Chapter 26/Final: Bittersweet Homecoming

MegaKabuterimon landed from the long journey to the North Pole, where recently, Ash, Misty, T.K. and Kari fought the legendary cosmic dragon, Godal. The battle was long, and hard fought, but, in the end, the humans, decked out in full dragon armor, destroyed the giant dragon. Max, Sarin, Izzy, Yolei and the creatures dismounted from MegaKabuterimon, and ran to find the heroes of RainBellian. "They did it!" Max cheered happily. The creatures were all giggles and smiles, anxious to see their friends, again.

"I knew they could do it!" Yolei loudly chirped. The land of the North Pole was real eye-candy, since the colors of the continent were restored. After a minute of searching, Max and Yolei found the...saddened heroes? Of course. Although, they managed to defeat the dragon, it didn't occur, without a price. Godal fired its eye beam, fatally striking Prince Ravors of Venocious, and Princess Crystal of RainBellian. The team tried to aid them of their injuries, but after the battle, their Fusion Orbs of the guardians, or fragments of the mystic dragons, vanished. There was nothing that the heroes could do. Now, two handmade crosses were erected, in the distance. There were names, on the crosses: CRYSTAL and RAVORS. The four heroes looked as miserable as they could be. Those crosses bared reason. Max and Yolei weren't as cheerful as before, now that they saw the emotionally-downed warriors.

"Guess they failed to do something." Max was worried about Ash and Misty, two trainers who stood up to challenges, thrown their way, without hesitation. They were silent. More silent than a cemetery. Yeah, insert pun here.

"You don't really need to specify. It's clear enough of what happened." Yolei was worried about T.K. and Kari, two longtime members of the Digidestined, who willing to help anyone in need.They were just as silent, while Patamon, Gatomon, Pikachu, and Togetic prayed on the souls of the departed, on their safe journey, by the crosses.

"...And may these souls, cleansed of sins, be accepted to thy lord, Amen," Gatomon murmured in the prayer.

"Amen," Patamon softly mulled.

("Amen,") Pikachu and Togetic copied. Thoughts, sad thoughts, flowed through the human heroes' mind's.

'We came so far, and did so much,' Misty whimpered in thought. The journey...

'There are so many people, that'll hate us, for this,' T.K. groaned in thought. The friends...

'To defeat so many, and to lose so much,' Kari mulled in mind. The battles...

'And yet, we couldn't protect the ones, who were important,' Ash grumbled in mind. These flowed through the minds of the four, who fought the convicts of Venocious. Izzy and Sarin arrived, as well as Hawkmon, Meowth and Motimon. They saw the depressed looks on the faces of the heroes, not sure on how to approach the situation. Finally, Yolei stepped up, hoping to put a smile on these down in the dump kids.

"You did all you could," she hummed to them. "You stopped that giant dragon, and saved the land." That was some comforting words. To them, it wasn't enough.

"The princess is dead," T.K. sulked. "We were willing to protect her, and we failed." That's a tough nut to take. Yolei, now, realized why the four were feeling down. Crystal was in the hands of the four, the she slipped from their grasps. To Kari, her long list of people who've died in life had been extended by two.

"Wizardmon, Sludgemon, Chuumon, several Numemon, Wormmon," she whimpered. "Not to mention, all those people in America who were lost on 9/11. And now, Ravors and Crystal." Wow! That's a long list. Although she wasn't familiar with any of the names, Misty understood where Kari was coming from.

"It's like, we save one life, another is lost," she muttered. It was like a balance with life and death. One lives, one dies, that's it. Max decided to say his piece.

"But you did everything possible," he proclaimed. "Maybe, it was time for her to depart." He did have a point, even though he had no idea about Crystal. She was around 215 years old, at youngest.

"You have no idea, what we went through," Ash groaned. Yolei got to Ash, and placed a hand on his head. This isn't a puppy, Yolei. She knelt to one knee, like she was proposing for a marriage.

"Look, not to sound cold, Ash," she softly hummed. "T.K., Misty, Kari, listen to me, too. A princess can be replaced. I understand that you did everything to protect her, but you should be proud of the number of lives that you saved, even us." Ash looked up to her. She was right. Despite the loss of Crystal, RainBellian was saved, as well as millions of people. She was more worried about the people, than herself. That's when Kari rose her head, and her voice.

"Think about the note, we received at the South Pole," she reviewed. "The last sentence was, 'Please save RainBellian.' I've heard about selfless people, throughout my life, and that I was wanting to be one. Now that I understand her motive, it might be best if we help search for the new wearer of the Forever Crown." New light had been born, inside the heroes. T.K. stood up, willing to back his friends.

"When you look at the big picture, we were meant to restore the planet," he replied. "We did that as a team. Because of our unity, we've overcame plenty of perils to get here." They did. From the moment, the Digidestined were with Pikachu and Togepi, and the trainers were with Patamon and Gatomon, to now, with the entire group mourning, but rejoicing the ultimate victory.

"We came together," Misty repeated T.K. "It's too bad we can't stay together, much longer. I would've liked to have T.K. with me, in the Ceruliean City gym." While that part was extra, everyone nodded, knowing that they would say goodbye to each other.

"I guess you're right," Ash eased. "We got to move forward, head on home, and live our lives." Yolei nodded, relieved that Ash had regained his composure. However... "But the thing do we get home?" On cue, guess who showed up? The guardian spirits. Everyone turned their attention to the spirits. "Ergaia, guardians..."

"Ashton, Mystique, Takeru, Hikari, you've succeeded in the protection of the planet of RainBellian," Ergaia praised the obvious. "I heard that the princess was lost, but panic for this world to collapse is a long way away. If there isn't a new pillar, within 25 years, the world would begin to fall apart." 25 years? That does give the guardians, plenty of time to find a new pillar. "However, before we search for the next wearer of the Forever Crown, we need to send you all home." The one word, all the kids were wanting to hear: home. Izzy, Kari, T.K., and Yolei would go back to their home in Japan, while Ash, Misty, and Max would return to Hoenn. Of course, their creatures would join, but what about Sarin? Max knew that Sarin was all alone, and wanted to have her, join with him.

"Excuse me, master Ergaia," he called.

"What is your question, Max?"

"Are you sending Sarin back to her home? I was wondering, if she could join me, back in the Pokémon world." Holion giggled at the little guy. Maybe, she wanted those two to be together, as well.

"I don't see that as a problem," she chuckled. Max couldn't be happier. He and Sarin would be together.

"We'll prepare the transportation to send you home," Aquos motioned. "In the meantime, why don't you give your farewells to everybody?" Well, what were the chances that they were going to see each other again? The creatures had gathered, saying their fond farewells.

"I guess, when you get back, you'll be your bad self, again," Patamon joked to Meowth.

"Well, keep in mind, I go through a lot of hardships," he admitted while scratching the back of his ears. "I did want to chuckle when the twerp said I was replaced by Wobbufett. I knew he was kidding." Pikachu knew it was Meowth, that was joking around. He was mad after Ash made that comment about Team Rocket, ditching him.

("Come on, Meowth,") he giggly squeaked. ("You were steaming from Ash's words.") Meowth groaned. Togetic laughed along with Pikachu, as well as Gatomon. Seems that the spirits of the Pokémon and Digimon were back to normal.

"Well, if we do find a way to see each other, again," Hawkmon beaked up. "Drop a line, OK?"

("I'd want to see more of your friends, Hawkmon,") Togetic chirped. Since Meowth was more adept to understand Pokémon language, he decided to interpret what Togetic mentioned.

"He was willing to see more of your Digimon," Meowth said. That's when Gatomon approached Pikachu. Looked like she was willing to give the mouse, the biggest farewell gift she could have.

"Listen, I know that we'll be away, from each other," she muttered. "Promise me that you'll be as strong, and protect Ash." Pikachu knew Gatomon was trustworthy, and wanted to reassure her.

("I'll keep an eye on Ash, like you keep an eye on Kari,") he promised. That's when, like on Yelkow, they gave each other, a farewell kiss. Tentomon saw the kiss, little jealous of the Pokémon's loving fortune.

"While I may be interested in some love match with a Pokémon and Digimon," he buzzed up. "But what are the chances that you two will see each other, again?" Wasn't that question asked, a little while ago?

("It's alright, Tentomon,") Togetic chuckled. ("Let 'em have their moment.") Meantime, Misty was making her prayers to the crosses of the fallen royals. T.K. approached from behind, wanting to comfort the water maiden. If they weren't snared by Godal's attacks, maybe...just maybe, Crystal and Ravors would be alive. That's how life is: unfair.

"Whatever we did to this world," he murmured. "The princess was happy about it." That was restoring RainBellian to full color.

"Still, I wish, there was more that we could do," she moaned. "But, I can admit, that I had some fun, with everyone." T.K. couldn't agree more. He and Kari got to learn about Pokémon and who assists them for living lives. Ash and Misty got to learn about Digimon, and who they protect. That's when she reached into her pocket, and pulled out a badge. The badge was shaped like a water droplet, and it had a safety pin, glued to the back. "I was willing to show May and Max, but I think, you've earned it. The Cascade Badge." The badge of Ceruliean Gym. Misty briefly clutched T.K.'s opened hand, and placed the badge in it.

"This is the badge from your gym?"

"Consider yourself, the first Digidestined to earn a Pokémon gym badge." It was a wonderful gift, with a lovely gym leader.

"Thanks, miss Waterflower." That's when T.K. reached in his pocket, and pulled out a key chain. The key chain had, what looked like, a mini figure of Matt, from the four-year-old photo. "You can have this." Misty held the key chain in her hand, puzzled about the figure.

"Who is this?"

"That's a doll version of Matt, my older brother. It's a lucky charm." Misty was surprised. It was like, she was able to see the family resemblance. "Ash told me that you were somewhat mistreated, for being the youngest of four sisters, like how I was abandoned by my older brother." So, it was something to ease her. If she ever became harmed by her sisters, again, she wouldn't be alone.

"Thanks. To be honest, I wish I had you, to stay with me." In another sign of comfort, T.K. placed a hand on Misty's shoulders. Misty turned her head, and locked eyes with the Digidestined friend.

"There will be a time, when we do meet, and stay, with each other, forever." Whoa! Blond boy's calling shots. Still, Misty smiled, before they kissed. Love was still in the air. Kari was by the shore, reflecting on what she and the rest had to endure. The fact, that she was going home, meant dealing with Davis, but being back with her older brother, Tai. Ash walked up to her side, willing to share the scenery.

"I know we gotta go our separate ways, Ash," Kari mumbled. "But I feel, like, I've only met you and Misty, yesterday." It was a sense that they were knowing them, for the first time. Then again, they've been traveling together for about a week and a half.

"I can relate," Ash confessed. "We understood each other, faster than what I wanted to believe. Then again, I never experienced feelings, like between us." So, there was some intimate love, between those two. That's when Ash reached into his bag, and pulled out a red cap, like the one he had on. That cap had a white section in the front, with a green triangle. "Thought I, give something to you, as a memento of RainBellian." He handed her the cap. She was wondering why she was getting a piece of headgear.

"This is one of your baseball caps?"

"It's my original. I wore it when I met Misty and Brock, and gone throughout Kanto, Orange and Johto regions. I think it could help you meet new friends." Oh, that was nice. Kari smiled, knowing that it was a nice gift.

"Thanks a lot." That's when she reached in her pocket, and pulled a whistle out. "You can have this." She handed the whistle to Ash.

"A whistle?"

"I used it when I was very little, and woke a large creature to protect me. I think, that whistle could have plenty of Pokémon to help you, in becoming a master." That was very thoughtful. Ash hugged Kari, thanking her for her gift. A moment later, they broke away, but held on to each other's backs. She did have more to say. "To be honest, I wish I could be with you, forever." As she whimpered that, a tear trickled down her face. Ash removed a hand, and, with one finger, wiped the tear from her face. That was heartwarming.

"This is the first time, for me to say this, but still, I love you, more than Misty, more than Yolei, more than any girl, I've met." That was touching. In reply, Kari twisted the bill of Ash's cap to the back. With that, she leaned in and kissed Ash. Max, Izzy, Yolei and Sarin saw the couple, and couldn't help, but smile.

"I've got nothing against Ash," Max mentioned. "It's Brock, I tend to want to keep on high alert." Yolei chuckled, mocking the boy's responsibility.

"You've got your Brock," she laughed. "We've got Davis." There can be some simple men out there. That's when she turned to the young boy. "You know, I'm gonna miss you, quite a bit, Maxy. I'll remember you, since you were my first kiss." Max started to blush, pretty heavily. Izzy thought it was the other way around.

"Wasn't it you, who kissed him?" he reviewed. Sarin started to laugh, thinking that it wasn't a big deal, as Yolei started to fumble at the question. After their moments, everyone gathered to their respectful sides: Pokémon and trainers, Max and Sarin, and Digimon and Digidestined. The four guardian spirits were ready to send them back home.

"We thank you, again, for the protection of RainBellian," Aquos praised.

"Without you, all, Godal would've taken this world's energy, and turn it into a wasteland," Holion added.

"While a pillar can be replaced, no one can replace your performance," Windalyr motioned.

"Now, it's time for you all to go," Ergaia started to finish. "I wish you, the best of luck, in the future." All four spirits started to glow. Soon enough, everyone was caught in the glow...

SIX MONTHS LATER...(Odiba, Japan)

T.K. and Kari, along with the rest, returned to the campsite, where Tai, Matt and the other second-generation Digidestined were before, when they returned from RainBellian. After ditching Matt with June, the rest left for the road, heading back to the city. T.K.'s father turned the radio on, learning about Ken's return, home. It was just like before. Now, no one said a word about repairing the least, until they got home. When they did, they started the reconfiguration of the digital world.

After that, Ken, the former Digimon emperor, joined the rest, to protect the DigiWorld. They had encountered some new threats, but managed to overcome them, including the ability to perform DNA Digivolution, and had wiped evil from Earth and the DigiWorld from view...for now.

One day, Kari was hanging over a rail, looking out into the ocean, having reminiscing thoughts. Interestingly enough, she was wearing Ash's old cap. She looked rather spiffy in that piece of headgear. Then, entering the area, was a young, nice looking boy in gray, carrying grocery bags. He had nicely combed-down purple hair. He saw Kari, wondering what she was doing, and why she was wearing that cap. "Hey Kari!" he called out. Kari heard her name, and turned to him.

"Ken, what's up?" she replied.

"Grocery shopping. I was going to ask, where you got that hat? It actually looks good on you." Kari blushed a bit. She was wanting to hide something from him, but Ken became to trustworthy of a friend.

"Well, when you were returning to your parents, T.K., Izzy, Yolei and I traveled to an interesting place, where...I met a special someone." Ken was stunned, but smiled. Guess the words, "someone special," had him, with a reason, smile with the thought that someone, a rightful someone, might've won Kari's heart. "After the journey, we exchanged items, and...well, I'm wearing what he gave me." Ken saw that she got something that would remind her of him: Ash Ketchum. "I know, from the bottom of my heart, that we will see each other, again." Girl seemed to know that reunion was coming soon.

"I would like to meet him. He sounds like a nice guy."

"He's more than a nice guy."

SAME TIME...(Pokémon World)

Ash, Misty and the rest returned to the Hoenn Region, where Brock and May were reunited, like the blimp explosion never happened. As May got to meet Misty, Jessie and James tried to disguise themselves to get Togepi, after he was de-evloved from Togetic, briefly. This time, Ash and Misty knew that they had the drop on them. After getting them taken care of, they proceeded over to the Mirage Kingdom, and defeated Col. Hanson, after Togepi re-evolved. Afterward, Togetic decided to stay with other Togepi in a paradise, amongst the kingdom.

After the scenario at Mirage Kingdom, Misty headed back to her home, and resumed her role as a gym leader. Ash, now wearing Kari's whistle, continued to journey with May, Brock and Max, throughout the Hoenn region. Ash participated in the Evergrand tournament, and finished in the top eight, his best finish in any tournament.

Now, Ash and Pikachu were home: Pallet Town. They entered town, excited to be home, and seeing his mother, and some of his friends. They entered a nice, white house...their home. "Mom, I'm home!" Was mother home.

"Welcome home, son," a rather young woman echoed. "I'll be down, soon." She wasn't the only one, who was there.

"Hi, Ash," Misty greeted. She came to Ash, with a tiny blue mouse in her arms. The mouse had a ball bearing at the end of its tail. Ash was surprised to see Misty, away from Ceruliean City.

"Misty," he stuttered. "What's up?" Before Misty could respond, a female figure appeared. Guess who?

"Ash!" Sarin cheered. She came around and hugged Ash. She did miss him, and you know who.

"Hey, Sarin. What's up?" Misty decided to answer.

"After I returned from the Mirage Kingdom," she started. "Sarin came to the gym, and decided to see Max, again. I told her that, as soon as Ash was done with the tournament, we could come here, and wait for them." So, they were expecting the Hoenn troupe to be here, not just Ash. That's when Misty noticed the trinket. "She's still in your head, isn't she?" Ash couldn't hide the fact from Misty.

"I think about her, everyday." It was an understanding, that the redhead nodded to. Ash went back to the mouse in her arms. "By the way, is that an Azuril?"

"It is. Tracy gave it to me, when it was an egg. It hatched, not too long ago." The male trainer smiled, thinking how nice it was to have another baby, to replace Togepi. That's when, car horns sounded. What was going on? Ash opened the door, and saw a green jeep, with a grown, round brunette man, with a small beard and a lab coat on. Max exited the jeep, right in front of Sarin.

"Hey, Prof. Birch, Max!" Birch saw the trainer, a waived.

"Ash, good to see you, again," he greeted. Suddenly, Sarin and Max saw each other. Not a second to think, they happily ran to, and hugged, each other. Everyone else saw it, sweat dropping from the act.

"That brings back memories," Misty murmured. "Makes you want to see Kari, again." Ash nodded in agreement.

"I have a gut feeling, that we will see each other, again, I promise." No matter where they were, Ash Ketchum, Misty Waterflower, Takeru Ishida, and Hikari Kamiya had memories of the time...they bonded to save a land...a land of no color.

A/N: Stay tuned in 2008, for the sequel.