Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.

A/N: We're finally getting into the heart of this Spirit Chip arc! I really enjoyed writing this chapter, so I hope you all like it!

Following the Footsteps of Destiny

Chapter 234: Divine Intervention

Sam Ichijouji

Sever, Eastern Hemisphere, Digital World

There's something there. That's why they want me to follow them. There's something at the ocean they want me to see...

Sam Ichijouji could not tell you how long he had been walking through the forest, following the path of the dark shadows leading the way, but regardless he continued to track their movements from a relatively safe distance. It could have been minutes, hours, or even days for all he knew, but despite the potential dangers that may lie ahead he could not bring himself to care. Time held no meaning for him.

Nothing did. Not anymore.

It's so dark. I can't see the way. Where is the light waiting for me on the horizon? Has it betrayed me too, just like my father? Has it abandoned me?

Sam blinked as images of his uncle flashed across his vision and memory, but he chose to ignore them. His uncle couldn't save him. His uncle was dead. Nobody could save him now.

I'm all alone. All alone here in the darkness, where nobody can reach me...

Up ahead the shadows appeared to murmur excitedly to one another in strange low hisses as they continued towards the ocean, their violet eyes glowing eerily in the darkness.

The ocean. I need to reach the ocean.

Sam picked up his pace a little bit, and sensing the sudden change in his mood the shadows responded in turn, their long legs allowing them to move easily through the underbrush. The trees, which had been so dense earlier, were starting to thin out a bit, a sign that they were getting closer to the beach.

At this point Sam was vaguely aware that he was almost running to reach the ocean, and that tiny part of him that was whispering urgently to turn back was also making him wonder just exactly what he was running from.

There are so many things. So many things I don't want to face.

The Digimon Emperor and the man behind the mask, the truth of the Vilemon and the reality of the Digital World, the friends and the partner he had left behind, the kindness and compassion in his heart that he had forsaken.

No! No, I don't want to think about it! I don't want to deal with it anymore. I just want to be alone. I just want all of it to go away!

There were so many digimon who resented the boy genius who had used his brilliant mind for evil. So many digimon who could not bring themselves to forgive the child who had tortured them. So many digimon who couldn't bring themselves to fully trust humans because of Ken Ichijouji. The Digimon Emperor.

How can I forgive him when even the digimon in this world can't bring themselves to trust him? How can I let the past go when the past still haunts the digimon of this world?

A mournful cry echoed through the trees, and it was only after he wiped the tears from his eyes that Sam realized the cry had come from himself.

As expected, the shadows responded eagerly to his sorrow, their bodies quivering with excitement. They were feeding on the darkness, and though Sam did not want to admit it a small part of him knew they were responding to the darkness that was coming from his own heart.

Is this what I am? Is this what I've become? Am I just like the Digimon Emperor now? Destined to follow the path of darkness?

Sam was startled when the broken trees branches and scattered leaves beneath his feet began to disappear, and looking down he discovered a thick layer of sand stretching out towards the beach. He was almost there.

The Dark Ocean.

It's just like my dream from earlier. Are you waiting for me, uncle, or am I really all alone?

Sam quickly hurried the rest of the way through the trees, and stepping out onto the beach he paused to study his surroundings. He could feel the dark waters of the ocean calling to him, but unfortunately the beach was deserted.

There wasn't even a lighthouse, just like he had assumed the last time he'd been in the World of Darkness when he had seen a glimpse of the ocean between the trees. There hadn't been one in his dream either, most likely due to it having been destroyed twenty-five years ago. Instead, he had only the water and the dark shadows milling around on the sand for company.

He's not here. I should have known. I really am all alone...

A sudden wave of exhaustion overwhelmed him, and sinking to his knees in the sand he gazed dully out at the ocean, his sapphire eyes growing empty of all emotion.

There wasn't even a faint light on the horizon to guide his way back. He had nothing and no one.

He was empty.

That dream was a lie. Why? Why would you lie to me, Uncle?

Sam sensed movement close by, and slowly lifting his head he discovered that the shadows had moved to form a circle around him, their violet eyes burning hungrily in the darkness.

"What is it?" he asked dully, unable to summon even the faintest hint of emotion. "What is it you wanted to show me?"

The shadows beckoned him forward, and getting to his feet Sam slowly made his way to the edge of the water. The shadows continued to wave him on further, and stepping directly into the water Sam winced as it flooded his shoes and soaked his pants, though he did not turn back.

The water was cold and murky, and even though he wasn't completely submerged it made his teeth chatter. It also felt dirty and gritty against his skin, and wrapping his arms around himself he crouched down for a better look, soaking himself even more. "I don't understand. What do you want me to see?"

The shadows didn't respond. Instead, they merely waited on the sand, their long bodies tight with anticipation.

There's something about the ocean...

Ignoring the shadows, Sam continued to gaze into the water, a frown on his face.

At first he couldn't see anything, since the water was so dark and murky, but slowly it began to clear and an image began to form beneath the waves.

As the image became even more defined Sam realized he was staring at a reflection of himself in the water, only there was something odd about it. It looked exactly like him, no question about it, but the Sam reflected in the water wasn't wearing the same clothes he was currently wearing. Instead, the Sam in the ocean was wearing the outfit that used to belong to the Digimon Emperor.

No!

Sam barely registered the cry that came from his own mouth, and scrambling to his feet with a splash he stumbled back towards the beach, nearly falling several times as he tried to escape the water.

On the sand Sam could hear the shadows giggling madly to one another, their violet eyes glowing triumphantly with glee and excitement.

"No!" Sam heard himself shrieking as he stumbled back onto the sand. "No, I'm not like that! I'm not like him. That's not me!"

In response the shadows moved to circle around him again, and through they didn't react on their instincts Sam could sense a change in their attitude. The hunger was back in their gazes, and they began to stalk around him, their hands reaching for him.

They're going to hurt me. They're going to take what's left of me and feed it to the darkness. Maybe if I let them I'll become one of them...

Sam didn't have the strength to fight, and just as the first shadow reached for his shoulder there was a pause. As one the shadows froze in place, and turning to gaze back in the direction of the trees they began to hiss angrily amongst themselves, their violet eyes locked on something Sam could not see.

Huh?

Sam squinted in the same direction, and as he watched a different kind of shadow stepped out of the trees and began to move towards them, though the person or perhaps digimon was hard to see as the darkness was so thick around the figure.

There's someone else here in the darkness. Am I...not really alone? Is that you, Uncle?

Sam held his breath as the figure came closer, but it escaped him as a soft sound of despair when he realized the figure had wings. And since this particular digimon blended in so well with the darkness, Sam had a sinking feeling he knew exactly who it was.

DarkAngelicmon.

And sure enough that's exactly who it was. As DarkAngelicmon approached the shadows warily stepped back a bit, their hungry eyes following his every move. Sam, for his part, gazed bitterly at the fallen angel and said, "Oh, it's you."

DarkAngelicmon raised his eyebrows at this less than enthusiastic response, and coming to a stop on the sand he shook his head in amusement. "Were you expecting someone else?"

"What do you want?"

"Me? Nothing," DarkAngelicmon said softly, his gaze shifting to the shadows. "But is this really what you want?"

Sam chose to ignore the fallen angel's words, and letting out an almost hysterical laugh, he said, "Liar. You want my Spirit Chip. That's why you're here."

"Your Spirit Chip, yes, I cannot deny that, but there is nothing I want from this world," DarkAngelicmon replied, gazing at the ocean with contempt.

The shadows hissed in reply, but the fallen angel ignored them, as did Sam.

"Leave me alone."

"That wasn't very polite, Sam."

"I said go away!"

"And leave you to your fate?"

Sam glared at the fallen angel, his hands clenching into tight fists. "What would you know about it? I don't need you or anyone else!"

DarkAngelicmon looked closely at him, and to his surprise the fallen angel gave him an answer he had not been anticipating. "We all need somebody, Sam. The more we surround ourselves with others the stronger we become."

"Why...are you here?"

"Isn't it obvious?" DarkAngelicmon snorted, his emerald eyes glittering in the darkness like the eyes of a watchful cat. "I came out here all this way to save you, and this is the thanks I get?"

Sam let out a sob, and shaking his head he covered his face with his hands. "You can't save me. No one can save me now."

DarkAngelicmon was silent for a moment, and summoning his spear to dissuade the shadows from attacking them, he said quietly, "All those who are lost can be saved if those who love them have the strength to cleave their way through the darkness."

...What?

Sam gaped at the fallen angel in utter disbelief, ignoring the fact that he probably looked rather comical in the darkness. "Are you mocking me? You don't care about me! You're part of the reason why I'm here in the first place!"

"Is that what you believe?"

"You're doing this because of Mickey, aren't you! You're trying to get back at me for saying he hates you!"

"I care not for your trivial words," DarkAngelicmon snapped, thrusting out his spear for emphasis. "You seek to blame others for being stuck here in this world. That is the coward's way out, Sam. You have only yourself to blame for ending up in a place like this."

"What do you mean?"

"You are here because you weren't strong enough to fight against the darkness in your own heart. The fault lies entirely with you."

"Then what about you?" Sam shot back.

DarkAngelicmon hesitated before saying, "Perhaps there is some truth in that for me as well. But there are others ways to breach the walls of this wretched ocean."

Sam thought back to the story about T.K. and Kari, the part that he knew anyways, and swallowing a lump in his throat, he whispered, "Like helping a friend in need."

"Indeed," DarkAngelicmon murmured. "I will not deny the darkness wants me as well, but...there are other reasons this place draws me in here today."

"I saw myself in the ocean. I was wearing the Emperor's outfit."

I was the Emperor...

Sam did not know why he was telling DarkAngelicmon about what he saw, but the words came spilling out of him before he could stop himself.

"Did you now."

"The ocean...Does it reflect what is truly within our hearts?"

DarkAngelicmon suddenly knelt in front of him, and placing a hand under his chin the fallen angel looked directly into his eyes and said, "No, Sam. If I took it upon myself to gaze into the depths of the ocean the way you did, my wings would still be as black as they are now."

"What...is that supposed to mean?"

DarkAngelicmon was about to answer when the shadows started to hiss again, their violet eyes focusing angrily on the fallen angel. To his credit DarkAngelicmon merely gazed calmly at them in return, his spear held at the ready. "Darkness exists inside of all our hearts, and we are all at its mercy, but only if we allow it to consume us. This place...no one is immune to it. It represents the darkness that hides in all of us. The darkness that hunts us all."

Sam chose to ignore DarkAngelicmon's words, and jerking away from the fallen angel's touch, he snapped, "How do I know you're not lying to me? How can I trust you when I can't even trust my own father?"

The shadows suddenly crooned eagerly in response to his words, and leaping to his feet, DarkAngelicmon said quickly, "You do not want to take this path, Sam."

"How do you know what I want? You don't know me!"

"Your words will only cause us unnecessary trouble."

Sam could not explain why, but all of a sudden his heart swelled with anger and resentment, not only for his father but for DarkAngelicmon as well. Even for his uncle who had abandoned him and the friends who had left him to the mercy of the darkness threatening to consume his soul. "You've been trying to hurt me ever since we met! This is your fault. You and your master, and the stupid Emperor!"

The shadows crooned again, and this time they began to move closer, the circle closing in around them. DarkAngelicmon was watching them warily, and swinging his spear at them in a threatening manner, he said, "You must stop this line of thinking, Sam. Do you not see what is happening here?"

"I'm sure you'll tell me. You love telling me your lies even when I don't want to hear them!"

DarkAngelicmon ignored his words and proceeded to speak regardless of the jibe, just as Sam had predicted. "The shadows are responding to the darkness in your heart. They're feeding off your anger, fear, and resentment. The further you sink into darkness the more inclined they'll be to attack us. I thought perhaps there was hope for you yet, as the shadows were merely surveying us before, but if you continue down this road they will-"

"I don't care!" Sam suddenly heard himself screaming, covering his ears so he wouldn't have to listen to the fallen angel's words. "It's all lies! You're full of nothing but lies!"

"You must stop, Sam," DarkAngelicmon said with authority, swinging his spear at the closest shadow that was reaching for him. "If they attack us I do not think I have the strength to...to do what I did last time."

"Shut up, shut up, shut up! I don't want to hear it anymore! I don't want to deal with this! All of this is your fault. All of it! I hate you! I hate what you've done to me!"

As soon as the words left his mouth the shadows proceeded to attack. Sam screamed and quickly scrambled to his feet as they converged on him, and moving to stand in front of him, DarkAngelicmon snapped, "Now you've done it! Twilight Spear!"

Sam watched in fear as DarkAngelicmon's spear connected with the first shadow to reach them, and though the blow did not appear to affect it very much, it did stagger it and give DarkAngelicmon a chance to get into the air.

It's just like last time. Only this time Dracomon isn't here to help us...

"Wrath of Hades!" DarkAngelicmon shouted, holding out his arms.

The fallen angel's giant orb of violet energy careened into the shadows to their right and sent them staggering, the shock of the blast sending out a wave of purple energy, and before Sam could grasp what was going on DarkAngelicmon sent another orb of energy flying at the shadows to their left.

Those shadows also staggered, but other than that it did not appear to affect them at all. Instead of disappearing, the shadows continued to converge on them, just like last time.

"It's not working!" Sam cried, screaming again as a shadow grabbed onto his arm and tried to drag him closer.

"Of course it's not working!" DarkAngelicmon said in exasperation, landing beside him. "You cannot fight darkness with darkness and expect to win very easily. I'm no Daemon."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Later. Right now we have more important things to worry about."

"Do that thing! What you did last time!" Sam cried desperately as another shadow latched onto him. "Angelicmon's attack! Do that!"

"Were you not listening to me earlier?" DarkAngelicmon replied, once again sounding exasperated as he too tried to free himself from the shadows. "After all that has happened lately and after dealing with Lucemon, I do not have the strength to perform such a task. We are at the mercy of the shadows, and you only have yourself to blame for it. Although I must say, at least you've got some life in you again. I was starting to dislike the mindless doll act you've apparently been pulling recently."

"No! It's you! You're here, too! You're doing this!"

It's not me! It's not!

Sam shrieked as the shadows succeeded in knocking him down, and he moaned in terror as they fell on top of him, their dark hands clutching at him as they attempted to reach for his heart. He could feel himself fading, his spirit slipping away, and next to him on the sand DarkAngelicmon was in a similar state.

Are we dying? Is this the end for us? Mom, Dad, Uncle, Miya, Nao...My friends, my family, Glowmon...I'm sorry. I'm so sorry...

"Sam," DarkAngelicmon managed to gasp, his face contorted in pain as waves of darkness began to seep out of his body. "The ocean may not reflect the truth of your heart, but it can and will reflect reality if you choose to allow the darkness to take possession of your soul. You must fight it. You must let go of the past and the darkness of the Digimon Emperor. You must be...more...like...your father. You must...for us to...break free..."

They weren't going to survive this. Sam knew it in his heart. Soon the darkness would consume them both and they would be lost. He could feel the darkness taking possession of his heart, and soon they would be nothing more than shadows themselves, mere fragments of who they used to be.

But if DarkAngelicmon was already lost to the darkness then...the shadows shouldn't be affecting him like this, right? Not according to his logic anyways. Does that mean there's still...some good left in him? Dad...I don't have the strength to fight. I'm sorry I've failed you...

Unable to keep his eyes open anymore, his strength having been stolen from him, he let his eyelids fall closed. He knew in his heart that he had already given up and was merely waiting for the end, allowing the darkness to take hold of him. And unlike DarkAngelicmon, he wasn't even going to at least get the chance to be reconfigured.

This truly was the end for him. It was all over.

Dad...

Just when he thought his time had finally come a burst of bright light suddenly shone behind his eyelids, and a pleasant, almost ethereal, voice shouted, "Grand Cross!"

Sam jerked as the shadows quickly let go of him and the darkness suddenly lifted from his heart. Opening his eyes, he blinked and looked up just in time to see ten spheres of light that were arranged in some kind of pattern resembling a crucifix slam into them, causing them to dissolve immediately on impact. A second attack slammed into the shadows that had been holding DarkAngelicmon as they attempted to retreat, and they too dissolved in a burst of light.

Though the majority of the shadows were hit, some still remained, and the ones that had survived quickly scattered in all directions. They did not leave entirely, though. Instead, they merely continued to watch the scene from a distance, their eager gazes focused on something that had come from the trees.

What...happened?

Sam slowly sat up, and glancing in the direction that the light had come from he felt his heart leap into his throat at the sight that awaited him.

Hovering in the air above the sand was a figure Sam had never expected to see, and since the digimon's body was glowing softly in the gloom and his feathers were white, he was hard to miss in the darkness. Sam wasn't quite sure what he thought he would see when he had opened his eyes, but he certainly hadn't expected his gaze to land on what was unmistakably a celestial digimon who looked barely older than himself.

As their eyes met, Sam could see the terrible pain and sorrow glittering in the angel's pale blue eyes.

Is it...really him?

Sam had never seen this digimon before, but even so he knew instantly who is was. And he would have known even if the digimon hadn't looked like a male version of Luciamon.

After having heard so many mysterious stories about him, he had finally come face to face with the elusive angel from the past. A past that had existed well before his own time.

The friend and 'traitor' they had promised Luciamon they would find. The celestial digimon of lore.

Lucemon.