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Having supped well the night before, Yamato and the others wake up late into next morning. As he stretches and yawns, Yamato looks over to where Sora had been and finds she's taken to staring across the lake once again. It is as if she hadn't moved all from her previous location. He hadn't seen her partaking in last night's festivities and he wonders if she had even gotten anything to eat. Despite his concerns, Yamato says and does nothing, unsure of how best to proceed with Sora at this point in time. He contemplates asking Mimi for advice or to persuade Mimi to say something to Sora. There, however, he also considers how set apart the two girls are, personality-wise. One cannot simply establish a repertoire between two people based solely on the fact that they are of the same sex. So, Yamato is left busily racking hi brain. He had to come up with something on his own. He had to prove his worth in Taichi's absence.
Yamato then takes to looking about the campgrounds, noting that the grass had been left strewn with banana peels, melon rinds, apple cores, and other remains. The roaring bonfire from last night had long since sizzled out. Apparantly, all of the Koemon had departed into the surrounding jungle. Hanumon is nowhere to be found either. When he looks for Gabumon, Yamato's eyes are drawn to the distant area where he'd seen Hanumon speaking with his Digimon partner. There, he is surprised to see not Gabumon, but Garurumon sitting upright upon a large stone. The lone wolf is like a statue, stoic and vigilant. Although impressed by this image, Yamato is also puzzled. When and why did Gabumon evolve? And how long had he been maintaining his Adult form?
Garurumon senses Yamato's eyes and looks back at him, nodding gracefully before leaping from the rock and approaching. The great wolf nuzzles Yamato who affectionately pats his nose in return.
"Garurumon, when did you…?" Yamato asks.
"Sometime last night," Garurumon replies. "Hanumon and I went to scout ahead, and I figured I'd cover more distance as Garurumon."
"But you've stayed like this the whole night?"
"I did. I don't know why, but it seems so much easier to maintain this form now." Then, leaning a bit closer to Yamato, the wolf whispers, "can I speak with you in private?"
"Private?" Yamato looks puzzled, but replies, "Sure."
Garurumon motions Yamato to climb upon his back. Yamato does so and then addresses everyone else at the camp: "I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Where are you going?" Mimi asks.
"Garurumon and I are going to scout ahead," Yamato answers.
"What if we need you?" Jyou asks timidly.
"I won't be too far," Yamato assures him. He points to a ridge, distant, but close enough to be seen, "I'll be over there if you need me." Yamto then looks to Sora. She doesn't acknowledge him; seemingly content to sit there and stare into space. "Sora?" Yamato calls out to her. She glances back at him, a blank look on her face. He requests, "Would you take charge until I get back. I shouldn't be too long."
Sora nods nonchalantly and turns away again, staring back at the water. Yamato's heart sinks. How long was she going to keep this up?
…not until Taichi comes back, he thinks to himself. Nevertheless, he thanks Sora and departs with Garurumon into the surrounding forest.
After a few minutes, the pair of them reach the top of the ridge, achieving a clear view of the surrounding area. Garurumon deftly climbs to the top of a jutting rock, his footing as sure as ever. At its top, the wolf looks towards the horizon, setting his eyes on a distant stretch of jagged mountains, about which a dense bank of clouds hovers, masking the mountainpeaks. Yamato stares at their destination as well, swallowing hard.
"Cluster Mountains," Garurumon explains, "Hanumon told me all about them the night before."
"Cluster Mountains…" says Yamato contemplatively. "What's so special about them?"
"Hanumon mentioned a rumor that there's a city hidden there."
Yamato looks about the fog-covered peaks and wonders about the prospect. The shadowy clouds give him an eerie feeling. However, considering their lack of knowledge about the Digital World in general, Yamato thinks that making an investigation might be worthwhile. Otherwise, they would just be wandering about aimlessly.
"If there is a city there," Yamato tells Garurumon, "then it's possible we'll find a way to get Koushiro's laptop connected to the network again." He gives Garurumon a congratulatory pat and Garurumon growls in appreciation. Yamato then asks him, "Now, what did you want to talk in private about?"
"I didn't want Sora to hear this next part," Garurumon admits, "but when she told you how 'you'll never replace Taichi,' that…that was…" Garurumon snarls, somewhat startling Yamato.
"That really upset you, huh?"
"Of course! She's just plain wrong! You're more than capable!"
"Garurumon, I…" Yamato becomes bashful. "…thanks."
"It's just saying it how it is," Garurumon replies matter-of-factly. "I know Sora is our friend, but..."
"Don't be too hard on her. She's just scared." Under his breath Yamato adds, "…we all are."
"That's no excuse!" Garurumon protests. "What Sora said to you doesn't do you…us any good."
"I know, I know; But I think Sora knows that too. She seems to feel bad about it."
"Do something about it," Garurumon says with determination.
"Do something…?" Yamato replies. Curious, he asks, "What do you think I should do about it, Garurumon?"
"Well…" Garurumon thinks for a moment. A gleam comes into his eyes as the wolf replies: "You could fight her!"
"Fight her?!" Yamato's eyes go wide.
Garurumon nods eagerly.
"That's…I mean...I would never fight Sora…" Yamato stammers.
"Why not? When you and Taichi fought, everything turned out better, right? So if you and Sora—"
"No, Garurumon. It…it wouldn't work that way."
"Because, Sora is…" Yamato hesitates, trying to think of the best way to make his partner understand. "Garurumon, let me ask you: if you and Piyomon had a disagreement, would you fight with her?"
"Piyomon?" Garurumon asks, pondering the question seriously. "Piyomon and I have never disagreed with each other. We always get along."
"And why is that?"
"That's easy! Piyomon is my friend. She's always happy and tries her best to make everyone else happy too." However, Garurumon adds, "Although, sometimes she tries a bit too hard..."
"Aha!" Yamato remarks. "She gets on your nerves sometimes, right?"
"I guess..." Garurumon admits.
"But you never got into a fight with her about it, right?"
"Well I…no, of course not! That wouldn't be…" Garurumon suddenly realizes: "Is it that way with you and Sora?"
"...more or less," Yamato says, shrugging.
The two of them go silent for a time. The space is filled with the sounds of rustling leaves, trickling water, and Koemon chattering about the trees. As upbeat as this morning seems, Yamato's stomach churns as he looks upon Cluster Mountains. The more he watches the darkened clouds billowing about, the more unnerved he becomes. What kinds Digimon lie beyond? Would they be as powerful as Etemon?
"Garurumon, do you feel like you could evolve?" Yamato asks.
Without missing a beat, Garurumon replies, "Possibly." Yamato looks at him in surprise. The wolf continues: "Right now, sustaining this form is no problem. And with what happened yesterday…I feel stronger than ever."
"We make a pretty tough pair, don't we?" Yamato gloats.
Garurumon chuckles to himself—a deep guttural growl of a chuckle. "I should tell you," he says, "Hanumon said he was impressed by your 'audacity'—as he called it—when you came between us. You reminded him of Leomon."
"Leomon?!" Yamato asks incredulously.
Garurumon nods happily. Yamato doesn't know what to say.
"Anyway," Garurumon says, "We've been out here long enough. Shall we return?"
On their way back to the campsite, Yamato lays his cheek on Garurumon's mithril fur. It amazes him how Garurumon's coat is harder than diamonds and yet somehow softer than cat hair. Yamato thinks back to their first encounter with their partners on File Island and he marvels at how far he and Garurumon had come since then. If ever a new conflict arose in the future, Yamato is certain they'd be able to face it. Indeed, he was certain his Crest would glow again and Garurumon would evolve to Perfect level, just as what had happened with Taichi. And, for a brief time, Yamato's mind is completely at ease.
However, when the campsite comes into view, Yamato senses something is amiss. Koushiro and Takeru are waving at him frantically as he returns.
"Big Brother!" Takeru calls out.
As soon as Garurumon arrives, Yamato quickly scans the area, realizing that Sora, Mimi, and Jyou are nowhere to be seen! His face becomes pale.
"What happened?" Yamato asks.
"Sora left," Takeru explains. "We didn't notice at first. But I think she went back to the desert. Jyou ran after her on Ikkakumon."
"What?!" Yamato gasps. He turns to Koushiro, "Why didn't you go after her?"
"Because Tentomon isn't here," Koushiro says defensively, "I...I sent him to find Mimi."
"What?! What happened Mimi?" Yamato demands.
"She grabbed the supply bag and ran off into the forest," answers Takeru.
Koushiro's face turns red as he adds, "she said she needed some...'alone time'."
A pit forms at the base of Yamato's stomach, growing larger as each moment passes. He couldn't even leave everyone for a few minutes before everything fell apart.
"Dammit!" He curses under his breath. "Mimi can't have gotten far..."
"There's no time," Koushiro says, guessing Yamato's thoughts. "We'll stay here and wait for Mimi. You need to go after Sora,"
"I can't just leave you guys alone!" Yamato protests.
"What other choice do we have?" asks Takeru. He lifts Tokomon into his arms, looking at the baby Digimon earnestly. Tokomon looks back at him fiercly. Takeru nods at his partner and looks back to Yamato. "Go, Big Brother," he says. "We'll be fine."
Yamato hesitates. However, when he looks at Takeru, he sees a keen look in his younger brother's eyes. All at once, the pit that had formed in Yamato's stomach begins to abate. Without another word, Yamato nods at Takeru and signals Garurumon. The wolf then darts back into the forest in the direction of the desert.
The surrounding trees turn into a green-and-brown blur as Garurumon rushes past them. Yamato clings to the wolf's mane, almost desperately. Eventually, they come to the forests's edge, reaching a transitional point between the mountains and the desert. There, Yamato spots Jyou and Ikkakumon. Given his bulky body, the great snow-walrus is completely unable to keep pace with Birdramon, whom Yamato notes is just an orange dot in the distance.
As he and Garurumon draw closer to Jyou, Yamato calls out to him. Jyou turns towards Yamato, waving in response. Yamato points back towards the trees and tells him: "Go back; I got this!"
Jyou nods and a look of relief passes over his face. Ikkakumon is also relieved, stopping in his tracks and dropping to the ground in exhaustion. Garurumon, on the other hand, picks up the pace, gaining on Sora and Birdramon. Yamato can't even remember the last time Garurumon ran this fast—not even when they were being chased by Etemon. Eventually, the pair arrive at a point directly underneath Birdramon, and Garurumon slows down a bit. Yamato shouts up at Sora, trying to get her attention. To no avail, however, Birdramon is far too high in the air. Is Sora blatantly ignoring them?
Leaning close to Garurumon's ear Yamato asks him, "Will your flames reach her from here?"
"You want me to attack Birdramon?!" the wolf asks him.
"No, of course not! Just...see if you can get her attention."
Garurumon nods and increases his speed again, running ahead of Birdramon. Then, he leaps into the air as far as his legs will take him. Yamato grips Garurumon's mane for dear life as they shoot into the sky, higher than he'd ever thought was possible.
"FOX FIRE!" Garurumon shouts, sending a huge stream of blue flames in front of Birdramon. The great bird is startled by this, stopping and hovering in place as the fire licks the air in front of her. She then turns towards Yamato and Garurumon as the great wolf completes his leap. Garurumon stumbles as he lands, having underestimated the height of the leap. The impact causes Yamato to fall from his back and roll into sand nearby.
Garurumon runs to his aid. Although slightly bruised, Yamato holds up a hand, letting Garurumon know he's okay. Heavy with anticipation, Yamato shields his eyes from the sun as he watches Birdramon make the next move.
"She sees us now," Yamato announces. "But will she land?"
As Birdramon hovers in the sky above, Yamato can barely make out Sora's yellow shirt and blue hat from the back of the bird's neck. His heart begins to race, wondering what he'd do if Sora took off again. How could he face the others if he failed to bring Sora back? But what was he to do if she refused? It wasn't like he could force her against her will—that just wouldn't be right.
To his relief, however, Birdramon begins to descend. Yamato sighs heavily.
"She's landing!" says Garurumon. Yamato runs to meet Birdramon as she alights upon the sand.
Sora climbs down from her partner's back, her face full of rage. Furiously, she stomps towards Yamato.
"Sora, please don't—" Birdramon starts to say.
"You be quiet!" Sora shouts back at her partner, causing Birdramon to hang her head in dismay. Then, Sora turns to face Yamato again, daggers in her eyes. Just like yesterday, Yamato notes that her fists are clenched and so he stands and braces himself. Garurumon and Birdramon keep their distance, looking at each other quizzically, unsure about what's about to happen. Even so, neither one of them interferes.
Sora gets within arm's length of Yamato and crosses her arms. Yamato looks back at her, holding his ground and doing his best not to show any emotion other than raw determination.
"Sora, I—" He begins to say. Suddenly, Sora hits him in the face-a swift jab that causes Yamato to stumble! Automatically, Yamato places his hands over his nose in pain. Sora's punch was quick and he hadn't expected it to hurt as much as it did..
"Taichi is not dead!" Sora tells him through gritted teeth. "He's alive and you're not going to stop me from searching for him!" She advances on him again, raising both fists. This time, however, Yamato grabs her arms before she can do anything. She struggles for a bit, before shouting "Let go of me!" and delivering a good kick to Yamato's waistline. The pit in his stomach he felt earlier becomes gaping chasm and he reels backward, falling to his knees, wrapping his arms about his stomach, and gasping for air. Now having removed his hands from his face, blood is allowed to trickle his nostril.
When Sora sees what she's done, she gasps. Frantically, she digs through her first-aid kit, eventually producing a gauze pad and applying it to Yamato nose. "I'm…I'm so sorry!" She says, "I…I didn't mean to!" Meanwhile, almost in unison, both Garurumon and Birdramon cock their heads to the side in confusion.
Sora then slings Yamato's arm over her shoulder and, as gently as possible, leads him over to Garurumon.
"Garurumon...lie down, please?" She requests. Garurumon complies and Sora gently leans Yamato against his flank. She then kneels beside Yamato, gently mopping the blood from his face. After a minute or two, Yamato recovers his breath.
"Sora..." He gasps.
"I'm sorry," She says again, "I shouldn't have…"
"It's…okay," he tells her, wincing as he adjusts himself to a more comfortable position. "...can we talk now?"
Sora hesitates at first. Eventually she nods, letting out breath of frustration as she sits across from him.
"We need you, Sora," Yamato says, mincing no words. "I want you to come back with me. We all do. I meant what I said—we'll try to find Taichi as soon as—"
"I know what you said," Sora tells him, shaking her head. "But you don't mean it, Yamato. Not really."
"He does mean it!" Garurumon protests. He growls at Sora, causing her to jump in fear. However a moment later, she shakes her head and gets to her feet.
"Look," she says, "You don't need me!" Yamato looks at her questioningly. She turns her head towards the desert, "I was wrong when I said you'd never replace Taichi. You proved me wrong. I realized that when saw your Crest glow." She looks back at Yamato and Garurumon, smiling warmly. However, there are also tears on her face. "You two. You make such a great team. Garurumon will evolve soon; I'm sure of it."
"And I want you to be there when it happens…" Yamato says solemnly.
"I know," Sora replies. Yet, she turns and faces the desert again.
"You're our friend, Sora" Yamato tells her. "How can you expect us to just let you leave?"
"I couldn't," She says sorrowfully, "which is why I tried to avoid this. But…Taichi is my friend too. And he's out there; I can feel it!" She shakes her head again, and looks at Yamato earnestly. "I...I know how that sounds, but...I just I can't abandon that feeling. I can't bear the thought of leaving Taichi behind."
"You know how much pain this will cause us. Cause me?!" Yamato demands, slowly lifting himself up, "You're going out here all by yourself."
Without warning, Sora runs up and embraces Yamato, causing his cheeks turn bright red.
"I'll manage as best I can," she tells him. She looks over her shoulder at Birdramon and adds, "Besides, I won't be alone."
Slowly, Sora pulls her arms from Yamato and turns from him, proceeding to climb board Bidramon once again.
"You and Piyomon against the entire Digital World?" Yamato asks.
"Not if we make some friends along the way," Sora replies.
Birdramon then prepares to take to the skies again, flapping her mighty wings. As they lift off, Sora gets an idea and removes her helmet, tossing it on the ground at Yamato's feet.
"Let everyone else know you caught up with me;" She calls out. "Tell them…tell them that I love them all and that I'm certain that we'll see each other again in the future. We're the 'Chosen Children' after all, so it's our destiny, right?"
Without waiting for a response, Birdramon takes flight, heading into the blue yonder. Yamato can only stand and watch as she becomes smaller and smaller, Eventually disappearing from his sight entirely.
And, just like that, Sora is gone.
Tears start welling up in Yamato's eyes. Garurumon nudges Yamato with his nose and Yamato buries his face in the wolf's forehead. His tears glisten as they fall upon the mthril fur, cascading down Garurumon's nose like small gemstones. Then, when he has no more tears to shed, Yamato once again lifts himself upon his partner's back and the pair advance once more into the nearby mountains.
Yamato returns to the others. To his relief, they're all waiting patiently by the lake. Hanumon is there as well alongside a few of the Koemon. They are all in the middle of a conversation when they see Yamato. Sadly, Yamato shows them Sora's helmet and explains everything that had happened. Of course, he left out the fact that he had allowed Sora to take her frustrations out on him physically. So, when asked about the small bloodstain on his shirt collar, Yamato says he fell off Garurumon (technically, not lying.) Hanumon is the only one who raises an eyebrow. Upon exchanging glances with Garurumon, he looks back at Yamato respectfully and simply says:
"Strong warriors must be willing to bear much pain."
"What are we going to do now?" Mimi asks grumpily.
Yamato looks at her, noting she seems to be at the verge of crying. Shadows encircle her eyes as well, as if she hadn't got much sleep the night before. He's about to ask her how she's feeling, but he quickly reconsiders.
"Garurumon and I scouted a head," Yamato tells everyone. "The best course of action would be to head towards the Cluster Mountains."
"Cluster Mountains?" Koushiro asks.
"Yes, we might find a city there," Yamato explains. "Hanumon mentioned it last night."
"Mind you, it's just a rumor," says Hanumon, "but you won't know for sure until you explore it."
"Well, that should be easy," Tentomon says, "I'll just fly us over the—"
"I wouldn't recommend that," Hanumon interrupts. "The fog hanging over those mountains is electrified."
"Electrified?" Jyou remarks, "Is there a way through, then?"
"I couldn't see one from where I looked," Yamato replies. "But we're still quite a ways away. If we get closer, we might find an entrance."
"And what if we don't find one?" Jyou asks, crossing his arms.
"We'll just have to keep looking, of course," Takeru says cheerfully.
Jyou sighs in frustration.
"I wish you all the luck in your search," Hanumon tells them. "If there's a way inside, I'm sure that—given your abilities—you'll manage to find it."
Hanumon's words remind Yamato of Leomon who had voiced similar sentiments before they'd set out for the Server Continent. After bidding the children farewell Hanumon departs, leaping into the trees.
"So, it's settled then?" Mimi pouts, "Are we just going to leave Sora behind and try to find this so-called city?"
"Sora left us, Mimi," Yamato reminds her, "and she wouldn't be persuaded otherwise."
"But, that means I'm the only girl now!" Mimi whines, her face turning completely sour.
Palmon tries comforting her, saying: "I'm a girl too, Mimi!"
"It's not the same!" Mimi protests, crossing her arms like a petulant child. Palmon shrugs, shaking her head in defeat.
"Yamato, do you think she'll be alright?" Jyou asks.
"We can only hope so," Yamato replies. "Sora is strong. For all we know, she might actually find Taichi…if he's even still alive, anyway."
"But if Taichi is truly dead…" says Koushiro. "Well…Sora will have to stop looking for him sometime, right?"
"I'd hate to see her unravel if it ever came to that," Yamato replies. "She's already as upset as can be right now."
"Enough!" Mimi says, putting her foot down. "No more talking about dead Taichi and lost Sora. Let's just go find this city or whatever it is."
The rest of them are in agreement. Yamato looks at Mimi worriedly. She was correct, Sora had been the only other girl in their group and that really meant a lot to Mimi. Yamato then realizes he was wrong before: Sora had been the only one among them to whom Mimi could really connect with on that level. Now, Mimi would be outnumbered four-to-one (in fact, eight-to-two including their Digimon partners.) The degree of self-consciousness Mimi would be feeling from here on out was only beginning to become clear.
The children and their Digimon then gather what supplies they have, including a new stock of food given to them by the Koemon, and they depart. Graciously, Garurumon allows Mimi, Palmon, and Takeru to sit atop his back as they travel. Tokomon is carried by Takeru, as per normal, while Tentomon is content to fly overhead. The only ones left walking are Yamato, Koushiro, Jyou, and Gomamon.
As they make their way forward, Yamato takes one last look back towards the direction of desert. Sora seemed so certain-holding herself with a level of confidence that Yamato had never seen before. He also wonders at their current circumstances. Each and every one of them had been made to cope in different ways following Taichi's absence. He never would have imagined Sora would go it alone, facing the entire Digital World by herself. Yet, just as Takeru had told him yesterday, Taichi would have wanted everyone to remain strong. Yamato imagines that this was something that Sora simply believed that she had to do-like a quest. If he had denied her this opportunity, he would be doing her an immense disservice. Even so, Yamato remains restless; the pit in hist stomach returns.
"We'll see each other again in the future."
Sora's words echo in Yamato's head.
"I hope you're right, Sora…" he whispers to himself.
Then, turning around, he sets his sights on their new destination: Cluster Mountains.