Well, this was certainly a longer study break than I planned. Ah, whatever. This story's been fun to write. Thanks to everyone for reading, especially The Light's Refrain, Squirt, Bluesv20, and Takari Freek. Your support was very encouraging; thank you!
"It's amazing—in the blink of an eye, you finally see the light,
It's amazing—when the moment arrives, you know you'll be all right."
- Aerosmith "Amazing"
Takato was uncertain what Cronus and Henry were discussing, and was even a little annoyed with his feeling that he was being left out-of-the-loop, but he supposed it didn't matter—Henry was doing a better job at putting pieces together than Takato was.
The mind-reading issue puzzled him at first, but the more he thought about it, the more it made sense—if all the other villagers are indeed digimon, but don't know it, then they're not drawing upon the digital world's energy, even if they're connected to it. If Guilmon—or Cronus, was connected to that power, and knew it, then he'd be connected to everything and everyone around him. Takato didn't want to suggest it right then, but he highly suspected that if Cronus had that sort of power—or at least access to it—then he might be able to get everyone home. There were a number of reasons he didn't suggest it, though; first was that they still didn't have a plan to get Cronus out of holding so that they could escape. Secondly, if they did escape, where would they go? Cronus said they were on an island—and they didn't have any way of getting across the water. Takato was confident his partner had power, but he didn't know if he could control it enough to use it.
Being connected to everyone, Cronus seemed to be affected by people's minds and emotions.
He must have been overwhelmed by everyone coming at him before they captured him.
If it had been anyone but Guilmon, Takato would have been much less comfortable with the idea of someone being able to read through his mind if they wanted to.
"If the villagers are digimon, how can we turn them back? Make them remember?" Takato asked.
"Well," Henry said thoughtfully. "Guilmon was cured of it because of your D-Arc. We've seen that they have restorative capabilities—Jeri had used hers once to save Leomon…but not all digital monsters have Tamers to use D-Arcs on them..."
"Before he put me here," Mala added, "Alex mentioned that he'd done something to this place—to this part of the digital world."
"So Valn would be the key to reversing what's been done here." Takato finished. "But he's dead—his monster killed him. And his lab's gone, too…" He added guiltily.
"We might be able to administer a cure somehow once we get back to Hypnos…" Henry suggested. "It might take a while though, since we don't have any of Valn's data."
"But we still don't know exactly how to send people to here—Mala and I both came through a portal generator, but it's broken now. And you couldn't get here until we activated the beacon…" Takato murmured quietly, thinking aloud.
Henry's expression saddened. "That's true."
We'll deal with that when we have to.
"What about getting back to the real world?" Takato asked.
"That's going to be a problem…" Henry replied somewhat hopelessly.
Not exactly the response I was fishing for.
"Maybe I can open a portal." Cronus suggested suddenly.
Now we're talking.
"Can you do that?" Takato asked him.
"Maybe." The blonde boy said hopefully.
"What do you have in mind?" Henry asked him.
"Well, if the beacon's connected to the real world, and I'm connected to the beacon, since it's in the digital world, maybe I can control it."
"That's not exactly the most solid reassurance, buddy." Takato said with a comforting smirk.
"I think it'll work." Cronus said quickly. "Back when I was looking around the digital world—I was really starting to get the hang of it. I can do this, Takato."
That's all I need to hear.
Of course, Takato trusted Guilmon with his life. He had every reason to. While he wasn't exactly feeling 100 secure with Cronus's plan, Takato did trust him. He'd earned it.
"Alright." Takato said with a nod. He looked to Henry and Mala for support, not wanting to sign them up for something they were against, but each offered a nod of approval as well.
"So how do we get you out of there?" Mala asked Cronus.
"That depends." A female voice said from the stairwell.
The four turned to see Noria slowly come into view.
"What do you want?" Takato asked bitterly. He was grateful that she'd bought them the time they needed to get to the beacon, but was obviously still resentful that she was responsible for getting Cronus where he was in the first place.
"I'm glad to see you too." She murmured sarcastically. She then turned her green eyes to Henry.
"My name's Henry." Henry said slowly, not sure of who Noria was. Takato had mentioned her to him when he was filling Henry in on everything that had happened, but he doubted that Henry knew that the girl in front of him was Noria.
"Where'd you come from?" Noria asked him, much less aggressively than she initially asked Takato.
"From the real world." He answered plainly. "Who're you?"
"My name's Noria." She answered. Takato saw Henry's facial expression change, but it only changed slightly, because Takato could tell Henry was trying not to look surprised.
"What do you want?" Takato repeated himself, slightly louder and just as rudely.
"I want to know what's going on." She told him. It took Takato by surprise, too.
"Now you want us to explain things to you?" Takato snarled.
"Takato," Mala interrupted him, stepping forward. "She got us the time we needed to get to the beacon."
Deciding that it wouldn't be of any risk to explain things to her at least a little bit, Takato spoke to her. "What do you want to know?"
She immediately turned her gaze towards Cronus, who was still in the cell, leaning against the back wall.
"Who are you, really?" Noria said to Cronus, turning the rest of her body towards him.
"Noria, it's me—"
"Takato called you something else, back in the forest, when you changed." She clarified. "What's your name?"
Cronus looked at Takato, then back to Noria.
"Guilmon?" she repeated slowly, learning the name. Cronus nodded.
"Why?" Cronus asked her.
"I was curious. You've been here for months without telling anyone a thing about yourself." Was her reply.
"I didn't remember anything." Cronus said defensively. "When I changed? That's when I got my memory back."
"Hmm…" Noria said contemplatively. Her next question was directed at Henry. "You said you came from the real world. What are you implying about this place?"
"This is the digital world." Henry explained. "What you saw Cronus turn into, was a digimon. They're supposed to be here."
Noria stared at Henry for a moment before turning to Cronus, and then back to Henry. "And what about us? The village?"
Takato saw Henry pause as he thought of how to describe the situation to her. "Well, our leading theory is that the village is made up of digimon as well, who were made to look human. Just like Guilmon."
She looked indignant as soon as Henry implied she was a digital monster. At least, until Noria looked at Mala, and saw that it wasn't a joke.
"You really are from another world, aren't you?" Noria asked her. Noria didn't seem to have any memory of the real world at all. Which probably meant that she'd never been there—which meant that she was a digimon, too.
"Yes." Mala told her. "We're just trying to get back home."
Noria looked away from Mala, to Takato, then Henry, then Cronus. "You're really not trying to hurt us, are you?"
Cronus spoke very clearly to her. "Noria, I haven't done anything to earn the way I've been treated here."
She stared straight at him, before walking towards him. "No, you haven't." With that, she unlocked the door, and with a push, it swung open.
Henry Wong looked on with a quiet curiosity as Noria opened the door for Cronus. Cronus stood up straight, but didn't move—didn't break away from Noria's gaze.
"Well?" she asked. "Do you want out of there or not?"
Cronus stepped towards the door of the cell, but slowed his pace as he approached it, suspicious of Noria's actions. It wasn't until he was completely out of it, and standing next to Takato that he put on a smile.
"What's the catch?" Takato asked suspiciously.
He really doesn't like her.
Fair enough, as far as Henry was concerned. Takato certainly had the right to be defensive of his partner.
Henry wasn't sure of what exactly had gone on between Noria and Mala—Takato hadn't mentioned much at all about Noria, other than that she was the one who told everyone about Guilmon.
"There's no catch, Takato." It wasn't Noria who said this, though—it was Cronus.
He read her.
Takato must have realized it too, as he immediately replied with an "Alright." as soon as Cronus said it.
"You'll have to hurry." Noria warned. "The others still think that you're a threat."
"There's no chance of reasoning with them?" Mala asked her.
Noria shook her head. "I've already tried."
"I appreciate it." Cronus told her.
"Get out of the village." Noria ordered, ignoring him. "But don't let the others see you. I think they'll attack you if they do. Even you, Mala."
Henry looked to Takato, who nodded back to him and then headed up the stairs. Cronus thanked Noria, who once again ignored him, and then ran to catch up with Takato. Henry headed towards the stairs but waited for Mala.
"Thank you." Mala told Noria.
"I'm sorry about everything." Noria said quietly, looking down to the ground.
Mala smiled to her, walked up to her, and gave her a hug, which, after an awkward-looking moment, Noria returned.
"Take care of everyone for me." Mala said sincerely.
"I will. You be careful." Noria said with a smile.
"Count on it."
With a smile back, Mala headed up the stairs, and Henry followed behind her.
The paths around the village seemed empty, which Henry found somewhat ominous, but decided he shouldn't worry about it, as it didn't seem that Noria would have sent them outside if it was crowded.
"So we're heading off to the beacon, then?" Henry asked, trying to get someone to say something.
"Looks like." Takato affirmed. They walked quickly, and, fortunately, there was nobody around. They soon arrived at the fields outside of town, with the forest in the distance.
"What about the monsters?" Mala asked suddenly. "I know we've made it through twice without seeing any, but still…"
Henry wasn't sure what the 'monsters' were like in the forest—he wasn't worried about them, though—Takato had told him that Guilmon had killed at least two and come out of it with no more than a scratch or two. He knew Mala was right in being careful—they couldn't afford to make mistakes.
"Can you feel any?" Henry asked Cronus.
"No. There's none nearby. I'll feel them if they get close." Was Cronus's response.
He's really getting used to all that power.
Henry was proud of him. Guilmon always had even more of an innocence to him than the other digital monsters—Henry had always welcomed it, as Guilmon always managed to find the hope that they so very needed in the bleak situations they so often found themselves in. But even now, Henry was glad to have Guilmon as he was—even though he looked different, he could tell that there was still that innocence inside of Cronus—that, and Cronus's being connected to everything was proving to be helpful.
It hadn't even been a day since Henry had arrived in the digital world. He'd come there not looking to help Takato, but to flee from the responsibilities that had been piled onto him back in the real world. But after spending just a few hours with his long-lost friend, his digimon-friend-turned-human-turned-powerhouse, and the cute brown-haired girl, he saw that life wasn't simple anywhere. When he got Takato and Mala back home, he'd go back to the real world, too.
Henry had really found himself attracted to Mala, even though he'd only known her for a few hours. It was from what Takato had told him of her—that she'd been so capable of surviving in a strange world by herself, and had managed to earn the respect and trust of an entire village—only to give it all up to do what was right—she was an extraordinary young woman.
They were a good ways into the forest, and very little had been said along the way. Henry wasn't sure how far in they were, exactly, as he had been paying more attention to Takato's story than the scenery on his only other trip through. Henry spoke softly, but tried to get some conversation out of her and Takato.
"Takato, what are you going to do when you get back?" Henry asked him. He was really curious. Everyone back in the real world thought Takato was dead—including Henry himself, until a few hours ago. Henry was glad of how happy Jeri would be to see him again.
"I'm not sure." He said softly. "Probably see my parents. And Jeri, and everyone else…"
Henry bit his tongue when he almost repeated that Ryo had left—none of them needed that on their minds at that time. "What about you?" he asked Mala.
"Hmm?" she mumbled, snapping back to reality. "Oh, sorry. I don't really know…the last time I saw my mom, it wasn't the most civil conversation, so I'm not sure where to go."
"I could go with you." He suggested sheepishly.
"Really?" Mala perked up a little.
"Yeah, if it'd help. I'm sure she'd be happy to see you."
"I really miss her. I can't believe it's only been a year."
"Only?" Henry asked curiously.
"It felt like longer." She replied quietly.
"Things'll be better when we get back. I promise you." Henry smiled flashed her his most reassuring smile.
"Deal." She smiled back at him. She suddenly perked up again. "You know what I really miss? Good food."
Henry laughed. "Well, there's a new restaurant on Ross Street, some friends of mine told me that when they were there—"
—Henry was suddenly cut short when Cronus let out a scream of pain, and fell backwards to the ground.
Noria had her arms crossed, and had rubbed her upper arms with her hands. She wasn't cold, but she was definitely nervous. It had been a half hour since she released Cronus from his cell, and she was presently still in the same room, looking at the cell's open door, wondering if she made a mistake.
Noria had never done anything that wasn't in the interests of the village. Even this, letting Cronus free, was in the village's best interests. Cronus had saved them, she knew that now. She knew that they'd treated him unfairly, and she was trying to right the wrongs that she'd participated in.
She regretted telling everyone of what she saw back in the forest, Cronus's transformation—but she knew that Cronus knew it was her duty to. She was looking out for her home.
It was all too soon before some of the villagers came to check on Cronus, and Noria inhaled sharply, and prepared to tell them that she had let him out.
"Noria? What's going on? Where's the monster?" one asked, indicating the cell.
"I let him out." She told them flatly.
"You what!" One snarled.
"I let him out." She repeated.
"Why would you—"
"Because he didn't do anything to us! Mala was right about him. I know that now."
"There are monsters that are killing our people. And you saw him yourself, you said he was a monster."
"He wasn't like one of them. He was different—"
"—You betrayed us!"
"No!" She yelled loudly. "Cronus killed two of the monsters. Two. He made it that much safer out there for us."
"Noria, he can't be trusted. Does your loyalty lie with the village, or with him?" a man said to her, stepping out in front of the crowd.
"With you, of course." Noria said sweetly, trying to buy herself some more time to figure out where exactly it was that she stood.
But she saw that the man in front of her was reaching for a knife, she kicked him in the stomach, and ran around the group to the stairwell. She was maybe a quarter-way up before she was blocked from the front. She turned to go back, but was closely pinned in place. She went to plant a kick into the chest of the nearest person behind her, but he grabbed her foot, twisted, and tugged her off the stairs.
She fell for maybe two seconds before she hit her head hard on the dirt ground. Her head pulsed in pain, and her ankle was sprained at the very least. There were still a few villagers down there, and two pulled her up to a standing position.
The man stood in front of her.
"You've killed us all." He hissed at her.
"He didn't do anyth—"
—the knife he put through her chest felt like it was burning her, and she gasped in agony as the two holding her let go of her arms, and she fell to the ground. Noria died that day, not knowing if Mala and the others would make it away.
"Cronus!" Takato called to his friend. Cronus was on the ground, a look of shock on his face, and he was grabbing at his chest frantically. Takato managed to get his hands around Cronus's wrists, and Cronus was still gasping in shock when Takato got there.
"Cronus!" Takato repeated, trying to get Cronus to get ahold of himself. "What happened?"
In an instant, Takato saw his friend return to him, and he stopped fighting against him before indicating Takato to let go of him.
"We've gotta keep moving." Cronus said as he struggled to get up.
"What's wrong?" Mala asked worriedly. "Is it one of the monsters?
"They're coming." Cronus answered. "They're coming now."
"What! Who is coming?" Takato asked in disbelief. "What did you see?"
He saw Cronus's face go pale. "Noria." He whispered.
"Did Noria give us up?" Takato asked frantically, but Cronus's head was already shaking before he finished the sentence.
Takato was too scared to ask Cronus what had happened to Noria, but he knew it was something bad.
"Let's keep moving." It was Henry to have broken the silence that followed Cronus's warning. Takato and Mala both nodded, and the four were on their way.
"It's too late." Cronus interrupted him.
Takato turned to him curiously, as did Mala and Henry.
"Cronus?" Takato asked his friend. "What are you talking about?"
"They're here." He said in a fearful whimper, turning back towards the trees behind them. A few seconds later, sure enough, emerged a mob of villagers demanding blood.
"Run!" Takato ordered, and the four of them hurried to the beacon. There were less people in this mob than there were in the one that had captured Cronus, but there was still maybe two dozen of them—which was plenty more than four teenagers.
They moved quickly, though, and Takato forced himself to look back, and discovered that they were indeed outrunning the mob, but that it wouldn't last once they got to the beacon.
When they arrived at it shortly after, Mala was struggling to catch her breath, and Henry was looking worriedly around for the villagers to show up. Cronus put his hand on the metal pedestal, but nothing happened.
"Cronus?" Henry asked anxiously.
"It's encrypted." Cronus said, shocked.
"It's what!" Mala nearly cried.
"This wasn't made for me to send data out on when it's inactive. I can break the encryption, but—"
"How long will that take?" Takato interrupted him.
Cronus looked at each of them before he closed his eyes. Takato saw his lips move as he made the calculations, and took the opportunity to shoot a glance to Henry and Mala, who appeared just as terrified as Takato felt, and then looked back to see that the mob hadn't caught up yet.
"Cronus?" Mala asked pleadingly.
He opened his eyes. "One hundred fourteen minutes, twenty-six seconds."
Takato's heart sank, and Henry looked to Takato. "We can't hold them off for two hours."
Takato again looked back to the trees for anyone who could approach, but fortunately there was nobody.
"Why will it take so long?" Takato asked, trying to sound less scared than he was.
"Something's changed." Cronus tried to explain. "I still feel connected to everyone, but I can't—it feels like something else is accessing the digital world now, not just me."
"What do you mean?" Takato asked
"There's something very powerful nearby, and it's close."
Everyone exchanged glances, but nobody spoke until Cronus did. "I can't tell what it is." He said, defeated.
"So what's the plan?" Mala asked Takato desperately.
Takato had nothing. He'd been in this part of the digital world for months and he barely understood any of it. It had been even longer since he'd had to come up the battle strategies, and even still, he was being asked for orders by someone who was far more experienced than he in the world.
Henry gripped the wooden plank he had tightly with each of his hands, sending anxious looks to Takato and Cronus. Cronus was breathing heavier, and had his hands at the sides of his head, and Takato could see that Cronus was weakening again.
"Cronus! Can you fight?" Henry asked him.
Too much noise—
"I—I can't.." Cronus murmured as he stumbled backwards towards the block. There really was too much noise for him to concentrate. He could barely keep his eyes open—it was all too much information for him to keep track of. Something had happened—he was still connected to the digital world, but there was something else accessing it. He wasn't the only one anymore. Mala and Henry had turned back to the advancing mob. Henry was a little bit in front of her, and Cronus knew that it was because he was developing feelings for her. Cronus was glad—he knew that if anyone could protect her, it would be him.
Takato, however, was still looking at Cronus—not with any expectation or disapproval, but apologetically. Cronus knew—without having to read his mind—that Takato was sorry that he had put Cronus in the situation. Cronus couldn't speak, though, as the waves of thoughts and data and feelings and emotions tore through him—it even felt ten times worse than it had when Noria was murdered. Cronus grit his teeth so that he wouldn't scream at the pain he felt, but he let out a whimper when Takato hurried over to him and held out his hand to give him something.
"This is yours Takato said clearly, before turning back to the fight. Cronus managed to get the D-Arc into his hand and clench his fingers around it before his arm dropped weakly to the ground. Henry had given the wooden plank to Mala to protect herself with, leaving himself and Takato both unarmed. Cronus closed his eyes and tried to change back to Guilmon, but he couldn't find the energy in himself.
The battle began before he could have expected it—it began with the crack of a wooden plank finding its way into the side of one of the villager's heads. Henry had managed to disarm what looked to be something similar to a wooden rake-handle, and had passed it to Takato, who swung it clumsily but powerfully into the villagers as they advanced.
At least we've got the higher ground.
They did, too. Whenever Takato, Henry, or Mala knocked someone down, they practically rolled part-way down the hill. Their weapons weren't damaging enough to knock any of them unconscious, however, and it became obvious that it would be the teenagers who were tiring quicker.
Of course, whenever a villager was struck, Cronus felt the pain, too, but couldn't bring himself to tell his friends. He just did his best to ignore the blows, closed his eyes, and worked on the decryption. He spent the first minute trying to block the second being's access to the digital world so that he could work quicker, but whatever it was had a strong hold on that location. Cronus reluctantly settled on decrypting it at a much lower rate than he knew he should be capable of.
Even as he tried to block the battle out, he could still tell what was happening. His friends were doing well, until several minutes later when a villager swung a thick metal rod at Mala, who tried to dodge it but took the blow into her arm. She screamed in pain, and even Cronus let out a grunt as he could feel her left arm break. Cronus wasn't sure if it was blood or sweat that he felt on his own head when Henry kicked the villager in the side of the head before ordering Mala to get back.
Takato was holding his own well—the range on his weapon allowed him to swing it without letting them get close to him. Cronus felt terror once again when he realized he still had over a hundred minutes of work left before he could decrypt the beacon, and Henry and Takato were the only ones standing—
—that is, until Henry was knocked in the face with the same metal rod that broke Mala's arm. Cronus could feel blood run down his face, but he couldn't tell if it was on Henry's, his own, or both. Henry spun as he fell, which was into Mala, who hadn't seen him get hit.
"No!" Takato called to his friends as he watched Henry fall on Mala.
Cronus wanted to warn Takato to pay attention back to the fight, but he couldn't find his own voice. Instead, what he found was the memory of what had happened to Mala's partner. Before he could question why he had recalled it, he realized why—because the same thing was going to happen to Takato.
"Takato!" Cronus called an instant before a knife—or rather, the blade of one—soared through the air and pierced his partner, in his chest, just above his heart. Cronus found the strength to touch his own shoulder, and could feel the wound in himself. In fact, he also saw that he bore the same wounds on his hands that Takato did—and he knew then that he had the same wounds as Henry and Mala, too, and most of the villagers', too. He touched his face with his hands—which was exceedingly painful since his left arm was as broken as Mala's—and wiped his face. When he removed his hands, they were covered in blood.
The mob seemed to have halted their assault as Takato stumbled backwards then fell to the ground. He was grunting in pain, and it was all Cronus could feel. He let go of the beacon, knowing that it didn't matter anymore. He crawled over to his partner as the mob of villagers surrounded him, Takato, and the unconscious Henry and Mala. Cronus looked up to the villagers long enough to realize that they were just watching, and he crawled over to Takato, leaving behind a messy trail of blood in the process.
"T—Takato?" he asked quietly with much effort.
"Guil—Guilmon I'm—I'm so sorry—"
Cronus could feel sorrow, but he knew it was his own. "No." he managed to get out. He wasn't going to let Takato die. Back in the real world, it would be about now when a blue card would appear, and fix everything. But nothing happened. They'd always appeared for Takato, and he always used them to take care of Guilmon. Cronus could feel the tears roll down his cheeks, mixing in with the dirt and blood, but Cronus knew that like the sorrow, they were his own.
I'm what they want? Fine. They can have me.
As he forced himself to stop crying and to stand up, he realized that it wasn't hard for him to—he'd blocked out the thoughts of the villagers.
Cronus found his control over his body again, and looked at his hands. It still hurt him to move his left arm, but at least he was able to without thinking about it. There were twenty-six people, forming a circle around himself, Takato, Mala, Henry, and the beacon. On the ground behind Cronus was the stick that Takato had.
He realized that he was still holding Takato's D-Arc.
Cronus tucked it into his pocket, and as one of the members of the mob went to swing a rod similar to the one that had knocked out Henry and Mala, Cronus went into a backwards roll, snatched the wooden pole with his good arm, and threw it as hard as he could. It spun as it moved through the air, and Cronus braced to feel the pain himself.
But when the middle part of it hit the villager in the forehead, knocking him out cold, and Cronus didn't feel anything, he didn't slow down to be grateful, three more villagers charged at him. One swung a shovel, but Cronus grabbed it—leaving a bloody handprint—and as the villager struggled for control of it, Cronus kicked backwards, which pushed back the second villager, who was approaching from behind. He then kicked forward, and the first villager's hand came loose from the shovel, which he then swung into the side of the third villager.
Cronus was prepared to continue the fight, but he realized that none of the mob were attacking.
They're waiting for more to show up.
Cronus knew that the number of people in this mob was much less than the one that had captured him before. He didn't want to eliminate the possibility that more people would be coming. Most of the villagers had moved in front of him, albeit a good distance away. Cronus gripped the shovel tightly in his wet hand, but lowered it when he saw that they weren't advancing, but were almost stunned in fear.
If they had done this to him a week ago, he would have been devastated. Seeing them stare at him in horror, like he was some kind of monster. But that wasn't important anymore. Cronus knew who he was. He was Guilmon, and he knew where he belonged—at Takato's side. And he'd fight to protect his partner if it meant his own life.
Cronus looked to his right, where Takato sat, bleeding, watching weakly, . He knew that Takato would live if he was given the attention he needed. But he couldn't get all of his friends past two dozen people.
He wasn't sure what they were planning, though, and he was much less than comfortable, and he realized there was no harm in asking, so he just did.
"What do you want?" Cronus asked.
"You're a monster." Someone in the crowd said to him.
Cronus finally stopped caring what these people thought of him. He didn't have to worry anymore about whether or not he had friends who cared about him, because he knew he did. Even if he was a monster.
"Get over it." Cronus replied bitterly. "You people don't even know what you are."
Cronus suddenly felt his headaches begin to return, and he thought it was because of the crowd.
No, not now—
—but he knew that it wasn't the crowd—it was the power that he had felt before.
And, right on queue, the most hideous monster Cronus had seen howled a piercing shriek, and charged out of the trees. It ran up the hill, and jumped to the top, causing various reactions from the mob. Cronus recognized the creature, but not from the digital world.
It shrieked again when it arrived at the top, and all of those who were standing—except Cronus—backed up some.
Cronus looked at the monster, unimpressed, as he realized where he'd seen it. "Yeah." he said sarcastically. "We heard that part. Anything else?"
"Tamers…" it hissed in a low tone.
Cronus cocked an eyebrow, and looked to Takato, who looked absolutely mortified. "You want him?" Cronus taunted it. "I dare you to even try."
Takato looked in horror at the figure from the nightmares that were his memories. The figure that had risked his friends' lives, and had very nearly taken so much from him.
"Dr. Nonaka." Takato thought grimly.
Takato painfully turned his head to Mala and Henry. Henry was still unconscious, and Mala was pushing her face out of the ground with her right arm. Takato had backed himself against the beacon, and was leaning his back against it.
"B—be caref—careful—" Takato managed to get out in a voice he could barely hear himself. The villagers themselves were horrified. A few readied their weapons, but most of them backed away. Takato himself tried to stand, but stumbled and fell back down.
He's certainly doing better than I'd have expected.
That is, if Takato had been expecting anything. He'd just assumed that Dr. Nonaka was killed when the building gave in. But it looks like it survived long enough to be pulled into the portal Takato came through.
Takato watched on in suspense as Cronus ran to Dr. Nonaka, and planted a foot in his grotesque excuse for a face before flipping and landing in a duck that dodged Dr. Nonaka's swinging arms that clapped where Cronus was a split second earlier. Takato shot a glance to the villagers, who stared on, with evident looks of either intrigue or shock. Cronus spent most of the fight dodging—jumping over, ducking under, leaning aside, while throwing in as many attacks of his own that fit.
Takato winced again as he tried to stand up to help, the sharp piece of metal in his chest reminding promptly reminding him that it was still there. He could feel blood running down his side, causing his shirt to stick to his skin. Takato saw one of the villagers move, and Takato wasn't sure why exactly it was, until he saw that it was to toss Cronus a knife. His partner grabbed it mid-air, and immediately incorporated it into his movements.
Cronus had hit Dr. Nonaka several times, but nothing seemed to be doing any permanent damage.
Just like when we tried.
The only thing that began to incapacitate it was whatever Yamaki injected into it back in the real world. And the serum was the only thing that was supposed to kill it, and again, it wasn't where Takato needed it to be.
Cronus appeared even smaller than he really was with the monster towering over him. Takato had seen Cronus easily kill a creature that looked just as threatening as Dr. Nonaka, but Takato didn't feel right, knowing the damage Dr. Nonaka was capable of.
Takato looked once again at Henry and Mala, both of whom were beginning to come around. Takato saw Henry's eyes widen as he realized what it was that Cronus was fighting. Mala dizzily crawled over to Takato after seeing the blade in him, but Takato was preoccupied on the fight taking place in front of him. One of the few things he was grateful then was that the villagers—while they weren't exactly helping Guilmon—were at least not trying to attack him.
"Takato, are you—" Mala said, her right hand hovering over her left arm. She stared at the blade protruding from him, but Takato barely noticed it was there.
"It's going to kill us." Takato whispered audibly.
"Cronus won't let it." Mala reassured him, not even looking at the battle, but at his wound.
No, he won't, will he?
In the instant that Takato found hope in himself, he could see Cronus emitting red light from his pocket, the D-Arc that belonged to them clearly the source of it. Takato saw Cronus carefully back up before taking it out, and looking at it, and the effect of it on the monster. Cronus gave Takato a look and a reassuring smile before the light took over him completely, and once again returned to Guilmon.
Takato saw the villagers stare in awe, still not moving, only to make sure they didn't interfere with the battle. Takato hoped that Guilmon knew he may have to fight them when he beat Dr. Nonaka—they could just be waiting to fight the winner.
With the thought, Guilmon too began to emit a light, but this one wasn't red, it was white—and Takato actually smiled when he saw his partner digivolve to WarGrowlmon. This entire time, the monster that was Dr. Nonaka had stared on, and only advanced a small bit.
WarGrowlmon leapt forward and sliced at the side of the monster's head, before immediately changing back to Cronus in a flash of red light, who used the monster's face as a base, and kicked away from it. As Cronus landed on the ground, he once again transformed back to WarGrowlmon, and jumped over the monster, slicing at its head as he passed over it. Takato could tell that WarGrowlmon had landed on the monster's back, and the light that appeared told Takato that he had changed back to Cronus. From Takato's perspective, all he could see was Cronus's fist appear in the monster's face—and when it fell down, Takato could see that Cronus's arm was through its head.
He did it—
"It's over—" Henry murmured as he stumbled over to them, his hand on the side of his head.
World's still here.
"Cronus…?" Mala said as she stared in awe at the sight of Cronus pulling his arm back out of the monster.
Cronus didn't turn to his friends, though—he was staring at something else—
—and Takato realized that the monster was dying the way things in the digital world should die.
—and the body changed into a cloud of data that formed a ring that circled the hill.
The villagers stared on in awe, as did Cronus.
"Cronus?" Takato found the strength to say.
"That's it—that's the data we need." Cronus said.
The data we need…?
Takato mentally slapped himself when he realized that Cronus was talking about. Valn had been the one to change the digimon into humans. So they'd be comparatively helpless. Cronus could see enough useful data in the monster's remains to reverse what Valn had done.
Cronus closed his eyes, and held up their D-Arc, which the ring of data spiraled into.
"We should be able to reverse what Valn did once we get back to Hypnos." Henry said with more clarity than before.
Cronus suddenly hurried over to Takato and inspected the wound in his chest.
"Let's see if this works both ways…" Cronus said quietly, holding out the D-Arc, which, as they'd hoped, shone red light that caused the blade, and Takato's wound, to disappear. He did the same for Mala's arm, and Henry's head, to their great relief.
The four stood and stared at the villagers, and awaited their move—they could have attacked sooner, but they didn't.
"Please leave here." Mala ordered with more authority than Takato had heard from her before.
They actually obeyed her, though they were staring at Cronus the entire time.
Mala waited anxiously for Cronus to finish decrypting the beacon. He was working faster than he had before—it must have been that monster that was accessing the digital world. Mala wasn't scared of it, for some reason. She hadn't seen Cronus ever fight before, let alone change into a powerful warrior—Takato, on the other hand, actually seemed to recognize the monster that Cronus had fought. Mala supposed it didn't matter, however. It was over.
"Okay." Cronus said finally. "The portal's good to go whenever."
"There's one thing…" Henry said suddenly.
Mala turned to him, as did Takato and Cronus.
She wasn't sure if she really wanted to hear what this final addendum was—she felt as if they'd all given up enough lately.
"If we go back to the real world, I'm not sure what will happen to Guilmon."
Mala looked to the blonde boy.
What will happen
"I'm not sure what you mean." Takato said.
"Guilmon was turned human because of something Valn did to the area." Henry started. "And he can change back because of your digivice, and his capability to access the digital world so freely."
Henry looked at them all as if they should have understood what he was getting at, but only Cronus seemed to understand. After Mala shared a confused look with Takato, Henry went on.
"If we cure the digital world, he'll be changed back to Guilmon, permanently. That is, the old Guilmon—he won't have access to all the power he does once all the other digimon change back. But if he comes through the portal with us, he might not ever be able to change back to Guilmon, and he'll—in all likelihood, be human. For good."
Henry then looked to Cronus. "You're going to have to make a choice. And I'm really sorry, for not bringing this up sooner, I just didn't think it was the best time—"
"It's okay." Cronus said quietly, looking to the ground, obviously thinking it over. Mala wished that Cronus would return to the real world, but she said nothing so that he could make his own choice. He'd taken care of her in the months that he was present, and as far as Mala was concerned, he was a brother to her. And family was something she didn't have enough of.
She watched as Cronus looked at Takato. "Back before you—before we knew that I was Guilmon…" Cronus began. "You offered me a place to live…"
"The offer's still there." Takato said with a friendly smile.
Cronus nodded, and he too, smiled the innocent smile that once had forced Mala to feel compelled to protect him.
"Okay, then." He said with a deep exhale. "I want to go with Takato. I'll be human."
"Are you sure?" Henry asked, making sure that he knew what he was doing.
"Yeah." Cronus replied. "I'm sure."
The four arrived at the Hypnos building, and for a moment, they were all silent. It was the only time that Takato didn't mind the transition between the digital and real worlds. It was the middle of the day there, but nobody was in the lab—Henry explained that he was the only one who ever used it.
"So what are you guys gonna do?" Henry asked casually.
"I should probably let the parents know that there'll be someone living with us." Takato said, looking at Cronus. "And I should probably let them know that I'll be living with us."
"Yeah, I'd recommend that." Cronus said with a grin. "What about you, Mala?"
"I think I'm ready to see my mom—Henry, you can still come if you still want to…" She trailed off at the end, and Takato hid the grin as he thought of Henry getting a girlfriend.
"We'll meet up later, then?" Takato asked Henry and Mala.
"Sounds good." Henry nodded.
Takato left the Hypnos building with Cronus, and headed to the bakery.
"I'm gonna have to get used to this." Cronus said suddenly.
"What's that?" Takato asked
"People not staring at me." Cronus answered, looking at all the people on the streets who paid no attention to him. Takato laughed, which forced Cronus to defend his statement. "Hey, if you were either a dinosaur or a suspected monster, you'd be new to this whole laying-low thing too."
Again, Takato laughed, until the two arrived at the Bakery. Although the laughter left, his smile didn't, and he pushed the door open.
"Welcome to M—" his dad said, before looking up, and staring. "Takato…"
Takato ran over and threw his arms around his father. "I'm okay. I'm home now."
"Oh Takato thank God, we thought you'd been—"
"I know, I'm sorry, but I'm back now, for good—where's mom?"
He ran upstairs at his father's indication, and shared a similar reunion with her. It was several minutes before either of them seemed to notice Cronus.
"I'm so sorry, but what's your name? Was it you who brought our son back?" Takato's dad asked Cronus, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"My name's Cronus." The boy answered. "It's nice to see you again, Mr. and Mrs. Matsuda."
"Again? I'm sorry, have we met?" Takato's father was, obviously, confused.
Takato grinned at Cronus. "Mom, Dad, this is Guilmon."
"Guilmon!" Takato's dad asked. "Guilmon!" Takato wasn't actually surprised on how quickly they accepted it—in retrospect, they had learned to accept seemingly impossible things, with the life Takato had lived.
Takato spent a few hours with his family. He told them of everything that had happened, why he was gone so long, and how Cronus had saved his life, over and over. They gladly welcomed Cronus into their home, for which Cronus was grateful. It was some time before Takato set off to find Jeri. Cronus stayed behind, as had Takato's parents, even though they offered him a ride.
Takato spent another forty minutes outside of her home, trying to think of what he'd say to her. Eventually, he threw caution to the wind, and knocked on the door, breathing deeply.
"Yes?" Jeri's step-mother said, as she answered the door. She never did remember Takato.
"Is Jeri home?" he asked, trying to sound as normal as possible.
"Yes, just a moment." She closed the door, though not completely. "Jeri! There's someone at the door for you!"
Here we go.
Takato could see part of Jeri through the crack at the side of the door, and was probably as stunned as she was when she opened the door all the way.
"Hi." He squeaked.
Jeri'd grown her hair a little longer and had it styled so it was wavy—Takato couldn't really describe it—but she looked absolutely beautiful. Although, at the time, she looked more shocked, as her eyes widened, and she took a half-step backwards.
"Takato…?" she whispered.
"Yeah." Takato said more confidently, stepping forward, and giving in to his irresistible urge to hug her. She seemed reluctant, but she eventually put her arms around him, too.
"Is it really you?" Jeri asked quietly into his shoulder. Takato could tell that she was crying, and he could feel his own eyes start to water.
"Yeah, it's me." He squeezed her tighter. Takato thought about just how long it had been—and just how much he'd missed Jeri in that time. But he let himself feel happy, knowing he deserved it. It was over. The monster was finally dead. Valn wouldn't be hurting any of them anymore. They even managed to save the digital world—at least part of it. Takato Matsuda stood there, his arms wrapped around the love of his life. He smiled, knowing that he was finally home, with nothing pulling him elsewhere.
Well, thanks for reading, I probably had the most fun writing this story of the three. Anyways, as far as the Crescendo sequel goes—I've got the first two chapters plotted out, and it looks like it'll take place a few weeks after where this story leaves off, rather than six months after Crescendo ended. Thank you very much for reading this far, it means a lot.
I was initially not planning on having this story finished until after the 18th, when I'm off school. Ah, well—this was a very enjoyable break from the studying.
Please review if you enjoyed it at all!