Author's Notes:

Another one of my stories I started, but yet never finished. Well, I still hope you enjoy what I have up to now.

The darkness was upon him. He could feel it. It had been lurking in the corners of his mind for some time, but now... Now it has taken shape.

Wheezing hardly, Ken turned around a corner and dashed down the dark alley. But still, he couldn't escape his pursuers.

And then they appeared, black as a real shadow, with eerily gleaming eyes, twitching antennae and spindle-like fingers, they emerged out of the ground as if it was the surface of a lake.

"What do you want from me?" Ken cried. "Leave me alone! Haven't I already suffered enough?"

The strange creatures didn't respond with voices, but it seemed to Ken as if they would reply in the very innards of his body. He clutched his heart and winced in pain.

'Torturer... despot... murdered... you're evil. You did countless crimes.'

"No!" he shouted and backed off. "That was in the past. I'm not the Digimon Emperor anymore. They forgave me. I'm a Digidestined now, you hear me? A Digitestined..."

But his words couldn't hold them at bay, and then he was cornered... they approached him from every side.


Thrusting forward with the shining energy spike that emerged from his gauntlet, Ken's loyal Digimon partner Stingmon came descending from the sky and pierced one of the unknown monsters in the middle.

The being burst apart in a cloud of darkness, while something resembling a glittering heart rose up into the sky, where it vanished.

"Stingmon!" Ken gasped in relief. "You came..."

"Of course I came," Stingmon said. "You can always count on me, Ken!" He defended himself and his partner from the attack of another Shadow with a swift kick. "By the way, what are those creatures?"

"I don't know..." Ken muttered. "But every time they talk to me... I feel this stinging pain deep within my heart..."

"Talk?" Stingmon wondered and attacked two of the Shadows at once. "I don't hear them talking. You okay, Ken?"

He finished the last of them off with a final 'Spiking Strike'.

Ken glanced upwards, to where the glittering hearts of the Heartless vanished. "I don't know, Stingmon..." he whispered. "I just don't know..."

Unbeknown to them, the battle had been watched by a silent figure that was standing on top of a building. Hiding its face within a black hood, the mysterious figure watched the pair for a while, before retreating through a gate of darkness that appeared behind it...

"It's an invitation!" Sora said in excitement, the spiky-haired boy pumping his fist in the air, while showing the small piece of paper to his two best friends. "See?"

"That's right!" Kairi smiled. "An invitation to a royal ball, a big festival with visitors from many different worlds."

"Sounds like a big party, huh?" Riku said. The silent, white-haired boy snatched the paper away from his buddy. "Still, the king doesn't mention the fact that we are the guests of honor..."

"Huh? Why should he do that?" Sora wanted to know.

Riku shook his head while Kairi giggled. "Silly," the red-haired girl chuckled. "After all, you're the chosen wielder of the keyblade, right? And you two helped in defeating Ansem... uh, I mean Xehanort's Heartless, as well as the Organization XIII, and saved countless worlds. Doesn't that count?"

Sheepishly, Sora scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, well... Donald and Goofy helped a bunch too, you know? Well, it certainly sounds like fun... you wanna come too, Kairi?"

"What a stupid question! Of course I do! Or do you believe only you and Riku got an invitation? Besides..." She smirked. "I am one of the Seven Princesses of Heart, you know?"

"I really wonder if I could feel welcome at the party..." Riku sighed.

"Why do you think that?" Sora asked his friend, puzzled.

Riku turned around. "You know what I did under that Heartless' influence, right? I suppose not everyone could have forgiven me that easily, right?" He just had to think what he almost did to poor Pinocchio.

"Riku, quit speaking such rubbish," Kairi scolded him. "And remember that it wasn't you who did that, but that Ansem impostor."

The boy gave her a sad smile. "He couldn't have invaded my heart if I didn't let him in, correct?"

"That still doesn't mean you're to fault," Sora exclaimed. "True, one could argue that you did some stupid things... but did I hold a grudge against you? No. Because I know that you have a good heart. And the king thinks so as well."

"Not to forget Donald, Goofy and me," Kairi nodded. "So stop worrying about the past and think about your friends in the present. You're coming with us to that party and you're going to have fun there, understood?"

Riku stayed silent for a moment, then he chuckled. "Then I guess I have no choice but to do that, huh?"

He turned back around and grinned at his friends. "So, when's that Gummi Ship coming to pick us up?"

Sora grinned back. "That's more like it, pal! They wrote they will come the day after tomorrow, the day before the big festival starts."

He gave his two friends a hug left and right. "Man, I'm so looking forward to see everybody again... and I'll introduce you to my other friends."

Kairi laughed. "Well, I'm looking forward to it."

If they would only know that somewhere, in a world they had yet to explore, the darkness was gathering once again...

"Uh... you sure she won't scratch me?" the saleswoman asked in a fearful tone of voice. "I mean, she's kinda big for a cat..."

"I assure you that my friend is as harmless as a little kitty-cat, ma'am," Kari told the nervous owner of the clothes store.

Gatomon grinned. "I won't scratch you or bite you... I'm just here to help Kari choose a present for our friend's birthday."

"Well... if you say so, then I guess I'll just believe you," the woman said. "Now, Miss... did you decide which dress you would like?"

Kari smiled and nodded. "Yup, I'll take the pink one. That's just Mimi's color."

Shortly after, Kari and Gatomon left the store with their shopping bags. Gatomon was slightly staggering under the size of her bag, but as a Champion Digimon, she was certainly strong enough to carry it.

"Geeze, Kari..." she muttered. "Your present for Mimi sure is pricey... Where did you get all that money from, anyway?"

"Oh, I just put some aside in case I would need it for something special... And the last time Mimi was here in Japan, she, Sora and I were just strolling through the mall, when all of a sudden, Mimi stared into a display window, saw the dresses inside and was like: 'Oh wow, look at those cute dresses! I wish I had one like that...' And so I decided to buy her one for her birthday."

Gatomon shrugged. As a Digimon, she had no need for any sort of clothing. Only when she digivolved to Angewomon would she wear some clothes... and those were provided by the Digivolution itself.

All of a sudden, multiple shouts of surprise attracted their attention. The pedestrians yelled in panic when suddenly, the sleek form of Stingmon came flying out of a side road, slamming right into the wall of a building.

"Hey, looks like Ken is in trouble," Gatomon shouted. "We better get over there."

Kari groaned. "Evil Digimon again? Why can't they just stop bothering us?"

But when she saw the strange monstrosity that stepped out of the side street where Stingmon came from, she certainly was surprised.

"That's not a Digimon..." she realized. "What... what the heck is that thing?"

It was taller than a bus, and looked just like a giant, purple armor come to life. It's claw-tipped gauntlets and the massive boots didn't seem to be attached to the main body at all, but the monster moved as if every part of its body would be connected. On its chest, they could see a strange emblem.

Then Kari saw Ken. He was standing on the side of the street, clutching his Digivice in one hand, and his chest with the other hand. What was wrong with him?

"Ken!" she shouted. "Over here!"

He looked up upon hearing her voice and came running her way. Meanwhile, Gatomon prepared herself to fight.

"Kari, I'm ready!"

Kari nodded and raised her own D-3 Digivice.

"Digi-Armor Energize!"

Gatomon gleamed with the brightness of light.


The sphinx-like Armor Digimon took off from the ground and soared towards the bulky form of the monster, which slowly approached the fallen form of Stingmon.

"Cat's Eye Beam!" Out of her headdress, twin beams of light came shooting at the armored creature and hit its helmet, which made it spin around. When it came to a stop, it turned around to face the newcomer.

"I am your opponent!" Nefertimon exclaimed, hovering in front of him.

Ken and Kari met each other behind a parked car.

"Ken, what happened?" Kari wanted to know. "What is that thing?"

"I... I don't know." Ken clutched his head. "I only know that it and other creatures were following us through town the whole day long. And every time I look at them, I feel this stinging pain in my head... and my heart."

"Definitely not your everyday Digimon," Kari realized. "Did it show any signs of intelligence?"

"I'm not sure..." Ken groaned. "For a moment, I thought I could hear their voices... but then, they just seem to act out of instinct."

"Well, it certainly can't continue with its rampage just like that," Kari said. "Hopefully Stingmon and Nefertimon can take care of it, we would need Davis or Yolei for a DNA Digivolution..."

The Guard Armor saw another enemy that had showed up. It decided that its first opponent had been weakened, so it shouldn't be a big bother to take him out. Its boots should be able to take care of him by themselves.

Nefertimon watched in surprise as the monster's metal boots suddenly detached themselves from the main body and came stomping towards Stingmon, who was just starting to recover. The rest of the body came floating her way, with spinning gauntlets.

"Well, aren't we tricky..." she grumbled. "But you don't look like you can fly just like me." And with an elegant pirouette, she dodged the Armor's assault. At the same time, she stopped the metal boots with a cry of "ROSETTA STONE!"

The magical missile hit the left boot and broke it apart. The remaining boot seemed to twitch in surprise, but it still jumped up to smash down on Stingmon's body.

Stingmon raised his hands as he winced, expecting to be squashed under the attack.


Three blazing fireballs came flying out of nowhere and intercepted the flying path of the boot, destroying it.

Stingmon managed to gather himself. "Flamedramon..."

"Hey, I want some part of the action too, you know?" the armored dragon of courage smirked.

Further away, his partner Davis cheered him on: "Yeah, well done Flamedramon! Show that tin can what you can do."

The Guard Armor noticed another opponent. It realized that victory wouldn't be as easy as it had assumed. Still, the overwhelming craving for pure hearts made it crazy with desire, so it stayed to fight.

It's gauntlets shot forward to hit Nefertimon in mid-air, but the Heartless didn't bargain for Digmon.

"Gold Rush!" the insectoid underground Digimon shouted as he emerged from the ground, shooting his nose and claw drills at the Guard Armor.

The big explosion destroyed both gauntlets at once, so that only the madly spinning main torso and the helmet were left.

"Dammit, stand still!" Flamedramon cursed. "I can't get a clear shot."

"Allow us," Pegasusmon said while he flew at Nefertimon's side.

Together, they flew a wide arc. "GOLDEN NOOSE!"

The golden band of light wrapped itself tightly around the Guard Armor's torso and prevented it from spinning. It also held it in place.

"All yours, Flamedramon," Nefertimon shouted.

That's all their fiery friend needed to hear. "FIRE ROCKET!"

His attack hit the monstrous fiend right in the middle.

The torso shook around wildly, while from its inside, beams of light were pouring out. Slowly, it dissipated into nothing, while a glittering heart came floating out of its top, vanishing in the sky.

"Thanks for your help," Wormmon told his friends after they had reverted to their Rookie forms (or Champion, in Gatomon's case).

"Ah, we never leave a good friend hanging," Armadillomon grinned.

Davis and the others came running to Kari and Ken.

"Hey Kari, are you all right?" Davis asked instantly.

"Yes, I am... thanks, Davis."

"How nice of you to notice that I'm here as well..." Ken grumbled. "But I'm fine as well, you don't have to ask."

Davis chuckled sheepishly. "Hey, I didn't mean it like that, you know? But, see... the girls always need some additional protection."

"WHAT'S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?" Yolei and Kari yelled right into the goggle-wearing boy's ears from both sides at once.

T.K. and Patamon chuckled as their self-declared 'leader' winced under the acoustic assault of the two girls.

Cody inspected the battlefield. Not a trace of their enemy was left.

"Like a Digimon..." he murmured. "But, it didn't dissolve into data, that's for sure."

He looked up to where the strange heart had vanished. "But if not data... then what was this being composed of?"

He then saw something lying on the ground. "Huh? What's that?"

The small boy picked up the tiny chain with the strange, key-shaped pendant...

Inside a dark place, a cloaked figure looked up from what it was doing.

"The first fragment has been found," it said. "We have to make sure to find the others before anyone else does."

Two gleaming eyes appeared in the darkness. "Don't worry," a female voice purred. "I'll take care of them if you wish. I still have to pay them back for what they did to my sister..."

The cloaked figure turned around and nodded. "Very well, I leave it in your hands, BlackGatomon... or should I say 'in your paws'?"

The black-furred feline stepped out of the shadows with a smirk on her face. "You know, for a Heartless, you sure got a nice sense of humor."

The stranger chuckled at that. "Well, if you say so... But take care when engaging the white feline... you don't want to end like your sister, do you?"

"Well, you know what they say: All cats are gray in the dark!"

And she laughed.