The Ancient Curse

Part Forty-Two: Returning

***

Standard Disclaimer Thingie: Digimon, etc, is not mine. I don't think anyone reading this thinks it is, but in case you were wondering, it's not. Plot, however pitiful it may be, is. In short, don't steal, because I'll send a dozen ninja swordsmen after you, don't sue, because I haven't that much money for you to take, and don't forget to moo, because mooing is fun.

Moo.

This is the very last chapter in a very long saga, and the very end to my days here. Thank you very much to anyone who's read any of it. If you want to read anything else I have or will write, please visit my website, Hope you have enjoyed.

***

As the light of the setting sun slowly filled the room, filtered through the stained glass windows that had not been completely destroyed by the blast of light, the dust that had risen slowly faded.

Daisuke was hoping that none of the swordsmen had survived, as he had barely enough energy remaining to get to his feet. Hikari had fallen half to sleep beside him, eyes heavily drooping as she rested her head upon his shoulder. V-mon had completely given up all pretense of staying awake, and simply fallen to sleep on the dirty floor.

The shadowy figures had vanished, each one leaving a small pile of broken blue glass upon the floor where it had stood, the only evidence of its previous existence. Swords also littered the floor, left behind as the magically-created swordsmen had vanished.

The old man had gotten to his feet and stumbled a few steps forward, stopping at the edge of the platform to drop to his knees. His beard, which had always been white, suddenly seemed more frail than before, his eyes more sunken, his skin more wrinkled. He was clutching the necklace he had worn about his neck in both hands, staring at it with wide eyes.

There had previously been three stones within it: one deep red, one bright blue, one black as night. The blue one had broken, splintered and shadowed as the rest of the crystals in that color. The black one had cracked down the middle but not yet completely fallen to pieces.

"H-how is it possible…?" the old man wondered, his voice wavering as he spoke. "I've worked…so hard…so long. How is it possible?"

Though once he might have summoned up a bit of righteous anger, Daisuke found that he was now too tired to particularly care much about what the old man meant, or what he was saying. Another voice spoke at that moment instead.

"You relied too much upon magic," said the swordsman who still remained. He was sitting on the floor, halfway between the old man and his enemies, and appeared to be badly injured. A great deal of blood had spilled from the wound in his stomach, staining not only his jacket but also his pants and his arms. His right arm was nearly covered in blood, and there was also blood stained upon his forehead, matted in his hair. His partner Gazimon lay unmoving a short distance behind him, breathing heavily and staring up at the ceiling above him.

"I relied too much upon you," the old man retorted in a surprisingly vigorous sounding voice. "You betrayed me!"

The swordsman shrugged, not disagreeing. "I disagreed with your methods," he replied. "I would not resort to murder."

"You murdered plenty," the old man replied in a disgusted voice. "You would not murder one in particular, and if you had…I might have succeeded." He sighed heavily, and then coughed for a long stretch.

"It's too late now," the swordsman replied.

The old man did not answer, for he was still coughing. In the quiet of the room, his coughs echoed off the tall walls and high ceiling. Loud as they were, though, it did not hide the sound of glass shattering as the small black crystal in his necklace splintered even more.

"It is," the old man answered, his voice now quite weak, "never…too late."

But it was. The small black stone shattered, the pieces of it falling to the ground with quiet, almost musical-sounding notes. The old man tried but failed to speak a few more words, then tried, and failed, to take a few more breaths. His eyes, slowly closed, and he fell to the side, landing upon the platform with a solid, final thud.

Daisuke stared at his body for a long moment, but there was no movement. He felt Hikari suddenly tighten her grasp upon his arm, and sit up a bit straighter. "He's dead," she said into the silence. He nodded mutely.

"Don't worry," the swordsman said, "I'll probably join him soon."

"Who - ?" Hikari asked. "Who was he? Who are you?"

He shrugged in answer. "It doesn't much matter, does it?" he replied with a heavy sigh. He paused, winced briefly in pain, and shut his eyes. "If you want reasons, I'll try to explain. I suppose you deserve that much."

He took a deep breath, then opened his eyes once more and turned his gaze toward the old man, lying still and dead upon the ground. "I was an ordinary man until I met him," he began. "He came to visit me…I suppose it was a few years ago now…and said that I was destined for greatness, a destiny that was stolen from me.

"He told me that I should have been a great wizard, but the possibility had been stolen from me by a curse, set upon me by my own ancestor hundreds of years ago. I thought he was crazy, but I followed him and did as he asked because…well, what choice did I have?"

"You could have said no," Daisuke suggested.

Again the swordsman shrugged, then took a deep breath before continuing. "Maybe," he replied, "but then all I would have had was a simple, uneventful life as a fisherman. Some part of me wanted adventure, I suppose, and so I swore to do as he wished, and to follow his orders."

With one hand, covered in blood, he reached for a chain which hung around his neck, and pulled from under his shirt collar a small blue crystal. He tugged at it sharply, and the chain broke. With the same free hand, he tossed it across the room.

"He spent decades," he went on as the crystal landed on the floor before Daisuke. "Decades, stealing magic from every mage or wizard he could find, sometimes bits at a time, sometimes nearly the whole amount in one go. He stored the magic in the crystals, and connected them all with spells."

"Where did he get the crystals?" Hikari wondered.

"He spent decades collecting those, too," the swordsman answered. "They're not so hard to find, as pieces of jewelry, decorations. It took a little more time to find crystals made for teleportation, but he did not lack for money."

"Who?" Daisuke asked. "Why?"

The swordsman had squeezed his eyes shut and winced as another onslaught of pain assaulted him. He was breathing heavily, and speaking more slowly when he answered, "Because the curse that Motomiya cast does not only affect you, but he and I as well, and this seemed the best way to break it: by either killing the descendants of Motomiya, or by forcing some hidden, untapped magic to come free."

Daisuke glanced briefly toward Hikari, wondering if he had missed some part of the story. There was confusion in her eyes, too, though, and she said, "The curse that Motomiya cast?"

"The curse," the swordsman replied, "which robbed all of his descendants of magic, not only the few he wanted to doom."

"Wait a minute," Hikari interrupted before he could continue, "are you telling me that it was Motomiya who put the curse upon his own family?"

"Of course it was," the swordsman answered. "Who did you think had done it?"

Once more she glanced toward Daisuke, who answered. "Otonashi." Had all they had heard been wrong? Or had the swordsman been told a lie? Which was the truth of the story?

The swordsman shook his head with a brief snort of laughter. "No," he answered. "Motomiya cast the curse upon the descendants of both families, in order to punish his own daughter."

He coughed a few times, which brought about a new round of agony, causing him to squeeze his eyes shut. "The daughter of Motomiya," he went on, apparently speaking despite the pain, "fell in love, or perhaps was only seduced, by the son of Otonashi. They met, secretly, as both their fathers disapproved. She became pregnant."

Daisuke now shook his head to clear the confusion. "I thought Otonashi and Motomiya were allies…friends?"

"In so far as they worked together, I suppose," the swordsman answered. "Not in so far as they wished their children to marry." He opened his eyes, wiped a bit of the blood that had dripped from his scalp with his already bloody hand. "They debated killing the baby when it was born, or using some magic to destroy it before then. Instead, he settled upon cursing it, and all those that might come as a result of the union."

"Instead," he said with a heavy sigh as he leaned back, lying down upon the ground, "he cursed all the descendants of both."

"So the two of you," Hikari said after a moment in which both she and Daisuke had been absorbing this revelation, "are cousins, distantly?"

"Quite distantly," the swordsman replied in a weak-sounding voice.

Another moment of silence passed. The swordsman breathed slowly, heavily, his labored exertions the only noise in the room.

"In that case," Daisuke said after a long moment, "we should not let you die." He began to get to his feet, taking with him the bag that Hikari had left on the floor nearby.

"Are you serious?" Tailmon interrupted. "You're going to save the life of the man who's been trying to kill you and everyone else?"

Daisuke shrugged. "He is family, isn't he?" he replied, an explanation which Tailmon seemed to find quite unsatisfactory.

***

The bright midmorning sun had awakened Miyako far earlier than she would have liked from a quite restful sleep. Unable to return to it despite her many attempts, she had gotten dressed and, feeling restless, wandered outside.

The repairs to the house at Motomiya would undoubtedly be a long process, but there was much improvement in the last week. The kitchens had been repaired and cleaned up enough to be used as originally intended, and the servants' quarters nearby were also once more inhabitable.

The fire had left gaping holes in sections of the roof, most of which were now patched. The walls that had been nearly destroyed were not completely rebuilt, but these, too, were improved.

"The only thing missing is the people," Miyako thought aloud, turning back to study the house from a short distance away. She sighed a rather frustrated sigh and turned back to her walk.

"If they haven't returned yet," Hawkmon said, hurrying to catch up, "do you suppose that means…?"

"That something's happened?" Miyako finished. "That Otonashi, or whoever was responsible, succeeded in his goal? That maybe they're both dead?"

"Well, I was going to say it more delicately," her partner replied, "but I suppose that's what I meant."

She sighed again. "Maybe." Momentarily halting her footsteps, Miyako studied the grass at her feet for a moment, and then raised her eyes to study the village in the distance, squinting through the bright sunlight. She lifted one hand to shield her eyes from the glare, and then turned westward, away from the sun.

Her stomach rumbled quietly, reminding her that she had not yet eaten. Somehow, she had wandered a rather far distance from the house, and now it was necessary to walk all the way back. A gentle, cool breeze danced through the tall, green grass, scattering distant blossoms in the wind, carrying the sweet smell of spring flowers. Miyako took a deep breath, inhaling the scent, and felt the wind blow through her hair.

She shut her eyes, spread her arms wide, and let the breeze blow through her fingertips. Her skirts quietly rustled, as did the feathers of her partner.

A tiny spark of magic, barely noticeable, ignited at the very tip of her fingers. A moment later, she felt another, stronger this time. The breeze slowed and then stopped. Miyako's peaceful, contented expression slowly contorted into a puzzled frown.

"It's so nice," Hawkmon commented with a sigh of happiness, and glanced up toward his partner in time to notice her confusion. "Something wrong?"

"I don't know," Miyako replied hesitantly. "I thought I felt something…."

"Something?" he echoed when she did not elaborate.

"Some sort of magic, near the edge of the boundary…," she explained, and then opened her eyes. She had wandered more than a hundred paces, far past the edge of the protection magic that had been cast. "I might be wrong, but I thought it felt like a teleportation spell."

"Do you think the swordsmen are returning?" Hawkmon asked.

"I don't know," she said again, "but I think we'd better investigate." Without pausing for further deliberations upon the matter, she set off at once back toward the house, and the edge of the protective spell.

***

There was a gentle breeze blowing, and the sun was bright, nearly blinding. Distantly, the sound of voices could be heard, of crowds of people engaged in conversation about the day to come, talking of nothing of consequence.

The air smelled of grass, freshly turned dirt, and sweet spring blossoms. As the brightness of the sun faded and his vision became more reliable, Daisuke could see bright blue skies and green grass. A gentle wind blew, and a handful of pink and white blossoms passed through the air. He turned his head and saw the large, red-brick house he called home.

"Did we make it?" Hikari wondered. Her voice sounded sleepy, as though she were only half awake, and when he turned his eyes back toward her, Daisuke saw that her eyes were only half-opened.

"We made it," he replied, and she yawned heavily. "You can sleep now."

She shook her head, as though to disagree with him, but her eyes were already closing nevertheless. "All right," she said, and leaned forward, once again falling into sleep, standing up. Tailmon was already soundly asleep in the grass at her partner's feet.

They were still some distance from the house, and no one had noticed their presence, although there were quite a few people, closer to the building. Hikari had teleported them to a space at the edge of the gardens, halfway between the house and the fields. Workers tending to the fields could clearly be seen, and distantly be heard, but had also not noticed them. Daisuke wondered absently why it was she had not brought them closer to the house as he somehow managed to lift her up in order to carry her there.

He could not, however, carry Tailmon at the same time, he realized, glancing back down at the sleeping feline digimon. V-mon sat down in the grass beside her. "I suppose you can make it to the house on your own," he said with a shrug, "and you don't need me to protect you, since it's not that far."

Daisuke considered this a moment, and glanced back toward the fields. They were not terribly far from the spot in which his father had been killed, quite near to the house. Still, there were no teleporting swordsmen left to attack them. He shrugged in agreement, but before he could speak, another voice did.

"About time!"

If he had not recognized the voice, he would have easily recognized the tone as Miyako's, and he turned to see that she was approaching from the east. "Do you know you've been gone nearly two weeks?" she asked him, "and without any sort of hint as to where you were going or when you'd be back? We were beginning to think you might be dead." She gestured toward Hawkmon, who had followed her.

"Sorry to disappoint," Daisuke replied with a cheerful grin. "I'm actually still alive."

She narrowed her eyes in his direction, as though she were most displeased with this information, and untrusting of his good humor. "And Hikari?" she wondered, eyes falling upon the sleeping princess in his arms.

"Sleeping, that's all," he answered. "I'd like to get her to a better place, if you don't mind." He nodded toward the house, and then took a step in its direction. "I don't suppose you could help?"

Miyako stared at him with the same vaguely disapproving frown for a moment, and then bent to lift the sleeping Tailmon. "I suppose she's tired from teleporting the both of you back here," she said as she followed after him. "Where did you go, the Western Isles?"

Her guess startled him, for he had not expected such accuracy. He paused in his steps briefly to turn in her direction, and she smirked in a rather self-satisfied manner.

"Was that a lucky guess, or did you somehow manage to track us?" he wondered.

"A bit of both," she admitted. "Koushiro was able to sense that neither of you was within the borders of the kingdom, unless she was hiding again. Searching to the East yielded nothing, since there's nothing there, and we couldn't think of any reason under the sun why you'd have gone North. Even though she said she went there once before."

"So, process of elimination," Daisuke concluded.

"Something like that. I didn't have enough magic to cast the wind spell, and Ken couldn't manage to get it to go all the way to even the nearest of the islands." She shrugged. "I don't know that I'd have been able to, either. In any case, our search was interrupted by an attack of swordsmen, and so we had to divert magical resources."

"An attack?" he echoed, once more pausing in his steps. "Is my sister – is everyone all right?"

"Nothing but minor injuries," Miyako answered, waving a dismissive hand. "A scratch here or there, nothing that doesn't heal in a few days. You'll also be interested to know that we managed to cast a protection spell around the house, so you'll be a bit safer from teleporting swordsmen." She paused. "Will there be more of them in the future?"

He shook his head. "No. They're all gone."

They had reached the door by now, and Miyako paused a moment before opening it. She frowned in his direction, then nodded. "Good," she said, and reached for the door.

***