From: Daigo Nishijima.
To: Taichi Yagami, Yamato Ishida, Sora Takenouchi, Koushiro Izumi, Mimi Tachikawa, Jyou Kido, Takeru Takaishi, Hikari Yagami.
Distortion behind the school, possible Infected Digimon.
Yamato’s moving before he’s even finished reading, and Sora, Koushiro, Takeru, and Hikari aren’t far behind him. It’s the worst possible time and place for a fight to break out: With the School Festival in full swing, there are hundreds of people in the immediate area who could end up hurt.
Not to mention, his head reminds him, that Jyou has been nowhere to be seen since his argument with Gomamon. Without Jyou, Gomamon can’t evolve, and without the two of them, they’re once again down one fighter.
Taichi joins them on the way, wordlessly sprinting alongside them.
Meiko and Mimi are already outside when they get there, still in their matching orange costumes. Meiko has her hands clapped to her mouth, and Mimi points to the distortion -- a great, red-tinged gap in the fabric of the world.
“Ichijouji-kun took Meicoomon!”
Ichijouji? Yamato thinks. That isn’t possible.
It isn’t. Ichijouji’s not even in the country, he’s away in Europe with Miyako, Daisuke, and Iori. More importantly, he’s been on their side for years, without ever showing a hint that he might turn bad again.
They’d first met Ken Ichijouji four years ago -- a Chosen Child like they were, and the bearer of the Crest of Kindness, whose grief had made him an easy target for a multitude of dark forces, all of whom had played a hand in shaping him into the Digimon Kaiser, a conqueror of the Digital World.
Except they’d stopped him, and the Dark Spore that had created that personality had gone dormant. In four years, it had never become active again.
Yamato looks beyond the distortion, and sees Palmon, Gomamon, and Leomon. Ahead of them, looming, is Imperialdramon, the fused form of Ken Ichijouji’s Wormmon and Daisuke Motomiya’s V-Mon, and beyond him -- ...
Ken Ichijouji himself, resplendent in the Kaiser’s black and gold attire, clutching a struggling Meicoomon.
Ken’s worn a lot of faces in his time: Forgotten younger brother, sidekick, Digimon Kaiser, child prodigy, pawn of Vamdemon and Devimon and the Dark Ocean, reluctant ally, valued team member …
But there’s something about him this time that’s ever so slightly off. He can’t put his finger on what it is, but there’s something in the way Ichijouji looks at them, in the way he smiles and holds himself, that feels wrong. Familiar, perhaps, but wrong.
“Something’s wrong,” Koushiro says, just before Gabumon and Agumon fling themselves at the distortion and are repelled, thrown backwards onto the grass.
“How is he here?” Takeru asks, staring.
Yamato cranes forward a little, staring into the distortion. Why isn’t Ken talking? When he last donned the identity of the Kaiser, he gloated and joked and cajoled them. They could barely shut him up. But this Ken is completely silent.
The Digimon throw themselves at the distortion again, and are once more repelled.
“Why?” Agumon asks, pulling himself to his feet. “Gomamon and Palmon went through, right?”
Gomamon and Palmon. Jyou and Mimi’s partners. Except Jyou isn’t here, and their only ally in there is Leomon, a Digimon two levels lower than Imperialdramon, and who has no partner or any other way to evolve.
“Some extraordinary force might be preventing interference from the outside,” Koushiro says, opening his computer.
Ichijouji keeps one arm tightly curled around Meicoomon, and lifts his other, snapping his fingers. With a crackle of electricity, the distortion closes.
Koushiro starts typing immediately.
“What’s going on?” Taichi asks.
“Please wait. I’m trying to monitor what’s going on inside,” Koushiro says. “Here we go.”
The image that appears on the screen isn’t quite like anything Yamato’s seen before. It’s not quite an empty black void -- he can see the edge of it, a radiating set of white circles that marks out the boundary of an enormous, circular, empty space -- but nor is it any world. It’s like a gap between places.
It’s not difficult to pick out Palmon and Gomamon, spots of green and white in the black. Nor is it difficult to see Imperialdramon, as he bats them about, and fires off bursts of energy that always seem to fall just a little bit short of hitting them.
Intentionally short of hitting them, Yamato realises. Accuracy has never been a problem for Imperialdramon, and it would only take one direct hit to reduce the two of them to dust. It’s like he’s toying with them, or waiting for something.
But with the camera now trained on Palmon, Mimi now has line of sight, and on her belt, her digivice blares the strange, dial-up internet noise that signifies an evolution in process, as Palmon burns with yellow and green light.
“Palmon, evolution! Togemon.”
The familiar green and red shape of Togemon flings herself out of the light, battering at Imperialdramon’s face. He glances at her, unconcerned, then bats her away with one claw.
Koushiro frowns, turning the camera, until a yellow shape appears at its edges. It’s Leomon, Yamato realises after a second of squinting. He’s on his knees, clutching his head in his hands, as the textures on his fur crackle and pixelate and settle again, shifting between shades of gold and purple.
“It’s happening again,” Mimi says, leaning in.
“Again?” Koushiro asks. “... Mimi, is Leomon Infected?”
Infected. Mimi doesn’t answer, and the word hangs heavy in the air, but he is. Of course he is. He’d told them that he’d arrived through a distortion, like the distortions that they’d only seen Infected Digimon use. He’d said he’d been battling Ogremon. He’d said that he had no idea how he hadn’t been Infected yet.
Leomon had been Infected before he even arrived on Earth, and none of them, not even Leomon, realised.
As Togemon charges back in, Imperialdramon turns sharply, jaws opening to reveal rows of glittering teeth, before they clamp tight around Togemon.
He shakes her like a dog with a toy, until she goes limp, and then throws her away, sending her spinning through the void. Mimi yells her name, but she doesn’t seem to hear. Behind the Digimon, still clutching Meicoomon, Ichijouji flashes teeth in a split second grin.
“Gomamon needs to evolve,” Takeru says.
Hikari nods in agreement, stands, and quietly jogs away. They’re all too focused on the screen to ask where she’s going, because with Togemon floating through the void, Imperialdramon now turns his attention onto Gomamon.
At first, he just bats Gomamon around. Then, as if growing impatient, he starts firing off blasts, bolts of purple energy that turn into bright explosions around the tiny seal Digimon, flinging him about, until eventually Gomamon can neither dodge nor flee, nor even stand.
Imperialdramon looms over him, and slowly, the cannon on his back begins to charge. Yamato knows in his gut that he won’t miss this time. A direct hit from that cannon will kill Gomamon instantly.
Gomamon tries to stand and fails. “I think I’m done for …”
“Run, Gomamon!” He calls.
“Gomamon!” Taichi yells.
Yamato hears footsteps, and then Jyou is leaning over them, staring at Koushiro’s screen. “Gomamon. Gomamon!”
Yamato isn’t sure Gomamon hears him at first. Then, slowly, he lifts his head. “Jyou?”
Jyou smiles, and when he talks next, his voice cracks, like he’s just barely holding back tears. “I’m here now.”
“I waited for you.”
“I know,” Jyou says.
Imperialdramon’s cannon blazes brighter, spraying blue sparks as it approaches the end of its charging cycle.
Jyou puts one hand on Yamato’s shoulder and another on Koushiro’s, and leans in close to the computer, speaking softly. A single bar flickers on his digivice’s screen. “Go, Gomamon.”
“Go,” Jyou says, louder, straightening up. A second bar flickers on his digivice. “Gomamon!”
All eight remaining bars appear at once on the screen of Jyou’s digivice. It blares the same scratchy, dial-up noise that Mimi’s had, as Gomamon’s fur turns to sheer, streaming light.
Imperialdramon’s blast hits its mark and becomes a blossoming fireball, then a mushroom cloud, obscuring Gomamon’s light completely.
A horn erupts from the smoke, followed by snow white fur, blue eyes, and silvery tusks. As Imperialdramon veers away, Ikkakumon fires, his horn bursting from his forehead and trailing smoke and flame as it arcs about to hit one of Imperialdramon’s wings.
Imperialdramon swings backwards, wings flapping, retreating towards Ichijouji before soaring back towards Ikkakumon with a screech.
Yamato glances to one side. On Jyou’s belt, the blue-green metal of his digivice fogs over, turning the same deep grey as his Crest.
“Ikkakumon, super-evolution! Zudomon.”
Zudomon’s hammer materialises in his hand, and he throws it, the metal crackling with electricity before landing against Imperialdramon’s head, throwing him off course. A moment later, Imperialdramon is circling again, though, preparing to swoop in.
Yamato feels his heart sink. Zudomon is as far as Gomamon has ever evolved, as far as he can evolve. Of the eight of them, only Taichi and Yamato have ever evolved their partners further, in all the years they’ve been doing this.
Imperialdramon swoops, charging his cannon, and in defiance of everything he knows about their partners, Yamato hears Jyou’s digivice blare again.
“Zudomon, ultimate evolution!”
Zudomon vanishes into a pillar of silver light, and the monster that emerges isn’t one that Yamato has ever seen before. His body is stocky and muscular like Zudomon’s, but his fur is the same snowy white as Ikkakumon’s. Sat atop his not-quite-a-bear’s-not-quite-a-walrus’ head is a red helmet, and draped over his shoulders is a cloak of brown fur, on which sits two …
… Yamato has the slightly odd moment of realising that while Zudomon was armed with a hammer, this new Digimon appears to be armed with rocket-powered morningstars. He makes a mental note not to think too hard about those.
At the corner of the screen, he sees Ichijouji grin again, just for a second.
“What is that? I’ve never seen that evolution before,” Koushiro says, fingers flying across the keyboard as he does a scan and brings up the Analyzer.
Type: Beast Man.
Family: Deep Savers.
An Ultimate Digimon that governs the freezing lands of permafrost. Its fur has become like ice crystals, which are said to be as hard as Chrome Digizoid.
“I wanted to know why I was Chosen. I wanted a reason why Gomamon and I were partners,” Jyou says, staring at the screen. “But I -- shouldn’t need a reason, and yet I still made Gomamon wait for me, and I kept putting him off …”
“Self-centred huh?” Mimi asks wryly.
Jyou gives her a sidelong look, smiling helplessly. “I actually think you’re fine like that, Mimi-san.”
For a moment, Mimi looks taken aback. Then her face breaks open into a wild grin, and she swings back towards the laptop screen.
“Give them everything you’ve got,” Mimi beams, as the metal surface of her digivice turns the same green as her Crest.
Togemon’s prone form glows, then twists into the shape of a flower.
“Togemon, super-evolution! Lilimon.”
As the flower opens, the small, delicate shape of Lilimon emerges, firing off blasts of energy to batter Imperialdramon back.
“We’re not done yet!” Mimi yells at the screen, as her digivice blares its dial-up noise again.
Lilimon is engulfed by a pillar of green light. Ichijouji’s smile widens, slowly, his grip tightening around Meicoomon.
“Lilimon, ultimate evolution.” The monster that bursts out of the light is bigger than Lilimon, a humanoid woman dressed in red and cloaked in a satin-edged leaf, with thorns curling around her arms and her face obscured by a red rose. “Rosemon.”
Koushiro’s fingers fly across the keyboard, scanning her.
Family: Jungle Troopers.
The Queen of Flowers. An Ultimate level Fairy Digimon who wields thorny vines as both a rapier and a whip. It wears on its breast a jewel that promises eternal beauty and power.
Imperialdramon shifts about, his four-legged form transforming to the bipedal Fighter Mode that Yamato’s seen it use a dozen times before. He frowns. If this were a wild Imperialdramon -- if such a thing even exists -- it shouldn’t be able to take that form.
The mode change doesn’t help it any, as Vikemon and Rosemon force it back with a barrage of frost and rose petals, morningstar strikes and rapier jabs, until it’s forced to charge its cannon again, gathering energy in its chest to blow them away.
Leomon leaps in just as Imperialdramon fires, latching onto its face and driving the point of his sword down into its forehead, throwing off his aim just enough that the blast goes clear of Vikemon and Rosemon.
“Now!” Leomon yells.
One combined attack later, and Imperialdramon dissolves, turning into glowing motes of data that drift up towards Ken. It doesn’t -- look like the data that Digimon dissolve into when they die, and a moment later he realises that’s because it’s not: It’s empty data, information without any kind of soul driving it, a mindless copy of the real Imperialdramon.
Leomon turns towards Ichijouji. “Give Meicoomon back!”
Yamato expects Ichijouji -- or whoever’s wearing his face -- to protest. But instead he delicately puts Meicoomon down, steps back, and gives her a broad, smug grin. Then he vanishes, fizzling like static, his three dimensions suddenly becoming two before he disappears entirely.