A Digi-Tale, Chapter 6 and Epilogue

by Time Lady

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Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon. I'm just borrowing them for the duration of this story.

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Chapter 1 of "A Digi-Tale" can be found at http://www.fanfiction.net/index.fic?action=story-read&storyid=156653

Chapter 2 of "A Digi-Tale" can be found at http://www.fanfiction.net/index.fic?action=story-read&storyid=158579

Chapter 3 of "A Digi-Tale" can be found at http://www.fanfiction.net/index.fic?action=story-read&storyid=160796

Chapter 4 of "A Digi-Tale" can be found at http://www.fanfiction.net/index.fic?action=story-read&storyid=161421

Chapter 5 of "A Digi-Tale" can be found at http://www.fanfiction.net/index.fic?action=story-read&storyid=162911

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The next morning, Takeru was up with the sunrise. Despite his fatigue from the night before, he made his way to the henhouse to gather eggs. Luckily the hens had been busy laying eggs and his basket was soon full. He returned to the kitchen, where scullery maids were juicing oranges.

Footmen carried trays of freshly prepared food to the tables and returned with plates to be cleaned. It felt like a never-ending cycle. Takeru was glad the earl did not entertain too often. By the time they were cleaned up from breakfast, it would be time to start on lunch.

Takeru was busily slicing tomatoes for lunch when someone said "Excuse me." He saw Sir Koushirou in the doorway. "My apologies, but I was trying to locate the library."

"Takeru, would you please show the gentleman to the library?" said Cook. "None of these ninnies know where it is."

Reluctantly Takeru agreed. As he walked through the hallway, he kept looking around and expecting the earl to appear. He didn't notice that Sir Koushirou was studying him closely. "Here you are sir," said Takeru when they reached the library door. "Will that be all?"

"Thank you, yes." Koushirou watched as Takeru retreated hastily. To the tutor's inquisitive mind, there was definitely something more going on than the earl was letting on.

Hikari was bored. She also had a splitting headache. Two things that didn't go well together. After lunch the earl had planned a trip into town. With utmost apologies to the earl, she took some herbs Jou gave her and went to take a nap. He offered to stay behind, but Hikari declined the offer. Only Gatomon refused to leave. Once Hikari was asleep, Gatomon went on the prowl. Only servants were around the manor. Now she would be able to find out if she had seen Patamon.

When Hikari awoke, her headache was gone. She glanced at a clock. The others wouldn't be back for another couple of hours. Perhaps she could find a servant who knew Wizardmon and could get a message to him.

Meanwhile, thinking all of the nobles were away, Takeru stole out of the kitchen. He went to his mother's portrait where it hung on the grand staircase. "Mother, this may be the last time I see your portrait," he said silently. "I'm leaving here. I'm old enough. I'll miss you, but I can't take the abuse here anymore. If only you were alive. . . ."

As Hikari left her room, she spied someone on a lower level of the staircase. She walked down the stairs quickly hoping to catch him. However she did not notice that one of the steps was cracked. The heel of her shoe caught in the crack and she pitched forward.

Takeru heard a noise. He saw the princess falling. Without thinking, he dove towards her and caught her before she could hit the ground.

"Th- thank you," stammered the princess breathlessly. She looked up to see who had saved her from what could have been a rather painful fall. Blue eyes. . . .

"Your highness, are you all right?" asked Takeru. It felt so right holding her like this, almost like he held her in the garden. . . .

"Yes. Thank you again for your timely intervention good sir." Could this be her tenshi?

"If your highness is all right, then I must return to my duties," he said, reluctantly relinquishing his hold on her. Before Hikari could question him, he was down the stairs.

Hikari began to follow him when she heard Gatomon coming towards her. Instead, she turned to her companion. Perhaps Gatomon could help with some insight.

Takeru made it to the kitchen. His heart felt like it was going to pound its way out of his chest. He had wanted to continue to hold the princess, but should the earl return. Besides, he was nothing more than a servant. She wouldn't want anything to do with him. "You're an earl's son not a servant," he could hear Wizardmon saying.

"Tonight," Takeru told himself. "Tonight, when everyone is asleep, I'll leave. I can't take this anymore."

Gatomon and Hikari searched, but there was no sign of the mysterious man or the Patamon. They would have continued searching had the others not returned. Rather than receive a tongue lashing from Lady Mimi for being out of bed with a headache, Hikari went back to her room.

If Hikari wouldn't have wanted to find out who the man was that helped her, she wouldn't have gone down to dinner. She waited until the plates were being cleared. Before she could ask, however, Sir Koushirou said "I must commend you on your staff."

"Thank you," said the earl. "Is there anyone in particular?"

"Yes. This morning after breakfast, I became lost. Instead of the library I found myself in the kitchen. A young man there stopped what he was doing and escorted me to the proper location," said Koushirou. He didn't notice the rage that flashed across the earl's face. But it could have been any of the footman.

"Do you remember what he looked like?" asked the earl.

"Very tall. Blonde hair. In fact, looking back at the incident, he did bear something of a resemblance to Viscount Yamato," said Koushirou. "I believe the cook called him 'Takeru.'" Hearing this, Yamato swallowed wrong and began choking on his drink. Jou patted him on his back until he stopped.

"Is something wrong my lord?" asked Taichi.

"Just swallowed wrong," returned Yamato. He glanced at his father and could see the first signs of rage in his eyes.

"I believe I met the same young man last night," added Viscount Iori. "Armadillomon and I were searching for a late night snack. He stopped and served us without a complaint."

"Yes, I know who you are talking about. Forgive me sirs, but he should not have been away from his chores," returned the earl, anger evident in his eyes.

"This Takeru should be commended," snapped Hikari. "One of the stairs in your staircase is cracked. Had he not been on the landing when he was, I would have certainly injured myself."

The earl gritted his teeth. He made an effort to smile. "I will see that he receives his due."

Leomon did not like the earl's expression.

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Later that night, Takeru was in the kitchen cleaning up. Patamon was under the table wiping up a spill. "My lord, did you need something?" asked Takeru with a bow. He suddenly became very nervous, but stood his ground.

"You defied my orders. You were told to remain in the kitchen and not be seen. Instead on two occasions you left the kitchen, and on an additional occasion allowed yourself to be seen. Such disobedience will not be tolerated."

Takeru never expected the blow that hit him in the head. Stunned, he slumped to the floor. Patamon wanted to help him. He could blast the earl with a boom bubble, but while that might make the earl back away, it also might make things worse. Helplessly he watched as the earl dragged Takeru to the cellar staircase. "What can I do like this? Maybe if I digivolved," he thought. Then he realized, help was at hand.

Princess Hikari was wide awake. The earl's behavior after supper made her very uncomfortable. She had to find this Takeru and talk to him. With Gatomon right behind her, she began to make her way down towards the kitchen, where Iori and Koushirou had found him.

As she padded down the hall in slippers, she encountered a small, orange Digimon in a rather frantic state. "Princess Hikari, you've got to help him!"

"Help who?" asked Hikari.

"Takeru! The earl is going to beat him for disobeying!" said Patamon.

Gatomon stepped forward. "It's you, isn't it?" was all she said.

Patamon nodded, then said "Your highness, please, you must intervene. Otherwise I'm afraid the earl will kill him!"

Hikari felt a chill go down her spine. "Gatomon, get Leomon." To Patamon she said "Take me to them." The princess ran to keep up with the flying Digimon.

In the cellar, Takeru came to in a somewhat familiar position as a bucket of ice water was dumped on his head. He was chained spread eagle to the earl's whipping posts. The earl had tied him securely. He could barely move. His shirt was gone. He knew what was in store and began to steel himself. "You have disobeyed me once too often," said the earl. "This calls for extreme measures."

The earl walked over to a rack of his punishment devices. Instead of his usual whip, he picked up a different one. Takeru's eyes went wide when he realized the earl chose a whip with a steel tip on the cord. He also picked up a ball gag. "As much as I would enjoy hearing your screams, I don't think our noble guests would appreciate it." He pinched Takeru's nose. When Takeru opened his mouth to gasp for breath, the earl shoved in the ball gag and secured it around his head. "Now we can commence with the punishment."

Princess Hikari ran to keep up with Patamon. The only time she slowed was on the treacherous stairs. Patamon led her through the kitchen to the cellar door, which was ajar. Cautiously Hikari took a torch from a sconce and made her way down the stone stairs. As she neared the bottom, she could hear the crack of a whip and muffled screams. She felt her blood run cold. "Over there," said Patamon, pointing to a door.

"Go and make sure Leomon and Gatomon find us," she said. Then, drawing herself into one of her most regal poses, she strode forward. She opened the door. At the sight before her, she nearly dropped her torch. The young man who had stopped her fall earlier was tied to two columns. Blood streamed down his back. His face was hidden by the shadows. Behind him, the earl cracked the whip again. The young man's body tensed as the steel tip struck, then went limp.

"STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING THIS INSTANT!" she commanded. The earl froze. Hikari strode forward. "What do you think you are doing?" she demanded.

"Disciplining a disobedient servant, your highness," said the earl, making no apologies for his actions.

"I do not remember whipping being an acceptable way for treating freemen," returned the princess as she stepped towards the earl. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Takeru's back was a bloody mess.

"Pardon me your highness, but you know nothing of these affairs."

"I know enough when a person is cruel and abusive." Purposely she stepped between the earl and Takeru.

"Step aside. This does not concern you."

"I would say it very much concerns me!"

"STEP ASIDE OR. . . ."

"Or what," she replied calmly. "Or else you would dare attempt to whip a royal princess?"

"YOUR HIGHNESS!" Leomon appeared in the doorway, followed by Gatomon and Patamon.

"Seize that man," ordered Hikari. "Such cruelty is not acceptable under my father's reign."

Facing the giant lion Digimon, the earl faltered and dropped his whip. Leomon used the whip to restrain him. He heard the princess gasp. "Your highness?"

Hikari stared at the young man's back. In the midst of the blood and whip cuts, she saw the brand marks. "No. . . . it can't be. . . ." She walked around to the front of the man. His head hung limply. Hikari noticed a glove on his right hand. Removing it revealed a brand burned into the flesh. "Oh God no. . . . my tenshi. . ."

Takeru's eyes flickered open as he felt someone removing the gag from his mouth. "Princess. . . ." he managed hoarsely. There were tears in her eyes.

"My tenshi. . . ," she said softly. Gently Hikari pushed away a lock of damp hair from his eyes. "Gatomon, cut him down. Patamon, get Jou down here immediately!"

Patamon flew quickly out of the cellar. Gatomon's sharp claws cut through the ropes. Hikari did her best to keep Takeru from falling to the floor. It was a struggle, but she eased him down onto his stomach. She stroked his hair gently. "You'll be all right."

"Your highness, what shall I do with," he paused a moment as if thinking of the right term, then gestured to the bound earl, "this."

"Keep him tied up," said Hikari.

"You meddling. . . ." The earl found himself cut off abruptly by Leomon's massive paw.

"Perhaps our gracious host would like a taste of his own ball gag," said Gatomon as she picked it up from where Hikari had tossed it. "Think so Leomon?"

Before Leomon could respond, Jou came stumbling down the stairs with his medical bag. Gomamon was right behind him. As was the rest of the travelling party.

"Jou, please help him," implored Hikari.

Prince Taichi looked around to see Leomon holding the earl captive, while his sister knelt on the stone floor next to an unconscious young man. "Would someone please tell me what is going on here?" he demanded.

"The earl was whipping this young man," said Hikari. "He was using a steel tipped whip."

"I was merely disciplining a disobedient servant your highness," said the earl.

"Is that what you call your own son?" snarled Leomon. Astonished gasps rippled through those assembled. Taichi walked over and knelt next to his sister. Gomamon, who was holding a torch for Jou, moved it closer to Takeru's face. Taichi studied the young man lying there. There was definitely a resemblance between this man and Yamato.

The prince stood. "Is this true Yamato?"

Yamato felt his father's withering glare. He also felt the eyes of everyone else upon him. "Yes," he said in a barely audible whisper.

"So did your father whip you to discipline you as well?" spat out Hikari. "Why would one son be made into a total slave?"

"Because their father accused the younger of his mother's death," said Leomon. All eyes turned to Leomon. "The countess fell on the same step you did your highness. However, no one was there to stop the countess' fall. Her neck broke. The doctors were only able to save the unborn child. The earl and his older son accused the younger one of causing the countess' death."

"I want a full inquiry," said Prince Taichi. "Leomon, escort the earl and his son to a room under house arrest."

"Don't forget about Gazimon and Gabumon," said Patamon. "If they're left loose, they'll cause all sorts of trouble."

The prince nodded. "They will be closely watched."

"We should get him out of here," said Jou. "I need better lighting and more sanitary conditions to truly take care of these gashes. Some are so deep he'll need stitches."

Lady Miyako ran upstairs, returning with a tablecloth. They eased the cloth under Takeru. Between Wallace, Michael, Jou, Koushirou, Ken, and Taichi, they maneuvered Takeru up the cellar stairs, up the treacherous staircase, and into Jou's room. By that time the once white tablecloth was crimson in spots. They set him down on the bed. Jou began working to try and stop the bleeding.

"Hikari, you should go to bed," said Taichi.

"I'm not leaving him," returned Hikari.

"Hikari. . . ." he began warningly.

"Taichi, he's Wizardmon's angel," she said softly. "He's saved my life twice. I'm not going to leave him now when he needs me."

The prince sighed. He never could resist his sister. "Very well. I will begin sending messages home." He turned to Princess Sora. "Forgive me my love, but I fear we will not be able to continue our tour of the land."

"That is fine," returned Sora. "This matter must be very disturbing to you."

Taichi sighed again. "To find out that your best friend was hiding a younger brother is bad enough. To find out that the same brother is being treated as a virtual slave is worse. Then to find that this same brother has saved your sister's life?"

"It is a lot to process at one time," agreed Sora. She turned to find Mimi admonishing the princess.

"This is completely unacceptable," Mimi was saying. "A young lady should not be gallivanting around the manor in her night clothes. And now said night clothes are ruined! You go right now to your room and make yourself presentable!"

"GO AWAY!" returned the princess flatly.

Mimi was about to reply when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Princess Sora behind her. "Allow me," said Sora in a low voice.

Sora stepped up to Hikari. "I know you don't want to leave him, but I don't think it would be very pleasant for your young man to awake and see you splattered with his blood. Why don't you go and freshen up? I'll stay here until you return," Sora offered.

Hikari sighed. With a nod, she stood. "I don't know how you managed that," said Mimi once Hikari was gone.

"I just approached it differently."

"Miyako, would you stay in here with the princess when she returns?" said Mimi.

"Yes, but I'd rather be giving Viscount Yamato a piece of my mind," said Miyako. "Imagine hiding away a brother all these years. Especially one so cute."

"Hey!" protested Sir Ken.

"Well, he's not as cute as you, but he's still cute," said Miyako with a rather embarrassed look on her face.

Sir Koushirou rolled his eyes. "Excuse me," said Jou. "But if you're not helping, I'd appreciate it if you left. All this noise is not good for the patient."

Nodding, they began to leave. Patamon flew past, a sack in his mouth. He dropped it on the end table. "Here are the salves and herbs Wizardmon gave Takeru to help the brands heal. Will they help now?"

"Possibly."

"Patamon," said Prince Taichi, "do you know how to reach Wizardmon?"

"Yes your highness. I know where his cottage is."

"Fetch him here," ordered Taichi. "I believe he will be able to shed some light on this situation. Koushirou, Ken, I will need the services of Wormmon and Tentomon."

Hikari returned to the room just as Taichi was sending Tentomon and Wormmon off with messages to the palace and to Lord Daisuke. Patamon had already been dispatched to fetch Wizardmon. "Agumon," he said to his own Digimon, "bring me Gazimon. Let's see what information he can provide. Bring him to the earl's study." He turned to his sister. "Will you be all right?"

"Yes," she said as she took up a chair next to Takeru. With a nod, Taichi left, leaving Hikari, Miyako, Jou, and Gomamon with the patient. Hawkmon had been dispatched to retrieve Vargas and the cook. Gatomon was with Leomon and Wallace guarding the earl and Yamato.

"I'll need to disinfect the wounds," said Jou.

"Here you go," said Gomamon, passing the antiseptic to Jou. Though unconscious, Takeru's body tensed when the antiseptic touched his wounds.

"Shhhh. . . ." said Hikari as she gently wiped Takeru's face with a damp rag.

Over the next few days, she seldom left Takeru's side. Wizardmon came and cast sleeping spells on Takeru so that he would rest and not feel the pain. Taichi, with his father's consent, began a full inquiry into the earl's cruelty. Once Vargas, Cook, and Melorah were assured they would suffer no repercussions from the earl, they told everything they knew. Vargas and Cook were able to tell about times before the countess died. Wizardmon added in what he had been able to divine magically. Taichi compiled a long report to present to his father.

Slowly Takeru began to come around. Patamon told him what happened. He was immensely grateful to the princess for her timely intervention. Hikari and Takeru spent much of the time getting to know each other. Moving was painful for Takeru, so he spent much of the time lying on his stomach. Mostly they just talked. To anyone who saw them, it was obvious that the two young people were falling in love. A few of the Digimon noticed Gatomon was also spending a lot of time with Patamon.


Epilogue

A week after the earl's brutality, Jou said Takeru should be able to travel. They arranged a special carriage for Takeru, where he would be able to lie down on his stomach. Hikari, Jou, Patamon, Gatomon, and Gomamon rode with him. Princess Sora and her entourage took their leave of the others. The princess would be due back in her homeland soon so she would be able to begin the arrangements for the wedding.

Takeru found himself well received by the king and queen. He was treated as an honored guest at the palace. For their heroism in rescuing Princess Hikari, he and Patamon were richly rewarded. The king named Takeru successor to the elderly duke of a small, but well-to-do province of the country adjacent to the capital. This particular duke had no heir and was glad to have someone who would be an able ruler.

Until the time of the duke's passing, Takeru remained at the palace learning what he needed to about managing a duchy. He proved an apt student. During that time Takeru also courted Princess Hikari. Hikari welcomed the attention and the companionship. They married two years later. When the king died, Hikari became queen, with Takeru as her consort.

Takeru's father was tried and convicted of abuse. He was stripped of his title and sentenced to several years in a work camp. Yamato was luckier. Since he had not participated in the beatings of Takeru and other servants, he received an official reprimand. His now strained friendship with Prince Taichi helped maintain his title. When his father was imprisoned, Yamato became earl.

The whole incident severely strained Yamato's friendship with Prince Taichi. When Prince Taichi and Princess Sora wed six months after their engagement, Yamato was not among those invited to the wedding. Yamato found himself ostracized from much of noble society from the scandal. His attempted betrothal to a duke's daughter fell through. Most nobles rejected his attempted courting of their daughters. Only one person did not. Three years after the whole scandal, Yamato married Lady Jun, Lord Daisuke's sister.

Lord Daisuke was betrothed to another baron's daughter. Though it was a politcal marriage, they did find some common interests and were relatively happy. When his father and father-in-law died, Daisuke became baron of both lands.

A few months after Hikari and Takeru married, Sir Ken and Lady Miyako were also wed. The two remained at the palace, with Sir Ken becoming an adviser to the future queen and Lady Miyako as her lady-in-waiting.

Sir Koushirou became good friends with Takeru. When Takeru officially assumed the title of Duke, Koushirou became his advisor. Koushirou managed the lands in Takeru's frequent absences.

Jou finished his studies. When the royal physician retired, Jou assumed the position. He remained at the palace a trusted advisor of Queen Hikari and Duke Takeru.

Lady Mimi never could make up her mind between Jou and Koushirou. Before she could decide, her parents arranged a marriage for her to a marquis. She regretted not seriously pursuing a relationship with either man. The marquis was nearly 20 years older than her. Despite being a marchioness, she was extremely lonely and used every excuse she could to come visit the palace. She denied reports of having an affair with Jou and scoffs at anyone who sees a resemblance between her children and the royal physician.

As time went by, Gatomon and Patamon also became closer. They stayed close to their humans and each other. After a few years they became strong enough that they could stay digivolved as Angemon and Angewomon. From there their relationship blossomed.

Essentially everyone lived happily ever after.

Well, almost everyone.

The End

Author's notes: Yes, this is the end of the story. I could have kept going another 30 pages or so, but I decided to exercise restraint. I also felt that if I kept writing, the story wouldn't be as good. As the song goes, you gotta know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em.

Will I write a sequel to this story? Probably not. I really do not see any sequel potential in this story, and feel that any sequels would seem forced, trite, and unreadable.

Instead, I will be working on "Digiquest for Glory: So you want to be a hero?", another "A Teacher's POV" (probably for Valentines Day, unless something inspires me in the interim), and possibly a sequel to "Angels Reborn."

I have some ideas for stand-alone original stories. If I posted original stories in the original work section, would any of you read them? Email me if you're interested in seeing original work (sailrgal@swbell.net).