Episode 17: Temple of Crests (Part II)
"Man, I'm starving. I could eat a whole freaking ocean of ramen." Daisuke was leading the junior team back out into the woods. He had his hands behind his head as he walked, and despite his complaints, looked perfectly cheerful. Veemon knew that the revelation of the new crests had rejuvenated his spirits—however much Yamato claimed they didn't matter. Veemon could hardly contain his excitement himself, imagining what sort of Digimon he might become if Daisuke had a crest... Images of SuperRocketHandsomeVeemon meandered through his head.
"Daisuke-kun, I don't think even your stomach is that big," Hikari remarked.
"I don't know, Hikari-chan. Have you ever watched him eat?" Takeru asked.
"Ha ha, very funny," said Daisuke.
"But if Daisuke eats the ocean...what will happen to all the Digimon who live there?" Lopmon worried, walking slightly ahead of Wallace and looking quite concerned.
"Don't worry, it's just a figure of speech," Ken assured him.
"What's a figure of speech?" Armadillomon asked.
"In this case, an exaggeration."
"Yeah, when Daisuke says an ocean, he really means a moderately sized sea," Iori said.
The others chuckled as Daisuke turned around indignantly. "Hey! Actually... that's probably true," he conceded after a moment of thought, which made the others laugh harder.
Veemon grinned. He was overjoyed to be reunited with his friends, but he was even more ecstatic that they seemed to be getting along again. When he had first been restored from his corruption, at Piximon's castle and then during their trek through the woods, he had been worried that something was seriously wrong. The Digidestined had hardly spoken to each other and when they did, their comments were cold, hard, or sarcastic. Granted, they were all starving and exhausted, but Veemon had worried that it was something more... Something permanent.
But now... now they were behaving like the team he remembered. Almost at least. Maybe it was the fact that they had finally found the temple or maybe it was the promise of food and rest in the very near future. In any case, he was relieved. The last several years had been some of the worst in Veemon's young life and he was keen to make up for all the time that he had lost.
There was one person though, who seemed unmoved by Daisuke's cheerfulness. Wallace was following along quietly at the back of the group as they made their way to the beach. He was much older than the last time Veemon had seen him, and much graver somehow. Walking nearby but distinctly apart was Terriermon. Veemon had never seen him look so unhappy.
Veemon nudged Daisuke to point this out but his partner was now regaling the others with an anecdote about a literal mountain of takoyaki* he'd eaten one time at his school's culture festival. Without stopping to think about it, Veemon let himself fall back to the rear of the group.
"What's up?" he asked, matching his steps to Terriermon's and trying to sound casual.
Terriermon shot him a look loaded with suspicion.
"You, uh, having fun?" Veemon tried.
Terriermon was unimpressed. "What do you want?"
"Something to drink, a portion of Daisuke's sea-sized ramen, onigiri* from Miyako's family store, and fuzzy winter socks," Veemon answered promptly and without a hint of shame.
Terriermon looked as if he didn't know whether to laugh or to scowl. He settled for a blank stare and then eventually seemed to decide that the best thing was to ignore him altogether.
"So...what's eating you?" Veemon tried again, oblivious to this.
Terriermon said nothing.
"Something on your mind?"
Veemon shot Gatomon a surreptitious glance and dropped his voice: "Cat got your tongue?"
Terriermon was slowly changing colours. First pink, then red, and finally a magnificent shade of burgundy.
Lopmon, who was walking just ahead of them, had clearly been listening in on the conversation (or at least, Veemon's attempt at one). He let himself fall back and then sidled up next to Veemon. He prodded him in the back and whispered, "You shouldn't bother him. He's mad at me and Wallace."
This prompted Terriermon to speak at last.
"I'm not mad at you!" he blurted.
Lopmon looked horrified at being overheard but Veemon rushed to press his advantage.
"So you're mad at Wallace then?" he asked.
Terriermon looked mutinous. Veemon noticed that they were falling behind, the others rushing ahead to the beach which was now visible through the trees. Wallace was hovering awkwardly behind them, prevented from passing by the small cluster they had formed. His eyes were fixed on Terriermon. It was obvious that he had overheard them talking.
"So you're mad..." Veemon pressed, refusing to give up. Everyone else was finally getting along. He wanted these two to make up so that they could all be happy.
"Of course I'm mad," Terriermon finally gushed, letting loose his frustration. "We got sent back here while our partners got to go on living like nothing happened! You can't tell me that didn't upset you? And he, he never even came looking for us. He never tried to get back through the gate. He was so busy preparing for college before we left*... I bet he was happy to see us go. At first, when he didn't come, I even thought that he had planned for it to happen!"
Veemon and Lopmon were silent, taken aback by the force of his outburst.
Wallace was aghast. "Is that what you think? Terriermon—"
"We waited for you for years!" Terriermon shouted, looking to be on the verge of tears. Whether angry or upset tears, Veemon couldn't guess. He didn't know they could be both.
Wallace didn't look far off either. His face was contorted in an odd sort of grimace as he spoke, softer now: "Terriermon, I was miserable after you left. You have to believe that. I never wanted you to go. Never. What happened... I hardly understood myself at the time. I tried everything to get you back. I almost dropped out of prep school trying to find a way..."
"But you didn't," Terriermon guessed.
Correctly, Veemon thought, judging by Wallace's face.
"Of course he didn't," Daisuke answered. Veemon jumped. He hadn't heard Daisuke come back to see what had become of them. "We all moved on. What else could we do? We had nothing, and I mean nothing to go on. What I did... well, it's way worse than that..."
"What are you talking about?" Wallace asked, bemused. The others were watching him curiously too, Veemon included. This was a story that he hadn't heard before.
Daisuke heaved a big breath. "I...I tried to get rid of my D-3. My d-terminal, my goggles, everything. I thought we were really done for, you know? And it sucked so bad to keep holding on...so I gave up," he concluded, looking for all the world as if this was a simple matter.
Veemon stared at him, unable to conceal his horror for a moment. Daisuke had almost gotten rid of his D-3, his only link to him. But then reason caught up with emotion. Of course Daisuke wasn't being serious. He was just trying to get Wallace and Terriermon to reconcile...
Veemon stepped towards his partner. He patted his knee. "It's okay. I get it..."
Lopmon burst into tears. "You see," he sobbed to his brother. "He understands!"
Terriermon looked uncomfortable. A trace of obstinacy remained in his face, but it began to fade as Daisuke fell to his knees and enveloped Veemon in a suffocating hug.
"What are you...hey...okay...I didn't mean that..." Terriermon struggled for words as he watched Daisuke hold onto Veemon in a (purposely) over-dramatic fit of emotion.
"Terriermon, I would have sold my soul to get you back. Daisuke is wrong. I did do something as bad, worse even. I, er... I gave up my digivice to get here. To get back to you."
"You what?" Terriermon yelped, looking startled by his partner's confession.
Wallace knelt down. "I had to. Please understand. I had to see you both again..."
"Wallace, how could you be so stupid?" Terriermon demanded. "To who? When?"
Looking desperate, Wallace gave him a quick version of the story. "There hasn't been a day where I haven't thought of you two," he said after explaining. "Where I haven't tried to think of some way to get you back. When the opportunity came up...well, how could I say no?"
"Terriermon, please." Wallace closed his eyes. "Believe me."
Terriermon stared, his eyes filled with an unreadable emotion. For a moment, Veemon thought that he was going to slap Wallace. The seconds passed by slowly, seeming to stretch into an eternity. But at last, Terriermon nodded ever so slightly. "I do," he whispered.
If Veemon hadn't been watching intently from Daisuke's choke hold on him, the moment would have been almost imperceptible. But it happened. Wallace's expression relaxed as the two of them held eye contact... Finally, Terriermon glanced at the ground, looking abashed.
Daisuke leapt back to his feet, releasing Veemon. "See that wasn't so bad, was it?"
Both Terriermon and Wallace looked startled.
"That was quick," Wallace remarked.
"Are you surprised?" Daisuke grinned.
Wallace's answering smile was small but genuine. "Not really."
"Come on, we better hurry or the others will eat all the food," Terriermon said, clearly trying to hide his emotions. But he glanced back to give Wallace a tentative smile as he went.
"We're not supposed to eat it! We're supposed to bring it back!" Lopmon cried, rushing after his brother. He grabbed Wallace's hand and tugged him along with him. "Come on!"
"Okay, okay, I'm coming!" Wallace laughed.
Daisuke and Veemon were left standing alone in the trees. The two of them stared after Wallace and his partners for a moment before meeting each other's eyes.
"Nice acting. That was quick thinking back there," Veemon congratulated him.
Daisuke's smile faded. He looked confused. "What? When was I acting?"
"You mean you...the D-3..." Veemon couldn't go on, spluttering in his horror.
"Almost!" Daisuke defended himself. "I didn't actually do it!"
Armadillomon couldn't help smiling as they carried their load back to the temple. They had been lucky. In addition to the clams they had unearthed from the sand (Armadillomon was especially efficient at digging them up) and the fish Gatomon and Hawkmon had managed to catch from the ocean, they had stumbled through a patch of strawberries when Veemon and Daisuke had taken off with Takeru's hat. It seemed that after all the bad luck that had shadowed them until this point, a ray of good fortune had finally managed to break through the clouds.
The lift in their moods was practically tangible.
As they walked, Takeru examined a stain which had appeared on the brim of his hat.
"Relax dude, it will wash out," Daisuke said, patting him heartily on the back.
"Daisuke-kun, do me a favour. Don't touch my hat," was Takeru's only reply as he staggered forward a few steps under Daisuke's blows. But he was smiling as he said it.
"Yeah, it'd be like if someone took your goggles," Wallace said, appearing suddenly behind Daisuke and seizing the article in question from his head. He took off running.
"Hey!" Daisuke protested, shoving his vest—in which his share of strawberries was suspended—into Veemon's arms. He darted off after Wallace into the bushes.
Hikari shook her head even as she giggled. "Boys."
"It's nice to be able to laugh again," Iori observed, also smiling.
Armadillomon nodded. "It's been a long time."
"A long, long time," Hawkmon agreed.
"We're not out of the woods yet," Ken reminded them.
"Oh Ken-kun, don't be such a spoil sport," Miyako complained, in a vastly better mood now that she had copious amounts of strawberries in her stomach. Unusually bold, she stepped forward and snagged Ken's arm with her own, shooting Hikari a conspiratorial look as she did.
Catching on with a grin, Hikari nodded and copied this action on his other side. "The sun is shining, we have tons of food, and we've finally found that darn temple," she said brightly.
Ken looked lost as the girls frogmarched him forwards.
Daisuke and Wallace burst back through the trees up ahead of them. Daisuke was red-faced and sweating with his goggles clutched in one hand. His eyes widened when he saw Ken stumbling along and mumbling protests between a much amused Miyako and Hikari.
"Hey Ken-kun, quit stealing all the ladies!" he protested in mock outrage.
Ken immediately flushed pink.
"Why? You're not jealous, are you Daisuke-kun?" Miyako teased.
Daisuke made a face and stuck his tongue out. "Not of you."
There was an awkward pause. Miyako didn't look like she knew whether or not to be offended. Iori coughed awkwardly into his arm. Takeru had stopped walking.
Hikari quickly deflected it by crossing her arms and stating, "No one's stealing anyone, Daisuke-kun. We're at perfect liberty to choose whoever we like, you know."
Wallace looked between the lot of them, clearly sensing the tension. In a light-hearted, mischievous tone he asked, "And who would you pick if you had to choose right now?"
Hikari didn't bat an eye as she met his gaze evenly. "Patamon of course," she answered, snatching him out of the air. Patamon erupted into laughter as she tickled him.
The atmosphere grew relaxed again, but Armadillomon couldn't help notice how quickly Miyako dropped Ken's arm after that or the pink tinge in Daisuke's cheeks.
Humans could be so strange sometimes.
Keeping up a light banter, the group of them settled back into step on their way back to the temple. Armadillomon walked happily between Iori and Gatomon, listening to Wallace and Daisuke argue about which American and Japanese actresses were "hottest" and the occasional interruptions from Hikari and Miyako accusing them of being sexist and juvenile. For his part, Armadillomon just couldn't understand why anyone would care what temperature a girl was...
He was too busy pondering this to notice that one of their team members, now freed, had fallen to the back of the group, lagging behind as he walked unnoticed in the shadows.
"What's the matter, Ken?" Wormmon asked. The two were walking slowly, several yards now behind the rest of the group. Ken's arms were laden with his share of the food while Wormmon was determinedly pulling a load of strawberries along on an over-sized leaf. The pink glow had faded from Ken's cheeks, leaving his face wan and pale beneath the shadows.
"Nothing." Ken's tone matched his expression in its flatness. Only his eyes betrayed him. A distant, vaguely troubled expression lurked there. Wormmon knew it only all too well.
He frowned as a familiar sense of helplessness flooded through him. It was an emotion he had experienced many times before—when Ken was the emperor and afterwards, when he had repented for what he had done. Wormmon had been unable to get through to him then. To help him. And now he had the sense Ken was heading back to that same, unreachable place.
"Is it the Ocean?" Wormmon almost whispered.
Ken stopped, glancing at him with surprise. His expression softened just a smidge. "No," he said, and his tone was too candid to be untrue. But then he hesitated.
"What is it, Ken?" Wormmon asked.
"Actually...I don't know... I suppose it could be. It plays on your emotions, right? The Ocean? Maybe that's why..." he trailed off, leaving Wormmon in even greater despair.
"Why, what?" Wormmon pressed, terrified of being shut out.
To his surprise, Ken looked embarrassed. "It's nothing," he muttered.
He began to walk again.
Up ahead, Daisuke howled in outrage as Wallace flicked a strawberry at his ear. Ken's face was stony as he neatly dodged the pine cone Daisuke sent hurling back at Wallace in reply.
"Is that how you aim? No wonder you play soccer," Wallace taunted.
"I'll show you aim." Daisuke muttered, collecting a handful of mud from the ground.
Wallace quickly took shelter behind Miyako who squealed with protest. The others laughed.
Suddenly, it clicked.
"Is nothing's name Daisuke?" Wormmon asked shrewdly, studying Ken's face.
Sure enough, he winced.
"Of course not," Ken lied.
"Ken, you know you can tell me," Wormmon said, longing for his confidence. It had taken Ken so long to come to trust him in the first place, to come to confide in him. Wormmon dreaded the thought that all these years apart had taken them back to square one.
Ken was quiet for a moment. "It's stupid," he admitted, keeping his eyes ahead.
"Tell me anyway."
Ken sighed. "It's just...I guess I keep expecting things to be like they used to be. And they are. At least, it's getting better I think. For everyone else anyway. Daisuke..."
"You're still his best friend, Ken," Wormmon said gently.
"Yeah...I guess...I said it was stupid."
"You're not. This is called..."
"Jealousy," Ken supplied, sounding troubled.
The two of them watched Wallace for a moment as he flirted with the girls to Daisuke's obvious annoyance. Ken's mouth turned downwards as the two bickered back and forth.
Wormmon tried to think of something to comfort his partner, but he was at a loss. "We could find a cave and lock him inside it," he suggested with a weak attempt at humour. Comedy never had been his strong point, whereas it came so easily to others, like Veemon or Agumon.
But Ken laughed. Just a quiet chortle, but a laugh nonetheless. Wormmon's heart swelled with joy. "No, don't you go assaulting anyone. I'll figure it out," Ken told him.
"You're a good person, Ken," Wormmon reminded his partner.
Ken smiled faintly but did not answer.
Having exhausted every nook and corner in and out of the temple for clues, the eldest Digidestined and their Digimon sat on the topmost steps looking out onto the forest. The temple doors hung open behind them. Gabumon couldn't help glancing at them every few seconds—like the entranceway was a gaping mouth poised to swallow them whole. There was something undeniably eerie about this place. He could feel it in his fur. An ancient aura surrounded the temple and the stone from which it was hewn seemed to hum with an old power. But something felt off about it. The energy didn't feel quite right—like it had been recently disturbed.
"I don't think we should stay here," Jou said, stating what Gabumon was sure they were all feeling. "There's obviously not anything here. And this place gives me the creeps."
"Everything gives you the creeps," Gomamon pointed out.
"But how can we know we're not missing something?" Sora asked, frowning as she sat with her arms wrapped around her legs. "Maybe it's something really obvious and we—"
"But we've looked everywhere," Taichi insisted, though he too looked troubled. "You would think that if something was here that we were meant to find, we'd be able to find it."
"When has anything here ever been that easy?" Koushirou asked, exasperated.
But Yamato was in agreement with Taichi. "It's always been possible though."
"Maybe Piximon was lying," Palmon suggested.
Sora shook her head. "That doesn't make sense. He had just... Look at what he did for us. Why would he do that and then send us off on a wild goose chase?"
A troubled silence met her words.
"Well...are we sure it's not the new crest symbols?" Mimi asked after a moment.
"I don't see how it could be. What are we supposed to make of them?" Taichi said. "Daisuke and the others tried seeing if they'd react to them. Heck, even we gave it a shot after."
"For all we know, they're just carvings in a wall," Jou agreed.
"They're not just carvings—" Tentomon began to protest but Koushirou cut him off.
"I don't think it's the symbols we're meant to find. There has to be something else. Piximon said that we would find answers here, but so far we've only found more questions..."
"Yeah, but where else can we look?" Sora asked, leaning back on her elbows in frustration. Beside her, Biyomon ruffled her feathers looking equally discontented.
No one had an answer.
"Well, I agree that we shouldn't stay here," Taichi said after a pause. He glanced back inside the temple and gave a little shudder. "This place does feel pretty creepy."
"What's this? Is our fearless leader feeling a pang of—"
"Can it, Yamato."
"But if we haven't found the message yet..." Tentomon began.
"I think they're right," Koushirou told his partner. "I think we should stay outside the temple. But we should keep close. There's something for us to find here, I'm sure of it..."
"We just need some time to figure out what it is," Jou sighed, looking resigned.
"You do realize that time's not really a luxury we have," Yamato pointed out.
"True, but do you have any better suggestions?" Koushirou asked.
"We could go back to File Island," Mimi suggested hopefully. "Leomon could help."
"Yeah, cause travelling across the sea worked so well the first time..." Taichi remarked.
"Well I don't hear you coming up with any better ideas!" Mimi snapped.
"I'm with Koushirou. I think we should stay close to the Temple."
Mimi crossed her arms and looking inquiringly at the rest of them.
"Staying," said Yamato.
"Sorry Mimi-chan, but I just think it's too dangerous to go back now and Leomon probably doesn't know anything or he would have already told us," Sora apologized.
"And what about you?" Mimi demanded of Jou.
Jou looked flustered at being put on the spot.
"Spit it out Jou," Taichi and Yamato said in unison.
Jou hung his head. "I'm staying."
"That settles it then," Taichi said. "We should set up a camp."
Sora smiled faintly with nostalgia. "Almost like old times, isn't it?"
"Not at all," Yamato finished for Taichi.
There was a brief moment in which they were all quiet.
"We let things go too far, didn't we?" Mimi asked sadly.
"Well, what we went through..."
"It's over though, isn't it?" Taichi interrupted Jou. "We're back."
"Yeah...like forever..." Jou muttered in an undertone.
"Is it really that easy for you?" Yamato asked skeptically.
Taichi's tone was completely transparent. "Yes."
The others looked uncertain. But Mimi nodded her agreement.
"We never should have let it happen," she said.
Sora looked worried. "Who's to say it won't happen again?"
"No one, but we can hope," Jou said simply.
"So that's it then?" Yamato asked. "We just forgive and forget?"
"What's to forgive?" Taichi smiled, ignoring Agumon as he tugged on his elbow.
"But we shouldn't forget," Sora answered. "If we want to learn from this."
"Koushirou," Tentomon called, hovering behind his head.
"No," the others agreed.
"Hey guys?" Gomamon interrupted. "I see Daisuke and the others...and they have..."
The Digidestined's heads whipped around as the other Digimon bounded to their feet.
After the food had been scarfed down (which took a record six and a half minutes—Miyako counted because she and Daisuke had made a bet about how long it would take*) the Digidestined and their partners set about making a camp. They chose a spot not far from the temple, away from the clearing which was too open for comfort and far enough into the trees that they were well clear of the temple's invisible barrier. Koushirou took care to mark the perimeter with stones as they left it behind. This way, they would be able to recognize it on their return.
Hawkmon took to the air while the others attempted to build a fire and construct a shelter. He, Patamon, and Biyomon had been asked to locate the nearest source of water since the last creek they had passed was at least a forty minute walk and the ocean saltwater was unsuitable.
As he flew, he marvelled about how much better he felt now that he had some food in his belly. He'd had a miserable time in the forest the night before. Ever since the taint of the corruption had touched him, he'd been feeling off. There had been a permanent sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and as hard as he'd tried, he just couldn't get warm. Miyako had saved him, but she couldn't make him forget how it had felt to have such darkness growing inside...
Even now the feeling haunted him. There was no good in dwelling on it, he told himself. He ought to focus on the task at hand or dehydration would be their next crisis. They were all getting along much better now that they had eaten. But it wouldn't last if they didn't drink.
He coasted to the left, realizing that he was straying too far from the camp, and headed back in the general direction of the temple. Though still shrouded, the barrier flickered every ten or so minutes, allowing him a brief glimpse of the tall stone structure. Each time he saw it, a queer feeling gripped him. The temple was so ancient; he couldn't fathom how long it had been standing for. He thought of the crest symbols inside and felt a twinge of longing that one might belong to Miyako. Almost all of the other Digimon had reached their ultimate forms...
What would his be like, if he could reach it?
He had to remind himself that without the digivices, even a crest would be insufficient to make him digivolve to the next level. And that posed a whole new problem in itself. Even if they did find the answers Piximon had promised them...even if they did figure out the identity of their new enemy...what were they supposed to do about it? They could hardly fight as rookies.
He was contemplating this dilemma when a cold wind rushed at him from the direction of the temple, slipping under his feathers and forcing him to spiral dangerously through the air. Startled, he flapped his wings and shot upwards until he was above the current. That was odd, he thought, heart racing as he looked around. But though the sky was grey and hazy, there were no clouds in sight. No storms marred the horizon. The day wasn't even windy... And though the Digital World was permanently chilly these days, that gust had been downright glacial...
Hawkmon felt his feathers stand on end. All that thought about the corruption...he was probably getting paranoid. There was no way the worlds could be merging this fast, not after their recent victory (little though it was). Still, he supposed he should tell the others...
Adjusting his course, he headed back towards the camp.
Hawkmon, Biyomon, and Patamon may have wings and the wondrous power of flight, but it was not they who discovered the spring of eternal life. No, it was not them, but he. He, who was so often overlooked as only a source of great comedic talent, who discovered it—the veritable pool of their survival. Thanks to him, they would have water to drink. Thanks to him, they would live. Gomamon wasted no time in relaying this triumph to Mimi, Jou, and Palmon as he led to them back to the small pool he had discovered. He was still feeling wounded from Gatomon's suggestion that he "supervise" when they were handing out tasks at camp.
"Gomamon, are you sure it's this way?" Mimi asked, ducking to avoid an intricate spider web strung out in the branches above her. "I feel like we're heading back towards the temple."
"That's because we are," Jou said, pointing to the row of rocks which Koushirou had left.
"Yes, I'm sure," Gomamon replied impatiently, annoyed at being cut off in the middle of his rant about how no one had looked to him, the only marine Digimon, to search for water.
"It's around this way," he said, leading them around the perimeter of the temple to a patch of particularly thick trees they had not been able to penetrate during their earlier search. Gomamon rapped his fin triumphantly against the bark of one of the trees. "Here we are!"
"Er, are you sure there's water here?" Palmon asked, creeping closer for a better look.
Gomamon sighed with the air of someone speaking to especially slow children. "Look."
With his fins, he pushed back some of the branches from the bushes growing thickly around the base of the trees. As he did so, the others gasped. There, behind all the bramble, was a narrow pathway leading into the dense grove. Gomamon flashed them a cocky smile.
Jou was astonished. "How did you even find this?"
"I can hear the water," he replied. "Duh."
Jou and Mimi traded a look. Humans and their weak hearing, Gomamon thought, shaking his head. He bent the branches back even further so that he could slip inside the opening.
"Are you coming or what?"
"All right, all right, hold your Pegasusmon," Palmon replied, scrambling in after him.
"You know, I don't know if this fits my definition of convenient," Jou remarked as he and Mimi sidestepped down the passage after their Digimon. The shrubbery snatched at his clothes as he passed and twice his glasses were knocked askew by low hanging branches.
"Well, at least it's close...oh wow!" Mimi gasped as they reached the end of the path.
Gomamon beamed as they stepped out into the small clearing. The trees encircling them grew so densely together that they appeared to form a solid wall. Above, their branches blocked out most of the sky so that only a small circle of sunlight could enter from overtop. A beautiful lacework of shadows lay across the ground. And bubbling up the center of this clearing was a small pool. The water was crystal clear with beautiful, smooth stones lying beneath the surface.
"It's beautiful," Mimi breathed, kneeling next to it.
"I know!" Gomamon splashed into the water, ruining the glassy surface.
Mimi squealed with protest as the water splattered over her clothes. "Gomamon!"
"Sorry!" But his cheeky grin wasn't apologetic at all.
Jou got to his knees. "I almost feel bad to use it," he said. "It's so peaceful here.
"What's the matter, Palmon?" Mimi asked, glancing back at her partner who was still hovering at the entrance to the clearing. She was wearing a strange look on her face.
"This place has an odd feel to it," she remarked.
"What do you mean?" Mimi asked.
"I mean that this feels deliberate. See how close these trees grew together? And those stones lying at the bottom of the pool? It's too perfect. It's not natural," she explained.
"Well, maybe the temple had a garden back in the day," Mimi shrugged "It's close enough to be part of it. In fact, I bet the temple is just on the other side of these trees..."
"No, these trees are much older than that building," Jou observed, getting back to his feet. He walked around the perimeter of the grove, frowning. "Hey, what if this is where—"
"ARGH!" Gomamon had been gliding through the water, diving beneath the surface where it grew deep before surfacing to float blissfully on his back. But this time, when he came up from a dive, it wasn't through his own volition. A powerful jet blasted him up and out.
He landed hard at the ground at Jou's feet.
"There's something in the water!"
But they hardly needed Gomamon's explanation, for a strange thing was now happening to the pool. The surface had erupted in bubbles; it looked almost as though it were boiling. And a light had appeared at its center. The four of them huddled against the trees, too afraid to move closer but too stunned to run either. They watched as the light grew stronger and stronger until they could hardly keep their eyes open and then suddenly it flashed and went out.
"I'm blind! I can't see!" Jou cried.
"Is everything all right? What happened?" There was a great thrashing noise and Taichi stumbled into the grove, having forced his way through the trees. He was bleeding from numerous cuts on his arms and legs. The others stumbled in through the passage way after him. There were so many of them crammed into the small space that it left them little room to move.
"Hawkmon said he felt a strange wind so we came looking for you to warn you just in case when we saw that light and—" Miyako stopped dead, staring straight ahead of her.
Gomamon's vision, annihilated by the flash, was finally returning. He squinted in the direction everyone was staring and saw only the pool. But something had changed about it. His mouth fell open. Because looking back at him from the surface of the water was...
"Gennai!" Koushirou exclaimed.
"It's nice to see you children again," the reflection of the old man remarked, the lines of his wrinkled face crinkling into a slight smile. "Not that you're children anymore, I expect."
Terriermon edged closer to the edge of the water and peered down curiously. The surface of the pool was velvet smooth again with only the image of the strange man suspended across it. He glanced up, where the man should be according to his reflection, but there was nothing there.
"What are you—"
"How are you—"
"You're old again," Taichi observed while the others struggled to find words.
Koushirou shot him a scathing look. "Of all the things to say—"
"Yes," Gennai interrupted. "The powers which kept me youthful are waning. As you have no doubt discovered by now. I imagine I'll have aged even more by the time you find this."
"By the time...do you mean that this is just a message?" Takeru asked.
"Yes, it's a holograph. Look!" Sora pointed at the bottom of the pool. There, cleverly camaflouged amongst the rocks, was a strange, glass-like orb. Squinting, Terriermon could just make out a much smaller duplicate of Gennai's face reflecting from inside the core.
"So you're still not back," Jou stated, looking crestfallen.
Gennai shook his head. "I recorded this for you before I left. I was sure to tell a few trusted friends that you should come to the temple if they encountered you. Sorry about all the run around but I had to make sure I didn't hide this anywhere where someone might find it. And inside the temple was too obvious. I'm relieved you managed to find the place okay."
"Barely," Taichi said dryly, rubbing a long scratch on his forearm.
"A few trusted friends," Mimi repeated softly, stuck on these words.
"Piximon," Hikari stated quietly.
"He was one," Gennai agreed.
"Fat load of help—"
"You knew we'd come back then," Ken cut off Daisuke.
"I hoped," Gennai corrected him.
"So then..." Koushirou began.
"What are you doing?"
"Who's our new enemy?"
"How much time do we have left?"
"What is this place?"
"Where are you?"
"Leomon said we can't ever go back to our own world."
"Our digivices self-destructed!"
Koushirou scowled as the others cut him off with a barrage of questions. Terriermon could sense his impatience as Gennai listened to the others' explosion of queries.
"Children, or Chosen rather," the reflection finally said, raising his hands. "I can't speak to your present circumstances, but I imagine we have only so much time. We must be quick..."
Koushirou raised an eyebrow, seeking permission to speak. Taichi looked sheepish as he inclined his head deferentially. "Erm, maybe Koushirou-kun should take the lead here..."
The others turned to him expectantly.
Koushirou took a deep breath. "What is this place?"
The reflection of Gennai nodded. Obviously, he thought it was a good first question to answer. Terriermon wondered if he'd anticipated the Digidestined's questions and recorded a set of possible explanations for them. This holographic messaging thing was bizarre.
"This is the Sacred Looking Pool. It is older than almost anything in our world, myself and the Sovereigns included. In fact, it was they who discovered this place, back when they were not yet the Sovereigns. They looked into the pool and they saw the future of this world. At least, the future as it was then. Time is an ever changing thing, you see. But the Sovereigns looked into this pool and they saw the evils that would plague this world, and they also saw the heroes who would come to save it. In order to aid them, they called upon those qualities they deemed most important for protecting this world. They made twelve crests to embody these qualities and then built a temple next to the pool to house them. This is, as you have no doubt discovered by now, Kiryoku-ji or perhaps as it is better known, The Temple of Crests," Gennai explained.
"Twelve," Yamato repeated.
"That would include our eight crests," Jou counted.
"Plus Ken-kun's," Sora added.
"Then there are three remaining..."
Daisuke and Veemon looked fit to burst. Even Miyako and Iori were unusually still, their Digimon unable to conceal the hope in their faces. Terriermon glanced back at Wallace.
He was staring at the ground.
"The three remaining—loyalty, compassion, and wisdom—were the crests that would have naturally been assigned to Daisuke, Miyako, and Iori had the need arisen," Gennai said.
"Whose is whose?" Miyako asked eagerly.
"Daisuke's would have been loyalty, Miyako's compassion, and Iori's wisdom."
Daisuke looked perplexed but pleased. "Loyalty?" he asked, sounding as if he were testing the sound of it on his tongue. "And here I thought it would have been pure bullheadness."
"You and me both," Ken muttered.
Taichi was frowning. "What do you mean, had the need arisen?"
"The crest powers are dormant now. They were given to you for a time to use, but when you gave them up, they were entombed here to secure our world once more."
"And they were never needed when the others joined the team," Koushirou surmised.
"Are you kidding? Do you know how frigging helpful that—" Daisuke began.
"It's not so much that they weren't needed," Gennai interrupted. "But the security of the Digital World was too fragile with the Destiny Stones being destroyed. We couldn't risk it."
Daisuke scowled but didn't seem able to come up with an argument to counter.
Lopmon cleared his throat nervously. "What about Wallace? What about his crest?"
There was an awkward silence as the others glanced back to where Wallace was standing in silence, trying to look as if none of this bothered him. But Terriermon knew him too well.
The reflection of Gennai stalled.
"Well?" Daisuke pressed, looking anxious.
"I'm afraid I cannot answer that," Gennai said.
Colour appeared in Wallace's cheeks.
"He didn't record an answer for that," Koushirou realized, speaking slowly as the revelation hit him. "He didn't realize that this could or would happen. He really can't answer."
Terriermon's stomach dropped. Did that mean that Wallace wasn't supposed to be here? That he didn't have a crest? Maybe he wasn't even supposed to be a Digidestined. Maybe...
"Look, it doesn't necessarily mean anything," Yamato said impatiently. "Wallace-kun, for all we know there's a separate temple somewhere for the Digidestined from America..."
"We don't have time for this, okay?" Yamato cut him off, brusque but not unkind. He shot an anxious look at the pool where Gennai was waiting. "We don't know how much time we have and there's still a lot that we have to ask. This is crucial. We'll figure your crest out later."
Wallace's mouth pressed itself into a firm line but he did not object. Terriermon felt a rush of anger on his partner's behalf but all the others were already turning back towards the pool. There was a certain sense of urgency in the air. Maybe Gennai's message was timed, Terriermon thought. What would happen if they didn't get the answers that they needed...?
"So how come the crest powers aren't working now?" Sora asked. "Leomon told us about how the worlds are converging. And about this new enemy that's trying to rule them all..."
"Yes," Gennai nodded. "I was able to explain this all to Leomon before I departed. I hoped you would be able to return some day and that he would be able to explain this to you. I was not sure that I would have returned by then. Clearly, I haven't." He paused for a moment. "The power of your crests is not enough to hold the coalescence at bay, though I'm afraid it is one of the few things preventing the worlds from merging at this very moment. The destiny stones have failed and the Sovereigns are much weakened. They may have even died by now."
"What?" the Digidestined yelped.
"That can happen?" Gatomon demanded.
"But they can't..." Mimi couldn't continue.
"I do not know their fate. What I do know is that they can no longer be counted on as a defense of this world," Gennai interrupted gravely as his image rippled in the cool breeze.
"But that leaves..."
"...practically nothing," Sora finished for Taichi.
"Now you understand the seriousness of our situation," Gennai said.
"But then where are you?" Daisuke burst out angrily. "You should be here helping. Do you even know what's been going on while you've been away? Primary Village is a graveyard, Piximon had become some evil tyrant—he's dead now—and Digimon are getting sick..."
"I," Gennai said as if he couldn't hear Daisuke, which Terriermon reminded himself, he probably couldn't (being a holograph after all). "I am investigating a possible solution. It won't be easy and it is only a faint hope, but it is something I would like to try... I can only ask that you delay the coalescence for as long as possible until I can get back. If it's not already too late."
The image of Gennai was flickering. The message must be reaching its end, Terriermon thought. He shivered. It was getting cold beneath the shadows of this little grove.
"That's it?" Yamato looked outraged. "Just wait for you and sit pretty?"
"It may be our only hope," Gennai answered.
The Digidestined burst into a flurry of panicked questions as the holograph stone flickered, threatening to take away their only guidance—their last chance for answers.
"But how can we delay it?" Mimi despaired. "We don't even have our digivices!"
"Who is our enemy?" Taichi asked, face blazing with desperate determination.
"What's the solution, Gennai?" Koushirou asked. "What are you—"
The image of Gennai evaporated from the water.
Taichi swore and kicked the ground. But before he could do anything else, a shadow appeared above them, blocking out the only light from the opening overhead. Terriermon glanced up and a cold, rotting scent assaulted his senses. Two scarlet eyes glared back at him.
There was no time to absorb Gennai's disappearance. No time to think. As the Demon hissed above them, the world descended into a hellish blur of chaos and noise.
"RUN!" Agumon shouted, shoving Miyako towards the exit as the others stampeded out of the grove in a mass of confused shouts and tangled limbs. Above them, the Demon slashed at the tree tops, trying to find a way in. Two others joined in, causing severed branches and leaves to rain upon the Chosen as they scrambled to escape. Agumon swung his head around as he reached the exit behind the others. He could feel the clammy breath of the Demon on his neck...
One of the creatures screeched with dismay as it received a faceful of fire. Agumon didn't wait to see what would happen. He threw himself after the others, feeling the branches tear at him along the narrow passageway until... He stumbled back out into the open. Heart pounding, he recaptured his balance and looked around. The others were all clustered around him, their faces frozen in perfect expressions of horror. Agumon let his gaze travel to the surrounding trees.
Several blazing pairs of red eyes blinked back at him.
"You better get back," Daisuke warned them, taking a threatening step forward with Veemon at his side. "We're not alone this time and we're prepared to kick your asses!"
The Demons cackled their odd, hissing laugh. The sound made Agumon's stomach turn. He looked from left to right, searching for an escape. But the creatures had them surrounded. Just through the trees, he could make out the steps of the temple. The barrier had finally given out.
Taichi reached out and snatched Daisuke's arm. Roughly, he wrenched him back towards the group and stepped forwards to take his place. Agumon caught his eye for just a split second and nodded his head ever so slightly at the nearest Demon. But Taichi shook his head.
"What are you waiting for?" he shouted at them. "What do you want from us?"
The Demons didn't answer. They only leered, their glowing red eyes and markings the only bright things in the shadows. Agumon swallowed, feeling his pepper breath burning at the ready inside his throat. But they were hopelessly outnumbered if it came to a fight (and he couldn't see how it wouldn't). As rookies, they stood virtually no chance. They would be killed.
Or worse, corrupted.
"Answer me!" Taichi demanded, his voice cracking under the tension.
Out of nowhere, Hikari let out a dreadful gasp. Agumon's head snapped around to look where she was staring. Her gaze was focused on the steps of the temple. No, not the steps, he realized as cold fear flooded into his stomach. But the shadowy shape descending down them...
The air, already very cold, seemed to drop another ten degrees. Agumon could see the breath steaming from his nostrils, though he hardly dared to breath. Fear held him in place as the apparition's shape billowed before taking a solid form. A form which was vaguely familiar...
"Dragomon," Gatomon breathed in horror.
"No," the Digimon disagreed. "I'm PhantomDragomon now."
The others' eyes widened with horrified realization. Dragomon... Lord of the Dark Ocean... Who'd once tried to kidnap Hikari. Agumon took in his altered appearance, noting how his size had grown. The wide leathery wings fixed to his back had expanded in length. And several new blades had been added to his adornment. An arsenal of knives hung at his shoulder, very near the blood red gills flashing at his neck. In his hand, he held an ornate trident.
PhantomDragomon seemed pleased by his reception. His mouth spread into a vile grin. "You see," he hissed softly, addressing Taichi. "It's more about what I want. They serve me."
"You," Taichi muttered, his hands curling into fists. "We should have known."
PhantomDragomon nodded in agreement. "I'm surprised you haven't guessed. You never should have left me to dwell in the Dark Ocean. Defeated maybe, but never vanquished..."
"Foolssss," the Demons hissed from around them.
"Then it's you," Ken said weakly. "You're the one who made the Demons, who sent them here to corrupt the Digimon and to our world to destroy our digivices. The coalescence..."
"Yes, foolish humans. It was all me," PhantomDragomon whispered. His eyes travelled over the lot of them, poised to fight despite their terror, and his amusement seemed to fade. His expression hardened. "You've been interfering with my plans though. My Demons tried to stop you from coming back but you slipped through anyway. Piximon...he was a good servant..."
"He was never yours," Mimi said fiercely.
"He was," PhantomDragomon replied. "And soon you will all be."
"We won't let you get away with this," Daisuke vowed.
"We can stop you," Wallace agreed.
"We've already found a way to reverse the corruption," Miyako said.
PhantomDragomon's eyes glinted dangerously. When he spoke, there was no longer any trace of indulgence there. Agumon knew that he was finished playing games with them. "An oversight," he remarked. "It won't happen again. However, you have cost me valuable time..."
"Punisssssh them," the Demons hissed. Their whispers rebounded through the trees.
PhantomDragomon nodded. "You won't get in my way again. But it seems such a shame to kill such talented potential servants. I have a better idea instead." And raising his great grotesque hands above his head, he formed a black orb of energy between then. The sphere spun wildly as tiny rivulets of white electricity spiralled around it. As it grew in size, the very air seemed to thrum with energy. Agumon tensed, fearing what was about to happen...
"Veemon, no!" Daisuke cried as his partner threw himself at PhantomDragomon. But his concern was useless. Veemon was propelled backwards by a force field generated by the orb. PhantomDragomon did not flinch, but only narrowed his eyes at Veemon's attempt.
"What is he—"
Jou didn't get a chance to finish his question. A deafening crack split the air. Behind PhantomDragomon, the staircase to the temple had split suddenly down the middle.
"No!" the Digidestined and Digimon cried in unison.
But it was already too late. From that single crack, others began to appear. They spread along the steps, climbing higher and higher in an intricate web until it looked as if the entire building as been constructed from tiny little pieces and fixed together with glue.
The earth began to shake.
There was nothing they could do as the temple began to crumble. A few small pieces trickled away first and then in one great wave, thousands of pounds of stone hurtled to the earth. The rumble drowned out all else. Agumon's instincts urged him to run, but PhantomDragomon's ball of energy seemed to prevent the stone from burying them alive. Finally, it stopped.
Where the temple had stood, now only a mountain of rubble remained. Thick white dust hovered in the air, slipping down Agumon's throat and threatening to suffocate him. Some of the others were coughing; Palmon and Lopmon were actually weeping. But Taichi was furious.
He opened his mouth to speak, but PhantomDragomon wasn't finished.
The orb between his hands was now the size of a beach ball. It crackled with electricity, spinning ever faster. And from the rubble, several orbs of light shot towards it. They streamed towards PhantomDragomon, surrounding him like ribbons cutting and dancing through the air. Orange for courage, blue for friendship, red for love, purple for knowledge, grey for reliability, green for sincerity, yellow for hope, pink for light, violet for kindness, russet for loyalty, magenta for compassion, and teal for wisdom. They engulfed him in a swirling mess of colour.
Then suddenly the lights glowed black and rocketed in all directions.
"What the—" Daisuke's mouth fell open.
"What did he do?" Miyako whimpered.
PhantomDragomon lowered his arms—the orb of energy vanishing with this gesture—and leered down at them as the lights shot off into the distance. "You should thank me," he said in a voice that was as smooth as silk. "I've just released the power of your crests."
"But the worlds..." Takeru gasped. "The last defense..."
"It will not take long now," PhantomDragomon said with obvious satisfaction. "Soon, all the worlds will be mine and you will be my greatest slaves. Collect your powers, if you can. I've sent them for safekeeping to some old friends of yours. You'll be pleased to know I kept their digi-eggs before I changed Primary Village into a graveyard. You say you can stop me? I'd like to see you try. But be careful, because if you fail—and you will—you will all be mine."
His eyes lingered on Hikari.
Mouth curled with malice, PhantomDragomon took a step backwards and a swirling black vortex appeared out of the air behind him. He backed into it slowly, his gaze never leaving their faces. Hissing, the Demons followed him. Not one of the Chosen moved in the sea of dust surround them. It was as if some spell held them all motionless. The Demons glanced back at them with their haunting eyes. And the vortex spun shut, leaving them alone once more.
1) Onigiri are rice balls wrapped in seaweed, with various fillings inside. They are a very popular conbini (convenience store) food and make a good, quick snack.
2) Takoyaki – octopus wrapped in deep-fried balls of batter.
3) While Wallace is the same age as Daisuke in my story, he is gifted (as is hinted in the movie when Koushirou talks about him taking university courses in elementary school—crazy, right?). So I'm running off the premise that Wallace is enrolled in a prep school and therefore is very focused on getting into a good university, hence all his early preparation.
4) In case you're wondering, Daisuke won that bet. Miyako had more faith in good manners. She estimated nine minutes to Daisuke's five.
Next Episode: The Digidestined have finally made contact with Gennai, but all he has given them is a cryptic command to stall the three worlds from merging. How they're supposed to do that with no digivices and no direction, they have no idea. Especially when their new enemy has showed his face at last. PhantomDragomon has unleashed the ancient power of their crests...but what has happened to them? Do the Chosen really want to find out? And how long can they hold out until Gennai returns? Find out in the next episode of Digimon, Digital Monsters!
This chapter is so long... It's actually not the longest, but it's pretty damn close. That was a lot to take in and I'm sorry if any of it was confusing. I hope you're as excited about these new developments as I am. It's going to make for a very interesting third arc. Thank you so much to Anon Y. Mous, EmD23, Fizzing Wizard, Potgenie, JuulChii, Aklee, mathemagician93, crestoflight3, chromate, and my anonymous reviewers for all your amazing comments and for giving me feedback about Daisuke's crest! It's thanks to you in part that it ended up as the one it did. Also, a huge apology to anyone who had trouble reviewing last chapter! I made some edits a while back and ended up moving the prologue into chapter one. I think that this made it so that anyone who had reviewed chapter sixteen already was unable to this time around. That issue should hopefully now be fixed (but please let me know if it isn't!) Anyhow, enough of me rambling. Thank you again all so much and I it would make me day to hear from you!