Date started: October 2rd, 2008
Date Finished: October 3rd, 2008

Summary: Iori's grandfather speaks with Jyou about the Digital World, and about the heavy burden he now bears because of it.

Darker Paths

"Did you enjoy your time with the Digital World, Kido-san?"

Jyou blinked into the open doorway. He was home alone, and a faint knock had signaled a visitor. He hadn't quite expected to see Iori's grandfather at his doorstep. The old man gave no motion to let himself inside. He simply stood, a grim face covering his features as he gravely looked on at the eldest Chosen Child.

"I did," Jyou managed to reply. His brow raised unconsciously in his confusion. He had met Chikara Hida quite some time ago, Iori had introduced the two shortly after having been Chosen by the Digital World, but he couldn't quite tell why the man was here visiting him at this time.

"Then you have no regrets?" the old man asked.

Jyou shook his head. "My only wish right now is to do even more to help both worlds."

Hida nodded. "May I come in? I've some things I wish to discuss."

"Of course," Jyou said, stepping aside to allow the elder entrance. He led them both to the living room, offering a seat on the family sofa. "May I offer you some tea?"

"Thank you, but no," Chikara replied. "Please Kido-san, have a seat by me."

Jyou did as asked. "What did you wish to talk about?"

"My grandson, Iori," the old man began. "He's been telling me many things lately. And the more I learn…"

"The more frightened you become?" Jyou offered.

"I suppose that's one way of putting it," Grandpa Hida said, and then paused for a moment as he thought of his next words. "The boy – Ichijouji Ken – he was the Digimon Kaiser, isn't that right?"

Jyou nodded. "Yes, but that's all in the past. The dark seed…"

Chikara cut him off. "I know the story, Kido-san. But he had a brother, didn't he?"

Another nod came from the Chosen. "Yes, I believe his name was Osamu. I'm sure Iori knows a bit more about it than I do. He passed away… why exactly are you bringing this up with me?"

The old man noticed Jyou's confusion. He offered an explanation, "I do not wish to speak with Iori about this. The more he tells me about the Digital World, the harder it becomes for me. You are wise beyond your years, Kido-san. That is why I've come to you."

Jyou frowned. "And how does Osamu fit into all this?"

Hida said. "It seems to me that the Digital World has been learning from its mistakes."

"What do you mean by that?" Jyou asked, surprised by such a response. "You speak of the Digital World as an entity of its own."

"Is it not?" Chikara countered. "It chooses its saviors when it finds itself troubled. It's definitely capable of making decisions. Perhaps it's capable of making mistakes as well? And perhaps it's also capable of learning from them?"

"I'm not quite sure I follow," Jyou said. "We don't really know how we were all Chosen, but we all definitely had some contact with the Digital World prior to receiving our Digivices."

"Hmm, yes, the devices; may I see yours, Kido-san?"

Jyou reached towards his waist at the request; his Digivice was always strapped to his belt. He then presented it to the elder man.

"Ah, yes, it's very different from my Iori's," Chikara said. "It seems that Ichijouji Ken had one just like this at first. Before it changed into the dark one he has now."

"Is that so?" Jyou found his voice long enough to ask. "I didn't know that."

"Iori told me about it," Grandpa Hida said. "It seems that it came out of his brother's computer, a perfect duplicate of the one you have here, and Ichijouji Osamu mistakenly took it for his own."

"I see," Jyou said. "It's kind of like with Hikari-chan, I suppose. She didn't get her Digivice right away either."

"Ah, yes, Yagami Hikari. It is indeed very similar. The Digital World intended for eight Chosen Children – yet only seven were at the summer camp."

"But Hikari-chan did end up getting her Digivice, and so did Ken."

"Yes, indeed. The Yagami girl got her Digivice, albeit through much trouble here in the real world. Ichijouji Ken's Digivice came out of the computer at a much later time, however didn't it?"

"I would assume so," Jyou replied. "Otherwise he would have probably joined the rest of us in the Digital World."

"Ah," the old man started. "But you forget that his brother held onto the Digivice instead. He was delaying Ichijouji Ken's intended destiny. But this time the Digital World knew how to solve that problem."

Jyou blinked. "Are you suggesting Osamu's death was caused by the Digital World?"

Chikara grimaced. "I am, Kido-san. I am."

Jyou chuckled nervously. "That can't be right. That's ridiculous, Hida-san."

"Is it?" the old man prompted. "An evil that required Ichijouji Ken's assistance was threatening the Digital World… would you be so sure it wouldn't remove the obstacle that was preventing its Chosen Child from attempting to save it?"

"I'm not sure I can answer that," Jyou said.

"Then allow me to answer it for you," Grandpa Hida offered. He gave Jyou back his Digivice, and spoke again. "I believe that Ichijouji Osamu did the very same thing that I did nearly twenty years ago – he prevented a Chosen Child from interacting with their Digivice. Only this time the Digital World had learned from its mistake with me, and promptly reacted to this disturbance."

By now Chikara had reached into his own pocket and presented a Digivice – the same model that Jyou and the other five senior Chosen carried. He placed it on the nearby coffee table, reached back yet again, and presented a second one. They were mirror images of each other, and Jyou couldn't help but stare in shock.

"How did…" the Chosen stammered. He tried again. "Whose are those…?"

"The Digital World acted fast," Chikara instead said. "But it wasn't fast enough. Osamu kept the Digivice away from Ken for far too long, and his destiny was altered. He became the Digimon Kaiser."

"You can't be suggesting that Osamu is to blame for everything that happened with the Digital World during the past year," Jyou said. "And even then there was still Vamdemon's spirit that possessed Oikawa – that would've had to be dealt with regardless of whether Ken had become the Digimon Kaiser or not.

"It's possible Ichijouji Osamu was to blame," Grandpa Hida said. "But you are correct about the vampire, and if we were to look even further back before even your adventure…then it's very probable that I am to blame for it all instead."

Jyou narrowed his eyes, his gaze shifting from the old man and then down to the two Digivices on the table. He tried hard to put all this information together. It wasn't quite adding up. "Hida-san, what exactly do you mean?"

"Just like the Digimon Kaiser's destiny was altered by not being given his Digivice, I fear I have altered the destiny of two others whom never received theirs – my son Hiroki and his good friend Yukio."

Jyou's eyes snapped open at the names; he instantly rose to his feet and surveyed the Digivices yet again. They weren't the new models. They were the very same old ones he, Taichi and the rest had used during their first adventure. He clearly remembered Gennai speaking of a previous group of five Chosen that had managed to seal away Apocalymon. Did this mean there should have been seven of them instead? Maybe there was even an eighth one they hadn't yet discovered. Did it just so happened that they were prevented from living out what the Digital World had planned for them?

"If the first group of Chosen were complete," Chikara interrupted his thoughts, "they might have managed to destroy the evil completely instead of simply sealing it away."

"And that means my group wouldn't have been Chosen to fix things in the first place," Jyou said. "The evil would have already been gone."

"Yes," the old man said. "And just like Ichijouji Ken's destiny was changed, I fear that the destiny of my son and his friend were changed as well. This is why I cannot bring myself to speak of this with Iori. If I had given my son his Digivice when it came out of the television… perhaps he would be alive today. He could've lived a hero instead of having died one. And Yukio… poor Yukio, he wouldn't have lost a dear friend… he would have been able to visit that world he dreamed about so often. I took it all away from them."

"You couldn't have known, Hida-san," Jyou said. "There's no guarantee anything could've been different. It's the right now – the present – that needs to be looked at, not the past."

The old man seemed visibly shaken. "I could've changed everything. No vampire coming to conquer the world, no demons invading our world from darkness, Iori could've had a simpler life…"

"Iori has a good life," Jyou maintained. "We all do. Our partners mean the world to us. Gomamon means the world to me; Armadimon means just as much, if not more, to Iori. Many children around the world have partners right now and they wouldn't give them up for anything. If you were really the cause of all that happened to us, we would be lining up just to thank you. You would've been the one that introduced Digimon to our lives. We couldn't be happier for that alone."

Chikara Hida smiled sadly, offering a soft nod. "Do you think… do you think that Iori will forgive me?"

Jyou shook his head. "There is nothing to forgive. Your son did live a hero; he died a hero as well. Oikawa met his partner eventually, and his spirit lives on in the Digital World. He did see the world of his dreams, and now it'll never abandon him again."

"You are indeed wise beyond your years, Kido-san," Chikara said.

"I'm uncertain I deserve the praise, but thank you, Hida-san."

"I assure you this is a heavy relief off my chest," the old man said. He let out a deep breathe. "And yes, you are correct. My son was still a hero with or without the Digivice, and Yukio did manage to see the Digital World eventually."

Jyou smiled. "Iori would want to know his father had also been Chosen. You should tell him; he won't be upset."

"Wise beyond your years," Chikara repeated. "I believe I will, Kido-san. Hmm, now, I realize this has been a rather difficult discussion…"

"But…?" Jyou prompted.

"Does that offer of tea still stand?"

End Notes:
- Chikara Hida is the full name of Iori's grandfather. Hiroki Hida is Iori's father, and Oikawa's first name is Yukio.
- Iori's grandfather constantly uses the full name of both Ken and Osamu. This is because he's had little if no contact with them, and using their full names is more respectful. Jyou has had contact with Ken, thus has no quarrels calling him by his first name. In much the same way as he has no trouble using 'Hikari-chan' while Chikara uses 'Yagami Hikari.'
- This is very much a what-if. We know that Hiroki and Yukio had contact with the Digital World, so perhaps they were Chosen, too, but that their failure to accept their destiny as Chosen Children led them both down very dark paths that eventually led to both of their premature deaths. Hiroki would unconsciously crave to be the hero he never managed to be by skipping out on being a Chosen Child, and Yukio would continue with his obsession with that fascinating world that was always just beyond reach.