Disclaimer: Digimon Tamers is owned by Akiyoshi Hongo, Bandai, and Toei. Original characters and concepts are mine.
Rated: T for Teens - Containing violence, language, and vast destruction to Tokyo's landscape.
Notes: This story is a one-shot prologue to a much larger series.

Digimon Tamers: Divided Paths
By Infinity Blade

Five years.

It had been five long years since the world nearly saw its apocalypse. Not from human hands. Not from an act of God. Nor from some meteorite streaking from the sky. No war. No natural disaster. It was all from something most human beings couldn't even begin to fathom.

It had been half a decade since the D-Reaper.

Half a decade since all digital life forms were to be sealed back in the Digital World that they came from.

Four years, ten months, and fifteen days since that supposedly impenetrable firewall had collapsed.

In Japan. In the United States. Australia. Europe. Africa. All over the world, the digital entities known as Digimon come and go. In some places, much more than others...

Ootori Reika sighed to herself, hands planted on her hips as her eyes roamed around her Hypnos office. Or her former office, as it was. Situated atop the desk were a couple of boxes that were very quickly becoming filled.

"This is ridiculous!" Yamaki Mitsuo snapped suddenly as he tossed a book into one of the boxes. Normally, the Hypnos administrator wouldn't take the time out of his busy schedule to help clean out the office of someone who had just been terminated. This case, however, was a little different.

Reika crossed her arms, frowning. "You said you weren't going to get angry."

He merely grunted and pulled out one of the desk's drawers. "Y'know. Maybe we could just-"

The auburn-haired woman gave the blonde man a stern look. "If the words 'not get married' dare leave your lips, I hope you like what sleeping on a couch can do for your back."

Yamaki Mitsuo blinked behind his sunglasses, opened his mouth... and then seemed to think better of it. As he just went and resumed his work, Megumi giggled from off to the side. He shot her a look that told her to just shut up, but the Hypnos agent just grinned. "You know what they said, though," Megumi said, waving a hand around as she spoke. "All the joy and wonderment that comes loaded with us being used as public relations central for all things Digital World-related. The entire world looks to us, whether we like it or not. Thus, our superiors in their infinite wisdom don't see two such high-ranking members being together as being 'appropriate...'"

"And you're repeating this, why, exactly?" Yamaki asked, dumping a few of the last remaining things into one box. The question came with an obviously limited interest, but it came all the same.

Megumi gave a half-hearted shrug. "I kind of wonder if I repeat it enough, it just might look a little less like total bullshit. That hasn't worked yet, of course."

Reika stifled a laugh, while Yamaki fell back in the desk's chair and sighed. "All those years of work," he muttered, taking his glasses off and looking over at Reika, "and they just kick you out."

"Not much that can be done now, though," Reika said, looking around at the rather sparse office again. "Cat's out of the bag..."

Yamaki let his gaze linger on her a moment longer, and then swiveled the chair around to look out the office's large window. "Can't say I'm surprised, though," he said. "If they had their way, they would have done away with me long ago. If they ever see me as not valuable in some way, they'll dump me out on my ass... That's the only reason for this. None of that P.R. bull. They think if they remove one of you, they may weaken my overall effectiveness."

Reika walked over, placing a hand on her husband-to-be's shoulder. "Yeah, but the thing is," she said, smiling, "they can't find anyone better to replace you."

She saw, however, that did nothing to take the distressed look off his face. "This is only the beginning, you know. Not for Hypnos, mind you. For what this world is becoming..."

For being sixteen years old, Matsuda Takato had grown accustomed to being scorned by people at large at a surprisingly quick rate. Thus, as the Tamer walked through the streets of Shinjuku, with his digimon partner Guilmon beside him, any dirty looks or sudden, profane exclamations in their direction had no real effect on either of them. It was mainly the former, since only crazy people had the balls to yell at a four-foot tall talking lizard that could spew fire from his mouth.

Of course, there were an awful lot of crazy people in the world.

Still, although he tried to not let it get to him anymore, there were days when he still wondered why it had to be like this. Why, after everything they had done... They had saved the world. Several times over, in fact. There were those in the world that looked to the Tamers as heroes. Those people were definitely out there. Unfortunately, those who feel negatively against something are often the ones to be the most vocal about it. This was definitely one of those cases.

As things stood in this world, ever since the Locomon incident digimon had been realizing into the Real World more and more. There was no stopping it. Any attempt Hypnos had ever made to hide the life forms of the Digital World was completely obliterated by the time D-Reaper appeared. Locomon - or to be more exact, Parasimon - was little more than the start of a constant, never-ending stream. Digimon would never stop coming to this human world, it seemed...

This, of course, left the Tamers with a distinct problem. Despite valiant efforts by the Japanese Self Defense Forces on several occasions, they could rarely ever stop the digimon. It most often fell back onto the Tamers. They were the best ones to force back and stop violent or wild digimon. Or even those digimon that were just scared, confused, and lashing out at the first things they saw.

Thanks largely, of course, to the fact that the D-Reaper broadcasted images of the Tamers fighting, any hope that they had of leading normal lives was shot to hell before any of them were even teenagers. They weren't children. Their childhoods all ended at ten years old or younger.

Humanity, unfortunately, always needed something to blame when horrible things happened. Those horrible things did happen. Frequently. The Tamers were only so many, and there were several times when a digimon would cross over and they couldn't be there...

No matter what happened in the end, digimon as a whole would be blamed. They had no real rights. No laws to protect them. They weren't even viewed as true living creatures by some. There was nothing to stop people from hating digimon and their questionable place in the world's order.

To make matters even worse, as more and more digimon appeared, there were naturally those that would be peaceful. Digimon that only wished to live quietly. Often, these digimon would cross the paths of human children... and from this, new Tamers would be born.

Most of these Tamers didn't wish to fight. They didn't want to be involved in all of these life or death struggles, like Takato and his friends had chosen to be. They just wanted to protect their newfound friends. Sadly, this was often harder than one would think...

Takato had seen families torn apart just by the presence of a digimon standing beside a child. The fear people had of these creatures would override their better judgment. Often, the results of something like this were not pretty...

The brown-haired boy shook his head vigorously. He didn't want to think about things like that. This day was already difficult enough as it was... On the bright side, he hadn't had to deal with the joy of making it through another day at school, as it was out for the day. Every day he went, he tried to make an effort to just ignore his schoolmates outside of his fellow Tamers. Though some students thought that the Tamers were the greatest things ever, many more followed their parents' examples. At the very least, he had the other Tamers. He could only imagine how difficult it was every day for Shuichon... Ai and Makoto, never directly participating in battles, were probably the only Tamers that didn't have to worry about that sort of thing.

Really, it was better that way.

Given the overall attitude the public had towards them at times, however, Takato wouldn't just go strolling around when he didn't have to. And he wouldn't be out wandering around on that day if it wasn't for what day it was... Which was exactly why he was where he was.

"Takato?" Guilmon's voice suddenly interrupted Takato's thoughts. "Why are we walking in circles around Juri's house?"

Indeed, they had probably circled around Juri's block five times by then. As Guilmon spoke, they were once again staring down the street where Juri's home sat. Takato frowned and rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry buddy. It's just hard to figure out what to say to her..."

Guilmon blinked his yellow eyes, glancing up at his Tamer. Takato was amazed that, although he had most definitely matured, Guilmon could still retain that innocent look of his. "You always say that."

Had it not been about something so serious, Takato would have laughed. Guilmon was right. It was always been like that. Takato always had a hard time speaking to Juri about certain things. Somehow, a lack of total coherency wound up afflicting him at the worst times in regards to her, even after so much time. He was surprised that he had ever gotten the nerve up to ask her out.

The question he needed to ask himself, however, was if he should be there. If he needed to go there...

Again, Guilmon interrupted his thoughts. This time, the red reptile was groaning, holding his head. Surprised at Guilmon's sudden action, Takato knelt down next to him. "Guilmon? Are you alright? What is it?"

"Digimon..." Guilmon muttered, looking off into the distance. "It's big... very, very big..."

Alarms were blaring in the main operations chamber of Hypnos as Yamaki, Reika, and Megumi came rushing in. Technicians and operators rushed all about, and it struck Yamaki that the lot of them were like chickens with their heads cut off. There was no sign of order, and it seemed the lot of them were bumping into each other more than they were getting any work done. Already angry enough as it was, Yamaki grabbed the closest technician by the coat. "What the hell is going on here?" the blond man demanded with a tone that was enough to cause a look of complete and utter fear on the technician's face.

"W-we don't know, sir!" came the other man's answer. "That's just the problem! Whatever's coming through, it's making all of our systems go haywire!"

Grunting, Yamaki released the man and began walking towards the nearest consoles. "Reika, Megumi!" he called out behind him, not even looking at the two women. Even if Reika was officially apart of Hypnos right then, he really didn't care.

"Sir!" both exclaimed, obviously more out of habit than anything else, especially in Reika's case. The women took up spots at other consoles, and while everyone else seemed to be in panic mode, the three of them wasted no time in simply doing their jobs. Soon, Megumi made a quick exclamation and looked over at Yamaki. "I think you're going to want to see this!"

Blinking beneath his sunglasses, Yamaki rushed over to her console.

"I found what's realizing," she muttered, waving her hand across the screen sitting before her. Yamaki looked, his eyes widened, and then he shot a quick glance to Reika.

"I don't care what our superiors say," the blond man said. "Call the Tamers. Now."

"I hate these things. Hate them."

"They don't look that bad, Shuichon."

"Yes, they do, Lopmon. Yes. They. Do."

Lee Shuichon gave a sneer to the mirror as she adjusted the... things are her face. This was not right. It did not look natural. These things were just so... so...

"They're just glasses, sweetie."

Shuichon spun around, clutching her chest to find her mother, Mayumi, standing in the doorway. "How long have you been there?"

Mayumi smiled sweetly. "Only a few moments. Now, come on, Shuichon. You look just fine."

"I don't need them," Shuichon mumbled, placing the glasses on her dresser.

"Your father and I wear glasses."

"Yes, but you're old-" Shuichon paused and smiled sheepishly. "Er. Older."

Mayumi crossed her arms. "Jaarin wears contacts. Do you want contacts?"

"That means sticking stuff in my eyes!"

Her mother just sighed. "Then glasses it is. You've been complaining about headaches for a long time, too..."

Shuichon frowned, and then walked over to her bed, taking a seat on the edge. "I'm already a big enough freak as it is. This isn't going to help matters."

Both Lopmon and Mayumi gave Shuichon surprised looks. "Now you take that back, young lady!" Mayumi said, walking over to the girl.

Shuichon looked up at her mother, an indifferent look on her face. "What? I don't really think that, but if you listen to how everyone talks about Tamers, it's true enough for them." She glanced over at Lopmon. "Plus, it's not just my eyes that have been giving me headaches..." Lopmon could only sigh, bowing his head.

"Shuichon," Mayumi sighed, sitting down next to her daughter and putting an arm around the Tamer's shoulder. "Listen, I know things are difficult for both you and Jenrya. I can only do so much, and there are times I feel so helpless..."

"Don't worry yourself like that," Shuichon said. "It's not your fault..."

Mayumi smiled weakly. "Sorry, but that's sort of my job. You and your brother put your lives on the line like you do so much, all I can do sometimes is worry. Although I never like the fact you do these things, I know I can't stop you. Lately though, honey, you've been so quiet... I just wish you'd talk to me more about the things that bother you. Even if I can't do anything..."

"You can't," Shuichon murmured. "So I figured it's best to not worry you..."

"That worries me even more," Mayumi said. "I may not be able to help you. I can't help you with all of this Tamer stuff like your father can... but I want to know. If something's happening with you, I want to try and understand what it is..."

Shuichon was silent for a moment, and then opened her mouth to speak... before a scream escaped her mouth. She leaned over, grabbing her head as a pain shot through it. Sitting on the table by her bed, Lopmon tensed, his ears shooting straight up.

Eyes wide, Mayumi gently shook her daughter. "Shuichon! What is it?"

"It's a digimon. Big... and powerful," Lopmon muttered, hopping off the table.

"W-we need to go," Shuichon said, pushing away from her mother and standing up. "No matter what it is, we have to go."

Lopmon frowned, looking up at his Tamer. "But this feels so strong. Are you certain...?"

She nodded firmly. "Absolutely. If we can possibly stop whatever it is... we should. That's what the others do. We can't be any different..." "Shuichon," Mayumi said, and the girl saw she was on the verge of tears. "What..."

Shuichon stared at her for a moment, and then smiled. "Listen, I have to go-" As she said that, she could hear her cell phone ringing. "And if that's Yamaki-san, tell him we're on our way. When I get back, though... I- I'll talk to you. Okay?" Not wanting to look at the expression on her mother's face anymore, Shuichon started to head for the door.


The girl froze at the doorway, and turned to see Mayumi holding up the Tamer's glasses. "Can you please just wear these?" she asked. "For me?"

Sighing, but smiling at the same time, Shuichon walked back over to her and took the glasses. "Alright. For now, anyway... and I promise I'll be back soon. I'll bet the others are already there."

That said, Shuichon went running out of her room. She didn't want to see her mother cry. She'd just have to deal with everything when she got back... for now, she had something much bigger to focus on.

It came as suddenly as it ever came. A thick fog spewed up from seemingly nowhere, engulfing everything within its path. This was always the common sign that a Digital Field was sprouting up. In this day and age, it was also one that citizens knew all too well. Thus, this now-common occurrence was one that would generally prompt a mass exodus from its general vicinity. This is what people would typically attempt to do, at least, but even as they panicked, sometimes they could only move so fast...

In this case, the Digital Field started small in the middle of a street. The Fields were usually content to encompass a small area, enough for a digimon to realize into a solid body. In this case, it continued to grow and grow, across the road, and over buildings. Then, as some people were literally running over one another to escape, it happened.

The digimon that came with this particular Digital Field was just as massive as the Field itself. So large was it, the surrounding buildings weren't enough to contain the beast. Large and black, the beetle-like digimon's solidifying form easily smashed through a building with just its mere presence. Whatever was within the structure was crushed to make room for the digimon, and anyone on the streets below that hadn't yet escaped weren't going to...

GranKuwagamon spoke nothing as his body fully came into being, and he swung one massive claw around. It struck another tall building and plowed right through it. Steel, stone, or glass... nothing stopped the claw from slicing cleanly through the building, sending it toppling over as well.

Any screams below were completely drowned out by the sounds of rubble cascading downwards, filling the streets and immediate sky with a thick dust. Any limited visibility within the Digital Field was completely lost, but GranKuwagamon looked towards the sky regardless.

He was here. It was time. All he had to do was extend his time a little while longer...

The young man walked away from a building, a smile on his face that couldn't have been destroyed at that moment no matter what. No, he was ensuring something great. Something spectacular. The men that followed behind him couldn't fathom what they were ushering in. Not like he did... They weren't in his position. They weren't of his stature. They were but expendable tools. Useful tools, but tools none the less.

Tucking a strand of his long, white hair behind one ear, the young man brought out a cell phone. No sooner did he dial and send the number did someone on the other end pick up. "It's finished," the young man said. "The purifying light is set to be unleashed."

"Go after the beast by cutting off the head of its lord and creator," a male voice on the other end answered. "Indeed, that is what shall be done... Very well. Tell your associates their job is finished."

He nodded, turning to face the small collection of men behind him. "Scatter and disappear. You'll be contacted within the next few days for your compensation." The men gave one another some curious looks, but nodded and began to walk off in separate directions. "Just be sure to be far away when the fireworks really start."

Once the men were gone and out of earshot, the young man raised the cell phone back to his ear. "They're away."

"Excellent," the man replied. "I'll make certain then that they're all disposed of within the next twenty-four hours." He paused for a second. "Provided this all goes well, I must congratulate you. You've made me very proud..."

The young man grinned. "Thank you, Father."

Shuichon was going to be sick. She knew it. As she ran, practically stumbling with every step down the sidewalk, that sick feeling deep down in her gut could only grow more with each passing second. She wished that she could be rid of that feeling forever, and yet, it was also guiding her... She knew that despite her hatred of it, she had no choice but to follow it.

"Shuichon," Lopmon said, riding on the girl's shoulder. "Is this really necessary? The others..."

Shuichon came to a stop, leaning up against the side of a building and breathing deeply. "You can feel this thing, can't you? It's the responsibility we all have... I can't just stand by..."

The small digimon sighed. "I just do not think it's worth the risk. After what happened when I first evolved to my Ultimate-level..."

Shuichon pushed her glasses up on her nose and stared down at the Digivice she held. "That was different. This time, I know what to do. I can show Niichan and the others that I won't fail. I can prove it to him."


Anything else that Lopmon had wished to say would have to wait, as the unfortunately familiar sound of buildings collapsing could be heard from afar. Shuichon raised her head, and looking up, she could see a cloud of dust rising high up over the buildings of the city. "Right there," she murmured, holding her Digivice out, blocking out the people around her that were already giving Lopmon strange looks. "We can do it... This time, I know we can. MATRIX EVOLUTION!"

Light erupted from the Digivice, engulfing both human and digimon. Within that light, both changed, effectively fusing into a single being. As Shuichon's body became like energy, Lopmon absorbed the power she created. "Lopmon, EVOLVE!" Lopmon became far larger, and turned into a pink, angelic being with large arms and small legs. "CHERUBIMON!"

Shuichon opened her eyes, and while she saw everything that Cherubimon did, it also seemed as if there was so much more. She was, essentially, within her partner's body. She floated in a warm, pink light and could see and feel everything around Cherubimon. Including the onlookers, whose expressions and feelings ranged from awe to fear to complete and total anger.

Their feelings...

That uncomfortable feeling rose up within her again, unwilling to think about that. With Cherubimon now like an extension of her own body, the both of them moving in perfect synch and harmony, it was a simple matter of just thinking about it to make him fly away from the scene. And so he did, soaring up past the buildings and into the sky. It was a wonderful feeling, being able to do this as if it was under her own power...

Yet, she knew that there couldn't be any time to enjoy that feeling. As Cherubimon got closer and closer to that cloud of smoke, that horrible feeling inside her got larger and larger. And now, with no barriers between the two of them, she knew that Lopmon knew everything she did...

"Shuichon... are you sure this is alright?" Cherubimon asked, inwardly, to the Tamer.

"Yes," Shuichon murmured. "I'll be alright, Lopmon. What happened the last time won't happen here. I'll make sure that Niichan, Mom, and Dad know they don't have to worry about me anymore..."

That heart-to-heart wasn't given the chance to last long. Bursting forth from the cloud of smoke suddenly was a large, black insect digimon. Feeling everything that Cherubimon thought, Shuichon immediately knew this was an Ultimate-level digimon named GranKuwagamon. Other than Parasimon, an Ultimate-level had never Realized by itself into the Real World... and yet, here this thing was.

It took a moment, but Cherubimon quickly recognized that this digimon was familiar... In fact, both Cherubimon and Shuichon realized EXACTLY who this was. It was one of those many Ultimate-level digimon that appeared when Culumon releases his Shining Evolution. GranKuwagamon had been apart of the Holy Beasts' army against the D-Reaper. So why was he attacking them now?

Whatever the reason, though, he was flying straight at them. Fear engulfed Shuichon at that moment... but luckily, it didn't do the same for Cherubimon.

Cherubimon quickly flew up higher into the air, dodging the surprisingly fast GranKuwagamon. As the insect digimon flew beneath him, Cherubimon prepared to gather up and launch his power at this opponent... Until a bright light flew in from just outside his view, striking GranKuwagamon in his side. The force was enough to bring the Ultimate-level digimon to a stop in the air... but it didn't do much else.

Both Cherubimon and GranKuwagamon followed the direction that the beam of light had traveled, and easily found its source. Leaping across the rooftops, crimson cape flowing behind him, was a knight in armor that shined in the sunlight. Dukemon. Seeing who it was, Cherubimon and Shuichon knew that attack hadn't been meant to be damaging. Otherwise, GranKuwagamon would have done more than just stop.

Dukemon came to a stop on top of a tall building, pointing his lance out at GranKuwagamon. Given the angry look in the knight's eyes, it was obvious he could tell what kind of destruction GranKuwagamon had just caused. "That's far enough!" Dukemon proclaimed, his confident and commanding voice a far cry from the way Guilmon acted. "Do you even realize what you've done?"

GranKuwagamon just stared at the viral knight silently. He merely hovered there above the city, as if he was waiting for something. Seeing that their opponent wasn't going to make a move, Cherubimon flew down next to where Dukemon stood. "He attacked me as soon as I saw him," Cherubimon said quietly, keeping a cautious eye on the insect. "And those buildings..."

Dukemon's eyes narrowed. "Answer me!" he shouted. "Do you understand what you did? Those buildings... Those people! How could you, who once fought alongside the Holy Beasts, do such a thing?"

The giant digimon continued to stare. For a moment, anyway, before his enormous body began shaking. He was... laughing. "Pathetic creatures," GranKuwagamon said, "what right do you think you have to question one such as I? My purpose in this world is destined for this day. For this moment... That I was deemed worthy to help usher in this moment in the world's order is a far greater honor than any you so-called 'heroes' could possibly imagine!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Dukemon asked, snarling. "Your appearance here just killed innocent people! And you don't care-!"

"No," GranKuwagamon interrupted. "I don't care one bit. The frail humans whose bodies I broke as I came into this world are nothing. Worthless. They have no place in the Next Evolution. They're nothing but trash cluttering this world that needs to be cleaned out!"

"Next Evolution...?" Shuichon muttered to herself. "What is he talking about?"

"BEHOLD!" GranKuwagamon proclaimed, pointing himself away from the other two digimon and raising his claws to the sky. "MY CLENSING LIGHT!" Energy generated around those claws. "DIMENSION-!"

Dukemon's eyes widened, and he immediately began to dash across the rooftops before Cherubimon could even think to act. The knight moved with desperation, but his movement seemed to be almost in vain.


With GranKuwagamon's cry, he launched twin blades of surging power down towards a the city. Unable to do much else, Dukemon leapt in front of one blade... but the energy was so large and overwhelming, Cherubimon saw his body just get engulfed in the light. Only a moment later, the energy plowed straight through the buildings below like a knife, and set off two rather massive explosions.

"No!" Shuichon gasped. "That can't happen... Takato-san... Guilmon... those people... NO!"

There was another bright light, but this one wasn't from an explosion. It was from Cherubimon. In the blink of an eye, Shuichon felt their connection cut - felt thoughts and feelings she wanted to ignore rush past her for a moment - and then found that she was sitting on top of a building staring at Lopmon. "But... how..."

Lopmon frowned, looking away from his Tamer and staring out at the fire and smoke rising up in the city. "I could feel it coming again. I just couldn't let that happen... even with something like this."

Shuichon looked up at GranKuwagamon, who was circling around as if he was looking for a new target. "But that thing's up there... and Takato-san! He..."

Lopmon turned his head back to Shuichon, forcing a smile. "If something like that could kill Dukemon, we wouldn't stand a chance. At the same time, though, do you honestly believe Dukemon would die from something like that?"

Shuichon understood what he was saying, but as she stared at the spots GranKuwagamon had struck... To see all of that destruction, even if she knew her friends could have survived that... To know of the countless number of people who just lost their lives in that instant. To have seen the act which took away their lives so suddenly. "I said I would prove what I could do," Shiuchon murmured, tears welling up in her eyes. "If we just sit here, how can I do that? Even if something happened to us... If something happened to me... what's more important than those people down there who can't defend themselves?"

"If you..." Lopmon started, then stopped for an instant and closed his eyes. "If we lost control of ourselves again, if we let our emotions get in the way... Those people could be in far more danger from us than this thing. Your brother, Terriermon, and the others surely will be here soon..."

Shuichon felt her grip on her Digivice loosen. "Y-you... don't trust me, do you?"

Lopmon's eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to speak, but was abruptly cut off by the sound of several rockets streaking across the sky. Both of their attentions were brought back to the air, and found SaintGalgomon flying across the distance, unleashing a great deal of firepower upon GranKuwagamon. The giant insect swiftly darted back and forth in the air, avoiding most of the dog robot's rockets. Those that actually hit him, though, didn't seem to have much of an affect due to his body's thick, natural armor.

"It's just like Niichan," Shuichon murmured, her vision blurred by the tears in her eyes as she looked upon Terriermon and Jenrya's Ultimate-form. "Like all of the others... You don't trust me after what happened last time."

"Sh-Shuichon..." Lopmon stammered. "That's not true. I-"

"LIAR!" She exclaimed, tossing her Digivice straight at him. The little digimon caught the device in his hands, but there was a look of shock on both their faces. She could have easily just hurt him by doing that. Even if only a little bit, him being a digimon and all, she could have hurt him. "Lopmon, I..." She stopped and shook her head, tears now rolling down her cheeks. "Don't lie to me. When you broke our fusion, I felt your thoughts... You felt me getting angry, and you don't think I can control myself anymore..."

Lopmon just bowed his head, saying nothing.

"Everyone trusted Takato-san," she muttered, a slight hint of bitterness in her voice. "Even after he created Megidramon. After he and Guilmon became Dukemon, everyone trusted him again." She sighed, barely even paying attention to the raging battle in the skies. Sakuyamon had joined in at some point, but Shuichon wasn't even sure when that had been. "I didn't mean to do it. I didn't try... I didn't want to... I just... I..." Finally, she just buried her face in her hands and cried into them.

"Shuichon," Lopmon said softly, "I..."


The eyes of both Tamer and digimon went wide as they suddenly found themselves grabbed by someone. It took only a moment to recognize that "someone" as Justimon, and that voice as Akiyama Ryou. The humanoid fusion of Ryou and Cyberdramon had scooped both of them up in his arms, and was suddenly running across the rooftops at a frantic pace. Shuichon's eyes darted around, searching desperately for what caused him to do this, and very quickly found it. GranKuwagamon had launched another Dimension Scissors attack, but this time with only one claw, since his other one seemed to have been rather brutally blown away by something. Sakuyamon tried to block the attack with a shield of cherry blossoms and energy as she gently sung a song from within it.

This was only moderately successful. As her energy shield formed a round bubble around her, parts of the energy slid around it and splintered off. So now instead of one large energy wave that would devastate several blocks... There were now a bunch of smaller ones that would rain down more limited destruction upon the city. Looking back as Justimon ran, Shuichon had a front row seat as the splintered energy smashed through buildings. Even over the sounds of collapsing rubble, she could hear crowds of people screaming for fear of their lives. As she saw a couple of smaller structures begin to fall, she knew that some of that screaming would stop very soon.

Justimon finally came to a stop on a rooftop after the attack subsided. Setting Shuichon and Lopmon down, he spun around to see the results of the attack. "Dammit!" Ryou cursed.

Sakuyamon appeared visibly shaken by the fact her defense hadn't been enough. She then focused back on GranKuwagamon, and it was very obvious that both her and SaintGalgomon's intentions were to now finish this as soon as possible. As both Ultimate-level digimon prepared to unleash their attacks, a purple beam of energy flew out across the city and slammed into the giant insect with a very audible cry of, "DEATH SLINGER!" With Beelzebumon Blast Mode joining the fray, neither SaintGalgomon nor Sakuyamon had a moment's hesitation in attacking as well.

"Why?" Shuichon asked in a low voice. Justimon turned around and stared down at her. "Why did you just grab me...?"

"What are you talking about?" Ryou's voice came from Justimon. "You would've been smashed!"

"Everyone else," she mumbled. "All of those people in those buildings... down on the street..."

Justimon sighed. He glanced at the battle for a moment, then nodded and glowed brightly, splitting off into the forms of Cyberdramon and Ryou. The young man jerked his thumb in the direction of the air battle. "We can't do much from the ground, anyway."

Cyberdramon gave an acknowledging growl, and then promptly took off flying towards the fight on his own, his claws already full of charging energy. Ryou gave another sigh and kneeled down in front of the girl, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Shuichon, listen," he said. "I couldn't have done anything back there. Cyberdramon and I had only just noticed you guys in that instant. You were the only ones we could help. It was either you and Lopmon, or no one."

"I see," she murmured. "Sorry..."

"Don't be," he said, and then scratched the back of his head. "But kid, what are you even doing here with this kind of thing attacking?"

Shuichon's eyes widened, and she took a quick look at Lopmon before bowing her head. "Nothing," she said, and then shoved his hand off her shoulder. "I... I only wanted to help, you know... I never tried to do anything else..."

Ryou glanced down at his hand briefly, and then quietly turned his head to look back at the battle. "I know that... we all know that." Suddenly, a bright crimson light shined from beneath the battle, drawing all three's attention. Flying out of the smoke that was rising up from the impact zone of GranKuwagamon's initial attacks was a red-armored knight with shining wings.

"Dukemon Crimson Mode," Shuichon mumbled. Even despite everything running through her mind at that time, the sight of Guilmon and Takato's most powerful form was always awe inspiring.

Ryou looked back at her and smiled. "This'll be over with in no time now."

Shuichon started to wipe her eyes, and gave another short glance to her partner digimon. "Yeah... over with..."

Lee Janyuu couldn't stand it. He couldn't stand that he was just stuck where he was, sitting in his living room, watching TV... and watching his son and friends fighting for their lives. It wasn't that he didn't have faith they would win. No, he knew that was a sure bet... but still knowing that they were doing this, while he was currently helpless to do anything, was the most infuriating thing possible.

It had been a long while since the Wild Bunch had been basically kicked out of Hypnos. The higher-ups deemed their research into all things digital was no longer of any use. Even despite everything they had done during the D-Reaper incident, they apparently hadn't produced anything "worthwhile" enough for the government to continue funding their operations. Thus... they were gone.

Not that things were much better for Yamaki or those that remained within Hypnos. Janyuu knew that well enough. Yamaki's own power had been diminished so much that instead of being the first line of defense against Wild Ones, Hypnos had been reduced to little more than an early warning system and public relations vehicle. He did what he could, but he could only do so much.

All that was left was the Tamers. The government refused to acknowledge them as working under their command - they saw them as too much of a potential danger. A liability. Despite this, they still allowed the Tamers to operate as they wished so long as they remained within the laws. Since any laws regarding digimon had such a difficult time being handed down, they were thus always doing as such. The truth was, really, that the government knew the Tamers were always going to act when something like this arose. That way, there was little doubt that these matters would be handled... and the government couldn't really be completely blamed if anything went really wrong.

But this Wild One attack... it was beyond anything Janyuu had seen since the D-Reaper. For a digimon that powerful to just tear through the city like it was...

"Sweetheart?" Janyuu nearly jumped as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Mayumi. "Are you alright?"

Janyuu smiled at his wife. "I'm fine. Just... worried."

She glanced ahead at the TV, nodding. "You and me both... but are you sure there's nothing else?"

Janyuu just blinked. "Why would you think that?"

"It's nothing," she said, frowning deeply as a shot of SaintGalgomon appeared in the screen. "Just like you... I'm just worried." A period of silence fell over the married couple briefly as they both listened to the reports on the screen. "...why do they have to do this, Janyuu?"

Janyuu bowed his head, rubbing the back of his neck. "I know. I understand. Unfortunately, with the way everything is... they don't have any choice but to do what they do."

"They're still just children... and Shuichon..."

"All of those kids have seen more than we could ever hope to," he said softly. "More than we would ever want to. If not for them, we wouldn't even be standing here today. They may be children, but they're also some of the greatest heroes this world has ever seen. Even if this world doesn't want to acknowledge that."

"I just wish there was something we could do, some way we could make things easier for them..."

He looked back up at her, smiling once more. "We do everything we can, Mayumi. I feel helpless when it comes to something like this too, but we just have to do what we can. For Jenrya and Shuichon, all we can do right now is be there for them. So long as we can do that, we're doing all that can be done from our position."

"That doesn't mean I can't worry about them," she said, smiling back at him somewhat sadly.

"I think that I would worry if you did anything less."

"Enough of this!" Dukemon, fully powered in his Crimson Mode, cried as he slammed his fist into the underside of GranKuwagamon. If anything, Dukemon was like a small bug when compared to the very large one he had just struck. Even so, with the kind of power he now wielded, that punch was enough to shatter a large chunk of GranKuwagamon's armor and send the insect rocketing higher up into the air. Dukemon, and Takato within him, were both surprised that SaintGalgomon, Sakuyamon, Beelzebumon, and Cyberdramon hadn't been able to destroy this Wild One yet. Though GranKuwagamon was seriously injured at this point, he was still alive and still fighting. It was rather amazing, really.

"Give up this battle!" Dukemon called out to his enemy. "To continue this would cause nothing but more senseless bloodshed! Stop now, or I, Dukemon, will make certain that your life no longer burdens this world!"

GranKuwagamon scoffed, pointing his remaining claw at the red knight. "I told you already... This is my destined day! To usher in the coming era... The Next Evolution of both our worlds! And I will not stop until I no longer draw breath! DIMENSION SCISSORS!"

Before Dukemon could even act, Beelzebumon soared up in front of him. The Demon Lord drew out a diagram before him with light from the tip of his large gun. "Not a chance, bitch!" Beelzebumon growled, aiming the gun through diagram at the oncoming energy blade. "CHAOS FLARE!"

Beelzebumon fired off several rounds from his positron gun, and each one was heavily amplified by passing through the diagram. The resulting massive bursts of purple energy collided with GranKuwagamon's attack, causing a massive midair explosion which cancelled both attacks out.

Seeing his opportunity, Dukemon flew past Beelzebumon and held one hand out, summoning a glowing weapon with blades on both ends of the hilt. "QUO VADIS!" With that shout, Dukemon lobbed the weapon up at GranKuwagamon. Red power surrounded the weapon and continued to grow in strength more and more until it finally struck and pierced through his body. An explosion of bright crimson followed, and as the glow died, there was nothing left but GranKuwagamon's data fragments drifting in the air.

"HAH!" Beelzebumon exclaimed, immediately flying up next to Dukemon and slapping him on the back. "Now that's what I call teamwork!"

Dukemon looked at him, and then down at the city. They had won, and yet the damage was so extensive. Right then, in the areas GranKuwagamon had struck, people were dying. Waiting for someone, anyone, to come to their aid. This was far more than rescue workers could possibly hope to do on their own...

"This is hardly a time for celebration," Dukemon muttered. A solemn look crossed Beelzebumon's face as he looked down as well, and he nodded.

"Yeah, I gotcha," he said, and without anything else, dove down for one of the damaged areas while SaintGalgomon and Sakuyamon did the same.

Turning in the sky, Dukemon saw Cyberdramon flying towards where Ryou, Shuichon, and Lopmon stood on top of a building. Dukemon followed, and landed on the roof soon after the dragon. "Dukemon, Takato," Ryou said, "you guys need to just get down there. I'm sure that Hirokazu and Kenta are already on their way, and I'll call Yamaki to see if we can gather up any of the other Tamers around Tokyo. Even if those kids don't want to fight, even if they're too young to do that..."

"This situation's sort of different," Takato said. Dukemon glanced over at Shuichon, and both he and Takato noticed that she seemed visibly upset. "Shuichon? Are you alright?"

Shuichon stared at them, her mouth hanging open... before just shaking her head and standing up. "I'll just go home."

"Shuichon," Takato said, "we could really use your-"

"Me helping now wouldn't be any different than me helping before," Shuichon said, turning her back to them. "I'd just get in the way."

"Shuichon, they didn't say anything like that," Lopmon said, following her as she started to walk off.

Shuichon stopped and didn't even bother to look back at her partner. "Lopmon, just... go with them."

"Wh-what?" the little digimon stammered.

"If you don't trust me to control myself," she said, "do you really want me to go down there and see what that thing did?"

She continued walking, and despite her words, Lopmon continued following. Finally, she broke into a run and went through a door that led to a flight of stairs heading down, and out of Dukemon's sight.

"Ryou-san," Takato said as Dukemon turned to face the young man. "You know what you said about those kids out there who don't want to fight... The ones that are too young?"

Ryou sighed, obviously understanding exactly what the goggle boy meant. "I know... but everything Shuichon did was of her own choice. Even if it may have been the wrong one, seeing everything that we've lost by choosing to fight ourselves... Do you think we should go after her?"

Dukemon looked out at the destruction and clenched a fist. "That's not something we can afford to do right now, unfortunately," the knight replied.

"We just have to hope she'll be alright," Takato said. "That's all we really can do right now..."

Juri really couldn't understand her boyfriend. For the better part of the afternoon, Takato and Guilmon had been circling around her house. She knew that. They would've had to be stupid to think she hadn't seen them. They would pass by, Takato would look like he was going to approach... and then he wouldn't, and would keep walking. They continued that process for awhile... until finally the digimon attack came.

Since then, Juri had been doing little else but watching the battle intently. You couldn't turn on the television without seeing it. And it was a given that watching her friends fight, while all she could do was watch gave her a feeling she never liked. But it was one she learned to put up with. They were her friends, her extended family... but she wasn't like them anymore.

It was especially unnerving when Dukemon had taken a direct attack from GranKuwagamon. Yet even then, Juri was confident they would be alright, and wasn't the least bit surprised when Dukemon Crimson Mode delivered the final blow. That had always been just like them... even when things looked hopeless, they somehow pulled it off in the end.

Still, it was more than that which made Juri nervous. She didn't understand why Takato couldn't bring himself to talk to her on this day. It was on this day, five years ago, that the D-Reaper had been defeated. When she had finally been freed from that monstrosity... It should, by all rights, be a day to be celebrated, but for Juri it was nothing but a painful reminder of everything she went through.

She couldn't really explain or comprehend it, but there was just something about remembering those final moments within that thing that brought everything back. Leomon's death, her capture and imprisonment, Beelzebumon's attempt to save her, the weeks spent within D-Reaper knowing that this creature that she was apart of was causing such worldwide destruction... Many of her dates from that period in her life were still a blur, so remembering this one day where it all reached it's culmination just brought everything back.

So she knew what he must be thinking, to an extent... she just couldn't understand why he couldn't come to her. He did the same thing every year. She didn't know if it was because of her, or because of things he thought about himself... He would never really talk about it, and she would never really bring it up. There was always an uncomfortable period between the two of them after this date. Juri knew that he cared for her. It wasn't that she doubted that.

I just wish I could understand what you're thinking, Takato, she thought to herself. We can't go on like this forever. Of course, right then the Tamers had work to do. With the kind of destruction that beast had caused, she knew that they would all have other things to deal with now...


She tried to block out his voice.

Ever since she exited that building, she had been running. He had been following, calling for her.


She wanted to just get away. Get home and shut herself off from everything. Of course, when she got home, she would have to talk to her mother... She had promised.

Her mouth was dry. Her legs hurt now, and her breaths were rough and deep. She wanted to stop running, but... she just couldn't bring herself to. She didn't want to talk to him. Not now. He didn't trust her... He didn't believe she could keep control. The digimon she had been partners with for five years didn't trust her! The worst thing of it all, however, the thing that hurt the most deep down...

...was the fact she knew he may be right. That all of them could be right...

She could see her family's apartment up ahead. She would have to talk to Lopmon, probably sooner than later with him still hot on her heels. She would have to talk to everyone, eventually... but right at that moment, all she wanted to do was talk to her mother.

Shuichon could talk to her. She was her mother... she would understand...

In instant that followed, though, everything in Shuichon's world froze. As she looked up at the building, staring intently at the windows she knew belonged to the Lee family's apartment... an explosion suddenly erupted from within that apartment, and several above and below it. Glass, rubble, and twisted metal rained down onto the streets below, causing the already nervous populace to go running from the immediate vicinity.

For Shuichon, it was the longest moment of her life. One second, that apartment, her home had been in sight. Then...

"Th-that's not possible," was all she was able to utter before her legs finally gave out on her. The girl collapsed to her knees, her eyes not leaving the sight of the burning building.

"Shuichon!" Lopmon screamed, finally catching up to his Tamer. The small digimon still held her Digivice, and he stopped short as he saw what had happened. He was speechless, his mouth hanging open and the device slipping from his hands. As it clattered on the ground, Shuichon found her vision blurring from tears... before it went totally black as she collapsed onto her side.

The white-haired young man smiled to himself, leaning up against a pillar beneath a bridge. He hadn't seen it... but he had certainly heard it. "There goes our fireworks," he said, and then clicked his tongue. "A shame. Would've been nice to see where our hard work went."

"You're sadistic, y'know that, right?" another voice grunted from the other side of the pillar.

"Mmm," he mused, crossing his arms. "Perhaps, I guess you could say that. Still, there's no point in doing a job if you can't enjoy it. Don't you believe that, partner?"

"Our job is not one governed by whether or not we enjoy it, Jacob," said the other, gruff voice.

The boy's smile faded a bit, and he sighed. "I suppose," he said wistfully. His lips then curved back up again. "At that same time, though, we can take comfort in knowing what our actions are for... To usher in the new age. Our world's Next Evolution.."

They had been in the Digital World, fighting furiously. Their enemy was monstrous. A being of pure evil that delighted in the torture and destruction of the innocent. She lost control of her emotions, lashing out at this monster, not stopping or letting up until she completely and utterly destroyed its life. But even after this demonic creature died... she didn't stop there.

Shuichon jerked straight up in bed. She was drenched in sweat and panting as she tried to catch her breath. Every time she slept, that dream always resurfaced like clockwork. She always woke up the same way, recalling that day...

Squinting, Shuichon looked around, and very quickly realized this wasn't her room. She was on a futon, and as her vision cleared, she recognized the place. She was in Ruki's house.

"Shuichon...?" Lopmon was sitting right next to her. His voice sounded horribly tired, and he didn't look much better.

Then, it all came back to her. The battle. Running home. The explosion.

Her eyes widening, the girl scrambled up off of the futon. "Mom... Daddy..." she mumbled, nearly tripping over her own feet as she ran over and slid the door open. She dashed outside, running straight down the first hallway she saw.

"Shuichon!" Lopmon cried after her, but it might as well have been like he said nothing at all.

The explosion... She had to get back. She had to get everyone else... there might still be a chance...

She heard someone talking in a room up ahead. Skidding to a halt, she immediately recognized the voice as Yamaki's. "...your brother and sister should be here soon. I took care of the expenses myself..."

Shuichon shoved the door to the room open, already gasping for breath again. It was the Makino household's dining room, and almost everyone was gathered in there. The Tamers, Juri, Yamaki, Reika, Megumi, Takato's parents, Ruki's mother and grandmother... Almost all the digimon partners were absent, presumably still helping with rescue efforts in the city. Jenrya was seated at the table, hugging Terriermon against his chest while tears ran down both their faces. In fact, everyone looked as if they'd been crying.

As Shuichon entered the room, all eyes turned towards her. "Mom and Daddy," she gulped, moving slowly into the room. She wanted to move faster, she wanted to run... "We have to... the building... the explosion..."

She found herself stopped as Ruki gently grabbed her arm. "Shuichon, listen..."

"NO!" the younger Tamer exclaimed, jerking away from the redhead. "We need to go NOW! Why are you all just standing around? My-!"

She stopped as she felt a pair of arms wrap around her from behind. "I'm sorry, Shuichon," Jenrya said, his voice making a vain attempt to stay level and calm. "It's... we..."

"No," Shuichon said, shaking her head. She then tried to break free of her brother's hold, but he wasn't about to let her go. "NO! I had only just left! I was almost there! I promised Mom... I promised her!"

"I... I'm so sorry, Shuichon," Jenrya said, his voice cracking as he started to cry again. "They're gone. Th- there wasn't anything we could do..."

"M-maybe they weren't in the apartment," she said, still struggling against Jenrya's grip. "Maybe they were gone and hadn't come home yet! We've got to go look around! WE'VE GOT TO-!"

"SHUICHON!" Jenrya finally exclaimed, and the girl became silent. Her body became somewhat limp, and she started to slump down. He went with her, collapsing to his knees and never breaking his hug. "They're dead..."

As her brother began sobbing, Shuichon could only... stare. She looked around the room, and the looks on everyone's faces told her the same thing that Jenrya's words did. Finally, it all sunk in. Her parents were dead. She had watched the act that killed them with her own eyes. And she had been helpless to do anything about it.

In the instant she understood all of this, she gave a scream and doubled over, crying uncontrollably.

Ever since she was young, she had been acutely aware of the consequences of these battles and death. She knew what could happen. She herself had been apart of taking the lives of their enemies. Yet, throughout all of that, she couldn't - none of them could - have ever expected something like this...

In that moment, the Digimon Tamers, their friends, and their loved ones knew one thing: After this day, nothing in their lives would ever be the same again...


The number of times Yamaki had been in a meeting like this was something he really didn't wish to count. The scene was always the same. His office was pitch black, and he was greeted by a screen which contained still images of the superiors he was talking to. He always figured this was an intimidation technique, to keep him from being able to see their faces and reactions as they talked. He was certainly sure they could see him, which he figured they probably thought was perfectly fair.

This time, however, it was different. Normally, he would stand at attention before his desk. As he was certain they could see him, it was of course natural to give them the proper respect. In this meeting, he was sitting behind his desk, without his usual sunglasses. This was going to be on his terms, and he wanted them to see his expression. He wanted them to know that everything he said was serious. Secondly, the screen before him only held the still image of two of his superiors. They were the only two he wished to speak with, and the only ones that really mattered. This needed to be free of Yes Men.

The reason this was on his terms, and the reason for the change in the situation was simple: This was his meeting. He had called it himself, and he was going to make damn sure he got his point across.

"Three weeks ago," Yamaki said, staring at the screen as if he could bore a hole through it, "there were simultaneous terrorist attacks in Japan. In these attacks, we are certain that the members of the Wild Bunch, the programmers who created the Digimon Core Program, were the targets. Whoever initiated these attacks were successful and precise, as the only known survivor is Dr. Robert McCoy, also known as Dolphin. As it stands, he's still in a coma. Though the whereabouts of Mizuno Gorou, 'Shibumi,' are unknown all other members of the Wild Bunch - codenames Tao, Daisy, Curly, and Babel - were killed. Though funding through Hypnos for their research was cut, it was known they continued that research personally here in Japan."

"We are, of course, upset and outraged over these attacks," the man on the left side of the screen's image lit up as he talked. He wore a business suit and had dark hair from the photograph. "And I know these people were personal friends of yours, Yamaki. Somehow, though, I doubt this is what you contacted us for."

"At the same time of these attacks," Yamaki continued, "there was an assault by an Ultimate-level digimon known as GranKuwagamon. Given the timing, we're certain that there is a connection between the two."

The image on the right side was of a man playing golf. The fact that image hadn't been updated in five years was somewhat annoying, not to mention rather distracting. "So you think that the digimon got angry at their creators and decided to kill all of them?" the right-hand man said. "I'm sorry, Yamaki, but even a child could see that connection. Do you wish to insult our intelligence by thinking we hadn't realized this?"

Undaunted by his bluntness, Yamaki continued. "Don't insult my intelligence by believing you know what I contacted you for," Yamaki spat, his blue eyes narrowed. "Don't spew any crap to me about your investigations, either, because all of us know those are amounting to pure and utter bullshit. You don't know who did it, and you don't have the capabilities to follow all of your leads."

A moment of silence passed over Yamaki's superiors before the right-hand man spoke up. "Yamaki, just who the hell do you think you are?"

"Frankly, gentleman," Yamaki said, never losing his calm. "I couldn't give a flying fuck what you think of me right now. You've stripped my power down to a point where it just doesn't matter any longer. In case you haven't noticed, we have what you might call a 'problem.' The JSDF is inefficient and ill-prepared to fight digimon. There are very few human weapons that could be properly utilized to combat them without wiping out several city blocks at a time."

"Yes, well, in case you haven't noticed," the left-hand man said, "your little buddies did that just fine when fighting that 'GranKuramamon' thing."

"GranKuwagamon," Yamaki said sharply. "And that wouldn't have been a problem if it hadn't been for you people." Silence came again, and he just continued on. "Hypnos is still running off of the same hardware it was half a decade ago. Our funding is all but cut away, and you see it fit to just simply let us be your digimon P.R. vehicle. As this world's technology grows, so does everything within the Digital World. Thus, our ability to detect oncoming threats decreases more and more every day. Yet you have constantly refused to listen to me on this. You feel just in shouldering the blame of D-Reaper onto us, even after five years. You think by leaving the Tamers be, that they can act as your defense force without you having to take the blame for the bad things... But they're still just ordinary citizens. They don't have the resources they could have... the ones that they should have to properly defend this world."

The left-hand man started up again. "Trusting our lives to a bunch of children-"

"Is a hell of a lot better than trusting our lives to you people," Yamaki interjected. "If not for them, we wouldn't even be standing here today. They are our best and only line of defense in this day and age, and to regard them as anything less is outright stupidity. You haven't seen the things I have, gentlemen. You haven't seen first-hand what they've done. I've been watching it for years, and it's very clear to me that if not for them, none of us would be standing here today. Digimon aren't going to go away. Neither are Tamers. To defend against one, there is no other choice but to embrace the other...

"I am fully aware that my comments are out of line," he continued, "but there isn't any other way for me to get this across. I know that you would love to be rid of me, but I'm very aware of the fact that you can't afford to... Not to be egotistical, but my knowledge is not something that you want to throw away. The ability to create something to defend not only this country, but this world, is right before us. That is all I am trying to do."

For a third time, quiet fell over the room. For far too long this time, in fact. Yamaki was fairly certain the two men were now conversing with each other, and had cut their connection to his line. He knew them far too well think otherwise.

Finally, the right-hand man spoke once more. "What is it you are proposing, exactly?"

"I only agree to this whole thing," Yamaki said, "if it is all under my terms. Unless you can think of anyone else capable to fill my position."

"...your terms, Yamaki," the left-hand man responded. "Now, tell us what you're getting at."

"I want funding returned to Hypnos," Yamaki stated. "I want official permission to instate and train the Digimon Tamers as official government agents. I don't care how old they are, they've seen more fighting in their lifetimes than most soldiers. I want the ability to mobilize them to the fullest extent possible within the parameters of the law. I do NOT want Tamers who don't wish to participate in fighting to be forced into this position; it is choice-only. There are more than enough Tamers who wish to defend this world to fill our needs. I want full protection of all Tamers - both those who will be our agents and those who won't."

"...is that all, Yamaki?" the right-hand man asked.

Yamaki smirked, showing emotion for the first time in the conversation. "Hardly. I've already started to gather up my own personal support staff. Mine. Not the kind chosen by the likes of you all. This includes re-instating Agent Ootori."

"You certainly seem to think highly of yourself," the right-hand man said. "We can't exactly just let you run off like a loose cannon and do whatever you please..."

There was a glint in Yamaki's eyes as he leaned forward. "Sirs, let me put it to you like this. I know things. Many things. I could easily find out the last time either of you took a piss, much less certain things that I sincerely doubt that you would like leaked. About you. About various other people..."

Nothing came in response. Yamaki leaned back, nodding approvingly.

"Excellent. I'm so glad we could come to an understanding, gentlemen..."

"When... do you plan to do all of this?" the left-hand man asked, a touch of caution in his voice.

"First thing tomorrow morning, 6AM," Yamaki said. "At that time, our Tamer task force will be active. I'm sure you all can make sure everything else flows smoothly, yes?"

"Yes," the right-hand man said, his voice calmer than his counterpart. "We'll see to it."

"Trust me," Yamaki said, picking up his sunglasses and sliding them onto his face. "You're not going to regret it."

The End - For Now

Notes: As I said in my notes at the top, this is the start of something MUCH larger. This is only the prologue to "Divided Paths" as a whole, and will stand as a one-shot. The purpose of this particular story is to take care of a few bits of background information that would have otherwise cluttered up the series once it gets started. The first major installment of the series will begin sometime soon, but will be posted seperately from this as there's a distinctive difference between the two of them.

The origins of DP are very long and convulted, but long story short, a great many things were drawn from directions "Silver Lining" was originally intended to take. As it stands, that story is stalled and is becoming difficult to restart... but the various elements I've pulled out of there to be included in "Divided Paths" would've cluttered up SL far too much, plot-wise. So if I ever CAN get it going again, it'll be considerably streamlined thanks to my snipping various little ideas for this series. :P (Though I've added a considerable amount of extra things in addition for "Divided Paths.")

The only thing I might regret about this prologue is that, in order to get things moving and not turn it into a 100-page one-shot, I had to jump right to the point. Hopefully (especially in regards to Shuichon's characterization) the points I was trying to get across didn't get lost amid all of the chaos and destruction. If they did get lost at all, well, I guess I'll have more of an ability to elaborate on things once the NEXT part of the story begins. :) Though remember on that note about characterization, and various actions and thoughts in this story... A majority of it is from one character's perspective, and thus may not reflect all the facts of everything she thinks due to being just that one perspective.

The first actual chaptered series of "Divided Paths" is tentatively titled "Factor of X," and it'll begin when the time is right. :P

Thanks to anyone who managed to read through this whole story, and hopefully I can look forward to you reading the actual series once it begins.