Chapter 2

The Investigation Began

As Kari uneasily slept after getting the news that she would be getting forcefully married her dreams returned her to her first few days on the continent of Network. It had been a few hour now since they had finished their drinks and left the Darcmon's Bar. The helpfully angel digimon had shared her vast knowledge of the Flame Empire and Network with them. They were now sitting in the grass in a secluded area of the park trying to figure out what to do next.

"Out of everything I expected to find here this wasn't on the list. I mean File and Folder were something, but this place is a whole different level of something," Tai sighed as he leaned back and let himself fall backwards into the grass. They had spent the last few hours exploring the city trying to find any clues as to the strange events happening in the Digital and Real World. After a while it had become obvious that they wouldn't find the answers in Ember Coast. They had actually discovered that Ember Coast was more of a vacation spot. Not really the kind of place one expected to find shadowy dealings going on.

"Yeah… If it wasn't for all the digimon walking around I'd swear we were back in the Real World," Matt noted. Digimon in the streets of the city had become a common sight in the Real World over the last five years. But those were normally in-training or rookie digimon, and they were always accompanied by their human partners.

"So where do we go from here?" Davis inquired at a total loss as to what they were going to do next.

"To tell you the truth Davis, I don't really know." Tai answered. Around him the Digidestine let their bodies relax in the comfortable breezes rolling off of the coastal beach. It was a really nice place with great weather which made concentrating on anything other than the peaceful atmosphere difficult.

"We could move inward towards the capital of the Flame Empire," Izzy suggested.

"Why?" Tai inquired sitting back up so he could look his friend in the eyes, hoping that he had a reason behind his suggestion.

"Well, it would stand to reason that we'd be able to find more information in the capital, since it's the biggest city in the Flame Empire," Izzy explained with a knowledgeable tone. "And according to Darcmon thousands of digimon from all over pass through there."

"So you're counting on the idea that we might be able to learn something from all the information passing through the city," Ken noted, seeing the logic in Izzy's plan.

"And it's still within the Flame Empire which seems to accept outsider pretty readily," Tai added liking the idea more and more. Off to the side TK seemed disinterested by the conversation, or maybe he had something else more pressing on his mind. "What did Darcmon say the capital was called again?" Tai inquired absentmindedly.

"Capital of Blazing Radiance," Sora answered quickly. The name just kind of stuck, so it was easy for most of them to remember.

"Yea, that's right!" Tai laughed at the fact that he wasn't able to remember a name like that. "I guess that means we should figure out how this whole Trailmon system works so we don't have to walk there," he concluded, bring smiles to those gathered around him. They were happy to have a plan, but they were mostly smiling about the idea of not having to walk and instead being able to travel the distance in comfort.

"Everyone ready to go?" Davis cheered jumping up preparing to leave. The others made motions to follow him, except for Matt, TK, and Izzy. Matt's reason for staying down seemed to have to do with TK's condition, while Izzy seemed immersed in whatever he was doing on his laptop.

"Hey, Izzy, you still with us?" Mimi teased. When he didn't respond she tilted her head to the side and stared down at his screen. Displayed across the desktop were different size maps and charts. "What's that Izzy?" She asked unable to figure out what she was seeing.

"I found an open access data network in the city," Izzy commented before going quiet again.

"A what…?" Tai questioned. He really hated it when Izzy used computer jargon with him, since by now he thought Izzy would understand that most people don't know what he was talking about.

"It's kind of like the internet, but less expansive," Ken tried his best to explain.

"In a lot of ways it seems to be modeled after the internet back home. But there are some differences here and there," Izzy noted bring himself out of his intense concentration.

"So what's the point?" Davis asked wishing that they were underway already.

"The point is that I found a source that has detailed maps of the entire continent, so I'm downloading them in case we need them," Izzy responded setting the computer down to complete its task.

"Good find Izzy!" Tai congratulated the computer genius.

"Leave it to Izzy and his laptop to find something so useful," Yolei added with a big smile.

"Is something wrong?" Tai asked turning his attention to the two blond siblings. Matt just looked back at him with an unsure shrug, while TK acted like he hadn't heard him. Ever since Darcmons Bar he hadn't been acting right. Like something was bothering him.

"I think we all know where we'll find our answers," TK suddenly announced without lifting his head. "The Dark Area…" he concluded looking up at the group with a focused gaze.

For a few moments the group stood in silence, contemplating what TK had just brought up. In truth, they had all had the same thought after listening to Darcmon, but had chosen to look for alternatives. However, somewhere in the back of their minds they really wanted to avoid going there.

"TK has a point Tai," Matt commented backing up his little brother's claim.

"…I know… but something about it… I don't know…" Tai tried to answer, but found it difficult to find the right words. After a few moments of silence Tai had to give in to the idea. "I guess it's worth looking into," he agreed with an agitated sigh.

"So how do we get there…?" Cody asked when the decision was made. Going off of the name they assumed it wouldn't be easy to reach. Places like it normally weren't in their experiences.

"Actually it appears that I'll be quite easy," Izzy noted turning all the attention to him.

"How so Izzy?" Matt inquired.

"Apparently the Trailmon system runs everywhere, even the Dark Area," Izzy answered turning his laptop towards the group. Displayed across the screen was a large square of land colored deep purple. Scattered about the square was winding lines of black and a few black circles here and there.

"So this mean…?" Davis questioned after giving up trying to figure out what he was looking at on his own.

"It's the map I was downloading. The dark purple part is the land the Dark Area covers and the black lines are Trailmon tracks," Izzy explained as if he had known all along.

"And the black circles?" Yolei further inquired getting closer to the screen.

"They're terminals where the Trailmon stop to drop-off and pick-up new passengers," Izzy replied before turning the computer back towards him and began writing something down on a piece of paper.

"What you written Izzy?" Tai asked as he watched Izzy finish scribbling and close his laptop.

"It's the information we need to get to the Dark Area. Basically the track number and train we need to take," Izzy explained before pushing up off of the ground and getting to his feet.

"So I guess we're off to the Dark Area then…" Davis cheered with an unsure tone.

As the group explored the train terminal and waited at the platform, with all kinds of digimon, for the right Trailmon to pull in, Kari's mind began to wander. Since she and the other had arrived there hadn't been much time to stop and think. There was just so much to take in; it was quite a change from everything they were used to. But at the fore front of her mind was where they were heading now; the Dark Area. From the moment she had heard that name memories of the Dark Ocean had been dancing at the edge of her mind. In truth the idea frightened her, but with everyone with her she felt she had the strength to go there.

However, the safety of numbers wasn't the only factor keeping her calm, even if she didn't know it. For some strange reason she wasn't afraid of the Dark Area like she was afraid of the Dark Ocean. She didn't know if it was because of how Darcmon had spoken of it, but somehow it didn't seem like an evil place.

"It's here," Tai said as he patted Kari on the head, bringing her out of her thoughts. In front of her a strangely shaped blue train, with a dangling antenna hanging off of the front, sat steaming in the shade of the terminal. With a final powerful release of steam the doors of the passenger car sprang open and digimon began to exit. Once all that were getting off were off new passengers began to get on. Smaller digimon happily jumped in through open windows; while bigger ones tried to maneuver themselves through the doors.

"It would seem to be kind of dangerous right now…" Yolei uneasily laughed as heavy digimon pressed against each other creating a dangerous mass for something as small and fragile as humans.

"Yeah…" The others responded in the same uneasy tone.

"Don't worry about it, just wait. I don't leave until everyone's onboard," A grinding voice suddenly stated. The Digidestine quickly set about looking for the sources of the voice, but found no one near them.

"Who said that?" Davis inquired of the voice hoping it would reveal itself.

"I did…" The voice spoke louder this time as the train engine next to them shook slightly. The strange movement of the train brought the Destines attention to it and they were instantly greeted with a large red eye reflecting them in its surface. "Hi!" The train engine smiled allowing them to see the red hot engine on the inside.

"Guys… is the train talking to us…?" Davis asked questioning his own sanity over all else.

"You know… I don't see why that's so surprising, considering this is the Digital World after all… but somehow it still is…" Tai laughed as the group tried to get over the shock of the sudden encounter.

"We actually should have expected something like this considering the fact that they're called Trailmon," Izzy noted as he began to inspect the steaming mechanical digimon.

"I'm guessing you're all new to the whole Trailmon system…" The Trailmon laughed as his eyes followed Izzy's inspection of its surface.

"You could say that…" Kari nervously laughed.

"Well, don't worry I'll get you to where you're going, no problem," Trailmon assured them. "But if I may make a suggestion, you probably want to get in the front car if you want to sit comfortable. Those cars doors are smaller than the others so you won't have to worry about having to share a car with any digimon bigger than you."

"Thank you," Kari thanked him on behalf of the group before they boarded the front passenger car. Stepping inside they found a hard metal floor below their feet and benches covered in soft green padding.

"Ahh, air-conditioning..." Mimi smiled as she took a seat right beneath the humming system of vents.

"Well, at least Mimi's happy," Sora laughed, taking a seat beside her on the bench.

After looking around the car for a bit they heard a low ding, before the doors slid shut and clicked into place. It would appear that they would have the front car to themselves. Once the doors were closed the remaining standing members took their seat and the Trailmon slowly began to pull out of the station.

"It looks like we're on our way," Yolei mused as the station began moving into the distance.

"So where are you all heading too?" A voice rattled out over the intercom attached to the ceiling in the middle of the car.

"Trailmon…?" Kari questioned looking up at the intercom.

"Yes, I thought we could continue our talk while we make our way to the next station," the Trailmon's voice came over the intercom once more.

"We're planning to go to the Dark Area," Tai answered.

"Haven't been there in a while now… but it was an interesting run while I was there though," Trailmon mused with a reflective tone. "Are you going there for any reason in particular?" It asked turning itself back to the conversation.

"We're looking for some information about some things, and the Dark Area seemed like the place to start," Tai answered back.

"What's it like there?" Izzy inquired, wanting to gather some facts about the place they were heading.

"It's a pretty quiet place actually… and it's always night. However, I don't really know how much information actually passes through there, but if you're going to find any I would suggest the Dark Area Trailmon main station or the Shadow Keep," Trailmon answered. "But to get into the Shadow Keep you'll need to be invited by the Dark Lord," Trailmon added.

"Thanks, we'll keep that in mind," Izzy rejoined as he added what the Trailmon had told them to his database of information he had started when he first arrived in Network.

"If the Dark Area is where you're heading though you'll have to catch the Dark Trailmon at the Flame Terminal, my last stop, and the main Trailmon station in the Flame Empire. It also happens to be in the largest city in all the ten areas, Capital of Blazing Radiance." The Trailmon noted. "The problem is that there is only one and if you miss it you'll have to wait a week for it to circle back."

"Wait, are you saying there's only one Trailmon that goes to the Dark Area?" Davis questioned with a measure of surprise.

"Yes, it makes a stop at each of the main terminals during it's week long route. After each stop it goes directly to the main terminal of the Dark Area, and then back out heading for one of the other areas," the Trailmon explained.

"That makes no sense. Why would there only be one Trailmon?" Mimi questioned, fearing that if they missed the Dark Trailmon they would be forced to walk.

"They like their quiet in the Dark Area," the Trailmon laughed, while outside the beaches and fields of the Ember Coast vanished, and were replaced by thick forest and rolling hills.

About six hours later they pulled into the Flame Terminal and exited the passenger car amongst the throngs of digimon. During the trip they had crossed half the Flame Empire, and considering how long it took them to arrive and the speed they had been traveling gave real measure to the size of the continent of Network. It most likely would have been a much longer trip if they hadn't taken the express, which only made a few stops between the Ember Coast and City of Blazing Radiance.

"Now, take those stairs over there down ten flights to the basement platform. There you'll find the DarkTrailmon stop," the Trailmon said as he eyed the stairs leading down.

"How'll we know which ones the DarkTrailmons stop, or which ones the DarkTrailmon for that matter?" Davis questioned of the Trailmon.

"Because the eleventh floor is pretty small and set aside for the express purpose of two areas, the Dark Area and the Light Kingdom, but there haven't been any Trailmon running to the Light Kingdom for a few years now. So you only have two stops to chose from, and only one Trailmon to show up. And trust me if you can't tell its DarkTrailmon just by looking at it you must be blind," their guiding Trailmon laughed, releasing a puff of steam at the idea. "Only bad part about it is that the DarkTrailmon moves at his own pace so you can never really tell what time of day it will show up," it added.

"Thanks, for all your help Trailmon," Kari bowed to show her appreciation.

"You are very welcome, young lady. But you better hurry before this place gets crowded again," Trailmon smiled as he began cooling off before he would have to be making the trip back to the Ember Coast in a few hours.

The Digidestine carefully descended the small staircase which had a sign with the words, IN-TRAINING AND ROOKIE ONLY, printed on it hanging on the rail. Running alongside it was a larger staircase with a sign indicating that it was for Champion, Ultimate, and Mega digimon. Down ten flights they went to the basement, and out into a small concrete dome of a platform.

The walls of the final platform were smooth black marble which five feet from the ground was lined with polished dark brown wood paneling. On either side of the stairs there were smaller wooden platforms above which lanterns hung and two sets of tracks ran. Both small platforms looked the same, even down to the large clocks positioned between the sets of benches on each side.

"Do you think we missed it?" Yolei inquired as she looked about for any hint as to whether a Trailmon had been in the station recently.

"I don't think so. While on the Trailmon I did some more research and for the DarkTrailmons timetable, and according to it the DarkTrailmon should arrive sometime today… I just don't know exactly when," Izzy stated as he looked around the small terminal as well.

"Maybe these clocks have something to do with its schedule?" TK said drawing the group's attention to the large clock on the right side.

"I don't see how it could, since this one's broken," Davis stated as he kicked the base of the left one.

"That might be true Davis, this one's working perfectly fine," TK noted as he looked up at the one on the right. "But now that I look at it I'm not sure if it's a clock. It only has one hand and no numbers, just different colored symbols."

"The one closest to the hand, I know it. It's the symbol of the Flame Empire," Kari noted, pointing to the red mark on the clock. "And the hands slowly moving towards it."

"That's it, Kari," Ken suddenly stated. "It's not a clock but a location transmitter. The DarkTrailmon must be on its way between whatever the pink one stands for and the Flame Empire, and the closer it gets to the terminal here, the closer the hand gets to that areas symbol."

"Then way isn't this one moving? It just seems to be stuck on the white one." Davis noted looking over his shoulder to his best friend for an explanation.

"Remember what the Trailmon we took said about the Trailmon that runs to and from the Light Kingdom having stopped. The Trailmon must just be staying in its own area, never leaving or moving, so the tracker must be right," Ken explained.

"So that means the white one must be the symbol of the Light Kingdom," Matt thought aloud as he tried to memorize the different symbols on the face of the clock.

"The hand doesn't seem to be moving much, does it?" Cody questioned, turning everyone's attention back to the Dark Area's side of the terminal.

"No, it doesn't. From the looks of it, it could be another few hours before it arrives," Tai sighed as he sat down on one of the benches and laid down. Kari took a seat next to his head and quickly drifted off into her thoughts. "Well, I'm sure when it gets here we'll know. So I'm going to take this opportunity to catch a little sleep," he added before closing his eyes and letting his body go limp.

Following their leaders example the group settled down of a few hours of rest. And as Kari drifted to sleep in her dream of the past, the current world began to fill her vision until she found herself sitting up in the soft crimson silk bed within the Pyre Citadel.

"Did you sleep well?" Gatomon asked from the foot of the bed.

"I guess this wasn't all a dream… I half expected to wake up on that bench by my brother, and this whole thing with the Pyre Citadel would have been a dream," Kari sighed as she stared at the dancing flames in the fireplace.

"No such luck I'm afraid. But while you were asleep I did a little checking around and I found out that we full access to most of the citadel, we just can't leave the grounds," Gatomon noted. "And unfortunately the walls are well guarded by some powerful flying digimon, which don't make me too confident in my ability to get us out of here as Angewomon."

"That's not good… But staying here is much worse…" Kari remarked, recalling memories of the court's decision to marry her off to the Flame Emperor.

"That's true, but we're going to have to find a way to sneak out of here without anyone seeing us," Gatomon whispered while walking across the bed to Kari's side.

"We'll also have to get out of the Flame Empire pretty quickly after that, because I don't think they'll be too happy about us escaping," Kari added as she swung her feet over the side of the bed and placed them on the floor before getting up.

With a small yawn Kari looked herself over in the mirror, doing her best to straighten out the winkles she had put in the dress after sleeping in it. FlameWizardmon and told her there was a set of pajama's in the large wooden closet, but she had been to stressed and tired to change last night, so she had just chosen to collapse on the bed and let sleep overtake her. She continued to work with the dress, while considering a change of clothes in the back of her head, when there was a knock at the door.

"Hello…" Kari uneasily spoke to the large wooden door.

"Morning, Malady," FlameWizardmons voice called through the door.

"Morning… Is there something you need from me?" Kari asked in the same uneasy voice.

"Actually, Malady, I was here to see if you or your partner needed anything. Breakfast is currently being served in the grand dining hall, and if you wished to wash I could guide you to the baths," FlameWizardmon stated, the mere mention of food making Kari and Gatomons stomachs rumble.

"It's probably best if we get something to eat. We won't be able to escape when the time comes if you're too hungry to evolve or even move," Kari crouched down and whispered to Gatomon, who begrudgingly agreed with her.

"Then, please show us the way to the grand dining hall," Kari said with a small bow after opening the door.

"As you wish," FlameWizardmon replied as he motioned for them to follow him.

Like the day before they followed him along the tapestry lined walls, all the way to the courtyard. Outside was another beautiful day, with the sun shining brightly and a gentle breeze blowing across the grass.

"The breeze feels so nice," Kari smiled happily as she ran a hand through her hair to hold the strands back that were being kicked up in the wind.

"That's because we're close to the border between the Valley of Wind and the Flame Empire. The cooling winds continue to blow this far into the empire, giving us many nice days," FlameWizardmon explained.

"The other areas must appreciate that as well," Kari remarked.

"Actually, the Valley of Wind only borders the Flame Empire and the ocean. That area is actually a long narrow piece of land formed between two mountain ridges, which starts out as peninsula in the north and cuts into the Flame Empire for a good distance. It's actually one of the smallest areas in Network, second only to the Water Isles in the east." FlameWizardmon shared. "It's for that reason the Flame Empire and the Valley of Wind are allies."

"Just because of the geography?" Kari further inquired.

"Yes, and the fact that the strength of the Flame Empire is enough to deter all the other area's from making any hostile moves towards the Valley of Winds," FlameWizardmon answered. "Now, if I may ask a question."

"Of course, what is it?" Kari asked, slightly a taken back by how nice FlameWizardmon was being. She had come to see the digimon in the Pyre Citadel as monsters that were holding her captive, but their guide seemed different than the others. It might have been the fact that he was instructed to be their guide in the castles, or, he might have been treating her like the Flame Empress she would soon be if she stayed. However, all she really knew was that he was being nice right now.

"Why is your partner looking at me like that?" He inquired while pointing directly at Gatomon on Kari's shoulder.

"I don't know, but it could be the fact that the last time you led Kari somewhere she came back engaged," Gatomon said, her voice dripping in hostile sarcasm. After that the rest of the walk was spent in silence, until they reached the grand dining room entrance.

"Is he in there?" Kari asked, hesitating outside of the entrance. The idea of seeing the digimon that had crippled her with just a stare was scary enough, but now that she had been told he was her fiancé, she was twice as worried about seeing him.

"No, the lord left early this morning for one of the towns on the border, and most likely won't be back for some time," FlameWizardmon answered as he attempted to usher the two of them into the dining hall.

With conformation that the Flame Emperor wasn't in the next room waiting for her, she and Gatomon entered the hall. The room was rather large, with burning chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and torches on the walls. The walls were made of the same gray stones as the rest of the castle, except that in this room they were covered with a reddish dark brown wood paneling and the elaborate tapestries that hung from the walls reached from the ceiling to the floor. In the center of the room was a large polished black wooden table that stretched nearly across the whole length of the room. At the far end of the table sat a decadent chair of black wood and crimson fabric. Kari assumed it must have been the seat belonging to the Flame Emperor. The table had a crimson and gold tablecloth running down the middle and draping off of the end near the entrance. Metal chairs of all different sizes and shapes ran along both sides of the table. Spread out across the table was plates of meats, fruits, drink, and other types of delicious foods.

"Follow me," FlameWizardmon instructed. The two obeyed and quickly followed after him, the whole time staring at all the different food set out on the table. "You may sit in the lord's chair until your own chair is completed," he added while motioning towards the emperor's chair, instructing her to sit.

Complying Kari sat in the chair and quickly noticed two things. First, that it had to have been the most comfortable chair she had ever sat in. And second, that while the chair appeared big because of its large back and decorations, it was actually just a little bigger than her. The armrest and legs seemed to be at the level that a human would be comfortable with.

"Come to think of it, he didn't look all that big in the courtyard the other day, just intimidating. He actually seemed to just be a little bigger than me," Kari thought to herself.

"Is something wrong, Kari?" Gatomon inquired after seeing the strange look of though on her partners face.

"No, it's nothing Gatomon… nothing at all…" She answered, shaking herself free from her thoughts, before looking down at the table. "We couldn't possibly eat all of this. So much of it will go to waste," Kari gasped as she stared at the sheer amount of food placed before her.

"Do not worry about it, Malady, there is no way we expected someone as small as you two to eat all of this. As is tradition, once the royals have eaten, the castle staff will be allowed to have the rest as their breakfast; hence, all of the chairs around the table," FlameWizardmon smiled at her before he began to walk away.

"Wait, where are you going?" Kari inquired, stopping the small man in his tracks. "You don't have to leave, and I would very much like the company."

"If you wish Malady," FlameWizardmon bowed before taking a seat in a chair his size a few down from where Kari and Gatomon sat.

Kari nervously looked around at the food on the table before turning to FlameWizardmon. "Does the Flame Emperor eat alone like this every day?"

"Nowadays, it's only him, Babamon, and Jijimon," FlameWizardmon responded with a sigh as his eyes scanned the full length of the table, frowning as they crossed all the empty chairs. "But it wasn't always like this… Many years ago the Lord used to invite the entire castle to dine with him. He used to laugh and smile with everyone, while we filled our stomachs with good food and drink, but now…"

Hearing the sadness his memories had brought Kari couldn't help but wonder what things around the castle must have once been like. "Why did things change?"

Taking a moment to think and then look at Kari FlameWizardmon just shrugged tiredly. "I don't know. The Lord gradually smiled less and less each day. And became more distant the more his smile faded, until he just stopped communicating with others entirely…"

"You mean he doesn't talk to anyone anymore?" Kari questioned, shocked by the news.

"He talks… but not in his voice anymore… I mean it's his voice, but it doesn't sound or feel the same…" FlameWizardmon depressingly sighed as he hung his head and stared down at the empty plate before him.

"I'm sorry…" Kari apologized after seeing how sad the small digimon had become.

"It is not your fault, Malady… Things have just been 'different' since odd occurances have been happening in Network…" FlameWizardmon reassured the girl before picking out something to eat. The rest of the meal was spent in an awkward silence. FlameWizardmon not wanting to talk anymore, and Kari brimming with questions, but too afraid of hurting him with them.

After twenty minutes the three had eaten their fill and FlameWizardmon was guiding them out of the main hall and into the garden.

"Here we are, Malady," FlameWizardmon stated as he bowed and motioned for Kari and Gatomon to exit into the sunlight.

Following the guide digimons lead the two exited into a garden near the back of the citadel where they were instantly greeted by a beautiful landscape. Flowers, trees, bushes, and grass were all well maintained and positioned so as to bring out the true beauty of nature.

"Wow…" Kari and Gatomon marveled as they walked through the garden. They walked along until they came to a large patch of flowers in the center of the garden.

"It's amazing… It almost seems as if it's on fire…" Kari awed at the patch of flowers before her.

The patch of flowers was comprised of many shades of reds, oranges, and yellows that varied in heights and arrangements. In the winds that swept over the patch the flowers shifted and flowed like the flames of a large fire. It was beautiful to watch, but somehow strange overwhelming power flowed forth from it.

"You look quite amazing yourself before those flowers," a soft voice suddenly stated, snapping Kari out of her entranced gaze.

Turning towards the voice Kari and Gatomon were greeted by the sight of a female digimon about the size of an adult human female. She wore a pair of thigh high black high heel boots and a skin tight suit covering her torso. A pair of red gloves ran up to her shoulders and were wrapped in golden thorny vines that started at the wrist ran up her arms, over her shoulders, and down across her chest terminating somewhere on her back. A long green cape, white on the inside, was draped over her back with the collar turned up creating the affect of flower petals arching up around her head. In front the cape was held together with a pick flower clasp. Adorning her head was a large crimson rose that covered her eyes and nose. It left only her ruby red lips exposed and a golden blonde ponytail sticking out the back, tied up with roses.

"Morning, Rosemon," FlameWizardmon greeted the plant digimon with a bow. Beside him Kari and Gatomon stared at the new arrival, trying to figure out her reason for appearing before them.

Returning the greeting with a nod Rosemon then turned her attention to Kari. "You know when somebody gives you a compliment it's considered rude to say nothing in return. At the very least you could smile or say thank you," Rosemon stated with a hand on her hip and her head tilted slightly to the side. "But I guess it's your prerogative considering you'll soon be the Flame Empress," she added with a mock smile.

"I'm sorry…" Kari rejoined, trying her best to ignore the comment on her impeding marriage.

"Don't worry about it," Rosemon smiled a genuine smile this time. "With as much on your plate as you have, I'm not surprised that you're a bit despondent."

"So you think what's happening to Kari isn't right either?" Gatomon interjected looking hopeful at the mega digimon.

"Not really," Rosemon shrugged, dispelling any hope the two had for her. "In truth I think she's pretty lucky. You couldn't ask for a better mate than the Emperor."

Taking an instant dislike to Rosemon because of her response, Gatomon growled, "I think she'd be much luckier if you would all let her go," under her breath.

"But according to granny the union between you two will create a new generation of the royal family that will ensure our nations survival for centuries," Rosemon mused, reaching down and picking up a watering can. Then, leaning over the beautiful collection of fire like flowers she let the crystal clear water cascade out onto the petals before dripping down to the awaiting earth and roots below.

Ignoring the part about being united and creating a new generation Kari inquired about the only other thing she could think of. "Your granny?"

"Yes, why?" Rosemon replied, tilting her head to the side in mild interest.

Kari and Gatomon had been noticing something in Network that they hadn't anywhere else in the Digital World. Everywhere else in the Digital World, digimon tended to either live alone or in small communities; but the digimon in Network all seemed to have some kind of a family network. They would talk about parents, siblings, and it would appear, grandparents.

"W… Who is she I mean?" Kari jumbled her question in embarrassment. Only after calling attention to the word, granny, did Kari realize she had accidently spoken up about the topic which was only of interest to her and Gatomon. For someone like Rosemon and the other digimon of Network it appeared that family was a normal thing for digimon to have. And since Rosemon was referring to a granny, that probably meant she had a mother and father as well.

"I'm pretty sure you've already meet her in the Imperial Courtroom. A small digimon with a harsh little attitude," Rosemon answered with a friendly laugh.

"Wait! Are you saying that Babamon is your grandmother?" Gatomon shouted in surprise.

"Yeah… She's kind of grumpy now, but she was a beautiful Rosemon back in the day," Rosemon noted as she looked to the sky, most likely contemplating how many years she had left before becoming like Babamon.

"Wait! She was a Rosemon like you?" Gatomon jumped to a new topic quickly.

"What happened to her?" Kari questioned. Apparently they both couldn't figure out how a digimon like the Rosemon before them could become a Babamon.

"What do you mean, what happened? The same thing that happens to every digimon; she grew old," Rosemon answered as if the answer should have been obvious.

"Really?" The two awed. Again a difference between the lands they knew and Network arose. In Network it appeared that digimon actually grew old and changed over time, but now that they thought about it they weren't exactly sure of what happened to digimon on File and Folder when they got older.

"Okay, that's enough talk about something as depressing as getting old. How about I show you around the garden and answer some more of your questions. From the looks of you I'd say you still have plenty more to ask," Rosemon smiled as she set the watering can down on a small stone pedestal by a fountain before beckoning for the two to follow her.

"Aren't you going to need that watering can for the rest of the garden?" Kari questioned when she caught up with Rosemon.

Looking back at the shiny metal container, gleaming in the sunlight, Rosemon answered, "No, that one's only used to draw water to be used to water the Heart of Living Fire," she said as she pointed to the collection of beautiful flowers they had been standing near a few minutes ago.

"The Heart of Living Fire…" Kari repeated as she stared at the flowers which rippled and moved like the flames of a fire in the wind.

After giving the flowers one last look she turned and followed Rosemon, off deeper into the large garden, completely unaware of the shadows at the top of the wall watching her.

"So that's her?" One of the shadows asked of the one beside it.

"It would seem so. The soon to be Flame Empress," the voice replied with no emotion.

"Now that we've found her, when do we act?" The original voice inquired.

"When the time is right," the other voice answered before vanishing, followed shortly by the other shadow.

What lays ahead for Kari in the Pyre Citadel? Marriage? Or whatever the shadows have in store for her?

To be continued…