Disclaimer-I don't own Digimon.

Dedication- To all my readers so far who have continued this story from beginning to end. Especially GemmaniGirl. To those who promised to read till the end but didn't, I won't say, "Hahaha, I told you so," but instead: Don't promise something you can't keep. Rather than telling the writers of this website, "I'll keep reading until the end! I promise!" and giving them compliments such as, "You're doing great! Keep up the work!", find FAULTS in their works and point them out, like, "In this line: 'blahblahblah,' you wrote 'blah' wrong." Little things like that. The writer shouldn't be offended, and if they are, they fail to realize the value of your review.

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Super Finale

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"This...the sword...is back to normal," Kouichi murmured, holding the sword out in front of him and gazing at it half-heartedly. "Why...?" His reflection stared back at him with the same, dull eyes.

"Because, stupid," Kanaye snapped. "Are you ready?"

"This...isn't fair..."

Kanaye let out an exasperated sigh and looked away, arms folded across his chest. At this rate, we're doomed. He needs to get his act together.

"H-hey!" Takuya suddenly snapped. "Didn't you hear Kouji? We have to take care of things here. He's got his own job at home." Silence kept its hold on the room. With a sigh, Takuya mumbled, "Don't you think that Kouji had a hard time in the Digital World, too? He wasn't sure whether you were alive, Kouichi. And worst of all, Lucemon scanned your data. It hurt him a lot. So...so..." The goggle boy bit his lip, unsure of what to say.

"Grow up." Kouichi looked up at Takuya. "Right? That's what you wanted to say...?"

"Uh..." Suddenly, he grinned. "You took the words from my mouth."

Someone cleared their throat. "Yeah, okay, great. Someone's forgetting the other people in the room."

Takuya and Kouichi exchanged glances. Then, both stiffening, they turned around to find Ai behind them, glaring. "Three...two...RUN!" Takuya shouted, yanking Kouichi in front of him before he turned around and ran.

"DON'T LEAVE ME BEHIND! YOU'RE WORSE THAN KOUJI!" Kouichi yelled, turning around and falling flat on his face. "CHEATER!"

"Hahaha!" Takuya stopped momentarily to turn around and stick his tongue out at Kouichi. "Sucker!"

"Kids," Hideki muttered under his breath.

Shinya looked up. "Yes?"

"Never mind," the man declared, pushing the younger boy aside. "Hey, Izumi..."

Izumi, who had been busy brushing the dirt off herself, looked up. "Yeah?"

"Too quiet, right?"

She remained silent. Last time...Kouji and Kouichi were talking, and Bokomon told us about Kouichi. Now, she thought, her gaze settling on Kouichi, who was at the mercy of Ai (the girl had chosen to step on his back instead of let him go). Now, Kouji's gone, and...

"Oh wait!" Kouichi yelled, pushing Ai's foot away and causing the girl to fall backward. He stood up, completely forgetting about her. "Duskmon!"

He's...weak, Lowemon told the boy.

"What?" Startled, Kouichi looked beside him, where Lowemon stood. "Couldn't we do something...?"

"I'm afraid not."

Everyone turned to Rai, who was following Naoko and the others into the cave. "Duskmon is barely hanging on. The last attack he threw should have wiped him out for good, but you..." She fell quiet, practically glaring at Kouichi. "You won't let him go."

Kouichi turned pink, noticing the looks everyone gave him. "Whaa...?"

"Never mind, Kouichi. Just forget it. He'll let you know when he wants, I guess."

"Okay...?"

"Okay. So now Kouji's gone, Kako's gone, Ichiro and Ryuusei are gone, and we've got you nine and two...little...devils," Rai muttered, meeting Kanaye's glare with a dismissive look of her own.

"I'M NOT A DEVIL," Kanaye yelled, seething.

Rai completely ignored him, instead looking at Hideki for a split second before she stared at the ground. "I don't know."

Hideki just shrugged. "So this is what we'll do. We'll seal him here and now," he suggested, pointing to the crater. "Cover it with ice and stuff. It works."

"You're kidding," Tomoki blurted.

"Nope."

"But...but..." The young boy threw his arms up in defeat. "I give up on you!"

Chuckling, Hideki shook his head. "Yeah, yeah..." he muttered to himself, slowly approaching the edge of the crater. "Still...I wonder..." He frowned, noticing a few nearby pebbles. "He's..."

Silence.

"Bye, bye, birdie," cackled a familiar voice.

"Rai!" Hideki shouted, lunging in her direction.

"Shut up! Insolent fool, I'll have to get rid of you first."

"I...don't believe it..." Izumi whispered, rising to her feet.

Even Ai stood up, eyes set hard on the center of the crater. "Lucemon," she hissed, taking a step back.

No! Kouichi swallowed, his eyes now brimming with tears. "I'm...I'm not..." I'm not ready! He bit his lower lip and took several steps back. It didn't make sense. Seconds ago, they had been happy, having the best times of their lives. Heck, even Ritsuo and Fujitaka were attempting to make a rock castle out of nearby pebbles.

And now...

"Stop," he whispered weakly, feeling himself back up into the wall. Not yet. I don't want to fight just yet. Please...I need to keep them safe.

There had been a long silence. Kouichi gazed with unfocused eyes at the mess that had occurred.

Ms. Kawai, supported by Hideki, was gasping for breath and fighting to keep her eyes open. Both sank to the floor, eyes wide in disbelief.

Lucemon, as Kouichi remembered seeing him for the first time, hovered above the center of the crater, smirking. The hand that had been raised in the direction of Ms. Kawai dropped to the floor.

"Pathetic," came his sneer, breaking the silence.

He felt cold. Kouichi swallowed, trying to calm himself. His D-Tector fell out of his hand, which was now clammy.

"Come on, Rai!" Hideki hissed frantically.

Why couldn't he move?

His eyes shut, Kouichi drew a ragged, uneven breath, sinking to his knees. "I…can't…"

"Kouichi…"

Silence, again. He couldn't understand. They had all helped him become strong, gain a new confidence, and he was losing it. Again, he repeated, "I can't." Then: "Don't you see? This?" He gestured towards Lucemon and continued, "I'm only human! All those other times where I might have seemed strong…that was a fluke! And if it wasn't for you guys, where would I be? I know you're depending on me too, but I can't-!"

"Shape up!" someone snapped. All eyes turned to Ai. "Oh, god, this is disgusting. You mean I betrayed Lucemon for this? I'd have been better off following a monkey around! How dare you doubt yourself-not only in front of your enemy, but your friends, too! Think about how Kako must feel! 'I like a coward, I can't believe it.' Did you plan to make us a laughingstock?"

Kouichi winced, letting his eyes fall to the ground. "I am a coward! I know that! I can't change-"

"DON'T FINISH THAT!"

Startled, Kouichi looked up. "Kako…?"

"You brat, get up! I expected Kouji to be spoiled, but not you, you pampered brat! Get up and do your share!" she yelled, sounding more desperate than angry.

"I-"

"Yes, Kouichi, do your share. You did quite well last time. I remember your data particularly well," Lucemon cackled. "Shall we have an encore presentation of that?"

Another voice replaced Kako's. "Kouichi, don't listen to him! You don't even have to listen to Kako! Look, I've managed to open a temporary gateway with Piximon's help. You guys should have backup soon. You know what to do."

Kouji, Kouichi realized, scrambling to his feet. "I…" Swallowing, he turned around, forgetting completely about Lucemon. "Yeah…you're right."

"No duh?" Kouji muttered. "Susanoomon is waiting! Give the gate a final blow and send 'em all flying!"

"That made no sense," Kouichi whispered under his breath. Aloud, he asked, "Hideki, can you take care of Ms. Kawai alone? Ai, help him if you can. The rest of you…" The boy bent down to pick up his D-Tector. "I'll need your help…" Kouichi lifted his hand up so his D-Tector was straight out in front of him.

Obviously startled, Takuya pointed to Lucemon. "But Kouichi…"

"I know. Please…?"

One by one, each pointed their D-Tectors into the center of this strange circle they had created. When eight more held up their hand, Kouichi looked at Kanaye expectantly. However, the latter merely shook his head.

"Hit him for me. I'm powerless against him. My powers…if they even exist anymore…" He lifted his hand palm up and gazed at it. "My powers will only hold you back." Another pause. "hurry, Kouichi. A world should never be exposed to this much Chaos for long."

With a heavy sigh, Kouichi nodded. I hope I still have this in me

Someone, anyonehelp us?

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"Kouji, why did you give Kouichi Lobomon?" Kako suddenly asked, watching as he began poking the computer mouse restlessly.

"True light can only be found in the dark. I believe in him. And…I'm lazy. But you didn't hear the last part," he added hastily.

"What didn't I hear?" she asked, looking clueless.

"There we go."

Becoming serious, she then questioned, "But what did you mean you opened the gate? What gate? I didn't see you do anything!"

"You were busy eating downstairs," Kouji replied absentmindedly. "Man, why is he taking so long?"

"In…five minutes?"

"Try fifteen…at the very least, ten. How much did you eat?"

"Well, I ate your share, too. I was hungry."

The corners of his lips bent downwards as he muttered, "So that's what Ichiro was apologizing about…"

"Kouji," the girl muttered impatiently. "You didn't answer my question."

For the first time in minutes, Kouji looked up from the computer. His eyes were watery and red from the strange fatigue that had plagued him for a mere thirty minutes. "Piximon and I opened a gateway into the Dark Area. Any digimon can enter and help Kouichi and the others. It's still off limits a bit, but we have Duskmon and Susanoomon on standby. One attack will be all we need to open it fully. Also..." He paused and shut his eyes, blanching as they began to sting. "It's a lot easier to…well…if all else fails, I can lock the Dark Area, delete it, and…the Digital World will be destroyed in all technicalities, because-"

"But the others!" Kako interrupted. She rose to her feet and desperately tried to reason with him. "Kouichi, Shinya, Hideki! They'd be gone, too!"

Kouji nodded mutely, keeping his eyes shut. "But that's the last resort. I'm trying to see if there's another way. But the Chaos is drawn to Lucemon…unless there was a potential servant in the Digital World, it would stay clumped within Lucemon…"

Quietly, the girl gazed around her and sank down on the bed. "But…but then…"

A frown appeared on her lips. Kouji opened his eyes and quickly became troubled by the look on Kako's face.

"I was thinking," Kako murmured, "You have your gate, but…what started this was…"

"Of course…!" Kouji swiveled the chair around and gazed at the boxes filled with bandanas. Then, aloud: "Ichiro! Ryuusei!"

-------------------------------------

Hello…?

You…what do you want?

Who-?

I will be asking the questions.

I don't have time for questions! I want help!

His stomach seemed to twist into a not as another voice murmured weakly, "It's fine. It's just them."

His eyes opened.

"Woah…" someone whispered in awe (most probably Shinya).

Kouichi felt a strange wave pass through him as he looked at what was in front of him. "Dus-"

"Not me you should be looking at. This guy…" A tired-looking Duskmon was sitting down, scowling at Kouichi as he waved a dismissive hand at Susanoomon. "…he's your problem-solver." After a brief pause, he stood up and opened a door Kouichi hadn't noticed before. "And then…"

The door creaked open, revealing something familiar, something the children hadn't seen in a long time.

"Those are…"

"…all…the digimon!" Takuya yelled, taking a step forward with the intention of charging through the doorway. A hand pulling him back brought him to his senses, and he stopped with much reluctance. "But-"

"Notice the shiny yellow lasers that are probably going to kill you," Fujitaka snapped.

Duskmon chuckled. "They won't kill you. They're simply bars to stop the digimon from leaving," he explaining, sinking back to the floor as reluctantly as Takuya had stopped.

Swallowing, Takuya nodded. He turned, wiping sweaty palms on the coarse cloth of his shorts, to Susanoomon, then bent over in a deep bow. "Please," he began. "We need…we need you to-"

All at once, everyone began to try to explain what had happened.

"Lucemon-"

"Rai got hurt-"

"It wasn't our fault-ow! Okay, maybe it-OW!"

"We just need help!" Izumi cried desperately, silencing everyone else. One by one, the children all turned to Susanoomon, expectant looks on their troubled faces. And slowly, an explosion of hope, anxiety, and so much more filled their eyes.

"Please…?" Kouichi murmured in a barely audible voice, breaking the unknown silence.

Susanoomon's piercing eyes narrowed on the boy. The digimon finally spoke:

"While we owe you children for saving our world before, we certainly don't owe you the destruction of our world for yours."

"So you'd rather Lucemon run rampant in both worlds?" Ritsuo blurted out.

"You're one to talk, boy." Satisfied with the effect his words had on the boy, Susanoomon continued, "However, because it is our fault anyway…and because you can apparently turn trash into treasure…" He paused here to kick Duskmon's arm, causing the injured digimon to spew out several curses. "And so, we are indebted to-"

Without warning, Kouichi declared, "This isn't about a debt. Do you want to help or not?"

"Kouichi!" Half the humans gasped in disbelief.

But Kouichi remained adamant about his point and clenched his fists. "I'm sorry, but debts go to my head. I promised myself nothing bad would happen to any of you, and Ms. Kawai's already hurt! I can't let my guard down anymore! If you've got a problem with it, bother me after. But for now, I owe you all! So you either want to help, or you don't!"

Two firm glares were exchanged between the soft eyes of Kouichi and the hardened gaze of Susanoomon before the digimon finally announced his decision.

"We don't want to."

The faltering in his movement was obvious, but Kouichi managed to bow before the digimon calmly. "Thank you." Then, turning to the others, but looking at the floor so he wouldn't betray his emotions, he murmured, "Let's go."

There were protests, but finally, the children disappeared in a flash of light. Susanoomon chuckled as he watched them leave. "Rather impulsive," he declared in a deep voice, turning to Duskmon. "Lowemon didn't lie. You did rub off on him." He turned to Duskmon, now serious. "But are you sure you want to participate."

The digimon nodded grimly. "More than ever, it has to be done." There was a pause. Then, Duskmon rose to his feet and gazed at the twinkling yellow beams that barred the digimon from passage to the real world. "And…" he murmured, lifting his blade arm, "I'm not alone."

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The doorbell rang.

Five seconds passed before the doorbell rang thrice more.

Ryuusei let out a curse and made his way to the door. "Who the-" He stopped as he threw the door open to reveal a middle-aged woman who looked too worried for her own good.

"Uhm…sorry, no solicitors…?" he mumbled, reddening immediately. Damn, what now…?

"I-is…Kouji…"

"Uh…? Kouji?"

"Ichiro! Ryuusei!" Kouji suddenly yelled upstairs.

"What, dammit? Come downstairs!" Ryuusei snapped back angrily. Remembering the woman in front of him, he bit his lip as an afterthought.

An unintelligible curse echoed. "Why should I, you damn-" There was another curse, followed by the footsteps of Kouji as he ran out of his room. He practically slid down the stairs and stopped just short of grabbing Ryuusei by the lapels. "Ichiro! I need you at the computer, and Ry-M-Mom?"

"Uh…I'll…go upstairs and see what Kako needs!" Ryuusei squeaked hastily, running around Kouji and dashing upstairs.

Kouji swallowed, unsure of what to do. I'm grounded for sure. "Um…"

"Tea's ready, Kouji. Invite her in," Ichiro murmured from behind the younger boy.

Kouji gave a start and turned from Ichiro to his mother. "Wha-? Oh, uh, Mom! This is…Ichiro. He's from…"

"Osaka," Ichiro filled in.

"Really?" Kouji turned around in surprise.

Ichiro shot the boy a strange look before moving forward to usher Ms. Kimura in. "Come, come! There's tea in the kitchen. Kouji will explain and I'll go see what's wrong upstairs!" He shut the front door, smiled at the woman, having successfully brought her in, then headed for the stairs without a word to Kouji, leaving mother and son alone to gape at each other.

Kouji swallowed, then gazed at his shoes. He broke the silence awkwardly muttering, "Uhh…shall…we go drink…tea?"

Ms. Kimura held her ground, her eyes focused softly on her youngest son. "I think…no…as your mother, I knowI demand an explanation, Kouji. It's…it's about time I know what's going on," she said in a firm voice.

"Mom-" Kouji stopped, but his mother took advantage of the brief pause.

"Please, Kouji! I know you're fine, but Mr. Saito told me that Kouichi broke his promise. Just tell me-"

"Then just…just wait!" Kouji exclaimed, gazing desperately at his mother. "I'm trying, Mom, really! So please, wait just a bit longer!" Kouji bit his lower lip, unsure of whether he was doing the right thing, then turned around and dashed up the stairs, yelling for Kako to stop playing card games.

Tomoko Kimura found herself gravitating towards the kitchen, her eyes sweeping over the various pictures and other items that lay around. A small smile graced her lips as she saw the two cups of tea at the table. One had fallen to the side sometime before, and its contents had spilled to the floor.

I can't keep up with them anymore, Kousei. They're growing up to be just like youonlyI think

Tomoko Kimura bent down and gazed at the puddle of spilled tea to find a reflection of herself. With a small smile, she set the fallen cup upright before standing up. "It seems I'll have to pour myself another cup…" And maybe while I do, I won't get carried away, she mused. After all, there's no use in crying over spilled tea.

But KouichiI'm not the only one who holds you dear

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"No reinforcements?"

Kouichi was the first to open his eyes and he immediately directed a baleful glare at the speaker.

"I'm really starting to hate that look," Lucemon growled.

The boy opened his mouth.

"I'm really starting to hate that voice," someone else returned. A boy's voice…

"Ryuusei," Kouichi said aloud.

"Ogata Gin, Lucemon's container, or shadow if you will. Name change: once. Major: Ancient Civilizations and the like. Participated in the DM project with Marise Saito and Harumi Aizawa. Left two years later due-"

"Is there a point to this Kouji?" Kouichi interrupted. "If not, shut up and figure out some other way." He held his D-Tector up, pointing the object at Lucemon.

"I'm working on it!" his twin returned.

Silence followed, until Lucemon let out a cackle. "No reinforcements...and your friends don't seem to be coming to..."

Kouichi's vision darkened before he looked around to discover he was the only one of his party standing. Everyone else was on the ground, sprawled out, D-Tector in hand. There was only one thing wrong with the picture, and that was that Hideki, Rai, Kanaye and Ai were missing.

The facts not adding up, Kouichi drew a breath and concluded aloud, "Illusion! This is an illusion!" He held his breath as the picture before him vaporized into mist, revealing his friends, all of who were looking at him in conclusion.

But there was no time for explanation. Breathing a sigh of relief, Kouichi turned to Lucemon. "We'll beat you...no matter what."

"Confident, are we?"

"Let's take this from an artistic viewpoint, shall we?" Kouichi suggested, hoping he could buy time while the others figured out what to do. "The sunrise, so soft and gentle as it is, never came this morning. A sunset...bright, vibrant colors...daring...and that's what we are. We're going to end this day by wiping you out, and we'll start again."

Lucemon scowled. "Little brats! How about a time limit?" he sneered. He snapped his fingers to reveal a giant, circular clock with a red frame. The clock floated over Lucemon's head, bobbing up and down ever so slightly. "Thirty minutes," Lucemon drawled, and the clock's hands set themselves at twelve. "Thirty minutes until I destroy this place for good. Is the pressure too much?"

"Thirty minutes is enough!" Kouichi snapped, but he wasn't so sure of himself. "Lowemon-"

"Don't be a fool!" came a harsh, reprimanding voice. "We can finish this in five minutes!"

Angrily, Kouichi looked over his shoulder to discover Susanoomon. Somewhat bitterly, he snapped, "You don't want to help, so don't! We don't need your help!"

"Kouichi!" came several protests, but Susanoomon silenced them with a dismissive wave. Rather than address Kouichi, he turned to Lucemon.

"You...intend to destroy us. Just knowing this is insulting enough; we will exact our revenge, and we will do so now. As digimon, it is our duty to protect the Digital World to its last days. We don't need any human to help. Although..." Susanoomon gazed back at the children. "We would appreciate any help."

"Then..." Takuya choked momentarily as he brushed away his tears. "Let's get going!"

"Kouichi," Fujitaka said aloud. "We're going to need your help to keep the gateway open!"

Slowly, Kouichi turned around, his eyes glued to the ground. "I...I'm sorry, I thought-"

"Don't flatter yourself. This is for the Digital World. Not for you," Susanoomon snorted.

Kouichi gritted his teeth and looked up. "Don't flatter yourself! I was merely going to say I thought we weren't necessarily needed anymore, seeing as last time we were you! Or...at least everyone else was. And I thought Kouji was opening the gate" There was a slight pause before he asked, "Can you take care of him by yourself?"

"You doubt me?"

With a soft exhale, Kouichi took another two steps forward and held out his D-Tector. "Let every digimon get a hit on him, Susanoomon!"

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Kouji let out a sigh and positioned the cursor over the button. "Digital Gate...open, please," he breathed, pressing his hand down on the mouse.

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Duskmon gazed at the yellow beams of light that barred his fellow digimon from passage. "Piximon," he murmured.

The pink digimon appeared beside him, staff pointed at the tall black door in front of him. "Ready! If all you digimon back there would take two steps back!"

In less than two seconds, they broke down the bars that kept the digimon back. One by one, the digimon crawled through the threshold, seeming to be a never-ending army.

"The rest is up to us! Keep the balance, Duskmon!" Piximon shouted above the battle cry of the charging digimon. Soon, he too, joined them.

Duskmon merely shook his head, gazing at the digimon with a peculiar look in his eye. The emotion wasn't too new to him, but he could hardly call it familiar.

"In the end...that's not really up to me," he muttered. It's all up to...

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The computer shut down. Kouji bit his lower lip anxiously.

"Think it went through?" Ryuusei whispered aloud.

"It has to have!" Kako declared firmly.

"It did," Ichiro confirmed. "Don't worry."

"It did," Kouji repeated to himself over and over again. "It did..."

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He wasn't sure how to explain it. Were it a computer screen before him, Kouichi would feel free to say, "Big pixilated blobs of all colors."

It wasn't a computer screen in front of him.

"Susanoomon! For the Digital World!" Kanaye called out.

"Kouichi, for everyone!" Hideki's voice strained as he shouted, cracking at the end.

Kouichi gazed at his D-Tector, then immediately looked up, understanding what Hideki had meant. In front of him stood Duskmon, glaring coldly down at him.

"Sometimes you need to give up on something, even if it's a part of yourself. Hurry up. I'm tired of this world," the digimon snapped.

Kouichi gazed up, ready to protest. "But-"

Duskmon lifted the boy by his collar effortlessly. "You stupid boy, realize!"

A scream pierced the air. Kouichi's eyes watered, and the giant multicolored blob of digimon faded, instead leaving him sightless.

Duskmon's voice entered his ears, piercing through the darkness and frightening Kouichi. "This is what your world will become if Lucemon wins: nothing. Hate me, let everything return to what it was!"

He was dropped back on the ground. "I hate the bad side of me, but..."

"I am your bad side!" Duskmon roared. "Don't you get it?"

"I don't have that bad of a temper!" It wasn't a good time to joke around, but Kouichi felt reassured by the massive army of digimon that were covering Lucemon and dragging him to the ground.

Twenty-five minutes left. Susanoomon lied.

Several coughs startled the two.

"Hurry, please, Kouichi," Izumi snapped.

Kazemon and the others are joining in the charge. Piximon's there, too...

"Besides," Duskmon added, "Anytime you need to remember me, your ugly side can start a rampage."

Kouichi let out a snort. "Then I'd like to not remember you, thanks! Forget you!"

"Do that!"

"Takuya!"

"What?" the goggle boy returned, shouting solemnly just as boy and digimon had seconds before.

Kouichi turned to the boy and chose to ignore the little fact. Instead, he said, "They can't download fast enough. Let's open it fully!"

"No problem," Duskmon muttered. "Just wait. Susanoomon, now!"

"Understood!" Susanoomon turned to Duskmon just as the latter of the two drew out his blade.

And Susanoomon continued to stand still, even after the dark blade pierced through his armor and through his back. Although the gasps echoed, Susanoomon merely said, his voice still strong, "To be a vessel of Chaos, possess the ability to destroy every single digimon...and be drawn easily to darkness...live in darkness, be darkness..."

He watched as a gray-purple mass gathered around Lucemon, who was still struggling to escape from the army of digimon. Yet there was no escape. The Chaos swallowed Lucemon, and all the digimon around him, then flooded towards Duskmon eagerly. "Chaos, having no eyes, cares not how this is done. It feels the strength of digimon..." The mass was now pooled at their feet. "And..."

"Pain," Kouichi finished in a murmur. He gazed through clouded eyes at Duskmon as the said digimon looked apprehensively at the matter crawling around him. "You...you really are heartless..."

Duskmon snorted and looked at Kouichi. "You don't know the half of it," he sneered as he faded, the Chaos right behind him, taking Susanoomon along, too.

No! I said we're going to start again! Kouichi gripped the cloth of his pants, trying not to scream. But it came out anyway. "Coward!" Kouichi shouted. We were going to start again! All of us! "It's not like that's the only way! You're just afraid!" I'm afraid, too! But I want to start again! We will start again! Caught in the moment or not, Kouichi jumped after Duskmon through the opening the Chaos had made.

"Wait!" someone shouted.

"Hold it!"

In the midst of all the cries and the tearing of dimensions, there was an unheard scream of a digimon who was reduced to nothing for the final time...

-------------------------------------

"Kanaye, get everyone and bring them here. Piximon," Ichiro explained, waving to the digimon resting on his head (who had also managed to hide behind Hideki while Chaos had swallowed everyone else). "Piximon will close the gate from here."

"Ichiro, Rai-"

Ichiro shook his head. "It's not-"

"What the hell are you trying to say?" Hideki screamed.

"It's too late!"

"You left-"

"Shut up! Look, she wrote this a while ago," Ichiro murmured, holding out a letter.

Hideki rose to his feet, clutching Rai to himself tightly. "No matter what, I'm going to take her, too."

"Everyone's ready!" Kanaye shouted.

"But Kouichi!" Tomoki insisted.

"No time," Ryuusei snapped. "Besides, I know for sure that he'll be fine no matter what." He gazed around at everyone. "Close your eyes and hold hands. Don't let go-Ichiro! Your hands are sweaty! Disgusting!"

"Get on with it, kid!" Hideki snapped.

"Let's go!"

-------------------------------------

"Feels good to be kind," Duskmon sighed.

"You won't be for long!" Kouichi snapped.

The digimon shrugged. "What can you do, Kouichi? Besides," he murmured.

"Besides what? This is your worst idea!"

"Yours, too. How do you plan to get out of this?"

"Don't be stupid! Whether I'm back or not doesn't matter!" the boy shouted. "It's not going to-"

"Whether I'm there or not doesn't matter!" Duskmon thundered. "More people care about you than you think. You and Lowemon are the only ones who will care if I'm there. And Lowemon is going where I'm headed anyway...except...maybe not. Don't worry, Kouichi. I can control anything that tries to take control of me, unlike you."

"Shut up! Stop thinking of yourself!" the boy screamed.

Duskmon let out an irritated sigh.

"That's all you ever do," Kouichi continued, wiping his eyes.

"And you?"

"What?"

"I've already told you, Kouichi. Only you and Lowemon will miss me."

The boy gazed at the floor in defeat. "But-"

"Ahhh...it's collapsing."

"What?" Kouichi looked up. "No...!" But the bright light seared around them.

"I want to sleep now. Maybe one day..." Duskmon paused. Seeing the tears in Kouichi's eyes, he continued softly, "Maybe one day, I will wake up again."

Kouichi watched as Duskmon disappeared in a shimmer of light for the very last time. "Wake up soon," he begged quietly. "Please..."

We will start again...as ourselves. So please...

-------------------------------------

"Ryuusei!" Kako cried, embracing the boy. "Where's Kouichi?"

"S-see...about that-Augh..."

Kako's smile faded.

"What?" Kouji blurted, rising to his feet.

"Kako, don't worry. Twerp'll be fine. Rai-" He stopped, then looked at the woman in his arms. "Well...w-well..."

Ryu managed to separate himself from Kako and fell back. The girl gazed from her brother to the unconscious Rai, unable to tell where the blood might be. She swallowed and took a step back.

"Kako-" Ai started.

"Walk," the first girl managed to say. "I'm...I'm going for a walk."

They all stared at her, each unsure what to do as she pushed past everyone to drag herself out the door and down the stairs. Then, heaving a sigh, Kouji told them all, "Don't worry. Mom's downstairs, so Kako'll never get past the front door. But...uhm, might I suggest we get Rai to the hospital, Hideki? Ai, Kanaye, Junpei and Izumi, you go with him. And Ichiro..."

"Don't ask me for help," Ichiro declared.

"But-"

"Have you forgotten so easily," the man began, "that you gave your brother Lobomon?"

Kouji's eyes widened. It was at that moment that he realized the truth behind the sugared lie he had told Kako.

"'In true darkness, light can be found,'" Ryuusei quoted. "That's what you said. You were loud about it, too."

"Besides," Shinya added. "Kouichi said he was special because he's the only one who calls me krill, so he can't die!"

"Grow up, Shinya," Takuya snapped. "That's not the reason!"

"Yeah? Then what is?" the younger Kanbara scowled.

"It's because Kouichi's as good as light himself," Hideki said aloud. "So Kouji, I'm going. Back your brother up no matter what."

"I will," Kouji snapped. It only hit him after Hideki left that the young man had in fact not called him 'twerp.'

"While Hideki fights the battle of sorrow, let us fight a battle of hope," Tomoki murmured.

"Quite the poet," Naoko remarked.

"I wish," Tomoki laughed. "But...I have been redoing that song. You know, the one in Bokomon's book?"

"Wouldn't remember," someone remarked, and everyone let out a short, embarrassed laugh.

"Well...it went like this..."

-------------------------------------

"Kako..." Tomoko rose to her feet, seeing the young girl at the doorway.

Kako looked up, then winced and tried to avoid the woman's gaze. "I...I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"You don't know...that's right." Kako sighed, her glossy eyes glued to the floor. "Everyone but Kouichi. They're back, but..."

"But..."

"I want him to come back. Everyone else is leaving, but I want him to be here."

Ms. Kimura smiled and led the girl to a seat. "Here, have some tea," she said softly, taking a sip of the said liquid from her own cup. "Kouichi...will come back," she said firmly. "As to whether he'll tell me what happened or not, I have no clue. You remember, don't you, Kako?" She smiled at the girl. "That little boy used to be all the trouble in the world..." A small laugh escaped her. "And yet, somehow...we managed..."

"We set him straight," Kako murmured, a small smile breaking onto her face.

"Like a cup that had fallen over and spilled its tea..."

"He cried a lot that day, didn't he?"

"He did...but we set him straight," Ms. Kimura murmured. "And so he will come back."

"He promised," Kako mumbled. "I'm sure he did...one day...he promised..."

Tomoko placed her cup down on the table and gazed at Kako. "Cry for him if you want, Kako," she whispered to the girl, trying not to cry herself. "Just...please, cry because he's coming back..."

"I know," the girl choked, trying to stop the tears from falling. Her throat felt heavy, and she was completely unable to speak. I know...

But it irritates me to know he'll be so different when he comes back.

-------------------------------------

It was dark. Kouichi figured Chaos had swallowed him, too. He pulled out his D-Tector from his pocket.

He wasn't sure why. He couldn't see, but he could feel it. Yet now, he doubted his senses.

His D-Tector...

Smooth...the screen had been smooth, and it still was. The rubber grips were in place...and the buttons, although he couldn't make out the shapes, were all there. Yet something was different. He just couldn't put his finger on it.

A difference in weight? Kouichi blinked. It was useless, he knew, and yet-

I can...see?

"You could always see, Kouichi."

That voice...who...? Lobomon!

"Yes."

Kouichi turned around in time to see the digimon yawn. "Took long enough. It seems I was late for the party. As I was saying, you could always see. You were simply afraid to see, so you couldn't. You could speak, but you are afraid, and so you can't. Because I'm here..." Lobomon snorted. "Because I'm here, that fear has lifted, and so your senses can be."

"Can I not go home because I'm afraid to?" Kouichi asked.

Lobomon scowled. "Don't be stupid!"

"Sorry."

"After all, I'm to die here."

"The rest of the digimon...Lucemon...Ogata...?"

"All taken by Chaos, even Susanoomon. Piximon was at the end, too. Duskmon should be around here somewhere, but I can't be sure where. As for me, I just got out now, so it should be a good deal of time before Chaos finds me."

"Where-...no...how do I get home?"

"Do you remember home...?"

As hard as he tried, Kouichi couldn't remember a single detail. All he could remember was Duskmon...and so, he guessed: "The Digital World...?"

"Wrong," Lobomon scowled.

Kouichi blinked in surprise. "Not...the Digital World?"

"No, Kouichi. It's about time you look at what Ryuusei gave you."

"Ryuusei," Kouichi repeated. "That's...him," Kouichi murmured, recalling a blond boy as he dug a small packet out of his pocket. "What's this?" He tore the packet open, spilling white powder all around him. Kouichi began coughing and brought an arm up to his nose to prevent himself from inhaling the dust. "'It's sleepy powder. Kako's waiting. Go to Dreamland now,'" he read. "What does that-" He looked up to realize Lobomon was no longer there. Even looking around, Kouichi couldn't spot him. "Lobomon...?"

Everything slowly whirled around, becoming darker than before. His eyes fluttered shut. Kouichi could have sworn he heard a bird chirping...

-------------------------------------

"Ryuusei, hurry before we're too late," Ichiro muttered.

"Right. Kouji, you have to tell us if they get together! Otherwise, I'm moving in and taking her," Ryuusei shouted before he changed into Sorcermon and disappeared quickly in a brief flash of light before anyone could see.

Kouji shook his head. "As if! They'll be together! I'll make sure of it."

"I'll help," Takuya added with a frown. "You can't be trusted."

"What?" the bandana boy exclaimed.

"Yeah...if Junpei were here, he'd agree. Right, Tomo-oh, wait...he's showing Kako and Ms. Kimura that..."

"Yep." Kouji sighed, feeling the warmth of the fireplace. "Toss another stack of bandanas in, would you, Fujita?"

"It's FUJITAKA," the boy scowled, throwing in the last stack of bandanas, box and all. The flames licked at the cardboard and cloth, reducing it to nothingness.

"Anyway, he'll be here on the next plane. That's what Ichiro said," Ritsuo recalled.

"It's gone," Kouji sighed. He closed his laptop and placed it gently on the glass table in front of him. "I'll miss it."

"We all will."

"Yeah," Kouji agreed. But then again...

-------------------------------------

"Hurry up! He's about to go under!"

"That's all nice and good, but why is it that you're dressed in all black? And take off that mask! You make us look like burglars!"

"Just hurry up and get him!"

-------------------------------------

He could hear the sound of a bird cawing. Again, and again…

"What…?" Kouichi slowly opened his eyes and immediately closed him. The fading sunlight shone right in his face, and while the effect warmed him, his eyes were aching. "Where…?" Where am I?

"He's awake, Ichiro!"

Kouichi managed to open his eyes. "The ground…it's hard," he stated, gazing at the wooden overhang.

"No duh, Sherlock! Get up, lazy," snapped the voice of a boy his age.

Ryuusei. "Right…" Kouichi slowly pushed himself to a sitting position.

"Is he dry, Ryuusei?" Ichiro asked from inside.

"Ask him!" Ryu snapped.

Kouichi turned to Ryuusei. "What do you mean?"

"You were in the water. We had to fish you out…literally. You're lucky Ichiro's an expert diver," the boy muttered.

I was in the water

"Duskmon!" the boy gasped, lurching forward. He clutched his stomach, eyes wide, as if the wind had been knocked out of him.

With a sigh, Ryuusei rose to his feet. "We bought you a ticket. You're going home first thing tomorrow…" he informed the boy. "And you better come in. It's going to be stormy tonight."

-------------------------------------

"Uhm…Mom? Yeah, I'm at the airport," Kouichi murmured into the phone. "No…Ichiro shoved the money in my hand and called it 'Birthday Money.' Yeah, he says, 'Hey.'" He paused, then added, "And he wants updates regularly. Well, Ryuusei does. Don't know why, though."

It had only been a day, and yet he felt as if nothing had happened. Was it supposed to feel like this? He wasn't sure…but he didn't want to feel like nothing had happened.

How he planned to face everyone else…how he planned to face his mother…

Everything at home had changed. He was afraid to go back. But I have to start again, he told himself weakly.

"Mom…?" he whispered before she could hang up.

"Yes?" she answered. It was the same clear voice he remembered.

"I…I'll explain everything…when I come home. I promise."

-------------------------------------

It had already been a week. Yet it was also the first time Kouichi felt brave enough to talk about what had happened. Then again, perhaps it wasn't the time, but the people present.

Class without Ms. Kawai and Mr. Ogata was as normal as their lives had been before the Digital World. Aizawa had been quick to find replacements, and continued to reign as principal. Kouichi desperately wanted to know Aizawa's perspective on the matter, what with his 'enemy' (Marise, of course) being out of the picture, but respected the old man's silence and decided to leave the matter be. Good things supposedly came with time, Kouichi decided.

Despite what had happened, Kanaye continued his reputation, bullying Kouji, Kako, Takuya, and even Izumi (although usually the 'bullying' incidents were failed attempts at flirting). Ai kept him in check and continued to keep Naoko company. Fujitaka still did his best to stay with Naoko (the girl had set her sight on the free Kouji, no matter how much Kako warned her). And, as usual, Junpei and Ritsuo continued their newly found competitive activities, impressing no one. Junpei, however, did gain the courage to ask someone out. With Ritsuo clumsily tripping while running up the stairs, the date was guaranteed to Junpei. Izumi and Takuya held together through thick and thin (Kouji was bothering them with Kanaye's help) but it was the bandana boy who claimed to lead the way. Even Tomoki and Shinya had once again started up the 'Dastardly Duo Type Two,' as they called it. To Kouichi, it was all normal.

Yet today felt different. Kako standing in front of him, Kouji and Takuya arguing to his right over some new disastrous plan…

"It was only a week ago," Kako suddenly said. "You came back…and…and you actually told your mother everything."

Kouichi gazed at the ground and shrugged. "Well…"

She looked at him stoically. "It caused a bit of a trouble. Dad left the will for Yuko to take care of. It's a three way split between Youko, Hideki and me. Youko got the store, and she promised to stay, because Hideki's keeping the mansion. But you know, I can't take it anymore…"

"What?"

"Rai's still out there…so Hideki wants to look, but I'm-"

"What? Ms. Kawai's alive?" Takuya blurted, pushing Kouji away. The bandana boy didn't look too happy about it.

Kako nodded. "She is, but she's not coming here. So Hideki's mad." There was silence as the boys took the facts in. "By the way, we're moving to Kyoto tomorrow," the girl suddenly commented.

The boy looked up and chorused with his twin: "WHAT?"

"Yeah…apparently Mr. Genki got a job change."

"Who's 'Genki'?" Takuya asked Kouji.

"Her step-dad," Kouichi replied.

"OH…"

"And Hideki?" Kouichi asked in a murmur.

"Hideki wants to go to Kyoto to get a break for a while. He said something about girls…"

"Sounds typical. Tomorrow, huh?"

She smiled. "Yeah. First thing in the morning." Kako inclined her head in Kouichi's direction. "I'll see you sometime later," she murmured.

"NO! What are you doing?" Kouji hissed, slapping his forehead with his hand. Now Ryuusei'll try and

Kouichi nodded. "Yeah."

WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING? He gazed at his brother in disbelief as they all watched Kako wave and walk off, Takuya and Kouichi shouting their goodbyes.

"You moron," Kouji muttered, "why-WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?"

Kouichi, who had been laughing at this point, stopped to explain, "Because…just last week, I was worried about saving the world…and…I'm not sure if it even happened…and now…"

"But she's leaving, Kouichi!"

"I know! Isn't it great?"

"WHAT?" Takuya shouted in disbelief. "Saying 'later' is okay, but being glad that she's leaving…"

"Yeah…it's…great…" Kouichi sank to his feet and fell back. "I don't have to face her…for another few months."

Kouji and Takuya exchanged irked glances.

"Takuya, shall we carry out Operation KNACK?" Kouji growled.

"You mean Operation KNOCK," Takuya corrected, bringing out two inflated hammers. "Provided by Shinya," he added, handing one of the hammers to Kouji.

Kouichi's eyes widened, seeing the two creep up on him, hammers held behind their backs. "N-NO!"

As he was pelted with hits, Kouichi shut his eyes and drowned in his thoughts. Was it really just last week…? It feels like so long agobutit's only been days.

Duskmon, Kakoeveryonethank youand I promisethis is the last time I depend on you.

-------------------------------------

Kako gazed at the hat in her hands. I wonder if he even remembers you, she thought, her grip tightening on the rough cloth.

"Yo, Kako, put that disgusting thing away," Hideki snapped.

She glared at her brother and hissed, "You're the disgusting one, you pervert! Just wait until we get there…"

"I'll be waiting!"

"Excuse me, sir," a cabin attendant whispered, "you're disturbing the other passengers."

Kako watched as her brother grabbed the woman's hands. "How about I make it up with a date," he offered, until Kako slapped his hands away. The woman quickly made her way to the next passenger.

"See? Disgusting," she muttered. "Just wait until I tell Rai…"

"What?" he exclaimed. "But you don't know where she is!"

"Says you! You're the only one she's avoiding!" Kako hissed, lowering her voice when she saw one of the cabin attendants walk by.

Unable to argue further, Hideki stuck his tongue out at his sister, then sat back in his seat, arms folded childishly. Kako, seeing this, suppressed a giggle and gazed down fondly at the hat. Until then, Kouichi.

-------------------------------------

"Woah…this stuff is great. Try some!" Kouji laughed, pouring himself another glass of the dark liquid.

Kouichi glared at him. "What did I tell you about getting drunk?" the older twin reprimanded. He pulled the bottle towards him and read the label. "You're too young to be drinking wine."

"Aw…come off it! A little won't hurt."

"Kouji…" Kouichi watched as the younger twin poured him a glass and pushed it his way. The older boy took the glass and poured its contents back in the bottle, frowning deeply at his brother as he did so.

"I'm kidding." The bandana boy smiled and placed his glass on the table. "It's sparkling cider. I switched the labels." He leaned back slightly and bent down to pick up his laptop. "What I really want you to see is this." He opened the laptop and, after a few keystrokes, turned it so the screen faced his brother.

Lifting a newly poured glass to his lips, Kouichi examined the screen quietly. "But…that's…"

"Yep."

"But…"

"Say hello to the new Digital World."

Kouichi placed the glass down and stared, mouth open. His eyes slipped shut as he said with a hint of annoyance in his voice, "Kouji…"

"What?"

"THIS IS REALLY ALCOHOL!"

"What?" Kouji took his brother's glass and took a sip. Then, frowning, he murmured, "How did that happen?"

"That's it!" Kouichi snapped, standing up and seizing his brother's bandana (right off his head, too). While he marched to the fireplace he verified that it wasn't any special bandana. Then, throwing it down on a log, Kouichi began to search for a match.

"What?" Kouji asked again, frowning as he twisted around in his chair so he could see. "Are you going to worship my bandana?"

Instead of answering, Kouichi held up a lit match. Before Kouji could say anything, the match fell on top of the bandana, creating a larger flame that spread outward, consuming the bandana first, and soon spreading to the logs.

Kouji just watched, mouth open in horror, grip tightening on the chair. Then, groaning, he fell out of his seat and cried, "Not again…NOT THE BANDANA!"

-------------------------------------

A/N-

How long has it been? I'm really sorry. REALLY. Truth be told, I actually skipped a scene, then added another. I extended the whole wine scene (and no, Kouichi didn't drink any). It's really quiet…isn't it? No real action. Just subtle deletion…and reappearance. But I learned a lot from writing this. And so I know "Cursed Gifts" will be better. You guys probably won't think so, though. I'm sorry! But I really, really enjoyed exploring their characters…and I enjoyed meeting everyone I did through the story, too. It teaches you, if you pay attention, a lot about writing, and a lot about people in general.

But finally! I finished NTB3! It's a relief. So have a good New Year's Day! 2007….:shivers:. I feel old already…

Thank you to everyone who reviewed in this story, who took the time to read this story, and who gave me support. You're all awesome people. Hopefully I'll run into you all again.

K, aka dragonsunlight.