Halfway Forever

or

Stone Tear

The little girl was crying.

Leyomon was sure of that. She also held in equal conviction that she had to do something about it, but what, exactly, failed to present itself. She had only heard of humans, and never seen one, but she knew from the stories the Champion digimon loved to tell to make baby and in-training digimon's eyes grow big, that humans, as a rule, don't like it when little creatures that resemble stuffed animals (whatever those are) come to life and start talking.

So, what to do?

Creeping through the bushes as stealthily as a round ball with ears so long it was ridiculous can creep, she sought a better vantage point from which to study this odd creature. On the way, she tripped over her own ears so many times she was certain the girl knew she was there.

The basketball sized, gray-green fuzz ball had digivolved from her baby level the day before, and while her ears had been somewhat long then, they were nothing compared to the outrageous monsters protruding from her head/body now. Getting used to them would take some time, although she hoped to have digivolved to her rookie level before she had to put up with these awful things much longer.

She slowly became aware that while she had been thinking the crying had stopped.

"Who's there?" a small voice asked.

Oh boy, here we go, the digimon thought as she carefully rolled out of the bushes.

The two stared at each other for a few seconds, and Leyomon relaxed somewhat; maybe this human was different.

"My name's Leyomon, what's yours?" she ventured to ask.

With a yelp, the little girl, still alarmed and confused at being thrust out of her world and into the next one, flung herself backwards and started running. Before she could get very far, she tripped and fell on her face with a thud. She lay there, not moving, and Leyomon, now feeling somewhat protective of this poor, wayward soul, bounced to her side.

"Are you okay? I'm sorry I scared you. Oh, please be all right."

The human lifted her head and stared at the digimon, the look in her eyes betraying her hurt and confusion. Leyomon smiled comfortingly, and the girl said at last,

"My name is Mary."

"Marr-y. Marray. Mara." Leyomon tested out the strange name without much success.

"Mary," the same corrected gently.

"Mara," the other insisted.

"It's Mary," the girl argued, her anguish temporarily forgotten in the thrill of a good quarrel.

"No, Mara."

"I think I know my own name."

"Well I can't say it, so nyah."

"Then learn to say it, nyah nyah!"

"I don't wanna!"

"Too bad!"

"Naaaaa!"

"Kyaaaa!"

The argument turned into a screaming match as the six-year-old and the digital equivalent of such performed the secret ritual of greeting. The noise soon ceased, however, and Leyomon and Mary laughed and laughed and became best friends.

"What is this place?" Mary asked when all silliness had died down. "And what are you?"

Leyomon gave a snort. Okay, maybe not all silliness. She answered as seriously as she could. "This is the digital world, Mara. And I'm a digimon, a digital monster."

"Monster? You don't look like a monster to me."

"Oh, I'm just a little thing." This was said very modestly. "I'm only at the In-Training level. The levels go all the way up to Mega, and those guys are really scary."

"You level up? What is this, a video game?" Mary was growing confused.

"What's a video game? Never mind, I'm not sure I want to know. Anyway, digimon come from digi-eggs, and after we hatch, we're babies. Then we digivolve and become In-Training."

"Wait a minute, hold on." Mary was seriously confused now. "What's digivolving? Oh, Leyomon, I don't belong in this world. Do you know how I came here? I know you're just a little thing, but I'm kind of scared, and this whole thing is making my head hurt."

The lost one looked to be on the verge of tears again. Leyomon bounced lightly into her lap.

"I'm sorry you're scared. I don't know why you're here, or how to explain any of it, but I promise you this: I will protect you as long as I live, and nothing can ever make me stop. You're the only friend I've ever had, Mara. Friends forever?"

"Friends forever," the girl agreed. She hugged the digimon tightly and shed a tear of happiness at the devotion of this small creature. Though her pride would never allow her to admit it, she, too, had never had a true friend before. And her dorky, blue-haired cousin didn't count, either. Not in the face of this blind dedication.

Moments like these are either supposed to be sacred, instinctively left alone even by the most heartless villain, or cruelly interrupted by one who cares nothing for such tender moments. In this case, it was neither. The Rockmon that lumbered through the clearing in which they were vowing to each other eternal friendship was just looking for food, albeit he had decided that such was Mary and Leyomon. Hey, everyone gets hungry, right?

Rockmon was a dingy, yellow color, with big hands, and a body structure that allowed him to walk on both two feet and four legs whenever he chose. His various body parts looked sewn together, and gray string covered his wrists and ankles. Metal plating, secured by a belt, protected his face, and several spikes rose from his head, shoulders, and back. Four tubes situated on his back spewed smoke that made it difficult to breathe. His reddish-brown eyes smoldered in anger, and he towered above most trees.

All in all, he was a pretty nasty digimon, and having him target you as lunch was not a most desirable thing. The two that were now in danger of being eaten had every right to be frozen with terror.

Mary chose not to be.

Rising from the dust and pine needles she and her new found companion had collapsed in, Mary tied her hair up in the pink ribbon that dangled loosely from around her neck, to keep it out of her face and mind; jauntily she straightened the bigger one around her slim waist, and kicked off the dress shoes that would impede her.

She dropped into a ready stance.

"Mara, no!" Leyomon cried in horror.

Her human companion paid her no mind. The tiny girl ran headlong toward the massive titan, and before either digimon could react, had leaped nimbly up Rockmon's arm and onto his head. The rock digimon, who was not known for his brains, cast about wildly for his lost prey, which made Mary quite uncomfortable.

"Mara!" Leyomon yelled again, unsure of what else to do. This only alerted Rockmon that he had one tasty morsel left, and he set off to pursue the clumsy In-Training digimon once more.

Getting used to her ungainly ears quickly, Leyomon bounced away with surprising speed and agility. Her only thought was of escape.

"Leyomon!" Mary called from atop the lumbering beast. "Leyomon, you have to stand and fight!"

"He's too strong!" she screamed back, dodging tree stumps and bushes. "I have to keep running!"

"If you keep running he'll eventually overtake you," Mary called to her guardian, somewhat perturbed about her promise being forgotten, even momentarily, "and you'll have to fight him anyway. Better to do it now, while you're still strong! Fight now! For me, Leyomon!"

With a start, Leyomon remembered her promise to the little girl only moments before, and immediately felt remorse. She pushed this feeling away in favor of the resolve growing in her heart. A steady flame, one that would never die, flickered into existence. Leyomon stopped dead.

Rockmon skidded to a halt, spraying up earth and pebbles in his wake. With steel eyes Leyomon watched his ungraceful approach and did not so much as blink when his giant toe stopped a mere inch from her face.

All of her existence, in past lives, and in this one, the little warrior had run away from her demons, be they real, or simply in her mind. She had never had a cause to fight, to put anything at risk, to help someone, to do anything except keep her own hide in one piece. Now, all of a sudden, she had a reason not to just give up and walk away. Mary had sparked something in her little heart, had given her something she had never had before.

A friend.

And, a reason to digivolve that was more noble than her ears.

"Leyomon, digivolve to . . . Lizzimon!"

In a flash of light, the basketball sized fuzz-ball changed into a long, lithe, very muscular green lizard with a high attack power and obvious attitude.

Rockmon paused, his tiny brain seeking an explanation. He didn't pause very long.

Lifting his giant hand overhead, he grinned before smashing it onto the ground where his next meal was standing.

The ground shook mightily, and for a brief second Mary's heart was in her mouth; then she grinned at the green lizard on her shoulder. Lizzimon opened her mouth and released a huge bout of flame into the face of the one upon whose head they were currently sitting.

A deep roar of pain cut the air, and Rockmon shook and clawed at his face, but he still didn't seem ready to give up.

Mary got her companion's attention and pointed to the four tubes on their enemy's back.

That was all she needed.

Leaping nimbly, the lizard digimon stuck her head down the nearest one and flamed as hard as she could.

"Fire Blaster!"

Miles away grazing Mammothmon raised their heads in wonder and fear at the painful scream that echoed throughout the digital world.

Mary and Lizzimon dropped down off the writhing digimon and watched as he ran away, dazed and obviously deciding to seek a less resistant meal.

Mary turned and watched as her exhausted little friend de-digivolved back into Leyomon.

"What happened?" she asked, picking up her deflated looking companion.

"That attack took so much energy that I just couldn't stay in my Rookie form. I sorry, Mara."

"What're you sorry for?" Mary asked, smiling at her friend. "We defeated him! Actually, you defeated him. All by yourself. I'm proud of you, Leyomon."

Leyomon looked up at her first friend with tired, puzzled black eyes, and said, "I didn't do it all by myself. You told me where to flame, and you gave me the confidence and motivation I needed to digivolve and defeat him. We did it together, like I hope we always will be. Won't we?"

"Of course," Mary told her softly. There were tears in her eyes. Even her six-year-old mind could see the sweetness of this tiny, innocent creature in her arms. "We will always be together. Always."

Here we enter an interlude in the story. Mary and Leyomon traveled across the digiworld for the next year or so, exploring and having adventures, their friendship all the while growing stronger and stronger. As is the case with many souls dropped into a world not their own, Mary became quite the warrior, entering many competitions, and often placing high in the ranks, sometimes even first. Leyomon was ever by her side, and they always entered as a team.

Eventually their travels brought them to the continent of Server, and through something more tangible than chance, came upon the coliseum that was the home of the great warrior and master of his trade, Piximon.

The tiny, pink digimon was more than happy to accept the pair for training, and after making them scrub his floors for more than a week, he began the task of turning these prize-fighting vagabonds into respectable warriors.

More than a year later, a battle raged between master and pupil.

Mary swung her staff down onto her opponents pink, little head, only to have it buzz away on patchy fairy wings and strike back with it's own short weapon. She used the momentum of her failed attack to block it, and strike back.

They had been going on in this manner for some time, and Mary was drenched in perspiration; her opponent, hovering lower on gossamer wings than he normally did.

"That's enough!" Piximon declared, and instantly Mary was at attention. The miniature warrior digimon settled himself on the floor of the training grounds.

"Good you are, yep, yep," the teacher said in his tiny, yet commanding voice. "You have come a long way since you came to me. But being merely good will not defeat your enemies, and besides, I have taught you all I know."

Piximon paused thoughtfully.

"Perhaps your next teacher will be the sleeping one."

He stood and motioned for her to follow him. She did, without hesitation, except to allow the gray-green fuzz-ball to wrap one of her lengthy ears, long since found to be prehensile, and not as annoying as previously thought, around her forearm and clamber up to her shoulder, a favorite perch.

Piximon drifted toward a big stone archway that Mary had never been allowed to enter before. Inside, rows and rows of statues, many stone, some of wood, others carved out of precious gems, lined the walls. It was dark and dusty, and the walls rose up into darkness so high that the ceiling was imperceptible. A few torches scattered along the walls provided just enough light to keep you from falling flat on your face, but nothing you could read by without damaging your eyes.

Leyomon sneezed, and the sound echoed for many minutes before completely dying down. Piximon gave the digimon a look that made her keep her silence from then on.

They trod endlessly through ancientness, past so many statues that Leyomon stopped counting at well over a thousand. When Piximon finally halted, Mary had been walking for so long that she barely noticed in time to keep from running him over. The pink fuzz-ball looked solemnly up at the statue in front of them. Depicted in the stone therein was obviously a mighty warrior.

A giant cat digimon, with powerful looking legs and a long tail ending in a tuft, stood, looking noble and fierce, his claws extended, and ears almost quivering in readiness. A wicked looking sword was slung across his back, the buckled strap traveling crosswise up his muscular chest. He was clothed only in blue pants supported by a black belt.

Mary and her companion stared in awe, drinking in the sight of this muscular fighter.

"He looks like Leomon," Leyomon breathed, having never forgotten the single glimpse she had once gotten of the protector of File Island.

"This is Pantheramon, Piximon said reverently. "He is the brother of Leomon."

There was a hushed silence for a time; then Mary chanced to ask, "What is this place?"

Piximon turned to her sharply, a look on his face she had never seen before. She bowed her head, and waited for his answer.

"This is a place where digimon who are no longer needed come to rest."

Mary waited for a while before stating, "He looks needed."

"He is resting," came the answer.

There was more silence.

Then, slowly, slower than Mary had ever seen her agile master move, Piximon raised his small staff and spoke words that made the hair on the back of Mary's neck stand on end.

She had never witnessed a spell like this before, for that's what it was, and certainly not such a solemn one from her comic teacher. His spells were show-offy, and Mary suspected that the baton twirling that preceded each small wonder had nothing at all to do with the actual spell-casting. Such was not the case here. Every motion, every word uttered, was important; nothing unnecessary was performed. Though everything about his movements made Mary want to watch him, what was happening to the statue was even more amazing.

As gradually as clouds shifting, the chilly stone was slowly becoming warmer; had Mary put her hand to it she would have gasped and pulled away, surprised at the warmth that felt like body heat. As the eight-year-old stared, her eyes wide, the lifeless representation painstakingly began to metamorphose into a living being.

Mary was sure of this by the time his fur had begun to turn purest white; she had suspected it since she thought she saw the tufts of his ears flutter slightly in a draft that whistled through the massive cavern.

The girl wondered for a time why it was such a lengthy process, and then she caught on to the idea that thawing out of stone was very much like thawing out of ice, a meticulous procedure requiring skill and patience.

After what seemed like hours, and probably was, the hulking warrior seemed complete, the last bit of granite washed clean from his colorless fur, the last shred of lifelessness replaced by vibrancy. For the first time in perhaps centuries, the massive digimon warrior moved his head and looked down at the three watching him. His electric green eyes bored into the human girl, making her feel very insignificant. She shrank under his gaze, though she found herself unable to look away. After studying her for several long seconds, the newly awakened digimon slowly turned his head toward Piximon, long since frozen in his stance of spell casting.

"Is she the one?"

Piximon blinked. He turned his head slowly over to Mary, who was still in a daze, and nodded slowly.

"Itanu nom. Diritu itiki senna. Kobai nan Pantheramon te'ekou seber kontadia ter. Koben Renkai'a Te'ekou senbobai. Kabusenmaru Mary enku chochoben."

The two digimon's voices, each so different from the other, one high and fast, the other, low and leisurely, blended magnificently, so much so that Mary could feel her spine tingling as though spiders were running up and down her back.

Her gaze shifted between the two warriors. So many questions burned inside of her that she didn't know where to begin, and the tension in the air stretched her nerves so tight that breaking the silence didn't seem right. Pantheramon smiled at her, a look that seemed foreign on his solemn face.

"You want to ask me something?"

At that moment, Mary's nerve failed her, and every question she might have asked fled from her mind.

"I . . . I . . . Why . . . me?" she stuttered. "Why am I in that chant? And why am I the one? The one for what? And why were you frozen in stone, and why . . ."

All of the girl's newly found questions died on her lips as she glimpsed Pantheramon slowly drawing his sword. She took a step backward as he raised the shining blade stained with blood over his head. His smile was gone. In it's place was a grimace, as though he had no desire to finish this grisly act. Mary's shaking fingers found her battle staff, and as she held it in front of her, she felt certain that this would be the day her life would end.

In her final moments, everything became startlingly clear. She could see the slight ripple in Pantheramon's chest and arms as he swung the sword down in a deadly arc. She could make out the fine texture of his blood-red fur. Everything was going in slow motion now; it would be over soon.

Blood-red fur?

In her last seconds, Mary tried to puzzle out why his fur would be red before he had brought the blow home. As though her brain were not confined to the time warp slowing everything down, the answer came to her in a flash. It was not his fur that was red, but her eyes. She was seeing red.

Almost before she could make herself move, her arms and hands had already positioned her staff in a blocking stance, and with frightening acuity she felt her muscles tighten to ready themselves for the blow. She squeezed her eyes shut in preparation.

She almost didn't feel it.

Seconds floated by, and she chanced to open one eye. The sword had embedded itself into her staff, making a deep mark that would need tending to. But it had held. Her staff had held out against metal.

She stood frozen, her insides like ice. Pantheramon calmly dislodged his blade from the wood, and sheathed it. Mary slowly lowered her weapon and for a moment everything was still.

"Wow," Mary breathed. "I never knew my staff was that hard."

"It wasn't your staff, Mary," Pantheramon said in a voice that made her shiver.

"How hard do you think I can swing my sword?"

Mary studied the ground, not wanting to face the harsh reality in front of her.

"Harder than a tiny human girl like you could ever hope to hold out against. You barely moved when my blade connected, and you didn't look like you felt it very much, either. Tell me that was your staff, human girl, tell me that wasn't you."

Mary's eyes stung with tears as the overwhelming situation began to settle upon her shoulders and make her realize the implications of that single act of self-preservation.

"No!" she shouted. It echoed deafeningly throughout the cavern, making everyone clap their hands over their ears, except poor Leyomon, who only had ears, and large ones at that. Forgetting everything except the need to get away, Mary began to run back in the direction she had come, although she wasn't quite sure which way that was, the cavern being riddled with passages that didn't always make sense.

She didn't care. All she wanted to do was run, sobbing, away from her problems and just be left alone.

In her anguish, she was oblivious to the silent footfalls behind her, telltale of a repentant digimon wishing to make amends. Finally, the confused little girl came to a dead end and collapsed, bawling unabashedly. The huge white digimon padded noiselessly into the cul-de-sac after her.

For perhaps the first time in his life, the fierce warrior was unsure of what to do. His instincts, specifically trained for fighting only, told him nothing. He strained his long memory back to the days of Primary Village, where all digimon have their start, and tried to remember what Elecmon, the keeper of baby digimon, would do if someone was crying, which happened a lot there.

He quite vaguely remembered a tiny baby, wailing and inconsolable, being rocked soothingly in Elecmon's arms and at last finding peace.

As gently as a warrior with a record of eighty-five deaths to his sword can be gentle, he tenderly lifted the weeping girl and held her close. She, only aware of the comfort being offered her, snuggled close and held his fur in her fists, crying softer and softer until at last her sobs turned into peaceful slumber. Leyomon, following the two with her nose and ears, came upon the scene and climbed into Pantheramon's arms next to her friend and also fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

He held them like a father holding his two daughters for a long time before Piximon finally found them. The fairy digimon's manner was uncommonly solemn for the normally high-spirited digimon. Pantheramon turned his massive head toward the other, and said four words that made Piximon close his eyes as though in pain:

"She is the one."

When Mary finally woke, she was a lot calmer. After a little persuasion she consented to travel with Pantheramon as his apprentice. They were to leave immediately. She had only five minutes to say goodbye.

"I'll miss you, sensei," she said tearfully. Piximon looked at the dirt.

"As will I, Mary," he said in a small voice that, strangely, seemed close to tears.

"Oh, Piximon!" the girl exclaimed, and flung her arms around him, holding him close. She gushed into his fur, and Piximon did something he had never done. He stroked her hair, and told her it would be all right.

Mary smiled.

After Leyomon and Pantheramon had said their goodbyes to Piximon, the trio left him and began their journey west. Piximon waved morosely and one might say, if they looked close enough, that there were tears in his eyes.

Over the next few years, Pantheramon taught them everything he knew, about martial arts, surviving in all the harsh environments of the digital world, diplomacy, farming, building, computer programming, tracking, and much more besides. He became a father to them, where Piximon had been a very good friend; besides survival he also taught them the history of the digital world, the story of the very first digimon, and every legend he knew, including the legend of the Digidestined.

Upon hearing this story, Mary wondered if maybe she might not be one of the humans destined to save the digital world, and Leyomon her digimon.

Pantheramon shook his head.

And that was that.

Many months after that, they were walking leisurely through a grassy field, enjoying the warm sun on their faces.

"Let me show you something, Mary," Pantheramon said suddenly.

He cupped his hands together and closed his eyes. His brow furrowed, he appeared deep in concentration. Between his fingers, rays of bright light emanated. He held up the perfect blue sphere and to Mary's delight began to shape it into a beautiful flower.

"This is becoming a lost art, you know," he told her as he worked, peeling the individual petals from the mother sphere with his mind. "It used to be almost second nature, and instead of picking real flowers to show their love, digimon would grow these from their own life-force, and the longer it lasted, the greater the love. Because, Mary," he said, looking straight at her, his face a mask of profound meaning, "the feelings of one's heart are deeply intertwined with one's physical body."

Mary pondered that as she watched two Kapurimon frolicking through the sunny meadow they were standing in. The male picked a daisy with his bushy tail and handed it to the blushing female. They scampered off, laughing and enjoying youth. Mary bent down and plucked a tiny yellow flower native only to the digital world. She twirled it between her thumb and forefinger, contemplating life.

"Here," Pantheramon said, breaking into her thoughts. He was holding the completed blossom out to her. She smiled and took it. She had a feeling it would last a long time.

"Please, teach me to do that," she said, looking up at him. She squinted in the bright sun framing his face. He smiled.

"Of course."

It was a crisp morning on the high plateau that her mentor had chosen to teach her energy focus, and Mary rubbed palms together and breathed into her cupped hands. Her breath swirled around her like a cloud. She might've asked why he hadn't chosen a warmer spot, but she figured it would be harder to focus energy in cold weather, and she expected no less from her teacher who had no qualms about giving her challenges. Leyomon lay curled at her feet, taking a nap.

Pantheramon stood near her on the flat tabletop ridge that stretched high into the sky. From the peak they could see for miles in all directions, giving them a perfect vista of the digital world.

"Close your eyes," he directed her. "Look deep inside yourself and feel your blood coursing through your veins, bringing you energy. Feel that energy. Sweep it up in your mind, and bring it all to your palms. Hold them out in front of you. Push that energy out through your skin, and hold onto it with your mind."

Pantheramon could see the green light flickering in her cupped hands. She was doing well.

"Now, take the chaos and make it order."

There was a pause as she digested that vague statement. Then the teacher noted with pleasure the light coming together to form a perfect sphere. He took in a breath, about to instruct her further, but stopped when he noticed the globe in her hands already forming a distinct shape. He was pleased that she was learning so quickly, but his satisfaction soon turned sour when he saw what she was shaping.

"Mary, no!" he boomed, but it was too late. The rose she was shaping quickly took on a life of it's own, drawing on her own life force to drown out the petals with wicked thorns. It's color quickly turned from a vibrant green to bloody red. Pantheramon roared deafeningly, making Leyomon jump up with a start. He drew his mighty sword and hacked away at the rapidly growing vines threatening to overrun the plateau, and worse, his little girl, Mary. The hissing plant reared and lashed out with thorny vines, tearing the valiant warriors chest and arms, and making him snarl in pain.

Using his sixth sense to locate the unconscious girl from the steadily growing plant, he flung himself headlong into the mass of deadly spikes. Leyomon followed; being smaller, she could dodge the thorns much better than the massive Pantheramon. Fighting every inch of the way he finally managed to find her, encased in a cage of thick branches. The enraged digimon, fur matted and stained with blood, sliced his way to the little girl. When at last there was a hole big enough to drag her out of, he slung her over his shoulder and fought his way back out of the tangle.

Once free, Pantheramon gently set Mary down on the ground, leaving Leyomon to tend to her, and then turned to face the deadly flower. It reared it's massive, bloody blossom and prepared to attack; Pantheramon brought his palms together, a harsher blue light than the flower was made of radiating from his hands. The head of the ugly monster shot toward him, it's mouth filled with deadly teeth held agape. He blasted the raw energy in his hands at the oncoming head, and the ensuing explosion blinded the eyes and deafened the ears to the point of unconsciousness.

Only Leyomon was awake to witness the demise of the ferocious rose. It writhed and shrank, and finally was nothing more than a wisp of green light torn apart by the wind.

Mary moaned and sat up.

"What happened?" she asked, and then she caught sight of Pantheramon.

"Pantheramon!" she gasped. Fighting the pain in her head and chest she crawled slowly toward her teacher and parent figure. He lifted his head weakly and smiled slightly at the sight of his almost daughter.

"Mary," he rasped, "never create . . . something potentially dangerous . . . like a rose with thorns . . . especially if you are . . . as inexperienced as you are."

"Pantheramon, I'm sorry, please be all right. I never meant for it to happen, oh, please be okay, please!"

The warrior digimon smiled weakly and stroked his pupil's cheek with one strong finger.

"Be brave, my little warrior," he said. "I love you, Mary."

"Pantheramon!"

Mary was now sobbing and crying uncontrollably, and she was just able to gasp out her reply, "I love you! I'm sorry!" before his data broke up into a thousand bits and pieces, and the greatest warrior in the digital world was dead.

"Noooo!" she screamed, and pounded the earth.

Leyomon wailed loudly with her companion.

Their cries continued into the day, and on into the night, until there were just no more tears left to shed.

Mary stared into nothing for a while, then turned to Leyomon and said huskily, "Let's get out of here. I never want to see this place again."

On and on they wandered for weeks that turned into months. They did not speak a single word to each other. They did not sleep; they barely ate. Afterward, her memories were as patched as though she'd had a dark spore inside her, which was how it felt. She offered no one any explanation or theory as to how she survived, wanting to put as much haze and joy between her and that utter despair that dare call itself existing. She and her only friend wandered in the general direction of nowhere, making no lives easier, least of all their own; leaving no trace but a vague memory soon forgotten in their wake. They might have gone on like this forever had they not come upon Piximon's coliseum once again.

A distant memory stirred in Mary's half-dead brain, and she turned her brick-like feet toward the cavern where Pantheramon had first come into her life.

A place where digimon who are no longer needed come to rest.

She remembered the whole episode like it had happened yesterday, not years ago. Surprisingly, she navigated her way perfectly through the maze of catacombs and statues. Piximon was waiting for her in the very same spot where Pantheramon had first shed his stone prison.

"Mary-" he started, and then caught the look in her eyes and fell silent.

"I am Mary no longer," she intoned. "Now I am the monster you will call Mara."

Piximon understood everything. He did not know the details, but he knew that Mara, as she would forevermore be called, was no longer needed, and that she desperately needed rest. As he invoked the spell that could encase her in stone, a single tear rolled down the girl's cheek just before it was turned to granite, so that years later the frozen figure would have a stone droplet poised to fall from her chin. A droplet that would stay there for all eternity, halfway forever.