Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.

A/N: Been a busy few weeks, but I finally have another chapter out! After this we shall get back to Sam and the World of Darkness!

Following the Footsteps of Destiny

Chapter 237: A Message of Hope

Taniko Izumi

Odiaba, Japan, Earth

Taniko sat alone at the computer, her dark eyes gazing at the email her father had sent her earlier during the night, and although she could clearly read the typed words on the screen, her brain was having trouble processing the information.

It was still fairly early in the morning, and though the room was peaceful and quiet at the moment, Taniko knew that was soon going to change.

Miya...How can I bring myself to tell you the news?

Taniko had been able to fall asleep quickly enough, but as the night had continued on she'd been plagued by nightmares about all of the things that could possibly go wrong during the mission her family and friends had undertaken in the Digital World. As a result she had been unable to sleep straight through the night.

After waking for the fifth time from an unpleasant nightmare, she had decided that even though it was still quite early in the morning for the average person to be getting out of bed, enough was enough.

She had been careful not to wake the other girls, especially Miya who definitely needed her sleep, and creeping downstairs she had gone to the kitchen for a glass of orange juice before heading back up the stairs to the room Davis and Noriko used for an office.

And that was where she was now, all alone and thinking in retrospect that she might have been better off staying in bed.

I've always hated having to be the bearer of bad news...

The fifth time she had been jerked out of a restless sleep from a nightmare, she had barely been awake for ten minutes when she had suddenly felt strangely as if the computer was calling to her. That was when she had decided it was time to get up.

It had been a silly thought, since Daichi and the others would probably still be asleep at this time in the Digital World. Knowing that, she had been aware of the fact that she would be unlikely to receive another email from her father until later in the morning, but despite all logic and reason she had felt compelled to check the computer regardless of how pointless it might seem.

Taniko had never been the type to ignore her instincts, and acting on a hunch she had given in to her urge to check her email.

And she was sorry now that she had done so.

To her surprise there had been an email waiting for her, and the sight of it had caused her to tense up with fear. Her father would not have emailed her that early in the morning unless it was urgent, and upon seeing the message in her inbox she had been unable to find the courage to open it at first. It had taken her another fifteen minutes to work up the nerve to read it, and after forcing herself to do so, she was dismayed to find that her hunch had been right.

As she had suspected the email did not contain good news, and the thought of telling Miya and Nao what the message said made her feel sick to her stomach.

How will I bring myself to tell them the terrible news? How will I be able to stand the looks on their faces when they find out what has happened to Sam?

She didn't know if she would be able to stand it, but somehow she was going to have to find a way to remain calm and composed. She needed to be strong for Miya and Nao. She needed to keep a clear head and to remain focused.

That's what Dad would do if he was here.

And now it was time to make her father proud and prove that she could do it too.

At least the news isn't all bad.

The part about meeting the partners of the first Digidestined was actually pretty exciting. Maybe she would start with the good news. Everybody always liked to hear some good news.

Somehow I think this is going to be a long day...

"Taniko?"

At the sound of her name, Taniko glanced over her shoulder at the door to see who had interrupted her unpleasant thoughts. She immediately spotted T.K., Kari, Gatomon, and Patamon, and upon seeing their familiar faces she smiled in relief. T.K. was the one who had spoken, and judging by the worried look on his face he could tell that something was wrong.

"You guys came. I wasn't sure if you would get my message this early in the morning."

"Neither one of us could sleep very well last night," Kari said softly, coming into the room with Gatomon in her arms and taking a seat on the chair next to her. "We were already awake when your email came through to T.K.'s D-Terminal."

"Gatomon and I couldn't sleep either," Patamon added, shaking his head in dismay from where he sat perched atop T.K.'s head.

"I take it there's been some bad news?" T.K. sighed, taking the chair on her other side.

Both T.K. and Kari looked tired, and Taniko could tell the couple was still extremely worried about their sons. And if they were worried about Mickey and Matty then Taniko couldn't even imagine how Ken and Yolei must be feeling at the moment.

"Taniko?" Kari pressed, nudging her gently in the ribs.

Taniko gave herself a mental shake, and giving in to the inevitable, she said, "Let's wait until the others arrive. I only want to have to say this once."

"That bad?" Gatomon said dryly, exchanging a look with her partner.

"Bad enough, though to be fair there's some good news, too."

Kari was about to respond when Tai and Sora suddenly burst into the room with their digimon partners, and catching the look on her face, Tai immediately demanded to know what was going on. Sora, Biyomon, and Agumon were no less insistent, but before Taniko even had a chance to respond Joe, Gomamon, June, Mina, and Candlemon came crowding into the room behind the Kamiya couple, which caused a bit of a traffic jam.

Taniko had sent messages out to her mother and the three couples after reading her father's email, informing them that they needed to come as soon as possible once they were awake, but she certainly hadn't been expecting all of them to respond this early.

"Okay, who's in trouble now?" June demanded, her dark eyes flashing. "It's Dai, isn't it? I swear it's always that nephew of mine. If he's gotten himself into-"

"Has someone been injured?" Joe asked, interrupting his wife's tirade. "If they need my assistance I'm more than happy to help."

"We'll all help!" Gomamon offered.

Taniko stared at the seven adults, who were all staring back at her with apprehensive looks on their faces, and crossing her arms over her chest, she said dryly, "Did any of you sleep? And now that I think about it...how did all of you get inside the house?"

"The door was unlocked," Tai replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Somebody must have forgotten to lock it last night."

"I bet it was Davis," Gomamon smirked.

"And no, we didn't get much sleep," Sora said quietly, looking at the floor.

"Not even us digimon, and we always sleep well," Candlemon added, his tone filled with regret.

There was a moment of tense silence, and then Mina said quietly, "We should probably wake the others."

"I'll wake the girls," Sora said quickly, turning towards the door with Biyomon. "Joe and Gomamon can wake the boys. And, Tai..."

"I'll wake Davis and Noriko," Tai replied, catching his wife's hint and following her out the door with Agumon on his heels.

Joe was quick to follow after the married couple, and taking a seat next to her, June said quietly, "Who?"

Taniko felt her eyes fill with tears, and impatiently brushing them aside, she managed to whisper, "Sam."

To her credit, June didn't reply. Instead she merely let out a soft sound of dismay, and Taniko felt the older woman give her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Her mother and Candlemon also came to her in silence, and feeling the comfort of her mom's arms around her Taniko was able to hold back the tears.

I can do this! For Miya and Nao...

All too soon the house was filled with the sound of voices, and one by one the rest of the group came wandering into the room. Most of the kids were yawning and rubbing their eyes, but that wasn't the case with Davis and Noriko. Nor was it the case with their digimon partners either, though Shadow looked as happy and ready to play as any puppy of his nature should be. Taniko could tell by the looks on the faces of Davis, Noriko, Penguinmon, and DemiVeemon that they knew something was wrong, and unfortunately for her she was going to have to be the messenger of despair.

Definitely the good news first.

"Hey, Taniko! What are you doing up so early?" Renmi asked, covering her mouth to hide a huge yawn.

"And what are you guys doing here at this time of the day?" Ami asked, glancing back and forth between the seven adults who had just arrived.

It was T.K. who answered, and he was careful to keep his voice neutral. "Taniko has some news for us."

"Really?" Taka asked, pausing in mid-yawn to glance curiously at her. "What's up?"

Taniko took a deep breath to steady her nerves, and managing a smile, she said, "My dad sent me an email this morning. He's got some news for us."

"Well, what did it say?" Ema asked eagerly, exchanging an excited glance with Taysuke.

"I don't know if you can call it a coincidence or not, but Dai and the others ran into the partners of the first Digidestined in Modem last night."

There was a pause, and then suddenly everybody started talking at once.

"Are you serious?" Makku laughed, shaking his head in amusement. "That's awesome!"

"More digimon friends!" Rina giggled, tugging excitedly on Nao's shirt.

"Huh, can't say I was expecting that," Tai said, smiling despite the wary look in his dark eyes. "I bet they're an interesting group."

Taniko smiled in agreement. "My dad seems to think so. And it looks like they're a group of digimon we can count on to help Dai and the others locate the Spirit Chip."

"That's great!" Noah said enthusiastically, a smile on his face. "More help is always welcome!"

"I wish we could meet them," Nao said shyly.

Taniko smiled at the young boy, wanting to reassure him. "You'll get your chance. Dai has agreed to bring them back to the human world."

"How come?" Kenzo asked, frowning in confusion.

"They'll be a great help in contacting the original Digidestined, who might be able to give us some useful information about what happened in the past. They might be able to tell us something that will connect what is happening now to the past."

"You mean because of what your dad told us before in his last email about his conversation with Gennai, Piximon, and Leomon earlier," Noriko interrupted. "There's that whole issue with GranDracmon and the Ruler of Darkness, and how they connect to one another."

Taniko nodded in agreement. "Exactly. Do you remember what my dad told us about Seta Sugiyama being the principal of Odaiba Elementary?"

"Yeah, I'm still trying to get over that one," Taysuke said sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "Who would have thought our principal was a Digidestined."

"He's the type to be one with the way he's always letting Dai off the hook," Davis joked, earning himself a playful slap from Noriko.

That bit of information had caused quite a stir two days ago, and there had been a buzz of excitement ever since, despite their fear for Sam.

"What about it?" Rumi asked politely, trying to keep the conversation on track.

Taniko was happy to reply. "Having Seta's partner with us will make talking to Mr. Sugiyama a lot easier, and it will help our chances in hopefully meeting Tal and the other original Digidestined as well."

"True," Kari agreed, giving her a smile.

Taniko quickly explained everything that was in the email, minus the parts about Sam, and when she was done she gave the others a moment to chat amongst themselves about the good news.

Everybody seemed eager to talk.

Everybody except Miya.

The raven-haired girl was the only one who wasn't talking about the good news, and her face was very pale. Gazing at the other female, Taniko wasn't surprised to find that Miya was staring back at her. In fact, she had been expecting it.

And the look in the raven-haired girl's eyes made it clear what she was thinking. Taniko knew she wasn't fooling Miya at all, and that meant only one thing. The time had come for the bad news, whether any of them liked it or not.

What do I say? How do I even start?

She never got the chance to decide because Miya spoke first.

"What's the bad news then, Taniko?" the raven-haired girl asked quietly, her voice catching. "It's about Sam, isn't it."

She hadn't spoken very loud, but the room went deadly quiet.

Noah quickly moved to sit beside Miya, and staring at her, he said, "What are you talking about?"

"Izzy wouldn't have sent an email this early in the morning unless there was something wrong," Miya said dully, looking resigned to the terrible truth. "I'm not stupid, Noah. I know."

"But-"

"Hold my hand, please?" Miya whispered, her eyes beginning to sparkle with tears.

Noah quickly snapped his mouth shut, and reaching out he took her hand in both of his, squeezing it tightly. Her message had been loud and clear.

Lend me your strength.

"What's going on?" Nao cried, his small face tightening with fear. "Is Sam in trouble?"

Taniko turned back to the computer, and pulling up a map of the Eastern Hemisphere she focused in on the continent of Server. Their signals were all there, including Sam's, but there was no denying that his was very weak compared to the others.

"Sam left the house in Modem during the middle of the night without informing the others about where he was going, and he's been missing ever since. My dad and the others believe he may have been drawn into the World of Darkness."

Nao promptly burst into tears at this piece of news, and Rina quickly flung her arms around her friend to comfort him. Miya's reaction wasn't quite as noisy, but it had the same impact. The raven-haired girl seemed to lose what little strength she had, and collapsing against Noah she buried her face in his chest, unable to speak. All of Sam's cousins appeared to be in various states of shock, but at the same time their eyes were filled with determination.

"I'm not giving up on him yet!" Taka insisted, the look on his face daring anyone to disagree with him. "Sam will pull through this. I know he will!"

"Sam's a fighter," Makku agreed, shrugging his shoulders. "He's not going to give up that easily."

"Dai and the others will get him through this," Renmi agreed, her tone leaving no room for doubt. "Right, Rumi?"

Rumi nodded, and bowing her head, she said softly, "Sam couldn't ask for a better group of friends. They'll get him through this."

"Poor Ken and Yolei," Sora murmured. "I can't even imagine how they must be feeling right now."

"I knew," Miya whispered, lifting her head. "I knew something like this was going to happen. Why? Why can't Sam just accept Dad for who he is?"

"Because Sam needs to come to terms with who he is before he can come to understand Ken," a much older and wiser Davis replied, speaking almost without thinking. "Sam needs to know he can trust himself before he can trust his dad again."

There was no reply. Everybody simply stared at the former leader, and looking suddenly embarrassed, Davis said, "What? Did I say something stupid?"

"No," T.K. replied, a sudden smile lighting up his face. "No, not at all. Davis, you're right! It's all about trust! Sam might not trust his father anymore for keeping such a huge secret from him, but it's more than that. He doesn't trust himself anymore either, and therefore he can't bring himself to trust Ken anymore than he can trust himself."

"He thinks because Ken was the Emperor it means there's a chance he could become another Emperor if he gives in to the darkness in his heart," Kari said softly, shaking her head. "Why? Because he knows he's a lot like his father, and that was always something he was proud of in the past. He wants to be like his dad, but he's conflicted because the Emperor did terrible things. It made him realize that all humans are capable of evil, even the best of us. Even someone who is as kind and sweet as Ken. And that includes himself. And I don't think it's so much the fact that his dad was the Emperor that bothers Sam. It's the fact that Ken didn't tell him about it. It's like Sam feels as if Ken didn't trust him enough to tell him. In Sam's eyes Ken didn't trust his son enough to believe he would be forgiven."

"And thus Sam won't forgive Ken for failing to believe in his own son," Mina finished, shaking her head in despair.

"Don't you see, Davis? Sam has lost his faith not only in everyone around him, but also in himself. He blames his father not so much for being the Emperor, but for his lack of trust in those who are most precious to him," T.K. insisted, beaming at the former leader. "And that might be the key to reaching Sam's heart!"

"Oh," Davis replied, looking a bit sheepish. "Well that's good then, right?"

T.K. laughed, and putting an arm around Davis, he said, "Yes, it is."

"It's all well and good for us to know that, but how do we convince Sam to understand his anger?" Taka said, making a face.

"That's something Dai and the others will have to figure out," Joe sighed.

"But how?" Nao wailed, choking the words out between sobs.

"Not exactly an easy thing to do," Biyomon sighed.

"It's simple really," T.K. said, picking up Nao and holding the young boy securely in his arms. "Sam feels like he can no longer trust anyone or anything around him again. The key to reaching his heart is to restore that sense of being able to trust those who are most important to him. Sam has lost his faith in humanity. If it can be restored, there's still a chance for him."

"But how?" Miya whispered, gazing at the golden-haired Digidestined with tearful eyes.

T.K. headed towards the door with Nao in his arms, presumably to head downstairs with the intent of starting breakfast, and glancing back over his shoulder at Miya, his blue eyes sparkling, he said without a hint of worry in his tone, "They have Matty. Sam will be fine."

And with that he left the room, leaving the rest of the group to stare after him with their mouths hanging open.

Matty...

Taniko glanced back at the computer, and it was then that she realized that all of the Digivice signals were all together on the screen in one area. And to her surprise one group of signals was weaker than the other group, which could mean only one thing. The group had split up. And the group with the weaker signal, the group that contained Matty, had reached Sam presumably in the World of Darkness.

"They have Matty. Sam will be fine."

Taniko quickly pulled up her email, and typing out a quick message she sent it to Yolei's D-Terminal, but not to Yolei herself. Of the group that had gone after Sam, only Ken and Yolei had D-Terminals, so she had been forced to send the message to one of those two. And although it had been sent to Yolei, the message itself had been specifically addressed to Matty. She knew Yolei would understand and pass her D-Terminal over to the one the message was intended for.

Matty.

Handsome, friendly, sweet, and always so warm and easy to talk to. And also their last hope. Taniko had understood T.K.'s words, even if the others had not.

The Spirit Chip of Faith.

The message she had sent Matty was only two words, but she knew he would somehow get what it meant, even if he didn't understand completely as of yet.

Two words that might make all the difference in the world.

Two words that might just save Sam's life.

"Have faith."