A sharp bang on his door and a shout of "Daisuke! Phone!" pulled Davis out of sleep. He groggily sat up, nudged Demiveemon off his chest and stumbled out of his room, where Jun almost shoved the phone into his mouth. "Yello?" he mumbled, leaning against the doorframe.

"Hi Davis, it's Kari," the familiar voice came, kind but subdued. "Everybody's meeting at Izzy's in an hour; he's got news, and we need to make plans…"

Davis groaned and stiffly stretched his free arm; yesterday's glum events still had a hold on him. "OK… I'll be there," he promised.

"Ooh! Are we going out, Davis?" Demiveemon chirped, hopping out into the living room; he woke up way faster than Davis did. "I'll go get your coat!"

Davis watched him scamper past Jun and also past his parents, who were in the middle of breakfast. He jumped into the closet and, after a few thuds and crashes, Davis's jacket came out with one sleeve thrashing its way back along the floor. "Davis, help!" Demiveemon shouted. "It got the drop on me!"

Jun cracked up, and so did Mr. and Mrs. Motomiya; they had been wary of the Digimon at first, but since Davis returned from the Dark World in one piece, they had warmed up to him… and it helped that he was so darn cute. Davis couldn't help but laugh, too. "Davis?" Kari's voice came. "What's going on?"

"Oh, nothin'," he replied, "just Demiveemon doin' stuff."

Kari managed a weak chuckle. "Oh, um, Davis," she said, suddenly sobering, "did you hear anything outside last night?"

Davis blinked. "No, not really…" he said. "How come?"

There was a pause, then he heard her sigh. "Never mind; don't worry about it," she muttered. "Um… Izzy said he wanted everybody there. Have you heard from Yolei?"

Davis scowled at the floor, his teeth suddenly clenched. "No," he said sharply, "talk to Cody or TK." His thumb mashed the power button and the line died.

Jun gave him a hard look as he hung the phone up. "Boy, Daisuke, that was rude," she said. "Couldn't even say goodbye?"

Davis sighed angrily and watched his jacket writhe as Demiveemon tried to escape. It was bad enough that Yolei had missed Ken's funeral and hidden herself away since they got home, but now she was making him be a jerk to Kari, too. "Dammit, Yolei…" he muttered.

… … …

Sora pulled her boots up, then reached for her coat. "It snowed last night," she said to her partner as she threw her scarf around her neck. "I hope traffic's not too bad."

"Hmm," was all Biyomon said.

The study door clicked and Haruhiko came out, ruffling some papers. "You're going out, Sora?" he asked, looking her over. "Your mother's already gone to work, too…" he chuckled. "Looks like I'm going to be left alone all day."

"I'll be back in a few hours, Dad," she said, humorlessly putting on her blue helmet.

Haruhiko's smile waned as he looked at her, then at her sour-looking bird. "Is… everything all right?" he asked. "I, uh, thought I heard you on the phone last night, and then it sounded like you had an argument…"

Sora shook her head. "I don't want to talk about it," she muttered.

Biyomon didn't offer any insight, either; she just stared at the door.

Haruhiko hesitated, then scratched at the back of his head. "It's never good to make hasty decisions, Sora, especially when it comes to people you care about," he said quietly. "You're sure to regret it later."

Biyomon looked up in surprise, then gave her partner a smug smile. It always felt good to be backed up.

Sora flinched and balled her fists, then turned angry eyes on her father. "You wouldn't understand," she snapped. "I'm going."

She pulled Biyomon outside and almost slammed the door shut. Haruhiko sighed and stared thoughtfully at one of Toshiko's plants.

… … …

The morgue secretary raised an eyebrow as a college-age boy came through the doors and nervously approached her desk, holding tightly onto both a large notebook and the bottom of his black jacket. "Can I help you?" she asked with annoyance.

"Uh, y-yes, I'm Jyou Kidou," Joe said. "My father said I could study some autopsy reports for one of my classes."

He quickly dropped his notebook on the counter and, still clutching his jacket, fumbled around and produced his driver's license. She looked it over for a moment, then typed on her computer and printed a small card. "All right, Mr. Kidou," she said, sliding the card into a clip-on tag and handing it to him, "file room is the fifth door on the right."

Joe thanked her and started down the hall. Contrary to what he had hoped, it really did look like a morgue from a horror movie: long and white, with fluorescent lights making the gray tiles shine. Even though it was almost eleven o'clock, it felt like midnight in the compressed space, his slow, stiff footsteps the only sounds.

Suddenly, his jacket swelled, almost giving him a heart attack. The zipper slid down by itself, and a white head popped out. "Whew! You gotta get a bigger jacket, Joe!" Gomamon panted, "it's hard to breathe in there!"

"Shh!" he hissed, putting a hand over his partner's mouth. "Don't draw attention to yourself! There are people working just past those doors."

Gomamon grinned wickedly. "Maybe that's what's there…" he said, "or maybe it's gaggles of reanimated zombies itching to suck the flesh off your bones! Ooooohhh!~" He wriggled his claws on Joe's stomach for effect.

"Come on, be respectful in here!" Joe huffed, but inside his stomach was tying itself in knots and his legs were turning to jelly; why did Gomamon have to say that?!

After an eternity they reached the fifth door on the right, the characters for "file room" etched on its frosted glass window. Joe nervously grabbed the handle and made his way inside… but once he opened his eyes a relieved sigh escaped his chest. There were no giant freezers or bodies on slabs like he feared, just rows and rows of filing cabinets, as well as some old computers. Gomamon groaned and slid out of the bottom of Joe's jacket. "Oh, great, it's not gonna be scary," he said, "it's gonna be BORING!"

"I guess so," Joe admitted, though he didn't sound as disappointed. "We might be looking for those reports for a while."

Gomamon looked over at the computer. "Why not just use that?" he asked. "They probably put it in there already."

"We'll do that," Joe agreed, "but I want to see the actual papers too; whoever transcribed it into the computer might have left something out. We've got to be thorough, or Izzy will make us come back here…" he paused, looking around and hoping nobody could hear him through the door.

Gomamon shook his head. "Geez, Joe, I was kidding about the zombies," he muttered. "Lighten up, will ya?"

Joe sighed. "Sorry, this whole thing has me on edge," he said. "Can you help me figure out the filing system?"

"Sure," Gomamon said, scuttling over to the left-hand wall of drawers and starting to read the labels on the lowest ones. Joe went to the computer and stared at the screen, his mind suddenly wandering. He had called Mimi as soon as Izzy had called him; he hoped she went to the meeting… but he didn't know if the others would accept her back as easily as he had.

"Hey, Joe!" Gomamon's voice pulled him back to reality. "You think it's under 'I' for 'Ichijouji' or 'K' for 'Ken?' Or maybe there's a whole section just for kids? C'mon and help me!"

Joe shook his head. "Sorry," he said, getting up, "we'd better check all of them…"

Gomamon rolled his eyes. A trip to the boring part of the morgue wasn't his idea of fun. "I'd better get a big dinner after this," he grumbled, pulling open a drawer.

… … …

Fire rained down on the junior high, sending blazing kids out the doors screaming like the damned. The flames jumped to the high school and set that ablaze, and the windows smashed into glittering fragments as smoldering teenagers leaped through them to splatter on the concrete below.

Yolei watched her dreamland burn with vindicated comfort. The spectacle made her feel warm and, somehow, supported. It was the kind of feeling she knew would let her stand up to the others… to bring down her own justice on them. Suddenly she was no longer satisfied with just imagining it; she had to seek out her former friends and begin the retribution.

Poromon had been up for hours, doing little besides watching his partner sleep, but it still caught him by surprise when her eyes slid half open and she sat up. "Uh… good morning, Yolei," he said, "are you hungry now?"

She was silent, and stared straight ahead at the closed door. "Yolei?" he asked as he fluttered closer, and then his heart throbbed with worry. Everything about her looked off: her body was soaked with sweat; her hair was stringier than usual; and her chest rose and fell with audible pants. The most unsettling things, though, were her eyes: though she had been sleeping for hours, they still looked tired, not to mention empty and glazed over, like Ken's did… after he died. "Yolei?" he asked nervously, "are you OK?…"

Almost on cue, there was a gentle knock. "Miyako? I'm going to work now," her father's voice came. "Your mother's out shopping, but Mantarou and the others should be back this afternoon." With that, the front door opened and shut.

Yolei's fingers clenched the sheets. "I'm going," she croaked.

Her breath was foul from days of sleep and starvation, but it was also hotter than it usually was. As a matter of fact, Poromon suddenly realized, the whole room suddenly felt like a sauna; the untouched bowl of soup on her table was starting to lazily bubble. "What's going on?" he asked, starting to put a wing on her forehead. He jerked away immediately; her skin was hotter than her breath. "You're burning up!" he exclaimed.

She shoved him away, then got off the bed and shuffled towards the door. "No, Yolei!" he squawked, flapping in front of her. "You need to get back in bed!"

She pulled back and slapped him clear across the room, sending CDs and pens clattering to the floor. "I don't want you anymore!" she snarled, her arm twitching violently. She shoved the door open and disappeared.

As he struggled to right himself, Poromon heard the front door get thrown open. Yolei had just left the apartment in the middle of winter in nothing but her pajamas. He couldn't believe what she had just said and did to him; she could be rude, but that had been downright vicious. Not only that, but he didn't just ache from crashing into a CD rack; he felt burnt on his face in the place her hand had hit. Something was wrong… really wrong. "Oh no, oh no, oh, no!" he yelped, flapping wildly around the room. He had to do something! Tell someone! TK and Cody lived nearby; he had to get them! Puffing with panic, he flapped out into the cold midmorning.

… … …

"Brrr!" Gabumon shivered, shaking out his fur again.

"Take it easy; you'll get it on Izzy's floor," Matt said. "How come you're so cold, anyway? You've got a natural coat."

"Yeah, but just looking at snow makes me colder!" Gabumon said.

"Yeah, there's a good inch out there," TK agreed, glancing out Izzy's window. "Hope we didn't leave a puddle in the hall."

"It'll evaporate soon enough," Izzy said, glancing around at his crowded room; he was glad he never needed to tidy much up for their visits. "Is everybody here?"

Davis looked around and folded his arms, muttering. Yolei was absent—again—but he didn't even feel like bringing it up.

Sora looked over at Tai and gave a sheepish little wave, but he gloomily turned away from her. She stared at the floor, her meager smile gone. Biyomon just shook her head. Kari and TK blinked and exchanged looks, and Izzy and Matt raised eyebrows, but nobody said anything. "Hey, uh, where's Joe?" Patamon finally broke the silence.

"He's running an errand for me; I doubt he'll be back in time, so we should begin," Izzy said, turning to type on his computer. As everybody leaned in over his shoulders to watch, giving away who had brushed his or her teeth and who hadn't, he considered buying a projection monitor. "Now—" he began.

"Wait a second, Izzy," Cody said, "I, um… I have to say something."

The others turned and looked at the little boy. "What's up, Cody?" Tai asked.

Cody shrank back from all the eyes on him. He looked at Upamon, who smiled and nodded, and then he swallowed hard. "I… I have to apologize to all of you," he spoke haltingly. "The things I thought and said about the Em… about Ken, and what I tried to do… I was wrong." He paused for a moment, swallowing again. "And I took my anger out on you when you defended him. I never considered I might be hurting your feelings for it." He hesitated, then bowed his head as his body trembled. "So… I'm sorry. I don't expect you to forgive me, but…"

Davis was utterly dumbfounded. After everything Cody had said and did, he had never expected the rigid boy to admit he was wrong, or to ask forgiveness on top of that.

Cody felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up. Izzy was smiling at him. "It's OK to be wrong, Cody," he said. "What's important is that you acknowledge it, and you also learn from it."

"Yeah, we wouldn't be half as good if we didn't make mistakes," Gatomon agreed, "and trust me, I've made some big ones."

"Of course we forgive you, Cody," Kari said with a smile.

Cody looked back up at the people who were still his friends and managed a weak smile of his own, rubbing at his eye. From then on, he decided, even if he disagreed with them, he would always consider their feelings. "Thank you," he whispered.

… … …

Slowly stumbling down the sidewalk, her arms swaying back and forth, Yolei didn't even notice the cold or the snow. Despite being in a t-shirt, sweatpants and bare feet, she felt amazingly warm in the below-freezing air. In fact, which each step she took, the snow around her feet vaporized in a hiss of steam.

A little boy in a teal coat was making a group of snow people outside of his apartment's fence, but stopped dead when he saw Yolei. As she shambled past, his little creations sagged, then collapsed into piles of slush. The boy bawled for his mother and tore back inside. Yolei didn't pay any attention; she kept shuffling forward, her mind focused on her so-called "friends."

She went across the street at a red light, earning several squeals of brakes and angry honks. A police officer halfway up the block came running at her. "Hey, kid, what's wrong with you?!" he shouted. "What're you doing out here like that? Can't you see it's…?!" his scolding died in his throat as he noticed the steam around her, and then her dead-looking red eyes. He shrank back as the melting snow hissed even louder, then turned and fled with a scream of "hitodama!"

He tore down the street, as did the few others on the street who had heard him. As she watched their panic, Yolei let her lips curl into a malicious smile. That's right, she thought. Run. Scream. Cry. When I decide it's time, that's all you can do.

… … …

Izzy listened to the others talking to Cody for another moment, then cleared his throat. "Well, I hate to get to business after a heartfelt apology like that," he broke in, "but these are important matters, too."

"Sorry, Izzy," Cody said, turning back to him. "Please."

Izzy nodded. "All right. First, I have some good news and some bad news concerning the man who killed Ken. TK says he knows his name: Yukio Oikawa."

The others lit up immediately. "Seriously?!" Matt asked.

"Oikawa?…" Sora repeated.

"Well, what're we waiting for?" Agumon asked. "Call the police!"

"I'm afraid not," Izzy sighed. "That brings me to the bad news: a name is all we have. My first brief search last night didn't turn anything up: no address or phone number, no photos… in fact, not even the name; there aren't any Yukio Oikawas of any sort listed within Tokyo."

"Maybe he wasn't a real human," Upamon thought out loud. "Maybe Dagomon made him, like he made Blackwargreymon."

"What?!" Patamon asked. "But he's gotta be real! TK's mom saw him! Here!"

"Just a coincidence, maybe?" Cody asked. "Or maybe Dagomon's controlling him somehow…"

"He could have used a false name, or maybe he lives outside of town," TK said. "I'll ask Mom if she knows any more."

"I'll run another search with expanded parameters later," Izzy said, "but right now, the name is all we have to go on."

The kids and their partners all looked relatively downcast. "Um, Izzy, haven't you got any, err, better news?" Tentomon asked.

Izzy decided it was time to spring the big stuff. "Well, yes. Along with that…" he said, turning to his computer and typing, "while the younger kids were in the Dark World, I finally found the entrances to the temples."

"What?!" Tai exclaimed, a smile returning to his face. "Way to go, Izzy!"

"Yeah, that's great!" Biyomon chirped.

"Dagomon better watch out," Gatomon growled, clenching her claws. "Isn't this great, Kari?"

Kari balled one fist and nodded, looking much more relieved.

"Sweet!" Davis laughed. "So, where are they? We can jump in and charge up your Crests today, even!"

Izzy coughed. "Well, it sounds great, but… well, this is another good-news-bad-news thing," he admitted, motioning for everyone to come closer. "You see…"

Everyone moved in as he typed. The monitor brought up a large map, not of the Digital World, but of their own Earth. Four pairs of lights flashed on different parts of the map: two pairs in North America; one in northern central Asia, and the last in Australia. The kids looked at Izzy in disbelief. "You mean…?" Gabumon began.

"I ran a search for Crest energy signatures in our world instead of the Digital World, and this was the result," Izzy said, folding his arms. "It's not unlikely there are routes into the Digital World in more places than Japan… so I think that there must be Digital gates in these four spots, which will lead us to the normally inaccessible temples."

Matt scratched his chin. "Why are there two dots in each place?" he asked.

Kari thought for a second. "Oh! Azulongmon said that each of the gods has two Crest elements," she remembered.

"That was my thought, too," Izzy agreed. "Two Digidestined will have to enter each gate, and you can see which ones here… Hope and Light in western North America, Friendship and Reliability in Australia, Knowledge and Purity in eastern North America… and Courage and Love in Russia." He paused, then glanced back at Tai and Sora. "I hope that's not going to be a problem."

Sora gave him an awkward look. Tai just shook his head.

"So two kids to each one," TK said, "but with that Digital Gate, it means Davis, Yolei and Cody have to come along too."

Davis folded his arms. Good luck getting Yolei to do that, he thought.

"Yes, we'll need the new kids too," Izzy said, knotting his brow, "but have you guys noticed the problem yet?"

Everyone stared at the map for a few more moments, and then it dawned on them: those entrances were scattered all across their own world… meaning they couldn't just warp to them. "Oh, great!" Davis huffed. "How the hell're we gonna get to 'em?!"

Agumon scratched his head. "Oh, I know!" he said. "Biyomon, Tentomon and Patamon can fly; we can use them!"

"No way!" Biyomon huffed, ruffling her feathers. "I'm no airplane! Sora's hard enough to carry without tagalongs!"

"Besides, it would take days to fly that far," Tentomon argued, "maybe a month to reach the one in Russia alone, and that's not even counting resting, weather, or crossing the ocean!"

"Plus, what if Dagomon shows when we're all so far away?" Tai asked. "No, that won't work…"

Everybody's uplifted spirits suddenly sagged like wet tarps. Blinking on Izzy's screen were the answers to their problem… but they had no idea how to reach them.

… … …

"But Mimi, you can't go out in this cold!" Mrs. Tachikawa spluttered as Mimi pulled her green hat over her hair. "And what will people say if they see you with…?!"

Mimi ignored her hyperventilating mother and left the apartment with Palmon at her side, still limping a little with her tender foot. "C'mon, Mimi, we're late already," Palmon said.

"I know, I know!" Mimi huffed, then glanced back at her building. Her mother just would not let her get away once she knew where she was going. It annoyed her a little, but she could also understand; her mother was just as scared as she was.

As they walked past the fence, suddenly Mimi felt really warm, and not just under her winter garments; in fact, she found she was sweating. She looked down and noticed that the fresh snow on the sidewalk was quickly evaporating. "Um… Palmon? I'm not just imagining this, right?" she asked.

"Whew, no, it's hot… how fast does spring usually come?" Palmon asked, swatting at a wilting petal. Suddenly she noticed someone at the end of the block and froze. "Mimi, look!" she whispered.

Mimi turned and gave a surprised gasp. Yolei swayed in the middle of the street, clad only in pajamas and glaring straight at her. "Miyako?" she asked, walking over to her, "what are you doing out here like this?"

Yolei's eyes flashed with hateful fire. Her mind flashed with the memories of Mimi's wrongdoings. The bath brush scraping into her back. The stink of Mimi's vomit in response to her room. The hard, cold poles Mimi shoved her against in the mall. The stuck-up bitch. How dare she treat her like a loser, and then throw it all back in her face! Each angry memory made her surge with more heat, feeding her desire for revenge, and she welcomed the sensations with bared teeth.

Mimi looked at her empty, angry eyes, then reached for her hand… but it was so hot she had to let go, her own hand starting to turn red. "M-Miyako?!" she whimpered.

"No," Yolei heard herself hiss. "I am…"

Orange flames danced around her feet, then shot up and engulfed her. Mimi pulled back in horror as she rose up and took on a new, terrifying shape: a giant fireball with malicious black and red eyes and a gaping maw covered in flaming stitches, hovering above a sphere of glowing asteroid-like rock. Two claw-like hands of fire rose out of the center flame, spitting little burning flecks as they clenched and unclenched, their arms more fiery spheres connected by smaller asteroids. All the snow on the street vanished in a puff of steam, and awnings on buildings ignited. The blazing monstrosity raised its fists into the air and it roared its name: "JACHOMON!"

Palmon's jaw hit the concrete. "Holy—!" was all she could say.

With a furious snarl, the being called Jachomon grabbed for them, its hand crackling and snapping like a bonfire. Mimi's legs turned to cement and she could only watch it come. Suddenly, strong vines coiled her middle and then Palmon yanked her away. "Mimi! Run!" she shouted.

Smelling smoke and burnt fibers all around her, Mimi needed no more prodding; she grabbed her partner and ran as quickly as her stumbling leg could carry her, shrieking like a banshee all the way.

Jachomon watched her disappear around the corner with a wicked gaping smile and a dry, wheezing laugh. Mimi screaming in terror was exactly what Yolei had wanted to see… but it was nowhere near enough. She thought of pursuing the spoiled brat, but Mimi was hardly worth her time compared to others; it was time to go after the worst offenders, and not just to scare them… but she had so many people to burn, and going after them one by one would be a pain; how could she get them all in one place? Was there a place or person she could lure them all to?… Wait… Yes, there was. The fiery beast turned and floated down the street.

… … …

Izzy sighed and shook his head. "No, Demiveemon, we can't hire a plane to take us all around the world," he muttered.

"Why not?" Demiveemon asked. "I found three more coins in the couch!"

"Planes're way more expensive than that, little buddy," Davis said. "You'd have to have every couch in this town be MADE of coins… and that's before gas, too!"

Cody scratched his head. "Does anyone have an uncle in the travel business?" he asked.

"Damn…" Matt growled at the screen, "so close, so far away."

"Why would Gennai do something like this?" Sora complained. "Couldn't he make the gates appear nearby?"

"I don't know if he has the power to—" Izzy began.

Suddenly, something pink and round splattered against the balcony door, making them all jump. It was Poromon, wildly flapping his wings and banging his beak on the glass like a panicked hummingbird. "Good grief!" Tai said, walking over and opening the door. "Poromon, you knew there was glass there, right?"

Poromon's eyes were wide and fearful, and his little body heaved and shrank like a pulsing heart. "I tried TK's… and I tried Cody's…" he panted, hopping into the room, "but they weren't there! I tried Kari's… but she wasn't there! So… I flew as fast as I could… and—" he broke into a coughing fit.

"All right, calm down, deep breaths," Biyomon urged him. "You look like you're about to pop."

"You didn't catch a cold, did you?" Sora asked.

"What's the matter?" Gabumon asked.

Poromon swallowed a few times, little tears starting to sprout in his eyes. "It's Yolei," he finally managed. "Something's wrong with Yolei!"

Davis folded his arms and rolled his eyes, about to ask what was ever right with Yolei… but everyone else looked more concerned. "What is it?" Kari asked.

"Is she sick?" Upamon asked.

"Y-yes," Poromon said, "but… but it's more than that… She just got out of bed and… and left!"

"Left?" Agumon asked. "How sick was she?"

"Too sick to be out walking around, from the sound of it," Matt said.

"Yeah!" Poromon said. "She didn't even… didn't even take her coat!"

"What?!" Sora asked. "Is she delirious? Poromon, what's been happening with her lately?"

Poromon opened his beak to reply, but suddenly Izzy's door crashed open. Everyone turned to see Palmon rush in, followed by a stumbling, panting Mimi. Mimi looked as freaked out as Poromon had, and her green coat and hat had several blackened spots. Izzy's mother stood behind them, looking unsure of what to say. "Mimi?!" Tentomon asked. "What—"

"Miyako's a monster!" both Mimi and Palmon screeched.

Poromon's beak almost fell off. "WHAT?!" he squawked.

"She just… she just showed up at my apartment, no coat or anything," Mimi whimpered. "The snow was melting everywhere… and then she turned into this big… fireball!"

"She said her name was Jachomon," Palmon said, slightly calmer, but not by much. "She almost turned us into charcoal!"

"Everything was on fire… ohhh!" Mimi wailed.

"Seriously?!" Patamon asked. "Good grief!"

TK scratched his head. "We should've checked in on her more," he said.

Cody's jaw locked. Mimi's story sounded bad enough, but the talk of fire made him especially uneasy.

"What happened after that, Mimi?" Tai asked. "Did you see where she went?"

"I had to run! I had to!" Mimi yelped, then her eyes spilled over. "But I left Mom and Dad behind!…" she cried.

"We ran all the way here," Palmon agreed. "Please, you guys, we've gotta do something!"

"Hang on, I'll look up the name," Izzy said, typing on his computer. "Jachomon… Jachomon… Ugh, there's nothing in the Digimon database!"

"Does that matter?!" Tentomon buzzed. "It's got Yolei!"

"Does it?" Matt asked.

"But was that really Yolei?" Sora asked. "I mean, they can disguise themselves sometimes…"

"It looked like her to me!" Mimi huffed. "I remember that t-shirt!"

Davis's teeth almost broke on themselves. He couldn't explain it, even to himself, but the girls' story and the others' reactions made him mad. Really mad. "Demiveemon, we're goin'," he grunted.

"Wh-what?!" Demiveemon asked. "Goin' where?"

"You heard me!" Davis snapped, snatching the surprised Digimon off the floor. "We're goin' after her!"

The others turned in shock as he started for the door. "Wait a second, Davis," Tai said, "don't run off by yourself!"

Mimi looked at him with wild eyes. "You're crazy!" she yelped.

"Yeah, we don't even know where she is," Izzy said, turning back to his computer. "This city's too big to just run around looking. Let me—"

"Don't care!" Davis huffed, leaving the room and stuffing his feet into his shoes.

A soft set of fingers latched onto his arm. Kari held on tightly, her eyes scared. "Don't go, Davis," she pleaded, "not alone!"

Without even looking at her, he shoved her hand away. "Fuck off!" he shouted, and tore out of the apartment.

The air hung thick like a thunderstorm. The others looked at each other in disbelief. "Did Davis just say… that… to Kari?!" Tai asked.

"Man! He was mad," Agumon said. "What's his problem?"

Matt shook his head. "Forget him," he huffed, "let's figure out where Yolei is."

"Right," Izzy agreed, turning to Mimi and Palmon as he opened the city map program again… but no Digimon signals appeared on the monitor. "That's not good," he grumbled. "Whatever this 'Jachomon' is, it's either able to avoid detection, or…"

"Or?!" Tentomon asked. "Come on, Izzy!"

"Or it really is Yolei," he finished gravely.

Kari didn't hear the conversation at all. She just sadly stared at the closed apartment door.

… … …

Davis took the stairs five at a time and reached the street before Demiveemon managed to say anything. "Davis, how come we're not waiting for them?" he asked.

Davis couldn't answer; he was too angry. His fingers were permanently mashed into his palms, his neck felt hot enough to boil syrup, and his jaw was clenched so tightly he could have bitten a chunk out of an airplane wing. As for how to find Yolei… a police car sped right past him and turned at the corner, its eerie wail intermingling with several more now clear in the distance. That was as good a path to follow as any. "Digivolve," he snapped at his partner.

"What?" Demiveemon asked. "But Davis, I—"

"NOW!" Davis yelled.

Too scared to argue, Demiveemon strained for a moment. Davis's D3 flashed, and the little guy changed into Veemon. "Uh, OK," he said, "now what, Davith?"

Davis raised his D3 and shouted "DigiArmor Energize!" In a flash of light, Veemon had been replaced with the black and spiky Raidramon. Davis sprang onto his back and kicked his sides. "Follow those cops!" he barked.

Raidramon winced at how Davis was acting, but he also knew Yolei was in trouble. Without a word, he shot off after the sirens.

… … …

Toshiko Takenouchi hummed quietly as she cleaned the snow off of her store's sidewalk with a broom. With no other employees working today, she had to do the menial labor herself, but she didn't mind; there was something calming about the powdery white stuff flying into the air, then sprinkling onto the street, then immediately starting to melt…

Melt? She peered down again. It was no illusion: that snow was disappearing into shiny puddles on the concrete… and then she realized how warm it had become. She also realized the air had begun to ring with screaming. Her hands dug into the broom as she saw the armed fireball floating down the street, the awnings of the other shops melting and catching fire as it came.

Yolei's eyes scanned the street and picked out the flower shop, and the woman frozen in front of it. Sora's misery of a mother. If she took her, Sora would show up, and so would the rest… and that's when they would all get what they deserved. Jachomon's eager mouth lifted into a menacing grin, and its burning fists clenched.

Toshiko's legs went to jelly as Jachomon approached her, the atmosphere thickening and searing like an August afternoon. As the beast snarled and raised its fist, her survival instincts kicked back in and she scrambled away. The flaming hand smashed into the street, filling the air with the stink of hot tar. She raced inside her store and locked the door, but the heat from the beast outside followed her; her skin was filmy with sweat, the doorknob began to burn her fingers, and some of the flower arrangements started wilting.

With blaring sirens and screeching tires, half a dozen police cars appeared in front of the store, and twenty officers in riot gear formed a line. "Stand down!" one with a megaphone yelled at Jachomon. "This is your only warning!"

Jachomon's facial expression twisted into amusement; those little men wouldn't keep Yolei from her prize. It vomited a wall of fireballs through the street, shattering and melting windows, making the concrete almost glow and sending the police running in terror. They opened fire from behind their blockade, but as soon as the bullets hit Jachomon's body, they slopped into little piles of lead on the street. Jachomon ignored them and turned to the flower shop, leering at the broken windows it knew Toshiko cowered behind. It grabbed the sides of the building, whose wooden furnishings went up in flames, and sucked in air for another blast.

A blue bolt of lightning struck its hand and it pulled away with a snarl. Raidramon leaped in front of the police cars, sending the police scrambling and shouting into their radios for backup. Davis dismounted, his angry teeth gleaming in the blazes. "What the hell are you doing, Yolei?!" he shouted. "Go after someone who can fight back! Like US!"

Jachomon turned on them, its eyes flashing. Yolei looked at him and heard the insults and the taunts. She felt the shoves and the splashes of the pond. The triumphant cry of "suck on it" as she fled his scathing proclamation that he had been right about Ken and her. Her body trembled and shuddered, full of hateful power; Sora's mother could wait. With a wicked laugh, Jachomon came at the pair.

Raidramon shot his partner a worried glance. "Davis, should we be doing this?" he asked. "I mean, if it's Yolei, shouldn't we—"

"Just do it!" Davis shouted, pointing at the menace.

Raidramon grimaced, then charged at Jachomon, flinging his blue bolts at the monster's arms; if that really was Yolei, he wanted to stun her rather than the alternative. Jachomon raised its hands and caught the blasts, wincing but not slowing down. As Raidramon got close, it pulled its hands back and vomited fireballs all around him, making him skid to a halt. As he started to retreat, one of his legs caught in the melted tar and he stumbled, and Jachomon swatted him back beside Davis with a mocking laugh.

Raidramon groaned and shrank back to Veemon. "Sorry, Davith," he groaned, "it's a tough one!…"

Davis glared as his partner. "Try flyin'," he snapped, whipping out his D3. "Quick!"

Veemon pushed himself up and grit his teeth as the Digivice flashed. He became Exveemon, flew at Jachomon's sneering face, dodged another fiery belch and let loose with a V-Laser. The yellow beam sank between the hollow eyes and did nothing but make Jachomon laugh louder. In an act of instinct and not forethought, Exveemon sent his fist into one of the eyes and reeled back screaming, his blue hand turning red and then brown as smoke curling off it. Jachomon grabbed for him and he barely dodged it, but the force of its hand made him flail backwards in the air. "Davis, this thing's tough!" he shouted. "Gotta be an Ultimate, or worse!"

Davis stamped his foot into the mushy street, his head aching from his clenched jaw. "Dammit! You need more power!" he shouted, clenching his D3 and also Ken's broken one in his pocket.

The D3 sputtered and sparked, and Exveemon glowed and transformed into Paildramon, his hand completely healed. "Thank goodness for that," he growled, pulling out his Desperado Blasters. "Now let's take care of those arms!"

Jachomon's right hand swung at him, but he shot up and over it like a gnat. He opened fire, but his ammo did no better than the police's; the ground was again painted with bullet-sized specks of molten lead. Furiously he launched the needles on his arms and struck at one of the asteroids between the flames, but those weapons glowed and melted away, too. "Hey! I liked those!" he yelled.

Jachomon grinned nastily; Paildramon was no threat. It turned its attention on Davis, banged its fists into the street and unleashed a roar of fire right at him. "SH—!" he yelled, only able to stumble backwards.

Paildramon shot back to his partner and landed just in time to take the brunt of the blaze, screaming as his wings and back burned. "Dammit! You OK, Paildramon?!" Davis asked as his monster sagged to his knees.

"I… I think I can still fight…" Paildramon coughed, though he wasn't sure he could win. Whether that monster was Yolei or not, his attacks did nothing against it… and it was more interested in hurting Davis and other people instead of him. He didn't know what he could he do.

Toshiko watched the battle from near the broken window inside her smoking flower shop, coughing incessantly and unable to move, the shrill scream of the smoke alarm slowly eroding her eardrums. Watching the hopeless match in the street, she knew what she had to do. Praying her phone still worked, she pulled it out and dialed the one person she could think of.

… … …

Izzy racked his brain, and groaned; predicting where a Digimon was headed was a lot harder without a computer program. "Now, did you see anything that could tell you where she might be heading?" he asked Mimi and Palmon.

"I don't know!" Mimi whimpered like a wounded puppy. "I just… I don't know!"

Palmon bit her leafy lip. "I don't think she was chasing us," she said, "but I didn't really see her moving…"

"OK, so maybe she's still at Mimi's apartment," Biyomon started, "but—"

"Don't say THAT!" Mimi shrieked. "Mom and Dad are still there!"

"So where else could she have gone?" Gabumon asked.

Cody was quiet, his mouth a pensive line. "Cody?" Upamon asked. "What's up?"

Cody hesitated, then looked at his partner; he might as well voice his thoughts. "I think she might be somewhere that—" he began.

Suddenly, Sora's cell phone went off. "Oh! It's Mom; I'd better take this," she said, opening it. "Hello?"

"S-Sora!" Toshiko's terrified voice came loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, along with a volley of deep coughs. "M-monster! The store's on fire! I'm trapped! H-help!"

Sora's face drained of all color. "Hang on, Mom! We're coming!" she yelled into the phone, then looked at her friends. "Hurry, you guys!"

"Think it's Yolei?" Agumon asked.

"One way to find out," TK said, grabbing Patamon and rushing for the door. "C'mon!"

Nobody wasted any time jumping into their shoes and rushing out of Izzy's apartment. "Wait!" Poromon urged. "If it's Yolei… don't hurt her!"

Kari turned and picked him up. "Don't worry," she promised, "we'll save her."

Poromon looked a little relieved, but Kari bit her lip as she raced after the others. If Yolei had turned into a Digimon, she didn't know if there was a way to save her.

… … …

Pumping their legs as fast as they could, the Digidestined tore down the sidewalk towards the Takenouchi flower shop. When they were a block away, Tai felt like it had suddenly become summer, and he had to unzip his jacket. "Whew! Running heats you up quick, doesn't it?" Agumon huffed.

Izzy shook his head. "That's not just us," he said, pulling at his own coat, "the air has actually become hotter."

The others also unzipped and unbuttoned as they closed in on the flower shop, the air thick with the stenches of burning tar and melted plastic… and then they reached a hellish scene: several buildings bled flame from their tops and windows, and smaller fires danced all around on the hissing concrete and mud-like tar. In the center of it all was the giant, grinning fireball called Jachomon. Paildramon flew around it, shooting desperately to try and find a weak spot, but continually having to fly back and protect Davis from its flamethrower breath and other attacks. "Holy crap!" Patamon yelled, hiding behind TK. "What is THAT?!"

"Looks like one of Dagomon's goons," TK growled.

"That's her!" Mimi shouted, pointing at the creature. "That's Miyako!"

"No way!…" Biyomon gaped. "What happened?!"

Cody's fists clenched, his whole body swelling with illness. He knew what it was.

"C'mon, we have to help Mom!" Sora urged, starting to make her way over the hot rubble, which she swore was already melting the soles of her boots. "Yeek! Move fast!" she called back.

"Davis!" Tai shouted. "Hang in there; we're coming!"

As the kids speedily made their way towards the burning flower store, Davis still only saw the burning monstrosity in front of him. "Quit blockin' and clobber it!" he shouted at Paildramon. "I can take care of myself!"

"No way, Davis," Paildramon huffed. "You'd get deep-fried with one loogey!" He also didn't want to admit it, but he was all out of ideas for subduing Jachomon. "We shouldn't have come alone…" he grumbled.

"Davis, stop!" Poromon shouted as the others approached him. "That's Yolei in there!"

Davis's face went from strawberry red to beet red. He knew that monster was Yolei; he needed no convincing of that… and knowing she was the one beating the tar out of Paildramon made him feel like bursting into flame too. "You… you stupid…!" he yelled, shaking both fists at the monster as he lost the ability to form sentences. "Fight fair, you stinking…! You goddamn…! Purple…! Get down here and fight like… RAAAAAGH!"

"What the…?" Tentomon asked.

"I think he finally lost it," Gabumon sighed.

Matt shook his head. "Does he really think that'll help?" he grumbled.

Yolei's vision went from orange to red as Davis continued to hurl half-insults; it was time to shut him up for good. With a roar, Jachomon sent its fists into both of the buildings Davis stood between, and down came a storm of falling glass and debris. "DAVIS!" Paildramon shouted, shooting back towards his partner. Davis looked up to see a giant hunk of wall coming right for him…

Suddenly, his Digivice's screen almost exploded with sparks, and Ken's broken D3 also lit up, smoke pouring out of the screen. He felt a wild surge of energy thrash around inside him and he began to scream, partially from excitement, partially from panic. As the debris closed in, Paildramon gleamed gold and began to scream himself, then fell over Davis and quadrupled in size, causing a miniature earthquake that brought down more rubble. It crumbled harmlessly on his back, his scream deepening to a low, feral roar.

Davis opened his eyes and looked up, and his mouth fell open. The light faded and revealed that Paildramon had grown to the size of an airplane… and though Davis couldn't see much from below, he could tell he had taken on the shape of a dragon. "Ho… holy shit!" he finally said, clutching both sputtering Digivices. "Paildramon?!" The dragon said nothing, but as he breathed Davis's skeleton rattled.

The others stopped in their tracks, gaping at the imposing creature; even Tai momentarily forgot his melancholy. Kari gasped and squeezed Poromon. "Is that… Veemon?!" she asked.

"Yeah…" Izzy said, his mind cramping. Somehow the unconventional Paildramon had Digivolved into a Mega-level creature.

The dragon slowly turned around and growled at the fiery menace. "Stay back," he rumbled in a bottomless voice. He stomped forward and Davis saw his mechanical-looking black and gold claws, his brilliantly red wings with black jet engines underneath, his helmet with a jagged horn covering his shaggy white mane, and the imposing-looking cannon jutting from his back. Jachomon's fists shook, its grin twisting into a venomous glower. "I am Imperialdramon," the dragon declared. "Vile monster that has taken Yolei… I will not let you harm Davis."

Davis looked his new partner over again, then bared his teeth at Jachomon; it was their turn. "Get 'er!" he yelled.

… … …

On a rooftop a few blocks over, Mummymon almost dropped his cane as the mechanical dragon appeared. "Amazing! Astounding!" he squealed. "Who knew they could get to be that big?!"

Standing beside him, Arukenimon's reaction was completely different; her limbs shook and her back stiffened with fury. "That wasn't supposed to happen!" she snarled through clenched teeth.

"No, no, this is good!" Mummymon said. "The master's plan is guaranteed now!"

Arukenimon said nothing else; she just angrily gnawed on her thumb.

… … …

Jachomon heaved several angry huffs, but it wasn't ready to surrender. Like an overly caffeinated baseball pitcher, it hurled chunks of flaming rock at Imperialdramon. The imposing dragon flapped his wings once and blew them extinguished to the ground. "If you still wish to fight, I shall oblige," he boomed.

"Don't hurt her, Imperialdramon!" Poromon squawked. "It's still Yolei!"

Davis mashed his fists together, not hearing the cries. "Take it down!" he shouted.

The cannon on Imperialdramon's back made a great sucking whoosh noise, and then unleashed a crystal-white beam of energy, piercing Jachomon's grinning face right between its eyes. The air rocked with a furious, violent howl, and Yolei fell out and landed unsteadily on her feet in the street, steam billowing off her body. Jachomon hovered over the girl as transparent as a phantom, its gaping mouth panting and hissing. "Hell yeah!" Davis cackled. "Now THAT'S an ass-kickin'!"

"It is not defeated," Imperialdramon growled, watching the fiery specter. "Quickly, Davis, pull her from its clutches!"

Davis heard his friends calling to him as they cleared the rubble, but he was focused on running towards the pajama-laden girl, who just watched him approach as she wobbled in the mushy street tar like a fatigued drunk, shivering from the cold wind on her sweat-coated body. "Shit! Yolei! How'd you get mixed up with that thing?!" he demanded. "What the hell were you thinking?! And usin' it to fry other people?! You're so damn selfish!"

Yolei remained silent and trembling, her dead, fatigued eyes giving him the willies and making him even angrier; why wouldn't she quit staring and answer him?! "Say something, you purple dumbass!" he shouted. "SAY something!"

Her stumbling, frenzied mind replayed every reason she hated the boy in front of her— every joke at her expense, every roll into the cold water, every icicle-like insult—and her body's shuddered with anger instead of cold. "You… you're always gonna be like this… You treat me like trash… You won't even let me have dreams…" she rasped as hot tears freely ran from her eyes, making him recoil as her whimpering became feral shrieks. "I proved you wrong! I proved I could be pretty! And likable! Everything you said I couldn't do! But you still wouldn't shut up! YOU did the same thing for Kari! Why couldn't you let me?! Why couldn't you let me be happy?!"

His mouth hung open as her wet, burning eyes bore into his own. Her words sounded just like what he had heard when they fell in the pond last time. "I never said… I mean, I didn't…" he began, but his anger quickly returned, and he grabbed her arm; he had to get her away from that monster. "Quit talkin' crazy and get over here!" he huffed.

Yolei felt the warmth of hatred flowing back into her and she let it fill her again. Davis screamed and let go of her arm, a big, patch of blackened, burnt fabric on his glove. "What the fuck?!" he yelped, waving his arm around.

Yolei bared her teeth at him as fires began to dance around her feet. "I don't care how big your stupid Digimon gets!" she snarled, her voice starting to deepen and distort. "You're going to pay! For EVERYTHING!"

She rose up into the air and a cocoon of molten asteroid reformed around her. Jachomon exploded back into physical form, twice its size and with brighter, wilder orange flames. The entire street became a sauna, the air wavering and shimmering along with the stone. Davis took a few feeble steps back and looked up as Jachomon's gigantic blazing hand formed above, and then came down to smash him.

Suddenly Imperialdramon crashed into the burning menace, his engines blaring wildly. "Davis, get away!" he boomed.

The wind Imperialdramon created blew Davis far back the other way, crashing onto the slushy pavement as his D3 skittered away in another direction. Imperialdramon clawed and head-butt Jachomon as hard as he could, but the hateful flames clearly had the upper hand now; the dragon snarled and shrieked as burns appeared all over his body wherever Jachomon grabbed, and even on his head and claws as he kept trying to attack. Davis watched them without really watching, his limbs paralyzed as his mind echoed everything Yolei had said, and then that burn on his hand. Was that really how he made her feel? So badly that she had let that Digimon take her over? It was because of… him?

"Ugh, this isn't working!" Gabumon huffed. "Matt, we have to help!"

Matt nodded and pulled out his Digivice. "Ready?" he asked the others.

Sora heard her name screamed, along with a volley of coughs. Sora turned and saw her mother frantically waving from the shop's broken window, smoke pouring out all around her. "Hang on! We're coming!" she yelled back. "C'mon, Biyomon!"

"Right!" Biyomon agreed.

"No, wait, Sora!" Kari shouted as the girl and the bird rushed along the sidewalk. "It's too close to Yolei!"

"Come back!" Agumon yelled. "Wait for—"

A howl from Imperialdramon cut him off. Jachomon had dug both hands into his head, setting his mane ablaze. With a triumphant roar, Jachomon threw its foe into the building across the street from the flower shop, sending the kids running as more debris and glass plastered the ground. The dragon collapsed on its side, out cold. Jachomon then noticed Sora and Biyomon and its eyes flashed a gleeful red. With that dragon down, Yolei could get the rest of them at once… and that overgrown tomboy was the best way to begin.

Jachomon grabbed the nearest police car and it melted and exploded in its grip with a sad peal of its siren, and then it hurled the burned-out sloppy husk right at Sora. "LOOK OUT!" Biyomon shrieked, gleaming with light. She became Birdramon just in time to intercept the flying car with her talons, but its weight dragged her back and onto the ground with it, leaving Sora wide open and frozen in place. Jachomon slammed one hand down on top of the store and the other next to Sora, ensuring no escape as it inhaled for a tidal wave of flames. Birdramon's wings flapped in slow motion. Kari couldn't scream. Tai's legs wouldn't move. Sora looked up into Jachomon's hate-filled empty eyes and could only swallow.

Jachomon belched its fiery payload, but a white flash made the girl disappear before the flames did. Sora blinked a few times, then noticed she was on Garurumon's back with Matt sitting over her, racing back towards Birdramon and her friends. "What're you waiting for?!" the musician yelled at the others. "Fight!"

Tai blinked, then shook off his paralysis. "Right!" he huffed, his leadership skills returning as he looked over his friends. "Cody, have Digmon get Sora's mom out of there. The rest of you, keep it busy!"

Cody began to object, but then he remembered that he was no longer in the Dark World; his Armor Digivolutions would work again. "DigiArmor Energize!" he shouted, raising his D3.

Upamon glowed and became Armadillomon, then shimmered and became the drill-nosed Digmon again. "Finally! I missed this!" he laughed as his drills whirred.

"Kari! Let's do that too!" Gatomon urged, clenching her claws. "We can try to tie her up!"

Kari looked at TK and nodded. "DigiArmor Energize!" they yelled, and Patamon and Gatomon transformed to Pegasusmon and Nefertimon.

Izzy and Tai raised their Digivices, and Kabuterimon and Greymon rushed out to help with brave roars. Palmon grabbed Mimi's hand and pulled. "Mimi! Let me help!" she pleaded. "We've gotta save Yolei!"

Mimi looked at her friends, then at Jachomon, and reluctantly raised her Digivice too. Palmon beamed as the light enveloped her and she became the prickly boxer Togemon once more. "Yeah!" she boomed as she stomped after the others. "Wait up, guys! I'm coming!"

Pegasusmon and Nefertimon reached Jachomon first and flew around its head, and as it angrily brought its hands back to grab for them, Digmon raced to the burning store and broke down the door. "Don't worry! Friendly monster!" he said quickly, awkwardly scooping Toshiko up and trying not to spin his drills.

Toshiko coughed hard. "Sora… where's Sora?!" she asked.

Digmon watched Greymon, Garurumon and Togemon run past to attack Jachomon, then clattered the other way. "She's right here!" he said, handing Toshiko off to her daughter and the other kids.

"Mom!" Sora cried, grabbing her tightly. "Are you OK?!"

Toshiko tried to speak, but her voice disappeared into more coughs. Her clothes were smoky and her skin had several blemishes and burn marks. "Shh, don't try to talk; it's all right now," Sora assured her. Izzy suddenly wished he hadn't sent Joe on his errand to the morgue.

Cody nodded to Digmon. "Good work," he said, "now help the others!"

"Right!" Digmon agreed, and rushed back the other way.

Cody watched him go, but then realized the fight with Jachomon wasn't going well at all; the burning monster seemed impervious to the Digimon's attacks. Pegasusmon and Nefertimon's Golden Noose just fizzled out as they tried to snare it. Togemon shot off volleys of needles as fast as she could, but they burned away before they even reached Jachomon's surface. The fireballs from Greymon, Garurumon and Birdramon just got absorbed, and Kabuterimon's electricity only made the monster angrier. In a blaze of fire breath, Jachomon downed the bug, and then spat the rest over the other Digimon, leaving them all charred and smoking on the ground. They groaned and tried to get up, but none of them could.

Jachomon laughed darkly and turned its sights on the humans behind the monsters, starting to float towards them. "Shit!" Tai cursed. "Now what?!"

"Great," Matt grumbled, "we're gonna get done in by Yolei."

"No…" Poromon whimpered, and backed himself against Kari's arms.

Cody swallowed hard; he had to share his epiphany. "I know what Jachomon is!" he said, then sprinted towards the monster.

"I—what?!" Kari asked. "No! Cody, come back!"

Ignoring the others' yells, Cody ran until Jachomon glared solely at him, its fists balling to smash him. Digmon looked up painfully. "C-Cody…" he wheezed. "Run…"

"Yolei! Listen to me!" Cody yelled to the monster. "This is all my fault!"

Jachomon growled, but didn't move. Cody shook his head. "It's that awful feeling I had… I was hot all the time… I wanted to kill Ken…" he explained slowly. "I started feeling that way when we went through the tunnel, and I kept it with me until yesterday…" He gave the monster a sorrowful look. "It's my fault it came here," he said, "and now it's got you instead!"

The older kids exchanged puzzled looks. "Tunnel?" Tai asked. "When was that?"

TK and Kari both looked at each other knowingly. "I remember," TK said, recalling those venomous thoughts he'd experienced in the dark passage. "It must have been waiting there for us, and then it tried to go into each of us… and it got Cody."

Kari shivered. Dagomon's reach extended even to her friends. How could she hope to fight that?

"I… I couldn't let go of the hatred, and that's why it got all the way here," Cody went on. "Please, Yolei, you have to do the same! Let go of it, before you really hurt someone!"

Jachomon's eyes narrowed at the pesky child, and then brought its hand down. He scampered away as it crashed in the tar. "Let it go!" he yelled again. "That's the only way!"

Jachomon roared and spat more fireballs. Tai grabbed Cody just before they splattered on him and sprinted back to the others. The burning face snarled and kept advancing. Why should she let go, Yolei thought bitterly? Nobody really cared. Nobody really wanted her; they just wanted to be spared cremation.

"I don't think talking's gonna work!" Tai said as he set Cody down.

"Is that really what happened?" Sora asked him.

Cody nodded. "I knew as soon as I saw it," he said. "It's what's doing this to her."

"You made it leave your body before this happened to you," Izzy said. "How?"

Cody shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted, "it just left after the—" he stopped and thought again. He had stopped feeling the awful heat after the funeral. When he had admitted to Upamon that he had been wrong about Ken, and resolved to be a better person, it had left. It wasn't fighting, and it wasn't anything logical; he just realized that things weren't really how he saw them. So, maybe… "Poromon!" he barked to the little bird, "why has Yolei been so unhappy lately?"

Poromon screwed up his face, thinking where to even start as Jachomon slowly kept coming. "U-um, lots," he stammered. "She… she wanted Ken to notice her, and he got mad at her instead… and Davis was yelling at her and pushing her around… and then Ken died…" He paused and shuddered. "It's like she thinks she doesn't have any other friends… not even me."

Cody nodded. "Then that's the answer," he said, looking at his friends. "Follow me!" Before the others could ask, he raced towards Jachomon again. "Yolei! You're not alone!" he shouted. "We're you're friends!"

The creature snarled and raised both hands to produce another dozen deadly fireballs. Cody's heart pounded and his legs screamed at him to run, but he stayed put, thinking of a specific example. "You… you always know what's wrong with my computer; you can always fix it," he said. The fireballs appeared in Jachomon's palms, and Cody struggled for something better. "And… and you helped me choose my nickname! That helped me make new friends!" he said quickly. "I don't think I ever thanked you for that… so I'm saying it now! Thank you!"

Jachomon hesitated, the fireballs smoking in its hands. Yolei's tired mind slowly took the boy's words in. Cody was a crabby little jerk… but he still called her a friend?

Izzy nodded. "I get it," he said. "Quickly! Think of something you can say to Yolei! Something personal!" He ran up and joined Cody. "You're incredibly smart and talented, and your thinking is unconventional… which is good!" he called. "You've done things with computers I never even thought of trying. I've learned a lot from you, Yolei!"

Kari approached with Poromon. "Yolei… thanks for coming to the Dark World with me," she said. "Even though you were unhappy, you still came, and you still did your best… and you made a big difference. I felt better with you there."

TK racked his brain for something. "Uh… w-well," he tried, "ever since I met you, it's been a thrill a minute. You're always surprising me, Yolei. You're genuinely fun to be around!"

Jachomon's growl became heavy breathing, and still it didn't throw its fireballs. From his place sitting on the street, Davis listened to the others try to talk Yolei down, his stomach acids gurgling as he digested his ineptitude. Maybe he should have tried that.

Mimi slowly approached next. Jachomon's eyes narrowed and the fireballs flared up, but, her whole body shaking, she stood her ground. "M-Miyako?" she said nervously, avoiding the monster's gaze, "I… I'm sorry. I offered to help you because I thought it would make me more popular if I could turn an ugly girl attractive…"

Jachomon snarled and glowed angry orange, pulling its arm back to throw. Mimi hesitated, then looked up again. "B-but as we hung out, I felt more and more that I could open up to you… and I liked being with you!" she said quickly. She swallowed a few times, and finding she hadn't been incinerated, kept going. "I'm sorry I used you like that. And I'm sorry I screamed at you about Ken, too; I know he changed now… You're a real friend, Miyako. I can be myself around you, and I haven't been able to do that in a long time. Please, Miyako… N-no, please, Yolei… don't do this."

Sora looked at Tai and Matt, but both boys hung back. "Ugh, I just don't know her that well," Tai muttered. "I can't think of anything."

Anything good, Matt felt like saying, but he just shook his head.

Sora swallowed, then made her way towards Jachomon. "Cody's right, Yolei," she said, "everyone here is your friend. Sometimes… we just take each other for granted and don't say what we should say, but it's true… and I'm your friend, too. I know we've had our differences, but I never stopped thinking otherwise. Please, stop this. Let go of Jachomon, and we can sort things out." She paused and then looked up. "I know I hurt you, and I'm sorry. Yolei, everyone here cares about you and wants you back. Please… give us another chance."

Jachomon silently stared at the six kids before it, seemingly frozen in place, the fireballs fizzling in its hands. "I don't believe it," Matt muttered. "Did it work?"

"Maybe…" Tai said, quietly wishing Sora had sent those words his way.

Yolei's eyes spilled over as she looked at the kids, beside herself with remorse, but also a sad kind of happiness. She had been wrong. They really did like her. They really did want her around, even Sora and Mimi. She didn't have to finish her rampage…

But her mind continued to spatter her vision with the memories of their disdain and insults. Cody's scorn, Mimi's mockery, Sora's punch and Davis's shouting and wrestling all dragged themselves around in her skull. The surrounding heat, which used to be comforting, stung like a bad sunburn and worsened with each memory. She squeezed her eyes shut and grabbed at her head with a groan, but as hard as she tried she couldn't stop thinking about them; it was like someone else was forcing her to remember it all and stay angry. Her body suddenly shuddered with the fact she had ignored. Of course someone else was doing it; she was inside Jachomon, and Jachomon was inside her. He was using her body well enough, so he had to be working her mind, too. "N-no…" she whimpered, "get out… get out of me!"

But she let it take over, didn't she, she thought?… though she swore she hadn't meant to think it. She wanted revenge. She wanted them to pay. Now that power was hers, and now… her mind blazed with crystal-clear, terrible scenes: Veemon, Armadillomon and all of her friends' Digimon screaming and bursting into deleted pixels; the city in blazing ruins, fires dancing around burned-out vehicles and charred corpses as Deadmon slunk by; Dagomon towering in the sky, clutching a screaming Kari in the palm of one hand, mashing the rest of the Digidestined into black jelly in the other. She panted hard as she fought the images, but they would not disperse. As compensation for her body, she thought, before her soul slipped away, fire would rain down on all who wronged her. She felt like she was being burned at the stake, her eyes getting ready to pop. "No… NO!" she yelled. "Sora! Mimi! Cody! HELP! HELP! HELllll…"

Her voice quieted itself, and her hand reached up and put a finger to her lips… and her lips shushed her. Horror took her heart. What she wanted no longer mattered. Jachomon was in total control.

The fiery monster came back to life with a roar and hurled its fireballs, sending the kids running in all directions. "Yolei!" Poromon squawked, flapped his wings wildly. "Did you guys hear her?!"

"Yeah… She's still in there somewhere!" Cody said, balling his fists.

"But from the sound of it, she's not running the show anymore," Izzy gulped.

The Digimon groaned and growled, slowly getting back up; the girl's muffled shouts from inside the creature stirred them to try once more. Birdramon shrieked and took to the air. "Let her go!" she yelled at Jachomon.

Jachomon sucked in air and spewed another wave of fire. The Digimon with wings flew away, but the rest were pushed back into the remains of the police car barricade. "AUUGH! Why is it always fire?!" Togemon yelled, flailing like a flipped turtle.

The flying Digimon tried their attacks again, but none of them left an impact; not even Nefertimon, with her shining new tail ring, made any headway. Sora and TK had ended their panicked jog near where Davis still sat paralyzed and Imperialdramon lay silent. "This isn't any good," Sora growled, "Jachomon's too strong."

"We need to get Yolei away from it," TK said. "If it's not feeding off her anger, it might get weaker!"

Davis listened to them, then stared at Jachomon. He had tried to do the same thing, he remembered, but she had chosen Jachomon over his help.

"Where is she in there?" Sora asked. "Do you remember?"

"There, I think," TK said, pointing at the asteroid beneath the flaming face. It wasn't an ideal spot for an attack, but it could be the quickest way to end the fight. "We'd better all do it at the same time!"

Sora nodded, then waved at Matt, Kari and Izzy, who also were protecting her unconscious mother. "Everybody attack the core!" she yelled.

"Under the face!" TK shouted to Tai, Mimi and Cody. "That's where she is!"

Tai nodded and made a fist. "Greymon!" he called to his partner. "You heard TK!"

Greymon snarled and got back on his feet, shaking himself off. "I'M the one who does the toasting here!" he huffed at Jachomon.

"I've had enough of you," Garurumon growled, preparing to rush the fireball.

"Everybody ready?" Pegasusmon asked, bracing himself. "Then… GO!"

With frenzied roars and shrieks, the eight Armor and Champion Digimon threw themselves at Jachomon, who responded by throwing not only more fireballs, but glowing asteroids as well. Garurumon leaped over one as it smashed into the street, and Togemon punched one back the other way, destroying a melted car.

Nefertimon, Pegasusmon and Kabuterimon began the assault with their lasers and blasts, but Jachomon waved them away and threw more asteroids. In the moment while it was targeting the fliers, the ground-based Digimon rushed in and attacked the core with everything they had. Greymon rammed it with his horns, Garurumon clawed and gnawed at it, Digmon threw his drills and Togemon punched like lightning. However, nothing they did made any scratches in the surprisingly tough molten rock. "Oh, crap!" Digmon huffed. "Now what?!"

He got his answer when Jachomon scooped him up along with Greymon and threw them both at the airborne Digimon. With a harsh smashing noise, all five Digimon plummeted down onto Togemon and Garurumon, and then Jachomon breathed fire over the entire heap. The Digimon roared and screamed, then shrank back down to wounded lesser forms. Only Birdramon remained in her Champion state. Izzy's mouth dropped. "That… that was our best try," he uttered.

"Yolei, please! Stop!" Mimi screamed at Jachomon.

Jachomon laughed darkly, its fires growing wilder. The broken glass from nearby windows began to melt on the sidewalk. "That's not going to work this time," Matt muttered.

Birdramon flapped her wings angrily. "Now it's my turn," she growled.

"No, Birdramon!" Sora urged.

"Sora, look at our friends!" Birdramon huffed. "I'm the only one who can do it now!"

"B-but…" Sora tried.

The whole street suddenly rumbled. Imperialdramon stirred, then weakly began to right himself. "No, Birdramon," he said slowly, lifting his scorched face, "you are not alone."

Davis looked up and sprang to his feet; seeing his partner come back to life surprised him enough to free his legs. "Imperialdramon!" he said. "You OK?!"

A great whoosh came as Imperialdramon's back laser began to charge again. Jachomon screamed and inhaled for another fire wave. "Davis, get away!" Tai yelled.

Davis turned and ran as fast as he could, but still was blown off his feet as Jachomon and Imperialdramon fired their assaults at the same time. Imperialdramon was consumed in the flames and his agonized roar shriveled into a chirping scream as he became a crispy, exhausted Chibomon, but he had also found his mark; the white laser struck Jachomon's core, driving the beast backwards with an ear-shattering screech. It grabbed onto two buildings to brace itself, a sizable hole visible on the core.

Sora saw their chance. "Birdramon! NOW!" she yelled.

"Yolei!" Birdramon shrieked, diving at Jachomon and sinking her talons into the core. She scraped the hole even wider, and Jachomon emitted a furious, pained howl as Yolei tumbled out, unconscious. Birdramon grabbed her before she hit the concrete and flew back.

"YES!" Sora cheered, pumping her fist. "Good job, Birdramon!"

Hissing and gurgling, Jachomon angrily reached for Birdramon, but its hands fizzled away to a pile of blackened rocks as the rest of it rapidly disappeared. Without Yolei, its fires calmed and burned themselves out. What remained was a bristling little patch of flame that looked like a severed Meramon head, angrily spitting embers. Birdramon raised her free foot and stamped it out. "Good riddance," she huffed.

A heavy silence settled over the street. Davis ran back to Chibomon and scooped him up. "Say something, little guy!" he whispered.

Chibomon coughed, then opened one eye. "Is Yolei OK, Davis…?" he wheezed.

Davis turned and began to walk towards Birdramon, who placed Yolei on the ground and de-Digivolved to Biyomon as the other kids crowded around. The other Digimon picked themselves up nearby, none without injuries but still able to move. "Yolei, are you all right?!" Kari asked, grabbing the girl's shoulder.

"Yolei!" Poromon cried, landing on her shoulder and nuzzling her face. "Say something! Please!"

TK looked her over. She was breathing regularly. "It looks like she's OK," he said.

"Well… physically," Cody muttered, shaking his head.

Yolei groaned weakly, her eyes blurry. As the last of the steam dispersed and the cold returned to the street, her body began to shudder and shiver. "We've got to take her home," Izzy said. "She's going to freeze."

Davis bit his lip for a moment, then nodded to himself. "Kari, take care of him for me, would ya?" he asked, and then handed her his Digimon.

"Da… Davis?" Chibomon asked, squirming a little.

"What is it, Davis?" Kari asked.

Davis pushed Yolei into a sitting position, took off his own jacket and threw it over her shoulders, then pulled her arms over his neck and hoisted her up into a crude, overloaded piggyback with her head drooped over one of his shoulders. "I'll get 'er home," he grunted.

The others reacted with surprise. "Are you nuts? You can't carry her like that!" Matt huffed.

"Let one of us do it, Davis," Tai urged.

Davis shook his head. "C'mon… I've screwed up enough," he said, glancing at TK, Kari and Cody. "Lemme do this."

His younger friends looked at each other for a moment, then all of them nodded. "All right, Davis," TK said.

"Thanks," Davis replied.

"I'll help!" Poromon urged. "I know how to get home!"

Davis nodded, then turned and slowly started down the ruined street, Poromon flying in circles around him. The others watched until he turned a corner and vanished. "Bye, Davis…" Chibomon said sadly, then looked up at Kari. "Didn't he like my new Digivolution? Why did he leave?"

Kari gave him a little squeeze. "Don't worry, I'm sure he did," she said. "But I think he wants to take care of Yolei by himself. I'll take you back to Jun."

Tai and Izzy exchanged quiet glances. Chibomon's newest form was yet another puzzle, one that neither of them could fathom yet. Sora looked back at her mother, who was slumped against a nearby building, still breathing but unconscious. "I've gotta get Mom home, too," she said.

"Yeah, that's enough for one day, I think," Biyomon agreed. "Let's pick this up tomorrow."

The others began to disperse, but Mimi balled her fists. "Wait," she said, making them all turn and look at her. She shuddered and looked at the curious Palmon for a moment, then swallowed. "You guys…" she began, "the Digital World was the best thing that ever happened… but after we came back, I couldn't remember anything good about it… just the violence, and the dying… I couldn't get away from it… so I changed, made myself forget. I wanted to forget it… forget you… but…" she paused for a moment, then shook her head. "After the Deadmon… Ken… what Joe said… I know I can't… I never should." She looked up at them with full, wet eyes, her body trembling. "I… I want to help. I want to stop it…" Her voice was little more than a whimper now. "P-please… can I be your friend again?"

The older kids looked at her with understanding eyes; they had all reached a similar conclusion long before she had dared to consider it. Tai broke the silence with a warm smile. "Welcome back, Mimi," he said.

Her eyes spilled over. She rushed at the surprised Tai and pulled him into a tight hug as she bawled joyful sobs. The boy could only gurgle. "Hey, easy, Mimi!" Agumon blurted. "He's gotta breathe, you know!"

The other kids and the Digimon happily welcomed her back, too. Sora and Matt both patted her shoulders, and she clung to them as tightly as she had done to Tai. "Th-th-thank you…" she wept, finally breaking away. "I'll… I'll do my very best!…"

"Welcome back to you too, Palmon," Gabumon said, turning to her with a smile.

"Yeah! Thanks!" Palmon said, balling her roots and grinning at the Digimon. "I'm ready to get back in action!"

Cody was shocked to hear such a confession from someone he considered a selfish brat… but remembering his lesson with Ken, he simply nodded; if the older kids trusted Mimi that much, so would he.

With that, the party truly started to disperse. Sora went to her mother and tried to hoist her up, but she was too heavy. "Tai? Can you help me?" she asked, turning around… but Tai was walking away with Kari, Gatomon and Agumon. She fell silent and stared at the ground.

Matt noticed her trouble and patted TK on the shoulder. "I'll see you later," he said. "C'mon, Gabumon." The boy and his dog went over and lifted Toshiko on the other side, and Sora and he slowly began to walk her away.

TK and Cody were the only ones remaining. The wail of sirens hung in the air. "We'd better go too," Patamon said. "Sounds like the police are coming back!… or maybe the fire department!"

"Yeah…" Cody agreed, "let's go, TK."

TK nodded. As he turned, though, he kicked something that clattered. He looked down and saw Davis's blue D3 near his shoe; the hotheaded boy hadn't reclaimed it. He picked it up and put it in his pocket.

… … …

When Izzy and Tentomon returned to the Izumi apartment after walking the girls home, they found Joe and Gomamon waiting in the living room. "Hey, Izzy," Gomamon said, then sniffed. "You guys smell kinda crispy. Something happen?"

"Err, yes, I'll tell you in a moment," Izzy said, "but did you find anything?"

Joe produced his notebook along with several sheets of paper. "I found all the files on the autopsy, and I made copies," he said, his eyes bright despite their fatigue. "Izzy, you were right; there was something weird in here. Take a look."

Izzy picked up the papers and stared at them for a long time, his eyebrows weaving around on his skull. After ten minutes, he looked at Joe awkwardly. "Err, Joe… I know this sounds strange… but I don't understand these at all," he admitted. "Could you explain it to me?"

"My goodness!" Tentomon buzzed, his head swiveling on his partner in surprise. "Did you just say that, Izzy?!"

"He must be getting old," Gomamon joked.

"That's not it," Izzy said sharply, his cheeks flashing. "My field is electronics, not biology. The terminology is completely different."

Joe nodded, a rare moment of pride swelling in his chest. "All right, Izzy, I'll talk you through it," he said, "but it might take a while."

"I've got all evening," Izzy said, starting to walk to the kitchen. "Let me get some drinks."

As he rummaged around in the fridge, Joe scratched his head. "So, uh… did Mimi make it to the meeting?" he asked.

"Well… yes," Izzy said as he pulled out two soda cans, "you could say that."

Now Joe was back in his role as the confused one. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"I'll tell you," Izzy said, "but after you've explained these files. Did you want grape or orange?"

… … …

"It's OK, Mom, we're almost there," Sora quietly said to her mother as Matt and she walked her out of the elevator and towards the apartment door.

"I'll be fine, dear," Toshiko replied, though she concluded with several coughs.

"Easy, don't talk so much," Matt said. "You probably inhaled a lot of smoke."

Toshiko shook her head and cleared her throat. "What about you?" she asked her daughter. "And everyone else?…"

"Everybody's fine, Mom," Sora assured her.

"Yeah… I hope you've got more flowers somewhere else, though," Biyomon said.

"And a new shop," Gabumon muttered.

Toshiko smiled weakly. "Don't worry about that," she said. "We can always—" she broke into another coughing fit.

The apartment door opened and Haruhiko came out, his face pale with worry. "Oh, my God! Toshiko!" he cried, running over and grabbing his wife. "I just saw the news! Tell me you're OK!"

Toshiko started to speak, but only coughs came out. "It's OK, honey, don't force it," he said, taking her from the kids. "Do you want to go to the hospital? Let's go now!"

"I… Don't worry, I feel fine," Toshiko replied, coughing again.

"Nonsense! We're going!" Haruhiko urged, then looked back at Sora. "Sora, you and your friend come too!"

"We're OK, really—" Matt tried, but the look on Haruhiko's face made him reconsider. "Uh, all right," he said. "C'mon, Gabumon."

"Do we have to?" Gabumon asked. "What if people panic?"

"I don't think this'll take long," Sora said. "You can wait in the car if you want."

"Um, well, OK," Biyomon replied, not wanting to delay if Sora's mom really needed a doctor.

They headed back for the elevator, Haruhiko talking quietly and reassuringly to his wife. Sora watched them interact with a puzzling kind of comfort. She had always thought her parents' relationship felt strained, almost phony… but as he helped Toshiko along, her father sounded scared, and almost looked about to break down. She couldn't remember seeing him act like that before.

Matt's elbow got her attention. She looked over and saw him smile a little. "You did good today," he said, "talking Yolei down."

"W-well, I didn't do it alone," she said, shaking her head. "Cody had the idea, and…"

"I think what you said was the most effective," he went on, a distant look in his eyes. "We both know how hard it is to stop feeling like that… It's good you remembered enough to reach her."

Sora fell quiet and nodded. She knew what Matt meant. On their first adventure, both of them had succumbed to a dark presence and been pulled deep into their own despair. If it hadn't been for Gabumon, Matt never would have escaped it… and if not for Matt and Joe, Sora wouldn't have, either. "I just…" she searched for words, "she needed to know that we cared. That's all."

Matt nodded. "She's lucky to have you as a mentor," he said. "You showed why you earned your Crest today."

Sora said nothing else. She just followed her parents towards the parking garage.

… … …

Jun squealed angrily at the sight of the banged-up Chibomon, making everybody wince and recoil. "NO! My baby!" she cried, snatching him from Kari's grip. "What did you do to him?!" she demanded.

"N-no, it wasn't us!" Agumon yelped. "Honest!"

Gatomon hid behind Kari's legs. She could handle stuff like a malevolent vampire and a giant fire demon, but a pissed off older sister was out of her league.

"It wasn't us, Jun," Tai tried to calm her down. "Davis was—"

"Daisuke! Where is he?!" she asked, pushing him aside and looking around. "How could he let this happen?! I'm gonna pound him so hard he'll—"

"Ooogh… I'm gettin' sick," Chibomon complained. Jun blinked, then stood still.

"Jun, let us explain," Kari said. "See, what happened was…"

Jun stayed quiet as Kari told her what had happened. "…So we brought Chibomon back here," she finished. "Davis is taking care of Yolei."

Jun looked down at Chibomon. "Is that true?" she asked.

"Yep," Chibomon agreed, smiling sadly. "Don't be mad at him, Jun."

Jun looked past them at the setting sun and sighed, then her mouth curled into a wry smile. "Guess there's a grown-up somewhere in that kid after all," she said.

Kari scratched her head. "What do you mean?" she asked.

Jun paused, then gave Kari a sympathetic smile. "You'll understand someday," she said, patting her on the shoulder.

Kari blinked several times, even more confused. Tai smiled and shook his head at Jun; he doubted even she could get through to his sister on that topic.

"Well, I guess I'll forgive him this time," Jun said, pulling back to the door with Chibomon. "Careful on your way home, OK?"

"Uh, yeah… Goodnight, Jun," Kari said. As they left the building and headed down the street, she turned to the others. "What was that all about?" she asked.

Tai just shook his head. "Don't worry about it," he said.

"Maybe Matt's right," Agumon said, "maybe she is kinda nuts."

Gatomon rolled her eyes. "You're the one who's nuts," she muttered.

"How come she acts like that with Chibomon, anyway?" Agumon went on. "He's not her partner."

"I think it's sweet," Kari said. "She's almost motherly with him."

"You should've seen them yesterday," Gatomon said. "No wonder he wants to protect her."

Tai chuckled, then looked at his sister. "Tough day, huh?" he asked.

"Yeah…" she agreed solemnly. "I'm just glad we saved Yolei."

Tai stared at the ground. "Well, you did," he said. "I couldn't say anything."

"It's OK, Tai," Gatomon said, "things worked out in the end."

They walked on in silence. Tai chewed the exchange over in his mind again. He couldn't say anything to reach Yolei… just as he couldn't say anything to reach Sora the night before. The two situations were completely different, and yet he couldn't help but see he had reacted the same way. He shook his head and told himself to snap out of it—he was being clingy and pathetic about losing Sora—but seeing that his inaction was spreading to other parts of his life made him feel even worse. Numerous questions floated through his gray mind. Why had she backed away from him out of the blue? And how could he have let her do it without asking why? Maybe she was hurting like Yolei had been… like all of them had been since Ken died. What kind of boyfriend—no, what kind of best friend was he to just let Sora go without question?

They rounded the corner and their apartment building appeared. Tai looked up at the lights turning on as the darkness came and sniffed at the cold. Letting things sit as they were was not OK. It wasn't just about romance; Sora was his friend no matter what, and if he could help her, he wanted to. He didn't want to hear why she didn't want to be with him, but he knew he needed to. Maybe it was something he could fix, maybe it wasn't… but he needed to know. He needed to make the effort.

A low gurgle interrupted his thoughts. "Whew… all that action worked up an appetite," Agumon said, patting his belly. "What do you think will be dinner tonight?"

"Hopefully something that doesn't need cooking," Gatomon muttered.

… … …

Davis paused and leaned against a streetlight to rest again; Yolei was more awkward to carry and heavier than he thought. The light came on as he rested, proving the whole day had passed devoted to dealing with her. "Davis, you look beat," Poromon said. "Should we call someone else?"

After a few breaths, Davis pushed himself off and kept walking. "I'm fine," he insisted, taking a few more steps. Poromon looked worried, but said nothing.

He turned a corner with his load and started down a strangely empty street, though he didn't mind; he didn't want people coming up and asking questions, and it gave him time to think about what came next. Listening to Cody and the others talk Yolei down and away from Jachomon may have made her feel better, but it made him feel even worse for being so rough on her; he knew she meant all that nasty stuff she spewed at him. Taking her home wasn't going to be enough. He had to say something, too… but what? The sounds of his footsteps seemed to ask that question each time. What? What could he say?

Finally he arrived at her apartment. He was puffing pretty hard, so Poromon flapped ahead and quickly rapped on the door with his beak. It opened to a very surprised Momoe. "What the…?!" she gasped. "Miyako?! How did…"

"C'mon, outta the way!" Davis barked as he started in. "Where's her folks?"

"I… they're not home," she said, then quickly raced to the living room. "Mantarou! Chizuru!"

Yolei's two other siblings appeared, equally shocked. "She… she was in her room!" Chizuru spluttered. "When did she… How?!"

"Never mind," Mantarou said, gesturing Davis towards the open door to Yolei's room. "Bring her in here."

"You didn't even notice she was gone?!" Poromon squawked. "Sheesh!"

Davis couldn't believe Yolei's siblings hadn't noticed she had gone missing either, but at the moment he didn't care. He shuffled into the cluttered little room and laid her on her cold, unmade bed. Momoe was still firing off panicked questions at him. "Did you take her out?" she asked. "No, did you find her? Why's her toy flying and talking?!"

"Later," he muttered, "she needs warmin' up."

"Err, right," Chizuru said, more level headed than her sister. "You boys get tea, we'll get some fresh clothes on her."

Davis and Mantarou quickly went to the kitchen and brewed a steaming pot of green tea. When they returned, the girls had propped Yolei up on the bed and dressed her in a cream-colored sweater, green sweatpants and wool socks. "Thanks," Chizuru said, taking the teacup and making Yolei drink it before laying her back down and covering her with the blanket.

"Will she be OK?" Poromon asked nervously.

"I think so," Mantarou said, "just needs to stay warm."

"Now, seriously," Momoe broke in, "why is the bird thing talking?!"

"'Cuz I'm not a 'bird thing,'" Poromon said, turning to her, "I'm a Digimon."

"Dig… what?" she asked, a pang of fear shooting through her eyes. "Like those monsters that attacked?!"

"Well, yes an' no," Davis tried. "Look, he's friendly, that's all you gotta know right now, so—"

A groan came from the bed. Everyone turned to see Yolei stir and half-open her bleary, wet eyes. "Miyako!" Chizuru said. "Oh, good!"

Yolei's whole body shivered and she pulled her arms in close like an upended puppy, beginning to sniffle again as her eyes spilled over. "It's OK, you're home now," Momoe said, putting a hand on her.

"Yolei!" Poromon chirped, flying beside her head and nuzzling her.

"Looks like you had quite an adventure," Chizuru said. "I'm gonna want to hear about this one!"

"I… my…" Yolei murmured, looking around at her siblings' smiling faces… but then she zeroed in on Davis. "Ugh… go away," she groaned.

Davis sighed. "Yolei, wait," he tried.

"Get lost!" she huffed weakly, grabbing her second pillow and chucking it at him. It landed on the foot of her bed, nowhere near him. She angrily pulled the blanket over her head.

Mantarou scratched his head, then looked at Davis's downcast expression. "Well, it looks like she's all right…" he said to his sisters, "we should excuse ourselves…"

"Oh… right," Momoe said with another look Davis couldn't understand.

"Are you kidding?! I wanna see the fireworks!" Chizuru objected. Mantarou grabbed her arm and led her out, closing the door behind.

Davis and Poromon were left alone with Yolei. An uncomfortable silence filled the air, and Davis found he still had no words. He shuffled over to the corner of the room and let her sniffle under her sheets.

Poromon looked between them, then hopped over until he could see the top of her purple hair. "Yolei, are you feeling better?" he asked.

Yolei sighed, then lowered the blanket and sat up. "No," she said, staring at her covered feet. "I almost… killed everyone today."

"But… but it wasn't your fault!" Poromon said, fluttering onto her legs. "It was Jachomon!"

Yolei shook her head. "I let it take over," she admitted. "I wanted to hurt them… I was so mad… I really did…"

Davis quietly stared at the closet door. Poromon hesitated, then looked at her again. "Are you still mad now?" he asked.

Yolei slowly shook her head. "No… just sad," she said. "What they all said then… they really did care about me… but I still tried to…" she stopped and rubbed at her eyes. "Will they forgive me?" she asked.

Poromon nodded. "I'm sure they will," he said. "I know I do."

Yolei panted and managed a feeble smile, and she scooped Poromon up. "At least there's that…" she said, clutching him tightly. "I'm so sorry, Poromon! I didn't mean what I said!"

"It's OK… I know you didn't," he wheezed, his voice strained from the squeezing.

Davis shifted his weight and cringed. Seeing her as upset and vulnerable as that made his insides hurt, too; he couldn't take much more. He sucked in a deep gulp of air. "Hey, Yolei, I gotta say something," he said.

Yolei shut her eyes and looked away. "I don't want to hear it," she whispered.

Davis paused, then shook his head. "No, listen, uh… what you said before…" he stumbled, "well… you were right. I was… bein' extra mean when you started changing… and I… I want… I think you oughta know why."

She hesitated, then looked back at him, and he felt like he could go on. "I got mad because…" he proceeded haltingly, "well, I got mad 'cuz you weren't… you anymore… You were turnin' into someone else… and, well, I got… scared."

Yolei straightened up and her fingers dug into Poromon's fur, surprised. Davis was admitting she scared him?

He chewed at his lip for a moment, then continued. "I give you lots of shit for bein' a loudmouth and a geek and a slob…" he noticed she was starting to glare again and moved on, "but I know by now that's you bein' you. Hell, we've been pals since preschool, and with all the crazy stuff we got up to, I've gotten used to it."

Her glare faded. "Pals," she thought? Even though they fought like mad dogs, he still thought of her as a friend? She thought back on their younger days and remembered some of the better times, feeling a little warmer as she did.

Davis sighed. "I… I thought you'd always be like that, doin' yer crazy stuff," he admitted. "When you changed, well… it was like someone kicked my legs out under me. I couldn't tell up from down anymore." He paused and swallowed a few times, the talking beginning to take its toll. "I know you liked Ken. A lot. And I know you wanted to get his attention… but, well… all those changes… it was like you were… leavin' me behind." He hesitated, then half-gasped. "Uh, an' everyone else, too." he added quickly.

Yolei squeezed Poromon harder, making the little bird squeak. She never thought she would hear something like that from Davis. All the insults and the jabs… she thought he just got a kick out of bullying her, not that he was afraid of losing her friendship.

"Y-yeah, I was mad at you for changing so much," he went on, avoiding her eyes, "I still am… but… ugh, I ain't good at that kind of thing. The way I showed it, I know why you flipped out like that. So…" with some difficulty he looked up and matched her gaze. A good ten seconds passed as he clenched his fists and his lips twitched, trying to speak. Finally, he shook his head and sighed. "I'm… sorry," he finally mumbled. "I'm sorry I made you feel so bad… and for… lots of stuff." He watched her a moment more, then turned away, reaching for the door. "Anyway… see ya," he muttered.

Yolei bit into her lip, tears welling in her eyes. Her image of the soccer-loving hothead had just been flipped on its head, and she felt hollow with guilt. In the process of trying to attract Ken, she hadn't just hurt Sora and Mimi, she had hurt Davis too… a lot. He had liked her as the friend she was, the person she was, and she had burned it all up in his face. "W-wait, stop!" she spluttered.

He looked back at her, his darkened eyes puzzled. She shook her head; he needed to know something, too. "I… I'm sorry too," she said, "for what I said to you… what I did…" She looked at him again and then off to a corner. "Making myself pretty for Ken… it didn't work," she admitted. "I know he didn't like me… he barely knew I was there… but I wanted to believe he did." Her mouth widened as she held back the waves of emotion. "I just wanted to believe somebody could… could…" she trailed off with a high whimper.

Davis watched her for a moment, then sighed sadly. Maybe making her feel that way was his fault, too. His chest burned and his stomach shuddered. He couldn't understand why they did that, but something inside him just wanted to stop her tears, to make her feel better, to see her smile and laugh again.

He walked back towards the bed, then noticed her old, thick glasses sitting quietly on the bedside table, near a jellied bowl of soup. He picked them up and turned them over in his hands, feeling the film on the glass. "Yolei," he said to her.

As she turned to him with her red eyes, he opened the legs of the glasses and then gently slid them onto her face. He looked her over, the room's light reflecting off the grease, and grinned. "There we go," he said quietly, "now that's you."

Poromon beamed. "Yeah!" he chirped. "Now you look like the best partner in the world!"

She lifted her hands and felt the warming metal around her eyes, then looked up at Davis and his cocky smirk. Her lip trembled, and her eyes finally spilled over. She lunged at Davis and threw her arms around him, bawling like a toddler.

"H-hey, don't… C'mon, stop it," he protested, trying to squirm out of her grip, but her deep sobs washed away his desire to flee. He surrendered and hugged her back, letting her wail into his shirt.

Poromon flew onto her back and nuzzled at the base of her neck. Now her memory gleamed with all the times over the years that Davis and she had played, fought, made up and repeated the cycle. Despite the insults and the fighting and the dunks in the pond, he had stuck with her… he really was, she finally realized, her best friend. She shivered as his warm fingers dug into the small of her back, and she squeezed even harder.

Davis's legs were still weak from hauling her all the way home, so he sat down next to her on the bed, letting her cry as long as she wanted to. His guilt and apprehension melted, his worry over what to say faded. He had done the right thing.