This fic takes place after/in episode 25 Aquliamon; Knight of the Skies (or Spirit Needle in the Dub version). All plot after that will be ignored, because I have my very own plot. Some things will of course, still happen (like BlackWarGreymon) but they will either happen in a different way or for different purposes.

On ages: Since I can't write about ten year olds seriously, I'm going to make it so that 5 years passed between Season 1 and Season 2. So, everyone is 13 with the exceptions of Miyako who is 14 and Iori who is 12. Tai and the rest are 16.

For all you dub readers, Daisuke = Davis, Miyako = Yolei, Iori = Cody, Hikari = Kari, and Takeru = TK. If you're confused about the older kids or the digimon just send me a PM or state so in a review.

Also, first arc is very Ken-centric, so if you hate Ken… actually I have no idea why you're reading this if you hate Ken, considering he's listed as a main character lol. But it's honestly because he's so central to the canon plotline, and I'm not completely tossing canon out the window. Plus he needs to do his redemption thing. But yeah, later arcs will have less focus on him, even though he'll still play a big part.

Side note: Ken's history will be mostly the one depicted in Tag Tamers, (which happens a year after the original adventure) but I will make some minor changes. Since I've never played the game, I had to read Legendary Tamer 1: Rise of Darkness by Black Knightmon to get something of a summary. So… if you want to know Ken's history, read that fic, or just wait around because his history will slowly be explored in the contents of this one.

Okay, now that we've got all that out of the way… let's start the story!

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Aurum Maculosus

Arc 1

Chosen Children

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Page the First: Takeru

"Curse Crimson!"

Thick red mist spread from Golemon's back, encompassing Ichijoji Ken's green digimon. Stingmon stumbled back, falling to one knee as he tried to breathe through the surrounding toxins. The green digimon shook, and in a flash of brilliant white light, degenerated back into Wormmon.

Their last line of defence had failed.

The other Chosen Children gasped, not entirely sure what to do. When they had been called in earlier this morning, the last thing they had expected was to be put in such a desperate situation. Now it looked as if Golemon would succeed in destroying the dam and flooding the small digimon village downstream.

"No!" Miyako screamed, taking a step forward only to suddenly stop, looking as if she were unsure of what she was about to do next.

Takeru felt much the same. He had to admit, when Daisuke had first suggested calling Ken over, and Mimi had had supported the idea, Takeru had felt a douse of relief. It wasn't that he trusted or had even forgiven the former Digimon Kaiser, and in fact he still felt wary about Ichijoji Ken's current actions, but Stingmon was a valuable asset.

Plus, as cowardly as this was to admit, Ken made it easier for them by making the tougher decisions himself. It was not that the purpose for which the Chosen Children were called to the digital world this time was any less meaningful than when the original eight had been called, but in many ways the original journey had been much tougher. Takeru did not forget the days where sparing enemy digimon hadn't been an option, and there was no easy solution of simply breaking a dark ring.

Iori and Miyako had experienced no such thing, so when they talked about it being unacceptable to kill digimon in any circumstance, Takeru had stayed silent. He wasn't sure if destroying Thunderballmon was the only way to stop him, but if it was, he knew he'd have to side with Ken on it.

He knew that Mimi thought so too, which was why she'd been unhesitant in calling for Ken.

But now there was no relying on Ken to make the hard choices. Stingmon had fallen.

Takeru hesitated.

He knew, he knew what he had to do. If this were five years ago he wouldn't have hesitated, but with the new Chosen Children he knew that his choice wouldn't be accepted.

Blue eyes slid to the faces of his new comrades in arms.

Miyako's open face revealed exactly what she was worried about; her decision over Ken, and subsequently, her agony over whether his actions were correct or not. The way her eyes kept flickering towards the indigo haired boy in distress made it obvious enough.

Iori's fists opened and closed, his fingers almost white with strain. His thoughts over the issue were much clearer. The way that his eyes burned told Takeru that he'd never accept having to end someone's life in able to save so many more.

Daisuke just looked unsure. He was as determined as ever, but he had no idea where that determination would go. His teeth found his lower lip as they often did whenever their auburn haired leader felt stress. It was a gesture Takeru wasn't even sure Daisuke knew about.

And then his gaze settled on Hikari.

She looked unbelievably forlorn, standing there with her petit hands clasped tightly at her stomach. Takeru's mind immediately flashed back to the promise he had made to Sora to take care of Hikari. That promise was one that he intended to keep no matter what.

Hikari definitely didn't need to deal with a fresh burden on her mind along with the recent Dark Ocean crap. The other kids, they wouldn't understand, they hadn't had to live through those dark, apprehensive days. They didn't know, didn't have to know, didn't have to continue having nightmares…

He closed his eyes. There was really no choice was there? His fingers wrapping themselves firmly around his D3, as if that could somehow show the strength of his resolve. "Patamon, let's do this."

The little digimon struggled to his feet, having previously fallen to the bottom of the crevice on which the dam rested due to a particularly nasty attack by Golemon. Using his large, leathery wings as support, Patamon nodded determinedly to Takeru. His voice cracked from pain, but he was a determined little guy, "Let's see how this big mean-ie can stand up to Angemon!"

Takeru couldn't help but smile a little bit despite the situation. He couldn't ask for a better partner. They locked eyes, and Takeru knew that Patamon understood. He always did.

Iori's head suddenly swerved to Takeru's, and Takeru saw an inkling of understanding creep up in them, "What? What are you—!"

"Patamon evolves to… Angemon!"

As soon as the light of evolution dimmed, the angel-like digimon flew towards Golemon, shifting his golden staff to one hand.

Hikari also turned to stare at Takeru, brown eyes wide. "Takeru, you're not thinking of—"

"HOLY FISTO!"

Golemon didn't stand a chance.

Ken's digimon had already tired it out, and plus, Angemon was a vaccine digimon; super effective against viruses like Golemon.

Takeru let out a shaky breath as the digimon roared in pain before dissolving into sparkling data, signalling its end. The dam was safe.

But, at what cost?

Almost unwittingly his eyes found the former Kaiser, who was running along the dam until finally he reached his degenerated partner. Suddenly, the boy glanced up, violet eyes narrowing intently as they met Takeru's, as if he were seeking Takeru's soul. Any other time, Takeru would have met the challenge, but today… he turned away.

And it was just then that Miyako let out a furious cry, stepped up into his personal space, and slapped him.

The resounding smack was almost enough to break the horrified silence that'd fallen.

Takeru reeled, taking a step back as he stared incomprehensibly at the shocked face of the new Chosen of Love and Purity. A hand slowly lifted, delicate fingers gingerly dancing over the small red bruise that was quickly spreading on his cheek.

Miyako's widened, one hand subconsciously rising to her mouth in horror. She took a step back, looking for all the world like she hadn't been in control of herself just then, "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to—"

"Yes," Iori cut in, voice heavy with a smothering rage. The slap seemed to have broken the spell of silence that'd fallen over them at Golemon's death, and Iori's shock had quickly disintegrated into rage. "She did. How could you do this to us Takeru? I thought you valued the lives of digimon… so what was that?!"

Takeru closed his eyes. He didn't expect Iori to understand. Still, why did it feel so bad?

"It had to be done," he whispered. "With our digimon like that, there was no way we could have saved the village. You know this too Iori."

It was the wrong thing to say. Iori's face turned beet red, "There could have been a way, you don't know that! We always find a way! Deciding something like this by yourself… you—you're no better than the Kaiser!"

"That…" That hadn't been his intention at all. He was only looking out for the innocent digimon. There hadn't been time.

But it was hard to think well of himself with the digimon's roar of pain still fresh on his mind.

He glanced around again, not quite knowing why but knowing that he needed to. Was he looking for support? Maybe. It was selfish of him but his resolve was weakening by the second and though he was still sure he hadn't screwed up, he needed to know where he stood.

Miyako looked on the verge of apology, but she had already shown her stance by slapping him. Iori was absolutely livid. The habitual calm and serious sixth grader was staring at him like a bug; Takeru had to turn his eyes away. His gaze settled on Hikari, taking in everything from her pale face to her teary eyes. Was she trying to not cry for the dead digimon? It would be so like her. Mimi's attention was thankfully, fully on Palmon, and Takeru couldn't discern anything on her but worry. Finally, his gaze settled on their current leader, and that's what broke him.

Daisuke… Daisuke, the Chosen who was perfectly willing to accept the Kaiser… looked furious. The auburn haired boy suddenly turned to Iori, his lips pressed to a thin line. "Hey—"

Takeru didn't listen to the rest, he turned and ploughed into the forest, away from the rest of them.

Trees flashed by, but his blurry eyes didn't take any stock of them. He had killed for them, why didn't they understand? Or… was he truly becoming a monster, like Iori had said? Surely, that many people couldn't be wrong, could they? Especially since both Daisuke and Hikari seemed to oppose him…

Takeru played the scene over and over in his mind as he ran, trying to think of what else he could have done. There didn't seem to be anything, but what if he was biased? He remembered well the few weeks his brother had separated from the rest of the Chosen, for a reason which wasn't really a reason to Takeru, but seemed to make perfect sense to Yamato. Takeru didn't want… to be alone.

The blond haired boy finally stopped beside an oak tree. He leaned against it, hands pressed firmly against the trunk as he gasped for air.

He wasn't, he realized, even sure what he'd been running from.

It'd almost been an instinctual action to run. Run, like when he'd been eight and nearly powerless. He'd run from everything then. His destiny, scary digimon, and even his friends. It looked like that hadn't changed after all.

"I'm pathetic," he sighed with a shake of his head, the words coming out half bitter and half amused.

A new voice broke his reverie, signalling to him that he was not as alone as he'd thought, "Are you… okay?"

Takeru whirled towards the voice, inwardly cursing himself inwardly for his inattentiveness. How did he not notice anyone following him? And he had no Patamon around either, which was dangerous.

Grey uniform and violet eyes greeted his vision, and Ichijoji Ken stood just a short distance from Takaishi Takeru. Wormmon was in his arms, looking worn out from his fight. The fight which had such disastrous consequences.

The blond turned eerily calm, his face even gaining a hint of mockery as he levelled his breathing. Instantly, his mind flashed back to his narrow escape of Puppetmon, and his fight at the Kaiser's base. This calmness was a defence mechanism then, he concluded. "And what does it matter to you, Kaiser?"

The other boy winced, almost unnoticeably, "Your friends looked worried."

"That I'll turn out like you?" Takeru mocked.

The little green bundle on Ken's arms stirred slightly. It turned to fully face Takeru, large blue eyes glaring balefully at the blond. "You don't know anything about Ken-chan, how can you judge when you haven't been through half of what he's-"

"Hush Wormmon," Ken murmured, sliding one hand out to pet his digimon.

Takeru tried not to wince, the little virus's accusation hitting him to the core. Somehow, the fact that it came from that small, sweet voice made Takeru's harsh words seem all the more horrible.

"You tightened your grip," Wormmon replied sleepily, "What the blond said really hurt you, and I made a promise that I wouldn't let anything hurt you again."

This, Takeru was even more stunned by. Ken's facial expression hadn't changed at all throughout their little exchange that time. Ken must be… really good at hiding emotions… like Hikari, like Yamato.

Takeru let out a breath, "No, I'm sorry. I didn't really mean to say those things. I just—I guess I'm feeling on edge with what happened earlier, and I'm taking out my frustrations on you."

"It's understandable," Ken said neutrally. "And you don't have to apologize, what you said is true."

Takeru shook his head, taking a step closer to the uniformed boy. "It's not, you really have changed. I am sorry, I was just—well. You aren't the Kaiser anymore Ichijoji, you've changed, so I have no right to insult you. I understand why you killed Thundermon."

Ken hesitated. "I know you probably won't believe me but—Thundermon wasn't actually a real digimon…"

Takeru's mouth dropped open. Takeru had been more than prepared to forgive the Kaiser, even after creating that horrible mutant Chimeramon. He had thought that Ken now understood.

Involuntarily, Takeru's fists clenched. "How could you say that? I thought you learned that digimon are real, but I guess I was wrong. Ha! I take back everything I said about you in the past five minutes. You are truly despicable."

"I knew you wouldn't believe me," Ken said flatly, looking at Takeru with shadowed eyes. "But maybe it'll ease your conscious anyways."

"Maybe," Takeru spat back, "I don't want to live a life of lies just so I could feel better about myself and not think about all the pathetic, cowardly, disgus—"

"Shut up!" Wormmon screamed.

It actually got Takeru to stop, he was so surprised by the outburst from the normally soft spoken digimon.

"Wormmon," Ken rebuked gently. For the first time, Takeru noticed how tired he looked. "It's not Takaishi-san's fault. He has ever reason to be wary of me."

The little bug digimon seemed to wilt, "Ken-chan…"

Ken's expression turned soft. "Wormmon, I know you care about me, and I care about you too, but shouting at people or spilling my secrets isn't helping anyone. We'll have a long talk about this when we get home."

The virus nodded, brightening up a little bit.

Takeru watched the whole exchange warily. And then, he sagged. That affection couldn't be faked. It seemed that the bonds between partners really prevailed in the end. Perhaps Ken still didn't believe digimon were real, but maybe with the help of Wormmon, the former Kaiser would eventually get there. Besides, Takeru's mind flashed back to the defeat of the Kaiser. It had seemed at the time Ken was truly remorseful. The indigo haired boy wasn't evil per se, he just needed to understand that digimon were real beings.

It was at the very moment Takeru made up his mind, that Ken turned back to him. "Look," The bluenette said, doleful violet eyes shifting to meet ocean blue ones. "I don't care if you believe me or not, it doesn't really matter does it? So you can go back to calling me whatever names you want. I believe you were at 'disgusting'?"

If anyone else had said that, Takeru would have thought them to be mocking him, but the way Ken said it, it was almost as if the other boy was pleading with him. Did Ken want to be punished or something? Suddenly, Takeru felt very cold despite the humid forest air. The bluenette was guilty… and Takeru sure as hell didn't make Ken feel any better.

"It's not good," The blond said softly, "to have a guilt complex."

Ken glanced at Takeru sharply, before going back to work. "I don't know what you mean."

"Sure you do, but I'll explain it anyways. It means that it's unhealthy to want punishment for something you've already punished yourself for. I think that when you feel true remorse, then it's punishment enough to know what they have done. Do you have nightmares, Ichijoji?"

Takeru saw Ken's hands shake.

The indigo haired boy took a deep breath, and he steadied again. "Do you always change moods this quickly?"

Takeru shook his head, a small grin crawling across his face. "No, that's more of Daisuke's department."

"Really," Ken muttered, so low that Takeru couldn't tell whether it was said sarcastically or not. "So going from depressed to angry to nice to angry to serious all in the space of minutes is nothing compared to what Daisuke usually does?"

Yep, definitely sarcastic. "You caught me on a bad day." Whoops, he hadn't meant for that to sound so bitter.

Ken's lips thinned. "You… will you let me explain?"

Tiredly, Takeru nodded.

With a ghost of a smile, Ken started to talk. "A few days ago, Wormmon and I were in the digital world and we—"

"What were you doing in the digital world?" Takeru interrupted, curious.

A faint blush formed on Ken's cheeks, "We were just around."

"Taking down Dark Towers," Wormmon piped up. "They are really no match for Stingmon!"

Ken sighed, "Wormmon…"

"It's not a thing to be ashamed of," Takeru said, giving Ken an odd look. "In fact, thank you. Koushiro was wondering who our mysterious benefactor was."

"Benefactor indeed, I'm the one who built them in the first place."

"Still," Takeru reasoned, "you came back and decided to clean up your mess instead of just leaving it all to us. Besides, it's the thought that counts more than anything."

"Yes, but while I was the Kaiser I thought to enslave you all." Ken retorted.

Takeru narrowed his eyes, "Was. You were the Kaiser Ichijoji, not anymore. The fact that you feel this guilty proves it. Did the Kaiser ever feel the way you do now?"

For a long moment, there was silence. Then… "I should finish my story."

Takeru let out a tired breath, and hoped desperately that Ken was thinking about his words. "Alright, continue."

"We were prepared to go home because it was getting late," Ken continued in a monotone, "When we saw a strange sight up ahead. A human girl garbed in crimson was standing beside an unbroken Dark Tower, and since we had never seen this girl before, Wormmon and I decided to investigate. When we got closer, we discovered that it wasn't a girl at all, but a woman. She had long white hair, and a pair of obsidian sunglasses which covered her eyes. She didn't seem to notice us, completely intent on studying the Dark Tower. Just when Wormmon and I were going to approach her, she suddenly plucked a strand of her hair and muttered 'Spirit Needle.' Then… she stuck the needle within the Tower and it turned into Thundermon."

Takeru had been following Ken's story up until… "Wait—what?"

"There was a flash of white light," Wormmon chipped in, "And poof! The Dark Tower was gone, and a digimon stood in its place. Actually, it didn't really poof, you could see the tower morphing into a digimon."

"That's—that's—" Takeru's mind was drawing at a blank. It was hard to believe but, it would make sense. And Wormmon wouldn't lie. "I'm sorry, Ichijoji."

"What?"

"For doubting you," Takeru sighed.

Violet eyes widened considerably. "You believe me?"

The blond nodded.

"Why?"

"It makes sense, and I don't think that you'd lie anymore. I should have believed you right off the bat."

For a moment, it looked like Ken might argue, but then he just seemed to resign himself. "Well you would have been an idiot if you'd just believed without any explanation."

Takeru smiled, feeling so light without the weight of death he briefly wondered if he was floating. "Thank you, Ichijoji."

"What for?"

"For going through all this trouble to tell me, just to make me feel better."

Ken shrugged, but Takeru could tell he was making the other boy uncomfortable. "You deserved to know."

"Why didn't you tell the others?"

Ken gave Takeru an odd look, "Do you think they'd believe me?"

Takeru hesitated, "Daisuke will."

That ghost of a smile swept Ken's features again, and Takeru found himself wanting to make sure it happened more often. Somehow, he got the feeling that it suited Ken to genuinely smile.

"Yeah," The other boy said softly, "Daisuke is the kindest person I've ever met…"

Takeru couldn't help but snort. "Daisuke? Kind?"

Ken looked at the blond in confusion, "What?"

"Hate to break it to you Ken, but Daisuke isn't kind. Oh he has his glorious moments sure, but he actually used to be quite the jerk. Still, he's changed a lot since then, and that's what counts."

Ken's lips tightened and Takeru figured that Ken understood the other meaning behind his words. "You don't have to make things up to provide me examples."

"No, I'm serious," Takeru said unsmilingly. "I would have never thought that Daisuke had any leader material in him, and I thought that Taichi had simply picked Daisuke out of favoritism. In fact, at first it was really Hikari and I who were leading the Chosen Children. Daisuke was a complete idiot at times, and got us into a whole bunch of trouble which could have easily been avoided. He never really thought about how his decisions would affect others, and could be a real jerk at times. But he learned from his mistakes and after a while, he finally started showing the qualities of a good leader. Now his decision with you has just cemented his position."

Ken, who had seemed to be mulling over what Takeru was saying, suddenly gave the blond a very startled look. "What?"

"You're a good person, Ichijoji. I'm rather ashamed that Daisuke saw it before any of us. But then again, he does seem to have a good instinctual feeling about such things."

"How could you say I'm good? I've done lots of horrible things!"

"Really?" Takeru asked, trying not to get worn down by this, "What have you done that was cruel after you renounced the title as Kaiser?"

"I—I ordered Stingmon to kill Thundermon."

"Who was completely evil," Takeru commented dryly. "Being nice doesn't mean never fighting Ichijoji. I ordered Angemon to kill Golemon today in able to save a village of innocent digimon. Sometimes, being kind means making the hard choice."

Ken shook his head, as if he didn't understand.

Takeru sighed, "For a genius, you sure don't seem to understand the concept that you're forgiven. You are a good person, why can't you seem to accept that?"

"I'm not," Ken muttered, "I'm a pretender."

"What?"

With a shake of his head, Ken turned and walked off. Takeru blinked, a little dazed at the sudden turn of events. Before he knew it, Ken was already a good distance away. Cursing the timing, Takeru leapt forward.

"Ichijoji!" He called.

The other boy didn't reply, completely ignoring the blond. Within a moment Ken had disappeared, and Takeru couldn't see head or tail of him. The blond haired boy let out a frustrated sigh. Why was he always dealing with stubborn idiots? Then again, he mused, it wasn't as if he were any different.

"Takeru-chan!"

The eighth grader whipped around, face lighting up. "Patamon!"

The little digimon looked on the verge of panic as it flew up to Takeru and burrowed itself deeply against Takeru's chest. "Takeru-chan, Takeru-chan, I thought I had lost you…"

Takeru put his arms comfortingly around his digimon, making soft shushing noises. "It's alright Patamon, I'm okay. In fact, I'm better than okay, I'm really sorry for leaving you and worrying you, but I've learned some great news!"

Patamon shook his head wildly, long ears whipping the sides of his face as they flopped about. "No, no, you don't understand… the other Chosen Children have been attacked!"