Welcome to the start of the third arc of Hazard of Hatred! Did I mention before that this will most likely be the longest arc of HoH? No? Well, now I did. Prepare for lots of chaos!
Still, just like before, this is a 'slow' start into it, and this chapter will be a little different than any other chapter so far. You'll see why as soon as you'll read it.
And well... I don't want to keep you from it any longer. I don't think that I have anything left to say that won't explain itself in this chapter.
Just let me do the disclaimer, and then you can read.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Digimon or it's characters.
Hazard of Hatred
ARC 3 - HOMECOMING
Chapter 1: Fateful Days
Digital World, File Island
This was, where it had all begun. Where it all started, where it developed, and where it all always lead back to.
Even for me, who I am not part of it. For me, who I am a stranger to the island, a boy that had not walked it's paths and has not faced it's challenges, and has not made it's friends.
I know, I'm speaking, and thinking, of it like an old friend I have not seen in many years. But was I so wrong about that? Did I not possess the right to do so? My childhood has been spent here, maybe not that of my body, but the childhood of my mind.
And even now, years later, after I've spent my own little adventure in the Digital World and have seen the other beautiful places of it, File Island still is the most beautiful of them all, with most of my happy thoughts being related to it.
Even now, hearing the name makes my heart jump in glee, seeing it makes warmth spread through me, and I still feel that I belong here. Having come here was my own little homecoming, my own little reunion with my long lost friend.
All paths always lead back to File Island.
"Takato? Are you alright?"
Hearing the voice behind me, accompanied by a hand laying onto my shoulder, I snapped out of my thoughts and turned my head, facing the person who had addressed me.
"Sorry..." I smiled softly, turning back to the view I had onto the island from where I stood, halfway up the mountain, "I guess I was kinda lost in thought for a moment. I never got the chance to really get a good look at the Island.."
"It's a beauty, isn't it?" agreed TK as he stepped aside me, taking his hand off my shoulder, smiling widely, "And hearing that from me, who had one of his worst memories on this Island, that means a lot."
"I know that fear, the feeling, the memory. I've lost Guilmon before, too..." I muttered, but didn't meet his gaze. Didn't feel like it, didn't think it was right. We were different cases, were different people, handed things differently. And of course, he had been a lot younger when he first lost his partner.
And the circumstances had been different as well. Guilmon hadn't sacrificed himself. Guilmon had become just as much of a beast as the enemy.
Despite those thoughts, the silence that remained after that was peaceful and comfortable. Together, despite the first difficult weeks we had, stood halfway up the mountain, stared down at the Island that was tinted in the soft hue of orange as the sun set at the horizon, reflecting itself on the surface of the ocean.
We both always would find our ways back there, to File Island, no matter if we wanted or not.
Eventually, TK suddenly patted my right shoulder, turning my attention to him just as he nodded towards the path leading down the mountain.
"We gotta go, or we'll miss our chance." he reminded me, "Hazaado will be anything but amused if we miss it. It took him nearly two weeks to prepare it, didn't it?"
"Yeah..." I sighed, thinking back to the entity that was part of me. True to his words, he had slept for three days straight after our last fight with Archenemy, and had then proceeded to train me in several different aspects of the Digital Hazard... And two weeks ago, made an interesting offer to me, which I had accepted without hesitation.
And that was why we were here now, at File Island.
Agreeing with TK that we had to return to the forest where we were supposed to meet the others, I nodded to him, confirming that I knew we had to go. He nodded back, smiled reassuringly and turned on his heels.
The descent down the path was silent, once again in comfortable silence, and over in just a few minutes. But each step that I made felt heavier than before, some made me doubt my decision more, others less.
But I knew that, ultimately, I couldn't back down anymore.
Greeted by the sight of the other DigiDestined and their Digimon as I reached the forest, some of them standing and others sitting on the ground, changed everything. I no longer doubted my decision to continue the path I had chosen – It made me doubt if involving them was the right decision.
I was dragging them into a war that they were not made for, a war that should have only two participants: Archenemy and Hazaado, and with that in extension, me.
But did I really drag them into this? Did they not decide themselves that this was what they wanted?
I needed to know.
"Are you all sure about this?" I exclaimed, no other words having been exchanged before, and watched as their smiles and easy expressions changed, becoming hard and serious. I watched as Tai and Davis opened their mouths to speak for their teams, but I silenced them with a simple wave of my hand, showing them I was not done with my question.
"I need to know if all of you are definitely serious about this. Anyone with at least a single doubt, no matter how small or simple, should not do this. I've been through it now, and agreeing to do this will essentially put you in my situation... Believe me, it isn't something you want to experience. It isn't a good thing." I continued, trailing off to take a breath and swallow, my throat strangely dry.
"You should all know that I have my doubts. I'm not sure what will await me, but different from you, I do have to go." I nodded to myself, turned away from them, took a few steps, mainly in an attempt to calm my own nerves, "And, what you all should know as well, is that I don't know when or how to reverse it. I don't know when the Digital Hazard will be strong enough again to reverse the effect of what is to come now... Or if he can, at all."
"We went through this before, Takato." spoke Tai as he rose from the ground, dusting his clothes off, "All of us know the risks and dangers... And all of us are sure. We want to be part of this as well... We have been involved before, and this may be the last chance to step back... But none of us want that. We want to help you protect the Digital World. It's our duty, damn it! We're the DigiDestined!"
As the others cheered in agreement, I couldn't help but let out a chuckle and smile. To be honest, I had a hard time holding back my tears at that moment, too touched by the fact that I wasn't alone in this. I wasn't alone, and each and every of them was willing to follow me, sacrificing what I had to sacrifice before.
I would never be able to repay them for that, for their trust and friendship in such a situation.
My gaze met that of Tai, and my smile spread, as did his. Clenching my right hand to a fist and abandoning my regrets, fears and doubts, I let the warmth spread through me, a mixture of happiness and seriousness, and nodded to the leader of the first generation.
It was Hazaado's voice that echoed through my head, calling out to me. Knowing what he wanted, I closed my eyes and nodded, this time to me, fully aware of what was to come.
"We need to prepare now… It will be here any moment. We cannot miss it. If we do, we give Archenemy even more of a headstart. We both know where he is now." spoke the entity within me, determination clear in his voice.
I was also determined – Determined to find Archenemy and wipe him out. He may have escaped last time, but I wouldn't allow that to happen again. Not when the lives of my friends and family were at stake this time.
"I know. And we are prepared. We had two weeks, Hazaado, two weeks in which we prepared for this…" I spoke aloud, wanting the others to hear me, "Both in body, and in mind."
As I opened my eyes again, I found that the DigiDestined and their partners were now all in front of me, those who had sat before now standing as well. Determination, seriousness, excitement – These were the emotions I could read on their faces.
But there were different things, hidden away behind those masks: Doubt, fear, confusion, those small things hidden from the world. But I couldn't blame them, the path they had chosen to walk with me was anything but an easy one.
"Guys! It's coming!" shrieked the voice of Patamon from above as he dove out of the sky, pointing towards the ocean, "It's fast, and it's going to hit the beach! We need to go there now!"
The attention was all on me after that, everyone silently asking for my approval.
I gave it, with a single oh-so-simple nod.
That such a thing can be decided by a mere nod is fascinating.
As everyone quickly gathered their belongings and picked up their partners, I stayed behind, even as the first few started for the beach. There was another thing I needed to know, and it was probably even more important than the questions before.
TK seemed to know that I had a last thing to ask, as he picked his things up surprisingly slow and careful, not once taking his gaze off me. Only as the last one, Joe, made a dash towards the beach with Gomamon clinging to his back, did TK turn to me.
"TK…" I began, closing my eyes and taking in a deep breath, "You know what I will ask now, do you?"
"Of course I do. It's the same thing I've been asking myself for the past months, from the very day that we first met. I may have asked the same question in a different way after our last fight with Diaboromon, but… I want to hear it from your mouth, Takato." was the DigiDestined of Hope's reply, his voice full of doubt, concern and yet seriousness.
I opened my eyes to look at him, a glare that held no malevolence or negative emotion.
"TK… We two had the roughest start, we both know that. We both know that's in the past, but once we go, it will no longer be. Archenemy will exploit it. So I need to know, TK…" I sighed, surprised at how different my own voice sounded, so unlike me, "Can I count on you? Do you have any distrust left towards me? Anything that Archenemy can exploit? He will try to use any remaining embers of distrust he can find to start a fire again…"
The next two seconds of silence seemed to last an eternity, both of us asking ourselves the same question over and over again: Was the distrust between us really gone? We had grown to friends in the aftermath of the fight with Archenemy in the Internet.
But was this friendship strong enough to stand the winds of distrust?
"I don't want you to be my enemy, TK." I added eventually, a whispered addition that carried emotion that made me shiver.
"I don't want you to be my enemy again either, Takato. And while I cannot say many things for sure…" he trailed off, a smile replacing his serious expression as he extended a hand to me, which I took without hesitation, both of us immediately having a strong grip on the hand of each other as we grinned at the other one, "I can say one thing for sure. I have no distrust whatsoever left."
Our grins turned into smirks, our gazes not once moving away from one another, not once showing any sign of distrust.
We both had changed in the past weeks, the events having such impact on us that we had found together, a strong unit that could not be broken apart, not by wind and not by fire. Archenemy would not spark distrust between us again.
Maybe, in the end, hope and hatred really could get along.
"Takato! TK! What are you waiting for, we have to go!" roared the voice of Davis from afar, turning our attention to the beach not too far from us, where the leader of the second generation of DigiDestined stood and waved furiously.
"Move!" added Matt, waving us over with one hand, the other pointing towards the ocean.
Sharing a glance with TK, a smirk, we both let go of the other one's hand and started for the beach with a jump. Patamon landed on TK's head just before the DigiDestined of hope jumped down a small ledge, Gigimon crawling out of my hood to look over my shoulder.
It was indeed time.
While we ran, I turned my head a bit, staring into the distance again, over the gigantic mirror that the ocean was. The sunset was long from over, but it's orange hue was now accompanied by a darker shade, the crimson light that blended in so well with the beauty and yet promised the exact opposite merging with the orange sky.
The source of the light was a gigantic crimson data stream.
That was the one thing that Hazaado had prepared for two weeks, gathering strange and altering something related to the Digital World with it, increasing the chance of this data stream appearing at exactly this moment and location to 100%.
Even the location it would take us to was set.
TK and I reached the beach just before the data stream touched the outskirts of File Island, which it would graze, only to then disappear into nothingness if what Hazaado had said was true.
With all my new friends and allies at my side, I didn't even fear the data stream that came for us, did not for once doubt where it was going to take us to, did not once falter. There was no reason to, this was just another step.
I had no reason to afraid of anything with such friends. We had no reason to be afraid of anything together.
Looking back, I had not expected this to happen about four months ago, when I first arrived in the world that had seemed so familiar, and yet so new and strange to me.
Four months… I've been in this world for nearly four months.
About one year had passed in my world since my disappearance, nearly an entire year since Rika's birthday and the Parasimon Incident.
After almost one year, I would return.
My friends, my family… What would they think? For me, it's only been four months, four months that had felt so much like a holiday trip with all those new friends around, and Guilmon at my side.
But for them, for my family and friends, it had been one year without me, nearly one year since someone dear to them had been taken away from them, someone that had been part of their lives.
Every day since I've been sent to this world, I've asked myself the same questions.
How were they? How did they feel? Did they miss me? Had they tried to find me, and return me? Had someone looked after Jeri? Had they all stayed together? How did Henry do, and what did Rika feel about my disappearance? What about my family?
As the number of days I had spent away from home had increased, more questions had opened up, others had grown in importance. Not once had I been able to answer a single one of them. But that would change now.
But… I was afraid. I was afraid of going back.
I was afraid of the changes that had happened in that one year.
One year is a long time…
They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder… But could friendships be kept alive? Would they remain the same, continue where they had ended, or would friendships wither as time brought distance?
Speaking of friendships… Whatever had happened to Reika?
We had grown close over the months, especially since I had worked at her mother's bakery quite often, and at more than one point had I asked myself if I should let her in on my secrets, if I should tell her about the Digimon, about Guilmon…
But something had changed. She had behaved different as the weeks continued on, had become more introverted, and had said stranger things. At more than one point, usually whenever I hadn't asked myself if I should let her in on the existence of Digimon, had I wondered if she knew already.
At times, just like the day we had met Willis, she had said things that made me wonder about how much she really knew.
I eventually learned that a relative of hers had fallen gravely ill, and that she and her mother had to move again, sadly ending our friendship in a sudden instance. She had told me one week prior to their next move… And one day, stopped coming to school entirely.
That was one week ago.
With her gone, it felt like I had lost part of myself. The cheery, clumsy girl I had gotten to know – Gone, her place replaced by a void, by the feeling as if she had never even been there.
No one else had really felt any of the impact that I had when she left. For about a day, it felt like my world had come to a stop, only to then move on as if nothing had happened.
Even part of me treated the situation as if she had never been there…
Spotting a movement out of the corner of my eye, I turned my gaze a bit. It turned out that Kari, who held Gatomon's left paw with her right hand, had moved her other hand, enveloping Davis' right hand with hers.
I couldn't help but smile as I saw that, the embarrassed look on Kari's face and the blush on Davis' as he realized what was going on – Or the stupid smile that followed this as he continued to stare into the approaching data stream.
Kari was nervous, maybe even scared. We all were, the DigiDestined never having seen a data stream in their life and never having experienced it, and me afraid of the changes that would await me on the other side.
But we'd be in this together, and we'd face all changes and challenges together, just like we had ever since the final fight with Archenemy in the Eastern Quadrant. True to Hazaado's words, he had not shown his ugly face again, but at the same time, even with the help of the Sovereigns, the Great Dragons and the Demon Lords had we not found a single trace of him in the Eastern Quadrant.
Since the 'Anti-Archenemy-Firewall' had by now gained it's full strength in the Eastern Quadrant, he could not have escaped into the Eastern Quadrant's real world. That led to only one conclusion: He had moved elsewhere, into another Quadrant.
And since he and Hazaado weren't too different after all, the place where he would go to could only be one: Driven by his need for revenge, he'd make our worst fear turn to reality. There was only one spot he would head to at this point.
The earth began to shake as the crimson data stream hit the beach, heading straight towards us. All around me, the DigiDestined held onto their partners and the other way around, some had even gathered into small groups.
But I, I stood alone and stood tall, Gigimon holding onto my neck and Hazaado growling in my mind.
There was no reason to be afraid again.
Not even as the crimson light enveloped me, and a light pull on my dragged me away.
Not even as I was pulled out of my old friend's comforting warmth, and thrown into the void.
Shinjuku, Nonaka Residence
Had my alarm clock not been my cellphone that morning, I would've thrown it at the next wall to end it's miserable little existence. But this way, I just groaned, turned around, and paid the music that was blasting at full volume no mind, ignoring it right away.
Here I was, having a somewhat peaceful sleep, and then that damn alarm clock decides that nine hours of sleep were enough for me…
I hate Mondays.
"Rika." Renamon's soothing, although irritated voice made me turn onto my stomach and open my left eye with a grunt. It took a moment for the blurriness to be gone so that I could make out the kitsune next to my bed, staring down at me from her full height.
"Please end this horrible noise. My ears are a lot more sensitive than yours…"
Hearing Renamon beg like that made me smile a little to myself, even though that smile was hidden to the world by my pillow. I couldn't help but think just how cute it was, especially for someone her size and build, to beg for such a simple thing.
"Why don't you end it yourself?" I replied teasingly, fully aware that she couldn't.
"I'd love to, Rika, but if you want to keep your cellphone as it is, you best stop it yourself. I can't do such a thing with my paws…" sighed the kitsune, showing her huge paws to me and the sharp talons attached to them.
"Right." I chuckled eventually, and though I wasn't feeling like it, sat up and reached for the cellphone on my bedside table. With well known movements and touches, the alarm shut off, and Renamon immediately relaxed, her whole stance shifting a bit.
As calm as Renamon was, she couldn't stand loud noises for too long, and would change completely, become easily irritated and snappy.
Sometimes, that was fun, too.
"You need to get up, Rika. You have to go to school today." reminded me Renamon when she saw how I was just about to lie down again. I shot her a glance and rolled my eyes at her.
"Whatever, mom." I teased, and though my entire body was against it, really rose from the bed. I rubbed the back of my neck as I headed for the adjacent bathroom, my bare feet making soft noises as I walked over the wooden floor. I still had lots of time, there was no need to hurry. It was a habit I had developed some time ago, to set my alarm way earlier than I needed to wake up.
"Speaking of your mother…" began Renamon just as I grabbed my clothes, which I had prepared the day before, and headed into the bathroom.
"What's it about her?" I called back, shuddering as my feet came in contact with the cold tiles of the floor, "She's staying away a little longer than she expected again?"
"No." came Renamon's reply surprisingly quick, "Actually, it's the opposite. She came home last night, her last job was over a lot sooner than she thought."
I shuddered again, and not because of the cold water that came in contact with my arm as I reached into the shower to turn the water on, so that it would be warm once I'd step in.
"She's home?" I called back, surprise washed away just as fast as it had come, and I sent a glance into the mirror, "That's a surprise."
"She changed a lot since D-Reaper, Rika, and you know that. She's been home a lot lately." reminded me my ever loyal partner, guessing by the volume of her voice standing in my room right next to the door to the bathroom.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, old habits die hard." I chuckled and started to undress, "I still complain as if she wasn't home. And besides, just because she's here a lot more often now doesn't mean she can change the past, and repay me for all the time she's not been. I didn't have a father when I grew up, Renamon, and I didn't really have a mother, either. Grandma has always been the one who was there for me."
"I know. Speaking of Seiko, she has requested your presence during breakfast. She doesn't want you to run off without having had breakfast before again, and she would like you to see your mother."
I rolled my eyes and chuckled. Really now, sometimes it felt more like Renamon was Grandma's Digimon, and not mine. Or perhaps my answering machine. Or my secretary. She kind of planned everything for me, and always made sure I was safe and healthy.
No, Renamon wasn't just my Digimon, or my partner. She was my friend, and had long claimed a place in my heart that made it feel like she was my sister or something.
And that despite how I had treated her as just data at the very beginning...
Realizing I had spaced out for a moment and still stood, not completely undressed yet, in front of the running shower, I let out a sigh. A few minutes must have passed, as the mirror was already steamed over, as was the window.
I've been spacing out at random occasions like that a lot lately…
"I'll be out in a moment, Renamon." I called to my partner, got rid of the rest of my clothes, and stepped under the running, steaming hot water, "I was just... I was just lost in thoughts."
"Again?" sighed Renamon outside the bathroom, and I could hear how worried she was, could hear her worries clear as day. I stopped all movements for a second, let the water run down my body, and took a second to glance towards the door, and then let out a sigh myself.
"I'll be going now, Rika." informed me the kitsune, and though I did not hear a single step, not just because of the noise of the running water, I knew she was gone. A few seconds passed without me moving or anything else happening, safe for the water continuing to run down my body.
Why could things never work the way I wanted them to?
Nothing had ever worked the way I wanted it in my life. Not since the day that my father left us, the day that he and Mom broke up. Why, I've never been told. I don't think that Mom really knows why he decided against us either, why he left from one day to the next. I don't even fully remember what he looks like, don't really remember his voice or more precise details, like his profession.
My memories of him are vague. I was way too young to really remember a lot about him... I don't exactly remember anything from my childhood up to that point.
I just remember him leaving us... That's when my memories really started.
Call it the ultimate grudge. The bitterness of a young girl robbed of her father.
All I know is that it was the first thing I remember that did not go the way I wanted it to. I, too, had wanted a normal life, to grow up with a mother and a father that cared about me.
Like Gogglehead's parents did, for example.
Speaking of Gogglehead, his disappearance is one of the latest additions to that list of things that did not work the way I wanted them to.
Just when I finally get a friend, a real friend that cares about me, that always returned to my side, heck, even accepted me despite my flaws, he is taken from me. And his stupid partner follows him, just like the loyal bread-snarfing airhead that he is, of course.
Wonder how they are. The last sign I got that they are still alive was that day that the blue Digital Hazard sign infected me, and that lies nearly an entire year ago.
Nearly an entire year...
The blue Digital Hazard sign did not appear on my hand again after that day, and I've never heard the name 'Sacrifice Queen' again since then. If it weren't for the blunt fang of the Dragon Digimon, the very same fang that rested against my sternum even at that very moment, as I never took it off, not even for a shower or when I went to bed, I would've probably lost the last bit of hope that I had that Takato would return one day.
To even think that I'd lose my faith in my best friend was horrible. But I wouldn't, wouldn't as long as the fang reminded me of them.
Not that Takato was my only friend. He and Henry had pulled me into this mess that our adventure had been, and I had surfaced from it with something that had seemed unlikely for me before - With lots of friends at my side, friends that would back me up any time. And I'd do the same for them, without as much as a question.
Renamon's voice outside the room made me cringe. Damn it, I had spaced out again, hadn't I?
"Yeah?" I called out, resuming to wash my hair, which I had done while I was lost in thought.
"Seiko wants to know how long it'll take until you're done. You've been in there for quite a while, and..." began Renamon, but I cut her off.
"Any minute now. Just let me rinse my hair, and I'll be out." I answered, suppressing the need to let out a deep sigh. I had to go to school today, I nearly forgot that. But at least I could look forward to it, the reason for that being that I had changed schools.
Yeah, no more stuck-up girls on that private school. With the private school destroyed after Guilmon's latest transformation into Megidramon, Mom had looked for another school for me - And well, had finally listened to my complaints.
So I got to choose the school myself.
Rinsing my hair and stepping out of the shower, I reached for the towel and my clothes - About five minutes later, I left the bathroom fully dressed and nearly ready to leave.
There were just two things left to do before I could head to school.
I reached for my cards and my D-Power, attached the device to it and slipped the cards into the pocket on my belt - But didn't let go of them just then, hand still resting on them. While it was my deck, not too different from how it had been when I went to the Digital World with the others, there was one huge difference to it, and it still sent shivers down my spine to think about it.
Nine cards were different from back then. I took nine cards from my deck, and replaced them with nine different cards.
The same nine dangerous cards that had found their way into my possession nearly one year ago. Guilmon and it's evolutions, as well as the experimental H-Zero and H-One cards. And to this day, I had only tried eight of them, and had sworn to use two of the ones that I tested never again.
H-Zero and H-One would not be used by me again.
And I didn't dare to try the Megidramon card. Something about the way it had suddenly appeared among the other eight cards that I had received from Yamaki felt utterly wrong. It was almost as if it had chosen to appear amongst the eight cards to complete the set, and yet had warned me not to use it with it's sudden appearance.
I shuddered at the thought, shook my head to clear it of the thoughts that concerned the nine dangerous cards, pulled my hand away from my deck, hesitating only a moment to close the pocket.
Now that one thing was done, it was time for the other one.
Survive breakfast with Mom and Grandma.
"I'll be leaving for school now!" I called over my shoulder, looking up for a second to spot Renamon leaping from the roof of the gate onto the next building. As always, she'd be following me to school.
"Alright! Make sure you're home for dinner though, Rika, should you decide to hang out with your friends again!" called Grandma back, followed by my mother giggling about something from the same direction.
Probably her fantasizing about me hanging out with a boy. She's been asking me about any boyfriends for a while now.
To be honest, breakfast with her hadn't been too bad. It even had been enjoyable, something that had changed greatly from how it's been before the D-Reaper Incident.
Can't believe that I owe that to Gogglehead as well. If he hadn't clumsily stumbled into my life, I would've never been pulled into all of this, and my relationship with Mom would've never changed for the better.
My life had changed for the better the day that Gogglehead stumbled into my life.
Everything had been - even if the process after that was slow - changed for the better by one fateful day, just as it had changed for the worst many years earlier, the day that my father had left.
With a final sigh, a sigh that was meant to signify the end of my thoughts regarding my home that morning, I swung my bag over my shoulder and turned on the spot, knowing that the next thing would be on my mind in a moment - School.
That morning, however, it should be different.
As I turned on the spot, my gaze rested on the large house next door for a moment. I wasted a single thought on it, namely the reminder that it had been empty for a while now, and meant to leave it at that.
But that was before I saw the moving van.
I stopped and rose an eyebrow, surprised at what I was experiencing that moment. Someone was really moving in next door. The moving van was from a local company, nothing suspicious or out of place. But really, who had enough money to live in that house? It wasn't like the houses in my neighborhood were exactly cheap or anything, and Mom could only afford it because of her modeling career.
Meh, probably another stuck-up girl with her snobby family.
With my interest lost, I turned away from the house and took a deep breath. This Monday morning was already too 'eventful' for my taste. Sure, nothing had really happened, but I already hated Mondays with a passion, and preferred to have them slow and boring.
And now, Mom was home and then there was someone moving in next door. And the next thing would be waiting for me at the end of my journey through the subway network - My friends.
As in 'the other Tamers' - Safe for Ryo, of course.
Yeah - I had chosen to attend the school that they were attending to. That meant that I had to go through the entirety of Shinjuku each morning, but that wasn't a problem, I was an early bird - On every day but Monday.
Like I said, I hate those with a passion.
But I still managed to get up early enough of Mondays, and to be honest, it was a sacrifice that I was okay with. It was worth it. Going to the same school was my friends was thousands of times better than attending that private school with all it's stuck-up and snobby hussies.
Going to the same school as them had it's pros and cons, though I'd not trade any of them for something else. I loved them, the ups and downs, the pros and cons, the good times and the bad times.
Because I was going through all of that with my friends at my side.
I smiled softly as I put my headphones on and started my favorite playlist, the music blasting at nearly full volume into my ears drowning everything around me out, making me oblivious to the world as I headed for the next subway station to start my day for real.
Maybe this Monday wasn't so bad, after all. I had the feeling that something would change soon.
Something good, something huge.
And as always, it would involve my favorite Gogglehead in some way.
When something huge was coming up, it always involved him.
Even if I didn't hear from him in nearly an entire year.
Ugh.. I do hate Mondays, after all.
Two lessons into the morning, and I remembered why I hated them with a passion. Maths. I hate maths.
So I didn't suck at maths, because I already knew most of the stuff that Mrs. Asaji was teaching from my time at the private school - I still hated it. It was boring. I know I loved my Mondays uneventful and boring, but this was too boring!
And the worst thing? Four goddamn lessons of math in succession on a Monday!
At least it meant that I could let my thoughts wander and think of something else, look out of the window to my left and daydream - Or listen to what the other Tamers, who were sitting close to me, were whispering among one another.
"Hey... Hey, Kazu!"
Hearing Jeri's sharp hiss made me turn away from the window. I didn't turn towards her - She was sitting to my right - but towards the front. I still glanced towards her from out of the corner of my eyes, mildly interested in what she'd tell Kazu, who was sitting in front of her.
It would be something to take my mind off the dry topic.
I hate algebra.
"What's it, Jeri?" hissed Kazu back, although there was no ire to it. He just didn't want to be caught by Mrs. Asaji. She was a nice person and all, but don't disrupt her class.
"Well, you know how Rika's birthday is coming up soon, right?"
I nearly smashed my head into the table. Of course, my birthday! Tell Jeri that she doesn't have to concern about one thing, and she concerns about exactly that. How often had I told her that I hated my birthday, and all the 'happy-go-lucky' stuff that came with it? That I didn't want it to be special, and if they really had to throw one, only a small party?
Last time they wanted to make my birthday special, they wanted to throw that huge party and Gogglehead went missing. And I don't mean that he got drunk and ended up being lost somewhere in the city, like in that one movie that we watched.
It was now nearly one year ago, and Gogglehead had ended up getting himself stranded in the Digital World. His parents were still worried as hell, but they did relax a little with time passing - And Guilmon vanishing. I think they're thinking the same thing that I do: Guilmon was now with Gogglehead.
And I don't only think that, I saw it. I saw it when that rift opened up on the day that I received the Guilmon-related cards from Yamaki - I saw Gallantmon, two of them to be exact, although I don't know how that was possible, and at least one of them had to be Takato and Guilmon.
I just knew it.
Still, the way that Jeri sent suspicious glances towards me ever so often, the way that she tried to not attract my attention - It was enough for me to know that they were planning again. Something huge.
I hate huge parties.
Feeling a sudden itching on the back of my right right hand, I growled and scratched it with my other hand, not once looking down at it, still thinking about the way how my birthday parties always seemed to end up bad - Either bad for me, because I didn't want them, or bad because something happened - Gogglehead's disappearance had just given me another reason to hate my birthday.
You don't just lose your best friend and live on without hating the day he vanished, or the reason for it.
Birthdays had never been special to me in any way. It was actually just another day for me, with the exception of me being one year older from then on. If it hadn't been for Grandma, I might as well have just forgotten entirely about them - Mom was never home, I didn't have any friends that I'd invite, and those who congratulated me and wished me well didn't mean it. Only Grandma had ever made that day special - She meant it when she wished me well, she gave me presents that actually meant something - no matter how childish or useless they could've been, I'd be happy about them because they came from Grandma - and she was there for me.
No matter how many or how expensive presents from Mom were - They never had meant anything to me. In the end, she always had Grandma buy them for me, or would send them by mail, or would just tell me to 'buy something and treat it as a present from her'.
But presents could not replace the mother I had been missing.
Now, it was different, of course. Now, she was there - And despite anything I'd say or think, she could buy me the most useless junk possible, and I would love it.
Because now, she was there for me.
Now, she was my mother, and not just a stranger.
We may not have the closest relationship possible, and we may not be like any other mother and daughter - But I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world.
My hand itched again. I growled, hoping that I didn't get bit by a mosquito or anything. Pesky things.
Still, I hope Jeri doesn't end up overdoing it again. Just a simple party, just the Tamers and our Digimon. A small present, though I don't really want any.
Their friendship, honest and unquestioning, was the greatest present a broken and lonely girl like me, a girl that constantly is afraid of being betrayed or abandoned, could receive.
Argh, my hand! It's itching again! Just what is this?!
Getting fed up, I finally averted my attention from the blackboard - even though I had stared through it rather than at it - and glared down at my right hand, wanting to inspect the mosquito bite I expected to see.
What I spotted instead made my blood run cold.
My hand was coated in a soft blue shine, so faint that no one had noticed it yet, it's source the back of my hand.
The blue Digital Hazard on the back of it.
After one year, it was back.
Realizing that this didn't mean anything good - and if it did, then it wasn't something small - I rose from my seat with a sudden jump, left hand covering the back of my right. All attention of the room was immediately upon me as my chair scraped over the floor, Mrs. Asaji trailing off, ending her, I bet oh so very interesting, monologue about algebra earlier than she had wanted to.
"Is everything okay, Rika?" asked Mrs. Asaji in a mixture of confusion and worry. She had any reason to, I wasn't Gogglehead and didn't daydream or disrupt her class - Well, the former I didn't do as obvious as he did, at least.
Realizing what stance I was in, my left arm due to the position of my left hand on the back of my right across my stomach, I came up with the best excuse possible to leave the room.
"I'm not feeling well... A stomach-ache. Probably ate something wrong." I muttered quickly, the excuse half-assed and obvious. Goddamn it, why must Gogglehead affect that as well? I never had a problem with guilt until I met him!
But was I even feeling guilty about this? I mean, I did it for a good reason! There's no way someone would willingly mess with such a thing as the Digital Hazard! But how was I supposed to explain that? 'I need to leave the room because this weird dangerous sign that my best friend once used to make his dinosaur turn into a bloodthirsty dragon god has infected me and is now acting up again after nearly a year of lying dormant'?
Well, after the whole thing with D-Reaper, she'd probably accept that, but come on, it still sounded ridiculous.
"You best go to the infirmary then, Rika." suggested Mrs. Asaji and nodded to the door.
Why am I even surprised that she bought it? She had educated Gogglehead for years, and the excuses he came up with were less than bad, for crying out loud!
A quick nod, then I sprinted out of the room and down the next hallway, making sure to cover the back of my right hand the entire way, not letting a single ray of the blue shine escape. I really didn't need anybody to know about the Digital Hazard that has infected me.
But still... Why was it acting up again? Why now?! It made no sense at all for it to be dormant for nearly one year, and then just come alive again! And like this - Quiet, no pain, no draining my energy like it had done the last time.
I wasn't even angry or aggressive right now!
A large flight of stairs came into view, the toilets - for which I was headed - just at the lower end of it. Heat was slowly gathering in my right hand, something I remembered from the one time that it had really been active, but no pain followed.
It was just heat, replacing the itching feeling from before.
Knowing I had no time to waste to find a solitary spot, I just jumped, something I had done without thinking about it - And realized that something about my jump was off.
It was the distance I crossed.
With this one jump, I reached the lower end of the stairs, didn't even have to catch myself in a roll. The impact was absorbed by my feet like it wasn't out of the ordinary to jump down at least sixty steps. But I had no time to think about it - Good thing the hallway was empty, though, someone would've definitely questioned that jump otherwise.
I know I did.
The room was empty as I entered the women's restroom, thankfully. I didn't have to worry about anyone seeing the Digital Hazard, and quickly pulled my hand away from it, the heat that was radiated by it almost unbearable on my bare palm.
And there it was, the Digital Hazard, in all it's pale blue glory. I hadn't really gotten a good look at it back then, but this time, I did. It looked exactly like the red - or rather, black - one did, the one I had seen on Guilmon ever so often.
Or on Megidramon that one time.
Still choosing to enter one of the bathroom stalls, just to ensure no one would see the Digital Hazard on me upon entering the restroom, I closed the door, locked it and leaned my back against it, gaze glued to the blue abnormality on the back of my right hand.
It really was back.
And it meant something, that for sure. That it suddenly returned after this long time definitely meant something. And with the way that it glowed, so different from back then, less aggressive and forceful, rather calm and soothing - It was as if it was trying to tell me something, as if it had a message for me.
But that was stupid. The Digital Hazard, a mere sign meant to warn of danger, telling me something? Although it had felt like it, this thing didn't have an own will or something. It just corrupted and destroyed, that was all it could.
And yet I trusted this thing somehow. I was stuck with it, it had infected me and had once drained me of energy, and yet I trusted it, didn't even want it gone.
Is this what they call Stockholm Syndrome?
"Just..." I shuddered as I heard my own voice resound throughout the empty room, hadn't even intended to speak, "Just what are you trying to tell me, you stupid thing?"
That was a good question. Why had it returned to me? That was for a purpose, wasn't it? This thing never showed up without a reason, never just 'lit up' to wish a good morning, or to light you the way to the toilet in the night.
When the Digital Hazard went active, it meant something. And in most cases nothing good.
I was distracted by another light - This one crimson, however, and it was at my hip.
I don't know how long it had been there, but it must've showed up just now - I hadn't seen it in the mirror when I had entered the restroom. It wasn't strong either, but a bit stronger than the glow of the Digital Hazard on the back of my hand.
It's source was the pocket that my cards were located in. I didn't even have to think about where it came from, I immediately knew, and yet reached for my pocket and opened it, the glow immediately increasing now that it was unrestricted.
A familiar, well-trained movement, a flick of the wrist and two extended fingers, then I had the one card that was the source of the light. A void of emotions, a void of caring, filled me when I held the card in my hands and looked down on it.
It was the Megidramon card.
Two coincidences on one day, right after one another? Unlikely.
No. No, these were not coincidences. There's no such thing as coincidences with something like this. And especially not when both the Digital Hazard and the Megidramon card are related to one another.
And don't forget that Takato is connected to both of them as well, again.
Call me obsessed, but this definitely involves Gogglehead somehow. It all does.
But I just can't shake this feeling off that something huge is going to happen soon. Very soon, with the way both the Digital Hazard and the Megidramon card react. They are definitely trying to tell me something, maybe even warn me about something.
And whatever it is, Gogglehead plays a role in it.
But if something really is going to happen soon, nearly one year after Gogglehead and Guilmon's disappearance, how can we prepare for it? And how do I tell the others about this? I can't tell them about the Digital Hazard or the nine cards. Only Henry knows about the cards, but even he doesn't suspect a thing regarding the parasitic sign that had infected me back then.
And I think it's better that way.
I still need to think of a way to prepare for whatever is to come. But how can I prepare if I don't know what is going to happen? Or if anything is going to happen? All I know right now is that the Digital Hazard and the Megidramon card have both reacted to something, and that they never do without a reason.
Now I only need to find out what they were trying to warn me about... Or what I should prepare for, for that matter.
As if on cue, my D-Power went off.
I snorted, unable to contain my amusement. With a mocking groan towards the card in my hand, I used my free hand to reach for my D-Power, holding it up to the height of my shoulders before I pushed the button of it, the radar immediately appearing above it.
A red dot contrasted with the blue grid, not too far from here.
A Digital Zone.
Some Digimon was bio-emerging, but with the way that the readings didn't seem off or anything, it didn't seem to be connected to the weird way that the Digital Hazard on my hand and the Megidramon card had behaved.
Just a normal bio-emergence.
I lowered my D-Power, shutting it off in the process. I felt how my body relaxed - Hadn't even realized that I had tensed up in the first place - and felt... Disappointed?
I don't know if that is the best description, but it definitely was in the mixture of emotions that flooded me. All this light show for nothing? I had expected the readings to be off, to be gigantic or that there'd be hundreds of bio-emergences at the same time.
But no, just a normal bio-emergence.
The only thing that was off about it was the location - If I was right, it was close to Guilmon's shed. But that was most likely a coincidence, after all. I know I say that coincidences don't exist, but we had many Digimon appear close to the shed over the last year, since the gateway to the Digital World that Gogglehead found is around there as well - The border between the Real World and the Digital World is exceptionally thin there, in other words.
This was most likely just another one.
Hypnos could handle that on their own, they didn't need us Tamers for that. That was the deal anyways - They let us handle the bio-emergences, called us to make sure that we knew and to know if someone was on it, as long as we let them handle the ones while we were at school. Bio-emergences should not get in the way of school, that's what Yamaki said - Not that he believed it himself, I didn't need him to take off his sunglasses to know that.
The only exception that was agreed on was if there was anything abnormal about a bio-emergence - Like a giant emergence, or more than a certain amount of emergences. I'm not sure how many he said, I kinda stopped listening at that point to poke a little fun at Gogglehead because of his partner being all childish again.
But with this one being a normal one, there was no reason for me to be all panicky or anything.
It wasn't like I felt like fighting a Digimon, either.
Mondays just tend to do that to me. I'm all tired, moody and don't feel like doing anything on them.
It seemed like the Digital Hazard and the Megidramon card had either done what they wanted or had given up on it, as both of them died down at the same time as well. The Digital Hazard faded, leaving back the back of my hand like it had never been there, and the Megidramon card stopped it's crimson glow entirely, returning to the normal card.
Or maybe those two didn't like Mondays as well.
Either way, the pointless light show was over - I wasn't sure if I was glad or disappointed about that, but at least there was no reason to be in the restroom anymore. Not like I enjoyed that. And I'd have to go to the infirmary as well, to back up my excuse to leave the classroom.
Ugh... Why can't my life ever be easy?
With a groan, I put the card back into my pocket, closed it, then put my D-Power back where it belonged. For just a moment, I felt like I could go back to sleep, after all - right there, right then. But that had to be the relief - Or disappointment, like I said, I wasn't sure about my feelings at that moment.
I merely allowed my head to rest against the door for a moment, however, closed my eyes and let darkness consume me, let every weird emotion and thought regarding the events just now vanish - Flushed them down the toilet, for the lack of a better pun.
Knowing that I had wasted enough time, however, I balled my right hand into a fist and hammered it against the door that I leaned against once, let that be the push that I needed, and turned around, unlocking the door in the same movement.
I just hate Mondays.
Little did I know, though, that Hypnos had not taken care of the bio-emergence. Little, somewhere in the back of my head, did I know that the Digital Hazard had wanted to tell me something, had wanted to warn me about that unsuspicious emergence, had wanted to tell me that it was not as unsuspicious as it seemed.
Little did I know that the bio-emergence had vanished the moment that the Digimon had entered this world, leaving Hypnos confused about the sudden end to it, never giving them the chance to send the bio-emergence back to the Digital World.
Little did I know that this was the start of something big, and just the first of many bio-emergences like that.
And it all started on that dreadful Monday.
I didn't return to class, other than to get my bag. It had taken only a little bit of acting to convince the school nurse that I had a stomach-ache, she bought it and thought I had a virus or something (which essentially wasn't far from the truth, the Digital Hazard was a virus, after all) and sent me home.
That's the best thing on a Monday - Returning home.
At least that's what I'd usually say. But on that Monday, my mood was different than usual. And the worst thing? I didn't know what mood it was, exactly. The whole thing with the Digital Hazard acting up after nearly an entire year had not only caught of me off guard, it had confused me, and downright messed up my mind and emotions.
Should I be happy that it was back? It was the sign that Takato was still out there somewhere, alive - At least, I think that it is.
Should I be scared? After all, I was infected with one of the most dangerous viruses known to the Digital World, and god knows what it could do to a human - Or if it could do anything to a human. That jump back there had not been normal at all, and I had the slight suspicion that it had to do with the Digital Hazard being active then.
Should I break down in tears, maybe? This all was a bit much, and I'm still only teenager. How did Gogglehead handle this? He must have been through something like this before - At least he had to know something about the Digital Hazard!
That thing was all over his creations!
Guh... It always all leads back to him. To his disappearance. It's connected with everything that had happened since then, since everything out of the ordinary since then had involved the Digital Hazard.
The question is: Does it happen because he is gone? Or is he gone because this is happening? Either way - It's related, that for sure.
It's all too much. I can't comprehend this just now, I need something more specific, a detail that I can grasp, something that finally makes sense! This all is elusive, just some random dots that have yet to connect to create a picture.
But do I really want to see this picture?
I groaned, groaned in frustration as I rounded a corner and ended up in the street in front of my house. For a moment, I was reminded of the day that I saw that rift - Only had that been on the other side of the house, in the alley behind it.
Looking up from my right hand, which I had been watching intently on my way back home, kind of expecting the Digital Hazard to appear again, I spotted the moving van again, still standing in front of the house next to mine. It was nearly empty by now, a dresser and a couch being the only things left in it, along with some smaller furniture.
A woman that looked a little like Takato's mother, though I could tell that it wasn't her by the way she was moving, had just picked up a stool and carried it through the gate, vanishing behind the wall that surrounded the garden. The house didn't look too different from the one I lived in - Most of the houses in this neighborhood did.
I didn't really care much about the new neighbors. If they were anything like the others, they were a middle-aged couple without kids, with him being a lawyer or businessman and her being a model or a businesswoman or whatever. Those kind of people somehow all ended up in my neighborhood, and I loathed them. Not that they liked me, either, and that despite me having saved their asses with Gogglehead and the others from D-Reaper.
Not like I want them to like me.
I had just reached the front gate and reached for the handle when I realized my next problem: How was I going to explain Grandma and Mom that I wasn't in school? They'd never buy the story about a stomach-ache - Mom would immediately scold me, and Grandma would realize that I had a reason for that and would later carefully coax it out of me.
And I really didn't feel like telling her that I was infected by Gogglehead's virus.
Why did I even refer to it like that, anyways? It wasn't like Takato had created it or owned it or anything. He had just used it once, and that was unintentionally and completely without him knowing he even could use it. Then again, he had drawn it onto Guilmon when he created him...
Argh, why does this have to be so confusing?!
The new voice made me turn my head a bit so that I could see the moving van. The voice had been too young to belong to the woman I had seen before - So she did have a child? So it wasn't a middle-aged couple then. This meant that it was some rich, stuck-up middle-aged couple with some brat then - Some happy-go-lucky intact family that I could loathe even more than the other neighbors simply because it was an intact family, opposed to mine, then?
I was nearly expecting some black-haired, long-haired girl that carried in one of those fancy dresses that I hated with all my being - What I saw instead made me freeze, my blood running cold.
Standing there, with his back towards me, clumsily having avoided a tower of chairs that had fallen over, out of the moving van, and had nearly crushed him...
It was Gogglehead.
It couldn't be someone else - Short, messy brunette hair, wearing a blue hoodie and long gray shorts, yellow wristbands and green sneakers. Sure, his skin was a little paler than I remembered him, and his height seemed a little shorter than I actually remembered him - I was taller than him, to begin with, though - but then again, I hadn't seen him in nearly an entire year. I had probably grown a bit, and the Digital World wasn't exactly sunny everywhere, so that could be explained.
What I didn't think about at that moment, though, were the question why Takato would move in next door when he lived in the bakery, why he'd reappear that casually after nearly an entire year, or why I had thought that the woman wasn't his mother...
But did that matter now? Gogglehead was back! So that was what the Digital Hazard had wanted to tell me?
I can't believe it, but not all Mondays sucked, after all!
Throwing my bag onto the ground next to the gate, glee replacing all confusion that I had before, I found myself in the unlikely position of being about to run up to Gogglehead and hug the living lights out of him. Would someone expect that from me, of all people? I don't think so. Heck, I'd never have expected that of myself!
Happiness only lasts so long, however.
Gogglehead must've heard the noise of my bag hitting the ground, as he turned around and smiled at me.
And promptly, all glee was drained from my body and I found myself standing there, smile fading away, withering.
That person wasn't Gogglehead.
It wasn't even a male.
It was a girl, about my age. While she really did look a lot like Gogglehead, she wasn't him. Now that I saw her front, the differences were clear as night and day, starting with the few crimson strands in her brunette hair.
Like I had noticed before, she was a bit smaller than Gogglehead, and thus a lot smaller than me, and her skin was paler than his. While the hoodie looked a lot like his from the back, her hoodie featured a black and white circuitry-like design on each side of the zipper. Her gray shorts featured a similar design in blue and white, though the lines were thinner and the circuitry-like design spread further. Also, she didn't have Gogglehead's red-tinted eyes - Her eyes were amber.
How blind loss could make you, how blind I had been to mistake her for Gogglehead...
I really do miss him, huh?
The girl smiled at me, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head as she nudged the fallen tower of chairs with one foot.
"I'm kinda clumsy, huh?" she chuckled uneasily, obviously referring to the chairs, before she nodded towards my house, "Hey... Uh, you're living there?"
"Obviously." I huffed, unable to contain my sarcasm. She smiled at that and rolled her eyes at my sarcasm - At least she picked it up.
"You're the only one close to my age around here, huh? How did you stand being the only kid around here?" she smiled, before she shrugged and rolled her shoulders, "Anyways, nice to meet you! You're Rika Nonaka, right? The one who saved Shinjuku from D-Reaper, and the daughter of the famous model, Rumiko Nonaka. I mean, you're pretty famous yourself now."
She bowed down to pick up the chairs, and for some reason, I helped her. Together, we picked up the tower of chairs and carried them to the side, so they wouldn't be in the way.
"Anyways, my Mom and me, we moved in next door." added the girl that looked so much like Takato finally, nodding to the house that her mother had vanished into before, "Looks like we're neighbors now, huh?"
I nodded shortly, just a quick confirmation. I didn't really feel talkative with this girl, more out of disappointment of her not being Takato than because I didn't like her. If anything, she was kind of pleasant to be around, I could already tell that much. A weird one - But I just seemed to attract those.
After all, Takato was a daydreamer, Henry was following his father's path and was sitting in his room all day and writing some codes, and the other Tamers - Well, I don't have to say anything, right?
"Hey, uh... Rika." began the girl anew as we moved back to the moving van, and I glanced towards her, "Would you mind helping Mom and me a bit with the rest? The couch is kinda heavy."
"Sure, why not?" I sighed, allowing myself to smile a bit - It was not like Mom and Grandma were expecting me, and I had been looking for a way to pass time anyways. I sent a small glance into the van, taking note of how the couch really did look heavy. The dresser, too, though not as heavy as the couch.
Seeing that her mother still hadn't shown up again yet, I thought that I could as well use the time to get to know about this girl. She was kinda interesting, and I already had the feeling that we might get along. And it's not like I had a lot of female friends with whom I could talk about 'girl things'. Suzie was too young, as was Ai, and Jeri... I don't know, she was so supportive all the time and all, and yet I'd never share my secrets with her.
This girl seemed different.
Or maybe it was her resemblance to Gogglehead, my actual best friend, clouding my reason. Being with her kinda felt like being with him, now that I think about it.
"So... What brings you and your mother here?" I asked nonchalantly, blunt and direct as I could be sometimes.
The girl stopped shortly and frowned, seemed to think about it for a moment, but then smiled and shrugged.
"Mom decided to move here to fulfill her dream." she replied, her smile wide, warm and honest, "She always wanted to have her own bakery. So when she heard that there was no bakery around this part of Shinjuku and found this nice empty store that was being sold, she decided that now was the time."
To say that I was a little surprised was an understatement. A bakery? Like Gogglehead's parents? Well, she was right, the next bakery was at least twenty minutes from here, and if her mother bought the shop I'm thinking about, then it was just two streets from here, ten minutes by foot.
"I have a friend whose parents own a bakery." I started, only for the girl to grin even wider and close her eyes.
"Takato Matsuki, right?"
Well, she was quite informed about us. But then again, D-Reaper had kind of broadcasted the battle with him, so many people were.
"Yeah. Though he is..." I began again, but was once more interrupted by her.
"Currently missing. That is well known, too." laughed the girl, before she eventually stretched herself and let out yawn, "Sorry, I didn't really get a lot of sleep last night. Mom and me have been driving all night."
Mom and me... She hadn't mentioned a father yet. So she didn't have one, either? But could I ask? Should I ask? I know that the subject was quite touchy, after all, I grew up without a father as well - And I know that I didn't like talking about that subject, wouldn't even if Gogglehead asked me!
"Never got to know him."
I cringed, brought back into reality by the voice. The girl was frowning at me, but didn't seem bothered or hurt - She did refer to her father, right?
"Uh... What?" I asked cautiously, wanting to be confirmed by her before she was talking about something entirely different.
"My father." she confirmed, shrugging, "He died when I was just a few months old. Our house burnt down one night, and while Mom managed to flee with me, Dad didn't get out. I don't even know what he looked like, all pictures and everything that could've reminded of him was burnt to ashes that night."
"That's hard..." I sighed, sitting down on the cargo area of the van, her following my example and plopping down next to me, "I know how hard it is to grow up without a father."
"Don't know. I never missed him, to be honest. You can't miss what you didn't have." huffed the girl and shrugged, "And Mom and me managed without him quite well. We never really had a problem with anything, Mom's been working in a bakery before, and I've been helping out ever so often as well to earn a little money, too."
"And how can you afford this house then?" I frowned, looking over to the house that they were moving into. The girl rose an eyebrow at me, then turned to look at the house as well - And then snorted.
"Grandpa. He died a while ago... I miss him a lot, but he left us quite a bit of money, with the words that Mom should use it to fulfill her dream. He's always been supportive of us." explained the girl, suddenly falling back so that she was lying down on the cargo area.
I watched her for a moment as she lay there, eyes closed and a soft smile on her lips. That girl was at peace with the world and herself - I kinda envied her for that. I didn't have such a good day like that... I was kinda the opposite at that moment, with the Digital Hazard acting up and all.
Eventually, I turned away and looked over to the gate of my own house. This girl... She was kinda special, so my first feelings about her had been right. She had been through something that was similar to what I had been through. Kind of, at least.
Once again pulled out of my thoughts and daydreaming, I turned to face the girl again - Come to think of it, I still didn't know her name - who had opened one eye again and was smirking at me.
"Ya know, Rika, I feel like we'll get along just fine. We're kind of similar, aren't we? We should become friends!" she exclaimed, straightforward and without a moment of hesitation. I could see that she was honest, could see that this was an honest proposal.
And I didn't feel like reject that.
"Sure, I feel the same." I chuckled, before allowing sarcasm to flow into my words, "Though only on one condition."
The girl frowned at me, opened the other eye and, seeing as I didn't reply immediately, rose to a sitting position. She didn't ask, but the question was more than obvious, the question as to which condition.
"You tell me your name first." I revealed, and watched in amusement as her mouth opened up and she slowly processed what I had just said.
"Oh." she gasped, before she slapped her hand against her forehead, "Oh. I didn't introduce myself, did I? Sorry, like I said, I'm kinda tired and my mind isn't exactly working at full speed right now."
We both chuckled at the awkward situation, and the girl scratched the back of her head again in embarrassment.
"Silly me, eh?" she murmured uneasily, "Well, my name is..."
She was interrupted by the sound of the door to her house opening, her mother appearing in it. They shared a short glance and I waved, unsure what else to do. Her mother smiled as she spotted me and waved back, before she began to approach us.
Maybe not all Mondays sucked... This one was nice, in it's own way. I had made a new friend, there was a new sign of Takato, and Mom was home.
The girl at my side turned to me and smiled at me.
Had I only looked closely once, had only once really paid attention then, I would've noticed that the Digital Hazard on the back of my hand was glowing the entire time in a furious, foreboding, warning blue, and I would've noticed that the girl had stolen several glances at it, her smile growing a little wider each time.
"My name is Reika. Reika Sôtai, Rika. Let's become great friends, shall we?"
Oooooh... Now who saw that coming?
Anyways, this chapter focused mainly on Rika, rather than Takato. As you can guess, there'll be a lot more events focusing on Rika - and of course the other Tamers - in this arc than in the other two before.
There were a lot of good guesses regarding the third arc, and I'm not going to confirm any of them wrong or right just now... This is only the first chapter of the third arc, and everything can still happen, right? Expect lots of surprises and plot twists.
Is there anything left to say? I don't think so.
So this will be the end for this chapter - Stay tuned for the next one! I want to try to get back into NBP this month, it's been a few since I last had a chapter for that. I hope that I'll manage that within two weeks - I'll be back on HoH then, no matter if I managed to finish the chapter for NBP or not.
Anyways, this is it.
I'll see you next chapter!
Until then - So long~!