A special thanks to Cjay who co-wrote the first two episodes. This story wouldn't exist without her. For any readers who stumble across this fic, I hope you enjoy it. It has been six years in the making. It would mean a lot to me if you left a review, even if it's so much as a simple sentence. In the meantime, stay tuned for regular updates.
Testing…testing…is this thing on? Okay, I'll begin.
It is January 1st 2007, exactly four years since that terrible night. Even now I strain for the bits and pieces of those awful memories, the last lingering remnants which prove to me it was real. These recollections are vital to me; they are to all of us who remember.
There is little truth to what was reported in the weeks following that night. The facts have been so mangled by rumours and lies that it is nearly impossible to differentiate between myth and reality. Even our own have turned their backs on what they once were. The therapists try to tell us that it was an illusion—the product of an over-imaginative childhood fantasy. They tell us that there is nothing special about us or the events that happened. I don't know how they can deny what happened before their own eyes.
Truth. We fought Malomyotismon that night, an evil that refused to fall.
False. We were wrapped up in an elaborate psychological invention.
Truth. A miracle occurred, enabling the Digidestined of the world to lend us their power.
False. A solar flare ripped through the sky, creating an atmospheric illusion.
Truth. We defeated the undead king.
Truth. Peace was restored to the Digital World.
Truth. We won.
We should have won.
Why didn't we win?
To this day, I still don't understand what happened. It should have been a joyous occasion, the downfall of Malomyotismon. We had finally rid ourselves of the evil that had wreaked so much havoc on our lives. But our victory was short lived. Something changed that night. As Oikawa dissipated, our digivices malfunctioned; the global Digidestineds' disintegrated entirely. The gates closed, cutting us off from our partners. And the world forgot. They forgot all they had seen and who we were. The Digital World became the figment of an erratic group of children's imaginations.
It became our own private devastation.
There are only twelve of us that I know of who still cling to the truth. We have tried to open the gates to no avail. It is now impossible to find even a shred of proof that the Digital World once existed. All we have left is a ruined piece of technology and what lies in our hearts. And each other. But as each year passes by, even that is fading.
And so that brings me to the present day, days where my life is as whole as one could hope, but never quite complete. You might wonder why I am recording all of this. The truth is, I am afraid to forget. I refuse to. No matter what they tell us, I will always be a Digidestined. That much I promise to remember.
Signing off, this is Takaishi Takeru.
Episode 1: Things that Matter
Sunshine streamed through the space between the flimsy yellow curtains covering the window. Yagami Hikari rolled over, burying her face in her pillow. Today was the first day of the summer holiday. Any normal kid would have been excited about this, she knew. She should have been excited about this, but all she could think about were the long, empty hours she now had to find a way to fill. She stifled a sigh in her pillowcase.
Get a hold of yourself Hikari, she told herself. There was no use in moping around. Yuuko—her mother—said that it would age her prematurely. Unless of course, she drank her homemade turnip smoothie concoction (and Hikari would really rather not). At least there would be no more math tests to worry about, Hikari reminded herself, trying to dredge up some optimism. She shuddered at the memory of her last pop quiz. Kicking the blankets off of her legs, she got up and resigned herself to the day ahead.
Ten minutes later, teeth brushed and hair arranged neatly—she was still getting used to growing it out—she entered the kitchen. The apartment was silent. Her mom had left a note on the fridge explaining that she was out running errands and pleading with her brother to stay out of trouble. Her dad was at work, as usual, and the conspicuous stillness in the room suggested that Taichi was out doing just what his mother had asked him not to. That or he'd finally entertained the notion of getting a part-time job. Hikari wasn't holding her breath. She knocked on his bedroom door before opening it, hoping to find his bushy head of hair still sticking out from the covers, but was disappointed.
Defeated, she returned to the kitchen and found a leftover bowl of miso soup in the fridge. She sniffed it tentatively—making sure it wasn't one of her mother's experiments—before re-heating it in the microwave. As she ate, she tried to brainstorm ideas of what she could do. The beach was always an option, but she wasn't really in the mood for swimming or sunbathing. She could call one of her girlfriends from school; there was a new store that had recently opened up at Venus Fort* and they were dying to check it out. But somehow, the prospect of spending yet another day discussing the merits of high heels and how kawaii the band members from Arashi* were just wasn't appealing. She needed a break from the monotony of it all, just a day, or two, or several.
She missed having conversations about things that mattered. Which wasn't to say that she didn't enjoy gossip—because in all honestly, who didn't? It was just that the scandal purportedly taking place between her high school gym teacher and the lunch lady didn't hold much weight after you had taken on a sadistic, digital vampire…twice. She missed having Gatomon to talk to, or Takeru, or Miyako. Or any of the others, the people who understood her—who understood everything they had been through together.
Just the thought of their names caused a hollow ache inside her chest and she pushed the reminder of their faces quickly away. Don't go there Hikari, she told herself. It was like picking at a scab, aggravating the wound so that it never completely healed. She closed her eyes, fingers tightening around her chopsticks. Just let it go…
If only it were that easy. It had been almost six months since she'd actually spoken to another of the Chosen, besides her brother of course and even then, she wasn't sure you could call that really talking. She saw Daisuke at school sometimes, but it always seemed as if the both of them were too busy to stop and chat. She'd walked past the Inoue family store a few times as well, but had never been able to work up the courage to step inside. And of course, she and Takeru still emailed on occasion but the messages were starting to come fewer and far between as the years went by. Their content was almost always the same: How are you? How's school? Same as always. Talk to you soon. Generic, impersonal, afraid to trigger anything too painful or raw. She wondered if things might not have changed if his mom hadn't decided to move him back to Setagaya two years ago. It troubled her to realize that she wasn't sure.
Miko meowed at her feet, drawing her from her thoughts. Hikari reached down to scratch behind her ears. The aging feline seemed to be trying to comfort her as she pressed herself up against Hikari's legs. The idea made her think of Gatomon.
Hikari ran her hand along Miko's back, imagining she could hear the familiar beeping of her digivice when Gatomon started to digivolve. Miko meowed again and pawed Hikari's arm, looking up at her with disdain.
"Okay, okay, I'm getting up." Hikari pushed her chair away from the table and moved her dishes to the sink. Miko twirled around her legs as she dug out the cat food from the cupboard and filled the food dish. She stepped back, watching as Miko sniffed the food, the bell on her collar tinkling. Hikari listened to it vaguely and realized she could still hear a faint beeping. She paused. Had she accidentally set her alarm clock? Or maybe her brother had left his cell phone behind. He always chose the weirdest ring tones. Bemused, she moved around the apartment, listening for the source of the noise.
Abandoning her food, Miko trotted along after her. Hikari took another brief peek into Taichi's room to see if the sound was coming from inside. The source could easily have been hidden among the piles of derelict soccer gear strewn across the floor, but it sounded louder in the hallway so she backed out and went to try her own room.
Bingo, she thought as the noise grew stronger. Hikari crossed the room and checked her alarm clock. It was quiet. Behind her, Miko leapt up on the desk. She mewed plaintively, yellow feline eyes fixed on Hikari.
"What is it?" Hikari asked, too absorbed in her hunt to feel foolish for talking to a cat*. Miko turned in a circle and sat down again. Hikari stared, perplexed.
Then it clicked. Disbelief washed over her. She pulled open the drawer Miko was perched above and rummaged through the stationary inside, brushing aside sticky pads, pens, and paperclips until aha! Her fingers froze, tingling with adrenaline as they closed around the familiar object. Hardly daring to believe it, Hikari withdrew her pink D3.
"Miko," she whispered, awestruck, as she gazed at the screen. For the first time in over four years, the screen was pulsing with persistent white light. Confusion and wonder held her frozen; she couldn't have moved if she wanted to. And amidst the overwhelming sensation of incredulity she could feel something else. Small, but strong. Growing with every second that she stood there. She closed her eyes and forced herself to inhale. Hope.
She would have stood there longer, paralyzed with the tumult of emotions flooding through her body, but a sudden crash from below jarred her out of her reverie. Miko leapt off of the desk with a yowl, skitting past her across the floor. From the street below, a car alarm started to wail. Hikari stepped over to the window.
What met her eyes sent another shockwave through her. Leaping from the top of a now crushed Hyundai, a monstrous creature with enormous, glistening black claws latched on to the side of the building and began to scale it. It was uncannily graceful for such an ungainly creature. With short back legs and a long, powerful tail, it propelled itself upwards with ease. Strange runic markings, glowing red, adorned its lithe black body. It had long, spindly front arms and a dragon-like face contorted with malice. But even more frightening than its claws or the chains glittering around its spiked tail were its eyes—blazing crimson and fixed directly on Hikari as it headed for her window.
It took Hikari a few seconds to realize what was happening, and then an extra few for her to react. She ran for the hallway, her only coherent plan to put as much distance between herself and that creature as possible. Throwing open the front door, she barreled out of the apartment only to crash headfirst into somebody waiting outside. The two of them went down in a tangled heap. Hikari leapt up immediately, fear surging through her body, and locked eyes with the boy groaning on the floor.
"Koushirou-san?" She gasped.
Izumi Koushirou got to his feet, wincing a little as he straightened his knees. He looked almost exactly as he had the last time Hikari had seen him, if only slightly taller.
Koushirou's eyes fell on the D3 clutched in her fingers; by now, her knuckles were beginning to turn white from her grip. She saw understanding pass across his face.
"Koushirou-san, I—we—we have to go," she managed to get out. She shot a glance back over her shoulder, half-expecting the monster to be bearing down on her.
"Where's Taichi-san?" Koushirou demanded, calm but firm, his fingers wrapped around the shoulder strap of the pack he carried his laptop in.
Frantic, Hikari shook her head.
"Okay, it's okay—" Koushirou didn't have a chance to finish because at that moment an ear-splitting smash rang out from behind them.
Both Chosen spun in horror to watch the living room window fall to the floor in shards. Two massive, scaly hands held onto the edge.
Koushirou stood there, gaping.
Hikari gave him a push. "Run!"
The two of them tore down the hallway and towards the stairs. There was a loud crunch from behind them as the creature threw itself after them and wedged itself between the doorway. The walls cracked and splintered as it thrashed, struggling to get free. Dust rained down from the ceiling. The creature let out a hiss.
Neither of them looked back. They hurled themselves into the stairwell, rounding the corners at breakneck speed. Hikari stumbled when they hit ground level and chanced a look back. The creature had managed to break loose from the door frame. It heaved itself over the balcony and leapt down to the next level. Its eyes found her on the street.
"Come on!" Koushirou shouted.
She whipped around, following him as he dove into the crowd that had gathered around the smashed Hyundai. A few people protested as they shoved through but within seconds they were forgotten about as the creature landed back on the sidewalk.
"Those people—" Hikari gasped, making to turn back.
Koushirou shouted at her. "It's us that thing is after! We have to keep moving!"
The digivice burned in Hikari's hand as she tightened her grip, but she kept going. She knew that he was right. Maybe if they could lead it away… They sprinted along the sidewalk, weaving in and out of the people who had joined them in flight. Screams rang in her ears from all sides. Each one stabbed through her. Don't think, just run, she pleaded with herself. Something shattered behind them. She forced herself to run faster.
It was getting harder to keep moving. The crowd was getting thicker. Guilt gnawed at her as she thought about the danger they were putting these people in. She looked around wildly, trying to keep an eye on Koushirou but also looking for a way out. Someone bumped into her from the left. She wobbled but managed to keep her balance.
She didn't have time to register Koushirou's shout before he yanked her into a narrow opening between two shops. Gasping for breath, she fell against the brick wall and waited for the creature to catch up to them, sure they were about to be ripped to pieces. Half a second later, it went barreling past—knocking people aside, but mercifully not attacking them—teeth bared in a snarl and its crimson eyes trained straight ahead.
Hikari's body wilted with relief. Koushirou was hunched over his knees, swallowing enormous mouthfuls of air. His face was beet red from exertion.
"Are-you-okay?" Hikari managed to pant. She sank further against the wall for support. Her heart continued to jackhammer inside her chest.
Koushirou shook his head, indicating that he needed another moment. Hikari glanced down at her fist, still clenched around her D3. It took her a second to realize that it had stopped beeping. Forcibly loosening her fingers, she studied the now blank screen.
"It stopped," she murmured. She glanced up. "Koushirou-san, your digivice—"
Finally managing to pull himself upright, Koushirou turned away from her. She wasn't sure why at first, then she noticed him fiddling with his pocket.
"Koushirou-san?" she asked gently.
"Yeah," he said, toneless. He held open his hand for her to see. There, spread across his palm in small, wiry, metallic fragments were the remains of his digivice.
She gasped. "Oh no…"
The older boy slid the pieces back into his pocket, out of sight. He ducked his head, not meeting her eyes. "I found it this way this way when I got home this morning. My mom thought there had been a burglar…my room was torn apart."
"Was it…that thing…what is..." Hikari faltered.
"I don't know what it is," Koushirou's voice was heavy, heavier than she had ever heard it—even in the aftermath of the battle with Malomyotismon. He cleared his throat, struggling to return to his normal serious manner. "What I'd like to know is why it's after our digivices and why…why they've been reactivated. It's not a coincidence."
There was a moment of silence as Hikari contemplated this. She could hear both of their breathing echoing in the narrow space, heavy and ragged. The fingers of her free hand brushed up against the brick wall, tracing the abrasive stone with consternation. Could the gates really be open again? Was there trouble in the Digital World? The possibility made her heart ache. But it would mean nothing if they didn't survive this.
"We have to warn the others," she whispered. The realization struck her cold. Her heart quickened again as she thought of the others out there, unwarned and unprepared. Her fingers closed against the brick, scraping against her knuckles.
Koushirou nodded, already a step ahead of her. "We can't stay here. That thing is likely tracking us through our digivices. It'll come back. I was hoping to find Taichi…"
"I don't know where he is," Hikari admitted, frustrated tears stinging her eyes. She understood why Koushirou had sought Taichi out before anyone else, never mind their long standing if recently estranged friendship. It was for the same reason that all the Digidestined looked to him, their leader, in times of trouble. The same reason her brother had been destroyed when he couldn't find a way to re-open the gates for them, to restore his team with their partners, to hold them all together…
"We can start by phoning everyone on their mobiles," Koushirou stated. He hesitated, looking embarrassed. "Um…whose numbers do you have?"
Hikari flushed. "Niisan's…"
"Okay, how about Takeru-kun? Miyako-chan?" He pressed. "Daisuke-kun?"
She fidgeted uncomfortably with her jacket sleeve. "Sorry."
To his credit, he didn't push it any further. "Okay, what's Taichi's?"
Hikari gave him the number, watching numbly as he dialed it into his phone and waited. She looked towards the street. The people there were starting to calm down though she could still hear the occasional voice elevated with panic. In the distance, she could make out the sound of sirens. She wondered what it must be like for these people—with no memory left of the attacks that had plagued their city before—to try and wrap their heads around what they had just witnessed.
"What's wrong?" she asked, turning back to Koushirou and catching sight of his furrowed brow. "It is turned off? He does that sometimes…"
"No," Koushirou answered. "I don't seem to have a connection. This isn't good." He lifted his phone up in the air, angling it in different positions, trying to get reception.
"Koushirou-san," Hikari breathed, turning towards the street. "Look."
The lights of the convenience store across the way were flickering. In front of it, the traffic lights had gone out. Koushirou's eyes widened as he observed this. Hikari watched as realization spread across his face. Deftly, he put away his cell phone and swinging his pack down from over his shoulder, withdrew his laptop.
"What is it?" Hikari asked, impatient with worry.
Koushirou shook his head, mouth pursed in a thin line. "It's on…but nothing appears to be working. I can't get a signal." He stiffened. "There goes the power."
Hikari stared at him.
"I think we'd better get out of here." He slid the laptop back into his bag with chagrin. Just then, Hikari's digivice resumed beeping. Both of the Chosens' faces paled.
Doing her best to stay calm, Hikari took a step towards the street. "Okay, let's go."
"We'll head towards the train station," Koushirou told her. "We have to find the others. Maybe if we start at their apartments, we can track them down."
"Toooo laaaaaate," a voice hissed out of the shadows.
Both Chosen jumped, spinning around to come face to face with the demonic creature. It was clinging to the wall with its razor claws, head stretched out towards them and its deadly spiked tail hovering above. It was even more terrifying up close, the stench wafting out of its fanged maw reeking of rot and something…familiar. Hikari froze.
"Hikari, run!" Koushirou bellowed.
His voice prompted her to move. Ducking as the creature's tail swept towards her, she leapt after Koushirou onto the sidewalk. They ran blindly into the crowd. Hikari could hear the blood throbbing in her ears; she could feel it coursing through her body, fuelling her terror. From behind them a chorus of screams rang out, splitting the air.
"Koushirou-san, where are you going?" Hikari cried, trying to keep sight of him as he was jostled away from her by a group of fleeing citizens. She saw him dart across the intersection. Two vehicles slammed to a halt, horns blasting.
Hikari couldn't get through to the road. She kept running, trying to dodge through the hordes of people. She finally reached a clear space and leapt towards the curbside. A taxi cab went speeding by, missing her by inches. She took a step back then glanced behind her as a harsh grating sound caught her attention. She side-stepped, just in time for a street bench to go whipping past her. From a block behind, the creature leered at her, its eyes searing through the crowd. It started forwards.
She let instinct take over. Ignoring the sheer terror pulsing through her, she rushed into the road, staring straight ahead to find where Koushirou had gone. The cacophony of car horns that followed her nearly deafened her, but nothing hit her. It was a miracle. Sooner than she thought possible, she was across the road and there was Koushirou, gasping for breath, white-faced, and waiting for her in front of the train station.
"I thought you were behind me," he blurted in horror.
Hikari didn't answer. She glanced back over her shoulder, trembling. The creature was directly across from them. It lunged into the road after them with a vicious snarl just as a large truck flew past. The truck's brakes squealed against the pavement as the driver caught sight of the monster. But it was too late. The grill at the front caught the creature mid-leap, sending it flying beneath the wheels. The sound was awful: high-pitched screeching intermingled with the thunderous crunching of metal.
The truck slid to a shuddering stop. There was a brief moment where the world rushed to catch up with reality. Then there was chaos. People started screaming and running and crying. One lady had passed out. The driver stumbled out from the truck cab, looking dazed. But what caught Hikari's eye was the movement from beneath the wheels. Just the briefest flash of a malicious red eye. It was still alive. Wordlessly, she grabbed Koushirou's elbow and towed him down the stairs into the subway station.
There wasn't a whole lot that Inoue Miyako and her sisters agreed upon. They had different tastes in everything from what they topped their frozen yogurt with at the local ice cream shop (Miyako loved gummy bears, expresso powder, and mixed mochi; her sisters were boring, selecting just cookie crumbs or fruit) to what they wore out each day. So taking this into consideration, Miyako knew it was a bad day when she and her sister—Momoe in this case—actually agreed on something. And it was even worse when that agreement was on the subject of her own level of supreme pathetic-ness.
As much as she hated to agree with anything her sisters said, Momoe was right about this one. Dammit. No she wasn't, Miyako thought stubbornly. How could Momoe possibly know what she was feeling? What she had been through? She didn't have any right to judge her! If only her judgment hadn't been so dead on… Miyako buried her face in her hands. In the last five minutes since Momoe had called her to harass her to get back to the store for her shift, her words had been ringing in Miyako's head non-stop.
It was perfectly logical that she had left before the game was finished, she told herself. She had lots of work to do after all; she was a busy girl. Chores, work, homework…oh wait, school was out now, she remembered. Oh who was she kidding? She was pathetic. Totally and hopelessly pathetic. She'd gone to Ken's game with every intention of talking to him and look where it had gotten her. Nowhere, because she'd chickened out at half-time liked a scared little school girl. Pathetic.
Frustrated, Miyako stared at the floor of the train with misery. There was a wad of gum inches away from her left shoe. She imagined what it would feel like to be that wad of gum. Just a piece of discarded, disgusting trash that someone had been chewed up and spit out, only to be left to be stepped on into eternity until someone finally had the mercy to scrape her off and put her in the garbage where she belonged. Yep, that pretty much summed up her life for the past four years. She was just a disgusting wad of gum.
Okay Miyako, enough with the theatrics, she admonished herself. But then, she was a dramatic person. Her mom said so all the time. Everyone said so all the time. Usually she contested this, shouting and shedding tears of indignation until her opponents gave in. But deep down, she knew that it was true. And since it was, why fight nature? If that was just the way she was, it made sense that she had left early. Being a dramatic person, she should avoid situations which would induce…well, her dramatic-ness.
"Is that even a word?" she wondered to herself. "Oh and here I go again. Getting off topic. Oh great, I'm talking to myself now. People are going to think I'm crazy…"
Sure enough, there were a number of curious stares directed in her direction. Miyako blushed and ducked her head even lower, still staring determinedly at the ground. She tried to rationalize with herself, quietly this time. She'd run into Ken on the train just over a week ago after a day out shopping with her sisters. It had been the most awkward encounter of her life. Neither of them had known what to say, and so they'd stood there red-faced and stammering until Momoe had forced her way into the conversation. Ken had probably just offered up an invitation to his game as a means to escape her over-zealous sister. He didn't really want to talk, Miyako convinced herself. And that was why it was best that she had left early. To avoid walking into an unwelcome situation.
But she had been so ready to talk... After almost four years of silence from the other Digidestined, she was craving a conversation with someone who a) didn't think she was crazy and b) remembered what she had been through. She could have contacted the others at any time, of course. She wasn't sure why she'd jumped on this opportunity.
Well okay, yes she was. But it was just easier than talking to Daisuke, who wouldn't take her seriously, or Iori, who would take her too seriously, or Hikari, who'd likely only end up crying with her, or Takeru who somehow she'd never really gotten to know well enough to feel comfortable pouring her heart out to. Not that she was comfortable pouring her heart out to anyone anymore. The therapists had made sure of that.
"Ouch!" Miyako yelped as a sudden crash shook the train. She pitched forwards as the train came to an abrupt halt, falling into the man across from her. The train car quieted immediately, then seconds later, escalated into an excited flurry of conversation.
"What's happening?" Miyako pushed her glasses back up her nose and detached herself from the very harassed looking business man whose lap she had fallen into.
"Look!" a young boy shouted, pointing out the window.
Everyone turned, necks craned, looking for the source of the commotion. Miyako couldn't see anything through the clusters of people. Above, the lights flickered erratically. And then just as suddenly, they went out altogether, plunging the train into darkness. Miyako started to grumble a complaint, indignant that she hadn't gotten to see whatever the boy had been pointing at, but a second later she was distracted from that thought. A low scraping sound filled the air. Someone let out a nervous shriek.
Miyako felt a thrill of trepidation run through her. What was going on? She realized that the scraping had stopped now. Everyone was silent, listening. She could hear the breathing of the other passengers around her and could feel the heat emanating off of their tense bodies. She fidgeted nervously, goosebumps rising on her arms.
A loud beeping noise almost made her jump out of her skin. From around her, there was a collective intake of breath. Miyako stiffened, wishing that whoever it was would turn off their device. Then she realized that the sound was coming from her. Her hands moved to her pockets automatically, searching for her cell phone. But it was on vibrate. Her fingers shook as she dug through her hand bag. If she could just turn off that noise then maybe she could think straight and figure out what the heck was going on.
The second her fingertips grazed her D3 it clicked into place. She'd grabbed this purse without thinking this morning; it was an old one from her closet. Chizuru had taken her good one to the mall. Miyako pulled the D3 from her bag and held it up, not realizing that she was holding her breath. The flashing light from the screen pulsed softly in the dark interior, illuminating the train car with a steady rhythm. As the screen brightened, Miyako caught sight of something in her peripheral vision located outside the window to her right. Something long and glistening and sharp.
She didn't have time to think before the claws smashed through the window.
It all happened so fast that she didn't even think to scream, or maybe she did; she couldn't tell amidst the chaos. She was sent careening back into the wall as the other passengers fought to get away from the creature now clamoring inside the car. She only just managed to keep her fingers locked around her D3.
The creature's glowing red eyes found her through the throng of people desperate to escape. Miyako gulped, panic coursing through her body. But she couldn't remember how to move. The creature was moving towards her; it was almost over her now. She squeezed her eyes shut in terror as the creature's hand lashed towards her. A sharp stinging sensation cut across her fingers as the claws snatched her D3 and crushed it. Even though she couldn't see—was too afraid to look—she could tell by the splintering sound of metal, the abrupt silence of the beeping, that it had been rendered lifeless.
It felt like an hour though it must have been only seconds. Miyako felt the creature retreat. Its rotting stench lessened; she could hear it banging as it moved back to the window. She remained huddled against the wall, unaware of the tears coursing down her face in shock, and fear, and rage. She couldn't see but she could hear the people around her wailing and shrieking. She wanted to tell them all to just shut up. Did they not realize what had just happened? Her last lifeline to the Digital World…to Hawkmon….
She stood up as anger took over.
She lunged forwards, blind but furious. She could hear the scraping on the exterior of the train car as the creature scrambled outside. She shoved her way through a mess of people and collided into…nothing. Her blooded fingers felt the jagged edge of the window, the broken glass scattered upon the ledge. A shard pricked her finger.
"No, no, no…" she muttered. This could not be happening. Fresh tears appeared in her ears. Angry tears. She banged her fists against the ruined wall.
"No!" she screamed, releasing her anguish and shock. But amidst the din of chaos inside the train, nobody heard. Her voice was drowned out. She was alone.
There was something about a revved up motorcycle that really got your adrenaline going, Takaishi Takeru mused, unable to decide just what that something was. All he knew was that the cocksure grin on Yamato's face as he sat astride the motorcycle was enough to replace his adrenaline with sudden reluctance. If his fifteen years of being Yamato's brother had taught him anything, it was that he should never ever trust that grin.
Yet that didn't explain his uncontrollable urge to climb up on the motorcycle behind him. Logic should have made him run for cover until this moment of insanity had passed. Yamato had been chafing at the bit these last few days, desperate to escape the monotony of their uncle's inaka* home. He was practically dying to do something reckless. But even Takeru had to admit that it was boring out here, and he wasn't the one accustomed to living like a rock star. Maybe that was why he found himself itching to try the motorcycle out. He'd always considered himself to be the smart and cautious one, but at that particular moment, he was seriously doubting that he was either.
"Want a ride?" Yamato asked lazily, offering a helmet to his brother. Takeru hesitated as caution battled his need for excitement. They could get in an accident, they could get seriously injured, his mother would kill him if she found out (she'd had a thing against motorcycles ever since Yamato and Takeru's last escapade)… But then, nothing at all might happen and it would be a cool memory later on. Besides, the therapist had told their parents that sending them out of the city might do them some good. Takeru wasn't about to pass up the chance to prove him wrong, even if it did mean bodily harm.
"Definitely," Takeru decided, grabbing the proffered helmet. He noticed that Yamato had elected to keep the plain blue one; his own was covered with caricatures from Peanuts cartoon. Oh well. Removing his hat, Takeru set it down on the bench where he'd been sitting writing in a journal up until that moment. He put the helmet on, taking care to adjust the straps. His reckless side may have won the main battle but his cautious side wasn't giving up that easily.
"Hop on. I'll try not to do anything too crazy," Yamato said. Takeru clamored up behind him. He didn't have a chance to tell him to start slow before Yamato pressed the gas and the motorcycle flew forward. Immediately, any excitement he had been feeling evaporated and he wondered what in the world had possessed him to get on this thing.
"Great, isn't it?" Yamato hollered over his shoulder as they roared out onto the main road. Takeru's response was to grip tighter around his brother's waist with his arms, desperately trying not to fall off. Yamato laughed and wove through the cars ahead of them. Someone honked at them and Takeru closed his eyes tightly, waiting for the impact that was sure to come. After several moments had passed and he found himself to still be in one piece, he dared to open his eyes and found that they had navigated onto a back road with no other cars around. He couldn't decide whether this was a good thing or not.
"Scared?" Yamato taunted, revving the engine.
As he said it, Takeru became aware of the fact that his arms were shaking, whether it was from fear or from holding on too tight, he wasn't sure.
"Not on your life!" He lied.
Yamato laughed and the sound sent shivers down his spine. Or maybe that was the air rushing down his shirt. In any case, he was not anticipating what Yamato had in mind.
"You will be!" his brother promised, revving the motorcycle again. For one terrifying second the motorcycle balanced on its back wheel, like a horse rearing up, and then slammed back down on its front. They picked up speed and Yamato somehow managed to turn it onto another road without crashing. Unlike the previous one, this road was dirt and covered with potholes. Yamato refused to slow down as they approached the first one and Takeru figured he'd veer around it. His stomach churned as it grew closer and closer and the motorcycle remained in a straight line. Yamato leaned forwards.
"Niisan*!" Takeru yelled as they hit the pothole. The motorcycle hit the hole hard and then bounced at least a foot off the road. It came down roughly and started to swerve. Takeru closed his eyes again, wondering what the newspaper would say about this in the morning. He could already see it: "Idiot boy gets on motorcycle with crazy brother. Both dead in the stupidest accident ever. Serves them right." He thought about what his mom would say, and his uncle. An even smaller voice wondered what Hikari would say.
"Hold on!" Yamato yelled, interrupting what Takeru was sure were his last thoughts. Yamato fought to regain control of the motorcycle as it veered across the road. Gravel sprayed everywhere as he began to brake, gently slowing down the vehicle. For a second, it felt like the motorcycle was going to somersault but somehow he managed to steady it.
"Wasn't that fun?" Yamato asked with a laugh as they sped along.
Takeru focused on breathing in and out, unable to believe that they were still alive. There would be no newspaper headline; his mom and uncle wouldn't say anything about it because they would never know. But still, he found himself wondering what Hikari would say on the chance that they actually started talking again.
"Don't ever do that again!" Takeru finally panted, wishing that he could sound as angry as he felt. Yamato just laughed and the motorcycle picked up speed. Takeru started to yell but stopped. Beep…beep…beep. Was he hearing things? Even amidst the noise of the motorcycle roaring in his ears he could detect a faint beeping, barely audible but it was there. He wondered if maybe Yamato's watch had an alarm on it until he remembered that Yamato wasn't wearing a watch. Beep…beep…beep. Judging by Yamato's total concentration on the road, Takeru figured he hadn't noticed it. He thought it sounded vaguely familiar.
"Niisan, stop!" He yelled, deciding that looking for the source of the beeping while driving at outrageously high speeds probably wasn't the best idea.
"Why?" Yamato yelled back, a hint of annoyance in his voice. Briefly, Takeru remembered the days when Yamato would have stopped immediately if he'd told him too. A lot had changed since then.
"Just stop!" Takeru shouted in reply.
With a sigh that was audible even over the noise of the engine, Yamato braked and the motorcycle came to a sliding halt.
"What's that?" Yamato asked, confirming at least that Takeru wasn't crazy.
Takeru jumped off the motorcycle, looking around for the source.
"I don't know," he replied. It sounded like it was coming from the motorcycle. Takeru made a quick search but couldn't find anything.
"Hey Takeru, go over there," Yamato told him, nodding down the road.
Takeru shot his brother a quizzical look.
"Just do it, okay?"
Thoroughly confused, Takeru did as he asked and walked a ways down the road. "Is there a point to this?" he asked, torn between impatience and concern.
"Listen," Yamato insisted.
Takeru fell silent and realized that he could still hear the beeping noise as loud as before. It wasn't coming from the motorcycle; it was coming from him.
"Could it…" he began to say, letting his voice trail off as he realized that he'd known from the beginning what the noise was. He'd just grown accustomed to believing that he would never hear it again.
Takeru's hands trembled as he removed the device from his belt. There was no mistaking that it was the source of the beeping. He found that he couldn't speak; the words were stuck in his throat. All he could do was stare at the blinking screen.
"Takeru?" Yamato asked, walking towards him. "That's not…" Yamato froze as he stared at the D3. It continued to beep, the high-pitched sound reverberating on the empty road. For several long seconds they stood in silence, trying to figure out if this was real or not.
"How is this possible?" Yamato finally asked. His voice was cool and calm as usual, but there was a tinge of desperation to it. Takeru could see a glint in his eyes that spoke of the hope there. That maybe, after all these years, the gates to the Digital World were open.
"What about yours?" Takeru asked, surprised at his ability to speak.
Yamato thought for a moment, trying to remember where he would've put his digivice. Takeru was pretty sure that he was the only one who still carried his around with him, unwilling to believe that it would never be active again.
"I think it's in my bag," Yamato said finally. With long, swift steps he hastened back to the motorcycle. He got on and turned the key in the ignition.
Takeru followed him, heart racing. Could this mean that they might see them again? It was too painful to even think of his name. What if this was a mistake? He wanted so desperately to believe that this was real. This has to be real, he prayed.
"Hang on tight," Yamato told him through clenched teeth.
This time Takeru was ready for it when the motorcycle surged forwards. Unlike before, the speed didn't scare him. He found himself wishing that they could go faster. The trees blurred past them as they sped back down the dirt road and onto the highway. Both he and Yamato leaned into the corners. The digivice beeped incessantly on his belt.
It seemed to take an eternity to arrive back at their uncle's house. The motorcycle hadn't even fully stopped when Takeru jumped off, tossing his helmet onto the ground. He paused to grab his hat before jogging towards the house.
"Takeru wait up!" Yamato yelled. He chased after his brother, entering the house to find him ripping apart the guest room. Luckily, their uncle had been suckered into an afternoon of fishing with his friends so the house was empty.
They finally found Yamato's bag tucked beneath one of the beds. They both fell silent, holding their breath as they listened. Beep…beep…With a triumphant grin, Yamato dumped the contents of the bag onto the floor.
"I can't believe it," Yamato breathed, picking up the flashing device.
Takeru wasn't sure what to say. Could the gate really be opening after all these years? He wanted to believe it, but he still wasn't sure. He knew that if the gates were open then it meant that there was trouble in the Digital World once more. But wasn't that what he had secretly hoped for every day for the past four years? That somehow he'd be able to see his friends again, even if meant dealing with another conflict?
Yamato started to say something but the lights flickered suddenly. The two brothers exchanged a look. Then, without warning, something crashed through the window. Instinctively, Takeru covered his head but the next thing he knew he was on the ground. Shattered glass lay sprinkled across the floor, right where he'd been standing.
Heart pounding, it took Takeru a second to realize that Yamato was beside him, one arm across his back. He had knocked him off his feet, saving him from the glass.
"What happened?" Takeru gasped in shock but his brother was already getting up, dragging him with him. Takeru barely had time to take in the damage before Yamato had shoved him out of the room. Yamato glanced back over his shoulder, eyes narrowing.
"Run Takeru!" He hissed.
Bemused, Takeru started towards the back door. Yamato followed on his heels.
"Not ssssssssssoooo fasssssst," an unearthly voice hissed. Shivering, Takeru turned his head slightly to see what it was. Big mistake. As he did, he heard Yamato yell and his brother crashed into him. Takeru cried out as they both fell. His hands hit the backdoor as they pitched forwards and by some luck or miracle, it swung open.
They both tumbled onto the porch. Takeru scrambled to his feet, turning to help Yamato up only to find some sort of creature…monster…Digimon, he couldn't tell, standing over him. Its jaws hovered precariously close to his face. Horror bubbled inside Takeru. He knew he had to do something—yell, attack, anything at all—but he couldn't. He was frozen, hypnotized by the creature's blood red eyes. Yamato was struggling beneath it, doing his best to kick it away from him and shouting at the top of his lungs.
"Takeru, go!" Yamato ordered, catching glimpse of him through the monster's front legs.
Even if he had been able to move, Takeru would never have deserted his brother. He watched in horror as the reptilian creature leaned closer to Yamato, its claws closing around his wrist. Yamato recoiled, digivice falling from his hand. Screeching in what could only be described as triumph, the creature snatched the device up in its claws. Its hand closed around the object, shattering it, and let the pieces trickle through its bony fingers like dust. Takeru gaped at it, feeling the weight of what was happening collapse around him.
Finished with Yamato, the creature turned its attention on him. Its eyes were oddly transfixing. Takeru stared, muscles locked into place, feeling the terror flood through him. But for the life of him, he couldn't will his limbs to move. The creature lowered its body, preparing to lunge. Yamato shouted and the creature's eyes flickered back to him for just a moment. It was enough. Takeru snapped out of his trance, ducking as the creature swung its spiked tail towards him. He didn't wait to find out the monster's next move. He leapt towards his brother, seized his arm, and pulled him back inside.
They ran for the front door. Takeru could hear the crashes following them through his uncle's small house. He ducked as an antique lamp went flying past his head. The monster hissed with rage as it skidded around a corner on the tatami floor. Takeru and Yamato reached the front door and tore out into the yard. The creature clawed at the door as it slammed shut behind them, its lethal claws slicing through it with ease. Takeru and Yamato ran for the stairs, taking them two at a time and praying they wouldn't fall.
From behind, Takeru heard the creature break through the door. There was a deafening crack and a long, jagged piece of it came flying from behind. Takeru saw it in the edge of his vision just seconds before it collided with his head. He fell, hitting the ground hard and rolling forwards. He somersaulted down the last few steps. Pain shot up his body from his knees to his head; black spots clouded his vision. Distantly, he was aware of Yamato yelling his name but he couldn't tell from where. He lay still, trying not to move.
"Takeru!" Yamato sounded a lot closer this time. Gingerly, Takeru turned his head towards him. Yamato was standing a few steps above him, wearing a look of utter horror. Takeru started to tell him that he was fine but the words refused to form. Instead, he tried to struggle to his feet but something swatted him back down with a powerful blow. This time he landed on his back and found himself staring up into two piercing red eyes.
Numbness crept through his body as he found himself once again unable to move. Almost as if in slow motion, the creature's claws reached down towards him. Takeru tried to flinch away but it was no use; his body just wasn't responding. He thought of Yamato's digivice, mere fragments now. An image of Patamon surface to his mind.
"No!" he shouted, kicking out as hard as he could. The creature recoiled backwards and Takeru seized the opportunity to scramble out from underneath it. The smell of its rotting flesh almost overpowered his senses. With an angry screech, the creature swiped after him, narrowly missing his cheek. Takeru stumbled backwards and then Yamato was there, wielding a long stick of wood that had once belonged to the front door. Roaring with fury, the creature lashed out. It knocked Yamato backwards.
"Niisan!" Takeru cried. Fear and anger welled up inside him. He balled his hands into fists but before he could so much as step forwards, the creature lunged at him, its claws snagging the D3 from his belt with startling precision. It shattered the D3 and the broken shards rained down upon the ground. Takeru stared in disbelief. His D3, his only physical connection to Patamon…gone. He'd never be able to go through the gate again.
The creature stiffened, its scarlet eyes narrowing as if it had heard something. With a snarl, it leapt over him and took off at an eerily graceful run. Takeru watched it go, feeling as if something was being ripped from him as it went. Then Yamato was at his side, his face shadowed with concern but Takeru shook him away, refusing to look him in the eye.
"Takeru, are you okay? Talk to me!" Yamato grabbed his shoulders. Takeru closed his eyes, trembling as he thought of Patamon. He'd been so close to seeing him again.
"We have to follow it," he announced, opening his eyes.
"What? No way. It almost killed you." Yamato shook his head.
"It might be a Digimon," Takeru tried to explain, his voice trembling slightly. He wasn't sure if he was making sense. "And if it is, maybe, it might be able to get back…"
Yamato was silent now, staring at him. Takeru could see it in his eyes; he was going to say no. He felt an unfamiliar wave of anger rise up within him. Didn't he see that every second they wasted allowed the creature to get even further away?
"Fine," Yamato said, surprising him completely. "We'll take the motorcycle." He walked to where they'd abandoned the vehicle and picked up Takeru's helmet from the ground. Wordlessly, he put it on his brother's head.
1) The Venus Fort is a shopping mall in Palette Town (an entertainment complex) styled after an 18th century South European town in Odaiba, Tokyo.
2) A very popular Japanese boy band (though the actual singers are grown men).
3) Yes, I'm trying to be funny.
4) "Inaka" means countryside or rural. Also, they are at their uncle's home instead of their grandmother's as I had originally written. This is because their grandmother lives in Shimane and I need to keep them close to Tokyo for the sake of the story.
5) "Niisan" is short for "Oniisan" which means older brother in Japanese.
Next Episode: No Place Safe- Four digivices have been destroyed. Four final links to the Digital World have been lost. With eight more remaining, what will become of the Digidestined? Seemingly random attacks wreck havoc in the city as strange new creatures stalk the city. Will the Digidestined be able to warn their friends in time, or will all be lost? Find out on the next episode of Digimon, Digital Monsters.