The Light's Despair

Hikari and Kouji

"Oh poor little child."

Hikari's head snapped up at the giggle, the Botamon she'd been playing with letting out a squeak of fright and hiding in the circle of arms. Those little yellow eyes peaked out warily, and Hikari held it to her chest. This was Primary Village. There was no way anything here would hurt them.

She'd come here half hoping, half dreading to find Tailmon's digiegg—she didn't know what had driven her to this point. She'd stopped in to see Gennai, see if he had any news—any at all. But he hadn't been home, and she'd just…been drawn here.

She would know if Tailmon…died, right? She would be able to find the egg. Ken had. Patamon had come back for Takeru.

They were playing with some of the other babies, just beyond the building block tower. She'd wandered among the digi-eggs, D-3 clenched—hoping, dreading.

But nothing happened. There was no reaction. She'd drooped, both defeated and relieved. She didn't want Tailmon hurt—but what if they couldn't get her back any other way? Taichi had promised…but that was before they realized that their last option had been stripped, leaving them with a handful of rookie digimon, and no way to find Angewomon, much less defeat her.

"I will take good care of her."

Hikari shuddered, the mocking voice threading its way through her mind. "Pweh?"

Something small and soft nudged against her hand. She'd fallen to her knees on the plush ground, and found herself looking down into yellow eyes. It was a Botamon. She recognized it, having seen one oh so long ago, when Agumon came to the Human World to protect them.

"This little guy?" Elecmon had scratched his head, staring intently at the Botamon who'd refused to leave Hikari alone. She'd gone to find the caretaker digimon, where he'd been overseeing the care of roughly a hundred new digieggs. Hikari recognized the area, and it left an ache in her heart.

These were the eggs she and Tailmon had brought back—it felt so long ago now.

"Oh! I know who he is now." Elecmon scratched the baby digimon behind the two little tufts that looked like ears. Elecmon knew all his babies, "He was the last one to hatch, before this whole drought happened. We were worried about him for a while—Swanmon said his data had been fragmented somehow, and we weren't sure if it would effect his development—he's well behind those of his peers. But it's a good sign that he's taken a liking to you, he's been rather skittish."

So Hikari had let herself get lost playing with the baby—letting all her fear and worry and hurt melt away, just for a little bit.

"Poor, poor child. Your kitty-cat has left you behind, hasn't she?"

Until he showed up.

Hikari shielded the Botamon protectively, blocking him from the sight of those dangerously sharp eyes. It had to be Kudamon. She recognized the tarnished bullet casing the long weasel-like body was twinned around. She recognized the torn ear, where he'd tried to fit a holy ring, only to have it burn him.

But…he was different.

His body—something she'd thought of as almost ghost-like, white, and fading to transparent, was now nothing more than a moving shadow. The piercing amber eyes reminded her uncomfortably of the jeers of the BlackTailmon, as she'd attempted to drive them away, leaving her partner in a broken heap on the floor.

Even the purple markings were different, now an angry red.

The only things that seemed to remain the same were the golden catridge, and the silver collar around his neck.

"…Kudamon?"

The black coils writhed, "No. Kudamon no longer. BlackKudamon now. Thanks to your little kitten. She stole it. The last of Kudamon's light." Magenta claws lightly touched his torn ear, and then hissed, "Liar. Theif. Betrayer. She has even betrayed you now, hasn't she?"

"Tailmon did no such thing!" Hikari shot back, clutching the Botamon to her chest, pushing herself off the ground, "She's been taken prisoner."

"Hmph. Some prisoner, living like a queen in the Dark One's domain. BlackKudamon hears. The dogs are roaming the world, looking for the hidden light." Hikari knew he was trying to get under her skin, but it was working. "She is no more prisoner than you, nor I. Face it, you've lost your partner. Even now, you reach out for something that is no longer there! The traitor has thrown away her light! Thrown away you!"

The words may as well have been physical blows, the Botamon making worried noises as Hikari flinched away. She took a step away from the floating digimon, a step back toward the main of Primary Village. And then stopped. Takeru was there, and Patamon. But so were the babies.

Tailmon hadn't wanted to release Kudamon so close to Primary Village.

She shouldn't lead him into the Village itself, especially now that his fall had been completed.

And his words…resonated with her.

"How do you know…?" The words surprised her, slipping out, her voice shaking, "Why would you say she'd gone?"

Not Tailmon. She wouldn't leave. Not if she had any choice in the matter.

I'll take good care of her.

The constantly shifting coils stilled for a moment.

"Your light. It weeps. It mourns. The bond has been broken. It calls. BlackKudamon heard the call. The call of one wounded, cut off from the rest of what they hold dear. BlackKudamon understands."

Hikari was shaking as BlackKudamon floated forward slowly, but she didn't draw away, not even as he draped his long shadowed body across her shoulders, magenta claws teasing at her hair. He wouldn't harm her. She knew that. He'd stopped his attack on Tailmon as soon as he'd seen her. "It is why you are here, are you not? A Chosen must have a partner, and yours has been lost. Will you take the Botamon you hold oh so tightly? He is of Fire's line, not Light. There are not many of us left, your little kitten and her master saw to that."

"Us?" Hikari echoed the word. She couldn't see much of him, but his yellow eyes shone in the sun, made even more piercing by the black-furred face.

"Even with his body twisted and dark, BlackKudamon still serves the light. Did you care for the traitor any less when she'd been touched by the dark? Kudamon saw it, that day she stole my ring. The Dark World clung to her—she should have shared my fate."

Hikari stiffened as she felt the prickle of claws settle against her neck, kneading gently. It felt…strange. She should be worried. It would take very little pressure to make those points break through skin. But it was so…calming. The motion soothing. "How did she do it…? What purified her…? What clensed her of the taint of darkness? Was it you? Was it the child of light? Was it your bond?"

Everything felt like it was melting away, only BlackKudamon's voice remained. It didn't sound…as mad as it once had. Each word seemed more and more stable, as if he was drawing strength from something, "That she would throw away such a thing…BlackKudamon would never make such a mistake. The child of light is a thing to be treasured. Protected. BlackKudamon will protect you, if you will have him."

No.

No.

Hikari mentally slapped herself, forcibly pulling herself out of the state of relaxation BlackKudamon's ministrations had left her in. The words almost caught in her throat, but she managed to push them out.

"Nothing will ever replace Tailmon."

BlackKudamon's claws froze.

"But…" Hikari looked down into those pained yellow eyes, "I will do what I can to help you. But you have to promise me that you won't attack anyone. Not unless it's in self-defense."

"Of course. When did Kudamon ever manace you?"

"Anyamon." Hikari caught and held his gaze. He looked away. "Tailmon."

"He was a beast of Darkness! Light is supposed to fight the dark!" BlackKudamon hissed, "And she a traitor!"

That had her pause. She hadn't thought about it—but in the end, Kudamon had been right. Anyamon was the Warrior of Darkness. It wasn't his fault that Anyamon was some sort of pure darkness. Gennai's explanation had been rather strange.

"Still. Defense." She warned, "What you did, I can't forgive you for that."

Even now she couldn't, even with her heart aching with every word he'd said. Words that she desperately wanted to deny, wanted to scream to the world that Tailmon wouldn't leave her. Wouldn't throw her away like that. She wanted to claim that he was lying.

But something was missing. She recognized that something was missing.

Tailmon wouldn't leave her. But Parasimon would.

I'll take good care of her.

Angewomon didn't have a choice.

And she would never get Tailmon back moping around like this. BlackKudamon knew about her. If helping him would get her closer to answers, closer to freeing Tailmon…

Plus, he was in pain. Hikari hated seeing anyone in pain.

"Hikari!? Is everything okay?" Takeru had come looking for her. She must seem a funny picture, standing in this plush field, a confused Botamon squirming in her arms, and a ghostly black weasel draped across her neck and shoulders. BlackKudamon's holy catridge was cold against her skin as she turned to face Takeru's worried expression. Elecmon and Patamon were at his side, and…Gabumon? What was Gabumon doing here?

Upon seeing Elecmon, the Botamon began to struggle in her grip. She let him down gently, the black baby digimon eating up the distance between them in great bounces. The digimon hopped into Elecmon's waiting claws, and made some distressed noises and shuddered.

Elecmon's eyes went wide and he ran, holding the digimon at arms length, heading for the bathroom area.

Hikari couldn't help the giggle that escaped her, one that was echoed by BlackKudamon's wheezing laugh.

"Hikari…?" Takeru had taken a step closer. Only to pause and put his hands up placatingly as BlackKudamon picked his head up off her shoulder, rearing up and hissing at him, magenta claws flashing. Hikari gently touched a finger to BlackKudamon's nose, instantly quieting him. "Be nice."

"I see you've made a new…friend…" Takeru crossed the distance between them, watching BlackKudamon warily.

"His name is BlackKudamon. He came to tell me about Angewomon. And ask for help."

"Kudamon? Isn't he the one who blinded Kouji?"

"The human should have easily recovered." BlackKudamon hissed, "You cannot hold self-defence against me."

He shot Hikari a look, almost daring her to challenge his classification of the situation. She wouldn't. It was fair enough.

"He didn't." Her response was quiet, "He was still blind two weeks after the incident. We think its permenant."

BlackKudamon clenched his claws, looking down at his paws, "Blinding Radience is only supposed to be temporary."

Supposed to be. But if this transformation to BlackKudamon had begun long before…things changed.

"Do you think you could fix it?"

A shrug, "I would have to see the boy."

"We can't trust him, Hikari." Takeru was eyeing BlackKudamon warily, "We've all heard the story, and that was before. He's a dark-type digimon now."

"Oh no, I'm a dark-type. I'm untrustworthy. Evil. But do we care about how BlackKudamon feels?" He was baring his teeth at Takeru, "Holy Digimon are supposed to keep the dark's corruption from spreading. That is our duty. Look at me now."

"Don't you talk to Takeru like that!" Patamon took to the air, hovering between his partner and the digimon draped over Hikari's shoulders. His little paws were curled into fists, "We have enough reason to distrust the darkness as it is without you twisting it all up."

"Enough. All of you." Hikari shot Takeru a firm glance when he moved to retort, "I've decided already. I'm going to help him. If he can help Kouji, so much the better." And then she turned to Gabumon, who'd been fidgeting throughout the whole thing, Gabumon could be too polite sometimes. "Is there something you'd like to say?"

"Yes, thank you." The digimon sighed, adjusting his coat, "Gennai sent me after you. It isn't safe here any more. Ceruberumon crossed the border, and he's looking for the Light. It'd be safer for you in the Human World."

The Light…

"What of Kouji? Is he safe?" He was who they were really after, afterall. The Warrior of Light. She was insignificant now. He'd been the one to heal Tailmon. He was probably the one who could help BlackKudamon. Gennai sent him into hiding, which means he should be safe and hidden already. "Could you take us to him? I wanted to see if Kudamon could help with the blindness."

BlackKudamon flinched, his head whirling around to look at her. The use of his old name must have startled him. She gave him a small smile. She wanted to help him be Kudamon again. But Gabumon's reaction was strange… The request was a long-shot, and she fully expected him to refuse, but…

"Kouji…uh…" Gabumon figeted some more, picking at and then smoothing out the fur of his coat, "He's…uh…No. Sorry."

Even Takeru picked up on it. He shot Kudamon a last dirty look, but then focused on Gabumon, "No, you can't take us to him? Or no he isn't safe?"

The last question shocked Hikari. She hadn't noticed his refusal to answer her first question. But going over the statement again…that could definitely be inferred from the answer. And Gabumon was much like the rest of their digimon—very bad and uncomfortable when it came to lying.

Gabumon didn't hold out long. His shoulders slumped, hanging his head in defeat, "...both?"

He isn't safe.

None of them had seen Kouji since he left that day. Ken had told them that Kouji and Anyamon had come to help with the rescue. They'd be following shortly.

But…they didn't come back that night.

The next morning, Gennai had told her—and her alone—that he'd sent Kouji into hiding. To protect the essence. She'd been so tired and distraught; she didn't think to question it.

He isn't safe.

"He isn't in hiding, is he?"

Hikari words were quiet.

Gabumon shook his head slowly, letting out a heavy sigh, "Gennai told us not to tell you guys. Didn't want you to worry."

Parasimon wanted the Light.

Kouji had the Light.

And Kouji wasn't safe.

"Tell us, Gabumon." Takeru's words were gentle, but Hikari could hear the very real concern building behind them. He might not know about the Essence, but he could tell how worried this whole situation was making her, "Even if he is new, he is one of us."

No, Takeru, no he isn't. She wanted to say. He's more important than one of us.

But Hikari couldn't. She'd promised. Instead she just bit her lip and waited. BlackKudamon was watching the proceedings with intensity. And then he spoke.

"BlackKudamon heard…a human was captive of the Dark One. Has been, for some time now."

"You hear a lot." Takeru quipped, but then froze at Gabumon's crestfallen expression, "He's teeling the truth?"

At Gabumon's nod, Hikari asked gently, "Kudamon…where have you been hearing these? About Angewomon, and the human. Can you travel to the dark place?"

"No!" BlackKudamon hissed, flinching, "BlackKudamon would never touch such a place, not even now! But BlackKudamon is sensitive to the energies from it…He has been following the Dobermon and Cerberumon as they look. As they seek the light. They talk. About the traitor. And the Betrayer. And the prisoner. Humans are novelties."

Traitor. That was BlackKudamon's label for Tailmon, she hated that he was still using it. But one step at a time. This was important. Prisoner was self-explanitory. If they still sought the light, that meant Kouji had managed to hide it before being captured. But there was one more thing. "Betrayer?"

"Anubimon. Friend to the Dark One. Betrayer."

BlackKudamon nearly spat the name out, bitterness dripping with every word.

Hikari pulled out her D-Terminal, quickly typing up an email. She could see Takeru doing the same thing, "I've got Tai, Daisuke, and Miyako."

"I'll get Matt, Ken, and Iori then." Takeru muttered.

They had to get the others together. Even if they couldn't digivolve—they couldn't just leave things like that. The only reason they hadn't done anything yet was because they didn't have a reason to. They'd been trying to recover. They'd have to figure out something else.

And now that she knew where Angewomon was…

She couldn't just leave it at that either.

x-x-x

It was rather hard to tell exactly when unconsciousness ended for Kouji. He couldn't see anything, eyes open or closed, and had to rely on other methods to make sure he had managed to claw his way back. In fact, he suspiciously wondered if he was still dreaming—if it weren't for the fact that he could see in his dreams. He felt strangely…not in pain. All those aches and twinges and stabs he'd been growing used to since his imprisonment were…mostly gone, replaced by a bone-deep exhaustion that made his limbs drag like they were made of lead as he shifted, something scraping against the stone floor of the cell as he carefully uncurled his body.

His ankles were aching, and he absently moved to try and massage the feeling back into them.

The resulting spikes of pain were completely unexpected, and he hissed, cutting off a curse before it could echo in this silent cell.

"Careful…" Shadow whispered, he sounded distant. Different. "The claws are sharp."

Claws? Kouji shot back incredulously, but he wasn't able to keep the relief from flooding him as he felt the familiar presence buzzing at the edge of his mind. Last he could clearly remember, LordKnightmon had found their entertwinned data. He'd tried to pull Shadow away. But Shadow was still here.

Shadow's answer was a memory. Achingly bright with color and sight. The digimental of light clutched tightly in gloved hands, claws about two inches long jutted from the glove's fingers. Those were what had stabbed him. He hadn't known about them. Blue caught his attention—blue grey fur sticking out in tufts from the lip of the glove. His arm, the memory told him.

We…digivolved?

Kouji tugged off one of the gloves, carefully placing it in his lap so he wouldn't lose it in the darkness. He flexed his now freed fingers. This body didn't feel as different as Akemon had, he first time. Now that he was looking for it, he noticed the unusual information trickling in through his senses. There was a…stench in the air that left a sour taste in his mouth, and he heard the shuffle of something as it moved. Distantly. Very distantly. But it was there.

He recognized that feeling. It was something he'd once called instinct. He now knew better. It was Shadow's subtle guiding as he grew accustomed to a new digivolution.

Kouji sighed and went back to his earlier plan, massaging the ache out of his ankles. With the gloves off he would only have to worry about slightly longer than normal nails, and an odd roughness in the palm of his hand. Padded? Like a dog's paw? The rest of his evolutions were wolf-based. It would make sense. He wondered what his name was now.

He found metal. It was the cause of the pain, biting tightly and pinching even through the tough material his clothes were made of. He probed it in the darkness. A metal ring, a latch on the side, where…chain links were fastened?

A manacle?

A quick check found a matching one on his other leg, and a bit of exploring along the chain's length led it to a ring set into the stone wall behind him. He remembered that ring, and used it to orient himself in his cell—assuming it was still the same one, or at least the same layout. He built the mental map, finding himself closer to the back of the cell directly in front of the door, rather than off in the corner like he'd preferred before.

It left him feeling oddly…exposed. At least in his corner some of the view was blocked, granting him an, admittedly small, sliver of privacy.

And…it was uncomfotably quiet, despite the shuffling of guards in the distance.

Shadow?

His other was silent. Nothing more than a faint hum in the back of his head. A quiet whisper of all is normal while he processed the information from senses Kouji wasn't quite used to yet.

Kouji felt chilled. It was like the beginning. Before he realized that there was something distinctly different between Akemon and himself. Before he'd broken them apart. He felt…alone in his head. He knew Shadow was there, but he felt…alone.

Shadow!

The humming stopped, and suddenly Kouji found his body moving, but he wasn't the one doing so. Shadow slipped the gloves back on, and then relaxed, giving control back.

"Those are our only weapon." The whisper was quiet, "Don't lose them."

We need to talk. Kouji grabbed for that presence, shutting out the outside world and pulling them both into their shared mind-space. Once Kouji had always been alone in here. Once, he'd only been able to find this place when spirit evolved. Himself in a black void, surrounded by data. When his entire world became a void, it was easier to blend this place with his perception. Here was where Shadow had begun to retreat with him when LordKnightmon caught them. And here…he was now.

The image before Kouji was an odd one. Before, Shadow had always been the off-colored reflection of himself. Now…he was indistinct. A formless blue-grey humanoid shape, blurred. There were shapes that seemed to indicate pointed ears, but other than that, outlines only became sharp around his arms, torso and some of his pants, and Kouji recognized the black-gloved hands and blue-fur. It was from the memory.

You don't know what you—we look like, do you?

Shadow shook his head.

This mind-space was built from their perception. Kouji was always himself, even when digivolved. Shadow…Shadow apparently was much more based on their digivolution.

"What's wrong with you?" Hearing his own words felt strange. When talking to Shadow he normally just used thoughts. But now he felt something more concrete was needed. "After all the time you spent fighting tooth and nail to get me to acknowledge you, now you suddenly back off?"

Silence. Just that half-formed image. Waiting.

"Talk. To. Me." Kouji snarled, taking a step forward, the worry, concern and frustration boiling up inside him. His fingers clenched into fists, human nails digging into palms. Kouji noticed shadow mimicking the gesture

"I shouldn't be able to!" The response came back just as harshly, both surprising, and yet not to Kouji. He knew his own temper. "I'm not supposed to be here!"

"That is a load of crap and you know it." Kouji shot back, "Is that what's bothering you again? That you aren't supposed to exist? Well, breaking news, you do. And you trying to bury yourself in my subconscious isn't going to change that fact! I thought we put this behind us when we agreed to work together."

"And where has that gotten us? Tell me that, oh wise one. LordKnightmon only found me—the spirits—becausewe are so out of sync. So different. I splinteredus. I gave him a chink to pick at."

"You. Have kept me sane." Kouji growled, stalking up to the reflection across the way, burying his fingers in the vaguely blue-grey torso. He thought he felt…fur as he pulled the humanoid digimon around when he'd turned away from him, "And you know the truth, I shattered any chance we had of being normal long ago. And I would do it again, even if I knew then what I know now."

He had been the one to drive a wedge in their soul, when he couldn't acknowledge that the other—so new so young so innocent—was him. He had been the one to shatter it, by giving Shadow a name. And he didn't regret a moment of it, except perhaps the pain he'd put his other, his partner, his friend through during those weeks of imprisonment when he'd refused to understand.

Shadow's clawed glove settled on Kouji's arm. Gently—Shadow seemed to be more comfortable with those long sharp claws than Kouji had been—he pried off Kouji's grip. It didn't help that the fur between his fingers felt almost insubstantial and wispy. Kouji didn't let him release his hand, and instead twisted his arm, catching Shadow's wrist in his.

"I'm not going to lose my friend to some misguided sense of guilt."

Shadow just laughed. It was…an unpleasant sound. A desperate sound. One filled with pain and guilt and longing. Kouji could feel the echoes of the emotions around him, thrumming in the void. A sick sense of dread began to rise, pooling in his gut. Was that Shadow? Or was it him? He couldn't really tell.

"You just never understand. Let me sink into your subconscious, forget this…partnership. Bury me to the point where you forget I exist!"

Kouji frowned, moving to protest, but stopped when Shadow tightened his own grip.

"No. Let me finish! He brokeit. Pulling me out like that, he broke the protections the Celestials placed. The lock shattered. We are too different now. Separate. He'll be able to find us, two different shades of thread in a tapestry of data. Yes, I regret splintering, even if you don't. Yes, I feel guilty. If I had just let you bury me, instead of fighting…but it's too late for regrets. The fact of the matter is, I need to hide. And to do that, you need to let me go!"

"Would that really help?" Kouji hissed, teeth clenched, "I remember what he said before I was thrown out. Even without the lock our data is woven together. He snapped the lock, trying to pull the spirits free, yet all he managed was to force us to digivolve. He pulled you forward, throwing me back. That means we are still connected. Burying you won't change that."

"Even the strongest thread will snap, if pulled hard enough." Shadow retorted, the vague-earlike shapes flattening against his skull, "And now that he knows, he won't stop pulling."

Truth. Kouji could sense it. But there was something else. Worry. Something Kouji had said had set it off. Something Shadow wasn't telling him. Was trying not to acknowledge.

"What are you really worried about, Shadow?" Kouji asked softly, letting the tension drain out of his voice. Forcing the anger down and away. It wasn't helping. It was just riling them both up. They would feed off each other—they'd done so before. Kouji had been angry about that other presence, Shadow had been angry about being denied. About being ignored…Which led to arguments. Snarks. It hadn't been until they'd been too tired to fight anymore that they'd actually started to listen. "Those sound like excuses. Like you are trying to avoid a completely different problem."

Silence.

Kouji tightened his grip. After a few moments, the words came. Reluctant. Each one as if they were being pushed out with great force.

"Pulling me forward…shouldn't have knocked you back…" Kouji shouldn't have been able to hear them. But after the first few, they came, trickling a little faster. Smoother. A valve easing open. "Not that far. I couldn't…find you. I worried…"

Something else echoed in the sudden silence. Not Shadow's voice. Not Kouji's. A memory of a voice Kouji only vaguely remembered, having been half-conscious at the time he'd heard it. When he'd been brought to LordKnightmon. Claws digging into his shoulder, forcing him down on the stone floor even as he'd tried to rise.

"I wonder…what would happen if you died?"

"Could a human soul subsist on data alone?"

"It made me wonder…Would I even notice if you were gone? Would I just…take over? I'm a digimon. We don't die. Not really. But humans are different."Shadow was fuzzing. Trying to fade,"I—I remember losing 'nii-san. You remember that. We will never forget it. That pain. The hollow empty place in your chest, trying to suck everything else in so it wouldn't hurt anymore…"

I don't…want to lose you.

"It shouldn't be like that." Shadow put his free glove to his head, releasing Kouji's arm, "I was created from you. I was supposed to be you, so the Digital World would be protected while you six lived normal lives. You saw Flamemon—he was completely independent of his human. That is how we should be."

But…I don't want that anymore.

Shadow's emotions thrummed around them. Confusion. Some of that was Kouji's leaking out there, he was sure. Shadow sounded so lost. So…young. He was shaking. Kouji always forgot that, really, Shadow was much younger than he was. Awkwardly, before he could second guess himself, Kouji pulled him into a tight hug. Shadow was shorter than Kouji was. Just by a little.

The digimon tensed—a reaction Kouji expected. He wasn't good with physical expressions like this either. "I won't let it be like that again."

Just a quick as the hug had been, Kouji released him, crossing his arms stubbornly, "I told you, I refuse to lose my friend. Whether that's to LordKnightmon or to whatever it is we should be. You are my partner. You've protected me. You've kept me sane, even after how I treated you. I refuse to bury you, and I refuse to let you bury yourself."

A snort. "Stubborn idiot."

Kouji smirked. That was more like it.

As if the timing could be any worse, a much hated voice echoed through the darkness, coming not from within their memory, like the last one, but from outside. Kouji felt Shadow flicker, could feel himself being pushed back toward reality, losing focus on the mental construct that personified his partner.

"Well, well, having a nice little nap now, are we?"

He forced himself to be confident. Shadow would be able to feel if he were faking it. Kouji tightened his grip on that other presence.

He knows the spirits are here. Hiding won't help. The only thing we can do is hold on.

And that is easier with two hands, rather than one.

Hesitantly, Shadow surged forward, settling himself around Kouji's spirit like a warm cloak. Their body felt heavy around him, the weight of exhaustion forgotten while they had been in that place. Kouji forced his eyes open, not expecting much of a difference, only to find his breath catch, the distinct image of the Digimental of Light glittering in the shadowed palm of the dark shape standing before them. LordKnightmon was barely more than a silhouette that seemed to blend into the darkness of the void surrounding him.

"I told you he would try."

Kouji forced himself to his feet, the chains clattering as his movements dragged them across the stone floor. LordKnightmon laughed as Kouji brandished his claws threateningly.

"So sorry to wake you." He purred, stalking closer and grabbing one hand in a crushing grip. Fangs sank into Kouji's lip as he stopped himself from crying out in pain, turning it into a grunt instead. "But we need to begin untangling that data of yours. It will be delicate work, I do hope you will be patient with me, little Warrior of Light. We shall free you from this...filth soon enough."

Both Kouji and Shadow were in unison as Storabimon just snarled at him.

They were never going to let go.

x-x-x

A/N: So…this was originally just Hikari… I'd forgotten that part ended up exploding and I never did write Kouji's part…Then I had a spark and well…here ya go. It's the length of a standard chapter now xD Hope ya'll enjoy. I'm a little iffy about the second part, but I haven't been able to read it a bajillion times since I just wrote it Monday.

The mind-space is based on that sort of black void the anime likes to show while they are spirit-evolved. Kouichi had a similar encounter ages ago during the Trial of Courage, and then again at Sphinxmon's Fall. It is slightly different for Kouji, since he's blinded, that void has a tendency to overlap reality—which is what happens when I had them throwing "reflections" in previous chapters—but Shadow has the ability to pull them in deeper, since he kinda only existed there when Kouji was actively trying to block him out. Kouji picked up the ability from him in an attempt to avoid LordKnightmon, the itch of the Dark Area, and just pure, utter boredom.

Oh! And Kudamon returns! I like him. He's fun, even if I feel bad for him…

Next chapter is titled a Sovereign's Sacrifice. It should go into a bit more detail about the state of the digital world, although it is nowhere near as long as this one is. Please read and review! Questions and/or comments are always welcome, and I will see you next week!