The nearby students of Furinkan High were wearily eyeing Ranma and Flamemon as the duo sat under a tree. Next to the duo were the remains of their bentos that had been demolished down to the last grain of rice. Flamemon was lazily reclining his head against the tree enjoying the feeling of a belly full of delicious food on a warm day with no threats nearby. Ranma was sitting with his back against the tree and his D-Terminal in his hands having an IM chat with Taichi and T.K. over the trio's plans for the digidestined that day.

Ranma's revealed knowledge of how to use computers was very unnerving to the students. Flamemon's existence and status as a creature from another realm was pretty much ignored by the students after the first week. There was Gosunkugi who would occasionally bother Flamemon, but that was because he thought that the digimon could help him get a demonic familiar. Furinkan was sort of seen as the place Tokyo stuck the nails that society couldn't hammer down and his looks weren't that strange after everything the students' had seen. The teachers didn't complain since Flamemon turned in his homework on time and he kept his grade point up. His grades weren't anything to write home about; but like Ranma, Flamemon was in the upper third of his class in grades.

However, Ranma's competency with computers was unnerving in a way that Flamemon's looks could never be. It made it clear to the students that they had misjudged Ranma's abilities. That was something very few people could realize and easily accept. Everyone had written Ranma off as a dumb martial arts jock with crazy problems involving girlfriends or crazy girlfriends' problems. The exact nature of his problems depended on the views of the individual students. There were clues that would have made it clear to anyone who bothered to pay attention that Ranma had something between his ears. He had kept pace with his age group in school despite many absences caused by either martial arts training or some crazy misadventure. The martial artists at school would have notice more clues to Ranma's intelligence given his breath of training and his adaptability in fights. These clues could no longer be ignored with Ranma using a computer when everyone thought he didn't know what they were for.

Daisuke didn't care about that at the moment as he closed the small gap between Ranma and the other students. He paused just out of Ranma's grab range and spoke, "Ranma, can we talk?"

Ranma looked up from his IM chat and nodded his head before motioning over to his other side if Daisuke wanted to sit. The digidestined's token ordinary friend walked over and leaned against the tree. He then looked out where some girls were sitting having lunch together while he spoke. "My cousin over in Minato called me last night asking a lot of questions about you. He said it was for a school project regarding real urban myths, but Davis was never good at lying. Please tell me why Davis was asking about you if you know."

The martial artist looked up at his friend and calmly said, "I don't know why Davis is asking about me. I can guess that it's probably has to do with the fact that we met each other in the Digital World yesterday."

It was a good thing for Daisuke that he was leaning against the tree when he heard that little fact. Daisuke lost all interest in the girls at the moment and focused all of his attention on his friend. "What? Why by the Buddha's anorexic ass was my cousin over in Flamemon's realm?"

With a shrug Ranma answered, "It turns out that your cousin is a digidestined. He came to the Digital World because he was called there."

Daisuke's legs became like Jell-O and his back slid down the truck of the tree as he collapsed next to Ranma. Good thing that all Furinkan uniforms were custom made to be extra durable and protective or Daisuke's mother and his back would not be happy with him. The teen stared vacantly into the sky imaging his cousin encountering monsters like Flamemon or even worse since rumor had it that Ranma's partner was currently only the digimon equivalent of a little child. He shuddered at the images his imagination summoned thanks to the help of the more dangerous misadventures Ranma had been on that he knew of.

Finally, Daisuke shook his head to regain his focus. He turned to look at Ranma with a haunted look on his face. "Please Ranma, I'm begging you. Please look out for my cousin. I know he's an annoying goggle-headed dork, but he's my cousin and I don't want anything happening to him."

Ranma looked at his friend and felt a powerful tug on his heartstrings. A part of Ranma wanted to loudly declare that he'd keep Davis safe for Daisuke. However, this wasn't the time for bold proclamations that couldn't be backed up with any degree of certainty. There was a degree of solemnity as Ranma spoke that Daisuke wasn't used to seeing in his friend. "I can promise you that I will do my best to keep your cousin safe. I also promise that I will see to your cousin's digimon partner's training when I meet him or her so that your cousin's partner can better protect him."

Daisuke nodded his head in acceptance. This wasn't exactly what he wanted to hear. However, he figured that Ranma must be dead serious if he wasn't making any types of boasts. He then quietly said, "Thank you Ranma. This means more to me than you can possibly know."

A digiport in a shrubland activated to deposit T.K., Kari, Davis, Iori, Miyako, Patamon, and Nyaromon a few hundred meters from a small watering hole. The summer heat of the digital shrubland hit all of the digidestined the instant they got their bearings. Davis felt the sweat starting to form on his forehead and muttered, "I thought that we were past the dog days of summer."

Iori spared a glance at the goggle head and rebuked him. "We are traveling to different locations in a different world. It is extremely foolish to expect the weather where we go to be exact same as it is in Tokyo."

An embarrassed look appeared on Davis's face for a few seconds because he acted foolish in front of Kari. He tried to cover it up by asking, "So just why did you send us out here T.A.?"

T.K. rolled his eyes at Davis's obviously deliberate and childish mangling of his name. He then replied, "Taichi, Ranma, and I decided that our best move today is to pull some digimon that have remained free out of the territory currently held by the Digimon Emperor. These digimon have some leads on the locations of several digimentals. Ranma, Flamemon, Patamon, and I are basically supposed to cause a distraction so that Darcmon can pull the other digimon out."

Miyako looked around trying to spot Ranma and didn't see any sign of the older digidestined. "Um are we early T.K.? I mean, I know that most high schools get out a little later than middle schools."

Patamon and Nyaromon both sniffed the air and then shook their heads. The rookie digimon spoke up first, "No Ranma and Flamemon are here."

A voice suddenly called out to the group from above them. "You only know that because we positioned ourselves so that you'd be downwind from us." Everyone started to furiously look around for the source of the voice. The voice, that everyone now realized was Ranma's, called out again. "Seriously, you haven't found us yet? Look up!"

The digidestined on the ground blinked their eyes in confusion for a second. They then started to look around. Kari got everyone's attention and pointed as she said, "Up there in that tree." Everyone turned to look at the nearby tree Kari was pointing at. They saw Ranma and Flamemon lazily sitting on the tallest branches that could support their weight.

Flamemon spoke up, "About time you guys spotted us. I've got two words for you: situational awareness. Learn it and live it; especially when you're in the Digital World." Flamemon paused for a second and casually jumped down to land in front of them. "Welcome to Digimon Survival 101 with me, Professor Flamemon Cankickyourass. Lesson one, 'civilization' as humans consider it doesn't really exist in the Digital World so being an inattentive village idiot will get you killed. To survive you need to either have the strength to defend yourself, have a friend who's strong enough to defend you, or know how to run and hide."

"Let's quickly review the three survival options and see how you all stack up. On having the strength to defend yourself, only Patamon qualifies if he armor digivolves. Before you were told Ranma and I were here you again only had Patamon to defend all of you. One champion to defend six non-combatants is not good odds. Now the last category was where you all failed utterly. A key point of knowing how to run and hide is to be aware of where people could hide so you know where to run to in an emergency. This also helps you to know when and where to run since it will tell you were hidden attackers could come from."

"That's enough Flamemon," Ranma said in a completely serious tone. He looked at his partner and said, "Remember, the newbies are here primarily to observe and learn with the slim possibility that their partners might be nearby." Ranma then turned to the younger digidestined an briefly examined their faces. T.K. and Kari were both upset that they had let hard won survival skills rust now that they were aware of what had happened. Miyako, if Ranma was reading her correctly, was embarrassed because she looked stupid in front of someone she liked. Ranma sent a silent prayer to Huanglongmon that the person wasn't him; he had enough girl problems without having to deal with a middle schooler having a crush on him. Iori looked thoughtful and seemed to be paying attention to what he was being told. Davis, well, he looked like every fourth word was going over his head.

The oldest present digidestined clapped his hands together and said, "Okay everyone. We are currently in a relatively safe zone within enemy territory. I say relatively safe because I was able to get rid of the surveillance micro-camera while making it look natural. This isn't something I will be able to do often or otherwise our enemy is going to send his servants to investigate every time a camera goes down. After we leave this meeting spot we all stay silent unless we absolutely have to speak. Assume anything you say will be heard by that so-called Emperor. Also know that information is on a need to know basis. If I or T.K. tells you that you don't need to know about something then don't ask about it."

"Now, let's go over the plan to make sure that everyone is on the same page. 5 kilometers that way," Ranma paused to point in a direction opposite of the digiport facing, "Is the area of the Digital World that isn't controlled by the Emperor. 4 kilometers in the opposite direction is our target: a holding arena for captured digimon. Our mission is simple we get in, cause a huge ruckus, hopefully free some digimon, and get out before we're taken out."

Ranma focused on Patamon for a moment and then said, "You and T.K. are going to be on the outside causing a distraction since we don't know what your armor form is at the moment. Try to use your armor form's attack to destroy the Dark Rings if there is not too much risk of permanently hurting the other digimon. On the other hand, if your armor form's attacks are too powerful or more area of effect you should focus on destroying the Emperor's buildings. If he has to spend time and resources repairing things in his turf that means less time and resources for him to go after free zones in the Digital World."

The older digidestined's gaze shifted to the others as he told them their part of the plan. "The rest of you are going to be hiding a little ways away from the compound observing everything. If you see enemy movements like a squad of controlled digimon coming in you are to send T.K. and I a text message letting us know. Flamemon and I are going to sneak into the compound and try to free some of the captive digimon. Are there any questions?"

Davis piped up, "I thought that we were supposed to help some free digimon escape. I didn't hear you mention them or Darcmon anywhere in the plan. Where are they so we can help them?"

Flamemon moved to swat Davis on the head. However, Ranma caught his partner's arm and gave him a quick look. He then turned to Davis and said, "We're helping Darcmon get those digimon to safety by conducting this attack and drawing the Emperor's attention to us. Anything else regarding that is strictly need to know and even I don't need to know. All I know is how to send Darcmon a quick message to let her know we're about to strike and that's it."

Miyako made the time out symbol with her hands and said, "Wait a moment here. You mean none of us know anything about Darcmon's rescue? What if she gets into trouble and needs our help to bail her out?"

T.K. quickly spoke up before Ranma could answer the new girl. "Sometimes you just have to trust in your teammates and their ability to handle something Miyako. Don't get me wrong, I wish we could all work together so that we can all cover each other. However, sometimes that either isn't possible or isn't reasonable given the situation. Ranma, Taichi, and I all talked about this beforehand and all of us agree that this is the best plan we can currently make. Now, those digimon aren't going to just free themselves so let's move out."

It took Ranma a little over an hour to lead everyone to the outskirts of the Emperor's local barracks. That was when the first real problem came in as the team saw that the barracks was on a small hill and the surrounding area had been completely cleared of any sort of cover. Ranma pulled out his D-Terminal so that everyone hidden with him in the bushes could see it. The other digidestined nodded their heads and pulled out their D-Terminals as Ranma sent them an IM. 'Stealth entrance is a no go. Enemy has prepared the barracks security too well to hope he forgot the security cameras.'

T.K. quickly typed a reply, 'What do we do now?'

Ranma looked around for a moment and then pointed to a tree growing out of a bush. He then typed, 'You and Patamon go and hide there. I'll make my way somewhere in the opposite direction with Flamemon. Both Flamemon and I will attack the barracks drawing attention to us. This will give Patamon enough time to Armor Digivolve and figure out his new attacks. After he does that, he jumps in and hits them from behind. Aim for the Dark Rings and try to break just them.' Ranma then sent another quick message after double checking he was sending a private message. 'If push comes to shove it's better for the digimon to have to be reformatted then to remain slaves.'

T.K.'s and Patamon's eyes widened when they saw Ranma's private message. They glanced at each other and then Patamon solemnly nodded his little head in agreement. A resigned looked crossed T.K.'s face as he nodded his head once in acceptance. Deleting digimon was never something he wanted to do; in fact, he felt almost sickened at the idea. Back during the first adventure in the Digital World T.K. and Patamon were kept at the sidelines as much as possible by the older kids. When Patamon had to fight to the reformat it was usually under the direst of circumstances which made the idea of doing so that much worse for T.K.

However, T.K. also realized that he was one of the older kids now. The new digidestined might be around his age, but in terms of life experience he and Kari were far older than them. This was now his burden to bear. At least he and Patamon had a chance to defeat their enemies now without having to reformat them. That was a small comfort that Matt and the others never had back then. T.K. kept that thought in the forefront of his mind as he and Patamon made their way to their spot.

Ranma and Flamemon then made their way around to a good spot to launch the attack. He got the text from T.K. saying that they were in position and nodded his head. He held out his digivice so that Flamemon could see. The rookie had a resigned look in his face and nodded his head. Ranma called out, "Digi-Armor Energize."

The red light of the digimental of Duty shot out from the digivice and into Flamemon. This caused the digimon to chant as he transformed. "Flamemon Armor Digivolve to… Kazemon!" The now champion level armor digimon shot into the sky like a rocket. Ranma followed right behind her on the ground charging up a Moko Takabisha. Kazemon powered up a Hurricane Wave and launched her attack a few seconds before Ranma unleased his attack. The Hurricane Wave's little drill like mini tornados acted as drills creating cracks and weaknesses all throughout the barracks wall. This allowed the relatively weak chi ball to turn a massive section of the wall into shrapnel blasting into the barracks.

Pandemonium reigned inside the barracks thanks to the combo attack. Many digimon were injured from the shrapnel and the programs in their Dark Rings didn't know what to do in this situation. Several of the Emperor's troops turned on their compatriots thanks to their Dark Rings being disabled from the flying shrapnel. The digimons had been aware of everything while they were under the Dark Rings control and, upon realizing they could control themselves again, were determined to have payback. The controlled digimon tried to retaliate, but the targeting priorities in the Dark Rings' software cause them to miss the freed but still collared digimon. These attacks plowed into the weakened barracks causing more shrapnel to be thrown up as complex started to collapse.

Ranma and Kazemon jumped into the fray to add their personal brand of combat chaos. The duo gracefully moved around the various attacks of the digimon in the barracks and attacked the Dark Rings that they could see. Most of the digimon in the barracks were physically large and impressive Champions. On open ground Ranma and Kazemon would have been in a tricky if not desperate situation. However, the barrack's limited space made it like shooting fish in a barrel to the two nimble warriors. Almost every time they shattered a Dark Ring a new digimon joined their side. Occasionally, they would shatter a disabled Dark Ring. On one of those times the digimon in question squawked out, "I'm on your side!"

Patamon and T.K. were on the other side of the barracks blinking their eyes in shock as they witnessed the level of damage Ranma and Kazemon could create. They soon shook off their shock and then Patamon turned to look at his partner. "I suppose that we should help them even if I'm not sure they need the help."

T.K. nodded his head and replied, "Agreed." He pulled out his recently upgraded digivice and looked at his partner. "Let's try this out, "Digi-Armor Energize!"

A golden-yellow light left the digivice and connected to Patamon who felt a weird sensation as he was imbued with the power of a digimental for the first time. He called out, "Patamon Armor Digivolve to… Pegasusmon!" The now equine digimon shook his mane and took a few tentative steps in place as he tested out his new body. Pegasusmon stretched out his wings and then nodded his head. He turned to T.K. and said, "Get on my back T.K. I can carry you as I fly and this way I can make sure you're safe."

T.K. was about to agree when he saw a Devidramon come flying in from the direction that led deeper in the Emperor's territory. "Let's wait a moment and try to see what's happening Pegasusmon. Ranma and Kazemon might need us to provide a distraction very shortly."

Pegasusmon turned his head to the direction T.K. was looking in and narrowed his eyes. "Agreed," he firmly said agreeing with his partner.

Wormmon looked up at Ken with worry clearly written on the rookie's face. He had been worried ever since whatever had gotten in his partner turned Ken from the sweet and caring boy into this evil caricature calling himself the Digimon Emperor. The digimon had been trying to help his partner remember who he was and he would never give up. One day, Wormmon firmly believe with all his heart, Ken would recover himself. On that day he'd be there to help his partner through all the guilt and pain that Ken would feel over his actions while in this state.

However, Wormmon was worried that Ken was flying into a world of hurt. Something had attacked one of Ken's barracks and was freeing the captive digimon. This was something that Wormmon was secretly pleased to hear. The problem for the rookie was that Ken was flying right towards the attack putting himself in danger. Also, there was only one duo that Wormmon could think of that would have the guts to launch an attack like this. Who could say how Ranma and Flamemon would react to Ken being in this altered state?

The Digimon Emperor was frosting with rage at the thought that some lowly digimon didn't know their place in his kingdom. His eyes widened in shock when he saw that one of the attackers was human. How could someone get into his digital world? Ranma twisted around an attack unknowingly letting the Emperor see his face. For the life of himself, the Emperor found himself shaking at the sight of the interloper and a sense of dread rushed down his back. This dread quickly was burned as fuel for utter rage. How dare anyone make him uneasy in his kingdom!

In his rage the Emperor yelled out, "What do you think you're doing in my kingdom!"

Ranma and Kazemon both froze a second when they heard that scream. Both chosen child and digimon felt a chill down their backs as they recognized the voice. Ranma and Kazemon were hoping that somehow they had misheard as they turned as one to face the Digimon Emperor. The disguise didn't fool either of them even though they wished it would. Wormmon's presence was the damming final nail in the coffin of Ranma's denial about Ken.

A furious red aura erupted from Ranma as his fists tightened in rage to the point that his fingernails drew blood. Murphy had completely crossed the line so far that he had left it in another time zone. Just what the hell had he done in a previous lifetime that was so terrible that every single old friend he hadn't seen in years had to become his enemy? Why by all the kami on Earth and Digital World did the darkness have to corrupt Kenny?

There was a guttural growl that escaped Ranma's lips before he spoke in a chilling tone. "Your kingdom," Ranma's aura shifted in its feeling to that of a cold fury as he applied the Soul of Ice to try and control himself. "How dare you say that about the Digital World Kenny! I taught you better than that and if I have to I'll beat you black and blue until you're speaking sense again."

Kazemon snapped her head over to look at Ranma in surprise. Her partner's declaration wasn't a surprise to the fairy like digimon. What was surprising her was that she was faintly feeling an energy rush coming from Ranma. The energy felt somewhat like what the energy she got from him immediately before she digivolved. However, this energy felt darker and twisted for lack of a better word. That feeling and the fact that the energy was somehow getting past the normal block on energy transference needed for digivolution made it clear she wanted nothing to do with it. Kazemon used her martial arts training to start radiating the energy in a somewhat similar manner to a human's battle aura.

A dark red with flecks of black aura surrounded Kazemon. The Digimon Emperor took a step back at the sight since it wasn't an area attack and he couldn't recognize what he was seeing. Wormmon started to shake in fear. He wasn't sure how Flamemon had managed to digivolve even with the anti-digivolution field. There was also the question of why his old friend had changed sexes. On second thought, it would probably be a good idea not to ask that question.

This proverbial standoff ended with Pegasusmon shouting out, "Equus Beam!" Devidramon hastily flew in an evasive manner to avoid having its Dark Ring hit by the green energy attack. Both the Emperor and Wormmon were forced to their knees from the sudden shift in their ride.

The Emperor shifted his focus and saw T.K. riding Pegasusmon as the flying horse seemed to positioning himself for another attack. At this point the Emperor yelled out to his ride, "Take me back to Base!" There were too many unknown variables at the moment. He needed to rethink things to figure out how other humans were entering his world.

T.K. watched as the Devidramon started to fly away. For a second he thought about having Pegasusmon pursue and try to end this fight right here. However, common sense almost instantly overpowered that thought. He had no clue what the Digimon Emperor could do and charging into battle with one newly transformed champion digimon on his side was a very foolish thing to do if he could avoid battle. There was also that disturbing aura coming from Ranma and Kazemon that needed to be addressed. T.K. turned his head back to the barracks and saw that a couple of digimon still had Dark Rings on them. He leaned over and asked his partner. "Got anything to get those rings off of them?"

Pegasusmon nodded his head and said, "Consider it done T.K." He then lined himself up for a strafing run and called out his attack, "Shooting Star!" A barrage of star shaped energy bolts were released from Pegasusmon's wings and flew straight at the remaining Dark Rings. Cracks started to appear on the rings after they were hit and then they shattered after a few seconds freeing the remaining digimon in the barracks.

The duo circled around in the air once to make sure there weren't any more immediate threats. Pegasusmon landed a meter or two away from Ranma. T.K. looked and was surprised by the look of utter rage and self-loathing on Ranma's face. Not sure what to do, T.K. called out to the other digidestined, "Ranma, the Emperor is gone."

"Get away," Ranma muttered in a subzero tone. Ranma turned to look at T.K. and yelled, "Get out of here right now!" His battle aura rapidly grew with every word he spoke. Pegasusmon decided that discretion was the better part of valor and quickly took to the air before T.K. could get off his back. The remaining digimon in the barracks, with the exception of Kazemon, also headed Ranma's warning and ran away as fast as they could. Ranma looked to the sky as his rage chi soaked battle aura bubbled around him like a boiling cauldron. He yelled out as a pillar of crimson red chi shot out into the sky, "Dragon's Defiant Death Roar!"

All of the remaining digidestined stared in shock from their hiding place as a massive sphere of red chi formed in the sky above the barracks. The chi ball hung in the sky for a few seconds like a swollen angry sun. It then fell onto the barracks creating a massive explosion. All the hidden digidestined were force to hug the ground. T.K. held onto Pegasusmon for dear life as the flying steed was buffeted by the wind. It took all of Pegasusmon's skill to keep his partner from falling off of him or crashing into ground. Although, if push came to shove, Pegasusmon would have happily broken all four legs if doing so would keep T.K. safe.

Davis was the first one to poke his head up after the wind died down. He blinked his eyes in shock and muttered in shock, "No way. How can a person do something like this?" The barracks was completely gone with only a shallow crater where it had stood. Only Kazemon and Ranma remained standing in the blast crater. They survived because it was just Ranma's chi in the attack causing the impromptu named chi attack variant Dragon's Defiant Death Roar to pass through them.

With all of his rage release in the attack, Ranma was only left with a feeling of hopelessness and despair. Tears started to form in his eyes as he whispered, "Why?" T.K. and Davis both watched as Ranma fell to his knees. The tears started to freely flow down Ranma's cheeks unseen by the younger digidestined. Pain laced his voice as the older chosen child muttered to himself, "Why does this keep happening to me? What have I done to deserve having my old friends become my enemies?"

Author's Note: for those asking, there is a reason why I have a misspelling of T.K.'s name every time Davis says it. In the English dub, which was what I originally watched, Davis would always deliberately mess up T.K.'s name once or twice an episode in the beginning half of season 02. It was his childish way of taking pot shots at the one he considered his main rival for Kari's affections. The habit dropped off later on in the show as the character matured. Since Davis hasn't reached that level of maturity yet, he's taking his pot shots at T.K.