Episode 38: The Burning [of the University of Tokyo]

Oha was shaking. Loaño tried her best to stabilize the woman, but no matter what she tried, nothing could be done. Warugamon laid his head in Oha's lap, his big ice-blue eyes looking up at her sadly. Oha was simply holding herself, shivering violently, tears streaming down her face.

Loaño had the urge to turn off the television, but something was telling her not to. Somehow she thought it would be worse for Oha if she wasn't looking in the crowd for her son whenever a camera panned that way. Loaño shut out the prattling voices of the news crew and wondered if the Digidestined were there yet – that massive shape that rose from the flames could only be a digimon, and it was clearly a very, very dangerous one.

Why? She thought. Why target the University…?

The King sighed, and then said, Because they want to hurt Tatsuya, little one. They want to hurt her beyond repair.

"We shouldn't have stayed," Loaño reflected tightly. "We should have gone with them."

"Pup…" Warugamon rumbled, "Wild's righ' – they're targetin' the University. If'n they're goin' after her family, then they coul' come fer her mother. We need ta stay 'ere an' make sure 'at Oha's protected."

Loaño swallowed and then looked at the broken, weeping Oha. Memories were flashing behind her eyes, memories that Loaño could feel. They were painful, they were sad, and they were devastating. Loaño wiped the tears from Oha's face, and Oha didn't even flinch. Loaño wiped her hands on her pants and then frowned.

How could she leave her friends to fight this battle without her? Surely they would need some sort of help…

Loaño sighed and then closed her eyes, trying to calm herself. She needed to stay calm, for her friends' sake. For Oha's sake. She had to believe that they could do this without her – and possibly without their DigiPower. She had no idea whether it worked here or not – she hadn't felt it rise in her, or in any of the Digidestined.

If DigiPower worked here, then they would have an extra bit of defense and offense – not to mention the fact that Yukio could heal humans with his DigiPower while Breezemon was in her Ultimate form. She knew that DigiPower evolved with the relationship between a human and their digimon partner – it changed, and grew more powerful. Yukio and Nikolai's DigiPower didn't concern her – the evolutions of Purification and Healing combined with Light and Wind could only be good – but the evolution of Creation and Fire could possibly lead to something that was… not good.

I have to trust that Wild can control herself, Loaño decided. She hadn't seen Wild get terribly emotional – the girl seemed to be in an almost intense control of her countenance. And yet there were times – just small, minute times – where it seemed like Wild could break at the drop of a hat.

It was incredibly clear to her that Wild was not the most emotionally stable one of the group.

What could happen if she were to break?

Loaño saw Warugamon's ears prick out of the corner of her eye. She looked at him and he indicated with one ear that there was someone outside. Loaño carefully stood and, keeping herself low, she crept over to the closest window. Peering outside, she saw a fancy car and a woman slipping out of it in a rush.

For the blur that she was, the woman was striking – silvery white hair and a red suit and skirt. She wore something strange around her neck – something that dazzled Loaño's eyes, like a piece of jewelry.

A moment later she was gone, and there was a knock at the front door. It was a hurried, panicked knock, and Loaño glanced at Warugamon, unsure. Oha didn't even seem to notice that there was someone at the door – her eyes were glued to the television screen, flicking to and fro to try and find her son… even though the station was currently on commercial break.

"Oha!" someone called loudly from the other side of the door. There was more knocking. "Let me in, Oha! It's me, Yosuya!"

Warugamon's ears pricked all the way up, and his icy eyes were alight. "Yosyua!" he gasped. Loaño looked at him, finding that, even though he was excited, the fur along his spine had risen in alarm.

"Should I let her in?" Loaño wondered.

Warugamon nodded. "I didn' think she'd come so soon…" he commented.

"You know this human?" Loaño wondered, heading for the door. If Kidd knew her, then there was no cause for Yosuya to harm her. Besides, she wasn't the right height to be one of their cloaked enemies.

"An' old friend," Warugamon grunted, "here to explain some things 'at I'd be no good at tellin'."

Loaño took him at his word. She opened the front door and found herself face-to-face with Yosuya. She was tall, with long silver-white hair that glowed in the sunlight and a tall, curvy figure. Around her neck was not a piece of jewelry, but a cat – a cat that looked like it was cut out of crystal.

"Princess!" this cat gaped, her blue eyes wide. Around her neck was a lovely red ribbon, and it took a moment for Loaño to recognize her.

"Ser Rosettamon?" Loaño breathed. "What're you…?"

"No time," Yosyua said impatiently. "I'm sorry, but I'm here for Oha. I need to see her…"

Loaño stepped out of the way, allowing Yosuya to slip through. The woman immediately went for Oha, ignoring anything in her way – including Warugamon. Yosuya wrapped her arms around Oha, and the other woman seemed to break from her trance.

"Y-Yosuya…?" Oha murmured.

"It's me, dear; I'm here," Yosyua said soothingly. "Everything will be all right…"

They know each other, Loaño realized.

Yes, they do, the King told her with a smile in his tone. And they've known one another for a while, by the sound of it.

Loaño had the feeling that he was saying that for her benefit, as if he already knew that information. She shook it off and then looked to the digimon who slid neatly from Yosuya's neck to sit, glittering, in Oha's lap. Warugamon moved to accommodate her.

"Apologies for the rudeness, Your Highness," the crystal cat meowed. "And fo rhte lack of explanation. We are very, very glad to see that you're safe."

"So this is where you've been…" Loaño murmured. Years beyond counting ago, Rosettamon, one of the Royal Knights, had gone missing from their ranks on a mission of such importance that the Boss had kept it secret from Loaño. So this was where she had gone?

"I've had to regress into my Rookie state in order to blend in," the cat offered. "I am CrystalGatomon here, and Yosuya's partner."

Yosuya glanced at the screen, still cradling Oha. She frowned, and then said, "This might be too much for the Digidestined to handle on their own."

"You think?" CrystalGatomon meowed, flicking her tail and scattering light every which way.

Yosuya nodded. "They'll need backup."

"Then… you know what's happening?" Loaño wondered.

Yosuya nodded to her, and then said, "Yes; Oha explained everything to us. I came to see how she was…"

"And where you were," CrystalGatomon interjected.

"And now that we know both these things, we can go help," Yosyua said decisively. "I may not possess DigiPower, but we're not incapable of helping. I'm sorry for everything being so brief. We'll be back soon."

Yosuya stood up, reluctantly letting go of her grieving friend. Oha seemed to understand, and now that the commercial break was done, she was paying more attention to the people on the television than she was what was going on around her.

"Keep them safe," CrystalGatomon ordered, narrowing her eyes at Warugamon. "The Princess especially!"

"A'course I will!" Warugamon growled. Under his breath, he growled, "Damn cat…"

CrystalGatomon raised her tail to him before leaping onto Yosuya's shoulders. Yosyua bowed to Loaño, and then said, "We'll explain everything when this is over, Princess Loaño. We promise."

Loaño had no choice but to nod numbly as Yosuya and her partner left the house, just as quickly as they had come. It only occurred to her, when Yosyua was gone and driving like a bat out of hell down the road, that it was extremely odd that Yosuya had known who she was, without Loaño or CrystalGatomon properly introducing her, and despite Oha telling her what she had. Perhaps it was CrystalGatomon?

There's far more to this than meets the eye, Loaño decided, and that woman is somewhere near the center of it all…

The sky above the University of Tokyo was thick and clouded with black smoke. Emergency services had the roads blocked for several kilometers, just in case there were more explosions. From what Wild could see from her place in the line of traffic, it was only just beginning.

She held Koromon in her arms as she stared starkly at the University – at least, what remained of it. People were standing outside their cars, staring at it with wide eyes. A few whispered that it was terrorists. Some theorized that some project had gone wrong. Wild's spine was stiff, and she felt the urge to yell at them all to shut the fuck up so that she could think.

"This is horrible," Koromon mumbled. "We have to find the others and get your brother out of there!"

We can't go any further in the car, Wild thought. She wouldn't risk it. She would have to cross police lines, but she didn't want to have to do it in her mother's car. It was the only car that they had, and losing it wasn't an option. She just hoped that it, and everyone else, was safely out of the blast radius.

Wild looked around, trying to find any sign of Yukio or Nikolai. She hoped that they were around somewhere nearby. She didn't want to waste precious time looking for them.

As her eyes scanned the crowd, she spotted a familiar shape – someone hooded and cloaked, and staring at her. What was visible of their face was curled into a familiar grin that made Wild's stomach burn with anger.

"Zen," she growled.

"Zen?" Koromon gasped quietly. "Where?!"

Wild didn't respond. She didn't want to cause a ruckus. But Koromon followed her glare and she felt his soft body stiffen at the sight of him. Eyes glinted with malice and triumph behind the shadows of Zen's hood and he disappeared. Wild swore.

"He's gone…" Koromon murmured.

"Not for long," Wild snarled. She felt as if flames were roaring through her bloodstream, igniting every piece of her. She snorted, and smoke came out of her nostrils. She didn't even notice.

"Wild!" someone called.

She turned, feeling her blood cool a little, to find that Nikolai and Yukio – along with their partners – were pushing their way through the crowd to get to her. She met them in the middle, rudely pushing past anyone who was in her way. She got a few curses, and more than a few middle fingers, but she was otherwise largely ignored as people watched the spectacle.

"Zen is here," Wild reported.

"So they are behind this," Yukio murmured gravely. Yokomon was in his arms, to avoid her being trampled, and he said, "We have to help."

"Definitely," Nikolai agreed.

"I sense a powerful darkness," Tsunomon reported. "Coming from a digimon who's heart has been terribly Corrupted."

"I feel it too," Nikolai admitted. "Do you think there's any way of Purifying it, here?"

"I don't know," Tsunomon replied, uncharacteristic uncertainty in his tone. "We've had no sign that our DigiPower functions here."

"A shame," Yokomon sighed. "These people could really use your Healing, Yukio…"

"I overheard someone talking about casualties," Yukio grunted. "They said that most were able to get out, but some are still stuck in the University. The fire department won't be able to get them out if there's a pissed-off digimon rampaging about in there."

"Any deaths?" Wild asked.

"A few," Yukio admitted grimly. "No names."

Wild felt her insides reignite. Trying to keep herself collected for their sake – she knew that this was all just a ploy to get her to lower her guard – she ordered, "We need to digivolve and get in there. Yukio, since Yokomon can fly, I want you two to come in from the air. Get as many people out as you can. Nikolai and I will try to find a way to stop the fires."

"And the digimon?" Nikolai asked.

"We can't deal with it until we've dealt with the fires," Wild stated. "Or we risk being pushed into the flames while we're fighting the digimon."

"One last question," Yukio began. "The authorities. What do we do about them?"

"There's nothing we can do right now," Wild replied hurriedly, impatience blazing in her body. We need to hurry! "If they see us, they see us; but right now we have to save the people who are trapped in there." I have to find Toushi! I have to!

Nikolai nodded and then said, looking horribly worried, "Then let's hurry and get going. The more time we waste here, the more bad shit's going to happen… and the more likely it is that those three assholes will go for Lo and your mother!"

Wild shivered at the thought. She watched Nikolai stand on his toes and crane his neck to look for a more secluded spot where they could digivolve their partners without being seen. "There," he decided, pointing to a small patch of woodland that hadn't been touched by the destruction, nor been roped off. "That's as good a place as any."

"Right," Wild said, nodding. "We need to hurry." The last word was an impatient growl that shocked the boys and digimon, and even Wild herself. It sounded more like a beast had taken over her tongue. She shook her spinning, swimming head and tried to get control of herself.

If I'm not careful, I'll end up just where they want me – confused, angry, and with my guard completely shattered, she thought. I have to control myself…

But the flames refused to die as she led them to the woods. In fact, as another explosion occurred from within the campus of the University, the flames only grew in size and ferocity until Wild was sure that she would be consumed by them.

"This is very bad," Yosuya determined. CrystalGatomon was standing lithely on her shoulders, her weight barely noticeable. Closing the door to her car, she looked about. "Can you see them?"

"No," CrystalGatomon replied, her sharp eyes scanning the crowd. "They must already be in the campus, fighting."

"All the more reason to hurry, then," Yosuya decided. She began pushing her way through the crowd of people, ignoring them as they swore at her for being so rude. CrystalGatomon gave one or two of them a hiss when they nearly unbalanced her from her perch.

"We'll find a way, Yosuya," CrystalGatomon assured her. "There's no need to panic. They're not defenseless."

"Neither was Henshu," Yosuya snarled impatiently, pushing through two overweight spectators. "Or Tekku. If I let something happen to the two most precious things – the only things that Oha has left to live for – then what the hell kind of friend am I?"

CrystalGatomon was silent.

Memories burned Yosuya's mind like flames hotter than the ones scorching the University. Memories of Henshu, who had pushed her and everyone else to safety before they were killed. Of a headstrong, sometimes too cynical man, his long dark hair always in his face. Of a tall man with red hair who had stayed beside him, only to never return. Of a willowy, gentle, kind woman who had stayed, too – unwilling to let them fight alone.

Only one had returned, and he was missing.

I won't let your daughter meet the same fate, Yosuya promised, picturing Henshu's face. Tatsuya looked so much like him and Tekku that she knew it hurt for Oha to look at her sometimes. I won't let Toushi die.

Anatole and Katsura may not be here right now, but I'm here… I'm here, and I'll make sure that all of them come out of this alive.