The hole was perfectly square, and unnaturally so. Takeru spent a long time staring at it while Patamon and Terriermon explored the area around it, looking for further clues. They found a pair of faint footprints, but nothing else.
The three had come to a sparse woodland, one of the old territories within the heart of the Kaiser's former empire on Server. It was obvious that the strange hole had once been occupied by the foundations of one of the Kaiser's Dark Towers. Originally, they had come with the intention of tearing it down, but something or someone had apparently already done it for them.
"It doesn't make sense though," said Patamon, flying back to Takeru. "If the Tower was destroyed, why is there no debris? If it was carried away, there would have to be more tracks around it. Whoever made this one pair of tracks couldn't have been strong to have simply lifted it up and walked away with it."
"Maybe it was picked up and flown away," offered Terriermon, rejoining the others as well. "That would explain a lack of tracks."
"It would have required a very large Digimon to have done that," said Takeru. He pointed to the nearest tree, only a few meters away from the hole and where they were standing. "And such a large Digimon would have required strong wings and generated a great deal of lift. The flapping of any such wings would have caused enough wind to severely damage that tree. But look, there isn't even a leaf out of place."
"So it couldn't have been carried away by ground or air," said Patamon, landing on Takeru's shoulder. "But if it was destroyed, how could it have been done so perfectly? The dirt on the sides of the hole are so undisturbed that they're practically smooth."
"It would have required the Tower and only the Tower to have been completely vaporized, and to have done so almost instantaneously," agreed Takeru. He frowned and took a seat on the ground with his legs crossed. "What about the footprints? You said they looked human."
"Yes," said Patamon. "But some Digimon are humanoid in shape, so that doesn't necessarily mean much."
Takeru thought for a moment. "What about scent?"
"My sense of smell isn't that strong," said Patamon. He paused and looked to Terriermon. "But I do know someone with a much better sense of smell..."
Terriermon nodded and went to the nearest tracks. His smell wasn't that strong either, especially when compared to his hearing, but at least it was better than Patamon's. He bent down and sniffed the tracks.
"These tracks are pretty old," said Terriermon. "I don't really smell much. It's really faint."
Takeru shrugged and got back up. He adjusted his collar to give more space between his chest and his shirt. "Well, we did our best. Let's hurry up and move on."
"Wait," said Terriermon suddenly. "There is something. It's faint, but it's oddly familiar too..."
"What is it?" asked Patamon.
Terriermon leaned in closer to the ground. He looked back up, clearly upset. "It's...
Takeru nodded. His face was blank and expressionless. He had already guessed it. "Ichijouji Ken..."
Honest Reconstruction: Ankylomon vs Thunderballmon
It was now the fifth day since Iori had joined in the reconstruction. He and the others had moved on from the forest, gradually moving downwind to help other settlers rebuild villages and houses, and repairing roads to facilitate easier movement. Their progress had greatly increased with the help of Vdramon, who with his large size could easily carry heavy loads or reach up to work on high places without a ladder. Daisuke always insisted on doing everything his partner did, partly because he did not want to feel overshadowed by his partner, and partly because he still felt a small lingering sense of guilt for how he had been initially dismissive of the idea of reconstruction back on the first day.
A gradual routine had developed, where Daisuke and Vdramon did much of the heavy lifting while Miyako and Hawkmon would focus on planning and any technical details. As they worked, Miyako was becoming more and more familiar with the widely varied technology of the different groups of Digimon throughout the world. Iori once heard her casually mention, however, that none of the machines she had seen thus far could match to the advanced technology that the Kaiser had formerly used.
"I mean, I still have no idea how those Dark Rings work," she said while fiddling with a makeshift screwdriver in front of a large series of metal gears. "I don't even know how he managed to make those Dark Towers either. When we destroyed old ones, the insides looked like solid stone, with no obvious machinery or circuitry inside. How could something like that be a broadcaster? And even forgetting the make-up of the towers themselves, how did he actually physically erect them? To do it in our world, you'd need a whole bunch of big cranes or something, but we never saw him use anything like that."
Iori looked up from his work of cleaning those same gears with a rag. "You say that almost as if you're impressed by him."
Miyako scoffed. "That's not what I mean." She looked over to her right, where there was still a Dark Tower standing in the distance. "What I mean is, those Towers always seemed to pop up overnight, so there must have been some way of building them up really quickly. If we knew how that was done, maybe we could use something similar to rebuild a bunch of houses really quickly too. I mean, I don't think it's the tech that's evil. It's how it's used."
Iori continued wiping dirt off of the gear in front of him in silence.
Miyako shrugged and continued working as well. "Maybe if Ichijouji Ken actually came and helped with the Reconstruction..."
There was a large clang as a gear suddenly dislodged and fell, striking another gear. Iori had accidentally knocked it out of place by pressing too hard with his hand. He seemed oddly unperturbed by it, however. Miyako looked over to him in surprise.
"Ichijouji Ken should never show his face here again," muttered Iori gravely. "All this is because of him."
Miyako founder herself oddly anxious. There was an uncharacteristic fire in the voice of the boy she had always thought of as serious and calm. "Well, yeah. But that's kind of what I mean. This is his mess, so I think it's only fair that he should help clean it up."
"He would never do that," said Iori. "He's heartless. What kind of person could cause so much suffering and evil, and not even care? What he did is unforgivable. No one will forgive him for this."
Miyako turned back to her work and did not say anything more. She understood the depth of Iori's frustration. For as long as she could remember, he had always felt a strong sense of empathy for the sad and oppressed, and an even stronger sense of justice. Some degree of anger at Ichijouji Ken was to be expected of course.
She changed the subject. "Well, at least things are better now, right?"
Iori frowned and took a step back. The series of gears he had been cleaning were part of a larger system that looked like some sort of machine on an assembly line. It had been broken apart by warfare, and the gears clogged by dirt and debris left behind by numerous explosions in its vicinity. Miyako had spent many long hours trying to figure out how the gears all fit together and put them back in place, and Iori had spent many hours cleaning out all the dirt.
He turned his head to the left. There were countless piles of rubble scattered in front of him. Vdramon was there, cleaning the place up by carrying off large armfuls of the broken rock and metal in his arms while Daisuke ran after him with a smaller pile in his own arms.
He turned his head to the right. There was a crowd of Baby levels of all sorts, to which Lopmon and Tailmon were distributing food out of a large bag. Hikari knelt nearby, keeping the Baby levels entertained with a story as they ate. Takeru and his partners were not with them, but many of those same Baby levels had been brought to this area on Pegasmon's back. These Baby levels were the homeless and dispossessed that had to squeeze together to share the few shelters that had been rebuilt as they waited for Daisuke and Vdramon to clear away rubble and build more houses for them.
And Iori knew, of course, that there must be countless other Digimon, with little food and no shelter, wandering through the desolation left behind by the Kaiser's war machine.
Iori shook his head and sighed. He picked up the gear that had fallen and put it back into place before resuming his cleaning. "Yeah," he whispered. "Much better."
They continued working until the sun began to set.
From their current location, sunset in the Digital World actually corresponded to about three hours before sunset in Tokyo, but there was little point in staying after dark. Wood needed to be conserved for building material and so they could not afford to use fire to light up their workplace in the night. As the sky darkened, everyone gathered themselves and prepared to go over to the other world. They briefly reported what they had managed to do that day to each other to take stock and plan for the next few days.
As their conversation gradually wound down, Daisuke suddenly pointed off to the side. "Hey, we should probably do something about that too, right?"
Everyone turned and followed his line of sight. He was pointing at the Dark Tower in the distance.
"I mean, it's an eyesore," continued Daisuke. "And a lot of the Baby levels get kind of upset when they see it."
"Yeah, we should probably tear it down," said Miyako. "But at the moment, I think it's more important to finish building more shelters so the Baby levels will be more comfortable."
Daisuke dropped his hand and shrugged. "I suppose you're right."
They prepared to go.
Hikari followed at the rear, with Lopmon in her arms, but paused when she noticed that Tailmon was still standing, staring at the Dark Tower with a frown.
"What is it Tailmon?"
The white cat scratched her chin. She pointed out toward the Tower. "Do you ever remember there being a Tower over here before? I mean, back during the war?"
Hikari straightened and looked over to the Tower. She thought for a moment. "Now that you mention it, I remember that there was down a different Tower just upwind of here. It wouldn't make sense for Ken to have built that one there, because it'd just overlap with the other one's broadcast range."
Tailmon crossed her paws, and her tail began to sway back and forth in an agitated manner. "You don't suppose that Ken is back and building more Towers, do you...?"
Hikari swallowed. "That... that's not entirely impossible..."
"Iori, you don't happen to have any friends in Junior High, do you?"
Hida Iori looked up, confused by his grandfather's question. "No. Why?"
"Just wondering," said Hida Chikara, turning away from the window he had been looking out from. It was already dark outside of course, but he could still see the people walking and standing on the streets below thanks to the street lights.
They were both resting after a session of kendo practice. With Upamon's presence revealed, he was free to watch them openly from the sidelines, and to eat from the many jelly packs that Hida Chikara had brought as the after-practice snacks. Iori noticed that his grandfather seemed bothered by something he had seen outside the window, and was about to ask about it when his grandfather suddenly spoke again.
"You were unusually aggressive in our sparring today," said Hida Chikara. "Perhaps there is some frustration troubling you that you would like to share."
Iori bowed his head and lowered his eyes. His grandfather could read him perfectly. "Yes."
"Does it have to do with your little friend's world?" asked Hida Chikara, motioning toward Upamon. He still did not fully understand the stories that his grandson had told him about the other world, but he did his best to try to stay involved. "Are you frustrated by how much suffering you still see there?"
"It's not just that," admitted Iori. He hesitated a moment.
"Go on," said Hida Chikara, kneeling down next to his grandson. "You can be honest with me." He laughed a little to try to lighten the mood. "After all, if you can trust me to tell me about this other world that's supposed to be kept secret, then you can certainly tell me a little bit about your inner thoughts."
"I'm frustrated because nothing's really changed," said Iori after spending a while to compose his thoughts. "The truth is, Upamon and I didn' really save the world. First of all, we didn't really help stop the enemy. It was Daisuke and his partner that did most of that."
"Do you feel a little jealous perhaps?"
"Maybe a little," admitted Iori. "But I told myself that it didn't matter so long as everything would be better now. But it isn't. Nothing's changed."
Hida Chikara looked up at the light on the ceiling. "You know, Iori, when I was a young boy about your age, I lived in the countryside. We did not live in tall towers like this apartment, or have electrical lights to let us stay up and continue working past sunset." Hida Chikara held up the pouch in his hands. "And perhaps most importantly of all, we ate jelly with a spoon instead of sucking it from a little foil pouch."
Iori couldn't help but smile at his grandfather's little joke.
"My point is, things always change," continued Hida Chikara. "When I was a boy in the countryside, every day seemed the same. I would get up at the same hour and do the same chores over and over again. Back then, I never could have imagined that I would end up living in a place like this, doing what I do now."
He turned and patted his grandson affectionately on the shoulder. "I never could have imagined having such a fine family either."
They continued drinking in silence for a while.
"Grandfather, I have a question."
"Are you really okay with me going off to this other world?" Iori held out his yellow D2. "I mean, since you don't have this, you can't actually go yourself, but I'm a little surprised that you have never even asked. I would have thought that you would have wanted to see the world place yourself, or maybe at least learn some more about it."
Chikara laughed. "Perhaps it is the apathy of old age, Iori. My days of adventure are over, and it's quite enough for me to just hear about your adventures from you."
"But are you really okay with trusting me to take care of myself?"
"I have told you before, Iori. I once made the mistake of intervening in something that I should not have, something that I did not understand, and I have since learned from that mistake. And, from what you have been telling me lately, I do not think there is much danger in volunteering your time to cleaning and repairing things."
Iori lowered his gaze and felt the D2 in his hands. "Still... it'd be nice if you could come and see it. I would have liked to take you and show you around."
Chikara did not reply. Instead he turned his head to glance at the window. From his kneeling position by the floor, he could not look out at the street level, but he doubted that little had changed since he had last looked outside. He cleared his throat and said one more thing. "I have watched you from the day you were born, Iori, and know that you can be trusted to make good judgments. You don't need me to guide your every step. If something should ever happen to me..."
Iori looked up in alarm. "Grandfather? Is something wrong?"
"Nevermind," said Chikara. He shook his head. "It's nothing, Iori. Nevermind..."
For their sixth day of work, the group, minus Hikari and her partners, continued making repairs and building more shelters in the little orphanage village that they were setting up for the gathered Baby levels. In fact, as soon as they landed in the Digital World, they found the Baby levels all crowded together, cheering for them happily and jumping in excitement upon seeing them.
"These guys sure do love us," commented Armadimon as a few began jumping onto him and Iori affectionately.
Iori felt one land in his arms and begin to rub its cheek against his chest. He was quiet for a moment as he looked down at the Baby level. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before. "Yeah, they do," he said, and then he allowed himself a little smile. Maybe things weren't as bad as he thought. Maybe what they were doing actually was making a little difference.
"How are we supposed to work with all these little guys crawling around us, though?" said Daisuke. "Honestly, it's a little annoying..."
Miyako gave him a hearty slap him on the back, causing him to jump in surprise. "You know, I think now would be a good time to shake-up our routine a little bit. Daisuke, why don't you babysit for today?"
"What?" cried Daisuke. "You're joking, right? It's always Hikari that does the babysitting. Vdramon and I always do the heavy lifting." He smiled and flexed an arm. "It lets me show off my super strength."
"Hikari can't do it this time because she went ahead to talk with neighboring villages to work out a deal on sharing supplies," said Miyako. "And besides, today you can show off your compassionate side instead. Vdramon can work as usual though. Just get Vmon to evolve and we can get down to work."
Daisuke grumbled to himself under his breath, but nevertheless drew his D2 Digivice. He readied it, and Vmon readied himself as well.
But nothing happened.
"Hm?" Daisuke looked down at his D2, which lay dead and inert in his hand. "Why isn't it working?" He thought for a moment, remembering what Takeru had told him about evolution before. "Hey, Vmon, you did remember to eat lunch, right? You're not hungry or anything?"
Vmon shook his head and flexed an arm. "No, I feel full of energy."
"Well, then maybe you should keep trying or something?"
"Keep trying? I've been doing nothing but trying this whole time we've been talking."
"Really? You don't look like it. How do you usually try to evolve anyways?"
Vmon shrugged. "I don't really know. I just sort of do what I always do."
"And that is?"
"I sort of clear my mind and try to move the data inside my body a certain way, and then some sort of little chain reaction goes off and my body changes to my evolved form. I mean, the first time last week was something like an instinct at first, but in these past few days I've gotten a lot of practice doing it on purpose, so..."
Daisuke frowned and crossed his arms. "So what's the problem?" He glanced around. "Man, I wish Takeru was here. He'd probably have some idea. Where is that guy anyways? I mean, I know he said he'd drop by sometime later today to bring some supplies, but we still hardly ever get to see him anymore."
"We could always ask Hikari instead," offered Vmon. "She's still around."
"I guess," said Daisuke. He frowned and lowered his voice. "It's just that... well... she's kind of scary sometimes..."
"I always thought you were the type not to hold grudges," said Miyako, crossing her arms. "She's supposed to be our friend now, and really, she's actually very gentle and nice once you work your way through the cold exterior."
"It's not a grudge!" said Daisuke. "It's just that, well... There's just something about her that's really intimidating for some reason..." He trailed off and then shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Whatever, never mind that. Let's keep thinking. Maybe it's not that you're lacking energy, but that you have too much!"
Vmon blinked and tilted his head to his side. "How does that work?"
"Well, all you've been doing lately is just eating and eating, so it's making you sick. You haven't had a good fight since that whole incident with Tortomon! Maybe we should take a break from all this rebuilding and go off and see if there's any local bullies we could put in their place."
Miyako felt a small tug on her sleeve. She looked down, and found Iori and Armadimon looking up at her with a grave expression on their faces. She knelt down, and Iori whispered something in her ear. After hearing what he had to say, Miyako's expression became more serious as well, and she nodded to Iori.
"Never mind evolving today," said Miyako, walking back to Daisuke and giving him another hard pat on the back, one which caused Daisuke to stagger forward from the force of the blow. "Vmon can help with the babysitting too."
"Again with the babysitting?" cried Daisuke. "Why does it have to be me?"
"Because you're really popular with the Baby levels!" laughed Miyako. "They've all heard the story of how the great hero with the Golden Knight vanquished the evil Kaiser and saved the land!"
Daisuke turned slightly pink. "Really...?"
"Yeah, and now they get to meet the legend themselves! So go entertain them!"
Daisuke straightened his back. His chest swelled. "Well, if these little guys want to see the hero they love. That's what they're going to get!" He approached the crowd of Baby levels and pumped his fist in the air. "Alright, you little red blobs! Who wants to play with the heroes of the Digital World!"
The many Baby levels hopped up and down and cheered. Miyako took a step back and looked to where Iori and Armadimon were walking off toward the Dark Tower in the distance.
"I don't see why it had to just be the two of us," commented Armadimon as he walked beside Iori through underbrush and up the rocky hill toward where the Tower was located. "Daisuke just said that he and Vmon wanted to do something different for a change."
"It's for the best, I think," said Iori. "If we let Daisuke go off looking for trouble, he will probably find it. Remember what happened when we left him alone last week with the Gekomon? It's better to let him get used to taking a more passive role like this reconstruction."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," admitted Armadimon. "I don't like fighting or trouble or anything like that, so it's better to try to avoid stuff like that. But all we're doing is just checking out if the Tower is somehow working again, right? That's not that big of a deal, so it shouldn't really matter. We could have brought Miyako and Hawkmon at least."
"Well, the fact that this is just a small check-up means that it should be okay for just the two of us to go this time," said Iori. He smiled at his partner. "Besides, it's nice to have some time with just the two of us, right?"
Armadimon smiled back. "I suppose it is." In the Digital World, they were always with Daisuke and Vmon or with Miyako and Hawkmon, and at home they were always with Iori's grandfather and mother. Both of them suddenly realized it had been a very long time since they had had some peace and quiet just between them.
They crossed over the first hill. From their vantage point, they reoriented themselves and made sure they were walking in the right direction, and then continued down toward the next hill, after which they would arrive at the Dark Tower and could check it up close. Eventually they came to the small valley between the hills, where they saw a small stream turned black by filth and pollution. A few dead trees stood beside it, their decaying branches breaking down and off the trunks under their own weight. Iori's expression instantly darkened upon seeing it. He bit his lip and shook his head, but said nothing as he hopped over the small stream and continued.
"Hey, Iori, I have a question," said Armadimon as he hoped over the stream after Iori.
"If you don't mind me saying, you seem to change when you see stuff like that," said Armadimon, pointing back toward the stream. "Your face gets all angry and scary."
"Scary?" Iori turned back toward his partner, and his expression softened. "Armadimon, I'm not mad at you. You shouldn't be scared..."
Armadimon shrugged. "You're usually so calm and stuff, so when I see your face get angry like that, it's just a little bothering."
"Well, why shouldn't one get a little angry upon seeing stuff like that?" said Iori, pointing to the polluted stream. "Things like that are just unforgivable. Just think about how much damage that just that single defiled stream does to the world, and how many Digimon probably go thirsty because of it. And then just think about how many more streams like it there probably are. And all of that is just because of one person!"
"Iori, I think it's nice that you care so much about the Digital World," said Armadimon slowly. "But on the other hand, it's still kind of scary that someone that's usually so loving could have so much hate too."
"I'm sorry for scaring you, Armadimon. Thanks for letting me know that it was bothering you. I'll try to be better about it in the future."
Armadimon stood upright on his hind legs and laughed. "See, now stuff like that is the usual Iori I know and love." He suddenly froze. His ear flaps twitched, and his face become serious.
"Is something the matter?"
"I hear something weird," said Armadimon.
And sure enough, Iori suddenly heard a strange buzzing sound mixed with a sort of crackling that resembled electricity. He turned around toward the next hill, from where it roughly sounded like the noise was coming from.
Meanwhile, Armadimon shivered. His fur was beginning to stand on end. "I feel tingly..."
Iori felt the hair on the back of his neck begin to stand on end too. At that very moment, a sudden thought came to him. He remembered something his grandfather had once said to him a long time ago, during a particularly night several years ago when they were caught outside during a thunderstorm. His eyes widened in alarm, and he quickly turned back to Armadimon, his mouth open and about to cry out to his partner.
Too late. Before a single sound could come from Iori's mouth, a massive bolt of blue electricity struck Armadimon like a falling hammer.
The flash of the lightnign faded, leaving a stunned Armadimon, now scorched black and eyes wide and blank but still standing upright. Iori ran to his partner and just managed to catch him as he toppled over.
"What was that?" wondered Iori aloud. He looked up at the sky. There was not a cloud in sight in all the wide blue sky above them.
But there was something else. Iori saw a small little black sphere with red arms and legs and a primitive face. On the face, above and between the eyes, was a large golden lightning bolt symbol. Iori's Digivice reacted in his pocket, and he drew it just as it began projecting its reading.
Thunderballmon: Adult level. Mutant Type. Data Attribute. Metal Empire. Special Attack: Thunder Ball. Heavy Attack: Thunder Bomb.
The strange little mutant-type sphere turned in midair after passing over them. From the little metal symbol on its head, it charged another ball of electricity. Iori's eyes widened in alarm upon seeing it. Taking up Armadimon in his arms, he ran toward the hill and just barely managed to dodge the rogue Digimon's attack. The resulting blast of electricity, however, sent rocks and dust everywhere.
Iori ducked and shielded his head from the debris with his arm. "Why is he attacking us? He's not being controlled by a Dark Ring or Spiral."
But he had no time to think about this further. The mutant type burst through the cloud of smoke. Iori gave a cry and ducked down, just barely avoiding having his head struck by the charging black sphere. His hands blindly groped on the ground and felt something hard. Iori's fingers wrapped around it and pulled, swinging one of the fallen wooden branch hard just as the black sphere made another pass over them. The branch shattered into splinters from the force of the blow, but there was no grunt of pain or any sign of harm at hurt at all by the mutant type.
Iori threw down the useless broken branch. Hugging Armadimon to his chest, he ran with renewed vigor up and over the hill. Without a second thought, he jumped from the hill and proceeded to tumble down the other side, ignoring the protest of his overexerted and burning muscles and the pain of the rough rocky surface against his skin as he fell.
He came to a stop at the very edge of a large perfectly square hole and only barely managed to avoid tumbling in. Iori crawled back up to his feet and gently set Armadimon beside him, but he heard the buzzing sound again and knew that he had been granted no reprieve. The black sphere was still attacking them.
"Why?" wondered Iori aloud. "Why is he attacking?"
Iori looked down at Armadimon, who was still weak from the electric attack. "It's alright, Armadimon," said Iori. "I'll think of something." He began looking around at the barren rocky surface around them, looking desperately for something with which he could use to defend them.
The other Digimon flew above them and charged another attack. Seeing this, Iori, quickly ran to grab Armadimon and carry him off again, but when he looked up a second time, he realized that the electric attack was not being aimed at them.
It was being aimed at the hillside.
Iori's eyes widened as he saw the blast tear through the hill and send a wave of large rocks down upon them. There was no chance to run. He saw one massive rock flying down towards him and instinctively cowered and shielded his head with his arms.
A flash of white light burst from Iori's pocket, and there was the sound of a large crash of rock hitting something hard. Iori slowly opened his eyes, realizing that the rock had not hit him after also realized that Armadimon was no longer lying beside him. Instead, there was a massive dinosaur standing over him, shielding him.
Ankylomon: Adult level. Dinosaur Type. Vaccine Attribute. Nature Spirits. Melee Attack: Tail Hammer. Heavy Attack: Megaton Press.
Iori blinked. "You evolved..."
The other black sphere of a Digimon pulled away for a moment, as if analyzing the situation and planning a new plan of attack given the sudden appearance of another adult level. Ankylomon, meanwhile, stood upright on his hind legs with Iori in his forelegs.
In many ways Ankylomon resembled his former smaller mammallian form, only the weaker scales of something like an armadillo skin had been replaced with a large yellow rock hard shell supplemented with black spikes. All the old soft fur of a mammal type was gone as well, now replaced with rough scaled skin of a dinosaur type. Additionally, a long reptilian tail extended from Ankylomon's rear and ended in a large black mass of metal spikes.
"How did you evolve?" said Iori in wonder. "Vmon couldn't evolve before, and you were injured and barely able to move."
"I'm not sure myself," said Ankylomon. "But let's worry about this guy first." He turned to look up at the hostile black sphere, and then quickly turned back to shield Iori as the enemy mutant type dived down toward them.
The little black ball struck the hard yellow shell of Ankylomon and glanced off. The massive cloud of electricity that had built up around the metal lightning bolt symbol on the top of the sphere dissipated against the shell and vanished, not leaving even the faintest of marks.
"Looks like this guy's electricity won't be hurting me anymore while I'm in this form," commented Ankylomon. He bent forward and readied his hind legs in preparation to jump up at the flying sphere above them. "Now it's my turn..."
"Wait!" cried Iori.
Ankylomon looked down at his partner. "Iori?"
"He's not being controlled by a Ring or Spiral," said Iori. "So is it right for us to fight him? What if he's just trying to protect something, and this is all just a misunderstanding?"
Ankylomon frowned. "He did attack us first."
Iori frowned and his hands tightened into a fist. Ankylomon was right, and when Iori thought to the pained look on Armadimon's face and the stench of the scorched black fur, he could feel his heart begin to pound in anger, even greater than when he thought of the Kaiser's crimes. But he also remembered what Armadimon had said to him before about that. "I don't want to be angry and scary," said Iori quietly. "I need to be calm and strong, and keep my mind focused." He bit his lips and tried to calm his breathing, and think of what to do.
The black sphere charged down again, and once again glanced off Ankylomon's hard shell, leaving no damage. "Iori," said Ankylomon urgently. "If we're not going to fight, should we run?"
"Ankylomon," said Iori slowly in an even tone. "The way you are now, he can't hurt you anymore. However, to try to hurt him for hurting you would just be taking revenge, and wouldn't be right, don't you think?"
"I guess," admitted Ankylomon.
Iori bit his lip. "So do you think it would be alright for us to run instead of fight?"
Ankylomon smiled. "That's fine with me. I'm not particularly fond of fighting anyways." He swung his tail to his side and pointed at it. "This thing may look intimidating, but it's a tool for defense, not something used to break the defenses of others." Ankylomon plopped Iori onto the back of his neck before bowing down onto all fours. "Hold on tight, Iori. I may be big, but I'm still pretty fast."
Iori dutifully tightened his grip on Ankylomon's neck.
"Here we go!" Ankylomon began charging away on all fours. For a moment, they heard the buzzing sound of the black sphere's pursuit, and Ankylomon felt a few more blasts of electricity harmlessly dissipate against his tail and back armor plating. Suddenly however, the attacks stopped, and the buzzing sound began to fade.
Ankylomon smiled and slowed down. "He's letting us go. Looks like we were able to avoid a fight."
But Iori turned his head to look back, and saw something that made his blood run cold. "No... we have to turn around and go after him!"
"He's going toward where he came from. He's heading for the orphanage!"
As luck would have it, there was a large inflatable ball in one of the little rebuilt shacks, perhaps some sort of import from Primary Village, across the Net Ocean. It was a small thing, especially considering it was the one real plaything for the countless little red Baby levels to share, but Daisuke dutifully inflated and began showing off his football skills by bouncing the ball up and down with his knees, feet, and head. At first the Baby levels had only watched in quiet admiration, but Daisuke eventually grew bored with just bouncing the ball up and down and began running around with it. The Baby levels cheered and followed, bouncing up and down after him as he dribbled the ball back and forth and did trick shots to bounce it off against walls up to three times in succession before catching it again on his knee.
Miyako meanwhile continued her work laying down planks and tiles on new roofs while Hawkmon hammered them in place. Though she enjoyed the technical work she usually did, the change of pace was still nice. The relatively simple work let her mind wander and think about other things.
Hawkmon paused a moment and wiped the feathers of his brow. "Miyako, how long do you think we've been going at this."
Miyako looked up from her work. She shrugged. "Maybe an hour or so. Why?"
"Iori and Armadimon have been gone for a while, don't you think?"
"Huh. You know, now that you mention it, it is sort of strange that they've been gone this long." Miyako straightened and looked out over toward where the Dark Tower was, only to find that it was no longer there. "The tower's gone though. I guess they probably decided to knock it down, and Iori probably wanted to clear the area and clean up some of the debris."
"That probably explains it," said Hawkmon. "Iori and Armadimon are not the type to get into trouble after all." He checked the small bag at his side. "We're running out of nails."
"Takeru should be getting here soon with more supplies," said Miyako.
"Ah, that's right. I almost forgot." Hawkmon raised his hammer and was about to resume working, but suddenly frowned and looked up at the sky.
"Is something the matter Hawkmon?"
"I don't know," said Hawkmon. "I just hear some sort of buzzing." He looked over Miyako's shoulders. His eyes widened. "Miyako! Get down!"
From the ground, Daisuke and Vmon looked up just in time to see a massive ball of electricity fly over their heads and smash into the building where Miyako and Hawkmon were working. The entire structure exploded. The crowd of Baby levels stopped jumping and laughing and looked around in surprise. A few that still had memories of the past war froze up in place, and a few more suddenly began to cry.
"An enemy?" said Daisuke in surprise. His hand reached for his Digivice, but suddenly stopped. "But Vmon can't evolve..."
"I see him!" called Vmon, pointing up at the sky. Daisuke looked up and saw the little black sphere with arms and legs pass over him.
"Daisuke!" called a voice.
Daisuke and Vmon turned toward the new voice, and saw the large yellow form of Ankylomon running toward them, Iori riding on the back of his partner's neck.
"Iori!" called back Daisuke in surprise, running back to join his friend. "Is that Armadimon? How did you manage to evolve?"
"I'm not sure," answered Ankylomon. "That Thunderballmon just attacked us, and the next thing I knew I was in this form."
Iori slid down from his partner's neck and looked around. "Where are Miyako and Hawkmon?"
Daisuke turned around the point. "They're right over..." He trailed off and froze as he saw the wreckage of the destroyed building where he had last seen Miyako and Hawkmon. "Oh no..."
But then, out of the smoke and debris, they saw someone in a gray cloak emerge, carrying Miyako in his arms and gently set her down on the ground.
Daisuke breathed a small sigh of relief. "Good, Takeru got her. Damn, he's been making a habit of showing up when it's most convenient."
Iori however was not so sure, and strained his eyes to try to get a better look. He was stopped however, by the black sphere firing another blast of electricity and Ankylomon jumping in front of him and Daisuke and Vmon to shield them from the attack with his armored shell. As Ankylomon pulled back however, Iori saw that the attacking Digimon had now shifted his attention toward them, and was flying for them.
A large white furred arm ending in a Gatling machine gun suddenly reached out over Iori's shoulder and opened fire. The flurry of green energy pellets sent the black sphere in retreat.
Daisuke and Vmon turned toward Galgomon. Just meters behind Galgomon, Pegasmon landed with Takeru and bags of supplies on his back. Takeru gave them a small wave.
"Wait a moment," said Daisuke. "Takeru? But then who...?"
All eyes turned toward the wreckage, where Miyako was slowly getting back up. Another form was emerging from the smoke. It was a tall humanoid insect type, armored with a green exoskeleton and additional black plating on its shoulders, forearms, and forelegs. Its six translucent fibrous wings were unusually large, giving the creature an appearance almost resembling that of a bizarre insect angel. On each arm was mounted a large black bracer.
The newcomer landed beside Miyako and dropped Hawkmon next to her.
Iori looked at his Digivice, which was projecting information on the strange newcomer.
Stingmon: Adult level. Insect Type. Virus Attribute. Jungle Troopers. Melee Attack: Spiking Finish. Ranged Attack: Moon Shooter.
The newcomer briefly looked up toward where Iori and Daisuke and the others were staring in surprise.
But then the next moment Stingmon seemed to vanish so quickly as to leave an after image. He was now in the air and flying circles around the rogue black spheroid Digimon, jabbing at it with a flurry of punches and kicks. The mutant type did its best to dodge or endure the attacks of the insect type while firing off intermittent blasts of electricity. Stingmon managed to dodge each one, but the result was that each blast instead struck one of the buildings, destroying them.
"Who's that?" wondered Vmon aloud.
"Worry about that later," said Daisuke. "Let's make sure Miyako and Hawkmon are okay first!" He began running toward the wreckage of the destroyed building.
Galgomon and Pegasmon meanwhile stood behind Iori and Ankylomon. Galgomon aimed his arm, but Pegasmon nudged it aside with his snout. "What are you doing?" asked Pegasmon with a frown. "You don't have a clear shot at Thunderballmon."
"We don't know if that insect-type's an enemy or ally though..."
"So you intend to shoot first and ask questions later? For shame, Galgomon! You know better than that!"
Galgomon frowned but lowered his arm and nodded his head. "You're right, brother."
Ankylomon meanwhile looked down at Iori. "I should go help. If this keeps up, the whole orphanage will be destroyed."
Iori bit his lip, but nodded in agreement. "Right, but focus on protecting the orphanage as the first priority."
"Of course!" Ankylomon charged ahead, landing just in time to shield a building from one of the electric attacks. The next moment, Ankylomon pounced upward to a height one would have thought impossible for a Digimon of his size, ramming his hard armored back against the black sphere.
The other Digimon gave no cry of pain, but there was the sound of something cracking. Ankylomon fell back down to the ground and looked back up, satisfied that he had effectively disabled his opponent and ended the electric mutant-type's rampage.
Indeed, the formerly fast black sphere now floated at a sluggish and slow pace. Ankylomon's attack had left its mark. On the sideline, Iori nodded to himself, satisfied. He had hoped to avoid fighting, but if it meant protecting the innocent Baby levels, it was probably worth it to disable the attacker.
But the other insect type did not seem content with the current situation. It backed off slightly and raised one of its arms. A long glowing pink stinger-like blade emerged from its black bracer. Iori's eyes widened as he realized what was about to happen. He ran forward. "No! Stop!"
The green insect charged forward in its Spiking Finish attack. Its long glowing stinger ran straight through the small metal body of the other Digimon. As before, it made no verbal sound of surprise or pain. It merely froze in place, and began to dissolve into raw black data.
Iori skidded to a stop and looked up at the scene in shock. "He... he killed him..."
The body of the black Thunderballmon now dissolved completely. But before the data could completely dissipate and spread out over the world, to eventually recollect elsewhere and form new Digieggs, Stingmon raised its other arm and black bracer. There was the sound of an intake of air, and the bracer proceeded to suck up all of the free data of the destroyed Thunderballmon.
"What is he doing?" said Iori as he watched the bizarre scene in shock.
Without acknowledging the others, the insect type flew over them toward one of the still standing buildings in the village. All eyes followed him, except for Daisuke and Vmon, who had run over to the wreckage and were helping Miyako back up.
"Miyako, who was that?" asked Daisuke.
Miyako blinked, still somewhat disoriented. "What...?"
"Who was it that saved you?" said Daisuke. "It wasn't Takeru or Hikari, so who was it?"
Miyako shook her head. Her thoughts cleared. She suddenly tensed, and looked to Daisuke with a harsh look that clearly indicated that she was upset. "It... it was..."
They heard the sound of the insect type fly over them, and looked up toward the building. Stingmon briefly glowed, and then shrunk down into the form of a small green worm, into the arms of the one standing there waiting for him.
There was no doubt about it. Ichijouji Ken was standing there, looking down at them without any visible expression on his face. Some sort of gray cloak was draped over his shoulders, underneath which was a gray student's uniform. Such clothing made him look like a poor vagabond, and was a far cry from the fancy Imperial blue and gold uniform and cape that he once wore as a powerful Kaiser. Daisuke however strained his eyes to get a better look, and slowly realized that the cloak was not truly gray. It only appeared so because of the dusk and smoke. Instead, the cloak was composed of threads of many colors, such that they appeared white, yet shimmered and changed as it waved in the breeze.
Galgomon instinctively aimed his machine gun arm up at Ken, but the next moment Takeru's arm reached out and pulled the arm back down. For a moment Galgomon was surprised and looked to his brother in confusion, but he saw that Takeru's attention was completely focused on the would-be target standing above them, and so he did not protest.
Ichijouji Ken looked down from his perch. His dark eyes met the single blue eye glaring up at him beneath the gray hat and tangled yellow hair.
Then without any sign of acknowledgment or anything, he turned and vanished with the light flash of an opening and closing gate.
"Man, what a mess," lamented Daisuke as he looked over the destroyed shelters. "After we spent all that time repairing and building these things too..."
"No one was hurt though," said Miyako. "That's what's important. We can always rebuild these shelters."
"I guess," said Daisuke with a sigh. "It's still a shame." He turned and looked over to the crowd of Baby levels. "A lot of these little guys are pretty shaken up though. They probably thought all the fighting was behind them forever."
"Aw, you're a big softie after all," said Miyako, playfulling poking Daisuke in the side.
Daisuke jumped and turned red. "I am not!" He crossed his arms and shook his head. "Still, it was a pretty bad scare for them to see Ken again. That was a surprise."
"Yeah, it was," agreed Miyako. She bit her lip and lowered her head. "I was not expecting to see him again."
"I mean, I guess I always thought we might see him again," said Daisuke. "Takeru didn't take Ken's Digivice like he originally said he was going to, so there really was nothing stopping Ken from coming back or anything. Still, it's a surprise to see him again, and to see him rescue you too!"
"Tell me about it," said Miyako. She rubbed her arms as if suddenly cold and shivered.
"Hey, well, at least you managed to finally have your dream of being carried like a princess in his arms!"
Miyako flushed red and punched Daisuke hard in the upper arm.
"Ouch!" Daisuke jumped back and rubbed his arm. "What did you do that for?"
Miyako merely shook her head and growled in barely restrained frustration before turning and walking away. Daisuke could only watch her go in utter confusion. "Seriously, what was that all about?" he grumbled to himself as he continued rubbing his arm. The punch really had hurt a lot more than he had expected.
Some distance away, Takeru finished helping Iori and Ankylomon clear away some of the debris to make room for future building. Iori, however, remained oddly quiet, and his face was frozen in a stern expression. When everything was settled, Pegasmon landed near Takeru, with Terriermon already on his back.
"Well, it was good seeing you today, Iori," said Takeru. He spoke in his usual carefree sort of manner, as if everything was alright. Normally Iori admired this sort of attitude, but at the moment it infuriated him. It was as if Takeru was willfully ignoring just how upset Iori was with him. He remained silent however, so Takeru turned to get on Pegasmon's back and fly off.
"You shouldn't have let him go," said Iori suddenly.
Takeru paused. He slowly turned around and looked at Iori.
"Back then, I mean," continued Iori. "Back on that cliff on the island, you should have stopped him then. The fact that we had to see him again... that is on you. That is all your fault."
Still, Takeru said nothing.
"You shouldn't have let him go!" repeated Iori with more emphasis.
Takeru sighed and lowered his head. "Maybe," he said quietly. He turned back to Pegasmon and mounted his partner's back, though he could still feel Iori's critical glare on his own back. He continued to feel it the whole time as Pegasmon carried him and Terriermon off.
When Pegasmon and the others were out of sight, Iori sat back down and sighed heavily. Armadimon sat down next to him. "Iori, are you alright?" asked the Digimon.
"I am, I guess," said Iori quietly. "It was just a shock to see someone I hoped we would never have to see again."
They heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and looked up to find Daisuke walking toward them. He was still rubbing his upper arm, but stopped for a moment to wave at them. "Hey."
"Daisuke, do you need something?" asked Iori.
"Not really. I just thought we could talk for a bit."
"Sure. What do you wish to talk about?"
Daisuke scratched the back of his head and looked over to the building nearest them. It was the same one where they had seen Ichijouji Ken standing less than an hour before.
"I was just thinking," said Daisuke slowly. "I mean, Ichijouji Ken is clearly back."
"Indeed he is."
"So, I was thinking, maybe we should try to approach him..."
Iori tensed and looked up at Daisuke. "Why?"
"Well, I mean... he just saved Miyako. He saved all of us, really."
"What of it?"
Daisuke laughed awkwardly and scratched the back of his head again. He had not been expecting such a cold attitude on Iori's part. "Well, I'm just saying..."
"Daisuke, sometimes I do not understand you at all."
Daisuke blinked. "Huh?"
"The second day that we came to the Digital World, Ichijouji Ken captured you and threatened you and Vmon. You can just forgive that?"
"Well, in the end, nothing bad happened from that, so..."
"What about when Takeru was captured?"
Daisuke opened his mouth, but found he could not think of anything to say. His awkward smile faded into less of a smile, but managed to become more awkward.
"I don't understand Takeru at all, either," continued Iori. "You remember what Ichijouji Ken did to him. He could not have forgotten either. And yet... back on File Island... he just let Ichijouji Ken go..."
Daisuke stuck his hands into his pockets and awkwardly kicked a leg back and forth. For a while, no one spoke. Iori slowly got up to leave. It was almost time for them to cross worlds and go home.
"I'm not saying we should forget everything," said Daisuke suddenly.
Iori paused and looked up at the other boy.
"It's just that..." Daisuke trailed off and scratched his head again. "Aw man, I'm just not good with words. How do I put this? It's just that... even if we don't forget... maybe we could just put it behind us? I don't know. It's just that I don't really like the idea of holding grudges or anything."
Iori bit his lip. He thought back to what he had said to Ankylomon back when they had tried to decide between fighting or fleeing against the attacking Thunderballmon. Back then, he had said that he did not believe that revenge was justice. If that were true...
"Whatever," said Daisuke quickly. "It's time to go home anyways. We can talk about this more tomorrow. I'll go get Miyako and Hawkmon, and we'll go open a gate and head over."
Iori slowly nodded. He sat back down. As he did, he felt something poke him in the side of his leg. It could not have been his Digivice, which was too large to have felt so sharp.
Confused, Iori slowly reached into his pocket and felt around. His fingers felt something hard between the fabric of his pocket and the glass screen of his digivice. He pulled it out and looked at it.
The mysterious item was a small golden tag. Within it, behind a sort of glass slot in the middle, was a small dark gray trapezoid marked with the symbol of a rectangular symmetrical cross. Iori knew that it was the symbol of Honesty.