Don't Look Now: CHAPTER 7

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Taichi Kamiya slowly opened his eyes. He blinked repeatedly, trying to focus his vision. 'What happened?' he wondered. The brown-haired teen groaned as he heaved himself up from the ground. He took a few steps and staggered. His body ached all over and his head throbbed in pain.

'Where am I?' Tai took in his surroundings with wary eyes. Darkness everywhere. The stormy skies showed no signs of clearing. Every shade of black and gray imaginable painted the sands of this unfamiliar beach and its murky waters. In the far distance, a towering lighthouse eerily blinked an impossible black light.

Tai became tensed. Memory of that mysterious black portal finally came back to him, and Sora-

'SORA! Where is she?!' Tai's mind reeled. He broke into a mad run towards the shore.

Sora Takenouchi laid sprawled on the shore, her wet red hair fanned out on the sands by the water. Upon hearing soft crunching noises made by running footsteps, her eyes snapped open and she immediately sat up. She became paralyzed with fear.

The red-haired girl did not react when a pair of warm arms wrapped themselves around her, pulling her into an embrace.

"I was so worried about you! Are you alright?!" Tai asked. He continued to hold her tightly.

Sora heard him, but she did not listen. She continued to remain immobile and unusually silent, at a complete loss for words.

"Sora?" Tai shook her gently. The girl remained unresponsive.

Tai released her and gazed worriedly into her face. What he saw took him by surprise. He nearly gasped at the sight of her terror-stricken expression. It was this moment that he realized that she was too paralyzed with fear to react. She stared at him wordlessly, but Tai knew that she did not see him.

"Sora…?" Tai breathed, growing more worried by the second.

Suddenly, something clicked in Sora's eyes. Her face contorted. She blinked and finally saw him. Fear began to dissipate as tears started to brim.

"Tai!" she sobbed, throwing her arms around him.

Cold, wet, and scared, she clung tightly to Tai as he whispered comforting words into her ears, trying earnestly to drive away the darkness and fear that were eating her heart.

"I don't want to be alone… It's dark and depressing here…"

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Two forlorn figures on their knees in the wet sand intertwined their arms in a secure embrace. They ignored the dark skies from above and the lapping waters from below. For the time being, they felt safe in each other's arms and safe in each other's company.

Sora lifted her head up from Tai's shoulder. "So is this place part of the Digital World, too?" she asked.

"I'm not sure. I've never been to a place like this before," Tai replied. "I suppose there are more dimensions to the Digital World than I'm aware of." The memory of the twisted dimension in which Malomyotismon had nearly gained complete control over all of the younger Digidestined replayed itself in his mind.

Sora sighed. She had lost all track of time when Tai began to elaborate upon his responsibility with his "special group" and his secret identity as a "Chosen Child." She listened intently as he spoke, trying to picture everything he told her. 'So there exists a Digital World aside from our world and there are live creatures known as Digimon that assist their Digidestined partners in protecting both worlds. These Digidestined…they're all very special individuals. Tai is very special... He has the most courageous heart I've ever known…'

"You're not overwhelmed by what I've just told you?" Tai queried.

"No, of course not…" Sora replied softly. "Somehow, I feel as if I've always known about the Digital World."

"Do you remember that night when Odaiba was under attack?" he asked.

"Yes, I do…" Sora murmured. "I suppose it wasn't a terrorist attack, huh? It was the doing of Digimon…"

"Yes, but it wasn't their fault. They were lost and frightened…and they attacked the city in a blind attempt to defend themselves."

"Lost like us…" Sora whispered unhappily as she leaned her head back on Tai's shoulder.

A downcast expression appeared on Tai's face. She was right. How were they supposed to get out of a place that even he was unfamiliar with? And what could he do with an unresponsive Digivice?

He held on more tightly to Sora and closed his eyes. 'All I want right now is to get her out of here safely… I can't explain it, but I care too much about her to let her be miserable in this dark place… I really care…"

Suddenly, his Digivice began to glow a reddish-orange, as if it was reacting to Tai's heart. A rare smile appeared on Sora's lips. As soon as the two were completely covered by the warm light, they disappeared from the shadowy realm.

But before exiting completely, Tai caught a hazy glimpse of a strange-looking temple in the middle of the dark ocean. He could have sworn it wasn't there before.

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After returning Sora to the safety of her home, Tai headed for Izzy's apartment. At first, the bushy-haired teen was met with an angry, glaring Izzy. But when the red-haired genius finally took notice of Tai's clothes, which were dirty and slightly damp, he stopped ranting.

"What happened to you?" Izzy asked worriedly.

Taichi Kamiya explained in detailed what had happened to him and Sora and the existence of a dark ocean. Meanwhile, Izzy listened intently and he furrowed his eyebrows as he contemplated the information.

The bushy-haired teen rubbed his eyes tiredly. "It's been a long day and I have to return home. I hope my parents haven't found out that I snuck out of the house."

Izzy nodded. "Yeah, you should return home now. I'll have a talk with Gennai later tonight and fill you in tomorrow. Take care."

Fortunately for Tai, his parents had been out the entire day and most of the evening. When he returned to his room, he found Kari waiting expectantly.

"Took you long enough to get home," she said. "What happened?"

Tai sighed. Again with explanations. But at least Kari wasn't scolding him.

In the afternoon of the next time, Izzy called him as promised and filled him in on what Gennai had told him.

"Gennai says that the 'Dark Ocean' is bad news. It's full of cursed Digimon that live off of fear, darkness and hopelessness. He was surprised that you made it out of there without an encounter with one of those dark creatures."

"…Did Gennai tell you why this Dark Ocean exists?" Tai queried.

"No, even he doesn't know the answer to that question… I'm sure he's still trying to learn about its full extent, though."

"Did he at least offer an explanation as to how Sora got sucked into that place?"

Izzy was silent for a moment. "Nope. And actually…he didn't even seem surprised when I told him about her."

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Over the course of a month, a few more disasters struck in different parts of the Digital World. Each time, every Digidestined, from Tai to Cody, transported themselves back into the digital realm to rescue the injured Digimon.

It was a busy month full of school, homework, and saving the Digiworld, not to mention searching for the last Digidestined. Somehow, in the midst of things, Tai managed to find the time to visit Sora and introduce him to all of his friends. Tai immediately took notice of how well she clicked with his sister, Mimi, and Yolei. And he was happy for her. Both TK and Cody looked up to her as a big sister. She was even able to get past Davis's quirks and call him "adorable." In fact, she got along quite well with the guys. All except for one. The only person who made her uncomfortable was…

"Have we met before?" Matt asked, giving her a hard look.

"N-no…" Sora replied nervously. She was well aware of Yamato Ishida's everlasting grudge against her past deeds because Tai had informed her. Fortunately for her, Matt still had no idea that the red-haired girl who injured his grandmother in an attempted robbery was the same girl who stood before him.

"But you seem so familiar," he persisted. "I'm sure I've known of a red-haired girl from some time ago." He scratched his head.

"Give it up, Matt!" piped Mimi. "This is the first time all of us have met Sora."

Sora smiled weakly at her new friend.

Later that day, Matt pulled Tai aside to have a private conversation with him.

"Sora's great and all…but don't you think it's a bad idea to let her in on this 'secret'? Normal people aren't supposed to know about the Digital World, you know," said Matt.

"I trust her," Tai said firmly, which seemed to ease Matt's concern. The blonde-haired teen knew that his friend was serious, so perhaps he, himself, could learn to trust Sora.

"And besides," Tai continued. "She's just as much of a best friend to me as you are."

Matt raised an eyebrow. "A best friend? You two seem more than just chums. It's pretty obvious."

Tai sputtered. "What?! I don't know what you're talking about!"

The blonde-haired teen noted with satisfaction the mild blush that claimed his best friend's face.

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Another disaster had struck while Sora was spend her time at Tai's apartment. The red-haired girl had been delighted by the invitation and was happy to get the chance to converse with him and his sister again. She always felt light-hearted around Tai and Kari was like a sister she never had. As for Mr. and Mrs. Kamiya, they greeted her warmly. 'Maybe a little too warmly,' thought Tai. 'But at least they like her.'

Both Tai and Kari's D-Terminals beeped incessantly, interrupting their conversation with Sora. The red-haired girl looked a bit crest-fallen at the thought of what should have been a free day for the siblings was turning into a stressful one.

"Digi-port open!" Kari commanded.

"Bye Sora! And thanks for offering to cover for us!" said Tai.

Sora watched with awe as the siblings were covered in a bright light that pulled them into another world. She wished she could join them. She moved closer to Tai's computer, touching the screen gently. Suddenly, she found herself encased in a bright reddish light and sucked away from the Kamiya apartment.

The red-haired girl felt no fear as she was passed through the swirling, colorful portal. Unlike the last transportation, this one proved to be sensational and even welcoming. It felt right…

Sora was spit out of a tiny battered TV located on a small hill to the surprise of the entire Digidestined team that was gathered nearby. She landed on the grass in front of Tai's feet.

"SORA?!" Tai exclaimed, flabbergasted by her unexpected arrival. "What are you doing here?!"

"The question is: how did you get here?!" Izzy interjected.

The red-haired girl blushed. "Umm…I just touched Tai's computer screen and here I am now…"

All of the Digidestined stared at her.

"Well, if you're here, you might as well stay," said Tai. He grinned at her, hardly able to contain his delight. The others exchanged knowing glances with each other. Matt and Kari rolled their eyes, but even they were smiling.

"Tai's right!" piped Agumon. "You can help us tend to the Digimon in need of help. Oh, by the way, my name is Agumon."

Sora stared goggle-eyed at the talking dinosaur Digimon. Then her attention shifted to the furry white cat Digimon that was calmly approaching her. It was walking upright, too!

"Hi there. I'm Kari's Digimon. My name is Gatomon," she said. Then the rest of the Digimon followed suit and introduced themselves to Sora.

Tai was nearly ecstatic that all of the Digimon seemed to like her. Even the Digimon from the village that was partially damaged by an intense thunderstorm seemed to enjoy her presence. Tai noticed that wherever she went and whatever she did, the Digimon flocked to her. She radiated a loving, caring aura that made all of them feel good inside.

After the "cleanup," everyone returned to the real world to go home. Tai escorted Sora back to her apartment and then returned to his own home for dinner. A bit detached, Tai was quiet during dinner-no doubt he had things on his mind. Afterwards, he asked Kari to cover for him while he went back to the Digital World for some "alone time." Kari complied, knowing that her brother needed some quiet time to think.

'Boy, he's got it bad...' she mused.

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Tai sat in a tall tree on a cliff that was close to a gorgeous view. The panoramic scenery before him consisted of a lovely gentle waterfall. He watched its cascading waters quietly.

"What's up, Tai?" Agumon asked.

"Hey Agumon. Nothing much. How did you find me?"

Agumon looked up at his partner from the foot of the tree. "I sensed that you would be here." The dinosaur Digimon moved closer. "You look like there's something on your mind."

Tai glanced down at his friend. "Well...yes..." The bushy-haired boy hesitated for a moment. "I've been thinking about Sora. She's-"

"She's a nice human. I like her," Agumon interjected happily.

"I was going to say that she's a possible candidate for the final Digidestined position," Tai responded with a chuckle.

"Oh," Agumon said sheepishly. He stared at the ground, a bit embarrassed.

"Something about her makes me believe that she's the one-aside from the obvious, of course, with her being sucked into the Digital World twice," Tai reflected thoughtfully. "She fitted in just fine when she was here today. All of the Digimon like her, including you. She has a very kind and caring personality along with a good heart. She's..." Tai trailed off, suddenly unable to put his thoughts into words. There was just too much to try to convey in a few sentences.

Agumon waited patiently for him to finish.

An eternity later, Tai finished his thoughts with, "I like her, too."

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No one on the team raised an eyebrow when Tai announced to them that he strongly believed that Sora Takenouchi was the last Digidestined they were looking for. Everyone was silent as they reflected upon her recent unexpected visit to the Digital World.

"I agree with Tai," Izzy said slowly. "She must be one of us if she was able to get here. And besides, why would the Dark Ocean be after her if she wasn't important?"

"I say we go fetch her and bring her with us to File Island!" said Davis. "Come on, team! We've got temple to explore and a Digi-egg to hat-huh?!"

Everyone blinked wide eyes at the red-haired girl who landed on her stomach on the grass after being spit out of a TV nearby.

"What is it with you and randomly getting transported here?" Tai asked as he walked over to help the girl in question.

Sora blushed as she got to her feet. "I don't know," she replied with a shrug. "This time, I didn't even touch your computer screen. I was just sitting by myself at the riverbank thinking about the Digital World and then I suddenly got transported here."

"Well, now that you're here, we're going to take you with us to File Island," Davis told her.

"Huh?" Sora had no idea what he was talking about.

"Sora," said Tai. "All of us here strongly believe that you're the last Digidestined we're looking for. Please join us in our search for the last crest and Digi-egg." He placed both hands on her shoulders.

She stared at him doubtfully. "You told me about this mission…about finding the Guardian of Love… I'm not capable of…"

"Love?" Mimi asked rhetorically. "Sora, you're one of the most caring people I know."

"I agree with Mimi," piped Yolei. "You just have to believe in yourself."

The red-haired girl looked around her. Everyone nodded their heads. 'So they all believe in me…'

"Join us?" Tai queried seriously, imploring her to agree. A warm smile grazed his lips. His smile was rather contagious because Sora found herself grinning as she slowly nodded.

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All of the Digimon reverted back to their rookie forms (except Gatomon) in order to minimize their size as they rode with their partners (and Sora) inside Whalemon's mouth.

"It's been so long since the last time I gave you kids a ride to File Island," the sea Digimon commented.

When they got to the shore, the Digidestined (minus Joe) bid Whalemon farewell before setting off to find the temple. (Joe was in the bushes trying to recover from motion-sickness.)

The team marched through the dense trees and shrubs, chattering and joking to pass the time and to make Sora feel comfortable. They even played a game upon Yolei's insistence. As Sora joined in on the fun, she also took in her surroundings with open curiosity. File Island looked more gorgeous than the other place she had been to.

While the red-haired girl was awestruck by her surroundings, Tai was awestruck by her presence. 'She looks happier,' he mused.

After a few hours of walking and Digimon-riding, the team finally arrived at the foot of a long flight of steps. They shielded their eyes from the sun as they gazed up at the pyramid-like structure. At the very top rested a dazzling, haunting temple.

Yolei gave a squeak. "This temple looks like the one where Hawkmon and Armadillomon were kept! And…" Yolei sighed. "It also doesn't come with an escalator."

Everyone chuckled at her comment.

"We could have the flying Digimon carry us to the top," Ken suggested.

"Trust you to be the genius," Yolei remarked, a bit embarrassed that she didn't think of it initially.

In just a few minutes, all of the Digidestined were dropped off in front of the temple's entrance. The place was so much bigger up close. Everyone strained their necks to observe its entire height. Tall pillars and elaborate arches gave the temple a striking appearance. Strange symbols were etched onto the walls and filled with gold dust. By the awestruck look on Izzy's face, he looked like he wanted to sit down and begin deciphering the hieroglyphs.

"Oh no you don't," Mimi warned and thwacked him on the head. The memory of what had happened four years ago was apparently still fresh in her mind. She took his hand and started dragging him into the temple. The rest of the team gave each other weak smiles before following those two inside.

"Whoa…" everyone murmured, awestruck by the mysterious beauty of the room they had just entered. After walking through a long hallway (that surprisingly had no weird traps and pitfalls) and passing through a series of heavy doors, they reached the edge of a long glittering pool. In the near distance, a single stone pillar supported a tiny orb that glowed a deep shade of red. Precious stones of all colors were embedded into the tall gray walls that made up the sides of the pool. The structure offered no walk-way to get across.

"Well, this is it…" Tai murmured. "That orb wasn't what I expected for a crest, but I guess we'll have to take what we can get."

The brown-haired teen ushered Sora towards the edge of the pool.

"You don't suppose...I have to swim to get across, do you...?" Sora asked nervously.

"Why? What's wrong with that?" Davis asked nonchalantly.

"...I can't swim," Sora explained. A mild blush claimed her cheeks. She averted her eyes to the ground.

"Really??" Davis asked, genuinely surprised. "But I thought everyone here knows how to swi--"

The be-goggled boy was sharply cut off when Yolei roughly nudged him. "Stop making her feel bad!" the tall girl whispered fiercely.

"Not a problem!" both Gomamon and Gabumon replied cheerfully in unison. Both Digimon took a deep breath and then exhaled a long stream of ice that created a path for Sora to cross. Everyone cheered-but abruptly stopped when the ice suddenly melted.

"W-what!?" Both Matt and Joe sputtered in shock.

Before complaints could be raised, Hawkmon made himself heard. "Not to worry!" the feathered Digimon announced. "I'll carry you across!" He Digivolved into Halsemon with the help of Yolei. The flying Digimon bowed low to allow Sora to climb onto his back.

"Hold on tight!" said Halsemon, and he lifted her off the ground. Smiles could be seen on everyone's faces as the Digimon flew Sora across the pool. But suddenly-

"AHHHHHHH!" Sora screamed as she plunged into the water.

"SORA!!" Tai's eyes became round with panic. Without hesitating, he dove courageously into the pool.

"Be careful!!" Kari called out. "This pool is dangerous!!"

Behind her, Yolei shrieked. "Why did you revert back to Hawkmon?!"

The Digimon flew into her arms. "I'm sorry, Yolei! But for some reason, I felt as if something had temporarily possessed me, forcing me back to my rookie level!"

"What do we do now?" Kari asked worriedly. "There's something...odd about this place..." she whispered and stared into the dark waters of pool. TK, noticing the strangely distant look on her face, approached her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

Behind him, Ken responded in a low tone, "There's nothing we can do. Except watch and hope Tai and Sora will be alright." 'Kari's right, though,' he thought to himself. 'There's something strange about this temple. That pool is downright unnerving...'

TK glanced at the blue-haired boy, noticing the same transfixed look on his face... Yolei walked over to Ken and squeezed his arm gently. But even with her comforting touch, grim thoughts invaded his mind. 'Despite its serene welcoming look, there's something…bone-chilling…about this pool. It's so cold... I can sense it... It's as cold as death…'

Meanwhile, Tai struggled to ignore the unnerving sensation that the waters gave him as he swam hurriedly towards the drowning girl. Fear coursed through his veins as he saw Sora choke and cough in between her wild screaming and flailing arms.

Sora was absolutely terrified. Tears and water blurred her vision. Her mind desperately wished for her to get out of the water, to escape the drowning and the sinking sensation. She was terrified of death and the darkness. She didn't want to come face to face with her innermost fears. She continued to thrash wildly in the water until a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her. And then Sora knew that she was saved. She clung tightly to her savior, shivering uncontrollably in his arms. Tai drew her closer to him. His deep brown eyes shone brightly with a mixture of fear, relief, concern, courage...

"Kick the water with me," he told her gently as he turned and motioned for her to move. Sora complied, draping an arm around his neck before kicking the water with him. Together, they lapped the waters harmoniously.

"Thank you..." she murmured close to his ear. She no longer felt threatened in the water. Not with him helping her get across, anyway. And before she knew it, the crest was only a few feet away.

Sora got off of Tai's back and climbed out of the pool. She stretched an arm in front of her to help him out.

Tai smiled warmly at her and then opened his mouth to speak. But whatever he was about to say was interrupted by a bone-chilling voice that filled the air.

"...You interfered..."

Everyone from Sora to Tai to the rest of the Digidestined and their Digimon on the other side of the pool gasped and looked around in panic. Suddenly, a violent whirlpool formed beneath the brown-haired boy, mercilessly sucking in him.

"TAI!!" Sora screamed. She grabbed onto one of his flailing arms.

"ARE YOU CRAZY ME?! LET GO OF ME!! GO GET THE CREST!!" Tai bellowed as he tried to free himself from the girl's grip.

"NO! I'M NOT LETTING YOU GET SUCKED IN!!" Sora tried desperately with all her strength to pull him out of the water, but to no avail. She lost her balance and fell into the dark whirlpool with him.

Their screams mirrored those of the bystanding Digidestined and Digimon.

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Until next time, the FINAL chapter…

I seriously thought this was going to be the last part, but when I realized that it was starting to get lengthy, I decided to put this up as the 7th chapter. It took a lot longer than I expected to get Sora's character comfortable/settled in the Digital World.

( =P It's my style not to write really long stories/chapters.)

Oh by the way, how was the slight pinch of humor? O