The Return to Highton View Terrace

Aftermath: 02 - 1/2

"Daemon can't make it M-master." Mummymon cowered before the imposing figure of his master. He'd taken his time before returning—even following the trail of his beloved. He'd skulked outside the town, berating himself for not having the courage to walk in there and ask for her.

By the time he had, he'd only gotten a sneer and a dismissal. She'd left on 'important business' mere moments before.

Pumpkin… his heart wailed, and he hung his head—not to avoid Oikawa's angry glare, but the ghost of white hair he would see hovering over his shoulder. Damning him. Arukenimon wouldn't have failed. She wouldn't have accepted Daemon backing out of the plan now.

"And why would he be doing that, Mummymon?" The human's voice was cold, "Was my offer not…tantalizing enough?"

Mummymon wrung his hands nervously, tugging occasionally at the sleeve of his blue jacket, "I—uh—no? He said to send his regrets, but events unfolding in the Dark Area require his atten—"

"I don't want excuses, you worthless digimon!" Oikawa's fist smashed into the table, wood splintering with force that betrayed his sickly looking face. "It is bad enough I cannot find the boy—I needed Daemon's interference to distract and draw out the Chosen! Now is the perfect time to strike with their numbers reduced!"

Anger. This was the first time Mummymon had seen true anger in the Master's face. It twisted his expression. Ugly, and terrifying. Something lurked behind those eyes, something Mummymon had always known was there, but never truly understood before.

"I don't know why I put up with your disgusting failures—maybe I should just create another servent. Yes. Anyone could do better than you. Anything. Even a rock."

Mummymon flinched, turning away. He was used to being verbally abused. He was used to being torn apart. Was used to failing.

But never had the Master been so straightforwardly harsh about it. He was always the bumbling, but tolerable lackey. That was his place.

Not…this…with the responsibility.

He heard the human let out a frustrated sigh and stalk away, the creak of shoes on the worn wooden floor ringing in his ears. Mummymon turned his back on his master, eyes searching out the window. Dawn would be approaching. He could see it faintly, color seeping into the darkened sky. Another day, another disgustingly cheerful sunny day.

Just let it rain. He thought bitterly, glaring at the sky with his one good eye, and then froze.

"M-master…"

"What is it?!" The irritated question was followed by the squeaking of wood again. Mummymon's neck prickled with the chill of eyes on his back. The master was glaring.

"Just look."

His hand was shaking as he indicated out the window.

The human moved to his side, looking for the sight that had Mummymon so enraptured.

And then he laughed, bitterly. "At least one of you is good for something. What are you waiting for?"

Shadows against the coming dawn…

His heart fluttered…

x-x-x

Jou nodded somewhere between sleep and waking, the regular rocking of the train's wheels on the tracks combined with the noisy clatter preventing him from using the commute as a nice little nap before class. His classes this term were on the outskirts of the city rather than the nice, centralized campus near his home, which led him to be here at this god-awful time of the morning.

"Ouch!" A particularly sharp jolt knocked his head against the window he'd been leaning against. He sighed and rubbed the sore spot, checking the reflection in the glass. It was hard to see given the dim lighting, but it appeared to be a little red, but otherwise there were no signs of bruising. Good. The last thing he needed were the well meaning, but somewhat patronizing attentions of the other doctors-to-be in his class.

And then he noticed that jolt had knocked his bag off the empty seat behind him, his books left sprawled beneath the seats.

"Great…" Jou grumbled, sliding off the chair and gathering up the ones within reach. Unfortunately a couple of the smaller and lighter ones had slid back under the seats further back, where he couldn't reach from his current spot.

"…just great…" He sighed. This day was already looking up. Hopefully this just meant he had already paid his karmic dues for the day and would then ace his practical later. Winter term was almost up, and that meant exams.

Lovely.

Luckily, the car was pretty empty this early, the morning work and school rush not having begun yet. It would be awkward trying to gather them up in the packed anchovies people became during the normal commute. Not to mention the accusations of harassment if he so much as bumped a female the wrong way.

The closest people to him were standing near one of the doors, focusing on the scenery out the window. Two boys, a little younger than he was. High school maybel. What were they doing out this early? Not that it mattered, they weren't close enough to require him to awkward ask them to move.

One of the books was easily grabbed and placed on the seat. The second required him to shove his shoulder quite far under. It was at a really awkward angle—the seats weren't that wide!

His reaching fingertips brushed the spine. Almost. There.

"…did you hear anything about construction on the news?"

"No. I mean that area has been under rennovations since the terrorist attack, but it's mostly apartment complexes, no highrises."

"…festival maybe?"

"It's an ominous looking one, if that's the case. Normally you can see Tokyo Tower from here."

Aha! He managed to hook his fingers around the corner of the book, nudging it closer until he could finally grab it.

"I'll ask Juri later, she lives in Highton View Terrace. She'd probably know what's going on."

Highton View Terrace?

Jou flinched, biting his lip as the sudden movement caught his arm against the edge of the chair. He straightened, book in one hand, the other massaging the sore spot. The gossipers were still looking out the eastern window, toward the rising sun and back toward Tokyo's proper.

The book thudded to the floor, and Jou fumbled for his bag, rooting through it in vain before he remembered he kept his phone in the small cellphone-specific pocket on the side.

His hand was shaking as he dialed the number, ignoring Taichi's grumbling that it was too early for this.

"There's something you guys really need to see..."

The train kept rolling on, trundling further and further away. Jou almost wanted to jump off at the next stop and catch the next one back to investigate. But he had class, and then an exam, and he didn't even have Gomamon, what could he do about it?

"...Jou? You aren't making any sense…Anyway, it's like…five in the morning…whatever it is can wait until a time when people other than overachievers are awake…"

"Give me a minute."

Jou hung up, kicking himself mentally for nothing thinking of this before he called, and pointed the camera on his phone at the fading sight through the window.

Click.

He attached the photo to a text and sent it to Taichi. And Yamato. And Izzy.

Then he hit send.

Taichi called back a second later.

"Is that a Dark Spire!?"

"No…" Jou responded as the train rounded a bend, blocking the nightmarish image from sight, "It's at least a hundred of them."

"A hund—Where is it? I'm going to go wake Hikari and help her in rounding up the kids. Could you call Yamato, Sora, and Izzy for me? Tell them to meet me at the station as soon as they can."

Words caught in Jou's throat. He wasn't even going to ask me to go. He couldn't, of course. Not right now. But that wasn't the point. Yamato. Sora. Izzy. Jou was part of the group too! Sure he hadn't been able to hang out much and help the younger crowd…

"…Jou?"

"Ah right…uh…" Where…his eyes sought out the map of the subway, held carefully behind a plastic pane on the train's wall. He traced the route, doing some mental calculations. It wouldn't be directly on this line, especially if that nagging suspicion in his mind was correct.

Highton View Terrace

"The Nerima district. Hikarigaoka Station is probably the closest."

"Thanks, Jou. And stop worrying. You've got a class to get to. Let us take care of this, this time. We wouldn't even know if it weren't for you."

Awkward silence. Jou could feel his face heating up in embarrassment—was he that obvious? He coughed, using his free hand to adjust his glasses, "Fine, fine. But I will be there after my exam if I don't hear any news."

"Gotcha. You better ace that exam! Talk to ya later."

Jou forced himself to turn away from the window and began flicking through his contacts list. He may not be able to fight like the others, but he had his own job to do.

x-x-x

It was like looking into the snow covered valley where Arukenimon spun her web. Spires upon spires rose from the ground. Jutting from buildings. A forest of polished stone, foreign among the concrete and glass buildings of the Tokyo suburbs.

Where were the police? The news copters? It was early enough that there were few people out on the streets, yet the moment they'd stepped into the shadow of the obelisks it became a ghost town.

Could people not see it? Were these apparitions, not quite fully manifested in the real world? The spires did not seem to smash through buildings—instead they seemed to meld through metal and glass.

"It's always Highton View Terrace…" Taichi grimaced as he spotted the sign half sticking out of the side of a spire, "This place has gotta be cursed or something."

"I'd believe that." Yamato responded dryly, "I didn't expect to head back there after last time."

Last time. Hikari hadn't been here for last time, but she'd seen it on the news.

A terrorist attack. Thought to be a sequel to the Hikarigaoka Bombings nearly five years before.

And according to Taichi—a rampaging mammoth.

"Cursed…? It's nothing so superstitious as that." Gennai chuckled, moving to fold his hands into his sleeves, and then stopped when he remembered he no longer had the sweeping sleeves of his robe. He was currently wearing some of Yamato's father's old clothes, a wrinkled button-down shirt and pants. It didn't seem like anyone bothered to iron anything at the Ishida residence, "The place where you eight were chosen is where the border between worlds is at its weakest. There's a natural digital gate there."

"Gennai?" Hikari fidgeted, full of nervous energy, BlackKudamon's holy cartridge digging into the palm of her hand. She felt…wrong here. "Do you know how they got here?"

How?

Why?

And most importantly—who.

Arukenimon had publicly denounced her previous ambition when she'd shifted her allegiance. It wouldn't be her. Right?

Chill hands clutched her heart. The metal in her hand began to warm in response.

This time BlackKudamon heeded her warning and remained hidden within the depths of the golden casing. But the warmth was comforting in its own way.

"Theories, but nothing concrete." Gennai looked around, the wind teasing at his short hair. It was almost claustrophobic, navigating the narrow veins between building and spire. "The only explanation is that something is weakening the barrier, allowing the digital world to push through."

"…like File Island..."

Everyone stopped, turning to look at Izzy in surprise. The red-head blinked and smiled nervously under the scrutiny, "Ah, just thinking out loud. You guys remember right? After we defeated Vamdemon, when the digital world appeared in the sky?"

"Everyone could see that though." Sora frowned, glancing back over her shoulder toward the invisible line that separated the distortion from the rest of the city. "No one seems to notice this, even if they avoid walking in."

So Hikari wasn't the only one bothered by that.

"Perception filter?" Izzy quipped, and at Yamato's unimpressed stare he coughed and continued, "No, seriously. After we got home I did research. Aren't you surprised the uproar over the monster attacks died down so quickly? Even my own parents, who met Tentomon, never remembered him as anything other than my old friend Tento with the 'strange hoodie.' It stands to reason the existence of the Digital World is hard for most people to process, so they just sort of ignore it. I postulate age has something to do with it—children are far more accepting—yet even you guys, Miyako and Iori, didn't remember your run-ins with Digimon until you met your partners—"

"Izzy—"

"It doesn't matter how." Yamato snapped, "We just need to find a way to knock them down."

The younger chosen looked at their digimon.

Patamon, who'd climbed to his customary spot on Takeru's head the moment they'd entered the forest of spires.

Poromon, tucked under Miyako's good arm. The injured one was free of its sling, but given the care she was using when gesturing, it wasn't 100% yet.

Upamon, bouncing along at Iori's side.

…and one more, BlackKudamon, hiding in Hikari's fist.

Two rookies, and two in-training digimon.

"But we can only break the towers when we armor digivolve…" Patamon protested, clenching his front paw, wing-ears drooping.

And the digimentals had been stolen.

"You might not need to break them." Gennai rapped his knuckles against the side of a nearby spire. It rippled, like a pebble dropped into a still black pond, "They are being pulled in by a distortion. Find the source of the distortion, and the worlds will snap back to their own place."

"Great. We just need to comb an entire district for a single housing complex and we don't even know what for." Miyako grumbled, "Might as well split up. Does anyone know the area well?"

"Well…we used to live here…but…" Sora began, but shook her head, "I haven't been back in years."

"I never explored much as a kid, but I could probably triangulate our position with GPS and compare it to the maps…" Izzy pulled out his phone, one of the newer, fancy models, and fiddled with it. After a few moments, he sighed and smacked himself on the forehead, "…of course there is no signal…Interferance. Didn't work during Vamdemon's attack either."

They all turned to Yamato and Taichi. Hikari's brother put his hands up into the air, shaking his head wildly, "Don't look at me! Do you think I remember things that far back?"

…fair enough. Yamato let out a suffering sigh, "My memory is fuzzy, but I could probably find our old apartment building if we can find the subway."

They'd intended on using the Hikarigaoka station, which was closest to the apartment complex, but it, rather unsurprisingly, had been closed due to "unexpected maintenance." The closest working one had been just outside the district but…once inside in was nearly impossible to navigate correctly.

"…no need. I think I have an idea." Takeru, who had been quieter than usual, finally broke his silence. He started walking again, keeping a close eye on the street signs hidden in the narrow corridors. It hardly even looked like a city anymore, just a strange landscape that was more cave. Walls of stone, glass and concrete, twisting paths, forcing them off the main roads and into alleys to go around. Were they even in the real world still?

This was even surreal for the Digital World. She'd only ever seen this density of Dark Spires in one place.

That valley on the edge of the world. Hikari shivered—had she imagined that chill wind?

"I was here just a few days ago," Takeru continued, eyes fixed on the path ahead, "So I remember how to get there from here."

"What were you doing here?" Miyako asked incredulously, "This is so far from home—and school…? You were at school—well, I don't know about the day after I was in the hospital…"

"…Mummymon." Miyako was rambling. Takeru's reply shut her up. "I saw Mummymon. Followed him here. It's too much of a coincidence that this is happening now." Takeru paused, gritting his teeth and turning. Hikari hadn't seen this sort of expression on Takeru's face often. He smiled easily and was quick to laugh. Often he was the calmer of the boys—the foil to Daisuke's brash hardheaded-ness. Not today "I knew he was up to something!"

She stepped forward, ignoring the chill settling in her heart as she thought about Mummymon—he was an idiot, but he never went anywhere without Arukenimon. Her free hand hesitantly settled on his shoulder. Takeru stiffened.

"…It'll be okay, T.K."

x-x-x

It'll be okay…

Hikari's words echoed in his head as he stared at the sight before him. This was the apartment complex alright—he'd been here not even three days ago.

Yet he almost couldn't recognize it.

Cobwebs.

The entire place was draped with cobwebs.

It could be another insect-type digimon, Takeru told himself, Arukenimon wasn't the only spider digimon they'd ever fought.

But I followed Mummymon…

Hikari was noticeably silent, her face had drained of color the moment they'd seen a wisp of web hanging off the tip of a broken spire waving in the wind. Takeru found her hand in his, squeezing it in support.

They weren't ready for this. None of them were. None of them were ready to face her again.

They hovered on the edge of the courtyard, waiting in the shadow of a Dark Spire. The courtyard was the largest open space they'd seen so far. The black stone didn't touch the ground between the buildings, even as the occasional spire jutted out at an angle over the space. It had deliberately been left clear.

Takeru, like Hikari, didn't remember the actual event. He'd been too young. But he remembered flying over the scene during the vision, looking down on this space between the three buildings where Greymon and Parrotmon did battle.

Tailmon had been with them during that vision.

Parasimon would know what this place meant to the Chosen.

The open space felt like a trap.

"…Where is everyone?" Iori whispered, eyeing the web wrapped buildings around them. Apartment high rises. Each with tons of units. Each unit housing families.

Hundreds of people. Even if Izzy was right about the perception field, that wouldn't explain the people trapped within it.

"Do not worry about them child…" The wrong dual voice laughed, ringing out over the empty space, drawing all eyes, digimon and Chosen alike. Takeru's breath caught in his chest. He couldn't speak. Couldn't breathe. "They are merely sleeping. For now."

She had been hiding among the webs on the far side, and they parted around her now, pushed aside by wicked purple claws. Spider legs snapped back, hanging over her shoulders, a mockery of angel wings.

Angewomon…what has she done to you?

Takeru couldn't even call her Angewomon anymore. The armor had shifted, color changing to match Parasimon's carapace—no, it was clean metal lines of Angewomon's armor were gone, leaving rough purple and green ridges. Arukenimon's lank silver hair spilling from beneath the helmet, fanning out around her as she walked. Pulsing green markings—where once tendrils had bound the angel's limbs—stood out starkly against pale purple skin, more metaphorical bonds now. Her scarf was gone.

White cloth had faded to black, save for a small bit stubbornly clinging to her fingertips on her right hand, surrounding a tiny, golden ring. A similar patch of white lingered around the holy ring on her ankle, although that one was almost gone, the ring itself fading to tarnished silver.

"Angewomon…" Hikari's strangled word was nearly inaudible, but the monster standing in the courtyard just smiled.

"I missed you too, Hikari-dear." Ruby red lips twisted into a fanged grin, "Now…I wouldn't want to hurt a friend, so I shall cut you a deal. Hand over the Essence, and I will leave, closing the gate behind me."

The silence was heavy. After a moment she tilted her head, twirling a lock of silver hair around a clawed finger, "Refuse…I'm not sure you would like the consequences. Not with the amount of hostages around us. I did not come alone."

Apartments.

Potentially hundreds of people.

"They are merely sleeping…For now."

x-x-x

"She's lying." Gennai crossed his arms, "I do not sense any digimon other than her. The Dark Spires distort the barriers, but it takes this many to support a digimon of her power. She has no back up."

The argument broke out around her, many different voices.

"We can't risk it! If she's right and there are people in there…" Sora.

"And even if she's lying, a battle could be just as dangerous to the surroundings." Iori.

"If only we had a way to trap her—" Izzy.

"Hell, even a way to fight back!" Miyako. "We don't even know if that will work!"

"Maybe we should just give it up. We can't afford to fight here—" Yamato.

"Hell no, we're not doing that!" Taichi. "We can't give up! We have to try!"

"Easy for you to say—your digimon isn't at risk here!"

"Hikari…"

Takeru. His hand was holding hers. She focused on that, and not on the twisted not-Angewomon out there, watching their argument with a knowing smile. A twisted smirk. One that shouldn't belong on that face. It was still Angewomon's face.

Tailmon…

She wouldn't want this.

Tailmon was there. Somewhere.

"The traitor is crying." BlackKudamon hissed in her ear, his holy cartridge warm in her hand. He was a nearly invisible shimmer along her arm, easily blending into the shadow cast by the Dark Spire, "BlackKudamon can hear her despair. She is fading."

Fading.

A black stain spread across the white fur.

Two tiny white patches, almost swallowed by black.

This is the last chance.

"…can I trust you?"

It was whispered. Takeru blinked. Confused. He thought she was talking to him.

Can I trust you to help me? To not take revenge?

BlackKudamon solidified, his weight wrapping around her arm, head resting on her shoulder. Sharp magenta claws gently rested on Hikari's cheek, startling a suspicious Takeru.

"BlackKudamon swore. For the Light, he will fight for Hikari."

"For Hikari…he will even fight to save the Traitor."

Hikari nodded. And closed her eyes. She took a deep, breath, trying to calm her pounding heart.

The argument continued around them. Ange—no, Parasimon content to enjoy the show. At this rate she wouldn't even have to do anything and she knew it.

"I will fight."

Hikari's declaration knifed through the squabble, leaving silence in its wake. She opened her eyes, looking into the incredulous and concerned faces of her brother and her friends.

"We will fight too; right Patamon?" The digimon sat up on Takeru's head, tiny paw fist pumping the air. Takeru gave Hikari a tired smile, "I'll always be here to support you."

thanks TK…

"Oh that's too bad…" Ange—Parasimon pouted. At some point she'd floated into the air, lounging, the shadow of black wings hovering over the spider claws. She stretched now, "Do you truly wish to fight me, Hikari-dear? Even with all of our…history?"

"It's because of our history that I have to!" She reached for every ounce of confidence she had and stepped forward, out of the shadows and into the courtyard ringed by webbed buildings and looming spires. She couldn't waver now.

"And how would you fight me? That rat sitting on your shoulder? I'm your digimon, Hikari-dear. Without me you are nothing."

BlackKudamon hissed. Hikari bit her lip, nails digging into the palms of her hand. She couldn't let it get to her. She'd heard all this before. From herself. Staring into that face, twisted into a sneer, but still so heart wrenchingly recognizable…"You are all worthless without me. The strongest of the Chosen Digimon…Rookies and pests, that's all you are!"

"You…" The words slipped out, nothing more than a whisper "Are not Angewomon."

"Angewomon would know the truth."

"Light is powerful, true." She squeezed Takeru's hand, "But it is nothing without hope. Without our friends!"

Time and time again, when things seemed the bleakest…

"Gennai!" Takeru turned, "We have to try."

The older man frowned, and then nodded slowly.

The azure orb formed between his hands, sparkling in the rising sun.

It exploded into rainbow light. Digivices that hadn't been lit for so long blazed to life with their respective color. Even the elder chosen, who had no digimon to digivolve. The digimon disengaged from the children, instinctually finding enough space for their evolution.

"Patamon digivolve to…"

"Upmamon digivolve to…"

"Poromon digivolve to…"

BlackKudamon hesitated, the rainbow shimmering along his shadowed body. Hikari's digivice was glowing a soft, gentle pink.

"…BlackKudamon lost his Holy Ring. Lost his right to the Light. He does not deserve the god's power..."

"What did I just say? You need to have hope." She felt suddenly…lighter, as if a heavy weight lifted from her chest. She poked him on the nose, those golden eyes going wide in astonishment, "Isn't that why you came to me in the first place?"

Hope for purification. For redemption. To put an end to the nightmares of the past.

In the end, that was what the trip to Vemdemon's castle was about.

Those haunted eyes closed; the black shape faded from her sight. A burst of rainbow light answered her digivice's glow, emanating from the bullet casing in her hand.

BlackKudamon digivolve to…

Ange—Parasimon tsked and rose in the air, translucent wings dark splotches against the red sky, "I warned you—you won't like the consequences. I don't need minions."

She held out her hand, the black glove elongating into a feathered bow. An arrow of sickly purple light forming in the other. She spun in the air, aiming at one of the surrounding buildings. At the people sleeping unaware inside.

"Celestial Arrow!"

It shattered against a golden barrier, splintering into hundreds of tiny stars.

x-x-x

A/N: …This was supposed to be of aftermath length. I swear. It ended up being closer to a full chapter.

And this section isn't even half of it. There went my carefully crafted organization plans…oh well. It's not like this conflict didn't need clearing up anyway. It's been a long time in coming. Now I finally reveal ParaAngewomon's altered appearance—if it helps with visualization, I sketched an image of her that ended up reminding me of Kerrigan from Starcraft 2. It's rather…disconcerting. I kind of want to re-draw that and maybe color it…eventually.

Next chapter should be the battle. I don't think it will stretch to three chapters. Indeed, I hope not. I still have Duskmon / Storabimon and Ouryumon / Flamemon to deal with. I might end up combining those two sections into one longer chapter if I need to.

Hope you enjoyed it :3 I finally managed to get Jou in there. Now the only original Chosen who hasn't gotten a section yet is Mimi. I don't know if she will ever get one…being in America makes it a little difficult to get her in on things.

Leave me a review / comment / question / anything you like! I'll try to get the next chapter to you in a timely fashion. Luckily—I've already started!