I keep this short, since I've kept this chapter long enough from you already; notes may follow at this point if necessary.
Yeah, this chapter should've been up at the end of February, if everything would've went well, I am aware of that. However, I fell sick, had fever, lay in bed for nearly two entire weeks. I didn't write during that time.
I stopped promising chapters each month, so it wasn't really breaking a promise or anything... And while feeling bad for not having been able to finish the chapter earlier, I wasn't mad. Not until yesterday.
I know I promised the chapter to be up yesterday, yeah - And it would've been, if my Internet didn't decide to die on me! I tried everything to upload it, or at least change my profile so you guys and gals knew - Well, my Internet was all like 'Nope, can't let you do that!' and you can guess the rest of the story...
So yeah, but here it is now, the 'long lost chapter'!
And finally, we get to see Archenemy... Do we?
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Digimon or it's characters.
Hazard of Hatred
ARC 2 - ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE
Chapter 7: Archenemy
Before I knew it, the days of the week had passed, and I was indeed adjusting to the Eastern Quadrant more and more. These days were pretty uneventful, almost delightfully uneventful, if one could call them that.
Archenemy still refused to show his face, meaning I still had no idea how he looked like, and save for the occasional 'infected', a Digimon with a black datachip, which Guilmon and I took care of just like we had done with the rouge Digimon back in our own Quadrant, there was no threat at all – Even TK was holding back, not once voicing his suspicions about me. It seems he had finally accepted that I was 'just a clumsy guy'... Or had Tai had manipulated him a bit into believing it, in order to save my secret from being revealed?
Tai... I still hadn't told him, even though we had come to agree to let him in on my secret and task. Not all of it, but most of it. He had figured a lot out on his own, anyways.
When I told Azulongmon of my encounter with Tai, he had to admit that he hadn't taken it into account, but he eventually agreed on letting Tai, and only Tai, in on it, saying he could be a great ally.
Lucemon, on the other hand, who had been present in the Quadrantroom as well at that time, had disagreed. He saw too much of a threat in Tai, a threat that could influence me too much while I was 'shaping myself into someone able to stand the Digital Hazard's powers'.
Well, what can I say – We decided on letting Tai in on this all. Why? Well, Hazaado agreed on telling Tai as well. Lucemon had eventually grudgingly admitted that it wasn't that bad of an idea once Hazaado had agreed.
And well, that was, why I was sitting on the couch in my apartment in the early afternoon on Friday, hands clenched to fists, trembling as I awaited his arrival like some nervous girl anticipating her first date.
To be honest, I felt like one. After all, this was Tai we were talking about, the very person who embodied all that I ever wanted to be! How could I not be excited about this?!
I sent a glance to the clock on the wall, but had next-to-no interest in it. Five minutes had passed since I sent a message to Tai, and yet I felt like an eternity had passed, waiting for a reply. My hands were shaking slightly, the screen of the cellphone that rested in them remained unlit. Tai hadn't responded yet.
What was I even doing here? It could take forever until he would answer. He could be swimming, it was going to be summer soon... I had come here on May 9th, Rika's birthday...
"Argh, it's driving me insane...!" I cried out and threw the cellphone onto the table in front of me, fell backwards into the couch and relaxed. This was stupid! What was I even doing, sitting there, thinking Tai would respond immediately? This was so stupid!
That was, what Rika would think if she saw me like that, right?
"Having fun there, vessel named Takato?" chuckled the emotionless voice of Hazaado from my right. I turned my head a little so that I could see him where he stood on the counter to the kitchen, once again using Gigimon's body to communicate with me.
"Not really." I sighed, let my head fall backwards until it rested on the backrest of the couch. Staring up at the ceiling, I found myself waiting once more, anticipating the moment that Tai would respond. I could've told Kari earlier that morning, in school, that I wanted to meet Tai... But that would've been suspicious. After all, I didn't want the DigiDestined to know, only Tai...
But... I mean, I can see why Azulongmon would be okay with telling Tai, and why Lucemon wouldn't... But, Hazaado...?
"Hey... Hazaado..." I began, turning my head a little so that I could see him again, "Why are you okay with telling Tai about all of this? I mean... Why do you trust him?"
"Hm?" I shuddered as I saw how Gigimon's eyebrow rose a bit, something I still couldn't get used to, those non-happy expressions on the innocent Gigimon's face, "Should I not trust him?"
"No! No!" I gasped and quickly sat up, "I mean, I do trust him as well, and I'm happy you do as well! It's Tai, he's...!"
"Relax." commanded the deity, or at least the entity with god-like powers if what Lucemon had said about him was right, through Gigimon, "I will answer your question."
He jumped off the counter and strolled through the room like some kind of dog, tail wagging behing him. I watched him as he closed in on me and hopped onto the couch, and from there onto the table, looking at me.
"I do trust him for what he said. I don't know much about him, only what little I know through you, but the way he treated us, and the strength he displayed, make me trust him." replied Hazaado, "Remember, vessel named Takato, what he said. 'I trust what I know, but I trust my feelings more than that. And I feel like I can trust you.'... That were his words, correct?"
"Yeah... I guess..." I muttered in return, thinking back to when Tai appeared in front of my door. Yes, I think he said something like that...
"That's why I trust him. He's not stupid, but no genius. He is not afraid of things, yet not stupidly fearless. He knows his limits, knows where to stop, and yet continually tries to go even further. He isn't trying to, but trains, and continually grows stronger. He has potential. He could've been a good host for the Digital Hazard as well, but not as great as you. He's too stubborn." explained Hazaado with a hint of finalization.
Seeing as he didn't want me to answer or anything, I just nodded. I didn't' really feel like answering to that, either. So, seeing as we were done, Hazaado jumped off the table, and began to leave.
"This body is feeling tired, due to consumption of food. It is time to relax it, so that Guilmon can become Megidramon again, if the situation calls for it. I will return to watch everything through your eyes again. You will possibly have need for me again while explaining to Taichi Kamiya, so I suggest you keep paper and a pen ready, so I can communicate through your right hand. If we do have need for it, I can always take control of this body again, Guilmon is allowing me to freely." spoke Hazaado as he crossed the room, eventually slipping into the bedroom through the slightly ajar door.
And with him gone, I was alone again.
I kept looking at the door he had vanished through for a while, not sure what to think of Hazaado, and not sure that I understood his notions. But, and that was more important... He had become a great ally, my greatest ally if I wasn't wrong. And with that, he was just as important as Guilmon...
I sighed again, rose from the couch. My cellphone hadn't reacted at all so far, Tai hadn't received my message yet. Seeing as this wasn't going to happen soon, I turned to the kitchen and scratched the back of my neck. Maybe I should eat something and do the homework... Would spare me the trouble of doing it on Sunday, seeing as I wouldn't be able to do it on Saturday.
I entered the kitchen, rolled my neck, rolled my shoulders. This was going to be a long weekend... After all, the DigiDestined's party was just a day away. I still didn't have a clue as to why they'd throw a party, but I had the feeling I was going to find out eventually.
Just when I opened a cupboard, it happened. A sharp ringing noise caused me to flinch, it's source obviously my cellphone. I nearly dropped the plate I had picked up, had to dance around to regain balance and prevent the plate from falling.
Tai had received my message and had sent an answer already?!
With the plate still in hand, I left the kitchen again and returned to the couch, putting the plate down on the table next to my cellphone to pick it up. Indeed, one new message. Hand trembling again, I opened up the new message.
And slumped my shoulders.
"Yo, Takato, wanna hang out later?" I read aloud, letting my head fall backwards while letting out a loud groan. It was from Reika...
Yeah, Reika. We had gotten to know each other a lot better during the week. We had even exchanged cellphone numbers, obviously. While we hadn't really met a lot after school, other than when I went to work at the bakery she and her mother lived at.
But then again, she had mentioned before that she'd like to hang out on friday...
"Why not?" I sighed as I returned my attention to the cellphone. It wasn't like Tai would show up today or anything... It was nearly 6 PM. So, quickly writing an answer to Reika and sending the message, I was already focused on what homework I had to do over the weekend, and decided to do it until I'd meet up with Reika.
The answer came surprisingly quick.
"Cool. How does 8 PM at the park sound?" read the message, and I found myself okay with the suggested time, and send a confirmation.
I had already put the cellphone aside, dropped it onto the table unceremoniously as I realized with a loud groan that I had to do quite a lot of math homework - Not my favorite subject, that for sure - when it suddenly vibrated again, indicating a new message.
Guessing it was Reika again, I picked it up and opened the new message while pulling my textbook out of my bag - And froze.
"Fine. I'll be over in five, I'm close to your apartment. Agumon is with me."
That was from Tai!
...Oh god, five minutes?
Screw homework, I can do that on Sunday... Wait, maybe before the party tomorrow? No, no, Lucemon said something about training on Saturday, and he probably wouldn't let me go before the party... Agh, I hate it when my plans are going down the drain...!
Where is Henry when you need him?!
Okay! Okay, I need to calm down, I'm behaving like a girl on her first date again... But what am I even going to tell him? I can't tell him the whole truth, I mean... I could. Should I? How much should I tell him? Gah, this is all so confusing...
Hearing some weird noises, I looked down to my right hand - It was moving on it's own, the Digital Hazard with the two circles around it glowing on it - which had just written a message.
Just that, just that one single word. But at least, it was an answer. I'll tell Tai everything... in short, but still.
I was about to stand up and go to the door, but my right hand didn't want me to stand up, was still in the middle of continuing the message. Interested in what Hazaado was writing now, I sat back down and stared at the new continuation to the message.
And froze up, petrified.
"You should stop staring into thin air all the time, daydreaming. Five minutes are up."
As if on cue, to make things worse, it did knock on the door.
Oh come on, why? Why is my daydreaming always getting me into trouble? Rika was right when she called me 'the biggest dreamer'...
Speaking of her, I wonder how she's doing... And the others... It's been almost three weeks in this Quadrant, but I've been gone for nearly six weeks in my Quadrant...
It knocked on the door again, and I swallowed. Yeah, time to get this over with... It can't be that bad.
It's just Tai, and not an angry Rika...
I rose from the couch and dropped the pen onto the paper. The way to the door seemed longer than ever before, and yet it felt like I had moved to it in just a second when I stood in front of it and unlocked it.
Swallowing again, I pulled it open slowly, preparing for what was to come.
And as I looked up, I found Tai standing in front of me, grinning widely.
"Hey Takato, what's up?"
Six weeks now... It's been almost six weeks now...
"Geez, are you really sulking again, wildcat?"
Oh come on, that voice...! Can't he ever get the hint and leave me alone...?
With a low growl, I rose my gaze away from the blank screen of my cellphone and looked up, glared at the boy standing above me, grinning down at me like some maniac.
"It's about your gogglehead again, isn't it?" asked Ryo, still grinning stupidly. Oh, I swear, if he gets that stupid grin any closer to me, I'm going to wipe it off his face for good!
"He isn't 'my gogglehead', and I don't think I allowed you to use the pet name I gave him, okay?" I growled, narrowing my eyes at him, before lifting my hands and showing him my cellphone, "Anyways, I wasn't sulking, I was... playing a game on my cellphone."
That wasn't far from the truth, actually. I did play a game on my cellphone... I think. 'Play' was the wrong word, though. I had sat into the shade of a tree in the park near Guilmon's shed, and had started that game... But instead of really playing, I had just stared at the screen, thinking.
I mean, I've come to terms with Takato's disappearance... I really did. The fang of Megidramon that I wore as a necklace was assuring me that he had just 'disappeared' and not 'left for good'... But at times, it still came over me like a flood of rain, pouring down on me, washing away all anger, and all strength that I had...
And, at such times, I've found myself... Sulking. Thinking back to six weeks prior, when Takato was still here and we were arguing about my birthday - Like there was nothing more important, nothing else that was more of a problem. It was almost like it felt like an eternity since he vanished. Like I've been living without him for years.
The distance to him gave me time to think. Think about where we stood, he and I... How much I owed him.
He and Renamon, they helped me out of my cold, helped me to allow people into my life again, helped me to acknowledge other people, and helped me to open up to those. I know that Henry and Guilmon and Terriermon helped as well... But, if it hadn't been for Takato stumbling into my life like the clumsy idiot that he was, then... Then I would've never changed. Alone, Renamon would've never managed, since she had to change first, as well. And Takato did that...
"Sure, wildcat. Anyways, so Takato is your little pet then, eh? I mean, if you're giving him a pet name and all... I mean, looking back, it sure makes sense now. He's always following you like some loyal dog, always comes to your aid, and just think about how he always fears to make you mad at him!"
That did it.
My hand clenched around my cellphone as I shot up from the ground - And my clenched hand found it's way into Ryo's gut, knocking all wind out of him - And wiping that goddamn smirk off his face.
"You don't get it, do you?" I snarled into his ear, his forehead resting against my shoulder after he doubled over, "You just don't get it, do you, Ryo?!"
I pushed him off me and took two steps back, leaning my back against the tree I had sat beneath before. He stared at me with wide eyes, stared at me like a deer caught in the headlights of a truck. Is it bad to say that I sometimes want him to be exactly in that position?
"Gogglehead is gone, Ryo, and I'm not going to shed any tears about him. I'm not saying that I don't miss him... Damn it, I do miss him! But you know why I'm not going to shed tears, Ryo?" I took two threatening steps forwards again, rose my hand and lifted his gaze so that he could look me in the eyes, "It's because Takato has become my friend, Ryo. Because Takato has gotten close to me, because he is my best friend. And because of that, I'm trusting him. I'm doing that, which all of you should do as well. I trust him, I know he will be back just in time."
I pulled my hand away and slipped my cellphone into the pocket of my jeans, slipped past Ryo towards where the others were playing with a red frisbee.
"Come on, I didn't hit you that hard, you idiot. Man up already." I growled over my shoulder. What a wimp. He always pretends to be the man and all, and can't take a hit from a girl.
"You just just called him Takato, Rika. Twice." chuckled Ryo, rising to his full height as if he hadn't just had all air knocked out of his lungs. Like I had said, I didn't hit him that hard. I'm trying to contain my anger nowadays. I changed from before I first met Takato.
"I know. That's what best friends do, right? They call each other by their first name." I replied and rolled my eyes, not turning to look at Ryo,
"And when did that happen?" inquired Ryo, probably turning to look at my back, guessing from the noise.
"Some time after I first met him." I replied, shrugging, "If you didn't notice, then you're just blind."
"Oh, I'm not, don't worry. I just always thought that you were feeling a bit more for him. But, now that you've officially 'friendzoned' him, I guess I don't have to worry anymore." chuckled Ryo behind me. Me? Feeling more for... Gogglehead?
"That sounds weird." I muttered, lost in thought as I continued to watch the others stupidly chase after the red disc, "Me and Gogglehead..."
"Me and you sounds much better, right?" snickered Ryo behind me. Ugh, that sounds less than right, Ryo.
"Sounds horrible, Akiyama." I growled, "And besides, I didn't 'friendzone' anyone, okay? I'm not interested in relationships."
"Not yet. But, once you are, you know where to find me." continued the idiot, sparking new anger in me. I turned to glare at him, but kept calm. As best as I could, at least.
"Once I'm ready for any kind of relationship like that, Ryo, I'll know where to find you.. And will make sure, to avoid these places." I hissed, pulling my cellphone out again and looking at the time.
"Besides..." I began, making sure to place a hint of finalization that was as obvious as possible into my voice, "If I'm ever going to be looking for a relationship like that, Ryo, Takato has way better chances than you have."
"So you do have the hots for Takato!" I heard Ryo exclaim, but didn't care at all.
"Not looking forward to meeting you next time, Akiyama." I called out in return, not lifting my gaze from my cellphone. Grandma had sent me a message, asking me to come home a little earlier for some reason. Like, in five hours instead of in seven, and not just then, but it gave me a reason to head for the mall a little earlier, since I had planned on going to buy some new cards for my deck before going home.
I don't even know if I can find the cards I'm looking for in a shop, but I can try...
"Guys, I'm leaving!" I called out to the others. That got everyone's attention - And caused the flying disc to hit a distraced Kazu over the head, much to my amusement.
"Okay Rika! See you tomorrow!" I heard Jeri exclaim in return. Everyone's been doing well, they've come to accept Takato's disappearance... Not like I did, not in the same way. But at least, it's good to see that they're recovering from it already...
"Yeah, sure. See you around." I sighed and waved, but not without sharing a knowing glance with Henry and a short nod. He's the only one who's understanding what I feel... He, Renamon, and surprisingly, Terriermon.
I turned away from them and glanced down at my cellphone. I closed the message from grandma and was about to put the cellphone away, when my gaze stopped on another name on the screen for a second.
Takato "Gogglehead" Matsuki.
It's been an eternity since I last sent a message to him... Actually, I hadn't ever since he vanished.
Call it spur of the moment, but, leaving the park and heading for the mall, I touched Gogglehead's name, and the cellphone responded, opening up the message history. I've read through a few messages, ever so often stopping to smile at how stupid they sounded now...
And then, no matter how stupid it sounded since he wouldn't receive it, or how close it brought me to sadness of loss, wrote a new message.
And sent it.
"Miss you, Gogglehead. Come back soon. Come back to me..."
I froze, scanned my apartment for any hint of red hair in a mixture of panic and excitement. It vanished, however, and made place for disappointment, when I couldn't spot what I had been looking for.
"Is something wrong, Takato? Are you not feeling well? I can come back another time if..." began Tai immediately. He had been asking that before, when he had just sat down on the couch with Agumon, saying I looked like I had seen a ghost. Hearing Rika's voice in my head now, I really felt like I had seen - or rather, heard - one.
"No... No, it's fine, I just..." I began, falling into a chair on the other side of the table, thus facing Tai, "It isn't easy for me being here. When I'm done explaining the situation to you, you'll know why... That's what you're here for, I was going to explain this all to you..."
"So you decided to let me in on this?" asked Tai, raising an eyebrow at me.
"We did." I assured him, only to add quickly, seeing his confused face, "Azulongmon, Lucemon, Hazaado and me."
"Azulongmon?" repeated Tai, blinking in surprise, "Wait, Lucemon?! Isn't that the leader of the Seven Great Demon Lords? So they are involved into this!"
"Uh... Yeah." I replied, surprised that it took him off guard - He had figured out I was involved, but not that Azulongmon and the Demon Lords were involved?
"Actually, Azulongmon asked me to help him... Uh, 'asked'..." I added, scratching the back of my head as I realized that I hadn't really been asked to help in advance - It was more like, I was asked in after I had been taken into the Eastern Quadrant. But then again, Azulongmon had only decided to ask me for help after I had been transported here... According to him.
"So you're working for the Sovereigns... And the Demon Lords?" inquired Tai, sharing a glance with Agumon next to him. I thought over what he said for a second, questioning myself if what he said was right - And then, shook my head slowly.
"Not exactly..." I began, sending a glance towards the computer, "It's more like I'm working with them. You could almost call me a third faction involved into this..."
"I see what you mean... The Sovereigns are one faction, the Demon Lords another... And you, you're working for neither of them. Rather than that, you've allied with them..." muttered the leader of the first generation, "So does this mean you're working for this... 'Hazaado' you mentioned?"
"Uhm... No..." Okay, how am I going to put this best? I mean, how am I going to tell him that Hazaado is an entity with supposedly nearly deity-like powers, which lives inside my body?
...I don't. I mean, I won't lie... If I just put it slightly different, then it isn't a lie, right?
"Hazaado is... The Digital Hazard. Let's say it like that." I offered – kind of felt helpless, really – and rubbed the back of my head, "Or rather, the Digital Hazard's personality."
"Wait... That thing has an own personality?" intervened Tai, not letting me finish my explanation, and I have to admit, he looked pretty freaked out. I would be too, if I learned that some apparently ordinary sign (no matter it's meaning) had an own personality.
"Uh... Yeah." Let me tell you, I felt stupid, hesitating ever so often. But, you had to consider, I was nervous...
"It's... complicated. Let's just say that Azulongmon and Lucemon have approached me because I'm the host of the Digital Hazard... I didn't chose to be it, but I am. I didn't even know that until three weeks ago..." I began, leaning back in my seat.
"It all kinda started three weeks ago... No, actually, when I first accidentally made Guilmon digivolve to Megidramon in my blind anger... It was then that the Digital Hazard awoke within me. I kind of feared it from then on... But, ever since I got transported into this Quadrant by accident, I kind of... have become less afraid of it. Kinda enjoy it, even." I continued, before slowly raising my right hand.
The Digital Hazard began to glow on the back of it, and I continued to look at it for a few seconds, before turning my hand around and showing it to Tai.
"I didn't chose this. I didn't chose to be the host of a virus, or to be able to harness it's powers... Even if I'm only just beginning to learn how to do so. The Digital Hazard is now my crest..." I added, and felt myself grow more serious and less afraid and nervous, "Look, I won't go into detail on how I first turned Guilmon into Megidramon, how I became a Tamer, the Southern Quadrant's equivalent to the DigiDestined, or how I got here... It would take too long. But, seeing as I'm going to stay here for a while, I'll be telling you about that over time."
"Hold on for a second." he interrupted me, holding up a hand, "I can't relate to much of your story... But I can relate in one point. And let me tell you... Dark Digivolutions happen. I once made Agumon digivolve in the wrong way as well... He turned into Skullgreymon, and..."
"I know about that..." I sighed and closed my eyes, "But you don't understand. Megidramon is not a Dark Digivolution, even though I first turned Guilmon into Megidramon in my blind anger. Megidramon is Guilmon's actual Mega-Level, though he does possess a second one..."
"I see..." muttered Tai after a few seconds of silence, his expression growing more thoughtful. I nodded at that, and decided to continue.
"Like I said, you'll be learning more of that as time passes, about how I became the person I am today... But for now, the only thing important is as to why I am here." I continued, stopping when I felt my right hand twitching once, a sign from Hazaado.
My right hand picked up the discarded pen and pulled the sheet of paper from before over to me, slowly starting to write a message, which caught Tai's attention.
"Azulongmon and Lucemon contacted me so that I can participate in what they fear will soon become a war – Or rather, which is already one. Another virus, one that we call 'Archenemy', threatens to cause quite a lot of chaos... And, it just happens that he is Hazaado's natural enemy." I sighed, ignoring my right hand, "Archenemy is also responsible for the Digimon with the black datachips... We call them 'the Infected'."
"So that's the reason for all the things lately? Must be a pretty dangerous foe if the Sovereigns, the Four Great Dragons and the Demon Lords are gathering." mused Tai with a frown, "You're a DigiDestined as well, a Tamer, right? And Guilmon – Megidramon's rookie level – is your partner, right? Are there more like you in the Southern Quadrant? More DigiDestined?"
"We're a small group as well." I replied.
"But you're here, and they're apparently not. Where are they?" inquired Agumon, speaking up for the first time, "Is this Reika one of them?"
I rose an eyebrow at that, confused why he would bring up Reika.
"Reika? No, she isn't, aside from me, there is no other Tamer around, but..." I asked, "How come you know about her?"
"Hm? Oh, uh, we just thought she may be with you as well. Kari told us about how you were hanging out with this Reika girl at school, and since she transferred to your school just two weeks before you did, we thought she might be with you..." replied Tai, scratching the back of his head sheepishly – Ha, he did that, too!
But wait... Reika just transferred here? Just two weeks before me? She didn't tell me about that...
"No... Like I said, I'm the only Tamer in this Quadrant, as far as I know. I got transported here by accident... Usually, normal beings can't move between the Quadrants, but I kind of got pulled here by accident... I'm not even sure how I did." I admitted, tilting my head a bit.
"I see. So you just got pulled into this then... Maybe not as much by accident or coincidence, seeing as this 'Archenemy' is the enemy of your Digital Hazard..." mused Tai, before stretching is back and glancing at his watch, standing up from the couch as he did so, "We have to keep this short, Mom will freak out if I'm late today..."
"Actually, I think we might as well end it here..." I muttered and glanced over to the clock as well, noticing that I should head out soon as well if I wanted to be on time to meet Reika, "There isn't much more to tell you. You know why I'm here and what role I play in this..."
I glanced down to my right hand, which was still writing.
"Anything to add, Hazaado?"
As if on cue, my right hand dropped the pen and moved aside, allowing me to see his message.
"Wait... Are you saying that it wasn't you, writing that?" muttered Tai and blinked, baffled, "Wait, that thing can control your body?! It's like some kind of parasite?!"
"I told you, I'm the Digital Hazard's host..." I chuckled, amused at his reaction, "But yeah, he can control my right hand... He can talk as well, but only through Guilmon."
Looking down at the message again, I read it carefully. 'He has to know about Gallantmon and the biomerge, unless you want to get in trouble if he doesn't recognize you. I agree on telling him things as time passes, and you touched all the important stuff, but the biomerge is something that he will have to know about.'
"It seems there is..." commented Tai as he saw the message, even though he couldn't read it, since it was upside-down for him.
"Yeah..." I agreed, before looking up, "You remember I mentioned a second Mega-Level of Guilmon? Megidramon may be his true Mega-Level, but we kind of created a second one, an alternate Mega-Level..."
"Okay... What's it about? Seems to be pretty important if this... 'Hazaado' wants me to know about before I go..." chuckled Tai, sinking back into the couch.
"It is." I sighed – okay, this was going to be hard for him to believe – and scratched the back of my head, "You know that a lot of energy is necessary for a Digimon to digivolve to Mega, right?"
"Yeah... That's why we needed the arrows and the crests... You probably know about that, too, don't you?" he replied, and I nodded, "And then there's the DNA-Digivolution, which Digimon use to share their power to reach a higher level. You know about that as well, don't even say a thing."
"You're right... But there's exceptions. And one of them is the Dark Digivolution, which takes large amounts of negative emotions, and turns them into dark power. That's why the result is... scary. Look at Skullgreymon... Or Megidramon, if you want. But like I said, hatred is necessary for that Digivolution, it isn't necessarily a 'Dark Digivolution'..." I continued, before letting out yet another sigh.
"In my Quadrant, some of us Tamers have another kind of 'DNA-Digivolution'." I spoke, and closed my eyes, "That's the best way to put it."
"What do you mean? Another kind of DNA-Digivolution?" inquired Tai, growing serious again, skeptical, awaiting my reply with a frown on his face.
"It's called biomerge." I replied, opening my eyes and looking right at him, seriousness on my face, "And it allows our Digimon to reach Mega, by merging with their respective Tamer."
All of sudden, my apartment seemed way too silent. The only noise that remained was the agonizing ticking of the clock as Tai's eyes widened and his mouth fell open, and I remained where I was, staring right at him with all seriousness that I had. I wanted him to know that I was not lying.
"Wait..." he began after an eternity, jaw quivering as he tried to phrase comprehensible words, "Are you telling me... That you and your partner, Guilmon... Merge to create a second, alternate Mega-Level for him...?"
"I do." I replied, narrowing my eyes, "It's called Gallantmon, and it's basically a knight."
"A dragon and a knight in one Digimon... How very fitting..." muttered the original heir to the crest of courage, before frowning at me again, "How does this... 'biomerge' work? I mean... You're part of the resulting Digimon?"
"We share a plane of consciousness... It's really hard to explain, but I guess you could say that we can communicate with one another through thoughts. We are one in such a moment, not just a Digimon, with it's Tamer standing at the side. The resulting feeling and strength is immense. I can see and feel everything as if I was Gallantmon, and Guilmon and I move our new, shared body together." I explained, or at least, tried to explain. But how do you explain the biomerge to someone who has never experienced it, and knows nothing of how Digimon Fights worked in your world?
"I guess I can add something, since we're at it already..." I rose from my seat and reached for my belt, retrieving both my D-Power and my cards, "Where I come from, fighting works a little different. We Tamers can interact with the fight, more or less, by giving our partners strength... By using Digimon Cards. If we use them with our D-Power, our kind of Digivices, the effect is applied to our partner."
"That's cool..." muttered Tai, amazed, as he picked up a few of my cards and looked at them, "That's... crazy, actually. Makes me wish I had the chance to help Agumon from time to time..."
"Or biomerge! Think of how powerful Wargreymon would be!" exclaimed Agumon, jumping up from the couch and sharing a grin with his partner.
"He's plenty powerful already. And you've got Omnimon." I commented, putting the cards back into my pocket after Tai gave them back to me, "Sadly, neither of them is something I can just teach you. Using cards requires our special kind of Digivice, and our biomerge has special conditions as well.."
"D'aw..." Both of them slumped their shoulders in disappointment, and I couldn't help but smile at the sight of this. Good old Tai, he'd never change.
"I'm sorry." I chuckled, and sheepishly rubbed the back of my head.
"It's alright..." chuckled Tai, before he suddenly rose from the couch again, gesturing Agumon to do so as well, "Anyways, it's good to know that you're one of the good guys, Takato. I'm glad you trusted me enough to tell me about this... And it's reassuring to know that you're a DigiDestined as well."
"I guess so..." I muttered, smiling back at him, "But, can I ask one thing?"
Tai, who had been about to leave, stopped and turned to me, raising an eyebrow in wonder.
"You didn't seem surprised about learning that I was from another Quadrant. You even seemed to know of the existence of more than one world." I began, only to be interrupted when Tai suddenly smiled at me and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
"Well, it was this one boring afternoon and I was bored out of my mind while we were at Gennai's house and waiting for the others and our Digimon to arrive..." he began, chuckling, "And Izzy and Gennai talking about this theory of 'travelers' and moving between what they called Quadrants... It was the most interesting thing right then, since Gennai told me not to touch anything in his house after I destroyed something... To my defense, it wasn't working, and hitting something that isn't working usually helps..."
Oh good old Tai, you really never change.
"I see..." I snickered, relieved that some things really never changed.
"Alright then!" called Tai out, looking down at his watch again, "I need to go now."
"It's okay, fine with me. Reika messaged me earlier, asking me if I wanted to hang out later... So I guess I've kind of got to go soon as well, huh?" I smiled as we walked towards the door. Tai suddenly sent me a weird smirk and rose his eyebrows, something I couldn't really understand what it was supposed to mean.
"Oh, Takato got a date, eh?" blurted Agumon out, thus revealing what Tai was so amused about. I froze, did a double-take, then cringed madly.
"It's not like that!" I shouted, reacting out of reflex. Really, this was just like Kazu and Kenta teasing me about liking Jeri... Or Henry teasing me about liking Rika. Wherever he got that from. Sometimes, I think Terriermon is rubbing off on him, after all.
"So you got someone in your own world then, eh?" smirked Tai, nudging me with his elbow.
"I'm not in love with Rika!" I blurted out, taking a step away from him - Wait, Rika, where did that come from? He hadn't even mentioned a specific person! Gah, must've happened because I had been thinking about Henry teasing me about her!
"So her name is Rika, huh?" teased Agumon, leaning past Tai - Okay, this is going too far!
"Look at the time, I've got to go, Reika is waiting...!" I chuckled uneasily, hellbent on getting out of the situation now. Of course, that didn't get past Tai and Agumon, since I wasn't good at hiding things like these - But they didn't say anything like that anymore, just broke out into a fit of laughter.
"We're just teasing you!" laughed Tai, reaching the front door, grinning at me, "Anyways... You trusted me, Takato, and I will trust you now. Should you ever need my help, don't hesitate to call me."
Agumon de-digivolved into Koromon, and jumped into his partner's arms, acting like a stuffed animal, while Tai slipped his bag off his back, and opened it up. The pink Digimon hopped into the bag, and Tai put it onto his back again.
"And tell Azulongmon and Lucemon that I'll be ready any time to help... If it's about the Digital World, then I'm always ready to fight!" The DigiDestined pumped a fist into the air, smirking in his usual way, "By the way, I'm guessing that all Digivolutions of Guilmon have the Digital Hazard sign on them?"
"Uh... Nearly all of them." I muttered after thinking about it for a moment, seeing all shapes of the Digimon I had created in front of my inner eye, "Jyarimon and Gigimon don't have the Digital Hazard on their body... But you can still see that they're related to Guilmon... They're all... Red."
Tai gave me a skeptical frown, but then shrugged and grinned.
"I'll recognize him, I'm sure of it. If they're all looking a little like Megidramon, I will." he smiled, "Just to make sure that I'll not attack the wrong virus."
"You won't. I trust you." I smiled back. Tai nodded, grinning widely, and opened the door, just a bit, only to close it again.
"And don't worry, neither Agumon nor I will tell anyone." And with that, the DigiDestined opened the door, waved a last time, and then left my apartment, closing the door behind me, leaving me alone again. Alone with Guilmon and Hazaado.
I let out a sigh, a smile finding it's way onto my lips.
This was starting to work out for me, after all.
I begin to enjoy this life here more and more.
"...and digivolve Terriermon to Gargomon. Is that how it works?" muttered Reika as she took two cards from her hand and placed them onto the ground in between us. I smiled, she was doing great, she was getting the hang of it pretty quickly.
"That's how it works, yeah. You're good at this." I smiled, "Continue." Reika nodded, looking at the cards in between us.
"Thanks for teaching me how to play the Digimon Card Game, by the way..." murmured the brunette girl, before suddenly growing thoughtful and looking up, "How come I've never heard of it? It's kind of fun... But you're still the only one with cards like these..."
I flinched slightly, but refused to show my insecurity, continued to smile at her as she frowned at her half of my deck.
"I've got them in Shinjuku... Not too popular there, only a few friends of mine have them." I lied - It was quite the opposite actually, many kids in Shinjuku, MY Shinjuku, had them, and it was prettty popular. After all, that's what really started this all for us... I was a fan of the series and created Guilmon, Rika was good at it and won the tournaments and thus caught Renamon's attention, and Terriermon emerged from Henry's game, which he got from his father – who was part of the group that invented Digimon to begin with.
"I see..." murmured Reika, too focused on the game. I smiled and waited until she finished her turn, before I began to place my cards as well.
"How was it there?" asked the brunette girl all of sudden, just when I was halfway done with my turn. I stopped and looked up from my cards, frowning at her.
"Where?" I asked, unsure what she was talking about. How was it where?
"Shinjuku. I've never been there before. How is it there? A lot different from here?" she repeated her question. It took me a moment to understand the full extent of that question, but eventually couldn't help but look down at my cards and smile.
A sad smile.
"Lively, there's always something to do, someone to hang out with, lots of chaos... And as weird as it may sound, I enjoyed that chaos. There was never a dull, boring day..." I hesitated for a moment, but then looked up and let my smile grow into an honest one, not one of reminiscing the old days, "So, in a sense, it's not too different from here."
"That's good, isn't it? Makes it easier to find your place, right?" she smirked, before acknowledging the end of my turn and the start of her next turn.
"Kind of." I replied, watching each of her gracious, surprisingly direct, fast and yet coordinated movements, "What about where you are from? Is it much different to here?"
To my surprise, this caught her more than off guard. She froze up in the middle of placing a card on the ground between us, a chill causing her body to shake lightly. Her eyes had widened long before she slowly turned them to me, looking like a deer caught in the headlights, staring at me, asking me with her eyes how much I knew.
"W-what are you talking about?" she asked eventually in a cautious way, not daring to blink once. This behavior was more than confusing, I hadn't seen her like that once in the entire week that I knew her.
Funny thing is, it feels much longer. Yeah, it's kind of weird – I feel like I've known her for a long time now, almost my whole life. I can already anticipate her next moves, know how she will behave and react in nearly every single case. Only sometimes does her behavior differ slightly from what I expected her to do.
Why I can do that, I don't know. And why I don't care about it at all, neither.
All I know is – She's a strange person. Not in a bad way. But, sometimes I find myself wondering why I can anticipate nearly every move she does, and why at times, I can't. Other times, I'm noticing strange, distrusting glances between her and Lilithmon – Could it be that Reika knew of the existence of Digimon? That she knew about our teacher 'Uri Laxus' being Lilithmon...?
But, how would she? This was different from the second season in my quadrant, this world wasn't quite like it – Here, nearly no one knew of the existence of the Digimon.
"Oh... Uh..." I began, nervously scratching the back of my head as Reika continued her cautious stare, "Tai... I mean, I overheard that you just transferred here two weeks before me. I've been wondering why no one really knew you, but that explains a lot. I mean, I...!"
"It's... nice there." muttered Reika suddenly, interrupting me, looking down at her cards for a moment, before she hesitated and looked up to meet my gaze, "Where I come from, I mean. It's a nice place... Lots of chaos, though..."
She stopped right there, went quiet again, and placed some cards – Now, not as fast and coordinated anymore, rather meekly and hesitating.
I didn't dare to say another word, fearing I might have hurt her feelings by that question – Or at least brought something up that she'd rather not talk about and forget.
So we went back to our game, playing it in complete silence, exchanging nothing but gazes and signs. And for some reason, despite the odd mood, it was also kind of relaxing. For once not wasting words, for once not communicating loud.
I even found a moment to look up and take in the area surrounding us. Secluded, in a small distance to the main path, in front of a small shed that reminded me of Guilmon's, we sat in the park not too far from my apartment, about halfway from my apartment to the school.
It was a nice evening out, and though the sun was setting, there was still enough light for us to play. It was pretty quiet, with only the occasional bird chirping as it flew above our heads, and the rare sight of a couple enjoying a late evening stroll. Other than that, we were alone.
"I'd do everything to keep it that way."
It were Reika's words that broke the silence and pulled me back into reality. I turned away from watching a few birds hopping around, facing her anew.
"Excuse me?" I muttered, raising an eyebrow at her. Reika looked up at that, smiling softly as our eyes met.
"If I had the power, Takato... If I had the chance and the ability to do so... I'd do everything to keep the place I come from safe. I'd do everything to keep it as peaceful as it sometimes is... With the occasional chaos roaming, of course. But I'd never allow it to change... I can't."
These cryptic words made my questioning expression change into a frown, trying to understand if there was more to this message... What was it supposed to mean? She'd do everything to keep the place like it is?
"Haven't you ever felt that need before? To keep things the way they are, the need to prevent them from ever changing?" she asked as she saw that I didn't understand, but her smile never wilted away, remained on her lips, amber eyes glowing with anticipation, "I can't stand changes, Takato. I'm afraid of them. And I know that, deep down, you are as well."
She placed a card and smiled, suddenly stood up and rolled her shoulders and her neck a bit. This reminded me of Rika, she tended to do the same quite often after sitting around for a long while or whenever she just won a card game against me.
"Otherwise, you wouldn't have been depressed like that during the last weeks... And you would've long asked me the questions you mean to ask." she continued, before narrowing her eyes a bit, the smile still not fading away, "Gogglehead."
I froze up – What had she just called me?! That was the same thing that Rika always called me! How did she...?!
"Geez, calm down..." muttered Reika with a sudden hint of displeasure, a frown on her face, "You could've said that you don't like the nickname. Thought it fit you, with the goggles you wear and all..."
"I... Uh..." I stuttered, trying to find the words to say something – Whatever that something was. Better nothing embarrassing.
I did find the words to say, however, when my gaze found the card game in between us – And another shock hit me.
"Wait, you won?!" I gasped, seeing the last card she had placed. She looked down at the game as well, first confused, but then smirked.
"Seems like it." she offered, rubbing her neck with a smirk on her lips.
"Have you played this before...?" I murmured, tilting my head a little. How did she do that? I thought I was winning, and now she beat me? She, completely new at the game, beat me, who I fought real battles?!
...That strategy. Winning in the last second, fooling me until the last second. Rika had done that before, that one day that she forgot to bring her cards to the park and used half of mine...
Without a doubt, this was the strategy of someone who knew the game and was good at it.
"Nope. But I could see right through you. Try being harder to figure out." she chuckled, stretching her back and her tired limbs, "Still, that was fun! Haven't played a game like this in a long time... For too long, actually."
I was just about to comment on that, when Reika suddenly perked up and turned to the path not too far from us, raising an eyebrow.
"Hey, looks like some familiar faces." she commented, piquing my curiosity. So, picking up my cards and pocketing them in the pocket on my belt, I stood up and turned towards the direction Reika was facing with a smirk on her lips.
Indeed, a few people we knew were walking down the path – The DigiDestined of the second generation. Davis was leading them, arms crossed behind his head, loudly boasting about something, with Ken walking next to him, correcting everything that Davis spewed – Apparently, exaggerating.
They were followed by an excited Yolei and a smiling Cody – And Kari and TK trailing behind with someone else.
Someone I knew as well.
And finally, I knew the reason why they were throwing a party.
"...and then, I beat all six of them with one attack!" laughed Davis loudly, turning around and swinging his fists through the air like a boxer would do.
"It was one, and Davis didn't beat it. It was Raidramon, being controlled by something." corrected Ken, though not without smiling at his friend.
"Oh Ken, come on!" whined the leader of the second generation as he turned to the genius, "Willis didn't have to know about that...!"
"Yes he did, Davis. He didn't come here all the way from Colorado to hear you spewing things that ain't true." commented TK from the back of the group, before placing a hand on the shoulder of the blonde male next to him, "He came here to spend his holidays in Japan. And that aside, he wants to back us up, so lying to him won't help us. He has to know the truth about all of this, only then can he do his best to help. He needs to know the true strength of this new threat that we are facing."
Willis... Yeah, that's right. I think I remember him, from that movie... Wasn't he the one who created the Digimon that was later infected by that virus before it could hatch? It digivolved into Diaboromon later on... It was the first time that the DigiDestined were facing him, and the first time that two Digimon DNA-Digivolved. Back then, Wargreymon and Metalgarurumon, becoming Omnimon...
What's he doing here? Vacation?
"Who's blondie?" muttered Reika, tilting her head a little, frowning at Willis, who she didn't know yet, of course. Actually, I shouldn't know him as well, but seeing as he was in the movie in my Quadrant...
"I don't know." I replied, of course lying, but like I said, I couldn't tell them the truth.
"Well, then let's find out, eh?" snickered the girl in a mischievous way, jabbing me with her elbow, and then grabbing me by the wrist. Before I got the chance to free myself, she had already pulled me with her, mind set on getting to know the new guy.
The others spotted us from a mile away, so to say - Could've to do with me struggling and telling her to let me go. They stopped and waited until Reika and I had reached them. All of them but TK were smiling at us - perhaps at my misfortune, who knows - and waited expectantly for whatever Reika had to say.
"Hey Reika, Takato." greeted Yolei cheerily, pumping a fist into the air, "Didn't think you'd be around here. What are you doing here?"
"I was bored, and my Mom is running the bakery this evening..." began the brunette girl as she finally let go of me and smirked, "So I asked Takato if he wanted to hang out a bit."
"You two are getting along awfully well..." commented Cody, "For being so similar to one another, that is. I was sure that people who are so similar and share so many interests don't get along for long."
Hearing this strange comment, I tilted my head a little and began to rub the back of my head - Similar, he said? Me and Reika? No way. She's more spontaneous, wild and tended to curse once in a while - Kind of like Rika.
I turned to the brunette girl, about to comment on how weird and far-fetched the comment from Cody was - Only for both of us to freeze up and blink, doing a double-take - She had her head tilted as well and was rubbing the back of her head, just like I did!
"See?" added the youngest member of the group with a self-pleased smile, only to turn his head a bit as Willis stepped past him and up to me and Reika, extending his hand to us - A western gesture, right?
"I believe we haven't met yet." grinned the blonde boy from Colorado, "My name is Willis. I'm from Colorado and here on a visit."
"He's the reason for the party tomorrow by the way, Takato. When he told us that he'd come to Japan for a while, we decided to celebrate it." explained Kari - I had figured that out already, but this was the confirmation at last. Still, quite a surprise that I'd get to meet Willis as well...
"Name's Reika. Sôtai Reika." replied Reika, accepting his gesture and shaking his hand like it wasn't out of place. This opened up a few new questions - For example, if Reika had lived in the Western world before, since she knew both the gesture and had introduced herself by her first name, before using the japanese way of introducing yourself - Family name first, then your first name. However, I didn't question it aloud - After all, she had reacted quite strange to my first question about where she had lived before.
"Matsuk..." I froze before I bowed, realizing I had nearly revealed my real name, "Matsuda Takato."
"A pleasure to meet you two." smiled Willis, "You're Davis' classmates, right?"
"Yeah. The dork happens to sit in the same room as us every morning." smirked Reika in return, sending a glance towards Davis, "No offense, of course."
Davis frowned at her, apparently not sure if he should accept Reika's words or question them, but he didn't say a thing at all, and eventually let it slip, turning to Kari.
"So you came here all the way from Colorado? Any specific reasons for that?" inquired the brunette girl at my side before I could, interestingly using nearly the same words I would've used.
Okay, this is creepy, Cody was right! Or am I just overreacting, noticing things that aren't really there, paranoid because of Cody's comment?
"Ah, it's... many reasons coming together. I've always meant to spent a few months abroad, and my parents thought it was a reasonable thing to do, learning about different cultures and all... So they said they'd pay it. And then I met these guys here quite a while ago when they were over in Colorado and we spent a few days together... So I thought, why not return the favor and come visit them? We stayed in touch after what we've been through, and they liked the idea." chuckled the boy sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Where are you going to stay?" I inquired, curious as well. In return, though, Willis only jerked his thumb into direction of Ken, who smiled at me, not saying anything as well. So Ken's family had a guest room, I guess?
"Geez, that sounds kinda awesome, don'tcha think, Takato?" smirked Reika and jabbed me with her elbow into the side, "I mean, leaving home, going some place you don't know but always wanted to visit? It's an adventure, you're meeting new friends, face new challenges, you've got an entirely new task, something to do!"
I felt how my mouth fell open and my eyes widened. Did Reika... know? No, this had to be a mere coincidence, this couldn't be! Reika couldn't know about me being from the Southern Quadrant, couldn't know about the task that Azulongmon had given me, couldn't know that I had always wanted to meet the heroes of my childhood...!
I mean, this wasn't the only thing that had made me suspect that Reika knew something, but... No, it just couldn't be!
Just who was she...?!
"Aren't you feeling well?"
Hearing Kari's concerned question, I quickly shook the shock off and turned to her, smiling sheepishly.
"Uh... I'm okay... I guess. A little tired. I should go to bed soon today... Hahaha..." Oh god, that was a bad excuse and sounded even worse - And yet, everyone seemed to accept it. Man, luck was sometimes really on my side, eh?
"Guess so. Luckily, tomorrow is a Saturday, and we don't have school." exclaimed Davis as he finally spoke up, pumping a fist into the air, "I love weekends, and this one is going to be a blast!"
I heard a quiet cheer from inside Davis' back - Without a doubt, DemiVeemon's excited cry of agreement - but didn't react, pretending I hadn't heard a thing. After all, confronting the DigiDestined about the existence of Digimon was still the worst thing to do, at least in my eyes. They had to be the ones to let me in on their secret, not the other way around.
I was just about to say something when my cellphone vibrated, effectively stopping me before I could even start to say something. Confused as to who'd contact me, I pulled my cellphone out and opened the message I've just received, while Reika and the others ignored it and continued to chat happily.
The message contained short, direct sentences - And yet, the real extent behind it was grave. So grave, that it sent a chill down my spine and a shudder through my entire body.
"No training tomorrow. Archenemy has acted. Belphemon's stronghold is destroyed, Belphemon himself barely survived. Do not act yourself, do not come and do not worry. Keep calm, stay in your apartment no matter what you may hear and see. He might come after you. You are not ready to face Archenemy. I will investigate this myself. Lilithmon is on the way to your apartment." I read, keeping my mouth close to make sure I wasn't reading it aloud, "Go there directly."
I swallowed the knot that had formed in my throat, only realizing after reading the message another two times that I had my hand clenched around my cellphone, that I was sweating profusely and was breathing heavily. Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I relaxed again. Okay, so he did act, after all... But Lucemon was on this. Lucemon was right. I should not act.
I shouldn't, should I...?
"Takato?" I heard Reika ask, only then remembering that I wasn't alone. I looked up, and found the others staring at me in confusion, trying to understand my reactinon after looking at my cellphone, apparently.
"I... I'm not feeling so well, I'm sorry." I muttered, swallowing again - Lucemon was right, if Archenemy was acting now, he might come after me, and I should go home as fast as possible - and closing my eyes, "I should go home now. We don't want me to fall sick before the party tomorrow, right?"
"Yeah, I guess..." commented Kari, tilting her head a little, "Are you sure you're...?"
"Yes, I am sure I'm fine. Just... a migraine." I forced a smile, swallowed again as I slipped my cellphone into my pocket, "I'll be going now. Was nice meeting you, Willis, even if it was only for a short moment. We'll see each other tomorrow, alright?"
As I spoke, I sent a few nervous glances around, trying to spot a shadow or anything out of place - After all, I still didn't know what Archenemy looked like, and if Lucemon was right, he'd hunt me now - but tried to hide it.
"A party?" I heard Reika ask as I turned away, slipping my hands into the pocket of my hoodie, "I don't want to be pushy, but may I invite myself?"
I didn't wait to hear the answer. I didn't have any time for that. If Lucemon was right, I had to get to my apartment as fast as possible. On the street, out in the open, without any kind of protection, I wasn't safe anymore. Scratch that, I wasn't safe at all anymore. Not with anything with internet connection around - According to Lucemon, Archenemy could use anything with internet connection to move around, and change between the worlds.
Which was pretty much everything - Every computer at a store, every cellphone around, nearly every register in a store, and so on.
The only exceptions to that were the computer in my apartment and my cellphone. Hazaado had told me a few days ago that he had manipulated my computer with the Digital Hazard, and that he had done the same thing to my cellphone, had apparently done so while I was asleep one night. Since it was draining a lot of energy and wasn't just done like that, though, he couldn't do that with anything with internet connection, meaning everything that Archenemy could use. Not like he was now.
If he would've been at his full power, though, apparently, he would've been able to spread this 'Anti-Archenemy-firewall' like a virus onto every device, using the Digital Hazard - Which was a virus. But, he wasn't at full power yet, had still lots of rage to absorb from me before he could do something like that, thus preventing Archenemy from moving between the real and the Digital World.
But that was a thing of the future, and the present still contained the threat of Archenemy appearing at any time from anywhere... And since I didn't know what he looked like, I was even more in trouble. 'Cause - What did he look like? Like a monster? Like a human, a human boy or a human girl? An adult? Perhaps he was some kind of object? A monstrosity, a thing that would chase me in my worst nightmares?
What could something that was just as much of a virus as the Digital Hazard look like? I didn't even know what Hazaado looked like, or if he had a material body at all!
So, with quick steps, I left the park. With quick steps, and distrusting glances at anything and anyone who came too close to me, I made my way through the busy streets of Odaiba. With fast steps, almost running, I entered the building my apartment was located in, and climbed the stairs, stumbling over my own feet at least twice.
And all the while, failed to notice the creepy figure that followed me from the park on, staring at my back from afar, standing in the crowd with a sickening, mad smirk upon it's face.
I did notice something out of the corner of my eye, though, as I unlocked my apartment - But as I turned towards the direction of the stairs, it was gone already, and I dismissed it as a shadow in the corner of my eye.
How stupid of me.
What I did notice, though, was, that nearly every screen I saw, all the screens of the TVs that stood in the shops I walked past, did show some weird, small sign in the lower right corner – Too small to be identified correctly, but not small enough to escape one's glimpse.
I didn't think anything of it, though, dismissed it as the sign of some station of Odaiba that I didn't know – Which were a lot.
Again, how stupid of me.
I only felt safe once the door was closed behind me, and I was alone in my apartment again, back resting against the door. And even then, I dreaded the arrival of that which was Hazaado's worst enemy – And thus, mine as well. After all, Hazaado and I were the same now, or rather, had always been since my birth.
"We better wait for Lilithmon..." I mused as I pushed myself off the door and stepped into the apartment, my very safe haven, "I don't think that she can do much against Archenemy, if even you do have problems, Hazaado... But I'd feel at least a little more safe with her here. I'm only a human after all, no matter what powers you may give me..."
I dropped my bag onto the table by the couch as I walked past it with quick and determined steps. The bag fell over and Gigimon crawled out – Or rather, Hazaado, since the Digital Hazard on Gigimon's forehead indicated that he was in control.
"A natural human instinct, the thought of being stronger if not alone." snorted the entity through Gigimon as he watched as I lowered the blinds, "I can't say that I agree, but then again, I am proven wrong by merely existing. I am kind of like a parasite, after all, I need a symbiosis with another body to preserve my own existence. I need a host."
"I don't have time for that..." I sighed once the shutters were down, turning to face the room again, and with that, Hazaado, "You haven't even told me anything about Archenemy yet! What does he look like?! How will I know it's him? Hazaado, I am in danger!"
"Calm down." he growled in return and jumped off the table, digivolving to Guilmon in midair with the help of the Digital Hazard, "I shall tell you what you need to know. We will face him soon."
I watched as the entity in Guilmon's body stepped across the room, each of his steps heavier than Guilmon's had ever been, full of anger and threat, and neared the computer.
"Archenemy is shapeless, much like I am. But, while I have chosen to preserve my personality in the Digital Hazard, a sign of my power and at the same time a place where my entire being is stored in, unable to be extracted..." he stopped where was and turned to look at me, "...Archenemy has chosen another path."
"What do you mean by that?" I asked cautiously, not liking his tone at all, especially the way he had stopped momentarily.
"While I am more of a symbiont, using symbiosis with a body to keep my existence... Archenemy is a parasite. He lives by feeding on his host, taking full control of it, turning it into what you humans may and would possibly call undead. No matter how often his host is killed – It will return, often worse than before." explained the entity, turning away from me again. For the first time since I had first met Guilmon, seeing him in the dimly lit room there, before me – He looked terrifying.
His eyes were glowing dangerously and no emotion was crossing his face, his gaze empty and focused on the computer screen before him. In such a moment, it became apparent just how much he wasn't Guilmon, but Hazaado.
"He is a shapeshifter in the worst sense. Inside a host, he takes his shape, outside it, he could be anything – Or become anyone." growled the entity in a feral tone with Guilmon's voice, "That's why I've learned to trust no one but myself."
He turned to face me, feral anger in his eyes. This wasn't Guilmon, that for sure, but a feral beast that lived on merely because of the burning, seething rage deep within his very core, his heart replaced by burning fires.
"But this time, it's different. I trust my host, do not replace it. I trust you, vessel named Takato. And I trust your command over the dragon of hatred, Megidramon. He is your strongest weapon in the fight against Archenemy, his potential, once properly unleashed, going beyond limits known to man and Digimon. But while being your strongest weapon, he could also be your weakest one. His strength is entirely based on how much rage you do feed him."
Hazaado turned away from me, back to the computer, and rose his right claw – Guilmon's claw – with the Digital Hazard already burning on it. In response to this action, both monitor and computer came alive after showing the crest of hatred.
"What are you doing...?" I whispered, dared to ask, as I saw that the screen was pulsing with crimson energy, forming something that resembled a tunnel.
"I want you to face him. I can feel his strength, deep in the layers of the internet... He's plotting something." growled Hazaado, "I do not believe you can beat him just yet, and I do not believe you should unleash Megidramon upon him. But you shall face him and come to realize what you are dealing with. See his host, see his shape, see his strength, experience it."
"But... What?" I gasped, realizing that Hazaado was totally serious, "But Lucemon...!"
"Don't you understand? Archenemy is not hunting you, he's calling you, mocking you. The whole thing with attacking Belphemon was a ruse, a distraction... He doesn't want the Demon Lords to interfere, he knew Lucemon would go and investigate. Archenemy knew you'd be on your own." hissed the entity, "This is a trap, and we're going to walk into it. While not quite able to defeat him yet, we can cause quite a lot of damage to him... And stop whatever he is doing right now."
"Uh... Do you really think this is a wise thing to do...?" I asked cautiously – I don't want to offend him in any way, or question his decisions, really. Insulting a powerful entity was rarely wise, just looking back to how Zhuqiaomon reacted when we first met him...
I still shudder sometimes when his name is mentioned.
But, I guess Hazaado was right... Maybe it really was best if we'd face Archenemy now. Not only would I finally see him and learn to know what his current host looked like, but I'd also learn how strong he really was – Tremendously strong, obviously, since he could keep up with Hazaado...
"...I'll do it." I spoke eventually, surprised at the determination in my own voice.
"Smart boy. Come on then... I shall give Guilmon control over this body back now, so you can become Gallantmon. Enter the Internet first, then digivolve immediately. I will guide you towards Archenemy then." a creepy smirk passed Guilmon's lips as Hazaado spoke, right before his eyes closed and his innocence returned, Guilmon back in control now.
But we didn't say a thing to each other. We both knew what we had to do, Hazaado's instructions had been more than enough. So we just nodded, stepped up to the still glowing screen – And then, I pulled my D-Power, and directed it at the screen.
Time to face the real enemy, after all.
"Please come again!"
The annoying and overly friendly shopkeeper was nearly drowned out as the automatic door closed behind me. I let out a sigh as soon as I stood outside the card shop, distraught that I just couldn't find the cards I had been looking for. I mean, sure, I could've guessed as much... But one should think that they'd make some cards like that after the whole thing with D-Reaper.
Eight card stores... I've been in eight card stores in this mall, and none offered the cards I've been looking for. Sure, I saw some other cards, good cards, but these didn't interest me as much as the ones I had in mind. But the question was – Did the cards I had in mind even exist?
I don't know how or when I came up with the stupid idea to look for these specific cards, or why I spent so much time on it, and was so disappointed not to find them. I've never been disappointed before when I didn't find or get what I had been looking for.
After all, that's what makes me different to those annoying snobby girls at the school I had went to – The same school that Megidramon destroyed – and had hated: I wasn't some rich, spoiled brat used to getting everything she wants. I've learned early enough in my life that you never get everything you want... Otherwise, I would've had a father at my side while growing up. Otherwise, I would've had an intact family.
School... Yeah, I kind of don't have school at the moment. After all, that annoying school for rich girls my Mom had always forced me to attend to was closed right now. Megidramon may have not destroyed the entirety of It, but after part of it collapsed, the whole building was declared to be in danger of collapsing.
Not that I minded. I was rather enjoying the free time I had now... Of course, I would've enjoyed it a lot more if Takato was still here, the free afternoons got boring pretty soon with nothing to do. And let's face it: Aside Akiyama, the only ones coming close to be real challenges for me when it came to the card game were Henry and Takato.
...Maybe that was the reason I was so hellbent on finding these cards. Because it gave me something to do once I left the house after sleeping in every day. And because I knew that I wouldn't find these cards, because I knew that they didn't exist, it would give me something to do each and every day for a long time.
"Speaking of time..."
I pulled out my cellphone and glanced down at the screen, only to let out a displeased growl as I realized how late it was, and that I had spent hours searching for the damn cards... And that I didn't have any more time to spend on looking for them, seeing as grandma had requested me to come home a little earlier today.
"Might as well..." I thought with a sigh, slipped the cellphone back into the right pocket of my jeans and kept my hand inside.
Turning to leave the mall that I was in, I avoided a group of students and slipped into the crowd, following them into the direction of the exit. As you'd expect from a mall, it was loud and crowded, but I didn't care. I only cared about finding these cards. I only cared about finding a way to waste time, waiting for the day that the stupid Gogglehead would return. It was boring without him... Can't believe he had that much of an impact on my life, gradually becoming part of it.
How come I only realize now?
Suddenly, someone grabbed my shoulder and pulled on it. I froze, felt anger and panic well up as I was pulled out of my thoughts, and whirled around, swatting the hand away, preparing myself for whoever dared to touch me.
To my surprise, I knew the person.
"Oh, Rika, did I startle you? I'm sorry!" apologized Riley quickly, taking a step back and bowing before me. I rose an eyebrow at the Hypnos employee, remembering her to be always at Yamaki's side. We had only had brief interactions before, but I can't say that I particularly hate her being around. She was a nice person to talk to, and we did get along, despite the age difference. Besides, she wasn't that old - 26, if I'm right.
"Riley?" I muttered, only to realize that she wouldn't be able to hear me over the crowd all around us. She confirmed this by pointing to the side, away from the people and towards a small antique shop. I nodded, confused as to what she would want from me, and then followed her out of the crowd.
We reached the antique shop without as much as a problem, slipping through gaps in the crowd and avoiding mindlessly walking people. I've got another surprise as we reached the shop, a certain man in black was standing in front of it, leaning against the wall, playing around with his lighter.
Thankfully, no one else was in front of the shop, and the shop itself was rather empty. No one was really interested in it, and thus, it was at least a little more quiet in front of it.
"Miss Nonaka." greeted the man, nodding at me, yet not stopping to flick his lighter open, only to close it again, thus making a sound that I knew to be getting more and more annoying as time passed. Luckily, he stopped as soon as Riley and I reached him, and he pushed himself off the wall, standing before me in all his height.
"Mr. Yamaki." I replied, nodding as well, "What are you doing here?"
The man smiled, something he had rarely done back in the day, and shrugged casually.
"Can't I leave the office as well once in a while? Even I do have days off." he answered, amused at his own answer, before slipping his lighter into his pocket and pulling his sunglasses off.
"You don't look anything like having a day off." I chose to comment, obviously referring to the black suit he was wearing, which he practically wore all the time.
"I guess so." he chuckled, "May I ask what you are doing here? I believe I spotted you leaving a card store just now."
"Are you... observing me?" Okay, I don't know where that came from, but I just had to ask. It wasn't like I wasn't trusting Yamaki... Sure, at the beginning, he had worked against us, but after the whole thing with the Devas appearing in this world, he had proven that he could be trusted.
"No, like I said, we're having a day off. It's a mere coincidence that we meet." he replied with a shrug, "Riley asked me to come along, saying that I had to get out of my office once in a while, and then dragged me here."
"You know I'm right!" huffed the woman at my side, puffing her cheeks, pouting.
"Anyways, Miss Nonaka..." began the man again, acknowledging Riley's pout with only a smirk into her direction, "It's good that we meet. I've meant to give you something for a while now."
Now he got my attention. I watched as he reached into his suit and pulled out a large, white envelope.
"To be honest, we weren't sure..." he began, waving a little with the envelope, "We've meant to test this, but knew we couldn't just approach anyone. We've been thinking about weeks who we should approach about this, who we'd ask to test them."
He suddenly extended the envelope towards me, confusing me even more. Not taking my eyes off him, I rose a hand and accepted the envelope from him, unsure what I had to expect from it's contents. It didn't seem heavy... Nearly seemed to have no weight at all on it's own, the envelope seemed to be heavier than it's contents.
"Be careful when testing these, Miss Nonaka. What you're now holding is a great danger in the hands of the wrong Tamer... So make sure no one else uses them but you, not until we're completely sure about them." he muttered in a mysterious way, letting go of the envelope and taking a step back.
"And, if someone were to ask where you got them, do not mention Hypnos. We're not supposed to make these. Say something about some shady person or card store, okay?" he added, before nodding to Riley, "Riley will explain the contents of the envelope to you. Please report back to me next week, okay? I'm not forcing you to use the content of this card... Should you do, please tell me about the result then."
The woman at my side nodded back at him and turned to me, smiling brightly. Her boss, meanwhile, turned to leave us – Only to stop again and turn back to me.
"Say, Miss Nonaka..." he began anew – Urgh, 'Miss Nonaka'? I feel like he's addressing my mother – and smiled, "Do you have any plans for the future? Once you're done with school, I mean?"
I rose an eyebrow at the unusual question, the question that seemed to be so out of place. But he got a point – Did I have any plans for what to do once I'm done with school? It's not like I'm going to follow my mother's path, that for sure!
"Not really. Why do you ask?" I inquired, lifting an eyebrow at him. At this, his smirk grew even further and he put his sunglasses back on, turning to leave again.
"Why do I ask, I wonder?" he chuckled as he gestured Riley that he'd move ahead a bit, while I groaned – Really, did he have to become all whimsical now? What happened to the serious man that he once was?!
"Let's just say... I think Hypnos needs someone like you in the future."
I flinched at his words, but didn't get the chance to question them, as he had just vanished into the crowd. So pretty much all I could do was to stand there with that envelope in hand and stare at the crowd, once more surprised at how well he managed to blend in despite his outstanding appearance.
"Well Rika, I guess I quickly explain to you what you're holding and follow him." grinned Riley, pulling me back into reality, "Before he manages to escape and goes back to the office. He's too much of a workaholic sometimes."
"Uh... right..." I muttered, lifting my right hand and looking at the envelope Yamaki had given me, "So, what's this about? What is in here?"
"Some Digimon Cards." smiled the Hypnos employee, "Some new ones we just recently finished. They are just as official as the ones you know, we designed these with the original developer of the Digimon Card Game, but you're currently holding eight unique ones."
"Cards...?" I repeated, confused and surprised.
"Rika, these are purely experimental. We based them on data that we've gathered throughout the last months, including the D-Reaper incident. As such, using them may be a bit of a hazard... These are, after all, still not tested. We've merely run some simulations on them." sighed Riley, suddenly growing uncharacteristically serious.
"Huh?" Okay, what was Riley getting at? What was she trying to tell me?
"In there, you'll find eight cards. Six Digimon, and two effect cards." continued Riley, tapping a finger onto the envelope, "The Digimon aren't really the special cards, though... They are unique, yes, and powerful, but the real experimental card in there is the one we refer to as 'H-Zero'."
"H-Zero?" I repeated, opening the envelope slightly, glancing inside, indeed finding eight cards. I turned the envelope around and caught the eight cards, upside-down. I frowned, then turned them around to look at them – And froze in surprise. Shock.
"Yeah. H-Zero is a highly experimental card, designed to give a Digimon a special state. We don't have any clue what it will cause, though, since it will make the Digimon go into a state that is clearly not designed for it – We extracted it from another Digimon, and only that Digimon was supposed to be able to go into this state." sighed the Hypnos employee.
"The Monster Makers were involved in the creation of this card, but since the state is not normal at all and has developed by the evolution of Digimon, they aren't quite sure what it will cause." added Riley, taking the H-Zero card from my hand and holding it in front of my face.
She suddenly took another one, the other effect card, and showed it to me as well.
"This is the H-One card." she began, "And it is used to counter the effects of the H-Zero card. It was developed after the H-Zero, and thus is named H-One. Since the H-Zero card will apply a state to your Digimon that may cause everything, we inverted the code to create an antidote. Should the H-Zero cause anything that may be a danger to others or your Digimon, use the H-One to immediately deactivate the H-Zero state again. The state will be immediately broken and removed from your Digimon completely, with no traces of it."
"I... see..." I muttered, staring at the cards in disbelief.
"Rika, please use them with caution. I don't think that the Digimon Cards will be your problem, but the H-Zero should not be used just like that. Keep the H-One with you under all circumstances, and do not put it away. And do not let the H-Zero get in the wrong hands."
"What... Would the possible dangers of the H-Zero include?" I asked, not taking my eyes off the card in question. Seeing it created a mixture of feelings within me, shock and anger, fear and excitement...
"We don't know for sure... But, the Digimon that we extracted the code from was displaying increased aggressiveness, increased strength and physical abilities, but would get out of control easily. It continually threatened to go on a rampage the one time that we saw it in this state... And even then, it wasn't completely overwhelmed by that state yet." revealed Riley after a short moment of hesitation, worry displaying on her face.
"So this is some kind of 'Berserker' state?" I inquired, seeing the similarities.
"That's one way to put it..." muttered Riley, before she took a step towards me and placed a hand on my shoulder, "Rika, we think that these cards are best placed in your hands. If anyone is able to use them, it's you... So please don't disappoint us. Be reasonable with these."
"I will..." I growled, not angry at her, but the thought of someone taking advantage of the cards, "As if I'd ever use these cards wrong. I saw what this is capable of..."
Riley nodded softly.
"That's what we thought. Thank you Rika... And good luck with these." smiled the older woman, before she bowed, "Well, I best find Mitsou again, before he makes a run for it. Goodbye, Rika."
"Yeah, you better should. Good luck on your date, Riley." I smirked – And got what I hoped for. She blushed furiously.
"It's not a date!" she hissed, even though her blush was making it more than obvious that she wanted it to be one. They were in a relationship, but it wasn't nearly as romantic as one would expect it to be, with Yamaki being a workaholic, and keeping a professional relationship to the woman while they were on duty.
"Whatever. Thanks for the cards... I'll take good care of them." I replied, shrugging, but not allowing the smirk to vanish, even as I turned to leave after a short bow.
"Thought so. And Rika, about what Mitsou just said..." began Riley, causing me to stop and turn to her, "You should think about it. I like the idea of us working together in the future."
With that, she smiled warmly, and vanished into the crowd as well, chasing after her boss.
I remained where I was for a moment, stared at the spot where she had last been – And then, with a smile, turned away to leave. Grandma was waiting for me, after all.
But as I left the mall, I looked down at the cards I had just received from Yamaki again, and couldn't help but allow my smile to grow even further, even as I saw the H-Zero card.
Yamaki, that sly and mischievous man... He always appeared when you last expected him to, and when he does, he changes something for the better or the worse.
I put the cards back into the envelope, grinning.
Six of the eight cards, the six Digimon Cards, had been exactly the cards I had been looking for...
"We're getting closer, Takatomon! Be ready!" I heard Guilmon's voice echo from all around me.
Colors passed by us as we charged into the internet, our body that of Gallantmon. And let me tell you, it felt awesome to be Gallantmon again after all this time. To believe that it had been no more than three weeks was strange, since it felt like an eternity... Maybe my body was still used to the time of the Southern Quadrant? Maybe it was still living the six weeks of the Southern Quadrant, and not the three weeks of the Eastern Quadrant?
Still, the way to the internet looked just like I remembered it from the movie – mostly pinkish and yellow tunnels - or cables, who knows? - with screens hanging from the 'ceiling', giving directions. Hazaado was directing our body through the labyrinth of tunnels, taking sharp turns and loops, sometimes taking a tunnel in the ceiling or the ground - I had long given up on figuring which direction was the original upwards.
"The upload is nearly complete. You're about to reach the layer that Archenemy is hiding in. Be ready for anything." echoed a deep, nasty voice through the body of Gallantmon, sounding a little bit like my own in a distorted, deeper pitch – The voice of Hazaado.
Another sudden sharp turn, then the screens above me changed. Instead of giving directions, they showed some weird sign - Something resembling some horned black mask with yellow-greenish cables protruding from the lower half, and emotionless, absolutely terryfing eyes in the respective holes - Green with yellow irises, staring straight ahead, not at anything in particular.
"Remember that sign... He identifies himself with it, announcing his arrival or position. I've seen instances of him using the sign in e-mails that were spreading viruses." I heard Hazaado's disembodied voice from all around, "Whenever you see it, be careful. Archenemy is a virus in the worst sense."
"You could call me and him one of a kind..." began the entity anew after a short sigh, "But we are counterparts at the same time. Yes, we both are viruses, and we both are incredibly powerful. We both are parasites, continuing to exist by seeking hosts... But that's were we divide. In what we destroy."
"We both are destroying things around us, we both enjoy it. We are born to do that, and we can't help but enjoy it." Hazaado trailed off, and I felt anger flood Gallantmon's body, coming from him, "But while I am the controlled destruction, deciding what to destroy and how much of it I destroy, Archenemy is mindless and destroy everything he can as much as he can, often leaving nothing behind."
"That's... not very assuring..." I dared to comment, and found Hazaado bursting into a fit of laughter in return.
"It isn't, is it? The destruction that Archenemy and I represent is reflected in how we treat our hosts as well... I can destroy it's personality and take it's place, or cooperate like this time - He just destroys all of his host, turning it into something neither living nor dead, something not allowed to live and not allowed to die." laughed the entity, sending our body into another cable.
"And I assume this destructive behavior of his is reflected in his fighting style as well?" I inquired, not amused at all, like Hazaado seemed to be.
"Correct. But that's why we won't allow him to win today. If we let him be, he will just grow stronger and stronger and cause more and more destruction. He had more than enough time to overpower his host completely and take it's place and powers, multiplying them by several times due to his own, before you arrived. And though he has been fought back twice, he has just returned again... And will do so, even if you manage to destroy him today. The Digital Hazard is not strong enough yet to eradicate him once and for all... You have to grow stronger and feed it more hatred, and we have to weaken Archenemy before."
The cryptic words carried a message I didn't understand, not yet. Then again, there were times at which Hazaado's words made no sense to me at all, probably because I couldn't understand the thoughts of such a mighty entity, and because I was still a child. And yet, there was something he tried to tell me, I knew it...
"He's been defeated two times before I've come here? What do you mean by that? Has Lucemon defeated this incarnation of him before? Has he...?!" I began, wanting to know more about my enemy - Only to be interrupted by Hazaado taking another sharp turn and entering what seemed to be the longest and most complicated tunnel yet.
"We're here. Prepare for anything, vessel named Takato! Once we enter his layer, he will probably attack us, has probably already set up a trap for the moment that we arrive! He knows I will not let him do anything!" growled Hazaado, interrupting me and avoiding my questions that way, "Be ready for anything and everything!"
I swallowed inside Gallantmon, clenched my fists. Haazado was right, informations were useless now, best gathered in a face-to-face confrontation with Archenemy. I narrowed my eyes, staring through Gallantmon's eyes at the pink wall at the end of the tunnel which was drawing closer and closer - We'd hit it in a moment, entering the layer that Archenemy was awaiting us in.
And then, I'd finally see Archenemy's (probably) disgusting face.
"Listen up, vessel named Takato!" hollered Hazaado suddenly, still in control of Gallantmon's body, lifting our shield and holding it in front of us, "We will folllow a plan, and you will not do anything to interfere with it."
"I'm all ears..." I sighed, bracing myself for the impact and what would follow, closing my eyes momentarily.
"Once we break through, I will get this body out of whatever danger we will be facing right after entering. I will then hand control back to you and Guilmon, and allow you to fight Archenemy. Consider it a test of your skills of maneuvering this body - It will come in handy later for something that the Hazard will allow you to do." instructed the entity, more serious than ever before - if that was possible - bracing for the impact as well, "I will only interfere if there is no other way. We won't eradicte him, but I still believe that a victory is possible today. He isn't at his full power as well yet."
"But be wary..." he added, growing more and more serious and tensed the closer the impact came, "Things work a little different in the Internet... There's no such things as actual law of physics there, no gravity at all. You'll be floating, just like you are in space. I don't believe this will prove to be much of a problem for you after the first few seconds, but be wary, still. Like I said, there's no such things as definite laws in there."
"Understood. Anything else?" I murmured, swallowing hard. The suspense was growing ever so much, and never had I quite felt as nervous as yet when it came to facing an enemy - Not when we faced the Devas, Beelzemon, Megidramon even or the Sovereigns - Even D-Reaper had never awoken such fear within me.
Yes, I was afraid, utterly afraid. But who would've not been in my place?
"Actually, yes. First, I will not take over your fight with Archenemy, only if there is no other chance, and only to escape. And second..." he trailed off shortly, increasing his speed, fully intent on breaking through the barrier at the highest speed that Gallantmon could come up with, "It is good to see that you've come to accept Megidramon and the Megidramon Incident in such a short time. The barrier created by that trauma, the barrier that has prevented you from accessing the Digital Hazard's full potential, is gone. This means that we can soon delve into the aspects of the Digital Hazard... And then, your training will really start."
Hearing this surprised me - Lucemon had mentioned that the traumatic experience of the Megidramon Incident had made me fear the Digital Hazard, and thus had build up a barrier between me and it - And now this barrier was gone? That was a good thing, right?
I mean, it would be, seeing as it would allow me to reach even greater control of the Digital Hazard...
But Hazado was right - I wasn't afraid of Megidramon anymore, and didn't think of the Megidramon Incident as an incident, or a nightmare, anymore. I had learn to accept it as part of my past, and Megidramon as part of Guilmon - And of me.
...We will see how this will turn out.
"Impact in three seconds...! Two...! One...!" roared Hazaado, hid his body behind Aegis, Gallantmon's shield, just as we hit the pink barrier with neck-breaking speed - And broke right through it, which felt and looked like jumping right into water from a great height, sending ripples across the pink surface.
The area had changed in just the fragment of a second, going from a small and flashy tunnel to a huge, white spherical space with colorful, gear-like, spinning circles in the air - It looked exactly like the place from the Digimon Movie in my Quadrant, where Agumon and Tentomon fought against Keramon, and later, after it digivolved, going straight past Champion level to Ultimate, Infermon.
What an ironic place for this first confrontation between me and the entity we had decided to call Archenemy take place.
But where was he?
Hazaado seemed to wonder about the same thing, his gaze darting around the space, changing between the gear-like structures in the room - One of them even looked like a Ferris wheel if I saw that right in that short moment - in search for his eternal rival.
"Where is he?!" I heard Hazaado bellow as he kept turning, "I feel his power coming from right here! He should be here!"
"Hazaado, keep calm. Didn't you say yourself that it was a trap?" I asked, hearing my own voice in unison with those of Guilmon and Hazaado coming from Gallantmon.
"Damn straight it was! Mwahahaha!"
A chill went down my spine as I heard the deep, distorted, somewhat familiar voice from behind me. Hazaado didn't waste a second to turn around, Gallantmon's cape whirling up as he did so, momentarily blocking our vision.
Wait, that attack!
Something powerful hit Aegis and bounced off it, at the same time driving the shield to the side, nearly ripping it out of Gallantmon's hand - Before something else got past our defense and hit us in the chest with enough power to not only knock all wind out of us despite the heavy armor, and sending us flying.
When Gallantmon's body, our body, impacted with one of the structures, a sharp pain shot through me, almost as if I had hit the structure myself - The downside of biomerging: Sharing everything, including pain.
Guilmon, Hazaado and I reacted at the same time and forced our joined body to open it's eyes, taking in the sight before us. Hazaado swung our right arm and hit Aegis into the structure we were stuck in, freeing us - And Guilmon and I stared our greatest foe right into the eyes, into the eyes of Archenemy, who was resting against the 'wall' right above the entrance we had come through.
"Wait... Isn't that..." I gasped, recognizing the Digimon I was looking at, it's purplish armor and cable-like limbs, as well as his soulless green-yellow eyes, "Isn't that... Diaboromon?! He's back... Again?!"
"That's Archenemy..." growled Hazaado, "That is his current form."
I cringed, clenched fists opening up as shock washed over me. If Hazaado would've stood in front of me, I would've grabbed him by the shoulders and would've shook him in panic - He wasn't really trying to tell me what I think he was trying to tell me, right?! That was impossbile, didn't make - It did make sense, but...!
"Wait... Are you telling me that...?!" I began, followed by Gallantmon's body moving as Hazaado and Guilmon willed it out of the way of another 'Cable Crusher' - Diaboromon sending his claws at us, extending his cable-like arms.
"Realizing it only now, are you, vessel? Yes, Archenemy's current host is that Digimon... That very same one you know from that 'movie'. He infected a Digiegg and was born as Kuramon, quickly feeding on data and digivolving... Didn't you wonder at all about the strength of that Digimon? It's unnatural! It even came back from the dead before, and became Armageddemon! You know about that, and didn't realize?!" growled Hazaado within Gallantmon, somewhere between furious and amused.
Diaboromon... Archenemy... They're the same... One and the same being, one and the same... It made so much sense, but was even more frightening than anything I had imagined...
Our body moved again as Archenemy - Or rather, Diaboromon - changed his position, resting his back against the 'wall' he had rested against before, his chest opening up and releasing a huge shot of energy. Hazaado had moved Gallantmon out of the way, and yet we got caught up in the explosion that resulted from the burst of energy hitting the already demolished structure.
Smoke and fire enveloped us, but it left us unscathed due to Gallantmon's armor being made of pure Chrome Digizoid - the strongest metal known to the Digital World. And yet, most Mega-Level Digimon could damage it if they tried hard enough.
As smoke and fire died down, whirled away by Hazaado swinging Gallantmon's lance, we found that the 'room' had changed - The structures were gone, all of them ripped apart, only remains of metal and scrap flying through the zero-gravity space.
"Crap..." snarled the entity, hissing and panting. We were far from defeated, but we still received a nasty blow right after entering.
"You've got a mail."
We cringed as a female voice echoed throughout the space, a e-mail sign appearing merely meters before us. If it hadn't been like that before, all signs were set on 'alarm' now, flashing red and beeping inside my head. Hazaado and Guilmon seemed to think alike, I felt it - This wasn't an ordinary message, especially not since it appeared right in front of us.
It was no coincidence, and not a friendly invitation to a movie night from a friend, that for sure.
Hazaado didn't give us control just now, instead, extended Gallantmon's left hand to the sign - The e-mail opened up immediately.
"Came out to play, did you, Hazaado?" he read aloud, eyes darting across the message, as if in disbelief. Only after reading it for a sixth time did Hazaado swing Gallantmon's left hand, slicing apart the message, staring at Archenemy - Diaboromon - with anger deep within him.
"I'm not playing around..." he snarled, hand clenching harded around Gallantmon's holy lance, 'Gram', "And I'm not the one who will play this time. Takato, we're still going to follow the plan, no matter what happened. Do not unleash Megidramon under any circumstances, though... I'm not letting him off the hook that easily, he won't die fast..."
A malicious wave passed through me as Hazaado's anger flared up one final time - Then he went back into his dormant state, giving control to Guilmon and me. And it almost felt natural from then on, being Gallantmon again - Even the zero gravity that Hazaado had warned me about didn't feel as unnatural as I had thought.
"You've got a mail."
This time, the message opened by itself, Diaboromon's ugly face mere centimeters from mine as his image popped up along withhis message - "A new player, how fun. Let me introduce you to the rules then."
I frowned at the message, and so did Guilmon - What 'rules' Diaboromon had meant, though, became clear a moment later, when he suddenly broke through the message and slammed into Gallantmon.
"There are none!" he roared, laughing to himself in his madness, slamming Gallantmon's body into one of the flying pieces of scrap metal.
"Urgh!" I heard the dual voice of Gallantmon - mine and Guilmon's voice - echo from beneath the helmet of the Digimon we were. Pain surged through my own body, shortly limp and not responding - Just for the fragment of a second, before I felt Hazaado's rage leak into me, fueling me with new strength.
Together, we used our strength to push him away from us, using Aegis, but even though we did try to land a direct hit right after that with Gram, we missed.
Diaboromon changed his course with one of his claws, holding onto some scrap to stop his flight and pull himself onto one of the broken structures. At the same time, we slammed our feet into the broken structure we rested against, propelling the heavy body of Gallantmon after the virus.
"Cable crusher!" he announced, pulling his claws up to the height of his head, before sending them towards us. The attack was swiftly blocked with the simple raise of Aegis, an image flashing in front of my mind, Parasimon trying to attack me exactly like that. Everything felt natural at that moment, the movement of Aegis to slam one of the two claws away, then the horizontal swipe of Gram to hit the other claw.
With both claws being no threat to us anymore, we pushed even more strength than before into our movement and closed in on Diaboromon. Indeed, Aegis slammed into the creepy Digimon and sent it spinning, but not much more than that.
Hazaado had been right, this was no ordinary Digimon, way too great resistance and power.
Still in the middle of moving, Guilmon and I willed Gallantmon's body to turn around, causing us to move backwards away from Archenemy, but at the same time allowing us to keep track of him, gaze glued to the horrible monster that he was.
"Lightning Joust!" escaped Gallantmon, our combined will leading to the attack. We, Gallantmon, rose Gram above our head, a sudden bolt of lightning from nowhere hitting the tip of it, charging the lance.
In one swift movement, the lance was thrust forwards, sending a single bolt of lightning at Archenemy – Only did he not care about it, blocking the attack with his right, now retracted claw. This gave us plenty of room to close back in and slam into him.
We shouldn't have.
Before we, Gallantmon, even got close, Diaboromon had opened his chest and charged up another attack – The same orange burst of energy as before, hitting us before we got the chance to raise Aegis.
Thrown back by the powerful blow, I felt a snarl escape my throat, my chest sore and throbbing from the hit that Gallantmon had received. Of course, Diaboromon didn't stop there, and quickly followed his first attack by extending his claws into our direction, past us, holding onto part of a broken structure behind Gallantmon.
Madly laughing, the insane entity that was using Diaboromon's body pulled itself towards us, slamming into the armored body of Gallantmon at insane speed – If didn't knew it better, he even caused a huge dent in the torso as he did so.
Flung around like a pinball, the Gallantmon was thrown into the broken structure that Diaboromon was holding onto, followed by his body impacting with us.
Snarling, I summoned Hazaado's strength again, let anger leak into me, the Digital Hazard showing up on the back of Gallantmon's white armored hand, just like it had done with me. Two circles appeared around it, meaning that more power was unleashed, and I was more than eager to show Archenemy exactly that strength.
A sudden explosion rocked the place when a Digital Hazard drew itself onto the structure behind me, only to explode violently, catapulting both Gallantmon and the beast that still had been above him across the room.
Swinging the shield to slam it into the virus side, it was quickly followed by the lance impaling the virus shoulder, effectively causing him pain for the first time that this battle had begun.
And yet I felt like he was in full control of the fight.
But not at that moment, at that moment, I was doing my best to turn the tides and get back at him. Swinging him around with the lance, slamming his body into one of the floating debris twice before throwing him away, we hoped that it would at least do something at all.
Pointless, as it turned out.
To my surprise and shock, the mindless thing just laughed it off. It didn't show any sign of having taking damage, or that it had hurt him.
"You've got a mail."
I cringed at the sudden voice, and the appearance of the sign before me. Much like it had done before, it opened up own it's own, showing Archenemy's, or rather Diaboromon's ugly visage, along with the contents.
"You're fun, vessel of Hazaado." I read, Gallantmon's eyes darting across the message, "This is fun, so let's have others have fun watching our battle, too."
"Mom's gonna kill me..." sighed Tai, rubbing the back of his neck in irritation as he glanced down at his watch, "Why did I have to run into Matt? We spent the whole evening talking about that new threat..."
"Woah, this is so cool!"
Tai lazily glanced towards a group of kids in front of a store, several TVs right behind the window. Not really interested, Tai looked down at the ground again and slipped his hands into the pockets of his jeans, only concerned about getting home in time and the threat – Which he knew more about than the others thanks to Takato, but couldn't tell them.
"Is this some kind of trailer for an upcoming movie?" asked another one of the kids, once again only mildly interesting the tired leader of the first generation.
"That spider-thing is creepy... But that knight is cool!" added another one of them – And finally got Tai to at least look at the screens.
And freeze in horror.
For a short moment, he saw the the knight the kids had talked about, then the Digital Hazard on it's armor – And then, the 'spider'.
As if on cue, his cellphone rung. Still frozen to the spot, he slowly reached for the vibrating phone, slowly pulling it out of his pocket, no glance sent at the screen as he picked up and rose it to his right ear.
"Don't say anything, Izzy..." he muttered, staring as Diaboromon and Gallantmon fought, "It's Diaboromon, right?"
"So you saw it as well... Tai, he's broadcasting that on every channel all across the world and on every computer! He has invaded the entire network and broadcasts that!" he heard Izzy's panicked voice, before it was interrupted by static for a short moment.
"Come over as fast as you can, I'm already preparing everything... He's really done it this time!" he heard Izzy – Followed by more static... And a deep cuckle within that static.
"I don't enjoy unwelcome guests, so please accept my invitation this time... Let's go back... To where it all began..."
He slowly lowered the cellphone as the call was ended, stared into thin air, swallowed hard. His cellphone beeped once, indicating the arrival of a text message.
Looking down at his cellphone, he opened the text message, the sender some phone company's adress.
"Invitation – You know where to find me, back where it all began. I am awaiting you like the good host I am. Just like back then, when it all began..."
"He's broadcasting it!"
Hazaado's sudden cry of anger made me freeze up. What? Archenemy was... broadcasting something? No, this?! So he was doing now what he was supposed to have done in the first movie...? Diaboromon – Archenemy – was doing that now, and hadn't done it back then, if what I knew was right...
"He's broadcasting our fight all across the world, a live show of the freaks fighting another, virus against virus...!" snarled the entity within me, his anger increasing and leaking into me more and more, "Change of plans, we'll do this together!"
"So that was that sign that I saw earlier, on those TVs...?" I asked cautiously, narrowing my eyes, ready for anything now. Diaboromon was desperate.
"Yeah... A virus that Archenemy spread to send a live feed to anything that could receive it. If what I feel is right, he is broadcasting this fight all across the world thanks to that virus..." growled Hazaado.
"But why?" I asked, narrowing my eyes and balling my fists, feeling how Gallantmon's hands clenched around shield and lance in response, "What reason could he have to do that? The real world of the Eastern Quadrant is unaware of Digimon and the Digital World, unlike in the Digimon Movie in my Quadrant... He could do anything, could start a war! Why would he reveal himself?!"
"Humilation." snarled the entity within me, "He wants to humilate us in front of everyone and everything... Wants to humiliate me by defeating me."
"You've got a mail!"
"I'm starting to hate that message!" growled the furious Hazaado, just as the message opened up by itself, "Talk to me directly, bastard! I'm right over here!"
Hearing those words coming from Gallantmon, whose body I was part of and whose voice was partly mine, mxed with those of Guilmon and Hazaado, was just wrong. I don't curse, not like that, and neither does Guilmon. I could just hope that he doesn't pick up that colorful language of Hazaado... Or that I do, by accident.
"Humilitation won't be all. I will crush your very being! This will be the last time that you annoyed me, Hazaado!" read the message - This time, though, we were prepared as Diaboromon tried the same trick as before and broke through the message.
So, imagine my surprise as my lance found it's target - Better than I had hoped for. And we didn't really have anything to do. Gallantmon had lifted the lance to hit Diaboromon - And he jumped right into it, impaling himself on the lance. Shock took me over and I didn't move anymore, staring at the Digimon that had impaled it's head on our lance - Luckily, Hazaado and Guilmon weren't as shocked.
They realized it wasn't over just yet before I did, noticed that the spider-like virus was still twitching and moving, and rose the lance above our head.
"Lightning Joust!" roared Gallantmon, lightning hitting the lance again. Thousands of volts ran through Diaboromon's body for a short moment, and I heard him scream in pain and shock, right before he was flung away by the following bolt of lightning.
He hit the other side of the room at enormous speed, the lightning bolt driving him through several scraps of flying metal before he did.
"Takato, unleash the Hazard now! We can win this with a single blow now!" roared the mad entity that was part of me, and I knew what sign he was giving me. I allowed his rage to fill my very being, and with that the being of Gallantmon. Power flooded through us, new power that allowed us to raise the shield in just a fragment of a second, holding it straight in front of us.
The shield began to sizzle and glow with white energy, a loud sound roaring as the energy gathered within it - Before I knew it, Aegis was a blinding white, only the sign of the Zero Unit in the middle of it glowing golden. A sudden noise, followed by more, as the energy reached the limit of the shield, red arrows glowing on it - And then, in one final, sudden roar, the shield unleashed it's beam.
"SHIELD OF THE JUST!"
Diaboromon never stood a chance.
He had yet to recover from the direct Lightning Joust when the other attack hit him. And the additional power of the Digital Hazard, fueled into the beam that had once nearly defeated and deleted Beelzemon, was more than enough to defeat him, to my surprise.
As the beam died down, I found myself staring at the remains of Diaboromon, black and charred - And they, making the situation even more intimidating, fell apart into what looked like ashes, black data...
I was breathing hard, the single attack having drained lots of power from me, due to the short but powerful burst of power that I gave into it, converting anger into more energy for the beam.
And there I hovered, still part of Gallantmon, still merged with Guilmon and Hazaado... Of which Guilmon was surprisigngly quiet, but, guessing from how Hazaado was using Guilmon to talk usually, he probably had to use Guilmon's part of Gallantmon as well to converse with me, which he had done the entire time. And stared at the spot where Diaboromon's remains had been.
"Is it... over?"
The DigiDestined stared at the screen, each of them with their Digivices already pointing at the other screen in the room, the one with the gate to the Internet.
Izzy's room was cluttered and small, technical stuff piled up the walls and on the desks, stuff none of them really familiar to most of them - Aside Izzy, Ken and Yolei.
"It's over?" asked Cody as he saw Diaboromon dissolving, the crimson knight still hovering we he had last been.
No one answered, no one moved. Even Izzy had frozen up in the middle of initializing the upload of the DigiDestined to the Internet, and had turned to stare at the feed that Diaboromon had been sending.
"No." whispered Tai, Matt and Izzy at the same time, both Tai's and Matt's gazes growing hard in distrust, and Ken nodding in agreement with the three.
"Why do you think so?" asked Davis, taking a step away from the screen and turning to look at Izzy, "That Knight Digimon did just destroy Diaboromon for us, so it should be fine."
"Davis, don't you realize it?" growled Izzy, suddenly turning back to the laptop in front of him, hammering on the keyboard again, "The live feed."
"Huh?" Davis and the others of the younger generation turned back to the screen, watching as the Knight Digimon didn't move, apparently lost in thought, "What's with the live feed?"
"It's still active, that's it, Davis!" hissed Izzy as he twirled around and glared at the screen that displayed Gallantmon, "If Diaboromon would be dead, the stream would've died along with him! He's hacked into all channels and has infected them with a virus that is linked to him - He's sending the data through the channels! And that he's still doing so is proof enough that he still exists... And if I'm right..."
Just as Izzy trailed off, the angle of the stream suddenly changed, as if the camera itself was moving - Before it suddenly rushed past Gallantmon, a claw shortly visible in it, hitting the back of the armored Digimon and slicing into it's red cape.
"...We're seeing everything through his eyes, from his point of view."
Silence spread through the room, the younger generation turning back to the screen, Kari raising her hands to her mouth, TK balling his fists, Davis and the others speechless as they watched Gallantmon resuming his fight with Diaboromon. Tai, Matt and Izzy, the only ones of the first generation that were present, shared one knowing glance, knowing the strength of the virus that they had encountered twice now - Once when it infected the Internet, the other time when it appeared as Aramgeddemon in the real world.
Tai's cellphone vibrated all of sudden, and he quickly reacted, pulling it out. Everyone turned to him to know what the message said - Tai's scowl was enough to tell them who it was from.
"It's from some phone company again, a different than earlier... At least, their address." growled Tai as he read through the message, scanning it, not liking a single world, before looking up at the others present, "Diaboromon."
"He's done that before, after all, to contact us..." muttered Izzy as he turned back to the six screens in front of him, two attached to his laptop and four connected to different computers, "And he's using our strategy from our first enocunter with him gainst us. Back then, I changed the recipents of millions of e-mails with an algorithm that exploited the network he had created to the phone company he was sending us messages from, slowing him down greatly, making him come to a stop..."
The others watched as Izzy clicked an icon on the screen of the first computer, opening up thousands of windows on the screen, number rapidly increasing. The genius of the first generation of DigiDestined turned to his friends.
"He's sending random e-mails to my address. Of course, he hopes to slow us down, hopes that we won't be able to access the Internet and interfere with his fight just now... He clearly wants us to face him, but he probably wants to finish that other fight before." began Izzy, nodding to the screen that showed Gallantmon fighting Diaboromon, "Luckily, I managed to create another algorithm that gathers all the stray e-mails and redirects them into a file that is deleting itself every five seconds."
Izzy pointed at the four computers.
"That's what these four computers are for. It took me a few minutes, but I managed to make them do that. They are accessing my e-mail account and delete the stray messages." explained Izzy, before nodding at the laptop before him, "We're using this to access the Internet. It's using a safe, different network that is isolated from the rest and protected by eight fire walls. Diaboromon won't get through that easily, so he can't slow it's system down. With it, we're having no lag at all."
"Smart." complimented Ken, and Izzy nodded, a huge smile on his lips.
"I've learned from our mistakes... No more using old computers to fight our enemies, and no more trying recipes from Tai's mom in such moments..." laughed the prodigy, "And Tai better learned as well. No hammering on computers, no matter how frustrated you are."
Tai rolled his eyes and growled, but then let out a snarl and turned to the screen, pointing his Digivice at it again.
"We should go now!" growled the leader of the first generation, before he suddenly turned his cellphone around, thus allowing the others to see it, "Unless you want a repeat of the first time!"
"Let's play a game, for the sake of the old times. You could count back from ten, so let's try another challenge! Who can guess the square root of one trillion?" Davis read aloud, before letting out a loud groan and take three steps back, "Oh man, I was neve good at maths!"
"One million." muttered Ken, before tilting his head a bit, "But what's that supposed to mean?"
Everyone turned to Izzy when the redhead, who had turned his back to his friends, cringed, and then slowly turned around, his face one of pure horror.
"I know." he whispered, "Diaboromon just sent me two files... An image from his stream, one that flashed just for a single second... And this..."
The others turned to look past him at one of the four screens attached to the computers, a constantly growing number on it, duplicating nearly every second. But also, an image was displayed on it.
"Why would he sent us a black image...?" asked Davis, tilting his head a little. He suddenly heard Kari and TK gasp, turned to look at them - The two of them, sitting on the ground, waere staring at the screen in pure horror. Coming to realize that it probably had to do with the contrast, since he had seen that trick on images before, Davis bowed down to look at the screen from a different angle, the others, Tai aside, following his example.
"Oh, wow, from here, the black has turned into a more purplish color, and there are black lines in that purple mass... The shapes created by it almost looks like spiders... Lots of spider, or Dia..." Davis trailed off, fell silent, his left eyelid slowly starting to twitch.
"Tai..." muttered Izzy, staring at the two determined people in the room - Tai and Matt - with fear in his eyes, "The square root of one trillion, constantly duplicating..."
"Is the number of currently existing clones of Diaboromon, I know." snarled Tai, both him and Matt pointing their Digivices at the screen at the same time all of sudden, "It's like the first time, he was right... He's making us play his sick little game, has duplicated already, and is currently hiding in the mass of clones, sending one at a time at that knight... We've got to help him, now!"
"Digiport open!" shouted, to everyone's surprise, Davis. They quickly pulled up their Digivices and pointed them at the screen as well, not wanting to be left behind.
"I'll stay and help you from here, like last time! Hurry up and good luck!" exclaimed Izzy - Just before the DigiDestined aside him were pulled into Internet.
Aside him, and one other person.
Izzy turned to him, looking at him for a few seconds, not quite sure if to ask or not - Eventually, he decided to ask, anyways, letting out a deep sigh.
"You're not going, Willis?" asked Izzy cautiously, eyes resting on the blonde boy that was leaned against the wall.
"...I'm not sure if to go or not." sighed Willis as he pushed himself off the wall, "I hate to fight, I don't want my Digimon to get in danger..."
"But at the same time, you hate the virus that has corrupted Diaboromon, and hate the thought that you are at fault for his suffering, you blame yourself..." completed Izzy - And Willis nodded, letting out another deep sigh.
Izzy watched as the blonde boy walked up to him.
"Not this time, Izzy... No, no this time, I will not face him." muttered the boy from Colorado as he leaned over the redhead's shoulder, "So, can I do anything to help them?"
"Impossible!" I called out, turning Gallantmon's body together with Guilmon and Hazaado, impaling Diaboromon - yet again, this being the sixteenth Diaboromon to die, "They just keep coming and coming!"
"Clones, of course it has to be clones!" agreed the more vilent entity within me, as he turned Gallantmon's body into the other direction and blocked one Diaboromon with Aegis, impaling his head as he glanced over the edge of the shield, "I knew it was a trap, but this is worse than I imagined! We're in quite a situation, Takato! We're not going turn this into a victory for us if this continues... We've got no clue about how many there are or which one is the original!"
I had to agree with him - We've got a huge problem. Of course, we hadn't trusted the situation when Diaboromon had been defeated like that, but when one attacked us from behind, only to then vanish in a hatch that opened up in one of the walls, we knew there was more to it.
We were proven right when five more hatches opened up, purple streams of countless Diaboromon spilling out. Of course, I remembered that he could clone himself, he had done so in that movie as well - But Omnimon had decimated the countless Diaboromon shortly after they reached one million. The question was - How many were we facing right now, and were they still duplicating constantly? Where were they hiding, and why were they fighting me one after another?!
"Coward!" bellowed Hazaado, slicing apart another Diaboromon, "Sending clones at us? You haven't changed at all, you're still a coward, a wimp, sissy, dastard!"
The mad entity continued to call his enemy names as he sliced through the clones of the creepy Digimon, controlling Gallantmon's body by himself, anger and rage fueling Gallantmon's body with strength - And I allowed him to control the body, as did Guilmon. I decided to hold back, had to take time to think this through, so I was more than alright with Hazaado's fit of anger.
Obviously, Archenemy wouldn't face us himself. I don't think he's a coward, but he'd avoid us, his strategy to defeat us from afar. So he was one of those... A cheater.
But how to lure him out? How'd we force him to fight us, instead of sending his clones at us? And if not, how'd we find out if the one we'd fight was the real one? The clones were perfect, completely identical to the original! Was there even a way to defeat him, aside from somehow destroying them all at the same time, or at least huge amounts of them at once?
I don't think that even the Digital Hazard could do something like that, especially not now, now that I didn't have real control over it yet!
"These clones... It's that goddamn Parasimon thing all over again, only worse!" roared Hazaado as he turned around.
Don't ask me what happened then, I don't know for sure.
It was like a switch being flipped, someone replacing my vision with red – No, crimson. A fire replaced my heart, at least it felt like it, something dormant awaking from a slumber it had never meant to end.
Hazaado was suddenly pushed back as I took control, acting on instinct, pure primal instinct. If one would've called Hazaado's method brutal before, mine was a plain bloodshed.
It had to be Parasimon's name, as I suddenly had the desire to rip things apart – Looking back, it felt like I was blaming him for everything. Maybe I was, who knows? Actually, wasn't he to blame for me being away from home, away from family and friends? Wasn't he to blame that I was pulled into this?
As I began to impale the clones, way weaker than the original, I swore that I saw how the colors of Gallantmon's slowly changed to dark, crimson fading to black, white shifting to silver – But I didn't care.
All I cared for was to unleash the rage that had built up within me, to get rid of it.
Each Diaboromon had the shape of Parasimon for me, and it felt ever so satisfying to kill them.
And the real scary part about it?
It felt so natural.
I don't know through how many I had cut, how many I had impaled, as one of the Diaboromon managed to get past my defense. His cable-like arm curled around Aegis and pulled the shield out of my hand – I didn't care, though, even as the other Diaboromon gathered and helped each other to reach me, one pulling my lance out of my grasp and another one jumping onto my back, his cable-like arm curling around my neck.
Without lance and shield, I was weaponless. And yet, I let my instincts guide me – My left arm reaching over my right shoulder for the Diaboromon, pulling him from my back, holding him in front of me by his throat.
In the aftermath, it was scary to think that I ripped that clone of Diaboromon apart my 'bare' hands.
But, it assured me of one thing – The Digital Hazard was just as much of a weapon as Gram was, giving me unnatural strength. Because, that much was obvious – It was the Digital Hazard that allowed me to go in such a 'Berserker' State.
The other Diaboromon stopped coming closer and retreated back to the walls, staring at me without emotion – Not that their faces had ever done so.
"We're here!" I heard someone exclaim – And regained senses. My armor seemed crimson and white again, and I didn't feel the need to rip anything and everything apart anymore. Turning to the direction the voice had come from, I found that the pink barrier was showing ripples again, several people having just broken through it.
"Don't waste any time!" bellowed Tai, sitting on one shoulder of Omnimon, Matt on the other one, "Any second we give him now allows him to duplicate even more! We need to find the original and delete it before it gets out of hand... More than it is already!"
We locked gazes shortly after that, and he immediately seemed to know that it was me, that I was the knight I had told him about. He nodded shortly, then turned around to Imperialdramon, the DigiDestined of the second generation on the huge dragon's back.
Not for long, though, as they quickly climbed off it and flew over to the entrance they had come in through, leaving Imperialdramon to charge towards a group of Diaboromon, Omnimon flying into another direction.
"You've got a mail!"
"You're early. I don't like over-punctual guests." read the message, before deleting itself.
"Finally makes sense why he isn't talking to us directly, but using messages..." commented Hazaado, before allowing Guilmon to take his place as the other half controlling Gallantmon.
"He can't talk to us if he isn't here! He can't talk through his clones!" finished Guilmon for the insane entity, and I found myself agreeing. Yeah, of course Archenemy couldn't talk to us – If he was among the Diaboromon in the space we were in, he'd give away his position.
"You've got a mail!"
"Another one?!" I heard Davis shout, and found myself agreeing with that as well – Diaboromon was up to something, now that the DigiDestined were present, he'd not sent two mails as quick as that before.
I braced myself for another trick, another time he'd use the message to distract us. So instead of reading it, I left that to the DigiDestined, and glanced around, gaze darting from one Diaboromon to another, shortly stopping on Omnimon deleting a whole group of Diaboromon with his cannon, and on Imperialdramon, who was using his giant claws to crush the clones.
"Time to start the real party with a game." read TK, eyes darting across the message, taking in each letter with caution, "Let's play 'Piggy in the middle'."
The moment that TK had finished reading the message aloud, almost as if Diaboromon had waited exactly for that moment, all of the walls began to move. What I had formerly thought of as walls were all hatches, hatches that, when they turned around, revealed themselves to be more messages from Diaboromon – And as they deleted themselves, we were left in a gigantic, black orb.
A gigantic black orb of Diaboromon crawling along the walls.
Silence spread, horrified awe of how many Diaboromon we were up against, everybody turning on the spot in the hopeless attempt of not letting one single Diaboromon escape from sight.
"Just how many are that?!" I heard Davis scream, the sounds of crawling Diaboromon droning out nearly all other sounds.
Izzy chose that moment to appear, a window opening up that showed his face, followed by one of Willis.
"The counter is well beyond six trillion." growled Izzy, glaring at the sight before him, "If he continues to duplicate, he'll cause the network to crash!"
"It was a rhetorical question, Izzy... But well, if it's so many, then we just go to decimate them!" snarled the leader of the second generation of DigiDestined, "Somehow!"
"Time we step into the game again, vessel named Takato. We have to find the original. If we destroy that one, all the clones will fall apart as well." commented Hazaado, "Although I'd usually suggest to unleash Megidramon, who is the most destructive shape of the Digital Hazard's powers, we should not do that, unless you want the DigiDestined turning on you as well. It's no option right now."
"Then we'll have to find the original somehow else! There has to be a way for us to force him into giving himself away somehow!" I growled back, eyes darting around in an attempt to spot a Diaboromon that was behaving differently or that looked different.
"How does he even do that?" asked Yolei behind me, obviously directed at Ken, "All these clones follow his will and are linked to him! He should have huge amounts of data to process! He should be lagging around, but all of those who move are moving fluently!"
Wait, of course!
"Yolei!" I gasped at the same time as Ken, Izzy and Willis, turning to the girl. She blinked at us, especially me, considering I shouldn't even know her name due to being a Digimon they had never met before.
"That's genius, Yolei!" continued Ken for us, gaze darting around, "Diaboromon is one of those who don't move! He has made some of his clones stationary so that he isn't the only one who can't move!"
"So if we attack only the ones who don't move..." continued Izzy, his window turning into another direction, scanning the huge orb we were in as well.
"Then we can at least limit the Diaboromon down to those that aren't moving... And that's not even a tenth!" finished Ken in excitement.
"Still lots of them..." I growled, realizing that it were still too many to count, "But at least he won't be able to escape without stopping of all the clones. And if he does, we know it's him."
"Who are you, anyways?" I heard Cody ask all of sudden, and turned my head to glance at him. Thanks to Imperialdramon and Omnimon taking over and deflecting all the beams from the countless Diaboromon, I could take a little breather after all.
"...Gallantmon. Nothing more, nothing less for you to know." I muttered, before making Gallantmon quickly jump away from them with the help of Guilmon – after my little moment of going berserk and taking the entire control of the body, we were sharing control again - not wanting them to spot the Digital Hazard on the knight's body, since it would only make them distrust me, and I couldn't really need that right now.
"Omnimon! Imperialdramon!" hissed Gallantmon by my will as we charged past them, gaze focused on a group of stationary Diaboromon, "He's among the motionless ones! No time for explanations, just attack them!"
The two seemed to follow my instructions and quickly turned their attention away from the Diaboromon that jumped at them to attack, just deflecting them if necessary. At the same time, we caught our lance Gram and our shield Aegis, who had flown around in the zero-gravity, rose the lance above our head and concentrated on a group of motionless Diaboromon, the ones that just rested against the wall, staring straight ahead.
Anew, a bolt of lightning escaped the lance and flew straight into the gathered mass of Diaboromon. They didn't even make an attempt to escape, merely let themselves be hit and burnt to death by the lightning, bursting apart into black, dissolving data.
For a short moment, the white wall that they had hold onto could be seen – Only for the Diaboromon around to replace the ones that had been destroyed, blackness taking the white's place once more.
So he wasn't among them.
Knowing that, I turned a bit and focused on the next group of stationary Diaboromon, lance already charged by the time I came to a stop and had aimed. Several explosions and flashes of bright light behind me and to my right assured me that Omnimon and Imperialdramon were trying to find the real one as well, with several smaller attacks from the other Digimon of the DigiDestined flying across the room as they did everything to keep the attacks and Diaboromon away from us, knowing that we were the only ones to actually destroy the Mega-Level virus – And yet not knowing that it would only temporarily stop him, since Archenemy was still inside him, immortal and invincible as of now.
I cringed as several of the Diaboromon responded to my attack with their own, forcing me to fall back and to the side to avoid the countless claws – And yet they didn't try to evade my attack, proof enough that it was another wrong side. As they were deleted by the bolt of light, I turned again, winced as a Diaboromon came flying at me, but defended myself in the last moment with Aegis.
It was deleted as I slammed my fist through it's head – These clones were surprisingly weak. So it was quantity over quality, huh? Attack over defense? They could cause quite a lot of damage, but sacrificed all defense they had to do so, meaning that the weakest of attacks deleted them instantly.
So they did differ from the original.
I froze, stopped in mid-sentence as the Diaboromon I had been about to defeat pushed themselves off the wall and rushed past me all at once, suddenly not as stationary anymore. Quite the opposite, as I should find out as I turned around.
Lots of the clones had left their spot on the wall, ignored the Digimon that attacked them, only to fly towards and gather at a certain point, creating a wall of purple spider-like Digimon.
And this wall was right in between Omnimon and one stationary Diaboromon, all those around it having moved away to help in creating the wall.
We've got him.
Omnimon's supreme cannon hit the wall of Diaboromon and ripped it apart, but was mainly deflected by the now deleted clones, leading to the real Diaboromon, which still wasn't moving and couldn't move any time soon if he wanted to keep the clones alive, being unscathed.
I wasn't the only one to realize that the clones had just moved to defend the real Diaboromon. The moment that the wall was ripped apart, Omnimon and Imperialdramon both charged forwards in hope to get through to the original, as did I, charging lance-first towards the one Diaboromon they had protected.
A clone of his did also, and quickly grabbed him, attaching the real Diaboromon, which couldn't move by itself due to how he was lagging, to his back, carrying it, heading straight towards the still remaining mass of clones on that wall, obviously so we'd lose track of him in it.
Imperialdramon hit the wall where Diaboromon had originally been when he tried to crush the original, only to be held in place as clones swarmed to the place he was, wrapping their cable-like arms around his feet and holding them in place. Omnimon, at the same time, had chased after Diaboromon as well, but had managed to change his course just in time due to his smaller size and better reaction time. He still was stopped before he got the chance to reach the real Diaboromon when several clones jumped at him at the same time.
I, at the same time, was headed right for the spot in between Archenemy and the clones, mind set on getting him there, before he could vanish in the crowd.
Without any real warning, a claw hit the right side of Gallantmon's head and I winced, the pain transferred into my body. Knocked off course by the claw, we hit the wall and bounced off it, more pain flooding my system.
It were Guilmon and Hazaado who turned the body and slammed our armored feet into the wall, slowing us down until we came to a stop on it. But together, we saw what had hit us – More clones.
They had got in the way of us and had used their Cable Crusher attack to stop us.
Now, they had gathered into a huge cloud of Diaboromon, a dangerous cloud that had only one intention: Ripping me and Hazaado to shreds. Of course, I wouldn't allow them to, not eager to fall victim to such a horrible thing - Really, nobody would be.
Bracing us for the attacks to come, we pulled Aegis up and held it in front of our shared body, armor rattling as we moved. But, knowing that we could not waste the opportunity, we also did something that was probably pretty stupid - Or influenced by Hazaado's rage blinding our reason - We rushed straight towards the cloud of Diaboromon, running along the wall.
Whait I mean with 'Hazaado's rage clouding our reason...
Being biomerged, there was no 'I', no 'me' and no 'you', and especially not such thing as individuals. A biomerged Digimon had one mind and one body, made up of two minds and two bodies - Or three minds, in our case. Each mind thought for itself, but for the collective as well, and each movement made by the two - or three - minds willing the body to do so at the same time - Which could be achieved, as there was no such thing as reaction time between them - One mind, one body.
As such, each emotion influenced the other mind - or minds - as well, making them feel it. It's complicated, really is, if not for the little thing I had thought of to visualize it, to understand it better myself: Think of a lake, a lake with two rivers flowing into it. The rivers represent the emotions and thoughts that the individuals bring into the new body and mind, the lake is that new body and mind. So the more water - or in this case, emotions and thoughts - flow into the lake, the bigger will it be.
If each individual thought and emotion had a different color, the lake would be made of a mix of colors - And the more specific emotions and thoughts flow into it, the bigger will the percentage of the lake that has that color be. It means that, if rage were colored crimson, and me, Hazaado and Guilmon would feel it at the same time and bring it into the body of Gallantmon - Then the lake would be colored mostly crimson, and Gallantmon would be fueled mostly by rage.
And now realize that the rivers are getting most of the water that flows into the lake, back from the lake.
Yes, emotions and thoughts that flew into Gallantmon were felt by each individual that Gallantmon was made of, and would result in it giving even more of it into the mix.
Soon, the lake has only one color.
And especially that is dangerous, since it doesn't just end once the biomerge is over, some of the stronger emotions may linger for a while in the individuals even after the shared body is split apart into them.
And as such, if Hazaado was allowing his anger to flow into Gallantmon, it wouldn't only make him a raging maniac.
This time, though, the rage that Hazaado poured into our shared body was stopping apprubtly as something happened that we hadn't anticipated.
Omnimon moved in front of us, taking the blow that was meant for us. We watched in shock - yet didn't stop running along the wall - as the Diaboromon enveloped Omnimon's body like a dark cloud, shielding it from view completely. It looked disgusting, seeing the wriggling and crawling orb of Diaboromon that crawled around one center, which was undoubtably Omnimon - and sounded just as disgusting.
But I knew why he had done that, understood the reason for his 'sacrifice' long before Wargreymon and MetalGarurumon emerged from the orb, drawing it's attention towards the two weakened Mega-Level Digimon with attacks that changed in between being aimed at the cloud of clones and the original Diaboromon.
It was to distract them so that we could get through.
Seeing how weak the two were and knowing that they wouldn't be able to keep it up much longer, especially not against so many clones, I put even more power into Gallantmon's feet with the Digital Hazard, rage building up within me, giving us new strength, our gaze locked onto Archenemy, who was about to hide in the crowd of clones with the help of the clone that carried him.
With a loud roar, we pushed off the wall, lance held tightly in our left hand.
Archenemy let out a quiet, malevolent snicker as the clone that carried his lagging body closer and closer to the crowd, the crowd that he'd be able to hide in, and that he'd not be found again in - Until Gallantmon's lance impaled the wall in front of the clone that carried him.
I couldn't help but smirk in the depths of Gallantmon's core as we swung our shared body's legs, using the lance to swing our entire body in an attempt to gain more velocity and put more power into the kick - And slammed one armored leg into the head of the clone that had carried the original Diaboromon.
Would I have been outside Gallantmon, I would've cheered in utter glee as the clone immediately began to delete, leaving Archenemy in shock and completey unguarded. Of course, this was the chance I had hoped for, face-to-face with him, him at my mercy...
Or were that Hazaado's thoughts, invading mine? I couldn't tell, neither of us was holding back our emotions at that moment, allowed them all to gather in Gallantmon and flow back into us, sharing them with one another. Our excitement at that moment was too great, the thought of this first encounter being a victory for us.
But Archenemy was not going to let us have a victory that 'easily'.
While we pulled our lance out of the wall, Archenemy sent a silent command to his clones, a command not seen and not heard, and yet the clones meant to follow it saw and heard it. And before Gallantmon and turned around to impale Archenemy on the lance and end this haunting encounter, the clones had executed the command given to them.
Imperialdramon's cry of pain echoed through the air as a huge amount of clones jumped at him and exploded on impact, made only worse by him being unable to avoid due to clones holding him down - Which eventually blew up as well, all at the same time, enveloping Imperialdramon in one big explosion - From which a defeated Veemon and Wormmon emerged.
Imperialdramon was defeated, and Omnimon split apart into Wargreymon and MetalGarurumon - With that, only I remained to fight Archenemy, the only one left that had enough strength to defeat the poewrful, infected Mega.
And the blow meant to do exactly that was blocked by the true Diaboromon as he rose his claw, surprising me, catching me off guard. Before we got the chance to react, Archenemy swung his other claw and hit us right in the gut, knocking all air out of us.
Gallantmon doubled over, and neither of the individuals it was made of - including me - could react, stunned by the blow being delivered to us as well.
Archenemy's sinister laughter rung in my ears as another blow hit Gallantmon's back, sending us spiraling downwards and making me arch my back in pain. Too caught off guard, our reaction was late and not saving us, but with the help of the lance, which we slammed into the wall, we managed to slow our fall and come to a stop.
Feet resting against the wall and looking up, we glared at Archenemy as he turned around so that he was on all fours, staring down at us with amusement in his freaky eyes.
"He can move, after all?!" I snarled, Gallantmon's voice - a mixture of our voices - repeating it aloud.
"Now, yes. That's why he sacrificed his clones... He sacrificed enough so that his body can handle the data it has to process without slowing down!" replied Hazaado, thankfully just for me and Guilmon to hear. Would have been weird otherwise, Gallantmon replying to his own question...
"Well, doesn't change a thing! I'll still defe-Ugh!" My enthusiasm was stopped before I even got the chance to unleash it, something grabbing us from behind and holding our body - Gallantmon's body - in place. I turned my head, struggled against the grip that the cables had on me - Yes, I hadn't been careful enough, had allowed a clone to sneak up on me.
And one clone quickly became two, and two were quickly joined by another two, and before I knew, I was held in place by a whole bunch of Diaboromon, not allowing me to move a single bit. They had used their cables to subdue me, trapping me in a cocoon of cables - The weirdest thing I had ever experienced.
"You goddamn...!" bellowed Hazaado aloud through Gallantmon, taking control of the body by himself struggling, fighting against the cables - Not that he could do anything. In a former body, or at greater strength, he would've been able to free himself, probably. But he wasn't at enough strength yet, and we couldn't resonate enough yet to gain more strength.
No, it didn't work, and all the energy he put up to struggle was wasted.
"Hazaado..." laughed Archenemy, his mouth only opening, but not moving as he spoke, a result of the voice belonging to the virus inside the Digimon and not Diaboromon himself if I interpreted it right, "Once more I've proven to you why your wimpy behavior does not grant you strength. 'Resonating' with your host? 'Symbiosis'? Fool! Only by taking full control can you exploit all the strength of your host!"
"Nonsense!" defended Hazaado himself, fighting again, "And it's not like I can choose my host! I am not a parasite! I am not you, and I won't ever stoop that low!"
"Try it before you judge it! Try it, try infecting a being on purpose and slip into it's body, replace it, exploit it's strength... And once you find a stronger host, leave the old behind! That's how I live! That is the path of the strong one!" shot Archenemy back, his dead and dry voice pain in my ears. Did he have to be so close? His dead voice is like a speaker up this close!
"I'd rather not. I'm already cursed enough as I am, cursed to never exist myself, cursed to live off others, being part of them!" snarled the entity within me, "I'll not become a parasite, making my curse even worse."
"Figured as much. Then we shall continue as we always do, until this conflict of ours is decided by fate itself! Fate itself will decide who is right! One day, only one of us shall remain!" replied Archenemy, but his voice carried a hint of amusement this time, "This time, something shall be different, though..."
"What are you referring to?" hissed Hazaado and narrowed our eyes at the Digimon in front of us, the one that was long dead, had never lived, only existed as a shell for Archenemy.
"I've observed you. The alliance made between you and your vessel has not gone past me unnoticed... And so has the fact that your vessel's body has perfect synchronization to the epitome of your power, the Digital Hazard." snickered Archenemy, "For allying with you, and being the one body that could grant you all of your powers again, I shall destroy him, too. He shall suffer as much as I do..."
"You shall, Takato... Matsuki..." hissed Archenemy lowly through the mouth of his host - And I shuddered, shuddered at the way that Archenemy used my real name, at the way how he hissed it lowly.
A sudden noise caught us off guard, even Hazaado had stopped struggling. We turned Gallantmon's head to see the source of the noise - spotting the DigiDestined and their Digimon in the distance, holding back, defending themselves gainst the clones as I did - and examined it, perfect confusion as to what that thing was - It looked like a purple, pulsating mass of data, no distinct shape, always changing.
There was something like an eye within, which, as it grew, turned out to be less of an eye, but more of a window - But it was so small and thin, I barely could see what it really was - A location, that I did know. An alleyway... I could make out a streetlight... The sky and... A girl? Agh, that pulsating mass, I can't see the location clear enough...
What was this mass? A window? A... No, what was it?!
"Someone else needs to see your pitiful loss as well, Takato Matsuki..." laughed the mad entity lowly, laughed as the purple mass continued to expand - And for some reason, I couldn't avert my gaze from it, couldn't help but try to recognize the location that was displayed inside the mass. I felt like a moth being drawn to the light, but apparently, Guilmon and Hazaado had a hard time holding back as well, they didn't try to look away either...
What is that place? Why do I... want to go there so badly? This place, strangely familiar... is calling out to me... Whispering my name, wanting me back, wants to embrace me and...
Archenemy's cry rang out, pulling me out of my trance, especially as the mass of purple wavered once and began to collapse, slowly, speed increase with every second. In no time, it would be closed again - Not like I wanted to reach the inside anymore, the desire was gone.
Instead, I was entirely focused on Archenemy again - And the familiar lance that had impaled his right shoulder and protruded from it.
But not from the front - No.
The lance came from inside the wall behind Archenemy...?!
I must have looked stupid, standing there in the dark alleyway near my house, the sun already set and the stars, the moon and a streetlight shining down on me - On me and the cards.
God, Gogglehead must have rubbed off on me. Back in the old days, I would've never even considered being happy about just a few cards, no matter how unique or special they were, or that they were from Yamaki... But there I stood, grinning some idiot that'd wear goggles all day long, staring down at the eight cards I had got from Yamaki, the same eight cards that I just couldn't put away ever since I had left the mall...
Jyarimon, Gigimon. Guilmon. Growlmon, Wargrowlmon, Gallantmon. Six unique Digimon Cards I had spent weeks looking for, despite knowing that they didn't exist - or at least, hadn't, not until Yamaki had made these - still experimental - cards. And holding them in my hands, I felt like a piece of that stupid Gogglehead had just returned to me.
Even as I looked at the last two cards in my hands, the cards that Riley had warned me about, it felt like Gogglehead wasn't that far away from me after all...
The experimental H-Zero, a card that displayed the Digital Hazard, and it's counterpart H-One, a card showing an upside-down Digital Hazard.
No matter what that horrible sign had done in the past... That it had created Megidramon... Seeing it, especially since it was on that dino-doofus of Gogglehead, reminded me of Gogglehead, and of course Guilmon. It was part of them, I guess.
Seeing those eight cards in my hands felt surprisingly right - Especially holding the H-Zero and H-One. With Takato not here, I'd take his place to watch over the Digital Hazard, and make sure that no one will use this for the wrong purpose. I don't know how Takato could unleash it, why he drew it on Guilmon when he designed him, or how dangerous it really is... But it almost felt like Takato had made sure that no one was making the same mistake he did when it came to the Digital Hazard, watching over it like some guardian, ever since the Megidramon Incident.
And holding these cards now, it felt like I should continue doing that until he's back.
A sudden noise made me look up, made me turn away from the cards I could not let go off, fearing that they'd vanish or get in the wrong hands the moment that I did. These cards had become my very treasure in just the few hours that I had them, and I'd drop nearly any card from my deck to include the six digivolutions of Guilmon into my deck - In honor and memory of Takato, until the day that he comes back.
Then, he should take them. I've no right to possess them, and only he should watch over the danger that the Digital Hazard is... Don't ask me where that comes from, or why I feel like Takato has watched over it and should continue doing so - I just did.
As I rose my gaze to spot the source of the strangely sharp and digital noise, I found nothing - The alleyway was just as empty as before.
"Renamon?" I asked carefully, awaiting the stealthy kitsune to appear at my side - Only to remember that she had remained at home, with grandma. Sure, we had that telepathic link thing and I could call her over it - But there was no sign of any danger yet, calling her for nothing would only make me look paranoid and stupid.
So, instead, I dimissed the noise as nothing and turned down to my new cards again, unable to tear my gaze away from them - At least, until I rounded the corner and found myself in the alleyway that led to the back entrance to my house, the gate to our garden.
Out of habit, I looked up for a second, then down at my cards - And froze, looked up again, stared straight ahead at the thing in the distance, not too far from the gate to my house.
It looked weird, a pulsating mass of purplish data. But that alone was enough to alert me. With long and well trained skill, I slipped the eight new cards into the respective pocket on my belt and pulled my D-Power in the same movement, fell into a sprint, my free hand already reaching into the pocket of my coat to retrieve my glasses from it.
I don't know if that pulsating mass was going to expand into a Digital Field or not, I've never seen it before - But I've got to be cautious.
The exchange was quick and short as always, a sign from me that Renamon had to come, and she'd find her way to me in mere seconds. This time, mere seconds were too long.
I had crossed the distance between me and that purple mass halfway when I spotted it - And as I did, I froze up right then and right there, petrified, unable to move. From where I stood, I could see that there was something else in the purple mass - in the gateway.
I could see what was beyond it - Which happened to be...
"Gallantmon...?" I whispered, seeing the knight that Takato and Guilmon had turned into before my eyes ever so often. But, what was that, holding him, subduing him? Cables?
"RENAMON!" I sent through the link we had, along with the image of Gallantmon subdued by the cables - I've never been so glad about that psychic link before!
"On my way!"
I didn't wait for Renamon's answer, no matter how fast it came. Alerted, in panic, I fell into a sprint again, hand clenched around my D-Power, free hand putting my glasses on, mind running thousands of miles per second, racing, trying to realize and understand what I was seeing.
I heard the door to my left open at insane speed, Renamon having left our house. She appeared a second later on the wall to my left, eyes on the rift as well - The rift that was gradually becoming smaller and smaller. She saw it, too, saw Gallantmon, without a doubt - I was sure of that as she jumped off the wall and picked me up, her speed greater than mine could ever be.
Together, wind howling, not thinking of the consequences, we rushed towards the gateway - My mind was set only on one thing: I needed to help Gogglehead, had to save his sorry ass to kick it for being so stupid! How did he get in that situation? Was it as bad as it looked like?
At least I was sure Guilmon was with him now, he wasn't alone and vulnerable! Still, seeing him like that - He needed help, needed someone to get him out of that situation.
I felt like it was my chance to repay him for having saved my life before, from having prevented me from becoming a lifeless ice queen, when the wind roared past my face as we moved at Renamon's speed towards the gateway, which was closing faster and faster...
"RENAMON!" I shrieked, didn't have my voice under control at all, I needed to enter that gateway, no matter at what cost! Renamon knew that as well, and went even faster.
And then, for a short moment, it was as if time stood still.
Just for a second, just before the gate closed right in front of my face - Just for that second, I saw how Gallantmon was freed from the cables, the same lance that he always carried, cutting through the cables that bound him.
And then I saw them, back to back - Gallantmon and...
A loud swoosh, then the gateway had closed, right in front of us. Renamon, in the middle of a leap, was sent off balance by a small shockwave that was caused by the gateway, and we both fell forwards, hitting the ground where the gateway had been. I rolled across the stone, winced as I felt my arm sliding across the rough ground.
But my arm wasn't the only thing that was hurt - My pride had took a huge blow as well.
Damn it! So close, Takato had been in reach! He had been there! After nearly six weeks, I could've been at his side again, could've repaid him... And that damn boredom would've been over as well! Damn Takato for having all the fun! It's been boring here, not a single wild one!
"Rika?" I heard Renamon ask, cautiously, almost as if she feared that I'd be hurt or angry.
"We nearly had him, Renamon..." I sighed as I sat up, hand on my graze, "Takato was so close..."
"But we know he is alive now." reasoned my partner, something that I couldn't disagree with, "He didn't seem to be in a good position, but he was alive, and Guilmon was with him..."
Silence spread after that, uncomfortable silence as I rose from the ground and picked up my D-Power and my glasses - Ah, great, broken - as well as a few cards.
"...You saw it as well, didn't you?" asked Renamon as she watched me putting the cards back into my pocket - Luckily, none of the new cards had fallen out!
"Yeah." I growled as I turned back to her, locking gazes for only a short moment, before turning towards the spot that the portal had been at, "I saw it."
"A second Gallantmon freed him. But isn't Guilmon one of a kind?" asked Renamon aloud, gaze resting on that spot as well. Silence spread for a moment then, neither of us moving, neither of us saying anything for a moment. "And what that gateway had been about. Gateways like that... I've never seen one before. That was forced open, Rika... By who. is the question."
Speechless, I stared at the other Gallantmon. Stared as it impaled Archenemy's shoulder, stared as it broke through the wall to the right of Archenemy, stared as it freed me of the cables and deleted all of the clones that had held me in place - All in one single swipe of it's lance.
"You shall pay for that...!" roared Archenemy, right before he fired an orange blast of energy from his chest, forcing me to react and block, and giving him enough time to escape through the hole that the second Gallantmon had created with it's arrival. Apparently, he didn't enjoy having his entire right shoulder missing after that surprise attack of the other Gallantmon.
Still... other Gallantmon? Was this the Gallantmon of the Royal Knights that Hazaado had told me about, the copy of my Gallantmon?
"Uh... Thanks..." I muttered through Gallantmon, watching the other Gallantmon, frowning at it - It looked exactly like the Gallantmon that I was part of did... It wasn't just any copy, but a perfect copy. That something like that is possible scares me - I better not get on the bad site of Yggdrasil, who made this copy of my Gallantmon...
"My pleasure." replied the other Gallantmon in an emotionless, almost ignorant and distanced manner, not even turning to look at me completely, "Takato Matsuki."
Figures that this Gallantmon knew my name - All of the Royal Knights did, if the sovereigns have really mentioned me to Yggdrasil and the Royal Knights.
Still, something about this other Gallantmon... felt weird to me. Like, something was off with it, the way it stood and sounded, the way it moved and behaved... It was so unlike me, unlike my Gallantmon, so out of place and absolutely frightening.
The Digital Hazard was also missing on it's body, replaced by images of the Zero Unit instead. It fascinated me, to see such a different design to my Digimon, intrigued me that it was so unlike Guilmon and me... And yet was based upon us, based on Gallantmon.
"While I'd rather enjoy spending time with you, getting to know and understand the original..." began the second Gallantmon all of sudden, it's gaze moving to a spot behind me, "Now is not the time, and this is not the place. As we meet again, I shall answer... For now, seeing you safe is all that I required to know to continue on. I have duties to attend to..."
I let out a sigh - Great, whenever I meet someone who could explain something, he pretends that he doesn't know or can't tell due to whatever reason...
Now imagine my shock when the second Gallantmon suddenly rose his version of Gram - A short one, but double-sided - and swung it into our direction.
We didn't have time to react, and at least I could barely contain my scream as the lance went past us - And hit MagnaAngemon, who had been about to attack us from behind. Whirling around, we came to face the DigiDestined, some of them eyeing us cautiously, the others still confused.
They had every reason to - After all, they had finally spotted the Digital Hazard on Gallantmon's armor.
I locked gazes with Tai for a short moment - Yes, he knew it was me, knew that I was no enemy. But the others didn't. The other DigiDestined thought of the Digital Hazard as a threat and an enemy... Uh, great, I'm not exactly in the most fortunate moment, huh?
"We best leave as fast as possible. Follow me, I'll guide you out of here into the Digital World. From there, you can return to the Eastern Quadrant's real world safely." muttered the second Gallantmon, leaning closer to me, "Trust me."
Without a doubt, I did. It had saved my life, and if it really was the Gallantmon of the Royal Knights, I had any reason to trust it. Besides, I don't think that the DigiDestined would talk this out right now, the thing with Diaboromon didn't exactly make them relax or get more open-minded to viruses...
"Yeah... We best do." we agreed, swallowing, "Where to?"
"Just follow me..." instructed the other Gallantmon as it turned around - A wrong movement, as we quickly found out.
"Stay where you are!" roared the weakened MetalGarurumon, unleashing all of it's rockets, ready to fire them at us. While I shuddered inside the armored body at the thought, the other Gallantmon didn't seem to be fazed at all, looking with disinterest at the wolf.
And then, everything happened so fast, I can barely retell how it happened exactly.
The second Gallantmon turned around and unleashed a Lightning Joust - a more purplish version of it - at MetalGarurumon, right when the wolf fired it's rockets. The other Gallantmon proved to be quite good with aiming, destroying all of the rockets with it's Lightning Joust. At the same time, something slammed into MetalGarurumon, defeating it, causing it to de-digivolve into Gabumon - A Terra Force.
"Tai, what was that?!" shouted Matt as he turned to his fellow DigiDestined - But Tai shrugged in return.
"It was an accident! Agumon didn't do it on purpose!" defended Tai himself - But I knew the truth. Tai had done that on purpose, had wanted to give me this chance to escape - A single glance we exchanged confirmed that.
"Come on now, follow me!" hissed the second Gallantmon, placing a hand on our shoulder, nodding towards the hole it had entered through, the same hole Diaboromon had escaped through as well, probably using it to go into the Digital World.
We nodded as well and followed, quickly slipped into the hole after the other Gallantmon did - But not without exchanging yet a last glance with Tai.
Well, I think it was a good thing that I told him about this. I doubt that Omnimon would've been as ready to help me if Agumon wasn't on my side to begin with - And he wouldn't have attacked MetalGarurumon 'by accident' either... And Tai would've been proven to be quite an opponent, that for sure. As enemy, I feared him the most of the DigiDestined...
But that was no longer a possibility, Tai was on my side. He had proven that when he helped me escaped - As had the second Gallantmon, which eventually did mention that it was part of the Royal Knights, right before we parted ways - The only thing it said in between the escape and then. Not a very talkative being...
The rest of the day, what little had remained of it, remained silent.
Gigimon fell asleep right after we parted, and Hazaado was surprisingly quiet, not daring to say a thing, no matter how often I talked to him.
To be honest, that was more than okay with me. I needed time to think as well after that encounter - Which, in the end, was as much of a victory as it was a loss. If not for the second Gallantmon showing up in time, it would've been over there... And that purple mass would've reached it's full state.
But still... What had that been? What was on the other side of it, the place I had seen...?
So many things to think about, and no power left. It was well beyond 0 AM when I was finally back in my apartment, tired and sore, defeated and nearly broken. And yet, I lay there for at least an hour in my bed, Gigimon snoring loudly and Hazaado not saying a thing at all, and thought, pondered, mused...
But it was no use. What little made sense didn't help me to understand anything... And it didn't look like I could tell the DigiDestined anything soon about this.
I knew two things for sure, though.
Diaboromon was back, and even worse, he was Archenemy...
And tomorrow, there was a party that I was waiting for...
The prodigy of the first generation let out a sigh and fell back into his chair. All the stray messages were finally deleted, all viruses that Diaboromon had sent taken care off, and the computers shut down, only his laptop still active, the only source of light in the dark room.
The others had left hours ago, mixed emotions about what they had experienced. And even Izzy and Ken together had yet to come to an explanation as to how Diaboromon had come back, and how the mysterious Knight Digimon - both of them - were connected to Diaboromon, and Megidramon. At least one of them had the Digital Hazard sign on his armor...
Izzy ran a hand through his hair and sighed again, eyes heavy and his body tried. He couldn't have gone to bed just like that, though, not if he wasn't completely assured that his beloved computers were safe from any attacks of the virus.
He was just about to stand up and go to bed when he remembered something, something he had meant to do a week ago already. Since he was already there, with his laptop, and already tired, he could as well get that over with as well.
Sitting down again, he began to type on his keyboard again, tired eyes taking in what he wrote and accepting it as the search engine got a result. Two clicks, then he read the names displayed on the screen - Pausing only to yawn.
However, what he had thought of as additional five minutes quickly changed to more. When he didn't spot the name he had been looking for, he rose an eyebrow, became intrigued. Interest and curiosity awoken, he pushed all of his tiredness away, into the back of his mind, and began to type faster again, fingers gliding across the keys - No result.
He changed the words, let the search engine work in several windows at once, landed on different sites.
Tiredness was long gone, everything around him droned out as it was replaced by panic, confusion, shock, everything but happy emotions.
The two words were mocking him, were telling him the horrible truth. He even contacted a friend of his in the middle of the night, just to confirm his theory.
Izzy sank into his chair, mouth open, taking slow, deep breaths.
No result on 'Takato Matsuda'. No 'Takato Matsuda' in Shinjuku. Had never been in Elementary School. Had never been in any other school. No school records of Takato Matsuda, or anyone with a name like that. Even his friend confirmed it - No Takato Matsuda.
There had never been a Takato Matsuda in Shinjuku, at not a single point in the last three hundred years, possibly even longer, he didn't check.
Izzy closed the laptop and swallowed, licked his dry lips.
There was no Takato Matsuda.
TK had been right, all along.