May 15, 2000. The Digital World had healed in the months following the defeat of Apocalymon. Gennai, the wisest programmed being in the Digital World, deemed it safe once more for human habitation was to herald the return of the eight Chosen Children who saved it. He gathered their partners to an open field filled with grass and colorful flowers that danced in a gentle breeze around them. The eight Digimon – seven Child level and one Adult – stood spaced apart around Gennai, watching the clouds drift by in the blue sky, each bubbling over with anxiety as they awaited the one person who meant more to them than life.
However, the eight from Odaiba were not the first humans to set foot in the Digital World that day. A young man of comparable age to the Chosen Children stood slightly apart from the group, raking his fingers through his short, spiky brown hair, as his blue eyes shied away from meeting anyone else's gaze, despite the fact that the sky commanded the entirety of the eight Digimon's attention.
Agumon's silent vigil was interrupted when he briefly glanced Gennai's way. "Is it time yet?"
Gennai nodded to the child sized orange dinosaur as he let out an affirmative hum at the back of his throat. "Any moment now."
The tension in the air was palpable, as the small Digimon stared expectantly at the air above them. The blue skies looked so empty, save for the puffy white clouds that drifted by – it was hard to imagine anything was coming at all.
"I don't see anything," Palmon whined as her cheeks puffed up. "Are you sure Mimi's–"
No sooner had the words left the plant Digimon's mouth when a glowing ball of multi-colored light lit up the sky, forcing those gathered to cry out and shield their eyes from the glare. As the light dimmed, it allowed those brave enough to uncover their eyes an opportunity to see countless lines of computer code in the sky past the clouds for a mere moment before the orb burst with a spray of sparks.
Patamon lifted a wing to shield his eyes, squinting against the light, before he gasped and took to the air with quick flaps of his wings. "I see them, I see them! Takeruuuu!"
When the Chosen Children first arrived in the Digital World, they fell like stones from high in the sky. This time they appeared just above the ground, drifting as delicately as leaves onto the grass. They all wore different clothing and had grown in the months since they last appeared in the Digital World, but there was no way for the Digimon to mistake their precious partners.
Agumon squealed happily, as he rushed towards the goggle boy he knew so well, his tiny arms flailing. "Taaaichiii!"
Taichi was quick to recover from the slight disorientation that came from gating into the Digital World and rushed to scoop Agumon up into his arms. "Agumon!"
"Patamon!" Takeru said as he rushed towards the orange winged Digimon.
Patamon flew as fast as he could to reach Takeru, hurling himself the last few feet into his partner's arms. "Takeruuuuu!"
"Palmon!" Mimi said. Tears clouded her eyes the instant she saw Palmon and broke down crying once she had her partner back in her arms. "Palmon! I missed you so much!"
"Mimi!" Palmon sobbed as she clung to her Chosen Child.
"Hey," Yamato said as he reached down to touch Gabumon on the head. "You look good."
Gabumon blushed at the praise, which was mostly hidden by his pelt. "So do you. You look even taller than before."
Koshiro hurried towards his partner, smiling brightly. "Tentomon!"
Tentomon hovered in front of Koshiro, his expressionless face belaying the extreme joy he felt in his heart at seeing his partner again. "Koshiro! It's been such a long time."
"Sora~!" Piyomon sang happily, as she hopped over towards her Chosen Child, flapping her wings. "Sora~! Sora~!"
A quiet giggle escaped Sora as she watched Piyomon hop around her for a few moments before she finally scooped her partner up into her arms. "I can't tell you how much I missed hearing you call my name, Piyomon."
Gomamon grinned from ear to ear as he padded over to Jou. "Hey, what a coincidence! I was wondering why everyone was just waiting around. I was starting to get bored!"
Jou stared at Gomamon, briefly taken back on how to reply. For a split second, he wondered if his partner was being serious, but he quickly realized he was being teased. He thought a moment more how to respond. "In that case then think of me as a surprise present."
Hikari let out a quiet giggle as she embraced Tailmon in a tight hug. "I'm so happy to see you again, Tailmon. I thought of you every day."
Tailmon returned the hug with enthusiasm. Once the hug ended she lifted the whistle from around her neck and blew it, the sound cutting the air and causing the other Chosen to jump before turning to stare at her. She ignored their surprised gazes, focusing exclusively on Hikari's smiling face. "Welcome back, Hikari."
Hikari laughed, unable to contain her joy, and gave Tailmon another hug. "I'm home," she said instinctively.
Gennai watched the Chosen Children embrace and talk with their partners, a smile tugging at his lips. He hesitated to ruin such a peaceful scene, as he knew the eight children and eight Digimon deserved such happiness after being cruelly separated despite saving both worlds. He gave them a few more minutes to savor their reunion before he brought his fist up to his mouth and coughed loudly to disrupt the pleasant chatter. "Ahem."
All present focused their attention on Gennai, some reluctantly. That was when the eight from Odaiba realized that they were not the only children there. The young man had alternated between watching the touching reunion and focusing his attention elsewhere, such as fussing with his white gloves, purple shirt with gold chevrons on its sleeves, or his brown cargo pants. The other children had been so busy with their partners that they did not notice him before.
"So…" the young man said slowly. He scratched the back of his head as his eyes drifted to the flowers, away from the stares that bored into him. "I'm guessing you guys are the Chosen Children we've been waiting for?"
Koshiro's eyes were wide as he gawked at the stranger. The very presence of a human in the world of Digimon meant only one thing. "A… another Chosen Child?"
Taichi felt torn between intense surprise and curiosity, as he looked sized up the new Chosen. "Who are you?"
"I'm Ryo Akiyama," the boy said. He raised his eyes from the ground to look at the others, meeting their gazes only briefly. He removed his hand from the back of his head to wave as a lopsided smile tugged at his lips. "It's nice to meet you all."
Unlike Ryo, Taichi had no difficulty smiling broadly."Nice to meet you too!" He jerked a thumb at his chest. "I'm Taichi Yagami." He reached out towards Hikari, placing a hand on his sister's shoulder. "And this is my little sister, Hikari."
"Yamato Ishida," Yamato said as he nodded his head. He glanced towards Takeru. "And my little brother, Takeru."
"Sora Takenouchi." Sora said as she bowed slightly. "Pleased to meet you."
"I'm Mimi Tachikawa," Mimi said with a bright smile. "Nice to meet you."
"My name is Koshiro Izumi," Koshiro said automatically. The shock of meeting another Chosen Child still had him reeling. Just how many were there?
"And I'm Jou Kido," Jou said. He bowed deeply, biting back a yelp when his glasses nearly slid off his nose, and quickly readjusted them after he straightened back up.
Hikari cocked her head slightly as she stared at Ryo with eyes that were wide and bright with curiosity. "Are you the newest Chosen Child?"
Gennai laughed lightly. "Ah, actually, it's quite funny. You're all the young ones to this ancient young man."
Taichi's expression became blank as he stared Gennai, blinking twice before he responded to such a strange statement. "Ancient?" He looked at Ryo with a more critical eye, but the other boy showed no signs of being old enough to have reached puberty yet. "But you look my age."
Ryo chuckled quietly, the sound carrying an awkward note, as the corners of his eyes crinkled. "Well… if you were born in 1988 like me then you probably are."
Taichi expressed his confusion in a wordless noise and looked at Gennai. "So what do you mean by ancient?"
Gennai gestured with a bit of a flourish towards Ryo. "Everyone, allow me to introduce to you one of the ancient Chosen Children, who fought the first enemy from beyond the Wall of Fire."
Koshiro's eyes widened. "What? But that was thousands of years ago!"
Jou stared at Ryo. Like Taichi, he saw nothing that seemed out of the ordinary about Ryo to make the newcomer appear any different from the rest of them. "So you're one of the Chosen Children from the legend?"
"That's what Gennai and I figure," Ryo said. "The legend sounded like the battle my friends and I had against Millenniumon two years ago, back in 1998."
Yamato frowned. "Two years ago?" He crossed his arms and looked between Ryo and Gennai. "That's considerably less than 'thousands.'"
Ryo scratched his head as he shifted from one foot to the other. He fumbled with his words, half speaking them before discarding them, and managing an answer after a long moment of unintelligible mumbling. "I guess… you guys never found out about the time distortion thing."
Koshiro gasped. "Of course!" He felt like striking his forehead because of how he and the others overlooked the obvious. "That was when time didn't flow normally in the Digimon World. A day here was just a minute back in the real world, so two years to us would seem like an eternity here in the Digimon World!"
Ryo relaxed his body language and nodded with a faint smile. "Right. One of my friends actually spent years here in the Digital World before I first arrived." He paused with a faint grimace. "I mean years in this world's time, not ours. In our time it'd probably be more like, uh, around a week I guess."
Takeru's eyes widened in wonder. "So there's even more Chosen? How many more?"
Ryo looked towards the sky as he rubbed his chin. "If I remember correctly, there are supposed to be only 15 of us total, but I only knew of me and my friends before I met you guys, so I guess that means there's four more out there somewhere."
Mimi placed her hand over her chest where her tag holding the Crest of Purity used to be. It had been months since she wore it around her neck. While she did not have it for that long, it still felt as though something was missing without it. "Do all of you have crests too?"
Ryo nodded as his grin broadened. "Yup. Me and my friends found ours too. All of us have one."
Hikari looked around and noticed something was amiss. She focused her perplexed gaze on Ryo. "Where is your partner?"
The change in Ryo's expression was so significant that it was as if Hikari had punched him in the stomach rather than ask an innocent question. He tried to smile, but managed only a strained grimace. He forced a laugh, a rough chuckle that carried no mirth. "I haven't found him yet."
Taichi felt thunderstruck and gawked at Ryo, letting out a wordless noise of surprise before he could articulate his confusion. "Wait, so how could you fight this Millenniumon guy without a partner?"
"I borrowed one," Ryo said. He noticed the uncomprehending looks the others gave him and made another feeble attempt at laughing away the awkwardness he felt. "It's… kind of a long story."
Tailmon focused on Ryo with a solemn gaze, her heart going out to the new Chosen. She turned to Hikari, remembering those dark days without her partner. Seeing Ryo's expression and recalling her own pain made her feel fortunate that Hikari had been ignorant of her existence, and never had to suffer from her absence.
Hikari knelt down and pulled Tailmon into a hug that was even closer than the one she gave when they reunited only minutes ago. "It's just like what happened to you, Tailmon," she said softly.
Ryo's eyebrows shot upward as he stared at Hikari and Tailmon. "You couldn't find your partner either?"
Hikari shook her head, her chin and hair brushing against the top of Tailmon's head. "I didn't even know I was a Chosen Child or that Tailmon was my partner until Wizarmon told us, but Tailmon…"
"I only knew that I was looking for someone, someone important," Tailmon said, her voice quiet. The expression on her face grew dark, ears canting back as her eyes narrowed into slits. "And then I was made to forget that too."
Gennai let out an excessively loud cough to draw everyone's attention. "I don't mean to interrupt, but… I'm afraid I didn't call you here just to introduce you."
Koshiro furrowed his eyebrows, growing increasingly concerned by the somber look on Gennai's face. "What is it?"
Yamato's expression grew grim, as terrible possibilities immediately sprang to mind. "Does it have anything to do with Diablomon?"
Taichi felt his adrenaline spike at the very notion that Diablomon had survived their last encounter. "Did we miss one of his copies?"
"Diablomon is dead, so there's no need to worry about him," Gennai said. "However…"
Jou swallowed hard to alleviate the sudden dryness in his throat. "However?"
"There's still the matter of the one who sent Diablomon to your world in the first place." Gennai said.
Koshiro's face went pale. "'Sent'? But that Digimon… Diablomon was made out of a conglomeration of various computer bug fragments that gained sentience. How could it be 'sent' by anyone?"
Taichi clenched his fists. "I thought we defeated all the evil Digimon in the Digimon World when we destroyed Apocalymon."
"A 'seed' of evil was planted in what you call the Internet," Gennai said, slowly. "It germinated and became the Digimon you all know as Diablomon."
Sora felt a fresh wave of guilt rush through her at the memory of Diablomon. She had not been aware of the fight at all because she got into an argument with Taichi that seemed not only silly in retrospect, but ungrateful as well. She could still remember how confused and hurt he looked when she snapped at him for giving her a hairclip. They talked things out and made up since then, but it did not stop her from being unhappy with her behavior at the time. It really was unfair of her. She gave herself a mental shake to get her mind back on the present and focus on the current threat rather than fixating on past mistakes. "But why? Why would someone do such a thing?"
"Chaos, disorder, destruction," Gennai said. "Attention."
"It was a diversion," Ryo said. "Millenniumon wanted to make sure both our groups wouldn't meet and that you wouldn't help me and my friends stop his plan. That's why he sent Diablomon to distract you."
Yamato scowled. "So this Millenniumon is behind it?" He curled one hand into a fist, gripping it tightly in the other. "If he wants a fight, he'll get one!"
"Unfortunately," Gennai said, "a conventional fight is out of the question."
Mimi felt her heart leap at the suggestion. The idea of getting into another battle, especially right after she and Palmon finally reunited, was just too much for her to bear. She would do almost anything to avoid another conflict. "You mean we don't have to fight again?"
Gennai smiled kindly at Mimi. "No, you don't have to fight."
Takeru's eyes were wide with confusion and curiosity. "Why not?"
The warm smile disappeared from Gennai's face. A shadow fell across his eyes and his voice carried a grave weight that made all present feel uneasy. "Because you would be killed if you tried, without question."
Wordless cries of confusion, outrage, and concern broke out across the group. Taichi was the first to speak up, rage boiling hot within his blood. "What do you mean? Are you saying Millenniumon is more powerful than Apocalymon and Diablomon?"
Gennai's expression and tone did not falter under the intense stares of the Chosen. "Millenniumon is beyond every one of you, as you are right now." He focused on Taichi and Yamato in particular, who seemed ready to blurt out some form of protest. "Not even your combined power would be enough to defeat him. Sending you to fight Millenniumon, even with Omegamon on your side, would be no different than all of you challenging Apocalymon the very moment you first arrived in the Digital World."
"You mean…" Agumon said in a halting voice. "Back when we were all still Baby Digimon?"
The concept seemed incomprehensible to consider. The very idea that they were so powerless despite all their battles and personal growth felt like a physical blow to each of the Chosen, both children and Digimon. The pleasant atmosphere that their reunion created was gone, replaced with a growing sense of dread that hung in the air like a physical weight, threatening to smother all of them.
Taichi took a deep breath and straightened his stance, gathering his courage to face this new danger head on. "So how can we stop him?"
"That is why I have called you here," Gennai said. "I need you to lend me your strength, the power of your Crests deep inside you."
The request was one that caught all of the Chosen by surprise. The children exchanged puzzled looks before Yamato voiced their collective confusion. "Our Crests?"
Koshiro rubbed his chin. "It's true that our physical Crests are gone, but the power still exists inside us. Is that what you mean?"
Hikari glanced downward at her chest. "But how can we give them to you when they're only inside us now?"
Ryo jerked as though someone had sent a current through his body, his expression one of abject horror. "Your Crests are gone?"
Gennai glanced at Ryo, holding up a hand. "Do not be alarmed. They cannot be permanently destroyed."
Yamato snapped his head up to focus more intently on Gennai. "What?"
Jou readjusted the placement of his glasses to better cover his wide eyes. "You mean we can make the Crests and tags reappear?"
"Yes," Gennai said. "That's exactly what I mean. While Apocalymon destroyed your Crests, he merely destroyed their physical vessels. Like all things in the Digital World, even those regenerate with time. You are incubating your Crests inside you, and soon enough they will be whole once more."
Sora placed her hand over her chest, unthinkingly trying to feel for her Crest of Love. Though the tag was gone, she thought she could sense the familiar warmth and strength it gave her during the final battle with Apocalymon. "Inside us…?"
Mimi alternated between glancing down at her chest and Gennai, as she contemplated everything he had told them so far. "So we're going to make them reappear and you're going to take them from us? How will that help?"
"I am asking you to lend me the power inside of you in order to create a barrier to seal Millenniumon," Gennai said. "The barrier will protect this world from his power and make him unable to cause any more harm to this world or yours." He let out a sigh, and his posture became stooped, the lines on his face growing more pronounced. "Unfortunately, doing so will severely weaken all of you. It's only temporary, but you'd all require a lengthy recovery."
Taichi grimaced as he considered the implications. "So does that mean we won't be able to evolve Agumon and Gabumon into Omegamon again?"
Gennai nodded, his brow tilting in sympathy. "At least for some time."
Yamato was quiet while he digested what Gennai had told them. He did not like the idea of surrendering the power that allowed him to evolve Gabumon and protect his friends. The knowledge that there was supposedly an enemy out there that even Omegamon could not defeat was even more alarming. Giving up the only means they had to fight back seemed counter-intuitive. He could tell from the looks on the others' faces that they had similar doubts. He focused on Gennai again, seeking out any sort of uncertainty in the elderly man's face. "This is the only way?"
Gennai's regretful expression did not change. "I'm sorry, but it is," he said, softening his voice, as though it might somehow make the news easier for the children to bear. "Millenniumon is truly a terrifying opponent."
Yamato looked away to glare at the grass rather than focus on Gennai or anyone else present. The corner of his mouth pulled back and twisted, as though he had eaten something incredibly bitter, while a low growl rumbled at the back of his throat. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gabumon's look of concern as his partner touched his leg, but it did not ease his anger. "I don't like it."
Gennai looked at the Chosen of Friendship with sympathetic eyes before he turned his attention to the rest of the group. "Do you remember the time distortion that made time itself flow differently in the Digital World and the Real World?"
"Yeah," Taichi said. He would never forget that day that he returned to the Real World with Agumon while everyone else struggled for months back in the Digital World. "That's why we were only gone for only a few minutes in the Real World even though we were all here for months."
"That was Millenniumon's doing," Gennai said. "He possesses the power to manipulate time itself."
Jou let out a sharp gasp. "Really?"
Koshiro gaped openly at Gennai, as the implications hit him fully. He struggled for a moment to respond, eventually forcing out his words in a faint voice. "Time? Millenniumon can… control time? That can't be possible!"
Ryo's mouth set in a thin line, his eyes growing dark and distant, as though seeing something terrible in the depths of his memories. "I couldn't believe it myself at first, but I've seen it with my own eyes. Millenniumon can control time here in the Digital World. He's the one who caused the time distortion in the first place."
Most of the Chosen spoke at once, their words overlapping to the point that they became unintelligible – little more than alarmed outbursts. Gennai raised his voice so that they would hear him clearly, as well as signaling that the group quiet down and focus on him. "Fortunately he can only control time to a certain extent. He is limited to the confines of the Digital World, for now. However, he is learning more every passing day, improving his control over our world's time."
"And he's already had a lot of years to work on it," Ryo said.
Mimi shifted anxiously in place. "You mean… he could speed up the Digimon World's time all over again?"
"Yes," Gennai said. "He could also slow it down and make years pass in your world for every second you are here."
Taichi clenched his fists. The idea of leaving his family or his friends behind in a world where time passed at lightning speeds while he remained moving in slow motion was one he never relished to experience ever again. He raised one of his clenched fists. "We've got to stop him!"
Koshiro rubbed his head, as though it would ease the dizzying sensation the new information gave him. He knew the Digital World was a place where the illogical and impossible were possible, but he had a hard time simply accepting that a single entity could easily flout the laws of time and space. As much as he wanted to disbelieve the notion, experience taught him better than to just dismiss the unbelievable. "That's why you have to use the barrier, isn't it? You're planning to use it to stop him from using his power over time."
Gennai nodded as a faint smile graced his face. "Exactly."
Taichi looked around at the others, so charged with energy that he felt practically ready to punch Millenniumon in the face himself. "So what are we waiting for?" He pumped his fist into the air. "Let's make that barrier!"
Taichi's energy was infectious, helping ease the fear the other Chosen held and giving them the strength to face the new enemy at hand. Soon everyone gave their assent with nods, words, or both.
Gennai felt gratified by the children's enthusiasm. "Thank you." He reached into his jacket and pulled out something that should have been too large to be concealed by the folds of his clothes. In his hands, he held a crystal orb that was slightly larger than a softball, perfectly smooth and clear, with edges so thin that it gave the impression that it was as fragile as a large soap bubble.
Hikari peered curiously at the crystal ball, reminded of fortunetellers she saw on television. Everything she saw through the sparkling, curved surface of the crystal became distorted and strange. "What's that?"
Gennai raised the crystal to the sky so that all of the Chosen could get a good look at what he held. "Don't be alarmed. I'll merely be using this to absorb your energy."
Taichi walked over to Gennai to get a closer look at the orb. The elderly Digimon obliged his interest by lowering the crystal so that it was close enough for the Chosen of Courage to touch. Taichi examined the sphere from all angles, but found nothing that made it appear to be anything more than an oversized glass bubble. "So how do we use this?"
"Place your hand on the orb and it will do the rest," Gennai said. "You will feel yourself growing weaker, but don't be alarmed."
Taichi held up his hand and looked at his palm before turning his attention back to the orb. The second he touched the crystal, he noticed a strange sensation that emanated from it, akin to a mild electric current that traveled up his arm in a race to reach the top of his head to the tips of his toes. A gentle orange light bled into the orb as though it were made of water and swirled in a spiral until it reached the center of the sphere, growing brighter with each moment. The strange feeling intensified along with the light, but instead of bringing him pain, it made him feel weak and lethargic. He bit back the instinctive cry building at the back of his throat as his legs slowly turned to jelly. Just when he feared that he might faint, the sensations ceased with an abruptness that sent the Chosen of Courage reeling with the feeling of freefall. His feet fumbled to find the something solid, but he only managed to take two steps before his backside collided with the ground, crushing a few of the pretty flowers.
"Taichi!" Sora gasped as she hurried to his side. "Are you alright?"
Agumon was not far behind Sora. "Taichi!" He grasped Taichi's arm, mindful of his claws. "Does it hurt?"
"Y-yeah," Taichi said, his voice faint. He tried his best to give Sora and Agumon both a reassuring smile, but his expression was too haggard to pull it off convincingly. "Don't worry about it. I'm just a bit tired."
Gennai looked from Taichi to the orb he held, which glowed a bright orange, then smiled at the dazed goggle boy. "Thank you for lending me your Courage."
Hikari moved to Taichi's side, worry etched on her features, as she looked him over with as much care as he did with her whenever she was under the weather. "Did that crystal make you feel sick?"
Taichi let out a shaky note of laughter as he smiled weakly and waved off their concern. "I'm fine, I'm fine."
"A good meal and plenty of rest, and you'll feel better in no time," Gennai said. He turned his gaze from Taichi towards the other children and held out the orb at arm's length. "I will understand if you are hesitant to continue."
Yamato stared at Taichi for a good long moment. The Chosen of Courage seemed weary, but not injured or sickly. Once he was satisfied that there seemed to be no significant or lasting damage, he focused on the orb. He steeled his nerves, telling himself that he could not back down from a challenge Taichi already accepted, and placed his hand on the crystal. His air fled his lungs in a gasp, as the electric current running through his body caught him by surprise and swept his energy away. A soft blue light seeped into the orb to join the orange at its center, the two colors coiling together but never mixing, both clear and distinct. The process lasted no more than a minute, but it felt at least ten times as long to the Chosen of Friendship. When the strange sensations left him, he tried valiantly to remain upright, but ultimately collapsed beside Taichi with a cry.
The sight was too much for Takeru to bear. He called out to Yamato as he ran to his brother's side. "Are you okay?"
Gabumon was not far behind Takeru. "Yamato!"
Yamato sighed as he allowed Gabumon to help him sit up. "I'm fine." That just… really took it out of me."
Mimi held a hand over her mouth, shifting from foot to foot. She looked from the tired boys to Palmon and then finally the crystal. It was so beautiful, yet touching it seemed to be an unpleasant experience. However, what was more unbearable was waiting to find out just how awful it would be. She felt afraid and wanted to whine until someone figured out a way to avoid using the crystal. "I don't like this at all…" Despite her misgivings, she held her breath and forced herself to move forward and take her turn. The wait, she rationalized, would just make it worse. The shock the orb jolted through her body as it took her energy caused her to shriek, more from alarm than from any real pain. She dimly heard Palmon cry out her name and she forced herself to answer, though her voice trembled. "I-I'm okay!"
When Mimi's green energy joined the blue and orange she simply let herself fall, shaken but relieved. She expected to hit the ground, but was startled to find a pair of arms catching her at the last second.
"Mimi!" Jou said, his voice filled with concern as he gently lowered Mimi down on the ground. "Are you okay?"
"Mimi!" Palmon was practically crying as she rushed to her Chosen's side. "Mimiiii!"
Mimi shook her head, as though it might help clear it and make her forget the experience. "Th-that scared me." She gave her best smile to Palmon, though fatigue made it less chipper than normal. "I'm fine. Thank you."
Koshiro was careful to step around his friends as he approached Gennai. He looked over the orb, fascinated its existence. He wanted to ask what sort of programming code went into its creation so that he could analyze it further, but decided to wait until after he donated his energy. He flinched as the process began, but otherwise kept still, focusing intently on the purple glow that spilled into the crystal. He wanted to know more of how the process worked to manifest his energy into a physical form and store it like a battery, but he found his thoughts growing heavy. "Amazing," he said in a quiet murmur before his fingers slipped from the surface of the crystal and he fell to his knees.
"Koshiro." Tentomon moved over to Koshiro's side, flying beside his Chosen's head. "Don't overdo it."
Jou brushed away the small beads of sweat that formed on his face before he slid his glasses back into their proper position. He gazed at the orb with a sickening sense of apprehension. Something about the situation gave him a bad feeling that he could not define, but as the oldest among the Chosen, he had to set a good example. The fact that most everyone else already went before him just added more pressure for him to accept this responsibility, no matter his misgivings. He refused to let anyone down.
Gritting his teeth, Jou stepped forward to take hold of the crystal in both hands. He had hoped keeping his mouth firmly shut would prevent him from crying out, but found himself mistaken, as the energy being sucked from his body was a sensation too foreign and unexpected for him to hold himself back. He tried to focus on the wonder he felt when seeing glowing silver spill into the orb like liquid, but the strange feelings proved far too distracting for him to receive any real pleasure from the experience. He yelped when the process ended, and collapsed onto the ground in an undignified heap with a grunt.
After seeing the others take their turns, Gomamon did not feel particularly alarmed, so he moved to Jou's side without any real hurry. Though he could not help but be concerned for his partner, he was not the type of person to worry excessively, especially since everyone else stated the process was more surprising than anything else. "Oi, oi, be careful. There's no one big enough left to catch you."
"It's my turn," Sora said, her voice shaking. Touching the orb did not look dangerous, but it obviously was not a pleasant experience either. She tried to remind herself that she was braver than she felt at that moment. She had faced far worse things than this only less than a year ago. With a quick glance at the others, she took her turn to touch the orb. She flinched when the process started and watched the red of her energy pool into the crystal, joining the others in a brilliant swirling rainbow.
Piyomon flapped her wings and hovered around Sora's head as her partner wobbled. "Sora? Do you need me to find something for you to eat? Eating will help you regain your strength."
Sora wiped the sweat from her brow as she smiled weakly. She was surprised that she had somehow found the strength to remain standing when everyone else immediately collapsed. She carefully sat down on the ground just in case she overestimated how she was feeling. "I'm fine, I'm just a little weak…"
Hikari looked from Taichi to the others who had gone before her, then finally turned to Gennai. She failed to see why everyone seemed so nervous before donating energy to the crystal. After all, it was necessary to help the world Tailmon lived in, and the idea seemed no different than using their Digivices to evolve their partners. "I'll go next."
Takeru looked up at Hikari, blinking, and then frowned. He did not like the idea of letting her go through the process that drained the others due to how fragile her health was, according to what Taichi had told him and what he had seen during their adventure. He knew that he could not stop her, and, in fact, it was downright necessary that she do it – the same for him. However, he made a promise to protect her. How could he protect her from something she needed to do, something she would do anyway?
After a moment's hesitation, Takeru figured out what he needed to do. He clamored to his feet and raced past Hikari, snatching the orb just before she could touch it. Despite the surreal sensations that shot through his body, he managed to give her a brave smile. "Let me do it, just to make sure it's really safe!"
Hikari jumped when Takeru rushed past to take her place. She did not know what to think of his actions, and could only stare as the crystal drained his energy in front of her. "Takeru…"
A quiet grunt escaped Takeru as his expression contorted into a grimace. His hands shook atop the orb, yellow light flowing from below to join the others at the center of the orb. "I… I'm okay! It… it doesn't hurt, so–" He gasped when his legs gave way, forcing him to fall to his knees, his face pale. "Wow…"
Patamon was at Takeru's side in a flash. "Takeru!" He hovered just above his partner, brow furrowed with concern. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," Takeru said, his voice breathless and weary. "Like that one time I stayed up all night playing video games without Mom knowing and then had to go to school the next day."
Patamon blinked. "What's a video game?"
Yamato chuckled as he leaned forward and gave Takeru a knowing look, resting his arm on his knee. "Heh… 'make sure it's really safe', huh?"
Takeru's face regained some color, but it was mostly red that centered mainly on his cheeks.
Hikari surveyed the other children as they sat around her, recovering from the exhausting experience, while their partners watched over them. She turned to Tailmon and saw the concern that brimmed behind those vibrant blue eyes. She gave Tailmon a smile, her expression serene. "I guess it's my turn."
Tailmon gave Hikari a long, hard look before her ears canted back. "Alright, but let go if it's too much."
Hikari nodded, more to appease Tailmon's concerns than believing that she would be any more overwhelmed than her friends and brother. She took a moment to gaze upon the orb, admiring it's lovely mixture of colors, knowing that what she saw was the vitality of people who were very dear to her. "Pretty…" she said, her words a quiet, reverent whisper that only Tailmon heard.
The instant Hikari touched the crystal, a flash of bright white encompassed her body, momentarily blinding those watching. Her back arched, her muscles turned rigid, as her sight became blank and unseeing. The light fluctuated in intensity, but overall grew steadily brighter by the moment. White light poured into the orb, not akin a gentle flowing stream like the other children, but the gush of a flood bursting from a dam that threatened to overtake the other colors. The Chosen of Light lost control of her mouth, as it opened and closed rapidly, her voice making sounds so strange and swift it was as though some of the sounds were overlapping, too chaotic and disjointed for anyone to have a hope of understanding their meaning.
Tailmon felt as though her heart had suddenly been placed in a vice. "H-Hikari!" She turned to Gennai, her eyes wild. "What's happening!?"
Taichi forced himself back to his feet, scrambling to join Tailmon at Hikari's side. "What's going on!?"
Gennai kept his gaze focused on the crystal as it filled to the brim with light, the corners of his eyes scrunching up. "This data…"
Tailmon could not wait for Gennai to figure out what was going on, and grabbed Hikari's leg, intent on pulling her partner away from the crystal. The instant she touched Hikari, the light spread to her, causing her entire body to glow. "What!?" Power flooded through her body, much like whenever her Chosen lent her the strength to evolve. She could not prevent the change to Angewomon even if she wanted to.
Hikari did not acknowledge her partner's touch. The strange sounds she made grew to a fever pitch, turning into a horrifying noise that should have been possible to produce with human vocal chords. The light surrounding her body became so bright that it hurt to look directly at her, and it started flickering, disappearing for a fraction of a second before it returned to its previous intensity, like a strobe light. The noise and radiance ended when Ryo suddenly tackled her, forcing her hands away from the orb.
Angewomon grabbed Hikari just before her partner and Ryo hit the ground. "Hikari!" The glow that surrounded the Perfect level Digimon subsided, reverting her back to Tailmon.
Taichi took a hold of Hikari's shoulders when Tailmon's grip went slack due to the regression. "Hikari!" He carefully laid his little sister on the ground, hoping that it would help her recover more quickly.
Tailmon fell over, gasping as she grasped the ground. She felt as though she had just finished fighting a battle every bit as intense as facing off against Vamdemon or the Dark Masters. "I… what just happened!?"
Takeru wobbled to his feet and hurried over to Hikari, concerned. Something bad like this was the very thing he had intended to prevent when he touched the crystal before the other young Chosen. "Hikari!"
The lines on Gennai's face were severe, as he cast a troubled gaze upon the orb. It glowed a brilliant shade of white that nearly smothered out the bare streaks of other colors swirling throughout its interior. "That was… unexpected."
Hikari's eyelids fluttered, her normally vibrant red eyes dull as she stared blankly into the sky. Much to the relief of those gathered around her, the vacant stare only lasted for a few moments before she focused on the concerned faces of her brother, partner, and friends. "Did I fall down too?" Her voice was faint, but stable.
Ryo looked at the orb before he focused on Hikari, his expression tense. "You're the Chosen of Light, aren't you?"
Hikari blinked and looked Ryo's way. "Yes. Why?"
Taichi's adrenaline was still surging, as the panic he experienced when Hikari touched the crystal had not disappeared even with the reassurance that she seemed unharmed by the experience. He focused on Ryo, directing all his helpless rage on the strange newcomer. "Do you know something about this?" He threw his arm towards Hikari, hands clenching into fists. "Did you know this was going to happen to Hikari?!"
Gennai looked from the orb he held to Ryo. He raised his eyebrow a fraction, but said nothing.
Ryo spared Gennai and the orb the briefest of glances before he focused on Taichi, backing away slowly as the Chosen of Courage stomped towards him. He held his arms up, hoping that it would placate Taichi before the goggle boy decided to start throwing punches. "I didn't know. Honest! I'm not sure what it means…"
Yamato felt his anger grow. "How can you not be sure?" He moved to join Taichi in staring the new Chosen down. "What does her being the Chosen of Light have to do with anything?"
Taichi thrust his finger forward, nearly jabbing Ryo in the chin. "What happened to Hikari just now?"
Sora scooted closer to where Hikari rested, still a little too weak to try standing again. "Is she okay?" She turned her concerned gaze to Hikari, who seemed more confused than anything else. "It didn't hurt her, did it?"
Ryo backed away from Gennai and the other Chosen Children until he was well outside of arm's reach. He shifted weight from foot to foot, unable to stand still underneath the intense stares of the others, some accusing, some merely confused, but all were waiting for answers. "Well… it's just…"
"Possession," Koshiro said, the word blurting from his lips before he could form his thoughts into a proper sentence. "Does this have anything to do with that entity that possessed Hikari before?"
Ryo jerked and stared at Koshiro, his eyes widening. "You mean you've met Tenraimon?"
Taichi blinked. "Tenraimon?"
Gennai looked at Ryo, removing one hand from supporting the orb to rub his chin. "I see, I see. So that's what happened."
Jou fidgeted with his glasses, which he suddenly had a hard time keeping in place. "W-what's what happened?"
"Tenraimon?" Hikari said. Something about the name prickled at the back of her mind, but she could not identify what sort of feeling it brought her, simply that it was somehow familiar. "Who's that?"
Ryo scratched his head and glared at the ground. He opened his mouth, only to shut it with a sound of frustration. "I think…" He turned to Gennai. "I think the crystal accidentally drained more than Hikari's power."
"Yes," Gennai said, "I believe you're right."
Koshiro's eyes widened at the staggering implications. "You mean the orb drained from the data being as well?"
Ryo stared blankly at Koshiro. "Huh?"
Taichi could not calm down, even as they seemed to be honing in on the root of what happened. All the confusion and lack of straight answers was just winding him up even more. "So what does that mean? Is Hikari going to be okay or not?"
Gennai laughed lightly, which made Taichi twitch despite the lightness of the tone. "Hoho, I'm not sure how she'd feel about being called that." The old Digimon's smile turned wry. "But then, I doubt she'd complain too much. She's not quite so hung up on what she's called, like the others."
Mimi tilted her head slightly. It felt to her as though the entire conversation was going right over her head. "Others?"
"I'm afraid I won't go in to too much detail, as I'm sure you're getting confused enough as it is," Gennai said with a shake of his head. "So let's address the matter at hand instead. The Chosen of Light has a special connection with this world. It's a connection that allows her to tap in to a consciousness, an entity that goes deep in to the very fabric of our world. Just now, Hikari accidentally tapped in to that consciousness, causing both her power and that of the entity's to flow into the orb."
Koshiro's mind raced as he processed this new information and the possibilities of what it would mean for Hikari and everyone else. "Why is Hikari the only one connected to this being? How many of them are there? What else can you tell us about them? What does this mean for Hikari, Tailmon, and the rest of us?"
Taichi clenched his fists until they ached and trembled faintly with tension. He felt like a rubber band stretched to its limit, ready to snap at any moment. "I don't care about any of that stuff! I just want to know is if Hikari is okay!"
"She'll be fine," Gennai said, his voice soft and soothing. "I assure you, no harm came to her."
Ryo looked as confused as the rest of the Chosen Children when he turned to Gennai. "Others? I thought the only other DigiGod was Narakumon."
Koshiro turned his attention back to Ryo, his expression mirroring the mysterious Chosen's. "DigiGod? But the being that possessed Hikari said it wasn't the god of Digimon World."
Ryo folded his arms in front of him and rubbed, as though fighting off a sudden chill. The corner of his mouth twisted as though something in his stomach was no longer sitting well. His head tilted downward, creating a slight shadow that darkened his eyes. "I'll admit," he said, the words coming slowly, "I never met Tenraimon, so I don't know much about her first-hand… But I do know about her, and everyone I know who knows her says she's a goddess." He exhaled and shook his head. "And hoo boy… When Narakumon possesses Keiko he doesn't let us forget that he's a god."
"It's personality," Gennai said. "It's as simple as that. Tenraimon cares little for titles or how she is perceived, while Narakumon cares far too much. It's very possible that Tenraimon doesn't even consider herself to be a DigiGod, while Narakumon would have a fit if anyone suggested he was anything else."
Hikari perked up slightly, as part of the conversation caught her attention. "Keiko? Is that another Chosen Child like us?"
Ryo nodded. "Yeah, the Chosen of D–"
A sudden beeping rendered Ryo silent. He scrambled to fish a small silvery rectangular electronic device from his pocket, flipping open the outer casing to peer at a small LCD screen inside.
Takeru peered at the strange device, craning his neck to get a closer look without having to stand up. "What's that?"
"My D-Terminal," Ryo said. "We use it to exchange emails. I can a–" His words died with a choke, the color draining from his face as his eyes grew as wide as dinner plates. "He's on the move!" He tapped at the screen rapidly to send a reply email. "Millenniumon is on the move! We have to act fast!"
Gennai's expression became severe. "We have no time to waste." He turned to the rest of the Chosen. "I'm afraid I cannot answer any more questions at this time. This world is too dangerous for you now, especially in your weakened state. You must go back to your world. Quickly!"
Mimi grabbed Palmon, pulling her partner into a crushing hug. "But what about Palmon and the others? We just finally got to see each other again!"
"You'll have plenty of time to catch up back in your world, where it's safe," Gennai said as he tucked the orb into his pocket.
Without waiting for a response, Gennai threw his hand skyward, as though tossing something invisible into the air. In that instant, all of the Odaiba Chosen were hit with the dizzying sensation of falling upwards. It did not feel as though some great vacuum or tornado sucked them up into the stratosphere, but that the law of gravity had been repealed or reversed, turning the ground into the new sky and sending them tumbling helplessly into an unending field of blue dotted with fluffy white clouds.
The sudden transportation elicited screams from virtually all the Chosen, who blindly groped at the air for something to hold onto. The rush of air in their ears and a flash of bright light engulfed their senses, leaving nothing but a dizzying sense of vertigo.
The fall trip ended almost as quickly as it began. The senses of the Chosen returned just before they crashed into the living room of the Yagami residence, falling into a haphazard pile of groaning bodies.
Yamato found himself upside down on the sofa, one leg dangling over the armrest while the backing propped the other up leg upward, his shoe barely hanging on by his toes. He blinked a few times to reorient his vision, but everything was still disorienting due to the fact that his head hung off one of the seat cushions. "What just happened?"
Taichi lay on his stomach on something rather uncomfortable and lumpy, sprawled across the other half of the sofa, face buried in one of the cushions, and legs dangling from the armrest. "I think we've been booted out of the Digimon World," he said, his voice muted due to having fabric pressed against his mouth.
A tiny, muffled voice came from underneath the goggle boy. "Taiiichiii…"
"T-that was fast…" Sora said with a gasp as she sat up. "He didn't even give us a chance to say anything!" She rubbed the back of her head, which ached a little after striking the floor. It was not particularly painful when considering the distance they fell, but it made her regret not choosing to wear her hat.
"Taaaii-chiiii…" the tiny voice whined again.
Koshiro crawled himself out from under Jou's legs before scrambling quickly to his feet. "I hope I'll still be able to email Gennai. I have more questions I need to ask about Tenraimon and Narakumon."
Something squirmed beneath Taichi, making the Chosen of Courage yelp. "Taiiiichiii, get off of meeee…!"
Taichi blinked, slow to react at first, and then practically threw himself off the sofa when he realized that he was sandwiching Agumon between him and the cushion. Unfortunately, he wound up crashing on top of Gabumon instead, who yelped and squirmed beneath him. The goggle boy hastily hopped off the fur covered dinosaur Digimon. "Sorry Agumon! Sorry Gabumon!"
Taichi's mother, Yuko, stood in the kitchen with her arm wrapped around a mixing bowl and holding a spatula. Seeing eight children, two of which belonged to her, appear from nowhere and crash on top of her furniture with eight colorful creatures struck her as so surreal that it had taken her a few minutes to find her voice. "My, my, what's all this?" Though feeling a bit off-balance by witnessing something that should have been impossible, she managed to take it all in stride. It was not quite as outrageous as seeing them fly into the sky on a rainbow. "Did you bring your Digimon friends home for dinner?"
"What?" Yamato struggled to sit up but wound up toppling off the sofa. He barely felt the impact with the floor, too focused on seeking out Gabumon. His eyes widened as he clapped eyes on his partner. "Gabumon?"
Jou felt around for his glasses and found them hanging off his ear. After he secured them back in place, he stared down at Gomamon as his partner crawled into his lap. "You… you came with us?"
Gomamon flashed Jou an easygoing grim. "What, did you think we were going to let you guys leave us behind again?"
"Mimi, Mimi~!" Palmon said. Her words were practically a song, brimming over with happiness, as she wrapped her arms tightly around her beloved partner, tears in her eyes. "We're in your world again!"
Mimi let out a squeal that pierced eardrums as she returned the hug with equal enthusiasm, her eyes brimming over with moisture as well. "This is wonderful!" The Chosen of Purity got to her feet and held Palmon above her, wearing a smile as brilliant as the sun. "You're going to get to live with me and my parents, Palmon!"
Palmon laughed and cheered, clinging to Mimi's arms as her Chosen Child spun her about in circles. "Yay! I can't wait!"
Tailmon had been the only Digimon to gather her bearings just before they crashed into the Yagami apartment, which had been fortunate, as it allowed her to catch Hikari and direct the Chosen of Light to land onto a plush easy chair. "Are you alright, Hikari?" She looked Hikari over from head to toe, her sharp eyes searching for any sign that something else might have gone wrong. What happened with the orb had shaken her more than she cared to admit, making her fear that this connection Hikari shared with this mysterious Tenraimon might have brought more danger for her precious partner.
Hikari gave Tailmon a smile and nodded. "I feel just fine." Her voice held a heavy note of weariness, her eyelids drooping. Aside from the signs of fatigue and her skin being a few shades lighter than normal, there was nothing wrong with her, as far as the feline Digimon could tell.
Koshiro carefully stepped and hopped his way over his friends until he could freely run into the next room at top speeds.
Taichi blinked as he watched Koshiro disappear into his father's office. "What's wrong?"
"Koshiro!" Tentomon flew after his Chosen. "Are you checking the Gate?"
Koshiro nodded as he booted up the computer. The Digital Gate was their means of crossing over into the Digital World. Thanks to the efforts of him, Gennai, and his online genius friends, they were able to make a program for his computer that served as a means to open up a portal into the Digital World, much like the one Vamdemon activated during the invasion of Odaiba. It also had a secondary function of serving as a window that allowed them to peer into virtually anywhere in the Digital World. "I want to see what's happening in the Digimon World."
Though battered and fatigued, Chosen soon filled the small office to the brim, gathering around the computer, most peering over shoulders or heads to get a glimpse at the small screen. The air was tense with a growing sense of anxiety, as they wondered about what was happening in the Digital World.
Data flew across the screen at a dizzying pace, streaming lines of code that only Koshiro could keep up with and understand. The room was silent save for the clicking of keys that fired as rapidly as a machinegun. The Chosen Knowledge's typing became more frantic with each passing moment until he finally muttered a curse and slapped his hands into his lap. "Nothing! I can't get any access to the Digimon World!"
Taichi placed his hand on Koshiro's shoulder as he leaned forward to get a look at his friend's face. "What does that mean?"
Koshiro rubbed his hands across his face with a groan. "It means we can't even see what's going on in the Digimon World, let alone access the Digital Gate. I can't even get the program to boot up properly!"
Sora raised a hand to her mouth. "So we can't go back and help?" She looked down at Piyomon. "And our Digimon too?"
Koshiro shook his head. "We can't even keep an eye on things from here. And my email to Gennai bounced back." He propped his elbow up against the table, pressing his hand against his forehead, as he cast a helpless gaze at the screen. "It's like there's a firewall around the Digital World that's cut off all access to it."
The term struck Mimi as strange, conjuring conjured up the image of the Digital World surrounded by a literal wall of fire. "A firewall?"
Taichi turned his attention back to the screen as Koshiro went back to typing. "Did Gennai do this?"
Koshiro let out a sound of displeasure at the back of his throat. "Most likely. Since we can't evolve Tentomon and the others we'll only put ourselves in danger if we went back. I guess he wanted to make sure we didn't do anything risky…" He barely resisted the urge to smack the keyboard, as all his attempts to make the program work were thwarted at every turn. "Or let us worry…"
Yamato leaned back. "So what can we do?" He looked around. No one spoke. They did not know the answer any more than he did. "Does he seriously expect us to just… wait?"
Koshiro nodded, though he stubbornly continued his attempts at hacking into Gennai's firewall.
Hikari wrapped her arms around Tailmon. "For how long?"
"I don't know," Koshiro said. "Until the Digimon World is safe for us to go back, I guess."
"I hope they'll be alright…" Sora said, as she held Piyomon tightly.
Piyomon nuzzled Sora. "It'll be okay, Sora."
"Don't worry, Koshiro," Tentomon said. "Gennai would not have drained you of your powers if he wasn't certain his plan would work. This is most likely proof that it is working."
Koshiro's fingers went still. He stared at the screen for a long moment before answering. "I hope you're right, Tentomon." He exhaled and leaned back in his chair. "All we can do now is wait."