I'm sorry it took me so long to get this chapter out. With all of the focus I've been placing on Guardian Angel and getting it moving, I put this one on the side. Of course, I love it way too much to let it go, so I'm hoping I will be able to re-find a good balance between the stories. Hope you enjoy as the plot thickens.
Disclaimer: Do I really have to do this anymore?
"Wake up…" an icy voice rang out through Kazuha's mind as she lay in the cocoon she'd been placed in since she'd been kidnapped.
She didn't like the cocoon. She kept hearing voices that filled her with doubt and made her forget things about her world.
The one thing she clung to was Heiji.
"He'll save me. He won't leave me here," was her constant mantra.
To this day, the digimon who had selected her as his Tamer had been unsuccessful in making her submit.
That was why he'd chosen to observe Heiji, looking for anything he could use to break Kazuha's faith in her childhood friend.
When he'd witnessed the hidden attraction between Heiji and Hakuba, he knew he had hit the jackpot.
"I don't want to…" Kazuha moaned.
"Why? So you can go back to your dreams of your beloved Heiji saving you?" the digimon snorted. "I hate to break it to you, but he's not going to save you. He's not even thinking about saving you."
"How would you know?" Kazuha retorted. "He's not even here!"
"But he is," the digimon asserted.
"W-what?" Kazuha stuttered.
"I was sad to see you so lonely, so I thought I'd bring a friend… but he's made no move to come to you. Instead, he's too busy fooling around with his companion. It looks like he doesn't love you like you wish he would. Otherwise, his attention wouldn't stray the way it has."
"Y-you're lying!" Kazuha argued. "Heiji wouldn't do that to me!"
"I'm sorry, love, but the pictures don't lie," the digimon said with mock sympathy before he fed her mind with images.
/Heiji and Hakuba standing closer than what was considered appropriate, exchanging heated looks./ (The argument)
/Heiji sprawled underneath Hakuba./ (Their arrival)
/Heiji's flushed face as Hakuba whispered something in his ear from behind./ (Hakuba's suspicions)
/Heiji hunched over Heiji, mouths conjoined./ (CPR)
/Heiji and Hakuba huddled together, barely clothed, hiding smiles from one another./
'Pictures don't lie but they can be misunderstood,' the digimon thought deviously as he heard Kazuha's anguished cry.
"B-but how? Heiji didn't even like him! He was always complaining about how annoying that guy was!" Kazuha exclaimed.
"That could easily just be him denying his own attraction. Hakuba Saguru acted like a kid with a crush, harassing your precious Heiji to steal his attention away from you, and when Heiji was left vulnerable by your disappearance, he struck and seduced him," the digimon crafted his tale.
"He took advantage of Heiji?" Kazuha growled.
"That's right… and only you can save him," the digimon crooned. "I'll be right there by your side."
"Yes…" Kazuha's now dark voice sneered. "Hakuba Saguru will pay."
A dark orb began to appear in front of the digimon as Kazuha finally succumbed.
Cackling, Ice Devimon grasped the black D-Arc with the amber-colored ring in his clawed hand.
"Don't fret, my Tamer… as long as you have me, no one will hurt you again."
"What do you mean Hattori and Hakuba went missing?" Yamaki roared.
"I don't know exactly what happened. My D-Arc detected a Digital Field near Hakuba-san's house but when I arrived there, they were gone. I'd detected their D-Arc signals in that area only seconds before. It's like they've dropped off the face of the Earth."
"Dropped off the face of the Earth?" Reika repeated before looking at her fiancée. "You don't reckon they've been taken into the Digital World, do you?"
"It's highly possible," Yamaki sighed, rubbing his temples. "It was hard enough retrieving you all the first time you went to the other world."
"All we need is Grani," Takato said, interlacing his fingers as he considered the situation.
"But he's sealed within you and Gallantmon," Yamaki argued.
"The all you need to do is extract him. I know you created a machine that can selectively extract data from a digimon, right?" Takato said. Impmon had been trying to find any way to return Leomon to Juri, so he'd begged Yamaki to come up with something.
"But we haven't even checked if it's safe yet! It's too dangerous!" Yamaki exclaimed.
"It's the only chance we've got. Otherwise, you'd have to create an entirely new arc and by that time, it may be too late!" Takato retorted. "This is our best chance and you know it!"
"It will be painful," Yamaki warned. "You will feel as if you're being ripped apart, atom by atom."
Takato didn't look bothered. "I'll do whatever it takes," he said, eyes burning with determination.
"You haven't changed at all in these last few years," Yamaki growled. "I'm not going to be able to talk you out of this, am I?"
"Not a chance," was Takato's blunt reply.
"Then prepare yourself, Takato. You and Guilmon are in for a painful night," Yamaki gave in.
Hakuba woke up to see a flaming bokken hovering in front of his face.
Yelping loudly, he scrambled away from where he and Heiji had been huddling together in sleep.
"Woah!" he exclaimed, seeing that Kotemon was glaring at him angrily. "What's going on, Akai?"
"Keep. Your. Hands. Off. My. Tamer," Kotemon grounded out.
"They're off, they're off!" Hakuba insisted. "It wasn't like I was trying to seduce him or anything!"
"You could have fooled me," Kotemon snarled, looking at their mostly unclothed state.
"Our clothes were wet and he was cold! What else could I do to help?" Hakuba declared.
"He's telling the truth," Hawkmon said sagely as he helped a groggy Heiji back on his feet.
"I've never seen you act so rashly, Akai," Heiji yawned. Kotemon blushed in embarrassment.
"You're my Tamer. It's my job to protect you," was his short reply.
"I think you've got competition," Hawkmon whispered to Hakuba, causing him to flush before he muttered 'shut up' under his breath.
"How did you find us?" Heiji queried.
"We had a little help," Kotemon admitted before they gestured to someone neither Tamer had noticed.
Heiji's eyes widened. "Kazuha?"
"…Takato…" a voice rang out. "… Takato…"
Groaning, Takato woke up to find himself wrapped in Guilmon's embrace while lying on a cool metal surface.
"…Ow…" he moaned, feeling sore all over, particularly in his stomach. "If this is anything like what a woman feels like after giving birth, they have my sincerest sympathies."
Yamaki chuckled. "That's quite an appropriate comparison, Takato, considering that you, by all means, just gave 'birth' to Grani."
Takato fixed the amused Hypnos agent with a weak glare. "Laugh it up while you can, Yamaki-san…" he grouched before looking down, seeing that he was lying on Grani. He beamed. "Hello, my old friend."
/It's good to see you too, Tamer,/ Grani declared. Takato frowned.
"Call me Takato. Tamer sounds way too formal," he said with a huff. Grani chuckled.
/Very well, Takato,/ he responded.
"You can understand him?" Yamaki asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course I can," Takato responded. "Can't you?"
Yamaki shook his head. "All I hear are a mix of beeps and squeaks," he admitted.
"I can hear him too, Takato," Guilmon inserted.
"Are we the only two who can? Or can the other Tamers and digimon understand Grani too?" Takato wondered.
"We'll have to wait and see," Yamaki stated. "Now Takato, there's something you should know. Doing this procedure has led to some side effects."
"Side effects?" Takato repeated. "Like what?"
"During the years that Grani was sealed in you, he became the barrier that kept you from being influenced by the Digital Hazard. Now that he's been removed, your body is undergoing what it should have if you hadn't merged with Grani," Yamaki explained.
"What's that?" the Tamer queried. He had a feeling he knew what it was.
"You're merging with the Digital Hazard. With every passing day, you will become more data than flesh and blood," Yamaki declared.
"So I'm becoming a digimon?" Takato frowned.
"Not quite… more like being caught somewhere in between a human and a digimon. Kind of like Gennai of the Eastern Quadrant," Yamaki said.
Takato sighed. "I should have figured something like this would happen."
"You're not upset?" Yamaki asked in surprise.
"As you said, it would have happened anyways," Takato pointed out. "I can live with being what I am."
"You really are one of a kind, Takato," Yamaki remarked. Takato just grinned.
Heiji rushed over and squeezed Kazuha to him tightly. "I was freakin' worried about ya, ahou! I thought you'd been kidnapped!"
"I escaped," Kazuha told him with a bright smile. "I've been wandering around ever since. I got pretty good at maneuvering around this world."
"I never thought ya could be so crafty!" Heiji remarked, teasing her.
"Shut up, ahou!" Kazuha pouted. "We haven't seen each other in so long and that's all you have to say?"
While Kazuha and Heiji bickered, Hakuba stared at the girl with narrowed eyes. Something just didn't add up…
There was something wrong with this scenario… there was no way Kazuha could have escaped and stayed hidden on her own for so long. It didn't even make sense how she found them.
Heiji was too blinded by his relief over finding her to see the loose ends.
"You must be very lucky, Toyama-san, to have remained out of enemy hands for so long," he said politely, fishing for information.
"I had help. Some of the digimon here are very hospitable," she said matter-of-factly.
"How fortunate," Hakuba said. "I heard that the majority of digimon in this Quadrant are bloodthirsty and uncaring. They're more likely to try to force you to be their Tamer or they would just kill you."
"You're awfully well informed about how this world works for this being your first trip to the Digital World," Kazuha baited.
"I was curious about what I was getting into when I became a Tamer, so I made sure to learn as much as I could from Hawkmon," Hakuba stated.
"That sounds like somethin' that you'd do," Heiji remarked, sounding amused.
Now that he and Hakuba were starting to get along all of Hakuba's little quirks that used to annoy him, merely because Heiji had harbored such dislike for him, no longer irritated him.
He didn't notice the chagrined look on Kazuha's face over their new camaraderie but Hakuba did.
'What's eating at her?' Hakuba thought with a small frown. He was beginning to get the feeling that she didn't really like him.
"Well now that you found us, we should try to find a way back to our world," Hakuba remarked. Hawkmon and Kotemon agreed.
"What happened to ya, Kazuha? Do ya remember anythin' about where ya had been taken?" Heiji asked, hoping for a clue on where to find the other kidnapped humans.
Kazuha shook her head. "It's all kind of blurry," she lied. "I don't remember anything. Sorry, Heiji."
Heiji deflated slightly but he gave Kazuha a reassuring smile. "Don't worry about it, Kazuha. We'll just have to find them some other way."
"I'm sure you'll do it," Kazuha told Heiji faithfully.
"We should get out of here before anything else finds us," Hakuba asserted once more, annoyed that his suggestion had been completely ignored thanks to Heiji's complete focus being on Kazuha. He understood that Heiji was really happy to have his childhood friend back at his side but he ought to think of the big picture first when they were in such a precarious situation.
"Ah, right," Heiji said sheepishly. "Any idea how?"
"I'm still working on that," Hakuba stated, eyes narrowed in contemplation.
"I'm sure the other Tamers have noticed we're gone by now. They got out of the Digital World once. I'm sure it can be done again," Hawkmon commented optimistically.
"Question is… can they reach us in time?" Hakuba replied.
"Are you all ready to go, Takato?" Reiko asked Takato as he and Guilmon prepared to enter the Digital World.
The Hazard Tamer nodded. Yamaki had just finished the tests he'd done to see how merging with the Digital Hazard was affecting the crimson-eyed Tamer.
Takato's body temperature had risen to a startling 43°C and yet the boy felt completely normal. Not only that, but he was faster, stronger, and he'd gained better honed battle instincts. He was growing to become more like a digimon now but he seemed well adjusted to it already.
The bond he'd shared with Guilmon had grown much stronger too, something no one had believed possible. It was almost as if Takato no longer had a need to use his D-Arc to help Guilmon evolve. It had all but stunned Yamaki and his crew to see how much the Digital Hazard had altered the leader of the Digimon Tamers.
"I'll get them back," Takato promised, eyes on the worried form of Conan, who had approached them over Heiji not returning home the night before. The boy was rubbing his head gingerly as if he had a headache.
'You better be okay, Hattori,' Conan thought to himself. He had a feeling that the hot-headed Osakan had gotten hurt somehow if the throbbing pain in his forehead was any indication…
"So how do we get out of this cave?" Heiji asked. "The only exit is the water… speaking of which, how did you get here?"
"This is the Digital World, Heiji. Things work differently. If you don't believe you're hungry, you're not. If you don't believe that you need to sleep, you won't need to. You can do anything as long as you believe you can. That's the magic of this world," Kotemon informed his Tamer.
"Really? That's kinda cool," Heiji said, sounding fascinated. 'Does that mean Kudo could return to his body through pure will alone if he came here?'
"Looks like we've found our way out then," Hakuba stated firmly. "Let's go."
"Sounds good to me," Heiji agreed and they all headed out.
"When they reached solid ground, Hakuba and Heiji were more than a little relieved.
"Finally!" Heiji breathed, glad to be out of the small cave and out into the fresh air.
"We should find a safe place to situate ourselves, away from the eyes of any hostile digimon," Hawkmon suggested.
"Too late," a voice sneered. The three humans and two digimon found themselves surrounded by five digimon: IceDevimon and four Frigimon.
"Shit…" Heiji scowled, stepping in front of Kazuha protectively.
'Of all the times to choose to attack. It's almost as if they were waiting for us,' Hakuba thought with narrowed eyes.
"Head for cover, we'll hold them off!" Kotemon instructed the Tamers.
"I'm not goin' to just leave you to fend off all of them by yourself!" Heiji protested. The five digimon were Adult level. There was no way Hawkmon and Kotemon could defeat all of them without help.
"It's for the best," Hawkmon insisted.
Heiji wanted to protest again but Hakuba took hold of both him and Kazuha and pulled them to the safety of some nearby rocks.
"What are you doing?" Heiji scowled.
"Making sure we don't get killed," Hakuba retorted. "We'd only get in their way if we stayed. We can help them from here."
"But-" Heiji began before Hakuba clamped a hand over Heiji's mouth.
"Trust me," Hakuba responded. "Isn't that what partners do?"
Heiji stared at the blonde for a moment before nodding. Simultaneously, they slashed cards through their D-Arcs.
Behind them, Kazuha's eyes darkened in rage.
"Feather Slash!" Hawkmon cried out as he attacked a Frigimon that stood closest to him.
"Hot Head!" Kotemon yelled, going after another Frigimon.
With the attack power boost they'd received from their Tamers, they were able to damage the rogue digimon but it wasn't enough to delete them.
"We're really at a disadvantage here," Hawkmon breathed after they'd attacked a few more times, avoiding as many attacks against them as they could.
"Then we'll just have to go down fighting," Kotemon shot back.
"You sound more and more like your Tamer with every passing day," Hawkmon commented, sounding amused.
"I'll take that as a compliment," Kotemon shot back. "But if you ever tell Heiji that, I'll kill you."
"My beak is sealed," Hawkmon replied with a chuckle.
Meanwhile, Hakuba was assessing the situation at hand.
'That IceDevimon hasn't made a move yet. He's just standing there… watching. What's he up to?' he thought, taking out his D-Arc to try to analyze the evil digimon once more when he noticed something odd.
His D-Arc wasn't detecting two Tamers in the area. It was detecting three. The third Tamer was… right behind him.
Hakuba whirled around only to get a rock slammed into his head, causing him to collapse.
Heiji turned to investigate and gaped as he saw Kazuha standing there, looking completely malicious as she hovered over Hakuba.
With a murderous cry, Kazuha aimed to strike the stunned blonde again, but Heiji put a stop to that.
"What's gotten into ya, ahou?" Heiji yelled in anger and shock. He couldn't believe his childhood friend had just tried to kill someone.
Kazuha glared up at Heiji, betrayal and hurt in her eyes.
"Kudo, Kudo, Kudo… that's all you ever talk about… or even care about. You never even thought about me since he came into your life. Couldn't you ever tell that I wanted your attention? That I wanted you to prove to me that you actually cared? No! You never noticed! All you ever cared about were your stupid cases and Kudo. And now… this gaijin's getting in the way too? I didn't let Kudo have you… what makes you think this bastard can have you?" Kazuha ranted.
Heiji's eyes widened at the girl's angry statements. He'd never known she'd thought like that.
"T-there's no reason ya have to think like that…" he told her. "You and Kudo are my best friends. I care about ya equally. I don't even know why ya think Hakuba's a threat."
Heiji's words only incensed Kazuha more and she lunged at him, pinning him against a rock. Heiji hissed in discomfort. Kazuha felt as cold as ice. "You don't get it, do you, Heiji?" she exclaimed. "I'm sick of coming second! It was bad enough with Kudo but I'm not going to let this stupid blonde seduce you. You're mine!"
"Who's tryin' to seduce me?" Heiji queried incredulously, flushing at the accusation. Kazuha yelled in frustration.
"You're so dense!" she growled before she kissed Heiji, hard.
Heiji flailed around wildly before he pushed Kazuha away.
"What? You didn't like it?" Kazuha growled.
"I'm sorry, Kazuha…" Heiji apologized. "But I only see ya as a sister."
The hurt look in Kazuha's eyes made Heiji feel really guilty but he grew worried when she grew cold and angry.
"Fine…" she scowled. "If I can't have you… no one will."
The rock behind Heiji shattered as a large, white, clawed hand grabbed him and lifted him off the ground. Heiji let out a cry of shock.
"Heiji!" a worn Kotemon and Hawkmon called out in worry, seeing IceDevimon take him hostage.
"What shall I do with him, Tamer?" IceDevimon asked with a sadistic grin.
"Tamer?" Heiji repeated in shock, eyeing Kazuha with disbelief as Kazuha revealed a black D-Arc with an orange ring around the screen. Betrayal flashed in his green eyes as he came to a realization. Kazuha had set them up. "Why?"
"I was waiting for you," Kazuha said. "I was waiting for you to save me! But when you finally came here…. You were more interested in fooling around with this bastard! How do you think that made me feel?" She gestured at Hakuba.
"I – ya got it wrong, Kazuha!" Heiji responded. "I wanted to save ya. There was nothin' I wanted to do more! Ya have to believe me!"
"Lies!" Kazuha yelled. "You just want me to let you go."
"That's not it!" Heiji protested.
"Silence!" Kazuha exclaimed and Heiji cried in pain as IceDevimon began to squeeze him painfully.
(Back in Hypnos, Conan doubled over with a loud cry as he felt the phantom pain in his ribs, startling the Monster Makers.)
"Let him go…" Hakuba coughed as he stumbled back to his feet once the pain in his head lowered to a manageable level.
"I don't think so," an enraged Kazuha retorted and Heiji cried in pain once more.
"Heiji!" Kotemon cried out in concern. He began to glow a forest green color in tandem with the light of Heiji's D-Arc.
"Kotemon Digivolve to… Dinohumon!"
In Kotemon's place was a tall green-skinned humanoid creature that dressed similarly to a Native American.
The new digimon lunged at IceDevimon, landing an attack on the arm holding Heiji. IceDevimon snarled and released the dark-skinned detective. Heiji landed in Dinohumon's arms and was brought to safety.
Kazuha let out a yell of rage. "Destroy them!" she ordered the rogue digimon.
"Let's help them out, Hawkmon," Hakuba said as his own D-Arc began to glow, responding to his resolve.
"Hawkmon Digivolve to… Aquilamon!"
A large horned eagle stood in Hawkmon's place, glaring at the rogue digimon.
"Brilliant!" Heiji murmured at the sight of the two newly evolved Adult level digimon.
It was as if the two digimon had gotten a second wind and they went after the Frigimon with a vengeance, destroying them and leaving only IceDevimon behind.
"Don't think that just because your partners have evolved that victory is inevitable," IceDevimon stated. "I have a Tamer too, remember?"
"That makes no difference," Hakuba said coldly. "We'll end this one way or another."
It was at that moment that two other Tamers arrived upon the location: Akiyama Ryo and Matsuda Takato.
"What do we have here? A new enemy?" Ryo mused. Cyberdramon growled rabidly behind him, looking all too willing to charge forward and rip IceDevimon to shreds.
"I didn't think I'd ever see you again," Takato declared, eyeing his old enemy coldly. "I'll just have to kill you again…" Guilmon snarled his agreement.
Now IceDevimon's chances of victory had decreased to zero.
"Damn all of you," the ice devil scowled, understanding that it was best to retreat. He swooped down and took Kazuha before fleeing.
"Get back here!" Heiji exclaimed, not liking the sight of Kazuha in the rogue digimon's grasp.
It was too late. IceDevimon and Kazuha were nowhere to be seen.
Heiji growled in frustration. He turned when he felt Hakuba's hand on his shoulder.
"Don't worry," Hakuba said. "We'll save her. It's clear that they've messed with her head for her to attack you like that. That wasn't the normal Toyama-san." He really didn't know her all that well but from what he'd heard about her, there was no way she would have hurt Heiji the way she did.
"Yeah… we'll get her back," Heiji agreed after taking a moment to clear his head.
'It looks like I made a good choice in partnering them up. They are getting along better already,' Takato thought. He turned to Ryo. "I didn't expect you to pop up."
"You didn't think I wouldn't investigate when it's clear that somebody pulled two of the new Tamers into the Digital World, did you?" Ryo shot back, sounding amused.
"I guess that was a stupid question," Takato said sheepishly.
"No kidding, Angel," Ryo teased, making Takato grow flustered.
"I'm no angel," he declared. "Not after what I did…"
An image of Megidramon flashed through his mind, causing him to flinch with guilt.
"You need to learn to forgive yourself," Ryo scolded the other brunette. "It wasn't your fault."
Takato chose not to answer the question as he headed over to Heiji and Hakuba.
"Sorry that it took so long to get to you," Takato apologized
"It's alright. We managed to hold out well enough," Heiji admitted. "Plus our partners managed to digivolve to Adult level, so this entire thing ended up having something good out of it."
It was clear that he was trying not to think of Kazuha's betrayal.
"We've also got our first sight of a dark Tamer," Hakuba said.
"It spells trouble," Takato remarked. "We will have to be careful."
The Tamers all nodded. Hakuba looked at Ryo curiously.
"I don't think we've met," Hakuba commented.
"I'm Akiyama Ryo," the Legendary Tamer introduced himself. "You can say I'm the inside agent. I keep track of what goes on here and the Digital World and alert Hypnos when something is going on. I already know who you two are."
"You'll eventually get to meet all of us Tamers," Takato declared. "We're not quite able to work as a normal unit due to the severity of the situation at hand."
"If ya don't mind me askin', do ya know how we're gonna get back?" Heiji questioned the two advanced Tamers.
Takato smiled. "Of course," he stated before making a sharp whistle.
Seconds later, Grani flew over.
Heiji and Hakuba gaped in awe at the magnificent sight.
"Is he the Legendary arc that returned you to the Human World the first time you came here?" Aquilamon asked the more experienced Tamers.
"That's right," Takato replied with pride. "We just managed to retrieve him."
"He's impressive," Hakuba complimented.
"That he is," Takato agreed. "Ready to go home?"
"More than ready," the two detectives exclaimed together.
Takato turned to Ryo. "Are you coming?" he inquired.
Ryo shook his head. "I'll stay here and keep an eye on things," he decided.
"If you say so," Takato said. "Take care, alright?" Ryo simply nodded before he watched the three other Tamers and their digimon head off back to the Human World.
When Heiji and Hakuba returned, they saw Kid and Conan waiting alongside the Hypnos crew.
When Kid saw Takato, he openly gaped before quickly fixing his Poker Face. 'Well, that explains a lot,' he thought. Takato had been a Tamer the entire time.
"Are you guys alright?" Onodera Megumi, Reika's coworker, queried in concern.
"We're mostly alright. Just tired and bruised," Hakuba admitted. "I only have a minor concussion while Hattori-kun has a concussion and potentially broken ribs."
"That's an oddly strange coincidence," Janyuu mused.
"What is?" Heiji asked.
"Your injuries. Conan-kun ended up with a concussion and bruised ribs with no idea as to how he got them," Reika said. They'd taken the protesting boy for a check up after he'd curled up clutching his chest.
Heiji and Conan glanced at each other. They had always had a strange connection between them. It was hard to understand. They couldn't explain it to anyone else either.
Conan fixed Heiji with a glare. 'Don't do that again, I was worried,' was the silent message.
Heiji smiled sheepishly. 'Sorry… I didn't expect it.'
Conan gave Heiji a curious look. 'Did you find anything?'
Heiji's eyes darkened slightly and he nodded. He glanced around at everyone and then back at Conan. 'I'll tell you everything when we're alone.'
Conan looked a little concerned before nodding in understanding. 'Very well then,' he agreed.
Hakuba and Kid watched the interaction silently, wishing they could understand the bond between the shrunken detective and the Osakan. It seemed to be as close as the bond between Tamer and digimon.
'There's something odd between them,' Hakuba thought, wondering why it made his insides cringe in displeasure.