Taichi did not come home with any premonition that things were about to go wrong - at least, not in any out-of-the-ordinary way. At most, he was expecting to spend his evening doing homework, which he considered a necessary evil that took away from soccer practice time. He came home burdened with library books and found his sister in a state of excitement. She was standing in front of a hall mirror, fretting over her hair.
"Hey, Hikari, what's up?" he asked.
"I've got a date tonight," she said, sounding pleased with herself.
"Really? Who are you going with - Daisuke or Takeru?"
"Neither," she said. "Takeru's dating Miyako, in case you didn't know, and Daisuke's out of town this week for a soccer conference, so I'm going out with Ken."
"Ken?" Taichi repeated. "That's a new one. Since when did you start liking Ken?"
"It's nothing serious. He just got invited to a big fancy party, and he needed a date in a hurry," she explained. "You know how shy he is around girls. He wanted to ask someone he knew. Besides, he knows I won't step on his feet."
"That's a good reason, I guess," said Taichi. "So if it's not serious, why are you fussing so much over how you look?"
"Because I'm going out with Ken, that's why. He could look elegant wearing a paper sack. I have to try harder."
"Hey, don't worry," said Taichi. "You're the prettiest girl in school! I bet Ken's getting all worked up into knots because he's going out with you."
Hikari laughed. "You're probably right. Still, I do want to look nice. Hm. I don't have any good jewelry to wear that goes with this dress." Raising her voice, she called, "Mom, can I borrow your pearl necklace?"
"If you promise to give it back as soon as you get home," her mother replied.
"Thanks, Mom!" Hikari called back. "Don't worry - I'll take good care of it!"
She scampered off in search of the necklace. Taichi watched her go, then shrugged. Hikari and Ken? And then again, why not? Taichi adored his little sister, and would probably not have objected if she was dating Agumon if that was what made her happy. Anyway, he had more important things to worry about - like homework. He ambled off to his own room, where he found Agumon playing with his computer.
"Having fun?" he asked.
"Sure am!" Agumon agreed, but he hopped down from the chair so he could come greet his partner. "How was school?"
"Busy. I'm still busy. You're going to have to let me use my computer so I can type this paper."
Agumon looked downcast. "I wanted to play!"
"We'll play later," Taichi assured him. "That is, if I can get this work done. You can help me out. Then we'll be done in no time."
"Okay!" said Agumon, looking instantly more cheerful. "What do I do?"
"Just grab one of these books," Taichi told him, dumping out his backpack, "and see if you can help me find the sections on World War II naval battles."
"That sounds serious," Agumon muttered, but he did as he was asked.
Taichi picked up a likely-looking book and went to turn on his computer. He'd started the paper a while back and was nearly finished, but he still had some parts he needed to flesh out. He started to drop into his chair and nearly sat on a cat.
"Yow!" he yelped. "Hey! Miko, how did you get there?"
"Meow," said Miko nonchalantly, and began to lick his paw.
"I don't need your help," said Taichi. "Go on, get out of here. Scat!"
Miko licked his paw a few more times, just to let Taichi know this was all his own idea, and then hopped down from the chair and sauntered off, tail held high. Taichi shut the door behind him.
"Crazy cat," he muttered. "Why couldn't we have gotten a hamster or something?"
"Because," said Agumon from behind his book, "Hikari likes cats."
Taichi sighed. "Yeah. That's why."
The two of them settled into a scholarly quiet, broken by the sounds of Agumon reported some bit of information and the tapping of Taichi's fingers on the keyboard. The computer's fan whirred softly. There was an occasional crackle as a page was turned, or a shuffling as Taichi tried to stay comfortable in a hard desk chair. Finally, the quiet was broken by the sound of a door opening.
"Hello!" called Mr. Yagami.
"Dad!" Taichi called exuberantly. He abandoned his homework and went to greet his father. Mr. Yagami tossed his car keys and briefcase onto the kitchen table and dropped into his favorite chair.
"Whew!" he said. "What a day! I'm beat... Hi, son. Hello, Agumon, Tailmon. Where's Hikari?"
"She went out to dinner with a friend," said Taichi. "She'll be back later."
"Ah, I see," said his father wisely. "Well, maybe we should do something fun while she's out having a good time without us. Want to go out for dinner tonight?"
"Wish I could, Dad, but I've got homework," said Taichi sadly. "I've got to stay in and get it done. If I turn in any more stuff late, my teacher will fry me alive."
"All right, how about we order pizza, then?"
"Now you're talking!" Taichi cheered.
"Fine," said his father. "You get back to your homework, and I'll call the pizza place. We'll call you when they get here."
"Yes, sir!" said Taichi with a playful salute. "Thanks, dad! C'mon, Agumon. Let's see if we can finish this paper before the pizza gets here."
He turned around and began heading back to his room, and immediately tripped over the cat.
"Stupid cat!" he muttered. "No offense, Tailmon."
"None taken," she said, giving Miko a look. She herself was of the opinion that cats were meant to be graceful and aloof, and she took having her distant cousin constantly underfoot as an affront. Miko gave the man of the house one of those cat-looks, an expression of utter disdain, and laundered his tail before strutting away toward the food dish.
By the time dinner arrived, Taichi was in a much more cheerful state of mind. With Agumon's steadfast help, he had managed to finish his paper. True, it still needed a few final touches, but on the whole, it was good work, and he was very pleased with himself. The arrival of the pizza further improved his mood, and certainly made up for not getting to play video games with Agumon. On the whole, it was a happy and peaceful evening. Taichi should have known it wouldn't last.
The next morning, Hikari came breezing into the room to join her family at the breakfast table.
"Good morning, honey," said her father. "How was your date?"
Hikari laughed and shook her head. "It wasn't a date, Dad. I was just out spending some time with a friend. But I did have fun. Ken's always so polite."
"That's not a bad thing. We need more polite young men in the world."
"What's that supposed to mean?" said Taichi.
"I wasn't talking about you."
"We could use more polite young women, too," said Mrs. Yagami. "I noticed someone forgot to give my necklace back."
Hikari looked surprised. "Don't look at me! I never borrowed it."
"You said last night you were going to."
"Well, I looked for it, but I couldn't find it, so I wore my rhinestones instead."
Mrs. Yagami frowned. "That's odd. I could have sworn they were right there on my dresser. Are you sure you looked?"
"Very sure. I really wanted to wear them."
"Hm. Maybe they got knocked onto the floor or something. Oh, well, I need to clean in there anyway," said Mrs. Yagami. "I'll take a good look around later this evening."
Taichi paid very little attention to the conversation as he slurped down his cornflakes. He was more interested in the prospect of having to go back to school again. He did, at least, have his report nearly finished. As a general rule, he disliked having to write papers, much preferring acting to having to write everything down, and the idea of having to do one this long and involved had filled him with dread when he first heard about it. Now the end was in sight - just a few minor adjustments, and he would be finished. It was a wonderful concept, especially as the deadline was drawing near. He had been sincerely worried that he would not be finished in time.
*I think I'll take it to school with me,* he decided. *I can go to the computer lab during lunch hour and polish it up. Just getting it done and knowing it's all behind me will feel so good...*
As soon as he was done with breakfast, he hurried into his room and went to pick up his things. He had not been particularly neat about his homeworking the night before, and the mess had further been aggravated by Agumon's help, which consisted largely of him putting all the library books and notes on the floor so he could view them all at once. Taichi was required to perform a hopscotch maneuver just to get across the room to his desk. Quickly, he gathered the library books into one stack, his textbooks into another, and tried to sift all the papers into some kind of order before stuffing them into a notebook. Then he turned his attention to his computer.
"Agumon," he said, "did you see what I did with my disk?"
"You put it right there on top of the computer."
"Well, it's not there now. Are you sure that's where it was?"
"You put it there, didn't you?"
"Yeah, I did, but it's not there."
"Well, where is it?"
"I don't know! That's why I'm asking you!"
Tailmon peeked through the door. "What's going on in here?"
"Taichi lost his homework," said Agumon.
"Where did you last see it?" Tailmon asked.
"On top of the computer," Taichi replied, "but it's not there now."
"Have you looked on the floor around it?"
"Well, no, not yet," answered Taichi. To cover his embarrassment, he bent down and began making a search. "Nope, it's not there, either."
"Well, didn't you make a backup?" Tailmon asked.
Taichi shrugged. "I thought it would be safe on the disk!"
"It obviously wasn't."
"That's not very helpful, you know."
Tailmon twitched her ears. "Is the paper due today?"
"No, not really, but..."
"Then you can worry about it when you get home today, right?"
Taichi shrugged again. "I guess... but I wanted to finish it today."
"Then you should have made a backup."
"Oh, forget it," Taichi sighed. "I'll look for it when I get home. Come on, Agumon, or we're going to be late for school."
"Now you're talking sensibly," said Tailmon.
Taichi wanted to make a retort to that, but stopped himself. For one thing, there wasn't a lot he could say - after all, she was probably right. For another, he knew that whatever he said, Tailmon would have a response for it. Living with Hikari was mellowing her somewhat, but she could still be sharp-tongued when she thought there was cause.
"This is just a day for things disappearing, isn't it?" Agumon commented. "First the necklace, now your homework."
"The necklace was gone yesterday," Taichi pointed out.
"Well, still," said Agumon.
With a sigh, Taichi shrugged his pack onto his back and trudged unenthusiastically toward the door. He hoped none of his teachers had anything especially strenuous planned for today; after all the serious thinking of the night before, his brain felt like a wrung dishcloth. He thought he was in about the right mood to listen to lectures all day. At the very most, he might be up to answering true/false questions.
"Taichi, have you seen my car keys?"
The question cut into his thoughts so abruptly that he just barely stopped himself from answering, "False!" Instead, he said, "Not since last night. You dropped them on the kitchen table."
"Well, they aren't there now!" his father called back.
"How did I know that?" Taichi muttered. "Let me guess, they're not under the table, either."
"It's not like it would be hard to see them."
Taichi was forced to agree. As he walked past the kitchen toward the front door, he was forced to admit that the area beneath the table was bare as it could be, except for the presence of a few table legs. He looked, without much hope, in the seats of the chairs.
"I told you it was a day for losing things," Agumon mumbled in his ear.
"Never mind," said Mr. Yagami. "There's no time to look for them. I'll take the train. See you later."
Still looking a bit disgruntled, he left the apartment. His children left shortly afterwards, walking side by side in the direction of the local high school. Their Digimon followed more-or- less behind them, with Agumon trotting in Taichi's shadow, trying to keep up with his longer- legged friend, and Tailmon leaping from trees, ledges, and light poles above their heads.
"Weird day, huh?" said Taichi. "Mom's necklace, my disk, dad's keys... Have you lost anything, Hikari?"
"Well..." she replied, looking skywards in thought. "My favorite pencil disappeared the other day, but I didn't think it was anything important. I figured I had just put it down somewhere and forgotten it."
"How can you have a favorite pencil? A pencil is a pencil, isn't it?"
"I liked this one. It was done up in pink foil - that holographic stuff that sparkles."
"Ah," said Taichi. "So, what do you think? Is this just a weird coincidence? Or are we all just going crazy?"
"Maybe we have a poltergeist," Hikari suggested.
"Don't joke around. I'm serious. I want to know where my homework went," said Taichi. He paused a moment. "Besides, poltergeists don't steal things; they just throw them at the walls."
Hikari laughed. "Don't worry too much, Taichi. Your disk probably got mixed up with your homework papers, and Mom's necklace probably fell off her dresser and got kicked under something. They'll turn up."
"And the keys?"
"Mom probably picked them up and put them in his coat pocket. You know how she hates it when he leaves his things lying around."
Taichi shrugged. He was familiar with that routine: his father would drop something on the coffee table or in a chair, his mother would put it away "so it won't get lost" and it would never be seen again until it turned up in the silverware drawer or some other unlikely place. "I guess you're right. It's just funny, everything vanishing at once."
"We'll look when we get home," said Hikari reassuringly.
Taichi gave her a sly look. "Are you sure? Ken might want you to go out with him again."
"Oh, you're impossible!" Hikari gave her brother a sisterly slap, and then sprinted off before he could retaliate.
Taichi had gotten his wish: his teachers wanted to do nothing but lecture today. He sat quietly through lectures on history, literature, and grammar. He made it through a science class with only slightly more effort. However, by the time his geometry class rolled around, he had had enough, and he was glad that he at least got to do something in this class. He liked his geometry instructor. She was a cheery woman with a large smile who believed in class participation, and they wound up spending a lot of time drawing diagrams and making structures out of tape and construction paper. Taichi had never been a great mathematician, but Mrs. Motosuwa knew how to make tessellation and obtuse angles sound like fun.
"All right, everyone," she was saying to the class, "today we'll be working with circles. I hope everyone has their compasses ready."
Taichi's mind blanked a moment. For a few seconds, his mind snapped back to the Digital World, when they'd all been worried about survival equipment, not even knowing where East and West were, and hoping their compass still worked. Then he realized she wasn't talking about a direction-finder, but a tool for drawing circles. It was a measure of what a few weeks of adventuring could do to a person.
Did he have a compass? He was sure he'd had one at some point, bought at the start of the school year, when everything was fresh and shiny and new. He remembered having it on his desk the first day of school, in a vaguely comprehended effort to impress the pretty Mrs. Motosuwa with his preparedness. Of course, he hadn't needed it then, and had been forced to put it back in his bag. The last time he had seen it, it had been drifting around at the bottom of his backpack, looking slightly dented from the weight of textbooks and slightly grungy from the collection of pencil dust that always seemed to collect at the bottom of backpacks. He searched for it now.
"Um, Motosuwa-sensei?" he said. "I think I have a problem."
While he was explaining his difficulties to the teacher, he tried to sound as if he were not particularly bothered by this turn of events, but inside, he was both annoyed and frustrated. Something else gone missing! And how could he have lost the compass? It wasn't as if he ever took it out...
*But it could have fallen out. Agumon could have pulled it out by accident while he was getting the books out of my backpack. It's probably at home on my floor right now, but still, it's weird...*
Mrs. Motosuwa listened sympathetically and told him that since she didn't have any spare compasses, he would have to share with a neighbor, and prevailed upon the girl sitting next to him to help him out. Taichi had mixed emotions about this. The girl next to him was very pretty, and he didn't mind sharing with her, but he didn't care much for the look she was giving him. Her compass was safely stored in a pencil box and was neither dented nor dusty, and her expression seemed to indicate that she thought he was a bit of an idiot for not taking better care of his things.
On the whole, it was relief to get out of class and head for home. He met Hikari outside the school, hoping her cheery personality would help to lift his spirits, but when he finally caught up to her, she didn't look any more cheerful than he felt. Tailmon was perched on her shoulder, tail draped lovingly around her like a comforting arm. Taichi went to see what the problem was.
"Hey," he said. "You look bummed. What happened? Flunk a test?"
"No," said Hikari, shaking her head. "Something else has gone missing. It's starting to bother me."
Taichi felt a momentary chill and tried to shake it off. "What have you lost now? Another pencil? An eraser?"
"Your keychain," she replied.
To illustrate, she held up her backpack. A few years ago, she had taken to decorating her bookbags with keychains that could hook to the zippers. She'd accrued quite a collection over the years - miniature stuffed animals, things that wound up and did funny things, things that sparkled or blinked, things that jingled and clattered. She liked their bright colors and the musical sounds they made as she walked. One of her early additions had been a gift from her brother, a collection of small charms on a braided leather strap. It had always been a great favorite of hers, and had gone with her through several years' worth of school. The strap had been wearing thin as of late, and now it appeared that it had finally snapped.
"Aw, that's too bad," he said sympathetically. "Guess it must have snagged on something and broken. You know it was getting kind of worn out."
"I know," she said sadly. "I still liked it, though."
"Maybe somebody will find it and give it back," Taichi suggested.
Hikari shook her head. "I don't think so. It's disappeared, like the other things. Do you believe in jinxes?"
"No," said Taichi stubbornly. "Everything has a rational explanation. I admit that it's weird that so much stuff has disappeared at once, but it's not like - like we're cursed or something."
Hikari didn't seem to be listening - or rather, she was dismissing what he'd said as unworthy of attention. "It started with little things. Just a pencil. Then Mom's pearl necklace vanishes. The paper you've been struggling with for weeks disappears next. Then the keys to the car. Now my favorite keychain. Something is making the things we care about disappear, one by one."
"You're being overdramatic," said Taichi. "My compass disappeared in class today, and it wasn't exactly the love of my life."
"Something else disappeared?" asked Hikari, looking faintly alarmed.
"It didn't disappear," said Taichi. "I just couldn't find it, that's all. Look, it probably fell out of my backpack months ago. It's nothing to get upset about."
"I guess you're right," she said. "I'm just thinking gloomy thoughts because of my keychain. You know how it is when you're in a bad mood - everything looks ten times worse than it usually is."
"Well, cheer up," said Taichi. "I'll get you a new keychain - any kind you want."
She gave him a small smile. "Gold-plated."
Taichi laughed. "If you can find a gold-plated keychain, I'll buy it for you."
"You'd better be careful," Agumon cautioned. "She might find one."
"She might, you know," Tailmon agreed. "You can buy anything in some of those big malls."
When they returned home, they were greeted by an ear-blasting noise: their mother was vacuuming carpets. She was also apparently in a bad mood. Cleaning and being annoyed seemed to go together where their mother was concerned, and the angrier she was, the more she cleaned. The last time she'd had an argument with her husband, she had cleaned everything from the bathroom floors to the good silver before finally running out of steam.
"Hi, Mom," said Taichi. "Bad day?"
"I still can't find that necklace," she said. "Hikari, are you sure you didn't borrow it?"
"I wish I had," Hikari replied. "Pearls are so elegant. I thought my rhinestones were a little flashy for the dress I was wearing, but I don't have a lot of good jewelry."
"Hm." Their mother turned off the vacuum, having tormented the carpet enough, and looked thoughtful. "Well, it isn't in my jewelry box, or on my dresser, or anywhere on the floor."
"When was the last time you wore it?" asked Taichi, trying to be helpful.
"I wore it to a Christmas Eve party months ago," she said. "After that, it seemed to be on top of everything else I wanted to wear, and I was always having to push it out of the way. Now that someone wants it, it's disappeared."
"Isn't that always the way?" said Taichi philosophically. "Anyway, I'd love to help, but I really need to find my disk. That paper's due tomorrow!"
"I don't think you're going to find it," said Hikari softly. Their mother, who was now putting the furniture back where it belonged, didn't hear, but Taichi did.
"You know, Agumon," he said, "I wouldn't say this in front of Hikari, but I think she's gone bonkers."
"This is kind of strange," Agumon said. "Everything disappearing at once, I mean. Maybe Hikari's on to something. I mean, weird things have happened before. You can't say you don't believe in ghosts anymore."
"What would a ghost want with my homework?" Taichi asked. "Or my compass, for that matter."
Agumon shrugged. "How would I know? I'm not a ghost."
"That's not exactly how I meant it," said Taichi. "Anyway, there is no ghost. There's no ghost, there's no jinx or curse or boogie-monster or..."
Taichi trailed off. He had just opened the door to his room and been struck by the impression that something was not as it should be. He looked around, giving the area a critical inspection. All the furniture was still there. So was his computer. The magazines and papers on his desk were undisturbed. Likewise, the books and trophies on his bookshelf were still where they belonged. His eyes strayed to the posters that adorned his walls, and that was when he realized what was missing. A bulletin board hung on the wall near his desk, decorated with newspaper clippings, photographs, notes to himself, and a few ribbons won in athletic tournaments. At least, it was supposed to have ribbons.
"Mom, have you been in my room today?" he called.
"No, dear. Why?"
"All my soccer ribbons are gone!"
There was a pattering of feet as two humans and a Digimon came in to look, or rather, not look, at the missing decorations.
"Okay, now this is creepy," said Hikari. "How do you explain this one away, big brother?"
"I don't," he replied. "Not yet, anyway. Hey, Tailmon, Agumon, you two have good noses. Has anyone been in here who wasn't supposed to?"
Both Digimon put their noses to the carpet. After murmuring their findings to each other, they reported back to the humans, "No one but you."
"Are you sure?" Taichi persisted.
Tailmon nodded. "Well, no one but members of the family."
"Are you sure it wasn't a ghost?" asked Agumon.
"It wasn't," said Taichi. "I don't know what's going on, but I'm sure it wasn't a ghost!" In an undertone, he added, "And I'm going to figure it out."
After the others had left to pursue their own errands, Taichi sat down at his desk. Instead, he pulled out a clean sheet of paper and began listing all the items that had vanished, in the approximate order of their disappearance. Then he began making lists of things they had in common. Hikari had said that they were all things that were important, but that didn't hold up in the face of his missing compass... though since he hadn't seen it in weeks, it could have just simply gotten lost. Still, there was only a tenuous link between an expensive pearl necklace and a cheap pencil. What else could they have in common? Well, they were all small items that could be easily pilfered or pocketed, things that might not have been immediately missed. They were also shiny - even his disk had a glossy metal shutter on it, and the ribbons had large metal pins and gold lettering.
"If I didn't know better," said Taichi, "I'd swear there was a crow loose in the house."
"Crow?" said Agumon. Bored by the list-making, he had been dozing on the carpet.
"Yeah," Taichi said. "Crows like to steal little shiny things, like paper clips and gum wrappers."
"I don't think a crow is responsible for this," said Agumon.
"I know one isn't. I was just thinking out loud."
Just then, he was interrupted by the sound of his door being thrown open recklessly by someone in a hurry. Hikari burst into the room, eyes wide and face pale.
"Hikari, what's wrong?" asked Taichi, thinking, *She looks like she's seen a ghost... I hope she hasn't.*
She took a deep breath. "My D-3... it's gone."
"It's gone. I put it in the box with my hair clips, and now it's gone."
Taichi blinked. "What was it doing there?"
"That's where I keep it when I don't have it with me. It's easy to pick it up when I want it."
"Well, obviously someone else wanted it, too," Taichi muttered. "Look, are you sure-"
"Yes, I'm sure." Shock was making her uncharacteristically snappish. "Haven't we all been sure all day? Things are just disappearing. I knew something like this was going to happen..."
"All right, just calm down. We'll get to the bottom of this," said Taichi. "Just give me some time to think about it... Oh, and if there's anything else you don't want to lose, put it in your pocket!"
When Taichi heard about the disappearance of his sister's D-3, he had been shocked. That hadn't lasted long. Next had come determination, his old fiery drive to not let anything beat him, not even an invisible thief. He had a plan!
Some thinking had led him to make a few guesses as to how this thief worked. It only took items that were small, shiny, and relatively unguarded. To that end, he had borrowed a sparkly hair clip from Hikari and left it on the floor in the hallway, close to his door. While he and Hikari pretended to sleep, their Digimon would be standing watch. When the thief came, hopefully one of the 'mons would spot it.
Taichi lay awake, staring at the ceiling with his thoughts buzzing. He would have no trouble staying awake tonight. Would the thief take the bait? Would the Digimon be able to spot him? What if it really was a ghost, as Agumon kept insisting? What if there was something magical involved - a Digimon, or worse? What if there really wasn't a thief at all, and they really were just losing their things or going crazy?
Just then, something tugged at his blankets. Agumon was at his side, whispering, "I saw something moving!"
Taichi sat up, squinting into the darkness. Everything looked black. He fumbled for a flashlight that he had foresightedly left on his desk, turning it on and beaming it into the darkness. A pair of gleaming green-gold eyes glinted back at him. Taichi sighed.
"Oh, Agumon, it's just the cat," he said. He turned off his light and lay back down. Then he sat up with a jolt. "Wait a second...!"
He grabbed the flashlight and turned it on again just in time to see the cat leaping away - with the hair clip in his mouth. Taichi made a lunge for him and narrowly missed slamming into Hikari's door. Tailmon opened it and glared at him.
"What are you-?" she began.
"Follow that cat!" Taichi ordered.
Tailmon, for her part, knew how to obey orders instantly. In a fluid leap, she bounded after the cat. Miko understood that he was now under pursuit and took off like a shot. Tailmon followed him as he dashed into the living room, under a chair, and, to all appearances, vanished.
"Where'd he go?" Taichi asked.
Tailmon ducked under the chair. "Hey! There's an air vent under here... It's loose, too. He must have crawled through it."
"Can you?" Taichi asked.
"I can try."
There was a moment of rustling, the sound of a large cat squirming against a carpet. Then a metallic patter told her that the cat had crawled through the chute and was busy exploring its length. Then the paw-patters died out. Taichi waited with bated breath. A few minutes later, a very cobwebby cat reappeared, looking pleased with herself.
"Well?" asked Agumon.
"I'm going to get these spider webs out of my ears," she said. "Then I'm going to wake up Hikari. You two have got to see this."
A few minutes later, Agumon, Taichi, and Hikari, the last two still in their pajamas, were being led down the stairs to the basement of the building. While the two of them looked around, feeling somewhat out of place in the nighttime-dark room, Tailmon led the way confidently towards a heap of old cardboard boxes. The others followed. As they drew nearer, they became aware of a soft scuffling and cheeping. Peering among the boxes, they saw...
"Kittens!" Hikari squealed.
"And our stuff!" said Taichi. He reached into the nest and took out his disk. Thankfully, it still appeared to be clean and undamaged, but his ribbons showed signs of encounters with kitten claws. Hikari carefully maneuvered her hand through the tangle of tails and paws to retrieve her D-3.
"What's it all doing down here?" asked Agumon. He tried to get closer, but the mother cat tried to swat him, and he backed off.
"Isn't it obvious?" said Tailmon. "They're toys!"
"Toys?" Taichi repeated blankly.
As he watched, Miko trotted up to the kittens and dropped the hair clip into their midst. The kittens greeted it with excited cheeps, pawing it wonderingly. One of them, a white and orange that resembled his father, tried to pick it up and drag it.
"I see what you mean," said Hikari. "That explains why he wanted all this little shiny stuff. It's the kind of thing a cat would like."
"I wonder where the mother came from?" said Taichi, looking her over carefully. She was a pretty specimen, with fluffy white fur and golden eyes, but she looked rather thin and underfed. "I don't see a collar... Do you think she's a stray?"
"She looks like it, doesn't she?" Hikari replied. "I wonder if Mom and Dad would let us keep her?"
"Great," said Taichi. "Just what we need - another cat! No offense, Tailmon."
"Don't mind him," Hikari said to the white cat. "He likes cats - he just likes to pretend to be a grouch." She reached out and scratched behind her ears, and the cat, knowing a cat lover when she met one, purred softly.
"Well, at least she seems good natured," Taichi admitted. "We aren't keeping the kittens, though!"
"Of course not - not once they've grown up a little," said Hikari. "We can give them away... Maybe Ken would like one. Or Iori."
"Maybe," said Taichi. He stretched out a hand to touch the white cat, and found her fur to be silky soft. She purred louder and nuzzled her hand. "Well, I guess one more cat won't make much difference. What will we call her?"
There was a silence. Then Agumon said, "Ghost!"
Hikari and Taichi looked at Agumon, then at the cat, then at each other. They smiled.
"Ghost," Hikari repeated.
Taichi grinned. "Perfect."