One is the loneliest number... Sure it was a line in a song, but it was also painfully true. Everything was right between the real world and the Digital World again, and that meant people had the time to sit back, relax, and explore their feelings. This led to every one of the chosen children pairing up left and right. Many of the older kids who had relationships before went back to the same. Taichi and Yamato, Joe and Mimi, Willis and Izzy... The youngers kids he'd become associated with even found their significant others amongst each other. Davis and Kari, Cody was courting Yolei, and even TK was pursuing the feelings he'd discovered for the older Sora. It seemed everybody had somebody except for Ken. He tried to tell himself that he was okay with this, but Ken was getting older now and certain feelings were crawling up the back of his neck. Feelings that his friends were acting on while he had to hold it all in and push deep down. Finally he was struck with the urge to seek a special companion of his own. But who was right for Ken Ichijouji? This got him thinking about what he liked in people and what he most certainly did not like. Being the genius perfectionist that he was, Ken made a list. It was long and far too over-thought, but it led him to one conclusion. Ken had already fallen for someone. Memories from farther back than he realized began to stir in Ken. He found himself at his computer almost at all hours, sending message after message into the infinite reaches of cyberspace. Are you out there? Have you seen him? Been missing. Please contact. Can you hear me? Is it too late? Ken would send out ten, even twenty messages at a time, day after day, and then wait... Surely he'd hear from somebody. Anybody.
The screen flickered back at him aimlessly, the only light in his otherwise dark bedroom. Ken didn't keep it dark on purpose, of course. He just started working during the day, when he didn't need to turn on the light, and got so wrapped up in what he was doing that the sun would go down and he wouldn't even notice, nor care to get up and turn off the light. His Digivice would sit on the desk next to him, paitently waiting for something to happen. But nothing did. One night, little Minomon, who usually watched from his place snuggled up on the top bunk, waiting for his partner to come up to sleep, peered over the edge and frowned slightly at what he was seeing. Ken hunched over the computer, typing furiously away at what the Digimon knew was an ungodly hour. Minomon extended the little stem atop his head and wrapped it around the divider bar, before using it to lower himself down to the ground. Once his pinecone-like body touched the floor, he let go and hopped over to Ken, stopping at his feet and tugging on his pant leg with a tiny green paw. "Ken?" he asked in a nasally voice. "Ken, what are you doing?"
"I'm trying to find him. Contact him," was Ken's only reply, his fingers not stopping nor his eyes looking away from the screen.
"Find who, Ken?" Minomon asked, crawling up his boy's leg to try and wriggle into his lap.
Ken moved back just enough to let his Digimon into his lap. "Ryo."
"Ryo?" Minomon asked, his little eyes going wide. After a moment, he whined quietly, his ears drooping. "Ken... no one's seen Ryo in eight years."
"I know," Ken said, "but no one was really looking for him either. Our two worlds are connected now. We're so much closer than we used to be. I might be able to reach him now."
Minomon looked up at his boy quietly for a moment, but eventually nodded, turning himself over and peering over the edge of the desk at the computer screen. "Well, alright, Ken. But you can't stay up too late, you're starting to get sleep deprived," he said in an almost scolding tone. The little Digimon was always very concerned about his boy's health.
"I know," Ken said again. "But I'd hate to be asleep when a reply comes. It could be important and I'd miss it."
"But Ken..." Minomon started to argue, but he closed his mouth as he looked up at the boy. Ken's eyes were glued to the screen. He was completely dedicated to this. Minomon decided to just keep watch and lead Ken to bed if he started to nod off. They sat there, looking at the screen together, as Ken sent off tons of e-mails and messages. But suddenly, Minomon noticed a little flashing icon on the corner of the screen. "Ken..." he whispered, tugging on the boy's sleeve. "Ken, you got a response."
He gasped. "What?" Ken at once had his hand on the mouse and clicked on the flashing icon. His eyes roamed over the message before widening. "Oh my God..."
Minomon picked himself up a bit to try and read the e-mail. "Are you looking for the Legendary Tamer?" he read aloud. "He's living in Time Village..." Minomon raised a brow slightly. "Time Village? Where's that?"
"Exactly," Ken said. His fingers were back on the keys. 'Where is Time Village? On the Server continent some where?'
The two waited in silence before a response suddenly popped up. "No, on Directory..." Minomon read.
Ken licked his lips thoughtfully before typing again. "What does the Legendary Tamer look like? Is he human? How long has he been there?"
"He's human," Minomon read, scrambling up onto the desk to get a better look at the text. "He has dark skin and blue eyes. He lived here for a short while, left for a while, came back, and has been living here for four years since."
Ken's breathing hitched. "Oh my God, that could really be Ryo... How do I get to Directory?" he typed out.
"If you would like, I could set up a Digital Gate for you," Minomon read. "I am, after all, the leader of Time Village... So long as you are also a tamer, you should be able to get here." Just as he finished reading, another window popped up on Ken's screen. It was the Digital Gate, just as it usually appeared when one of the chosen opened it. But instead of showing any of the usual destinations on Server, the little window showed a snowy tundra, with huge golden gears littering the landscape. The screen of Ken's Digivice suddenly jumped to life, shining brightly from where it sat on the desk. "Is this such a good idea, Ken?" Minomon asked quietly. "We don't even know if this guy is telling the truth..."
"Either way," Ken replied as he got up and moved to the closet, "we can just take a gate back home if we don't find what we're looking for." He began rummaging through his clothes. The June summer weather had been horribly hot here lately, but shorts and a tank weren't going to fly in a snowy setting like Time Village. Ken decided to throw on a pair of slim fitting jeans and a white sweater that showed off part of his slender stomach. Next he grabbed a small bag in which he put a purple sleeveless number, an extra pair of socks, from fruit bars, and a water bottle. He'd be prepared this time. Minomon watched his boy prepare, still worried, but deciding to keep quiet. He knew when Ken was determined. When he came back over to the desk, Minomon jumped up onto the boy's shoulder, holding on and looking at the gate, offering Ken a nod to show that he was ready. Ken nodded back. He picked up his Digivice and held it up to the computer screen. It only dawned on the boy as the bright light engulfed his body that he should have waited and told his parents where he'd be going.
Ken's feet fell into snow that crunched beneath his shoes when the distinct tugging feeling of moving through the gate, and the light, had faded. All around him was a landscape very similar to what he had seen on the tiny window of a screen. Gray skies, snow, and gears. The now evolved Wormmon sat on his shoulder, looking around until his eyes spotted someone approaching. "Were you the one I was speaking with?" Turning to look, coming towards them was a strange looking Digimon. His upper body almost looked like a human's, in black clothing and a red cloak that covered most of his face, except for his stiched up mouth. In his two gloved hands, he held a long-handled mallet. The lower half of his body was a clock, with crooked hands and a small piece missing, revealing a red eye glowing inside. A second, mechancial set of arms came off of this part of his body, one with a claw-like hand and the other with something that looked like a raygun. And beneath him were large, metal, yellow feet that crunched even louder on the snow as he approached.
Ken gasped softly hearing the voice from behind him. When he turned to see the rather large Digimon coming toward him, he took a cautious step back. "If it was about meeting the Legendary Tamer, then yes." Indigo eyes looked the half-human, half-clock Digimon up and down. "You know where I can find him? I knew him... a very long time ago."
"Yes, I do," the Digimon said, nodding his head. Wormmon was poised at the ready, prepared to attack if this Digimon turned out not to have good intentions. The Digimon lowered his mallet, putting it in one hand and letting the head lay in the snow non-threateningly, reaching out his free hand to shake. "My name is Clockmon, I run Time Village. And you are?"
"My name is Ken Ichijouji." The boy reached forward, now feeling less threatened, and shook hands with Clockmon. "I bear the Crest of Kindness. This is my partner, Wormmon."
Wormmon bowed his head respectfully, though he kept his eyes locked on Clockmon. "A crest, huh?" Clockmon said, nodding his head slightly. "Then you must be a chosen child. Come." He turned and started to lead the way. On the horizon, the gray skies began to clear and revealed buildings that made up the actual village. There were a few other Clockmon, but most of the Digimon on the snowy streets were Hagurumon, Penguinmon, and Solarmon. "The Legendary Tamer and his friends didn't have crests."
"His friends?" Ken asked curiously. "You mean... other children have been here, too?"
"Yes," Clockmon said, nodding his head. "There were two boys and a girl with a Renamon partner. The Legendary Tamer left with them the day she showed up."
"But... He's here now, right?" Ken asked, now hopeful. He would hate to have come here for nothing. "Please, is Ryo here?"
"Yes," Clockmon said, nodding his head. "But he doesn't live inside the village," he added, as they passed through the buildings and once again were upon open, snowy ground. "His home is a bit farther out." Soon enough, they began to approach a small cabin that was sitting at the bottom of a cliff that was only as tall as the house. There was a cave next to the cabin, and as they approached, something stirred inside. A growl emenated from inside the cave, and a huge creature slipped out. He had a strongly built black body, with shiny brown armor covering his shoulders, thighs, and his entire face, even his eyes. He had a long, thick tail banded with red and blades coming from his arms. Four tattered wings emerged from his back. His long, knife-like claws slipped through the snow as he came to stand in front of the cabin, exposing his teeth as the small group approached.
Ken gasped. He at once ducked behind Clockmon. The large black dragon was quite frightening and Ken wasn't sure Stingmon could take it. "Wh-What is that thing?"
"It's the Legendary Tamer's partner," Clockmon said.
"His partner?" Wormmon echoed confusedly. Last time they had seen Ryo, his partner had been Veemon. Wormmon didn't know he could get another one!
Cyberdramon roared and started to run towards them, and got dangerously close, teeth bared, claws up, when there was suddenly a shout of, "Cyberdramon!" The door of the cabin had slammed open. In a flash, Cyberdramon's torso was bound by a glowing whip. A boy emerged from the cabin, the end of the whip coming from one of his arms, which was completely covered in metal. He had mocha tanned skin and windswept brown hair, and bright blue eyes that narrowed with concentration as he grabbed his armored arm with his unarmored one, yanking backwards, pulling the huge dragon Digimon back.
Ken had closed his eyes shut when Cyberdramon began to charge. Great. He'd come here looking for a friend and now he was going to die without even seeing who this Legendary Tamer was. That's when he heard the voice. It was far deeper than it had once been, but Ken could hear the familiar child behind pubescent vocal cords. Indigo eyes peeked open as he peered around Clockmon, and then widened. He recognized that dark skin, swept hair, blazing eyes anywhere. "Ryo..."
Ryo waited until Cyberdramon stopped struggling, and jogged out into the snow to catch up to his Digimon. "Cyberdramon, down!" he commanded. The feirce Digimon looked at him, but when Ryo tugged on the whip, he complied, crouching down into the snow. The boy crouched next to him, gently patting the Digimon's armored face. His hands were hidden in pale yellow gloves that had long ago lost their color. He wore dusty pants and high white and red sneakers. Around his waist, something that looked like a black zippered poncho, with pockets to spare, and a thick belt. He had a gray shirt that had a long sleeve on one side, but the other sleeve had been torn off. And around his neck was tied a red neckerchief. He hushed the growling Digimon, eyes focused on what he was doing. "It's just Clockmon, Cyberdramon. Calm down," he said firmly. Once the Digimon had stopped, he drew back the glowing whip. It slid into the metal device fixated to his arm before it clicked shut. Cyberdramon got up and snorted, but stepped back and stood in a less threatening stance. "Sorry about that, Clockmon, I don't know what's gotten into him. He's usually fine when you come to vis-" Ryo looked up, and his eyebrows knitted together confusedly. He only then realized that someone was standing behind Clockmon. "Who's this?"
"This is Ken Ichijouji," Clockmon introduced, standing aside to reveal the boy hidden behind him. "He's come to see you."
"Ken?" Ryo gasped, standing up quickly.
Ken smiled and made a move to run forward, but he had second thoughts. Cyberdramon was clearly the defensive type, meaning he would take the offense in a heartbeat to defend what was his. Running at the dragon's partner would probably be a horrible idea that would get him killed. Instead, he tugged shly on the white sweater he wish covered more of his skin. "Hello, Ryo," Ken said with a small wave.
"Oh man..." When Ken didn't run forward, Ryo did. Wormmon hopped off the boy's shoulder and down into the snow just in time for the older boy to literally pick Ken up in a strong embrace. "Ken! It's been so long since I've seen you!" he laughed. Cyberdramon watched from his post, wings twitching curiously.
Ryo had grown quite tall. It was obvious by how high Ken felt himself lifted from the ground. Of course... Ryo was close to twenty now while Ken was only sixteen. The pale boy laughed, the sound light and soft. Ken wrapped his arms around Ryo's neck, burying his face there as well, and lifted his knees up behind him. He didn't expect the heat rising in his cheeks, but didn't much care. "I can't believe I found you!"
Eventually Ryo put him down, pulling back. "Me either! Look at you..." He boldly touched Ken's face, looking him up and down and then brushing his long hair away from his face. "You've grown so much... how long's it been?"
"E-Eight years," Ken replied, feeling a flutter in his chest. "You've done a lot more growing than me, though... You're so tall!"
"Has it been that long? And yeah, I guess I have," he said with a laugh. "But you've definately grown more. Last time I saw you, you were this tall," he said, lowering his hand to hover at the height of his hips.
Ken laughed again, letting the gentle sound flow out of him. "I remember this," he said and touched the red neckerchief. "We made a castle in the sandbox once and you used it as a flag. Another time you used it to carry roley poleys homes. Then I fell off the jungle gym once, and you let me use it for my bloody nose."
"Yup! It's the same one," Ryo said, nodding his head. He grinned widely at Ken for a moment, before suddenly snapping to attention when he saw Wormmon shivering out of the corner of his eye. "Wormmon!" he exclaimed, picking the Digimon up out of the snow. "It's good to see you again!"
"It's good to see you too, Ryo," Wormmon said, bowing his head as his greeting.
"Well, come inside, you two," Ryo said quickly, gesturing towards the door to his cabin. "Clockmon, would you like to come inside?" he asked.
"No thank you. I need to go meet Hagurumon," Clockmon said. "Thank you for the offer, though. It was nice to meet you, Ken, Wormmon," he said, bowing as well before turning around and starting to clomp off through the snow.
"Well, come on, then," Ryo said, waving for Ken to follow him as he headed inside. Cyberdramon watched as the two of them passed. Once the door was closed, he turned around, and slinked back into the cave beside the house. Inside, Ryo placed Wormmon down on a wooden table. It was a small house, with only three close rooms. The one they came into was both the kitchen and the living room. In the front of the room, there was a kotatsu, with pillows on the four sides for kneeling under the heated table. There were cushions piled up on the floor over by the fireplace, as well. There was a small kitchen in the corner of the room, where water was boiling in a worn-out black pot. "Make yourselves comfortable," Ryo said, as he went to check on the stove.
Ken sat down at the kotatsu, kneeling properly with his hands in his lap. He looked around the small house and smiled. "Did you build this place yourself, Ryo? I wouldn't be surprised if you did. You were always making things out of whatever you could get your hands on."
"Well, I had help," Ryo said with a smile. "Cyberdramon is pretty handy with carrying supplies. We had to get all of this stuff from outside of this sector, after all."
The boy nodded. "I noticed there aren't many trees around here. None, really." Ken frowned slightly. "Do you live here alone, Ryo?"
"Yeah," Ryo said, nodding his head as he started to reach into the cabinets. "Well, I mean, Cyberdramon is always with me, but he's not very good for conversation," he said, trying to laugh.
"What about... the other kids? Clockmon said there were three of them. Where are they?"
"Three?" Ryo asked, looking over his shoulder. "Oh, he must have meant Hirokazu, Kenta, and Rika. They're a group of Tamers..." He turned around, leaning against the counter. "Tamers are sort of like chosen children, but... they're from a different real world than yours. A different dimension." Ryo adjusted the heat on the stove and then walked over to the table, taking off his sneakers and putting them near the door before he kneeled down. "They're back in their world."
"Wow..." Ken breathed. Different dimensions had always been considered outsite the realm of possibilities, ever after the discovery of the Digital World. After all, it was a byproduct of the real world, not its own creation all together. Ken's thoughts didn't stay on this for long though, fascinating as it was. Instead his dark eyes were caught up in staring at Ryo. Ken gazed upon and studied every feature that long lost face had to offer. Mocha skin seemed rougher than it had once been, no longer tended to by feather pillows, clean water, or even lotion. Ryo's face told stories of wandering practically a lifetime through deserts that had blown sand against his skin, snow valleys that froze his features, and oceans where the salt stung him clean. But within all that age earned too early were those blue eyes. Blue eyes that were like an autumn sky, rich and dark, lost between strength and gentleness. Ken couldn't tear his own eyes away, even when he knew he was staring.
"Yeah, it's pretty crazy. I lived in their dimension for a while, but..." His voice trailed off when he realized that the other boy was staring at him. He frowned, touching his face, trying to see if there was something on it. "Is something wrong, Ken?" he asked after a moment of searching and being unable to find anything.
He finally closed his eyes and shook his head. "No... No, I'm sorry. You were saying?"
"Just that I lived in their dimension for a while... but decided to come back," Ryo said, as he took off his gloves and folded them on the table. His hands were weatherworn and scarred. "I suppose I've been living here for a while since then."
A tiny gasp whispered past Ken's lips when he saw Ryo's hands. He took the right into both his own, touching the scars gently. "I did you... a horrible injustice, Ryo..."
"What do you mean?" Ryo asked, looking surprised. "You needed to go back, Ken..."
"I should have been looking for you sooner," Ken argued. "You've obviously gone through much more than you should have."
Ryo opened his mouth to argue, but then his lips fell back into a smile. He laughed, putting his other hand over the back of one of Ken's. "You haven't changed at all."
Ken shook his head. "I was weak and a brat. The only thing that hasn't changed is my weakness. I've gotten stronger, sure, but I don't hold a candle to the others. Certainly not to you." He smiled. "You're legendary, apparently."
"A brat?" Ryo murmured, frowning slightly. He shrugged it off and smiled slightly. "Yeah, apparently. Not in our dimension, obviously. But in the other one and the Digital World, a lot of people know me. But not by name, just as... The Legendary Tamer."
"Well..." Ken squeezed Ryo's hand. "To me, you'll always be Ryo Akiyama, the boy from down the street who collected roley poleys."
Ryo grinned, nodding his head. "I'm glad." Just then, there was a loud whistle, and he let go of Ken's hands to go tend to it. He came back with three wood-carved cups filled with tea. Steam rose from the cups as he placed them down in front of Ken and Wormmon, and then took his eat with his own. "So, tell me about our world. What's been going on with you since I left?"
"With me?" The smile Ken had been wearing immediately fell. He cupped his hands around the tea, holding it close so the steam his his face. "You don't want to hear about that," Ken insisted. "The real world, though... Not much has changed. Cell phones and iPods, maybe, but not much else."
"iPods?" Ryo asked, scratching at his head. He shook his head, and insisted, "B-but I do! I want to know what you've been doing all these years!"
Ken nodded. "O-Oh, yes! iPods are actually really handy. Most electronic stuff these days is for show. You know, you buy the latest and greatest only to hear about a new version of it the next day. iPods were brilliant though. Remember how you had to carry a walkman with you everywhere and could only listen to one CD? Well, an iPod can store hundreds of CDs at once. Maybe even thousands. Plus, you can listen to them whenever you want!"
"I think I might have seen people with those in the other dimension..." Ryo hummed, scratching at his chin slightly. "I had no idea what they were, though. And if I had asked Rika, she would have made fun of me," he said, laughing lightly, only to quickly stop and say, "Oh, sorry. I forgot you don't know her."
"One of your friends, right?"
"She's one of the other Tamers... they're basically chosen children of the other dimension," Ryo explained. "There were nine of them, not including myself."
Ken laughed. "We still have them beat. There are twelve of us."
"Twelve, really?" Ryo asked, leaning forward on his elbows. "Are they as good of a team as we were?" he asked, smirking slightly.
"Oh, they're an excellent team. There's no doubt in that. However... I don't think two of them could have accomplished what you and I did. I honestly believe it would take all twelve to come even close. We all work very well together and we're such close friends, but... There's still just enough tension under the surface that they wouldn't be able to work together well enough to do what we did."
"Tension?" Ryo asked, tilting his head to the side a bit and resting it in his hands. "What do you mean by that?"
"They all have something they don't quite like about another one," Ken explained. "I think the stress would have brought out the worst in each other."
"I guess that's inevitable in a big group," Ryo said with a shrug. "The Tamers had troubles, too, but I don't think any of them disliked each other... well, except maybe Hirokazu and Rika," he murmured, shrugging his shoulders.
Ken nodded. "You and I depended on each other too much to have any qualms."
"It was nice having another human around back then..." he said, smiling gently. "I missed it a lot."
"I looked up to you. Admired you deeply..." Ken's eyes glanced up, gazing into that dark face. "I never forgot those feelings. I held onto them... and let them grow..."
"I'm glad you didn't forget about me," Ryo said, as he lifted his cup to his lips and drank. Wormmon was already done with his tea, having just been drinking as he watched the two of them talk. "I certainly didn't forget about you. I wish I could have gone back to our world to see you, but... I was never able to open a Digital Gate to ours. My D-Arc didn't work like my Digivice did."
Ken laughed. "I think you've been away from humans for too long," he said.
"What do you mean by that?" Ryo murmured, pursing his lips around the edge of the cup.
Ken shook his head. "Oh, nothing... It's all right." He sipped at his tea. "So, are you still going on adventures, or have you settled down now?"
"I go out and travel around sometimes, but... When you've seen almost the entire Digital World, there isn't much more to go see." He looked over his shoulder out the window that gave him a view of the cave. "Every time I had trouble with Cyberdramon, I would move to a new town or village. I even moved to a new continent a few times."
"I've only ever seen File Island and Server," Ken sighed. "I always knew there was more to the Digital World, I just could never imagine how big it really was."
"It's huge," Ryo sighed, leaning back on his knees. "File Island and Server... Then there's Directory, Folder, WWW, the Continent of Flame... And a few others. Big continents, little islands... there's a lot to see."
Ken looked at Ryo with youthful excitement and awe. "And you've seen all of it?"
"Yeah," Ryo answered, smiling. His expression was a little hollow, though. "I've seen a lot. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd seen everything there is to see in this world."
"That's so amazing, Ryo..." Ken leaned forward, obviously eager to hear more. "What's WWW like? Tell me?"
"WWW is... desolate," he said gently. "It's mostly just home to Ogudomon. He's a Super Demon Lord... we landed there by accident and almost got killed in our camp in the middle of the night. So I didn't get to see too much."
Ken frowned. "Oh, I see... Well, what about Folder?"
"Folder is a place full of areas that are led by different Lords. They're all very protective of their territory. Lots of castles, militarized areas... and there's a whole town that's a hospital, and a factory devoted to putting cyborg parts on Digimon soldiers... I wandered into a lot of the wrong places." He laughed gently, looking at his hands. "I found a nice place called Star City there, though, to live for a while."
"So..." Ken laughed as well. "Would you say you have more friends or more enemies around here?"
"Probably more enemies," Ryo said with a chuckle. "But that doesn't mean I don't have a lot of friends, too. Everyone in Time Village and Star City... they're all my friends. South from here, in Meditation Dome... all the Digimon there are friendly. And then there are tons of small villages that I've helped, and they've given me food and shelter in return. The Digital World is full of hidden gems."
"I wish I could see them," Ken sighed wistfully. "All my time here was spent..." Enslaving Digimon, building an empire, being a tyrant... "Fighting."
Ryo glanced off to the side, then looked back at Ken. "I'm glad you're not the Kaiser," he said quietly.
Ken felt his breath catch in his throat. "Wh-Who?" he asked, feigning obliviousness.
"The Kaiser," Ryo repeated with a slight frown. He saw the look on Ken's face, and took a deep breath as he started to explain. "The final time I fought Millenniummon... he created evil clones of you and a few other chosens. He was trying to take control of all possible alternate realities. And in the one he brought your clone forth from... you had never stopped being the Digimon Kaiser."
The Kaiser... had still existed? There was a world that still suffered at his hand? And worst of all... Ryo had known all along? Tea suddenly soaked Ken's lap, the cup rolling across the floor, and his hands now being used to cover his face. Behind pale slender fingers came the sound of quiet sobbing. "I was such a monster!"
"Oh, Ken!" Wormmon gasped, jumping to comfort the boy. Ryo watched for a moment, before slowly standing up.
"It was the Dark Spore, wasn't it?" he asked slowly. Wormmon looked over his shoulder at the boy, and nodded meekly. Ryo looked thoughtful for a moment, before he walked over to Ken's side of the table. He suddenly fell onto one knee, and pulled Ken close. Ken tried to push Ryo away, shaking his head and still crying. He didn't deserve this. He'd reconsiled with the others, but not with Ryo. How... How could Ken possibly face his friend now, after he practically became the same evil they'd worked so hard to destroy? Ryo was a legend, a hero... He should hate Ken, not be trying to comfort him. "Millenniummon was a horrible monster," Ryo said quietly, holding Ken tightly in his arms. "His target... was me. You never should have had to get involved. You never should have been infected."
"I couldn't let him take you from me!" Ken sobbed, finally giving in and latching onto the front of Ryo's shirt.
Ryo moved one of his hands to the back of Ken's head, holding the boy's cheek to his chest. "It shouldn't have happened..." Ryo sighed quietly. "I fought Millenniummon so many times after that... I felt like you didn't need to take that spore for me. And when I met the Kaiser... I only felt angrier at him. I couldn't be angry at you for what you had become in that world. It wasn't your fault."
Ken shook his head. "Let him control me. I let him use me like that. I was so weak... I never wanted you to see me like. I thought I would never have to reveal my sins to you, but now... Now you know everything!"
"There was nothing you could have done, Ken," Ryo said, shaking his head. "Do you know how powerful Millenniummon was? He sent me through time. He incarnated evil versions of other kids for me to fight, including one I knew quite closely. He brought back to life a bunch of evil Digimon that the chosen children had defeated... He even almost killed me by blowing up an island. All of those things... you had no chance against a being that could do all of those things. You didn't let him do anything."
The boy was still shaking and crying into Ryo's shirt. "I never wanted you to know..."
"I understand," Ryo said, nodding his head slightly. "You don't need to be ashamed though, Ken... I understand exactly why that happened. I'm just... so glad that in this reality, you managed to break free." Ken choked as he tried to swallow his crying. When was the last time he'd been hugged? By his mom just the other day, sure, but... Like this... Ken lifted his gaze to meet Ryo's. That face... That handsome face that had changed so much, yet had stayed just the same. That face he thought he might never see again someday... Ken moved without thought. He didn't even feel the forward motion of his own body until his lips pressed with Ryo's, and even then, Ken didn't think to stop. Ryo gasped surprisedly, his mocha skin suddenly heating up a brilliant red and his blue eyes widening with surprise. His arms loosened and he fumbled for a moment for what to do. After a few moments he pulled back just slightly, breathing huskily and blushing terribly.
Ken's own eyes had gone wide the very second Ryo pulled away. He was hoping the older boy might reciprocate the action, but Ken knew that was an illogical and unrealistic expectation. "Shit..." he whispered, now turning away.
Ryo sat back on his knees, putting a hand over his mouth and staring for a second. Wormmon was looking quickly between them, also looking completely surprised. "Ken, I..." Ryo started, not exactly sure what to say.
"No. No, don't," Ken said, stopping Ryo before any new thoughts could come. "I... I think I made a mistake coming here. I should probably go."
Ryo went to say something else, but fell quiet. He stood up, nodding his head, and picked up Ken's cup off of the floor. He took his own and Wormmon's, and brought them over to the counter. "Okay."
Ken felt his heart sinking with guilt and regret. How could he have been so stupid? To come here after so many years and spring something like that on his friend. Idiot! Ken picked Wormmon up and hurried toward the door. "I'm so sorry. Goodbye, Ryo," he said before going out into the snow to try and find his way back to Time Village.