Epilogue
by Ajora Fravashi

*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei/Bandai does. This is probably a good thing.

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It seemed to be his lot in life: to gain, to lose, to deal with it to the best he knew how. In a way his relationship with his former Jogress partner was still in question, as Ken hadn't come to see him at all save for the few encounters during the globetrotting fiasco and then after the battle with BelialVandemon. He couldn't blame the boy, really. After all, he had never once dropped any mention of the Dark Seed or of its effects. In a way all he could claim to have was power he never wanted and the dubious companionship of a capricious virus digimon whose hobby it was to play with his head and make his life hell.

Halfway up the path to his cottage, Ryo pulled out the tag that encircled his neck and was hidden under his robes. Crest of Loyalty. Ha. Like he ever did anything in his life to deserve it. It was a stylized shield with a triangle placed on either side, colored a light, almost whitish, gold. What color had Kageko's crest been? He couldn't quite remember.

The Tamer gazed up into the sky with a wistful expression. All the people dear to him were gone, and the one that was still around probably couldn't care less that he existed. It hurt more than he would let on, but it seemed that Savali of all the digimon he had trained was actually sympathetic of his plight and let go of needling him for awhile to offer some comfort.

As if the little virus heard his thoughts, Savali fluttered up to him and settled into his arms. It was odd, even when the Digital World opened up to the children of Earth after the defeat of BelialVandemon and previously unbonded digimon found human partners, Savali still had yet to bond to anyone. When asked about it on the rare occasions that Savali wasn't being a thorn in his side, the tsukaimon only answered that a virus didn't need to bond to a weak little human. Human kids were just too goody-goody for Savali's tastes. On the other hand, pestering a liar/thief/whatever else Savali could call him at the moment provided the tsukaimon with much more amusement.

"He's here," Savali murmured as he made himself comfortable in the Tamer's arms. He was being unusually nice to Ryo lately, a fact that nagged at the back of his mind despite his efforts to dismiss it as nothing more than sympathy. Rather annoyed with his own pathetic behaviour, Savali fluttered off once again in pursuit of something malicious to do.

Ryo sighed to himself as he continued up the path to his cottage. Ken was probably going to raze him for not saying anything about the Dark Seed... among other things. Oh, how he wished for things to return to the way they had been, when it was just the three of them and their respective digimon partners living out in this isolated part of the Digital World, with the only worries they had were the occasional battles they were expected to undertake. So many things had gone so wrong that he wondered if there was some greater being out there that absolutely loved to make his existence miserable. Well, some greater being that wasn't any of the Holy Beasts, anyway.

Once he entered his home, he noticed the flicker of a living flame crackling in the fireplace. The last time the fireplace had been used was so long ago that he thought Ken would have forgotten about it.

"Do you remember the last time we were all here, sitting before this fireplace," Ken's voice rose softly from one of the large cushioned chairs set before the hearth. The Tamer took to his own seat and looked over to the boy who seemed to be focused solely on the dancing flames, silently longing as he always had for the innocent past. "It was after our last big battle together. Kage-chan and Libra were curled up together in their chair, I don't recall what they were doing however. Chicomon and Leafmon were already asleep, and we were just talking about simple things that seemed so important back then."

"The virtues and problems with dungeon crawling and button-mashing in videogames, wasn't it," Ryo asked as he closed his eyes and made himself comfortable in his own overstuffed chair. This kind of peace was something he hadn't enjoyed in a long time, and he hoped it would continue for at least a little while longer.

"Perhaps," the boy replied tonelessly as he watched the flames dance upon their logs. Since a lot of his memory had returned, something was bothering him and he needed what answers he could glean from his first Jogress partner. "Ryo? What happened to Kageko?"

A grimace crossed Ryo's features at the question. Finding out the truth behind Kageko's death had been bad enough for him, and he never was attached to Kageko at the level Ken had been. "She died. There's not much beyond that."

"You know, I remember bits and pieces of what happened the last days we had together. Kageko battled Milleniumon with us, didn't she? I have faint memories of those seeds floating around, and watching her fall as one of those seeds hit her somewhere. Then I saw one heading for you and knocked you out of the way. I think it was then that a Dark Seed hit me too."

"You fell ill for several weeks afterwards, we couldn't tell why you were having such an adverse reaction when Kageko recovered after the first week," the Tamer offered despite his dislike of the subject at hand. He really should have known better than to expect things to go smoothly.

Ken pulled his knees close in a defensive position as he fought to recall memories that were probably affected by his delirium at the time. Kageko leaning over him and replacing the warm washcloth on his forehead with one that had been drenched in cold water and wrung out. Her whispered reassurances that she was going to return soon and bring some candy and new games for him from Earth. "She said she was going to come back."

A tense silence fell between the two afterwards. The subject of death was always difficult to deal with, especially that of someone close to both of them. But Ken wanted his answers, and Ryo was tired of hiding those answers in the dark. "Do you know why we know that the removal of a true Dark Seed from its host would kill someone?"

Ryo winced internally as he saw Ken whip around to face him fully, shock settling into the boy's face. "My task for the past two years had been to wipe all the data the governments of Earth had of the Digital World. I stumbled upon several reports about a girl with a Dark Seed who had been operated upon. Their attempts to remove the seed had ended in failure, and Kageko was later found with her neck mauled in a posthumous effort to remove the Dark Seed. The newspapers were bribed to list her cause of death as a simple car accident."

The boy sank back into his chair, stunned. Kageko was always so nice to him, she didn't deserve such a death. But then, nothing was ever fair in either Earth or the Digital World, and that lesson had certainly been beaten into him more times than he dared to recall. "And Libra?"

"Quite insane, I imagine, although I haven't seen her since she ran off so long ago," Ryo muttered as he drove away his own memories of just how Libra had reacted to her human partner's death. That had been more unpleasant than he cared to remember, and he still had the scars from Libra's claws.

Silence came again. It wasn't one of those comfortable silences they used to have so long ago, and there probably never would be those comfortable pauses falling between them anymore. This time it was Ken who broke the silence. "The Dark Seed that dwells in me now, I assume it's dormant. Is it likely to reactivate?"

"It's possible, but then it's also possible that it won't. Don't worry too much about it. You've survived well enough so far, and this time you have the support of a lot more friends than you had back then," the Tamer reassured his friend with a slight smile. "And I do now have more resources at my disposal than I should. Who knows, perhaps I'll eventually find a way to get that thing out of you."

The shadows of a humorless smirk flashed across Ken's face. "Somehow that isn't very reassuring, but I do appreciate the sentiment."

Soon the conversation switched to shallower things, of modern videogames versus the Famicon era, of friends and family long gone, of distant days and simpler times. Memories were brought up of Osamu and Ken meeting up with Ryo at the statue of Hachiko in Shibuya and then wandering around for the weekends while the flow of Tokyo's trendsetter district bypassed them completely.

Eventually, however, Ken had to leave. Once the boy would have hugged Ryo before taking off, but that was long ago. The Tamer sighed in regret as he was left alone in his cottage once again. There was so much he should have told his former Jogress partner and so much that needed explaining. But to be frank, where would he possibly begin? How do you tell your only living friend something that might as well be a death sentence?

The telltale flapping of wings alerted Ryo to the tsukaimon's return, and soon enough Savali curled up into his lap without invitation. The virus looked to be relatively tired, so perhaps this time he could get away without his daily dose of scathing comments from Savali.

"You didn't tell him, did you," the tsukaimon queried as he pinned Ryo under a golden-eyed glare. The Tamer's silence was all the answer he needed. "You're a complete idiot, you know."

"Oh? Would you like to tell him the true purpose of a Dark Seed? Would you like to tell him that the Dark Seeds existed as a way to ensure Milleniumon's resurrection? And on that note, how about telling him that when the seed blooms it will turn into Moon=Milleniumon and probably kill him?"

Savali's eyes narrowed as he watched a mix of anger and despair rise on the Tamer's face. Really, humans were far too emotional. "It would be better that he's told about it before he finds out on his own and certainly before it's too late. And if you don't have the spine to do it maybe I should let him know instead."

Ryo frowned at the thought. "No, you'd enjoy it too much. Let's save it for later, shall we?"

"Of course," Savali smirked at that as he dug his claws into the Tamer's legs. There were certain other things he felt little Ichijouji should know that he was pretty sure Ryo was afraid to admit. Oh, humans were so entertaining. "And I think later I should have a long talk with darling little Ken, don't you think?"

"You hate me, don't you," the Tamer groused as he reverted his attention to the crackling fire. Well, the tsukaimon was company, at least, and he had always been so lonely without the others around. Funny, he never considered himself much of a social person until he found himself alone.

After settling into position for a nap whether the Tamer wanted him to or not, Savali closed his eyes before responding. "Not at all. You're just more interesting than other humans. And therefore much more fun to play with."

"Nice to know I'm keeping you amused," Ryo shot back as he picked up the tsukaimon before rising from his chair. "And inasmuch as I'd like to do my best impersonation of furniture for you, I have a night of research to start on."

Once Savali squirmed out of his hands, Ryo put out the fire and retreated to the comforting darkness of his study. It was going to be a very long night.

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Ajora: Well, this monster is finally over. However, it does have a sequel titled "Götterdämmerung".