Well, this is pointless, pretty much, but in an epic way. This is probably the most complex fic that's written entirely to be pointless fluff, or at least in the top ten.

The tsukaimon, Savali, is taken shamelessly from my friend Ajora's pile of Mary Sues, with permission. I highly suggest you read her stories, especially the Dark Seed series, because they're much better than mine.

This is where I should say that Toei and Disney (not Saban any more!) own the rights to Digimon, and this is not intended to infringe upon their rights in any way, shape or form. Plus, I'm making no money off it, and I'm not sucking any of their profits away, so I figure it can't hurt.

Anyway, let's get started.








Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time...

The battle against Belial Vamdemon was over. Both worlds were at peace.

The Digital World, however, proved to be badly damaged. As it was set to do, the program began rebuilding itself, recreating it to what it was before. Slowly everything came back to normal -- the oceans, the lakes, the rivers, the swamps, the forests, the icelands, the deserts...

File not found.

As could be expected, the program tried again.

File not found.

And again.

File not found.

And again.

File not found.

It kept plugging away for that missing file in the desert, and, as bugs are known to do, the world started changing again, perverting itself.

The first indication that something was wrong was when the normal children became Digidestined. This was against the entire principle of the world -- only a few certain beings could cross between the worlds.

When Oikawa got his Digimon partner, the world was too far gone to save. With that, the changes were widespread and random. The first totally random occurrence was Oikawa transforming into the energy butterflies. Things only got worse from there.

Thanks to the hole burst open to the real world, the changes seeped into there as well. Soon, nothing in either world even remotely resembled what it had been before.

Then it found an odd file, comprised of stories from Earth. The program clung onto it, and reshaped the worlds as best it could around it.

And so it began...

---- * * * ----

Once upon a time, there were three Patamon brothers who moved away from their home on the same day. To be more specific, there were two Patamon and one Tsukaimon, the youngest (and smartest), who preferred to be called Savali, because it seemed oddly indecent to be named after his species. The actual origins of Savali were dubious, and in fact their parents divorced over it, but that's another matter.

The oldest, and by far the stupidest, Patamon preferred to be called "P.T." of all things to prevent confusion. The middle Patamon was significantly smarter, but still nowhere near Savali.

The three decided to build their new houses on the same road, about a mile from one another. P.T. built his house out of straw, for some reason, despite Savali's adamant warnings that it was so stupid.

Patamon decided to make his out of sticks tied together, also ignoring Savali's advice. It was certainly better than the straw house, but still far from solid. But Patamon was adamant, and sticks it was.

Savali, on the other hand, knew precisely what to do. He knew that the evil Were Garurumon was around, and he was strong enough to destroy quite a lot. So the frame of the house was two-inch thick plates of steel, with the hardest bricks he could find on the outside.

But what house is complete without a complex, powerful self-defense system? He had machine gun turrets that extended from the walls, automated trap doors all around, and -- his personal favorite -- missile launchers that rose up from under the roof tiles, covering around the entire house. Nothing short of an army could get through, and yet he still designed it with an artistic flair that would have made the magazines jealous.

He was ready, all right. He just didn't know how soon he would have to use it...

---- * * * ----

Terriermon skipped happily through the forest. He knew he looked so beautiful in his bright red cloak! Grandpa Galgomon would love it for sure! He'd thought of eating all that yummy food himself several times, but he knew it was a bad thing to do.

Grandpa Galgomon's house was much farther than he'd thought. He'd been alternatively skipping and floating over for nearly an hour, and there seemed to be no end to the forest in sight. He was getting pretty tired.

After more boring scenery, he came across an interesting sign. He struggled to read it for a moment.

"Oooooohhhh....D...Detro...no, deter...no, detour!"

He wondered what that meant. But if it was on a sign, it had to be a good thing!

He merrily scampered down along the new path, even though it was a bit less well-kept than the other. All it meant was he could get to his grandpa's house sooner, and he loved his grandpa very much.

That food sure seems tasty...

---- * * * ----

Takeru sighed as he scrubbed the kitchen floor. He was always given these remedial chores, while Jun and Wormmon were able to do whatever they pleased. Those two were really annoying sometimes.

Frequently he wished that he could be somewhere else, a place where he could be appreciated for a change, and not used as a slave. Unfortunately, his damn stepmother more or less owned him, and she was far too devious to let him slip her grasp.

But even if he left, where could he go? He had hardly ever left the house in seven years, and didn't know any of the neighbors, or anyone else for that matter, except that creepy woman who sold the chicken feed and kept saying she was going to spank him or something. He certainly couldn't go to her.

As always, his thoughts drifted to the prince. Takeru had only seen the prince go by once, almost a year before, but it had a profound effect on him. Definitely love at first sight. He'd seen it many times with his stepsisters, so he knew exactly what it was.

Perhaps he could find the prince someday, and go into the palace with him. They could live together happily forever, and go to formal occasions together, and fun things just with the two of them. He'd be loved by all, and he'd never be a slave again. Oh, if only he could live out his magical dr--

"AHEM!"

Takeru came back to reality with a start. He looked down and stared in the face of Wormmon.

"I do believe you're supposed to be cleaning the floor, not off daydreaming about a better life blah blah blah."

Takeru stared at Wormmon blankly, and after a moment asked, "How can you be my stepsister? You aren't human or female."

Wormmon thought about this for a moment, then replied, "Sex can get you a very long way. Now get to work before I string you onto the lamp pole again."

Takeru sighed heavily and went back to work on the floor. Wormmon, muttering about how ungrateful, lazy and stupid Takeru was, wandered off to do something more interesting. There was a nice peace as he cleaned the floor; he seemed to be making considerable progress.

So, naturally, about a minute later, his other stepsister, Jun, stormed in.

"WHAT do you think you're DOING?!" she screamed as loud as she could. "You're SUPPOSED to be doing my HAIR for the DAMNED CRYSTAL BALL!"

Takeru looked up at her calmly, annoying the hell out of her, and said simply, "I'm cleaning the kitchen floor."

"Not any MORE, you're not! Come with me, NOW!"

With that, she yanked Takeru to his feet and started dragging him violently out of the kitchen. As they went down the hallway to the communal changing room, Takeru heard Wormmon screaming from behind him.

"TAKERU! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE CLEANING THE KITCHEN!"

Takeru sighed. One way or another, this wouldn't end well.

Outside, a dark figure sat watching silently through the window, assessing the situation...

---- * * * ----

Times had been good for Koushiro, Taichi, and their mother. They were poor, yes, and their father's untimely death in a mining accident didn't help their situation any, but they certainly had enough money to manage basic living expenses. During the day, they would have fun, work a little, and have meals that, while not plentiful, were more than enough to live on.

Or at least, it had been that way until their mother remarried. Their new stepfather, Yukio Oikawa, was a very hateful man, one who couldn't stand being poor, yet refused to do any significant work to help them out.

Over the months, he had finally come to the conclusion that the cause of all the money problems was the children. Once he decided this, no amount of pleading on their mother's behalf could deter him. He absolutely forbade them from having any fun, gave them some of the smallest meals possible, and worked them through nearly all their waking hours.

After this, they still didn't make enough money for Oikawa's taste, and he was getting extremely pissed about that.

That, Koushiro surmised, was probably why Oikawa was taking the two through areas in the forest they'd never seen before, taking an extraordinarily convoluted route that involved too many twists and turns to be able to accurately recall which direction was the way back. Unless you had a compass, anyways.

"We're here!" Oikawa announced after a time. The two looked around -- they were still smack dab in the middle of the forest.

Koushiro asked, "Are you just leaving us out here to die so we're out of your hair?"

Oikawa thought for a moment, then replied, "Yes. Follow me and I'll beat you."

And with that he was off. A few moments after he was out of sight, Taichi started to head in the direction Oikawa had gone. Koushiro stopped him.

"That's not the way home ... he almost surely went that way just to throw us off," he said.

Taichi looked at him. "What other direction should we go in then, hmm?" he asked a bit indignantly.

Koushiro pointed off in a different direction. "Most likely that way. I wasn't able to tell for sure, but we seemed to be coming from that direction."

Taichi opened his mouth to protest ... and closed it again when he saw Koushiro's icy glare. He sighed, defeated. "All right, let's go."

The two wandered off into the forest...

---- * * * ----

"Daisuke, it has to go."

Daisuke hugged his Floramon tight, and it coo'ed appreciatively. He looked up into his mother's eyes as sadly as he could manage.

"But...it's so pretty..." he complained.

"Yes, it's pretty," his mother replied, "but it doesn't do anything." She glared at him.

Daisuke had lost. "But why do we need to sell it?" He looked down at the cute thing. It gazed at him with absolute adoration glowing in its eyes.

His mother sighed. "Because we have no money. I don't want to have to do this, but your Floramon could make a good price at the market, and we need all the help we can get right now."

Daisuke desperately tried to argue. "But I--"

"Market. Sell. NOW."

Tears welled in his eyes, and he looked down at the cute flower Digimon sadly. It cooed happily at him.

"All right," he conceded. "I'll be back in a couple of hours."

With that he turned and left the house, not saying any more. His mother looked after him sadly, absolutely hating herself for letting the situation get this bad.

---- * * * ----

Were Garurumon slowly made his way along the road as he performed his monthly check on his turf. Despite his reputation, annoying people were constantly building things on his property, and he needed to stop them quickly. He didn't actually care about the buildings himself, but he had a reputation to keep up.

Suddenly, off in the distance, on the side of the road, he saw something. As he got closer, he saw it was a house ... made out of ...

No way, nobody's that stupid ...

But indeed, they were. It was a house made out of straw. Out of all the stupid substances to make houses with, it was right up there with Koromon dung. In fact, it was probably worse, since dung would at least stick together.

As he approached the house, he noticed that the straw wasn't even held together very well ... just with ...

Duct tape?!

The wolf was about 20 yards away from the house when a major wind blew across the land ... and the house, sure enough, fell apart right then and there.

A voice came from amidst the rubble. "Aw shoot, not again ... oh well, I guess I'll just have to rebuild it exactly like it was before ..."

The voice confirmed each and every one of his suspicions about the intelligence of the house's occupant -- it was a Patamon. Not a particularly bright species anyway, but this one seemed especially stupid.

He walked up and saw the Patamon frantically bunching straw together, and stripping them together with more duct tape. He ahem'd.

"Yes?" the Patamon said, without looking behind him.

"Have you ever heard of cause and effect?" Were Garurumon asked.

"No," the Patamon replied, still not looking back.

"It essentially means that if you do something, something else will happen. And if you keep doing that thing, the second thing will keep happening. Do you understand where I'm going with this?"

"No," the Patamon said as it wrapped together another huge lump of straw.

This answer startled Were Garurumon a little, but he kept going. "Well, essentially, if you keep building an inferior house like this, it's going to keep falling apart like this."

"No, my house is fine," it said. It bundled up another small batch of straw.

Now Were Garurumon was getting disturbed. Was he dealing with the world's stupidest creature here? And if he was, would it taste funny?

He decided to put it more bluntly. "It also might make you a bit less of an easy target."

But the Patamon wasn't even paying attention any more. He continued bunching up little pieces of his house, and hummed a little tune. The only thing that pissed Were Garurumon off more than losing a fight was getting IGNORED.

"DAMN IT, LOOK AT ME!" he screamed at the little thing. It looked up nonchalantly -- and gasped in pure horror as it finally realized what it was looking at.

It screamed, and went flying down the road at its fastest pace, which actually turned out to be about the same speed as Were Garurumon's relaxed walk.

Ah, this is more like it, he thought.

It was a nice, leisurely stroll along the road, and the weather was perfect. Were Garurumon could have caught the little bat/pig thing in an instant, but he was curious as to where this was leading to. Likely, whatever it was running to was just as stupid as it was. Even so, it seemed a bit chubby; it might not make for a very good meal on its own. Too much fat, not enough meat.

About 15 minutes up the road, Were Garurumon noticed another house on the left side of the road. Likely, this was what it was running to, and upon further inspection, the house was made of--

Sticks?!

It wasn't even like a normal house in any way whatsoever. It was made out of a bunch of old twigs that it probably just picked up randomly from the forest, bundled together in not the most stable of ways. It was horribly unstable, but still, better than the straw one.

He smiled, almost not believing his incredible luck. Not one, but two insanely stupid animals for him to dine on later. He laughed hysterically at the thought, which caused the Patamon he was following to speed up, ever more terrified.

The little thing went flying through the door and locked it behind itself. Were Garurumon stood outside and listened to the two talk at each other.

"Patamon! Patamon! There's a -- there's -- I --"

"Whoa! P.T.! What's the matter?"

"Patamon! There's a wolf after me, Patamon!"

"A wolf? Why would a wolf want to go after you?"

"Because, Patamon, it wants to eat me, Patamon!"

"So where's this wolf now?"

"Patamon, it's right outside! Go look, Patamon!"

A click was heard from the door, and two Patamon heads poked out. Were Garurumon smiled and waved at them. They eep'ed, and quickly shut the door.

From inside, Were Garurumon could hear frenzied conversation, mostly regarding how they could escape unharmed. He didn't really pay much attention, and was deciding on what to say.

Hmm..."Little Patamon, little Patamon, let me in!" ...nah, sounds too cheesy. "Open the door RIGHT NOW or you'll PAY!" ... no, that wouldn't be much fun. "Excuse me, little Patamon, would you please allow me to enter your estate?"

...

Screw it.

He walked up to the house and give it a hard, swift kick. Sure enough, the infrastructure died immediately, if there even was one, and the whole house came crashing down on the Patamon's heads in mere seconds.

Now both of the things were in an absolute panic, screaming their heads off and pulling their way out of the debris. It was really rather amusing to watch. They finally got themselves together and flew screaming down the road again. He watched for a moment, then followed them. The adrenaline rush got them moving a bit faster now; it took a light jog to keep up with them, but it was still pretty easy.

Hmm...do I catch them now, or wait and see what they're going to try next?

He decided to go ahead and wait. His luck was going so well, he might as well see if it continued.

---- * * * ----

"I told you so ..."

"If we'd gone your way, we would've ended up just as lost!"

"You're just saying that because I'm right. You're jealous, aren't you?"

No, but I'm going to rip out your damned throat in a minute if you keep this up, Koushiro thought.

"So," Taichi concluded, "now what?"

Koushiro stared at him incredulously.

"You just spent half an hour telling me just how wrong I was, and how I got us lost, and how you'd never trust me with any decisions again, and now you want me to decide where to go?!"

"Yes ... why?"

I must not kill ... I must not kill ... nobody's here to see, but I have to restrain myself ...

---- * * * ----

As Daisuke neared the town's border, he stopped and sighed heavily. His Floramon coo'ed at him questioningly.

"Not now ... this is hard enough as it is ..."

But he didn't move, and looked a while. This was it ... the end of it all. For all he knew, Floramon was going to be chopped up and used as salad.

I suppose I'm overreacting ... I don't have to like it, sure, but I doubt anyone would want any harm to come to Floramon. She could 'cute' her way out of any bad situation. And if not, there's always the allergy shower ... I remember that. Okay. I'll sell her to the very first person who wants to buy her. That way it'll be easier. And I'll make it quick so I don't wind up having to change my mind in the middle of it. I'll do this, and it'll be done, and it'll suck, but I

"Are you selling that Floramon?"

know I'll be able to get past it, and I'll just hope I'll never have to do anything like this in the huh?

Daisuke blinked and looked behind him. A young man was standing there, looking at him inquisitively ... and with a strange smile that looked oddly sinister. Oh, stop overreacting so much.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"I asked if you're selling that Floramon." The man kept the odd smile going.

"Well ... yes, actually. How could you tell?"

"You haven't moved in the past five minutes, and you had the saddest look in your eye, like you were losing a good friend. Plus, you were clutching that Floramon like there's no tomorrow."

Daisuke looked down at the Floramon. Sure enough, he was hugging her tight. He loosened his grip a little, and it coo'ed worriedly.

I've got to stop doing that, he thought as a new wave of guilt flowed through him.

"So," Daisuke said quickly, "what's your name?"

"Yamato," the man replied, and smiled. It wasn't a particularly nice smile, but it wasn't hostile either. Nonetheless, Daisuke felt uneasy. "So," the man continued smoothly,"how much are you selling it for?"

Daisuke thought for a moment. "Well ... it depends. How much are you willing to pay for her?"

"Well, I don't happen to have money on me, but I do have these nice magic beans. If you eat just one of them, you won't be hungry for a week. How about five of them for your Floramon?"

Daisuke glared at him. "You have got to be kidding me."

"All right then," Yamato said. "Thirty."

"That's much better. Here you go." Daisuke handed Floramon over to Yamato, who in turn pulled out a bag, counted out thirty beans, and handed them over.

Daisuke tried desperately not to look at Floramon, who was cooing confusedly now. He took the bag, said some stupid platitude about giving thanks, then whirled and walked quickly away.

When he reached the forest, he stepped behind a tree, leaned back, and exhaled. That had been the most difficult thing he had ever been forced to do.

... wait ...

He had just sold his best friend for a bag of beans. Not even money. A bag of beans. Even if they did what the slimeball had said, that would still only be about three months' worth of food, and he doubted even that. His judgement must have been clouded by his guilt ... he couldn't let the man get away with this.

"WAIT!" he shouted, stepping out from behind the tree.

The man was gone.

His eyes filled with tears, but he pushed them aside. Now wasn't the time. He sighed and dejectedly trudged home.

---- * * * ----

Were Garurumon nonchalantly strolled along his road, feeling rather smug. He'd stepped back a little farther along the way, since it would have been easy to catch up to the little orange niblets if he decided not to take the chance of his next victim -- what had they blubbered as they "sped" ahead? Something about someone named Savali? -- being as stupid as these two were. He didn't really feel the need yet, and decided to let them think they were getting ahead. It would make it so much easier to nab them if he had to.

The glare of the sun in his eyes was starting to get on his nerves. It would make it harder to see the next target; he felt he really should catch up pretty quickly --

-- and he saw it. A perfectly symmetrical house, built with brick and the roof shingled. It looked far too neat and too planned -- the look of total peace and normality that you could only get if the place was armed all to hell.

He dashed at top speed to catch up with the morsels, but it was too late. They pounded on the door, and a little purple version of them opened the door and let them in. He bounded up the steps just in time for it to shut the door, and he heard the distinct clicking of about five different locks.

Damn it damn it damn it damn it DAMN IT!

He pounded on the door. "IF YOU DON'T LET ME IN RIGHT NOW, I AM GOING TO LEVEL THIS WHOLE PLACE! I WILL DO SUCH THINGS TO YOU THAT YOU ARE GOING TO WISH I HAD EATEN Y--"

He stopped. A panel had opened up in the brick wall, and a machine gun had come out, pointing itself directly at Were Garurumon's face.

Time suddenly became a bit of a blur. He was torn -- he had to save either his reputation or his life. He thought fast, but the two choices were evenly matched; a pair of jousters, battling their final match before a crowd of thousands.

Finally, he decided his life was more important at the moment; he could still save his rep somehow. He glared at the gun, figuring there was a camera hidden inside it somewhere, and walked away smoothly.

His excellent day had turned into a horrible one, and it was his own damned fault. Those little monsters were going to pay for this, somehow. Oh, yes, they were ...

---- * * * ----

"And make sure you feed the animals," Sora lectured. "Every last one. If one goes hungry, you'll be eating the food you forgot to feed them."

"I already have, ma'am," Takeru mumbled.

"Don't get smart with me," Sora snapped. "You know perfectly well where defiance leads you. Now, don't even think of following us, and every last chore had better be done, or you'll be drowned so far in work, you won't have any time to even think about this foolishness."

Takeru had no idea what she was talking about. He just wanted her to leave so he could be in peace. She'd given the speech about ten times that day already, and Takeru was getting sick of the implication that he'd deliberately get into trouble. Of course, depending on her mood, and how drunk she was, when she returned, he could get into trouble whether he actually was in trouble or not.

Sora finally finished up the last of her speeches, huffed, and walked out to the carriage. Jun emulated the huff rather impressively, and also made her leave. Wormmon stopped just before he stepped out, however.

"I know about you and that wall," he said ominously, and left.

Takeru stared after Wormmon and wondered what in the world he was talking about, then decided it was probably best if he didn't know.

He wanted to go to the ball, sure, but this was actually nice. He was guaranteed a night all to himself, and he didn't really have that many chores left to finish. Maybe after he was done he could take a nap, or do the forbidden act of reading.

He had no idea that outside, a person in the shadows was still watching him ...

---- * * * ----

Koushiro knew he was lost, but didn't bother telling Taichi yet again. It would be useless.

They had walked for hours, seemingly going in circles ... there was just no way the forest was that big. He sighed and figured he may as well try and drill the truth into Taichi's thick head once more.

"Taichi, we're lost."

Taichi looked shocked. "WHAT?!" he shouted. "Why didn't you tell me this before?!"

"I did. Several times." It was no use, of course; Taichi had stopped paying attention at the word "lost."

Taichi bemoaned their situation, called Koushiro an idiot for letting this happen, declared that he would never trust Koushiro with anything else ever again, and the other things he had already said several times before. Finally he sighed and, to finish the routine, asked Koushiro which way they should go now.

Koushiro just sighed and trudged on.

About a half hour of stony silence later, Koushiro heard some tapping on the ground to his left, almost like someone skipping. Maybe this was their chance to get out of this damned forest!

Koushiro stepped out and was just about to say something to the approaching figure when Taichi suddenly grabbed him from behind and tackled him. Koushiro landed face-first in the ground behind a nearby bush.

Koushiro whirled around and hissed, "What are you doing?!"

Taichi lowered his voice to a faint whisper and moved his face uncomfortably close to Koushiro's. "Who knows what could be coming down this forest path?! If it's the wrong thing, we could die!"

While he was impressed Taichi had shown the intuition, now was most definitely not the time. He struggled to break free of Taichi's hold, but unfortunately was weighed down.

"Well," Koushiro tried to explain calmly, "if we don't take the chance, we'll die anyway, moron."

It was no use. Taichi was off on one of his little excursions into God-only-knows-where. "I mean, for all we know, it could be a giant snake!" he shouted, not noticing the little bits of spittle inadvertently flying into Koushiro's face.

"I heard footsteps. Snakes don't have feet."

"Or a really large insect! I've seen some of those come from this place!"

"Insects like me."

This went on for a short time, until Taichi became frantic enough that he loosened his grip. Koushiro took the chance and pushed Taichi aside, and stood up quickly, lest Taichi tackle him again and they lose their one good chance to get out.

Whoever it had been that passed by them, he or she was gone. Koushiro cursed inwardly, and tried to focus his eyes into the distance in the waning light.

And just at the end of his vision, he could just barely make out a Terriermon skipping down the road. He doubted he would have noticed it were it not for the bright red cloak it was wearing. He dashed after it.

"Wait!" Taichi said, running out of the bushes. "Don't leave me behind!"

The two of them ran along into the great unknown ...

---- * * * ----

Were Garurumon was pissed. He had just been deprived of a really good meal, and it was his own damn fault. On top of that, he was humiliated at having to surrender to a Patamon. Or, at least, he thought it was a Patamon. It looked like one, but with different colorings. Probably a virus version of the Patamon strain. That didn't matter, really. Nobody did that to Were Garurumon. His revenge would be spectacular.

It was probably because of his seething and plotting of revenge that he didn't notice the Terriermon until it plowed headlong into his legs.

Were Garurumon was totally unharmed, except for a tiny scratch where its horn hit his legs, but the Terriermon flew backwards, landing on the ground in a heavy thud hard enough to knock its picnic basket out of its hands.

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" it said almost immediately, standing up and brushing dust out of its (particularly ghastly, Were Garurumon noted) flaming red cloak. It waddled over a couple feet and picked up its picnic basket.

I wonder if this one will be safe...

"Um, excuse me, Mister Wolf," the Terriermon was saying, gazing up at Were Garurumon with glazing, innocent eyes.

It certainly looks healthy enough ... maybe a little chubby around the thighs, but that can be taken care of...

"Do you know where I'd be able to find Grandpa Galgomon's house? I got lost, following a de--dtr--a sign, and I need to find him! Can you help me?"

Were Garurumon, however, was still pondering whether it would be worth it to eat this thing. He was hungry ...

"Mister Wolf, sir?"

After a moment of agonizing torture, as his brain and his stomach warred with each other, his brain finally won. With the luck he was having today, it probably had a rocket launcher in that picnic basket, and a link to a bunch of snipers to hunt him down for the rest of his damned life.

"Oh, yes," he said, mustering up a big fake grin. "I was just there. It's over that way." He pointed in the direction of the third bat-pig's house. "A little over half a mile from here."

"THANK you, Mister!" the creature squealed in delight. Its voice was piercing, and did little to help soothe the headache Were Garurumon was slowly getting.

It dashed up and hugged his legs tightly. It gave its utmost thanks again, and then skipped off in the direction of that damned house. Were Garurumon shuddered just thinking about it.

He had barely gone ten steps when a teenaged human boy with spiky red (red! red! red, damn it!) hair screeched to a halt in front of him. Before either of them could do anything except notice each other, a somewhat taller boy of about the same age, with even spikier brown hair, ran up and attempted to stop, but slipped on a small patch of mud and landed on his ass. Neither Were Garurumon nor the red-haired boy paid much more attention to him past that, though.

The boy looked up at Were Garurumon a bit apprehensively, and was met with Were Garurumon's best glare.

"Um ... excuse me ... would you happen to ... uh ..."

Were Garurumon glared.

The boy cleared his throat and tried to start over again. "Do you know the ... the way to ..."

Were Garurumon glared harder.

"You know what," the boy said, laughing unconvincingly, "I think we should probably get going ... come on, Taichi." He grabbed the other boy and sort of dragged him out of Were Garurumon's path.

Were Garurumon growled and moved on. This day was turning damn unpleasant. But he would be home soon, and then maybe he could relax while he figured out what the hell he was going to do to save face.

---- * * * ----

"What'd you do that for?!" Taichi accused once the wolf had passed. "We could have asked him which way was the quickest way out!"

Koushiro stared at Taichi for a moment, then decided that it just wasn't worth it to argue.

Koushiro sighed and looked in the direction where he thought the Terriermon had gone, but it was getting too dark to make anything out. He sighed and started to go resentfully in what seemed to be the right direction.

Not that way.

He stopped, and blinked. Where had that thought come from? He started moving again.

Are you deaf?! I said, not that way!

So, Koushiro figured he was either losing his mind or the voice was real. Either way, he decided to follow its instructions, because he didn't really have anything better to go on.

Okay ... turn to the left ... a little more ... not that far, a little bit to the right ... there, perfect. Now go.

He went.

"W-what are you doing?" Taichi stammered, but Koushiro was on the move. He ignored Taichi's complaints and kept going. He knew Taichi would follow. He always did.

Taichi managed to fill the entire journey with complaints about how weird this was, and so on. Koushiro didn't really pay much attention, but the constant chatter was distracting, and starting to get on his nerves. He was really just perfectly ready to kill Taichi right then and there, but something stopped him. He wasn't sure what.

No, it just isn't good unless it's fresh. You can't drag it through the woods first; it loses all the flavor.

Huh? Where had that come from? He tried to figure it out, but it didn't seem to have come from his own head. Maybe he was going insane.

"Okay, this is really starting to freak me out," Taichi was saying. "Let's just turn back; I'm sure we can find some shelter until morning." His voice was getting really shaky, and Koushiro figured he should be worried somewhat, but he didn't really pay it much attention.

Finally, Taichi shut up. A couple of long minutes later, they stumbled across a clearing.

First and foremost, it seemed unusually bright and cheery considering it was almost dark. There were flowerbeds everywhere of every color imaginable, and they all seemed ... happy. A large circular picket fence, painted yellow, surrounded a considerably-sized house which seemed to be made up of gingerbread and candy. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

Suddenly, for a split second, their entire surroundings seemed to become foreboding, black, evil ... and Koushiro felt something in his mind loosen somehow. Then, everything was bright and happy again.

Koushiro looked around again, as if for the first time. It looked ... perfect. A little too perfect. He glanced over at Taichi, who seemed to be having the same sorts of thoughts. There was also apprehension in his eyes when he looked at Koushiro. It was understandable; he had acted very strangely. He supposed he'd have to apologize for that at some point.

Then, a woman dressed in a silky black dress stepped out of the house, and was almost convincing in her surprise at seeing Koushiro and Taichi there.

"Well!" she exclaimed a bit melodramatically. "You two boys shouldn't be out here! It'll get dark soon!"

The "soon" part was a bit of an understatement, as the lighting dropped to its previous state almost instantly. Koushiro and Taichi were both very suspicious by this point.

"Well, there it goes ... you just can't trust it around here. You two had better get inside, quickly!"

Koushiro laughed a bit unconvincingly. "Oh, we'd love to, but ... eheh ... we really need to get moving. Places to be, things to go ... come on, Taichi."

This time, Taichi needed no encouragement, and they both turned to leave. They had barely gone anywhere before Koushiro felt something in his mind -- like a push, except not physical. Suddenly, it seemed like a really good idea to stay at this woman's place overnight. Perhaps forever.

He tried to shake it off, but it was too strong. He had to settle for knowing that his actions were not his own, even though he couldn't do anything about it.

"Actually," Taichi said, turning around and grinning, "we should probably take you up on your offer. The woods just aren't safe at night, you know?"

Damn, Koushiro thought, she got to him too.

The two took a sort of death march over to the happiest-looking house either of them had ever seen. Just as they got inside, Koushiro managed to get out a few words of his own.

"Um, excuse me, ma'am," he somehow said. "What is your name?"

"Lady Devimon."

The door shut behind them with a resounding click.

---- * * * ----

Takeru lounged back into one of the more comfortable chairs in the house and sipped a glass of cool water. This was definitely preferable to the nights when the Evil Trio, as he had come to know them, were around.

He set the glass down on a nearby coaster and settled back, shutting his eyes. A nap would be nice, but there was really no guarantee he would wake up before they got back. It was tempting, but he forced himself to sit up.

As nice as this was, his thoughts kept wandering over to the ball at the palace. No matter how much he tried to deny it to himself, he knew he really did want to attend. To be a part of something real in the world. To meet the prince ...

He tried to clear his head. What he was asking of himself was impossible, and he knew it. He took another drink of water, hoping that would settle his annoyingly persistent thoughts.

It didn't. After a few more minutes of denial, he finally gave up and allowed himself to fantasize about what might have happened if he had been able to attend.

Soon, though, his fantasy had taken a particularly undignified turn. Blushing, as though anyone else had been around to notice, he drained his glass.

He stood up and walked to the kitchen to get himself some more water. On the way over, he mumbled, "I just wish I could be there..."

As soon as the last word left his lips, there was a bright flash of light from behind him, which probably would've blinded him for a moment if he had been looking at it. He stopped in his tracks and waited a moment for the light to dispel, then turned around.

An angel...

A woman with wings stood there, light shining from her very being. She was so beautiful that Takeru knew he couldn't possibly come close to describing her.

"Hello, Takeru," she said with a small smile. "My name is Angewomon, and I am your fairy godmother."

"Fairy ... godmother? Huh?"

"It doesn't matter," she said smoothly. "All that you need to know is that I am here to grant that which you most desire."

Takeru blinked at her for a moment. This all seemed too good to be true. Maybe he had fallen asleep on the chair after all. Still, he might as well take advantage of this, even if it was a dream.

Angewomon continued smiling sagely at him. "Would you like me to grant your wish for you?"

Takeru stuttered for a moment, then finally blurted out, "Y-yes. I would."

"So it shall be."

She raised a wand from seemingly out of nowhere and twirled it for a moment, seemingly gathering energy. Then, she took a firm grasp on it and waved it at Takeru, sending a small stream of small light flickers like fireflies flying out at his body, shimmering across him, changing him ...

A moment later, it was done. He looked down at his new attire. He was now wearing a long, beautiful, pearl-white, ornately-decorated dress. His golden hair hung down to the middle of his back, curled and perfectly set. His feet were adorned by incredibly expensive-looking opaque crystal high-heeled shoes.

Takeru gaped at his outfit for a moment, then stared at Angewomon.

"Well, crap," she muttered, the glow around her vanishing without a trace. "Wrong spell."

---- * * * ----

The world was mostly at peace as the sun set for the next-to-last time ...




TO BE CONTINUED...