New Author's Note:

I have a confession to make. Chicobo and I were carefully considering about our sagas of 'The Friends of the Stones' and 'Children of the Armor', and I decided that I would take a 'sabbatical vacation' from my writing. Don't think that I'm stopping. I don't even want to give up on writing; it's one of my talents that I love to do. It's just that I am so busy with my college and other things, and I find that I barely have any time to continue my works. ;_; I wish I had my year off from college last year so that I had so much time left to work, but not this time.

Instead of stopping to work on 'Children of the Armor', I decide to improve and reorganize it. I don't like the way it starts, and I wish I could clear up on more information I was hiding from you and drop invented stuff. I want to make this more realistic to the original Japanese episodes of Digimon: Digital Monsters. I plan to drop my invented stuff such as Ultra Stages (One of my friends had offered that I could use the Mega Stages of all the Destined Digimon, and I never thought I would. I find that I prefer Mega Stages than Ultra Stages. Fewer explanations, I could say. ^^;;), D-4s (They will be D-3s, that's all), but I will keep my original Digimon and characters.

Chicobo had offered to help reform 'The Friends of the Stones', and I appreciated his offer. Right now, he is working on the prologue, part one, and part two, adding more scenes, and as soon as he finishes them, I will edit them, and I will post them. The Friends of the Stones will be updated, and I hope when you read them again, you will have the same inspiration and suspense you got from the original saga. ^_^

I don't know how long will I have the break from writing, but consider this: I will be back with better sagas and stories that I cherish with my heart, and I hope you will cherish them, too. If it were not for you, Digiauthors and Digifans, I wouldn't continue my love of writing. Thank you!! ^_~

Now, this story will be about Michael Baine and his past. I hope it will help you out in the future sagas – whenever they get out :p – and I promise you will have a blast!

Old Author's Note:

Ok, this is Michael's story. Some reviewers asked me to enlighten them on the past of Michael, and how he gets to know about Frankie as his Protector. Just remember, I chose a last name, Baine, and I have no clue what is his real name. You know, I almost called him Michael Ford, because I swear to God, his father looks like HARRISON FORD! I SWEAR! Despite the brown hair, he does look like him! ^_^;;; Anyway, this part begins right after the episode with Mimi and Davis during the World Series. No, I don't remember the title! *Pouts*

Remember, the part happens in New York City, so there will be no 'chan' to names and Japanese words to speak. Darn. I like to play with that COOL language! ^_^ Even the kids call adults by Mr., Mrs., or Miss, not with 'san' to the end. You get it because you are AMERICAN!! Gah. ^^;;

I forget to find out what the American Kids' Rookie Digimon are, since they were in Champion Stages. I did find that Maria's Digimon is Patamon, but not the other kids'. *shrugs* Have a guess, darlings.

One thing to add. Kim is in here. Yeah, yeah, before you look at me funny, let me explain, darlings. Since the Japanese Digidestined separated to help the other Digidestined, I already envisaged Kim pairing with Davis in America BEFORE I REALIZED MIMI WAS THERE! Damn. Oh, well, poor Kim is stuck with Davis. Frankie would choose to stay with Tai and TK in France. HAHAH! Frankie? France? Get it?

Chicobo: *frowns* That is an insult to my character.

My apologizes! *Cries*

Chicobo: *rolls his eyes and leaves*

*Watches him going* Guess my skills are rusty.

Anyhow, I hope this story will help you out in the Children of the Armor, and there is a juicy secret that Michael is hiding from his Japanese friends! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

*Demy slaps her on the face*

OW! Thank you.

Demy: My pleasure.

DO I HAVE TO SAY THE DISCLAIMER? L Do I really have to? If you make me, I won't be happy.

Snow Angels

By Debbie (Dai-chan)

"Good-bye! Have a safe flight!"

Michael Baine smiled, the light smile playing on his face, as he watched several of his friends waved and shouted goodbyes to Motomiya Daisuke and Inoue Kimika, along with their Digimon, inside the private airplane his father maneuvered. The friendly Japanese Digidestined waved back as the airplane moved up the empty street used for an emergency landing strip. The airplane soon took off to the night sky, and the voices calmed down.

Somehow, Michael felt sadness in his chest, to his surprise. Even though that he knew Davis for a few months and met Kim only once, he felt like they were best friends. It may be silly, but for some reason, Michael felt strong companionship in the Japanese Digidestined. He did almost see the loyalty and devotion radiating from between Mimi and Kim as they hugged, so glad to see each other. Even Davis showed closeness to him, chatting as if he was renewing past times to an old friend.

He already had his friends from his hometown of New York City; he cherished their friendship very protectively, seeing the younger children as his siblings. They also looked up to him as a big brother and even a father especially to Phil and often asked him for help or a helping hand of comfort. He loved that feeling, and he vowed that he would offer a hand to help whenever a lot person needs one. He did feel that he belonged to his group, but just as a big brother. To his friends from Japan, he felt bonded in deep loyalty even though he only knew them for a short time. He could feel that the Japanese Digidestined were a unique group, different from all the other international Digidestined.

Whenever a person first met him, the first expression of him would be his movie star appearance of a handsome face and his charismatic grin that deepened the thirteen-years-old boy's suaveness. Sandy-blond hair, soft and thick, fell in ringlets on his shoulders, softening the grin into mellowness. His eyes of pale, pale blue may be charming in passion, but the appearance of the eyes was so intense that the person felt like he was penetrated by the iciness of the color. Michael was often seen as one of the celebrities, perhaps because of his famous father, but in reality, he had a caring heart for everybody and cheered them up with a flash of his grin.

What they didn't know about the boy was that he did have another side, just like everybody else, a side of himself that he struggled to hide from anybody, out of shame or guilt or even resentment. His friends had seen his other side, and they didn't like what they saw, but they did try to help him change from his old self to whom he was now. He was grateful for their friendship, but sometimes, the memories came back to haunt him unmercifully. He only hoped that his Japanese friends would never see his other side.

Michael shook his head to forget about the past and listened to his friends talking.

A tall man with dark black hair and sunglasses covering his dark eyes (it was ridiculous to Michael that he wore sunglasses at night during winter!) glanced over the six children, slightly frowning as if he was displeased at the idea appeared in his mind. He placed his fists on his hips and said, "Now, how can we fit all of you in the car?"

Michael made a slight smile of amusement as one of his friends, Steve, a blond Jewish boy with respectful grey eyes, laughed at the words. Steve was not one to mock anybody, and he knew better than to ride in a car with a man wearing sunglasses. He grinned back. "Don't worry, Mr. Tachikawa. We have our transportation home."

Mr. Tachikawa made a nervous effort to glance past the grinning children toward a bizarre creature, described briefly as a blue white snake-dragon with red torn wings, coiled around his body, his glaring red eyes staring fiercely and protectively. That creature should not be existent, but oh, yes, he existed. He and his other kin existed for several years – More than fifteen years in human time and countless millenniums in his time – and humans had no clue that they existed in cyberspace, created by the Internet and dreams of human children.

The children already knew that the snake-dragon was a Digital Monster, or Digimon for short. The creature was called an Airdramon, a guardian devoted to one of the girls present named Tatum, an Irish girl living in Canada.

(A/N: Since I found that some Digiauthors complained that there is no Canadian Digidestined, I decided to have Tatum living in Canada. Yes, I know that she is Irish, too, but come on! At least, I support Canada! ^_^ Canada is just dandy! *Ducks from throwing fruits*)

To Mr. Tachikawa, that monster was one scary beast. His face became tense, his grin forced and weak. "Ehhh . . ."

Mimi grinned, her hands curling around her father's arm, nudging him toward the car. "Come on, Daddy. They will be fine without us."

Mr. Tachikawa looked doubtful, but he was flattered by his daughter's adorable smile that she practiced on him. He shrugged. "If you say so." With that, Mimi forcefully pushed him to the car, giving a sheepish grin at Michael. He knew that she was a bit self-conscious at her father's actions. Sometimes, the man tended to be oblivious to everything. Behind Mimi, Palmon, one of the Digimon Guardians, followed along. Michael liked her; Palmon was a small flower girl with gentle emerald eyes and a crooked, cute grin. She may be small and modest, but when she digivolved into her champion and ultimate stages, she was powerful. She gave him a brief wave of her thick, vine-like claws and climbed in the back seat with Mimi.

Mimi's mother turned to Michael, smiling her cheery grin. "Michael, do you need a ride home?"

Michael shook his head, his mane of curly blond swaying. "Oh, it's alright, Mrs. Tachikawa. I want to stay here for a while."

She nodded and waved. "Okay, get home safely." Her words were meant for the children, obviously. She then took an uneasy glance to the glaring Airdramon and hurried to the car.

"Bye, Mimi!" the children uttered as the car turned around the corner of the empty buildings. Then they went on their way to home.

"See ya around, Michael!" the African-American boy, Phil, said, as he followed beside Steve down the street. Michael had no fear for them. Phil was raised in Harlem, and he learned to fear nothing. He may be only ten years old, but he had sturdiness and guts to face bigger men without flinching. However, his black eyes often shone with hope that he will live better than his past life. Twelve-years-old Steve led a sheltered life, being Jewish and protected by his parents and brothers, and he dreamed for freedom to experience new places and new people. He used to be self-righteous, but after his adventures in the Digital World, he learned to become open-minded. He had a good heart to start with. Steve and Phil were good friends, since Phil mutinied to Steve's beliefs, but both respected each other and go a strong friendship in return.

"Hey, fly safely, okay?" the Hispanic girl standing beside him, Maria, called after the Airdramon. The Digimon had his neck lowered so his partner, Tatum, mounted and helped the Native American boy, Lou, getting behind her. Lou lived in a Hopi reservation in Arizona so Tatum offered a ride there for him on Airdramon. Eleven-years-old Tatum was a sweet girl, but unbelievably curious. She liked to ask questions, sometimes to annoy her other friends, but often her questions carried caution and helped her friends to think more carefully. Ten-years-old Lou was a shy boy, but very friendly once you meet him. He can be rebellious sometimes, but rarely. Tatum and Lou, like Steve and Phil, were good friends, but not by the likes of Steve and Phil's disagreements. Tatum and Lou happened to find several things in common.

Tatum smiled down to Maria and nodded. The children held on as Airdramon fluttered his wings to take to the air. For a moment, Michael and Maria watched the blue-white winged snake traveled southwest until it disappeared beyond the streetlights and into the night sky. Once again, Michael felt sadness, missing his friends already. Shaking off the feeling of sadness, he glanced downward to Maria with concern. He said, "Should you be home, Maria? Your mom would be worried."

Maria glanced back, grinning, shaking her shoulder-length hair of glossy umber. "Nah. I'm old enough, and besides, I want to stay with you." With that, she grabbed on his arm and hugged it in affection, still grinning. Then she let it go and ran over to a beam buried half in the dirt, supposed to be part of the wooden frame around the small playground deeper in the Central Park. She walked on the beam, arms outspread for balance, enjoying herself.

Michael made another grin, this time one of gratefulness and protection. With her shiny ginger eyes and olive complexion, nine-years-old Maria was a pretty girl, not spoiled, but affectionate. It was hard to dislike her. She was too cheerful to allow anybody else to be sad in her presence. She always cheered him up whenever he was distressed or grouchy. That's why Michael liked her; she was his first and best friend and always gave happiness to him.

He shook his head at her words, knowing that she was brave for a nine-years- old. "You want to stay with the bully?" The last word he tried to chuckle over it, but the way he spoke it was wounded.

Maria appeared to hear that tone, and she turned to him, hands on hips, her voice still a child, but a child's voice with an adult's tone. "You are not a bully anymore, Mikey. You are my friend, and a very nice one."

Michael nodded and putted his chilly hands in his jacket pants. He glanced upward to the sky, enjoying the weather. He was disappointed, though. He enjoyed snow very much, and it thwarted him that there was not one snowstorm during the winter. He loved to play in the snow, playing a snowball fight with his friends and making a snow angel. Snow angels were his specialty, he could say. He would either make one while laying in the snow, or even make a statue of a snow angel, not unlike a snowman. When he finished making a snow angel, he added several things, such as scarves, pebbles, or even feathers he kept from the other seasons and decorated the snow angels, making them realistic. Did he believe in angels? He didn't say, but if he did, he would choose to believe in snow angels.

He was disappointed that he won't find a snow angel in this weather.

"Mikey, look!" he heard her calling. He turned to see Maria standing beside a tree. She had a hand on the bark, an impish smile on her face. Her hand was moving up and down, stroking the bark with a practiced touch.

His body bristled, remembering memories that worried him, and his face changed into a serious expression. "Don't," he emphasized the word with a warning. Maria responded back with a dissatisfied pout. Michael shook his head. "Don't even think about it. We promised that we will not do that again."

Maria didn't move for a second, but seeing the reproach in his ice-blue eyes, she sighed and lowered her hand. "I know . . ." she muttered. "But I like doing it."

He softened his expression, walking forward. "I know you do, but you have to promise that you won't show it or use it."

Maria stayed quiet, but her eyes sparkled with tomfoolery.

Michael bent down at his waist, his face close to hers and grinned at her. "Promise for your Mikey?"

She grinned back and hugged around his waist. "Ok, Mikey!"

"Now we go home."

"Aw!"

Michael gave the displeased Maria a playful wink. "I want you to be safe, that's all."

Maria rolled her ginger eyes. "Sometimes, you worry too much, but fine." But she did stay with him, skipping on the grass, humming a merry melody. Michael walked behind, keeping a protecting eye on her. After a moment, he suddenly sensed something odd all at once. He couldn't describe it clearly, but he did feel something touching on the nape of his neck. Not something physical touching on the skin, but a chilly finger stroking just beneath the skin, sending odd but pleasing shivers down his spine. Michael paused in his tracks, gazing around, wondering if he felt someone watching him, but he knew it was not true. That someone was already there, but it was not watching him, but merely waiting. Michael didn't know how he knew about that, but somehow, he just knew in his mind.

He then glanced his eyes overhead. To his astonishment, a faint snowstorm swirled in the night sky. He remembered that the sky was empty of clouds, very clear to show bright stars even in New York City. Right now, grey clouds were gathering over Central Park, snowflakes languidly falling down to drape the brown grass into a white blanket. Michael was unmoving in his place, surprised and pleased to see snow returning for the winter. Grinning, he looked down, saying, "Look, Maria, it's snowing!"

The grin faded into nothing as fast as it appeared. Michael frowned, searching around. Maria was gone. It seemed that Maria vanished at the same moment the snowstorm appeared. "Maria?" he spoke in a soft voice, worried, as he kept on looking around. He knew that Maria liked to play games, mainly to cheer a sad person up, and sometimes she would disappear to surprise him later into laughter. Michael didn't think Maria was planning on that. He had this strange feeling that she was gone, taken by someone. Hoping that he was wrong, he called out, "Ok, no more games. You can't be going around hiding from me." When no one answered back, not even a sound of a night animal, he became troubled. "Please, Maria."

Then he noticed a muted glow coming from his waist, the faint rays radiating outward. He almost didn't notice that until he saw the rays brightening around his waist and jeans. Looking down, he found that his Digivice glowing a soft white, as soft as the falling snowflakes. He frowned, didn't remember seeing his Digivice radiating a color like that, had only glowed bold green to help his Digimon, Betamon, to digivolve into Seadramon. He reached down to touch it, and at the instant his fingers touched it, the Digivice's glow vanished as quick.

"Hello, Michael."

Michael whirled around defensively, preparing to fight back whoever was there, but he was surprised to see another boy standing under the same tree Maria had touched, shielded from snow. He looked fifteen years of age, tall and bulky, with short dark russet hair that just covered his ears. One thing that surprised Michael was there was a streak of bright orange lining from the boy's forehead down the length of his hair, like fire among dirt. He was clad in strange-looking clothes, Michael noticed. A knee-length trench coat, colored bold white, covered his body, leaving its front open. He also had pale peach-colored loose pants and white boots hugging around his calves. Hanging from his broad shoulders, a tight-fitting pale orange shirt appeared bright against the white trench coat. His eyes were strong, roguish hazel, smiling at the blond boy. He looked vaguely familiar.

His voice, when he called his name, had an odd tenor to it. At first, Michael thought he was Japanese from the flat accent, and yet, he pronounced his name perfectly with syllables. Then when the boy didn't look Japanese (Neither did Davis and Mimi), he noticed that the boy had a mixed accent; his voice was American-like, but his tone was Japanese.

Michael's face changed to a guarded frown. He was born in New York City, and he knew that bullies and gangsters always lurked around corners to attack on the unwary. Even though the boy didn't look threatening, nevertheless, Michael stepped back cautiously.

The white-clad boy held up an empty hand, shaking his head. "Easy. I'm not one of those hoodlums. I'm only your Protector."

Michael blinked in confusion, but the boy seemed honest, and, somehow, he felt safe around him. He did look familiar, He realized. He spoke softly, "You look familiar. I think I saw you somewhere."

The boy grinned knowingly. "You know Kido Hisoka?"

Michael know who was this Hisoka. Mimi liked to talk about him and her other friends. He cocked his head, trying to remember. "You mean Frankie? I'd seen him a couple of times, that's it."

The boy nodded, appearing pleased that he knew the name. "I'm his digital self, a part of his soul he left in the Digiworld." Michael's body jerked with surprise. The boy knew about the Digiworld? He watched in astonishment as the boy continued, "My name is Sleet, your Protector, and you will know why later. I'm here for your test, but first thing first." His voice turned down into a gentle tone. "Don't worry. Maria is safe."

Michael jerked again, this time with upset worry. His voice rose with frenzied anxiety. "Where is she? What did you do to her?! Maria!" He yelled out, looking around.

"Hey, calm down!" the boy, Sleet, snapped. "I told you. She is safe. I would never do harm to her. I only need to talk with you."

Michael eyed him cautiously. "How come?"

Sleet slowly closed his hazel eyes, his body relaxing, appearing to search for words to say, and then he opened his eyes, speaking in a solemn tone that attracted Michael's attraction. "In the near future, the Armor Children will take special tests so their Protectors will teach them about their virtues, and help them to prepare for the future battles." He turned his eyes upward, seeming distressed. "There is a Final Battle coming, and we will need all the help we can find to face it. I'm aware that you are one of the Reality Children, but soon, you will have a role as an Armor Child, and because of that, I'm chosen to test you for your virtue."

Michael would be absolutely bewildered or astonished or even disbelieved if he wasn't a Digidestined, but he was not surprised. He appeared aware, knowing. A spark of remembrance kindled in the back of his mind, vague words that he heard somewhere, and he began to realize that the words became clear, graspable.

'Michael, I saw something in you, and I think it's time for you to know this. Someday, you will join a group of Digidestined in the future. Yes, there are other Digidestined, like you, but yet unlike you. Why? I'm not certain . . . . You are confused? I know that you are already a Reality Child. I'm puzzled, too, but I think you have a virtue that the other group needs . . . . . Don't you want to help, right? Maybe that is the reason, I guess, to help them. Don't worry, Michael. I may be wrong, and you won't have to leave your friends . . . . What if I'm right? . . . Well, it's up to you to find out.'

Michael frowned at the sudden words. Did he really hear those words from someone?

"Confusing, isn't it?" Sleet said with a lopsided grin. It was a moment until Michael realized that he wasn't stating about his memories, but to what he recently said.

He shook his head to the question. "No, not really."

Sleet appeared surprised, his eyebrows raised. "You do not doubt me."

"That's because I just remembered now," he answered. "A hazy memory. Someone told me that I will leave my group to join another, but he never really told me the reasons."

"Who told you?"

Michael tried again to remember, and then he began to recall a young man with bright blue eyes and a wise expression of almost pained, forlorn remembrance. "I think . . . he was a Digimon, perhaps. Maybe Benjamin." Benjamin was one of Gennai's friends, or, distinctively one of his selves.

Sleet nodded in agreement. "I will explain as much as I can, but it's something you have to experience on your own. The purpose for me here is to test you for your virtue."

"My virtue . . . ?"

'What did you see in me, Benjamin?'

'Hmm?'

'My virtue?'

'Your virtue? . . . It's interesting. Your virtue is definitely unexpected from what I thought.'

' . . . Why?'

'Your virtue is supposed to be Mercy.'

'Mercy? What is that?'

'Mercy is compassion for your friends.'

'Compassion? That's silly! I don't have any friends, and I don't have compassion! You dupe me!'

'Do you really think so?' You say you don't have any friends. What about Betamon? Isn't he your - '

'That old fish is not my friend. I don't understand why he follows me around like a mutt.'

'That's heartless, Michael.'

"Heh, who cares?'

' . . . That's why it's interesting. You are an awful bully, but your virtue is Mercy. You are a strange boy.'

'And you are a worthless numskull and a moron!'

He flinched at the disrespectful words his younger self gave to Benjamin, and looked away, his face grimaced with pained remorse. His voice whispered with haunted ache. "I had heard that Mercy was supposed to be my virtue, but I didn't believe it. I still don't."

"Why don't you believe it?" Sleet asked calmly.

Michael lazed the eyelids over his ice-blue eyes, appearing lost in thought. "It doesn't fit me."

"Oh, it does," Sleet insisted to disagree. "Why else am I here testing you for mercy?"

"Well, you should know." The words were heavy with cynicism. Michael turned to glare at him. His charming facade was lost, replaced with a sneering expression with steely eyes that held no compassion. That was the expression his other self used. His words were still mocking as he snarled back, "You should know what I was like, and perhaps I assume you do understand about me before I became 'good'."

Sleet's hazel eyes softened with compassion. "Yeah . . . I do understand."

Michael was clearly surprised at the sincerity in his voice. It sounded to him that Sleet did suffer the similar encounters he had faced in his past. He wanted to believe him, believed that he understood his shame, but then he refused to believe that. Frowning, he shook his head. "That's absurd. You do not understand at all. You don't understand why I was like that. There was no real reason why I was like whom I was before, and I have no explanation. Only shame and – " he paused, then added a word with force " – and loneliness."

Gritting his teeth, he abruptly turned to sit on a nearly bench, the same bench his friends had seated a few hours ago. He kept his glaring eyes on Sleet.

Sleet didn't flinch at the intensity, meeting the gaze with his patient gaze. "Michael, that's why I am here. I will help you understand why you have the virtue of mercy, in spite of your past."

Michael lost the scornful face, and he closed his eyes, bowing his head. "I don't want to remember it." His voice was nearly breaking.

Sleet was heard sighing, feeling the same with him. "If you weren't like that, you wouldn't be here, a Digidestined, a Reality Child, talking to me. You wouldn't get caring friends like your Betamon and Maria. You wouldn't be who you are right now. There is a reason for everything."

Michael then looked up at him, his eyes no longer icy, but flimsy, dismal. "Then tell me what the reason for me to be a bully is?"

"I thought you don't want to remember it."

"No, I don't, but I want to know why."

Sleet crossed his arms. "I can't tell you the reason. Maybe it's loneliness, anger, or maybe you are right. There is no reason, but you do know the reason."

Michael's face again grimaced with displeasure. His voice grew tense. "You are telling that I was supposed to be one of the worst bullies ever, beating the weaker with my bare fists, causing misery among my friends to learn mercy?"

"You did learn it by being a bully," Sleet pointed out. "Perhaps it's your reason."

"Then why?" Michael demanded. "Why must I cause pain to learn how to be merciful?"

Sleet seemed not to answer directly, but said, "It worked, didn't it?"

Dissatisfied with the answer, Michael looked away. He watched the snow falling, silent and beautiful, and almost suddenly, he remembered one of his cherished moments. It happened during the trip in Digiworld with the other kids he didn't see as friends yet. They were stranded in a snowfield, and he was in one of his rare quiet moods, abstractedly forming a tiny snow angel, hiding it from the others so they won't see his 'other' side. He remembered hearing childish laughter, and he then watched Maria and her Digimon, Patamon, dancing in the falling snow. Somehow, he did enjoy watching her, even though he often bullied her before.

Suddenly, his heart became grieved. He missed Maria already.

He didn't notice Sleet coming to sit beside him. The boy spoke quietly, as if not wanting to break through his memories, "You really care about her, don't you?" When he didn't answer, Sleet simply continued, "She was your only friend, the only one beside Betamon who understood you, despite the face you rejected her friendship as first."

Michael's voice was distant, but his words were strong in sincerity. "That's because I didn't know what friendship was. Maria taught me that and compassion, too. She was the only one who still believed in me, even when Betamon gave up trying to change me."

"Tell me what happened that changed you to whom you are now."

The blonde kept silent, appearing hesitant to answer, but in reality, he wished – no, wanted to tell Sleet, his Protector, about his past. He wanted him to understand his shame of being a bully when he was eleven. He wanted to tell how the trip to the Digiworld and meeting Betamon didn't quite change him a bit, but he also wanted to tell that there was one time that did change him powerfully. Michael's ice-blue eyes became pensive, getting to relive his memories.

"Ogremon showed up."

Ten kids and Digimon played in the lake water, unwary of the possible danger around. Steve protested at the splashes caused by his Digimon, Gabumon , Phil, and his Digimon, Muchomon, and frowned at them laughing as he tried to clean his eyeglasses. Tatum giggled at the scene and turned to continue her talk with Lou, their Digimon, Tsukaimon and Gotsumon, also playing in the water with Maria and Patamon. Betamon was swimming alone, his fins gently gliding, and occasionally, his red eyes glanced to Michael sitting on a sun-warmed rock. He was staring out in space, in his rare quiet moods, and Betamon sighed in concerned worry.

Suddenly, a loud roar was heard from inside the tress. Ogremon, who always looked for a fight, leaped from one of the trees branches, swinging his bone club, his long fangs flashing.

"As usual, our Digimon attacked so we can escape. But, of course, I refused to escape. The fight excited me, and I shouted taunts to make him mad. It was the biggest mistake I ever made."

Michael's face lost the roguish expression as he gasped at the flashing, wild eyes of Ogremon glaring down to him. He barely heard a voice calling at him to get away, and he stood frozen as the bone club rose in the air and swiftly flew toward him. He couldn't remember what happened. All he could recall was something snapped, and he was flying backward until he crashed into a tree. His body hurt from the impact, but excruciating pain throbbed in his left leg, and yet he was almost unaware of it. Dazedly, he looked down and was horror-struck to see his leg bending in a wrong way. It was broken, and he finally wept tears of pain and shock.

"At that moment, I can see myself doing that to someone. I would feel nothing, not malice, pleasure, or even regret, like Ogremon felt nothing, I nothing but a pest in his way. At that instant, I was . . . horrified, shaken. I cannot believe I was that heartless. So I ran away."

The kids and Digimon called out his name as they wandered through the forest. Ogremon was defeated and chased away by one of the digivolved Digimon. Betamon was very worried when he couldn't find Michael, already knew that he had a broken leg from the blow of the club. The kids used to dislike the oldest boy, but they were also worried about him. He was still a part of their group, even though he was a mean bully. They wanted to help him because they knew that not even he was immune to pain and fear, and so for a few moments, they searched for him. It was not hard to find him; in a minute, they found him laying by a tree, ineffectively trying to be hidden. He was sobbing, burying his head among brown leaves, and he had a broken leg, obviously from the redness and swollenness. At the sight, they took pity.

"My friends wanted to help me, but I didn't accept their help and forgiveness. I couldn't. It was too hard. That battle really did scare me. I never want to fight at all. I don't want to hurt anybody, no more. I was frightened of my friends, worrying that I would harm them with a touch, but . . ."

Maria rested her hands around Michael's chest, careful not to wake him from his exhausted slumber. He was reluctant to use Maria's lap for a pillow, but he was so worn out from his sobbing that he fell in a sound sleep without any protests. She noticed his face wet with tears, and gently, she reached to wipe them away. Betamon was watching her action, smiling at the touching scene, and returned to his sleep, as well as guarding over his digi-child.

"Maria showed that she did care, and I began to accept her forgiveness plus the others'. Betamon was glad to have me back, and the other kids were very friendly toward me. They weren't trying to be sorry for me at all. They just accepted me. They were my real friends, and still are, but Maria is my first friend."

Michael leaned back on the bench, watching the falling snow. His eyes were misted, but he didn't shed any tears. He felt greatly relieved, glad that he finally opened up. He didn't see a reason to cry; he was just glad.

"And what does this tell you about mercy?" Sleet gently asked.

Michael took a breath, and then finally replied with carefully chosen words. "Mercy isn't only about not hurting people, is it?"

Sleet kept on grinning.

"It's about showing benevolence and compassion. I wasn't without any mercy. I just didn't know how to show it."

"Now you know how," Sleet said.

Michael glanced at him with puzzlement. "Is this my test, really? Just talking?"

"Not all tests end by actually doing something. You simply showed me your past, and I helped you seeing the reason why you have the virtue. It did teach you."

"Yeah, about showing compassion."

"It was a simple test."

Michael slowly nodded, kept on watching Sleet. He was curious about him; he wanted to know why he was here for beside the test. "Why are you here?"

Sleet exasperatingly rolled his eyes and sighed. "Boy, do I have to explain that again?" Michael had to smile at that, and Sleet again smiled. "I'm your Protector, and I'm here to help you relieving your troubles."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

Michael studied the face of the twin Frankie, his eyes slightly narrowed, then he spoke, " . . . Can you tell me why, all of a sudden, I'm supposed to join the Armor Children? I already have my group." He thought he knew who the Armor Children were – he wondered what kind of Digidestined they will be- but he was puzzled. They seemed excellent in showing kindness and protection to Digimon. Sure, they didn't like to fight against any Digimon, but still, they surely didn't need any help.

Sleet shrugged, looking upward to the cloudy sky. "Maybe the Armor Children see something worthy in you and want you to join them, to help them."

"Why don't they ask me for help?"

"The reason they don't ask you for help is because they don't know about their powers yet."

Comprehension dawned in Michael's face. "I see . . . So they don't know anything about them yet." Almost unconsciously, he gazed down to his right hand, seeing something different about it. For a momentary split second, several tiny strokes of violet and ice blue fondled around his fingers. Shutting his eyes, he stubbornly held down his power, the vastness of warmth shrinking until it was a tiny smudge floating in the back of his mind's blackness. Opening his eyes, Michael held up his hand to Sleet and said, "I'm supposed to show them that?"

Sleet shook his head. "The Armor Children have their own powers. They won't have your power, but you will have their power."

"What?" Michael widened his eyes in disbelieved shock. "But – but I thought I have only one power! One!"

Sleet cast him a steel gaze until he calmed down. "It's rare for a Digidestined to have two different powers, but it's true. You will join the Armor Children and get their power, as well. Look, it's your choice to join them or not, but remember, your choice will affect the outcome of the Armor Children's fate."

Michael was in troubled silence. "Sleet . . . Even though I have to join them . . . why must I?"

The white-clad boy replied, "To teach them about mercy, Patron."

Teach them about mercy? Maybe Sleet was right. The Armor Children may show mercy; in fact, they never experienced having to hurt or even destroy Digimon because they chose not to. Michael then realized – the Armor Children didn't hurt them because they were afraid. They were too afraid to hurt any Digimon. He remembered that Mimi told him that sometimes she and her friends had to seriously face the fact that some of the Digimon must be destroyed in order to keep the balance in the Digiworld. She said that they learned to show mercy even to Dark Digimon – why? She didn't say; she appeared withdrawn and pained whenever she remembered. Michael knew that he and his friends did the same thing; they had to hurt first to help.

Perhaps, the Armor Children never hurt any Digimon because they didn't know how. It may sound absurd or even shocking that you have to hurt to help out, but Michael learned the hard way, and though he suffered, he felt relieved when the Digimon were finally safe from their sufferings. Perhaps Michael was supposed to show the Armor Children that.

Then he recalled one word that Sleet voiced. He looked back, saying in a questioning tone, "Patron?"

"Your title," Sleet replied. "The Patron of Mercy. That's what you will be known because you are like a father, a friend to help them relieve their pain."

The Patron of Mercy. For a strange reason, Michael felt that the title was right for him. He felt protection for his self, deeper respect of his actions, and a bold link of loyalty he had for his friends. The title did sound right for him. He liked the name. His lips lightly smiled with humble pride, and then he looked up as Sleet stood up from his seat.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

Sleet folded his hands behind his back, his hazel eyes forward. "My duty is finished. You passed the test of Mercy." When Michael made a blank, almost lonely expression, Sleet smiled back. "Don't worry, Patron of Mercy. I'm always here for you whenever you feel lost." He rose up a hand and smiled wider as a large snowflake fell on his hand, its points glittering even in the nighttime. "You know where to find me."

Michael remained seated, watched Sleet strolling in a relaxed motion, and somehow, to his surprise, the snowflakes seemed to dance around the white- clad boy, the unseen light shimmering against the snow in a soulful sway. Michael was speechless at the beauty of the snowfall, and wasn't even surprised when Sleet seemed to vanish among the snowflakes. It was like he came out from the snowflakes and now left with them.

A snow angel . . . He looked so like a snow angel guardian . . .

"Mikey, what are you doing? I looked all over for you! You lost or something?"

Michael knew the voice and displayed a faint smile, but didn't look back as Maria wandered toward him. She appeared displeased as she stood before him, but then she blinked in curiosity at the teasing smile on the boy. She looked around, searching for something that only Michael had seen. "What are you staring at?"

The faint smile widened. "I saw a snow angel."

Maria's umber eyes shone. "Really, you saw one? I would love to see one. I believe in angels, you know."

"I know," Michael agreed, turned his eyes to her. A thought passed through his mind with affection. You are my little angel, Maria. Then he solemnly spoke, "Maria, I want to tell you something."

He liked it whenever he had something to say, Maria always tended to go sit on his lap and waited for him to begin, as if he was going to begin an excited fairy tale. This time, the fairy tale was real. He looked straight in her gaze, saying, "Someday, I will have to leave to help another group of Digidestined. I won't be here for a while, but I promise I will be back soon."

Maria looked cheerless, worried. "You have to leave now?"

"No, but soon."

"Why?"

Michael allowed the faint smile to appear. "The snow angel told me."

Maria grinned, nodding as if she knew it. "Well, if he told you to do that, then do it." Then she slid her arms around his chest and embraced him, not a hug of childish happiness, but a hug of reassuring goodbye, letting him know that she still cared about him and will wait for him to return. "We will miss you."

Michael gently returned the hug. "I already miss you, mouse." For a moment, the hug tightened, they wishing not to let go, then Michael let go, standing up. Maria looked at him questioningly, and he smiled. "Come on, it's late. Let's go home."

Maria made a teasing pout. "Aw, you are no fun." She then squealed in delight as she ducked from a quick grab of his arms. She dashed down the snow-covered field, chased by a laughing Michael. Finally catching her, he hoisted her up in her arms, and they went in a jolly spin as the snow continued falling.

Michael knew he will have to leave his friends someday to join his new friends, and he looked forward to help them learning about mercy. He believed that he would learn more from them, too. He already believed in them, from what he saw in them. He just hoped that they would believe in him. Would they believe in angels, too? If they did, then he hoped he would be their snow angel.

Never The End!

How do you like this story? I hope that Michael would become more realistic for you to understand about him. ^_^ I DO believe in angels. Not just guardian angels, but also snow angels, water angels, cloud angels, and even night angels. I would say Demy is my night angel, although he is just an annoying bat.

Demy: Hey! I'm not annoying!

Debbie: You are cute, ok?

Demy: That's better.

Dai: How about me? Am I one of your angels?

Debbie: No, not exactly. Let me say that you are my devil.

Dai: WOW! I feel proud!

Debbie: -_-;; just review, won't you, darlings?