Author's Note: This story takes place before and during the beginning of the episode, "The Gateway to Home."
To Keep a Promise
The sun had arisen for about one-and-a-half hours at the brook near the Survey Mountains. The side of the mountains shone stone gray and gave the background a gloomy feeling. The luscious trees in the foreground, however, drowned the dreary background as the leaves sparkled emerald green. The dirt, soil, and rock glistened with various minerals, and the brook that split the dry surface reflected the morning sky.
As the DigiDestined and Digimon were either sleeping the early morning away or doing very important errands, Sora was lying on the trunk under a tree about two yards away. It was her turn to guard until sunrise, and she wanted to make sure that they were safe. While resting under the canopy, she used her left hand to absentmindedly stroke Yokomon, who was sleeping beside her. The other hand was toying with her Crest, which glowed two nights before.
The Crest of Love… until a couple of nights ago, she felt that it was meaningless to her. No glow, no love, no worth, as what she once thought. Why did she ever think of that? No love, no compassion. It just seemed to fit her, especially with her past difficulties with her mother, Toshiko.
"And now, the Crest has glowed," she thought and looked at the bank in front of her. She was still stroking the sleeping Yokomon affectionately and was still toying with the Tag and Crest while she was recollecting her thoughts. "I never realized how foolish I was back then." A sad sigh escaped her as doubts entered her mind, doubts that she did not have until now. "And I thought that the Crest would help me relieve the tension and doubts that I had from years past. I didn't realize it would make me receive more skepticism."
"Are you okay, Sora?" asked a young male voice suddenly.
Sora hummed wonderingly and looked at her right. T.K., with Patamon perched on top of his head, walked under the tree and was only a few inches away from her.
"Good morning, T.K.," greeted Sora with a nod.
"Good morning to you, too," returned T.K. with a smile of his own.
"How did you know where I was?" Sora asked as she let the Crest of Love dangle around her neck.
"When I woke up, I turned my head and saw you sitting under this tree," explained Patamon with a smile across his face. "Then T.K. saw me and he wondered what was going on, so I led him to you."
"Oh," said Sora.
T.K. looked down and noticed a flat area of dirt next to her. Besides, he had an agenda to take care of. "Do you mind if we sit down next to you?" he asked politely.
Sora shook her head with a smile. "Not at all," she replied courteously.
T.K. obliged with Sora's permission and sat on her right. Afterwards, his smile was replaced with a concerned frown. "I wonder if you're doing okay," he said worryingly.
Sora looked at him. "Excuse me?"
"Patamon told me that when he saw you, you looked very concerned," said T.K. "Why?"
"Oh, that," said Sora and grabbed her Crest with her right hand. "Well, I was thinking about some things."
T.K. hummed, having a feeling what the Takenouchi child was talking about.
Patamon suspected it, too, and said so. "I can safely assume that one of them is about your Crest glowing during our battle against Myotismon a couple of days ago," he hypothesized.
"Exactly," replied Sora and gazed at the Crest's design. "But the Crest is making me think more deeply about what happened a few years back."
"The soccer game, I believe," said Patamon observantly.
Sora nodded. "When Mom prevented me from going to the soccer championship, I had thought that she never cared about me; and as a result, I stopped caring about her. I stopped loving her and either ignored her or argued with her most of the time."
"And now, because the Crest glowed, you feel ashamed for what you did, right?" asked T.K. curiously. But he instantly felt awful for saying this, because he felt that the question would hurt Sora's feelings.
Sora's reaction was otherwise. "You can probably say that," she answered solemnly. "While I am proud that my Crest glowed and that I realize that my mom loved me all this time, at the same time… it made me feel very awful." Her eyes became a little watery as she held back tears. "Until it glowed, I didn't realize that I treated Mom with such disrespect. And now, I wonder what will happen once we get back. What will Mom think that I've been away all this time and not know where I go? What about my dad and my other friends? Will they abandon me… or will they try something worse?" She could not speak anymore as a few teardrops rolled down her cheeks and hit the ground, one of them hitting the Tag's shell.
T.K. and Patamon sighed sorrowfully and felt sorry for her. They had never seen her act so negatively; let alone feeling doubtful as to whether her parents and her other friends would desert her or not.
"Poor Sora," thought T.K. sadly. "She must still feel guilty about not being able to get along with her mom that much."
Wanting to comfort her, the DigiDestined of Hope reached up with his left hand and gently touched Sora's right hand. "It's okay, Sora," he said kindly as he caressed her hand. "Don't feel down."
Sora stopped sobbing and turned to her little friend. "Sorry, T.K.," she said and wiped the tears off her eyes with her left hand. "I shouldn't have broken down in front of you."
T.K. shook his head and chuckled. "It's okay to cry, Sora," he said kindly. "Because your tears are showing a sensitive side from you."
"T.K.'s right, Sora," said a squeaky female voice.
Sora looked down and noticed an awaken Yokomon next to her. Although she was sleeping earlier, the Digimon vaguely heard Sora's guilty speech and woke up after feeling a teardrop hitting one of the leaves on top of her head. Despite being carefree, wise, and cheerful, Yokomon was able to detect what her DigiDestined partner was talking about, whether she heard very little of it or not.
"The tears that you're exposing show that you still contain love, selflessness, and compassion for others," explained Yokomon.
"They do?" asked Sora.
"She's right, Sora," squeaked Patamon cheerfully, causing Sora to turn to the bright-spirited Rookie. "Look at the compassion you showed during our adventure so far. Just like the others, you helped us keep our spirits alive. You were like the mother of our team."
T.K. followed up. "You helped break up occasional fights between Tai and Matt; you helped Joe defeat the Bakemon at the cemetery—"
"How did you know that?" interrupted Sora.
"Joe told me about it while we all rode on Whamon across the ocean," explained T.K. and went back to the subject. "What about you telling Agumon about the mushrooms of forgetfulness? Had you not give him the message, Patamon, Tai, Agumon, and I would've lost all our memories; and we would've forgotten that you and the others ever existed!"
Sora gasped at what T.K. said. She was a big help to the entire team? She helped them that much?
"And about you wandering off to try to find Tai," said T.K., "despite some catastrophic results, that was one of the most unselfish things you ever did, in my opinion."
"Really?" exclaimed Sora as she put her free left hand over her mouth.
"In addition, you put yourself before the others, and that's something not many people can do. Although it wasn't your main intention, you went off on your own because you also wanted to help us guide our ways and reach our own potentials, as well as your own. That part was true… wasn't it?"
His declaration hit Sora hard. Was this actually the reason why she left? Did she really leave the team because she knew they could achieve their full potentials but could not? And did she leave them because she desired to reach to her own potential, as well?
Wanting to let his speech sink in, the DigiDestined of Love closed her eyes and thought briefly about what he said. When her eyes reopened, a proud smile was etched on her face. "You might be right, T.K.," she said proudly as she looked at him kindly. "I can't believe I never thought of that before."
"And you should," interjected Patamon with a grin. "You're a major part of the team. Besides, you've always shown that the Crest of Love really does fit you. You cared for the team, even though you didn't think of that earlier."
"Patamon and T.K. are right, Sora," said Yokomon with her trademark happy personality, and Sora turned to look at her. "You look after us from time from time, especially when things get grim."
"You mean it?" asked Sora.
"That's right," answered T.K., and Sora looked at him once more. "Remember what I said that whenever you're around, I don't miss my mom as much?"
Sora nodded in reply.
"I mean it all the way. You're like a mother to me, you're like a mentor to me. As a close friend, I care about you a lot, and I feel sad whenever you're down like this."
The words impacted Sora like a mallet hitting her on the head. "You feel sad whenever I feel depressed?"
T.K. nodded with a hum and a smile and let go of Sora's hand. "You're a very good friend to me, and you will always be a friend to me. To be honest, I was actually saddened when you left the team, although I never had any time to react."
Sora's eyes became watery again. "T.K.," she said slowly.
"And I wouldn't be surprised that once you return home, your mom, dad, and your non-DigiDestined friends will give you great big hugs," said T.K. sincerely, and Sora's eyes became very glazy due to stuck tears.
The Takaishi child noticed this, and – with a compassionate smile – he continued by saying, "As you said earlier, your mother loved you before, and she will always love you no matter what happens." He looked at the bank briefly before turning to her again. "I know my mom will."
Tears slowly rolled down Sora's cheeks, although she did not react to them right away. "T.K.," she reiterated slowly.
"Like always, you should never give up hope," continued T.K. and held the Crest of Hope in his right hand. "Because if you feel down, doubtful, and want to give up, you never grow up and learn. You should always maintain a small amount of hope, no matter what."
Sora smiled and wiped the tears off her eyes again. "Looks like I was right, too; the Crest of Hope really does fit you."
"And it should," said the cheerful Patamon and peaked at the Crest. "He has a lot of optimism."
Although it was not funny, T.K. had to laugh at his Digimon partner's quip. "You know me all too well, don't you?"
"Hey, I'm your partner, and I've been with you through thick and thin," said Patamon and jumped down onto the ground. "Remember after I was turned into a DigiEgg?"
T.K. gasped from what his partner said and nodded.
"Although I was inside the egg, I was still able to hear what you said," Patamon said and stood on his hind legs. "From what I heard, despite me being in the DigiEgg, you never gave up hope."
T.K. had to smile at what his partner said. "You can say that again."
"And if you did give up," quipped Patamon, "then that's not the T.K. that I know."
T.K. laughed and stroked the Digimon's head with his left hand. "And I'm going to make sure that won't happen."
"You better, because I'll make sure of that," squeaked Patamon and jumped on his partner's head again.
"And we will see to that, too," promised Sora.
"Mm-hmm," agreed Yokomon as she hopped over Sora's legs and landed between the two humans.
Afterwards, everyone started smiling and chuckling.
"You know what, T.K.?" said Sora as everyone calmed down. "You're right. I should not've questioned my ability to care for my friends and family to begin with. I should always look on the good side instead of focusing on the bad all the time."
"It's okay, Sora," said Yokomon while looking up. "Everyone will feel doubtful once in a while. Even you."
"As well as me," said T.K. "When we were all separated, I was very close to giving up, and even though I broke down once in a while, I was still a little optimistic that we will find each other again."
Sora looked up at the canopy and made a small smile. "I agree. Imagine how all of us felt when we battled the bad Digimon. Quite a few times, we felt like giving up because they were too strong."
"And yet, we came back and beat 'em," finished T.K. "And when we battle again, we will win. No one will make us quit, not even Myotismon."
Unfortunately, T.K. spoke the wrong words, as the mood darkened and became more serious.
"Speaking of Myotismon," said Yokomon seriously as she looked at the brook; only Mimi, Tai, Joe, and their Digimon were near the riverbank as of the moment, "what is he capable of?"
"I don't know, Yokomon," replied Sora and looked at her Crest of Love. "From what we saw in that last battle, he was very strong. It'll take a lot of mental and physical strength to overcome him."
"I think so," said T.K. and looked at his Crest of Hope.
"But we will find a way to beat him," said Patamon and looked down at his partner. "Because as you said earlier, T.K., never give up hope."
"And I won't," promised T.K. with a nod.
Everyone smiled, optimism running through their veins again. And this time, it looked like it was going to stay there.
However, as they calmed down, they looked ahead and noticed two figures were running towards them. And when they came into view, Matt and Gabumon were facing them.
"Matt! Gabumon!" exclaimed Sora when they arrived. "What are you doing here?"
"Sorry for interrupting your conversation," said Matt as he crouched on one knee, "but Izzy has just informed us that Gennai has arrived and wants to talk to us."
The four under the tree jumped internally.
"Gennai's back?" wondered T.K.
Matt nodded with a hum.
"And Izzy said it's very important," explained Gabumon.
"I wouldn't be surprised there," said Sora with a serious tone.
Matt ignored what she said as he and Gabumon ran left and out of sight.
"I wonder what Gennai will be talking about," said Sora curiously as she got to her feet.
"I'm not sure, Sora," said Yokomon as Sora picked her up and put her in her arms. "I wonder what news he'll bring to us."
"You and me both," said Sora.
As she was about to walk into the open landscape, T.K. stood up and called her back.
"Before we go to Gennai, I want you to promise something," the Takaishi child said.
Sora turned to T.K. "Anything, T.K.," she said and put the Crest of Love away.
T.K. looked at his own Crest one more time before putting it away himself. "I want you to promise that, from this day forward, you will never doubt yourself from having the ability to love again. You've shown that you can care for others, and I don't want you to ever say that you can't." He walked toward her and held her right hand with his left one. "Besides, you doubting your capability to care for others is not the Sora that I know. And if it's true, then I don't know what your true sense of character is."
Sora gasped from what T.K. said and let his words sink in. Moments later, her smile returned. "I promise, T.K.," she said sweetly. "I promise to never doubt myself again."
T.K. nodded with a giggle and made a statement for himself. "And I promise to remain positive and never give up hope as long as I live."
The four nodded with small smiles as they followed Matt's footsteps towards the forest, where Gennai awaited them.