This is almost starting to turn into a comedic fic. ^_^;;

And although I'm unimaginatively naming the actual fic chapters after when they occur, in the fanfiction.net chapter menu I'll change the names, just so that it's easier to know which chapter's which. ^_^;

Prove yourself!
by Leto
The second day: afternoon, part 1

--General POV--

"Alright," said Tai, "I think we're going to have to split up again, everybody. Mimi's eyes are spelling out the word 'mall' and I really don't want to get in the way of girls and clothes."

Mimi grinned. "Actually, being this size kind of takes some of the fun out of clothes shopping, but I agree with the splitting up idea."

"We can go as groups of two or three," said Sora, "I think that would be the smartest idea."

"Do any of us have any digidollars?" asked Joe.

Ken and Koushiro, residents of the digital world, fumbled in their pockets. Ken produced a few low-value coins.

"Sorry," said Koushiro, who didn't even have that, "I ran out of the house without my wallet when I heard there was news about digiworld."

"So how are we supposed to buy anything without money?!" said Mimi.

"We'll burn that bridge when we come to it," said Yolei impatiently, "I want to find a library."

Everyone looked rather surprised.

"Yolei, studying?" asked Ken, "what's next, Koushiro flunking a test?"

"For your information," said Yolei, "I am quite interested in literature and I'd be interested to see what this world has to offer, okAY?"

"Big assignment due today?" said Koushiro dryly.

Yolei sighed. "Bingo."

"Today meaning yesterday?" asked Matt.

"Yeah."

"Well, if it's alright with everybody else, I'd like to go with Yolei," said Cody, "I have study to do as well, and I would love to see what sorts of things I could find out in a digital world library."

"I'll join you," said Matt, "if there's a library, it'll probably have computers. It'd be cool to check some things."

"Are you coming too, Koushiro?" asked Yolei.

"No, I've been to digital world libraries before," said Koushiro, "I think I'd just like to walk around and take a look at everything."

"Sounds good to me," said Joe, "I'll tag along."

The two nodded to the rest of the group.

"We'll meet back here at 4pm," said Yolei, "before it gets dark, but it gives us enough time to scope out the city and all."

"See you, then," said Tai, and the five of them moved away.

"Personally, I liked the mall idea," confessed Sora, "I'd love to see what sorts of clothes they sell at a mall here, and window shopping is fun."

"I'll come too," said Kari, "I'd love some new clothes, if we can figure out how to get some without money."

"If Kari's going, I'm going," said Takeru.

"Suuuure, it'll be fun," said Kari, with a slightly evil look, "you can carry our bags and wait hours for us to try on clothes."

"Uhh... on second thoughts, I'm sure you'll be fine without me for just a few hours, right Kari?"

Sora and Kari laughed and headed off.

"I for one know what *I'm* after," said Mimi firmly, "and that is - food!"

"For once we are of one mind," said Tai, "let's wander around 'til we find some place."

Those two ran off, leaving Ken and Takeru looking at each other.

"Looks like you're stuck with me," said Ken.

"Well, you're not as good-looking as Kari, but I guess I can handle your company for a few hours," said Takeru.

The two friends grinned at each other.

--General POV - Koushiro and Joe--

The two men walked along in companionable silence for a minute or so.

"It's been a long time since we've seen each other," said Koushiro, "it seems strange to only be saying that after two days, but there were so many preoccupations then..."

"It's good to be back," said Joe automatically. Koushiro glanced at him.

"You said that in a funny tone, Joe. Are you glad or aren't you?"

Joe frowned. "Well, of course it's good to see all of you again. But I don't feel right being in digiworld, especially under the circumstances."

Koushiro didn't say anything; he was waiting for Joe to continue. Several years ago he would have pestered the other with questions but had since learned better.

"Sora and I were exchanging letters for a few years and we talked about things... it sounded to me like almost all of you guys were living in constant contact with digiworld, like you couldn't forget about it. And I mean, it'll always be a part of me too... but my life's shaping up well without it. It'd be too awful to never see Gomamon again, but... I don't belong here."

Koushiro stopped walking and Joe turned to look at him.

"What's up, Izzy?"

"I'm the opposite. I don't understand how you can just move on with your life as though our adventures never happened."

"Izzy, it's been, what, twelve, thirteen years since we first went to digiworld? It was just a few months out of our lives..."

"Yeah, but... I felt as though my life before the digital world was just... killing time."

Joe exhaled. "So you're pretty worried about being kicked out?"

"If you had to put it that bluntly," said Koushiro, wincing, "then yes. Joe, I don't think you understand - my life is in this world."

"That's right, you were living here before the gate closed, weren't you?"

"It's not just that. I mean, I've been doing a lot of research into the digital world, and being with Tentomon, and the other digidestined... if this world was closed to me, where would my life be?"

Joe didn't know what to say; he just stood there awkwardly for a few moments with Koushiro looking at him out of his sharp black eyes. He felt that the younger man was waiting for him to say something, so he blurted out the first thing that came into his mind.

"Isn't there something or someone in the real world that you love?"

"Someone..." Koushiro went a little red. "Well... there may be reasons for me to spend time in our world..."

Joe's interest was caught - Koushiro blushing? "Reaaally? This is a side of you I haven't seen! How come none of us knew about this person? What's her name?"

"Really, Joe, now you sound like Mimi," said Koushiro. He knew that saying that was sure to stop Joe from probing any further.

Sure enough, Joe looked flustered and said, "why must people say that?!"

The two were walking again but the street they were on did not seem to be particularly active; it was full of identical tall buildings and not a mon in sight.

Koushiro looked down at his chest. "You know, I used to love my crest. I thought it was prodigious that my own strong point could be used to save the world. But now I hate it."

"Why?"

"Knowledge," he said slowly, "knowledge. It's difficult... I'm unsure of what I can do to provoke a reaction. A crest like Courage, that's easy - you simply do brave things. Friendship, Sincerity, Reliability... I don't envy Kari or TK, but it just seems as though the rest of you have much more straightforward duties than I do."

"I don't think they're supposed to be duties," said Joe, "Izzy, please take my advice. Don't look on this as a competition - we don't do things to force our crests to react, they can only do it naturally. You've already proven that your crest still works. Don't envy the others, either. Knowledge is the perfect crest for you, whether it seems easy or not. And you know... it's not always so easy being reliable."

They rounded a corner; the street ahead of them was exactly the same as the one they had just come down. The two pushed up their glasses at the same time, and blinked in unison.

"Didn't we just come down this street?" asked Joe.

"Weird," said Koushiro, "very unusual." He automatically began to shrug his laptop off his shoulders and unpack it. As it booted up, he spoke slowly. "Joe... it's good to have you back with us."

--General POV - Tai and Mimi--

"It feelsh shooo good to eat normal food!"

Tai nodded in agreement; his mouth was too full to allow any answer that didn't spray food all over the table.

Tai and Mimi had found a Monchie's and ordered liberally. Neither bothered thinking about what was going to happen when their bill was brought. They just grabbed their dishes from the waitress - imaginatively named Waitressmon - and commenced shovelling.

Mimi swallowed her mouthful and started scraping sauce out the bottom of the jar with her finger.

"Ever ladylike," smirked Tai, before engulfing half a hamburger in one bite.

"Of course," agreed Mimi, picking up her milkshake in both hands - with the pinkies out.

"Ahhhh," said Tai, unbuttoning his belt and swinging back in his chair, "now that was a meal."

"Fine cuisine at its most fine," agreed Mimi, daintily pecking at her mouth with a napkin.

The two sighed in happy unison.

"It's been a while, hasn't it," said Tai finally.

"Yeah, it sure has," agreed Mimi.

A pause.

"Since what?" she asked.

"Since us two hung out."

"Oh. Yeah. Living in different countries kind of does that."

Tai smiled. "Well, that's what's so cool about digiworld, right? Geography's not an issue."

"If it's not an issue, then where are our Digimon?"

"You know what I meant."

"I suppose so."

"I guess I've been caught up in wedding plans lately. Can you believe there's only two months to go? Only two months until Terri is MRS KAMIYA! Mimi, have I ever told you about what Terri's like?"

"Tai, you've told everyone about what Terri's like."

"She's the most amaaazing person. She's got this great shiny black hair and the most amazing eyes. She's just the most perfect person in the whole world."

Mimi could see that Tai was lost to her, so she launched into her own reverie.

"Well, Michael's one of the best guys a girl could ever ask for. He's always suddenly saying nice things and he never gets angry. And being filthy rich doesn't hurt one little bit, not that I'm that shallow of course!"

"She has this great little way of going kind of cross-eyed when she's worried about something..."

"He never made me stay around the house being a housewife, he's happy for me to follow my own fabulous career..."

"She gets along really well with my family..."

"He's got this way of looking serious for ages and then suddenly smiling..."

"...whole face lights up..."

"..warm blue eyes..."

"...taught me how to..."

"...took me out for dinner..."

The two carried on their conversation without paying heed to a single thing the other was saying. They were both lost in thought...

--General POV - Kari and Sora--

WIN 1000 DIGIDOLLARS IN GIFT VOUCHERS!

So said the sign under which a Bakemon was standing - floating, really. On the table in front of him was a small stack of vouchers, a cash box and a lotto machine. The idea was that hopefuls paid five digidollars and chose a number. If their number came up (highly unlikely), they won.

"We'll pay you back after we win," offered Kari.

The Bakemon was evidently not of the highest intelligence.

"After you win... heh, you must be pretty confident... well, pick a number."

Sora and Kari conferred for a moment and then said in unison, "21, please."

"Right you are," said the Bakemon, twisting the crank on the lotto machine, "let's see if we have a match!"

The balls jingled around in their case before one popped out and rolled into the shaft. The Bakemon extended a blue hand and lifted it out for inspection.

"Heyyy," he said, "this isn't the number 21 at all!"

He held out the ball with "53" imprinted on it.

"Darn," the girls sighed in unison.

"Well, it was worth a try," said Sora.

"Wait a second," said Bakemon slowly, "if you don't win... that means I don't get my money back!"

He began cranking the lotto shaft with gusto, so that another ball came out, and another, and another. Soon the ball shaft was full.

"Mmm... no 21 in here," said the Bakemon, tossing the balls back into the shaft and trying again. The girls wondered why he put the balls back in if he didn't want them to be drawn again, but decided not to push their luck by saying anything.

On the third try, 21 finally came up.

"Ta-da!" said the happy Bakemon, "congratulations, you've won the prize!"

"Yaaaay!" shouted Sora and Kari in unison, high-fiving.

The Bakemon pushed the ream of vouchers toward them. The girls began rifling through it, looking for one they could give to the Bakemon.

"Ectoplasmic sculpting treatment to the value of fifteen digidollars?" read Sora, "ew... would you like this one, Mr Bakemon?"

"15 digidollars? Wow, really? Thank you so much! I'm gonna enjoy this!"

The Bakemon flew off, cackling, leaving the girls with a lot of money to spend and a whole mall to spend it in.

"Well, tricking Bakemon has gotten even easier since the last time I tried," said Sora.

"This stuff looks great," said Kari, flicking through the books, "fur-dressing, hair-dressing... hmm..."

"Too bad Joe isn't here, he could have used that," said Sora, smiling.

"I should get my hair bleached again," said Kari, "the roots are coming through. And oh! Do you think I should get a nose-ring?"

Sora sweatdropped. "Kari, you're not quite my image of a punk."

"So why should punks get all the fun? Or maybe I'll get my eyebrow pierced. Or another hole in my ears, like Yolei."

Sora opened her mouth to say something, thought better of it, and instead blurted out: "Takeru has an eyebrow ring, doesn't he?"

Kari blinked. "You know he does. What are you trying to say, Sora?"

--General POV - Yolei, Cody and Matt--

"Cody, could we keep it moving, maybe?"

Matt and Yolei were getting a little impatient. They were trying to walk down the street but Cody kept stopping to look at things. Right now he was staring at a wall - a plain brick wall - as though it were the most fascinating thing in the world.

"But this architecture -"

"Nobody cares about architecture," said Yolei. Cody was going to protest so Matt grabbed him by the collar and started dragging him. After they had moved away from the wall, Cody shrugged out of his grip and walked on his own - for about three feet, when he caught sight of a Digimon flying overhead and stood staring up at the sky long after it had flown past.

Yolei, Ripumon and Matt sighed in unison.

"Ripumon is getting booooored," volunteered the Digimon from atop Matt's head.

"Cody, maybe we'll just meet you at the library," said Yolei, "if we don't meet up, we can always catch up at 4 when we go to meet the rest of the group."

"Mmm," agreed Cody, absent-mindedly.

The two impatient and uncurious digidestined moved on without him. They did not stop to ask every Digimon they met detailed questions, they did not do more than glance at walls, and they took minimal interest in their surroundings. In short, they made progress.

"Heyyy, Matt," said Yolei suddenly, "you're single, right?"

--General POV - Takeru and Ken--

"So where are we going?" asked Ken.

"Three guesses," said Takeru, "we're two young, good-looking, eligible bachelors..."

"We are NOT going to a Digimon strip club," said Ken flatly.

Takeru sweatdropped. "I wasn't going to suggest that. Uggh... I don't even wanna know! No, I meant a bar."

"I don't know, Takeru. We can't pay, and I don't think the others are going to be too happy if we turned up tripping over ourselves."

"So, what's your crest, Reliability? Live a little! We'll work something out!"

They passed a busking Digimon who was playing a harmonica and had a hat on the ground in front of him. The Digimon, judging by his size, was a Champion, and looked vaguely like a humanoid frill-necked lizard. He looked up at them as they passed and nudged his hat hopefully.

"Sorry, buddy," said Takeru, as they walked past.

"Now there's an idea," joked Ken, "we could try busking for money."

"Hey, that is an idea..."

"Hey! Hey, Takeru, I was only joking - what are you doing? - put your jacket back on!"

Takeru was taking off his jacket and lying it on the ground in front of him. He sat behind it, leaning against the wall, and mussed up his own hair.

"Come on Ken," he said, "now, how's your singing voice?"

Ken just looked at him.

--General POV - in England--

Faye Forrester, a slim redhead in her mid thirties, gave a grunting sound and rolled over in bed to look at the clock. From the darkness glowed the green numbers "3:14".

She sighed and rubbed at her eyes before sluggishly slipping out of the bedclothes, trying not to disturb her husband. It would take a while to get back to sleep; she might as well check on the children.

Adrienne and Amy had been acting *strangely* all week. Since they got home from the last day of school, after that storm, it was as though they had grown up somehow, and had new secrets. They kept looking at each other meaningfully and saying things Faye didn't understand. They'd brought home these two ugly, bizarre-looking toys, and spent every day out with that boy from down the street, Nathan.

Now that day they had come home and gone straight to bed, saying they didn't feel well. That in itself was strange, but they didn't seem to be exhibiting any symptoms of a cold, or a stomachache. Still, she'd better make sure they were sleeping okay and didn't need anything. They were still her little girls.

But as she opened the door to their room, she just froze. Two empty beds. The house felt entirely too still; she was sure that they weren't in the bathroom or kitchen. And - her sharp eyes caught it - the stuffed toys and their bags were gone.

Leaning against the cold doorframe for a moment, she took a few breaths and made her way back to her bedroom.

"Simon," she hissed, shaking her husband, "Simon! Wake up!"

"Mrggh," he groaned, looking up at her, half-asleep.

"Simon! The girls are gone!"

"S'nice dear," he mumbled.

"SIMON! Wake up or I'll roll you onto the floor! I said the girls are GONE!"

"G... gone. Yes dear. Huh? The girls are gone? What do you mean? Gone where?!"

"I just don't know!"

The same words kept repeating inanely in her head - I hope they're alright, I hope they're alright, I hope they're alright.

--General POV - Adrienne's group--

Adrienne and Amy were, at that particular moment, not very alright. In fact, Adrienne was flying through the air at about 100kmph, clutching for dear life the tail of a winged green horse.

Emeramon was flying frantically, spinning and whizzing out of the way of enemy fire.

"Emeramon, slow down!" Adrienne managed to gasp.

"Can't!" cried Emeramon, banking sharply and changing directions, "if I slow down we're french fries!"

"I do enjoy french fries!" called their enemy - an AeroSeadramon - "Air River! Air RIVER!"

"Mother Nature's -" began Emeramon, but had to cut her attack short to dodge another opposing barrage.

"How long do you think you can keep it up?" sneered AeroSeadramon. Despite the high speeds at which he was moving, he didn't seem to be out of breath. "Soon you'll be just like your little friends!"

Nathan sat on the ground, holding one arm, and glowering up at the Digimon hovering just above his head - an IceBirdramon. Spritemon lay unconscious on his lap. Amy was crying, watching her sister holding on for her life, an utterly wrecked Otamamon lying limply in her arms.

"What do you all have against us anyway?" sobbed Amy, "leave my sister alone!"

"This isn't a fair fight!" snapped Nathan.

After a not-very-restful sleep - having been woken in the middle of the night to battle a swarm of Mosquimon - and two other battles in the morning, the children and their Digimon were exhausted. Then, while trying to find food, they found these unfriendly Champion and Ultimate Digimon. Neither Spritemon or Otamamon had the energy to digivolve, putting up as much of a fight as they could in their weakened state.

Floramon did manage to digivolve, but she was not in the best shape herself, hence the present difficulties.

Emeramon suddenly reared up in the sky, lashing her tail up to whisk Adrienne out of another blast.

"Air River!"

"Fire Blizzard!" shouted IceBirdramon, suddenly.

Emeramon could not avoid both attacks at once, and her leafy mane caught on fire as she was engulfed with the virus bird's attack. She glowed, and landed on the ground, a tired and charred Floramon. Adrienne was also thrown to the ground but landed more heavily. She didn't move.

"Addy," sniffed Amy, "Addy, get up."

She crawled over to her sister and nudged her.

"If you don't get up, I'll tell Mom on you," said Amy.

Adrienne grunted, but she was not conscious. AeroSeadramon laughed.