"But if I'm all alone in this world,
And love disappears instead of tears,
I won't hang my head, I'll fly away
Tomorrow I'll be closer to that dream I held."
Sora Takenouchi—"Ashita wa Motto"
(Translated by Megchan)

With Broken Wings
Epilogue: "Ashita wa Motto"

In the past four years, Izumi found that she'd been in a hospital for one reason or another at least four times—to rescue a dying Kouichi, to keep watch over a sick Kouji, to recover from her coma, and for this reason. Her count didn't include the makeshift infirmaries and quarantine tents she and Kouji had spent plenty of time in over the years. And each of those times, she'd found that hospitals were very much like battlefields: There were risks that had to be taken, and lives were always on the line. Though she had fought many battles, this place was always something that terrified her.

Kouichi was diagnosed to be in fair condition, so his room was several floors above his brother's. His only injuries were bruises and minor laser burn, and he was expected to wake up soon. Kouji, on the other hand, was in bad shape. His condition was labeled "critical but stable," so he was forced to stay in the ICU. Surgery had been done on his left shoulder to pin a broken piece of his shoulder blade back on so his humerus would stay in place, but there was nothing that could be done about his torn ligaments and injured muscles and tendons. His stab wound continued to leak toxins into his bloodstream, so he was hurriedly connected to a dialysis machine. Moreover, he had a severe concussion from the blows to the back of his head. The only diagnosis he and his brother shared was hypothermia, as the cold night had taken its toll on the both of them.

Ken stood with the other Chosen outside Kouji's room, working out guard schedules for them.

"All right, Daisuke, you're okay with the first watch for Kouichi?" he checked.

"Yeah," he replied.

"Why not have Takeru guard Kouichi?" Takuya questioned. "I mean, no offense, but Daisuke's knee is still messed up. If anything happened, how could he run after an attacker or something?"

"I have to agree," Izumi added. "Takeru would be a better guard."

"I'm a liability," Takeru explained. "I might do something I'd regret if I guarded him."

"Like what?" Junpei asked.

"One time, I assaulted Ken in the middle of his base, for no reason," he answered. "I nearly strangled him. Imagine what I'd do to someone who couldn't fight back."

"And I'm no better," Hikari added. She did not mention how much Takeru hated Kouji, however, saving him the embarrassment.

"But Kouji's going to need the same amount of protection," Daisuke continued.

"I'll take care of that," Takuya volunteered. "I've been the closest thing he's had to a best friend for years."

"All right," Daisuke agreed. "But there's still more we have to do for the both of them. Neither of them is going to be out of bed for a long time. We need to find doctors that we can trust."

"Well, there's Dr. Matsumoto and Dr. Yamamoto," Izumi informed right off the bat. "But Dr. Matsumoto is a psychiatrist."

"At least one of the twins will need psychiatric or psychological help," Iori determined, trying to keep his face expressionless while his tone was grim. "Maybe both will."

"Yeah," Ken agreed. "Kouichi may not go through the same shock I did, but he'll be in severe depression for a long time. And it will probably be even worse. I never actually tried to kill my brother. He did. Often."

"Wait," Miyako interrupted. "The psychiatry's great and all, but what about their physical injuries? Kouji's half-dead, and Kouichi's not faring well either. I doubt Dr. Yamamoto will be able to be in two places at once."

"Dr. Iwahara!" Tomoki exclaimed. The other nine looked at him for an explanation. "She's a Resistance doctor who helped us take the hospital at Mt. Fuji, and she was our doctor in the Digital World. She'll help!"

"All right," Daisuke replied. "So we'll have Yamamoto and Iwahara for the actual treatment, and Matsumoto for the mental stuff."

"But first we need Kouji's medical records…" Hikari pointed out.

"Out of our way!" a voice shouted. "Coming through!"

Three eighteen-year-olds shoved aside doctors as they raced through the ICU, holding a manila folder containing vital information on a certain patient.

"Taichi, you don't have to be so loud," Hikari reasoned.

"Sorry," he apologized sheepishly. "Here's the file." He handed the folder to Ken.

"That's all Dr. Tenshi had been able to get before he died," Yamato added. "The three of us and Hikari added in as much as we could. I'm sorry if it can't help."

"Don't worry, Yamato," Takeru assured. "It will be enough for now."

"I hope so," the older brother commented.

Sora stood peering into Kouji's room. "He's lying there so still. I hope he'll make it through the night."

A sudden scream caused them all to turn. Kouri Minamoto was tearing away from her mother's hand and running toward the door. Before she could get there, Sora scooped her up.

"Calm down, little one," she coaxed. "Things will be all right." The tiny child apparently disagreed because she continued crying.

Izumi walked over and took Kouri out of Sora's arms. "Kouri, listen to me," she reasoned in her most soothing voice.

"'Zumi, what's going to happen to Kouji?" she questioned.

"We don't know yet, but we have to hope he'll get better," Izumi replied.

"Kouri, do you trust your brother?" Ken asked. Kouri nodded. "Then trust him to get through this. From what I've seen, he can handle anything thrown at him. Don't think he'll give up this easily."

"Yeah," Takuya agreed. "He can be stubborn sometimes, but that means he's determined to stick by his friends and family. Did you know he once took an attack to save me?" She shook her head. "He was hurt really badly, but he turned out okay. And how many times did he fight to save us even though he was badly injured? Remember all those times, guys?" Junpei and Tomoki nodded. "See? Everything will turn out okay."

"And we'll see to it," Daisuke promised.

"See?" Izumi questioned. "In fact, why don't you sing that song for Kouji when he wakes up?" Kouri nodded.

"What song is that?" Yamato asked.

"Something I used to sing when I was little, before we moved to Italy." She sang part of it.

"You're kidding," Miyako declared. "That's a song Wallace always sang to Chocomon and Gumimon."

"Really?" Izumi questioned. "Strange how so many things are the same in two different worlds."

"Yeah," Miyako replied. "And I'm sure he'll teach it to you, Kouri."

"Okay," she answered softly.

While all of that was going on outside, a black-colored hand lifted up the window to Kouji's room. A cool night breeze blew in as a graceful Ultimate level Digimon tossed her dignity aside and climbed in.

Sakuyamon then closed the window and placed her staff against the wall. She looked at the unconscious young man lying on the bed and checked his vitals. None of them looked particularly good. The one comfort to anyone was that he was breathing on his own, and that his heart continued to pump blood to his freezing body.

"Doesn't look too good for him, does it?" Tailmon asked. Sakuyamon turned and observed the former Digimon monarchs standing guard. She tried to escape, but she only succeeding in bumping the dialysis machine. There was no sound of pain from Kouji, but Sakuyamon was certain she'd torn something more in his body.

"You don't have to leave," Patamon reasoned. "We know why you're here. We know you want to help."

Sakuyamon looked at the still form of the person she'd attempted to kill many times before. "Will he survive?"

Lopmon looked down at the floor. "Nobody knows for sure. His wound was serious. That machine is the only thing filtering the toxins from his blood. But even that won't help him for long."

Solemnly, Sakuyamon placed Kouji in a leaning position, disturbing his sheets. Upon untying the back of his hospital gown, she observed a large piece of cotton taped to his wound. She carefully tried to peel it off, but her hand touched the blood that had leaked through. In reaction to the pain, she pulled her hand back to see several drops of human blood burning at her data. But that couldn't stop her now. After peeling the cotton bandage off his back, she was able to see the nearly fatal wound.

"They had to give him a tetanus booster," Patamon informed, "so his wound wouldn't get infected."

"But I don't think that will be enough," Tailmon commented. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

"No," Sakuyamon confessed. "But I must. I have committed horrendous crimes against Kouji Minamoto, and my judgment day is at hand. I know that there is no forgiveness for me, but I might as well give him back something I continually took away from him one day at a time—his life." She snapped her fingers and a bright blue heart appeared—the healing energy of a MarineAngemon's Ocean Love attack. Several of the tiny Ultimates had been protecting the Mt. Fuji Settlement, trying to heal a young man with fiery orange hair. He'd come out of the incident alive, but many of the Digimon that had healed him were now gone, their data intermingled with Sakuyamon's own.

She snapped her fingers over and over, releasing more of the healing hearts, yet she was highly doubtful that they would heal his pained heart. Cupping them carefully, she then placed them into Kouji's wound, each releasing a flash of light brighter than the last. Finally, with shaking hands, she replaced the bandage and gently laid him back on the bed. Her hand was covered with his blood, and she barely had the strength to place the thick covers back on him.

"I sped up his immune system and healing," she informed, her voice becoming very weak and faint. "When it heals, he won't even have a scar. I couldn't prevent him from feeling the pain, though. I doubt anyone could." She then turned to face him. "Goodbye, Kouji Minamoto. It appears you were human after all…"

One final drop of blood splashed onto the floor, and DigiCode rings formed around Sakuyamon. Each unraveled, the data bands flying out into the air. The light created by them shone on Kouji, who would not be aware of the events for a long time. The remainder of the data took on the appearance of glittering points of light, like stars scattered around the room's occupants.

Six Days Later
Kouichi sat silently in his hospital bed, listening to his parents while Dr. Yamamoto took his blood pressure. But it was as if no one was in there with him; the words of his divorced mother and father went unheard as he was concentrating more than listening.

Kouji, I know you're there, he thought, almost as though he thought a telepathic message could pass through to his brother's mind. Mom, Dad, and the doctors keep saying you are, so you have no reason to hide yourself. I just want to apologize…for everything I've done.

"…And we're not holding you responsible for anything," Tomoko continued. "And if Kouji was here, I know he'd agree."

Those last words pulled Kouichi back into the world of those around him. "What happened? Where is he?"

"He's still in the hospital," Kousei explained, "but he's on another floor."

"What's wrong with him? Why can't I feel his consciousness?"

"He's having a bad reaction to the painkillers," Tomoko explained. "He's in a coma right now, and we're not sure when or if he'll wake up."

"You should be with him," he offered. "If things don't turn out well, you wouldn't want to regret any time wasted." Though he was trying his hardest not to say it, he was telling them that their words did him no good.

Iori sat outside the door of Kouji's room while Izumi was inside. The room actually wasn't as scary as it had seemed the first night. For security measures, no other patients were within a three-room radius. Gifts, when they arrived, were screened by the Resistance and the Chosen Children in order to protect Kouji's fragile life. As a result, there were a few cards scattered about—most from reformed Imperial Guardsmen as apologies, a couple from Resistance fighters, and some from families of actual "halflings," children with mixed Digimon and human parentage. These were often handmade with drawings from the little half-human half-Digimon children and a special message inside. But not one card was considered to be more important than the next. Everyone was just relieved to see that there were people out there that didn't hate him for any of the many reasons: the prolonged war, his ability to become a Digimon, his refusal to surrender, his seeming guilt in assassinations and attacks, and so on and so forth.

Though the dialysis machine was no longer present, the puncture wound to Kouji's side still was. In addition to that, his left arm rested in a sling to allow the healing of his broken shoulder and torn ligaments. A bandage had been wrapped around his bruised head, but it was only enough to cover up to his hairline. His left hand was still bandaged, but his right sported an IV, requiring the removal of the bandage. This hand was in Izumi's hands as she quietly whispered to him.

"Izumi, you don't have to come here everyday," Kousei reasoned.

"It's all right," she assured. "I don't mind. Besides, he did the same for me once."

"Any change?" Tomoko asked, even though she already knew the answer.

Izumi shook her head. "Not since Saturday. I keep hoping he'll show some sign that he's okay, anything to separate him from the dead, but nothing's happened since Saturday."

Kouji's parents were silent. On Saturday night, while Dr. Iwahara was administering a dose of morphine to him, Kouji had called out in his sleep. Dr. Yamamoto then ordered to take him off morphine and use the weaker painkiller codeine instead, but it was too little too late as Kouji slipped back into his coma.

Dr. Matsumoto stood outside the room, watching the sad spectacle. Iori sat reading in a chair beside him, dressed in full SWAT body armor and toting a gun, looking very much like a short Imperial Guardsman. No child, regardless of the age, should be forced to man such a weapon, Matsumoto felt, but in this day and age, innocence was a necessary sacrifice.

"No change?" Dr. Yamamoto determined.

"It makes no sense," Dr. Matsumoto replied. "You said it yourself—the boy is not sensitive to narcotics of any kind, so he shouldn't be unconscious from them. Hida-san swears this isn't schizophrenia, and I agree with him. The coma doesn't appear to be related to catatonic schizophrenia or any other forms. And he handles stress far too well for this to be a conversion disorder. Are you sure there was no more in Dr. Tenshi's files?"

"No," he answered. "There isn't even anything in the small amount Yagami-san, Ishida-san, and Takenouchi-san added. But Ichijouji-san has discovered something." Dr. Matsumoto looked to him for an answer. "Apparently, several vials of a powerful animal tranquilizer have disappeared from the remainders of the Kaiser's base."

"And you think the whole operation has been compromised," Iori whispered. Both men turned to see that he had abandoned his book and joined the conversation.

"Yes," Dr. Yamamoto answered.

"We must inform the other Chosen at once!" Dr. Matsumoto decided in a loud whisper.

"No need to report that until we have something to report," Dr. Yamamoto reminded, referring to Kouji's condition.

While the doctors discussed Kouichi's condition and how it seemed to match Ken's predictions to the letter, Iori's mind wandered to the past, to a schizophrenic boy named Akemi Miyahara, and the death that had proved to him that nowhere was safe.

Akemi, I'm sorry, he apologized, a tear streaming unnoticed down his right cheek. I wasn't able to help you, but I'll make it up by seeing to it that Kouji lives—I promise, on my father's grave. I won't let the same thing happen again.


At six o'clock, Iori's stomach began growling, though hunger wasn't his biggest problem. He had another hour to go before his duties were relieved, but his bladder was what needed relieving at the moment. Unfortunately for him, everyone was out to dinner, so no new guards or visitors would arrive. So after a half-hour of dancing in his seat (something horribly out of his character), he saw Takeru appear down the hall.

"Takeru!" he called. The tall blonde boy dashed over immediately. "Can you take my place for a moment? I need to use the restroom."

"Sure," he agreed. "Why don't you use the one in there?" He pointed to the unused bathroom in Kouji's room. "It'll save you a long trip."

"Thank you, Takeru." Iori then rushed inside the bathroom and locked the door as quickly as possible.

Dr. Iwahara turned the corner and walked to the door of Kouji's room, toting several painkillers she had to administer. Takeru let her in, and she commenced with the business she'd set out to do.

She turned off and unplugged the IV and injected morphine into the tube still in Kouji's hand. Next came a dose of codeine—only so records could report that she had administered it. But as she filled the syringe with the blue foam contained in one vial, pained breathing from the victim translated into low whispers:

"Finally going to finish me off?" Kouji questioned, his voice almost nonexistent. His eyelids drooped from the effort of trying to remain conscious despite the poison. It would not be much longer now before he died. "I guess the others began to catch on. It's only a matter of time before you get caught." Another injection went into him. He winced in pain as sweat beaded down his brow, but he couldn't give in just yet. "Why do you keep doing this? What did I do to you?" Without answering, Iwahara injected the tranquilizer into him. Then again, and again. Kouji was well past unconsciousness at this point as the synergistic effect of the overdose took place. Dr. Iwahara turned to leave when she saw Iori Hida brandishing a gun in front of her. His hands were shaking, and small drops of sweat rolled down his forehead, but his finger remained on the trigger.

Iwahara simply smiled. "You won't do it," she dared.

Iori's mind swam with memories of death he'd experienced: his father's sacrifice to foil an assassination attempt, Wormmon's sacrifice to help Magnamon defeat Chimeramon, BlackWarGreymon's sacrifice to seal the Hikarigaoka gate, and Oikawa's sacrifice of the last of his life force to revitalize the Digital World. Those were sacrifices.

Then there was Akemi.

Yes, Akemi, his friend in the psychiatric ward. The boy had died when a schizophrenia episode caused him to take his own life. That was a disease.

This was murder.

One shot. Just one shot was all Iori took, and all he needed to kill Iwahara. Takeru heard the one shot and saw Iori drop the gun and fall to his knees while Kouji continued suffering the symptoms of an overdose.

"Dr. Yamamoto?" Takeru called. "Anyone?"

He ran down the hall while Iori stared at his deed in terrified shock. It was only then that he remembered he'd never washed his hands, and so he found himself at the sink, scrubbing his hands while the water ran—his compulsion. The sacrifices, diseases, and murders were all he could think of as death masturbated his brain—his obsession. He was still crazy, still sick with his unwanted disease of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Finally, he looked at his hands. They had been scrubbed raw, and at least two layers of skin had peeled off. Under the peeling skin was blood—his blood, just as there was the blood of the Digimon he'd had to kill and the blood of those he'd loved who had died. And he was suddenly aware that no matter how he washed, he could not wash away that blood. He could not wash away death. It would be like washing all of those people away, and he didn't want that.

And so he rinsed his hands, dampened a paper towel, and walked over to Kouji, using the cold water to try and ease the fever brought on by overdose.

-------
The sound of Kouri's singing guided Daisuke's team and the remainder of Takuya's as they walked to Kouji's room several days after the assassination attempt. Kouri stood outside the door, waiting as in the song Wallace and Izumi had taught her: "Streets to the Summer." A big smile appeared on her face when she saw the people she'd come to know so well in such a short time.

"Hi, everyone!" she cried.

"Hi, Kouri," Hikari greeted. "Where's Izumi?"

"'Zumi's inside, feeding Kouji niisan," she answered. "I'm helping."

"I'm sure you are," Ken replied as they all entered.

Inside, Izumi was feeding Kouji a spoonful of some kind of sherbet. His right arm rested at his side, paralyzed with pain from the stab to his kidney. He wasn't taking any painkillers after the overdose, but if he was in extreme discomfort, he'd receive ibuprofen. It didn't do a whole lot, but it was much better than dying from stronger painkillers.

When the others followed Takeru to find Kouji in such a dangerous state, they were easily able to piece together Iwahara's actions. She had been administering morphine and the tranquilizer from Wednesday to Saturday, the day that Kouji was conscious enough to call for help. She then silenced him by removing his tonsils—unable to inflict any damage to his vocal cords without arousing suspicion. The revelation was told to Jyou Kido, who shouted out many colorful words that nearly sent the Chosen to the cardiac ward. He'd determined that panic drove Iwahara to give Kouji an overdose, increasing the morphine's power with the codeine and tranquilizer to create a synergistic effect guaranteed to work. An agonizing detoxification was begun, forcing Kouji to experience seizures, fever, hypothermia, and diabetic shock. This was the first day he was officially labeled "clean."

"How are you feeling?" Takeru checked.

"Better than I was in detox," he answered with a scratchy voice.

"Still hurting though?" Junpei guessed.

"Right now, the only thing that doesn't hurt is my left leg."

"The leg!" Daisuke exclaimed, striking his broken hand into this good one. "How could we have forgotten that?"

"Don't worry," Takuya assured. "We'll break it and even everything out." Kouji rolled his eyes.

"If you think Daisuke's bad when teamed up with Takuya, you haven't seen him and my brother Taichi together," Hikari commented with more than a slight groan.

"Well, it's good to see you're doing better and not having all those convulsions," Tomoki interrupted, changing the subject.

"Did you tell him?" Miyako asked. Izumi nodded and produced the two letters she'd read to him a few days earlier:

Kouji,
Nice to finally be able to talk to you, even though it's only through e-mail. Ai and Makoto Shimamura sent your sister a teddy bear as a get-well gift, but it was later when we heard you were in the hospital—that battle must have been more than we thought it would be. If you ever feel like telling your story, we're willing to listen. Good luck, and we hope everything turns out for the best.

Sincerely,
Jenrya Lee, Alice McCoy, Takato Matsuda,
Ruki Makino, Ryo Akiyama

Kouji,
Guess Daisuke, Ken, and everyone have already given you that psychological discussion about how it would be better for you to let all your pain go. We promise that we won't do that, but we do want to hear what you have to say about what happened. Along with the guitar Yamato, Taichi, and Sora sent, we gave you a notebook for you to write your story in. Yamato says you can write your music in it if you don't want to relive the pain. Hope things are okay for you and everyone else. Try and keep in touch.

Sincerely,
Taichi Yagami, Yamato Ishida, Sora Takenouchi,
Jyou Kido, Mimi Tachikawa, Koushiro Izumi,
Wallace Ford

The notebook rested in a drawer in his new desk at home. The Chosen on the other side had taken a blue-and-black binder-style notebook and filled it with paper so he could write. The front cover had the symbol of the Spirit of Light, and the back had good luck wishes from all the other Chosen. It was a beautiful piece of work, but it would be quite a while before he'd be able to write in it.

"So what do you think you'll do?" Iori questioned. Before Kouji had a chance to answer, Dr. Matsumoto opened the door.

"Sorry to interrupt," he apologized. "I told Kouichi you wanted to speak with him."

"And?" Kouji asked, expecting the worst. The doctor shook his head.

"However," he continued, "he would like a word with you." He gestured to Ken.

"I'll go talk to him," the Child of Kindness promised.

Rather than take the elevator, Ken walked up the stairs to Kouichi's floor. It kept him in shape for the soccer season, and it also gave him a chance to think about a mysterious confession Kouji had made a few days ago. He'd been having an average of at least two seizures every hour due to diabetic shock. Ken remembered seeing him lying in the bed, struggling to breathe. It was the first time he'd ever seen him as his statistics showed: very low weight, critically injured, and close to death. This confession had been more of a form of insurance, in case Kouji wasn't going to live long enough to tell Ken later. The first former Kaiser had taken it seriously, and listened attentively. It was the first time he'd done this, and he hoped it was his last.

Kouichi was sitting up in bed on his own, reading a book on demonic possession.

"I guess if you can't find answers in the natural, there is no choice but to turn to the supernatural," Ken reasoned.

"I was hoping you had some answers," Kouichi replied, placing his book aside. "I've never really believed in the paranormal before, but after all that's happened…"

"You don't know what to believe," Ken finished. "I know. I went through the same thing."

"Does it ever end?" Kouichi questioned. "Is there ever a day when you don't feel the pain?"

"No. I wish I could say otherwise, but no," Ken admitted. "But I believe each of us can be forgiven." A far away look was in his eyes as he continued. "When we were fighting BelialVamdemon, I could feel Osamu's presence nearby. I felt it again when we found you and Kouji at the beach."

"But why would he be there, if he could?" Kouichi asked, invoking a sigh from Ken.

"I have no right to tell you this, and I hope Kouji will forgive me for doing so, but he told me something important—something he said only I should know."

"What was it?"

"He was going through detox, and he was so sick, he was close to dying. When I saw him, I could see it too. He was afraid he wouldn't be able to tell me later, so he told me there, in between convulsions and hypothermia.

"When he was scanning the Kaiser's data, he was forced to watch a Mind Illusion BelialVamdemon once trapped me in. It was in the desert, and a group of Digimon, and later, humans, were attacking the Kaiser."

"That dream I kept having," Kouichi realized. "Those people who kept attacking… Who were they?"

"Kouji wouldn't say. He wanted to protect their identities. But he did admit that he and Osamu fired the last shot."

"I know."

"But what you don't know is this: After all the DigiCode had been scanned, Osamu appeared. He explained to Kouji that those others were taking a sacrifice too to save you, and it was something they had to do. Osamu was part of the sacrifice too. I knew this wasn't a hallucination when Kouji confirmed that Osamu never mentioned fate or destiny. My brother never believed in it—he thought destiny was an excuse for not trying."

"But why would he appear in front of Kouji just to tell him that?" Kouichi questioned. "You could have done that."

"I know. That's what I thought too, but then I pieced together stories about his life in Cell 24 and about the beatings he had to face. I think Osamu was protecting him." His voice was noticeably lower, but strict. "I spoke with Jyou Kido, and he determined that most of the blows Kouji took were almost always fatal." He began counting each off on his fingers. "Electrical shock, blows to the temples, fire, gasoline inhalation, slit wrists, hard labor, starvation, little to no formal medical care… Right now, Kouji is lucky that he lived long enough to end up in the ICU." Kouichi lowered his head in disgrace.

"Kouji has no reason to forgive me," he commented. "This is the second time I've done this to him."

"I don't know if he'll forgive you, but you can at least find out if she does." Ken turned around. "Kouri, you can come in now."

The small girl walked in, toting Ai and Makoto's old teddy bear with the stitched-up arm. Kouichi noted the damage to her own arm as she shyly walked in, acting nothing like her usual outspoken self.

"Kouichi niisan?" she asked timidly.


Kouri quickly clambered up the stairs to Kouji's bedroom, where he lay asleep on the bed. Next to him was the notebook he'd been writing in for the past two months. It was almost finished, and he'd pushed himself to the brink of exhaustion to get it done. Though she was normally an empathic child, she couldn't just let him sleep. Today was December 23, which was even more important than New Year's for her.

Her idea of a wake-up call was the same one Chibimon tended to use for Daisuke, so it was a good idea to leave enough room on the bed for her. She climbed up and began jumping to get his attention.

"Kouji, wake up!" she cried.

He slowly opened his eyes to see his younger sister sitting on the edge of his bed, dressed in her pale purple qipao. She smiled innocently at him, denying any involvement in the rude awakening he'd just received.

"Sorry," he mumbled, carefully getting up. "Are the others here yet?"

"Just 'Zumi," she answered. "Come on!"

"Hold on," he urged, getting a jacket on. His left sleeve limply hung off, as his arm was still in a sling.

They went downstairs to find Izumi sitting on the couch. She and Kouji kissed briefly before taking a seat.

"Is Kouichi coming?" Izumi asked.

"I don't know," Kouji confessed. "I tried to call him, but Mom said he wasn't home."

As they spoke, Kouichi sat in the deepest level of the Shibuya train station. No Trailmon would be coming in that day as it was close to the holidays, and the humans wanted to be with their families.

He held the switchblade in his hand, almost as though admiring the royal blue handle with its silver dragon. It had taken a while to steal this off Daisuke, and he hoped that Ken wouldn't mind that he'd taken advantage of how much they looked alike. He extended the blade slowly, seeing the reflection of his troubled sapphire eyes in the cold steel. There was only one way out, and this was it.

"Going to end it like this?" He just ignored Sakiko Ayamisa and allowed her to approach.

"The Kaiser is a curse on this world. Better to end the pain for everyone."

"Coward!" she declared, punching him exactly where Kouji had months before. "You selfish coward! Do you think this will all just go away if you die? Only your pain will end." She could see tears beginning to well up in his eyes, so she decided to play her trump card. "And how could you do this to your family? Your friends? To Kouji? How could you put him through this pain? Don't you think you've done enough to hurt him?"

Tears were now streaming down his face as Sakiko sat next to him. She carefully took Daisuke's knife from his hands and closed it. She then gently turned his head to her and whispered, "Don't ever think about doing this again. There are people who love you, so don't cause them that pain. My father did, and I never forgave him for the pain that still lives with me today." She then kissed him more compassionately than passionately, letting her tongue slip into his mouth. Kouichi was surprised, but he didn't pull away. After several seconds, it ended.

"What was that for?" he asked.

"Kouji once told me to save my feelings for someone who deserved them. And right now, I think you deserve all the compassion you can get."

"After what I've done? After I killed your mother? After your father committed suicide in grief?"

"Let's concentrate on the present rather than the past." She held out her hand. "Let's start over. I'm Sakiko Ayamisa."

He took her hand and shook it. "Kouichi Kimura. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure is all mine." The smile she wore was completely sincere.

When they finally arrived at the Minamotos' home, they were relieved to see they weren't the last ones there. The Himi brothers arrived a bit later, after a near fight between Guilmon and Agumon. All three Digimon came with them.

"Is everybody ready to go?" Kage checked. "Good. We'll all meet at the mountain."


It was a long ride to Mt. Fuji, but they made the trek without complaints—even Takamoto, who had quite a bit of trouble with his cane once the walking began. They hiked up to the mock grave and felt the last rays of the setting sun as they stood there. Kouri held a lit candle and handed it to Hikari. The former bearer of the Crest and Digimental of Light knelt down and lit a candle for a friend named Wizardmon, and another for a group of Numemon, both of whom had saved her life. The candle was given to Takeru, who lit one on behalf of the Tamers for Juri's former partner Leomon. Next, Miyako lit one for an unrelated Leomon, on behalf of Mimi and Jyou. Daisuke lit one for the Lilymon he'd been forced to kill, as well as for Sakuyamon, who deserved it in his and Taichi's eyes for saving Kouji. The candle then found its way to Iori, who lit four: one for his father, another for Oikawa, another for Akemi, and a final for the BlackWarGreymon that had sacrificed himself to seal the Hikarigaoka gate. Kage and Taiyou lit one for their father, and Sakiko lit one for her mother—not for her father, as she could not yet forgive him. Takamoto lit one for Miyagami, as well as one for all the people that had died because of the bacterium he'd created. Himi then lit one for all the humans and Digimon that had sacrificed their lives in the war. Kouichi lit one for his grandmother, and Izumi and Kouji lit one for the Azikiwes. Kouji then lit one in memory of the slaves that had died after meeting him, whether they died naturally like the sick slave on Cellblock 18 or because they had seen his face. Finally, Ken lit a candle for Archnemon, and one for Osamu before turning to the six Legendary Warriors. Kouri handed them Sakuyamon's staff, and they placed it in the center.

For a long time, everyone was silent. But then Takeru began strumming on the acoustic guitar his brother had given Kouji while Hikari sang a makeshift alleluia. They were barely friends, but they resolved to cooperate for this. The sun and moon shone on the group of people as the tiny points of light glowed in front of them.

"Is it finished yet?" Takeru asked Kouji quietly. Both knew that Takeru was the better writer, so he'd volunteered to revise and type the story for the others to read.

"Almost. You can start typing it in a few days."

"All right."

Nine Days Later
Mt. Fuji, Japan
In the abandoned mess hall of the Resistance base called the Underground Railroad, three children sat around a small round table. One was a pale American girl dressed in a black gown straight out of the Renaissance. Her straw-colored hair was in a black butterfly clip at the back of her head. Beside her was her boyfriend, a tan-skinned boy of Chinese and Japanese lineage, dressed in a white T-shirt, a khaki jacket, and black jeans. His dark blue hair was slightly wind-swept, but neatly arranged nonetheless. Across from them was a younger boy, whose bluish-black hair stuck up in every which way, donning a long-sleeved navy T-shirt, a short-sleeved green sweater shirt, and a pair of jeans.

"Should we start?" the boy in white asked.

"No," the other replied. "Give her a few more seconds."

"How can you be sure she'll come?" the girl questioned.

"She may not like me, but she'll come," he assured.

As though she'd heard him, a girl the same age as the first boy and girl ran in. She sported a black chauffeur's cap over her fawn-colored hair, and her clothes indicated she'd just run in from dance class: a black leotard and heliotrope leggings and white sneakers over pink tights.

"Sorry I'm so late," she apologized, an oddity for her nowadays. "I had to sneak in, but I think Ken might have followed me."

"That's all right," the younger boy answered. "My brother has a right to hear this as well. Thank you for coming, Hikari. I know how you feel about me."

Hikari Yagami shrugged indifferently and turned to the other two. "Jenrya, Alice, how are things going?"

"Pretty good," Jenrya Lee replied. "There are no disturbances in any of the worlds, almost as though everyone's taking time off after the Kaiser incident."

"But those assassination attempts keep happening," Alice McCoy pointed out.

"Kouji's been getting into fights at school," Osamu Ichijouji noticed. "They're causing little Kouri to grow up a lot faster than she should. That other, more mature personality of hers is taking over completely."

Hikari nodded. "Also, he requested something weird from me." She told them what it was.

"So what are you going to do about this?" Jenrya questioned.

"I don't know," she answered. "I can't say no, but I can't put him through the pain of his past again."

Funny, Osamu thought. He thinks the same about everyone else. He didn't speak his thoughts aloud, but merely nodded his head.

The door suddenly burst open and Ken Ichijouji entered the dark room. The four sat calmly at the table, waiting for him to notice them.

"Hikari, why did you come here for?" he asked. "Daisuke and Iori want us to head over to the conference with Kage and Koushiro." It was then that he noticed the smaller figure seated at the table. His face drained of all color as he stared. Only a small, almost whispering voice came out of his mouth, like the voice of a child. "Osamu niisan?"

"Yes, Ken."

"But how? I thought you were watching over Kouji."

"I don't need to anymore. He has his own brother to do that, and an entire support system to lean on. I can move on."

"But…"

"Don't worry, ototo-chan. I'll still be watching you. But as third-in-command, you have other people to be watching on as well." Ken nodded in reply.

"But I still don't understand what's going on."

"I can't tell you everything in order to respect Kouji's wishes. But Jenrya, Alice, Hikari, Gennai, and Qinglongmon can help." He glanced at Hikari, who placed her D-3 under his wrist momentarily. A holographic image of Gennai and Qinglongmon appeared in the center of the tunnel soon after.

"I assume it's time to tell the whole story," Qinglongmon observed.

"Ken, you'll want to sit down to hear this from all of us," Gennai advised. Osamu offered his own seat, and Ken sat down in it. The conspiracy kept for four years that day was finally going to be revealed.

January 4, 2007—Four years after the defeat of BelialVamdemon and the rise of Kouichi Kimura, the new Kaiser
Yokohama, Japan
A light snow covered the ground at the park, but that was not his concern. The dawning sun had not entirely risen yet, but that was not his concern. His injuries were aching in the burning cold, but that was not his concern. Right now, the only concern for Kouji Minamoto was to finish writing this story in his notebook. He was warmly dressed and had a thermos of hot tea to keep warm. A lantern filled with shining Fox Leaf Arrowheads sat on the dry picnic table he was seated at while the soft morning light glittered in the barren trees. His arm was still in a sling underneath his coat, and his hands were still bandaged under his gloves. But the one problem that was not solved was this work. Writer's block had struck him at the most inconvenient time, and he was forced to merely sit there, tapping his pen against the table and reviewing the pages. Occasionally, he would scribble down lyrics on sheets of paper at the back of the notebook, trying to let out his frustration at not being able to figure this out. Somehow, this day made all his wounds ache, but the reason was not as elusive as one might think.

He still hadn't revealed the names of the others in the Mind Illusion, and he resolved never to. He had no right to put them through that guilt. Taiyou still hadn't forgiven him, but he never asked her to anyway. It was one of the many things he lived with, part of the sacrifice he'd made. Kouichi had at least begun to forgive himself and was becoming fast friends with Sakiko, who lived with her grandfather-figure and Digimon partners in the Mt. Fuji town. Takamoto had remained there as well, but he, Himi, and Taiyou were currently attending the university in Tokyo. Kage had been accepted on a scholarship Archnemon set up for all of the Resistance fighters as his genius had finally been recognized, and so the Underground Railroad no longer had its conductor. The other Chosen had returned to their world, but they still crossed over whenever they wanted or needed to. And the Chosen of this world had returned to their daily lives, though ready to evolve at a moment's notice.

Cold snow fell on top of Kouji's head, causing him to look back at Izumi, who kept her empty cupped hands over his head. She smiled and took a seat beside him. He pushed back the headphones of his CD player as one of Yamato's hit songs, "Tobira," continued playing.

"How's it coming along?" she questioned.

"I'm basically done, but the ending feels empty. It feels like it needs something more."

"Hmm," she commented. The silence of the early morning made the music of "Tobira" audible, despite how quietly Kouji had to play it. "It would be appropriate if you finished it today," she finally commented, "maybe even too appropriate."

"The writing will be finished, but not the story," he corrected, remembering Osamu's words. "Anything more can happen tomorrow."

"Well, no matter what tomorrow brings, I'll be there with you to face it. It's not a sacrifice you have to make on your own."

Kouji nodded as thesong played in his headphones. Suddenly, he knew just how to end his writing. With Izumi beside him, he resumed his story.

Well, again, there's some crap in here taken from Pretender. If you know what you're looking for, you'll find it. The guy Sakuyamon remembers was Nairusu, so you know he survived the rain of death in "Reach For You." The comment between the doctors about not reporting their suspicions until they had something to report was straight out of Star Wars, Episode One. And the starting over thing between Sakiko and Kouichi was from the original DigiDestinies. The favor that Kouji asked Hikari for, however, is a secret I won't reveal until the epilogue to "Echoes of Angels."