Hello my friends, how have you been? I know it's been an obscenely long time, but I have returned to add another chapter to my second most popular story. My second favorite, too. I can't really cut loose like I do with Black Flames, but I still love writing this one. I'm also working on a complete rewrite of Tamer of the Night, but that won't be ready for a while.

To make up for the long absence, I've made this chapter long as hell and I tried to put a little of everything in it. Of course, it's more heavy on the humor than anything, but hopefully that means you guys and gals will have a good time reading it.

Well, let's get on with it, shall we?

XXXX

(Meanwhile)

"Doesn't this...thing ever give up?" Henry panted as he continued to run through the streets of Shinjuku.

"Well, maybe we'd lose it if you didn't RUN IN A STRAIGHT LINE!" Terriermon yelled right in his Tamer's ear, causing the boy to falter a bit.

Indeed, Henry had mostly been running straight down the streets, not bothering with alleyways and other detours.

"I told you...I don't...know this area...very well!...What if...we run...into a dead end?" while he didn't know the area very well, every neighborhood had at least one alley that didn't go anywhere...

At least, according to horror movies. And right now, Henry had every reason to put stock in movies, as another classic horror scenario was taking place at that very moment. The normally bustling streets were nearly devoid of all life, and the people that were around were outright ignoring the boy as he barreled passed them(1). They also didn't bother to look up; another horror movie staple.

"Then we'll stand and fight! Come on! At least try to get this thing off our tails!"

Henry wondered when his partner had become "Mr. Courageous", but couldn't argue with him, given the situation. The Digital Field didn't seem to be entertaining the idea of giving up and going home, and the adrenaline that had kept him going full-tilt for so long was finally starting to wear off. His only choice was to try and outmaneuver and/or outsmart the pursuer.

Terriermon nearly fell off of Henry's shoulder as the boy suddenly turned and dashed into a nearby construction yard.

This proved to be a terrible decision.

"Henry!" Terriermon smacked his Tamer on the back of the head with one of his oversized ears.

"What? YOU told me to try a detour!" Henry came to a stop and looked around with a groan.

The construction site was completely fenced off on three sides, and all potential, not-obvious hiding spots were behind the fences. Now they were trapped and at the mercy of the Digital Field, and whatever would emerge from it.

The dog digimon leapt off of Henry's shoulder and turned to face the Digital Field as it settled over the site. It expanded rapidly to cover the entire area in a dense fog, further ensuring that there would be no escape.

"Fine, we're not afraid of you!" Terriermon yelled into the fog. "Take your best shot!"

Henry wiped the sweat from his forehead and pulled out his D-Arc. If this thing put so much effort into chasing them, it was unlikely that it just wanted to chat.

'Come on, Takato. We could really use some help here!' even though he had no idea what was coming, but something told him that Terriermon might not have be able to handle it on his own. At least, not without digivolving, and Henry wasn't about to let that happen again.

(With Takato)

'Man, my head is killing me...' Takato thought as he ran up the stairs towards the "hidden" shed atop the hill.

Sure, the hit hadn't rattled his brain nearly as much as it probably should've, but that didn't mean it felt good. Takato had once heard his dad talking about a hangover, and from his description, it seemed very similar to the possible concussion the boy was currently suffering. He felt dizzy and nauseous, and every single sound seemed to be amplified tenfold. This included his own pulse pounding in his ears, each throb making his head feel like it was being inflated with an air pump.

But Takato kept running. He wasn't going to let a headache, no matter how terrible, stop him from helping a friend in need.

Just as he neared the top of the stairs, a red, black and white blur burst from the bushes beside Takato.

"Guilmon!" the boy called out as the digimon shot passed him.

The miniature dragon dug his claws into the ground and used his momentum to swing his body around a full one-hundred and eighty degrees to face his Tamer. Though it was obvious that he was raring to go, Guilmon waiting obediently for Takato to catch up to him.

As the "novice" Tamer ran up to his partner, he found his thoughts shifting from saving his newfound friend, to how Guilmon's previous maneuver could be used in combat. Normally, that would've sent up red flags, but for now it was just brushed aside for things relevant to the task at hand.

'Crap, I've got no idea where Henry is right now! Maybe I should call him...' Takato shook his head, deciding that calling would be a bad idea. There was no guarantee that Henry would even answer his phone, and if he'd actually managed to hide, the phone ringing would likely give him away.

If he had actually reached for his phone, he would've found that it was no longer in his possession.

While he was pondering the next course of action, a process that was made painfully slow by his splitting headache, Guilmon was getting more antsy by the second.

Eventually, his low growling got Takato's attention. "Well, I've got nothing. Lead the way."

The digimon wasted no time, shooting off down the hill with his Tamer keeping pace with unexpected ease, considering he'd had virtually no time to recover after having sprinted for nearly two miles non-stop.

(With Henry)

'Come on, where are you?' Henry thought as he scanned the area around him.

He knew the digimon had come through, as the bright flash of pale red light was always a sure sign. However, this one didn't seem to be in a hurry to reveal itself.

"Terriermon, can you tell where it is?"

"I don't have ESP, y'know." the lop-eared digimon replied as he looked for any sign of the enemy.

"You can sense other digimon just fine any other time!" Henry pointed out.

"When we're outside of a Digital Field, sure; but now that we're inside of one, I can't sense anything!"

"Wonderful." Henry muttered and started going through his card deck for anything that would aid in his current situation.

Then Terriermon's ears perked up as he heard an all too familiar sound coming from above and to his left.

'Oh no, not this guy again.' Terriermon thought, then leapt to the right just as a large beam of purple energy impacted the ground where he'd been, throwing up a cloud of pulverized concrete.

"Terriermon..." the mystery digimon growled as it stalked out from within the slowly clearing fog.

It was a massive, white-furred ape, though it looked more like a yeti than any known primate. Standing at least eight feet tall, and rippling with muscle, it would've been more than an intimidating sight even without having a biomechanical cannon for a right arm.

"...Gorillamon..." from the look on his face and the tone of his voice, one would never have guessed that Henry was someone who dealt with digimon on a daily basis.

The digimon in question turned his head to level a glare on the human boy. His icy blue eyes then widened in recognition, before narrowing in rage. Gorillamon then slowly raised his right arm in the blue-haired boy's direction.

Seeing this, Terriermon acted quickly to bring the irate ape's attention back to himself.

"Hi, Gorillamon, it's been a long time." the lop-eared digimon called. "Now that you're here again, there's a question I've wanted to ask you for a while..." he smirked when he saw Gorillamon's eyes turn to him. "How did it feel to be Champion-level Rookie Fodder?(2)"

Gorillamon's entire body tensed, then, in the space of just two seconds, he grabbed a twelve-foot I-beam and tossed it at Terriermon like a javelin. The Rookie managed to jump away just before the projectile hit and buried itself a good two feet into the ground.

'We've got problems.' Henry thought, not at all surprised by Gorillamon's strength. In fact, that power was the reason he had skipped the Beast-type over when he started playing the game that would eventually lead to him becoming a Tamer.

His exact words had been, "Anyone can win with a big digimon", and they were coming back to bite him in the ass. Gorillamon's power, and his position, put him at a major advantage right off the bat. There were quite a lot of I-beams up on that foundation, which would allow the ape to attack from a distance and hardly waste any of his energy. If he was smart enough, he could tire Terriermon out by forcing him to duck and dodge, then move in for the kill once the Rookie was good and exhausted.

'We've got to get him down from there.' as soon as Gorillamon had made his presence known, Henry knew that there was no chance of a non-violent encounter.

Gorillamon was out for blood.

Now the question wasn't to fight or not to fight; it was how to fight. The first order of business was to get him away from those I-beams, and Henry saw only two ways of going about it. Either he could have Terriermon tick Gorillamon off so much that he forgot about the potential weapons; or he could use a digimon card to equip the dog/rabbit with an attack powerful enough to blow the whole foundation up.

'If I'm going to fight, the least I can do is keep collateral damage to a minimum.' Henry thought. "Terriermon!"

"Yeah?"

"Make him mad."

Terriermon opened his mouth to deliver a smartass retort, but had to abort in favor of dodging another huge chunk of steel.

"Well, maddER..." Henry corrected himself.

"...Gotcha!" Terriermon shrugged, not knowing what his Tamer had planned, but trusting him nonetheless. "Ooh, somebody's angry!" he taunted the bigfoot-esque beast. "I would be, too, if I had gotten owned by a Rookie with one shot!"

With a roar that would make King Kong proud(3), Gorillamon fired his Energy Cannon at the annoying runt of a digimon, producing a beam much larger than normal.

Seeing that Terriermon had just barely gotten out of the way, Henry slashed Speed Plug-In B through his D-Arc, giving his friend the ability to run circles around the big brute.

And Terriermon did just that, darting and zipping around Gorillamon's blasts, and taunting all the while.

"Come on, big guy! I've met Numemon with better reflexes!" Terriermon laughed when another I-beam landed a good ten feet behind him as he ran at speeds he could never even dream of naturally with his stubby little legs.

"Huh...So this is what it's like when he's actually trying to be irritating..." Henry sweatdropped as he watched his partner dashed about, giggling like he'd just pulled off an awesome prank.

The boy's mind was brought back to the time when Terriermon had drank eight cans of soda and had nearly wrecked the apartment he and his family lived in. After nearly an hour of "Tom & Jerry"-like antics, Henry finally caught the digimon after he had knocked himself out by running into a wall.

Henry's lips pulled upward in a small smile before he was startled by his phone suddenly ringing. Looking at the number, he sighed in relief when he recognized it as Takato's.

"Boy, Takato, am I glad to hear from you."

"Sorry, right phone, wrong guy." a voice that was most definitely not Takato's answered.

"...Takato, now really isn't the time for games..." Henry said, somewhat irritated that his new friend apparently thought it would be funny to do his voice impersonation thing at a time like this.

"Heheh, there's always time for games, kid. But like I said, I ain't Takato. Your friend dropped his phone not too long ago, and probably hasn't even noticed yet."

"...Then who are you, if you're not Takato?"

"If I wanted you to know that, I would've told you already." the man said, his tone reminiscent of an adult trying to explain something to a toddler.

"Right...I'm hanging up now."

"Suit yourself. I was just calling to tell you that you'll have to hold out on your own for another few minutes. Shouldn't be too hard, but a lot can happen in a few minutes..."

Henry's eyes widened and he started looking around. "You're watching me." it was a statement, not a question.

"Just doin' my job, kid. Personally, I think you can take Donkey Kong's pissed off cousin all by yourself, but whatever. Be seein' ya', Wong. Look up, and think fast." the line went dead.

Raising an eyebrow, Henry did as instructed and looked up. The second eyebrow joined the first when he saw a small, rectangular object falling from the sky directly above him. Now, while most people would've simply stepped out of the way, Henry had a strong hunch as to what the object was, and didn't want it to hit the ground. So, with reflexes honed through more than half a decade of martial arts training(4), Henry snatched the object out of the air once it was within arm's reach.

'Yep, it's Takato's phone.' Henry thought as he looked at the red and black device. Looking up once again, he swore that he saw the silhouette of a person standing on top of the huge crane that was parked on the other side of the construction site. But the figure disappeared in the blink of an eye, literally.

On the battlefield, neither of the digimon took any notice of the boy's conversation. Terriermon was having way too much fun, and Gorillamon was far too focused on either crushing or blasting him, whichever came first.

"Hey, tell me if this looks familiar. Bunny Blast!" still running around at a fantastic pace, Terriermon fired a stream of small green energy pellets right into Gorillamon's face, momentarily blinding him.

Indeed, that did look familiar to the larger monster. That same attack was the last thing he'd seen before being deleted. When the human had deliberately passed him by, calling him "boring" to boot, Gorillamon had made it his personal mission to hunt down the boy's chosen partner and annihilate it. He had already been mad enough back then, but his rage increased tenfold once he was reborn and remembered exactly what had happened to him.

Even though he'd gone through all that trouble to ambush the runt, he had still been defeated; with a SINGLE ATTACK no less! That would not go unanswered. Both the runt and the human would pay for what they had done.

Seeing that the attack had little effect on the giant ape, Terriermon began to worry just a bit. The last time they'd "fought", a single Bunny Blast was all it had taken to put Gorillamon away. Now, it seemed as though it amounted to little more than a slap to the face.

Apparently, Gorillamon had gotten a lot stronger since their last encounter, and that was a problem. Terriermon really hadn't gotten that much stronger at all. He had bio-emerged a mere three days after that event, and hadn't really fought another digimon ever since, let alone absorbed any data. Unless you counted his rampage as Gargomon, where he, thankfully, hadn't deleted anyone and hadn't gotten any stronger.

"Henry, I'm gonna need some help here!" Terriermon said, but didn't get a response. "Henry?" he looked back and nearly fell over when he saw his Tamer seemingly watching clouds.

Gorillamon saw this, too, and grinned as he thought up a plan. He picked up another I-beam, while simultaneously charging his cannon for another shot. His movements were deliberately slow, giving Terriermon ample time to look back around to see what he was doing.

Terriermon paused. While Gorillamon was looking at him, and grinning maliciously, the Beast-type didn't appear to be aiming at him. The dog/rabbit then paled when he saw Gorillamon's eyes dart to something behind him. More accurately: someone behind him.

"HENRY!" Terriermon screamed as the ape let the piece of steel fly. He instinctively ran forward to protect his Tamer, and that was the only thing that saved him from taking a direct hit from Gorillamon's Energy Cannon attack. But he was still sent tumbling by the shockwave resulting from the beam hitting the ground. Thus he could only watch helplessly as the metal spear rapidly closed the gap between itself and its soft, fleshy target.

Said target finally took his eyes off of the crane just in time to see an I-beam above five feet away from him and getting closer with every millisecond. There was no time to dodge; only time to regret. But Henry did take some small comfort in the fact that death would likely be instantaneous, and thus painless.

The next thing he knew, he was being lifted off his feet by something ramming into him from his left. There was a loud 'bang', almost like a gunshot, and he was on the ground again, on his side, with whatever had hit him keeping him pinned down.

"Having fun?" a familiar voice asked.

"Takato...Nice to see your impeccable timing goes beyond telling jokes." Henry said, releasing a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding.

"Thank Guilmon. I'd probably be on the other side of town right now if not for his nose." Takato replied as he got to his feet and held out a hand to his friend.

Gorillamon scowled when he saw another human enter the fray. He should've just blasted the blue-haired one when he had the chance! But no, he had to allow himself to be distracted by that damned long-eared rodent!

Speaking of Terriermon, he had gotten back to his feet and was staring at his Tamer with relieved eyes, thanking Takato over and over again in his mind. In exchange for saving Henry's life, he would let the whole "Pwincess Pwettypants" thing slide...This time.

Terriermon's ears perked up again as he heard the high-pitched whine of Gorillamon's cannon charging up. He whirled around and fired a Bunny Blast right into the ape's chest. Of course, it didn't do much in the way of damage; it wasn't meant to. It kept Gorillamon from obliterating Henry and Takato, but it looked like Terriermon would now suffer that same fate. The card Henry had used had worn off, and the dog/rabbit was still a little dizzy from the last attack he'd taken.

Fortunately, Takato wasn't the only one with excellent timing.

Gorillamon howled in pain as a large red ball of burning energy collided with his back and exploded, toppling him off of the raised foundation he'd been standing on. Now, Gorillamon was NOT among the acrobatic and agile primate-based digimon, like Apemon or Makuramon. He was built for power and durability, so he had little hope of righting himself mid-fall, even if he had recovered from the shock of the surprise attack.

That said, Gorillamon landed with an almighty faceplant that Terriermon, Henry and Takato could actually feel through the ground.

"Ouch." Terriermon winced. It hurt when he fell off of Henry's bed, so he could only imagine what a fall from that height, onto concrete, would feel.

"So, Henry, that's the first time I've seen a digimon deliberately try to kill a human. Something I should know about?" Takato asked as he brushed the dirt and powdered concrete off of his clothes.

"I know him, in a way. Remember how I got Terriermon? Well, that Gorillamon was one of his opponents in the game. Terriermon beat him and absorbed his data, but..." Henry trailed off, drawing a blank on just how to explain Gorillamon's continued existence.

"I guess he didn't absorb enough. Looks like he'll get a second chance, though."

Henry sighed heavily. "I was afraid you'd say something like that."

"Well, he did just try to flatten you..." Takato trailed off as he eyed the I-beam that had nearly done his friend in, stuck in the ground like all the others Gorillamon had thrown.

"I know that!" Henry snapped, and immediately regretted it. "Sorry, I just...don't know what to do right now."

Back on the battlefield, Gorillamon was stirring.

"Guilmon, he's moving!" Terriermon shouted, readying himself for another round.

The white ape pushed himself up with his arms, an expression of absolute fury adorning his face. A face which had another painful meeting with the ground when something quite heavy landed on his back.

That "something" was Guilmon, who had a Pyro Sphere ready to go and aimed at the back of Gorillamon's head. But, this time he held off on the attack, awaiting the order to execute the enemy.

However, that pause in the action allowed Gorillamon to get his bearings. With both arms out to his sides, like he was about to do pushups, he charged his cannon and fired a shot directly into the ground. Unable to bore through the concrete and earth, the beam instead pushed Gorillamon up and to the left, causing him to spin rapidly and throw the red mini-dragon off his back.

Surprisingly, Gorillamon landed on his feet. Unsurprisingly, Guilmon landed on his back.

"Guilmon, are you alright?" Terriermon asked as he ran up to his fellow digimon.

The crimson reptilian hopped to his feet and gave a small nod in response, never taking his eyes off of tall, white and hairy(5).

Gorillamon glared right back, silently evaluating his chances of winning against two opponents. Conclusion: the red one would be a major problem. Not only was it unnaturally powerful for a Rookie, but he could sense that it was also a Virus. Even so, he was fairly certain that it would only take one direct hit each from his Energy Cannon to delete them. Then he could punish the humans unopposed!

But it was the humans themselves that Gorillamon hadn't factored in, and that would prove to be his downfall. Again.

"Guilmon, we're sitting this one out." Takato called, drawing weird looks from all but the opposition.

"What?" Henry turned to the brown-haired boy with a raised eyebrow.

"I figure this is about as personal as a digimon battle can get. It's your fight, you finish it." Takato said, then whistled to draw Guilmon's attention.

Said digimon turned to his Tamer, then gave Gorillamon one last scathing look before padding over to Takato.

As "Big Red" left the battlefield, Terriermon gulped; he did NOT like the implications of the grin on Gorillamon's face.

"Uh, Takato...?" Henry didn't like that grin either, but wasn't any more keen on the idea of destroying another sentient being.

"If it looks like you're losing too badly, we'll jump in again. But, after how you demolished me, you should be able to take this clown in your sleep." Takato assured his friend.

"This isn't a game!" Henry insisted.

"You don't think I know that? Lives are on the line here, and that's exactly why I'm staying out of this."

"Yeah, that makes sense..."

Takato rolled his eyes at the sarcastic comment. "Listen, I need to know that I can rely on you to do what needs to be done. If you can't even finish off a digimon that actually tried to kill you, then how can I expect you to come through in later battles? I won't always be there to take up the slack, you know. There will be points where I might need you to take up MY slack."

Henry opened his mouth to reply, but quickly closed it as he thought about Takato's words. They had already talked about partnering up to neutralize all threats that came through from the Digital World. And though that included trying to convince the digimon to go back to where they came from, they both foresaw it as mostly fighting to protect their friends, families and homes. Sure, not all digimon were bad, but they certainly weren't all good either.

Terriermon himself had told Henry that the Digital World was a place ruled by Darwinism, for the most part. As a general rule, the strong survived, and the weak perished. The lop-eared digimon had frequently overheard other digimon talking about coming to the Human World, and few of them had anything but evil intentions. Some wanted to go just to see what all the fuss was about, and others simply wanted to get away from the harsh conditions of the Digital World. But most saw humans as easy pickings, and wished to conquer their world.

Henry didn't want to believe his partner. Until today, he had never met a digimon that had any ill intentions. Of course, Rika and Renamon usually destroyed them before their true intentions could be revealed, but Henry and Terriermon had managed to make some digimon turn back. This was usually accomplished by telling them about Rika's quest to destroy all digital beings that weren't named "Renamon".

A couple laughed at the prospect of a mere Rookie being that much of a threat. That is, until Henry whipped out the list of all the digimon that "mere Rookie" had slain with the help of her human partner. Yes, Henry had a list.

And thinking of Rika brought forth a scary concept: what if a digimon came through that had the same attitude as her? A ruthless digimon that saw both humans and its own kind as nothing but stepping stones on its path to greatness?

That settled it.

"Alright." Henry sighed, sounding like someone three times his age. "If there's no other choice..." he shuffled through his deck with speed and precision akin to a Las Vegas poker dealer, searching for a card combination that would allow him to end the battle quickly.

Just because he had resolved to fight, didn't mean he had to drag it out.

To his left, Takato just smirked, taking pride in the fact that his little "pep talk" had worked.

'Got most of it from an anime, but he doesn't need to know that(6).' Takato thought with a mental shrug.

It took Henry all of two seconds to find the right cards, and he immediately slashed them through his D-Arc.

"Speed Plug-In H, Power Plug-In C...Terriermon, take him out." the blue-haired Tai Chi student said, a look of grim determination set on his face as if carved into stone.

"Will do!" despite the seemingly chipper response, Terriermon's expression was far from happy. Gorillamon had tried to kill his best friend, and that would NOT go unpunished.

Before Gorillamon could react, Terriermon launched a salvo of green energy pellets right at his eyes, intentionally toning down the power in order to simply blind the ape.

Roaring in pain, Gorillamon's left hand immediately went to his face and he sent a blast from his cannon in his enemy's general direction. Of course, he hit nothing, but the lack of a follow-up attack on Terriermon's part led him to believe otherwise.

Feeling that his sight had recovered well enough, Gorillamon peered through his fingers, hoping to see a cloud of data ripe for the taking. Instead, he saw cracked concrete and smoke. Suddenly, an intense pain erupted from the back of his right leg, just above his knee, causing the leg to buckle.

Now momentarily crippled, Gorillamon had no hope of avoiding Terriermon's "Terrier Tornado", and was lifted over fifty feet in the air by the green twister. While the attack itself was more disorienting than damaging, the crash back to the ground wasn't exactly pleasant.

For a few seconds, Gorillamon just laid there inside the crater his impact had made. His head was killing him, and the edges of his vision began to darken. He was done for, and he knew it. But that didn't lessen the sting of humiliation.

"How did it feel to be Champion-level Rookie Fodder?" Terriermon's words echoed through Gorillamon's mind, sparking his rage and demanding that he get up and destroy the worthless runt of a digimon.

"No..." Gorillamon growled, speaking for only the second time since his appearance.

Terriermon watched the Beast-type with narrowed eyes as the primate sat up and glared hellfire at him. He knew what was going to happen next, and knew what he had to do. But that didn't mean he wanted to, despite Gorillamon's actions.

"You...You're nothing! Without that human, you're just a pathetic little runt!" the ape growled as he struggled to force his battered body to move.

"Pathetic? Pfft, says the guy sitting in the crater, looking like he went ten rounds with a Togemon." Terriermon taunted with a small smirk.

"Like you did this under your own power..." Gorillamon grunted in pain as he pushed himself to his feet, swaying like a drunkard about to pass out. "I can't think of anything more pathetic than a digimon who can't fight on his own."

"How about a digimon who hides behind excuses to avoid admitting that he's just weak?"

Gorillamon just grinned. "Says the one who hides behind a human for protection from those with REAL power."

"'Real power', eh? Looks like it's overrated if it can't even stand up to little ol' me."

"You got lucky today, runt, and so did your worthless human. Next time, I will crush the both of you! And trust me, there will be a next time." Gorillamon laughed, ignoring the pain it caused to his damaged midsection.

"No, there won't." Henry said, causing Terriermon's ears to perk up.

"Goodbye, Gorillamon." Tamer and digimon said in tandem before Terriermon prepared his final attack.

Realizing what was going to happen, Gorillamon brought his cannon arm up and charged his last bits of energy into it. He had one shot left, and he was determined to make it count. With a sadistic smile, he trained the cannon on the human that had caused him such trouble.

"I'll make you suffer, one way or ano-!" Gorillamon never finished his exclamation, as a green, grapefruit-sized ball of condensed energy blew away his entire head(7).

Henry turned away from the sight of the ape's headless body, still standing and spewing out data like a fountain from the stump of its neck(8). Even Takato closed his eyes, and didn't open them until the body had exploded into a data cloud and was absorbed by Terriermon.

"Y'know, I think Rika might be some kind of serial killer, or something..." Takato said as he watched the fog from the digital field completely vanish.

"Eh?" Henry scratched his head.

"If she can do stuff like THAT on a regular basis, and not think anything of it...Something's just not right." Takato looked around conspiratorially, then leaned in to whisper to his friend, "And just between you and me, I heard her talking to herself while we were down in that parking garage. She was discussing ways to kill me!"

"...It scares me that I can't think of a reason NOT to believe you..." Henry deadpanned.

"If it makes you feel any better, I think Rika wants to kill me, too." Terriermon said as he climbed up onto Henry's shoulder.

"You're a digimon, of course she wants to kill you." Takato said. "And no, it doesn't make me feel better. In fact, I think I'm gonna hold off on sleeping for a while...I doubt locked doors and windows would save me from that Renamon of hers."

"Funny that you think of that after you've gone and ticked her off." Henry said with a small chuckle.

"Oh har, har, let's all laugh at Matsuki 'Dead-Boy-Walking' Takato!" Takato grumbled and shoved his hands into his pants pockets. This led him to realize that his phone wasn't on his person. "Aw shi-I mean crap." he glanced at Guilmon to make sure the reptile didn't notice the slip-up.

"What?"

"My phone's gone. I must've dropped it when I ran into that car. Don't ask." Takato proceeded to smack himself in the forehead repeatedly, but stopped when he saw Henry produce the missing device from one of his own pockets.

"Uh..." Henry trailed off, not at all sure of how to explain how he had come into possession of his friend's phone. "It fell from the sky."

No point in beating around the bush.

Taking the phone, Takato just stared at Henry, as if trying to look into his very soul to detect a lie. And after a full fifteen seconds, it was starting to make the orange-vested boy uncomfortable.

Fortunately, Takato finally got tired of it himself. "You know what? I don't even care. I know you couldn't possibly have taken it after I dropped it, and to be honest, falling from the sky is actually MORE plausible than what I managed to come up with just now."

Henry and Takato shared a laugh, while Terriermon and Guilmon just looked at each other and shrugged. Suddenly, Terriermon's eyes perked up.

"Uh, guys, I hear cars coming. And judging from the sound of the engines and exhaust, I'd say those government goons are on their way." he said uneasily, knowing that it would be difficult to escape from the construction site unseen.

"You recognize the sound of their vans?" Takato asked incredulously.

"What? You think these ears are just for show?" surprisingly, it was Henry who said this; Terriermon just grinned with pride.

"Well that's great and all, but we really need to figure a way out of here without being seen." Takato looked around and spotted a manhole cover. "Looks like we're going down."

"What are y...No, uh-uh." Henry said as he followed Takato's line of sight.

"You got any better ideas?"

"But it's a sewer!" Terriermon protested. "I'd have to spent a week just scrubbing all of the...stuff out of my fur! Personally, I'd rather be captured."

"Suit yourself." Takato shrugged. "But think about Henry. How's he gonna be able to sleep knowing that you'll be locked up inside some secret government facility? I'll bet he'll have nightmares about them cutting you open and plucking out your organs one-by-one to see what makes you ti-?" Takato stopped when he noticed Terriermon had vacated his spot on Henry's shoulder.

Henry himself looked like he was about to hack up a lung as he tried to keep from laughing, and simply pointed behind Takato.

Turning around, Takato nearly lost it when he saw Terriermon struggling to budge the manhole cover, and failing spectacularly.

"What are you two waiting for? Get over here and help me with this thing!" the pint-sized digimon yelled, immensely frustrated with both his lack of physical strength and his stubby little fingers.

Obliging the "request", Takato and Henry came over to help, but found that they couldn't lift the cover from its place, as they was nothing to grab onto. The three holes in it, meant for hooks, were large enough to fit a finger through, but that wouldn't be enough to lift it up. Guilmon would've had the strength, but his claws were too large.

"Well, there goes that plan." Takato sighed.

Suddenly, something heavy and metallic impacted the ground next to them, causing everyone to jump in fright. Instinctively, the digimon stood in front of their Tamers and prepared for a fight. But there was no enemy to be found, just a red, steel hook with an oval ring at the other end serving as a handle.

It was a manhole cover hook, and it apparently had just fallen from the sky.

"...First my phone, and now this?" Takato scratched his head with his left hand while using his right to pick up the tool.

"Think later, escape now!" Terriermon insisted.

"Okay, okay, calm down." Takato said as he slipped the hook through one of the holes.

Henry joined him, grabbing the hook just under the ring, where Takato was holding it. "On three?"

With a nod, Takato started the countdown. "One...Two...Three!" and with strained grunts, both boys lifted with all there might, and managed to pop the cover up. "Whew!" Takato breathed heavily. "It looks so much easier on TV."

"Doesn't everything?" Henry remarked, then turned to Guilmon. "Can you move that the rest of the way?"

The red reptilian just gave a happy nod and used a single arm to push the cover aside.

And that was when yet another issue reared its head.

"Well, it looks wide enough for Guilmon to fit...but how's he going to get down?" Henry asked. "His hands don't look very ladder-friendly."

"His claws can bend and function like fingers, thumbs included(9), but the rungs are kinda small, and I'm more concerned about his feet. Hmm..." Takato kneeled down to look into the hole, but found that it was too dark to see the bottom. To remedy the problem, he produced a small LED flashlight from one of his back pockets. "I can see the bottom, but I can't really tell how far down it is..." Takato's eyes suddenly glazed over, as if he'd been hypnotized. "Twelve feet, six and a half inches."

"..." Henry and Terriermon shared a look, then just shrugged. 'With the day I've had so far, I wouldn't care if my own shadow reached up and smacked me.'

"Huh, weird..." Takato then looked to Guilmon. "You think you could just jump down from this height?"

Guilmon looked from his Tamer, to the hole, then back again. After a couple seconds, he nodded, and moved to dive in. However, he was halted by Henry.

"Wait, we can't do this!"

"Oh, come on! We don't have to actually get into the water, and it's mostly from rain anyway."

"That's not the problem. I don't know about you, but I only know my way around Shinjuku from ABOVE ground!" Henry said, obviously distressed now.

"Um...Well, I've only been in the sewers once, and that was to hide. One of Kazu's pranks, don't ask...Maybe we could just go down here and wait until they leave?" Takato ventured.

"That could take hours! And what happens if they decide to look in the sewer?" Henry started to pace back and forth, wracking his brain for answers to the current dilemma.

Suddenly, Takato's phone rang, giving the group another start. Upon taking the device out of his pocket, he saw that the call was from a number he didn't recognize at all.

"Hello?" he asked tentatively after he opened the phone and hit "talk".

"You've got about two minutes before they're on you. Would've been thirty seconds had I not bought you some time." a familiar voice answered.

Takato easily recognized the voice as belonging to LadyDevimon, but didn't let on.

"Who is this? How did you get this number?" he "demanded".

"What are y-Oh, I getcha'. As I was saying, you don't have long before they completely box you in. I can either guide you out of the area, or provide a...distraction to give you enough time to escape."

Not liking the way she said "distraction", Takato leaned over to Henry and whispered, "He says he can guide us out of here." though he still said it loud enough to ensure that LadyDevimon heard the "guide" part.

"Who's 'He'?"

"No idea, but it's just about the only option we've got at this point." Takato went back to the phone. "Alright."

"Go over to the smaller of the two cranes and climb the back of it. From there, you'll be able to hop over the fence. Hurry it up!"

Gesturing for his friends to follow, Takato took off towards the red crane.

"Climb up the back and jump the fence." Takato relayed as they reached the machine.

Guilmon had a somewhat difficult time climbing, but he managed. He never noticed Terriermon looking at him with a smug little smile as he took the easy way up, letting Henry do all the work.

"Uh, this seems a bit high..." Henry gulped as he reached the top. The fence itself was ten feet high, and the part of the crane they were standing on was at least another two feet higher.

Takato spied a four-foot tall flat-top mailbox and pointed to it. "We can jump down on that." he then led by example.

Henry and Terriermon came down just fine, but Guilmon's weight caused the hollow structure to crumple like a soda can.

"Go across the street and follow the sidewalk to the left until you see a house that's painted dark orange. When you get to it, turn down the alleyway behind it."

"Got it." Takato did as instructed, the others following behind without hesitation or question. "Look for a house that's painted dark orange." he told them.

"A barn in the middle of Shinjuku?" Terriermon snickered.

"Now is NOT the time, Terriermon!" Henry scolded.

"Momentai!"

"Orange house!" Takato exclaimed as he spied the "checkpoint". "After the alley, then what?"

"Just keep to the alley. You'll need to cross three streets before you're home free, but, from what I can see, that won't be a problem. There's hardly any people out and about in this area, either walking or driving." LadyDevimon informed.

Takato took a sharp turn into the alley, with the others close behind. "Says to keep going straight ahead."

"Great..." Henry's training kicked in as he started taking more controlled breaths to keep from getting winded.

It had taken another three minutes of non-stop running to reach the "safe zone", and by then Henry was on the verge of collapsing.

"Alright, we're in the clear now." Takato said. "Thanks...whoever you are."

"No problem! Just be glad you took my D-Arc with you, otherwise I never wouldn't known you were in trouble. Ciao!" the line then went dead as the Ultimate hung up.

"Oh, thank goodness!" Henry heaved out as he leaned on a wooden fence.

"...You need to do more cardio, or something." Takato said, not at all tired.

"And you...need to...do less..." Henry panted.

"Blasphemy!" Takato gasped and pointed an accusatory finger at Henry, his face twisted in a look of utter disbelief.

Terriermon giggled, but Henry just looked at him, still panting away. "...Nothing you do...could possibly...make me laugh...right now..."

"Bah." Takato grunted and leaned against the fence next to his friend.

"Humbug." Henry said, finally starting to get his breathing back under control.

Takato checked the time on his phone, having once again forgotten his watch at home, then pocketed it again. "4:10; I'm supposed to be meeting Kazu and Kenta in about twenty minutes. You wanna come with?"

"No thanks." Henry replied as he pushed off the fence. "My parents are going out at around five, and they want me to watch my little sister."

"What?" Terriermon shrieked. "I was never informed of this!"

"And?"

"'And'? 'AND'? You know what she does to me! After what I just went through, I do NOT deserve THAT!"

"Hey, today hasn't exactly been a walk in the park for me, either. And I don't like watching Suzie anymore than you do."

"Oh, please." Terriermon scoffed. "You give her a sandwich, a couple cookies and a juice box or two and she'll leave YOU alone for the rest of the night. And what do you think she's doing when she's not driving you up the wall, hm? I'll tell you what: she's putting me in frilly little dresses, and forcing imaginary tea down my throat!" the digimon's ears twitched when he heard a low snort come from behind him. "AND YOU!" he jabbed a tiny finger in Takato's direction. "You saved Henry's life, so I'll spare you my wrath for the 'Pwettypants' remarks from yesterday. But you say what I know you're thinking, and I don't care if Guilmon digivolves to Mega; NOTHING will save you from me!"

Takato wanted to produce a witty retort, but the malicious gleam in the dog/rabbit's eyes made him decide that it was a bad idea. He may have fancied himself a Prank Master, but something told him that Terriermon was on a whole different level.

"...Do you see what I have to live with?" Henry deadpanned.

"I..." another glare from Terriermon quickly silenced the brown-haired boy. 'Digimon or not, something that little has no right to be that scary!'

"Normally, this would be the part where I tell you that you've really got nothing to fear from this hyperactive ball of fur...But I'm a pretty lousy liar." Henry just barely suppressed a smirk at the look on Takato's face.

"Right...Well, I gotta get Guilmon back to the shed before I meet the guys." Takato turned and walked off into the street beyond the alley, Guilmon falling into step behind him. "See you tomorrow!" he waved before both he and his digimon disappeared around the corner.

"Later." Henry waved back, then flicked Terriermon on the forehead, careful to avoid the spike.

"Ow! What was that for?" the pint-sized digimon yelped.

"Poured it on kinda heavy, don't you think?" Henry frowned.

"You ain't seen heavy!"

The grin Terriermon flashed actually made Henry flinch as he, too, walked out of the alley.

"Of all the digimon in the Digital World, how'd I get partnered up with you?" Henry shook his head. He loved his little pal, but sometimes...

Terriermon just let loose a maniacal cackle before going into "Plushie Mode".

(With Kazu and Kenta - 4:35pm)

"He's late." Kenta said as he checked his watch for the fifth time in as many minutes.

"By one minute. Just calm down, you look suspicious." Kazu said, looking around casually.

"All the more reason for me not to be here!" Kenta hissed.

"But you are here." Kazu replied, then caught sight of something giving off a bright red glint in the sunlight. "There he is." there was no mistaking Takato's trademark goggles.

"About time." Kenta muttered. "The sooner we get this over with, the sooner I can go home and forget it ever happened."

"Hey, this'll make a nice story to tell your little cousins. You know, show 'em that you aren't completely lame..."

"Just mostly lame, right?" Kenta narrowed his eyes.

"You said it, not me."

"Whatever. It's better to me a lame coward than a grounded hero."

"'Grounded hero'?" Takato asked as he came to a stop in front of his friends.

"Yeah, Kenta thinks I'm a hero!" Kazu grinned.

"...Mm-hm, a regular Sir Doesnotthinkalot."(10)

"Hey, I think plenty; that's why I don't get caught." Kazu countered. "Besides, we're not even going to do anything...today. This is strictly recon."

"Hm, that sounds familiar...Oh, I know! That's what you said the last time we did something like this, yet we still ended up getting chased out of the building by security guards!"

"...Maybe I shouldn't have agreed to this." Takato said, remembering what happened quite vividly. He'd actually been caught by a guard, and had instinctively lashed out in defense, breaking the man's nose and forcing him to let go.

A month later, that guard, Toshiro, came into the Matsuki Bakery to buy a carton of doughnuts for his...pleasantly plump girlfriend, who was waiting outside. Takato just happened to be working the register that day, and the two instantly recognized one another. Thinking quickly, Takato put money from his own allowance into the register and gave Toshiro a baker's dozen for free, in exchange for him not saying anything to his parents.

Kenta didn't get a free pass, either. He made the mistake of telling his cousins what he'd done, and they had snitched on him not even an hour later.

To date, Kazu was the only one who had yet to face repercussions, of any kind, for the events that were his fault to begin with.

"Ya' think?" Kenta nearly screamed.

"Okay, seriously, calm down." Kazu all but ordered. "You're going to give us away before we even step through the door!"

"Give us away? I thought we weren't doing anything!"

"We're not, but if you keep acting like that, the guards will get suspicious, and might start following us around. Scouting a location is a LOT harder when someone's on your tail." Kazu then started walking, causing Kenta and Takato to follow almost subconsciously.

"...Why do I hang out with you? I mean, it's like your purpose in life is to complicate mine." Takato sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets.

"Because we're the only ones who bothered to look past your attitude when you first moved to Shinjuku." Kazu said with a slight smirk.

"Oh, right." Takato smirked right back.

When he and his mother had left Odaiba to live with his then-new stepfather in Shinjuku, Takato didn't exactly have a sunny disposition. He was a loner even at home, and the incredibly short fuse on his temper quickly gained him a less-than-sterling reputation at school. And though many tried to befriend him, none stuck around after he turned his infamous glare on them.

But, being the hard-headed boy that he was, Hirokazu Shioda ignored the glares, growls and clenched fists. Kenta Kitagawa was, of course, the less brave/dumb of the two, and had made sure to give himself enough room to run if he needed to.

It was actually quite astounding, the lengths that Kazu went to in order to turn Takato into a friend. It took two months of constant pestering and at least four black eyes before he finally got Takato to laugh at a joke. Another week before he started initiating games during PE and ate with them at lunch without being prompted to. And an additional two weeks before they became an inseparable group, which they remained to this day.

But that didn't mean there wasn't dissent in the ranks every now and then.

"That was then, this is now. You could easily get other friends, Takato. So could I, for that matter." Kenta said, then frowned at the weird looks both Takato and Kazu gave him. "What? I could! Kazu's the one people don't like, not me!"

"What're you talking about? Everyone loves me!" Kazu boasted.

"Enough to let you go...and pray you never return." Kenta deadpanned.

"...Takato, do you have any idea how much you've messed up the team dynamic?" Kazu glared at the taller boy.

"Huh? Kenta's ALWAYS been the 'Voice of Reason'. It's basically his job to protest everything that you do; I just made him a bit more witty." Takato shrugged.

"Hm...Now that I think about it, you're right." Kazu stroked his chin in thought.

"Hey, I don't protest everything." Kenta defended.

"You just protested the fact that we said you protest everything." Takato pointed out. "Not helping your case, bud."

"Now that's just unfair."

"More protesting." Kazu chimed.

"Well...I don't protest Kazu breathing!" it was the only think Kenta could think of.

"Unless he's recently eaten pizza with sardines on it, or that liver and onions thing that his mom fixes..." Takato shuddered slightly at the mere thought of the "Shioda Special"(11), as Kazu called it.

"Hey, don't knock it 'til you try it." Kazu retorted.

"I have tried it, twice." Takato scowled and gulped loudly. "I almost hurled just thinking about it."

"You're a better man than me, Takato. I tried it once, and I haven't been the same since." Kenta looked like he wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball and cry himself to sleep.

"Okay, you guys are just being ridiculous now."

"Well, you'd know, being the King of Ridiculous." Takato scoffed.

"Thank you." Kazu smiled.

"Wasn't a compliment."

"Was to me."

(Four Hours Later)

"Mission Check-It-Out" or, as Kenta had called it, "Mission Doomed-To-Failure" had gone off without a hitch. They had managed to wander around the mall for nearly two hours without drawing attention, and Takato had drawn a rough map on a pocket notebook Kenta had on his person. Said map detailed the main route, every exit they'd seen, locations to "hit" when they came back, and places they could possibly hide if they couldn't make it to an exit.

After a trip to the food court, they went their separate ways, with Takato coming straight home and heading for his Xbox 360. He'd spent an hour playing Need For Speed: Most Wanted, trying to acquire a high enough bounty to face the second-to-last boss(12). And then he was challenged by Lillymon, and accepted.

Bad move. Lillymon was a monster when it came to racing games, and showed no mercy at all. And after twenty straight minutes of seeing his macho Ford GT getting its ass whooped by her incredibly girly Carrera GT, Takato was starting to get fed up.

"Oh, come on!" he screamed as Lillymon's Pink Porsche came flying out of a shortcut perpendicular to the road he was on and t-boned his FGT at over two-hundred miles per hour, causing him to slam into an oncoming garbage truck. She kept on her merry way, while Takato was forced reset his car, undoubtedly costing him the race.

"That looked like it hurt. Pause for a moment, I'll go get a band-aid for your pride." Lillymon laughed.

"Please, you can't beat me fair and square, and you know it. That's why you pull crap like that in the first place." Takato snorted.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't aware of any rules. I know this isn't Burnout, but it's not Gran Turismo, either. I can hit you all I want, and I'll continue to do so!" to prove her point, Lillymon actually turned her car around, ignoring the "wrong way" warning, and came back to crash head-on into Takato at two-hundred and thirty-seven miles per hour.

The hit was so vicious that it caused Takato's FGT to flip up on its nose, then crash down on its side before automatically righting itself. But, by then Lillymon's CGT was already speeding down the road towards the finish line. In the end, Takato came in a full five seconds after Lillymon.

"So unfair..." Takato muttered as he dropped the controller onto his lap and slouched back into the sofa.

"Aww, does someone need a hug?" without waiting for an answer, Lillymon pulled Takato in. "If there's one thing I learned in the Digital World, it's that there's no shame in being beaten by an opponent who's just plain superior." she smirked as she felt the boy's entire body twitch.

"I don't hear you talking trash like this when we play Team Fortress or Halo..." Takato said, his voice muffled due to the digimon's embrace.

"Exactly. I don't get to do this often, so I'm going to milk it for all it's worth."

It was at this moment that BlackGatomon appeared on the sofa to Takato's left.

"Hey, get a room, you two!" the cat digimon giggled.

Both Takato and Lillymon blushed and immediately disengaged from the one-sided hug.

"It's not like that, and you know it." Lillymon pouted.

"Regardless of what I know, I come in here to see you hugging and talking about 'milking'..." BlackGatomon let out another giggle, one of a decidedly more perverted nature than the one before. 'Heh, milking...'

For a full three seconds, silence reigned. Then Lillymon face almost glowed red when she finally got double entendre. She shook her head violently in denial, not trusting her voice at the moment.

Of course, the true meaning of the comment went right over Takato's head.

Fortunately, for Lillymon at least, Takato's stepfather chose this moment to come downstairs.

"Ah, Most Wanted? Mind if I play?" Takehiro asked with a slight smirk.

Lillymon wasn't the only racing beast in the household.

"Sure, Dad. Just watch out for Lillymon; she cheats." Takato said, giving the digimon a sideways glance to gauge her reaction.

"Don't mind your son, he's just a sore loser." Lillymon smiled, putting particular emphasis on "loser".

"I'll keep that in mind." Takehiro said as he took a third controller out of the entertainment center and plugged it into the console. "I hope you'll go easy on an old man."

"...What are you up to?" Takato's eyes narrowed in suspicion. His stepfather pointed out that he wasn't old at every opportunity, being only thirty-five, the same age as Mei(13).

If Takehiro Matsuki was calling himself old, something was very, very wrong.

"What? I'm not a gamer like you two." Takehiro shrugged.

"Uh-huh...I'm watching you." Takato said, then turned back to the game.

BlackGatomon just watched silently, obviously amused, and knowing that Takehiro was indeed up to something. In the Digital World, she'd gotten very good at rooting out traitors and spies for the Boss. Compared to some digimon, it was almost laughably easy to detect the lies of a human.

After picking out a track, traffic levels and the number of laps, the three chose their vehicles. Takato stuck with his matte black Ford GT with red tribal vinyls, as it was still his fastest car, and the one he had the most experience in controlling. Lillymon also stuck with her Carrera GT, with its almost blinding metallic pink paintjob and flower vinyls. Takehiro was a surprise, as he covered his eyes and chose at random between his own green Ford GT, a blue Lamborghini Murciélago and a stock-looking metallic black Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. He'd ended up with the SLR, and actually smiled, despite the car having lower stats than the other two.

Once the race started, stats quickly became meaningless. Stat-wise, Takato's FGT had the edge in acceleration, but Takehiro's SLR got the jump on both him and Lillymon off the line, immediately putting at least two car lengths between itself and the opposition.

However, Takato quickly caught up and even passed his stepfather. Or, he would've, had Takehiro not pulled a PIT maneuver on him going into the first corner, causing him to do a complete one-eighty and crash into a guardrail.

"..." Takato's jaw dropped and he looked at his stepfather, who only shrugged and continued to battle it out with Lillymon for first place. "Fine, if that's how you want to play." Takato reset his car and launched through a shortcut that the others had been going too fast to catch.

Takato would have to hit every single shortcut if he wanted to catch up, and would have to play dirty if he wanted to win. But therein laid the problem. This wasn't Burnout, where you could hit the opponent's car and not slow down at all. In Need For Speed, you risked impeding yourself just as much, or even more than your opponent when you hit them. But Lillymon seemed to have a technique that allowed her to hit him as often as she wanted with little sacrifice of speed. And Takehiro seemed to have something similar.

'No, I'm no good at fighting dirty, at least not here...But I am good at going under the radar.' Takato smirked as he darted through another shortcut, steadily gaining ground on his stepfather and Lillymon, who were too engrossed in their own bout for dominance to care about the person in last place.

And that continued until the final lap, where Takato decided to make his move. He had had hung back a good distance so they would keep overlooking his presence, until he had forced them to acknowledge him by speeding out of a shortcut, across the street in front of them, and into another shortcut.

"What th-NO!" Lillymon screamed as Takehiro managed to bump her out of a turn and into a building.

"Just you and me now, son!" Takehiro laughed as he caught sight of the Ford GT.

"You're half right!" Takato grinned as he saw the SLR creeping up on him in the final long straight before the finish line. 'That's right, use up all your nitrous.'

With the red flares marking the finish in sight, Takehiro rolled up alongside Takato's car and prepared to use the PIT maneuver one more time. But Takato saw it coming, and hit the brakes at the last second, causing the SLR to overshoot and turn into oncoming traffic, forcing Takehiro to slow down on instinct. They were now going at about the same speed, with Takehiro ahead. However, Takato still had a full tank of nitrous, and used it to breeze past his stepfather.

Then, little more than a car length away from the finish line, the impossible happened. A Carrera GT with a ridiculous paintjob flew past the Ford GT and crossed the line just one-tenth of a second before him.

"..." Takato could only stare in shock, the controller falling from his limp hands.

Lillymon sat there, sporting a grin that looked to be one step short of splitting her face in two. It may have been an indicator of great happiness and self-satisfaction, but it was more mocking than any words she could've possibly said.

"H-How...?" Takato finally uttered.

"Pure talent, how else?" though it didn't seem possible, Lillymon's grin grew even wider.

"Whoo!" Takehiro exclaimed. "That's the most fun I've had in ages!" he suddenly felt a cold chill run through his body. "Uh, besides every moment I spend with my lovely wife, that is..." the chill subsided as Mei walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs, humming a little tune to herself.

"Tch, that's easy for you to say. You don't have a reputation to uphold." Takato frowned.

"Just because you can't beat Lillymon, doesn't mean anything's changed between you and your friends." Takehiro pointed out.

Lillymon's grin grew even wider when even Takato's own stepfather acknowledged her superiority.

"...I suppose you're right...Could you stop that? It's really starting to creep me out." Takato said, leaning away from Lillymon.

"My face is starting to hurt, anyway." Lillymon dropped the grin and starting massaging her cheeks.

"Tell me, son, did you have fun?" Takehiro asked.

"Well...yeah, of course." Takato had to admit, that was the first time he'd gotten such a rush out of a game in a while. "Stealth racing" was something entirely new to him, and the challenge brought a thrill that racing all-out just couldn't match.

"Then does it really matter that you lost? It's just a game, afterall." Takehiro ruffled his stepson's hair as he stood up. "Dinner should be ready soon, so don't get carried away over here." he then walked into the kitchen to watch the food while his wife did...whatever it was she was doing upstairs.

"Your stepdad is a wise man." BlackGatomon said.

"Eh, he has his moments." Takato shrugged, then got off the sofa and unplugged his controller from the 360. "I've had enough humiliation for one day."

"Aww, c'mon, put it back in!" Lillymon pouted, using her big black eyes to great effect.

She didn't notice BlackGatomon slapping both paws over her mouth, nor did she hear the Champion's quiet snickering.

"I know what I did last time won't work with just you playing, so what's the point? It's no fun coming last all the time."

BlackGatomon made an odd choking noise, but neither Takato or Lillymon paid it any mind.

"Look on the bright side; you get a lovely view of my car's awesome back end!" Lillymon replied cheekily.

"Well, I do enjoy ramming it." Takato glanced at the feline digimon when she made another weird noise and started thrashing around on the couch. "Are you okay?"

"Y-Y-Yeah...I'm j-just f-f-fine..." BlackGatomon barely managed to wheeze out.

"Right...Anyway, I'm done for the night. I don't care how much fun the game is, losing gets tiresome after a while." Takato said as he walked towards the staircase that led to the second floor of the building.

"You've just gotta learn how to pick your spots, that's all." Lillymon pouted again when Takato just waved her off and went upstairs to get ready for dinner.

"I'll bet there's a spot you'd love him to pick..." BlackGatomon giggled perversely.

"Oh? Well, don't keep me in suspense; enlighten me." both Lillymon's tone and her expression screamed disinterest.

"It's better if you figure it out for yourself, but I'll give you a hint: it starts with a 'G'." BlackGatomon smirked and started a mental stopwatch.

The seconds passed, as did various expressions across Lillymon's face as she tried to decipher her "rival's" meaning.

'A spot that starts with "G"...G...G...G...spot...Of course, G-Spo-!' Lillymon's face went crimson once again, an expression of pure shock etched onto her face.

"There it is." BlackGatomon laughed, but soon quieted when the Ultimate showed no further reaction. "Lillymon? Hellooo?" she waved a paw in front of the larger digimon's face, but still got nothing.

Suddenly, the cat found herself face-to-barrel with Lillymon's Flower Cannon.

"I would appreciate it if you would keep your mind out of the gutter from now on, or at the very least keep it to yourself." Lillymon said in a disturbingly monotonous voice.

"Where's the fun in that?" BlackGatomon smirked, knowing that, at worst, Lillymon might kick her out of the open window to the left of the sofa.

"It's not about 'fun', it's about common decency."

"Hmph, prude."

"If you can call me a prude just for observing simple manners, then I can call you a slut for the crap that constantly comes out of your mouth."

The smirk was instantly wiped from BlackGatomon's face, replaced by a scowl.

"Kinda mean-spirited, isn't it?"

"And what you're doing isn't? I've asked you, several times, to stop, but you never do." though she seemed to have no intention of actually blowing BlackGatomon away, Lillymon did keep the cannon trained on her.

"I'm just trying to get your to loosen up, that's all." BlackGatomon shrugged.

"Against my will, which is hardly nice."

"Fine, fine. If you want to take everything so damn seriously, I'll stop. At least around you. Takato doesn't seem to have a problem with what I say."

"That's because he doesn't get most of it."

"The fact that you do get it shows you aren't as 'innocent' as you like to make yourself appear."

"I never claimed to be 'innocent'. I just like to observe rules of proper conduct."

"Whatever. I swear, you're almost as bad as an Angewomon."

Lillymon scoffed as she finally lowered the cannon. "I don't put that much emphasis on being polite and tactful." the flower petals around the cannon closed, then opened a second later to reveal a normal hand.

"That's why I said 'almost'." another smirk found its way to BlackGatomon's lips. "You know what I find really funny, though? You always complain, but you don't deny." she then teleported away before Lillymon could lash out, leaving the Ultimate almost literally steaming.

"Lillymon, is something wrong?" Takehiro asked, poking his head out from the kitchen. "You look ups...I'm sorry!" the man squeaked out an instinctive apology when the digimon turned a glare on him and quickly returned to his task.

Lillymon remained positively pissed even through dinner. She kept her furious stare on her "rival", not even letting up to look at the food she was putting in her mouth.

Of course, this didn't go unnoticed. Takehiro was trying his hardest not to draw any attention to himself, Takato was torn between trying to help and taking after his stepfather, and Mei...didn't seem to care. Much like BlackGatomon, the target of the Death Glare. She just continued to eat in silence, looking very pleased with herself.

"...If you two are going to fight, please do it outside." Mei finally spoke. "Preferably in a place where people won't see you and/or get hurt."

"Oh, don't worry about that. Lilly, here, is just a little miffed about something I said. Something she never did come up with an answer to." BlackGatomon winked at Lillymon.

Said digimon didn't respond, instead contemplating just how much trouble she'd be in if she gouged the cat's eyes out with her chopsticks. Lillymon didn't even notice that she had actually snapped her chopsticks in half a second after BlackGatomon had winked at her.

Fortunately, before the fairy digimon completely lost it, the white and purple ball of inexhaustible energy and cheer known as Calumon deposited himself in her lap.

"Hi!" he waved to everyone, then turned his head up to look at Lillymon and immediately shrank back.

That was when Lillymon realized that she hadn't kept her composure nearly as well as she thought. While she hadn't said anything, every bit of anger she felt had manifested itself in the form of a deep scowl, bordering on a snarl. Upon seeing Calumon's terrified expression, that anger instantly evaporated as her maternal instincts took over.

Takato and Takehiro let out sighs of relief when Lillymon hugged Calumon to herself and started cooing softly to make him calm down. They both noted the fact that Calumon could both ignite and extinguish Lillymon's temper, and committed it to memory.

"So...how was everyone's day?" Takehiro asked, trying to start a conversation. However, only Takato, BlackGatomon and Calumon could really say anything. Everyone else had been at the bakery all day.

"Nothing much, just played with Guilmon for a bit, then went to the mall with Kazu and Kenta...We didn't do anything, honest!" Takato said quickly when his mother gave him a somewhat downgraded version of "The Look"(14).

"Come on, honey, you've gotta trust the boy at least sometimes." Takehiro said.

"I do trust him; it's Kazu that I don't trust." Mei replied.

"Hey, he's not that bad." Takato tried to defend his friend, but the deadpan looks he was getting from everyone, even Calumon, showed that no one was buying it. "Okay, so he is that bad. But that doesn't change the fact that we didn't do anything."

"Yet?" Mei rose an eyebrow.

"..."

"Mm-hm. If I find out that you caused any kind of trouble whatsoever in that mall, you'll be grounded for a month." the nonchalance with which Takato's mother delivered the threat made it even worse for him, as he knew that a month with be the absolute minimum punishment.

"I made a new friend today!" Calumon grinned.

"And who would that be?" Lillymon asked, still clutching the little digimon as if he were her favorite plush toy.

"Impmon! He was a lot of fun to play with...Until he started losing." Calumon frowned. "Then he turned into a big meanie!"

"Really?" Takato asked, sarcasm obvious in his tone. Impmon weren't exactly known for their cheerful disposition.

But, as usual, the sarcasm went right over Calumon's head. "Yeah! He threw fireballs at me and everything!" he waved his arms about in anger, or at least his version of it.

Takato frowned at that. Impmon were short-tempered troublemakers by nature, and it sounded like this one was no different.

"Calumon, where did you meet this Impmon?" the boy asked.

"In the park!"

"Thought so." there had been rumors going around the school about a "kid" skulking around Shinjuku Park and using "firecrackers" to scare people, specifically couples. Some of the rumors also included a costume of some kind.

"You think he'll be a problem?" BlackGatomon asked. Normally, an Impmon was nothing at all to worry about, being big on attitude and low on power. But once they digivolved, things could get real nasty, real fast.

"I'd bet money on it. But I don't really know what to do. Confronting him would probably get us nowhere, but I can't just let him keep doing what he's doing. Either he's going to hurt someone eventually, or get himself hurt when he throws a fireball at the wrong person." Guilmon loved his fun and games, but playing "Fireball Tag" with him was a very bad idea.

"Well, it's only a matter of time before Pineapplehead and her little fox get wind of it and take care of him." Lillymon shrugged, surprising everyone with her blatant disregard for the life of a fellow digimon.

"Ah, I can see a bit of that natural hatred for Virus-types is showing through." BlackGatomon smirked, glad that the well-mannered Ultimate was finally showing a bit of a mean streak.

"It's not about that. Why should I have any sympathy for a digimon who comes here just to wreak havoc? Minor it may be, but it doesn't change the fact that he's tempting fate by doing it." Lillymon paused to grab a new pair of chopsticks and pop a fried shrimp into her mouth, making sure to chew and swallow before continuing. "Besides, you know was well as I do that, if this Impmon manages to digivolve, he'll do a whole lot more than some childish pranks."

"Maybe you could find him a human partner?" Takehiro suggested. "How about Kazu? They sound like they're perfect for each other."

"That's the problem. It's bad enough having two of them around in the first place; do you really want them to start working together?" Takato may have thought of Kazu like the brother he never had, but one of him was enough.

More than enough, according to many.

"Point." Takehiro went back to silently enjoying his wife's delicious shrimp tempura.

"I say just let things take care of themselves. Either that Renamon will get him, or he'll get himself blown up by Guilmon." Lillymon sighed. "But, I'll admit that I am just a little bias, so I'm not the best person to ask for advice."

"I have to agree with Lills on this one. An Impmon isn't even worth fighting, and words don't mean much to them. Pretty ironic, considering that they like to talk so much. My advice is to just let it go." BlackGatomon said, happily devouring another shrimp. "By the way, do you like the new nickname? Calling you 'Lillymon' all the time is so...boring."

"...If you have to give me a nickname, you can call me 'Lilly'." Lillymon answered.

"Sure thing, Lills!" BlackGatomon flashed a toothy grin, then went back to eating.

Lillymon rolled her eyes, though it was hard to tell she did so, and also went back to her meal, which Calumon was also partaking in.

Takato just sighed to himself, absently munching on a piece of fried bell pepper as he thought of what to do.

'He hasn't done anything to deserve being deleted, but from the way Lillymon and BG talk, that seems like the only way to get that Impmon to stop. Not a lot of options here...' Takato thought.

Seeing the look of uncertainty on her son's face, Mei decided to share her opinion on the dilemma.

"I'm not exactly an authority on digimon, so all I can tell you is do what you feel is right. But I will say that I think you should at least try to talk to this 'Impmon'. If he won't listen to reason, tell him what will happen if he keeps it up." Mei advised.

"Well, death threats work wonders on human beings..." Takehiro joked.

"Most digimon, too." BlackGatomon said. "But Impmon aren't most digimon. They've got a reputation for mouthing off to those much stronger than them, and just having a general lack of self-preservation instincts. Believe me, I've dealt with several of them, and usually the only way to get them to back down is delete them or beat them into unconsciousness."

"Tenacious little runts..." Lillymon muttered.

"Mm-hm." BlackGatomon agreed.

"...So, my options are to either knock him out or off him...Wonderful." Takato leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples.

"...'off him'?" BlackGatomon rose an eyebrow. "Who says that anymore?"

"Would you prefer 'Deep Six'?"

"...You watch too many mob movies."

"Like you don't?"

"You don't see me going around using gangster assassination terms." BlackGatomon countered.

"No, but I did hear you saying 'Nyah, you'll never take me alive, see?' in the bathroom the other day."

"You did not." BlackGatomon knew she'd replied just a little too quickly there.

"Maybe I didn't...But I know I heard you say it in your sleep last night." Takato plucked another piece of bell pepper from his plate and ate it.

"..." BlackGatomon couldn't deny it, she'd been having a dream based on an American mob film she'd seen on TV earlier that night. Right after she shouted "You'll never take me alive", she'd opened fire on an FBI agent, portrayed by Lillymon, with her "Tommy Gun".

For some odd reason, she'd missed every single shot, and ended up getting shot six times herself, even though it was her own dream. This was followed by her falling out of the window behind her, plummeting twenty stories to certain death and waking up just before she hit the street.

'The one time he wakes up before me...' BlackGatomon mentally groaned when she caught Lillymon smirking at her.

XX

After dinner, Takato went upstairs for his nightly pre-sleep ritual.

While brushing his teeth, Takato took note of BlackGatomon sitting on the sink next to him and decided to ask her about something that had been bugging him ever since the whole "Men In Black" deal.

"Hey, BG, I've been meaning to ask you something."

"Shoot." the black feline said while flossing her own teeth.

"Whose phone did you use to call me this afternoon?"

"Well, I left here in a bit of a hurry, so I didn't get a chance to grab either of your parents' phones. So, I started looking around for someone on the street with a phone I could 'borrow'. Funny thing was, the closer I got to the construction site, the number of people I saw dropped dramatically. Within a few blocks, the streets were completely empty."

"Actually, I noticed that, too, on the way down there." Takato narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

"Anyway, I did eventually find someone...someone whom I knew had a cell phone..." BlackGatomon chuckled nervously.

"Who do y-!" Takato was interrupted by his phone suddenly going off in his pocket, startling him and causing him to bite down hard on his toothbrush. "Son of a..." he hissed, hoping he hadn't cracked a tooth. Taking the phone out of his pocket, he saw a number that he didn't recognize at all. Taking a quick glance at BlackGatomon, he answered the call. "Hello?"

"Who is this?" a young female voice demanded.

"Well, you're a rude one, aren't you." Takato frowned.

"This type of situation doesn't call for me to be polite. Who are you?"

"And just what type of situation is this?" Takato asked, ignoring the repeated demand.

"The type of situation where someone stole my phone this afternoon, and used it to call you. Now, just who the hell are you, boy? If I have to ask again, I'll be very, very vexed."

"...Wait a minute, your voice...I swear I know it from somewhere..."

"Don't try to change the subje...Hold it, I think I recognize yours, too..."

"..."

"..."

"Pineapplehead?/Gogglehead?" both teens exclaimed at once.

"Dammit, you little creep!" Rika raged. "When I get my hands on you, I'll-" it was at this point that Takato covered both the speaker and microphone so she couldn't hear him and he couldn't hear her.

"Are you serious?" Takato hissed to BlackGatomon, who rubbed the back of her head sheepishly.

"I told you, there was the only person on the street at the time!" BlackGatomon defended.

"Then you should've broken into someone's house and taken their phone!"

"Oh please, like that would've been any better!"

"It would've! With anyone else, there's a really, really, REALLY good chance that they DON'T have a freaking ninja kitsune at their beck and call!"

"And you have three Ultimates and an overpowered Rookie at yours, AND you've got a friend with a Terriermon that can digivolve to Champion level. If anyone's got something to worry about, it's Little Miss Attitude!" BlackGatomon pointed out. "She sends her Renamon after you, you send SkullGreymon after her. See how she likes getting her house vaporized."

"Yeah, along with half the city." Takato deadpanned.

"Oh, come on, SG isn't that strong." BlackGatomon laughed. Of course, she wasn't going to tell Takato that she'd personally seen SkullGreymon annihilate an entire city with an attack he called "Ground Zero"; basically a supercharged Dark Shot(15).

"Right, and Calumon's repulsive." Takato shook his head and uncovered the phone.

"-your legs with a rusty dōzuki, then rip out your kidneys and make you eat them!" Rika finally finished, panting from the sheer intensity of her rant.

"You done? Feel better? Good, now it's my turn. I don't have a clue who took your phone, or who called me. Henry and Terriermon got into it with a Gorillamon this afternoon, and I helped out. We won, he lost, yay. Then the suits came, and I know you know who I'm talking about. Anyway, Henry and I were deciding what to do, when my phone rings. I answer it and some guy's on the other end telling me that he can get us out of the area before the goons get to us. He came through, then hung up, and that was the end of it."

"...So, some mysterious 'guy' stole my phone, just to keep you and your equally worthless friends from becoming government experiments? Do you honestly expect me to believe that?"

"Frankly, I don't care what you believe, Queenie; that's what happened. Now, if it's alright with you, I'd like to go to bed. If you want to ramble some more, I can leave the phone open; I've got unlimited evening minutes." despite knowing that, somehow, it was going to come back and bite him, Takato still couldn't resist pissing the "Digimon Queen" off.

On the other end, Rika made a sound like a cross between a clogged vacuum cleaner and an angry cobra.

"Oh, I bet I could fry an egg on your forehead right now. Call it a night?" the line went dead as Rika hung up. "Sleep tight, your majesty." Takato smirked, then stuffed his phone back into his pocket and finished brushing his teeth.

(Meanwhile, At The Nonaka Residence)

Rika sat on her futon in the middle of her room, gripping her cell phone so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Suddenly, she cocked her arm back and hurled the device towards the wall in front of her.

Fortunately, Renamon appeared in the blink of an eye and caught it before it impacted. Rika had broken four other phones before this one in similar manners, usually after talking with her mother, one of which Renamon had witnessed. That time, Rika had berated her for not intercepting the phone, knowing that it was well within her capabilities to do so. She probably could've let it go this time, as the wall likely would've gotten the worst of it, but better safe than sorry.

Renamon placed the phone on Rika's dresser, then vanished just as quickly as she had come, not bothering to wait for a sign of gratitude that she knew wouldn't come. She had saved that particular phone from destruction three times before, and never got so much as a "thanks" in return.

'Not that I get one for anything I do...' Renamon's eyes widened. "Where did that come from?" she mumbled to herself as she sat down on the roof right above her Tamer's room.

In said room, Rika remained still and silent, hands balled into fists and right eye twitching ever so slightly. Oh, how she wished she had a punching bag right now. Or better yet, one of the snooty little privileged brats she was forced to call classmates. She smirked as she thought of Ageha Shiori, one of the worst of the bunch at her all-girls academy, gagged, bound with duct tape and hanging from the ceiling by a chain.

Her smirk widened into a sadistic grin when Ageha was replaced by the latest bane of her existence, named "Takato". He hadn't given his name personally, but she'd heard the blue-haired boy call him that, and his digimon called him "Takatomon", to which he replied that he wasn't a "mon". But names didn't much matter to Rika, at least not those given by their parents. To her, they were "Gogglehead" and "Life Jacket", and would remain so until she decided they earned something else.

'And speaking of names, the fact that I've got his, and his phone number, makes him easier to find.' now all she had to do was ask around a little, starting in the park. Someone was bound to know him, or at least know of him.

Why wouldn't she just have Renamon tail him for a day? Because that would be too easy. She felt it would be much more satisfying when she tracked him down all by herself, then showed up in front of his house one day.

'Oh, the look on his face before I hand out his long-overdue beating...' Rika actually giggled to herself at the thought of seeing unadulterated shock and terror in the eyes of such a cocky individual.

(The Next Day - 8:20am)

Takato knew today would be far from ordinary, simply by how it started. His alarm clock actually woke him up on the first try, he didn't trip over anything getting out of bed, he didn't have to deal with peeping digimon in the shower, and breakfast had been a quiet affair. And now it looked like he wasn't going to be late for school!

"Wow, we're actually on time today!" Kenta said as he walked alongside Kazu and Takato.

"...Something bad is going to happen today." Takato took a quick glance over his left shoulder.

"What are you talking about? The day's been perfect so far!" Kenta smiled, blissfully oblivious to just how the universe worked...according to Kazu and Takato.

"Same here. What about you, Chumley?" Kazu turned to Takato.

"Not a single thing has gone wrong since I woke up."

"Then it's just as I feared..." Kazu frowned. "Prepare yourselves, gentlemen, for now we go forward into the jaws of oblivion."

"...I think the word you're looking for is 'detention'." Takato sweatdropped.

"'Oblivion' sounds cooler." Kazu shrugged.

"You guys are just being paranoid." Kenta scoffed.

"Oh, really? Well, when's the last time you had a day that started out perfect?"

"Actually, I had an awesome day just this past Sund..." Kenta trailed off as the blood drained from his face. He then collapsed and curled into a tight ball on the ground, mumbling incoherently.

Takato and Kazo shared a look, then sighed before picking their friend up, draping his arms around their shoulders and carrying him off towards their school. They also made a silent vow to find out just what had happened to Kenta over the weekend.

As they drew closer to the school, they noticed dozens of students, as well as several members of the school staff, gathered around the football field.

"Wonder what's going on over there?" Takato rose an eyebrow.

"I don't know, maybe a football game?" Kazu replied sarcastically.

"At 8:25 in the morning?"

"It could happen."

Both boys picked up the pace and soon joined the students who were gawking at the field in utter confusion.

Gone were the perfectly straight lines normally attributed to the field. In their place, random squiggles that looked more like a preschooler's finger-painted attempt at a football field than anything professional.

"...Whoa..." was all Takato could say.

"I'll bet it was one of the football team's rivals from another school." Kazu concluded.

"Our team doesn't have any rivals, Kazu. This school hasn't won a game in four years, remember?"

"Three and a half." the football coach, who happened to be standing right next to Takato, corrected. One would think he'd be at least somewhat angry about the blatant disrespect for his team, but he'd stopped caring shortly after his players did.

Other students started throwing out their opinions as to who was to blame.

"I'll bet it's a prank by the Hopscotch team; all that hopping has jarred their brains!" one of Jeri's friends, Ayaka Itou, accused.

"Hey, I'm on the Hopscotch team!" Jeri huffed.

"Is it supposed to be a drawing of something?" a male student wondered aloud.

"Yeah, it's a neoclassical interpretation of a little-known painting by Leonardo da Vinci, called 'The Squiggly Line'." a female student replied.

"...What?" four different students asked.

"Everyone laughed at me when I said chalk was dangerous! Well who's laughing now, huh? No one!" one of the older male students boasted.

His prideful look turned into a hard scowl when both Takato and Kazu suddenly pointed at him and started cackling like cartoon hyenas.

"Whoa, check out the vein on his forehead!" another boy said.

"This is no laughing matter; it's vandalism!" the principal, Mr. Hido, yelled, a vein pulsing on his own forehead. "YOU THREE!" he stomped up to Takato, Kazu and the still-catatonic Kenta. "You did this, didn't you?"

'Son of a bitch...' Takato thought, unable to actually say anything because of sheer disbelief.

"Hey, we take offense to that!" Kazu said, standing up to older male. "We take pride in our work, and would've done a LOT better than this. This," Kazu gestured wildly to the defaced field, "is the work of amateurs. We are professionals, thank you very much!"

Takato could only gape in total shock, hoping and praying that he hadn't just heard that. It was enough to even knock Kenta back into the world of the living, and cause him to stare at Kazu in horror.

"...I do not know this boy." Takato said as he looked back at the principal.

"Neither do I." Kenta immediately agreed. "Is he even a student here?"

"Nice try, you little punks." Mr. Hido growled. "But I know you three, and your reputations. I even know your nicknames." he turned his glare to Kazu. "'The Mastermind'," then to Takato, "'The Enforcer'," and finally Kenta, "and 'The Lackey'."

"...'The Lackey'?" Kenta's left eye twitched.

"That was the most polite one on the list. Same goes for you two, as well." Mr. Mido snorted.

"Uh, could we see that list, by any chance?" Kazu asked.

"No, but I'll tell you what, or, I should say, who you can see. Ms. Uzari, in the detention room, for the next two weeks." the principal smirked as he adjusted his dark grey tie, then looked around at the rest of the students. "What are you all doing still standing around? By my watch, you've got just over a minute to get to your classes."

For once, Takato, Kazu and Kenta were the only students NOT rushing through the halls in a desperate bid to beat the clock. Afterall, they already had detention for the next two weeks, so what was the point in hurrying?

"Well, you were right, 'Kato, we got detention. Tch, this just figures. It's when I didn't do anything that I got in trouble." Kazu groaned and kicked a small stone out of his path.

"Kazu..." Takato called, his tone eerily calm considering the circumstances. His head was slightly bowed, causing his hair to cast a shadow over his eyes, hiding them from view.

"..." Kazu gulped and took a step back, his self-preservation instincts suddenly kicking in.

"Ten...Nine..." Takato started the countdown.

Kazu yelped like a puppy that had its paw stepped on and took off towards the nearest entrance to the school building.

"Eight...Seven...One." normally Kazu got a full ten seconds...Then again, he didn't normally get them two weeks of detention. With Ms. Uzari.

And so, Kenta was left all alone outside, slowly walking up to the main building. It was rare to see the boy legitimately angry, and even moreso for him to want to harm one of his best friends. But here he was, hoping that Takato left Kazu conscious so he would feel it when Kenta got his shots in.

(Ms. Asaji's Class - 8:35am)

Most of the excitement from minutes before had died down, those many students were still whispering about it and pointing fingers. Most of those fingers were directed towards the three students who were naturally the primary suspects.

Of those three, only two looked truly mad about their detention sentencing, which even some teachers felt was a bit too harsh. The third...it was hard to tell if he was angry, or just in pain.

Kazu hissed as he gingerly poked his swollen and bruised right eye. He hated being hit in the face. Takato knew this, and always punched him in the abdomen, but Kenta was another story. You wouldn't think it just by looking at him, but Kenta was a natural southpaw and had a nasty left hook.

'Maybe the Art of Comedy isn't the only thing Takato's training him in...' Kazu thought.

Of course, he didn't blame either of his friends for what they'd done. He had expected such a reaction the moment he mouthed off to the principal, and didn't really mind. According to his father, one of the many criteria for a "true friend" was hitting you for doing something stupid, but not allowing anyone else to do the same.

"Okay, okay, everybody, give me your attention. For a change." Ms. Asaji murmured the last part to herself, though some of the students at the front of the class still heard it and snickered. "You, too, Kazu." she said when she saw the boy meticulously folding a piece of notebook paper into an airplane.

"Aww." Kazu groaned in protest, but discarded the unfinished plane anyway.

"I assume none of you vandalized the football field, despite accusations and reputations. I'll give you boys the benefit of the doubt this time, as you probably would've done a better job." the woman couldn't keep a small smile from coming out, but it disappeared quickly. "But, if you know anything about it, let me know, okay?"

"..." for once, even Kazu was speechless.

A student raised his hand.

"Yes, Hideki?"

"Excuse me, Ms. Asaji, but did you just say that you DON'T think they did it?" most of the class looked at the teacher with similar expressions of confusion, also not quite sure they'd heard her correctly.

"No, I don't." Ms. Asaji answered without hesitation. In fact, most of the school staff, including the principal himself, didn't think they did it.

Smart aleck he may have been, but they had to admit that Kazu made a valid point: he and his friends displayed impressive talent and innovation in their mischief. What happened to the football field just didn't fit their M.O. at all.

'Heh, Ms. Asaji always was one of the cooler teachers.' Takato thought with a slight smile. He was still pissed about getting two weeks of detention, with Ms. Uzari, but it was nice to know that someone in the school thought better of them.

"Now, pick up your pencils, it's pop quiz time."

'I retract my previous statement.' Takato let his head fall onto his notebook with a solid "thump".

The rest of the class burst into protest, all of the voices blending together to become nigh-indecipherable noise.

But one voice stood out from all the rest.

"You never said anything about a test!"

"That's the whole point of a pop quiz, Kazu." Ms. Asaji replied, grabbing a stack of papers from behind her podium.

"But it's not fair!" Kazu whined.

"If life were fair, I'd be in the Bahamas." the woman sighed before handing out the quiz papers to the students at the front of each row. "Maybe this'll teach you to pay attention in class."

"Aww, I don't wanna learn that!"

Ms. Asaji just shook her head and sighed once again. 'Sometimes I just don't understand how he maintains a solid B in this class.' she had moved him away from Takato and Kenta, and he was surrounded by classmates who would rat him out in a second, but his grades never declined. It was the same with almost all of their classes, and it stumped more than a few teachers.

For the first time in their respective careers, they encountered troublemakers who weren't dumb slackers, but intelligent and hard-working boys. Most were almost totally unfamiliar with even the concept, but Nami Asaji had met the type before, in her very first teaching job. Even so, Takato, Kazu and Kenta, especially Kazu, surprised even her on a regular basis.

By the time lunch had rolled around, things were pretty much back to normal.

"I'm telling you, man, there's something really weird going on around here. Those drawings on the football field are just like crop circles, and those are made by aliens!"

Yep, back to normal.

"You guys are way off base." a boy in a green shirt said, pointing his spork at "Alien Boy". "There's no such thing as aliens; it was really a ghost! And that dinosaur the principal said he saw over the weekend? It was a ghost dinosaur."

"Okay...but how did a ghost put that big dent in the wall outside?" "Alien Boy's" red-shirted friend asked.

"Some ghosts have the ability to move things, and even hit people! They're the ones you hear about choking people, pushing them down stairs, pulling their hair and flinging furniture across the room. I can't remember what they're called, but they do exist!" "Ghost Boy" insisted.

"I think they're called 'Poultryguests', or something like that." "Alien Boy" scratched his chin in thought.

"Ah, poltergeist, that's it!"

"Isn't that a movie? Like, three or four of 'em, I think."

"Yeah, but it's based on true events."

"Oh, whatever." the lone girl at the table, Ayaka, waved the boys off.

"What? Google it, you'll see!"

At his desk two rows over, Takato stared at his four classmates, head cocked slightly to the left. He then looked at both Kazu and Kenta, who wore similar expressions.

"And people around here have the nerve to call us crazy..." Kazu shook his head and took a large gulp from his milk carton.

"Uh, don't we call us crazy?" Kenta scratched his cheek lightly.

"Yeah, but they don't know that." Kazu chuckled.

The other two boys joined in, drawing a couple of odd looks, though most students were used to it.

"Hey, how's the eye?" Kenta asked.

"Meh, it's fine. Swelling's gone down already. Still stings when I raise my eyebrow, though." Kazu then smirked. "Taking a few pointers from 'The Enforcer'?"

"Actually, my dad has a book about boxing that explains proper punching techniques. I just copied what I read." Kenta shrugged and took a bite of his bread.

"Well, it worked. But don't worry, Chumley, you've still got baddest hand in the land."

"Yeah, and you've still got the baddest mouth." Takato replied. "Really, man, what possessed you to say that? And to Mr. Hido, of all people?"

"Honestly? Nothing, I knew exactly what I was saying. I didn't mean to go that far with it, but it wasn't just some spontaneous thing. I mean, we all know that no one's going to believe a simple denial, right? So I decided on something a little more convincing; a little more 'Kazu'. I came up with 'We're better than that' and rolled with it." Kazu shrugged.

"We probably could've avoided detention if you had've stuck with 'We didn't do it'." Takato frowned.

"Maybe. Until the rumor mill really got going, anyway. We aren't exactly the most popular guys around, and most people probably thought it was us the moment they laid eyes on it. I think detention is a given when we're not just the primary suspects, but the ONLY suspects." Kazu explained.

"I guess that's a good point, but I don't think you're giving the other kids enough credit. Think about what we've been hearing ever since he stepped foot on the school grounds this morning. As far as the other students are concerned, aliens and ghosts seem to be higher up on the list of possible offenders than us." Takato reasoned.

"Though I'm not exactly proud of it, our 'handiwork' is typically a lot better than the stuff out on the field. Maybe we aren't the only ones who see that?" Kenta ventured, looking around see that, while almost everyone was sharing theories about what happened, no one was casting looks or pointing fingers their way.

"I guess you're right." Kazu conceded, also looking around and making the same observation as Kenta. "Wow, that kinda sucks. Maybe we really could've gotten out of detention!" the boy hung his head in despair. "Sorry, guys."

"Meh, what's done is done, so don't mention it. I mean it, don't, or I might have to hit you again." Takato said with a small smirk, which Kazu mimicked.

"You are all wrong." a low, monotonous, though obviously feminine voice called, silencing everyone in the room.

As one, the students turned to look at the person who sat in the desk that occupied the shadowed back corner of the room just behind the first window. They saw the poster-child for the Gothic Lolita style. Pale skin, long black hair, frilly black dress, complete with knee-length skirt and red ribbons tied into bows on the chest and arms. White, possibly thigh-high socks and simple black pumps completed the package. In short, she looked so out of place in the classroom that it was a complete and utter mystery as to how she managed to go unnoticed for the majority of the day, by both students and teachers alike.

A couple of male students were damn-near sitting on the girl and still hadn't noticed her. The shriek they unleashed when they turned around and saw her was priceless.

"Miyamoto Sayuri." Takato mumbled, being the only person in the room to remember her name.

Apparently, she heard him, as she immediately turned her gaze to him and cocked her head to the side a little.

"We're wrong, eh? Well, care to enlighten us?" "Ghost Boy" sneered.

"Very well. It was not a ghost, an alien, a dinosaur, or any combination of the three that was responsible for the odd happenings on these grounds. No, what we are dealing with is a far greater and more malicious force...I fear that demons have descended upon this school." Sayuri said, still keeping her eyes focused on Takato.

Needless to say, it made him quite uncomfortable. Sure, she was cute and all, but she was also just about the creepiest person Takato had ever met. And that wasn't even factoring in her apparent obsession with the supernatural.

"Demons? Come on." "Ghost Boy" scoffed, though it was plain to see that the prospect scared him. "If it was demons, wouldn't they have hurt someone by now?"

"How do you know that they haven't?" Sayuri countered, finally looking away from Takato.

"...Come to think of it, I haven't seen Hikaru for over a week now." another male student said.

"I thought he had the flu?"

"Who gets the flu in the middle of Spring?"

"The demons got him!" a female student cried out, then fainted at her desk.

Other students actually started to sweat in fear, and some of them even had tears in their eyes.

"W-Wait, if it really was d-demons...how did they get here? I mean, don't they have to be, I don't know, summoned, or something?"

"Not in all cases, but I do believe they were conjured here."

"By who?"

"It is not 'who', but 'what'. The next time I tell you that the food here is tainted, perhaps you should listen."

"The spud balls? We thought you were just saying that because they make people sick!"(16)

And with that, those who hadn't finished their lunch promptly dumped it. Those that had finished it immediately felt the need to purge and rushed to the restrooms.

"What is this? I don't even..." once again, even Kazu was speechless.

"There's something tainted around here, alright...but, for once, it's not the food." Kenta couldn't help by laugh at the stuff he was hearing.

"Maybe there's something in the water, you know? I've heard that it's drinks that are most often drugged..." Kazu stared at the milk in his hand, then shrugged and downed the rest of it in one go.

"...I'd like to go back to my own dimension, now. You know, the one where everyone ISN'T nuckin' futs?" Takato pinched the bridge of his nose, then looked over to see that Sayuri was staring at him again. 'Or really, really creepy...'

For nearly two full minutes, Takato held the girl's gaze, staring right back into her eyes just as she did his. In that time, he found that either she was blinking at the exact same time as him, or she wasn't blinking at all. Neither made him feel any better, but he didn't want to just look away, as he thought it would be rude. So, he gave her a small wave and a friendly little smile.

The effect was unexpected. Sayuri's eyes widened and Takato swore he saw her cheeks turn a light pink before she averted her gaze. However, she did give him a sort of shy half-wave in return.

Feeling that he could now turn away, Takato did so, only to see Kazu and Kenta sporting smirks that he knew meant nothing good. There would be severe teasing and taunting in the near future, that much was certain.

"So, got a new girlfriend, eh 'Kato?" as usual, Kazu would be the one to kick things off.

XXXX

And there it is. I feel really good about this one. Had a lot of fun writing it. but I wanna know what the readers think. Looking forward to hearing from the canon-sticklers, too. I tried to keep everyone in-character, and I think I did a pretty good job, though some characters have had their traits exaggerated just a bit. Of course, this excludes Takato, as the change in his character and background is pretty much THE key component in this story. Even so, I have tried to keep as much "Takatoness" in him as I could.

And speaking of backgrounds, I revealed a little bit more about Takato's here. In canon, his background, as well as pretty much everyone else's, isn't really explored at all. So, as far as I'm concerned, I've got a clean slate to work with on that front. I mean sure, there are somethings I can't do with some characters, but that's a given anyway.

I mentioned this before, but since it's been a while, I'll say it again: this story does NOT take place in the same timeframe as the show. I'm not going to outright say what year it is; I'll leave you guys to guess based on the hints I pepper into the story.

Also, you'll notice that, during the Gorillamon fight, did away with some of the outright stupid dialogue.

"We played the game together!"

Yeah, remember? I called you a boring brute of a digimon, then made my little Terriermon digivolve to Champion level and blast the ever loving shit out of you. He even made you dance! Good times, good times.

(1) Witnesses: Never around when you're being chased by a psychopath, always around when you set something on fire.

(2) In canon, it was first shown that Terriermon blasted Gorillamon in the face deleted him. Later, it was revealed that it was Gargomon who did the ass-kicking. For this fic, I've gone with the former. It was a different battle that saw Terriermon digivolve and go "Bulletstorm" on someone's ass, which will be detailed via flashback in the next chapter.

(3) Remember, actual roars in this fic, none of that "GRAAARGH!" bullshit.

(4) Don't know how long Henry's been at it in canon, but here it's been six years, so he started as a seven year old.

(5) No offense meant to anyone who is indeed tall, white and hairy. I'm tall, black and hairy. Is there a club for tall and hairy people? I'd join. We could share stories about trying to get into little econobox-type cars, and what types of shirts are least likely to pull on our body hair everytime we move. I mean, I'm not that hairy, but...Let's move on.

(6) Actually, I didn't get that from an anime. But, I don't know of all the anime out there, many exclusive to Japan at the moment. So who's to say that some part of that little speech isn't in one of them?

(7) The way I see it, the "Bunny Blast" can be used as both tiny pellets to conserve energy, or a concentrated blast for more damage. I'll probably do this with most attacks from most digimon, allowing them to be altered to have less/more power or sometimes even altogether different effects. I think this'll spice things up a bit, since digimon aren't like pokémon, which just learn different attacks as they grow. Most digimon are limited to just two or three attacks, though I have seen a couple with, like, seven or something.

(8) Remember, this fic is rated M for reasons beyond language and innuendo. It won't always be just data spurting out of stumps and severed limbs.

(9) Can't really remember any instances in the anime where this is apparent, but there's an official-looking artbook floating around the web, and Guilmon's page clearly shows his claws bending like fingers, with one functioning like a thumb. That's good enough for me.

(10) I've got others, but this was the only one that I felt fit Kenta's character.

(11) This is based on a real dish that my uncle makes all the time. I like to call it the "I would say 'kill it with fire', but it looks like someone already tried and failed". "Get it away from me" when I want to save time. Other popular titles include "Bury it on Mars", "Is it still alive?", "Nuke it from orbit; it's the only way to be sure", "Ten bucks if you don't gag", "Toilet breaker" and of course the old standby "WTF?"

And to anyone who actually does like meals of this type...You's a nasty mothafucka.

(12) Seriously, I can't do it. At the lower heat levels(1-3), the cops just can't keep up for significant periods of time. At the higher ones, I keep running into spike strips, and those Rhino SUVs keep running into me. And it really sucks, because the boss himself will likely be a cakewalk.

(13) Have no idea what their actual ages are, but in this fic, Takato's biological father, Mei and Takehiro were all childhood friends of the same age. And though anyone should be able to do the math(believe me, if I can, anyone can), I'll save you time and tell you that Mei had Takato when she was twenty-two.

(14) Guys, you probably know the one I'm talking about. Where the woman(mother, girlfriend, wife)looks at you out of the corner of a half-lidded eye, just waiting for you to make eye-contact so the message can be sent clearly. It's the kind of thing that makes the hair stand up on the back off your neck.

(15) Original JapaneseEnglish translation of SkullGreymon's Dark Shot attack. I'll also be doing this with several other digimon, using the original translations of their attacks for new ones.

(16) In episode five of the show, when Takato and Jeri are cleaning up the classroom floor, Takato mentions something about demons being conjured by spud balls. I decided to expand upon that and have some fun with it.

Well, I think that covers just about everything.

I'll tell you now, I've got no idea when the next update will come(surprise, surprise). Per chapter, writing times for this fic pale in comparison to Black Flames, so I really should be able to get them out faster. Even though this chapter is huge, it only took about three weeks to write, give or take a day or two. This is compared to three months, or more, for a chapter of the same size for Black Flames. You'd think it would be the other way around, since I've put far more restrictions on myself with this story.

Anywho, thanks to my readers for being so patient. I look forward to your feedback! And as usual, if you've got questions, ask away.

Jason Out!