Author's Note: Thank you, again, to everyone who takes the time to read and/or review this. I am very grateful for any input you may have for me; it means a lot that you would take the time to look over this, even if it's just a passing glance. Thank you again, especially for your patience in putting up with my rather long intervals between updates.
Also, this story is now 67 pages (32,364 words) in Microsoft Word. It's the longest piece I have ever written. I'm really excited to keep this going, though, truth be told, I cannot honestly say when the next update will be, and I apologize for that, and once again, thank all of those who've had patience with this work.
Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon, or its characters, just as much as I don't own the concept of the labyrinth, or any of the ideals I've incorporated from the sources I've already mentioned. This was written for recreational purposes only.
He had acted on impulse, really. Nothing else in the world made sense anymore. What use was reason and logic? No, the desperate aching in his heart shoved him into action. He could not refuse to act, not when her sanity lingered on the brink of decimation. His mind screamed at him to stop, that it would only make matters worse.
But then she had opened her eyes. For one moment, he had felt the vibrancy of the earth beneath him, as if its soul had never been trampled upon. The wind had stilled, time had paused in its determined gait. Some semblance of joy slowly began seeping back into his battered, bruised bones. She opened her eyes, and a world without strife unfurled from within.
The respite from the macabre could only be brief, Ken came to realize later. They were fools to believe that they could escape the watchful eyes of the shadows; the façade of romance could only hold out against the inevitable for long. A sharp sound, sudden and brazen like a volcanic eruption, resounded in his mind as invisible forces tore Yolei from his embrace with a violence like that which he had once employed as Emperor. He screamed out desperately for her, reaching out at the empty space like a greedy child clutching for his favorite toy. Except that she was so much more precious. And he did not want to imagine himself without her.
But none of them had much of a choice in the matters now at hand. An army of Digimon, of all shapes and sizes, had seized upon their hiding place and were in the process of decimating what remained of their number. Wings, claws, and blades sliced through the air with all the grace of a refined killer. He could almost taste the bloodlust poised precariously on their expressions.
Still, their Digimon wasted little time in responding. In a trance almost, he watched in a distilled sort of horror as Gatomon and Patamon threw themselves fiercely into the fray. Following them not long thereafter, Gomamon, Tentomon, Armadillomon, Veemon, and Wormmon tumbled into the mix. He was transfixed and terrified all at once. He wanted to stop Wormmon, to prevent him from dying again, but found that he just couldn't move.
"Ken!" He spun abruptly to find Davis at his side, just as Agumon and Gabumon, in their Mega forms, began clawing and ripping at the enemy monsters, pulling at him roughly. "Come on, you've got to move!"
"Where's Yolei?" He had to yell over the cacophony of warfare. It was the only response he could utter aloud as he was dragged ruthlessly along by his best friend, like something sewn and stuffed.
"Dude, I hate to tell you this, but right now, that's not important!" Ken glared viciously at Davis, wondering if the boy was, indeed, heartless. Davis only scoffed at this. "Look, Ken, I'm sorry. We've got to get out of here! We need to help them digivolve!" He gestured in the general direction of their partners as the reality of their predicament hit Ken in the face as hard as TK once had long ago.
"Right!" His voice shook with the weight of responsibility. He couldn't be selfish, not at a time like this. The most he could do at the moment was hope desperately that she would be alright. Hurriedly, he rushed over with Davis, digivice out, ready for action, not caring, in the rush of impulse, about the imminence of danger.
Such carelessness ultimately cost him, of course. A distinguished digimon, composed almost entirely out of shadows, it seemed, intercepted them instantly. A grotesque cry issued forth from his mouth, and Ken recognized it immediately. The same screaming that had drawn them all to Cody, laying cold and still on the ground.
He crumpled, then, like a thin paper doll. He felt as agony extended her long, white fingers through his veins, making sure to tear at his skin with her elongated nails. He cried out so loudly, he did not hear the others beside him, their combined chorus of anguish and defeat. It did not sink into him, that they were losing, had lost.
He held only thoughts for her.
She closed her eyes, as Myotismon's voice overwhelmed her, caving in to the cowardice gradually devouring her, like a spider gnawing the last of life out of its prey. Tied effectively to what felt like some sort of pole, located in what looked like a dungeon of some sort, she squirmed uselessly against her bonds, desperate to put as much distance between her and the vampire as possible. His presence drifted over her like seawater. Cold, and deceptively delicate, she couldn't help but notice the prominence of his gentlemanly manners, so close by her side. The light within her flickered; she understood, perfectly, that it was close to going out.
"It's been awhile, has it not, child?" She opened her eyes, squinting in the minimal light, to meet with a gaze of the most malicious cobalt blue. She turned sharply away, forcing herself to visualize the safety to be found in another, distinct pair of blue eyes.
She gasped at the sensation of his hand upon her chin. Caressing her skin lightly, he now held her in the palm of his hand, literally. She didn't know what to do, how to act. The malignant triumph in his eyes left her breathless. In the utmost corners of her mind, were she still roamed free; her anger gurgled, boiling like the repugnance of potent lava. Determination made her restless; the intricacies within his gaze kept her paralyzed.
"Don't feel like talking?" The blatant mockery in his voice almost rendered her ill as he relinquished her disdainfully. "Fine. I'll go and see if your, ahem, male companion is up to the task." He made to leave, making it as far as the door before Kari was forced to protest.
"Alright, stop!" She grimaced at the transparent desperation in her voice. She had been struggling not to panic; she was still too afraid, for TK's sake, that she'd slipped, and exposed the pale vulnerability of her childish desires. How she wished this was just another nightmare. How she longed to wake up in a tangled mass of sheets and limbs, caught off guard by another poor night's sleep.
"It's me you want. Leave him out of this." Internally, she cringed at the docile, dulcet nature of her tone. In the little time she had been imprisoned, that monster had already reduced her to begging. She hoped someone would find her soon, selfish as it was to hope without him by her side. She dreaded what Myotismon no doubt had already planned, for however long he managed to stay alive.
He chuckled deeply at her response. A glint of refined madness sparkled cruelly in his eyes. "Such generosity is most appreciated, Kari." She looked away as he stepped closer. She loathed the way he said her name. "I'll make sure to mention it to Hope when I see him next."
She cringed as she felt his gloved hand back, smoothly malignant, like the caress of midnight, upon her cheek once again. The façade of a romantic gesture inspired thoughts of a most disturbed nature to clog her mind, like honey. A morbid curiosity wove its way between them, like an intricate thread within a majestic tapestry. Thoughts and feelings she wished would dissipate like the fog he so cherished.
"Such kindness deserves a reward, no?" His voice coiled around her, serpentine and sinister in its movements. A chill with no relation to the cold atmosphere around her gripped her suddenly, as stern as the rope wrapped around her wrists. "Let's see. What could I possibly have to offer as a reward?"
"Nothing that I'd ever want." The retort sounded strained, even to her hearing. But she wasn't about to let that monster trample all over her. She was no doormat. (Or so she kept repeating to herself, as a sort of mantra against the dread and…other, unsettling emotions wreaking havoc on her stomach, like disturbed spirits.)
At her words, Myotismon's fangs emerged as he contorted his lips into a grotesque smirk, as though he had already anticipated her precise response. And perhaps, she realized with a dawning horror, he had. After all, if he had cheated death for yet a fourth time, peering into the minds of others probably required little to no effort at all.
"I wouldn't sound so certain, if I were you." His grin only widened further as Kari realized her expression of dismay must've been clearly on display on her face.
Futility turned to rage as she realized that she wanted nothing more than to rip that malicious glee right from his mouth, nothing more than to watch him suffer in the glow of ten thousand, fiery suns.
Righteousness made her determined. "What could you possibly offer me that I'd ever want besides freedom?" For herself and for him, she thought fiercely, clinging to the idea like a security blanket she hadn't outgrown it, as though it could still protect her.
At that, he outright laughed, and the anger inside her exploded in the guise of a particularly powerful headache. The sheer, demonic cacophony of it resounded garishly within her mind. She clenched her teeth together, grimacing against the mutiny of her body, turning traitor when she needed the ability to concentrate most, as he continued to manipulate her vulnerability further.
"Certainly, as I recall when we first met," She felt sick at the sight of his smirk widening. "you seemed to care very much about saving the lives of others."
A dread, potent like the imminence of the electric anarchy of thunder, drained all defiance from her. At the implications within his tone, Kari knew with certainty then, that she faced impossible odds. She just barely refrained from screaming aloud, both in fear, and frustration at the expression of pure, malicious delight etched gruesomely upon his face.
"I believe there's something you might want to see." He sauntered away from her, gesturing grandly as he did so. "Before you so rashly recant my very generous offer," he paused deliberately as dark tendrils wove themselves into an oval shape, "you might want to consider this."
Appearing out of thin air, what, at first glance, looked to be a mirror of sorts bathed the room in a magic light she knew would not harm the vampire. At the center of it, much to her dismay, lay TK, on some sort of table, writhing around like a worm caught on a hook. Blood and sweat mingled on his heaving chest, covering his shirtless body like paint. The most vicious of sympathetic pains, such as she had never known, gripped her then, encroaching upon the remnants of her sanity like the sharp edges of a cage.
"And just in case you've still not made up your mind…" There was a vicious quality of lust to his voice, demonic and savage as his very actions. Kari had little time to dwell on the meaning of this, her eyes still drawn to the ragged form of her best friend, looking as though he had been crucified, when the image transformed.
At the sight that met her, Kari could no longer refrain from screaming. Desperate and despairing, the shrieks bled from her as though forced out by the brilliant edge of a knife. In the midst of the image, her brother Tai lay unconscious. Reason no longer held any sway over her; she could only picture her brother, the fiery child of courage, still, and cold. Lifeless. Extinguished.
Her cries increased as she began to recognize the other figures strewn around her brother, all of which lay at awkward angles, unmoving. Sora's face, so typically warm and receptive, curled in on itself in the depths of madness; Matt's body, entwined instinctively around hers, was hardly visible beneath the bruises that covered it like some sort of plague. Joe, Izzy, and Cody, slumped over upon each other nearby, looked as if they had hardly fared any better. Ken and Davis, a little ways off, appeared to have lost against the malicious might of a particularly cruel monster.
"W-what about the digimon?" It seemed to take an eternity for her to find the strength to speak. She hadn't seen any one of them amongst the wreckage of her friends. Their absence only added to the pain railing rampantly against her chest; her heart felt fit to burst, her mind seemed precariously placed on the very edge of coherency. In the blinding light of her despair, Kari had failed to notice the absence also of Mimi and Yolei.
"Probably digi-eggs, by now." It appeared that the vampire had overlooked this as well, basking in his bravado. At his sinister smile, she fell through the cracks, felt every inch of hysteria as it scratched against her skin, made her bleed in front of him. She could only submit as he pooled her in his hands and breathed beguiling promises against her fair cheek. "Your human friends are still alive. Though, at this rate, I cannot say how they'll manage that for long."
"Do you have an answer for me, yet, child of light?" Myotismon inquired after her lack of response, though it was clear that he assumed he already knew the answer.
Sinking further down into the abyss, she could only answer, "Yes."
Yolei had run as fast as her legs could carry her. Which, under normal circumstances, did not usually amount to a terribly great distance. Yet, in her awakening, in the wake of that kiss, she had found that determination for one's own life (as well as those of others) made for quite the remedy against the aches and pains that usually prevented her from running far.
She had run, and she had heard the screaming and the moaning. The memory of Ken holding her, like a child cradling their most beloved possession, helped to deafen the world around her, rendering the battle behind her practically mute. She had run on, clutching greedily at the blind hope that the rest of her friends had managed to break away also.
When the soreness of her muscles finally halted her progress, when she had, at last, collapsed upon the ground, the world had come back into focus. Now, minutes, hours, days-god only knew how much longer later, solitude pinned her helplessly to the spot, rooting her with the knowledge that, so far as she knew, she had been the only one of them to make it out of the battle.
Yolei felt too drained for tears. Fear, madness, futility-they sucked at her spirit, like leeches, taking in their haste all energy she might have spent on weeping. She curled in upon herself, as if she really believed that this insanity was nothing more than a bad dream. She hugged her body close, closed her eyes and made believe that she still lay comforted by the contours of her bed.
A strange smell awoke her, what seemed like hours later. She opened her eyes reluctantly, loathing the thought of having to move and abandon the warmth of the large bed. Wait. Large bed?
At that, she bolted up, overwhelmed by a sickly combination of confusion and nausea. Various shades of brown and grey encircled her as the pungent, earthy fragrance lingered in her memory. The world around her wobbled, off balance for a few moments as she attempted to establish the identity of her surroundings.
"Where am I?" She wondered aloud, struggling to digest the events of the past several hours. She didn't entirely recognize the room she was in at the moment. It looked especially cramped, stuffed with books, she realized upon finding her glasses upon the nightstand next to the bed, and other various, academic debris. She felt almost as if she had gone back in time, from the looks of the yellowed pages scattered as though discarded by the severity of a hurricane, and the archaic nature of the wooden shelves and desk crammed into the crevices and corners.
"Why, still in the Digital World, of course." A slight shift in the dusty air, subtle, like the tremors of a benign wind, along with the familiar lilt of that gentle voice, alerted her to the presence of another being in her midst. Yolei turned abruptly, shrieking in disbelief and fright at the sight of her friend and digimon partner, Hawkmon.
"Aack!" Her sudden movements were violent enough that they sent the poor bird off onto the floor.
"Don't do that to me!" She panted, slowly regaining her breath and steadying her turbulent heartbeat. She'd had enough of surprises for a lifetime now.
"I'm sorry! I didn't realize you weren't quite awake yet." He grumbled, picking himself up and dusting off his feathers with a half-hearted air of annoyance. She had known him long enough to know that, behind his façade of irritation, he secretly found all her quirks and flaws endearing.
"Yeah, well." She mumbled, throwing the covers off as she made to get up. "You nearly gave me a heart attack. A little warning next time, okay?"
Yolei maneuvered her way around the bird digimon to stand up. Only when her head banged against the ceiling did she figure that hers wasn't the brightest idea in the world. Where was someone as level-headed as Cody when you needed them? Such a thought sparked her musings if the other digidestined where somewhere nearby.
Before she could seize the chance to voice her concerns, however, another voice meandered in from the doorway, as soft and as transitory as smoke:
"What's going on here?"