Running

Chapter 17: Collapse

Disclaimer: I do not own digimon or anything to do with the series, except for Volumes 2-4 of the Tamers manga (where the heck can I get Vol. 1?)

Warnings: Some swearing (mainly Rika), the usual threats and attacks, erm… some poorly written almost-battle scenes?


Eleven days prior

It was impossible for him to see who and what was it that sat around the edges of the vaguely circular room. The torches- or whatever normally provided light in the caves- had been extinguished and/or dimmed to the point of being unable to provide illumination.

The only exceptions to this were the eyes.

Countless orbs of different colors- and not just white plus another color, either- stared at him, unblinkingly. Somewhere in that mass hid Terriermon, Impmon and Guilmon, the three of them having escaped when they had been surrounded at the entrance.

"Human," a voice began speaking, though it was impossible to tell from where, "Why have you entered our sacred home?"

He had to stop and think about how to answer the question- and finally went with the truth. "I had no past that I could remember, and so I was trained in the Hidden Village. Then, because I was a human, Zhuqiaomon asked for me to be brought to his citadel. I was trained there, with another human- someone very important to me. The sovereign resented this, and sent her away- on a mission he said to me, but it was exile. I could no longer live under the rule of a tyrant, and wish only for a safe haven away from prying eyes."

There were some mutterings in the crowd that were quickly hushed. Finally, the voice spoke again.

"As long as you do not actively oppose the sovereign, we shall provide you shelter. You will have a probationary period for eight turns of the Earth Sphere, after which it will be decided whether to accept you as a working member of our community. The darkness will then be yours as much as it is ours."

"Thank you," he replied, bowing his head though he was sure that no one could see it.

"You're welcome," many voices replied, some giggling at his propriety. "Though there is no need to bow."

As everyone moved away, he remained still, feeling three presences join him as everyone left.

"To make the darkness mine…" he whispered, holding his hand before his face. He could only see the faintest outline of the appendage. "I'm all for it if it means I won't run into any more walls."


Five Days Previous

"Kiken!"

The name echoed through the Black Caves, reaching even the most remote areas of the complex. Digimon stopped in their tracks, wondering who was looking for their newly adopted family member.

Kiken himself frowned, narrowing crimson eyes. Guilmon lifted his head, nose in the air.

"It's Shurri," the draconic being whispered to his Tamer. Kiken nodded, refusing to reply vocally.

"Kiken, you jerk! Answer me!"

"Kikenmon?" Guilmon asked, wondering what was wrong with his Tamer.

It was Terriermon who answered him, Impmon departing to go look for Shurri. "Remember, Bread basket, Kiken here took a vow of silence three days ago to prove that he could 'live in the darkness'." He made air-quotes with his ears to emphasize the last few words.

When Impmon finally brought Shurri to them, Kiken had returned to his meditative state. Shurri raised an eyebrow at the closed eyes and relaxed posture, but smiled at the three other digimon.

"Let's say we leave our favorite Knight here and go bug some of the elders here, eh? I mean, I guess he doesn't want to hear news about the recent problems outside these caves right now, does he?"

While the three digimon left, Kiken simply continued to meditate.


Three Days Previous

"We, the elder council of the Black Caves of the Desert Level of the Southern Quadrant, hereby officially recognize the Tamer Kiken as a resident of our Caves and, therefore, applicable for any duties we have the need to fill and any privileges afforded to us. Let us welcome him with the Blessing of Darkness!"

He wasn't entirely sure what happened, but as the elder's words echoed into a silence, a sudden pressure was against his chest and mind, and everything human in him screamed at him to push it away, get away, don't let it get near…!

But there was another part of him- the part that he had always been told to keep locked away, the part that everyone was always so afraid of- that wanted to reach out, accept whatever it was that was trying to take hold of him. Although it felt distinctly non-human, he felt it was something he could still trust.

Taking a deep breath, he slowly relaxed whatever safeguards were in his mind, letting that out and the strange power in. To his surprise, it wasn't so horrible accepting this energy. He felt his senses extended, as though before he could only see or hear or smell or sense for maybe ten meters and now, suddenly, he could describe in detail someone picking their nose over a kilometer away....

Then it was over. He opened his eyes and, to his surprise, he could see everyone within the room- Guilmon and Terriermon and Impmon and Shurri and so many other digimon and creatures and—

And were they bowing to him?!

"Wha… what are you doing?" He asked slowly, turning around to look at the assembled group.

Another digimon- one he didn't recognize- stood slowly as though aged and walked over to stand before him. "We are merely showing you the respect you deserve. You are a Tamer- no, not just a Tamer. You Keep the Hazard and, in doing so, you keep us safe from our destruction. The Blessing of Darkness would otherwise not respond to you in the way it did. You are the Southern Knight, protector of all these lands of light and dark and shadow."

He blinked confusedly, but saw Shurri's eyes widen in surprise, even as Terriermon and Impmon smirked and Guilmon simply waved at him.


The Present

The rumbling through the caves caught their attention, the stones themselves jumping from their place on the smooth tunnel floors or in nooks and crannies along the curving walls. It was still very subtle, but echoed of a building up of power- power to destroy and crush. In the rest of the Quadrant, that power wouldn't have been so bad, but, surrounded and underneath hundreds of tones of rock and stone….

Kiken whirled on his partner, Impmon and Terriermon off with Shurri tormenting someone. "Guilmon, go find someone. It sounds like there might be a cave-in around here, and someone might get caught in it."

Guilmon didn't leave immediately. "Kikenmon, why are you staying?"

Kiken shrugged, turning away and running down the tunnels. "Go!"

Guilmon ran in the opposite direction, occasionally glancing over his shoulder at his partner's retreating back.

Kiken spun around corners, thanking whatever powers there were that he could see without the aid of torches. He was getting closer to the source of the quakes, he realized, his speed increasing. 'Please don't let there be anyone down here, don't let anyone get hurt....'

He missed a step, or a stone bounced into his path, or perhaps the ground itself heaved, but Kiken somehow found himself flat on his face, staring at the wall. At a very dark, very empty section of the wall, with a faint point of light somewhere further down it….

As the earth moved, tumbling boulders from the places they occupied for hundreds of years, Kiken took off down the new corridor, eyes trained on the light at the end. He just hoped it wasn't-

"Help!"

Well, he guessed that the man upstairs wasn't listening to his prayers today, as he saw the small forms huddled around the light. He skidded to a stop before them, kneeling down and staring at them.

"Wha…? You're all… you shouldn't be anywhere in these caves!"

The group of in-trainings and rookies stared up at him with baleful eyes, but Kiken immediately softened his shocked and slightly angered expression. "Come with me. There's an earthquake coming, and we need to get to a safe place."

"We won't go with no mean human!" One of the in-trainings yelled, echoed by many of the others.

Kiken growled, startling them. "I don't care if you think I'm mean or evil or cruel, but you're coming with me to a safe spot so that we all don't get crushed by the quake."

"How do you know there's a quake?"

"It's obvious you know about it too, otherwise you wouldn't have been calling for help!"

The group of smaller digimon was silenced by this, before a loud banging and rumble from further down their tunnel drew their attention. Kiken stood to his full height, making his way past the group to see if he couldn't catch a glimpse of whatever was making that noise, whether it was a cave-in or not.

Instead, what caught his attention surprised him and made him wish that he hadn't sent Guilmon away.

A tall, slender digimon made its way down the corridor, its armour covered body clinking slightly. A large shape on the other's right arm was being dragged along the wall, a small ribbon-looking object extending from their body and trailing back through the tunnel behind them. They stopped before they were too close to Kiken and the group of low-level digimon, standing just outside of the ring of light.

"Who are you?" Kiken demanded, his voice low and threatening.

The other laughed. "Oho! A little human decides to stand up to me? Well, how is this for irony? Come, boy- tell me of what you know. My master has always been curious about humans and their connection to this- to these- worlds."

Kiken growled, glaring at the other. "What I know and what I don't doesn't have anything to do with you, trespasser. Now, state your purpose here or leave."

The knight- apparently a female- began laughing. "And now you threaten me?! Ah, I guess the humans here are more entertaining than back home! Then let me tell you a little secret, Mr. Brave and Strong. My Master needs aids, and a place from which to control. I think you might make a wonderful little servant for us, boy."

"Never."

"Pity. Then I guess I'll just have to leave… good luck with the cave-in, boy. I might like to fight you."

She turned and walked back- but not before thrusting the other end of the long ribbon into the ceiling. Kiken stared at the gold steel, flinching as he saw the cracks forming in the ceiling. Turning to the group behind him, he scooped up as many as he could and began running down the corridor, yelling at those- the rookies, thankfully- who were still behind. "Run!"

He heard the sound of footsteps following him, the pace nowhere near as fast as he was but at least not falling too far behind. They had just reentered the main tunnel as the sound of collapsing rock reached his hearing. Cursing, he tried to see the next turn, the next possible path to get away, but could only see the curving stone walls going in either direction.

"Guilmon… no. No, not like THIS."

The in-trainings jumped out of his arms as one of his fists collided with the wall, sending cracks up and to the ceiling. Again, he punched the wall and, while the others had no clue what he was doing, they began using head-buts and punches and every power at their disposal that would, apparently, help bring down the ceiling on them.

"Back!" Kiken called as a large piece of the ceiling almost fell on their heads. He looked at it from the other side of the tunnel where they had retreated, appraising its size. Nodding, he was barely able to push the stone slab into a leaning position against the remainder of the wall, shoving the others underneath and scrambling in with them as the collapse reached the part of the tunnels where they were.

It was a long time before the ground stopped shaking, Kiken bracing their cover with his back while the digimon worked to keep rocks and rubble out from their hiding place.

The one who had yelled at Kiken earlier gazed up at him, moving over to help support the stone slab. "Is it over?"

Kiken shrugged- or attempted to, wincing at the pain in his right shoulder. "I think so. We should wait for a bit though, to make sure that when we move the rocks nothing else is going to fall on us."

The others nodded in agreement, helping Kiken as much as they could.

Kiken, finally wearing out all his energy, collapsed to his knees. The stone shifted around them, but nothing collapsed or fell. Breathing a sigh of relief, they all collapsed with him.

"When will we get out of here?" asked one- surprisingly, the one who had been providing light for them, a Candlemon.

Kiken sighed, closing his eyes. "Hopefully soon. We need someone on the outside to help move some rubble. Guilmon knew that I was in here, so at the very least we can count on his help- and Terriermon, Impmon, Shurri…."

The others recognized the names. "But they're all rookies, like us- well, except Shurri, but he's lazy," one of the digimon- one that Kiken didn't recognize- complained.

Kiken bit his lip, lowering his head. "If… if we can't get out of here within a certain amount of time, Guilmon and the others will go to the Devas for help."

That made everyone stop what they were doing, staring at Kiken as though seeing him for the first time. "The… the Devas? They wouldn't come down here just for us!" A Floramon whispered, fear in her voice.

Kiken, steeling himself, looked up at them slowly. "They would for me."

The entire group froze before backing away from him, looking more scared of him than they did of the Devas. "You… are they looking for you to… to remove you?" The Candlemon, surprisingly brave, asked.

Kiken laughed lowly, closing his eyes, resting his head back against the wall. "No. I used to work with them, but after our dear Sovereign pissed me off, I left." He laughed again, though this time with some humor in his voice. "I bet Zhuqs is having a fit, looking for me."

One of two Gazimon in the group looked at him. "You don't look that powerful to me."

"I'm not… at least, I don't think I am. I just… Guilmon, at least, is powerful. And they apparently need me to make Guilmon stronger," he told them, opening one crimson eye to see their reactions.

"You're a Tamer…" the Floramon breathed, looking shocked.

Kiken nodded, and, closing his eye, tried to rest.

When all the digimon with him laid down to rest as well, he opened his eyes again, staring at the rocks. He thought he might know a way to get out, but after what everyone had told him….

'Might as well try it. I'll take responsibility for whatever happens- well, of course I will. It's not like they're afraid of anyone else destroying everything.'

He closed his eyes, concentrating on that strange feeling deep inside him. Taking a deep breath and standing as much as he could in that tiny space, he concentrated all the power he could into his fist. Compared with what he knew and felt, it was only a small amount, but he was far too weak to harness any more than that.

He took another deep breath, severing the connection he had with the rest of that power, and let swing at one of the 'walls' of their prison, hoping that it would lead him to where Guilmon and the others were.

The resulting shockwave awoke the digimon, all of them staring in surprise at Kiken—and, the long, low, tunnel of melted rock that had somehow been formed.

Kiken nodded, proud of himself, and turned to the others. "Shall we go?"

This time, he had to run after them.


"Oof… and another graceful landing, I'm sure," Rika commented dryly, looking around her at the scenery. Renamon, Antylamon, Calumon and the digi-gnome wandered over to help her up from the not-as-big-as-normal crater.

They performed a quick scan of their surroundings, Renamon phasing to a cliff not too far away and Antylamon leaping in the air to scout in the other direction. Rika frowned, though that quickly turned into a smirk. "Well… do I have you to thank for the fact that my stuff isn't scattered over half the digital world?"

The gnome, at who her question was directed, cooed and settled itself on the shoulder strap of her surprisingly still in one piece bag. Renamon and Antylamon reached her at the same time, Calumon- also surprisingly- curled up in the bag, asleep.

"There's no activity to the north and west, Rika," Renamon reported, reaching down to pluck Calumon out of the bag.

"There's some dust east-south-east of here, but it seems to be moving away from here than towards us," Antylamon confirmed, nodding in the appropriate direction.

Rika nodded, thinking about their next move. Spotting a tell-tale shine of pink directly south of them, she smirked, nodding to it. "Alright. Let's go visit our favorite sovereign then, shall we?

The Devas were unable to keep their surprise to themselves when they spotted Rika and her companions standing outside the citadel. Cautiously letting them into the palace, Mihiramon, getting over his shock, put aside past differences and walked over to press his nose against the side of her arm, an almost-nuzzle of welcome.

Rika nodded, a faint smile- for once, not a smirk- appearing on her face as the other eleven remaining Devas came to greet them as well.

It was about this time that two things happened, though which came first (if, in fact, one event did precede the other) was questionable. First, Zhuqiaomon made his presence known- very loudly- and caused everyone at the main entrance to the citadel to jump. Second (or perhaps this was what alerted Zhuqiaomon to their presence, instead of the other way around?), Calumon yawned loudly, awakening from his nap and immediately pouncing on the first Deva he saw, seemingly ignoring the sovereign.

"Yay! Pretty doggy Chatsuramon, wanna play tag? Okay! You're it!"

Where exactly he disappeared to after that no one knew, and with Zhuqiaomon's entrance, no one especially cared.

"You--! What do you think you are doing here?!" He roared at Rika, fire jumping off his body and the twelve orbs around his neck burning furiously.

Rika raised an eyebrow, dropping her belongings on the ground and placing her hands on her hips. "What? No welcome back party? Sorry, bird brain, but there's someone I need to see and, even if it doesn't fit in with your plans, I might just have to stay for a while. Now, be a good host and go get Kiken for me, would you?"

Zhuqiaomon, if it was possible, looked angrier than before. "You… you think that you can just come waltzing back here even after I've thrown you out?! This is MY land, human, and your kind isn't welcome here!"

Rika merely levied him a less-than-impressed look.

"I'm sorry… was that supposed to intimidate me?" Everyone stared at her, slack-jawed. She shrugged carelessly, bending down to pick up her bag and turning to walk further into the citadel. "I'm a woman on a mission, Zhuqiaomon, and it happens to involve Kiken. So, unless you're going to call him out here so I can pound him, out of the way. Besides," and she turned around with a sadistic look on her face, "you never said that I couldn't come back."

Zhuqiaomon continued to stare at her and then- of all things- started laughing. Not just chuckling, but full-blown laughter.

"Fine! Go and find your little pet, Shamaness! That is, if you can find him!"

Rika froze, turning around slowly to face the sovereign. "If I can... find… him?"

"Three weeks after you left, he had a temper-tantrum and decided to see if he couldn't find you! No one has seen him- or his partner- since. Let's see if your bond of love can work better than all of my far superior strength!"

No one was entirely sure what happened next but, somehow, what appeared to be a spear appeared in one of Zhuqiaomon's wings, causing the sovereign to stumble and falter in his rant. Rika glared, turning on her heel and walking towards the main entrance to the citadel. "Never use that word around me again, asshole," she hissed, hefting her bag further onto her shoulder.

"Now- I'm going on a search. If any of you want to come or at least help me in some way, be my guest. But any wisecracks about anything to do with Kiken, and you'll be a dead Deva within seconds. Understand?"

All the Devas nodded, and though none of them moved to follow her, Sandiramon was down to the armory and back with a number of weapons clenched in his coils. "Go with our blessssssingssss," he hissed, depositing the weapons into Rika's care. She nodded her thanks, shouldering the quiver of arrows, the bow that could also be a bo, and clipping the small sword-dagger scabbard and belt around her waist.

Just as she, Renamon, the gnome and Antylamon were about to depart, Zhuqiaomon roared again. "Stop there, human!"

She turned around again, one hand set suggestively on the dagger's hilt. "Yes…?" She purposefully drew out the word, easily disturbing a number of the Devas.

Zhuqiaomon glared at her, using his beak to pull the spear from his wing. "You… Mihiramon, go with them. I want reports on your progress every three days, and, should you discover anything about who is causing all this trouble- yes, Shamaness, still- report it back to me immediately."

Rika raised an eyebrow. "And Kiken…?"

Zhuqiaomon glared at her, but lowered his head slowly. "I grant Kiken freedom of movement anywhere within the Southern Quadrant- and you, if you travel beside him." His voice was rough and filled with malice, but Rika was surprised that he was still so lenient towards Kiken. Then again, she wasn't going to comment- or complain.


"Who are you? Get back! Your kind is not welcome here!"

"Are you talking to me or the Devas… or the gnome?"

"Be gone, insolent ones!"

"Well, don't I feel loved," Rika muttered, staring at the collection of digimon spread out before her, all of them aiming either weapons or their own attacks at her motley group of travelers.

"Ho! What are you lot doing there?"

Rika blinked, looking over the crowd of digimon to see a familiar form making their way to her. She smirked.

"Well, if it isn't Shar. Haven't seen you in a few months—what, too scared to come visit?"

Shar frowned at her (as much as he could) and shook his head. "There have been problems, Tamer Rika, and all our forces are being used to combat them. As long as they are with you, the Devas are also welcome to our Village."

Rika looked at the scenery, her expression blank. "Okay… where's the Village now?"

Shar chuckled. "Right before you," and he gestured with his hand. Like a curtain had been parted, the Hidden Village swam into view before Rika's eyes. She started, but, keeping an otherwise carefully emotionless countenance, raised an eyebrow.

"That's it?"

Shar fumed. "We are not quite as prosperous, or protected, as the Sovereign."

"Got me there," Rika replied, taking a step forward. A few of the defending digimon took a step forward to stop her, but Shar held them back.

"She is welcome here, as are her companions," Shar told them, then gestured for their visitors to follow him. "First, though, you must meet the Old One."

Rika exchanged glances with the three digimon and one gnome with her, some surprise evident on more than one face.

The Old One's hut was on the edge of the Village, and only differentiated from those around it by a small, blue star atop the door. Shar pushed the door open, the slab of rock spinning on its axis, much like those of Jijimon and Babamon did.

The Old One greeted them, sitting in the shadows of the room and carefully cloaked and hidden.

"Greetings, Tamer Rika, Renamon, Antylamon, Mihiramon—and is that a digi-gnome I see? I have not gazed upon one in the last year!"

The gnome obligingly flew over to the Old One, lighting on his shoulder temporarily before flying back to Rika's side. It giggled, landing on her head and pulling some of her hair down to use like a blanket.

While Rika did not appreciate this, she willingly put up with it, instead kneeling in the traditional seiza style before the Old One. Renamon and Antylamon followed her, while Mihiramon just crouched at the door, too big to enter the hut.

"Old One…."

"You have come looking for Kiken, have you not?"

Rika was taken aback, but nodded. "Yes, Old One. Do you know where he is?"

"I am sorry, but I do not. Shurri, however, left some days ago to find him, and has not yet left the Desert Level. Beyond that, however, I cannot say for certain where he would be."

Rika nodded. "Thank you for that much, at least."

"Any of the Tamers, but especially Kiken and you, Tamer Rika, are more than welcome her at any time."

Rika bit her lip. "Speaking of that… how come you know my name, but didn't know Takato's?"

"Takato? You mean Kiken, I see." He shuffled forward, the dirty grey cloak looking even dirtier in the pale light. "After we found him and began training him, we, of course, took an interest in humans, especially the Tamers. There are many digimon who have heard rumors at least, and it did not take long before we found out who the Tamers are and what you have done for us."

Rika blinked and looked away, embarrassed at the reverence in the Old One's voice. It was hard to tell, but Renamon thought that, perhaps her Tamer was even blushing a bit. "I… you don't need to treat me, or any of us, like we're special. We're just Tamers, and we just do what… what needs to be done. Anyone would have done the same, if they could have."

"But not anyone can do what you and your partner and your fellow Tamers can do," the Old One retorted, "and that makes you all the more special. Therefore, as long as you are in the Desert Level, this Village, and all its resources are yours to be used."

"Eh? Ah… thank you."

"Now, perhaps we should find some shelter for you, hm? Now, where's an empty hut… ah! You can use the one that Kiken and Shurri used to share! With Kiken living in the Citadel—well, right now missing—and Shurri off looking for him, it's empty. Please, use it with our best wishes. Shar? Would you mind showing them where it is?"

Rika led the others out of the hut, Mihiramon huffing. "They should have huts here that fit Devas."

"They do," Antylamon replied, "just not ones as big as you."

Mihiramon didn't look happy but couldn't deny that fact. Instead, he turned to Rika, Shar and the Old One, who had come to the door. "I must go and report that our base of operations here will be from this Village."

"If you tell birdie where there is…." Rika threatened, frowning at the tiger Deva.

"I would never betray a fellow digimon so easily, human," Mihiramon spat, turning around and running out of the village.

Rika sighed, turning back to Shar. "Well? Where are we staying?"

'This… is kind of strange….' Rika mused to herself, turning over in the bed she had appropriated for the night. The hut they had been given as their own was small, obviously meant for not more than two or three smaller digimon, but comfortable all the same. The redhead glanced at the gnome, sleeping on her pillow, and the sight of her partner and Antylamon lounging half against the walls, half lying on the floor, brought a smile to her face. Of course they were worn out, and she should be too, especially after earlier.

Once they had been shown to the residence, Shar had brought them out to a clearing in the middle of the Village where everyone was seated around a fire, night having just fallen. Food and drink were being passed around, music was playing, digimon were dancing and talking and singing and laughing….

Rika couldn't fight the smile that appeared on her face as she joined in the celebration. What this party was for, she had no idea, but enjoyed every minute of it. The digi-gnome especially had a great time, and the villagers were able to get even Antylamon and Renamon to join in the dances and games. Rika, though being asked, carefully stayed away from the karaoke.

Bed time was late, later than anyone was used to. Rika didn't want to consider how late, or perhaps early, it was. Shar had taken them back to their hut, and pulled out a futon.

"Rika," said he, obviously feeling somewhat awkward about naming her without the title, "unfortunately, the only bed we have in the village is Kiken's old one, as none of us digimon like, or need, to use one. You don't—"

"No, I don't mind," Rika said quickly, grabbing the folded up futon from his arms before he could accidentally slice part of it open with the shurikens that were his hands. "We'll be just fine, thank you, Shar."

"If you need anything, I'm right next door."

They had settled down to sleep then, the serenity of the Village washing over them. That was, of course, how Rika had ended up in her particular situation.

At first, the futon had just been a bed, somewhere to sleep. Then it registered that it had been Takato's—Kiken's—bed. She knew that if someone had slept in her bed, she wouldn't be too happy about it, but this was Kiken, who was Takato, and—argh! This is where her mind became twisted around. Things she was used to with Takato she attributed to Kiken, even if he didn't do those things or act that way, and now vice-versa.

She was confused, sometimes, and did not like it. She focused back on her original train of thought. 'This is… is Gogglehead's bed. Kinda weird, sleeping in bed… especially without him in it…. I did NOT just think that. Hm… I wonder….'

From what she had seen of him since they had met up in the Citadel, Rika knew that he must have gone through some fairly intense training. Also, she had her suspicions that digimon did not know how to do laundry (well, she was pretty sure they didn't, but, considering these were digimon and the Digital World she was thinking about, she couldn't say 100 percent either way).

Ducking under the covers, she pulled the sheet above her to her face and—'Yep, smells like Gogglehead.' While normally she would have been disgusted by this, there was just something about the situation that made her feel different. Her gut clenched, she began to sweat, her hands were a bit clammy, and a strange mixture of nerves, adrenaline, and excitement built up in her.

'I'm actually sleeping in Gogglehead's bed. I… this is too weird….'

She felt like she was a child, stealing a cookie from the cookie jar, afraid she was going to be caught. At the same time, though, it was as though she was at the top of the first, highest, hill on a roller coaster, and just about to start the descent….

It briefly crossed her mind how feeling so guilty could, at the same time, be so exhilarating, but she pushed those thoughts aside. Snuggling further under the covers, she turned her face into her pillow, breathing in the fresh clear scent that always made her think of bakeries, cinnamon, almonds and pine; a scent that was unmistakably Takato.

As she grew used to the fact that she was sleeping in his bed, her eyes began to droop, and she feel asleep.


Everything was eerily silent, the only sound his own breathing. He eyed the darkness before him, about to say something, if only to break the silence. "I—!"

"Sir!"

Jolting him awake was the voice of a BlackGatomon right by his head, the small champion barely stopping before careening into him.

"What is it, BlackGatomon?"

"The Council wishes to see you!"

"Alright… I don't suppose you know where they are, do you?"

BlackGatomon, one of the few digimon capable of going ultimate (though she was rarely ever seen as LadyDevimon) grinned at him and gestured for him to follow her. "Right this way, Sir Knight!"

"And what have I said about calling me that?" He asked as he fell into step behind her.

She shrugged her shoulders, as much as she could while on all fours, and continued her fast pace. "Not to. The only other option is 'Sir Tamer', so I think 'sir' is a fine compromise."

"You could just call me Kiken."

"Too informal."

Kiken groaned, running his hand through his hair. "Don't I get to decide if it's too informal?"

"Not in this case you don't. Here- we're here."

He blinked, looking at the opening beside him. "Really? Thanks, BG."

She smirked, leaping into his arms and nuzzling his neck. "No problem, sir. Just call us if you need any help!"

BlackGatomon quickly disappeared around the next corner, leaving Kiken to the Council. He stepped inside what he assumed was a room, and was immediately surprised. First of all—there was actual light in that room. Torches flickered along the walls, but he didn't feel the normal pain of letting his eyes adjust. Guilmon, Impmon, Terriermon, and Shurri were four of the many digimon gathered in the fairly small room, all of them ranged in a circle around the perimeter. In the middle was a medium sized dinosaur digimon, one that he faintly recognized as having met before- a DarkLizamon.

The champion looked stunned to see him there, but then bowed to him. "Tamer… thank you for trying to defend me, and I am sorry for what pain I have caused you."

Kiken blinked, not wanting to take a step back, but having no idea what the other digimon was talking about. "Eh? Erm… it's… no problem?"

"You are too kind," DarkLizamon commented, still bowed.

One of the Council members, though Kiken couldn't tell which one had spoken, called them to attention. "DarkLizamon brings some disturbing news for you, our General."

Kiken tilted his head (still trying to figure out how he had earned himself that title, anyways), and turned all his attention back to the dark champion before him. "DarkLizamon? What is it?"

"Do you know of the strange events that have been occurring throughout the levels recently, Tamer?"

Kiken nodded, stepping forward so that he stood alongside DarkLizamon. "I do. What is it?"

"These are not just separate, isolated incidents. Someone is attacking, and in a pattern, for a purpose. We believe that that cave-in the other day was another example of these attacks."

Kiken nodded, remembering the strange knight he had met. "That I'll believe."

"We believe we have located the intended target of the next attack."

"Well, that's goo—what?!"

DarkLizamon looked surprised at his outburst, but nodded. "Yes. Myself and those who travel with me have been following these incidents as they happen. Tamer, General, we wish you to come with us and see if you cannot stop these digimon!"

Kiken couldn't help but blink a few times, letting what DarkLizamon said sink in. Finally, he turned to his partner and those he called his friends. Guilmon cocked his head, Impmon began playing with a fireball with a fairly evil-looking smirk on his face, Shurri reached behind him to check on the large shuriken throwing star that was strapped there. The same BlackGatomon who had led him to the Council room nodded her head, standing and stretching, while Terriermon gave him a thumbs up.

"We're with you, whatever you decide to do, Gogglehead!"

Kiken smiled, closing his eyes as he turned back to DarkLizamon and the Council. "Well, it's not like I would let myself have a choice in this matter…." Opening his eyes, he fixed DarkLizamon with a cool, easy smile. "DarkLizamon? Lead the way."


Rika had been planning on scouting out the area around the Village first, progressively making their way further and further out until it would be impossible for them to return to the Village at night and would need to camp out. Renamon and Antylamon had agreed with her plan, and Shar and the Old One agreed to pass on the plan to Mihiramon, whenever the tiger returned.

It was nearing midday, and the four compatriots had taken a break after circling the Village over ten times since morning. Biting her lips, Rika shook her head. "He wouldn't be so close to the Village and not visit," she told Renamon and Antylamon, the gnome acting very Calumon-like and playing with a pink data sphere like a ball. Rika shook her head at the sight, continuing, "I think we should do a few more rounds before we head back, see if the villagers need any help—you know, as payment for letting us stay here," she growled, cutting off Antylamon's comment. "Then tomorrow we should start further out."

"Understood, Rika," Renamon replied for both digimon, Antylamon nodding.

"You know young Kiken better than any of us, Rika," Antylamon told her, "If that is what you think he would do, we will follow you."

Rika bit her lip, looking away from the Tamed Deva. If she knew Kiken, knew Takato, half as well as she once thought she did, they wouldn't have been in this situation in the first place. Ignoring that thought (and instead trying to block out her reminiscing about how comfortable she was the night before), Rika stood up.

"Alright then. Let's start again."

As the other two digimon got to their feet and the gnome came to reclaim its place on Rika's shoulder, Renamon froze, staring back at where the Village was, hidden now behind a sand dune and a rock formation instead of the barrier. The vulpine's ears twitched, eyes narrowing. "Rika…"

"What is it, Renamon?"

She didn't say anything, and instead Antylamon leaped to the top of the rock form, gazing out at the Village. He gasped, a sound audible even to Rika's ears so far below, and took a flying leap, bringing him back down to the ground.

"Rika, Renamon! We must go back, now!"

"What?" Rika blinked, questioning it even as Renamon scooped her up in her arms and shifted up to the top of the rock form, Antylamon joining them momentarily. The gnome took one look at the scene before them and tried to scramble down Rika's shirt or into one of her pockets, attempting to hide.

Antylamon and Renamon eyed the panorama with considering, if confused, gazes, taking in what information they could, not wanting to leap without looking—in this case, quite literally. Neither made a move once they had looked their fill, though. Both waited with baited breath for Rika's decision.

The young Tamer stared openly at the landscape before her, shock one of the most evident emotions on her face. Her eyes narrowed, lips thinned—this wasn't the new, not necessarily nice and fluffy but kinder Rika that she had become since first meeting with the rest of the Tamers. This was the full-blown Digimon Ice Queen personality in full force: kill or be killed, where fleeing is no option. Not because she wanted power, but because she could hear the screams.

"Renamon? Antylamon? Let's say we go crash their party."

They immediately began making their way towards the Village, now seemingly only a pillar of fire and smoke on the horizon.


Notes

1) I can guarantee that someone is going to kill me. If you're wondering why I'm typing that, it's because that I didn't want to post the next chapter (it might be 15) until I finished writing this, and I couldn't get this chapter to end the way I wanted it to for the longest time… actually, I couldn't get some of the middle sections to work out right, either. I'm still not one hundred percent okay with the ploy I used to get Calumon out of the picture for a bit, but, as much as I love writing the little guy, he would just get in the way of the next couple scenes and chapters.

2) Um…. Yeah, not sure what I was going to write here. Well, I now am onto exams, so I guess that means I should probably be studying (why me?!). Don't know how fast I'll finish this thing up.

3) Speaking of finishing it up, I've made a decision that's… somewhat annoyed me. Kind of. Well, not really, as it's entirely my choice, but… eh, meh. Alright, I have a continuation planned for this, always have, but based on my current 'updating' speed and the million other things going on with my life right now, I might not be able to work on the sequel for a while. SO, I'm doing two endings. The first will be able to finish this off all pretty and nice… kind of, while the second ending will be the one that leads into what else I have planned. The new ending (the one that is the actual owari, not just fin), has only recently begun the planning stages, but I have a while… sort of… until I get there.

Each 'ending' is going to be like… like… like the endings from Drakengard 2: exactly the same, up until a given point, at which time they'll branch off into slightly different directions, each direction using at least one or two chapters, maybe more. The way I have it set up right now is that where the one (the second ending) just ends, the other (the new, or first, ending) goes on for a bit longer, though I might very well change things BEFORE that, which would mean more chapters on both sides…. Eh, you get my point.

Sorry again for the long update time!

Edit: NEW

Although the above notes still stand, I'm embarking on a new phase to this story. Specifically, a minor rewrite of the first eight or nine chapters (possibly more). In order to facilitate both the rewrite and the double ending, I've started something called a "Running Sounding Board" over at my livejournal. Rewritten chapters and possible plots ideas will be posted over there for your consideration. Once the 'final' version of the rewrite is completed at my livejournal, it will then be posted here.

Also posted over there will be the initial versions of any new fiction that I write, whether it be for digimon or otherwise, as well as pieces that have yet to--and probably never will--make it onto my fanfiction account.

If it's not too much trouble, I'd like to ask for your time in popping over there to look things over. Everything regarding digimon will be tagged with 'digimon' and everything regarding the Running Rewrite and possible continuation will be tagged with 'sounding board'. (On my livejournal, there's a list of all my tags in alphabetical order on the left hand side near the top. At the moment, the two tags in question are in fairly small font, but as more entries are added they should become more visible.)

Thanks again for your patience with my horrid updating speed, and thanks in advance for your support!

My livejournal is: mecomptane. livejournal. com (take out the spaces). There will also be a link in my profile near the top.