I apologize for not updating for a while. School is a pain, as well as Writer's Block (even when it comes to reviewing over the work _). That, and I have a bunch of other stories to keep track of, one I'm trying hard to finish the current chapter to post on Serebii. So as a heads-up, I will be slow at updating.

Disclaimer: Obviously, Digimon is copyrighted to Akiyoshi Hongo and Bandi.

Warning: disturbing sequences ahead (though I don't know how descriptive it is, I only added little things here and there).


Chapter Four

Kumori groaned after the accusation was over and saw what she was missing. She picked out three of her cards and turned them to the Evidence Room, slightly pouting. "I thought it was him," she grumbled. "The clues point to him. That Professor Plum is a tricky one."

"Maybe it is," Shizuka pointed out. "Your guess is as good as mine."

The feline smiled at her adopted sister. "Knowing you, you might know who the thief is."

The game continued in a sequence of suspicions, secret passages and interruptions with the inspector. It wasn't until after the note was read by the Terriermon did she go ahead with the accusation two turns later. Like how the Gatomon predicted, she won the game with Professor Plum ("I knew it!" Kumo cried out.) having been in the Conservatory at late afternoon with the rare book. The Rookie whooped with joy and asked for another round. "Please, sissy?" she pleaded, eyes growing wider with excitement.

She almost fell for the puppy eyes. "Sorry, but two hours is long enough. Let's rest with a movie."

Shizuka scowled, but went ahead to help put away everything (mostly the game) before she picked out the movie she always wanted to see. She didn't dare ask for popcorn, seeing it wasn't as good as before and gave her stomach and indigestion problems. So the two sat on the sofa, smiling at the cartoon playing on the screen. "You picked a great one," the feline praised her.

The girl clutched her doll tightly. "I sure did. Just like you picked the right job."

"Exactly."

"Did you choose your partner?"

Kumo shook her head. "Nah. Didn't think he'd be there."

"Would you choose him if you could?"

She gave it a thought, frowning. "Well... there's more than meets the eye," she began slowly. "Hidoi on the outside is a very severe character. But after hearing from the others, it was his nature, but it increased when Kohana was fired. He didn't become himself, thus he's upset all the time. So... I probably wouldn't have at first. Only when you're to get used to him do you accept it."

The Terriermon shifted in her arms to look up at her curiously. "Do you accept him?"

"I only met him yesterday, silly. We'll see, though. In a few months or so."

The two were silent for a while longer, watching the movie play out its plot. Shizuka kept wiggling from time to time, obviously uncomfortable with her positions. The Gatomon paid little attention to her surroundings, feeling herself grow tired from the day. She found herself carried back unconsciously to when she was eight, just recently an orphan. She had cried all day from the sudden loss of her parents, and with her eyes scratchy and dry, she barely knew where the strangers were taking her. Everything was deathly quiet on the road: the adults didn't talk, the birds weren't singing their beautiful songs, nothing. The part of town they found themselves walking in was soundproof; somehow, she couldn't hear her hiccups anymore.

The house they arrived at was comely kept, a small garden growing under the white windowsill, the door recently painted, grass evenly trimmed, trees pruned, shingles unscathed... everything looked perfect, as though they all expected her. But being so young, she sensed there was something wrong with the feeling of it. She shivered when the doorbell chimed, gulped at the sounds of footsteps from within, and barely breathed when the door opened. Her blood had grown cold when she saw her uncle for the first time, his icy stare sneering down at her and a smirk spread on his pale face.

The adults talked for a few minutes while she quaked on the spot, unable to take her eyes away from her relative. She knew there was something wrong with him, the atmosphere was evil and freezing. But she didn't dare talk until after the strangers have left, leaving her in the tidy living room, whimpering and nervously looking around her surroundings as she transferred weight between her aching legs. His voice, though politely modest, sounded harsh in her ears. "How's my niece?" he inquired, hands clasped together.

"S-scared," she whispered shakily.

"Of course, everyone is when something happens so spontaneously out of script. But within time, you learn to grow with it." He knelt down closer to her, but she didn't dare look back up. "I promise you I'll be the best uncle and foster parent anyone will ever see. I'll pick up where your parents ended at."

"Th-they were struck in the street. Mama was going t-to have my baby sister... Daddy was with her."

"I know that, hon. Now come on, let's see your room."

The next several months, though she didn't trust him with her heart, she grew to return home with less of a tremble each and every day. Kumori-Garasu was so sure Uncle Shigure was the one she could always count on to be there whenever she needed to talk to someone. She had once convinced herself she was ready to accept him as a new father. However, by the time she turned nine, he couldn't seem to take his eyes off of her, and would sometimes pet her, softly at first, but more embracing as time went by. The day she became a young womon and told him, home turned to Hell. He explained to her that first day it was time for her to learn about sex education, and he home schooled her in that one category. She grew uncomfortable at once and tried her hardest to refuse it all. Despite her rejections, he continued for a few more years, quizzing her, testing her and teaching all she needed to know, until the last lesson came to being.

A hand gently touched her shoulder and Kumori jolted awake, gasping. Shizuka gazed at her sadly, sitting on her knees. "Sis, you okay? You don't look good."

Panting, she rubbed at her eyes for any stray tears. "I-I'm sorry... dozed off and day-dreamed..."

"It was bad, wasn't it?" she asked quietly.

"Huh?"

"You were tossing and crying." A small melancholy look was on her petite face, the doll clutched against her chest. "What were you dreaming about?"

Shaking her head, she touched the girl's face gently. "Shizuka... you're a very lucky girl to live in an orphanage and being able to participate in the Big Brother, Big Sister Club to be with me on Wednesdays. Believe me when I say that, okay? I was one of the unfortunate orphans when I was your age."

"Why?" Bless her pure spirit and curiosity that she wanted to know. But Kumo knew she wasn't ready to be traumatized just yet.

"When you're a little bit older," she sighed, hugging her. "For now..." She took a quick glance at the clock. "...it's time to get you ready to go back home."

The girl stuck out her bottom lip, frowning, glancing back at the television. The movie was part-way over, and getting to a part she would've liked. "Do I have to?"

"Yes, so I can go to work.`Kay?"

Though she wanted to argue some more, Shizuka finally gave in, slipping off the couch. Sitting up, the feline tried her hardest to get her sudden dream out of her head, focusing instead on getting her sister ready to return home.

*~*~*

She arrived at the studio after seven thirty, wishing she didn't run on a full stomach. Barely did she step into the elevator when suddenly Ryuu slipped in with her. "Good evening, Kumo!" he greeted cheerfully.

She put on a smile. "Hey Ryuu," she replied back, pushing a floor button. "How are you this evening?"

He shrugged, letting out an exasperated breath. "Ehh... everyone's making fun of me from last night," he groaned. "I hate it so much... even my date today saw it and wouldn't stop poking fun of me."

"You had a date?"

"Of course. An old friend from high school. Would've gone well had she shut up about last night."

Kumo smiled, almost feeling sorry for him. "It was pretty funny," she admitted.

"Yeah, I got over it after a while," he blurted out, hands behind his head. "I can promise you it won't bother me again."

The bell dinged, and once the doors slid open, she exited and headed down the hallway, Ryuu trekking behind. A few other staff members snickered and pointed at him. "Watch those feet of yours!" one called out from behind. "Don't want another accident report! Hey, did you know Haru did a traffic report on you this morning? 'There has been an accident just reported at the intersection of the room and weather station between a foot and a counter. Expect the traffic to slow westward.'"

His fist was clenched and dangerously shaking when the feline noticed. Quickly she led him into the meeting room with the others and closed the door. He sat down at the end of the table, scowling at the wall. "What's with him?" Kimi asked, walking up to her.

"Take a guess."

Hearing the muffled laughter from behind the door, she took the hint and nodded. "One thing I need to tell you very quick."

Kumori nodded. "Okay. What's the scoop?"

Whispering harshly, she told her, "Hidoi is in one of his moods again. I suggest you be careful around him."

She was confused. "Why?"

"Issues, I guess. He's always having them. He had just barely arrived when he snapped at me for no reason just because I greeted him." She shrugged. "Promise me you'll keep out of his way?"

Not really getting the warning, she nodded anyway. "Sure, I'll try my hardest. I won't bother him when the nightly news come on. Should I ignore him though, if he talks to me?"

Kimi made an anguished face, waving her taloned hand this-and-that hesitantly. "Unless he wants you to talk to him, probably. But I don't know much about him. Kohana did, though. She might know about these certain things."

The feline thought about it, scanning her eyes around the table looking for Hidoi. "He's not here at the moment," the phoenix answered her immediately. "Off moping somewhere, I'm sure."

Kumo frowned, ears slightly drooping. "Did he do this yesterday as well?"

"No. Whenever something comes into his head that is very emotional, he leaves for a while. Just left shortly before you and Ryuu walked in."

She still had more questions to ask about her partner. "What kind of emotional things?"

"Kohana for example." The Garudamon rolled her eyes. "Still can't let her go. I don't blame him, she's a good girl. But they've known each other for years. They even liked each other, but I doubt they knew about it."

The Gatomon nodded. "It's hard to lose a friend."

She grinned. "Not just a friend, Kumo. More like secret lovers."

That was Ryuu came up and draped his hand over Kumo's shoulder, grinning devilishly. "Speaking of which, want to be secret lovers?"

She shrugged him off politely, shivering to get the feel of his touch off. "I don't think so. Sorry."

He snapped his fingers. "So much for plan A. I mean, so sad!"

Kimi shook her head, leaving to get away from him, smiling at her friend. After the dragon watched her leave, he turned back to the cat. "So, where have you been all day?"

"I was hanging out with my little sister, Shizuka."

He blinked his large crimson eyes. "I didn't know you had a sister!"

She laughed. "Correction, my adopted sister."

Ryuu still couldn't believe it. "Then why are you leaving her at home alone?" he inquired suspiciously.

Sighing, she explained again. "I only see her on Wednesdays. I adopted her through the Big Brother, Big Sister Club."

Junjo had been secretly listening in while half-paying attention to the others. He swerved around in his chair to grin at her. "You're a member too, huh? I have a little brother I hang out with on Saturdays. Crazy little kid and quite the handful, but I love him."

Kumo giggled. "Shizuka is true to her name. I think it's because she's sick a lot, but every now and then the two of us would create a ruckus loud enough to be heard downstairs."

"Ah, so that's you. I kept blaming my neighbors for all the shrieking."

"Well, we sorta are."

The dragon felt upset he was left out of the conversation. Mentally, he made a note to adopt a brother for Wednesdays when he got the chance. Clearing his throat to get their attention, he boldly said, "Come, my dear Kumori! Let's go and take a walk around the block!"

A few others laughed at him in the room. "She'll pass," Nohara spoke up with a smirk. "No one wants to go on a date with you."

"It's not a date, Tatsuya. It's a walk."

She scoffed. "More like an excuse to ask her out when no one's listening in."

"Oh yeah! I'd like to see you try to get one!"

"Bite me, Tanaka."

"Before I do that, step up!"

"Ditto to you!"

The cat and angel sweat-dropped, though Kumo looked up at him in puzzlement. He only sighed slowly, stabbing his fingers through his hair. "One of their infamous close-friendship bickers. Nothing to worry about." He pinched his brows in a second thought. "Actually, the other thing to worry about is when Myou comes in."

"Why is that?"

As though answering her question, the said ghoul slammed open the door, glaring at the arguing friends, irked from their constant fighting. The two paused in mid-yelling, looking over at him and shivering slightly. Even the others stood erect, some dropping items from their arms in the process. The Gatomon wasn't too sure what to do, though she trembled at the ominous presence that suddenly befell the group. The three had a silent staring contest, trying to trip up the other. The spell broke when Ryuu sneezed. "All right, who started it?" Myou growled, crossing his arms tightly.

Both pointed at each other immediately, exclaiming in unison that Ryuu (or Nohara in his case) caused it.

He sighed, knowing nothing will get anywhere. "This is what, the umpteenth time this whole frickin' year I told you two to stop it, but you don't listen, and keep doing it anyway?"

"She told me I'd never get another date first!" the XV-mon tattled, jabbing a finger at her again like he was in grade school.

"It was just to advise you that Kumo was never planning on dating you in the first place," she shot back.

"I wasn't talking about dating in the first place anyway! You brought it up!"

"You and your desperate wishful thinking you'd get to kiss a girl your first night out. You sicken me."

"Come say it to my face, you ungrateful little—"

Haru's sudden scream stopped him from cussing at her. Everyone in the room who saw the sudden movement flinched or even yelled out in surprise as well. Kumo's eyes widened as she backed further away slowly from the weapon. Ryuu froze in horror as the scythe suspended right near his jugular vein. Nohara lowered herself swiftly to the table top, breathing heavily. The piercing glare of Myou's eyes sent shivers down all the spines in the room, and as his vision darted from person to person, he slowly lowered the edge tool back to his side. When he spoke, his voice was icy. "That was a warning," he growled. "Next time, the blood will spill."

With that in mind, he left the room in a swish of the cloak. The eerie presence still lingered uncomfortably, even when the two sat down wordlessly. The feline still remained standing, shivering in place. Myou had brought out the scythe in a flash; she only caught a glimpse of reflecting light from the surface. In that glare, she saw a moment of her life go by of when she had first experienced the abusive power of her uncle.

But instead of gold, it was of crimson light with a sting on the surface as harsh and burning as electricity. He always had the whip in hand, but where in possession, she never knew. She put herself at risk disobeying him, fearful of being striped with the terrible lash of crimson. Quickly she took a glance at the scar on her paw. Kumo could still feel the searing pain of that night in the back of her mind, and she grew sick. Taking deep breaths, she sat down and laid her head on her arms, closing her eyes. It helped as much as drenched wood when one tried to make a roaring fire. The memory only came back sharper, yet she dove into it.

Uncle Shigure had warned her about a final test about the subject, but she never knew when it was. It was her sixteenth birthday, and she had returned from spending time with her friends. The first thing she noticed walking through the door was him sitting patiently on the chair, legs crossed, waiting for her. "How was your surprise party?" he asked calmly, a small smile on his face.

She nodded slowly. "Great, for a surprise party."

"Do you feel any different, any older?"

"Not really..."

Gracefully, he stood and walked over to her. He was roughly three times her height, maybe more, always towering over her like many other mons. Intimidation, she believed. The two stared at each other for some time before he knelt down. She swallowed, shaking on the spot. When he spoke, the tone was cool and mysterious. "Would you like to feel older?"

Kumo thought hard about it, pulling the sleeves of her blouse up higher on her shoulder blade, stupid thing always slipping. Shigure noticed it, and his eyes lightened up. "Well... sort of. Maybe if I get used to it, I'll be a bit more mature when I become an adult..."

Tenderly, he took hold of her chin, lifting it up. Her eyes slid to his line of vision, and her body tensed slightly. "How soon?" he wondered next.

Words caught in her throat. "I-I... don't exactly know..."

"Then how about tonight?"

The light in his eyes seemed to soften at the sentence, and again, she found herself unable to speak. She closed her eyes lightly when he ran his hands down her shoulders, slipping down the sleeves so they were bare. Shigure leaned down, grazing his cheek against hers. "Then come with me to my room, Kumori-Garasu," he murmured in her ear. "This is the final test... to test your loyalty."

"My... what?"

Without another answer, he took her hands and led her down the hallway, toward the room of her innocence's demise. He gently lifted her to the bed and sat down next to her. One glance in her beautiful eyes, and he saw she knew nothing. A triumphant smirk appeared on his face. He had that gift of hypnotizing from his high school years, and it never faltered. So taking her face into his hands, he planted a kiss on her cheek. It was enough to snap her out of the temporary spell. She gasped, seeing where she was and began to try and escape. However, he was stronger than her, and through the power of force, he was able to hold her down and perform his terrible deed.

During this dreadful event, she tried to flee several times, but he had the whip in hand and injured her in the process. No screams she made was able to go through the thick walls. Her blood ended up staining a good amount of the sheets by the time he was through with her. When dawn came, she woke up weak from loss of blood, pain, and having lost her virtues. Kumo cried herself dry, and never again was she able to enjoy the rest of her high school days. Her interest in a boy ended and she avoided all her friends.

The day she turned eighteen, she left the house with the few belongings she could find before dawn broke. She hoped that her life could turn around, so she could return to the days of happiness.

Kumori ended up stirring herself awake, lifting her head to see the room nearly empty. She half-expected to see Ryuu there, waiting for her to wake from an unpleasant slumber. However, she did not seem to await Hidoi standing by his spot at the window the first day she met him. Everyone else had left who knows when, possibly after he arrived, and forgot to wake her. Frowning, she sat up with a small moan, rubbing her eyes.

He glanced over at the sound. "Wasn't a good dream, huh?"

"What?" She blinked up at him, wondering how he knew. "Yeah, it wasn't a very nice dream. How'd you guess?"

He was looking back out the window, out at the rising darkness. "You kept moving around. A sign of a nightmare you wish to wake from."

Looking around the room, she inquired, "Why did no one wake me, then?"

Hidoi only shrugged. "Maybe they don't understand nightmares."

"Nonsense, everybody gets one here and there."

The Wizardmon turned to face her, arms folded tightly across his chest and a glare in his eye. She pressed her back more firmly against the chair. "Some are not as worse as others," he growled.

Kumo could only shake her head in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

Strolling over, he slammed his palms on the table, startling her. "You were dreaming about your parents, weren't you?"

"N-no... even worse..."

He leaned forward, forcing her to shrink back. "Then you know very well what kind of nightmares I'm talking about," he hissed out. "And I'm telling you that nobody, and I mean nobody, gives a damn about the terrible events happening in other people's lives."

Her breathing quickened slightly as she grew fearful of the mon in front of her. The stabbing stare dove deeper into her, making her worry she'd drop dead before him. She knew the look well, but his emotion was difficult to interpret. She couldn't tell if he was raging, steaming or getting ready to rumble. The jade eyes seemed to be too sharp for any emotion to exist.

Taking a breather, she responded calmly, "Where's the proof, then? I'm sure there's someone who cares."

Hidoi's eyes narrowed even more and he stepped back. He glared at her for a few minutes longer before heading for the door. "Don't be late," he grumbled as he walked out. He slammed it closed when he exited.

She gazed at the spot he disappeared at before sighing deeply and sorrowfully. He was so cruel and so harsh, it gave her a second thought that Shigure wasn't the only evil mon she's ever met. Well... Hidoi wasn't evil, just... misunderstood. And though he didn't yell at her, he was one of the few who had spoken so rashly to her. It was making her very uneasy when he was arguing with her. Kumo gained second thoughts about him as a partner she could get along with. But her mother's warning about "judging a book by its cover" came to mind, and she immediately guided her mind to other matters.

Like maybe if Shizuka was doing well tonight.

Sighing, she lay her head back down on her arms, unsure what to do, tired, and upset all at once. When her eyes closed, she dreamed once more, unable to contain herself.

*~*~*

"Where's Kumo?" Ryuu wondered for the third time that night. "It's ten minutes till."

"You probably scared her off," Junjo suggested an answer, smirking. He dodged a swinging punch.

Hidoi could care less if she was there or not. He did warn her about tardiness, after all. She chose to ignore him. It was her own problem she wanted to ditch, something that was fine with him. He was the solo type anyway.

"I'll go find her," Kimi volunteered when the mons were still arguing. While Haru went to separate them, she quickly left to fetch Kumo. She didn't have to search the whole building, she knew where she was. Cautiously, she glanced into the lounge, spotting her still at the table. Sympathy touched her eyes at the sight of her sleeping, worry creasing her angelic face. She went against leaving her to rest and creeped over to her. At the slight touch, the feline shot awake with a gasp, staring wildly at the startled Garudamon. "Whoa, you okay there?" she asked her.

It took a few seconds to remember where she was before she calmed herself down. Feeling her forehead, the Gatomon shrugged. "Thanks for that," she whispered in gratitude. "I needed to wake up."

"Why?"

Breathing in and out, she slowly replied, "You understand nightmares, right?"

"Of course, I do. Everyone gets them." She noticed the anxiety in the depths of the crystal blue eyes and frowned. "Was it a terrible dream?"

At a nod, she was led out with a hand around her shoulder. Kimi listened intently to the description of her dream, feeling sorry for her every step they took. Kumo, though she told it almost word for word, didn't explain who her uncle was except that he was the most evil mon in the world that she knew of. When she finished, they gave each other a hug. She was thankful to the lending ears of a friend, and she was able to report that night, taking care to focus on her job. But once she reached her apartment, the fear returned from the shadows of the room, and she huddled on her bed, the memory back in mind.

Crying herself to sleep only made the dream worse, as she woke up in the middle of the night and hugged her parents' picture tightly.