THE LIGHTHOUSE

Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon and I am not making money off this fanfic. I do not own/make money off of any companies/music/shows/etc I mention (such as Dragon Ball Z, the theme songs, Dasani water, Batman/Superman, et cetera). The definition of "mimicry" came from Merriam Webster Online. No infringement intended. Feedback is wanted and highly encouraged. Author's Notes are almost always at the end of each chapter. Thank you.
Story Themes: "What If" by Kate Winslet, "Die For You" by Megan McCauley, and "Gravity of Love" by Enigma
Swift Note: While I use dubbed names (for the most part) of the characters, just in case you're not sure, Joe in the English version has one brother named Jim. However, in the original Japanese version, he had two named Shuu and Shin. In this fanfic, I go by the Japanese version (using Shuu and Shin) for plot purposes. I apologize if there's any confusion. Also, because I know some of you will wonder after reading this final installment, no, I'm not setting up a Shin/Mimi relationship, lol. Fat chance.

And yes, this is the last epilogue. :D

Hopefully you'll stay with me for The Lighthouse! Either message/e-mail me or review/favorite/alert this story if you want to be informed when the next saga begins. :) For those who don't have an account, keep an eye out or put my profile in your favorites, hopefully you'll be able to catch it! I'll gladly send a message to everyone when the new story is up, even those who lurk (just as long as I have some way to contact you, lol). :) You can e-mail me at spiffyisglory-at-yahoo-dot-com!

Sorry for the lateness of this last chapter. I think my beta and I went over it a few hundred times to make sure it was up to standards, hopefully it won't disappoint! Thank you to all of my readers for everything, you all are amazing and I've had some fantastic conversations with many of you. Can't wait to get up The Lighthouse, I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Lighthouse: Love For A Fool

"Here's the mirror, behind there is a screen
on both ways you can get in.
Don't think twice before you listen to your heart,
follow the trace for a new start.
What you need and everything you'll feel
is just a question of the deal.
In the eye of storm you'll see a lonely dove
the experience of survival is key
to the gravity of love."
Gravity of Love by Enigma

Prologue's Epilogue Part V
...Storms...

Gatomon awoke to the low caterwauls of her sparring partner. Red tainted her eyesight, the sting of a black eye and several gashes across her thigh making quick work of her ability to stand. She stumbled upward, attempting to sit up, only to find herself trembling back down.

I'm still weak, she hissed under her breath. She looked up, staring into the beaded gaze of Davis Motomiya, who stared back with a magnetic fierceness that found its way right back into her cerebral cortex where it idled and swelled. In a lot of ways, Davis's eyes reminded her of a giant, barreling down on her with the weight of the world. Great Atlas, come to bear all of Earth's problems upon his shoulders. Embittered, she smirked in all her feline glory. I'm losing to an idiot like Davis.

After a few weeks of pestering from the boy, she'd finally agreed to train with him. She could still remember the battle from three months ago like it happened three minutes ago. She'd been ready for Myotismon, more ready than she'd ever been for him – it was rare when she was able to pick him apart, and now that he was back to being plain 'ole Myotismon, she wanted to kick his ass. Yet, somehow, she didn't quite remember why, instead of winning her fight with him, she woke up several hours later in the Odaiba Hospital.

The only thing she remembered of her fight with Myotismon was darkness. Deep, seething darkness, and the high-pitched screams of hundreds. Hundreds of what? Of innocents? Of Myotismon's minions? And most importantly, had her scream joined theirs as shadow veiled her from the world?

She wanted to get stronger. Not only because she wanted to protect Kari, but because she wanted to protect herself. Myotismon had taken a lot from her: her past, her destiny, her best friend before Kari and before Patamon. She'd fought to take all those back from him, and if the day came that she would have to face him again, she wanted to be prepared.

The odd part was getting beat by a human. A human!

How—pathetic.

"Oo ayk het?"

Gatomon groggily looked up at the boy as she hefted her paw to her own shoulder, where she felt blood seep from a deep wound. The boy cocked his head to the side and she distantly made out his brow furrowing, although the image was hazy and frantic. She swallowed hard, honing her hearing to better understand him.

"You awake yet?"

Finally it came in clear. She trudged toward him, achingly attempting to attack him again, but Davis dodged to the right and gripped her wrist. How long had she been out for? It couldn't have been long – Davis, while not the brightest bulb, wouldn't fight her if she was knocked out for longer than a few seconds. Even so, it felt almost like she'd been tossed into a grinder.

Nodules of glowing orange energy fizzled at his fingertips. Shagreen split around him, ruffling thin swords of grass that fermented in the pulsating wind. At the center of the odd orbs were flickering granules, blaring red and blue as they danced within the orbs' core.

Gatomon only had time to suck in a breath before he plowed his palms into the ground, rupturing the soil beneath her feet. She fumbled backwards, the loud boom of a crashing hovel echoing behind her. Surrounding trees and dead bushes whistled, as if responding to the energy, before dead silence took her eardrums once again. She knew it wasn't supposed to be silent. She knew she should've heard the loud shhhhhh of dust spreading from where the hovel toppled, the spray of dirt as her body made a wide crevice in the ground, the crack of earth as splinters exploded beneath her.

Yet, she heard nothing but the beat of her heart.

Why can't I beat him? She innerly winced. Granted, Davis had already mastered the basics of both Cody's and Ken's training by the end of two-and-a-half months. It was something that no one thought he could accomplish, that out of any of the Destined or anyone in general, it was Davis who was able to take judo, chess, kendo, and meditation head-on and treat it like child's play (not that he didn't have difficulties – he struggled much, particularly during chess and meditation since he wasn't a patient person, but he managed). However, he'd gotten through their training even before Veemon, which was a feat in itself. It was rare for a human to get through it before their partner did, since digimon were naturally stronger than most humans.

Every morning and every night, he worked on controlling the abilities unlocked by the Overlord of Darkness. Every morning and every night, he faced Ex-Veemon to see who would win, and Davis was the one who got through it without a sweat. Every morning and every night, he visited Kari to make sure she didn't wake up screaming. Every morning and every night, she caught him sneaking into Kari's room to watch over her (of course, Kari knew about it, and Davis knew that she knew, but he did it anyway, because she couldn't go three nights in a row without getting one of those damn nightmares).

Every morning and every night, Davis worked to grow stronger and stronger, not wasting a single moment of dillydallying in order to prepare for the events he knew were coming. Because only he and Kari had witnessed the power of just one of those hideous Endless Ones, and the weakest of the Endless Ones to boot.

It was almost unprecedented. When they were younger, Davis had almost always been the underdog—yet, now, it seemed like he was working and working hard to be the overachiever. The past couldn't be changed, but the future—the present—was a different story.

It's not only Myotismon I have to work to defeat... Gatomon thought, flashing back to how it felt when she woke up in the hospital. She remembered seeing Kari's face, glowing and bright, as her partner burst out in tears and embraced the feline tightly. Kari held her, and told her everything would be okay even though both of them knew it wouldn't be. Gatomon bit her bottom lip. I have to get stronger. And stronger. And stronger!

"Come on, Gatomon," Davis said with a smirk, raising his chin.

Even though Gatomon was panting, weary, struggling to even stand, she looked up at his wide grin and – at first reluctantly, then whole-heartedly – she nodded.

A simple, stimulating nod.

He knew how damaged she was, he knew how weak she was, he knew how afraid she was. Even so, even though anyone else would tell her to take a break and wait until she felt better to face Davis again, even though Gatomon wanted to rest if only for five minutes, Davis knew. He knew that she was willing to push herself to the limits, and this. Was. Not. Her. Limit.

Not yet.

"Ugh!" Gatomon hoarsely screamed, yanking herself forward zealously as she launched at the human boy. It was only in that moment that he nodded back at her, lips never ceasing from that typical Motomiya Grin, a grin that would one day thrive in infamy. He pulled one hand behind his back, turned his side to her, and lined his free thumb in front of his nose.

Davis and I have one thing in common, Gatomon thought, her claws briefly sinking into flesh before he pulled back and sent a jolt of fire right through her arm. She hardly winced, however, because she used that moment to grab him and slam into the ground.

"You're learning," Davis amusedly snerked.

Gatomon huffed, defying the smile that was tugging at her chest.

We want to get stronger not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, she thought, jumping away just in time to avoid a boomerang of crackling flame. And we will get stronger for ourselves, for our fears, for our dreams – for Kari Kamiya. It's Kari that connects us, and Kari that will force us to fight harder, greater, stronger, than we have ever fought before.

This time, digimon would not fight evil alone. This time, their partners would be right beside them, putting themselves on the line, and cracking the barrier between human and monster. This time, they would take on the evil together, as one, united and strong.

.---.

Izzy was still sore from judo practice when he got Gennai's e-mail. He'd been decoding an ancient prophecy, one that hadn't been translated in over three thousand years, and though he hadn't a clue what the language was, Izzy was ecstatic to figure out all the symbols and hieroglyphic scrawls. He swung his laptop over his aching lap, propping the top open to reveal a keyboard resembling an enamel sphere, while the screen was mottled with orange and white pineapple specks. Izzy grinned warmly at the laptop. He'd just gotten a new one after having his old one for years. It'd held up great, but when it was recently destroyed by Piedmon, he couldn't help but get a new one, even if it was hard at the time.

Searching through his e-mail, he finally scoured Gennai's message up to the front of the screen and read it swiftly between each edge of the glowing rectangle.

Izzy, the e-mail began, I hope you know you've always been like a son to me.

Izzy's brow crinkled as the mouse hovered over Gennai's name. He couldn't help but say to himself, "Gee, that's not a good way to begin an e-mail."

He continued to read on, I can't say much, but I can tell you that we aren't dealing with only the Endless Ones. In the Digital World – in all Digital Worlds in many different dimensions – there is a power higher than even the Gods, than the Holy Angels or the Harmonious Ones, than Yggdrasil and his Royal Knights.

Yggdrasil... Izzy remembered around three months ago, when he was still bandaged up in the hospital. He was okay, but Gennai briefly visited him to relegate much information Izzy desperately always wanted to know but never had the chance to research. Wasn't Yggdrasil named as a creator of the Digital World? Not necessarily their Digital World, but Izzy did know there were many parallel universes with parallel Digital Worlds, Digital Worlds that were created by many different circumstances.

One of the most common creators was Yggdrasil. From what Izzy understood, he was also one of the most powerful. According to Gennai, there was only one dimension to have defied Yggdrasil and live to tell the tale. If this power Gennai spoke of was even higher than that great digital god of old, then what exactly were they dealing with?

A long time ago, there was an evil greater than even the Endless Ones, Gennai wrote. The Endless Ones are powerful deities indeed, but are mere fodder to the power of Them. For both your safety and mine, I regretfully cannot tell you who exactly this "great evil" is, but please know... you must be cautious. The Endless Ones – two of who are "old friends" of yours – are only the beginning threads of a much bigger tapestry.

Spend these last three months wisely. The lives of this dimension – of all dimensions – rests on your shoulders.

Wait, several Endless Ones were "friends" of the Destined? And by friends, could Gennai possibly mean past enemies? If that was the case, Izzy could think of several old enemies they'd seen during the Battle for Odaiba. Hell, TK and Patamon were training with one of their old enemies, Devimon. However, none of their past enemies rung true in Izzy's mind. While they'd faced some pretty powerful evils, most of their past enemies were clearly not Endless Ones. First of all, if the "Overlord of Darkness" implied that none of the other Endless Ones had shown their faces yet, that meant most if not all of their bigger past enemies weren't possible.

Devimon ended up making a treaty with TK in order to save the worlds (which was odd, but assuming Devimon still wanted to rule the Digital World, Izzy thought he was simply siding with the group that most benefited him), Etemon was seen lallygagging on the Odaiba ferris wheel while making obscene guitar gestures in order to pester Matt, Myotismon nearly killed Gatomon and took on Ken, MetalSeadramon did kill Cody's grandfather, Puppetmon went head-to-head with Mimi (injuring her in the process, even if she was alright in the end), Machinedramon took on Joe before the blue-haired boy decided to move to the hospital and help his brothers with the wounded, and Piedmon was butting heads with just about every bloke he could find. Arachnemon and Mummymon were dancing in the streets of New York, and Oikawa was now a guardian of the Digital World (plus, Myotismon was no longer MaloMyotismon, thus no longer able to influence Oikawa – as if he'd fall for it again).

That also meant that the Endless Ones wouldn't beckon from the Digital World, since Oikawa's internal danger-detector wasn't set off at all before nor during nor after the dark portal appeared, despite the fact that the scar-shaped portal was spewing corrupted digimon from the sky.

The only "old friends" Izzy could think of were Apocalymon, BlackWarGreymon, the Master of the Dark Ocean, and Demon, but could Apocalymon have really been reborn, even in the World of Darkness? Hadn't BlackWarGreymon turned good? The Master of the Dark Ocean was a large probability considering Kari and Davis's recent experience, but Demon was sealed away by the Destined themselves! No no no, this was all wrong. Izzy, perturbed, sighed and looked over the second paragraph.

Davis and Kari couldn't even handle one Endless One. It played with them like they were fragile China dolls, despite unlocking an ancient power that transcended every scrap of energy they'd ever displayed before. Now there were several Endless Ones, Yggdrasil knew how many, and they were only the beginning?

He read on, I'm not sure if the Endless Ones are working with the "bigger power". They could be, they could not be. I'm looking into it. I've learned that there are so far four Endless Ones – while I recognize several of their auras, their identities are not fully known yet. I have my suspicions, but I will not confirm them until I've confirmed them for myself. This could take hours, or it could take up the last three months. I can tell you, however, that all of you can unlock the powers Davis and Kari had. Perhaps, if you're able to hone that energy and work with your partners to unlock their own abilities, we'll have a chance.

Please, be careful, Izzy.

Izzy's brow furrowed yet again. He looked over the screen, as if waiting for Gennai to pop out of it and hug him or laugh or joke about something silly like he always did (well, he didn't pop out of the screen necessarily, but he had a tendency of opening a DigiPort at the absolutely worst of times and surprise Izzy), yet the e-mail ended instead with a note that caused his chest to tense.

With a burly, gnarled tone, Izzy read, If you or the other Destined are taken away from me again, I would not only never forgive you for leaving, but I could never forgive myself for letting you go.

Between the aches of judo-pains and the weight he suddenly felt pressing his shoulders, Izzy buckled over and leaned his cheek against the screen. Worry clutched him, even in the midnight somnolence. Peaceful, right? Yet he couldn't feel that peace reach him.

.---.

Joe slammed into awakening when he heard Shuu's shrill cries into the night.

With globules of sweat dripping down his brow, he yanked his tangled arms and legs from his couch and rushed into his older brother's bedroom, where the boy was sprawled out amongst his white sheets with his face buried in his palms. Joe was panting, worry written across his expression as he watched the blue-haired bro wheeze into his hands, shoulders quaking with fearsweat and shaky adrenaline.

Shuu...? Joe hesitated. Ever since Odaiba was attacked, many people lost homes. When Shuu and Shin just happened to be two of the many now-homeless people, Joe agreed to allow them sanctum in his own home, even if it meant giving up his bed. He didn't mind much, though. Living and hunting in the Digital World for a year of his life taught him to count his blessings, even if that'd been years ago. Besides, between their financial and medical issues, Joe's brothers needed his bedroom and guest room more than Joe did.

Unfortunately, with Joe's own stress levels, sleep was his Shangri La. An escape, a haven, asylum. This was the fourth night in a row that Shuu woke up screaming and clawing at the air, disturbing that same Arcadian peace.

"Joe, I'm sorry, I—" Shuu heaved, choking on his own words as Joe weaved across the room and rested on the bed, sitting next to Shuu. It felt a bit odd since they were both a lot older now. Back when they were boys, Shuu used to have nightmares all the time; they'd only swelled over the years, sometimes into full-blown night terrors where he'd wander around the house screeching about boogiemen or MaloMyotismon's bloodthirsty gaze. However, the fact that they were now grown men didn't stop Joe from reaching over and embracing his brother. Shuu hissed into his shoulder, trembling like a child. "We're not gonna make it, Joe."

ker-thump

Joe's heart leaped into his throat.

His brow furrowed.

Where was Mimi? He was almost sure she would've heard Shuu's screaming. Because of Joe's blatant lack of sleep, she'd sworn to stay overnight to force him into a comatose sleep. He didn't remember seeing her when he woke up, but he could almost feel her presence. Perhaps it was her soap or maybe it was her mere personality, but even when she wasn't in the room, her—what, aura?—still lingered, making the Kido residence brighter. If she were in that room, Joe wondered if she could calm down Shuu better than he could. She had a knack for that. Joe had a knack of panicking and making the situation worse – well, sometimes. He was pretty good with calming down underclassmen, like Cody (it was because he'd been there; a wisdom thing), but with his brothers... he just didn't know what to say. He was the baby of their Kido Trio, he was used to being the one comforted. These days, however, he found himself the comforter, the confidant, the protector.

Unlike Joe, however, Mimi had that ability to able to calm down anyone, regardless of who they were or what they'd been through. Joe fondly recalled how Mimi innately knew what they needed, and even if she used to be quite the wild thing who made situations explode (or implode) rather than quiet down, now she was not only sincere with her feelings, but sincere with others' feelings. She was fierce, like a lion, but had the gentle heart of a lamb. Joe remembered helping her after Puppetmon injured her, lacing up her wounds and trying to calm her down as she cried to be let go of. She still wanted to help the others, even though she couldn't even help herself – Joe had to force her to lie down and stay down until she was better.

Mimi could be selfish, she could be shallow, she could be mean. But, as a balanced and intricate human being, she was also giving, open-minded, and kindhearted. And she had always been there for Joe, especially nowadays when he'd needed her help most.

Joe Kido! she'd screamed at him earlier that morning, her voice withered and sultry with adamant fury and determination. You look like Ogremon! I know you're sleeping on a couch, but honestly, you look like you've been sleeping on granite! I am going to come over to your house and I swear if you do not get some sleep I will POUND you with my awesome Mimi Mallet. Understood?

Yes, ma'am!

Joe sighed, rubbing Shuu's back as comfortingly as he could.

It was only when Shuu pulled away that Joe saw the real worry in his brother's eyes, a worry that forced Joe to think back. Mimi should've been there, not only to calm down Shuu, but to calm down Joe. The expression Shuu bore – it wasn't the typical "I had a dream the world blew up" expression. It was tantalizing, hysterical fear, paralyzing and deprecating.

Something putrid and vulpine curled inside Joe's chest, cackling with mocking irony and joy. Of course it was Joe's brother that who would have something bad happen to him. He, the worrywart, the one person who was the most prepared, the reliable one, had a brother who was either crazy or doomed to die or dooming everyone else with him.

"Don't say we're not going to make it, that's ridiculous," Joe asserted, though there was a part of himself that didn't believe it. He couldn't figure out why he didn't believe it, though. Everyone had those moments where they thought they wouldn't make it through life. Didn't everyone sometimes get the eerie feeling that their roll of the dice was done? It wasn't only suicidal intrigue or depression, it was a thought that every man and woman and mon carried with them, that what if they died, what if tomorrow never came for them, what if their life was dealt a shorthand by destiny?

Perhaps Shuu could sense the hesitance in his voice, because the older man quickly looked away from Joe and bit down hard on his tongue to keep himself from saying anything more. Joe sighed. "Look, I'm not very good at this comforting thing. But... You're strong, Shuu. Not only that, but you're healthy, you don't have a single disease, and you're fit. If there was such a thing as 'above perfect health', you'd be it. You'll be fine. We'll all be fine."

"Oh, that's comforting. Like that hasn't been said before someone dies. No, we're going to die, Joe. You're going to die." Shuu's voice was firm. "They're going to kill me, too."

"Who's going to kill you?" Joe asked. He raised an incredulous eyebrow.

"Them." Shuu shivered. "The things in the dark... under our beds at night... the things made of nightmares – beasts and creatures that thrive in shadow. They come from a world built on bones and they breathe the breaths of demons, where trees are decayed flesh and music is the screech of bats. Joe, if I die, promise me something."

"Don't be ridiculous, you sound crazy," Joe snorted. Boogiemen again. Shuu, however, conked him on the head, causing Joe to sigh and hastily rub the back of his neck. He didn't believe in visions or dream-prophecies; the only kind of prophecy he believed were the prophecies Gennai confirmed, and even then, prophecies could be tricky to interpret. Besides, Shuu had realistic dreams every night about the silliest things, like how he was going to get drunk on brandy and explode his own house, yet that never happened and never would, especially because his house was already destroyed by Machinedramon.

In Shuu's current heightened awareness, Joe was internally flailing for anything to calm his older brother down (yet some would argue that Joe was the one who needed to calm down).

"Dying would suck," Shuu admitted. He bowed his head, his fingernails digging into his cotton pajama bottoms. "Yeah, but I won't let you die, though. Don't worry. All bros gotta have this discussion eventually, especially now that the world's endin'. If I die, hell, even if I don't die, you live long and proud, and never back down before your fears. I'm always gonna be right here, and I'm gonna fight those frickers beside you, guiding you. This whole world needs you – and, most importantly, never forget your dreams. Fight for them. They're powerful."

Powerful enough to defeat a brute like MaloMyotismon, Joe thought with an appreciative grin. Shuu caught his look and instantly knew what his younger brother was thinking, causing a small amused smirk to curl his lips.

"You want to be a doctor, don't you? I know you haven't gotten there yet, but you're talented. You'll still try, right?" Shuu asked. That made Joe hesitate. He didn't fully know what he wanted to be yet, although he had a good clue it was somewhere in the medical field. They say to stick to what you know, but that only made things more confusing for Joe because, minus athletics, Joe was generally good at everything. However, that led him to the next most logical conclusion: if you're good at everything, stick to what you have experience in. Joe had great experience in two things: the Digital World, and medicine. It gave him a very vague idea of what he wanted to do in life, although how he could use both to his advantage he wasn't sure. Shuu just smiled warmly and ruffled the top of Joe's head. "Dreams will take you far if you never forget them, even if they're not realized yet. They're deep inside you, waiting to be unleashed."

What about your dreams, Shuu? Joe bit his bottom lip in order to stop himself from speaking out. But then, he thought, what if Joe ended up dying? What if Shin or Shuu died, too? What if Shuu's nightmare wasn't just a nightmare about death, but a deeper, more profound nightmare, of the whole world exploding or something?

In the end, Joe's eyes glossed over. He briefly wondered how he should respond, but in the end, he merely looked at the amalgamation of sweat and goosebumps tracing along his brother's arms. Smiling wanly, Joe stood and reached out a hand to Shuu.

It's no use freaking out over it, he told himself. It'll give me an ulcer.

"Obviously, I can't change your mind," Joe said. Can I even change my own mind? "But if you're not going to sleep, I'll make us some hot chocolate."

Shuu paused, eyeing Joe suspiciously, before he smugly lifted his chin and gave a dogged grin. "Psh, why Joe, this late at night? Hot chocolate is not very healthy, big-shot surgeon."

Joe harrumphed and pulled back his hand just as Shuu was two centimeters from grabbing it. When Shuu blinked at the lack of flesh to grip, Joe grinned back and replied, "Well, between Gomamon watching comedians at one in the morning and you waking me up at four in the morning, I doubt a mug of hot chocolate's health is the issue."

"Smartass."

"Hey, I think Gomamon's rubbing off on me."

"You always blame your digimon."

"Really? He always blames me."

"Can I have brandy instead of hot chocolate?"

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Little goodie-two-shoes!"

"Shut-up, Shuu."

.---.

Ick, do I have to have loud-ass annoying nightmares every night just to get those two to notice me? Shin thought with a grunt. He stood in the hallway listening to them talk as if no one else was around, though Shin had originally gotten out of bed to see what the commotion was. Shuu did this every single damn night, and Shin was getting sick of it. He wasn't sure if he was angry because he thought Shuu was doing it just for the attention or if it was the fact that Shin never bonded with his brothers anymore, but the oldest Kido felt awfully juvenile as he tiptoed backward before his brothers could see him.

He didn't want to be a part of their touchy-feely sausagefest anyway.

I'm terrible, he thought, suddenly disturbed by his train of thought. He kept doing that lately. Where he failed, either Shuu or Joe succeeded. Perhaps it was just his latest lack of sleep and financial issues, or maybe it was that he'd always had jealousy problems but never let them fester, but he could feel old issues bubbling up in his chest. Why was Joe the Kido bro to become world-renown and highly respected? Joe was just as strong as any of the other Chosen, he was just well-known because he was one of the first. Why did Shin's house get destroyed when Joe could probably gather a bungle of groupies to pay for a new house (not that Shin was poor, not at all, but he was still on the lower doctor foodchain despite better training than his brothers)? Why did Shuu get the support of Joe when it was Shin whose latest medical operations failed?

He'd tried to save many lives this week. Yet, it was like everyone who'd come to him had been touched by death. He could perhaps count on two hands how many people he saved out of the hundreds he'd treated three months ago. He'd never seen so many people die within just a day – hell, he'd never seen so many people die period.

Sometimes, he wished his brothers would disappear. It was childish and selfish and stupid, something a man of his age should've been maturer about, yet it was that thought—that epiphany—that as long as they were around, he wasn't good enough. He was always being compared to them, and he was sick of it. If Shuu wasn't surrounded by people because of his horrifying and vivid nightmares, people were raving about the great Joe. What about Shin?

Woofta!

Suddenly, Shin bounced backwards on his heels as he accidentally wound himself around someone else. She was a girl a few inches shorter than him, with billowy brunette hair dashed with bubblegum pink streaks. She blinked up at him innocently, her palms lightly pressed against his broad chest as she tilted her head to the side.

Mimi? he echoed internally, his eyes narrowing into a glare as she smiled.

"Oh, Shin, is Shuu okay?" asked Mimi. "I was snoozin' on the grandpa chair and was havin' troubles wakin' up! Silly, I know, but that's me!"

"He's fine," he snipped.

Mimi's brow furrowed instantly. He couldn't help but innerly wince, knowing that Mimi picked up on everything. She didn't mean to, she just had that innate empathetic ability to sense people's moods be it good or bad. Sometimes, she listened to those empathetic mood-tellers and tried to understand why a person felt a certain way, while other times she pressed on in order to push buttons, as if testing her subject. Shin, however, was someone she didn't quite understand, which was alright. He didn't understand her, either, and he didn't want to understand her. Mimi was every silly immature girl he'd ever met in high school who were too interested in fashion and magazines to focus on schoolwork and the meaning of careers.

He fought the urge to tell her to grow the hell up and get those stupid highlights out of her hair.

"You alright, Shin? You seem a little edgy," she replied.

"I'm just peachy," Shin mused before mussing his own hair in frustration. "Look, just let me through. My brothers are being sickening, always so—touchy with each other." He peeled back his lips into a sinister grin, causing Mimi to briefly shudder. "Why, if you're trying to boink Joe, I think your biggest competition is Shuu. I've never seen Joe so quick to run to someone else's aid."

Mimi blinked.

Blinked again.

Tilted her head to the side.

"Shin...?"

"Hm?"

"Joe has always gone to you for advice and when it comes to trusting someone, you always come first," Mimi told him. Shin's eyes bulged for a second before she smiled sweetly and reached forward to tap him on the cheek. "And Shuu gives you hugs everyday. You tell him you don't want a hug, but he gives them to you anyway. I guess Shuu's just like that, he likes hugging people, but I think he hugs you most. If you think they're not giving you enough attention, you sure are a gluttonous guy."

With that, she turned on her heel and began walking in the direction of the kitchen, where both Kido and Tachikawa could smell the thick aroma of milk being heated over the stovetop. Homemade rolls of chocolate slid into the pot of milk, gliding inward like silk fabric.

Shin grabbed Mimi's wrist and pulled her backwards, catching her gaze almost immediately.

"What do you know, you anorexic retard? You think you can leave Odaiba for years on end and have things be the same when you come back? Rain check," he hissed. Mimi bit her bottom lip and looked away from him. "You are no longer the 'Odaiba Princess'. I don't care if you're back for good, you're old news—so mind your own Goddamn business and go back to New York where you belong."

SMACK

Heat rushed to Shin's right cheek, where a red handprint swathed across his pale skin. His eyes widened, glasses splitting across his face before ramming against the nearby hallway wall. He found himself looking sideways, his neck craned due to the force of impact. He stumbled backwards and turned back to view Mimi, one of his hands reaching to clench his cheek as he venomously glared at her.

"You little bitch," he howled furiously, marching forward. He raised a hand, fingers writhing in the air like squiggling worms as fury filled his eyes.

Mimi grabbed his wrist before it could fall and twisted it behind his back, causing Shin to briefly hiss in pain as he glared behind him at the pink-haired mistress. She didn't look so cute now, did she? Her teeth clenched into a snarl, eyes fiercely gleaming—dangerously staring forward into the darkness in front of the both of them as she bent his arm in order to disallow all movement. Holding him firmly in front of her, Palmon (who'd also been sleeping the whole time) gave an alarmed gasp as she ran to Mimi's side.

Leaning forward so Palmon wouldn't hear her, Mimi growled, "Back off, Shin. I don't know how you got so mean, especially because you used to be so nice, but whatever it is, get over it. The other Shin was better. You're just a voracious jerk looking to feel better by being an ass to one of those 'mean high school girls who got with jocks and turned down geeks'. You're the one who's jealous because his brother doesn't hug him enough. You are the one who needs to grow-up, so you get over yourself, and don't ever raise a hand to me again. Understood, or should I repeat myself?"

Her grip tightened on his twisted arm.

Shin grimaced, but (begrudgingly) allowed himself to nod. As she released him, he swung away from her, panting and holding his chest as his freed arm flexed. He felt the blood return to his veins, the pins and needles pour over his muscles, the warmth of realization spread to his elbow.

"You're right," Shin muttered. Mimi huffed and raised an eyebrow, causing Shin to look away from her. "I have changed from the Shin you and everyone else knew. It probably has something to do with the fact I've seen 342 deaths these last three months, and the count's going up. And up. And up. Bodies keep piling around good 'ole Shinny-boy, and he can't figure out what to do with all of 'em."

"What, so now you're speaking in third-person?"

"Shut-up, retard. Not only are these bodies from Odaiba, but these were people I could've saved. People I knew, people I grew up with. If I had the power, if I had the speed, if I had the resources, I could've helped them live. Joe and Shuu were successful in helping most of their people, why wasn't I? I mean, I didn't treat 342 people – most of them were already goners by the time I got to them – but I could've saved a bigger percentage... I could've... helped more than I did, yet I've seen so many deaths and... and..."

As his hands clenched into fists, his knuckles turned white. The glare swiftly faded from Mimi's expression as she reached forward to rest a hand on his shoulder, her brow tensing as she opened her mouth to say something. Instead, Shin grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward him, fingers entwined with her hair as he poured miseries out for the first time in three months. Three months, everything had pent up, everything had exploded, everything was washing over him in the misery he'd bathed in since the horror of the Battle for Odaiba.

"I have nightmares, too! I'm scared, too! I... I want to comfort Joe and Shuu... but how can I when I can't even comfort myself?!" he hissed into her hair. He felt Mimi's muscles tighten, her hands flexing against his chest as if she were trying to decide whether or not to stay or pull away. He held her tighter, teeth clenched as he said, "You were right... my brothers do love me a lot. But I need more than that knowledge. I want more. You have to help me, Mimi."

"Look, Shin, I'm sorry about everything – that's simply terrible," she said quietly. "But—this is something you need to discuss with them, not me. Please let go of me."

"I'm so frustrated and confused. I've felt things to an extreme I've never felt before. I can't take it."

"Shin, I know it's hard, but you need to let go of me."

"If you're not like all the other 'mean girls', then shouldn't you stay?" he asked, fingers digging between her shoulder blades. Mimi hesitated. He felt a mixture of relaxed and tensed muscles – he could see by Palmon's expression that even her partner was uncomfortable with Shin's closeness.

What are you doing, Kido? he thought with an amused grin. You idiot, you just called her a retard and almost hit her. You implied that your brothers, one of who is a best friend of Mimi's, are having an incestuous relationship. You know you still think she's a retard no matter how much she claims differently, and you still want to hit her – even if you won't. And though you know everything you're thinking and saying and doing is absolute bullshit, you don't care. After everything that's happened you're numb.

He released her almost simultaneously. He stepped backwards, smiling semi-awkwardly at her as she looked away and rubbed the back of her neck. He swallowed, fingernails digging into his thighs as he waited for her response. Out of all the people he could tell his problems to, why did he choose Mimi? He hated Mimi Tachikawa. He'd always hated Mimi Tachikawa, ever since she was a flat-chested bitchchild who made fun of Joe in elementary school. He would always hate Mimi Tachikawa, because she was nothing but a moronic, clumsy, shallow ditz who thought she could get away with anything because she was rich and famous. He wouldn't let her influence his brother. He hated that she was so connected to him through their digital duties, because as much as Shin despised his brothers, he despised Mimi the most.

Yet she continued to stand there, staring at him with sympathy flickering deep inside her eyes. She then looked away, sighing, as Shin felt something angry and sad curl up inside him. Sympathy. Mimi's sympathy. Out of all the things she could give him, sympathy – and kindness, and love, and friendship – was last on his mental list.

"I'm sorry... about everything," she said, turning to glance at the kitchen where Shuu and Joe were noisily bustling around to fix hot chocolate (with, Mimi and Shin saw, Shuu secretly spiking it with several shots of brandy). She wryly smiled. "But you have to be sincere with your heart. You worry me, Shin. They're doing their best to be there for not only each other, but for you. If you want more attention, you have to reach out and try to get it. Just—" She bit her bottom lip in thought, then folded her fists behind her back. "Don't force it on people, either. I can be there for you, but frankly, your attitude pisses me off."

"Ditto."

"It didn't seem that way when you were stroking my hair." She shuddered.

Shin's expression twisted into a snarl, voice gnarled with anger as he spouted, "Oh screw you, Tachikawa. You're just easy, that's why I— dammit, why am I justifying myself to a retard?"

"Stop calling me that."

"You're right, that's an insult to the mentally handicapped."

"You're an asshole. If you put it like that, it's not an insult to anyone!" she howled, punching him in the gut. Shin wheezed and buckled his knees, briefly winded before she turned away from him and growled, "And the only kind of 'easy' I am is easy on the eyes, so shove it!"

With that, she walked away. Shin growled under his breath something fierce, but it went unheard as he clutched frantically at his ribs. He scrambled to a stand, but as soon as he did, he found himself staring into the eyes of Palmon.

"You're not going to change back to the old Shin, are you?" Palmon asked sadly.

"No," Shin growled. "I'm not."

"So you'll always hate your brothers because you hunger for more love than they can give you, and scorn Mimi because she's not attracted to you?"

"Get the hell out of my face."

"I will in a min," Palmon said, taking one step closer to him. Shin backed up, feeling the intensity of her movements as the small green thing grew twice her size in aura. Though she was still the same pipsqueak, it was almost as if he could feel her malignant intent, an intent that echoed in the rugged growl of her voice. "First of all, I just want to warn you – if you ever try to hit Mimi again, or if you ever do anything to hurt her – and that includes Joe and Shuu – you'll regret it. I don't care how powerful your partner is, I will squish Dracomon if I have to. I'm not afraid of him, or you.

"...Remember that for me, will you?"

.---.

"You... want me to train with you?"

It was the first thing TK had said three months ago, when he realized he was going to train under Devimon. As far as the big dark lug was concerned, they were going to be teacher and pupil, sensei and grasshopper, jedi and padawan, guru and disciple, master and student. Student? Hah, Devimon mused, more like slave.

Darkness etched into TK's hospital room, waving over the young boy's face. He was still sprawled out in his bed, too achy to move much other than a hand that he gingerly placed atop Kari's head. Devimon could tell by the boy's expression that he wanted to raise his voice, if not for Kari's sleeping stillness. The boy was a picture of restraint as he tenderly stared at her before running his fingers through her hair, biting down on his bottom lip in a thundercloud of thought. Patamon next to him was sleeping, leaving the two titans almost completely alone.

Devimon was the last one TK had seen when he'd fallen unconscious, and the first one he'd seen when he'd woken up.

At first, he was resilient. He'd almost screamed when he'd first seen the devil crouched over his semi-conscious body, staring eye-to-eye with the boy who'd taken his life. However, in the end, when TK realized he couldn't struggle against the monster who was now propositioning something that neither human nor partner saw coming, the boy had silenced himself. The ticking seconds must have sounded like detonating bombs in the hulking emptiness of his head.

"It wasn't a question," Devimon snarled, nose wrinkling in aggression. "You will train with me."

TK didn't say anything in response.

His fists clenched.

His teeth clenched.

His muscles had tightened into granite, vessels swelling over skin.

Knowing his physical incapability to move, TK begrudgingly stared down at Kari's sleeping figure. Devimon could only assume what was stirring in the young boy's mind, other than the almost overwhelming rage to tear Devimon in half. His body was shaking with that same rage, tearing at every pore in his body, every faucet of emotion, every memory that'd plagued him in the past few years of his life.

"I know the face of this darkness," Devimon told him, his gaze gliding toward the window. Lightning dashed the sky in two, splitting it in streaks of red and blue that rumbled in the grayest depths of the clouds. A mist had fallen over Odaiba, the battle long-ceased but the storm still raging. In fact, the storm had vanished for much of the day and night, but with TK's awakening, it consumed the sky once more in its tsunami carnage. Devimon's eyes slanted, a hand resting over his bloodied shoulder where a wound gaped into his leathery flesh. TK stared for a moment before quickly looking away. "If anyone is going to take over the Digital World, it will be me, not the fools who will devour this world six months from now. You're weak, TK, weaker than you've ever been. You thought that with MaloMyotismon's defeat, this would all be over? That maybe you'd have some peace?"

TK's fingers dug into his bedsheets.

"You thought wrong," Devimon growled. "There is no such thing as 'peace', not for you. I shouldn't have been able to do that to you." He nodded at TK's chest, where Devimon's arm had lanced right through bone and blood. TK winced merely at the nod, but Devimon only continued, "The Endless Ones... they are the monsters who've come to take over this world and the next. I know their faces, I know their pasts, I know their present. And now, I am the only one who can make you stronger than you thought you could ever be. I've already pounded that thought into Patamon's head, now it's time I pound it into yours."

TK's head snapped up, tears filling his eyes as he glared adamant spears that soared against Devimon's mind. His spine tingled with the anger almost radiating off of TK's body, an anger so deeply fluctuating that the boy couldn't even put it into words what he felt, an anger so strong it was ripping him up from the inside out. Devimon's lips curled into a sneer.

"I have something to teach you that only you can learn from me," Devimon hissed. "And it will not be easy and in the end you will only hate me more, but it is something that may save the Digital World from destruction – because if you believe that the Endless Ones only wish to conquer both worlds, then you are a lot more naïve than I pegged you for."

"I—" TK began, only for a hoarse war-torn cry to fill his eardrums as Matt – just another shadow on the wall – soared through the room and jumped atop Devimon. He could hear Gabumon shout the beginning of his evolution, and Devimon could feel the wind of Garurumon's change fill him. Devimon knew Patamon and Kari wouldn't wake up from it – before Devimon had engaged with TK, he'd already laced their veins with sedatives. Wouldn't be a good thing if his jolly conversation was interrupted by the two. However, Matt and Gabumon were a completely different story – he hadn't factored in the darling little fool of an older brother. Devimon merely swatted Matt right into Gabumon's egg, interrupting the evolution and forcing the digimon to bounce backwards in surprise. It might have earned a sociopathic chuckle from Devimon if TK hadn't growled in frustration at that same second, his voice strained as he said, "I will NEVER train with you! I... I HATE you! You did this to me! YOU DID THIS TO ME." TK clutched at his bandages, his teeth clenched as he shook with that boiling hatred. "You killed Angemon, and it was your arms that the Emperor stole to finish his creation! I can't trust you! I won't!"

"You may hate me, boy," Devimon snarled, rushing through the room as he leaned toward TK, his nose nearly touching the boy's as they glared at each other. Heat and hate streamed between them, their eyes narrowed into insatiable stares that shook their souls and stopped all thoughts of movement not only from them, but from Matt and Gabumon. Devimon, fangs glinting eerily in the dim light peeking through the storm clouds, continued, "But right now, I am the only one who stands between you and unlocking a power that only your friends Davis and Kari have. If you don't want to fall behind, then it's time you let go of the past and focus on the future."

"Screw you! What do you know about that! It's not like you've ever done any good in your whole entire life!" TK's fist lurched forward, nearly quirking Devimon in the cheek. However, the leathery devil caught his knuckles and twisted his arm, causing TK to grimace before he pulled back his arm and pressured TK tighter to his bed. "I—"

"Am weak," Devimon finished for him. And just like that, TK had once again fallen dead quiet.

.---.

"You have the power of an infant." Pause. "Still."

Devimon's eyes mercilessly narrowed, his gaze following Patamon as the creature struggled to move toward Devimon. With a simple swing of his arm, Patamon flung backwards, the small digimon squealing angrily before lunging forward again. Devimon barely took note of it. He simply marched to the side and grabbed TK by the hair before the blond could come up behind him and grab him.

"Nice plan, terrible execution," Devimon hissed.

"Would you shut-up?!" TK growled, kicking Devimon in the stomach. The devil didn't even wince. Instead, he effortlessly tossed TK into Patamon, who screamed with rage.

"PATAMON DIGIVOLVE TO..."

Golden energy bunched up around him in sparking spades, forming a half-oval around him before Devimon launched himself into the air, a deep chuckle thrumming in his vocal chords as he grasped Patamon by the throat and halted the evolution.

"Don't be stupid, Patamon." Devimon wasn't impressed by his students. Normally, they weren't so stupid. In fact, they had quite a promising start. Yet, in the past day or so, it was as if they were afraid to attack him, as if they were afraid to hurt him. Bullshit. Devimon's nose crinkled in disgust as he held the struggling rookie. "You know you're at your most vulnerable as you're digivolving. That's why you have a human partner, to protect you as you level up. In fact, where was that little goldenchild?"

FFFFFT

Devimon winced as a double set of tungsten knuckles plunged into his spine, right at the weakest point of the vertebrae. He swiftly twisted around, grabbing TK's wrist before he could get in another hit and butter-churning the boy until he whammed into the top of Patamon's head.

WHAM

He picked up TK and hit Patamon with him again, like a whip.

"Little late for an entrance," Devimon said. "Patamon. Don't you even think of digivolving again."

Patamon grumbled something under his breath and struggled to a stand. He was getting frustrated. Good. Devimon liked it when the idiots were frustrated – it made beating them up even more fun. Even if Patamon was theoretically stronger than him depending on the evolution, as Patamon, he was still weaker – and TK, as a human who hadn't yet activated his powers, couldn't do a damn thing about it. Even so, they'd made a lot of progress since three months ago.

In fact, today was an off-day. Or perhaps they only wanted to make Devimon think that.

"I'm going to beat you as Patamon," Patamon growled. Looking down at his hooves, his expression twisted into a determined frown, his mind captured by thoughts of strength and glory. Devimon smirked, amused, but also annoyed. When Patamon looked back up at the leathery anti-angel, he continued, "If I can beat you without using my sacrificing attack... if I can beat you without sealing you away as MagnaAngemon... if I can beat you without using Pegasusmon or Shakkoumon... then I can't even imagine the strength I'd have as those evolutions, being able to defeat a strong champion as a rookie."

"Hmph." Devimon's eyes fell half-lidded, his fists clenching as TK struggled to a stand. He stepped forward, a foot crunching down on TK's spine. The boy threw his head back in a rough hiss, but Devimon didn't show any concern. Leaning toward the rookie, he spat, "I don't know what I was thinking planting that thought in your head. A Patamon could never defeat a Devimon, not even in this universe. You'll always be a weakling who relies on cheap attacks like the one you used to kill me, the one that took your life in the process. And by that point, I'd already been worn down anyway – do you seriously think I would've died if I'd been at full power? Please."

Patamon grit his teeth, his body trembling in anger. Devimon could tell he was annoyed, not only by Devimon's goading but by the fact that he was holding down TK in such a malicious way. Patamon then snapped his attention back to the fierce malevolence of Devimon's glowing gaze, his own fury riveting within his spirit.

Patamon opened his mouth, his body leaning forward as he gathered the air to shout something. Devimon grinned smugly, knowing exactly what the digimon was going to say. Probably something about gaining enough strength to beat him, or about saving TK. Some stupid stuff like that, that only morons would believe.

Yet...

"Why do you always have to be so mean, Devimon?" Patamon huffed.

Devimon nearly tripped over TK in surprise.

"Wh—what?" the demon snarled.

"You could be nicer!" Patamon said. "I mean, I know we're mortal enemies and everything, but we both know I'm going to eventually be strong enough to beat you, even as a Patamon. Right now, you're just trying to get me fired-up, aren't you? It's not necessary."

In the mean time, TK looked up at Devimon with a sharp glare. The two caught each other's gaze, Devimon's eyes slanting in a frown as he watched the blond's expression dim. The scalding oranges and pinks of twilight spilled across the human's face, igniting the ferocity echoing in his baby blues. Devimon was almost mystified by the intensity of not only his stare, but the boy's mere presence, almost radiating with every fiber and every wrinkle of his body's unwillingness to lose to Devimon.

"You're not really going to attempt to conquer the Digital World after we stop the Endless Ones, are you?" Patamon asked from behind Devimon. In an instant, the battle stopped. Devimon's chest suddenly felt heavier, angrier, as he twisted around to view the small digimon. TK's gaze had also flickered to his partner, a hint of surprise glazing over them. Patamon's brow furrowed. "I mean, you're basically training us to be stronger than you, because you know the enemies we'll face are ten times your strength. If we can't even beat you, how can we expect to beat them? You're basically training us to defeat you, to always defeat you, because after this, there is no going back. Do you... you know... even want to go back? I mean, to the way things were?"

"Of course I want to go back to how things were, back when I was busting you up and pissing off blondie," Devimon hissed, removing his boot from TK's spine to instead heavily trudge forward. He hit Patamon atop the head with his elbow, knocking the unsuspecting digimon downward beside his partner. His teeth clenched, his voice a guttural growl. "I despise you weaklings. You have to rely on suicide attacks and last-minute power-ups to win, rather on actual skill and precision. It's disgusting."

"Those last-minute power-ups and suicide attacks have saved this world on more than one occasion," Patamon murmured from beside TK. Devimon's attack hadn't hurt him, though he did rub his head rather ruefully. "I don't see anyone else complaining."

"Oh please. You defeated MaloMyotismon with dreams." Devimon rolled his eyes.

"Dreams are powerful!"

"Yes, well, you know what dream I have?" Devimon snapped, moving toward the two as he generated several spheres of swirling purple energy in his palms. TK and Patamon instantly winced, knowing what was coming. Devimon then continued, "My dream is you two DEAD, and the world kissing my feet!"

psssshhhh

Just as Devimon was about shove his energy-sparking fists right into Patamon's chin, however, a spray of sand and soil splattered between him and his target. Immediately, without even seeing one of them move, TK had grabbed his wrist and redirected the attack backwards, forcing Devimon to upper-cut—

to upper-cut—

to upper-cut himself.

When the realization washed over Devimon and all that was left was a deep ache consuming his lower jaw, he glanced over to see TK's lips curled into a deep grin.

"My dream was always to avenge Patamon," TK said. It was the first time he'd spoken all day, or even all week for that matter. At least, he hadn't said a word to Devimon, other than the occasional shut-up or dieeeee evil doer!!!111!exclamation point. Devimon mentally rolled his eyes. Perhaps it was because he noticed they hadn't yet defeated Devimon and three months had already passed, or maybe it was because he just wasn't interested in talking to the fiend, but TK had grown increasingly quiet. Either way, he certainly spoke now, his voice filled with a deep rumbling that cauterized with its mere tone. "My dream was to defeat darkness so that things like you can't hurt good creatures like Patamon or my brother. My dream is to forever banish darkness, and you are darkness, and you, in my mind, has always been the embodiment of evil. Not Myotismon, not the Emperor, not Apocalymon or any of our past enemies, even if nearly all of them were considerably stronger than you—" At this, Devimon have an audible grunt, then TK continued, "—In my mind, the face of darkness has always been yours, and it's a face I have always promised to destroy. You and me, training... this doesn't change a thing between us. In the end, you're only helping me kill you."

"Kill away, boy," Devimon hurled, lips creasing into a horizontal crescent. "I'm here because you're here, what are you going to do about it?"

"First, I'm going to beat you," TK said. "Then, I'm going to beat the Endless Ones." A beat. A smirk. "And last, I'm going to send you to DigiHell."

"TK..." Patamon's eyes swiveled between the two enigmatic forces, the wielder of hope and the wielder of darkness, before he sighed and lowered his gaze. Devimon could tell he was upset, not only by Devimon's refusal of "playing nice", but also TK's unwillingness to forgive Devimon for his past evil deeds. TK was a very forgiving guy, someone who you could rely on if you needed help, but Devimon was different from all the other enemies he'd ever faced.

Devimon was not only the first evil he'd ever fought, but he was the only one to have ever taken the life of one of TK's precious ones. That memory alone stuck with TK for years, and finally, he was able to take out his aggression that he'd felt for so long but didn't know how to deal with. Devimon smiled at the thought, of that poor little boy growing up with so much rage and bloodthirstiness, but never allowed to let it out. Not until he watched as the Digimon Emperor stole a part of Devimon's body to complete his ungodly creature, not until he faced a digimon in the shape of a virus-entwined WarGreymon. Even then, TK had only skimmed the surface of his problems, never fully duking them out with either himself or his friends or even his enemies. He'd told himself over and over again, Devimon was sure, that he wasn't that angry at darkness, that he had it all under control, that he knew how to handle it. But Devimon knew there was something else there, something deeper than flesh, than blood, than heart. It had plagued TK for so long, the dark digimon was completely sure it had marred even TK's soul with its ugly scars.

TK, despite being the bearer of hope, was quite the ruthless guy, though even he himself hadn't realized it yet. Devimon knew. Devimon could sense it, bubbling up inside him. TK always had a fierce vengeance toward the forces of darkness, but Devimon—

Just as Myotismon was Gatomon's greatest enemy, Devimon was TK's. Devimon was Patamon's. Devimon was the face of their fears. And finally, the face of their fears had physically manifested. He was no longer some giant standing at the gateway to the World of Darkness, he was no longer a gory nightmare, he was real (digital, but real), he was flesh, he was blood, he was fang.

And TK wanted to send him to a place that'd make him scream, just as TK screamed when he'd first lost Angemon. Devimon couldn't blame him. In fact, it was that fury that Devimon congratulated.

"DigiHell, huh?" Devimon mused. "Sounds like fun. I've been staring at your ugly mug for two straight minutes, what could be worse?"

"Staring at your ugly mug for one straight minute?"

"Ooo, touché."

He flipped TK over on his back and kicked the butt of his vertebrae, causing the human to skid forward until Patamon caught him. Without saying a word, the two rebounded and double-sockerpunched Devimon right in the face. He barreled backwards grinning, knowing exactly what was to come next.

It was time for them to grow stronger.

It was time that they gained the strength to beat him, without evolutions, without power-ups, but out of unrelenting, unyielding power. Because if Patamon could defeat him as a Patamon, and TK could defeat him without unlocking his hidden powers, then Devimon couldn't even imagine just how powerful they would become once those evolutions were tapped into.

Yes, TK, learn ruthlessness, Devimon thought, dodging a combined attack by the human and his partner. Devimon had ordered them not to take lessons under Cody or Ken, believing their techniques to be complete idiocy. He didn't want TK or Patamon to enter the army and be trained by Gennai's organization, which took care of Digimon-Human Relations. He was going to train TK and Patamon, because no one could teach them the art of ruthlessness except Devimon. Learn ruthlessness, so I can teach you how to control ruthlessness. You're not going to survive one hour against the Endless Ones without it.

Patamon threw an attack at him, his voice ringing out in the sunset air as Devimon tossed a counterattack over his shoulder. However, in the bright blast of light, TK came busting through the smoke and seized Devimon by the shoulders. Patamon had veered at some point to come up behind him, powers bursting from his tiny body as Devimon turned to stare TK right in the eye.

Not knowing how to unleash the cosmic abilities both Kari and Davis harness must eat you up inside, Devimon thought, staring into his enemy's eyes. For a minute, it seemed like Patamon's attack ceased, like TK wasn't moving, like the world wasn't moving, like the world's attack ceased. And the two stared. And watched. And examined. But you contain something else, hidden deep inside you. If there wasn't anything, I wouldn't have chosen you – but as it is, I know you have the power to do this, because everyday, I see myself in not only you, but especially in Patamon. You may not end up as I have, but I have always been one of the strongest champions to have ever walked the Digital World. I am no normal Devimon. And you, TK and Patamon, are no normal Destined. Together, you and I will get stronger, and we will defeat my master.

Patamon's attack struck.

Struck hard.

.---.

"Seraphimon...?" At the time, Devimon was still pure, kindhearted, and the grand general of Seraphimon's army. Back then, he wasn't Devimon. He was an Angemon and the strongest of all angel-types beside the Three Holy Angels themselves. Well, and perhaps Ophanimon's own grand general, MagnaAngemon. Devimon – or, at the time, Angemon – remembered looking out over the palace balcony, at the sky stained with blood-red pink rimmed with gold. Beauty soothed from the sky with an almost enigmatic twinge, calming both heart and soul.

Standing out on the balcony was Seraphimon, who stared off into nothingness as his palms rested against the railing. He watched, and watched, and watched, yet Angemon said nothing, and Seraphimon didn't reply. Instead, the angel-type turned toward Angemon and tilted his head.

"Tell me, Angemon, how far would you follow me?" Seraphimon's voice was rough, deep, gnarled.

"To the ends of the world, sir," Angemon said back with a confident nod. He smiled warmly at his master, who watched him from beyond the confinements of his teal helmet. Angemon crossed his arms and looked off into the dusk, his smile only widening as he thought back to their many memories together. "Though you rose above me in the end, we grew up together, Seraphimon. I can't imagine leaving you alone."

"Even if it meant being in the same room as MagnaAngemon, constantly?"

Ooo, that made the choice a hell of a lot harder. It didn't take much to realize how into himself MagnaAngemon was, and everyone knew that the duo of generals weren't the best of friends. There was a rumor going around of a prophecy, a prophecy that stated one of the generals would help save the universe, while the other would help destroy the universe. At the time, Angemon thought nothing of it. Fake prophecies popped up all the time, and he doubted he was so important as to have a prophecy about him. Only figures like the Enigma Lords and the Golden-Haired, Hawk-Eyed Human were bestowed ancient prophecies – and even then, the prophecies were almost always misleading.

"Even if it meant being in the same room as MagnaAngemon. Constantly." Angemon's voice added a tinge of strain.

"Good." Seraphimon's lips suddenly twitched. Angemon's brow furrowed, however, Seraphimon merely folded his arms and leaned forward, one hand gripping the top of his helmet. For a second, Angemon thought his master was about to slide it off, only for the hand to lurch forward and grab Angemon by the chin. He didn't lift or painfully pressure it, he simply held it. His hand felt hot, like lava, and seared Angemon's skin, causing the angel to wince and attempt to back away. However, Seraphimon merely chuckled and gripped harder, his fingers growing coarser, rougher, calloused, as rubbery tubercles and tendons flexed out from his sides, peeling back armor and wing. Each feather began to curdle and taint into a withered maroon, then a melted black that dripped to the palace floor. As Angemon heaved and tried to tear himself away, Seraphimon said in a voice that shook the very marrow of Angemon's bones, "Would you follow me, even if it meant selling your soul?"

.---.

"The aether is shifting," Devimon told TK and Patamon later that night. Patamon was hurrying to get together their stuff, so they could get home before Ms. Takaishi got too worried. However, TK stayed behind temporarily, just to get warmed up by the campfire Devimon began. All three of them were beaten and bruised, their lips and eyes swollen and hued blackish-blue. TK's right eye was even swelled shut, and Devimon had a cut large enough to extend down his chin. Regardless, he glanced up at the night sky, his voice echoing enough to catch the blond's attention. His eyes narrowed. "The shifting aether... the mercurial winds of alteration... It is time that one helps save the worlds from a timeless, faceless evil, while the other helps to plunge the worlds into oblivion."

"Huh?" TK asked, scooting just a few inches closer. He wrapped a blanket tighter around himself as he snuggled closer to the fire, the heat licking his skin as his gaze strayed from Devimon to instead look deeper into the glistening white-hot coals. "Hey, Patamon, you almost done over there? I still have to contact the president of DigiCorp. before he blows his top off about..." His voice trailed off, but Devimon was still concentrating on the sky above them. He could feel gales press against his back, his hands clenching with anticipation as night drew longer.

Devimon stared into the sky and the dark, stirring cumulus that filled it.

"Storm's forming," Devimon said. TK and Patamon blinked up at him, then up at the clouds in the sky. Though it was night, they, too, suddenly realized just how menacing those clouds looked. Devimon merely grinned. "Time to say hello to old friends, and goodbye to new friends. Geneva... the Enigma Lords, and the Council...

"...Soon, everything will change."

.---.

"I'm afraid." His voice grazed past her ear as she struggled to sit up out of bed. She blinked over at the boy, who stood staring outside her window at the gathering bedim that covered the moon in growing splendor. Already, she could taste the humidity each cloud formed, even from within her room. The boy reached forward to pop open the double-pane window, his palms thrusting against the rim as he leaned toward the wind and pressed his face to the moist air. She watched him close his eyes, his muscles tense, his soul tenser.

She bit her bottom lip and looked away from him.

She didn't want to tell him that she was afraid, too – but then again, with everything they'd been through, he probably knew exactly how she felt, just as she'd known how he felt even without his confirmation. She twisted around to view him, tendrils of worry wriggling around her chest like iron clamps. Without any struggle, she swung her legs out from over the side of her bed and planted them on the plush copper carpet of her room.

"What if I can't stop them?" he asked her. No, he wasn't only asking her, he was asking himself. She smiled sadly, unsure how to answer it. He was always so strong, so headstrong, an unstoppable force that barreled past the dangers and leaped into the thick of the fight without a single concern. He was a wall, a gallop, a fierce and untouchable stallion that rode on the winds of destiny.

"Davis..." she breathed, her hand reaching out to lightly brush his shoulder blade. He shuddered at her touch, his teeth clenching as he closed his eyes and felt the breeze soothe against his face. She swallowed hard, not knowing whether she should've hugged him or talked to him or somehow comforted him – she didn't know how to. All she knew was that he'd mastered four types of strenuous training and had managed to even take on Gatomon, who was probably one of the strongest digimon out of Earth's digital protectors, without any assistance from Veemon. It was something he'd done not only because he wanted to get strong enough to protect her and his other precious ones, but it was something he'd done because he didn't want to be weak, he didn't want to lose, he didn't want to be—

to be lonely again.

"What if... what if I'm not good enough?" His fingernails dug into the window frame, creating centimeter-sized crescents in the wood. Her hand continued to lightly touch his shoulder blade, lingering, before he swiftly turned to her, his eyes opening to reveal their deep rich brown hue. He gripped her hand in his, his free arm extending to wrap her closer to him, pressing against her back as she stared up at him. "We promised to fight the storm and wind... but... what if we can't? Kari—"

She rested her hand on his chin. His eyelids fluttered for a few seconds, as if surprised, before he lightly smiled. She only smiled back, gripping his chin delicately with her hand before pulling his face toward her own. Without hesitation, she felt the warmth of him against her; of his nose grazing her own, of his gaze, of his lips.

When she pulled away from him she said, "Don't let it take over you, Motomiya."

His eyes momentarily widened. She was sure he was remembering one of the first things he'd said to her in order to encourage her to hold on despite the Overlord's guttural voice's attempts to make her lose herself. He'd said, Don't let it take over you, Kamiya. Never let that beast defeat you! She didn't need to echo his words for him to get exactly what she meant, it went without saying how much she believed in him, and how much he'd grown to believe in her.

"No storm lasts forever," Kari whispered. "Someday, the storm will calm, and things will be peaceful again."

Davis stared at her for what felt like a long time. It was only when she closed her eyes and rested her cheek against his chest that he smiled back, his fingers entangling in her hair as he slacked his neck, placing his chin atop her head. They were quiet for a while, her ear listening to the solemn thump-thump of his heart raging against his torso.

I love how I make his heart beat, she thought with a silent giggle. She felt his arms tighten before nodding off standing, the chilly breeze sweeping her hair and pressing against the back of her neck.

"You're right," he told her in a semi-wheezy voice. "We'll kick some ass in three months. We won't work our butts off for nothing."

It's been a while since I could relax like this. She thought about Gatomon earlier that day, returning home after sparring with Davis. She'd been hit by her own Lightning Paw about three times, but she'd managed to claw him up pretty bad. Veemon had to bandage up Davis, though Gatomon was left to putting an icepack on several parts of her body for a good solid two hours. Even so, it wasn't only Gatomon and Davis who were training their hardest. Tai and Agumon had left for the past two months in order to travel the world, talking and planning with army forces around the world to prepare for the Endless Ones' coming. He and his partner were also seen working with the Poi Brothers, who'd become world-renown martial artists in the past year, before Tai moved on to training with Catherine and her grandfather in France, learning how to fly helicopters and fire weaponry with his partner.

However, though Davis, Veemon, and Gatomon wore many accomplishments upon their shoulders in the past three months, it was Kari who'd worked the hardest of them all. While TK and Patamon were giving their all giving up their pride in order to train with their greatest enemy and rival, Kari had traveled to the Digital World to work under Gennai in order to contact the Beings of Light. As a supposed "Host of Light" (as Gennai called her, someone who could handle the mental and spiritual strain of being possessed by such a cosmic entity), Kari had to better herself ruthlessly the past three months in order to train, to be emotionally ready for the trip ahead of her: contacting the almighty World of Light, which contained the strongest and greatest of beings. It was from the World of Light that the Dream Realm branched out (a plane of existence MaloMyotismon had tried to use to his advantage), it was a world that harnessed the power of the Zenith Gate, which protected the strongest and greatest of the Digital World's rulers.

Training with Gennai... it's been exciting, horrifying, straining... but it's worth it, if it means contacting the Beings of Light.

But she wasn't able to do it, at least not yet.

Gennai told her she wouldn't be able to contact them for months, possibly years. Even he, the great wiseman of the Digital World, a conundrum to man and mon alike, wasn't able to contact the Beings of Light. "His kind" wasn't welcomed in their land, because he didn't have the heart of a child like Kari still did. Not that she was a child mentally or physically or even emotionally, but in her heart, in her soul, she bore the dreams and light of children around the globe. For that reason, it was her destiny to contact the Beings of Light.

She remembered asking Gennai, "What if I don't contact them in time?"

"You won't," Gennai had told her. "But that is why I'm teaching you how to now, so that when you are ready, when they are ready, you may unite with the greatest forces of the universe, and somehow put this senseless fighting to an end. The World of Light is a beautiful place incomprehensible to beings like you and I, and because of this, they do not worry about the chaos that surrounds our plane of existence. We are mere ants, and tell me Kari, do you worry about every anthill you come across?"

Kari smiled at him before responding, "When Tai and I were little, he used to take a hose and drown their hills when they tried to make 'em in our yard. I used to yell at him when he did it, but he'd just laugh and tell me I was being silly."

"There are many Earths and many Digital Worlds, but there is only one World of Light," Gennai told her. "Right now, they can't bother to help us. But if you gather the ability to contact them, even if it seems like it may be too late, they will hear you out as one of their rare hosts. They will label you as worthy of their attention, but I warn you, Kari Kamiya. Contacting the Beings of Light has consequences. Before, you'd been possessed by an acquaintance of mine who helped us conjure the ability to summon humans to the Digital World. However, the beings you may come across will not be friends of mine, and they will not go easy on you. Beings of Light are meant to command and to be followed, not seen, not heard, not felt or known. Even I, as great as I am—" Gennai cockily grinned, "—cannot comprehend the immensity of their power. There is not a creature still alive that has heard a Being of Light, much less seen or felt. All who know their presence either die or turn insane, but that is a responsibility that only you can carry on your shoulders. Are you willing to risk that?"

As Kari felt Davis tighten his grip around her, knowing the both of them would safely get through this journey and come out kicking, she grinned. She wasn't afraid of anything, not of death, not of insanity, not of losing to the Endless Ones. She wanted to protect Davis, to protect Gatomon and Tai and TK and all the others, all the worlds and dimensions, no matter what. She also knew that only she could do this, and she wasn't afraid.

"Yes," she'd told Gennai after their rigorous training. "I can feel our dimension withering away as each day goes by. I know we don't have much time left before the Endless Ones change everything, but I'm not going to be afraid anymore. I promised Davis that he would never be lonely again, just as he promised me that he would never let me love and lose – that includes not only him, but my other precious ones. I am willing to fight my fears, and I know I'll make it out in the end. The Beings of Light won't take my sanity, my life, or my light, because...

"We – I, my friends, my acquaintances, my strangers, my enemies, everything and everyone – can take anything the forces of evil throw at us. United, we will take 'em on, and we will win."