Disclaimer: I don't Digimon.

A/N: I'm finally done this chapter. It took me forever to get it to a point where I was satisfied with it, but I was eventually able to overcome that roadblock. I apologize for the wait, but trust me, you wouldn't have wanted to see this chapter in its earlier state. It's much better than it was, so I hope you all think it was worth the wait. Enjoy!


Chapter 21: The Flames of Darkness


Willis had heard Eden speak, and he had most definitely seen the Digivice she was still holding out in her hand for himself, but even so he was still having trouble believing her words. How was it possible that she could have received a D-3 Digivice, and why after all this time was she chosen to become a Digidestined? It didn't make any sense to him, unless it had something to do with the strange events that were taking place in the Digital World.

And most importantly, what does Eden being a Digidestined mean for the rest of us?

"It's nice to meet you, Eden," Yolei said pleasantly, giving the other girl a warm smile. "I'm not really sure what's going on, but wel-"

"What she means to say is how in the Digiworld did you end up with a Digivice?" Davis cheerfully butted in, grinning at Eden and scratching his dark head in obvious confusion.

Eden gazed thoughtfully at Davis for a moment, and clasping her hands together behind her back, she said, "It wasn't anything special, though I can sympathize with your obvious surprise. It's rather endearing, if I may say so. I have not actually been a member of the Digidestined team for very long. In fact, it was only a few days ago when I received my Digivice."

"May I ask you how you received your Digivice?" Cody asked politely.

Eden's violet gaze seemed to wander, making it seem as if she hadn't even heard Cody speak, and as she stared of into the trees, her voice took on that mysterious air she could wield so effectively to catch the attention of all those around her. When she spoke, her wistful tone made her sound almost like a wandering tree spirit. "I was at home on my laptop on the day I was chosen. It was in the evening, and at the time I was talking to an online friend of mine. During the middle of our conversation, my computer screen started to act up. I thought perhaps it was malfunctioning, but as it turned out I couldn't have been further from the truth."

"Let me guess. Your computer screen started glowing?" Izzy asked, giving Eden a knowing look.

The female Digidestined nodded in response, and focusing her attention back on the group of teenagers gathered around her, she gave them a sweet smile that was almost apologetic in nature. "Yes, that would be the best way to describe what happened, but that wasn't the only thing about my computer screen that appeared out of the ordinary. When it started to glow, line after line of zeros and ones began to scroll down my screen, and then a strange message appeared in glowing purple text. It was written in the form of a poem."

"A...poem?" Yolei asked, glancing uneasily at T.K.

Did Seermon really send the same prophecy to Eden that she sent to Yolei's email?

"A poem, yes," Eden agreed, her violet eyes calmly absorbing Yolei's reaction to her words. "The behaviour of my laptop startled me, and yet I did not feel at all afraid. Instead, I was curious. I wanted to know where that poem came from, and I was very interested in finding out who wrote it."

"What did the poem say?" T.K. asked, his words sounding tense.

Eden smiled, and stepping closer to T.K. she began to circle the golden-haired Digidestined, her violet eyes watching his every move. "The same thing Yolei's poem said. The same words. The same warning."

T.K. let out a gasp, and catching Eden by the arm, his sudden gesture forcing her to come to a standstill, he said, "How do you know what was written in Yolei's email, and where would you have even learned about it?"

Eden's sudden laughter echoed through the clearing, and dancing out of T.K.'s grip, she gazed at him with a knowing smile on her pretty face. The musical tone of her laughter seemed to catch the attention of the very air itself, and as her laughter faded, a breeze picked up, which sent her violet hair and short skirt ruffling in the wind. "I know a lot of things, Child of Hope."

Willis glanced at his golden-haired friend, and registering the shock on T.K.'s handsome face he allowed himself a small frown that went unnoticed, since everybody was staring at Eden with rapt attention. The memory of what he had seen in Seermon's crystal ball once again surfaced in his mind, and he found himself wondering how it played a role in this newest development.

She does seem to know a lot about what's going on. Could Eden be our key to figuring out what's going on in the Digital World? Could that be why she was chosen to become a Digidestined?

He was certain now that Eden knew something about the situation that they were unaware of, and whatever information she had might explain exactly how this mysterious girl, who had appeared virtually out of thin air, fit into the strange events they had stumbled upon in the Digital World.

"You know something," Kari said quietly, her tone indicating that she was certain of her words.

The female Digidestined's expression was friendly enough, but underneath Kari's pleasant demeanor, Willis could see the accusatory look in her eyes.

That's weird. Kari's not usually so...judgemental.

"Maybe I do, and maybe I don't," Eden challenged, her violet eyes sparkling with amusement. "But before we get to that, I have a story to finish."

"By all means, carry on," Izzy said eagerly, his eyes lighting up with interest.

"I barely even finished reading the poem on my screen when the screen itself started to glow even brighter," Eden continued, her voice once again taking on a thoughtful tone. "By this time it was so bright I had to shield my eyes. At first I didn't know what to make of it, but I wasn't given any leisure time to make an educated guess. It was then when my Digivice shot out of the computer screen right into my lap, and before I could even get a good look at it I was sucked through the computer screen into the Digital World."

"And I assume you appeared here on File Island?" Ken asked, speaking carefully as he attempted to absorb Eden's story.

Eden nodded, and edging closer to T.K. again, she let her gaze wander curiously over Seermon's cabin. "When I arrived in the Digital World, I found myself in a strange place where everything was white."

"Huh?" Patamon asked, glancing down at Gatomon in confusion.

"It was beautiful," Eden said softly, her violet eyes sparkling in the sun. "It looked like a winter wonderland, and yet it wasn't cold at all. And the snow wasn't really snow. The substance that looked like snow was actually some kind of sparkling white dust, and the sun reflected off its surface. The trees were white, and their leaves were silver. There were leaves strewn all over the ground, and they too sparkled in the sun's brilliant rays."

"Sounds intriguing," Hawkmon commented, glancing up at his partner. "Although...I don't believe I've ever heard of such a place on File Island before."

"Me either," Armadillomon agreed.

"Neither have I," T.K. interrupted, his bright blue gaze studying Eden's strangely beautiful profile. "Are you sure you were on File Island?"

Eden was now standing right in front of T.K., and once again giving him that mysterious smile of hers, she said, "In the Digital World not everything is always visible to the human eye. The data that makes up this vast world is constantly changing, growing and evolving into something that can be rendered unrecognizable from its original state. And due to that ever shifting reality, it may even bring about something that might not have been there before. Spiral Mountain is a good example of what I am referring to."

T.K. sucked in a sharp breath at the reminder of the Dark Masters, and Willis felt a stab of sympathy for his golden-haired friend. The memory of the Dark Master's assault on the Digital World seemed to have caught T.K. off guard, and taking a step back the golden-haired Digidestined's expression seemed to darken.

Who would want to be reminded of that?

Willis unconsciously found himself moving closer to his golden-haired friend, and putting a hand on T.K.'s arm he found himself regarding Eden with a hint of suspicion. He found himself speaking almost before realizing it, but he was careful to keep his voice neutral. "That still doesn't explain the white forest you speak of."

"With the data constantly changing in this world, nothing is truly as stable as it might seem on the surface," Eden explained, her violet eyes once again turning to regard him with interest. "New data is constantly being added to the Digital World while old data becomes obsolete. As a result places become lost or hidden, and they cannot be so easily accessed when their data is swept away in a stream of oncoming information. You've seen that for yourselves. Have you forgotten so easily about the World of Darkness?"

Willis felt T.K. go rigid in his grip, and feeling a sense of foreboding growing in his heart, he gave the golden-haired Digidestined's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. On T.K.'s other side, Kari's face had grown very pale, and struggling to find the words, she said, "What do you mean? The World of Darkness is a different world altogether."

"Is it?" Eden replied, a faint smile turning up the corners of her mouth.

"Tell me what you mean!" Kari demanded, her normally soft tone becoming much more forceful.

It caught Willis by surprise, and he stared at the female Digidestined with what he assumed was a rather comical expression on his face. Normally Kari wasn't the type to challenge others, and because of that her behaviour seemed a bit out-of-place.

"All worlds are connected," Eden said quietly, her voice growing distant. "Maybe they aren't so distant from one another as we like to believe. Maybe instead of being separate worlds, they're all the same."

"Sounds like something Azulongmon would say," Gatomon said suspiciously, crossing her paws over her chest.

Unlike Gatomon, Willis had no idea how to respond. He felt T.K. move closer to him, as if seeking comfort, and he quickly wrapped his arm around the golden-haired Digidestined's shoulders to provide some support. T.K. seemed unaware of his own subconscious actions, but Willis wasn't offended when his blond friend didn't acknowledge his friendly gesture. He knew T.K.'s mind was wandering to a dark place, and all he could do right now was give his friend a solid shoulder to lean on. On T.K.'s other side, Kari was watching Eden closely, and sensing the female Digidestined's uneasiness, Willis chose to change the subject. "So this place where you found yourself on File Island was hidden from sight?"

"Possibly," Eden said slowly, her violet eyes gazing deeply into his soul. "It was in that white forest where I met Azulongmon, the guardian of the Eastern Hemisphere. He was the one who brought me there. I doubt I would have been able to reach that place on my own without his intervention."

Willis felt his mouth drop open again in surprise, and shaking his head, he said, "You really met Azulongmon?"

Even I've never met Azulongmon yet. Why would he appear to Eden after all this time, when nobody has seen him in years? Why wouldn't he...Why would he want to meet with her before he's ever even met me? Am I really that unimportant? Is my title of Digidestined less important somehow?

"Azulongmon was the one who originally brought me to the Digital World," Eden explained, gesturing at the trees in the distance with her hand. "He was the one who gave me my Digivice, and he also gave me this."

Eden pulled off the chain around her neck, and she held it out in the palm of her hand for everyone to inspect. As soon as she opened her fingers Willis immediately knew what she was showing them, and reaching out to run his fingers over it he was unable to take his eyes off her. There were plenty of things he wanted to say, but instead he chose to ask the most relevant question. "Who are you?"

Why? Why would Azulongmon do this? Why would Gennai allow this to happen? I thought...I thought my crest...And T.K. and Kari...None of this makes any sense.

"A Digidestined, like I told you," Eden replied, giving him a small smile.

Willis shook his head, and pulling his hand away, he said, "I don't mean that. I mean where do you come from? What place do you call home? Your name is an unusual mix."

"From the same place as you," Eden laughed, her voice once again becoming light and airy.

Willis stared at her for a moment, and frowning, he said, "I don't get it."

"My father is Japanese, and my mother is American," Eden explained, leaning down to stroke Mikemon's fur. "That's why I have a mixed name. They met in America when my father was on a business trip, and that's where they were married. I was born in the United States, and I've lived there all my life. Like you, I'm an American Digidestined. My hometown is Denver, Colorado. That's where you're from, is it not?"

Willis took a step back in surprise, and struggling to find the right words, he said, "How did you know that?"

Eden's laughter echoed musically through the clearing, and giving him a teasing smile, she said, "Azulongmon told me. He told me a lot about all of you."

"And I assume that's the reason you're here?" Izzy asked, his brain already going into thinking mode as he studied the object in Eden's hand.

Eden nodded, and allowing the crest to swing gently from its chain, its shiny surface catching the light, she said, "Azulongmon called me to the Digital World because he knew you would need my help."

"It looks like Ken's crest," Wormmon commented, glancing at his partner, who nodded thoughtfully in response.

Wormmom was right, to an extent. Like Ken's crest, Eden's was a light purple, and it matched the shade of her D-3 Digivice perfectly. As interesting as that might be for Ken and Wormmon, though, that wasn't the part that concerned Willis. What had truly captured his attention was the fact that the symbol on Eden's crest matched the symbol on her white shirt perfectly.

"Ironic, isn't it?" Eden asked softly, noticing immediately what had attracted his gaze.

Willis quickly averted his eyes, and crossing his arms over his chest, he said, "What does it mean?"

"My crest?" Eden asked, tilting her head to one side.

"Every crest has a meaning. What does your crest represent?"

A slow smile seemed to spread across the female Digidestined's face, and winking at him she came close and said softly in his ear, "It's a secret."

Or a convenient way to avoid directly answering the question.

Willis was about to respond, but before he could do so Yolei chose that particular moment to throw a fit. Puffing herself up, the lavender-haired Digidestined threw her hands in the air in exasperation, and turning to glare indignantly at Izzy, she said, "Well that's just great! Now what are we supposed to think?"

Her sudden outburst caught Izzy off guard, and taking a step back from Yolei, he said, "What do you mean?"

"Our theory!" Yolei groaned, giving Izzy a dirty look. "You know, the one about the crests! We thought there might be a connection with the three crests we found earlier and that it might have something to do with them being celestial in nature, but if Eden was given a crest then that completely throws our theory out the window! Eden already admitted that Mikemon isn't a celestial digimon and that she doesn't have a celestial form, so what now? How are we supposed to make sense of all this?"

Good question, Yolei. And if Eden has a crest too then...what does that mean for me? Is it only a coincidence that I have a celestial partner? Is there any point at all to my crest? Maybe I never really had a connection to Kari and T.K. like I wanted to believe I did...

"I do apologize. I certainly didn't mean to throw a loophole into your theory," Eden spoke up, looking amused.

Her words caught Willis off guard, and all of a sudden he felt angry. He couldn't explain why, but for some reason he felt like he had been deceived somehow, and there was an awful pain growing in his chest that made him want to speak up. He felt hurt and betrayed, and grabbing onto the chain around his neck he pulled it off and shoved it into his pocket without anybody else noticing.

Azulongmon must be handing out crests by the dozens to Digidestined who don't already have one of their own. Probably to help save the Digital World from whatever is threatening it. It's not like I'm special in any way. I'm not special at all. Kari and T.K. don't me...

Izzy waved off Eden's apology, and without any knowledge of the turmoil currently boiling in his American friend's heart, he said calmly, "It's not your fault. A theory should change and evolve as new information becomes available to us. It just means I'll have to approach the situation from a different angle and see if I can make sense of it all."

"You came here today for a particular reason," Ken said slowly, his sapphire eyes studying Eden's serene expression. "You were looking for us."

The American female nodded, and turning her gaze back to the cabin, she said, "Seermon told me you would be coming here. That's how I knew where to find you."

"Wait, you met Seermon?" Veemon interrupted, looking confused.

Eden let out a soft sigh, and placing her hands behind her back, she said, "I met Seermon just before your group arrived here in the forest. She told me you would be coming to see her, so I waited for you because I knew you would need my help."

"And it was just after your meeting with Seermon when we saw you in the forest," Cody finished, his face clearing as the story finally started to make a little more sense.

"That's right. Seermon sent for me to speak with her just as she did for all of you."

"An email?" Izzy asked, exchanging a look with Tentomon.

"Come to the Forest of Prophecy," Eden quoted, smiling softly. "After my meeting with Azulongmon I knew I needed to get in touch with all of you, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about contacting you. I didn't have a choice, though. I knew I needed to find a way because Azulongmon made it very clear to me you would all need my help. When Seermon summoned me, I was curious to know what that poem I received was all about. During my meeting with her she told me that you were all coming to see her. I knew then that it was my perfect chance to meet with all of you."

"What did Seermon say to you?" Davis asked curiously.

"Much the same as what she said to all of you, I believe."

"And her crystal ball?" Kari asked quietly, her expression looking oddly neutral. "Did you look inside her crystal ball?"

For some reason T.K. shifted uncomfortably, and Willis gave the golden-haired Digidestined a searching look. He knew T.K. hadn't been all that forthcoming with what he had seen in that crystal ball, but despite that the golden-haired Digidestined's actions suggested he had seen something very important.

He saw the three of us together. But...what were we doing? Could Seermon have been wrong about me? She said I knew in my heart the reason I was given a crest, but...what if I'm wrong? My crest doesn't seem all that important now...

Whatever it was T.K. had seen, it might be vital in understanding what was going on in the Digital World, and it had obviously made the golden-haired Digidestined uneasy. Although his behaviour was concerning, Willis knew he couldn't force T.K. to tell him. The golden-haired Digidestined would speak when he was ready.

At least I hope so. Not that I blame him. I wasn't exactly all that forthcoming with what I'd seen either. I know now I wasn't imagining it. I definitely saw Eden's face in that crystal ball, but what does it mean? And why...Why did Seermon never mention Eden or her crest? Why would she keep something like that from us? Whatever happened, though, T.K. obviously knows more than what he's letting on, but what could it be? Did his vision have something to do with Eden like mine did?

"A crystal ball is an unusual tool," Eden said quietly, her lavender hair ruffling in the breeze. "The past, the present, and the future all revealed before our eyes, but are we truly seeing the future, or is it merely an illusion?"

T.K. suddenly stepped forward, forcing Willis to drop his arm, and placing a hand on Eden's shoulder, he said firmly, "Tell me what you saw."

Eden looked directly into T.K.'s eyes, and Willis felt a sudden chill race down his spine. Though he couldn't explain it, there was a sense of something in the air that seemed somehow wrong, and all of a sudden he felt an overwhelming sense of fear for his golden-haired friend. Though he couldn't explain it, he had a crazy urge to suddenly snatch T.K. by the arm and drag him away to safety. One glance at Kari made him realize that she appeared to feel the same way, and that made him feel even more uneasy.

I don't understand. Why do I feel this way? And why would Seermon let me believe that I was special?

There was something in Eden's violet eyes that unnerved him, as if there was a shadow lurking in their depths.

A shadow that was pulling T.K. away from his own heart.

"You were in my vision," Eden replied, her voice barely above a whisper as she covered T.K.'s hand with her own. "You and the other two. The three of you were drowning in the darkness, the shadows cutting off your screams. Your faces were burning, and the words of the prophecy were etched all over your naked bodies as the flames that surrounded you ate away at your flesh."

T.K. snatched his hand away from her, as if the flames she had spoken of had burned his fingers. The look in his bright blue eyes was too much for Willis, and this time he did pull his friend out of Eden's range, putting some distance between them.

"What do you mean?" T.K. managed to choke out, his words faltering.

"I don't like this at all," Lopmon whimpered, hiding behind T.K.'s legs.

Even Terriermon looked unnerved, and stroking Lopmon's head with one of his fluffy ears, he said, "It's okay. It was just a vision. Doesn't mean it's going to come true."

"That doesn't mean it won't either," Tentomon added, earning himself a dirty look from Yolei.

Eden shook her head, and studying T.K.'s reaction with interest, she said, "I can't make any more sense of it than you can. Was it truly a vision of the future, or was it merely a glimpse of one of many possible futures? Only time will tell."

Everybody fell silent, and Willis watched as Kari reached out to give T.K.'s hand a reassuring squeeze. Though Willis doubted T.K. noticed her expression, he had picked up on it immediately. From the look on Kari's face it was clear to him that she didn't trust Eden, and that surprised him. Normally Kari was a friendly person, and she wouldn't hesitate to welcome somebody new into the group. She wasn't the type to act distrustful of others, and if she really didn't trust Eden then that was significant. Willis couldn't really blame her, though. Thinking on the matter now, he was surprised to discover that if he thought about it long enough, he didn't fully trust Eden either.

Why do I feel like she's hiding something? What isn't she telling us?

"I take it Seermon mentioned the prophecy to you?" Izzy asked, quickly changing the subject.

"Yes, and that was when I learned the nature of the poem and where it had come from," Eden said, nodding her head to Yolei. "It is as Azulongmon said. There is a great darkness descending upon the Digital World. Those Harpymon you fought are not the worst of what is to come, and neither was the incident with the stolen babies taken from Primary Village. This is only the beginning, and that is why both Azulongmon and Seermon know you need my help. The darkness is getting stronger, and the worst is yet to come."

"And what are we supposed to do about it?" Davis demanded.

Eden delicately raised her eyebrows, and placing a hand over her chest, she said, "That's what I'm here for. There's something I want to show you, but it's a fairly long journey. We'll have to wait until tomorrow."

"What is it?" Ken asked curiously.

Eden winked at him, and twirling in a circle, she said, "You'll see. It may help us a little to understand the situation a bit better. In fact, it might even be the key to shedding light on what is going on in the Digital World. I discovered it in my travels the day before, and I think it might be of some use to you. Especially now after talking with Seermon."

"Where is it?" Cody asked, frowning in confusion.

"I will show you tomorrow," Eden insisted, shaking her head. "It's getting late, and we need to get back to our families. Meet me by the gate at the base of Infinity Mountain. I will take you there."

"Easy enough to do," Izzy replied, frowning. "But I don't understand. Why would Infinity Mountain be of any use to us? There's nothing there."

"Not Infinity Mountain itself," Eden replied, giving Izzy a slow smile. "It's what's under Infinity Mountain that I want to show you."

Willis exchanged a surprised look with Ken, and unable to stay silent anymore, he said, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Eden smiled, and quoting Seermon, she said, "Beware the Daughters of the Night."

"Huh?" Davis asked, scratching his head in confusion.

"They sleep in darkness, and they are always watching," Eden replied, her tone growing mysterious. "You will see."

T.K. looked like he wanted to respond, but Eden suddenly leaned into him and whispered something softly in his ear. The golden-haired Digidestined's eyes widened in surprise, and stepping back, Eden said softly, "Until tomorrow then, Child of Hope."

Before anybody could speak up, Eden turned to her partner and said, "Come, Mikemon. It's time we were on our way."

"Yes, Eden," Mikemon replied, standing proudly at her partner's side.

With a final wave over her shoulder, Eden disappeared into the trees with Mikemon, the sound of her musical laughter echoing back to them.

As Willis stood there gazing after them, Seermon's words came back to him.

Beware the Winged Maidens. Beware the Daughters of the Night...