Chapter 38: Soldier of Faith
Primary Village, File Island
"TAKATO!" Sora screamed, voice cracking, as Gallantmon vanished in a flurry of data, becoming a ball of white light. Takato and Guilmon's bodies slumped to the ground once the light disappeared. "NO!" Sora bolted forward, pushing past the other Digidestined as she sprinted across the field towards where her friends had fallen.
"Sora, wait, stop!" Tai tried to grab the girl's arm, but she slipped out of his grasp and continued on her way. "Kudamon, go help her!" He cried, looking down at the girl's partner Digimon. However Kudamon was already gone. He had chased after the Digidestined and run in front of her, aimed straight for Henry.
"Kudamon digivolve to… Reppamon!" The fox Digimon took up off the ground in a gallop and launched its body at Henry, who jumped away. The champion Digimon chased him down, widening the gap between the evil tamer and Sora.
"Takato!" She dropped down to her knees upon reaching the boy, turning him over off his stomach and onto the back. "Takato, wake up!" She cried, shaking him violently, but he didn't respond. She put her hand in front of his mouth, feeling for breath.
"Help!" She turned her head and screamed to Tai and Matt, who were already running towards her. "He's not breathing!"
"Let me see!" Tai came down on the other side of the boy, dropping down to his knees, while Matt tended to Guilmon. Tai grabbed the boy's arm and pressed his fingers against the limp wrist.
"Help him… please…" Sora whimpered.
"He still has a pulse," Tai sighed with relief, "He's still alive for now."
"Oh, thank god…" Sora whimpered, her body dropping down onto Takato's chest. "Then why isn't he breathing?" She looked back up at Tai, her face covered in tears. Takato then started coughing.
"Hey, Takato!" Tai bent down and pulled the boy off the ground, leaning him against his body. Takato sputtered for a few more seconds, finally opening his eyes.
"You're okay!" Sora cheered. She wrapped her arms around him, squeezing him tightly.
"Henry…" Takato moaned quietly, "You have to…"
"Takato, what's going on?" Tai asked as the boy struggled to stay conscious. "Who is that, and how was he able to beat you?"
"You have to save him," Takato groaned once more, "You h-h-have to save him from-m-m-m…" At that he fell unconscious once more.
"No, Takato, please wake up!" Sora cried, grasping the boy's face.
"Let him rest Sora," Tai set the boy down and pulled Sora away. He held the girl against his chest as she began to sob. "How's Guilmon?" Tai looked over to Matt, who was tending to the rookie.
"Unconscious, but alive," Matt replied, "I can feel his chest rising and falling, but it's really minute. We have to get them medical treatment."
"I can help with that," Swanmon glided over to the group, "Allow me to care for these two."
"Thank you Swanmon," Tai nodded at her, "Did you get J.P. and Davis to safety?" Earlier, once the fight began, Tai had asked the swan Digimon to get the two unconscious boys and their partners out of the open.
"Yes, they are safely inside the warehouse," She nodded over to the warehouse in the middle of the field, "I shall take Takato and Guilmon over there as well." She picked up the tamer and slung him over her shoulder, doing the same with Guilmon. The bird then pushed off the ground and started gliding over to the warehouse.
"Agh!" They heard Reppamon cry from behind them. The three tamers turned around to see the champion Digimon being flung towards them, where it crashed onto the ground a few feet away.
"Oh no, Kudamon!" Sora broke away from Tai and ran over to her partner, who had just degenerated into his rookie form. She scooped up the monster and backed away as Henry slowly made his way over to the three tamers.
"What do you want with us?" Tai growled as he and Matt came up in front of Sora, shielding her from the evil tamer as he walked closer and closer to them.
"Ha, I no longer require anything from any of you." Henry grinned wickedly. "All I needed was the dark needle that was growing inside of Junpei, though that battle with Gallantmon was mildly entertaining."
"You bastard," Tai hissed, "Is this just some sort of game to you?"
"On the contrary," Henry growled, "I've been waiting a long time for this, longer than you can imagine."
"Who are you!?" Matt demanded. "Why are you so strong!?"
"And that's the question of the day, Matt." Henry grinned. "Now tell me, if I'm not Henry, then who else could I possibly be? What other life form is connected to this body aside from his? I think you know the answer."
"What are you…?" Matt's eyes widened, his jaw dropped, "There's no way."
"Matt, who is he?" Tai looked at the boy, who was too stunned to speak.
"You should know the answer too, Tai. After all, you've fought me before." Henry started to laugh hysterically. "What, you don't recognize me?"
"You're not…" Tai stopped as he began to connect the dots, "Another body that inhabits his…"
"The dark needle," Matt growled through closed teeth.
"It can't be," Tai gasped.
"Devimon!" Matt roared. "How dare you!"
"No, there's no way you're Devimon!" Tai bellowed.
"Oh, but I am." Henry smiled. "Years ago I placed this dark needle in this young boy's body. Eventually, all the other needles I placed in the other Digidestined were removed, but this one continued to grow. While my real body died, my consciousness lived on within this boy. That's why I hid him away, that's why you forgot about him: a contingency plan in case I were to fail, and it was a good thing too!"
"You're not him." Tai said bluntly, glaring angrily at the shadowy tamer. "Devimon made a lot of mistakes in the past, but in the end, when it counted, he was on our side."
"Open your eyes, boy, of course I'm him!" Henry's voice grew deep and angry.
"Piedmon was our friend!" Tai yelled. "He was our ally, a Royal Knight, and even though his path led to his own destruction, in the end he still believed in helping the digital world, and he did so by helping us defeat Apocalymon! You are not him!"
"You fail to understand," Henry scoffed, "I am both him, and not him at the same time. I am Devimon, not Piedmon." Tai and Matt gasped at his words.
"What are you talking about?" Matt cried. "You just said-!"
"You failed to listen, boy, and I grow tired of your ignorance!" Henry raised his arm and slashed, sending a wave of dark energy at the trio of tamers.
"Move!" Tai pushed Matt and Sora out of the way, jumping along with them, to dodge the blast, which ripped apart the ground they had been standing on.
"I'm done with this irrelevant conversation," Henry groaned, "It's time to go claim the rest of my power." With that, he began to rise into the air. "Consider this a gift, Digidestined, I will spare your lives for now. I have no interest in killing those that are too weak and too stupid to defend themselves. Though I imagine you will try to meddle in my affairs again, so I will save you the troubles of searching for me. I await your arrival at Reboot Island. Become much stronger than you are now, because if you don't I will exterminate you!" With that, he flew off, zooming across the sky, leaving a dark trail of energy in his wake.
"I don't get it, who was he?" Matt barked, slamming his fist into the ground. "How can he be Devimon and not Devimon at the same time?"
"He said he was Devimon, not Piedmon." Tai stroked his chin. "I don't understand what's going on either, but there's no way he's the Piedmon who helped us defeat Apocalymon."
"We should go check on the others." Sora chimed in. Matt and Tai looked back at her. The girl was on her knees, trembling, holding her unconscious partner in her arms.
"Okay, good idea Sora." Tai helped her up off the ground, and the three tamers then made their way over to the warehouse. Swanmon was inside along with a group of Elecmon, who had Davis, Junpei, Takato, and their partners lying on straw beds. Swanmon was tending to Guilmon, who looked to be in the worst shape.
"How are they doing?" Sora asked with a whimper, walking up to the beds where Takato and Guilmon lay. "Are they going to be okay?"
"They're both very exhausted," Swanmon answered her, "That battle took its toll on both of them. However it seems that Guilmon absorbed most of the physical damage, preventing Takato from suffering any lasting harm. I don't know if that's just the nature of fusion between humans and Digimon, or if Guilmon purposefully broke the fusion before Takato could take damage, but regardless, Takato is relatively unharmed.
"And Guilmon?" Tai inquired.
"He's far worse off, however as a Digimon he is able to recover a lot quicker than any human can. He will live, however I will have to monitor his condition to make sure that he does not worsen."
"That's great to hear," Tai sighed with relief, "I'm sorry he had to take all that damage, but at least they'll both be okay."
"Ugh…" From the edge of the room, Davis awoke. He sat himself up, leaning on his knee. "What happened?"
"Davis, how are you feeling?" Matt walked over to the tamer.
"Like I got hit by a runaway Trailmon, now can somebody tell me what happened?" Tai and Matt began to explain everything that had transpired, and then recapping it once Veemon awoke, due to all the noise.
"That bastard!" Veemon growled. "I'll kick his ass!"
"Yeah, where is he?" Davis jumped to his feet, stumbled as he became dizzy, and then fell back down again.
"We'll go after him when everybody is rested." Matt replied. "In the meantime, why don't you both get some rest?"
"Ergh…" Davis growled in protest, but stayed sitting.
"Swanmon, if it's not too much trouble," Sora came up to the bird Digimon, who was now looking over Junpei and Gaomon, "Could you check on Kudamon for me? He took a hit pretty hard from Henry."
"Don't worry about me," Kudamon said weakly, jumping out of Sora's arms. He shook his fur as he landed, stretching his forelimbs, "I'm just a little bruised, I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?" Swanmon looked down at the rookie.
"Yes, I'm sure. The others need more help anyway." He looked back to Sora, but she was walking towards the door.
"Sora, where are you going?"
"I just need some air." Sora replied under her breath. Kudamon darted after her.
"Very well," Swanmon said, "The tamers and their partners are in stable condition," She turned to the tamers who were awake, "Tai, Matt, if you two will follow me, there is something upstairs I think you need to see."
"Sure Swanmon," Tai and Matt both nodded, and followed her up the stairs.
Kudamon slipped out of the warehouse, looking for Sora, but she was already out of sight. He rounded the building and spotted her sitting against the side of the warehouse, head in her hands, crying.
"Sora," Kudamon sighed as he ran up to her. He used his nose to push her head out of her hands, and then smiled as the girl began to wipe the tears off her face. "There's no need to cry now, everything's going to be alright. Takato and Guilmon are fine."
"I know, I just," Sora held her hand to her mouth, holding back sobs, "I just got so scared when I thought they were dead. It's never been so real to me before. Even when Joe got hurt, it never really dawned on me that real lives are at stake here. Digimon come back as digi-eggs, but humans…"
"Humans die for real." Kudamon nodded in understanding. "I don't think Digimon are even taught to fear death. They only fear the dark times, like now, where evil forces conspire to plunge the world into misery and chaos. It's the quality of their lives they're taught to fear, not the end of it. For you, it's different. You have to worry about whether or not you'll come out of a situation in one piece. You don't have the luxury of being reconfigured."
"In ways its worse for you." Sora wiped her eyes dry. "No matter how horrible it is here, you'll always come back to be put through it again and again. Maybe this place isn't magical, maybe it's just hell in disguise."
"But don't forget, it also gives us the opportunity to try and break free, like right now. Even if I were to die, I'd come back eventually, and I'd be able to help you defeat whatever enemy had destroyed me. Being reconfigured is both a gift and a curse. It can trap us in a seemingly endless cycle of pain and despair, but it also affords us the ability to try and change the outcome, no matter how many times we fail."
"I don't think we'll ever change the outcome this time." Sora sniffed as she spoke.
"What do you mean? Of course we can. This is just like every other enemy we've fought. He has a weakness, we just have to find it."
"You saw what he did to Gallantmon." Sora cried. "He was a Royal Knight, and Henry didn't even break a sweat when fighting him. If a Royal Knight can't even defeat him, what chance do we as a group have? It's hopeless." Sora dropped her head down.
"No, I don't want to hear that." Kudamon pushed Sora's head out of her lap with his paw. "Aren't you forgetting something? You're the Digidestined of faith. We're the Digidestined of faith. Our power comes from believing in ourselves, our friends, and our cause. If you doubt yourself, even for a moment, then you're right, it is hopeless. But if you believe, like I do, that there's always a chance, as long as we're still together, then nothing can stop us. No matter how many times we're set back, the Digidestined will always find a way."
"Do you really think so?"
"Don't you get it? It's not about thinking so; it's about believing it, knowing it in your heart and soul. You can't rationalize it. You just have to believe, and trust in your own power and the power of your friends."
"Oh, Kudamon." Sora let tears run down her face, but this time they were tears of joy, staring down at her partner as a light deep within him began to shine, causing her crest to shine as well. She embraced the Digimon, hugging him tightly, as the two lights joined and enveloped them both.
"What are these?" Matt gasped as he, Tai, and Swanmon arrived on the second floor. They were staring across the room at a number of digi-eggs that had been isolated from the others in the field.
"Don't you feel it Matt?" Tai smiled, looking across the room. He reached down his shirt and pulled out his crest, which was glowing faintly. Matt, surprised, grabbed his crest too. It also began to glow.
"When he had control of the island, Henry tried to isolate and destroy the digi-eggs of the original Digidestined. He wanted to make sure he had every one in his sights before he destroyed them, so he could be sure that they were all exterminated. As for the digi-eggs of the Royal Knights, which can't be destroyed by conventional means, he tried to get me to tell him how to get rid of them."
"How do you do that?" Matt inquired.
"The Royal Knight's digi-eggs can only be destroyed by breaking the bond of the Royal Knights. To do that, you must destroy the heart of the Royal Knights."
"What's the heart of the Royal Knights?"
"The heart of the Royal Knights lies in the digi-core of the Digimon who brings all the other Royal Knights together. This knight is the one true descendent of Susanoomon. Destroy him, and his digi-core, and the Royal Knights become vulnerable. Defeated? No. But the clock begins to tick."
"Which member of the Royal Knights holds the heart then?" Tai asked as he walked over to the rows of digi-eggs.
"And that is what stopped Henry from being able to destroy them, for I do not know which member of the Royal Knights holds the heart. Also, the heart can only be destroyed while the Digimon is in its full form, when the digi-core is accessible."
"Sounds like the Royal Knights have developed a pretty strong defense for themselves." Matt observed. "They all protect each other."
"That was the gift given to them by Susanoomon. His descendent protects the Royal Knights, and the Royal Knights in turn protect him. Even the digi-cores of all the other Knights are safe from destruction in the vulnerable period before digi-eggs are reconfigured. Susanoomon only gave them this one weakness should the Knights become corrupt.
"Matt, over here." Tai waved him over, interrupting his conversation with Swanmon. He and the bird Digimon walked over to him, where two digi-eggs lay in straw. Tai took his crest and placed it against one of the eggs. The crest glowed brightly upon contact. "I can feel him in there."
"Yeah, I feel it too." Matt took his crest and placed it on top of the adjacent egg. His crest shone brightly as well.
Both eggs responded to the crests. They exploded with light, filling the room and blinding everyone. Swanmon shielded her face with her wing and closed her eyes until the light finally disappeared.
"Bota!" Tai looked down at a small black blob with yellow eyes staring up at him.
"Puni!" Matt overlooked a small pink creature with three tiny horns on its head.
"Botamon!" Tai cheered as the baby Digimon leaped out of its straw bed and into his partner's arms.
"Bota! Bota!" The Digimon cheered in equal excitement.
"Gabumon, is that you?" Matt said with tears in his eyes, cupping his hands in front of the Digimon so that it could move forward.
"Puni, Puni." The Digimon nodded and hopped into his hands.
"But how do they recognize us?" Matt asked as he squeezed the small Digimon happily.
"Botamon always remembers me. Ain't that right buddy?" He smiled at the small Digimon, who jumped in his hands happily.
"Perhaps Digimon who are partnered with humans are able to remember their past lives due to their relationship with their partners." Swanmon suggested.
"I don't know why it happens I'm just glad it does." Tai said cheerily. "I'm so happy to have you back!"
"Ugh," Davis groaned as he lay in his straw bed. "I'm so bored."
"Davis, we've only been here for five minutes." Veemon reasoned.
"Yeah, but there's so much to do. I can't just sit around here and do nothing." Davis jumped to his feet.
"What are you doing?" Veemon inquired.
"I'm gonna go check on Sora and Kudamon, make sure they're alright." He moved away from the straw beds, at the protest of the Elecmon, and towards the door. "Are you coming?" He asked, turning back towards Veemon.
"Uh… yeah, let's go!" Veemon stood up as well and chased after him. Davis pushed the door open and stepped outside, looking around for Sora and Kudamon.
"Huh, wonder where they went?" Davis pondered. They then heard a screeching noise, and saw a flash of light to the left. Davis and Veemon rounded the corner to investigate.
"What the…?" Davis and Veemon gasped at the sight of the figure before them. A black centaur stood next to the warehouse. It was covered in red armor, with a crossbow on one arm and a shield on the other. Golden wings protruded from his back. "Sora…? Kudamon…?" The Digimon turned its head towards them, causing the two to jump.
"I'm going after Henry." Was all it said, and then galloped away, leaping into the air and soaring away above the tree line. Davis and Veemon stared into the sky for a minute, stunned.
"What the hell was that?" Veemon finally blurted out.
"I don't know," Davis gasped, "Come on, we'd better go tell Tai and Matt!" Davis turned around and ran back to the door, bursting inside with Veemon right at his heels.
"Hey, what are you doing up?" Tai was walking down the staircase with a small black Digimon in his arms. Matt and Swanmon were right behind him.
"Tai, you're not going to believe what I just saw!" Davis quickly recapped the scene he had just witnessed outside.
"What? No way!" Tai exclaimed as he stepped off the staircase and into the main room. "Sora and Kudamon must have fused into a Royal Knight."
"We need to go after them." Matt proposed. "If they fight Henry they'll get destroyed!"
"Matt's right." Tai nodded. "Davis, I need you to do me a favor. Open a portal to the human world and tell them what happened. Then let them know we're going to need to open another portal to Reboot Island as quickly as possible."
"Right, no problem." Davis nodded and grabbed his digivice, pressing the button that Kairo had installed a short time ago. A portal opened up on the wall a moment later. "See you guys in a bit." He and Veemon then jumped into the gate, which closed a moment later.
"What do we do with J.P. and Takato?" Matt inquired, looking over at the two sleeping boys and their partners.
"I hate to say it but we need to leave them here." Tai replied. "Swanmon, tell them what happened and ask them to use the portals to head to Reboot Island when they wake up."
"This I can do." Swanmon nodded.
"Ugh…" A groan came from the straw beds. The group turned to see Takato sitting up.
"Takato!" Tai ran over to the tamer, who was massaging his temple. "Hey, are you alright?" He rested his arm on the boy's shoulder, but Takato immediately sprang to his feet.
"Where is he?" Takato barked. "Where's Henry?"
"He's gone." Tai answered. "He went to Reboot Island. Sora and Kudamon fused into a Royal Knight and went after him."
"Oh no," Takato gasped, "They have no idea what they're getting into. Guilmon, wake up. We've got to go!" He ordered at his sleeping partner.
"Takato, Guilmon's-" Tai tried to speak, but before he could the dinosaur Digimon woke up growling, its eyes slits, staring intensely at Takato.
"Henry's gone, we have to go after him." Takato ordered.
"Let's go Takatomon." Guilmon nodded, and the two pushed past Tai and Matt and marched outside.
"Hey, wait up!" Tai and Matt followed, but when they got outside they found they were not alone. Takato and Guilmon were standing together, watching as an old Digimon with a cane and a Lilamon walked their way.
"What are you doing here?" Takato asked the Digimon angrily.
"Relax, child, I am here to help." The Digimon tried to assure him.
"I'm guessing you know something about what's happening."
"Yes, I do." The Digimon nodded. "I have some pertinent information that you-"
"Tell them." Takato interrupted, nodding back to Tai, Matt, and Swanmon. "I have somewhere to be."
"My child, please, you must here this." The Digimon tried to stop him, but Takato and Guilmon pushed past.
"I don't mean to be rude, but whatever you've got to say, it can wait. Please, tell my friends and they'll relay it to me. But right now, we've got to go."
"Takato, wait," Tai called after him, "We're going to take the data streams to Reboot Island. Come with us!"
"I'll be faster on my own Tai." Takato yelled back as he and Guilmon continued to walk away. "Guilmon, how do we get there?"
"I'll show you." The rookie growled as Takato's digivice began to shine.
"Royal Digivolve to… Gallantmon!"
The Royal Knight burst from the light, running towards the field of Digi-eggs. It surveyed the area, finally honing in on a Digi-egg close by. "Young Digimon," Gallantmon whispered into the egg, "I am sorry to alter your destiny like this, but I'm in need of your assistance. Please, be my steed." He placed his palm on the egg, and let energy pour into it. The egg shined brightly as energy poured inside, and finally it cracked and a large light burst from within. The light faded, and in its place was a winged creature with the head of a bird, crimson red with golden trim.
"I am Grani." The creature announced.
"Grani, please take me to Reboot Island." Gallantmon bowed.
"Very well." Grani nodded. Gallantmon then jumped onto the creature's back. Grani began to hover, rising higher and higher into the air. Finally, it shot off into the sky, leaving File Island far behind.
"I see," The elder Digimon observed from afar, "I did not realize that he was partnered with the legendary Gallantmon. Well then, it seems he already knows this story."
"Pardon me, but who are you?" Matt asked the elder Digimon.
"Oh dear, please forgive my rudeness," The Digimon bowed, "I am Jijimon, and this is my assistant Lilamon." He gestured to the lily Digimon, who curtsied. "Now if you have a fast method to Reboot Island, I suggest we leave post haste."
"Sure, but what were you going to tell us?" Tai inquired.
"I shall tell you on the way." Jijimon answered. "But it is something that may help explain who you are fighting."
"You know about Henry and Devimon?" Tai inquired.
"What resides within your friend Henry is no mere Digimon." Jijimon shook his head. "It is a creature far more powerful than that. It is known as a Demi-God."