The D-1 card tournament had made the news in the past before, such as when Ryo first won and broke all sorts of records, becoming the unchallenged Digimon King. When he disappeared and Rika took the gold, her skills were praised and she was crowned the Digimon Queen, but she'd always been caught in Ryo's shadow. People whispered that it was only because of Ryo's disappearance that she won, and she would have made second again if he'd been there. It wasn't until after the D-Reaper's attack that people honestly started taking her seriously as the Queen, and even then there were still people who challenged her claim to that name. Ryo suggested they settle it for everyone once and for all, but Rika had refused, opting to retire from silly card games. Ryo agreed with a grin; after all, how could a silly little card game match up to the real Digimon battles they'd gone through that past year? But not everyone thought the same thing. Jeri continued to learn the game under Rika, and after Ryo had given her her first Modify Card, Suzie had taken to the game with zeal too. Henry still played occasionally, and Kazu, Kenta, and Takato were always playing before school.
And then finally, it happened. Two years after the King and Queen retired, after people said that the new champions would never live up to their great skill, a Tamer made it to the playoffs. Even more, it was Takato, one of the four who'd defeated the D-Reaper. So, naturally, the media was raving about it. Never mind the fact that Takato had only been an average player before. Never mind the fact that he'd never made it anywhere near the playoffs before. Everyone acted like he'd simply chosen to keep out of it before and like his skill as a card player was equal to his skill as a Digimon Tamer.
Never mind the fact that there was no Guilmon card, as the Monster Makers had advised him to hold onto the rights to Guilmon's image and attacks until a good enough offer was made.
But to tell the truth, Takato was nervous. It had taken forever to beat Kazu, and he wasn't even at the level most of the players at the tournament would be! How was he possibly going to make it through this? The others had told him he'd do just fine, and Ryo called to offer some words of encouragement. But when none of that helped, he finally decided to ask Rika for some pointers.
Okay, it's not cheating if you're just asking her for tips on how not to choke, he told himself. He was already afraid of how the other players might think he had an unfair advantage because of his experience as a Tamer. His friendship with Rika and Ryo would only make matters worse. He raised his hand to knock on the door, but before he could knock, it opened.
"How long were you planning on standing there?" Rika asked, a lopsided grin on her face.
"Sorry," he apologized. "Been nervous about the tournament."
"Do you have your deck?" When he held it up, she said, "Good. Let's head to the park. Renamon's waiting for us."
Takato blinked in surprise. "Why the park?"
"You'll see," she promised.
Guilmon was out of his shelter, playing with some younger kids who had come to visit him. Renamon was nowhere in sight, but Takato chalked that up to her being uncomfortable around most outsiders, particularly young children who were nothing like Rika. It was odd, though, how Rika hadn't yet pulled him aside and told him to show her the deck so she could offer advice. Weird too was the way she seemed to be waiting.
Suddenly, Guilmon's eyes narrowed and he started growling. The kids were caught off-guard and started to back away.
"Takato, a Digimon's coming," he warned.
"All right, you kids need to get out of here," Takato said. "Get to safety, okay?"
The kids nodded and ran off for another part of the park, in the opposite direction of Guilmon's gaze. Renamon appeared next to Rika, who asked, "Where is it?"
"Not far," she replied. "It's just emerging, so it hasn't had a chance to cause any damage."
"Got it," Rika answered. "Come on, Takato."
"Yeah," he said and followed quickly as Guilmon raced ahead.
For some reason, Rika and Renamon trailed behind, not even trying to quicken their pace. Once or twice, Takato looked behind him to see them still walking calmly in back, as if they didn't know there was a battle coming. He would have asked them about it, but he had to help Guilmon first.
He pulled his old goggles over his eyes to protect them from the digital fog that a Fangmon was emerging from. He grimaced as he looked up the stats on his digivice—Champion level, but still really big and strong. The claws and sharp teeth were another thing to worry about, straight out of stories with lines that ended with "all the better to eat you with, my dear!"
"Guilmon, I think you better digivolve on this one," Takato said.
"No," Rika interrupted, finally appearing with Renamon in tow.
"What do you mean 'no'?" Takato asked. "That Fangmon could rip him to shreds!"
"You've got a whole supply of modify cards with you," she answered. "Use them."
As Fangmon swiped at Guilmon with his claws, Takato slashed a defense plug-in through his digivice. It was enough for Guilmon to come away uninjured and swipe back with his own claws. The attack caught Fangmon in the eye, angering him enough to fire a dark blast point-blank at Guilmon. The defense boost protected him, but it wouldn't last forever.
"Come on, goggle-head!" Rika insisted. "You know he can't keep taking hits. You need to switch to offense!"
Fangmon tried again with another dark blast. When Guilmon fired back at it with a Pyro Sphere, it was easily swallowed up. Guilmon had just enough time to duck and try to move in with his claws. Fangmon dodged, but Guilmon managed to hit him with another Pyro Sphere. While it hit, it wasn't going to be enough.
"Takato, I need help!" he insisted.
"It's coming, boy," Takato replied, pulling out a power boost and slashing it through his digivice.
The next time Fangmon attacked, Guilmon was able to match his attack with a Pyro Sphere, and the two powers exploded on one another. It threw Fangmon back, but Guilmon held his ground and charged, shooting constant Pyro Spheres. Fangmon tried to swipe at him with his claws, but Guilmon held them back and fired another Pyro Sphere right at him.
As Guilmon continued his Pyro Sphere barrage, Takato searched through his deck for a good card. Fangmon's powers were dark, so the best thing to fight him with was light. He slashed an Angewomon card to give Guilmon the bow and arrow, and to ensure he'd have time to shoot, he followed it up with a hyper wing plug-in. Guilmon flew into the air, aiming the arrow. Fangmon fired another blast at him, but he avoided it and shot. Fangmon had reared up on his hind legs to attack, and the arrow got caught in one of his forelegs. While his opponent howled in agony, Guilmon finished him off with a couple more Pyro Spheres before finally settling back onto the ground.
"Yay! We did it!" he cheered. As his stomach growled, he added, "And in time for lunch!"
Takato laughed and shook his head. "Figures, boy. Nothing stops your appetite."
"But I get hungry fighting."
"So, feel better?" Rika interrupted.
Takato blinked as he looked at her. "Was that what this was all about?"
She shrugged. "You needed to get your mind off the competition and remember how good a Tamer you really are. The only way I could do that was to get you to rely on your instincts."
While Takato gaped at her, Renamon added, "You've gotten better. That battle didn't take you very long, and you were able to use far more cards in your combinations than you used to."
"I…" Takato started before finally palming his face in disbelief. "I don't believe this!"
"What did you expect me to do?" Rika asked. "I'm not going to hold your hand and tell you just what you need. You're a real Tamer. You know what you need. You just had to remember it and put all that nervousness aside."
While Takato was still trying to figure out just how he'd walked right into her trap, Guilmon asked him, "Can we have lunch now?"
Seeing his chance for revenge, he replied, "Sure. But Rika's paying."
She smirked. "Here's something better: How about I cheer you on at the tournament?"
Takato grinned. "You're not getting off that easy. You put us in this, so you're buying us lunch."
"Great," she deadpanned, but she was grinning too. "Just let me call Mom to let her know to file for bankruptcy beforehand, okay?"
Takato laughed as they walked out of the park to find someplace to eat. Unorthodox her methods may have been, but he did feel a lot more confident about his tournament. It was silly to stress out about it when he could keep his cool in a real battle. So maybe people would just be whispering about his friendships with the Digimon Queen and King. So maybe people would say he had an unfair advantage. He and his friends knew what he was really capable of, and that was more than enough for him.
Digimon Tamers is the property of Toei Animation and distributed by Disney. My personal canon for this is that the Digimon came back after the final episode's epilogue, and I disregard the CD dramas. This fic was written for the Tamers round of the Digimon Friendship Challenge.