Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon. And it is very difficult to come up with something witty to save here every time, let me tell you!

Author's Note: Hey, guys! I am so sorry for the wait that this chapter brought on you. I hope that it was worth it. We have approached the part of the story that is a little less planned than the beginning, so I was struggling a little with figuring out exactly what scenes I wanted to show you already, and which ones I wanted to hold off for a future chapter. I hope that there will not be another too long wait for Chapter Sixteen, but I will not promise anything so that I do not end up disappointing all of you! But just know that I have not given up on this story. I'm just playing with how I exactly want the chapter layouts to go!

Enjoy!


Chapter Fifteen

Matt wrapped his arms around TK as his little brother uncontrollably shook in his arms. He was trembling like a leaf so badly, leaving Matt with nothing but concern. What had happened? He could feel his own tears of joy stinging in his eyes, but this felt different. Matt protectively held his sibling while TK clung to him. Over the top of TK's head, Matt could see the world shimmering as Cody and then Kari appeared in the Dream World.

"TK, it's going to be okay now… We're here…"

TK didn't respond; he just continued to hold onto Matt for dear life. He didn't even seem to be aware that they weren't alone, or maybe he just didn't care. Kari recovered quicker than Cody as she spun and faced them, but she didn't move. Over TK's shoulder, Matt could see her concerned face as she watched TK practically bawling into his chest. Matt didn't blame her. He tightened his hold on his little brother as he looked around warily for Nocnitmon. He knew she was responsible for this, and he was going to tear her apart if he had any say in it.

Cody took a hesitant step forward as he watched his DNA Digivolving partner worriedly. "TK…?" he whispered.

Matt felt TK's head move slightly in Cody's direction as he sniffled, a subtle sign that he had heard him. He swallowed down a whimper before hesitantly letting go of Matt with one hand to bring his sleeve up to wipe across his face. The other, however, remained fisted in his brother's sweater.

"I'm o-okay…"

Matt very nearly smacked him upside the head and called him an idiot. If there was ever a poster boy for being not okay, it was his little brother right at this moment. But Matt could see that TK didn't need to be patronized. He needed to be comforted. Matt just wished he knew from what.

"No, you're not," he whispered, putting his hands on TK's shoulders to look at him. And that's when he saw it. Over TK's hands, across his knees, all over his shorts… Matt went white. "Is that blood?"

Kari gasped and pulled herself out of her frozen state to run through the snow to join Matt. She also went pale as she saw the blood on the Child of Hope. Cody wasn't much better as he grabbed TK's shirt sleeve tightly as he started to look him over frantically, searching for any sort of wounds. Matt knew that they were merely dreaming, but he also knew that this was no ordinary dream. Even now, he was starting to shiver from the cold of the snow and the frigid air settling in around them. Maybe TK wasn't bleeding in the real world, but Matt had a pretty good idea that if they dreamed that they cut themselves, they would end up bleeding because that's what they expected to happen. And this realization along with the blood on TK's skin and clothes was leading him to a lot of terrifying and disturbing scenarios.

Had Nocnitmon tortured TK…?

I'm going to kill her.

TK was also looking down at himself, but his face had gone slightly green. He had to squeeze his eyes shut to block out the sight. It took him a moment before he could manage to choke out, "It's… it's not mine…"

"Whose is it?" Cody asked quietly, still holding onto his arm.

TK managed to look up even as his entire body trembled. He was staring right at Matt with eyes filled with tears. "I thought it was yours," he said. "I thought… I thought you'd come back to help me and she… It was so real…"

Matt felt what little color was left drain from his face as he realized what TK was trying to say. He remembered Kari's words earlier about how TK hadn't wanted anyone to come after him, and now he had a pretty good idea as to why.

Kari seemed to have come to the same conclusion as well as she threw her arms around TK from behind and rested her head against the space between his shoulder blades. "Oh, TK… If I had known, I would've told you that he was okay…"

"It felt so real… Matt, you can't…"

Matt grabbed TK's shoulders to make him look at him in the face. "I am not going anywhere," Matt said strongly. "I am fine, and you are going to be fine, and we are all going to be fine."

TK didn't look convinced.

Cody grabbed his arm to get his attention. TK turned to look at him and the two DNA digivolving partners stared at each other for a moment before Cody said, "Matt is okay. This is not some trick to fool you; it's really us. I know you can feel that in your heart. You can, can't you?"

TK closed his eyes and turned away, but even as he did this, he nodded. Matt stared at his brother confused. He almost seemed upset by this fact, and he wasn't sure how to take that. But Cody seemed to understand exactly what was going through TK's head, and he tugged on TK's on to get his attention again.

"I know after everything that you've been through, it's hard to believe," Cody said gently, "but you know it's true. You have to trust us. You need to calm down, TK. Your life depends on it."

The basketball player gave the younger boy a strange look, not quite getting what he was saying.

"Cody's right, TK," Matt said. "You heart… it's beating so fast… the doctors don't know how much longer it can keep up."

His little brother stared at him with slightly frightened blue-green eyes. His shoulders were trembling underneath Matt's hands, and the cold in the air was allowing the rockstar to see how quickly his breaths were coming, in unsteady short bursts. Matt looked from Kari to Cody helplessly. Just telling TK to calm down wasn't going to help or make it happen.

"I…"

He squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to calm his breathing, and Matt was reminded of TK's pained face in the ambulance. He bent over suddenly and finally let go of Matt's sweater to brace both of his hands on his knees. It was almost like he was trying to catch his breath, but the wince that crossed his face did not fit the bill. Fear encircled Matt's heart as he watched TK struggling against something.

"TK?" Kari said worriedly, kneeling in front of him so that she could look into his face.

"I feel dizzy," he admitted, shakily.

Cody reached out and started to rub comforting circles on his back. "You need to take deep breaths, TK. Just calm down."

"I can't!" he snapped.

"What is going on?" Kari asked, her eyes staring to well up with panicked tears of her own.

Matt shook his head. "I don't know… but I don't think we have a lot of time."

Cody's face hardened with resolve, and he grabbed TK's wrist. Not quite ready to be pulled anywhere, TK nearly lost his footing, but the kendo student didn't stop in his movements. He continued to drag him along. Matt and Kari shared a confused look before they moved to follow.

"Where are we going?" TK asked, bewildered.

"Somewhere warm."

Matt said nothing. If Cody had some sort of plan, then he was going to let the younger boy see it through. It could be TK's only chance.

x X x

Izzy was trying very hard not to cry. His chest was tight with the pain of all of the possibilities if he failed, and every time he turned around, those possibilities seemed more and more likely. He couldn't get the sound of TK's heart monitor flat lining out of his head. His fingers trembled even as they flew across the keyboard of his laptop. He had to get this right.

He had to.

He sat on the edge of Cody's bed as the three active heart monitors in the room beat in sync. Upamon was snuggled into his side, trying to offer the computer genius whatever comfort he could, but his eyes and his focus were solely on Cody. The heart monitors continued to beat in tandem, making it seem like all of their hearts had aligned and put them on the same breathing pattern. Every exhale was echoed by two more letting Izzy know that wherever Matt, Kari, and Cody were, they were at least together. He could just imagine TK's heart monitor and breathing aligning with the three in this room, but he couldn't be sure. He could only hope that Matt's presence as well as Kari and Cody's were enough to get the basketball player to calm down. He was trying so hard not to focus on the what ifs that could come about if they failed.

The door to the forgotten room opened as Tai entered. The former leader of the digidestined was about as pale as Izzy felt, and he had to catch the wall as the door shut behind him to keep himself steady on his feet. Izzy's fingers froze on the keyboard as he watched his friend.

"Did… did something happen?" he whispered.

Tai blinked as he looked at him before shaking his head. "No. No, not since…"

Izzy let out a breath he had been holding. "I feel like I've aged five years in the past two hours."

"Try twenty," Tai said. He moved to sit on the edge of Matt's bed, plopping down on the softened surface with an exhausted sigh. Tsunomon looked up at him with a sad smile. Tai looked over at Izzy. "How's it coming?"

"Nearly got it," Izzy said, returning his attention back to the work at hand. "How are Mr Ishida and Mrs Takaishi?"

Tai was quiet for a moment. "We… haven't really told them what's going on."

"That's not good," Tsunomon said immediately.

Izzy stared at him.

"You heard what Matt said!" Tai protested. "They wouldn't listen. We need action right now, not someone trying to stop us from doing what we do. So… they can just focus on TK right now. We'll tell them about Matt before we leave."

"Tai…" Izzy sighed. "This is why you haven't told your parents or Cody's family, isn't it?" The guilt that flashed across Tai's face told him everything he needed to know. Izzy nodded. "What did Dr Kinjo tell the nurses?"

Tai shook his head. "He and Jim are spinning it to be some sort of spontaneous medical miracle thing. They're speaking in words that I don't understand, but the nurses seem to, so we should be okay."

"You don't exactly sound convinced," Gatomon pointed out.

"This is really bad," Izzy sighed.

"I just said we should be okay," Tai said.

"I know, but…" Izzy's eyes flickered back to his screen. "I've never felt this much pressure. We aren't even facing a battle that could end the world like we've done so many times before, but I'm scared. If I don't get this right, if I'm wrong…"

"You're not wrong."

"But if I am, TK could die. Matt, Kari, and Cody could die. And maybe it won't matter to the world, but I'll never… If I screw this up, I don't know how…" Izzy cut himself off, unable to keep going.

Tears started to shine in Tai's eyes as he stared at the computer genius. "I know," he whispered. "I'm scared, too."

"We all are," Upamon offered softly.

"Done," Izzy said, hitting enter on the keyboard.

A small shockwave of data exploded from the laptop and coated the entire room with a wave of yellowish light before it died down. For a moment, Tai and Izzy said nothing as they simply stared at each other confused. Tai turned to look at Matt's sleeping face, double-checking that the light hadn't messed with his best friend in anyway, but Matt's face was just as relaxed as it had been before. The heart monitors continued their steady rhythm without missing a beat. Other than the random flash of light, nothing appeared to have changed.

"Was that supposed to happen?" Gatomon asked.

Izzy shrugged helplessly. "I have no idea," he admitted. "This isn't an exact science. It is science, but it's not science."

Tai gave him a funny look. "Whatever you say, Izzy. How do we know if it worked?"

"We test it?" Izzy offered.

As if hearing him, the door opened once again. Mimi stopped in the doorway with a very confused look on her face. She scanned the room, her eyes skirting right over Tai and Izzy before letting out a bit of an annoyed huff.

"Where is everybody?"

Tai and Izzy shared a surprised glance before looking back at the pink-haired girl who had stepped back out of the room to check the room number, thinking that she had must have the wrong room.

Despite everything that was going on, Tai grinned, finding the image amusing. He looked over at Izzy. "Can she hear us?"

Instead of answering right away, Izzy just watched Mimi as Tai spoke. The girl didn't even flinch or react to Tai's voice.

"I'm going to take that as a no," Tsunomon said.

Tai stood and walked over to the door so that he could wave a hand in front of Mimi's bewildered face. She didn't even react. She just continued to look around confused. Worry was starting to cross her face as she seemed to try to figure out what to do next.

"This is so freaky," Tai said, unable to help himself.

"I'm going to add her as a user," Izzy said. "She should be able to see us… now."

As soon as he hit enter on the keyboard, Mimi's eyes finally landed on Tai's face. She gasped and then screeched in surprise as she stumbled backwards over her own feet. Tai saw what was happening before it happened, and he reached out to try to grab her but he wasn't fast enough. She fell backwards into the hallway where she landed on her posterior. Tai winched. Tsunomon and Upamon giggled.

"How did you…?" she spluttered. "Where did you…? TAI!"

"It wasn't me!" he protested. "Izzy did it!"

Izzy glared at him from his spot still in the room. Mimi opened her mouth to start on an annoyed tirade when both digidestined froze. They could hear the sound of footsteps, running footsteps, getting louder with every step. Tai leapt forward and grabbed Mimi's wrist, yanking her to her feet, before the two scrambled into the room.

Behind them, someone yelled, "Hey! Wait! You're not supposed to be back here!"

"Oh no, oh no, oh no!" Mimi gasped.

Tai and Mimi back away from the door until they hit the foot of Kari's bed. Izzy didn't say a word as he just stared at the door. A moment later, the door was being thrown open. Two nurses stood there, looking a little breathless but determined. Until confusion crossed both of their faces.

"Usagi!" the first one sighed. "I thought you said they came in here?"

"They did!" the second protested. "I know I saw it… Where did they go?"

The first nurse shook her head exasperatedly. "You're seeing things again. Great. C'mon." She grabbed the other nurse's arm and started to drag her away, ignoring her protests the whole way.

The room was quiet as the three occupants listened to the sound of the fading footsteps.

Mimi turned to look at Izzy, her eyes wide. "Izzy," she gasped, "did you just hack the human brain?"

Izzy blinked. "I think I did."

Tai snorted before falling into full-on laughter. Izzy and Mimi stared at him for a moment before joining him. The digimon looked on in confusion. It was just one of those moments that despite everything else going on, they had to laugh.

x X x

"Jeez, Yolei, cool it!"

Yolei lifted her head off of her boyfriend's shoulder to glare across him at Davis who had been the one to speak so crassly. She had been crying on Ken's shoulder for the past ten minutes, but could anyone blame her? She had just seen one of her best friends die. Sure, he had come back, but it had been close enough to remind her how serious all of this really was when it came down to it. And now Davis, who had been with her while he had his own breakdown not even five minutes ago, was going to start criticizing her?

"Shut it, Davis!" she snapped. "I'm upset."

"We're all upset. Doesn't mean we're all blubbering over it on Ken's shirt," he said.

"That's not very nice!" Poromon huffed.

Yolei opened her mouth to probably call him some insult or another when Ken let out a slightly frustrated sigh. "Do you two have to do this now?" he asked, sounding quite tired as he looked from his best friend to his girlfriend. Minomon snoozed in his lap.

The three friends and their digimon were sitting in the middle of the ICU hallway outside of TK's room with their backs up against the wall so that they weren't getting in anybody's way. Every so often, a nurse would walk by and give them a strange look, but Dr Kinjo must have told them to leave them alone, as nobody pointed out that they weren't technically supposed to be back here. Yolei was grateful. She was exhausted, emotional, and really not in the mood to try to spin some lie for some nurse to buy so that she would just leave them alone!

"Where is Matt?" Across the hall, Yolei could see Nancy standing in the doorway of TK's room. Her face was tear-stained and blotchy, but she seemed to have gathered herself enough to notice how bizarre all of this was. "Why are all of you here? What is going on?"

"All very good questions," Hiroaki said quietly.

Sora approached the emotional women apprehensively. "Um, Mrs Takaishi…"

"Sora, just spit it out," Hiroaki told her gently. "Matt was telling the truth, wasn't he?"

Instead of answering, Sora simply gave a small nod. Nancy gasped.

"But how is that possible?" she asked, looking between the occupants with wide blue eyes. "That's not— It sounded insane."

"So did the Digital World at first," Hiroaki pointed out, his voice heavy with regret.

"You mean to tell me," Nancy began, her voice wavering unsteadily, "that TK's mind is stuck in some other – dimension?"

"Something like that," Joe answered uncertainly. "It's a little bit more complicated than that."

"That's why we have to rescue him," Patamon added heavily.

"And what about Matt?" Hiroaki asked. "Where is he?"

For a long moment, nobody spoke. Yolei exchanged a worried look with Ken, and he held her closer. She sniffled again.

"Yolei…"

"Shove it, Davis!" she screeched.

"Davish," Demiveemon sighed, "you shouldn't be mean to your friends just because you're upset, too!"

"I am not—!"

What was most likely the beginning of another argument between the two hard-headed digidestined (or perhaps Davis and his partner) was cut off by Mimi barreling into the hallway. She threw herself into the doorway of TK's room, cutting off anybody having to answer Hiroaki, and took a second to catch her breath.

"Mimi, what is it?" Joe asked.

"Izzy's done it," she finally gasped out. "It's time to go. We have to go!"

"Finally!" Patamon cheered.

"Then, let's go!" Yolei said, jumping to her feet.

"Go?" Nancy asked. "Go where? What is going on?"

"We'll explain everything later, Nancy," Mrs Izumi promised, stepping forward to take her hand. "Right now, our children are doing everything they can to help TK, and you have to believe that and let them do their thing."

Nancy stared at the other woman for a long moment before she gave a shaky nod. Yolei didn't stick around to see what else happened as she held Poromon with one arm and took Ken's hand with the other. She dragged Ken toward the little room that had become the digidestined's secret hideout. She stepped into the room to find Izzy setting up his laptop on the built-in counter, a heavy look on his face. Tai was standing over Kari and holding her hand while she, Matt, and Cody continued to sleep in apparent peacefulness and their digimon watched over them. Behind her, she could hear everybody else filing into the little room.

"Are you sure you've done it, Izzy?" Mr Izumi asked, stepping up to his son and putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Positive," Izzy said. "We tested it on Mimi."

"Thanks for that, guys!"

"Matt!" Nancy gasped tearfully, pushing her way past Jun and Davis who stood in front of her so that she could rush to her oldest son's bedside. "What is he…? Why is he…?" Her watery blue eyes were shooting back and forth between Matt's face and the machines and monitors that he was hooked up to.

Hiroaki stepped up to his ex-wife to take her hand comfortingly. "Not right now, Nance," he said, his voice soft. "I have a feeling that time is of the essence."

The statement was said toward Tai who gave a determined nod. "We have to go," he said before turning to look at everybody else. "We've sent out an email to all of our parents… They'll find it in the morning and know what's going on."

"So, you're just going to leave it for us to deal with, huh?" Jun said with a huff.

Tai gave her a look that attempted to be apologetic but failed miserably. "We can't risk anyone trying to stop us from going."

"Don't worry," Jim said, "we'll take care of things on this end. You guys just go and do what you do best."

Joe turned to look at his brother with a soft smile. "Thanks for everything, Jim."

"Yeah, thanks, Jim," Patamon said from on top of the doctor-in-training's head.

Izzy brought up the Digital Port and looked around at all of the faces in the room. "Gennai is waiting for us with the rest of our digimon. Are we ready?"

Tai picked up Gatomon into his arms as Sora and Mimi picked up Upamon and Tsunomon respectively. Tai scanned the room once more before he gave Izzy a final nod. Mrs Izumi pulled Izzy into a tight hug.

"I love you," she whispered. "Be careful."

"We know you can do it, son," Mr Izumi added. "We know all of you can."

Swallowing down a lump in his throat, Izzy raised his digivice out to the computer as all of the conscious digidestined gathered around him. The on-looking family members backed away as they watched with a growing trepidation.

"Digi-Port Open!"

A white light exploded from the computer and swallowed the eight children and seven digimon. Nancy let out a helpless sob, and Hiroaki's hold on her hand tightened.

"You can do it," he echoed. "At least, I hope so."

x X x

The four Dream World occupants came to a panting stop in front of a large mansion. They had left the snow behind a few minutes ago, but the chill of the winter landscape still hung in the air. The mansion in front of them was almost cartoonish with red roofing and blue paneling along the front. Cody hesitated before heading inside as he felt TK come to a sudden stop. He looked back at the other boy in confusion to find TK looking a bit shocked. Matt and Kari were mirroring his expression.

"What?" Cody asked, looking between the three of them and the house. "What is it?"

"Puppetmon's mansion," TK answered immediately.

"What is that doing here?" Kari asked.

"Well, we are kind of in TK's dream world, right?" Matt said, looking up at the wooden structure with a small hint of apprehension. "This was an important place for TK at the time… It makes sense that it would be kind of imbedded into your subconscious."

TK gave him an unimpressed look. "Great." He gave an impatient sigh. "Can we keep moving now?"

Cody looked back at him. "This is a good place to stop."

His eyebrows shot up. "No way."

Matt walked up to him and grabbed his other arm. "TK, c'mon. We don't have time for this. We don't know how much time you have, and I'm not losing you."

"You want me to go into Puppetmon's mansion to calm down?" TK asked, staring at his brother.

"TK," Kari started gently, "Nocnitmon and Calumon are the only digimon you've seen so far, right?"

"I don't know that they're digimon."

"Okay," she sighed, a slightly amused smile on her lips. "Have you seen any digimon since waking up here?" He hesitated for a moment before shaking his head. She stepped closer to him and put a comforting hand on his chest. "Then, I think we'll be okay."

Looking quite triumphant, she turned to Cody and gave him a small nod. He started to head toward the entrance of the mansion, dragging TK along behind him. He made a loud sound of protest.

"Don't I have a say in this?" he asked.

Kari and Matt looked at him. "No."

Cody dragged him inside, and TK quickly scanned the foyer of the mansion for any of Puppetmon's tricks and traps. It was empty, though. The jack-in-the-box that TK had been expecting to be sitting on the staircase wasn't there, and he didn't see the bomb disguised as a fire truck anywhere inside. Not aware of the possible dangers that this house could have, Cody chose a direction and started up the stairs as he pulled TK along. Matt seemed only mildly interested in the architecture of the house, but Kari's apparent ease at the situation was slightly dissipating as she kept very close to the boys, her own memories of this place working just fine.

"What are you going to do to get him to calm down?" Matt asked, looking at Cody.

"Same thing my grandfather does for me when I need to calm down," the green-eyed boy answered. "I'm going to guide him into meditation."

TK made a face.

"Meditation?" Kari asked. "You think that will work?"

"TK needs to clear his mind so that he can calm down," Cody explained, completely ignoring the look on his DNA digivolving partner's face. "Right now, he has too much going on, too many things to think about… worry about… Makes it almost impossible to even think about being calm."

"Will he be able to do it?" Matt asked.

"He is right here," TK snapped.

Nobody reacted.

"Hopefully so. In here," Cody said, choosing a room at random. He looked back at Matt and Kari and added, "Why don't you two keep watch?"

"No distractions," Kari said, realizing that was why Cody was sending her and Matt away, "got it."

TK shook his head. "We shouldn't split up."

"We're not," Matt promised, putting a hand on his brother's shoulder. "We're just going to be in the next room. Anything happens, just shout. We'll be able to hear you."

TK looked like he wanted to protest, but Matt and Kari headed into the next room before he could. Blue-green eyes watched after them until Cody forcefully pulled him into the room he had chosen. TK looked around the room with an uneasy interest, realizing that this was the room that he had come into to try to hide from Puppetmon all those years ago. This was not going to work.

"It's going to work," Cody said, as if able to read his mind.

He moved to sit on his knees in the middle of the room while TK continued to stand uncertainly near the doorway. He had half a mind to go running from this place, but he refused to show how truly afraid of this place he felt. He had an irrational desire to go check on his brother and make sure that he wasn't leaving him – again – and that Kari was actually alright as they said they would be. He wanted to grab Cody and get out of here as quickly as his feet would carry him, but that pain returned to his chest, forcing him to bite down on his lip to try to keep from making a sound about it.

Cody turned his eyes onto him. "TK, please, just try." His voice wavered unsteadily with his own fear.

"Cody," TK managed as the wave of pain passed. He took a breath and walked over to the other boy before joining him on the floor, copying his position. "I tried this once before, remember? I was no good at it. Your grandfather said that I think too much."

"You do, but your life wasn't on the line then either," Cody pointed out.

His eyes shut and after a moment, TK followed. The two of them sat in silence as TK listened to the only sound that he could – Cody's breathing. It was rhythmic and even, giving TK a good model for which to copy. But there was also another sound, a second sound that took TK a second longer to realize was even there. It was so subtle that he thought he was just imagining it until he started to focus in on it.

"Do you hear that?" Cody asked quietly.

TK smiled softly. "It's your heartbeat," he realized.

"You're going to be okay," he said quietly. TK opened his eyes to watch his younger friend sit there with a small smile on his face as his eyes remained closed. "I wasn't sure at first… when I couldn't hear your heart… or feel you… I thought…" He cut himself off, unable to continue on. "But now that I'm here, and I can feel that you're here, too… I know. TK, you're going to be fine."

TK frowned lightly. "I'm not worried for me."

Cody opened his eyes to stare at him with a hard look. "We're all going to be fine," he said. "Now, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and stop thinking."

x X x

Away from the mansion of TK's hiding place but still within the confines of the World of Dream, Nocnitmon stood pacing in front of whirling portal. Her cloak billowed out behind her and her heels clicked against the ground with every impatient step. She stood in a large throne room, a room that had been imagined or remembered from TK's mind – she neither cared which – but she had seen fit to claim as her own during her stay here.

The portal suddenly stopped spinning, causing her to pause in her step until it finally took on the watery image of a figure. She approached the mirror-like image cautiously before dropping down onto bended knee in a bow.

"Nocnitmon, good work," the voice on the other side of the portal said in a booming voice.

Nocnitmon dared to peek up from behind her hood. "Sir?"

"You broke the Child of Hope," the voice said.

"My Lord, I don't think so," Nocnitmon admitted with regret. She was already wincing, waiting for the punishment to come with that statement. "He seems as willing to fight as ever—"

The figure, however, seemed unperturbed. In fact, he smirked. "It was brief, and it was only for a moment. But it was enough." The confusion that Nocnitmon was feeling in that moment must have been obvious as he continued, "Hope, my dear, dear Nocnitmon, is the first and strongest line of defense for the Light. And he just invited us in."

Nocnitmon finally allowed herself to smile as she realized what this meant. She had succeeded. Her job was complete. But she was not one to celebrate early, so she asked, "I see. What should I do with him now?"

"His usefulness has come to an end. Kill him, torture him, turn him… I do not care. Have fun."

"I will," she said, bowing her head once more. "Thank you, Master."

"Oh, and, Nocnitmon?" the figure continued before she could try to get back to her feet. "My sources tell me that you are about to or have already received some very interesting guests. The Child of Light, the former Digimon Emperor, the leaders of the Digidestined… Make sure you greet them properly."

She grinned maliciously. "As you wish, My Lord."