Chapter 12: Different Paths
*In case you didn't read it in the last eleven chapters, I don't own any rights to Digimon's creatures, characters, or storyline. The Cthulhu and related terms are all property of H.P. Lovecraft and his affiliates. I doubt they'd sue me over this, however. After all, I've got nothing to take.*
Author's Note: This is it, the end of the Outcast. It's been a long road, getting to this stage, but it's been very worth it. I can't thank my beta readers, Daisukefire and Chapel, for their support and input on this work. And I certainly can never fully express my gratitude to all the people who've read my story. I especially appreciated the reviews that people left.
Well, no point in putting this off. Let's get going with the final chapter!
"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living."
The glaring sun of the Digital World stung Kari's eyes after spending so much time in the void of the Dark Ocean, but it was a discomfort she welcomed with great relief. An even more welcome sensation was the hugs and the exclamations of joy from her friends as they welcomed her back. Back in the light of a familiar world and standing on solid ground, Kari felt as though she'd been given a whole new life.
Tai grabbed Davis and rubbed his fist against the younger man's head. "Not bad, Davis. You figured out where to find Kari and saved her! Keep this up and I might actually start liking you again."
"AGAIN?" Davis protested, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Didn't Kari tell you?"
Kari grinned, "Tai couldn't stand any of my boyfriends, no matter how nice they were. I think he's the reason most of them ran off."
Davis grumbled, "Just how many boyfriends did you have?"
"Not many. Tai's reputation kept most boys away."
Tai laughed, "'Course, I never figured you'd fall for Kari again. So, keep up the good work and I won't give you a hard time."
"Great." Davis said, "You can show your gratitude by not rubbing my head so much!" Everyone laughed.
"Still," Matt said, "it was really reckless for you and TK to run off without us."
TK said, "That's what I told him."
Yolei arched an eyebrow. "I didn't see you waiting around for us either."
TK grinned, "Well, you got me there…"
Cody said, "At least it's all over now. We can all go home. All of us."
Everyone knew what Cody meant. Since the Digidestined would be returning to Earth, they'd be able to take their Digimon partners home with them.
Veemon grinned, "I'm gonna eat a whole bunch of chocolate sundaes!"
"Not again." Davis' stomach felt pained.
Gatomon said, "I'm going for the best sushi in Japan."
"Cookies sound good right about now." Armadillomon licked his lips.
"Hamburgers!" Agumon jumped up and down in anticipation.
Joe sighed, "We haven't seen each other in months, and the first thing on your minds is food?"
The Digimon replied in unison, "Yeah. So?"
Izzy laughed, "Nice to know you have your priorities straight. Well, I suggest we find the nearest portal and head home."
"Can we wait a little while?" Kari asked.
Sora frowned, "You want to stay here?"
Kari nodded, "All that's waiting for me back on Earth is confinement at the Digimon Research Center. I want to spend some time outdoors before I have to go back. Besides… there are some things I need to think about."
Tai shrugged, "It couldn't hurt to stay a little while. Probably an hour at the most, though. Mom and Dad were flipping out when you disappeared. And Kay will want to know what happened."
Davis nodded, "I can't wait to see my long-distance bill after her cross-dimensional call." He chuckled at everyone else's confused looks. He hadn't told them about Kay's timely phone call.
"I'll meet everyone back here in an hour." Kari smiled and walked towards a nearby forest. Gatomon followed behind her.
* * * * * * * *
Davis toured the Digital World while catching up with Veemon for more than half an hour. He was happy to hear that Veemon had developed a close relationship with Gatomon, and enjoyed telling Veemon about everything that had been happening on Earth. As he outlined the events of Kari's confinement to a house, her tutoring with Davis, Dragomon's attacks and Kari's powers emerging, and the love that was blossoming between him and Kari, Davis couldn't help but feel surprised at how much had happened so quickly.
"If someone told me that all of this would happen, I don't think I would have believed them."
"No kidding." Veemon said. "We've come a long way since we first met, right?"
Davis grinned. "No kidding. Truth is, I kinda missed the days when we used to beat up bad guys rather than debate with them. It was a lot easier back then."
"Speak for yourself." Veemon rubbed a bruise from the fight with Dragomon. "I wouldn't mind talking things out from now on. No more battles."
Davis glanced around at the green hills and crystalline waters of the Digital World. He hadn't been here in so many years he'd forgotten how beautiful it could be. Still, what made it truly wonderful was being reunited with his partner. This world felt like a second home because Davis knew that any place, in one world or another, could be called home if there were friends nearby.
"Did you do okay here on your own? Without me, that is?"
Veemon nodded hesitantly. "I really missed you, Davis. This place didn't feel right without you here. I mean, I waited a long time for you to come along and pick up the digiegg of Courage. I didn't like the idea of having to wait for you again. But Gatomon was really great company—even if she was be a little harsh with those claws sometimes. I'm glad I came back with her." Davis grinned and nodded. As hard as it had been to say goodbye, both he and Veemon knew they'd made the right choice.
Looking over at a nearby cliff, Davis saw two familiar figures reclining under a tree. One of them looked strangely pensive. "There's Kari and Gatomon now. Let's go see what's bugging them."
As they approached, Davis could overhear part of their discussion.
"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Kari asked.
Gatomon nodded slightly. "Can't say it's my favorite option, but I've started something good here in the Digital World and it makes sense for me to stay and do it, especially since I can't come with you."
"It's not that I don't want you with me."
"I know… I understand how important this is to you. I can wait as long as it takes."
"Kari?" Davis announced himself. Kari looked up at them with a surprised look on her face. She visibly relaxed when she saw who it was. Davis sat next to Kari while Veemon went over to Gatomon. "Hey, are you okay?"
"Yeah." Kari smiled, "Just thinking."
"… a lot of things."
"Like?" Davis knew she was hiding something from him, and he didn't like the feel of it.
Kari sighed, "I meant what I said back there. When we go home, I'll be secluded in the Research Lab again. I won't be able to bring Gatomon back with me. We agreed to stay separated to prove she wasn't the cause of my glowing."
Davis countered, "But you already told people that Digimon weren't the cause. Remember that speech you made? I bet you can take Gatomon home now."
Gatomon shook her head. "No. Kari's decided… to do something about her powers, and I have separate myself from her for a while. I'll be staying in the Digital World." Tears glistened in her eyes.
Veemon sighed, "Too bad. I was really looking forward to those chocolate sundaes."
"Veemon," Gatomon looked up, "you'd stay with me?"
"Of course! I promised you that we'd go back to Earth together, right?" Davis felt a pang at Veemon's decision, but he understood what his partner wanted. Just as Davis wouldn't abandon Kari, neither would Veemon leave Gatomon.
"There are other things that I'm thinking about." Kari said. "Mainly Dragomon."
"Don't tell me you're still worried about old squid-face. You beat him up good!"
Kari shook her head. "He's still alive, and he knows how to cross over into Earth and the Digital World. He wants to turn everyone into his slaves. He'll come for me, sooner or later; probably sooner."
Davis waved his hand. "We'll get him next time. He might act all tough when he's up against just two Champions, but next time we take him on we'll be at full strength. No way he can beat a Mega and two Ultimates by himself. He's only one Ultimate."
Kari looked at him with a stern gaze. "Don't underestimate Dragomon. He's not a Digimon; not in the true sense. He's more powerful than you understand. He can twist people's hearts and use them to his advantage. He nearly corrupted me because I didn't believe in the goodness of people. He also made me stop believing in you, even though I should have known better."
Davis wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "You know that I'll always be there for you. I don't care about a lapse now and then, as long as you remember that you can trust me."
"I do." She leaned over and kissed him. "But that's not enough. I was too weak to resist Dragomon's influence. I was too weak to finish him for good. And I was too weak to save Muri and the others."
"Muri." Davis' mood darkened at the very mention of that name. "Don't start beating yourself up for that guy's mistakes. He chose to stay, remember?"
"No. He didn't choose. Dragomon corrupted him and robbed him of that choice. I have to be stronger, both physically and mentally, if I'm going to go back to the Dark Ocean and save everyone that Dragomon kidnapped!"
Davis didn't like the determination in her voice. It led to something ominous. "What are you saying?"
Kari stood up and looked at him with conflicting emotions on her face. "I can't stay on Earth anymore. I'm going back to tie up some loose ends, but then I'll return to the Digital World and learn how to fully control my powers so I can use them against Dragomon."
* * * * * * * *
One of Kari's "loose ends" involved visiting the families of the boys who'd been taken by Dragomon. They'd been so worried and confused over the past few months; Kari couldn't bear to leave without at least telling them the truth. Dr. Takenouchi had understood her decision and granted her leave from the research center. The experiment was terminated.
Needless to say that the announcement had caused a stir in Japan. People were again beginning to question their safety. This time, however, the populace focused more on Kari than on her powers. Digimon were barely even mentioned. Kari felt confident that the uneasiness would die down after she left for the Digital World. Kari had recorded a video announcement of her departure that was to be aired after she left. She didn't want any anti-Digimon extremists to try something when she opened the portal.
Now Kari sat in a thick chair, taking care of her final responsibility, and feeling more trapped than ever before. Hitoshi and Koishi Ikari sat across from her, reclining back on a sofa, listening. Kari had spent the last hour and a half outline the grim details of what had befallen their son. Hitoshi Ikari was obviously trying to maintain control of his emotions, but the twitches of his face and his blinking eyes betrayed the pain he felt. Koishii Ikari just stared at the floor, unmoving.
Kari gulped. "Muri is alive… but he's different. He's a part of Dragomon's world for now, but he won't stay there. I promise."
She felt a gentle squeeze on her hand and glanced at Davis out of the corner of her eyes. Davis had volunteered to join her on all her visits, offering his silent support as she laid out the painful details. He hadn't said anything of her intentions to return to the Digital World. He simply made sure he was there for her. Kari squeezed back in appreciation.
"I'm going to find a way to rescue Muri. He won't-"
"Rescue him?" Mrs. Ikari began to shudder. "Rescue him? You're the reason he's lost!" She looked Kari straight in the eyes, with tears and hatred pouring from her face. "My son is trapped in some demon's world all because of you, you bitch!"
"Koishii!" Mr. Ikari moved to place a hand on his wife's shoulder, but she stood up and practically swatted his hand away. Hitoshi looked up at her as if a stranger had just entered his home unannounced.
"My child, my only son is lost to me, and it's all your fault! He never would have fallen into that place if it hadn't been for you! You corrupted my son and then abandoned him when he needed you. You filthy little monster!" She clenched his teeth and her hands clenched and unclenched as if she were holding Kari's throat.
Davis and Kari leapt to their feet as Mrs. Ikari reached for a mug on a nearby table. Hitoshi's mouth fell open and rose to stop his wife as she threw the mug at her two guests. They barely dodged the projectile and bolted for the door. They could hear Mrs. Ikari screaming over the sound of glass shattering and Hitoshi's calls for peace. "Get out! Get out and never come back! I never want to see you again. I hope you die, you little freak!"
"Koishii! Please! Calm down!" Hitoshi implored but the screaming continued
The two Digidestined were out the door before they could hear anymore of Mrs. Ikari's profanities. They didn't stop running until they were several blocks away. Davis and Kari stood panting and afraid that Mrs. Ikari would come roaring around the corner, flinging more blunt objects. Davis growled, "And here I thought I couldn't hate the Ikari's anymore than I already do. I thought the father was bad, but Muri's Mom has got to be the all-time worst person I've ever met. She had the nerve to call you…" He paused, not wanting to use the same word. "She called you… names."
"She had a right to." Kari sighed.
"No she didn't! Nobody has the right to talk like that."
"But she's right. If it hadn't been for me, Muri never would have fallen into Dragomon's darkness."
Davis placed a hand on her shoulder. "Don't say that. Muri got taken because of who he was, not because of you. Ya can't keep making yourself responsible for everything. Muri fell because he hated Digimon and the people who liked Digimon. You had nothing to do with it. And Mrs. Ikari's got no right to blame you."
Kari sighed, "The other parents hate me too." She'd seen similar looks in the eyes of the other couples Kari had been forced to address. Mr. and Mrs. Ikari had been the final parents of the corrupted youths, and the ones Kari had been dreading the most. Mrs. Ikari had been far more vocal than the others, but Kari had sensed their resentment and grief. And she couldn't help but think she was to blame.
"Give 'em time." Davis offered her a reassuring smile. "People wise up eventually. And when we rescue Muri and the others, their parents will be kissing your feet while saying thank you."
Kari forced an affirmative nod. No point in getting depressed; not if she was going to reach her dream of saving Muri and the others. "Davis, you haven't said anything about my going to the Digital World. Aren't you upset?"
Davis shook his head. "Nope. 'Cause I'm going with you!"
So that was why he wasn't asking. Poor Davis. He didn't understand. "No. You can't come."
* * * * * * * *
Hitoshi hunched down next to his wife, holding her as she wept. She kept crying, "She stole my boy! She stole my son! The filthy monster!" Tears cascaded down her face, pooling on the floor that she pounded with her fists.
"Koishii…" Hitoshi had never seen his wife like this. It was completely unlike her. He'd never seen such hatred, such rage. Why don't I feel the same? Why am I not as furious as she?
The answer was all too obvious. Fighting Digimon had been the center of Hitoshi's life. Muri had been the center of Koishii's life. She was crying for her boy, not their boy.
I'm not a part of her life as I once was. In the absence left by my work, she clung to Muri and drifted away from me. Hitoshi had already lost the center to his life, and it hadn't been Koishii or Muri. In one terrible, horrifying moment of clarity, Hitoshi realized how far he'd drifted away from his own family in the pursuit of his ideals. Koishii was no longer the love of his life, but a distant stranger with a face from fond memories. As Hitoshi held her, she did not cling to him or take comfort from his touch. He was a stranger to her; a kind Samaritan consoling a lonely mother after the loss of her child; nothing more.
I failed them. Lord help me, I failed my wife and child. Hitoshi had been so fixated on his quest to halt the introduction of Digimon into society that he'd drifted away from the people he should have loved most. God help me, for I have committed a terrible sin.
Hitoshi clung to his wife, now a stranger, as the tears flowed from his eyes. The tears were all the more bitter because he could only blame himself for the tragedy of his family.
* * * * * * * *
"Why can't I come?" Davis asked for the sixtieth time as he and Kari entered the Research Center. The receptionist and guards paid them no mind as they passed by, though Kari was sure she saw a smile tugging at all of their mouths.
Kari explained, "This is something I have to do alone, Davis."
"But Gatomon's gonna be with you!"
"No. She isn't."
Kari explained, "Gatomon isn't going to stay with me in the Digital World. She'll continue to speak out against anti-human ideals while I train. We won't see each other, even if we're in the same world." She blinked back tears. "This isn't easy for me, you know. I have to say goodbye to you and my partner Digimon! But this is something I know I have to do, no matter how cut off I feel from everyone else."
Davis continued to protest, "Then you should let me come so you won't be alone! It's gonna be really lonely for just one person in the Digital World. I can help you!" Kari knew that Davis wasn't sure his declaration was true.
Kari didn't reply for a moment, trying to think of a way to calm Davis without having a drawn out argument. She hadn't thought of an answer by the time they reached her room and she began to pack her bag. Her parents had brought over a sleeping bag and camping utensils, and Kari had placed an order for some clothes and boots that could withstand a long stay in the Digital World.
Davis argued the whole time. "What I am supposed to do while you're gone? Everyone else is getting set to go back to college and schools. I can't go back to school and Veemon's still in the Digital World. I won't get to see anybody, especially you!"
"Veemon can come back after I go back. He can enter through the same portal."
Davis shook his head. "You don't know Veemon. He promised Gatomon he'd stay with her until they'd both come back here. That means he's staying, even if you're there."
Kari asked, "Then why not work on DREAM? You wanted to create an organization to help human-Digimon relations, right? Why not get started on that now?"
Davis huffed, "Fat lotta good that'll do. Do you know how many Digimon there are in Japan these days? Not many! Most people haven't gotten any new partners since this whole mess started!" Kari knew that was true. The current hostility towards Digimon had put a halt to anyone receiving a new partner.
"But there are still some Digimon here in the world. I'm sure you could get a start with them."
Davis stared at her for a long moment. "Why don't you want me with you? I thought you said you didn't want to leave home and all the people you knew."
So he was going to make this hard for her. "I don't want to leave home. I like where I am and the people I'm with. But this is more important than what I want. I have to accept that I can't always stay in the same place. I have to learn to deal with changes and make the best of them. This is for the best."
"And what about me?" Davis was begging to raise his voice. "Is leaving me behind for the best too?"
"Yes, it is!" Kari began to feel her protest rising in her lungs, ready to burst out and possibly ruin the relationship she and Davis had built together. "I want to become stronger! This is no different then when you started working out after Gendo and his friends attacked you! You became stronger to face a new challenge and I'm going to do the same. Gatomon has accepted my plans. Why can't you?"
"Because I'll be stuck on another world while you, Gatomon, and Veemon will all be gone!" Davis shouted, "Why are you so eager to get rid of me?"
"Because I'll rely on you!" The words leaped from her mouth before she could stop them. They hung in the space between Davis and Kari, weighing down on the fragile ties that held them together. Kari feared that Davis would see this as a declaration of rejection. That he'd think she still didn't trust him to support her and that she didn't want him around. The hurt expression on his face confirmed those fears.
Kari was quick to explain. "I've always relied on other people to protect me and save me from danger. I've relied on Tai, TK, Gatomon, and you, not to mention all the other Digidestined at some point. I can't become stronger if I keep relying on someone else to come to my rescue every time I face a new challenge. This is something I have to do alone or I won't be able to stand up to Dragomon when I next face him."
"So I'd be in the way, huh?" Davis' shoulders sagged and he looked defeated. Kari could only nod in response. Davis exhaled, "Okay… okay. I'll back off. But I'm gonna miss you a lot. And it really makes me mad to think I can't see you again until the rest of the world learns to like Digimon. I'll… I'll let you get back to packing." He walked out the door without another word.
She whispered, "I'm so sorry, Davis."
* * * * * * * *
"So she's leaving me to go to the Digital World. I can't come because she apparently doesn't want me to get in her way." Davis huffed as he leaned back in his chair. He'd felt bad about leaving Kari after their argument, but he couldn't think of anything else to do. Being around her just reminded him of how lonely he'd feel when she left. I want to stay together. What's wrong with that?
Jun sat across from him with Kapurimon resting on her shoulder. Both sister and Digimon looked at Davis with sympathetic eyes.
"It's not that she doesn't want you around, Davis. It's that she knows she can't achieve her goal if there are distractions. And having a boyfriend nearby is a big distraction."
"But I can help!" Davis leaned forward. "I won't be a crutch! I'll back off and only help when she asks for it."
Jun shook her head. "It sounds like Kari's afraid she'll ask you for help right away without tackling the problem on her own. That's what she's most afraid of and that's why you can't be with her."
"But I really care about her… I… I think I love her."
"If you really love her, then you have to let her do things on her own."
Davis frowned, "How do you figure that?"
Jun explained, "I'm really crazy about Jim. When I look at him I get a picture of him and me spending our lives together. But I know that even if he loves me more than anyone else, I can't force him to focus only on me. And I can't focus only on him. We both have our own circles of friends, and we both spend time apart from each other so we can enjoy our time together even more. I'm more than Jim's girlfriend, just like he's more than my boyfriend and Kari's more than your girlfriend. She has a life outside of you. She has her own dreams, hopes, and friends. Don't you think it'd be really selfish of you to ask her to give that all up for your sake? Wouldn't you be mad if she asked you to do something like that?"
Davis was silent for a moment, then leaned back and groaned. "I hate it when you make sense."
Jun gave a proud smile. "You should know by now that I'm always right."
"Uh huh, sure…" Davis stared at the ceiling. "So now what am I gonna do? Kari leaves in three days. So I can either say goodbye for a long time and do work on my own, or not see her off and still be alone. Either way sounds pretty harsh."
Jun nodded, "What about your school work?"
"Kari helped me get really far ahead in school. I bet I could even take the exit exam right now." He chuckled, "My teachers would be really surprised if I did that."
Jun asked, "So then what?"
Kapurimon jumped up and down excitedly, "DREAM, DREAM! I'll help you get started on DREAM!"
Davis nodded, "Yeah. That sounds like a good place to start. Best way to get Kari home faster is for people to get to like Digimon more. Then Gennai can open up the portals for good and Kari can come home." He rubbed his head and the headache that was developing within. "But the problem is that I don't think I can help people like Digimon more unless I give them the chance to meet 'em. Most people aren't scared of In-trainings and rookies like Kapurimon and Veemon. It's the big Champions and Ultimates that really spook people. DREAM can't do much good unless I can get people to realize that bigger Digimon aren't as scary as people think."
Jun thought for a moment. "That really is a problem…"
Davis sighed. "It doesn't take much to get an organization going. Just ask for some volunteers and I bet we'd get at least a few people to get the ball rolling. But if we don't have some Digimon on board, we won't be able to do much more than blow hot air."
Jun nodded, "Then what you really need are Digimon volunteers."
"Great." Davis huffed, "Where am I supposed to get those? I can't go door to door and ask, 'excuse me, sir, can I borrow your Digimon partner?'"
"Why not ask Digimon in the Digital World?" Kapurimon asked innocently.
Davis shook his head, "How could I get to the Digital World unless Gennai and Azulongmon let me in? I mean, I was lucky to send Veemon back and then we had to go and save Kari. I'm really not sure they'd open a portal up for just me."
Kapurimon asked, "But they're opening a portal for Kari, right?"
"That's different. She's got a really good reason for going."
"Isn't your reason good?"
"Well, yeah. But-"
Jun cut him off. "Davis, I think Kapurimon has a point. If you need Digimon volunteers, the best place to look is in their home. The more Digimon available, the better the odds, right?"
"Maybe… But where am I gonna find a portal?"
Jun grinned, "I know one place that's sure to have a portal opening in about three days."
* * * * * * * *
Strange how a house could feel so comfortable after spending so much time away. Kari lounged on her bed, enjoying the soft touch of her pillow and the familiarity of her surroundings. She was free of the Digimon Research Center, and had been granted her wish to return home. The event had not been publicized, though any reasonable person would have figured out were Kari would go after leaving the research center. A police car guarded the street below, watching for suspicious characters. Still, the possibility of an attack was not Kari's foremost concern.
On the eve of her departure, Kari began to feel her courage draining. The thought of going to the Digital World by herself, cut off from all her other friends, was heartbreaking. It didn't help that she hadn't spoken to Davis since their argument. Kari feared that she'd broken their relationship in just one afternoon.
Sitting alone in her room, Kari looked at her sleeping bag, backpack, and clothes for the journey. She'd have to travel light; so all her clothing was durable and adaptable to different climates. She had a vest and two shirts, one short-sleeve and the other long. She also had a pair of shorts and long-sleeved pants. Her parents had bought her a pair of knee-high boots that would handle any terrain, and they even got her a white tarp with a hood to wear in the rain or snow. Kari was sure that she could wash and repair her clothing in different Digimon towns, and make new ones if necessary. Her clothes, as well as her toiletries and provisions, were all specially tailored for a long stay in another world. She shouldn't have any trouble surviving on her own.
On her own… Looking at her supplied only reminded her of how lonely she'd feel once the portal closed and she spent time without any human contact. It was true that she could visit familiar Digimon like Andromon and Ogremon, but that wasn't the same as having other humans nearby. Kari would be an outsider, as much an outcast in the Digital World as she'd been on Earth. She wasn't looking forward to the feeling.
She knew her fears would ebb when she finally left. She was just experiencing "cold feet." But that didn't ease her tension or take her mind off the fact that she'd be leaving home again. She reminded herself that this was for the greater good and it would not be a permanent situation. She would see her home again.
There was a knock at her door and Kari's mother peeked her head in. "Kari, you have a guest. It's… well, it's Hitoshi Ikari."
"What?" Kari sat upright in disbelief. What was he doing in their home? Kari's heart clenched for a moment before she realized that Hitoshi Ikari was not a militant person. He had informed the police of Heki Doushi's misdeeds and possibly saved lives in the process. It was doubtful he had come here to hurt Kari, and he had somehow managed to talk his way past the police.
Kari stood up and composed herself. "I'll see him."
Hitoshi stood patiently in the family room. He gave a slight bow upon seeing Kari. "Ms. Kamiya, thank you for seeing me."
"H-hello." Kari bowed in return.
"I was hoping to speak with you for a moment. Alone, if possible."
Kari nodded and glanced at her mother, who hesitantly turned towards the hallway, stopped to glance back, then disappeared into her room. Kari sat down on the sofa and motioned for Hitoshi to take a seat.
He sat down with some small difficulty. The events of the last few months had aged him terribly. Kari realized that he looked very tired. He motioned for her to sit down next to him, but Kari chose to sit in the next nearest seat. This decision didn't appear to surprise or hurt Hitoshi.
"Ms. Kamiya, I wanted to apologize for my wife's behavior when you visited us. I… I never would have thought she would act in such a way."
"She had a right to." Kari wasn't sure why Hitoshi would apologize for that specific event. She was sure he'd felt the same way.
Hitoshi apparently sensed her thoughts. "I do not believe she did have a right to blame you. From what I understand, my son has assaulted you several times. And, in truth, I am more to blame than you." He sighed heavily. "Muri and I have never been that close. I was never able to tell my own son my true feelings. Instead, I sought to show my love by building him a future in which I was sure he'd be safe. I tried to build him a future with my own hands; but instead I drove him into darkness. And I have apparently driven myself to sorrow as well. Ms. Kamiya, is your family Christian?"
Hitoshi smiled, "It is a wonderful religion. At its core, it embodies everything hopeful and right in the world. Unfortunately, the people who practice such beliefs are not always accurate representations. I've been forced to think about my life and my beliefs in these last few weeks; and I have found that most of my beliefs were wrong. I claimed to practice a religion of love and forgiveness, yet I attacked others and sowed seeds of schism and disunity. I thought God denounced Digimon, when it was truly I who committed such acts. I have not been following the Christian faith. I have been following my own agenda under a disguise."
He regarded Kari steadily, "Ms. Kamiya, I want you to know that I have never wished you any personal ill will. I saw you as a victim of Digimon; creatures that I thought had no place in our world. It was my fullest intent to find a way to help you with your… 'situation' after helping people acknowledge the threat Digimon posed."
"But Digimon aren't a threat. They're-"
Hitoshi gently held up a hand to calm her protest. "That was what I thought at the time. Now, I am not sure what to believe. It wasn't until I saw my own wife—one of the most gentle and kind people I know—so hateful and angry that I began to question the emotions within my own heart. This was not easy, since I was also forced to question the morality of my past after a betrayal from my associates at the Guardians Opposing Digimon. I'm sure you've heard the latest news?"
Kari had. After Hitoshi's resignation from G.O.D. and the information of the organization's violent actions, public support had dried up and the Guardians faced a breakup in the near future. However, several anti-Digimon groups stood ready to take G.O.D.'s place. Most of the G.O.D. leadership had escaped punishment for their secret attacks, probably by paying off the right people. However, it was doubtful that anyone would risk partnerships or public alliances with such defamed public figures.
"They used me for their own plans, and I went along willingly because I thought our aims coincided." Hitoshi's voice was both reflective and sad. "I thought I was working for a pure and noble cause with people whom I felt shared my values. Instead I found that they were willing to hurt anyone in order to get what they wanted. But after seeing my wife in such an angry state, I have begun to wonder if I am any less tainted than those I denounce. I am worried that I have ignored the hatred and fear in my own heart, and I have disguised it with noble intentions and proclamations of protecting people. I fear I am as guilty as the people who physically attack Digimon and their partners."
Kari was silent for a long time, absorbing Hitoshi's change of heart. He did not strike her as a deceptive man, and when he spoke with that charismatic voice she was sure his words were genuine. "So… what will you do now?"
"A retreat. I am leaving Japan for a time. I am taking my wife away from this place in the hopes that I can comfort her and perhaps heal her. I must try to rekindle the love that brought us together so that I can help her share her grief. Although part of me fears that I am too late and I must instead suffer with her as punishment for my neglect. Either way, I shall not abandon her.
"I am also going to analyze my own heart and my motives to see what the best path is for me now. I will try to rediscover God's plan for me and how I can best fit into his grand design. But before I go, I wanted to ask your forgiveness. I have probably wronged you more than any other person. I will understand if you cannot forgive me for the trouble I've caused, but I had to at least make the effort."
Kari smiled, "Of course I forgive you. Thank you for coming to see me. You've… you've reminded me of why I'm about to make a trip of my own." Indeed Hitoshi had reminded Kari why she was going to the Digital World. If she could gain control of her powers, she could help people learn to understand Digimon and herself. She could help people overcome their fears and hate, just as Hitoshi Ikari was trying to do now. Her anxiousness faded somewhat.
Hitoshi's eyebrows rose, "Really? Well, I won't inquire into a personal matter… but I must ask another question."
"Of course. What is it?"
"Can you really save my son? I would die a happy man knowing he was free of the darkness that has claimed him."
Kari nodded. "I promise that I'll save him. I will bring him back." Kari meant every breath of her promise.
Hitoshi smiled and nodded. "Thank you. I feel that you mean your promise. I wish you a safe and fruitful trip." He offered his hand, and she took it.
"Thank you. I wish you the same."
* * * * * * * *
The departure date came all too soon for everyone. All the Digidestined had been preparing to return to their respective responsibilities once Kari left, and they all felt a loss for having to say goodbye once again. Kari, her parents, Mr. Takenouchi, and all her friends—including Kay—stood atop Kari's apartment, overlooking the city.
The Digidestined had put some simple ceremonies into Kari's sendoff. The most amusing was that Izzy's old pineapple laptop as a gateway. All the Digimon wished her well and sent their salutations to Veemon and Gatomon, who waited on the other side of the gate. The only face missing was Davis. Kari felt a pang in her heart from his absence. I guess he's still mad at me. No matter how much she wanted to run and find him to say goodbye, she knew she could only hope he'd forgive her and wait for her to return. Goodbye, Davis.
She turned towards everyone, "Well, I guess this is goodbye for a while. I want to thank all of you for your love and support over these long months. I'm not sure I would have made it if it hadn't been for all of you."
"Excuse me." A voice came from Izzy's computer. Azulongmon, guardian of the Digital World and gatekeeper to the portals linking two worlds, peered out of the computer screen at the assembled group. The monitor was too small to accommodate the long blue dragon's size, but Kari could see his eyes held a stern and urgent look. "I do not mean to cut this meeting short, but the portal needs to close soon or I risk having Digimon and humans slip through. Please hurry through."
Kari nodded. "Well, I guess this is goodbye then. I'll see you all again soon." She held her D3 up to the screen. "Digiport-"
"WAIT!" The door to the roof burst open. Davis stood in the doorway, panting heavily. "S… sorry I'm late. I had to run all the way here." Kari frowned when she saw that Davis carried a similarly large backpack and sleeping bag. Don't tell me…
"Davis?" asked Tai, "What are you doing?"
"Taking advantage of an opportunity." Davis beamed. "I'm going to the Digital World!"
"WHAT?" Everyone looked at him in disbelief.
Kari said, "Davis, I told you that you can't come with me."
"Who said I was coming with you? I'm going to fulfill my new dream."
"Which is?" asked Sora.
"DREAM: Digital Relations Encouraged Among Ma-" He glanced at Yolei. "… M-many People. The-the 'P' is silent." The others sniggered behind Yolei's back. Davis composed himself. "I figured that I if I could get some Digimon volunteers, I'd have a better chance of starting a new movement. So, Father Shinju, Jim, and Jun are gonna set things up at this end while I go try to get support from some Digimon."
Dr. Takenouchi nodded. "That sounds like a good idea. I'd be happy to help with that."
"Me too!" Kay held up her hand. All the Digidestined nodded their support as well.
You guys aren't helping! Kari could tell she was losing her argument. "What about your school work? You weren't expelled, remember? You can't expect to be taken seriously when you haven't even graduated from high school."
Davis waved the objection away. "No worries. I took the exit exam yesterday."
Davis grinned, "I don't know what grade I got, but I know I passed. I have the best tutor in two worlds!"
Kari huffed. "Flattery won't change my mind. I told you that you can't come with me. I have to do this on my own."
"And I said that I'm not going because of you. I'm going to find some Digimon and this is the only time I might have a chance to cross over to the Digital World. If I can't help you out, maybe I can help Gatomon with her mission. You can't make me stay here, Kari."
"Pardon me." Azulongmon broke into the conversation. "I believe I have a say in all of this. I am the giant blue dragon after all." He regarded Davis with an appraising glance. "I am not comfortable with the idea that more than one human will be moving about the Digital World without any means to return home. These are delicate times and Digimon may not react well to your presence. You cannot return home until I deem it safe for Digimon to begin fully integrating with humans, which may take some time. It might not even happen in your lifetime." Everyone shifted uncomfortably at Azulongmon's analysis. It was a possibility none of them wanted to consider.
Davis nodded, "I know. But I believe that people and Digimon can get together in our lifetime. And if I go, I can at least start things off by helping Digimon get to know humans."
"But you cannot make any decisions or representations to the community. You are neither an ambassador nor an example of the 'average human.'" Davis decided not to analyze the latter part of that statement. Azulongmon continued, "However, I do like the idea of an organization aimed at improving Digimon-human relations. Therefore, I will allow you entry so long as you realize the consequences of your actions and agree to maintain a low profile."
Davis held up a hand. "Cross my heart. I won't cause any trouble."
Ken grinned, "We'll see how long that promise lasts."
Everyone looked at Kari and Tai asked, "Are you okay with this?"
Kari shrugged, "I guess I don't have a say in the matter. As long as Davis knows that he can't be a part of my education in the Digital World, I have no reason to deny him the chance to come."
That was good enough for Davis. He quickly bade his friends goodbye and stood beside Kari before the computer. "Before we go, I have something for you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large pair of goggles. They were Tai's old pair, the ones that symbolized the leadership of the Digidestined. He handed them to her. "Here."
"Really?" Kari couldn't believe he was giving away one of his most cherished gifts.
Davis grinned. "You're going to learn how to be stronger and stand alone, right? Well, I want you to know that me and Tai and everyone else are rooting for you. These goggles say that pretty well."
Kari accepted them with a thank you. The goggles didn't feel comfortable on her forehead, so instead they dangled around her neck. The others complimented her on how well they fit her, causing Kari a small blush and giggle. Strange how powerful one gift could be.
Davis sighed, "Guess this is it. Time to go now."
Kari nodded. "Yes. Are you sure about this?"
"Totally. Don't worry about me. Let's just get going. Veemon and Gatomon are waiting for us."
Kari took a deep breath. "Goodbye, everyone. We'll see you again soon. Digiport open!" The light from the portal wrapped around the two humans and pulled them into the computer. The last sight they witnessed of Earth was all their friends waving goodbye and wishing them well.
* * * * * * * *
The warm light of the Digital World's sun skimmed over the leaves of tress and cast the grass in a bright shine. Kari stood still for a moment, enjoying the sweet air and openness of the landscape. She felt totally free and even giddy at the prospect of spending time under this sun, in a world where she could learn to control her powers for the benefit of everyone. As she'd hope, the hesitation in her heart eased even further.
"Davis!" Gatomon and Veemon came running towards them and leaped into their partners' arms.
"Welcome to the Digital World!" exclaimed Gatomon.
Kari giggled. "Good to be here." She put Gatomon down and glanced at Davis, who was still laughing with Veemon.
"Kari." Azulongmon drifted in over the treetops. A small cloud descended from his titanic body and settled over the ground. "It's time to start your instructions. There is a great deal I must teach you before you can practice on your own."
Kari nodded and stepped towards Davis. "This is where we say goodbye too."
Davis ended the reunion and looked at Kari. "I know. I know. I meant what I said back on the roof, Kari. You pick one way to go and I'll head in the opposite direction. Of course, that means we might meet up on the other side of the world." He grinned.
Kari nodded. "It… it might be nice to know we can still meet, but I have to focus on my powers for now. You can't be a part of this."
Davis replied, "I understand. I won't try to tag along. But I wouldn't mind bumping into you sometime."
"Nor I you." Kari stepped towards him with some reluctance, but she then drew her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. A deep, loving kiss that made her face burn and her heart race.
Davis' face also turned pure red, and he stepped back with an awed expression on his face. "How am I supposed to leave after that?!!"
Kari giggled. "You'll have to manage. But I want you to remember that kiss. I'll kiss you like that again the next time we meet."
Davis beamed, "I'm looking forward to it… But I guess that'll be a while. Better get going."
Kari nodded, "Yes. We should. Goodbye for now, Davis."
Kari knelt down and hugged Gatomon. "I'm sorry to say goodbye again after we just recently reunited."
Gatomon hugged back, "That's okay. I know we'll see each other again soon."
"Take care of Davis and Veemon for me, okay? I know for a fact that Davis is a real handful, and his Digimon can't be much better."
"HEY!" Davis and Veemon huffed indignantly.
Gatomon grinned, "I think they should be more worried about me."
Kari giggled and walked over to Veemon. She thanked him and kissed his forehead, causing him to blush and making Davis exceedingly jealous. She then stepped onto the cloud, which drifted upwards towards her new teacher, Alzuongmon. Within moments, Kari and Azulongmon vanished into the clouds.
Davis sighed and looked at the two Digimon. "Ready to go?"
Veemon asked, "Where to?"
Davis shrugged, "I dunno. Didn't plan that far ahead." Both Digimon sighed. "Let's just start walking!"
Gatomon nodded. "I guess that's a plan."
They walked started off in silence, unsure of what lay ahead. Kari's absence stayed with them down the forest path, but even though their paths went in separate directions, they knew they would meet again in the future, just as they would see their friends and families once again. Even two opposing paths have to cross on the other side of a world.
Author's Note: Done! Finished! Finito! I… can't think of how to say "done" any other way.
It's hard to believe that this story started out as a one-chapter fic. I originally intended to enter it into CyberSerpent's Daikari contest. But as I wrote, I realized that I could make a bigger and better story out of this than a simple quick romance. I'm glad I took the time to develop the story and its characters. I truly loved writing and sharing this story.
I know this wasn't a concrete ending since there's plenty of room for a sequel, and I have been toying with such an idea, but it'll have to wait. Now I can finish "Darkness Reborn," a fic that will have much more action than "The Outcast." Here's hoping it's received as well as this story.
By the way, one of my faithful readers, who is a very talented artist, was kind enough to draw a cover for the Outcast. You can view Ucchan's masterpiece at http://www.mediaminer.org/fanart/agal.php?id=60904. This is the second fan art I've ever received (the first being a fan art of Walkabout). It's truly awe-inspiring when people like your work so much that they devote their own creative energies to support it. Please leave a review for Ucchan at Mediaminer. I can attest myself that reviews can be very encouraging to an artist or writer.
In addition to seeing Ucchan's work, you can also see my less-impressive fan art on the same webpage. Yes, this is a shameless self-promotion, but what do you want? This is my fan fic!
And my fan fic is done! Rest assured that "Darkness Reborn" will follow soon. I'm on a roll here. Please leave a review to tell me what you thought of the conclusion. Until next time!