Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon, nor do I own Kibomon, Aiwemon, Velinemon, or Gessmon, who were created by RoyalKnightX, Shire Folk, Silver Kitsune Lunara, and Miss Anonymous hp.

A/N: I know it has taken me a while, but I do have another chapter done finally! This is unfortunately the busy time of year for me, but I will do what I can to get chapters out as soon as possible. Hope you all enjoy!

Following the Footsteps of Destiny

Chapter 231: A Touch of Evil

Sam Ichijouji

Server, Eastern Hemisphere, Digital World

Sam woke with a start, and lying in the darkness of the large hut that belonged to Jijimon and Babamon he took a moment to catch his breath, his heart still thumping wildly from the bad dream he knew he had experienced but unfortunately could not remember in the slightest.

On his right Mickey was sleeping quietly, though there was a pained look on the golden-haired Digidestined's face, as if he too were having a bad dream. Matty was sprawled on his other side, and though normally the younger twin would be snoring comfortably in his sleep, tonight he lay rigid and not a single sound escaped his mouth. Instead, like Mickey, there was an unsettling expression on his face, and Sam was quite sure Matty was experiencing a terrible dream, much like the one Mickey appeared to be engrossed in.

It's coming. It's coming for me.

Though it was no longer raining and the night was hot and humid, it was pitch black outside and the light of the moon did not seem to penetrate through the windows of Jijimon's hut as they had earlier in the evening.

There's no light, but I can still see the shadows. The shadows are everywhere.

Something was terribly wrong. Sam could feel it in the air. The night was not what it appeared to be, and something waited for him in the darkness.

The air feels evil. I can't see anything. Only the darkness...

A quick glance at the rest of the sleeping Digidestined and their digimon partners made it seem as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Except for the twins, all of the others appeared to be sleeping peacefully, including Kibomon and his digimon friends who had joined them for the night. The only other members of the group who did not seem to be sleeping soundly were the three angel digimon who were curled up together on the floor above Mickey's head. Though all three of them looked as if they were sound asleep, every so often their fluffy ears would twitch nervously and one of them would let out a soft whimper of fear.

They feel the darkness. They feel the evil that lurks all around us...

Sam quickly rubbed his sapphire eyes to clear his vision, which did not really help much, and climbing out of his sleeping bag he went to one of the two front windows to glance outside at the sleeping town of Modem.

What he saw made him gasp in surprise.

Off in the distance he could just make out the dark waters of an ocean between the tall line of trees in the distance, and continuing to stare at the horizon he felt a small shiver race down his spine. There was no ocean anywhere near Modem or the swamp, but there was no mistaking what he was seeing in the distance.

The World of Darkness.

It's with me wherever I go. I can't escape it. I can't fight it. It wants me. It's coming for me...

The soft sound of sudden movement behind him caught his attention, and turning away from the window he glanced around in confusion, trying unsuccessfully to discover the source of the noise. At first glance nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, and all of his friends, both human and digimon, were still sleeping soundly. Upon closer inspection Sam immediately realized that the faint shadows lurking in the corners of the room were shifting when they shouldn't be, and as he stood there watching them passively without expression they began to take shape. As the black shadows materialized into vaguely human forms, Sam went rigid and began to slowly back up towards the window, the back of his head hitting the glass behind him. Curiously he did not feel afraid, and instead of crying out for help he merely studied the shadows with mild curiosity, as if resigned to his fate.

He had known from the start, since the very first time he had been pulled into the World of Darkness, that it was only a matter of time before the shadows found him again, and now that they had he didn't see any use in fighting the inevitable. They were the ones who had been calling to him, and even though a small part of him recognized the fact that he was in danger, for some reason he could not bring himself to care.

He couldn't think straight. He couldn't see past the darkness. It was a part of him now, and he was at its mercy.

They don't forgive him. They can't forget what he did. The Emperor has forever tainted him, and he will never escape the past. Am I tainted, too? By a past that isn't even my own?

As Sam watched in painful silence, the dark shapes glided closer to him, and as they came to a stop only about a foot away from him, he took a step towards them.

On the floor Mickey shivered and proceeded to cry out in his sleep, but luckily the shadows were ignoring his friends for the moment. The adults were sleeping in one of the back rooms, and Sam wondered if his father could feel the darkness. Even Jijimon and Babamon hadn't come out of their room to investigate, and that disturbed him.

They want me. They want the Emperor. They want to feed on the darkness of the past...

These shadows were just like the figures that had attacked him when he had found himself stuck in the World of Darkness with DarkAngelicmon and Dracomon not so long ago. Like last time they were staring at him with their strange purple eyes, and as before there was a hungry look about them and a need to feed upon the darkness of the heart.

Manifestations of darkness.

"Your heart has turned as black as my wings, Sam. You should have listened to Mickey while you still had the chance..."

The shadows were also reminiscent of the one that had been in the castle belonging to the Ruler of Darkness, just like the dark forms from the World of Darkness had been.

They're hunting me. They have been all along, even before I found out about the Emperor. It's almost like they knew what was coming...

Last time the shadows had looked almost angry with him, and their fury had washed over him like a tidal wave. This time, though, they did not appear to be angry. Instead they were gazing at him with eager anticipation, and as he watched the six that had materialized in the room, the one closest to him beckoned with a long shadowy arm.

I can hear you. I can hear your call.

Sam couldn't help himself, even though a tiny part of his brain was screaming at him to run. To run away and to never look back. He was mesmerized by those strange purple eyes, and moving almost as if he were in a dream he took another step towards the shadows. In a sense he recognized the fact that he should have been shocked to see the shadows lurking in the darkness, but at the same time he couldn't bring himself to question it. As he had noted before, it was almost as if he had been expecting their appearance, and now that they had shown themselves he seemed unable or unwilling to put up a fight against them.

Uncle, are you out there? Are you waiting for me somewhere out there in the darkness?

He watched the shadows slip around him, their fluid bodies moving towards the door, and unable to pull his eyes away from them he was unable to ignore the one in the lead who was still beckoning him to follow.

Thinking back on the Vilemon earlier, a surge of anger stirred within him.

They still blame him. He hurt them, and now they find it hard to trust humans. How many digimon are like that in the Digital World? How many more feel the same way as the Vilemon? How many more blame the Emperor for their suffering? How many more can't bring themselves to trust humans again because of him...

The shadow in the lead continued to gesture to him, and unable to ignore its alluring pull Sam found himself moving towards the door.

Has he really changed? Or is he still the same, just like the digimon in this world are afraid he is? Am I really so different from him? Or am I just the same? Vulnerable to the evil that lurks inside me...

"It's not so easy to forgive when you've been hurt by someone you thought you could trust..."

The shadows did not speak, but their message was clear. They wanted him to follow them into the darkness. They wanted him to come to the ocean. Why, he did not know, but for reasons he could not explain he felt compelled to answer their call, and he did so without even one glancing back at his friends. The darkness was calling him. He needed to answer the call. He needed to escape from the pain and sorrow lurking deep within him.

"We can't forgive the Emperor..."

By this time Sam had reached the front door, and stepping out into the darkness, the villagers and the town sleeping all around him, he stared for a moment at the Dark Ocean whispering in the distance.

Was he the same as the Vilemon? Could he ever truly forgive the Emperor? Or was he the same as his father, willing to torture innocent digimon for his own personal gain?

I can't see. The darkness is so thick. Where is everybody? Mom, Uncle, Nao, Miya, Mickey, Glowmon, somebody... anybody...help me. Dad...Father...Please, save me...

His brain stopped working. He couldn't concentrate anymore, and leaving his digimon partner behind he followed the shadows out of town towards the ocean.

Lucemon

Server, Eastern Hemisphere, Digital World

The town of Modem was calm and quiet, and deep within the darkness not a single digimon stirred. On the surface, the village looked serene and peaceful, but underneath the deceiving cloak of tranquility that hovered over the town, the darkness lurked dangerously in and around the buildings, biding its time and waiting for the moment when it could swallow the hearts of the innocent.

"What's happening?" MarineAngemon whispered, a hint of fear in his voice.

Since everyone was asleep, Lucemon had managed to make his way into town without being detected, and standing only a mere twenty feet away from Jijimon's hut he turned to gaze sadly at the Dark Ocean pulsing with life in the distance.

Sam was faltering, there was no question about it. What could have happened to make the young raven-haired Digidestined fall so deeply into darkness?

Is this your work, Angelicmon?

Though his old friend was certainly a part of what was going on, Lucemon did not think it was entirely DarkAngelicmon's work. Something else had come into play, and he needed to find out what that was.

A result of your plan no doubt, my friend. I will not deny you have succeeded in part. There is no question Sam will be able to get his Spirit Chip now, but only if he can come back from the darkness. And that's the real question, isn't it? Will he be able to find himself again, or has he fallen so deeply into darkness that he can no longer be saved?

Lucemon had not been lying when confronting his old friend the night before. He trusted DarkAngelicmon and he knew his friend would not hurt Sam.

Which meant DarkAngelicmon must have some kind of plan in mind to bring Sam back from the darkness that was threatening him. The only question was what that plan might be.

"Lucemon?"

Lucemon turned to his small friend, and letting out a deep sigh, he murmured, "I am sorry, MarineAngemon. You are only here because I have inadvertently dragged you into this terrible place, and for that I apologize."

"I don't understand," MarineAngemon replied, shaking his head in confusion. "What's going on and where did that ocean come from? What's happening? Where are we? We're still in Modem, but this doesn't look like the swamp anymore."

"The World of Darkness."

"W-what?" MarineAngemon gasped.

"This is the World of Darkness. I am here because the darkness wants me. It has hunted me for a long time. You are only here because you are my companion. Upon being dragged into this world, you were inadvertently dragged in along with me."

"But why?"

"You know my history, MarineAngemon. The darkness wants me every bit as much as it wants Sam and my old friend. There is evil lurking this night, the darkness within our own hearts, and it has come to claim us all."

"It can try, but I'm not going to let that happen," MarineAngemon snorted, fluttering closer to him and settling down on his shoulder. "I'll protect you, don't worry."

Lucemon smiled, and giving his friend a gentle pat on the head, he said, "I know, and for that I am in your debt."

"Is that why you boldly flew into town despite my protests? Was it because of the darkness?"

Lucemon nodded, and blue gaze lingering on the ocean, he said quietly, "The darkness has been growing all day. DarkAngelicmon warned us that something was going to happen last night, and whatever it was that took place seems to have been what triggered the darkness here tonight."

"Maybe we should have gone back last night then."

Lucemon shook his head, another sigh escaping his lips. "Even if we had, I doubt the outcome would have changed."

"Then you were wrong, Lucemon! You said he wasn't going to hurt Sam!"

"He won't hurt Sam," Lucemon said firmly, his tone leaving no room for doubt. "If we lose Sam to the darkness it will be his own undoing. Regardless, though, with the darkness growing I couldn't stay away anymore. I needed to see what was happening for myself."

"What should we do?"

Lucemon was about to answer when the door to Jijimon's hut suddenly flew open, and he let out a gasp as a group of dark shadows with glowing purple eyes began to pour out onto the front lawn, their hungry gaze taking in the view of the ocean. They had not spotted him yet, but Lucemon knew if they did they would make him their next target.

I am putting myself at terrible risk, but I cannot turn back. Sam needs me...

"What are those things?" MarineAngemon gasped, looking absolutely horrified.

"I believe they are manifestations of the darkness in Sam's heart. They have come for him."

Luckily the shadows were so fixated on the ocean that his presence continued to go unnoticed, but unfortunately Sam wasn't so lucky.

Only about six shadows had come from the house, but more were beginning to materialize on the front lawn, their violet eyes shifting from the hut to the ocean and back again. The reason why immediately became clear. Less than a minute after the shadows had burst through the open door, another figure appeared on the lawn, and he was moving almost as if he were in a dream. From his height, stature, and dark hair, Lucemon knew immediately the figure was Sam Ichijouji, and breath catching in his throat he felt himself start to tremble.

Sam.

The boy stood only twenty feet away from him, and yet even though he was standing in plain sight Sam gave no indication that he had noticed the presence of another figure standing in the darkness. This was the closest Lucemon had ever been to a human before, and even though his fear and uncertainty had convinced him to stay hidden in the past, seeing Sam now so close and in such a state caused his heart to twist painfully in his chest. He wanted desperately for the boy to look at him. He wanted Sam to see him through the darkness that clouded his vision.

"It's like we're not even here," MarineAngemon said sadly.

Lucemon felt the pain of that as well, and wanting so badly for Sam to notice him, he said, "The others lay sleeping, completely unaware of what is going on. Even Glowmon has been left behind. We cannot allow Sam to journey to the Dark Ocean alone."

"So we're going to completely ignore DarkAngelicmon's warning about not getting involved?"

"Exactly."

This time it was MarineAngemon's turn to sigh, and shaking his head, he said, "Why did I have a feeling you were going to say that? Where is DarkAngelicmon anyway?"

"He's...extremely close by, and he's not very happy with us, but unfortunately there is nothing I can do about that right now. Sam's safety is the only thing that matters at this point in time."

"But-"

"I will still honour his wishes and stay out of Vampiramon's sight. You don't need to worry about that, but I cannot let Sam face the darkness alone."

"I know. Neither can I. Come on, let's get going before Sam gets too far ahead of us."

Lucemon nodded in agreement, and following Sam's dark form they proceeded to head for the ocean.

DarkAngelicmon

Server, Eastern Hemisphere, Digital World

DarkAngelicmon stood just inside the shadow of a small building across the street from Jijimon's hut, his green eyes narrowing as he watched Sam hurry after the legion of shadows beckoning him to follow them to the ocean. A moment later a flash of white indicated that Lucemon was on the raven-haired Digidestined's heels, which annoyed the fallen angel but at the same time it did not at all surprise him. A moment later the flash of white wings disappeared into the trees, and crossing his arms over his chest, DarkAnglicmon shook his head and said softly, "And so it begins..."