It had been a week since the terrible battle that claimed both Tailmon's and Wormmon's lives. It similarly had been a week since Ken - as himself or the Digimon Kaiser - had made an appearance in either the real or Digital World. Time moved ever onward, as the weather grew cooler as they drifted ever closer to the winter months.
It was enough time for the Chosen Children to fully digest what had happened, and come to a startling conclusion.
"It's really over, isn't it," Takeru said, resting his elbows on the handrails that surrounded the Yamagi's balcony, staring out at the city, Patamon sprawled across his head. "His towers are completely gone, and he's not replacing them… and he's not capturing any more Digimon. The Digimon Kaiser - Ken - is done and the war is finally over." It seemed unreal, especially with how often and easily Ken would just replace the towers after the Chosen broke them. And yet somehow, something had caused every single tower to dissolve into nothingness all at once, leaving the Digital World completely free of his influence.
And Ken had made absolutely no move to reclaim any of it.
From her seat in the patio chair, Hikari stared down at the DT2 in her left hand, lightly running her finger along the side as the other remained with her partner. Tailmon's egg rested comfortably in her lap at the center of a small blanket nest, the shell pleasantly warm in contrast to the chilly autumn air. "He's not answering my emails… or anyone else's…"
"The others could be right, you know," Takeru said as he glanced over to Hikari. "He could be mad at you for what Tailmon did."
"And he wasn't talking to anyone else from the start," Patamon said, his wings drooping hopped down to the handrail beside Takeru. "Maybe when Wormmon hatches, he'll start talking again?"
Hikari made a noise deep in her throat. It was hard to argue, as the thought had certainly occurred to her several times over the past week. While she had never consented to Tailmon's actions, she still felt responsible for them. However, she also couldn't entirely dismiss the feeling that something was wrong - and that they simply weren't aware of it. "Even so, he hasn't returned home, either…"
"No, he hasn't," Takeru agreed as he returned his attention back at the city view. "With his parents doing every talk show or interview they can, it's pretty clear that they're just as concerned about him as we are."
"Then maybe they should've treated him better, or at least cared about the suffering he had gone through before now," Hikari said, her tone uncharacteristically frosty. Noticing the way Takeru turned to stare at her, she instead turned her gaze look out over the city to avoid his incredulous eyes. "If he's not in the Digital World and he didn't go home, where did he go?"
"Maybe he's with Keiko's brother?" Takeru suggested as he glanced up to the sky. "I don't think that Jin guy would have any issues with hiding Ken from his parents, or us."
Hikari considered the suggestion then nodded reluctantly. "Yeah… We should've asked him for some way to contact him when we had the chance."
Takeru nodded at that before he lowered his eyes, looking down at the streets below. "Has… Keiko spoken to you since then?"
"No, nothing at all," Hikari said, softly. "Not even in my dreams." She had deliberately tried to reach out to the Chosen of Darkness, to Nyamon, or even Narakumon every single night since the awful battle, but she only had ordinary dreams. It was ironic to think of how many nights she wished never to dream of the Dark World again, only to regret the wish once it had been granted.
Takeru made a thoughtful sound in the back of his throat. He remembered how Keiko had emailed him at the time of Wormmon's death, telling him that she had 'got him'. "I think… that if something was wrong, Keiko'd be trying to contact you." He glanced over at Hikari. "I mean, she was trying to contact you the whole time Ken was running around as the Digimon Kaiser, so if he was really in trouble, she'd be doing everything in her power to reach you." He faltered for a moment before he smiled sheepishly. "At least, that's what I think."
Reluctantly, Hikari had to agree, nodding ever so slightly. "I guess now that Ken has been cured… Keiko can rest in peace for now." Her stomach twisted unpleasantly. "That doesn't mean I'm going to give up on bringing her back."
"Of course not," Takeru agreed. "That's just our next order of business, now that the Digital World is peaceful again."
"I wish Narakumon would return our emails," Hikari muttered. "He's the one that knows what we need to do next to bring Keiko and Nyamon back to life."
"He's probably recovering right now, too," Takeru said as he reached up to run his fingers through his hair. "The fact that Tailmon was able to reach that evolution… Narakumon must have given her his power, and he was already overtaxed."
Hikari sighed, shoulders slumping. "And Darkness is weak against Light, like Tailmon. Like me."
"I doubt the DigiGods turn into eggs, so he's probably just resting right now and will be back soon enough," Takeru said before he chuckled. "Though it's really hard waiting like this... it feels like everything comes down to 'waiting until something happens'."
Hikari gently ran her fingers across her partner's egg, her eyelids hanging heavy. "Yeah… It does."
Takeru's expression softened as he watched Hikari, before he let out a soft sigh. "It'll be okay, Hikari. We'll make up with Ken, get the others to forgive him, and then we can save Keiko and Ryo. It's only a matter of time before-"
At that moment, a cracking sound cut off all further conversation. Hikari paused as her eyes widened, staring as cracks suddenly appeared across the smooth pink shell right before her very eyes. The cracking intensified, soon covering the entire top of the egg before the shell burst completely to reveal a tiny little white blob Digimon with beady black eyes and fluffy ears.
The Digimon gave a small sneeze and blinked her eyes, as if clearing the sleep from them, before she looked up at Hikari. She was silent for several moments as she took in the Chosen of Light's gawking stare before she gave a gentle smile. "Sorry for the wait."
For a moment, Hikari could only stare at the tiny baby Digimon in her arms until her eyes were so full of tears she couldn't see YukimiBotamon anymore. Her heart swelled with happiness and relief in equal measure as she hugged her reborn partner close. "Welcome home, Tailmon."
YukimiBotamon's eyes began to shimmer as she withheld her own tears. There was a lot to say, but none of the words formed. Instead, there was only one thing to say. "I'm back…. Hikari."
Jou looked up at the scoreboard on the wall as it displayed the results of the tests. His eyes scoured the names, looking for the only one that actually mattered to him personally - his own. Soon, he found it among the sea of students and he quickly flicked his gaze over to see the results of all his hard work.
Jou immediately felt a wave of relief at the sight of his results. He had not only passed the test, but with much higher results than he had anticipated. "Oh thank goodness…!"
"Looks like you're back on track!" one of Jou's classmates, a tall male in a matching school uniform, said as he reached over to pat Jou on the back, nearly knocking the Chosen's glasses off his face. "Everyone was really worried for a while, but it looks like you got it figured out."
Jou pushed his glasses back up his nose and turned to offer his classmate an awkward smile. "Y-yeah. It looks like I just needed to get my head back in the game."
"Or take a break, and give your head a chance to rest," another classmate, a girl this time, said. "You look so much better now. I really thought you were getting sick."
Jou paused as he considered the girl's words, then had the good graces to look sheepish. "Yeah, I guess I was." He had to admit, he was completely falling apart while Gomamon was missing. Once his partner had returned to his life, Jou had recovered. Even as he spoke, his partner was hiding in his school bag, likely reading one of the manga he insisted on sneaking along to entertain himself while Jou was working so hard in class.
Carrying a duffle bag with his partner had been a real exercise, but it was worth it to have his moral support so close. He needed his partner more than ever, especially after everything that had happened.
At that thought, Jou's face fell a bit. He found himself immediately thinking of Ken, and what had happened. While he was still reeling from the situation, he couldn't help but worry about his junior. He was supposed to be the senpai, but he never realized just how deeply troubled Ken was - not that the Chosen of Kindness had done much to let anyone know. Still, the fact that he was still missing was troubling to say the least. "...I wonder what he's doing right now-"
Jou stopped and looked up sharply to see his classmates, who had seemingly moved on without him noticing and stood waving at him.
"Did you space out?" the male classmate asked, waving his hand. "Hurry up, or you're going to be late for class!"
Jou jerked, nearly dislodging his glasses again, before he yelped. Grabbing his duffle-bag, the eldest Chosen hurried after his classmates. "C-coming, I'm coming!"
The Chosen of Honesty barreled by his classmates as he ran to class, moving far faster than seemingly possible when carrying such a heavy load. The other two elder students stared in shock, blinking slowly, before they began to laugh.
"Some things never change, huh?" the female classmate asked, rhetorically.
"Nope, not in the slightest," the male classmate said, chuckling.
Wildflowers had already taken over most of the battlefield memorial, which Mimi found surprisingly fitting. After being devoid of life for so long, the place seemed to be making up for lost time with a sea of endless color.
There was no doubt in her mind that Kyoumon would have loved it.
Mimi stood in front of the damaged angel memorial statue, her expression solemn and her eyes raw from tears she had tried - and failed - to hold back. In her hands was a small bag of American-style chocolate chip cookies tied off with a rainbow ribbon. Kneeling among the flowers, she set the bag in front of the newest addition to the memorial - Kyoumon's grave.
The grave was simple, nowhere near as grandiose as the angel statue, but it was vibrant with color as the little stone monument was adorned from top to bottom with all the different pictures Kyoumon had taken with her camera. At its wide base, Palmon had etched Kyoumon's name into the stone, and that was where Mimi placed her offering before she clasped her hands together in a silent prayer for her fallen friend, as well as those who had died trying to stop Armagemon.
Palmon stood beside Mimi, her petals drooping as she wore Kyoumon's scarf around her neck. Her own eyes shimmered with unshed tears as she watched Mimi, biting her lower lip to keep from crying. She mimicked her partner, clasping her own hands together in a prayer as she bowed her head.
There was nothing to be said in a place made to honor those trapped in the Dark Ocean, only tears and memories.
A small red dot appeared on the dojo floor, standing out vividly against the wood. It slowly swirled about in circles for a moment, then suddenly darted away - just in time to escape a hunting Digimon. Kyokyomon suddenly landed on the spot it had been on moments before, slamming his stomach on to the floor.
Undeterred by his failure, the baby Digimon quickly got back onto his feet and scurried after the red light as it rose up along one of the training dummies that lined the back wall. Kyokyomon focused in on the red dot with extreme intensity, lowering his head before leaping up to headbutt the dummy right in the stomach, causing it to jerk back.
And yet, for all the force of his blow, the red dot was undeterred as it easily glided away from both dummy and Digimon, unharmed by the attack.
Iori chuckled as he sat near the edge of the dojo, his legs dangling over the side that gave way to the garden. "You know you can't actually catch it, right?"
"Yes, I can!" Kyokyomon said, with great enthusiasm. "I'm going to catch it!"
"It's just a light," Iori said. "It doesn't have a physical form."
"Neither do I!" Kyokyomon said. "I'm all digital data! So that means I can catch it!"
"He's got you theeeeere~!" Pafumon sang out as she hovered over the room, wiggling her ears as she went.
Iori blinked slowly before he furrowed his brow. "I… suppose?"
"But that still doesn't mean he's gonna catch it!" Pafumon said, with no small amount of pride. "There's no way he can beat Miyako!"
Miyako giggled as she aimed the laser pointer at the far wall and watched as Kyokyomon scampered after the red dot. "Of course not, but it might be funny to see what'd happen if he did catch it."
"I think he'd break the dojo before he ever caught it," Iori said, with a shake of his head.
"No, no, it might be an interesting experiment," Miyako said jovially as she waited for Kyokyomon to charge at the wall before pointing the pen in a new direction. "Think about all the laws of physics that Digimon break all the time. Who knows? They might be actually catch the red dot as a ball of light or something."
"I'm gonna do it, for I - o - ri!" Kyokyomon said, with great confidence, as he scurried after the red dot, turning sharp corners as Miyako moved the red dot about in a zigzag motion.
Iori chuckled, lowering his head. "Well, I suppose if it can be done, you're the one to do it, Kyokyomon."
"You got it!" Kyokyomon agreed as he nearly ran up a wall before using it as a springboard to pursue the fleeing target.
"That just means he's really stubborn," Pafumon said, in a whisper that didn't try particularly hard to be a whisper.
Miyako let out a small snort of laughter before she playfully nudged Iori's shoulder with her own. "No surprise there, given his partner."
Iori's cheeks tinted lightly as he looked away. "I have no idea what you're insinuating."
"None - at - all~!" Pafumon said, with a giggle.
Iori jerked at the sound of his mother and whirled towards the doorway just in time to see the door begin to open. Before he could open his mouth to shout a warning, both Pafumon and Kyokyomon had scurried way to hide - with Pafumon drifting to the rafters while Kyokyomon ducked into a nearby cubby.
"Grandpa is too tired to cook dinner tonight, so we'll be ordering out," Fumiko said, still dressed in her police uniform. "Got any requests?"
Iori did his best to not glance over anxiously towards Kyokyomon's hiding place, sweat appearing on his brow. "Ah, perhaps some ramen?"
"Spicy miso for me please!" Miyako said cheerfully as she held up her hand.
Fumiko nodded as she pulled out a notepad and pen from her pocket. "Alright, and what'll your two little friends want to eat?"
Miyako froze, her smile going crooked. "Eh?"
Iori stopped as he stared at his mother, his expression going blank. "Huh?"
Fumiko's eyes scanned the room slowly. "I don't think sneaking two little ones snacks from your family's store is very good for balanced meals, Miyako. They're growing children after all, aren't they?"
"H-heh," Miyako felt sweat trickling down the back of her neck. "Wh… what children?"
Iori outright gaped at his mother, too thunderstruck to speak as he stared at her in complete silence.
Kyokyomon watched the exchange from his hiding place, particularly Iori's expression and Fumiko's seemly calm and casual demeanor. After a moment of hesitation, he suddenly ventured out into the dojo, smiling brightly at Iori's mother. "Noodles! Lots and lots of noodles! With egg!"
Fumiko's eyes lit up at the sight of the tiny Digimon, and she nodded as she jotted the notes down. "Right, right. You little ones eat quite a lot, don't you? Will a large bowl be enough?"
"Yes!" Kyokyomon said, brightly. "Thank you, I - o - ri's mom!"
Fumiko smiled gently. "You can call me just 'mom' or Fumiko if you'd like."
"Okaaay~!" Kyokyomon said, brightly. "Fu - mi - ko!"
Iori's face went pale as he stared at his partner. His mind had completely locked up, leaving him unable to process - or salvage - the situation in front of him. "K-Kyo…kyo..."
"Well, it's too late now," Pafumon said with a heavy sigh as she drifted downward. "I'll take some miso as well, but I want some dumplings too! And I'm not going to share them!"
Slowly, Miyako lowered her hand to her side, her eyes never leaving Fumiko. "When did you find out?"
Fumiko dashed down Pafumon's order. "The same day Iori's little one hatched. I wanted to wait until you two were ready to formally introduce your new friends, but I was a little concerned about how much junk food they were eating. You need meat, vegetables, fruit, and dairy too, you know."
Iori faltered before he swallowed hard, his mouth dry. "Yes, well… I suppose junk food was just… easier to manage."
"I don't mind~!" Kyokyomon said. "I'm happy with any food I - o - ri gives me, because I - o - ri gave it to me!"
"Don't forget most of it came from Miyako," Pafumon said, with a sniff. "Iori's just sharing what Miyako gave him."
"Rice balls and snacks are easier to sneak out," Miyako said with a small shrug. "Plus my siblings usually take the good stuff from the just expired foods before I can get to them."
Fumiko let out a thoughtful hum. "Well, why don't you just have breakfast and dinner here with us? I'm sure grandpa won't mind cooking bigger meals."
"Is… is that alright?" Iori asked, his voice weak. "That wouldn't be… an imposition?"
Fumiko smiled gently before she approached Iori to ruffle his hair. "Iori, darling, you're the most important person in my world. Anyone who makes you smile is welcome in this house. I'm always happy to see you make new friends."
Iori reached up to brush his hair back into place, still looking completely bewildered about what had just happened. He had gone over countless times how he intended to broach the subject to his mother, but none of them ever satisfied him. But he never imagined his mother would make the decision for him.
"So, are you going to introduce me now?" Fumiko asked with a teasing note.
Iori jerked to attention as he stared at his mother with wide eyes. "Y-y-yes!" The boy paused before he turned to look at his partner, who continued to smile up at his mother like a happy puppy. "Mom, this is… Kyokyomon."
"Nice - to - meet - you, Fu - mi - ko~!" Kyokyomon said.
Miyako gestured to her partner, who hovered inches from her hand. "And this magnificent Digimon is Pafumon."
"Charmed, thrilled, pleased to meet you," Pafumon said as she landed on Miyako's head, fluttering her ears. "And hungry!"
"It's a pleasure to meet both of you," Fumiko said with a small laugh. "I'll go put in the order, and while we wait for it to arrive, maybe you can explain what a Digimon is."
"Ah, y-yes ma'am," Iori said, before he turned to Miyako helplessly. "Miyako?"
Miyako could only shrug with a sheepish grin. "We probably should've known better than to try and hide our Digimon from a detective."
"Yes," Fumiko agreed, with a sly grin as she tapped her pen against her notepad with a note of finality. "I agree."
"And a one, and a two-!" Yamato said into the microphone before he began to play his guitar, glancing down to watch his hands as they glided across the strings with the precision of a well-refined instrument.
The rest of the band kicked in to play as well, with Gabumon at his drums pounding away to the tune. Even for a practice, the music sounded great, with each band member easily drifting back into place despite the long hiatus they had been forced into.
It gave Taichi and Sora a real show as they watched in the seats of the empty auditorium with their partners, a private audience for the band's first practice after Gabumon's return.
Sora smiled as she listened to the music, her hands clasped together. "It's like they never stopped. I'd say it comes naturally, if I didn't know how hard they all worked to get to this point."
"You can just hear the hard work!" Piyomon said cheerfully as she danced in the aisle, swaying back and forth with her wings fanned.
Agumon clapped his hands, claws clicking rhythmically to the music. "Go, go, go, Gabumon and Yamato!"
Taichi bobbed his head in time to the rhythm, a wide smile plastered across his face. "They're going to be a hit in no time for sure."
"I agree," Sora said, with a nod. She turned to Taichi and giggled. "It'll be so strange, seeing his name on everything. But I'll also be so proud." She paused before her smile widened. "Though I'm already proud of him, and you, and all the Chosen Children. We've all worked so hard, and had to go through much… and look at what we've accomplished."
A pleasant warmth filled Taichi as he enjoyed the happiness lighting up Sora's face. "Yeah. Everyone's back together, and no one is going to break us up again." He wrapped his arm around Agumon and pulled his partner close. "Right, Agumon?"
"Right!" Agumon agreed, nodding his head.
"Right, right~!" Piyomon chimed in before she twirled about in a pirouette.
"That's right," Sora said, giggling again as she watched her partner dance about the aisle to the music - though the ballet hardly matched the J-Pop coming from the band on stage.
Agumon glanced over at Sora before he looked up at Taichi. "Taichiiii."
It took a few more whispers of his name for Taichi to snap out of his daze and turn his attention from Sora to his partner. "Huh?"
Agumon stared at his partner, his expression surprisingly serious. "When are you going to do it?"
"Huh?" Taichi blinked, but seeing his partner glance pointedly at Sora, his cheeks turned a heavy shade of red. "O-oh, right!"
"Do it, do it," Agumon urged, poking his partner lightly. "This is what they call 'the perfect mood', right? Go for it, attack!"
Taichi could only stammer for a moment, the heat in his face so overwhelming that it felt like summer all over again. Seeing Sora look his way, he hastily cleared his throat and tried to act normal, though it seemed impossible with all the butterflies that materialized in his stomach. "U-um, S-Sora?" He winced at how his voice cracked high at the end of her name and hoped she wouldn't notice.
Sora turned to look at Taichi, with a smile as she let out a quizzical hum. She paused when she noticed how flustered the other boy appeared, his face a deep shade of red. "Yes, what is it?"
"I… I've been thinking a lot about everything that's been going on," Taichi said, his fingers fumbling together for lack of anything to do with his hands. "N-not just about Chosen stuff, but about… us."
"Huh?" Sora blinked as her eyes widened, before her face quickly took on a hue that matched Taichi's own. "Oh, um… I-I see." She fidgeted for a moment before she furrowed her brow. "What about… us?"
The things Taichi wanted to say, the words he practiced saying with Agumon the night before, all crashed together in his mind, tangling into a chaotic mess of nonsense. Her attention sent his heart racing and made him feel more anticipation and anxiety than any battle ever could. "I… you've… we've been best friends forever… and… I-I wa… we've been through a lot, and you've always been so cool and mature and… and… I can't imagine going through everything with anyone else, I mean besides Agumon, but not like Agumon or the others and… uh…"
Sora stared at Taichi, blinking slowly. The Chosen of Courage was clearly stumbling over his words, struggling to get something out. Unfortunately, it was hard to tell where the boy was trying to go, when his words were going in every direction. More than that, she was afraid to look into it too much and risk being wrong.
Taichi felt his frustration and embarrassment grow to unbearable levels. The fear of screwing everything up between him and Sora loomed over him, taunting him that he was on the fast track to another mistake that would make her angry and risk their friendship.
However, there was also a resentment to the idea that this thing building between them seemed so insurmountable that he couldn't tell one of his best friends what was on his mind anymore. If she got angry with him again like the hairpin, or if he messed up, then he'd just have to face it.
"Taichiiii," Agumon whispered, clenching his hands. "You can do it, you can do it! Fight, fight, fight!"
Piyomon glanced at Agumon before she turned to Taichi, then raised her wings as she smiled. "Fight, fight, fight! You - can - do - it~!"
Sora turned to stare at her partner, her confusion growing. "Huh? What?"
Taichi glanced at their partners briefly and smiled before his eyes met Sora's as he found his courage. "I like you!"
Sora gave a jerk as she returned her attention to Taichi, the red brightening on her face. The words ringing in her ears as his outburst echoed off the high ceiling, catching her completely off guard. "T-Taichi-?!"
With the words out, there was no turning back, but that strangely made it easier for Taichi to charge forward. "I don't mean as a friend… W-well I do, but I also like you like a girl! I… I like you more than any other girl I've ever known. You're so much better than every other girl that it drives me crazy when all those stupid girls at school tell you to change with makeup or dresses, because you're perfect! You're smart, you're funny, you make me smile, and I can always count on you to be by my side or smack me when I'm being an idiot, and you always speak your mind and care so much about everyone, and you're so… so cool!"
Sora stared at Taichi in silence for several moments, gaping at him as his words slowly filtered into her brain. It finally dawned on her that she wasn't misunderstanding, that she wasn't reading into things too deeply, and that the Chosen of Courage was indeed saying precisely what she thought he was.
"I… I still think about what you said before," Taichi muttered. "And… I wanted to say something earlier, but with everything that was going on… it just didn't seem like the right time, but everything has calmed down, so… so I wanted to tell you when there wasn't anything else to distract us so… I-I like you. More than like. Like… like a girlfriend."
Sora felt her heart leap in her chest, fluttering like the butterflies in her stomach. Goosebumps formed on her skin as she stared at the teenage boy in front of her. "Taichi…"
"W-would you like to go out?" Taichi asked tentatively. "Not just as friends, but as a-a couple on actual date?"
"About damn time!" Yamato's voice boomed from the stage, causing both Taichi and Sora to jump. Neither had noticed that the music had stopped playing, with both Yamato and the other bandmembers watching the scene as it unfolded in front of them. Gabumon stood beside his partner, clapping his hands together enthusiastically.
"Yeah~!" Gabumon agreed. "Hooray!"
Taichi gawked at Yamato before he bristled. However, before he could yell at the Chosen of Friendship for interrupting, he felt a hand gently reach out to take his own and turned to stare at Sora.
"Yes, Taichi," Sora said, with a smile as bright as the blush on her face. "I would love to go out with you."
The door slammed shut, prompting both Junko and Jun to look up from the kitchen, where Junko was busy cleaning dishes while her daughter enjoyed breakfast at the table. Both stared as Daisuke stormed into the house, carrying his duffle bag and an expression that spoke of enormous frustration and anger. He barely spoke two words to announce his return before he stomped to his bedroom, cursing at the lock before fishing out his keys.
Jun spotted an opportunity she couldn't miss and sauntered from the table. "What's wrong, little brother? Did Hikari dump you?"
Daisuke shot daggers into Jun with his eyes, but bit back his urge to say what was really on his mind. Even though things had improved in the house, time had healed Jun's wounds and boredom brought her back to tease him once again. He was never in the mood for it, now especially so, but fortunately he knew how to shut her down. "I was helping look for Ichijouji. Remember him? I think you met once."
Though Jun's smile remained sweet, her eyes flashed like lightning as she closed the distance between them. "I remember. I heard he ran off to join the yakuza. So saaaaaaad."
Daisuke let out a quiet snort and muttered under his breath. "I wish." If Ken had run off to the yakuza, they would at least know for sure he was hiding out with the Ryuzaki family.
"What was that?" Jun asked as she leaned close. "You think it's true? Daisuke, I'm surprised at you." She jabbed Daisuke's chest with her finger. "I thought you both were friends."
Daisuke grunted at the unnecessarily hard poke and swatted his sister's hand away. "Shut up!"
Jun gasped sharply and let out a squeal of pain as she held her suddenly limp hand, jerking back. "Ow! You didn't have to hit me, Daisuke! And so hard too… There's going to be bruises!"
Daisuke let out an angry breath between his teeth, knowing where this was going. "Fine, whatever!" He focused on jamming the key into the lock and turned away from Jun, accepting his fate. "I don't care anymore."
Jun pursed her lips, but she barely retorted with more than a syllable before she heard footsteps approach.
"Jun," Junko's voice was firm, with a sharpness that neither child expected from her. Jun and Daisuke both turned to stare at their mother, whose disapproving gaze had settled on her daughter. "Daisuke's friend is missing. Even if you didn't know him, he is important to your brother. Show a little empathy."
Jun's eyes widened in absolute disbelief, her jaw hanging open for a moment. When she recovered, her hand flailed in the air before pointing at Daisuke. "W-wha… but he just hit me! You saw it!"
Junko's expression didn't change, but her eyes fixed on Jun's supposedly injured hand, which her daughter was using just fine to gesture accusingly at Daisuke. "Finish your cereal and leave your brother alone."
Jun noticed where her mother was looking and was quick to flinch, as though she forgot her injury due to pure adrenaline. Cradling her hand, she gave her mother sorrowful eyes. "But Mom, I was only worried about him, and you heard him snapping at me and saw him hit me."
Daisuke looked from the back of Jun's head to his mother's surprisingly stern expression and took a chance. "Mom, can I eat in my room today? I kinda wanna be alone for a while."
"Of course, dear. Take all the time you need," Junko said as she turned to give her son a soft smile, before she returned her attention to Jun. "If you're bored, you can help me clean the kitchen."
Jun outright gawked at her mother. "What!?"
"Now, finish your cereal," Junko said as she gestured down the hall towards the kitchen. "And then we can discuss how older sisters should treat their younger brothers. It's your responsibility to look out for him, and this type of behavior is very disappointing."
"My what?" Jun said, outraged. "Moooom!"
"Move it," Junko said, her voice authoritative.
Daisuke took that as his cue to leave, hiding the small smile working at the corner of his mouth as he darted into his room. Unfortunately the mirth only lasted long enough for him to lock his door and reach the bed before it faded away. He tried to keep smiling when he unzipped his bag to let out Chibimon, but his mood was already souring again.
"At least Jun got hers," Chibimon said as he sat down on the bed, his grumpy expression a reflection of Daisuke's. "Even if we can't find Ichijouji to give him his."
"Yeah," Daisuke grunted as he flopped down on the bed beside Chibimon. Blindly, he rustled through the bag until he pulled out Ken's still tainted Digivice. "Jerk is probably hiding out with the Ryuzaki like we thought."
"He should just stop hiding and apologize!" Chibimon said, with a mighty snap of his tail on the bed. "And not just keep running away!"
Daisuke raised the black Digivice over his head. "If there's one thing that jerk is good at, it's lying and hiding."
Chibimon grunted before he raised his little paws. "Well, if there's one thing I'm good at, it's finding lying jerks that are hiding!"
"Yeah," Daisuke muttered as he glared at the dark screen of the Digivice. "We'll find that jerk and show him…"
An unwanted pang of guilt prickled at Daisuke's heart. Although he was still angry with Ken for such a deep betrayal, he knew that Wormmon's death on top of so many others must have been devastating to the Chosen of Kindness. While he couldn't let go of his anger towards Ken just because of the tragedies alone, it made him feel unhappy with himself.
A hero would let go of their anger, Daisuke knew. He had seen enough stories that told him that the best kind of hero could forgive no matter what, especially if the enemy went through something terrible to motivate terrible actions.
Not being able to let go of his anger made Daisuke feel like maybe he wasn't as much of a hero as he thought he was.
The scans weren't working. Even running around the clock for a week, there were no signs of the crests for Darkness, Kindness, or Miracles. Koshiro had bought fans to keep his computer from overheating from running for so long, but the casing was hot to the touch as he overworked them.
"It's no good after all," Koshiro sighed as he leaned back in his chair, which squeaked angrily in protest. "I can't scan the real world like I can the Digital World… That's the only place he could be. I need better equipment, like Ken has, then maybe I could…"
"It's so frustrating," Tentomon said as he sat on the computer desk beside Koshiro. "Ken knew so much, he could have helped us accomplish so much… even when he was hiding, he still helped you achieve great things. Imagine what could have happened if he had only told the truth."
"I'm not sure he could," Koshiro muttered. "Given how much Darkness it took to cure him, I can't help but wonder how in control of his actions he was at all."
"That's true," Tentomon said, his voice going quiet. "There was quite a bit that we didn't understand - and still don't."
Koshiro nodded, his expression pained. "There's a lot that he never got to tell us, and so many questions we never got to ask… I can't help but feel like we're missing a lot of information. We can only hope that with his empire gone and the Digital World at peace, it doesn't matter anymore, and we can leave it all well enough alone until Ken decides to come out of hiding."
"Yes, we can hope," Tentomon agreed.
"Quite frankly, I think we should leave him to rot right where he is," Sandiramon said, his tongue flickering out of his mouth as he spoke. He and the other two Devas stood around Zhuqiaomon, the massive Holy Beast sitting on his golden throne within an enormous cavern that made up his throne room, the magma-slick walls giving off a shine that cast both the throne and the Digimon in an almost unnatural glow. "All three of them are where they belong."
"I'd be inclined to agree," Indramon said, with a snort. "But clearly being trapped in the Dark Ocean has done nothing to dilute their ability to cause trouble."
Pajiramon nodded, slowly. "If anything, the Dark Ocean serves more as an obstacle for us than them."
"They cannot be left alone," Zhuqiaomon said, with a deep-chested rumble. "I've learned that quite well. The Chosen of Kindness was left to his own devices, and look at what he has done. They are simply too dangerous to be left unchecked. We must ensure that neither he nor the other two can come back from the grave to inflict even further harm on us or the Digital World."
"He's just a stupid child," Sandiramon said, with a sniff. "It'll be only too easy to-"
"Big words coming from someone who couldn't kill a 'stupid child', even after I went through the trouble of setting it up for you~!"
The three Devas turned to stare as Neemon approached them, a big dopey smile on his face as he wobbled back and forth. The action accented the new accessories around his neck, causing them to dangle and clatter against his chest - the crests of Darkness, Miracles, and Kindness.
"I guess that's why you send a professional instead of an amateur." Neemon said, with a bright smile.
Sandiramon hissed as he puffed up his hood. "I don't want to hear that from you! Not when you didn't bother to tell his Lordship the Digimon Kaiser's identity! Just when did you plan on letting everyone else know?!"
Neemon tilted his head as he opened his left eye, focusing a murderously piercing stare at the snake Deva. "When did you lot plan on getting me out of that hellhole?"
Sandiramon paused before he huffed. "Lord Zhuqiaomon doesn't work for you, you work for him."
"Huuuuuuuh, is that how it woooorks?" Neemon asked as he closed his eye, bobbing his head to the side as he drooped. "It's soooo confusing, I'm just not smart enough to figure it out!"
Sandiramon's cheek twitched. "You-"
"Enough," Zhuqiaomon said, his voice rumbling and causing the three Devas to flinch. The fiery sparrow Digimon focused his eyes on the wobbly Digimon, who seemed unperturbed by the stare. "I assume you will have no qualms in assisting us in finishing off these loose ends."
Neemon's smile widened until it showed off all his teeth. "I am a professional~!"
"But my lord-" Sandiramon began to protest before he flinched at a pointed stare from the Holy Beast.
"Good," Zhuqiaomon said, turning his attention back to Neemon. "Then I will leave this to you." The sparrow's eyes narrowed. "Do not fail me."
"Don't worry, don't worry~!" Neemon said brightly before he turned and began to wobble away, the crests still tingling around his neck. As he did, the noodle Digimon's expression became dark, his eyes opening as his mouth twisted in an ugly smile.
"Ken-chan and I have a lot of catching up to do."
TO BE CONTINUED IN DREAMING TO REALITY: ONEIROMANCY