke was standing in front with fire in his eyes. "That's all you
care about," he finished. "Nothing but yourself."

"Nothing but yourself," TK repeated. His blue eyes were like ice - even his Patamon
looked dangerous. "We would have been your friends, Ken. You could have been one of us.
Instead, you chose to be our enemy."

"We know how to forgive, Ken," said Kari. "No matter what you did before, we could
have forgiven you if you had just asked, but you never believed anything you ever did was

"You were too good for us," said Miyako. Tears of anger spilled down her face. "I wanted
you to like me, but you forced me to hate you instead. I believed you were so good, and you let
me down. I feel so betrayed. I HAVE to fight against you now."

"You have no heart," whispered Iori in a voice of doom. "You never loved anyone, and
now no one will ever love you. It's time for you to die."

"No!" begged Ken. "Please, I'll do anything!"

"Too late," said voices, many voices. There were millions of red-eye Digimon coming out
of the dark alleys. "Look at us! We're enslaved to your hatred! You made it so all we can do is
hate, and of all things, we hate you most! You can expect no pity from us."

"If you had learned to love even one being, just one," said Miyako, "this never would have
happened. If someone loved you, they could save you, but you only wanted to be feared. That
means this is the end for you. Good bye, Digimon Emperor."

Ken was beyond protests now. He fell to his knees to beg for mercy, but nothing would
come out put tears. He pressed his face in his hands and bawled helplessly as the people with
glowing red eyes came to do him in...


Wormmon stared in fascination as the tears slid down Ken's face. Ken was still sound
asleep, but he was crying and whispering to himself. His face was contorted with a horror
Wormmon had never seen before, and yet nothing he could do would shake Ken out of whatever
nightmare he was having.

"Oh, Ken, please don't cry," he whispered. "It hurts me so much to see you cry. Wake up,
Ken! Please wake up. I couldn't stand to... to see you die. Please, Ken. I love you too much to
lose you."


Ken almost didn't hear the words. The sound of his own tears and the murmur of his
attackers drowned out nearly everything, but somehow, he heard.

"Ken... I love you."

His eyes snapped wide open. Everyone else froze, watching and waiting.

"Ken... I love you," the voice again. "I love you too much to lose you."

"Who are you?" asked Ken. "Why would you possibly want to love me after all the evil
things I've done?"

"I was born to. All I want is for you to love me in return. Will you?"

The voice sounded so sweet and soothing... Ken felt something melt inside of him,
something between a flood of relief and the kindling of a fire.

"I think I will," he said. "When I meet you, I think I will."

No sooner had the words come out of his mouth, when the white fog wrapped around him
and he was lost again.


Wormmon's fourth visitor came quietly. He wasn't even sure when the newest arrival
appeared, but after he had been sitting quietly for some time, lost in thought, he became aware
that there was someone else in the room with him. He turned around slowly, wondering who he
was going to have to deal with, and was met by the serious stare of the youngest of the

"How long have you been there?" Wormmon asked.

Iori shrugged. "Not long. Besides, I thought you might need your quiet."

"Thank you," said Wormmon. He really was grateful; it was starting to feel to him like the
Digidestined didn't know how to make an entrance without scaring him half to death in the
process. He had a feeling that this quiet-voiced, serious-eyed boy was cut from a different cloth.

"You're welcome," said Iori, ever polite. "I know what you're going through."

"You do?" asked Wormmon, wide-eyed. Somehow, he'd never stopped to think that
maybe the heroes had any problems beyond whatever their enemy was throwing at them.

Iori nodded sadly. "My father died when I was very young. He was a policeman, and he
was hurt badly in a gunfight. I remember going to the hospital with my mother and grandfather... I
was too young for them to let me in to see him. I didn't know what was going on. My mother was
crying, and I was so scared. I didn't know what was going on... Then they just came and told me
my father was gone. I didn't get to say goodbye or anything." His green eyes shimmered with
repressed tears. "You don't know how lucky you are to get to look after him."

Wormmon cast a glance at his sleeping master. His nightmare seemed to have passed, and
now his expression was relaxed and peaceful, so different from the look of cold calculation he
usually wore. It occurred to Wormmon to wonder if he'd finally found something in his dreams
that made him happy.

*If that's true, I'd be glad to stay here and look after him forever,* Wormmon

"Yes," he said. "I know I'm lucky."

Iori nodded. "That's good. Anyway, I brought you something I thought might help Ken. I
visited my friend Joe today - he's studying to be a doctor, and he gave me some medicine to bring
to you. You're supposed to give Ken a spoonful twice a day, and it will help bring his fever down.
It's the least I can do." He reached into the knapsack he carried and handed the worm a bottle
with a plastic spoon taped to it.

"Thank you," said Wormmon again. "You're all being so kind to me. I don't know how I
can repay you."

Iori smiled a little. "You don't have to pay me back. I just don't want you to have to see
anyone you care about die. I wouldn't make anyone do that."

"You think he's going to get better, then?" asked Wormmon hopefully.

"Of course he will!" said Iori. "He's got you to look after him, doesn't he?"

"What difference does that make?"

"You're a caterpillar. That's a symbol," said Iori. "I don't know what things are like in the
DigiWorld, but in my world, caterpillars turn into butterflies."

"Ken mentioned that once," said Wormmon. "I've never seen a butterfly. What's it like?"

"They're beautiful," Iori assured him. "Look, I'll show you."

He opened the knapsack again and took out the book he'd been studying earlier. He
flipped through a few pages until he came upon a full-color photograph of a brightly colored
butterfly with spread wings. Wormmon stared at it, eyes shining.

"It IS beautiful," he said.

Iori nodded. "All caterpillars turn into butterflies, and butterflies take care of the flowers.
A caterpillar might be little and ugly, and it might even hurt things, but once it becomes a
butterfly, it spreads life and makes people happy. As long as people have caterpillars and
butterflies, we have hope that things can change for the better. That's why I think that as long as
Ken has you nearby, there's hope that he will get better, inside and out. Think about it."

"I will," Wormmon promised.

And, as Iori left again, he did think about it. He had dreamed that he and Ken had wings
like the butterflies. Maybe Iori was right, and those dreams could come true.


Ken walked in the forest, and for once, he was not afraid. What did he have to be afraid
of? Nothing, except taking care of his responsibilities. He was a little fuzzy on what those were
right now, but he knew there was something important he ought to be doing. Things felt so
strange today... maybe because he was hopping along on four feet.

"What the...?" he wondered aloud. His voice sounded all wrong. He looked down at
himself and nearly jumped out of his skin. Hoping desperately that he was mistaken, he ran to the
nearest stream and stared at his reflection in the water.

He did indeed have four legs now, attached to a vaguely froglike body. Rabbit ears stood
stiffly on his head, and a tail that would have done credit to a peacock or turkey fanned up behind
him. To top it all off, he was covered from nose to tail with bright red fur decked in blue tiger

"Okay, I'm an Elecmon now," he said. "How did that happen?"

He looked around, but there didn't seem to be any answers forthcoming. However, he was
not particularly worried by the transformation, since he was having trouble just now remembering
who he had been previous to this. At least he knew what he was supposed to be doing, now.
Elecmon was a caretaker Digimon, and it was his job to attend to the baby Digimon of Primary
village. He must have gone out hunting for food for them. Well, this was as good a place as any to
find food. He decided he was in the mood for a fishing trip.

"Sparkling Thunder!" he exclaimed, leaping into the air and firing a blast of white-yellow
energy at the stream. He was gratified to see a number of stunned fish rise to the surface.

"That was kind of fun," he said, swimming out to gather his catch. "I could get used to
being an Elecmon if all I have to do is go fishing and play with baby Digimon."

However, just as he was about to make another cast, he heard a crashing in the treetops,
and he looked up just in time to see a dark shape swoop across the sky. Something roared, and
Ken couldn't dodge out of the way fast enough to avoid being hit by the exploding needles that
rained on him. He tumbled to the ground with a moan, staring with half opened eyes as an
AirDramon landed gracefully in a clearing and a human boy leaped lightly from it's head.

*It's the Digimon Emperor!* he thought fearfully. *But... wait a minute! That's
me, isn't it? How can he be Ken when I'm Ken... or am I really Elecmon? I'm so confused...*

"Well, well, well," the emperor chuckled. "Look what we have here! It's the Digimon
babysitter. You should know better than to wander so far from home. Now I think you're just
going to have to come along with me."

"I can't leave!" Ken blurted. "The babies need me!"

"They'll just have to get along without you," said the Emperor offhandedly. "You're more
important as a slave than a babysitter."

"But... but if the babies are left to themselves, they could grow up to become horrible

The emperor smiled coldly. "That's exactly what I'm counting on."

*But, but that's so wrong!* thought Ken the Elecmon. And then he thought,
*but this is exactly how I did it. It was exactly how I thought. Why was I behaving this

He didn't get any time to reflect on it, though. The emperor made a swift motion, and a
Black Ring appeared to clamp itself around Ken's neck. He cried out as it sent shots of dark fire
through his veins, burning out everything he'd ever loved and believed in and replacing it with
hatred... He couldn't take it, and he passed out.

When he came around again, he was somewhere cold and dark, lying on a smooth metal
floor. He couldn't feel the Black Ring anymore, and relief made him almost dizzy. He had never
imagined how horrible wearing one of those things would feel. Of course, he'd never imagined
much of how anyone other than himself would feel under any circumstances, unless it was to
enjoy the fact that he was making them suffer. Seeing it from the other side was strange. He was
glad it was over with now.

"I must have been dreaming," he said to himself. "There's no way I could really have been
an Elecmon."

Something still sounded wrong with his voice, he realized. Was he coming down with a
cold. He was sure he remembered something about being sick. Well, if that was the case, he
shouldn't be lying on the floor like this. He tried to stand up... and realized he was already
standing up. Everything was just much bigger than he remembered it being. He took a quick
count of his legs. Ten.

*Oh, great,* he thought, frustrated. *I'm Wormmon now. How much lower
can I go? At least Elecmon had some firepower! I can't do anything in this shape! I don't want to
be a Wormmon!*

He apparently didn't get any choice in the matter. Not only that, but he didn't seem to
have any choice over what this Wormmon body did, because it suddenly began to crawl along
without him willing it to, and he had no choice but to follow along. It was very dark here, but he
soon began to realize that he was heading for a dim light up ahead. As he drew closer, he saw
himself, his human self, sitting in his monitor room working on some new project, turned so that
his face was hidden from view. The Wormmon body stopped a respectful distance away.

"Master?" he inquired. "What are you doing?"

"None of your business, worm," the emperor snapped.

"But I'm supposed to be helping you!" Wormmon protested.

"There's nothing you can do to help me. You're worthless," said Ken. "What could
anything as weak and foolish as you possibly do for me?"

"I don't know," said Wormmon, his antennae drooping in shame. "Are you sure there isn't

"Nothing," the emperor replied. "You know you're not good enough to help me. You'll
never be good enough. You're weak and worthless."

"I know," Wormmon answered meekly. "I just want to help you, that's all."

"I've had quite enough of your interference. I want you gone," said the emperor. "I thin
it's time I taught you a lesson."

*Get out of here!* thought Ken wildly, willing the caterpillar to get moving.
*He's going to beat you, you fool! Get out of here while you can!*

But Wormmon just sat, awaiting whatever punishment would come his way, so all Ken
could do was watch as the figure in his chair spun slowly around to face him, rising up like a
demon from the abyss.

*Osamu!* thought Ken wildly. He recognized that look, that tone of voice from
his earlier visions. It was the Osamu who had scolded young Ken for scattering his papers... only
worse. Much, much worse. Osamu had never had that kind of insane light in his eyes, never had a
smile that evil, as if he ENJOYED being cruel. He'd never donned imperial garb and called
himself the master of a whole world.... Ken felt himself shrinking away from the realization that
was dawning on him. He was not seeing Osamu - he was seeing himself in the cold, hard light of
reality, seeing how he had become what he'd never wanted to be. Now he was going to watch
himself beat the loyal little creature who served him for exactly the same offense he'd been
scolded for before, and Wormmon was going to sit there and take it. Ken had reacted with
violence and hate, but Wormmon...

*He's just too good for that,* Ken thought despairingly. *I've got him conned
into believing I'm right, and that he really is worthless, and he's going to take this punishment
because he thinks he deserves it... but he doesn't! Wormmon, what have I done to you? What
have I done to everyone? I don't want this to be real anymore! This is a nightmare! Get me out of

He felt a tearing sensation as he was ripped forcibly out of Wormmon's body and sent
spinning through space. He landed in a dull grey world. He rubbed his hands to his eyes to dispel
the horrible visions, and then sighed with relief as he realized he HAD hands.

"I'm me again," he said. "Thank goodness! Now, how do I get out of here?"

He looked around, but saw nothing but roiling grey fog... No, wait. There was a patch of
brightness up ahead, a ring of hazy light. In it, he could just barely make out the shapes that made
up his royal bedchamber. He was lying very still in his bed, and he could see Wormmon perched
on his chest, giving him a dose of something from a bottle.

"So that's it," he said. "I'm sick, and I'm dreaming all of this... or am I?"

He thought over all of what had happened to him, from his meeting with the former kings,
the horrible visions of his family, and his experiences as Digimon. The sights, the sounds, the
sensations had all been very real - much more real than any dream he'd ever had before.

"Dreams have meanings," he said to himself. "I have to know why I'm seeing all of this so
I can understand it. Otherwise, I'm going to have nightmares for the rest of my life!"

He looked all around. Up ahead, the light beckoned temptingly. If he went through, he
could go back to himself, just wake up and go on like he always had. He turned around to face the
opposite direction and found himself facing a deep black void. Taking a deep breath to steady
himself, he stepped into it and plunged into icy darkness.

*And this time, I won't run away,* he told himself. *I won't come back until I
destroy this darkness!*

He marched resolutely forward, trying to ignore the tiny voice that added, *Even if I


Kari and Gatomon arrived just as evening fell over the Digital world. The weary caterpillar
watched them arrive with a faint sigh. Despite his constant attention and worry, the Digimon
Emperor wasn't showing any signs of improvement - if anything, Wormmon was getting the
weird feeling that Ken was getting even further away from him. The boy looked so still and pale
now, not even coughing anymore, just lying there, barely breathing. Wormmon felt a dull feeling
of gloom settle over him. Nothing he had done had been enough, and now Ken was going to die.

"I'm sorry, master," he said softly. "I didn't mean to fail you. I did everything I could.
Ken, I'm so sorry..."

"Sorry for what?" asked Kari's cheerful voice.

"Kari!" Wormmon exclaimed. "I'm glad you're here! Something's happening to Ken, and
I don't know what to do, and I'm afraid he's going to die, and I don't want to be left here all

"Easy, easy!" said Kari soothingly; the little caterpillar sounded close to tears. "You aren't
going to do anyone any good panicking like that."

"But I'm worried," said Wormmon, antennae drooping.

"We'll have a look at him," Kari replied.

She stepped closer to the sleeping emperor, trying not to let her uneasiness show. She
didn't think she'd ever been this close to the Digimon Emperor. When he was sound asleep like
this, though, he looked more like a boy than a ruler. Heartened, she laid a hand across his
forehead, while Gatomon pressed an ear to his chest, listening to his breathing.

"His fever's gone," Kari announced.

"All clear here, too," added Gatomon. "I think he's actually getting better. He's just
sleeping very deeply. He probably needs his rest. When... when I took care of a sick friend, once,
he slept through most of the day." Her eyes took on a distant look, and Kari rested a hand on her
Digimon's head comfortingly.

Wormmon sighed in relief. "Thank you. I don't know what I'd do if something happened
to Ken."

"I know what you mean," said Gatomon softly. "I know what it's like to not have your
partner around. It leaves an emptiness inside you."

Wormmon nodded. "TK said you'd understand. He told me I should talk to you."

"I know," said Gatomon. "He came by and told us earlier. It's not something I like to talk
about, but it might make you feel better."

"I'm listening," said Wormmon, arranging his antennae to hear better.

Gatomon nodded, took a deep breath, and began.

"I wasn't always a very good Digimon," she said. "My Digiegg was lost, and I grew up all
alone. Eventually, I was taken in by an evil Digimon, Myotismon, the Lord of the Undead. He
beat me and mistreated me to make me do his evil bidding." She slid off one of her gloves,
showing a cross-shaped scar. "This is why I have to wear these gloves."

"You mean I'm not the only one who lived like this?" asked Wormmon. "But why did he
have to beat you?"

"He didn't like me. He was afraid of me," said Gatomon. "Sometimes I think he knew,
somehow, that I would be a danger to him. He beat me to make me afraid of him, so I'd never
disobey him. I don't think I would have made it if I hadn't had a friend there, Wizardmon, to help
me. But I did survive. Sometimes, when Myotismon wasn't around to bother me, I was even
happy. But I never felt complete. I was always missing something."

"Missing what?" asked Wormmon.

"Kari," said Gatomon simply, smiling at her companion. "I was always meant to be her
partner. We have a special soul-link that makes it so we don't feel right when we're apart."

Wormmon nodded, turning that one over. It was reassuring, in a way, to know that
somewhere deep inside, Ken needed him just as much as he needed Ken. On the other hand, if the
two were linked, did that mean he would die if Ken did?

*I almost hope so. I don't think I would be happy without him...*

"So how did you get to be with Kari when you were working for Myotismon?" he asked.

"That was hard," said Gatomon. "He was trying to kill Kari so the Digidestined team
would never be complete, and he was angry at me for helping her. There were terrible battles
before Myotismon was finally destroyed... I lost my friend Wizardmon in one of them." She
paused to rub tears away from her eyes. "So you see, we have a lot of reasons for wanting to help
you. I know how it feels to be mistreated and unloved. I know what it's like to lose someone you
care about. I know, too, that someone who's been bad can become good. I'm living proof of

"Thanks for telling me that," said Wormmon. "It makes me feel like I'm not so alone
anymore. It had to be hard to tell me all that."

"That's all right," said Gatomon. "It doesn't hurt me to remember the past sometimes.
Better for me to be sad sometimes than to forget about where I came from and who helped me
get here... but it still hurts a little..."

"It's okay, Gatomon," said Kari, hugging her Digimon tightly. "You know I'll always be
here for you." She kissed Gatomon on the top of her head, and the cat purred.

Wormmon blinked. "What was that you just did?"

"What? Haven't you seen a kiss before?" asked Kari. Wormmon shook his head, so she
explained, "It's something humans do for people they love and care about. See?" She kissed
Wormmon lightly on the forehead, where the pink marking was, making him blush. "I've gotta go
now. You be a good little caterpillar. Somebody will be around in the morning to see how you're
doing, okay? Bye!"

Then the last of the Digidestined and her companion left the room, leaving the caterpillar
deep in thought.


Ice, ice, cold and darkness, impenetrable shadow and endless cold...

Ken's mind swam through a frozen sea of blackness, trying desperately to stay afloat. The
cold was worse than anything he'd ever felt before, worst than the bleakest winter night, putting
him beyond shivering or even pain. One false move, he knew, would see him frozen forever in this
darkness. He struggled against it, but what was the use?

*I can't turn back,* he told himself, struggling to stay conscious. *I can't die, I
just can't...*

And why not? His resolve faltered as the insidious question crept into his mind. What did
he have to live for? Friends? He had none. He was as alone in the world as anyone could be.
Family? He had never felt loved by them. Yes, they had taken care of him, but they'd never taken
the time to talk to him or learn to understand him, nor had he ever concerned himself much with
them once Osamu had died. There was money, power, fame, glory, competition... but none of
them had ever really filled that aching void he felt. They weren't good enough to make him want
to go on living. A few days ago, he would have said his purpose in life was to overthrow the
Digital World and make it his own, and then possibly move on to the world of his birth, but now...

*I don't want that anymore, now that I've seen how horrible it is,* he thought.
*Those dreams... they were telling me something. I told myself I was doing everyone a favor
by taking control. I thought I was the only one good enough to rule, but I'm not good. All right,
then. If I survive this, I'm going to try to undo what I've done. I have to live to set things right,
and because...* A flicker of light crossed his mind, a memory of a gentle voice, someone
telling him they loved him. *Because I made a promise. I don't believe anyone really loves me
like that. It was just a dream, but I want to make it real. I'll live because I want someone to love
me, and so I can love them back.*

The thought made him feel warmer, and he thought he could see the shadows thinning a
bit. He even thought he could make out a trace of movement. Heartened, he moved on, getting
closer to whatever it was he had glimpsed...

He found himself standing in a room, a very familiar room. As a matter of fact, it looked a
lot like his monitor room, only much larger and a bit brighter, light enough for him to see rows of
computer terminals of bright metal, edges gleaming razor sharp. There was also one other thing in
this room that his control center didn't have. Something hung from the ceiling, suspended by
some unseen force. It was jet black and gently pulsing, glistening in its own strange blue radiance.
The shape was strange but vaguely familiar. After a moment, Ken realized that what it most
resembled was a human heart.

"Very clever, boy genius," sneered a voice. Ken's head snapped around. There was
someone standing in the shadows watching him, leaning casually against the banks of computers.

"Who are you? And where am I?" Ken demanded.

"What? You don't know?" the other laughed. "And you're supposed to be so smart.
Omniscient. You were going to rule a world, Ken Ichijouji, and you can't even recognize your
own self?"

The figure stepped into the light, grinning maniacally, and Ken gasped. What he was
seeing was a perfect reflection of himself... or rather, the Digimon Emperor, resplendent in his
royal garb. The one jarring note was that he did not wear Ken's customary tinted glasses, and the
amethyst eyes he should have had were blood red.

"Impossible!" said Ken.

"Inevitable," the other corrected. "Would you like me to explain, Ken? I'd be only too
happy too. Listen well: you've found your way to your own heart. There it is there - black and
hard as stone. Probably hollow, too. Nothing can break that heart, or get through to it."

"I'm not like that," said Ken. "Really! I've changed."

"No, we haven't," said the Digimon Emperor. "Not while I'm still here. I represent your
dark side - all your anger, jealousy, arrogance, cruelty, hatred - everything that you've worked so
hard to build in yourself. You made me the most powerful part of you. Any goodness you have
inside of you is too weak to survive for long. After all, you haven't used that part of yourself in
years. If you try to destroy me without any goodness to back you up, even if you win, you won't
survive long. You'll be just too weak without me. Naturally, if I destroy you, darkness will
consume you completely... and things will go on pretty much as they were. Probably no one will
ever know you're gone. The fact is, Ken, the only chance you have is to go back right now. You
can't fight your own self."

"I can try!" Ken shouted back, and he leaped at the emperor.

The emperor glided out of the way easily, and Ken slammed into the side of the nearest
computer, its sharp edge drawing a crimson line down his side. He struggled to get to his feet,
only to be sent sprawling again as the emperor kicked him.

*I'm stronger than I thought,* Ken thought dazedly. *Or he is. Maybe my
dark side really is the strongest.*

"You're right, I am," the Emperor agreed. "Give up! I won't have any pity on you if you
try to fight back."

"I'll never give up! I don't want to live under your control anymore!" shouted Ken.

He leaped at the Emperor, and they both went down in a tangle of fists and kicking feet.
Ken gritted his teeth and tried to dodge the blows aimed at him, but this dark creature seemed
impossibly fast and strong, and nothing he did seemed to slow it down. Blows rained down on
him, and he could distantly feel blood running down his face and onto his shirt, mixing with that
of the previous wound. With a mighty heave, the emperor threw Ken into the air, letting him spin
across the room and come crashing down onto a computer terminal, where he was bitten by
shattering glass and sparking machinery. He dropped to the floor with a moan, head reeling. The
emperor closed in.

"I told you that would happen," he said. "You're a weakling, Ken Ichijouji. There's no
room in this world for weaklings. Prepare to die."


Unaware of the danger, Wormmon continued to watch over his master, replaying the talk
he'd had with Gatomon in his mind... that, and remembering the parting kiss from Kari. A way of
showing love... he liked that idea. Probably Ken would never do that... but Ken wasn't awake
right now. He was just lying there, still, silent, waiting.

*I wonder,* thought Wormmon. *Could I try it? Would it be wrong if I did? I
think I would like to...*

He looked back at Ken. Kari had kissed Wormmon on the forehead, but that would be so
awkward - Wormmon didn't think he could do it without having to crawl up on Ken's face or
hang upside-down from the bedpost, and neither of those sounded very comfortable. On the other
hand, his lips were right there in easy reach. He could pretend Ken was kissing him back, even if it
wasn't for real. Lightly, shyly as a child, Wormmon leaned forward and kissed his master, and
something warm and sweet woke up and started fluttering around inside of him.

Then his training hit him like a slap, and he leaped away to hide himself under the bed,
there with the shadows and the dust bunnies, waiting for the shivery feeling to go away. How had
he dared to try something like that? Ken would beat him to a pulp if he ever found out.

*But he's not going to find out,* Wormmon told himself. *No one ever will.
No one will know but me... but that's no good. I'll always remember, and I don't know if things
are going to be the same after this...*


*This is it,* thought Ken. *All this way for nothing. Goodbye, world. I'm sorry
I made such a mess of things.*

The evil emperor stepped closer, chuckling fiendishly, holding a long black knife in his
hand. He dropped to one knee to whisper in the fallen boy's ear.

"Did you know," he said lightly, "that a human heart will go on beating for up to ten hours
after it's cut out? You're going to get the singular privilege of going out watching me hold your
still-beating heart in my hands... or better yet, watching me crush it. But I've done that already,
haven't I?"

"No," said Ken softly. "I made a promise. I promised to love someone. My heart belongs
to them, and darkness can't take it, now."

Just as he said those words, there was an explosion of white light that sent the emperor
tumbling head over heels. When he looked up, he instantly cringed away again, while Ken stared
up in awe.

Ken had never personally met an angel, but if there was every anything he would call by
the name, this would be it. Standing before him was a creature of pure light, neither male nor
female, but simply a patch of human-shaped brilliance wearing butterfly wings of glowing rainbow
colors. Ken couldn't see its face, but he gathered from the expression on the emperor's that it
wasn't friendly.

"Leave him alone," said the being. "I love him, and he is mine."

"He is mine," the emperor snarled. "This is not your battle! Stay out of this!"

"I will not," the being replied. "You've had your way long enough. Begone!"

In a searing burst of light, the being spread its wings, and the room was filled with
multicolored luminance. When it faded, the emperor was gone. There was nothing left but a
slightly charred spot on the floor. The angel turned around to kneel next to Ken, gathering him up
in its arms.

"Are you all right?" it asked.

Ken smiled weakly. "I am now. You're the one who saved me before, aren't you?"

The angel nodded. "I will always watch over you. I love you, and I'll always be here for
you. I'll look after you no matter what, but I want to ask you... could you ever learn to love me,

Ken stared into the being's eyes. They were a beautiful shade of aquamarine, shining with
infinite love and immeasurable sorrow. There was something strangely familiar about those eyes.
Ken felt suddenly that he would say anything to take the pain out of those beautiful eyes.

"Yes," he said. "I can. I do. I do love you."

There was a sound like shattering glass, and Ken just barely had a chance to look up and
see the dark heart at the ceiling split and crack, showing a gleam of brilliant gold beneath the
darkness. Then there was a quaking roar, and the control room began to fall apart, spilling bits of
plate metal and electrical cable all around them. Ken pressed himself close to his angel, hiding his
face from the wreckage, and when the noise stopped....

...he was safe in his own bed. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking to clear away the

"I made it," he said quietly.

He felt a lurch, as if something was bumping around under the bed. Then there was a
scuffling noise and a pull at the edge of the blankets, and a pair of bright blue eyes peeked up at

"Master?" asked Wormmon breathlessly.

Ken smiled weakly. "Hi, Wormmon. Nice to see you again."

"Master!" Wormmon squealed. He raced up to Ken and clamped all ten of his pods
around Ken's arm in a caterpillar hug. "Master, you're alive! You made it! You didn't die! Oh,
master, I'm so glad you're back."

"Ken," said Ken.

Wormmon looked up in puzzlement. "What?"

"Call me Ken," the boy repeated. "I never, ever want to hear anyone call me 'master' as
long as I live. Call me Ken."

"Oh. Whatever you say, ma- um, Ken," said Wormmon. "I'm just glad you're all right. I
missed you."

"I missed you, too," said Ken.

"Did you? Really?" asked Wormmon, amazed. "But I thought... I thought you didn't like

"Maybe I've changed my mind," said Ken. "I've been far, far away, and a lot of things
have happened."

"I... I believe you," said Wormmon. "I've been looking after you all this time. And, um,
well... I kind of sort of talked the Digidestined into helping me. Did I do the right thing?"

"You did that?" asked Ken. "How? How in the world did you convince my worst enemies
to help me?"

Wormmon's antennae drooped a little at the outraged tone. "Sorry, Ken. I didn't mean to
upset you. I just had to do something. I couldn't stand to lose you."

"I love you too much to lose you..." said the angel's voice in Ken's mind. He
shook himself, briefly disoriented.

"You couldn't?" he asked. "But Wormmon, why? All I've ever done to you is insult you
and mistreat you. You should have been glad to get rid of me."

"Never!" said Wormmon, shocked. "I belong with you, Ken. I couldn't live without you. I
haven't upset you, have I?"

"No," said Ken. "You did the right thing, Wormmon. You've saved my life."

"You mean it, Ken?" asked Wormmon, eyes shining. "I did what you wanted me to do?
Am I useful now?"

Ken stared into his companion's eyes, those two shining aqua orbs. How had he ever
missed all that devotion there? He felt tears choking at his throat.

"You are, Wormmon," he said. Impulsively, he scooped up the little caterpillar in a tight
hug. "You're good and wonderful and beautiful."

Wormmon was stunned for a moment, but then he felt all his fears melting away in a warm
rush of pure joy, and he snuggled into the embrace.

"I made you happy, then?" he whispered.

"Yes," said Ken. "I'm happier than I've ever been. I've found someone to love."

Wormmon could only sigh, too happy for words. It didn't matter anymore, now, whether
he was strong or fast or beautiful. Right in this moment, he had all he ever wanted, and inside, he
was flying.