If you've already read this, and are wandering why it has been updated, I'm just fixing my spelling errors. And I'm really sorry I didn't realize that the lines to separate segments didn't show up. Hopefully its fixed now.

Author's Note

Hello everyone. If you read the first chapter of Shattered Mirror, you would have realised that I said I won't be posting any new stories till at least one of the old ones were complete. To clear up confusion, I was actually only referring to stories that consists of more than one chapter.

This story uses Japanese names and is titled from a prompt from .com/20themes, so the title belongs to the person who posted it. Digimon and its characters belong to Toei Animation. The plot is mine though.

If you are confused about anything after reading this story, read the end notes. If you are still confused, feel free to review or PM and ask questions.

Enjoy, read and review (please!!)

One Step Foreward, Two Steps Back

Storms were quite common during this time of the year. But rarely did the city of Tokyo experience one as fierce as this. Thunder clapped loudly, and lightning flashed in the darkened sky, illuminating trees and shrubbery torn down by the violent winds. Rain pelted down in heavy sheets. Windows of houses were boarded up tight, as were doors, as a safeguard against the storm, and everyone stayed in the sanctuary of their homes, waiting the night through. Everyone, except for Ichijoji Ken.

Ken stood at the edge of the ocean, staring out into the vast, imposing body of water with lifeless, amethyst eyes. He ignored the water assaulting his bare head, choosing instead to dwell on the thoughts swirling chaotically in his head.

His life had never been easy. When he was a child, he had been forced to live and grow in the shadow of his older brother, Ichijoji Osamu. A genius. In the society's eyes, a perfect human being.

But even perfection has its flaws.

Ken had always been overshadowed by his brother. His achievements were cast aside; his cry for love and affection ignored. This caused the seeds of jealousy to sprout within him, a feeling that was only enhanced by the emergence of a Digivice.

Osamu had taken it, hiding it away in his desk drawer, with explicit instructions as not to touch it. However, the curious youngster touched it anyway, invoking the unbidden rage of the elder Ichijoji.


Eleven year old Ichijoji Osamu was seated at his desk, studying a thick university level psychology textbook, titled Themes and Variations, while his little brother, eight year old Ichijoji Ken, read a comic book on the carpeted floor. There was a computer on the desk, in standby mode in order to save power, and some notebooks stacked neatly beside the moniter.

The two brothers worked quietly, Ken trying hard not to disturb his brother's precious study time. Nothing out of the ordinary happened for a while, till a small, handheld device came out of the computer.

The Ichijoji siblings knelt down beside the strange apparatus, staring at it incredulously. At length, Osamu picked it up and stared closely at it, before raising it up to his ear and shaking it gently, but nothing happened. The device was just there, inactive.

'What is it onii-chan?' Ken asked his brother, his childish curiosity getting the better of him.

'I don't know Ken-chan,' he replied, standing up. 'But I'm going to find out.' He went over to his drawer, and opened it, revealing more notebooks and a few pencils. 'Now whatever you do, don't touch it, ok?' He placed the device into the drawer, before shutting it firmly, returning to his textbook and continuing to read.

Later on that day, when Osamu was at an interview, Ken snuck into his brother's room and stared at the drawer that held the mysterious device. I don't know what it is, but I know it is special, he thought, opening the drawer and turning his intense gaze onto the device itself. I am excited just looking at it. He reached for the device, wrapping his delicate fingers around the apparatus, and lifted it, a smile present on his face. Suddenly, intense light burst through his fingers and the computer screen that sat idle on Osamu's desk shone identical to the device. He lifted the device up to the screen, and in a flash, he was gone.

Just then, the door opened, and Osamu stepped into the room. Light burst once more from the computer, and Osamu stared, his mouth wide open, as his little brother tumbled through the screen and onto the floor laughing in sheer delight, the strange device the two found earlier that day clutched in his hand

'Ken!' Osamu snapped.

Ken turned slightly, his eyes widening at the sight of his brother. 'What are you doing?' he asked angrily.

Ken raised his hand, showing the device in his grip, unscathed. 'Sor...'

'What are you doing?!' Osamu shouted, slapping the device out of the younger boy's hands.

Ken looked up at his brother with large, tear filled eyes, as the other continued his tirade. 'Don't touch my stuff without my permission!'

'I-I'm sorry,' Ken stuttered, holding the hand that had held the device in his other, the device lying beside him.

Osamu knelt down and picked it up. 'This is mine,' he declared, standing up again.

'I'm sorry,' Ken said again.

'Going through someone's desk without asking,' Osamu scolded, placing the apparatus safely into his drawer. 'Only the worst people do things like this.' He slammed the drawer shut.


'This is mine. Never touch it without my permission. Got that?'

Ken bowed his head in sadness. 'I'm sorry.'

'You're disrupting my studies,' Osamu spat in contempt. 'Get out.'

Ken got to his feet slowly and exited the room.

He hates me because I am not a good boy, he thought viciously, walking away. Because I'm the worst human being. But why? I'm sad. He has everything, but not me. I wish...he would just vanish!


Ken looked up as lightning illuminated the sky for the uptenth time. Hollow eyes stared unseeing at clouds blown in the coastal direction by the wind, his frail form trembling from both the temperature of the rain and the power of the wind. His face was blank, devoid of emotion; the perfect picture of a lost soul. The same facade he wore soon after his brother's accident, when he searched for where he belonged in the world.


Ken walked up to a grave, surrounded by fresh white roses. On top perched a black framed portrait, from which Ichijoji Osamu smiled from.

'Onii-chan,' he whimpered, gazing at the portrait, blue eyes brimming with tears. 'Was it because I wished he would vanish? Where should I go? Where do I belong?'


He blamed himself, thinking that it had been his own ill tempered wish that had put an untimely end to his elder brother's perfection. And even in death, Osamu had managed to occupy his parents' attention. Ken looked down, staring at the soaked sand, dull amethyst eyes brimming with unshed tears. His parents had still ignored his cries for attention. They had wanted Osamu back. And so, Ken gave them just that. He put all of his attention into his studies, improving his grades, and eventually exceeding Osamu himself in perfection. But he had felt no happiness from it.

Pierre Corneille was right, he thought. We never taste happiness in perfection. I hardly ever smiled back then, and my only human friend, apart from my brother, Akiyama Ryou, had disappeared.

Akiyama Ryou had lived a few blocks down from the Ichijoji's apartment building, and had met Ken in the Primary Village during Ken's first visit to the Digital World. They became fast friends, and their partners, V-mon and Wormmon respectively, got the two out of some pretty tight situations. The digivices the two humans carried had allowed their respective digimon to digivolve up to the Adult stage, and eventually Jogress into Paildramon, ensuring them a close victory against their adversary, Millenniummon.

But as with all things, that victory came at a price. Upon his destruction, Millenniummon unleashed spores of his data, and one struck the back of Ken's neck, burying itself deep into his body. He had fallen sick immediately afterwards, and Ryou, V-mon and Wormmon had tended to the sick boy, till the first two were called away to deal with the latest uprising. V-mon had been reconfigured, eventually partnering with Motomiya Daisuke, but Akiyama Ryou had never been seen again.

Ken had healed two weeks after the incident, and returned to the Real World, to find that no time had passed since he had raised the digivice to his brother's screen.

That had been the last time he had lived, truly lived, till his defeat as the Digimon Kaiser. After his brother's tirade, he seeked solitude in closure, till Osamu's death a few days later. After that, since everyone had wanted perfection, he strove for just that. Back then he had not known, but the spore within him had enhanced his intellectual and physical capabilities. He became a famous child prodigy, excelling in almost anything academic or sport related.

And evil, channelled through that spore, gradually consumed his mind. He forgot about his days as a Chosen, as he became more apathic towards society. He looked down upon those around him, deeming them unworthy of him. He buried his insecurities deep within him, and hid his true self behind a mask; his camera face. He was everything he was expected to be, but he was never happy.

He finally had the attention of his parents, but he had lost both his brother and his innocence.

One step foreward, two steps back.

But he may never have set foot in the Digital World again had he not received that email.


Ken, now nearing ten years of age, browsed through his brother's computer, before finding an email addressed to him.

'An email for me?' he thought aloud, hardly able to believe it. He had always been overshadowed by the achievements of his elder brother, and then his own facade, that the idea that someone had noticed him for who he truly was, seemed overwhelming. Hesitantly, he opened the email and began to read.

'Your brother passing away was an unfortunate accident,' he read aloud. 'It must have been very tragic, but don't worry. Your brother has gone to a better place. You don't have to feel guilty at all.

Your brother is physically gone, resting in a better place. With that, he gained eternal freedom of the mind. But you still have to live that boring normal life. It means the end of your freedom of mind. Pitiful you.

I pity you.

The ending conclusion is your current world isn't for you. I'd like to say there's a world that suits you better. A world that will completely free your mind.

Open the drawer.'

Ken stopped reading, and reached for the drawer. He hesitated slightly, his brother's words coming to mind, but pushed his doubt aside and took the strange apparatus out, before turning his gaze back to the screen. 'Use that digivice.'

Without thinking, he raised the digivice up to the screen, and was immediately sucked in.

The next thing he knew, he stood all alone in a vast, empty world, staring out into an ocean full of darkness. The Dark Ocean.

'Where am I?' he whispered, his hair billowing gently in the breeze. Slowly, he waded out into the water, before knelling down and dipping the digivice in. It morphed in his hand, changing into a larger device, grey with white buttons and black grips.

He pulled it out of the water and clutched it tightly.

'This is it. This is my digivice. Not anyone else's but mine alone!'

As he spoke, his calm amethyst eyes began to change; they became a colder, cruel violet colour. He smirked evilly as he stared at the new digivice in his grip. Nothing would stop him now. He had surpassed his older, deceased brother in perfection. And now. he would rule in infinity forever. All will know and fear him...as the Digimon Kaiser.


He hadn't really understood back then, he had so desperately searched for an escape that he had wanted to believe what was written in that email. It had made him feel better, less guilty, and most importantly, wanted. Wanted for who he was, rather than what others wanted him to be,

But now he knew better. He had simply been a puppet for darkness. BelialVamdemon had simply used him to plunge the Digital World into eternal darkness. And his plan would have worked too, had a new generation of Chosen not accomplished what the old could not, and defeated him, ending the Kaiser's reign of terror. But they would not have gained victory had it not been for Wormmon's sacrifice.

He had walked the path of redemption after that, returning to the Digital World to rectify the sins of his past. He embraced his destiny as a Chosen once again. He stayed away from the other Chosen at first, thinking himself unworthy of forgiveness, as well as the fact that most of the other Chosen were uncomfortable around him. Motomiya Daisuke however, was extremely persistent.

He eventually did join the Chosen, and together they drove Demon back into the Dark Ocean. They learnt of the Dark Spores, and discovered that the prototype, buried deep within his body, had been responsible for the Kaiser's rise to power. Thriving on grief and guilt, the spore had grown unhindered, and eventually controlled him.

Together, the Chosen of the World defeated BelialVamdemon, using the positive energy created from their hopes and dreams, and the Digital World was finally at peace.

He, on the other hand, was not.

He had taken a step foreward in redemption, but he had lost the enhancements he had gained from the dark spore. It lay dormant in him, and thus the boy genius the society knew had vanished off the face of the earth.

His parents still loved him though. His disappearance had opened their eyes to their own errors. They were happy with the son they had, and allowed him the freedom he needed to grow. The spore was sated through their love and the love of his friends.

But the darkness had not lost its grip on him.

He took a show, precise step foreward, feeling a mixture of sand, debris and ocean water through the barrier of his school shoes. His Tamachi uniform was soaked due to the relentless rain, and the jacket he had thrown on his shoulders haphazardly had fallen long ago.

If only he could turn time back, then he would have taken it all back. Not even the worst digimon deserved a death like that.

But I guess it was only a matter of time, Ken thought bitterly, taking another step. I always seem to lose more than I gain.

His thoughts drifted to yesterday's events (as it was just past midnight now), as the rain poured down harder, and the wind blew in increased intensity, knocking the ex-Kaiser to his knees in the shallow water before he pushed himself up, the words of the Chosen still echoing through his ears.


'Why should we help someone as tainted as you? I can't think of why anyone would extend a hand to you after what you've done here.'

'You thought "we" wanted to be your friends? It hurts a lot more, doesn't it Kaiser? Abandoned by the people you thought to be your friends.'

'Call it a touch of justice. No-one's going to help you now Kaiser.'

'Would I lie? I am the Chosen of Sincerity after all. But I guess even the Sovereigns make mistakes. After all, the cruel Kaiser was given the Crest of Kindness.'

'And you're so covered in darkness that you could never be one of us.'

'You hurt me, tortured me daily, even killed me, and you have the nerve to ask "me" for help. Why don't you just order one of your slaves, or have they all deserted you? You're on your own "Master".'


Those words had cut into his heart like knives. The people he thought had been his friends had betrayed him, left him. And Wormmon... the one who had stood by him when no-one else had; his words cut even deeper than those of the Chosen.

He had lost it: their friendship. The very thing that had saved him from the darkness had set him back onto that very path. He had lost his last link with humanity. He had destroyed them: the undead. He was a monster.

He took another step, as the wind suddenly increased its velocity. He could no longer feel it though; numbness had settled into his skin.

He was dark; what happened in the forest proved that. He could not be saved. Better, far better, that his existence be erased. No one would miss a monster like him.

He fell foreward into the slightly deeper water, enough to almost completely submerge his body, unwilling to get up again. Darkness once again began to seep into his vision, and just before he fell unconscious, he could hear someone calling his name.

Motomiya Daisuke.

The storm suddenly ceased, and Daisuke, dressed in a heavy raincoat, sheltered under an umbrella, and holding a flashlight in his right hand, spotted his best friend and Jogress partner a little off the shoreline, almost completely submerged in water.

'He's over there.' Daisuke gestured with the flashlight at Ken's still form. 'Just where Koushiro-san said he was.'

After the incident in the digital world, the younger chosen went to Izumi Koushiro in order to track down Ken's digivice signal. It had taken hours, since they had returned to the real world to find a fierce storm in progress, which had interfered with power and phone connections, as well as the digivice signals. With his expertise and numerous equipments, Koushiro had finally tracked down Ken's signal by midnight, and the younger Chosen had dressed in raincoats, grabbed an umbrella each, and set off to find their friend.

'How long was he lying there?' Yagami Hikari asked, clinging to Inoue Miyako for support. Miyako herself looked horrified at Ken's condition, or what could be seen of him, which wasn't a lot.

Takaishi Takeru and Daisuke knelt beside the indigo haired boy, and pulled him out of the water, before dragging him onto the shore.

His skin, pale under normal conditions, was chalk white with a tinge of blue from being out in the storm for so long. His clothes and hair were soaking wet, and clung to his thin frame, making the boy look even more sickly.

The child of hope placed two fingers to Ken's throat, checking for a pulse. He managed to find one after a moment, but it was incredibly faint, and slowing down fast.

'He's fading,' Takeru gasped.

Daisuke, upon the realisation that he might just lose his best friend, had momentarily frozen, so Hida Iori, ever the rational one, took control. 'We'd better get him to the hospital. Lucky it's not far.'

It wasn't, but every second they lost was a second closer to the end of Ken's life. Daisuke, snapping out of his shock, dropped his flashlight and umbrella, gathered Ken's prone form into his arms and set off in a speed that even 'the Rocket' would not been able to match, had he been in any condition to attempt. The others followed a little way back, no match for his speed, stopping to pick up Daisuke's umbrella and flashlight, as well as Ken's jacket along the way.

To say the receptionist on duty was shocked would be an understatement, as she saw a burgundy haired boy burst through the automatic doors, carrying an unconscious, blue haired boy in his arms, followed soon after by four more children. The youngest, a ten year old with brown hair and green eyes, walked up to the receptionist.

'Could you please help our friend?' he asked politely. 'We found him out in the storm.'

She nodded and called for a doctor, taming her curiosity, as it was not in her job description to ask questions. She then turned back to the rest of the group.

'Put him on that stretcher over there,' she told them, gesturing at a vacant stretcher by the wall. Daisuke nodded, and with the help of Takeru placed Ken on the said stretcher. A doctor soon arrived, and wheeled the Child of Kindness through a set of double doors, the doors swinging shut behind them.

'You all may wait in the Parents and Relations room,,' the receptionist said kindly to the Chosen, pointing at a door to their right, before returning to a large pile of paperwork on her desk.

The Chosen filed into the Parents and Relations room, hung their coats and umbrellas to dry, and sat on a couch beside a payphone, each lost in their own thoughts.

'We ought to check if the phones work now,' Iori broke the silence eventually. 'We should tell our parents where we are; they're probably in a panic by now. We should call Ken-san's parents and the older Chosen as well, and tell them.'

Daisuke, who was nearest to the phone, stood and picked up the receiver and listened for a dial tone.

'It works,' he said, his voice unlike its usual cheerfulness. 'Who do we call first?'

'Call Ken-kun's parents first,' Miyako said from next to Iori. 'They ought to know their son's in the hospital. They think he's sleeping over at Daisuke-kun's house.'

Daisuke nodded, inserted some coins, and dialled the number. He waited a moment, before hanging up. 'The call won't go through,' he said. 'The phone lines in Tamachi must still be out of order.' He then hung up the phone, before picking it up again and dialling his own number. He talked to his parents for a few minutes, before hanging up and handing the phone to Takeru. Takeru then called his mother, and then his brother Ishida Yamato, who promised to call the other children. Hikari was next, calling her parents and then Iori, and finally Miyako. Before she sat down however, she attempted Ken's home number one more time.

She sighed, before hanging up the phone. 'Still not working,' she said, taking her seat beside Iori.

All of them had gotten permission from their parents to stay. So they settled themselves for a long wait, since none of them were going to sleep for the remainder of the night.

It was nearly sunrise by the time the Doctor came out of the ICU. He called them over before leading them down the hallway to a hospital room where Ken lay, connected to numerous tubes and wires. His paleness was made more prominent by the white sheets and walls, and he was breathing through an oxygen mask. An Electrocardiogram beside the bed monitored his heartbeat,

'How is he?' Hikari whispered.

'His condition is critical, but has stabilised for now,' the Doctor replied. 'Were you aware he wasn't breathing when you brought him in?'

The five shook their heads, and Takeru flushed in embarrassment. He had forgotten to check if Ken had been breathing when he checked for a heartbeat.

The Doctor stared at the children critically. He looked to be in his early forties, dressed in a white lab coat and black pants, and a stethoscope hung around his neck. His hair was brown and tamed by scissors, but seemed to still rebel, and his eyes were a dark shade of brown.

'How did this happen?' he asked.

'We don't know.' Iori swiftly cut in as Daisuke opened his mouth, in order to prevent him from revealing the Digital World. 'We just found him lying in the water near the shoreline.'

The Doctor didn't look convinced. 'And what were you kids doing out at midnight and during such a fierce storm?'

'Looking for him,' Daisuke muttered. 'He was supposed to stay overnight at my house. We were over at a friend's house, and he left for a while, saying he would be back, but he never returned. Eventually, we got worried and went looking for him.'

The Doctor still didn't look convinced, but didn't argue, instead taking out his clipboard and pen, and scribbling something.

'His name?' he asked once he stopped scribbling.

'Ichijoji Ken,' Iori replied. The Doctor wrote it down.



'Home number.'

Iori wasn't sure, so Daisuke told him. The Doctor nodded, tucking the pen behind his ear. 'You all may stay with your friend if you like, but if you hear the Electrocardiogram beeping, press the call button.' He pointed to the machine monitoring Ken's heartbeat, then at a red button within an arm's reach of the bed. 'Call if he wakes up as well, although it's unlikely he will anytime soon. He needs time to recover. I'll tell the receptionist to contact his parents.' He then left the room, closing the door behind him.

A boy of age 11 lay peacefully in the darkness, no longer feeling in favour of the numbness that he had accepted long ago. Shadows caressed the cold skin; black tendrils gently wrapping around the child to prevent escape, although at that particular moment, said child had no intention of moving anywhere.


What was that? The boy struggled slightly, and the tendrils tightened their hold. He managed to lift his head slightly, when the tendrils recoiled from the newfound source of light. He caught a glimpse of something, but was unable to discern what it was.

'Ototu-chan!' the same voice cried, louder this time... closer. The tendrils released him and fled, lurking in the dark recedes of his mind for another opportunity to claim their prize.

The boy sat up, warming up at the newfound source of light, as things became more visible. Indigo locks fell over amethyst eyes, before a pale and delicate hand brushed it away. The figure calling became clearer as well. He was about 14 years old, with spiked up indigo hair, and amethyst eyes hidden by gold-rimmed glasses. He was wearing an army green hooded jumper, and a navy blue shirt underneath. His jeans were a dark shade of grey, and he wore standard white sneakers on his feet.

The eleven year old's mouth fell open in shock. 'Osamu nii-san?'

Osamu smiled sadly. 'Hey there Ken-chan.'

'But you died,' Ken whispered, shock still evident. 'I wished you were dead, and then you died. It was all my fault. Everything's my fault.'

'Stop that Ken!' Osamu shouted, not adding a suffix after his little brother's name. 'It's not your fault, so stop blaming yourself. Don't you understand? This is what the darkness wants. You can't give up!'

'Why not?' Ken muttered. 'I thought my friends cared, but they don't. Okaa-san and Otou-san would be happier without me; all I've brought them is pain.'

'Your friends do care,' Osamu said quietly. 'Picodevimon showed you a lie. The truth cannot be hidden from the dead.'

Something clicked in Ken's mind. 'If you're dead onii-san, then how am I able to talk to you?'

Osamu smiled sadly again. 'We are in limbo now. It is a crossroad of sorts between life and death.'

'So I'm dead?' Ken questioned.

'No,' Osamu replied. 'Just dreaming... for now.'

'For now?' Ken asked.

'You need to know the truth,' Osamu answered simply. 'After that, it's your choice.'

'I can stay with you?' He sounded hopeful, pleading even. Osamu however, shook his head. 'There is a difference between giving up and not succeeding.'

Ken's head shot up. 'Huh? What do you mean onii-san?'

Osamu looked away. 'You'll have to find the answer to that on your own ototu-chan.'

'But why onii-chan?' he wailed. 'Why?'

Osamu didn't answer, instead coming closer and pulling his little brother into a warm embrace. Ken sobbed quietly into his jumper, and the two brothers stood till the tears subdued.

'Why?' Ken asked again, after his tears ceased.

'Because I had my chance and blew it,' he replied after a brief pause. 'You still have a chance, and you shouldn't waste it.'

'That wasn't what I meant.' Ken half-glared at his older brother.

'I know,' Osamu said sadly. 'I'm sorry. Sorry for not being a good brother to you.'

'You were, no are, a good brother,' Ken rebuked. 'I was just too jealous of you.'

Osamu laughed softly. 'You always were too kind. Taking all the blame upon yourself so others don't have to suffer. Everyone makes mistakes Ken-chan. No-one's perfect.'

'Even you?' he asked.

'Even me,' Osamu affirmed. 'Remember when I scolded you for touching the digivice. I didn't say all those things to you because I hated you Ken-chan. I said them because I was trying to protect you. After all, you are my ototu-chan. But I just hurt you more. As for what happened after, I'm just as much to blame as you. Probably more, since I was the one who taught you to be like that. But I think BelialVandemon deserves most of the credit.'

Ken opened his mouth to argue, but Osamu cut him off. 'Enough. When you get home, look up Martin Seligman's theory of learned optimism. In the meantime, let me show you what really happened.'

He pointed at a dark mass in the distance, which shifted and changed to show the events that had occurred previously.


The younger children had gathered together for one of their frequent picnics. This particular one was in a forest, just outside the Koromon village. Takeru, the child of Hope, had chosen the spot, near a waterfall that hid a cave. His partner, Tokomon, had once been held captive behind that waterfall, but since the danger had long passed, they were able to admire its beauty.

Hikari, the child of Light, spread a large checked blanket over a patch of lush green grass, located under the shade of the forest canopy. Her jogress partner, the child of Love and Purity, Miyako, set a basket down on the edge, packed with food from their family's convenience store. Iori, the child of Knowledge and Faith, set a container of sushi down, next to the plates his jogress partner, Takeru had brought.

Daisuke, the child of Courage and Friendship, as well as Ken's jogress partner, set down his load of cans, before plopping down on the mat. Ken, the child of Kindness, brought the remaining drinks, before taking a seat next to Daisuke. The digimon sat in their own circle, enjoying snacks from the convenience store, and the rest of the Chosen formed a circle on the blanket.

They enjoyed the meal, talking about school and other trivial matters. Ken tuned them out after a while, since he went to a different school than the other Chosen. Something was weighing on the back of his mind. A dark, foreboding feeling. After a while, he got up and left, abandoning his half-eaten sandwich.

'I'll be back soon,' he called to the other Chosen, who were still immersed in their conversation. They waved goodbye to him before resuming their conversation, and the digimon seated further away did not hear him.

He walked through the forest based on instinct, till the sounds of someone crying reached his ears. He broke into a run, following the sounds, till he burst through a cluster of trees and into a clearing. A Picodevimon lay there, blood oozing out from various wounds. One of its wings looked as though it was sprained, and the undead digimon was crying in pain, tears streaming from its eyes.

Ken's heart went out to the creature as he knelt beside it. After all, he was the Chosen Child of Kindness.

'You are ... the Kaiser,' the rookie coughed out.

Ken winced at the unwelcomed reminder of his past, but brushed it off in favour of the digimon's condition. 'Ex-Kaiser,' he corrected gently. 'Let me help you.' He reached to touch the injured wing, but pulled back when the digimon shied away from him in a mixture of fear and anger.

'Don't touch me,' he cried, trying to sound brave but failing miserably. He tried to move further away, but found himself temporarily incapacitated due to his numerous wounds. 'Haven't you done enough harm here?!'

'Don't move so much,' Ken cautioned, taking a step back as not to agitate the already hurt digimon, keeping the hurt those harsh words caused to himself.

'You killed ... my family, and ... enslaved my friends,' he continued, ignoring the Chosen's words. As an undead digimon, he had remarkable healing capabilities, proven time and time again. And even how, his skin was slowly healing itself; blood no longer dripped from his cuts. 'The Devidramon that ... lived in the ... cave up North, and the ... undead that ... lived in the nearby ... village ...'

Ken stared at these words. Till this day, he was discovering the extent of damage caused by his reign as the Digimon Kaiser.

'I'm not that person anymore,' he choked, his voice catching in his throat. 'You have to believe me. I know I've done a lot of terrible things in the past, but I've paid for my mistakes and I'm truly sorry now.'

'And the Chosen?' the undead asked, pushing himself to his feet, his wounds all but healed. 'Have they forgiven you, tainted as you are? Would they come for you if you were in danger?'

'Of course.' A slight hesitation, which Picodevimon immediately picked on.

'Are you sure? Can you say it without a shadow of doubt?'

A pause. The undead smirked. 'I didn't think so. But let's test that, shall we?'

Amethyst eyes widened. 'What a-Aargh!' He screamed suddenly as sharp claws cut through the back of his shirt and into his skin. He turned his head slightly and saw the large shadow of a Devidramon looming over him, before being knocked off his feet and slammed into the hard ground. Catching sight of another shadow on the ground, he lifted his head slightly, coming face to face with Lady Devimon.

'Wormmon,' he whispered faintly. 'Guys ... please help me.'

'They won't come,' Picodevimon stated, stepping into Ken's line of vision. 'You're all alone.'

'Ken-kun is sure taking a long time,' Daisuke stated, staring at the empty spot and half-eaten sandwich. 'He's been gone by more than an hour.'

That was true; the sun was nearing the horizon towards the west, rays of light filtering though the forest canopy. They had all finished eating, and had saved some food and a drink for Ken. However, it was taking him far too long to return.

'Maybe he got lost,' Miyako suggested,. 'We should go look for him.'

The Chosen looked at the digimon, and at Wormmon in particular. The green caterpillar's antennae were drooping, and big blue eyes gazed worriedly up. 'Something feels wrong. Ken-can could be in danger.'

V-mon came over to his Jogress partner and comforted him. 'We'll find him Wormmon. Don't worry.' The two looked over to the other Chosen, who were quietly discussing something.

Everybody present suddenly flew up in alarm as a scream echoed through the surrounding area.

'Ken-chan,' Wormmon screamed in panic, bounding off in the general direction of the scream, followed closely by the other digimon and Chosen, hoping they weren't too late to help their friend. The same thought ran thorough their heads.

Please hang in there Ken.

Ken lay, barely moving the hard ground. His shirt was practically ripped in two, and scratches and cuts littered his pale skin. Blood poured out of the broken skin, and a group of undead digimon surrounded his body,

'Where are your precious friends now?' Picodevimon taunted, staring down at Ken's prone form.

'They'll ... come,' Ken managed to cough, before hissing in pain.

His voice betrayed his rapidly dwindling hope. He had lain for a half-hour, enduring the repetitive beatings, till he lay on the ground, his energy almost spent, hoping all the while that his friends would arrive to help him. But they never came.

'Perhaps,' Picodevimon shrugged. 'But who's to say they won't turn their back on you.'

The Chosen and their digimon ran in the direction of the previous screams, hoping all the while that their friend was safe. They burst through the same cluster of trees Ken had previously, and found the indigo haired boy lying face-down on the ground, unmoving.

Daisuke immediately knelt down beside his Jogress partner, and pulled the prone form into his lap. Brushing indigo locks from the pale face, Daisuke noticed his eyes moving rapidly beneath their eyelids.

'A dream then?' Iori asked, hovering over the two. Hikari knelt beside Daisuke, and Takeru and Miyako stood behind them. Wormmon had latched onto his partner's leg, looking as though he had no intention of ever letting go, and the other digimon crowded around their Chosen, except Tailmon, who was suspiciously sniffed the ground nearby. The scent she had picked up attributed to only one digimon she knew.

'Picodevimon,' the feline digimon hissed.

The others, except Patamon and Ken, looked up in surprise. Ken did not move, but Patamon looked livid.

'All Picodevimon are the same,' he scowled. 'They prey on their victim's doubts and insecurities, and pick their defences apart till they are left vulnerable to the darkness.'

The Chosen, except Takeru who already knew this from his first encounter with the undead digimon, gasped.

'So you think ... Ken's ...' Daisuke stuttered.

'No,' Tailmon interrupted, catching on what the Chosen Child of Courage and Friendship had been about to ask. 'Picodevimon just put him to sleep. If he's dreaming, then it's dark power must be influencing his dream.'

'How do we stop it?' Wormmon asked from his position on Ken's leg.

Tailmon put her paw to her chin thoughtfully. 'Mind attacks such as this require concentration. If we attack him, we should be able to break Picodevimon's concentration.'

Iori looked down at the green caterpillar. 'You stay here with Ken-san,' he said kindly. 'We'll handle Picodevimon.' He then turned towards the feline digimon, who had resumed sniffing the ground. 'Which direction Tailmon?'

Tailmon pointed due East, through an extremely dense cluster of trees. Tailmon sped off in that direction, with the other Chosen and digimon following, leaving Wormmon to stand vigil over the prone form of his partner.

Ken looked up in shock. No … they wouldn't! … Would they?

Those seeds of doubt from his earlier days still existed. What if Picodevimon was right? What if they really didn't care enough to help him in a time of need. What if-

He was suddenly jerked out of his thoughts, literary, by LadyDevimon pulling his head up by his hair. He gasped faintly at the sudden movement and the pain that accompanied it. He gasped again when he saw what, or rather who, were standing in front of him.

The Chosen children. They had come for him. And Wormmon too. His hopes were soon dashed however, when he saw the looks on their faces. Pure loathing.

But still he pleaded with them. 'Help me … please.'

Daisuke's upper lip curled up in disdain. 'Why should we help someone as tainted as you? I can't think of why anyone would extend a hand to you after what you've done here.'

Amethyst eyes widened in shock. 'But … I thought…'

Takeru cut him off. 'You thought "we" wanted to be your friends?' He snorted. 'It hurts a lot more, doesn't it Kaiser? Abandoned by the people you thought to be your friends.'

'Call it a touch of justice,' Iori added, his voice laced with hate. 'No-one's going to help you now Kaiser.'

Miyako nodded in agreement.

'No… please … you can't …' Ken cried, pain and hurt evident in his voice.

'Would I lie?' Miyako replied, shrugging. 'I am the Chosen of Sincerity after all. But I guess even the Sovereigns make mistakes. After all, the cruel Kaiser was given the Crest of Kindness.'

'And you're so covered in darkness that you could never be one of us,' Hikari spat, before turning on her heel and walking away, the other Chosen following. Wormmon, on the other hand, remained.

'Wormmon… please,' Ken begged, staring at his partner's blue eyes, hoping beyond hope that he wouldn't abandon him like the others. But it was all in vain.

'You hurt me, tortured me daily, even killed me, and you have the nerve to ask "me" for help. Why don't you just order one of your slaves, or have they all deserted you? You're on your own "Master".' And with that, Wormmon followed the Chosen, disappearing into the cluster of trees.

No, he thought. This couldn't be happening. My friends wouldn't just leave me.

'Would you argue with what you've seen?' Demidevimon asked, walking up to Ken as LadyDevimon finally released her grip on his hair. Ken simply lay on the ground, broken in both body and mind, as the shadows grew closer.

The Chosen and their digimon, minus Ken and Wormmon, burst into another clearing, spotting Picodevimon perched on a low branch on the other side. Patamon and Hawkon flew up to him, while Tailmon scaled the tree.

'Air Shot.' Patamon launched a blast of air from his cheeks. Picodevimon simply sidestepped to avoid the blow.

'Cat punch,' Tailmon cried , attempting to punch the undead digimon, who evaded the angry feline with a flap of his wings.

'Feather slash.' Hawkmon shot a feather at Picodevimon, who landed to avoid being hit.

'Rolling stone,' Armadillomon declared, curling up into a ball and rolling towards the undead digimon. It dodged, resulting in Armadillomon crashing into the tree an knocking himself out cold.

Tailmon continued to attempt to claw him, rather unsuccessfully as he kept dodging, and Patamon and Hawkmon tried attacking when it hit the air, Veemon helping out by attempting head buts whenever he could, but focused more on protecting the unconscious Armadillomon.

'Can't that blue fluff ball stay still,' Daisuke seethed. 'Our digimon can't land any attacks. At this rate, Ken'll-'

'No!' Miyako screamed, cutting off what Daisuke was about to say. 'We have to save him. We have to!'

Wormmon glanced up, hearing the voice of the burgundy haired leader, soon followed by the lavender haired girl. He looked back at Ken, looking for any change in his condition. He found none. He stared at the cluster of trees where the raised voices came through, before starting as he heard another voice, this one unfamiliar, laughing wickedly.

At that moment, he made up his mind. His sticky net would put an end to Picodevimon's tricks, and Ken would be alright for a little while. Right? But if the attacks never hit, Ken might never wake up.

With that in mind, he bounded for the cluster of trees, passing through effortlessly. Hidden in the shadow cast by the trees, he waited for Picodevimon to near, before hitting it with a sticky net and pinning him to the ground, catching the undead digimon unawares.

Ten heads (as Armadillomon was now conscious) turned towards the green caterpillar, who was inwardly dancing in his victory.

'You were supposed to be looking after Ken-kun,' Miyako sighed, exasperated.

'Your digimon wouldn't have been able to hold Picodevimon still,' Wormmon rebuked, gesturing at the said digimon, who was currently entangled in a mass of webbing.

'He's right,' Takeru pointed out. 'Picodevimon wasn't holding still long enough for our digimon to land an attack.'

'Well we can now, thanks to Wormmon,' Daisuke praised, making the green caterpillar blush in embarrassment. 'Hit 'em guys!'

'V-mon head.'

'Feather slash.'

'Rolling stone.'

'Cat punch.'

'Air shot.'

'Silk thread.'

The six digimons' attacks hit their mark simultaneously, breaking the webbing that held the undead captive, as well as a few bones in his body. Blood poured out of fresh wounds, but he was smiling.

'You're … too late,' he gasped out, before disappearing.

'Should we go after him?' Daisuke asked.

'No,' Iori replied. 'Right now Ken-san is our primary concern.'

'Then let's go.' Hikari bent down to pick Tailmon up, before heading back to the clearing they had been in previously. The others quickly followed, hoping that Picodevimon was lying, or wrong. Hoping that they weren't too late.

Ken gasped suddenly as a cold wave of darkness began to consume his mind and cloud his didn't fight. Instead, he welcomed the cold, numbing feeling that would put an end to his pain. The darkness that would allow these digimon to feel the same pain they had inflicted on him.

The darkness caressed his skin, licking the wounds as they healed. After a moment, no evidence of his torture remained. None, except the darkness coursing through his body.

He smirked at the undead digimon, cowering in fear, before raising his index finger with precision, a torrent of dark energy bursting from the tip. It struck LadyDevimon where she stood, blasting her into oblivion, before the energy spread, consuming the undead around him. For a moment, all he could hear was the sound of ear-shattering scream, ones that would have shook him to his core, had his heart not been so shrouded in darkness.

The darkness spread, and nothing else could be seen through its thick veil. Then, he retched and his world began receding, as in the clearing, his eyes fluttered open.

He heard movement behind him, and without thinking, turned heel and ran. Ran away from his problems, as he always did. He disappeared from view, just as the other Chosen burst into the clearing, finding it empty.

Ken was gone.


'Picodevimon was just trying to make me doubt them,' Ken whispered, once the image faded. 'They really do care. I should never had doubted them.'

'Everyone makes mistakes Ken-chan,' Osamu consoled. 'Picodevimon wanted you to fail. You have to prove him wrong.'

'But I'll never see you again,' Ken wailed, clinging onto his brother like a lifeline.

'To gain, you always have to lose,' Osamu replied.

'But I'll never see you again,' Ken repeated.

'Of course you will,' Osamu replied sheepishly. 'I've been following you around since I died, keeping an eye on you.'

'Will I be able to see you?' Ken asked, considerably happier.

'Only you,' he replied, before fading out.

'Thank you Osamu-niisan,' he whispered into the darkness. He would fight the darkness. To the death should he have to, but he'll never give up again.

And the darkness faded.

It had been three days since Ken had been brought in, and his condition had begun improving from late last night. The Chosen, sent home by their parents around 8am of the first day, arranged shifts during non-visiting hours so someone would be with Ken at all times.

Coincidently, at this particular moment in time, all the Chosen, even the original (except Mimi, who was in America) were visiting during the visiting hours, along with Ken's parents, who were worried out of their minds for their only remaining son.

The figure on the bed suddenly shifted. They all held their breath, and watched as amethyst eyes fluttered open and stared hazily at his surroundings. His eyes soon focused on the Chosen and his parents standing beside the bed.

'I'm sorry,' he whispered through the oxygen mask.

'For what?' Iori asked, since most of the others were inwardly celebrating Ken's awakening, and had thus missed the apology.

'Sorry … for doubting you,' he replied, before closing his eyes and falling back asleep.

His parents looked confused, as did the older Chosen, but the younger ones smiled at each other. They knew that whatever Picodevimon had done was now rectified.

And outside the door, a silhouette of Ichijoji Osamu smiled as well. His precious ototu-chan was no longer in the grip of darkness. He was safe, for now. Who knew how much more would be lost along the journey of life, but it always works out better in the end.

Two figures stood in a dark and empty world. The only light came from a Dark Tower, and was dark, and the only colour came from the two figures: the digimon. They stood in the world of darkness, on the shore of the Dark Ocean.

'You failed me Picodevimon,' the taller one hissed, malice evident in his voice.

'I tried Master,' the other, smaller one pleaded, falling to its knees. 'His trust in them was shattered.'

'And yet he is still alive, and free from the darkness' grip,' the taller continued. 'How?'

'I don't know,' the other sobbed. 'Please Master, just give me another chance.'

The taller one laughed, a horrible laugh that echoed throughout the empty world. 'You've outlived your usefulness.'

Picodevimon's eyes widened. 'No Master … please – Aargh!' He suddenly caught fire, and with a scream, he was destroyed.

'Such incompetence,' the first one sighed, retreating into the ocean.

Author's Notes

Just some end notes:

Themes and Variations is an Advanced Psychology textbook which is used in year 11 and 12 IB, as well as some university courses in Australia. It belongs to Weiten, and whoever published it.

All flashbacks except the last one come from the English subbed version of episode 23 of Adventure 02 - "When the Digivice is Tainted by Darkness". Those flashbacks are the property of Toei Animation.

Explanation of Martin Seligman's theory of learned optimism: Seligman conducted a study of dogs in order to prove/disprove Skinner's theory of operant conditioning (an action is presented with a reward or punishment to encourage/discourage behaviour) and came up with his theory of learned helplessness (a pessimistic approach where people tend to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong), wherein he applied the discovery from the dogs experiment (the dogs were strapped into a harness and repeatedly shocked, and therefore when the restraints were removed, a majority of them didn't move the dogs had learned to be helpless) to human behaviour, which serves as an explanation for depression. He found some exceptions to this theory, so he developed a flip side theory, called the theory of learned optimism, which is used to combat depression. Learned optimism calls for a more optimistic outlook on life, so instead of blaming yourself for things that go wrong, you blame someone else, something else, or even fate itself. Osamu mentions this particular theory to Ken because of his tendency to blame everything on himself, although it not necessarily was.

The Purpose: It's a good lesson to know; when feeling down about anything, the worst thing you can possibly do is put all the blame on yourself. It just leads to more things such as depression, which leads to even worse things such as attempted suicide or evil.

I am not a psychology expert, just a year 11 student who happened to study this last term. So if my explanation is confusing, I apologize.

If you didn't manage to catch the digimon with Picodevimon at the end in the World of Darkness/Dark Ocean, it was Demon.