~*~ My special Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon: Digital Monsters. Toei does, so sue them for changing the series. :) Criticism will be greatly appreciated and flames will warm my ass as much as I want. ~*~
Powers of Crests Saga:
Part One: Passion of Fire
By Debbie (Dai-chan)
Mimi rested her chin on her hands and watched Jyou with observant interest. The tall, lanky boy stood still, silent in the stream, his knowing, dusky-colored eyes that seemed to hold deep thoughts, inspecting the crystal water behind his clear eyeglasses. The eyeglasses were sliding off his nose, but he didn't move, like he was an unwounded robot. Mimi had a sudden urge to wade into the stream to Jyou and push up his glasses. She hid a shy smile behind her peach-colored gloves. Her hazel eyes turned to Taichi, who was also standing in the stream. He was wading around, his tan eyes impatiently flickering at the water, his face a frustrated visage.
Her Digimon friend, Palmon was also watching the boys by her usual side as Taichi's partner, Agumon rested on his yellow belly, a bored gaze in his dark green eyes. Jyou's companion, Gomamon was silently swimming, the water a second home to him.
"Here, here, fishy," Taichi was coaxing. "Here, here." He made silly fish sounds that made Mimi choke back a giggle.
Jyou gazed at him with his thoughtful eyes. "Come on, Tai. That's not how you catch fish."
Taichi straightened up with a grunt. "Oh? And what is the proper way to catch a fish, Joe?"
Mimi knew Jyou was vulnerable to sarcasm, but he seemed to ignore it. He posed for Taichi. "Well, all you have to do is stand still and wait until a fish comes to you. Be silent as the water. It's simple, really." His eyes caught a glimpse of a silver fin around his legs. His hands shot in the water, quicker than a flash. "Gotcha!" But the fish easily slid out of his reach, and he slipped on a smooth rock.
Jyou shook his wet black-blue hair, shaking water from his hands. He sat in the stream, all soaking wet, as usual. Mimi and Palmon giggled behind their hands as Agumon and Gomamon laughed hysterically. Taichi stood by Jyou, smirking at him with amusement.
"Well, it does look simple, but I don't think I want to do it."
Jyou raised a hand up to him. "A little help?"
Always helpful, Taichi pulled Jyou to his feet.
All looked up at soft footsteps behind them. Kimika strolled up to them with her Digimon pal, Iyumon. Her gentle brown eyes gazed at the wet Jyou and asked, "What happened?"
Mimi grinned at the black-haired boy. "Joe fell in the water, as usual."
Kimika smiled. "Joe, I think you are becoming like Gomamon."
Jyou laughed weakly at that.
"Another Gomamon?" Iyumon said jokingly.
Palmon shook her head, pretending to shudder with horror. "I think one Gomamon is enough for us."
"More than enough," Jyou muttered.
Gomamon scoffed and swan past Jyou and Taichi. As he did so, he lifted a flipper and slapped it down to the surface, splashing water at them. Jyou and Taichi glared hotly at him, but no one made a move toward the seal-like Digimon. Gomamon may be slow on land, but he can swim so fast that it's nearly impossible to catch him.
Kimika again smiled at Gomamon's reaction. "Don't worry about fishes. We have plenty of fruits and nuts." She returned back in the jungle near the stream, Iyumon following behind.
Taichi groaned as he and Jyou stepped out the stream. "For once, I wish we would have juicy steaks."
"Or pizza," Jyou added.
"Oh, or maybe cheeseburgers."
"Stop it!" Taichi and Jyou turned to Mimi. "You both make me hungry again." Putting on her pink hat, she left in the jungle with Palmon.
Taichi and Jyou putted on their socks and shoes before entered the jungle. They walked through a manmade path to a sizable clearing. They saw their friends already sitting around a small fire, eating odd fruits and nuts on giant, wide leaves. Kimika was sitting by Yamato and his younger brother, Takeru. Iyumon, Gabumon, and Patamon were at their human partners' sides, always watchful as guardians. Mimi sat by Koushiro and Sora. Palmon, Tentomon, and tiny Yokomon, as always, stayed at their sides. Taichi and Jyou sat by their friends, chatting about their greatly missed home.
Taichi took his time gazing at each of his friends, remembering what had happened. He remembered that when he was gone in the real world, his friends spilt up in search for him. It was his responsibility and goal to bring them together, and he succeeded at that. He remembered when Sora avoided to be seen because of her Crest of Love, which she thought would never glow. But her crest did glow, and her Digimon, Birdramon digivolved into her ultimate form - Garudamon to battle an evil, vampire Digimon named Myotismon.
It had been a day since that. They were on the move since, hoping that they would be ahead from Myotismon. Taichi's eyes unfocused as he pondered deeply. How could they defeat Myotismon? He was much powerful than Devimon, and Taichi often shivered at the sight of Myotismon in his mind, with his scheming smirk and fiendish eyes. Could the Digimon, even in their ultimate forms, defeat him?
"Hey, Tai." Sora snapped her fingers over Taichi's musing eyes.
Taichi startled out of his thoughts and blinked. "Oh, what?"
"Something on your mind, Tai?" Sora asked from his side, her amber eyes curious.
"What is very rare, even for Tai," Yamato chuckled softly.
Taichi glared at the blond boy as Kimika pinched on Yamato's arm to quiet him. He felt fifteen pairs of multicolored eyes on him, making him feel uneasy. "Nothing. Just thinking." He fell in silence, his eyes lowering to the half-eaten fruit in his hands.
He could feel Sora's eyes studying him, and then she changed the subject to cheer up the friends. "Hey, guys. I have been thinking about the crests. I wonder why we carry the crests for a reason. What are the crests' purposes? I mean, my crest symbolizes love, Tai's crest symbolizes courage, Matt's crest symbolizes friendship, Kim's crest symbolizes empathy, Joe's crest symbolizes reliability, Mimi's crest symbolizes sincerity, Izzy's crest symbolizes knowledge, and TK's crest symbolizes hope. We do have all those qualities, but why do the crests represent us the most from what we are inside?"
Taichi gazed up at her with amazement with the other eyes of the friends. Sora was wise in her own way, but no one would realize that she was that meditative.
"They are very good questions, Sora," said Jyou.
"Maybe we should ask Gennai," Koushiro declared. "He must know all about the crests."
Yamato leaned back on his arms, his grey-blue eyes peeking out from long bangs. "Where can we find him? He chooses to appear whenever it suits him. And often without expectation."
Taichi listened in silence as his friends engaged in conversation about the crests. He cherished listening to their voices, the voices he grew accustomed to through the hardships in Digiworld. He gazed upward and finally noticed that the sun was setting, the sunlight dimming as the night crept in.
Kimika, too, noticed that, always perceptive and sensitive to the surroundings. She acknowledged the kids, "It's getting dark. Let us go to sleep. We need our energy to move on tomorrow."
As always, Taichi was the first to volunteer to keep watch. Yamato was the next, then Kimika, and the last was Jyou. As the friends went to sleep, Taichi took shelter under a low-hanging tree, resting against the grey, smooth trunk. Agumon sat by his side. He must be tired, for his eyes drooped bit by bit. Taichi would rather sleep, but he felt he wanted some time alone to think, unusually for the athletic, impatient boy.
Taichi reached in his blue shirt and drew out his tiny crest. The tag was polished brass with a glass screen. A circular, eight-pointed star was cleaved in the orange-hued crest under the screen. That was his crest's symbol - the Crest of Courage.
"I wonder what the purpose of the Crest of Courage is. What can it do?" he almost whispered to himself.
Agumon looked up at his friend. "It helped me to digivolve into Metalgreymon, remember?"
Taichi glanced to the small, dinosaur-like Digimon. He didn't realize he spoke out loud. "I know, but what can it do for me? It must be a reason for me to possess the Crest of Courage."
Agumon gazed at the crest and shrugged. "I don't know, Tai. I don't know. Maybe someday you will find out." He closed his eyes and leaned against Taichi. Soon, he was breathing deeply.
Taichi sighed and let his crest drop to his chest.
What he didn't know was that someone was watching him from far away. Far away, in a dark, stone castle, in a shadowy chamber, wrapped in his cloak of darkness, stood Myotismon. He watched the unsuspected brown-haired boy from a small portal he used to see far places. He looked blank, yet his eyes of deep midnight blue held such rage that no one of his minions would risk their pitiful lives to face him.
The kids are learning about the crests, Myotismon silently thought. They might try to find the hidden power behind the crests. I must not let them do it. For if they have the hidden power, they surely will defeat me . . . I must destroy them! His ice-blue eyes blazed maliciously, narrowing into slits. Starting with the Master of Courage. He is powerful, dangerous already. But how to destroy him?
Abruptly, Myotismon smiled with pure evil. With his black magic, he called on one of his loyal henchmen with a silent command.
Obedient, a Digimon stepped in the room, but because of the darkness, he was not seen. Myotismon always knew he was present, always near whenever he commands him.
"Yes, my lord?" The Digimon responded, his voice crackling like the breaking of flames among burning wood.
Myotismon raised a hand, a long, slender finger pointing to Taichi in the portal. "See this boy? I want you to destroy him at once. Never mind the others. I shall take care of them later. But that Master . . . he is the leader and must be destroyed immediately."
He sensed the Digimon bowed deeply, loyally. "As you command, my lord," came the crackling voice. He turned and left the room, leaving no trace of his presence.
Myotismon's eyes turned to Taichi, who was watching the night sky with those passionate eyes. But Myotismon was not easily fooled by false appearances. The boy was dangerous, and soon he will be gone forever. Myotismon smirked darkly.
The jungle was filled with the nature sounds of animals and birds, but along with them, came the new voices of the Digidestined as they weaved through the trees and bushes. They were silent with the occasions of a brief chat between two humans or two Digimon to lighten the mood. Taichi, the determined leader, pushed them on, wanting to be somewhere from Myotismon as far as possible. They were on an ascending ground, already tired from the stress of the steepness. Taichi was the only one who encouraged them over his shoulder.
Soon, they found themselves out of the jungle on a high, wide cliff. The kids took a look around in awe. Areas of pink and green trees spread for miles and miles, and right below the cliff, a vast, slow-moving river flowed.
As the kids gazed in amazement, Taichi turned to Tentomon, who was hovering near Koushiro. "Tentomon, is there a way down?"
Tentomon was a jackpot of dependable information, just like Koushiro. But this time, the beetle-like Digimon gazed around with a lost expression in his pale green eyelid-less eyes.
Taichi crossed his arms. "Don't you know?"
Tentomon glanced at him. He spread his claws in an apologetic gesture. "I'm sorry, Tai. This land is new to me." He turned to follow after Koushiro, who was walking to see the view better.
"Just relax, Tai," said Yamato from behind. "Let us rest for a while."
The tense tan eyes met the distant grey-blue eyes for a moment. "We must move on. Myotismon is probably following us."
"We aren't hearing anything from him for a day."
Taichi frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but Mimi's voice cut through. "My, what a beautiful view!" He turned to see Mimi, Sora, Kimika, and Takeru standing near the cliff's edge with their Digimon near. Jyou and Koushiro were sitting down, resting their feet.
Taichi grunted. "We don't have time to sightsee, guys!"
All looked in astonishment at his sharp words. Yamato putted his hand on Taichi's arm. "Yo, chill, man."
Taichi jerked his shoulder from the touch. "You chill, man! Don't you realize every minute we rest, we are in growing danger!"
Yamato scowled, his eyes darkening, his lips a tight line. Taichi glared back, challenging him to say something. The boys didn't do anything, for Kimika stepped in between the hot stares.
"That's enough, guys," Kimika said serenely. Taichi knew Kimika well; she never spoke out loud to get attention, but the impression she had on her words always turn heads. Yamato's eyes seemed to soften at Kimika's words, and then he abruptly turned away, strolling to his little brother. Taichi grimaced, then Kimika held on his arm, pulling him to one side, away from the group.
Kimika looked up at Taichi with the empathic eyes. "Look, Tai, I know that we must keep going, but look at us." Almost as if she was guiding him, Taichi looked over his shoulders. He saw that his friends looked thinner than before, looking drained. The Digimon were also that; they shared life forces, so they felt the same. Even Agumon, who was always eager and energetic, stood in silence by Taichi, his green eyes watching the view. As Taichi studied the group, Kimika spoke, "We need food and rest. We are not helping each other if we are starved and fatigued."
Taichi sighed with weariness. He didn't realize how tired he was until now. He better watch his health or he would faint from the strain. He would be no good to his friends if he pushed himself too far. He turned to his best friend and nodded once.
Kimika grinned warmly. "Good old Rascal."
Taichi smiled back. He forgot all about their old nicknames to each other. "Rogue," he called back and held her left hand in his left. Kimika held his right hand in her right. A simple handshake that held fond memories. Grinning, they went back to the group. Sora and Mimi were sitting down, now resting their feet. Kimika went to them. Jyou and Koushiro joined with Yamato and Takeru, gazing at the beauty for a long time from the darkness that cloaked them since the friends separated. Taichi walked up to them, also enjoying the view.
Koushiro gazed upward and narrowed his brownish black eyes against the sun. "Hey, what is that?"
All looked up and saw a tiny dot jetting across the blue sky, leaving behind a thin, cloudy streak. The dot looked like a fiery shooting star. Quickly, Taichi pulled out his trusty mini-telescope and gazed through it to the star.
"Is it a comet?" said Takeru, his small voice full with innocent curiosity.
"Probably a meteor," guessed Jyou, sounding logical.
Taichi shook his head at the guesses. "No, it is not either of those, but I am not sure what it is." He gazed harder. "It looks like a ball of fire - no, wait! It's a Digimon!" He lowered his telescope, his eyes wide. "And it is coming straight for us!"
The boys dove for the ground, burying their heads from the sudden intense heat radiating from the hovering Digimon. He landed on his knees, waiting for a second to calm himself from the glide, then stood. He was tall, a giant, manlike. He wore dark pants, barefoot, with pale red skin. He had extreme eyes, the color of cold ashes and red-orange fire as hair on his head.
"Phyrimon?" Tentomon regarded. "It's rare for him to leave his lair, for he is not neighborly. He is one of Myotismon's minions."
Taichi gazed at the fire Digimon with strange, new fear. He didn't understand why was he feeling frightened, but the sight of Phyrimon shook him with terror.
Phyrimon's eyes swept over the kids, muttering lowly, "Where is the Master?" Suddenly, his gaze laid on Taichi, and the eyes blazed for an instant, like dying flames poked back to life. "You." He pulled back a pale fist and lunged it toward the shaken Taichi.
Agumon, digivolve into Greymon!
His horned head lowered, Greymon rammed into Phyrimon, sending him rolling into the jungle. Phyrimon shook his groggy head and stood up, his eyes blazing with ire at the giant golden dinosaur.
"Go, Gabumon!" ordered Yamato from Taichi's side.
"You, too, Iyumon!" Kimika commanded.
Gabumon, digivolve into . . . Garurumon!
Iyumon, digivolve into . . . Rianmon!
Garurumon bared his fangs and howled out, "Howling Blaster!" A beam of blue fire soared out of his mouth toward Phyrimon. The fire had no effect on the fire Digimon, perhaps because of his fiery nature, thought Taichi. Phyrimon kicked the blue wolf in the flanks with such force that Garurumon flew backward, crashing against a tree, groaning with pain.
"Garurumon!" gasped Yamato.
Rianmon thrust her powerful, spiked tail toward Phyrimon. Moving as a flash, he grabbed the tail in midair, not even flinching at the poisoned spikes digging in his flesh, and, like an unwanted toy, threw Rianmon right at Greymon. Abruptly, they glowed for an instant, and de-digivolved into Iyumon and Agumon, too weak to continue.
Phyrimon turned his head to gaze at Taichi, who was unmoving during the battle. "I must destroy the Master."
Taichi shook in horror as Phyrimon silently walked toward him. But then, Sora's voice broke through, "Run!", before she pulled on his shirt. No longer trusting himself, Taichi followed Sora, Yokomon in her arms, toward the jungle, feeling the cold ashes eyes on him.
Tentomon, digivolve into . . . Kabuterimon!
Kabuterimon hovered in front the Phyrimon, blocking his vision from the running kids. "Electro Shocker!" He opened his claws, and a sphere of blue-white lightning thrust at Phyrimon. He dodged, and the sphere flew in the distance before exploded in midair.
Yamato grabbed on Kimika's hand and pulled her close to him. "Kim, take TK to safety! We will handle this!"
Takeru shook his head, holding on his brother's hand. "No, Matt!"
"Listen to me!" Yamato gazed down to Takeru with the intense eyes. "Go with Kim now!"
Hesitant but obedient, Takeru ran with the trustworthy Kimika toward the jungle, away from Phyrimon. Patamon took a serious glance at Yamato before he soared after them. Yamato turned to Jyou, Koushiro, and Mimi. "Ready, guys?"
Gomamon, digivolve into . . . Ikkakumon!
Palmon, digivolve into . . . Togemon!
In a defending line, Ikkakumon, Togemon, and Garurumon faced Phyrimon as Kabuterimon hovered above. They were trying to draw his attention from Taichi, Sora, Kimika, and Takeru, who were entering the jungle with their Digimon. Too late, the others realized that they were at the edge of the cliff.
Phyrimon met the four Digimon champions with the cold eyes. "You are provoking me. Must get rid of you." He shrieked out with horrible high-pitched tones. All agonized at the shrieks, slapping their hands over their ears without success to block. The Digimon de-digivolved into their rookie forms, their energy lost. Phyrimon silenced himself, and his fist blazed with angry flames. He slammed it at the ground. With a sudden, loud crack, the cliff spilt in two. The far end of the cliff collapsed downward - with the eight kids and Digimon on it. Along with Sora, Kimika, and Takeru, Taichi heard in terror as the screams rang in the air before the sounds of splashes drowned them.
Phyrimon turned to them, looking not satisfied at all. He held up a fist and opened it, revealing a crazily spinning fireball. As one, the kids and their Digimon turned to run away . . .
The last things Taichi remembered were intense heat hurtling toward him from behind, an explosion, then all went black . . .
The minor pain woke her instantly. Kimika moaned as her body hurt everywhere. She felt like she was thrown and crushed into something. And she remembered heat. Intense heat. She noticed that she had patches of dark burned skin on her arms. Flinching as she touched the wounds, she realized that she must be out for a couple of moments, since the burns were raw. She slowly sat up, bearing against the pain, and scanned around. Thankfully, her trustful Digimon, Iyumon was near, just beginning to wake. She found herself in a partially burned part of the jungle. She saw her red sunglasses laying near, undamaged. She took them and putted them on the top of her head. She was still wearing her red bag, but finding her friends was more important than finding if her precious camera was damaged. She waited for Iyumon to gather her bearings, then suddenly, she heard a sobbing voice from behind her.
"Help. Help me."
Standing up, Kimika saw Sora running toward her. Her face was deathly pale, and her eyes held fear and horror. She was alone, without Yokomon.
Kimika ran to her, holding her. "What's the matter, Sora? Are you injured?" She then saw the minor burns on Sora's arms.
Sora still sobbed. "It's . . . it's Tai. He is really badly hurt."
"He - he -" Sora began to hyperventilate, shaking so violently.
Kimika held her in her arms, soothing her as if she was a child. "Breathe, Sora. Breathe." When Sora finally slowed her breaths, Kimika's brown eyes gazed in her amber eyes. "Tell me how bad Tai is." She began to worry about her close friend.
Shaking, Sora held up her hands. She had her pink gloves off, and Kimika saw blood, actual blood all over her hands, so much that she couldn't see Sora's pale skin beneath the blood.
"Oh . . ." Kimika's heart clenched with pain.
"I tried to stop the flow of blood. I tried! But . . . so much blood . . ." Sora sobbed uncontrollably.
"Take me to him! Now!"
Sora led Kimika and Iyumon through the burned jungle, and soon, Kimika saw Agumon sitting near a charred bush, looking haggard under his golden skin. Yokomon was softly whispering to him, so softly Kimika couldn't hear the words. And near them, laid an unconscious Taichi.
Kimika inhaled hard through her teeth. He was moved to lie on his back; Sora must have moved him. Dark blood stained his blue shirt, darkening it into dark red. Kimika knelt by him, pulling off her yellow gloves and stuffing them in the back jeans pocket. She gently touched the blood, and it was warm and wet. Again inhaling deeply, Kimika carefully pushed up his shirt. The blood was streaming from open burns, the blood mingling with pieces of charred skin. The burns were on his chest and neck. Kimika never saw such worse burns. Worried, Kimika looked to Taichi's face. The impatient, confident face was deathly livid, his skin drained from loss of blood. He was still alive, but not for long. She must work fast.
"Sora," Kimika looked up, "Do you have your medical supplies from camp?"
Sora nodded, and she got out the supplies from her pink belt pouch. She gave them to Kimika, saying, "Do you know what to do?"
Kimika closed her eyes for a moment. "Let us hope my attention to my father's schooling about nursing paid off." She began to tend to the comatose boy, careful of the wounds. She silently prayed, Please, Tai, live. Keep living for us.
"What happened?" came a small voice from behind.
Startled, the girls and Digimon looked behind, forgetting all about Takeru and Patamon. He was also burned, but not badly. Kimika and Sora tried to cover Taichi from his vision, but Takeru saw the ghastly-paled boy with the exposed blood. His azure eyes widened at the sight.
"Don't look." Sora turned to him, holding him to her. She turned around so she faced Kimika and the others as Takeru looked away. Patamon hovered near, also seen the sight, but not as shaken as his human friend. "He will be okay, TK," Sora soothed. Takeru said nothing, his eyes still wide.
Kimika exhaled as she putted the last bandages around Taichi's neck. The blood stopped flowing, and some of it came back in his face, coloring his cheeks. She pushed down the stained shirt over the bandages. She would take the shirt off, but she does not want to damage the wounds farther, risking Taichi's life by doing that. Standing up, Kimika turned to Sora. "Sora, we must find materials to build a stretcher. We are in no condition to carry Tai. We need two thick, strong branches and leaves to carry him. Also, we need to find a shelter for protection."
"But - but what about the others?" Takeru's innocent eyes gazed up to her. "My brother?"
Thinking she was crying, Kimika reached to wipe a teardrop from her cheek. Looking down at her hands, which were covered with blood, Kimika realized that she must had left traces of Taichi's blood on her cheek. She was way too sensitive, easy to cry in any situation. She remembered Taichi telling her that she must learn to hold her composure in control. Oh, Tai, she thought sadly, how can I keep my cool when you nearly died? Sighing, she squatted to the little boy's height, saying, "It's best to get better before we go and search for them. I know they are alive somewhere. I know it in my heart. TK, your brother would want you to help Tai first if he is here."
Takeru gazed to the still form of Taichi and nodded.
"TK, you can help me gather materials for a stretcher," Sora said, trying to encourage the boy's low soul.
"I will find a shelter," volunteered Iyumon.
"Are you sure, Iyumon?" Kimika said with concern.
"I am the only one who can." Her red eyes swept over small Yokomon and weak Agumon.
Patamon hovered over to her. "I will go with you."
Kimika watched the lizard-like Digimon and small orange Digimon entering a part of the jungle as Sora and Takeru entered in another with Yokomon following behind. It was up to her to guard Taichi and Agumon. She sat by him and brushed away a lock of dusky hair from his still face. Despite the pale skin and injuries, Taichi looked like he was peacefully sleeping. She looked up at Agumon, who sat unmoving, his face a twist of pain, his eyes glued on Taichi's face.
Kimika reached to hold on Agumon's golden claw. "He will be fine, Agumon."
Agumon shut his eyes, grimaced. "I know, but he is so weak."
Kimika's brown eyes turned to her dear friend, confidence in them. "He won't give up."
Sora, Takeru, and Yokomon came back with the materials. Sora and Kimika thoroughly built a stable, secure stretcher. Takeru and Yokomon helped; even Agumon helped a bit, but too weak, he remained at Taichi's side. Soon, Iyumon and Patamon returned, acknowledged that they found a shelter - a small cave at the base of a mountain range. Eventually, paying attention to their surroundings, the group was farther from the cliff than to the mountain range. Carefully, Taichi was lifted on the stretcher, and Kimika and Sora carried him, following Iyumon and Patamon to the shelter. It took them a couple of hours to get there, for there were hazards, and often Kimika and Sora have to switch places at the ends or lifted the stretcher to avoid bushes and a swift-moving, small stream.
As Kimika and Sora again checked on Taichi, Patamon and Iyumon went foraging for food and brought the same fruits they have ate last night. The group ate hungrily, to help heal their burns faster. Remembering about her father's schooling, Kimika chewed pieces of fruits and putted the mush in Taichi's mouth, helping him swallow reflexively. Night was coming quickly and, even though none of them was fit enough to keep watch, Sora volunteered to stand guard, then she would wake Kimika for the last watch.
Habitually, Kimika woke a few hours before dawn. She sat up, checking her burns. They were healing pretty fast, due to the food and rest. The healing process went faster in Digiworld than in the real world, Kimika had noticed. By her side, Iyumon woke, stretching all her slender body. Kimika scanned around and found that the cave was empty except for a gently blazing fire and the sleeping forms of Taichi and Agumon. She walked up to them, and, with what a bit left over, changed Taichi's stained bandages. She had the chance to clean the wounds with water dripping from a single stalactite to avoid infection. She again wrapped the wounds with fresh bandages. As she worked, she heard a soft humming from outside the cave.
Finished, Kimika and Iyumon went out. They found Sora sitting cross-legged, leaning back against a boulder, with a sleeping Takeru in her arms. Yokomon and Patamon were nestled together, seeking warmth and comfort. Kimika knew Sora loved to sing, and she probably sang a lullaby to soothe Takeru. Sora pushed back the single lock of fair hair from the boy's forehead, and, as if it was alive, the lock fell back in place. Hearing the soft footsteps, Sora looked up to Kimika. She looked really fatigued from lack of sleep.
"You need to get some sleep, Sora," Kimika spoke gently. "Here, let me hold TK."
Sora stood up and gave Takeru to Kimika. Takeru mumbled in his sleep, the name of his brother included, before settled his cheek on Kimika's shoulder, once again dozing. Iyumon curled around Patamon to keep him warm as Sora picked up the still sleeping Yokomon. Sora made a move to enter the cave, then stopped in the entrance. "Kim?"
Kimika looked back.
"Are you positive that we will find our friends?" she asked.
Kimika nodded. "Of course, Sora. We must keep faith that we will find them. I just know."
Sora smiled. "I think you should have the Crest of Faith instead of the Crest of Empathy."
Kimika chuckled softly. "No, I will leave the faith to little Takeru. The Crest of Empathy is just right for me."
"Why is that?"
"Well, just more than caring about our friends, I can understand what they feel. How and why do they feel? I have insight, able to see and understand."
Sora's amber eyes studied Kimika's brown eyes. "Do you know what am I feeling right now?"
"You are sad. Sad for Tai."
Sora sighed. Kimika can see more than feelings. She can see souls. She gazed down, distressed. "I am. I just hope he will survive."
"He has a very powerful, strong-willed soul unlike I ever see before. He won't give up. It's not him to let go that easily." Kimika gave a comforted squeeze on Sora's hand. "Go to sleep, friend."
Sora yawned and nodded. With Yokomon, she entered the cave. Her heart clenched at the sight of the unmoving Taichi, but she was relieved that he was looking a bit better than before. Agumon was getting well, too. Sora sat by Taichi and laid down. Soon, she heard, from outside, Kimika humming another lullaby from her childhood, hoping to soothe the group's depressed souls. Sora smiled, knowing that they will be all right. Her eyes drooped, and she slid into a rested sleep.
Two eyes of blazing flames glowed fiercely in the darkness, floating so near that he could feel the scorching heat on his face. A crackling voice that seemed to speak through flames came out of nowhere.
You are the Master. You must be destroyed.
Suddenly, a ball of roaring fire burst toward him . . .
Gasping, Taichi snapped his eyes open. His vision was blurred, but slowly, his eyes adapted to the darkness. Where is he? What happened to him? His eyes met a rock ceiling and immediately assumed he was in a cave or something. But where are his friends? Lolling his head to one side, he saw his Digimon, Agumon rolled up into a ball near him, sleeping restlessly. Slowly, he turned his head to another side and found Sora and Takeru sleeping near, their Digimon also dozing.
Taichi tried to crane his head up to see better, but a slice of red-hot pain stabbed through his chest, leaving him gasping for breath. Calming himself, he waited for the pain to go away. The pain took its time to leave. The pain throbbed inside his chest, and he panted in short breaths to ease the pain. He heard soft footsteps coming closer, and the concerned face of Kimika filled his vision.
Closing his weary eyes, he was so relieved that the pain was immediately gone. He felt the familiar, empathic squeeze of Kimika's hand on his hand. Opening his eyes, he saw Kimika was wiping her wet eyes, also looking relieved. "Hey, Rascal. You scared me for a moment."
"What . . . happened?" Taichi struggled to speak, his voice so dry and harsh. He was thirsty, too. He tried to raise his head, but another shot of pain burst in his chest.
"Don't move," Kimika said, resting her hand on his bandaged chest. The warm touch soothed the pain. "You have serious burns on your chest and neck."
Taichi noticed that he had his shirt off, and coils of bloodstained bandages wrapped around his chest and neck, looking half like a mummy. Kimika had a small wrap on her left forearm, probably covering a burn, few patches of charred skin covering her arms, not as worse as his. The tan eyes gazed up to the brown eyes. "The others?"
Kimika's brown eyes flickered at the sleeping forms of their friends. "Sora and TK are all right." Her eyes lowered for a while, her fingers fidgeting with the knot of her bandage. Taichi knew what was she thinking. The others have to be all right.
Taichi weakly squeezed Kimika's hand to get her attention. "Who tended my injuries?"
Taichi beamed at her. "I always know you are a doctor at heart, not a photographer." Kimika answered with a modest smile. She always appeared timid whenever someone praised her, but he knew she did enjoy it. "Well, Dr. Kimika, will I walk in no time?"
She answered with a teasing smile, "Take two aspirins and call me in the morning." Then she rested her fingers on his forehead, her eyes sympathetic. "You do really need sleep, Tai."
Already, his eyes drooped, and he nodded. Kimika was still at his side when he snoozed into an empty, dreamless sleep.
But he did have a dream, confused and blurred. He was running in a kind of maze. He didn't know where he was; all he knew was that someone horrible chased him. He panted and gasped as he rounded countless corners of the bewildered maze. He didn't care if he ever gets lost. All he wanted was to get away from whoever was chasing him. He heard his friends' voices calling from above, taunting.
You are nothing without your courage. Sora's cynical voice.
You are worthless to us. Kimika's disgusted voice.
You are supposed to protect us. Takeru's miserable voice.
He slapped his hands over his ears from the voices, screaming to drown them. He turned a corner and skid to a stop. He was at a dead end, blocked.
You are nothing! His voice! From behind him!
He turned to see the dark face of . . .
Taichi popped up into a sitting position, his throat trembling with wheezes. Again, the pain burst in his chest, and he bent into a ball, trying to resist the pain. He felt warm hands touching him and arms holding around him, giving him sweet comfort, so sweet that it was almost as painful as the chest pain.
"You are all right. It's only a bad dream."
He rested in the arms for a while and opened his eyes. He was in Sora's supporting arms, feeling the warmth radiating from her body. Looking around his surroundings, he was in a larger cave, its rocks hued red-brown. The ceiling was so high that Taichi couldn't see it. The air was so thick and warm that he had difficulty to breathe in the steam that filled the air. Agumon and Biyomon were near, concerned as they watched him.
Taichi turned to Sora. "Where are we? Where are Kim and TK?"
"We are in Blaze Mountain," answered Sora, letting Taichi sit on his own.
"Where is that?" Taichi touched his chest and cringed in pain. "Have I slept so long?"
Agumon nodded at him. "For nearly a day."
"Tell me what happened."
Sora answered, "Phyrimon found us. The Digimon battled him, but still, he was too strong. I thought he was going to destroy us, but he didn't. Somehow, he hypnotized us to fall into a stupor and I woke in this place with you, Agumon, and Biyomon. Biyomon recognized this place as a volcano called Blaze Mountain."
That's why it is so hot, thought Taichi. He waited, and then gazed up to her. "Sora, you didn't answer my second question. Where are Kim and TK?"
Sora pushed back a strand of chestnut hair behind her ear. She had her sky-blue hat off, sweating in the heat. "I don't know. Phyrimon must keep them in another cave. I cannot hear out there from here."
Taichi pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. He closed his eyes and shivered all of a sudden.
"Tai, you are shaking." Sora putted her arm around his shoulders.
"I had an eerie dream. Someone chased me. I was so frightened. I heard voices - your, Kim's, and TK's, saying I am worthless. Then I was blocked and turned around to see who was chasing me."
His eyes narrowed as he tried to remember. "I can't remember. It's too blurred."
"Don't struggle too hard. It will come back."
Taichi suddenly shook his head violently. "No, I won't want to remember! It was frightful!" He hugged himself tighter, ignoring the pain from the pressures on his burns.
He looked up at loud, stomping footsteps coming closer. Sora was terrified as she stood, facing the direction where the footsteps came from. Biyomon and Agumon stood in front of Taichi, preparing to protect him, the weak friend.
Sora turned to him, her amber eyes hard. "Quickly, pretend to be unconscious!" she hissed softly.
The bold words made him jump. He could see that she was serious. He laid down and closed his eyes. He forced to slow down his breaths to deep and regular. The air was getting hotter, difficult to breathe. He soon heard familiar voices.
"Kim! TK!" Sora said, relieved.
Then there came the crackling voice of Phyrimon. "The Master is still sleeping?" Taichi found himself struggling not to stiffen at the words.
"Please don't harm him, Phyrimon," he heard Sora pleading. Phyrimon didn't answer at all, but he was still there. Then Sora asked, "Why do you call Tai the Master?"
Phyrimon answered unemotionally, "He is the Master because he bears the Crest of Courage. He must be destroyed at once." Then he left, the heat diminishing in the air.
Taichi waited until he was certain Phyrimon was gone before letting his body go limp. Who was he, really? Why was he called the Master? He didn't want to die because of that.
"Is he okay, Sora?" he heard Kimika saying with heavy concern.
He opened his eyes and sat up. "I am okay." Kimika and Takeru ran to embrace him, glad to see him okay. Iyumon and Patamon went with them, also relieved. Kimika and Takeru were slightly disturbed, tense. "Are you both all right? Was he torturing you?" His eyes darkened at the thought.
Kimika shook her head. "No, we are fine. Are you okay, Tai?"
Taichi nodded, feeling stronger by the minute. He felt the pure azure eyes of Takeru on him, studying him, so serious for a boy so young. "Are you the Master, Tai?" he whispered.
"I don't know what is Phyrimon talking about, but I am not the Master."
"Yes, you are the Master."
Startled, all the kids crowded together in fear as Phyrimon entered the cave. He must eavesdropped them talking. Agumon, Iyumon, Biyomon, and Patamon stood in a defending line before Phyrimon, still too weak to digivolve, but fearless as Digimon Guardians. Taichi felt the cold eyes of the fire Digimon on him, paying no attention to the others. Clenching his teeth, Taichi stood up, ignoring the chest pain, and, heart pounding, walked past the Digimon line. Agumon made an anxious noise in his throat, but Taichi cut him off with a hand. The severe tan eyes gazed up to the passionless ashes eyes.
"Are you afraid?" Phyrimon almost ridiculed.
"Yes, I am!" Taichi's words sharpened. He grew tired of that Digimon torturing him with hazy nightmares and nonsense of the 'Master.' But he never was so terrified than before when Phyrimon only wanted to destroy him. Why him? Why must he be destroyed?! "I don't know who I am!"
"You don't know who you are."
It was Taichi's voice! But it didn't come from his throat. He saw a form in the darkness, the same size as him, moving from behind Phyrimon. The form moved around and stood in front of Taichi. He shook in new horror as he stared in the eyes of himself. Yet the dark Taichi was not he. He wore alike to Taichi, looked exact the same, with the unkempt dusky hair, and the impatient face. The only difference was the eyes, which were dead, like cold ashes neglected to keep alive.
"Who are you?" Taichi's voice trembled as he stepped back once.
"Who are you?" the dark Taichi echoed with the same voice, but tauntingly.
"I am Tai!" he yelled over the echo.
"No, you are not," Dark Taichi shook his head almost in pathetic pity. "You are nothing."
Instantly, Taichi realized what Phyrimon was doing. He was destroying him by using his most darkest fear - himself. He was always acting daringly and brave, often to cover his true self to his friends. Inside, he was always frightened. He feared that his friends would not look up to him if he were cowardly. Realizing the reason of Phyrimon, Taichi stiffened himself, his eyes darkened as his gaze met the cold gaze of himself. "You are nothing but my fear. To be courageous, I must face and overcome myself."
Dark Taichi smirked. "You didn't face yourself. You are not courageous."
Taichi's face scowled with new strength. "No! I won't let you destroy me! Yes, I fear myself, but because I would not see myself. But I must. I will not give up! I will not give up to myself! No one will make me! I am Taichi!"
His crest glowed orange and surrounded him. An aura of flaring flames encircled him, like he was the source of the fire. Intense pain throbbed in his chest, but Taichi paid no attention, his eyes blazing passionately as his fiery aura. His friends moved not, gaping in unbelievable awe. Phyrimon and Dark Taichi stepped back in disbelief at the boy, the Master of Courage.
Taichi's voice shouted with the very courage of his own soul. "I am the Master! Passion of Fire!" A gigantic beam of twirling flames emitted from his outspread hands, its scorching heat sizzling his flesh. The beam bound Phyrimon and Dark Taichi from feet to head. He heard the horrible, pained screams as they were slowly dying into red-hot ashes, the only traces of their existences.
The beam dissolved, and so was his fiery aura, leaving Taichi appearing passionless without his fire energy. Slowly, blackness crept in his head, and he swayed. "I am . . . the Master . . ." he breathed before he collapsed, all thoughts gone.
He was carried. He was laid down on his back, was carried by a supporter. He slowly woke in the darkness. He was slightly aware that he was in fresh air, and the pain was gone from his chest. He let himself rest, let his senses remember the new surroundings. Unconsciously, he let out a small mumble from his mouth.
"Hey, he is waking!" he heard a young male voice saying. He stopped moving and was lowered to solid ground beneath him. He sensed pairs of eyes gazing at him.
The voice seemed familiar to him, and he urged to see what face the voice was belonging to. His eyes fluttered open a crack and saw all blurs. He saw seven vague forms gazing down to him, the winking rays of the sun surrounding them with auras of light. He blinked several times to clear his vision. His eyes widened to see better, but narrowed enough to avoid the bright sunlight. His friends inhaled sharply, their eyes widened in silent shock.
Taichi gazed up at them with puzzlement.
"How do you feel?" Sora said, her fingers touching his forehead.
Taichi's voice was raw, and it was difficult for him to speak. "Confused . . . How long . . . have I been out?"
"A couple of hours, Tai," answered Kimika. "We are carrying you down Blaze Mountain." His eyes went to her. "Phyrimon?"
"You burned him into ashes," said Agumon.
"You don't remember?" wondered Iyumon.
"All I remember is fire, blackness . . . myself." He closed his eyes at the shaken memory of facing himself.
"Must we tell him?" he heard Takeru whispering.
His eyes flew open. "Tell me what?"
Sora sighed and gazed seriously at him. "Tai, you have changed."
"Changed? What do you mean?"
Biyomon answered from Sora's side, "Since after you . . ." she struggled to find a word, " . . . power or gift or whatever, somehow you have a strand of red in your hair and your eyes are red now, no longer brown."
Taichi frowned in bewilderment.
"We need a mirror to show," Takeru offered.
"Or water," said Kimika. She stood and left under low branches with Iyumon by her side.
Taichi lifted a hand to touch his chest, and then realized that he was clothed once again with his shirt, which was clean, but with few stains of dried blood - his blood. There were no bandages. He felt his chest and neck. The burns were gone; his skin was unbroken. "My burns . . . they are gone."
"Somehow, you are healed," Agumon said.
"How?" No one knew the answer.
Kimika and Iyumon showed up soon after. "There is a small pond not far from here." She and Sora began to lift the stretcher, but, flushing, he stopped them.
"No, wait. I can walk." Taichi tried to sit up, but again, the same pain shattered in his chest.
Gently, Kimika and Sora pushed him back to his laying position. "Rest, Tai. You are in no condition to move. Let us do it," Sora said wisely.
Kimika lifted the front end of the stretcher as Sora held on the back end. Taichi gazed up to the flashes of sunlight between swaying branches as he was carried, remembering what had happened. He didn't want to remember, and laid silently, feeling soothed by the gentle movements of the girls.
Then he was lowered to the ground. He was allowed to sit up, the pain in his chest a sliver, not intense as before. He leaned forward to see his reflection in the silent pond. For a moment, he thought his reflection was not looking back, but it was really him with some changes. His eyes, used to be light tan with eager, hungry ambition, were now bright red. The irises were all reddish with speckles of deep orange and golden yellow. He turned his head so the sun could reflect in his eyes. For a brief time, the irises blazed, like dancing flames.
"My eyes . . . like fire." Then he saw a bright red lock among his dusky hair, curling above his forehead, standing out. He reached to touch it to see if it was real. It was real hair. He gazed up to his friends, who were watching him. "Those things . . . I got them after I get my power?" All nodded as one. He again looked down to his reflection, as shocked as he was. "Unbelievable . . . Would I be like that forever?"
"It's a possibility," said Sora softly.
Taichi took his time studying his reflection, trying to see if it was all a dream and he would wake up to find himself normal. But he was no longer normal, not to his friends, who were now seeing him in a different way. He had a power he never knew he has, and it affected him forever. He may be a different Taichi from outside, but he was still the same inside.
He didn't react when, all of a sudden, raindrops fell from above. He heard his friends responding with relief, welcoming the fresh, cool water. Raindrops fell in the pond, disordering his reflection, but the red eyes - his eyes of fire were unwavering, staring back with courage.
Taichi inwardly smiled and whispered, "I am the Master."
To be continued!