Chapter 8

The Story behind the Legend

Takuya had spent the last couple of hours telling Kari the story of his first time in the Digital World. It was a long and action packed story of his friends and the legendary warriors, and Kari hung on every word. Several times he had had to stop to go more in-depth about the spirits and the history of the very ancient Digital World. He even managed to get quite the fun reaction out of Kari, enough to make her almost jump around the corner, when he told her about him becoming Agunimon for the first time.

The idea of a human being able to become a digimon seem so fantastical that for a few moments she wonder if he was just messing with her. There was also the question as to the biological implications of it, while it was true that when they traveled to the Digital World their bodies were converted to data and back to flesh and bone when returning to the real world, they never changed shape or form; but he was claiming to have constantly turned into a selection of digital forms, many of them multiple times bigger than his human body. However, despite any disbelief that normally would go along with such an outlandish claim, she accepted it as true for two reasons. The first was that Takuya obviously possessed a power, a digital force, that was greater than anything she had ever felt and allowed him to become a king of a country of powerful digimon, so if the warrior spirits were indeed real, it would explain his strength and power. The second reason was that she just trusted Takuya. He didn't seem like the kind of person who would lie, maybe joke around or tease someone, but not lie. It was just a feeling she got from him.

With the first part of his story finished with his team's victory over Lucemon two hours had passed and they reached the decision that it was best to finally leave the bath. Being a gentleman Takuya let Kari leave first, only coming out from behind his corner of the rock when he heard the main doors to the bath close.

Before getting out he glanced down at the water around him. The water was up to about his hips, but floating all around him in coiled strands was his dark brown hair. "I really need to do something about this. I should get Lily... Rosemon to cut it. I'm going to have to get used to her new evolution..." He felt a pang of sadness at having been enough in his right mind to congratulate her on her evolution and having missed so much time.

Ten minutes later he emerged into the hallway wearing a simple black shirt and brown pair of pants. A fresh pair of the undergarments he always wore under his armor to protect his body from the rough touch of his metal armor. Leaning against the stone wall he found Kari in a clean and crisp version of the dress she had been in when they first met. He assumed the castle attendants had provided her with an endless supply of them. The importance of having different styles and designs of clothes wasn't a human idea that transferred well to digimon.

"What took you so long?" Kari teased with a playful smile. From living with her brother she knew boys didn't usually take so much time to dry off and get dressed after leaving the tub.

Takuya just sighed in response and reached a hand up into his hair, pulling a hand full of strands over his shoulder and presenting them to her like they were some kind of answer. "I never realized how long it took to dry this much hair. I was halfway through drying it with towels (it had taken two so far) before I remembered I control fire... and dried it instantly with a quick burst of heat."

"Hahahaha." Kari felt her sides hurt a little with how deeply she was laughing. The childish look on the face of what was probably one of the most powerful beings in the Digital World as he fussed over his own hair was pretty funny.

"Oh, by all means just keep laughing." His looked turned sarcastic and a bit beaten, which only made her laugh more.

"Sorry... Sorry." She finally managed to get her laughter under control and try to salvage a bit of the boys pride.

"Whatever..."Takuya sighed.

This was such a strange turn of events for Kari. Just a few hours ago she wouldn't have dared to laugh at the Flame Emperor for fear of his reprisal, but now she wasn't scared of him in the least. She felt like she could probably do or say anything to him and he'd just laugh it off and let it slide. But she wasn't oblivious to the odd image of a petite girl like her teasing an immensely powerful boy like him.

Now that she had finally stopped laughing she had the clarity of mind to actually think about his problem, namely, his really long hair. His locks ran over his shoulders, down his back, and licked at the back of his calves; another six inches and it would be brushing against the ground when he walked.

"He must have tied it up under his helmet. Or maybe it was hidden under his cape." She speculated to herself on how she hadn't noticed it during the few interactions she had had with the Flame Emperor. "It looks really soft."

Lost in her thoughts and her actions less guarded thanks to a very tiring day weighing heavily on her mind and body, her hand reach out and took a hand full of his hair. Takuya seemed a bit shocked by the sudden and very forward action, but he did nothing to stop her. Instead, he just watched her with a new interest.

"It is soft!" She began to stroke it gentle as she thought. "I think it's softer than my hair." To test that theory she reach up and caressed her own hair. "It is!" All of a sudden she really missed her hairdryer. Towels just never got the job done right, so she was sure hers would be much softer if she had a better method to dry it like he did.

"But why is it so long? Has he never cut it? Maybe he doesn't like haircuts?" She continued to stroke his hair and ponder. "It does look nice. A nice change of pace from all the boys getting short haircuts recently. I could probably..." Suddenly she heard her own voice heading in that weird direction again and quickly cut herself off.

She quickly released his head and took four steps back, not stopping until she bumped into the opposite wall, to create some space. "What was I doing? That was so... so... lovey-dovey!"

Takuya tried his best to ignore the girls weird behavior as she mentally berated herself for acting so strangely. She had only known him for a few hour now and she was already touching his hair, and for a long time at that, it was way to personal. Realizing that, she had turned a deep shade of red while across from her the Flame Emperor tried to fight off his own blush from taking over his face. What she had been doing had felt good and the closeness had allowed him to really get a good look at her. His conclusion was that she was very cute.

"How about we head to the kitchen and see if we can find something to eat?" A strange tension had set in between the two and Takuya could recognize it. He was a eighteen year old boy in a deserted hallway with a very cute seventeen year old girl; and making it worse was the fact that they had kind of shared a bath together (An Olympic pool sized bath that is) and he hadn't seen another girl in many years. "I'll also finish my story."

"Right!" Kari agreed very quickly. Anything to break the tension (dare she say sexual tension) between them.

In an awkward silence the two made their way through the hallways to the kitchen near the back of the castle, surprising the Burgermons that were working on cleaning up after dinner. Many of them had never even gotten the chance to see the Flame Emperor and now he was in the same room as them.

"Flame Emperor!" The lead cook dropped to his knees, quickly followed by the rest of the kitchen staff, out of respect once the shock of just having their lord walk in without any warning had worn off.

"Please get up. I've never been a fan of the kneeling." Takuya was fast to try and get the staff up and stop revering him.

For Kari it was such a strange sight, but she reminded herself that the boy beside her was in fact a king of a pretty large nation of digimon. That knowledge didn't do much to change her opinion of him though. In the past, in her role as one of the Digital Worlds representatives, she had meet with a few kings and queens of other nations, even the emperor of her own country a few times. Each one of them had maintained an air of superiority, which was only reinforced by staffers who had instructed her and the other Digidestined to be respectful, despite the fact that all of them were more figurehead than leader. But Takuya was different, he seemed more like a normal teen having been thrust into the position and maybe hadn't adjusted to the situation yet despite how long he'd been king.

"How long has he been here...? Been the ruler of the Flame Empire?" Kari watched him continue to assure the kitchen staff that he'd be much happier if they would stop kneeling and return to their work. "He looks only a little older than me, so he's still got to be in his teens too... right?"

It took Takuya another five minutes to get the staff to relax enough to return to their work despite him and Kari taking a seat at one of the islands. He had only managed that feat by surrendering to their desire to serve him, so he requested some food for the two of them and the kitchen burst into a flurry of cooking and happy talk while they worked.

After twenty minutes of watching the staff work at an impressive pace the two found themselves still sitting at the island, surrounded by freshly cooked food, and alone. They had assumed the Burgermon's would continue to clean the kitchen, especially since they had doubled the pots and pans they needed to wash thanks to the new meals they had made, but instead they had all filed out as soon as the food was served. They had said something about giving the royal family some private time, a comment that confused Takuya but made Kari blush.

"It's strange, but I feel like this is the first meal I've eaten in years." Takuya smiled after gulping down a big mouthful of food.

"Considering the state you were in I'm not sure how well you were actually eating." If he was half as hungry as she was she could sympathize. She had spent the better half of the last twenty-four hours cooking in an oven and sweating to the point of collapse, so she really needed to replace more than just her liquids.

"Hmm..." Takuya lifted his shirt, exposing his stomach, and began looking himself over. "You might be right. I think I've lost a few pounds."

"Yeah..." She tried not to stare, but it was difficult with his six-pack abs and strong chest. He definitely had the body to go along with his strength.

"Okay, so back to the story." Takuya lowered his shirt and set an empty plate off to let his food settle. "I stopped with our defeat of Lucemon right?" Kari just nodded in agreement.

"Right. After we returned to the real world the six of us went about our lives like normal. We stayed close friends and saw each other pretty much every day, but in the back of our minds we always knew, always wanted, to return to the Digital World. We eventually would two years later when the Digital World came under attack by an evil army lead by a former subordinate of Lucemon by the name of Barbamon. After a lot of fighting we managed to destroy that army, I'll spare you the details since it was just pretty much one fight after another, and worked our way all the way to Barbamon's castle... only to find that he'd run off."

"He ran away!?" That fact really surprised Kari. Over her time as a Digidestined she and the other had fought quite a few evil masters and such, but none of them had actually run away. They had all stuck it out to the end, relying on their strength and foul powers to overcome the side of good only to be struck down. Had this Barbamon been such a big coward... or had Takuya and his team of Legendary Warriors, as Takuya had called them, just been that scary of a force that they could drive a powerful foe to run in fear.

"Yeah, just disappeared without a trace somewhere into the Digital World." Takuya gave a tired laugh as some memory crossed his mind. "We spent months searching Network for him. We looked high and low for anywhere someone with that much power could hide. We even traveled to Server and File to look for him, fought a few baddies for our trouble while we were there, but no Barbamon."

"I guess that's where the legend of the first Digidestined came from in Server." Kari noted, earning a slightly confused look from Takuya. "It's a long story. I'll tell you about it later."

"Okay. So in the end having pretty much explored every inch of the Digital World we were forced to give up the search. It wasn't something we were happy about doing, but our personal and academic lives had begun to suffer for it. All of our time was going into looking and we were losing friends, alienating our families, missing classes and our grades were dropping; and in the end we had to just give up and wait for something to happen."

"Just wait for something to happen?" That didn't seem like a good idea, but she also couldn't think of any other solution.

"Yeah, just like I assume you're thinking, it wasn't a plan we liked, but when faced with no other alternatives we had to settle. And for a year nothing happened. Everything was quiet and peaceful and Network recovered and prospered, albeit slowly, in the wake of Barbamon's army." He finished with a deep sigh.

"And at the end of that year?" She could tell that whatever the answer was, it probably wasn't going to be good.

"At the end of that year Barbamon showed that his power wasn't in the strength of his body, but in the horrible depth of his mind. Unlike his old boss Barbamon was a careful planner and he learned from his mistakes, namely confronting us with acts of force, like an evil army. Instead, he proved to be the most dangerous and corrupting type." Again he sighed, likely due to some bad memories.

"Most dangerous and corrupting type?" Kari could feel some venom in his words.

"A politician." He actually laughed a little.

"And that's dangerous...?" Even as she asked that question memories that proved the case came back to her. There was quite a few times that people in government positions had approached her and other members of the Digidestined looking for something or another. They were always looking to make a deal, usually through bribery or favors, to get them to create a closer relationship between their country and the Digital World. Usually it involved a closer relationship to that countries army. No government was immune to this desire, to claim that digimon were backing their countries will, and had become one of the reasons why they never used their real names or identities when acting as the Digital Worlds representatives.

Maybe Gennai had foreseen problems like that happening and that was why he worked the computers the world over so no one would ever be able to track them down. All wishes to communicate with them went through Gennai and the meetings were held in secret while no photo's or videos were taken, so unless they actually came face to face with someone they'd met at those meetings then no one could identify them. To the rest of the world, even their friends and schoolmates, the twelve of them were just normal teenagers like them who had been given partners after the incident with Malomyotismon.

"By the look you're giving me now, I assume even you know that." He gave her a soft smirk. "You see, after Lucemon's reign of terror, which we put a stop to, the Digital World had been trying to rebuild and find it's place. In the past systems of management, small local governments if you will, had been what maintained the peace in the Digital World. Groups of digimon lived in tribes, villages, and even sprawling citys; they had a pretty big and stable society, but it all fell apart when the Digital World was pretty much erased. And when it reformed none of that stuff, those system of management, had survived. Different groups tried to reformed them, namely the Celestial Angels, but they were still trying to regain their powers after being reborn and therefore lacked the ability to do so. Even we tried to manage things, make things more stable, but that's hard to do when your six teens who can only drop in after school and before bed... so we didn't end up doing much..."

His tone sounded so sad and hopeless all of a sudden that Kari's hand instinctively crawled across the table and squeezed one of his. The act telling him she was there for him if he needed it and hopefully calming him a bit so he could continue.

Responding positively to Kari's gesture he took a deep breath and continued. "In the cracks, in the power vacuum left behind by the systems of management and lack of society, is where Barbamon struck over the course of the year of peace. He took in lost digimon and under the guise of helping them he taught them his way of thinking, his way of controlling, and his vision for a new Digital World. He then sent these digimon out to the struggling and disenfranchised groups of the Digital World, where a sugarcoated version of his influence spread. And by sugarcoated I mean lies, lies that gave them a dangerous hope, because he couldn't exactly go out and say he was going to turn them against the world and start a war... but in the end that was what happened."

"A war...!" Kari sounded horrified by that. Takuya had mentioned a war in the ancient world, long before he had even become a Destined, but that had been during the formation of the Digital World and she had assumed that digimon had gotten smart enough now to not let it happen again. It would seem that hope was misplaced.

"Yes, it would eventually come to that. In the beginning it started as small fights and outbursts of violence. Barbamon's minions would empower one tribe of digimon and eventually turn them against their neighbors, usually by blaming them for something bad that happened or making them envious of something the other group had; like better land, food, or homes. In these small skirmishes we'd intervene and could usually put a, albeit temporary, stop to the fighting. But when both sides claim to have good reasons for fighting and us with no real enemy to fight there was little we could do, and eventually they'd start fighting again. And before we knew it the fights were spreading like wildfire. Clashes between tribes kept getting worse and chaos and fear began to set in."

"My god..." Kari could only stare at him in disbelief. Every battle her and her friends had fought had been against a clear and present enemy. There was a bad guy in every conflict that could be defeated to resolve the situation and bring peace. She had no idea what she would have done in his place when that enemy was hidden and working through what where pretty much innocent digimon that had been riled up. Two sides and neither of them were the bad guy... now that was a difficult battle.

"There were eventually too many battles and not enough of us to break them up. So some small fights went unstopped and grew into bigger fights. Those fights then spilled into other fights, creating large battles, which grew to the point that even we couldn't stop them. We were left helpless as the Digital World devolved into utter chaos. Into a full blown war. Digimon versus digmon, each under different flags and ideals."

Kari just stared on in silence now, periodically squeezing his hand, now more for herself than him.

"And then it happened and we knew what had to be done." Takuya looked towards the ceiling as if trying to stare off into the night sky beyond the stone and mortar.

"What happened?" She breathed, literally hanging by the edge of her seat.

"It was in this little house in this little village where it happened... where we learned." He gave a small sad smile before continuing. "Two large warring clans had fought a battle with this neutral little village in-between them. We had come to try and evacuate as many of the villagers as we could, but we were far too late. The two sides had pretty much devastated the whole place, razed every field, and flattened every building... except for this small little farmhouse on the edge of the town. Completely shocked by the level of wanton destruction the ten of us in a daze just walked inside the house to think... maybe even cry a little. We just sat there and stared at the floor, at the ceiling, at each other, and tried to pretend that the once happy and prospering village hadn't been destroyed. With the shutters and door closed it was easy enough to pretend in the untouched house, but we knew and nothing could change that."

Kari continued to watch in silence, barely remembering to breath.

"And then we saw it on the walls. In crayon no less was our answer." Takuya let out a exasperated laugh. "The village hadn't gone to war for one reason. One thing they held above even the sweet lies and promises of Barbamon's minions. And they were drawn on the wall in crayon by what was most likely a child digimon that had once lived there."

"What was it?" She had to know.

"It was us. Ten crudely drawn pictures of the Legendary Warriors." He could still remember every little detail of the pictures drawn on that pale tan wall. "That village had refuse to hate it neighbor, to kill it's neighbors, because they believed in the ideals we stood for. They believed that they could still go on and believe that peace was possible because we were still out there, fighting to stop the chaos. But it was what was around the pictures that really drove it home for us. That gave us our answer. Drawn all around our digital forms were the villagers, kneeling and basking in our light."

"..." Kari gave him a confused look. She didn't understand what the picture had somehow revealed to the ten weary warriors. Thinking about it further she realized Takuya must have skipped something in his story because all of a sudden the number of Legendary Warriors had jumped up from six to ten, but considering how deep and personal the story had gotten she decided it was best to wait for another time to ask.

"We realized that we could stop the fighting if we gave them a strong system of management. If we gave them power to believe in that they didn't have to take and could instead follow into a better future. However, it would mean us accepting two things. The first being the will to lead."

"That's how you and your friends became the rulers of Network!" Kari suddenly shot up off of her stool in excitement. The pieces had just fallen into place and the picture became clear. "You presented yourselves as strong leaders, people they could follow and get behind. Leaders that could abandon Barbamons lies for!" She didn't know whether she approved of their choice but considering how nice Takuya seemed and how much the digimon seemed to love their rulers, she was definitely leaning toward it being the right decision.

"Pretty much." Takuya smiled seeing how happy she had become with herself after figuring it out. "We went to battlefields and warring clans and showed them our powers, cowing them in the process. Which wasn't too hard for Legendary Megas and Super Megas. There on those smoking battlefields we gave them one choice, stand with one of us and obey our rules, or fall to all of us. As you can imagine in a world where things had devolved to a society where strength meant power, all obeyed."

"But...?" All of a sudden that feeling that they had done the right thing began to fade.

"I know. I know." Takuya sighed. "I know it sounds bad, but it was what they wanted. They wanted someone to lead. To pull them up out of the suffering of war. And to be sure that what we were doing remained focused on the sole purpose of bringing peace and rebuilding Network we laid down rules and laws for ourselves too."

"We started by dividing up Network into ten areas with borders that would separate different clans from each other that a year of warring had made it impossible for them to work with others. I ended up with the biggest territory because I had managed to cow the Clan of the Phoenix which was the biggest at the time. The borders we drew pretty much went right along the frontlines of each clans area of control. So with them obeying us we had them work on different peaceful projects. Reconstruction, farming, building new villages, towns, and cities, and repairing and extending the Trailmon tracks. And under our rule and those projects peace returned and the digimons way of life vastly improved."

"As the years, many years, went by, the older generations that had started the wars and fought in them began to die off. Each successive generation forgot the hatred and embraced a world where all digimon could live in peace. To that end we slowly opened up the borders and held events were digimon from all the areas could meet and intermingle with each other. And as attitudes warmed the borders were completely opened the Trailmon tracks were all interconnected to allow fast travel all across Network and the digimon embraced their neighbors. Peace ruler over all and we safe guarded it as the powerful shadows being cast over the land that would both protect it and punish those who wished to harm it. And in that way we defeated Barbamon's plans and found peace."

"That must have been tough for you all to do." She often found the role of trying to maintain peace as a Digidestined to be a difficult job, so she could only imagine how much harder it was to do the same thing but for a country of millions of digimon all still sore and angry from a war.

"Leading actually wasn't that bad. There were a lot of digimon who worked their hardest with us to find peace. Really, the more difficult part was the second thing." Takuya gave a longing look to the wall as some happier memories passed by in his mind.

"That's right. You said something about having to accept two things if you wanted to stop the war. The first was that you and your friends needed to lead, but what was the second?" She couldn't imagine what could be a harder decision than becoming someone millions of beings looked to for guidance. Everyone always talked about what they'd do if they were president, but few would actually accept that much responsibility if it were offered.

"We had to accept that we weren't going back." He responded after a moment of silence.

"Not going back...?" She began to question, but like before the answer clicked for her and the implication was a terrible one.

"Yeah, we accepted that Network and our areas would always need us. And even if a day came and they didn't need us anymore it was a very far off day. So to save Network and prevent the war from swallowing up the rest of the Digital World, we left our homes in the real world for good." Takuya's voiced hitched for a moment. Something truly sad must have crossed his mind this time. "I still remember the looks on my families faces when I told them where I was going and that I wasn't going to come back. I told them that I was doing it to save not only the digimon but them as well. That it would only be a matter of time until a war in the Digital World spilled over into the real world, but it didn't change how much they wanted me to stay. My mom cried our whole last night together and my dad and little brother were real quiet. The others never really told me what happened with their families, it became a kind of taboo subject among us."

"Takuya, I..." She didn't know what to say as she gave his hand a tight squeeze. Saying goodbye to her parents years ago after they had defeated VemonMyotismon and went to fight the Dark Masters had been difficult, but that had only been for a few months. Takuya and his friends had said goodbye never expecting to see their families again. It was heartbreaking to say the least.

"Wow..." Three awed gasps had come from somewhere near the kitchen entrance.

"What are you three doing here? And how long have you been there?" At the door Takuya spotted Rosemon, FlameWizardmon, and Kari's partner, Gatomon.

"We were worried when you two seemed to have vanished for hours... and pretty much right before the war started." Rosemon responded, still a bit to awed to move.

"Why do the two of you look so surprised? Don't they still teach you about the war and the formation of the ten areas in school?" He was a bit worried that in his mental absence the rule of, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, had somehow been forgotten.

"Of course it still is. It's the one mistake all generations of Network citizens are charged with not repeating." FlameWizardmon was quick to reply.

"We've heard everything you said before... just not... not..." Rosemon seemed to be having trouble finishing her thought. Luckily, FlameWizardmon was there to help.

"Just not from someone who was there during it all. Hearing it told from your perspective master was truly... humbling and harrowing. Even more now I wish to work harder to ensure nothing like that ever happens again. I also feel the need to... to..." Now he seemed to be having trouble finishing.

"To thank you master!" Rosemon suddenly burst out as the two castle servants dropped down to their hands and knees, their foreheads pressed so firmly against the stone floor so that not even light could pass between the two.

"Thank you Flame Emperor!" The two cried out, staying in their prostate positions before him.

"I told you two to never address me as your master or Flame Emperor when it's just us. It makes me feel awkward..." Takuya could handle it when it was ordinary citizens or staffers, but not when it was those close to him; especially not those he considered family.

"We're sorry Flame Emperor, but you'll have to forgive us just this one time for there's no words we know that can express out respect and love for you than that." The two again cried out while beside them Gatomon couldn't bring herself to bow, but she did give him a little nod of respect.

Takuya just sighed and gave a small smile as he got up and walked over to the two. He crouched down in front of the two and gently places his hands on the back of their heads and spoke. "Thank you Rosemon. Thank you FlameWizardmon."

That was all it took to dispel Kari's fears about what the ten rulers, the group that had proceeded hers, had done to create peace. There's no way someone who so loved those who served him could inspire such love in those same beings through anything but kindness. She was sure that they had made the hard choice to lead for the sake of the digimon and Network.

However, what was bothering her now was a batch of new questions. There was already the problem of six warriors turning into ten. But now she wondered how the situation on Network had slide back to a cold war kind of era. What had caused Takuya to become possessed by his own Spirit of Flame? And more importantly... how old was Takuya!? If she did the math right he'd have been fifteen when he and the other warriors ended the war by become the rulers of Network, but then he went on to say that he'd outlived many generations of digimon and overseen many years of rebuilding. She knew enough that digimon had long life spans, at least equivalent to humans, so how long had Takuya been in Network? Seriously, what was going on?

"I get that this is probably in bad taste considering the three of you are having a moment, but I have to know, how'd you end up like you did? You know, all brooding, menacing, and possessed." The flood of history and information had satisfied a lot of the questions they had come to answer, but it had also made her greedy for more. But all of the answers she'd gotten so far failed in comparison to getting that one.

"Well, it... started..." For a moment it seemed like he was going to answer right away, but only three words in he began to hesitate and his look turned confused. It looked as if he was trying to force some kind of connection in his mind or call forth a lost memory. "I... I don't... I don't remember! I don't remember how I ended up like that! I know something happened to me and the others... but I don't remember what it was!"

All of a sudden the powerful ruler seemed like a lost child, confused and looking for answers; and worst of all he seemed afraid. That feeling wasn't a mistake. The others around him might not have understood the implications of him not remembering, but he did. Something had turned each of the ten warriors spirits against them, putting them on a kind of autopilot and turning them against each other, and he couldn't remember what it was. Which meant that it might be able to be used against him again, so even amongst his confusion he concluded that he'd need to find a better and more complete way to bond with and control his spirits. Something even better than what he and the other had come up with during the many years of their rules.

"Takuya!" The three digimon didn't know what to do, but Kari was quick to step in... by shaking him until he focused on her.

"Sorry. Sorry." He quickly stood back up and shook his head a little, trying to shake of the lingering thoughts and fears at the edge of his mind. "I kind of just had a big long panicked internal monologue with myself. It's didn't go well."

"Okay..." Kari didn't know what to say to that; maybe because it sounded a bit crazy.

"What do you mean you don't remember?" It would seem that Gatomon was intent on pursuing her line of questioning despite his temporary freak out. She most likely felt she was owed at least that much after everything she and Kari had been through with trying to get him back to normal. There was also the fact that she wanted to be sure that he was no longer a threat to Kari, so being sure that he wasn't going to revert to that scary personality was a priority.

"I don't know... All I remember is leaving the castle as myself, some flashes of what I'd done while I was possessed by my spirit, and then coming to with Kari passed out at my feet." Trying to dedicate more of his thought processes to remembering he took a seat on one of the stools and really tried to think hard, but still nothing came to him. "I don't remember why I left, or who I was meeting, or even where I was going. I just remember walking through the castle gates and then... nothing..."

"Takuya." Kari said warmly as she place a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. In any other situation her calming and kind nature would have worked miracles, but with the level of uncertainly and confusion swirling around in his head it did little to nothing.

"You were going to meet with your friends, the other nine rulers." A new voice spoke up from the kitchen entrance.

"Babamon." Looking up from his thoughts Takuya was greeted by the stitched smile of his loyal Magistrate. "So that explains the who." There wasn't a single doubt in his mind that she was telling the truth.

There was no being left in the Digital World, other than the other nine warriors, that had known him longer than her. She was more family than any digimon was so he'd believe her about anything without even the slightest bit of evidence. It meant that she wielded a lot of power and influence within the Flame Empire, power she was respectful of and careful to use.

"Do you know why? It's unusually that all ten of us would meet at the same time. It would mean all the areas were on their own for that time." Takuya was quick to point out. He wasn't doubting her, even in the least. His question was more towards the nature of the cause, since an incident that could bring the ten of them together at one time probably didn't bode well for the Digital World.

"No, unfortunately the only one who would have known the reason would have been my predecessor, but she has long since passed without sharing that information." Babamon wistfully replied, saddened by both the fact that she couldn't answer his question and the memories of her passed mentor.

"Right." Takuya's eyes cast downward in sad remembrance. When he returned to being himself again it felt like he just fallen asleep and awoken in the morning, but the truth was that many years, and friends, had passed.

Babamon might have looked and sounded like the Magistrate he remembered, but she wasn't, she was the granddaughter of that one. The one that stood before him now had been a Rosemon the last time he had talked to her, before whatever happened to him happened, and now she was the second most powerful being (in terms of influence) in the Flame Empire. She had been his attendant like her granddaughter Rosemon was now. At the time he left though she had retired to become involved in politics, she had planned to succeed her grandmother as Magistrate, and been replace with the very young Lilymon, the current Rosemon.

"Did I go to her Passing?" He felt ashamed that he hadn't been himself then. She had been such an important member of his family and court and at her end he doubted he had the capacity to actually mourn her properly.

"Yes, you didn't say much, but you were there for her in the end." Babamon tried to smile through the sad memories of the days gone by, and she was able to when she thought of all the good days that were to come now that Takuya was himself again. "She Passed only a few years after you began to change, while you were still enough of yourself to mourn her. She left us before things got bad, even before any of us really noticed the changes."

"Good..." It was strange to be happy that she passed so quickly after he changed, but he was glad he could have been himself for her who had dedicated her life to him. "In the morning I'd like to visit her memorial and pay my respects as myself."

"Definitely." Babamon smiled warmly, still overjoyed with the fact that her dear emperor had returned to them. "And speaking of the morning..." She glanced towards her granddaughter who looked at her confused for a moment before realization hit her.

"Right! Yes! It is late and everyone's been through a lot today, so it is time to get some rest." Rosemon straightened out and instructed everyone in the room. Looking towards Takuya and Kari she saw them begin to prepare a protest, maybe they wanted to talk more but she could see the bags developing under their eyes. "There's nothing happening now that can't wait until the morning after everyone's gotten some sleep."

"..." None of them could argue with that logic.

"Good, now let's get to bed." She took Takuya and Kari by the hands and began directing them out of the kitchen.

As the personal attendant of the Flame Emperor, Rosemon was the only digimon in the entirety of the Flame Empire that could tell said ruler what to do. Her sole purpose, other than attending to the inner garden, was to ensure his health and wellbeing; and maybe someday the health and wellbeing of a royal family. While she didn't actually have the authority to command him, he obeyed his personal attendants because he knew that they only had his best interests in mind.

FlameWizardmon was his butler who took care of managing his affairs and schedule. Often acting as a go between for him and the Magistrates and Royal Court. He was also in charge of retrieving and requisitioning the things the Flame Emperor asked for.

Halfway down the hallway to the Sanctuary, Takuya felt he had to speak up. "Ahh, Rosemon?"

"Yes?" She replied cheerfully.

"This is the way to my bedroom, not the guestrooms." Takuya noted. His memories still might have been a bit fuzzy, but luckily he still remembered the layout of his castle.

Upon that statement Kari turned a deep blush and angrily glared at Rosemon. She had just figured out what Rosemon had been planning. And that plan would have ended with the two of them sharing a room... and probably a bed.

"And last time I checked the builders were still working on fixing it up after the fire... and me blasting a hole through the wall..." He further added.

With a comically sad look Rosemon whirled around and clasped both her hands around one of his. "Please stop ruining it." If it weren't for the obviously fake frown on her face he would have sworn she was actually on the verge of tears.

"I like your enthusiasm my dear granddaughter, but he's right." Babamon had been following along in the back with Gatomon and FlameWizardmon. "He'll need to stay in one of the guestrooms until the Royal Bedroom is repaired and nothing as important as, that, should happen anywhere other than the Royal Bedroom. It would be unbecoming if their first night was in some room we allow tired visiting dignitaries to stay in during long visits."

"Understood granny..." She sounded a bit depressed all of a sudden.

"First night? What are they talking about?" Takuya leaned in close to Kari and whispered into her ear.

Hearing him ask the question so innocently and confused, she was now sure that he was the only one in the hallway who didn't know under what pretences (at least she had assumed they were pretences) Babamon had brought her into the Pyre Citadel.

"Nothing! It's nothing!" Kari didn't dare look at him especially since she was five shades of red off from her normal skin color. Instead she settled for shooting Babamon and Rosemon an angry glare. Maybe they hadn't given up on the whole marriage thing after all.

With a little backtracking and a few more turns they arrived at the guest quarters of the castle. A pretty big hallway in the shape of a square that contained fifty decadent rooms designed to be comfortable and warm, so that visiting dignitaries would feel relaxed and respected while they stayed at the castle. Often the rooms were nicer than the visitors own homes back in their own nation. That's not to say the other nations were poor or anything, it was just that the rooms were done up so nice as a way to thank them for visiting the castle and carrying out their jobs as government officials.

"Well, goodnight." Kari quickly found the door to her room and bowed to the others while Gatomon did the same.

"Goodnight, Kari." Takuya gave her a small bow and smile in return.

Before she could even open the door Kari found herself pulled into a hug by Rosemon. The beautiful digimon squeezed her tight and whispered into her ear, "Thank you." Kari just smiled and hugged her back.

With that Rosemon released her and began pushing Takuya down the hallway towards his room.

"The lords room will be just be around the far corner." FlameWizardmon indicated towards the direction the rest of the group was heading. "Just in case you were wondering." He added with a small smirk.

"I'm sure it doesn't matter that we know." Gatomon glared at him. She didn't trust that sly smile.

"Didn't say it did." He added playfully before he hurried to rejoin the group.

Kari did her best to ignore the whimsical tone to his voice and instead opened the door to let Gatomon in. From the doorway she watched the small group, the small family, continue down the hallway and disappear around the corner. The last she heard of them that night was Takuya making a comment to Rosemon about his hair. When she was left staring into an empty hallway she just smiled and closed the door.

The moment the door was closed she felt the weight of the day suddenly come crashing down on her. Tired didn't even begin to describe how she felt at the moment. Never had her bed seemed so far away, but somehow she managed to make it and flop down on its fluffy surface.

"Ahhh~ Soooo soft~" She rolled her face free from the pillow and sighed happily. In doing so she spotted something sitting on her nightstand. It was a leather-bound book with about an inch worth of paper pages gilded with gold.

"The diary Rosemon gave me." She just stared at it.

Rosemon had given it to her a few days ago. It was before Kari had known the Flame Emperor was just a boy, a very nice boy, and was feeling frustrated and depressed about her captivity. The flower digimon had hoped that Kari could use it to vent her feelings and annoyances, since she couldn't do anything else about her situation. It had been a nice idea and a kind gift, but Kari hadn't been in any mood to write about such horrible circumstances. She preferred to use a diary to write about the things in life she wanted to remember; namely, the good things in life.

"I should definitely write about today." She reached for the book, but before she reached it her arm went limp and fell to the bed. "Maybe tomorrow..." Unable to fight sleep any longer she quickly drifted away into the night.

For now things are moving towards the future but the dark secrets of Network lay in the past.

To be continued...