Chapter 11: Return to the Light
Lying Disclaimer: I own all Digimon. EVERYTHING! Just like I own America, and England, and France (someone else can have the other countries). And I own all of you too, so read my story!
Author's Note: As you might tell from the disclaimer, I'm a little giddy right now. After two years of working on this fic (a larger struggle than usual) I have finally completed Darkness Reborn! This is the final chapter. Since it took so long for me to get this out, it might be good for people to go back and review a few of the older chapters, since I bring back some old faces from the start of this story.
Before diving in to this conclusion, I want to thank everyone who has read this story and supported my effort. The constructive criticism and feedback of people like TurquoiseCow, Smarty Verse, K.H.T., Josh the Critic, Tremor3258, and countless others have far outshined any destructive commentary I've encountered along the way. I don't think this is my best work, but I'm proud of myself for completing it and at least attempting to write a TK & Kari relationship (being that I am and forever shall be a Daikari fan).
Well, enough from me. I hope you enjoy this last chapter.
It was a lonely fight. Yes, there were other Digimon present, not the least of which was Hypermon. He fired missiles and dodged blasts like a second nature, never having to think about moving aside and retaliating. It just came naturally, like breathing. Funny how a life consisting of mostly combat could create such an odd habit. Then there was Sylphimon, firing Static Force blasts and adding kicks whenever an opening so rarely appeared. None of their attacks fazed ChaosAngemon, though. He just kept on swinging that staff, which despite its resemblance to decaying wood, delivered a force as powerful as iron bar. Their attacks slowed him, but if their corrupt friend felt any pain he certainly didn't broadcast it. His face hadn't flashed an expression once; and the only time they heard his monotone voice was during his Hand of Chaos attacks.
The real problem—for Magnamon at least—was that Davis wasn't there. There was no loneliness from numbers. This fight featured many combatants. Any fight with more than two competitors always bothered him. No, he felt loneliness of the soul. Digimon felt a kinship with their human partners, so similar it was even deeper than a connection between brothers. As Veemon he had joked to Davis that their connection was so strong they might as well have been married. His head still hurt from the noogie that rewarded that remark. All jokes aside, that connection was what sustained Magnamon in battle. When he fought, it wasn't just for the sake of some noble cause. He fought because Davis would benefit from that cause. As long as Davis would come out on top, Magnamon would fight for any ideal. It was same for all Digimon. After all, hadn't MetalGarurumon attacked Tai and WarGreymon because of his loyalty to Matt? It had been in Matt's interest. There'd been no malice or hatred between the two Megas.
Come to think of it, perhaps that was what ChaosAngemon was doing now. For all they knew, that spiked spiral around ChaosAngemon's neck did nothing more than convince him that following the Emperor's orders were in TK's best interests. Perhaps even the Emperor himself thought he was helping TK out. That was wrong, of course. Whatever issues he might have, TK was not the kind of person who sacrificed other people's lives to reach his goals. Any cause that required blood was too foul for him. How was it that something as twisted as the Emperor had arisen from within TK? Even in battle the shock did not lessen. Maybe that was why Davis had run off with Kari to rescue their friend. They could both contribute more in the battle for TK's soul by leaving than by staying behind.
But Magnamon did miss Davis.
Too bad ChaosAngemon didn't miss Magnamon. He landed a blow on Magnamon's belly stunning him and creating a clear opening for a strike from above. ChaosAngemon had nearly finished raising the staff above his head when a titanic yellow and black blur struck him from the side. Ankylomon watched his fusion partner bounce across the grass, kicking up large portions of sod as he fell.
"Thanks for the save." Magnamon leaded heavily against the larger Digimon. "Did you find TK?"
"Yeah. Kari and Davis are trying to get through to him now. I don't know how much luck they'll have since Daemon's guarding TK."
"You left Davis and Kari to face Daemon alone?" Magnamon couldn't believe his friend could do something so foolish.
"What was I supposed to do? There's no way I could fight him by myself. Kari told us that-" ChaosAngemon fired a blast of energy before the argument could continue. Then it was back to dodging and striking again; fighting a losing battle against a good friend. The exhausting rhythm of hit, run, dodge, block, drained some of Magnamon's initial anger. Ankylomon was right, he couldn't have faced Daemon one-on-one and hope to survive. Doing so would only result in the loss of another good friend. And Davis wouldn't let any harm befall Kari. He'd find a way to distract Daemon.
Some would say that would take a miracle, but that was why Magnamon wasn't worried. Davis made miracles. He always found a way to come out on top, no matter how hopeless the situation or complicated the issues. Magnamon had always thought that Davis' unique ability lay in his persona rather than any sort of destiny. Davis was the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He expressed all of his emotions clearly and without hesitation (though sometimes he felt more embarrassment than anything else after his outbursts). Such candor allowed him to keep things in perspective and see options that others missed. Whenever that failed, his bull-headed stubbornness often plowed through any other obstacles. He'd demonstrated his skill multiple times, including the battles with Kimeramon and MaloMyotismon. When everyone else wanted to quit or run away, Davis plowed forward; either too courageous to back down from danger, or too oblivious to even think about it. Whatever the case, Magnamon could never argue with the results.
Yet it was those same results that had led TK on the path to darkness. Though it was hardly Davis' fault, his accomplishments had nurtured the subconscious resentment within TK. It was so strange that TK had been the one to slip into the role of villain when he had always seemed the most composed the group. At the other end of the persona spectrum, Davis had been an emotional berserker, unloading his feelings on everything near him. TK had withheld all his sadness and anger. Hiding his feelings made him seem so calm and composed; the most reliable of the younger Digidestined. No one could have guessed the inner turmoil within that quiet soul. Given the current situation, perhaps it would have been better if TK had followed Davis' example a few times.
ChaosAngemon was dueling with Sylphimon now, allowing the remaining three Digimon regroup and launch a joint attack. The Magna Blast, Tail Hammer, and Hyper Missiles sailed in at ChaosAngemon's back, but he managed to back flip off Sylphimon out of the line of fire. At the same time, the force of his kick knocked Sylphimon out of the way as well. The blasts detonated harmlessly in the sky. Magnamon couldn't help but wonder if ChaosAngemon had intended to save Sylphimon even as he avoided the strike. Perhaps just a little bit of Patamon was shinning through.
But even if that was true the fighting resumed with as much vigor as before. ChaosAngemon showed no further signs of Patamon breaking his slavery. ChaosAngemon was an emotionless and brutal as ever. Before long, Sylphimon lay on the ground before him, battered and tired, awaiting death from the fallen angel's staff. Magnamon and Hypermon hurled themselves before the blow could fall, clinging to ChaosAngemon's arms and waist to pull him back.
"Patamon, stop this!"
"This isn't who you are!"
But the only reply was to be swatted away. Now it was they who would be receive their end. Feeling too weary to battle any more, his armor dented and cracked, Magnamon felt death reaching out to him more certain than ever. Ankylomon was charging forward, but the lumbering giant was too slow. He'd never make it in time. It was too bad Magnamon couldn't have been with Davis one last time. But perhaps it was better that he not see his partner's demise. Davis was the kind of person who'd get himself killed trying to avenge Magnamon. No matter how much love they shared, Magnamon did not wish his partner to follow him into death. No, Davis should only die at a ripe old age, surrounded by children and grandchildren. Would such a future come exist? If the Emperor wasn't stopped, Davis would either die at the hands of ChaosAngemon or under the crack of a whip. Be strong, Davis. Defeat the Emperor for your own future, don't worry about avenging me.
But the final blow never came. Rather, ChaosAngemon screamed and gripped his head while staggering back. Ankylomon used the break to shove his former partner aside. The pain of the blow paled with whatever tormented the Chaos General's mind. He limped to his feet and gaze at the two Golden Armor Digimon. His movements were jerky, almost as if he were straining against an invisible chain. He exposed his neck, where the spiral choked off his free will. "Strike…" there was some hint of emotion in his voice. "Strike… now!"
This was a sign. Somehow, Magnamon knew that Davis and Kari had something to do with this. They had broken through the Emperor's hold on TK, and in doing so weakened the Emperor's hold on Patamon. This was perhaps the only opportunity they'd have. Magnaman signaled to Hypermon to charge. Both flung themselves with the very last of their strength at ChaosAngemon, aiming a blow at his control spiral. Their gauntlets cracked and shattered under the impact, but among those falling bits of gold there were shards of darkness. ChaosAngemon slumped to the ground as the last bits of the spiral fell from his body. The dark energy seemed to vaporize off his body, evaporating into the night sky until a small, winged bat-pig Digimon lay on the ground.
"Patamon!" Yolei came and scooped up the little Digimon. Magnamon wasn't feeling much better than his newly liberated friend. His strength ebbed and he slumped to the ground beside Hypermon. In a final flash of brilliance, they reverted all the way back to Chibomon and Leafmon. Ken and Cody took them up and carried them next to Yolei.
"Ugh…" Patamon moaned. "TK…"
"Welcome back." said Ken.
"TK! Where's TK?"
Yolei shrugged. "We don't know." She pulled out her D3. "Kari and Davis must be near him. If you snapped out of being a Chaos General, then those two probably got through to TK. If we find them, we'll find TK."
"And then what do we say?"
Cody had asked the million dollar question. What could any of them say to TK after everything that had happened? Chibomon doubted any of them harbored a grudge against TK, a victim of his own suppressions. Yet they all knew TK, and he'd be ashamed to even be seen by them. There wasn't anything they could say that would ease his shame. Ankylomon had the wisest words. "Let's go find him first. Then we'll worry about talking. I want to make sure he's really okay. Plus, Daemon might still be out there."
The group agreed and everyone piled on to the large dinosaur Digimon. Cody held Patamon while Yolei asked Sylphimon to take the lead into city. If any Digimon reacted violently to their freedom, Sylphimon could settle them down. Ken cared for both baby Digimon. With Davis MIA, it was the least he could do.
On their trek, Chibomon hoped that the fighting was done. All three Chaos Generals were gone. That meant there was no longer a power source to feed the control spires. Even the though the black monuments continued to connect both worlds, the merger had stopped. The Digital World still hung upside down, precariously close to the human world, but now unmoving. With all the Digimon here on Earth, it wouldn't be too difficult to destroy the spires and return the Digital World to its rightful distance from Earth. All the Digidestined loved the Digital World, but it was good for humans to have a place to return to. Smashing both worlds together in some weird merging would only have made things harder on everyone. It was hard to imagine humans starting out new colonies within the Digital World, constantly fearing attack from some hungry creature that didn't acknowledge territories and city limits.
Daemon couldn't have thought this plan through very well. Sure, he knew how to make an army, but he had no idea how to rule. Did he really think he could accomplish anything with a bunch of mindless slaves? Without free will and individuality, Daemon would have to issue orders for everything. Get out of bed! Eat your breakfast! Charge into battle! Block that attack! Dodge that blow! Breathe! Chibmon knew from experience that enslaved people didn't willfully serve their captor, which made it twice as hard to accomplish anything. Daemon would have failed in the end, but failure meant the loss of lives. He'd already cost countless Digimon and human fatalities. It was good to be done.
Odd how he had learned so much yet still remained foolishly optimistic. Rounding a corner, the group saw TK, Davis, and Kari running down the street. They started to cheer and wave hello, but their joyful cries turned to gasps when Daemon, shackled from head to toe with dark spirals, rounded the corner and unleashed his fiery breath.
This is all my fault. The only thought within TK's mind. All those dead Digimon. My fault. The dead humans. My fault. Families broken. My fault. Lives devastated. My fault. My fault. My fault.
And now his greatest failure had taken form in Daemon. A merciless killing machine, loosed upon the entire world in one final act of spite. TK could no longer feel the Emperor within his mind, though the ghost of the connection still haunted him. Once he had admitted the truth, he could feel the invisible cord within his soul, uniting two different lives in a bond that was neither supportive nor welcome. Now that link was gone, and perhaps the Emperor had dispersed into raw emotion as well. Yet he had been so certain of his return, so sure that TK would allow himself to slip back into that depression and hide away everything he wanted to cry to the world. Wasn't he doing that right now? Even as he fled with Kari and Davis—two friends who had come to pull him out of the dark—he could only focus on his shame. He reflected on it silently, not afraid of death. Perhaps he even welcomed the punishment, or was it a release? But Daemon wasn't after him. If anything, it was TK's presence that kept Daemon from incinerating the entire city. Daemon was now programmed not to harm TK; though TK knew he'd be the first target if Daemon ever chose. He was using the Emperor's future designs as a hostage. The memory of his greatest mistake was now a shield for the friends he'd betrayed. How could he have fallen so far?
Up ahead an armor Digimon lumbered down the street with eight figures waving hello. Kari and Davis waved back and ran even faster towards their approaching friends. TK hung back, almost turning around to face Daemon. "TK!" A small flying orange bundle of love and devotion threw itself at him. Patamon embraced his partner with both his stubby little arms and his wings. TK stiffened under the embrace, too shocked that his friend could greet him after the forced transformation into ChaosAngemon. "I'm so glad you're back!"
TK didn't have time for a reply. Daemon came swooping in, spewing flames from his hands and his mouth. Whole buildings lit afire and began to spread the blaze down the block. Kari and the others screamed at him to get on Ankylomon. Reluctant to be anywhere near the people he didn't deserve, TK nevertheless went with them to serve as a human shield.
Ankylomon fled down a street while Daemon took momentary interest in torching more buildings. In his brainwashed state, he'd apparently forgotten that all the humans in the city had been dragged from their homes and taken to concentration points. Daemon wasn't killing anyone yet, but the flames were consuming homes and businesses. If any humans survived this night, they'd return home only to find their livelihoods decimated. My fault.
"Well, we're all together again." Davis sounded oddly cheerful. "So, what do we do now?"
Ken glanced back at Daemon, who had renewed his pursuit. "Can we fight him?"
Cody shook his head. "Remember last time? Two fusion Digimon and a Mega couldn't stop this monster. We're already tired from fighting ChaosAngemon, and Daemon's even more dangerous because he's not holding back."
"He will hold back." TK's voice sounded hollow. "He's been ordered not to hurt me."
"Why?" Everyone glared at Yolei, who realized what she had said and quickly looked abashed. TK didn't mind. It was a good question and something they needed to hear.
"When the Emperor lost control of my body, he gave one final order to the control spires: Keep Daemon Enslaved. He then ordered Daemon to kill everyone on Earth except me, so that I'd become angry again and re-release the Emperor. Daemon won't attack as long as there's a chance I'll get hurt." He looked at the others, a plan now in his mind. "So what we do-"
"Scratch that." Davis said. "We're not going with that plan."
"I haven't said anything yet." Was it possible Davis didn't want to hear TK's plan because of all he'd done.
"Don't have to say it. I already know your plan. You serve as a big old 'human shield' while the rest of us go after Daemon. Right?" TK's face confirmed Davis' suspicions. "Dude, that's so like you. It's not gonna happen."
Kari agreed. "You can't make things right by putting yourself in danger TK. A victory at your expense would be the worst thing of all." The others nodded in silent agreement. TK felt tears well in his eyes. First he felt ashamed that he thought the others would not listen to his idea simply out of a grudge; and he felt such relief that they were just as concerned for his safety as ever. But if he couldn't somehow help, how would he atone?
"I have a plan." said Cody. Everyone, TK included, leaned in to hear. "Daemon's made a big mistake in moving all the Digimon from the Digital World here to Earth. If we can lure Daemon into a trap, we can hit him with the combine powers of our own Digimon as well as those that were brought into the city. We can also have Digidestined from other parts of the world send flying Digimon our way. That might be enough to defeat him."
Davis frowned, "Okay, but how do we get him to move around to where we need him? The minute he goes near those other Digimon he'll start blasting."
"We'll have to fight him and keep his attention totally focused on us."
Kari shook her head. "Can we do that with the power we have now?"
Ken nodded. "Remember, we're not facing him as before. We'll have two Megas now." Everyone looked at TK. They still relied on his strength.
"You can count on me. Just don't let the other Digimon see me in this outfit." He gestured to the Emperor costume that still clung to him like a parasite. "I'm sure some of them will recognize me. Then…"
Davis waved a hand. "No worries. They'll be too busy noticing the big flaming guy trying to kill 'em. You'll be fine."
"Hey," Ankylomon called from up ahead. "Just what am I supposed to be doing during all this? If Patamon's going to be a Mega, I can't become part of Shakkoumon. I hope you don't expect me to go up against Daemon like this."
Cody replied, "No. I need you to take me to the nearest group of Digimon and have them spread the word. We'll also need you in case some of them are taking out their frustrations on the neighborhood."
The Digimon sighed. "So I'm still stuck as a transport." TK felt sorry for him. Ankylomon had constantly been left behind as Angemon gained more power. It wasn't fair, but it didn't make Ankylomon less important. TK hoped his friend understood that.
Everyone decided Cody's plan was the best choice. TK, Davis, and Ken would take their respective Digimon and battle Daemon while Kari, Yolei and Cody tried to persuade the newly arrived Digimon to aid in Daemon's destruction. Sylphimon would be charged with handling any Ultimate-level Digimon that might cause trouble, and his bipedal body might be more familiar to the humans than many other Digimon. Ankylomon consented to acting as courier/bodyguard, though he grumbled all the way to the awaiting crowd. TK could only imagine the confusion on both sides. The Digimon were free, but in a foreign land and either oblivious to their acts or suffering the shock of suddenly regaining their freedom. There was no telling how confused, frightened, or angry they might be.
The humans would most definitely be afraid. They had been seized and guarded by the Digimon—creatures they only knew about from the news and various raids. Humanity hadn't had enough time to get used to the idea of digital life forms. All it would take would be one act of aggression on either side to spark a riot.
TK shook his head and refused to let the guilt of the situation distract him from his duty. He was a Digidestined; and the Emperor had been right. TK had been at this longer than anyone else, so he knew that self-doubt and loathing could at least wait until the crisis past.
With a burst of energy from their partners, Chibomon and Leafmon evolved all the way to their Champion forms. Patamon followed suite.
"DNA digivolve to… Paildramon! Mega Digivolve to… Imperialdramon!"
"Angemon warp digivolve to… Seraphimon!" Seeing Angemon's highest form gave TK some rekindled hope. This plan could work and bring about Daemons end. Just stay focused.
Imperialdramon and Seraphimon soared up to meet Daemon. Despite the situation, Imperialdramon seemed just a little giddy. After all, he'd only just regained the ability to reach his Mega form. Having been restrained by the control spires for so long, it was only fitting that he should feel some jubilation. But then it was back to business as Imperialdramon flew straight at Daemon and sunk his teeth into his enemy's arm.
Daemon screamed and batted Imperialdramon away with his free arm, creating a gap for Seraphimon. A right hook to that massive jaw staggered Daemon a bit, but he quickly recovered and unleashed a Deadly Flame inferno at both Digimon. Seraphimon took shelter behind Imperialdramon's shield and weathered the firestorm unsigned. Then came the counterattack.
"Seven Heavens!" The seven golden spheres struck home and sent Daemon toppling. They also cracked the spiked dark spirals on his body.
"Seraphimon, don't!" TK called up to his partner.
"What is it?"
Davis glared at TK. "What did he do wrong? Last I checked, beating up Daemon was a good thing." For a moment TK felt that Davis was accusing him of another betrayal, but then he realized that Davis was right. It was good to strike back against Daemon; but not like that.
destroy the dark spirals, Daemon will regain control of his mind."
Ken nodded. "Which means we loose our only real advantage. As he is now, Daemon is much more violent and destructive, but he's also dumber. His actions are predictable and we can stay one step ahead of him mentally. If we accidentally free him, though…"
Davis nodded. "Okay, okay. I gotcha. Better strong and dumb than weak and clever."
"Weak" wasn't the term TK would use when describing Daemon.
"You heard him, guys, no breaking the spirals!"
Imperialdramon sighed. "Oh, you gotta be kidding! Whatever happened to the good old days where it was smash a control spire and call it good. I'm gonna need-UGH!" Daemon's kick cut off Imperialdramon's rant. Not a entirely a bad thing in TK's mind.
"Cheap shot." Imperialdramon growled. "Mode change to… Fighter mode!" Imperialdramon assumed his bipedal form and easily eclipsed Daemon's smaller body. He swatted the dark Digimon away with mocking ease.
Unfortunately, Daemon regained control of his flight and balanced himself before striking to ground. Then he grew. His body swelled and expanded, adding to his already imposing form until he was able to look Imperialdramon in the eye and wrestle him shoulder-to-shoulder. The size difference eliminated, Daemon roared and lunged forward, aiming a strike at Imperialdramon's throat. The blow was predictable enough that Imperialdramon could avoid the blow and slip behind Daemon without too much danger. Davis and Ken grinned at TK, acknowledging that he had been right in not striking Daemon with broad-range attacks. Imperialdramon slipped his arms around Daemon's armpits and clasped his hands behind Daemon's head. Daemon roared and thrashed, but could not break the full-nelson lock. Seraphimon swooped in and began delivering a series of punches and kicked to Daemon's midsection. With his arms held upright by Imperialdramon's grip, he couldn't fight back physically, and he lacked the thought to blast fire from his mouth. For a moment it seemed as though the combine might of both Megas might be enough.
But then Daemon grew angry, and his power lit up the night.
There was a strong feeling of anger just beneath the surface of this sea of confusion. The Digimon were looking around at their new surroundings, not quite sure how they came to be here. The larger ones seemed secure in their size and power, but the smaller Digimon mixed in with the humans were definitely more concerned. They glanced around nervously as if expecting an attack from every direction. Many huddled in the shadows of their larger brethren.
The humans were equally fearful and/or hostile. Kari figured that the only thing holding back their retaliations or flight was the presence of the larger Digimon. As with so many things in life, size mattered.
Kari, Yolei, and Cody were moving among the crowd, trying to encourage calm and ease by showing they had no fear of the Digimon. Sylphimon and Ankylomon were moving at the outskirts of the concentration area, explaining the situation to Digimon and encouraging them to spread words of comfort to the more fearful members. The Digidestined kept their eyes open for friends and family, hoping to enlist their aid in calming everyone. Kari had already run into Jim Kido and Jun Motomiya, but was frustrated that she hadn't found her own family. Who knew where Tai had ended up. He had been away at college during this crisis and was most likely in another part of the country.
What was happening at those other sites? Were people and Digimon maintaining their composure, or would more deaths ensue? Trying to ignore those thoughts only brought up memories of TK's face after his liberation. He'd looked so ashamed and sad. Couldn't he see that there was nothing needing forgiveness? Everyone who loved him understood that he was more a victim than anyone. Of course he couldn't see that. He couldn't forgive himself, and that blinded him to the forgiveness of others. When this was over, Kari would have to work hard to help him see the hands that reached out to re-embrace him if he only allowed them to take hold.
Her thoughts didn't go any farther. The night suddenly lifted and for a moment Kari thought daylight had arrived. But a light this intense couldn't come at dawn. She squinted at the source and saw Daemon's grotesque form at its center. He was unleashing an unfocused blast of energy at Imperialdramon and Seraphimon, sending both of them hurtling away. The shockwave also toppled several buildings nearby. People screamed and stumbled over each other as debris rained down.
To their credit, many of the Champion and Ultimate Digimon lunged forward, shielding civilians with their bodies while others used powerful blasts to reduce the falling brick and concrete into dust. There were injuries, however. Many people were pinned under rubble. Some had broken legs. Others would lose limbs completely. Chaos ensued as people and smaller Digimon fled the area, running as far away from the battle zone as they could.
"Everyone!" Cody shouted from atop Ankylomon. Only the nearest humans and Digimon themselves stopped to listen. Others continued to flee, trampling slower runners in the process. Kari had to fight hard against the current of people just to stand upright. Cody called the larger Digimon. "That demon up there fighting the angel and the dragon; he's the cause of all this. He's the one you imprisoned your minds and sent you to enslave human kind. We're fighting to stop him but we need your help!"
To say that the reactions were mixed was optimistic. Some Digimon immediately turned and fired at Daemon, perhaps because they had previously met the Digidestined and trusted Cody implicitly; or maybe they were finally happy to have a target for their anger. Others were not so trusting. Some Digimon shrugged and moved away, unswayed by the words of a child. Humans saw Cody as a traitor, for he rode one of the beasts that had captured or killed so many people.
"I lost my wife in last night's attack!" a man shouted. "Why the hell should I listen to some monster-lover?"
Kari admired how calm Cody could remain, even in the face of such hatred. "That demon-creature up there created the monster that killed your wife. He's the source of your pain. Everyone here, Digimon and human, are victims of his plans. If you're going to focus your anger on something, aim it at him!"
"I'd rather kill all these freaks!" the man roared back.
"Watch your mouth, human." A Tyrannomon lumbered forward. "I have no interest in challenging a Mega for these pitiful creatures. I demand that you open a portal to send me and my own home."
Kari shook her head. "There isn't time to send you back now. Daemon will kill everyone here if he isn't stopped."
A Veggimon said, "He'll kill all the humans. We'll be safe if you send us back. Or are you going to keep us here like slaves?" The accusation and the implied comparison to the Digimon Emperor stabbed her like nothing else.
"It appears you are already slaves to your own selfishness and cowardice." Kari hadn't noticed that a man wearing a white robe had materialized beside her. A man with long dark hair and a square-shaped face that was startlingly familiar.
"Yukio!" Datirimon hopped from Yolei's arms and ran to his partner. "You're back! You're back! You're back!"
Oikawa smiled and picked up his partner. "My apologies for being late. The powers that held me only until just recently, and I've never tried crossing dimensions before. I'm glad I arrived in one piece."
He regarded the mob arrayed around him. His abrupt appearance had startled everyone into inaction. "You Digimon, you all want to go home, but do you think that you will be safe there? The Digital World has faced true horrors in the last decade. You have all suffered from the Dark Masters and both Digimon Emperors. Time and again you have fallen under their power and been forced into slavery. Now you finally have a chance to strike back at a force that oppresses you and you do nothing. You run and hide, hoping that a gap that has been crossed multiple times will now suddenly protect you. Can you really believe that this fight that has spanned both worlds will now suddenly remain contained here on Earth? The only way you will ever know safety is if you work for it with your own power! Your enemy flies over your heads yet you do not fire! Your allies, the enemy of your enemy, stand next to you but you do not protect them. Fight back! Claim your freedom and your future, and strike at Daemon!"
Kari was awestruck. She had never heard Oikawa speak such words. Apparently, life as the guardian of the Digital World had changed him more deeply than anyone could have guessed, and his words carried a far greater impact. The Digimon who were not yet attacking turned (some more reluctantly than others) and added their strength to the bombardment.
Now Oikawa addressed the humans. "And you people, why do you turn your hate on those who fight for you? I know you all want revenge or justice for the recent loss of lives. These Digimon creatures around you have suffered similar losses. They lost loved ones to the same horrors, and now they finally fight against those who wronged them. Taken into slavery and brought here to this foreign world, they fight to reclaim what they lost. Will you be any different? Will you not fight to regain the peace of this land?"
Someone found his voice, albeit timidly. "J-just what can we do against that?"
"A battle like this is fought on more than just physical strength. The will of the group can be a greater power than any other. Focus your anger on your true enemy and encourage those who fight beside you. Keep them focused on the real target and do not allow hatred or fear to blind you! The worst thing you can do is to take no action at all!"
Not everyone responded to Oikawa's speech. Some people were too bitter over last night's tragedy, or perhaps some were racist to begin with. They did not take action. They glared at him as they brushed past. But far more people helped. They ran to the nearest Digimon and offered their encouragement, or shouted insults and obscenities at Daemon. For every one person that left, five other stayed and fought.
Scenes like these, even though it was a tragic battle, gave Kari hope that someday humans might forgive Digimon for the actions of a few, just as Digimon would have to forgive humans. How sad it was that a few misguided individuals could paint all of a society, nation, or world in a negative light. Kari swore to herself that when she grew older and fulfilled her dream of being a teacher, she'd make sure this was one of her most important lesson to her students.
If she lived to see that day. For all their attacks, Daemon wasn't weakening.
"We are still struggling." said Seraphimon.
He and Imperialdramon had been given a short reprieve from battle as Daemon contended with the new combatants. Digimon from all over the city and beyond were moving in to aid in the attack. Several flying Digimon swooped in and fired bursts at Daemon's back. The shots stung and cause him to yell, but there didn't appear to be any critical damage. His shield of flames prevented many shots from getting through; and then the death started again.
With one claw raised, Daemon fired a jet of fire that incinerated several Airdramon in one passing. A few Kuwagamon lost their nerve and turned to flee, only to be shot from behind by another inferno. The barrage from the air was enough that Daemon hadn't turned his attention on the people and Digimon below, but soon all the air combatants would be gone, then it would be another human massacre.
Seraphimon shook his head. "All our power, and we cannot penetrate his defenses."
"Don't tell me you're quitting." said Imperialdramon. "We haven't lost yet."
"I know… but we must find a way around Daemon's defenses before any more innocents die. Perhaps if you fired a Positron Laser and weakened his shield-"
"To do that we'd have to focus all the energy in one small spot. Your Seven Heaven's attack wouldn't fit."
Seraphimon clenched his fist. Daemon would not kill another human. Such an act was cruel and terrible in itself, but the added harm it would do to TK's fragile soul made it all the more unthinkable. There had to be a way…
"I have an idea." Imperialdramon said. "Can you create a Seven Heavens attack without firing it."
believe so. Why?"
"No time, just do it." Seraphimon felt a deep foreboding about this. Neither XV-mon nor Stingmon were known for being exceptionally strategic in a fight. Usually, Ken or Cody became the main planners. So what did his friend have planned in this most critical moment? Better to trust his friend than to do nothing. Seraphimon conjured the shinning orbs and held them before Imperialdramon.
The bipedal dragon raised his hands on either side of the array and a thin blue sheen surrounded the space between them. Slowly, the aura contracted, moving the Seven Heavens closer together. "What are you-"
"Shh! I need to concentrate. And if you can keep your attack from exploding-"
"I cannot. It is meant to explode."
"Then hold you're breath." Imperialdramon's shield continued to constrict Seraphimon's attack. "Careful… careful." The Seven Heavens did not explode for some reason. Perhaps they did not sense the presence of evil, or maybe because they were the same power, they could meld together without detonating. Whatever the explanation, Seraphimon remained fascinated yet terrified as Imperialdramon narrowed the energy shield into an enclosed tube with a flat pointed edge at the end. The light of the Seven Heavens shone within a bright blue spear.
"Impressive…" said Seraphimon. "You do realize, however, that this could explode in our faces at any moment?"
Imperialdramon shifted back to his dragon mode. "All the more reason to get it planted in Daemon, fast. Hop on." Seraphimon mounted Imperialdramon's back and grasped the spear in one hand. "Ugh… you're heavy."
"It is my armor."
"Yeah, right." Imperialdramon chuckled.
"And I am sure Davis and Ken have your two halves on a strict diet as well."
"What's a diet?" Seraphimon was not entirely sure his friend was joking. They rushed forward at top speed, passing several Digimon on the way. Seraphimon could feel the energy within the spear straining against its containment. He had been correct in saying his attack would detonate. It wanted to explode; it was the attack's nature. Now if they could only reach Daemon before their own plan backfired, literally. Imperialdramon weaved and looped past the flaming jets that were now fired indiscriminately at the growing cloud of Digimon. Daemon was still too preoccupied with the aerial attack to worry about the ground assault or notice the two Megas charging forth. He didn't even glimpse their approach until they were right beside him.
They were truly pushing the limit of time with this attack. Not only did the spear look and feel as if it would burst, but Daemon's control spirals teetered on shattering. Cracks and dents dotted their faces and many of the spikes had broken off. Seraphimon wasn't sure, but he thought he saw Daemon's eyes return to normal just as the final moment came.
With one mighty thrust of his arm, Seraphimon plunged the energy spear into Daemon's chest with a loud, wet crack. Daemon screamed and Imperialdramon shot by, avoiding a retaliatory jet of fire. The spear now protruded for Daemon's chest, but only for a moment. Just as the demonic creature placed his hand to remove the spear, Imperialdramon dropped the shield containing the blast's energy. Finally free to act on its design, the force of the Seven Heavens spread outward, devouring Daemon from within. He screamed and thrashed but it was far too late to shield himself, especially with his torso now vaporized from the inside out. All the Digimon and humans watched with an odd mixture of awe and satisfaction as the would-be dominator of three worlds vanished in a flash of light, leaving only bits of dust that broke into fragmented data and scattered to the wind.
Seraphimon looked out over the city, at the people and Digimon who had survived this onslaught. They had saved many, many lives this night; ending the conflict with the least amount of casualties. Yet so many had died, both from the onslaught of the Chaos Generals and from Daemon's own spree. The battle was over, but the fallout would last for years. Perhaps the greatest casualties of all were the survivors.
The flames weren't nearly as powerful as Daemon's hell-storm, but they did the job. In a small pyre the clothes turned to ash and shrunk away. Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which the Emperor's clothes burn.
Now the Emperor had no clothes. He was exposed to those who knew him best. All his hidden resentments, all his fears and anger, all out in the open for his friends to see and know that TK himself was no friend at all.
Even now, all he could do was act for his own good. Off in the distance, a control spire flashed out of existence and the patch of the Digital World that hung overhead vanished and was replaced by the normal night's sky. While the others had climbed aboard Imperialdramon to fly around the world or fanned out around the city, returning Digimon to their own world and shattering control spires, TK himself could only perform this small act of atonement. Somehow, burning his Emperor uniform was the only way he could say "I didn't mean it. I'm sorry."
"Quite the funeral pyre." Oikawa and Datirimon approached from behind. The contrast between the two was almost comical. Oikawa, once possessed of a dark influence and nearly destroyed by that hidden evil now looked much more healthy and happy with his brighter skin pigment and relaxed expression. TK, victim of his own inner demons now looked much older than his fifteen years. To think they'd switch roles so easily…
Oikawa approached silently, reverently. Datirimon hung back, uncharacteristically quite. "I've always believed," said Oikawa, "that people need to perform their own special ceremonies. In a moment of triumph or a period of mourning, a ceremony helps make the experience more real."
"Why didn't you tell me?" demanded TK.
Oikawa's sigh made it clear he had been expecting the question, and dreading it. "Yes… why didn't I warn you of the darkness looming in your own heart? Why didn't I try to avert this tragedy?"
what I want to know!" TK exploded.
"If I had known, I could have stopped this! No one else would have had to die!"
"No one else? Meaning that if you'd known you would have killed yourself?"
"Better that I die than so many other people. People who didn't even know why they died."
Oikawa shook his head. "None of us know why we have to die. Even those who die for a cause don't fully realize the importance of their death."
"Stop sidestepping the question and tell me why!"
Oikawa met TK's anger with a maddeningly calm reply. "If I had told you that you had an alter-ego inside of you that took the guise of the Digimon Emperor, would you have believed me?" TK didn't reply. "If you had told me four years ago that I had a digital vampire dwelling inside me, do you think I would have believed you?" Again, no reply. "I think we both know the answer to both questions. Evil by its very nature is almost invisible at first, hidden from our senses. Often an act we think will do good turns out to be wrong, or we rationalize an evil act because we don't wish to see what we are truly doing. I know I certainly didn't want to admit what a monster I had become not too long ago. The difference between good and bad people is that good people admit their mistakes and try to learn from them, even atone. Truly evil people continue to fool themselves and come to love the terrors they cause."
Finally TK could speak. "So what am I?"
"That's really up to you, TK. But from my point of view, you have always been a good person. You made a mistake, and Daemon, a truly evil being, preyed upon that error. He took advantage of the emotions you kept hidden and gave them a life of their own. You didn't choose to be evil, TK. That choice was stolen from you."
"So now it's either learn and atone or be evil again, right?"
"That's over-simplified, but basically true. You now know now that you have hidden scars from your own life. You know that you have faults, as do we all. To learn from this tragedy, you must work to heal your wounds. Then I think you can work to heal the wounds of the world around you."
TK could feel hot tears running down his face. "And just how can I do that? I can't even face my friends now."
Oikawa placed his hand on TK's shoulder, then drew him close into a hug. It would have been awkward given their history and brief relationship, but right now TK needed some act of warmth from another human. He clung to Oikawa as his knees started to weaken. Oikawa said, "You still call them your friends, which shows that you haven't given up on being a part of their lives. I think that you'll be surprised how ready they are to welcome you back with open arms. They will be shy at first, but in time you will see that they want to hold on to you for the rest of their lives and never let you fade away. They will be the ones to help you overcome your inner torment and ensure the Digimon Emperor's complete defeat. He will never return as long as you are honest with yourself and others."
"I… I can't face them."
"You may find that they face you first. When your school starts up again, go and be sure to see them. You will not be disappointed." Oikawa helped TK back to his feet and stepped away. "I'm sorry, but Datirimon and I cannot stay any longer. There are many confused and angry Digimon returning home now and I have much work to do. I will check in with you. If anyone understands what you are going through, I do." He picked up Datirimon, waved farewell to TK, and vanished into the night's sky. The fire burned for the rest of the night, alone.
School wouldn't start up again that year. All students were given a passing grade and told to work out their personal affairs and to prepare for the high school entrance exams. TK spent the time studying in his room, barely speaking to his mother or Patamon. He could see in Patamon's eyes that there was no resentment, no grudge. Patamon felt for TK and wanted him to know that his partner would be there when he was ready to speak. TK wasn't sure that time would ever come.
He hadn't spoken with his friends in three weeks. They had called after a week and a half of waiting, but he couldn't talk to them yet. His mother almost pleaded with him to answer the phone, but he didn't—couldn't—talk to them yet.
So when Davis showed up on his doorstep one afternoon, TK felt almost as trapped as when he had been locked away in his own mind. Davis seemed totally at ease and greeted him with his best goofy smile. "Hey, long time no see." TK felt the need to retreat to his room but his mother and Patamon blocked his path. Both said he needed to get out a little. Davis took his shoulder and pulled him towards the outside. "C'mon, I got something I wanna show you."
Unable to escape, TK fell into step alongside Davis. Whenever he tried to slow his pace and let his friend take the lead, Davis slowed with him every time. "We've been worried about you, man." TK remained silent. What could he possibly say? "Kari's been really worried, you know. Every time we get together the whole group has to keep her away from the phone. We keep saying 'Give TK time'… Well, Ken and the others say that, actually. I wanted to come down and break the door down. Funny thing is Kari agreed with me. If Wormmon didn't use that Sticky Web attack of his to glue our feet to the floor-"
"But you're here now." said TK.
"Ah, he finally speaks. Yep. I came. Got a plan together and came on down to say 'hi.' Figured you had enough time to sulk and now you gotta come talk to the rest of us. We've missed you."
The words were out of TK's mouth before he could even think on them. "I don't hate you, Davis. I've never hated you."
But that was a lie, wasn't it? The Emperor had been the embodiment of that hatred, that resentment. He'd been proof that TK held foolish grudges against Davis, who now smiled and said without hesitation, "That's pretty impressive. I mean, I've thought I hated you like several hundred times now." TK's confusion and surprise made Davis laugh. Not a mocking laugh or a maniacal laugh. More like this was all just a silly misunderstanding and there was no harm done.
"Come on, TK. Remember how steamed I used to get when I saw you and Kari together? Or when you always said 'no' to my plans? I don't hate you, but there were times where I was really ticked off. That doesn't mean we're not friends." He gave TK a light slap on the back. "You gotta take yourself less seriously. You'll fry your brains at this rate. It's time to loosen up and stop blaming yourself."
Stop blaming himself for what? For the fact that the streets were so deserted? For the fact that people were still fearing another Digimon raid and stayed behind locked doors? For the fact that most people had moved out of the city with nothing but the clothes on their backs? For the fact that anti-Digimon sentiments were at an all time high? Yeah, why should he blame himself for things that were all his fault?
Davis held his hand up to the side of TK's head and flicked his finger against TK's temple. "Ow! What was that for?"
"You're thinking too much again. It's all over your face. 'All my fault.' 'I'm the bad guy.' You're wrong, both times. Daemon did all this. You've got issues, there's no denying that, but you're nowhere near as bad as Daemon."
TK looked at his feet. "People are dead because-"
"Because some lame 'I'm-so-evil' Digimon thought he could use people to get what he wanted and high-jacked your body. And you didn't order ChaosWarGreymon to start lobbing attacks everywhere, or for ChaosImperialdramon to fire those blasts. They chose to do it."
"But I created them!"
"Daemon created them. He's the one who started all this. He's the one that got the ball rollin'. I'm gonna say this again because you didn't hear me last time." He took a deep breath and nearly shouted in TK's ear. "It's NOT your fault."
TK grinned sheepishly, rubbing his ear. Only Davis could make ear trauma feel like friendship. "Where exactly are we going?"
"To see a friend." Davis was being unusually tight-lipped.
They continued onward through the streets and TK couldn't help but notice they were traveling away from the scenes of the last night's battle. The whole time they didn't bump into another soul, human or Digimon. The fact that Davis didn't have DemiVeemon with him showed just how hesitant everyone was to have a Digimon appear in public. Who knew what the Digimon were thinking. There was such hatred on both sides for wrongs committed by a just a few individuals. Yet those acts of cruelty and hate had overshadowed every noble and kind deed in the last few years. How was it that one drop of darkness could paint a whole world evil in the eyes of others?
They came upon a park, one that had survived decimation by ChaosImperialdramon. Looking at it reminded TK of the night he had Kari and fallen below the ground, cut off from hope of rescue and forced to keep one step ahead of an evil, titanic dragon. Those memories were made all the more vibrant by the figure waiting by the entrance.
Davis grinned proudly at TK's surprise. "Kari wanted to come get you herself, but I figured we needed a more direct approach. She's way too gentle. So I dragged you here and now… well… bye." He turned to go.
"Wait!" TK grabbed his arms. "I… I can't see her. Not alone, anyway."
"Tough luck, pal. Kari wanted a one-on-one meeting. I'm just the escort. You aren't gonna walk away with her watching, are you?"
How could he face her? He'd ordered the Chaos Generals to kill her. He'd strangled her neck with his own hands. He didn't deserve to breathe the same air as she, must less talk to her. "I might…"
"Hey, TK, look at that." Davis pointed to a closed shop across the street. There was nothing remarkable or attractive about it. TK didn't understand why Davis had pointed him in that direction. Then Davis slapped him in the back of the head.
"Ow! Now what?"
"Are you crazy?" Davis demanded. "If I had a girl like Kari waiting for me, I'd have sprinted down here half-an-hour ago! I don't care what issues you've got; if you pass up this chance and walk away, you're gonna regret it forever. And if I have to knock you out and drag you over to Kari, then I will. 'Cause that's the kind of friend I am!" Again, only Davis could make abuse sound so… friendly.
"Jealous. I'm jealous like crazy!. Like I said, if Kari were waiting for me I'd have been here already!" He shrugged. "But she's been worryin' about you and only you since this whole mess started." He shrugged. "Me and her… I guess it ain't gonna happen. I'm not bitter or anything. I gave it my all, so I got nothing to regret. I'll find someone just as good as Kari, maybe even better." He turned to go.
"You're the best, Davis." TK said. "I want to you know that."
"I know, I know. Now move it or I really will slug ya." He gave TK a little shove towards Kari then walked in the opposite direction.
TK stood for what seemed like an eternity. What was he supposed to say? Do? He'd ordered two creatures born from the Dark Ocean to kill Kari, now he was supposed to greet her like nothing had happened? Hi, Kari, how ya been? No scars or nightmares from those two sickos I sent after you? Well, that's good. Have a nice day!
Next thing he knew Kari was almost next to him. He'd been so busy thinking he'd lost focus on her. The look she gave him was beyond this world. No hatred, no grudges, no hesitation. Not even pity, for she already knew that TK didn't want to be pitied. Truthfully, he wanted to disappear entirely; just vanish from existence. Kari knew that too. That was what she was looking at him with such concern. Those eyes… how could anyone show that much affection with just one look?
"We haven't heard from you in a while. I was starting to worry." She grinned. "Davis nearly broke down several doors before everyone else held him back."
TK chuckled a little. "Yeah, he mentioned something about that. Said you were right behind him."
"I would have come with him to get you, but he insisted I stay here. I wasn't quite sure what he was planning, but now I see and I have to say it's not something I'd expect from him."
TK laughed again, nervous this time. "No kidding… he said that if I had a girl like you waiting for him, he'd have been down here half-an-hour ago. He's gotten this weird idea that you like me." Don't say it. Don't say it.
"I do like you, a lot." It was strange how saying that could make him so joyful yet so ashamed. Kari continued, "We've… we've been through so much together. Not just our adventures in the Digital World, but also in our normal lives. You've been such a constant throughout my life, and whenever I've needed you, you've been there for me. When I'm with you, I feel stronger. It was because of that strength that I could help free you from the Emperor. Now that all this is over, I want to be there for you; to help you heal. You don't have to shoulder this burden alone."
"Yes I do! It was my fault, so I-"
"It was not your fault!" Kari said with surprising certainty. TK had never seen her this stern in her life. "You didn't wish any of this to happen, TK. You fought to prevent it and you fought to avenge everyone who was lost. You didn't delight in any of the destruction, or the loss of life. It horrified you, which shows what a good person you are. You're a victim, just like so many other people. And like all victims, you shouldn't have to be alone and you certainly shouldn't feel alone. Let me help." She placed her hand on his. It was warm and soft, draining away most of the hesitation and fear in TK's body.
"I've seen you looking at me for a while now, and I think you've noticed me looking at you. I'm not saying 'let's get married' or anything like that, but let' see what happens. We've come so close to losing everything; I don't want to miss any chance to tell you how I feel."
He wanted this so badly. He hadn't realized it until now but more than anything he wanted to make sure Kari stayed a part of his life. She was a constant for him as well and he didn't want her to slip away as he felt his brother and father had. He wasn't ready to declare marriage either. Maybe it was love, or maybe it was a closeness beyond that bond. Whatever the relationship, TK wanted to keep it. "I don't deserve you, Kari."
She leaned forward, and slowly, shyly kissed him on the cheek. "Let me be the judge of that." She took his hand in both of hers. "Let's go for a walk. A very nice, quiet, peaceful walk. You don't have to say anything, but when you are ready to talk, I'll listen."
Filled with boy joy and sorrow, hope and regret; the future uncertain and the past a mixture of tragedy and triumph, TK let Kari lead him farther into the park. They would walk together for a long time.
Author's Final Note: Well, that's that. Time to get back to other things. My current project is a Zoids fan fic called "Battle Dawn" which is coming along pretty well. I've also received some requests for a sequel to "The Outcast". I'm going to focus on "Battle Dawn" for a while, but I've got a sequel planned in my head and will hopefully get it on paper soon. Thanks so much for reading this story and feel free to leave a review.