angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yamato all but interrogates Koushiro before he takes Gabumon out of quarantine, but all the other boy has to say is that he’s run every scan he has several times and found no trace of Infection.

It’s night by the time Yamato beckons Gabumon out of the quarantine area. Gabumon tentatively steps through the monitor, materialising into the real world, then swings himself up onto Yamato’s shoulders.

Koushiro doesn’t even seem to notice them saying goodbye, but Tentomon sees them out.

Yamato immediately heads for the apartment that Takeru shares with their mother. It’s always -- odd visiting it, because even after all these years, seeing his mother still makes Yamato uncomfortable, still makes him want to be literally anywhere else. But something’s wrong with Takeru, that much is obvious, and he has to at least try to figure it out.

The lights are off when they get there. For a moment, Yamato thinks that nobody’s home, but he rings the doorbell anyway.

Takeru answers, with Patamon on his shoulder. He’s smiling, but there’s the faintest tinge of red puffiness around his eyes, as if he only recently stopped crying. Still, he welcomes Yamato and Gabumon in, pouring juice for each of them.

“What brings you here, anyway?” Takeru asks, avoiding meeting Yamato’s gaze. “Did you fight with Taichi again?”

“No -- …”

“Sora, then?”

“Why would I be fighting with Sora?”

“Jyou, then? Mimi?”

“Why would I be fighting with anyone?” Yamato asks irritably.

Takeru grins at him. “Isn’t that what you do?

“I kinda agree,” Gabumon says.

“You can shut up,” Yamato mutters. He turns his attention back to Takeru, putting his brother’s jibes aside for a moment. They’re meant to distract him, he knows that. “This isn’t about me. I want to know what’s wrong with you.”

Takeru’s smile fades. He stops moving, settling opposite Yamato, resting his forehead on his hands. “I’m worried …”

Yamato can practically feel Takeru trying to figure out how to spit it out, working through what he’s going to say in his head, finding the best words. He’s happy to let him take his time: Neither of them are good at talking about their feelings.

Then, at the moment when he’s about to just tell Yamato what’s wrong, Yamato sees him pull back behind his walls again, and suddenly he can’t read him anymore.

“I’m worried that you’re going to break up your band again,” Takeru lies, without even bothering to hide it, giving Yamato a huge, cheesy grin.

They joke back and forth for a few seconds, before Takeru’s phone rings, and any window of opportunity for getting him to talk vanishes. Takeru barely stops moving, and hardly stops talking, for the next five minutes, outright refusing to give Yamato any more opportunities to ask what’s wrong.

As soon as an opportunity presents itself, Takeru practically herds him out the door, says that he’ll see him tomorrow, and retreats back into his apartment.

“I’ll try talking to Patamon about it,” Gabumon reassures him. “And you can keep working on Takeru.”

“Yeah,” Yamato sighs. “Sure.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
“You took Patamon out of quarantine?” Taichi asks.

They had all gathered at their usual spot, beneath the Chrome-Ariake Bridge -- or almost all of them had, at least. Koushiro had apparently decided not to leave his office or stop working for anything.

Yamato had expected the mission to just be taking stock of the situation, talking about whether Koushiro had made any progress, checking that Meiko was okay, seeing if Maki or Nishijima had talked to any of them. Instead, Takeru immediately announced that he had removed Patamon from quarantine.

Of everyone in the group, Yamato especially hadn’t expected that from Takeru. Mimi, maybe, possibly even Jyou, but Takeru had more reason than any of them to be concerned for Patamon’s safety. He’d already lost him once.

“Koushiro was mad,” Jyou adds.

“Patamon said he hates being without me,” Takeru replies, with just a touch of defensiveness.

A lie. An obvious lie. Their partners had spent centuries without them, and years between their trips without them -- if there was one thing none of them had, it was separation anxiety. Maybe they were bored, and maybe they missed them, but it had been barely a few days.

“They’re in quarantine for a reason,” Yamato says.

“It’s really fine!” Takeru protests, laughing nervously. “Koushiro’s not found any signs of Infection. If anything goes wrong, I’ll take him right back.”

That much, at least, is true. Yamato’s heard Jyou’s tales of Koushiro’s office looking like a bomb went off in a trash heap, with Koushiro at its center, pale and drawn, because he’d spent days on end neither sleeping nor consuming anything other than chocolate and oolong tea to keep himself awake -- and for all of Koushiro’s work, he’d found nothing. Not a single sign of Infection.

“Isn’t it unfair that Takeru’s the only one who gets to do this, though?” Mimi asks. “We all want to see our partners.”

“Well, er -- once Patamon left, they all started complaining that they want to be let out,” Jyou says. “So, Koushiro sent me here to ask for everyone’s opinion.”

‘Everyone,’ Yamato imagines, might be a strong word. He can’t imagine Tailmon, a trained soldier, complaining, nor Tentomon, who has the patience of a saint. Palmon, Agumon, and Biyomon would have certainly started complaining, and Gabumon and Gomamon wouldn’t be far behind.

“I do want to see Biyomon again,” Sora says.

“It’s risky,” Yamato points out. “If they were to become Infected, we’d have to defeat them.”

Takeru’s cheerful facade drops away immediately. “Defeat them? They’re our partners.

His vehemence surprises Yamato, but the moment his words hit, Yamato becomes aware of Meiko next to him. Meiko, whose partner was already Infected, and who had never fought or killed like the rest of them had.

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

“That’s why we shouldn’t take them out of quarantine, Takeru,” Taichi says, gently.

Takeru’s silent for several long moments. Then: “Patamon and the others will be fine. I just want to spend as much time with them as possible.”

His voice is quiet, and the sentence almost sounds like an admission of -- something, Yamato’s not sure what.

Takeru’s expression is cheerful again in a fraction of a second.

Yamato narrows his eyes, but Mimi’s quick to jump in, and before long, the group has enthusiastically decided that since the Digimon aren’t going to tolerate being in quarantine much longer, the only thing they can do is take them out and watch them for symptoms.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yamato really had meant to only sleep for two hours or so, but by the time he'd found appropriate sleeping clothes in the form of a t-shirt and a spare pair of boxers, had a glass of water to wash the taste of coffee out of his mouth, and settled down next to Quentin, the exhaustion had hit him like a freight train.

He ends up sleeping for nearly five hours instead, and waking up with his face halfway into the crook of Quentin's neck, far groggier than he thinks he has any right to be.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Things Yamato notices when he wakes up:

Firstly, he has a splitting headache.

Secondly, he feels like he hasn't had anything to drink in hours.

Thirdly -- and this one he only notices when he rolls out of bed and meanders, half-asleep, past a mirror -- he has blue hair. Bright, neon blue hair.

"... Wha?"
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
The meeting with the board goes exactly how Maki thought it would. The one thing that surprised her was Daigo urging Professor Mochizuki to talk to his daughter -- but she supposed that kind of behaviour was why he was a good fit for the ‘high school teacher’ assignment.

Her biggest surprise comes when Daigo drives her back to headquarters, and the two of them emerge to find Yamato Ishida waiting for them. A few possibilities pass through her mind: Maybe Daigo had failed to notice someone following them, or maybe Koushiro Izumi had found their office’s whereabouts for him, or maybe he’d called in favours from his father’s media connections.

It didn’t matter much now.

“Ishida!” Daigo says, walking over. “What’s wrong?”

“I need information,” Yamato says, short and sharp. “As much information as you have.”

Maki walks over, meeting Yamato’s gaze. He holds her stare steadily.

“Please,” he murmurs after a moment.

Maki watches him for a few more moments. Then: “All right.”

Daigo looks nearly as surprised as Yamato that she acquiesced so easily. Maki gives Daigo a quick, exasperated look, then focuses her attention back on Yamato.

“You’re all involved in this. You have a right to know, to some extent.”

She takes the two of them up to her office, and digs around in her desk for a file marked ‘FIFTH INTERIM REPORT.’ It’s the same report she gave the board just earlier that day, which means it contains just enough information of substance to be satisfying, while withholding any information that’s inconvenient for her.

The file exclusively catalogues the various distortions that have appeared, contains reams of weighty but ultimately pointless scientific data, surveillance photographs, details on the whereabouts of the Chosen -- and none of what Maki knows about the origin of the whole problem.

Yamato reads it intently. She sees the moment about two thirds in when he flips a page back, then forward, brow furrowing slightly, as if he can detect something’s wrong with it but can’t figure out what it is.

Which means it’s time for a distraction.

“You saw what happened in the shadow of the School Festival, yes?” Maki says. “This is the result. We haven’t reported any details to the media, and we don’t plan to. Sooner or later, they’ll be an uproar, though.”

“What about Ken Ichijouji?”

Maki’s expecting that question. The Bureau has spent weeks falsifying social media posts, doctoring photographs, even hiring and coaching actors for a few (distorted, obviously, owing to the radio interference) phone calls. They’ve managed to deflect any concern over the Chosen’s second group up to this point.

Part of her wonders if that’s why the being who had attacked the School Festival had used Ichijouji’s form. A little joke played at her expense, rousing the Chosen’s suspicions.

“We’re constantly looking out for the welfare of all the Chosen,” she says. “We had agents check on the status of Ken Ichijouji, Daisuke Motomiya, Miyako Inoue, and Iori Hida shortly after the School Festival. They’re currently in no danger.”

The wise thing for Yamato would do now is to check, probe, interrogate. But he’s visibly relieved at the news, and when he looks to Daigo for confirmation, Daigo just gives a quick, hesitant nod. That, it seems, is enough. Maki wonders if she’ll ever stop being surprised by how trusting these kids are.

“I was worried,” Yamato admits. “I couldn’t get in contact with him.”

“The distortion field created by Meicoomon and the other Infected Digimon is making any kind of communication -- difficult,” Maki says. “Please, go tell everyone that the investigation into Meicoomon will begin ASAP, and that we’ll cooperate any way we can. We’ll tell you if anything new comes up.”

Yamato nods, closing the file and setting it down on the table carefully. Maki watches him, trying to figure out what he’s thinking, but his expression has closed off again.

“We’re good, right?” Maki asks.

Yamato gives a quick nod, standing up and bowing. “Thank you very much.”

“I’ll see you at school tomorrow, Ishida,” Daigo says, and Yamato gives him a quick smile as he leaves.

Yamato’s barely left when Daigo rounds on Maki.

“You went too far, Himekawa-san.”

“How so?”

“You’re lying to them.”

“Should I have been completely honest about everything?” Maki asks. She sees Daigo falter. “I can’t be, right? To say that Ichijouji, Motomiya, Inoue, and Hida are all missing … I don’t want to burden those kids any more. Lying to them is part of our duties.”

“You didn’t even tell them that Meicoomon is the cause of all this!”

She avoids Daigo’s eyes at that.

“If I did, how would that affect their relationship with Meiko?” She asks. “They’ll know sooner or later. No need to tell them when Koushiro Izumi will figure it out soon anyway.”

“Then what about me?”

Maki’s not sure when Daigo moves, but suddenly he’s looming over her, grabbing her by the shoulders.

“Do you really trust me that little? Why didn’t you tell me?

His voice goes from anger to pleading by the end. Maki gives him a small smile.

“Sometimes it’s better not to know.”

She reaches up and removes his hands from her shoulders, then turns in her chair and keeps working, waiting for him to leave. For a few excruciatingly long seconds, he stands in place, as if trying to muster up the willpower to say anything else. Maki ignores him, and only when she hears him leave and shut the door behind him does she breathe out.

She opens a folder, working her way through the files until she reaches the tracking data -- eight names listed with Odaiba coordinates, and four with ‘UNKNOWN LOCATION.’ She pulls in a deep breath, closes the file, and opens the next. There’s still much to be done.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Agents from the Bureau swarm the school within minutes, cordoning off the area where the distortion appeared. The School Festival continues bustling around it, and the Chosen disperse to their activities.

It’s the next day, as events come to an end, that Yamato sees one of his bandmates, Naoto, staring at him suspiciously. He pretends he didn’t notice, starting to carefully dismantle equipment instead.

“People are saying there was a monster attack out back,” Naoto says after a moment.

Yamato shrugs without meeting his gaze. “Could’ve been. School’s looking pretty intact if there was, though.”

The other boy doesn’t push the topic, but Yamato feels his gaze on him as he packs up the equipment.


They meet at Koushiro’s office that afternoon.

The Digimon are in Koushiro’s virtual playpen, where -- the group has decided, not without reluctance -- they’ll be staying until Koushiro can figure out if they’re Infected or not.

Quarantine. Even in his head, the word sounds loaded. It reeks of suspicion, paranoia, accusation. But if Meicoomon was Infected, then it could have spread to all of them by now.

In the virtual playpen, Tentomon is handing out rice crackers. Gabumon nibbles his delicately, decides he enjoys it, and nearly unhinges his jaw to swallow the entire thing whole.

“It isn’t like there’s any other Digimon around, though, right?” Jyou asks. “Even if they are Infected, it’s not like they can pass it on to anybody.”

Koushiro doesn’t look up from his computer, but he taps a few keys, and the view on the screen switches to an array of news reports. Planes being forced to make emergency landings after airport computers malfunctioned; radio interference creating cellular dead zones across Japan and much of China, Korea, and Russia; a sudden spike in malfunctions in computers, glitches on websites, critical failures of automated systems.

“These are all from the last three days. Meicoomon’s change was followed by an immediate spike in network failures radiating out from Odaiba,” Koushiro says. “And it’s getting worse every hour.”

“What does that mean exactly?” Yamato asks, folding his arms.

“It means that the Infection doesn’t just affect Digimon, and it isn’t occurring only in the Digital World,” Koushiro replies. “There was radio interference before, and it would get worse every time an Infected Digimon appears -- but Meicoomon stayed in this world for a prolonged period of time. Much like a cold virus infecting others and mutating, she was probably the vector the Infection to begin affecting our own computer systems on a massive scale.

“That means that if our partners are Infected, as a result of proximity to Meicoomon, then they could pass on the Infection to other systems. We can’t rule out the possibility, either, that another mutation in the Infection could make humans susceptible to it.”

Koushiro’s voice is level, but Yamato can hear a strained note to it, and the fact that the boy’s eyes don’t leave his screen even once speaks volumes.

“Meicoomon …” Sora says. “How could such a gentle Digimon … ?”

He turns back to the others, inclining his head at them. “Did any of you notice anything about Meicoomon?”

Taichi and Sora both shake their heads.

“As far as I can tell, she was completely asymptomatic,” Jyou says. “It’s like the Infection was dormant in her. It’s not that uncommon, actually. Herpes can lay dormant in someone’s system for a long period of time.”

Yamato tries very hard not to think about the Infection as digital herpes. Still, Jyou is right. Until the moment she had changed, Meicoomon had seemed completely normal.

The idea sits  unpleasantly in the base of his chest. Kuwagamon and Ogremon had left no doubt about their symptoms, and even those Infected who had kept their minds, like Leomon, had had something off about them.

But Meicoomon had seemed normal. Yamato doesn’t even know when she’d been Infected. Maybe she always had been.

“Yeah, same. I didn’t notice anything,” he murmurs.

“We’ve used the term ‘infection’ light up until now, but it totally exceeds anything we could have imagined,” Koushiro says. Every word is punctuated by the sharp noise of an error message appearing on his computer, as one scan after another fails, until he finally snaps his attention away from the screen, grimacing.

After that, they sit in silence until Mimi arrives, with Meicoomon in tow.

“Sorry! I was cleaning up.”

Meiko doesn’t look at any of them, keeping her gaze fixed on the floor, and as Sora walks over to touch her arm, Yamato sees her almost flinch.

He watches her. She’s devastated, that much is obvious. She looks like she’s barely holding herself together, and the others have noticed too. But there’s something in the way that she looks like she might flee at any moment, like she’s expecting them to start blaming her. Guilt?

“Are you all right?” Taichi asks.

“Oh … yes,” Meiko says, without looking at him. “I’m sorry for making you worry.”

“Anyway, we need to quickly iron out a plan,” Koushiro says. “There are a lot of things I need to ask Mochizuki-san. If Meicoomon is Infected, we need to know why. Were there any symptoms? When did the Infection occur? Do you know where she might have caught it? Be thorough, we need your information to pin down the cause of the Infection.”

Meiko shrinks back in on herself, moving onto her back foot as though she intends to flee.

If Koushiro notices, it doesn’t show, because when he speaks next his voice is sharp and frustrated. “Even small details will help!”

“Hold on, Koushiro-kun!” Mimi snaps, moving between him and Meiko. “This isn’t some police interrogation. Try to take Meimei’s feelings into account!”

“We don’t have time to go about this in a leisurely fashion.”

“You’re being insensitive!”

Suddenly, Koushiro is on his feet, yelling. “The Infection is spreading! We don’t have time to care about trivial things like -- …”

Trivial?! What did you -- …”

“That’s enough, you two.” Sora’s voice is like a whip cracking across the office. Mimi and Koushiro both go quiet, and as they look away from each other, Mimi seems to see something. Yamato follows her gaze to where tears are streaming down Meiko’s face, and quickly looks away.

The Digimon are pressed up against the screen of the virtual playpen, watching intently.

“This is all my fault,” Meiko says. “I’m -- I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”


Eventually, they all leave.

Mimi and Meiko leave first. Jyou sticks around until Yamato gets a text from Takeru, telling him that Ichijouji wasn’t home, and neither were his parents -- and that Daisuke, Iori, and Miyako aren’t answering their phones or at home.

“That’s not that surprising, right?” Jyou asks. “They’re all in -- what, Germany?”

“The radio interference means that making international calls right now is next to impossible,” Koushiro says. “But they’ve been updating their Facebooks and Twitters. The last update was just yesterday.”

“Then they should be fine! It’s just somebody trying to trick us,” Jyou says.

“I wonder if ‘trick’ is the right word for it,” Yamato says. “They didn’t seem to be trying that hard to convince us. Ichijouji’s whole world-domination phase involved a lot more gloating and cackling than that. Maybe it’s less a trick and more making a point.

They discuss it back and forth for a little longer, until Sora and Jyou both eventually leave, and Taichi and Yamato see them off.

Taichi watches Jyou as he leaves. Then: “Those two Digimon. Vikemon and Rosemon. New ultimate evolutions, huh?”

Yamato gives him a slightly wry look. For six years, the two of them were the only ones who could achieve ultimate evolution on their own. It feels odd for that not to be true anymore.

“Koushiro got a message. He thinks it’s some kind of prophecy about that,” Yamato says, holding up his phone.

Taichi squints at it. “‘Those who desire true power must know the darkness, and go beyond it?’ What does that even mean?”

“I have no idea,” Yamato says, with a quick grin. It’s gone as quickly as it appears, and as he thinks about what he wants to say next, he finds he can’t really look Taichi in the eye. “But …”

Taichi’s eyebrows rise.

“But if we can get more Ultimates on our side, then we won’t need Omegamon anymore,” Yamato says.

He doesn’t have to be looking directly at Taichi to see his expression: Surprised, and more than a little wounded. Yamato looks at the ground, bites back bitter remarks about how Taichi rejected him first, he doesn’t get to be hurt when Yamato gives him an out.

“That’d be easier for you, right?” It’s a rhetorical question. He knows it would be. That doesn’t mean he wants Taichi to say that out loud.

“Ya -- …”

“See you at school,” Yamato says, turning on his heel and leaving.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
When the battle’s over, Leomon’s able to open a distortion and carry the others through safely, back to the grass behind the school.

Because he’s Infected, Yamato’s head reminds him. Just like Kuwagamon. Just like Ogremon. Just like ExTyrannomon. Just like Alphamon.

But -- he seems fine now. The textures on his fur aren’t changing, there’s no hint of purple on him, and his eyes are clear and bright. He seems healthy, without any signs of going berserk. Maybe he’s fought the Infection off.

“Why was Ken here?” Takeru asks, softly, staring at the distortion, still hanging open.

“And Imperialdramon too,” Hikari says.

(Maki Himekawa waits, watching the distortion, watching Meicoomon. She’s accounted for a lot of variables so far, but she hadn’t expected him to show up here, on Earth, and especially for him to appear with Ken Ichijouji’s face.

But there has to be a reason. There’s always a reason. It may yet turn out to Maki’s benefit.)

Leomon drops Palmon and Gomamon -- now regressed to Tanemon and Pukamon respectively -- into Mimi and Jyou’s arms, but Meicoomon flinches away from Meiko as she approaches, huddling closer to Leomon.

That’s not that surprising, Yamato guesses. She was just kidnapped, after all, and Meicoomon’s always been shy.

“Oh, what’s wrong?” Leomon coos, holding Meicoomon up. “Everything’s okay now, I promise.”

With the sun shining, nobody trying to kill them, and Leomon seemingly cured of Infection, Yamato can’t say he disagrees, at least in that exact second.

“You did great,” Jyou says warmly to Pukamon, hugging him.

“The two of you evolved to ultimate,” Koushiro says, approaching. “What could cause that to happen? Or -- …” He glances down at his laptop again, opening an e-mail. “‘These two sides of the universe are as two faces of a coin, and those who desire true power must know the darkness and go beyond.’ Is this a prophecy about ultimate evolution?”

He turns to stare at Mimi and Jyou again.

Jyou blinks at him. “Is there something on my face?”

“No, I -- it’s nothing.”

(Maki counts down in her head, measures the seconds until the inevitable.)

Leomon rocks Meicoomon a little, smiling. “There, there. Chin up!”

Yamato gives Taichi a slow look, and as the other boy offers him a smile, reluctantly smiles back.

There is the wet thunk of a sharp object impaling flesh.

Yamato turns his head. They all do. He watches, struck silent, as Meicoomon tugs backwards, and pulls one claw out of Leomon’s chest.

Very slowly, Leomon’s grip around Meicoomon loosens. Yamato expects her to drop to the ground, but she doesn’t. She just hangs in the air.

“What is it?” Leomon murmurs, as if he doesn’t realise what just happened, doesn’t see the hole in his chest. “Everything’s okay now. What could possibly be wrong?”

Meicoomon screams, and her claws flash, tearing Leomon apart in a second.

Meiko cries out, then claps her hands over her mouth.

(At the back of the group, where nobody can see her, Maki Himekawa grins.)

Meicoomon turns and regards them all for a moment, eerily calm, then vanishes into the distortion, shutting it behind herself, leaving them alone on the grass.

(Maki turns on her heel, and begins walking away.

Daigo jogs to catch up with her. “You’re fine just leaving things like that?!”

“The distortion has closed. There’s nothing more we can do,” Maki replies. “We must consider our next course of action.”

“How did this happen?” Daigo asks. “Why did this happen?”

Maki stops, just for a moment. Daigo was a friend, once, a very long time ago. He deserves at least a sliver of the truth.

“The distortions and the Infected Digimon appeared for the same reason,” she says. “It’s all due to …”

She opens her eyes, and starts walking again. “... Meicoomon.”)
angry_friendship_wolf: (Crest of Friendship)
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.

Or --

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!”

Imperialdramon fires.

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.

“Gomamon, evolution!”

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.

Level: Ultimate.
Attribute: Vaccine.
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.

Level: Ultimate.
Attribute: Data.
Type: Fairy.
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.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
The day of the School Festival is -- hectic, to say the least.

Apparently bolstered by something Meiko said, Mimi throws herself into running her cafe with an enthusiasm that soon has people talking. Yamato very carefully avoids visiting, because Meiko still freezes up when he gets within ten feet of her.

Meanwhile, Taichi and Sora have events with the soccer and tennis clubs respectively; Takeru seemingly decides to drag Hikari around the entire festival; and Koushiro and Jou both decline to attend.

Yamato spends most of the day doing concerts in the school’s courtyard, as part of a one day only band for the festival, and when he’s not performing, he’s practicing for the next performance. By the early afternoon, he starts to feel like he’s one spirited rock song away from losing his voice.

He’s practicing with his guitar in the hallway when Taichi comes sprinting over.

“Yamato! Glad I found you,” Taichi says, and Yamato just manages to avoid giving a derisive, bitter snort. “Agumon and the others are here.”

Wait, what?

Yamato blinks at him like an idiot. “The Digimon?”

Weren’t they at Koushiro’s office? Wasn’t Koushiro with them? Wasn’t Leomon with them, as Adult-level supervision? Yamato’s not sure what’s more ridiculous, the idea that Koushiro and Leomon both failed to notice nine Digimon leaving, or that there might be a seven foot tall lion man wandering around the school festival.

But Taichi is deadly serious, it seems.

“They’ve entered the Creepy-Cute Costume Contest,” Taichi explains. “I have a practice game. Could you go and check on them?”

Yamato suppresses the urge to ask Taichi if this is actually just a joke he’s playing, and instead just nods. “Got it.”

Taichi starts to move past him, but Yamato moves into his path. He’s put off this talk with Taichi for too long already. They’re alone, there isn’t a imminent crisis, it’s as good a time as any to talk to him.

Be calm. Be reasonable. Except there really is no being calm or reasonable when you’re forcing a conversation like this.

“You still haven’t told me,” he says, trying and failing not to sound accusatory, “why Omegamon’s fusion broke down.”

Taichi makes a strangled noise. Yamato tries not to read too much into it, even as the little, malicious voice at the back of his mind starts chattering about how Taichi hates him, and how they’ll never be able to form Omegamon because Taichi doesn’t want to.

It shouldn’t feel like a rejection, but it does. They’ve been fusion partners for years, battle partners for even longer, and it feels like that split second where Omegamon broke down into WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon is a tiny neon sign that says that, without Yamato noticing, they’ve drifted apart to the point where they can’t understand each other anymore.

Eventually, Taichi shuts his eyes, bowing his head slightly. “Isn’t it enough that Alphamon was defeated?”

He starts to move around Yamato, and Yamato’s last frayed nerve snaps like a stretched guitar string. He hears the thud of his palm against metal, but he’s not entirely aware of why until he sees his arm outstretched, hand against the locker, knuckles white, boxing Taichi in.

Taichi gives him a look that feels like a warning, a silent command to move. Yamato doesn’t. If Taichi wants to hit him, then he should. At least Yamato would understand that.

“I don’t care when Omegamon broke up,” Yamato grinds out. “I want you to tell me why.

He waits for Taichi to say something, to come up with some ridiculous excuse, or some implausible theory, or an attempt to evade the subject, or anything. Instead, he just stares at Yamato and stays completely silent.

Fine. Yamato doesn’t need him to say anything. He already knows what the truth is, he just needs Taichi to admit it.

“Back then, between the two of us,” he says, “you had doubts about us. Isn’t that why?”

Doubts about the Digimon, doubts about everything they’ve been doing, doubts about Yamato himself, and about their friendship. He looks Taichi in the eye and dares him to try to deny it, as if Yamato hadn’t felt that moment of hesitation before they’d been forcibly separated.

He feels a hand on his wrist, before Taichi shoves his arm away and sprints past him, running down the corridor.

“Taichi!” Yamato yells after him.

Taichi doesn’t stop running, and Yamato can’t find it in him to even try following. He makes an angry sound in the back of his throat, stuffs his hands in his pockets, and stalks off to find Gabumon.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Crest of Friendship)
“These two worlds are as two sides of the same coin,
And if you desire true power then you must know the darkness, and go beyond it.”

Maki scans her eyes over the text of the e-mail once again, taking a slow sip of coffee, before shutting the window, opening the footage of the battle between Togemon and Ogremon instead. Her superiors had had a small series of conniptions over Togemon nearly destroying a news helicopter, and another small series of conniptions over how Ogremon was still at large and still Infected.

She fast-forwards, moving to the end of the footage, the moment where a blurry, golden shape had emerged from a distortion and dragged Ogremon back to the Digital World.

“A very touching reunion,” she says softly, pausing the video on the split second where Leomon’s eyes are visible, checking them for signs of being bloodshot, or the textures around them for tinges of purple.

Her eyes swivel to the corner of the screen, where the orange shape of Meicoomon can just be seen.

It’s at that moment that her phone rings.

She picks it up, eyes still on the screen. “Director.”

“I see Meicoomon was in a battle.”

“That’s right. They may be unavoidable going forward.”

“But it’s being kept in check?”

“The Digimon in question is being controlled by its partner. Nevertheless, someone may try to take advantage of the situation. We should be vigilant.”

“-- And you’re sure this is the most effective way of keeping it in check?”

“Of course,” Maki says. “The link between Meicoomon and its human partner acts as a stabilising influence on it. Separating them or subjecting Meicoomon to undue stress would put us all in grave danger.”

“But the Infected seem drawn to it. It’s like they know where it is -- …”

“The Chosen have dealt with that particular challenge well enough, I think,” Maki says, trying to keep her voice from sounding too sharp. “You should be aware that they’ve been joined by another asset.”


“An old ally of theirs. Leomon, Adult-level Vaccine type, self-styled guardian of File Island.”

“Has he shown any reaction to Meicoomon? If he’s traveling between worlds despite the gates being shut, then he must be -- …”

“At this point, we have no reason to believe that he has any particular interest in Meicoomon. I imagine that if he had noticed there was anything untoward with her by now, we would have heard about it,” Maki says. “Will that be all, sir?”

“Y-Yes. No. One more thing. Have you been contacted again?”

“By Gennai?” Maki asks, glancing at the closed e-mail with the two lines of DigiCode. “No. Not yet.”

“Very well. Keep me updated, Agent Himekawa.”

“Of course, sir,” Maki says, and hangs up as she sees Nishijima open the door to her office, hurrying over with a map in his hands.

“Himekawa,” he calls. “Here’s the latest data on the research lab on predicted locations of distortion.”

He puts the map on the desk, pointing at a point just barely on the mainland. “We need to increase security in this level, beginning tomorrow.”

“The school?” Maki asks. “I see. Make a request to headquarters, especially in crowded areas.”

“Actually,” Nishijima says, suddenly awkward. “Tomorrow is the School Festival.”

The School Festival. Crowds who could be put in grave danger, Chosen too busy to be on their guard, a dozen disasters waiting to happen. Maki lets her gaze slide to the screen, and the blurry image of Meicoomon and Leomon, and stifles a smile, forcing herself to scowl. It’s an easy, familiar mask.

“Well,” she says after a moment. “That does make things more difficult.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
The day before the festival, Yamato finds a free moment to stop by Koushiro’s office. Koushiro’s out, but the Digimon partners are all there, along with Leomon.

He’s sitting in an armchair, back completely straight, eyes shut. Yamato watches from the doorway for a while, frowning. This Leomon seems more meditative than the one he knew, and also, oddly, more on-edge. Yamato thinks back to the night he arrived, when he had rushed to the window and nearly torn the curtains away, looking for some unseen spy.

The Leomon Yamato had known was more self-assured, more authoritative. But that Leomon had died, killed by MetalEtemon -- and while this was him reborn, he still wasn’t the same person, not exactly.

Even then, though, there’s something -- off. Something uncanny and familiar about how this Leomon’s attention keeps drifting, then snapping back into focus, then drifting again.

He opens his mouth to say something when his phone vibrates in his pocket.

Hey, Ishida, where are you? We need to rehearse? -- T.

Leomon can wait, he supposes. He leaves without saying anything.

[tri OOM]

Feb. 8th, 2017 09:54 pm
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
The obscene amount of preparation that goes into a School Festival means that, for a few days, Yamato doesn’t see any of the other Chosen.

Mimi and Meiko are busy putting together their (well, Mimi’s) cafe idea, and Sora is always either helping them or practicing for exhibition tennis matches. With no lessons to drag him out of there, Koushiro vanishes into the computer labs for the entire school days. Jyou is, as usual, impossible for anybody to contact. Taichi is busy with soccer practice, although Yamato can’t shake the feeling that he’s also avoiding him.

(Maybe, maybe Yamato is also avoiding Taichi.)

Yamato finds himself spending all his time practicing with the festival’s temporary band. It takes about three hours for him to be annoyed by everyone in said band, not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because it’s suffocating trying to care about the School Festival when there are so many bigger crises to deal with, and none of them seem to realise it.

Eventually, he tells them he’s taking a break and makes a beeline for the Home Economics classroom, hoping he’ll find Sora there.

When he slides open the door, he sees her huddled over a sewing machine, working diligently on one of the outfits Meiko designed.

“You look tired,” he remarks, as he shuts the door.

Sora looks up, and for a second he thinks she’s annoyed with him, before she smiles. “I’m fine. Just -- rushing to finish these.”

Yamato stuffs his hands in his pockets, approaching one of the outfits and very carefully picking it up.

“... Meiko designed these? I didn’t think she -- they’re very …” He gives Sora a sidelong look, and sees her sunny ‘Go on, say something, I dare you, Ishida,’ look in response. “... Bold.”

He lets his tone convey the idea that, of all the things Meiko is, bold is not one of them.

“I think she’s trying to please Mimi. Now more than ever,” Sora says. Yamato arches an eyebrow. “-- Mimi’s been having some troubles. With the other girls in her class.”

Yamato frowns, folding his arms. “What kind of troubles?”

“They think she’s selfish. Egotistical, I think, was the word they used,” Sora says. “Something about her, um, steamrolling everyone else with this cafe idea.”

“And? She’s Mimi. She steamrolls. That’s what she does. She already knew that about herself,” Yamato says. “Do you want me to talk to her?”

“No, it’s just -- she’s sensitive about it, after what Koushiro said,” Sora says. “It doesn’t help either that I think she feels like she doesn’t fit in here anymore. She was in America for nearly five years, after all, and she’d only just gotten off the plane when another Digital World crisis started. She hasn’t had a chance to find a new normal yet.”

“Want me to tell Koushiro to talk to her?” Yamato asks, trying not to feel completely helpless. Mimi’s always been pretty straightforward to deal with -- it’s practically her Crest virtue -- but nothing about this sounds straightforward to him. “They can figure out what’s going on, clear the air, all that.”

“I think we have to let them decide to sort things out on their own. In the meantime, if you see Mimi, just -- be yourself. Don’t treat her any differently,” Sora says. “She’ll definitely notice if you try to be encouraging or comforting.”

“What about Jyou? Gabumon mentioned that Gomamon’s living with Tentomon and Koushiro now, that can’t be a good sign,” Yamato says.

Sora shakes her head. “You tell me. I’ve been so focused on Mimi, and -- well, you and Jyou are pretty in tune with each other, most of the time.”

Yamato sighs, rubbing a hand through his hair and sitting down. “He’s busy with school, isn’t he? If he wants to be a doctor, he needs good grades,” he says. “But he’s always had a sense of priorities before. And his time management skills are -- passable. So if he’s not showing up, it’s because he doesn’t want to.”

“Because he’s afraid of fighting?”

“Afraid of watching us get hurt,” Yamato says. “But …”

Sora raises an eyebrow, tilting his head.

“But I think it’s also -- somebody said to me recently that we’re torn between two worlds, and they’re right. There’s always a little part of us that’s going to be in the Digital World, whatever happens. We’re always going to have to step up if there’s a war or a crisis,” Yamato says. “I’m not sure if Jyou knows how to deal with that, or if he sees himself as -- unable to be part of one world or the other because of it.”

“It’s always been important to him, hasn’t it?” Sora says, grimacing. “Being a part of a community. Or a member of society, I guess.”

She’s not wrong. Their first trip to the Digital World had been hard on everyone, but it had always been hardest on Jyou. They all missed their families, and the little comforts of their lives on Earth, but for Jyou, who defined himself by society’s expectations, who found comfort in rules and authority, who marked his standards of behaviour by the standards of civilisation around him -- being thrown into a place with no rules, or laws, or coherent society at all was almost unbearable.

It was an ethos so strong that it became his Crest virtue -- Seijitsu, the trait of being true to your word, of following the rules and doing what’s expected of you.

Having somebody like Jyou around had been good for them, back then. He’d complained every step of the way, but he’d also made sure they never forgot what had been important to them back on Earth.

“Yeah. But he’ll always be separate from the rest of the world,” Yamato says, eventually. “Even if he tries to bury it, he can’t not be Chosen.”

“So Gomamon’s just going to stay with Tentomon?” Sora asks.

“I guess so. For the moment, at least. Until Jyou sorts his head out.”

“Do you think he will?”

Yamato just shrugs. If he said he had any idea, he’d be lying.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yamato doesn’t go home or back to band practice. Instead, he heads to the Fuji Television Centre.

The building is one of the most distinctive in Odaiba, a massive net of glass and metal that converges on a glass sphere. Six years ago, they had fought Vamdemon atop it, and later fought VenomVamdemon in the same spot, flattening the building in the process.

It had been rebuilt, like most of Odaiba. Yamato imagines that, sooner or later, Daikanransha and the Venus Fort will be rebuilt in much the same way.

Nobody stops him as he enters, and when he reaches the floor for the Fuji News Network, the receptionist waves him through without more than a second glance.

As soon as he entered the news room, he heard a voice yelling.

“Hey! Call Minister Ohno, tell him Ishida wants him on the phone with a quote about the monster attacks in the next twenty minutes or we’re running with ‘the Lib Dems could not be reached for a comment.’ It’s an election year, that’ll light a fire under him,” Yamato’s father called.

“Akari, Gentaro, the two of you are in charge of putting together a twenty minute piece for the breakfast show tomorrow, so get me some real life stories from people who were at the attacks six years ago and four years ago. The rest of you, get me soundbites from witnesses, get me the police’s statement on it, find out if there are any lobbyist groups, and so help me, if any of you come back with a quote from a wild-eyed cultist rambling about the end times I will fire you.”

Yamato raises an eyebrow. As his father catches sight of him, he makes a grumbling noise and gestures him into his office.

“How’s your reporter?” Yamato asks, once the door is shut.

“She’s fine. Nothing worse than cuts and bruises,” Hiroaki says. “And yes, I did see that it was Togemon. Believe me, I hadn’t forgotten that Mimi’s got a giant boxing cactus on side. I’m keeping your names out of it.”

“What sort of angle are you running on it?”

“An objective one, as best we can. Nippon News Network is going with ‘monsters are going to kill us all’ as its angle, though, so keep an eye out for that,” Hiroaki grumbles. “And I’m sure your mother will be around later to pester me for an interview about my journalist, and whether the helicopter was flying too low, and about if we plan on pressing charges against the government, so if you want to know what angle the print news is going for, you’re welcome to stick around and ask her.”

“Sorry about your journalist. And your expensive helicopter, I guess,” Yamato says. “I would’ve gotten there quicker, but it -- caught us all by surprise.”

“Yeah? Shouldn’t Mimi be the one apologising? I didn’t see Garurumon out there.”

“Mimi was doing her best. She saw an opportunity to -- put a positive press spin on things, I guess, and she went for it,” Yamato says. “Maybe you should hire her. She seems to have more interest in PR than any of the rest of us.”

“If her idea of PR involves downing helicopters into Tokyo Bay, I’ll pass, thanks,” Hiroaki replies. “She and Palmon are alright?”

“Yeah. Palmon got a few bruises when she was Togemon, but she’s fine,” Yamato says. “And Mimi is -- upset, I guess. She’ll come around. Right now, Koushiro’s angry at her, and I’m angry at Jyou, and Sora’s angry at Koushiro, and Taichi’s angry at me. It’s -- you know.”

“That’s a lot of anger,” Hiroaki says, sorting through some files. “Did the whole group get your temperament when I wasn’t looking?”

“You’re hilarious,” Yamato says. “All right, Takeru and I have a meeting at Koushiro’s office, I’ll see you tomorrow. Have fun getting that quote.”


They convene at Koushiro’s office later on. Well, some of them do, at least -- Takeru and Hikari both go to their respective homes, Mimi doesn’t turn up, and Jyou is, as ever, impossible to contact. Yamato thinks, at first, that Taichi isn’t going to appear, but Sora reassures him that he’ll be there.

Koushiro sets himself up at his desk and starts working, refusing to look any of them in the eye, while Meiko settles awkwardly on one of the couches, and Sora sits opposite. Yamato stays standing near the large television set into one of the office’s wall, with Gabumon at his side.

Itt isn’t long before Tentomon starts serving mugs of oolong tea. He goes to Meiko first, carefully setting a mug down in front of her.

“Oh, er, t-thank you,” she says.

“I think you guys did great, Meiko,” Tentomon says warmly.

“Yeah! And without any help!” Piyomon adds.

There’s a chime from the door, and Taichi appears, hurrying someone in -- a seven and a half foot tall, yellow-furred Digimon.

Yamato is almost too surprised to see him there to wonder exactly how Taichi managed to get him through the streets of Odaiba.

“... Leomon?!”

During their first trip to the Digital World, Leomon had been one of their closest allies -- but he’d died, and the last time Yamato had heard anything about him, the Village of Beginnings was still waiting for Leomon to be reborn as an egg.

“He said he has something to tell us,” Taichi supplies.

Leomon waits until they’re all seated, then stands awkwardly at one end of the office, arms stiffly by his side. “There are mutations occurring within the Digital World. I came to tell you about them.”

He means the Infection, Yamato realises. Koushiro did say that he wasn’t sure if it was a disease or a mutation.

“We first realised it when Ogremon began acting strange,” Leomon continues. “We don’t know the cause, but apparently there are many Digimon who have begun acting the same way.”

“Yes, we call them Infected Digimon,” Koushiro says. “Is one of those mutations related to the distortions in space-time that are connecting the Digital World and our world?”

“Indeed. I came here through one of those distortions. I was keeping an eye on Ogremon, hoping to keep him in check, but I was too late,” Leomon replies.

“You don’t seem to be Infected. Why?” Taichi asks.

“I don’t know. I remember, though, that when Ogremon was Infected, it was like something within him became deranged.”

Koushiro taps a few keys on his keyboard, and peers over the monitor at Leomon. “May I ask you something? Which came first, the distortions in the Digital World, or the Infected Digimon?”

“The Infected Digimon appeared first,” Leomon says immediately.

Koushiro frowns. “I was sure the distortions were the cause of all of it, but maybe the opposite is true. Or, maybe something separate is causing the Infection? A program, or some kind of creature. If the distortions were born from the same source, it’d add up.”

Yamato becomes aware of the Digimon chattering behind one of the sofas, huddled together.

“What a scary conversation,” Agumon says.

“What if we get Infected too?” Gabumon adds.

“Oh! Maybe we should cover ourselves with bug repellant?” Piyomon says.

There is a general sense of scepticism.

“Would that really work?” Meicoomon adds.

“Sunscreen, then?” Piyomon tries.

“Maybe we should all wear surgical masks,” Agumon suggests.

“Don’t worry,” Koushiro says. “You’re safe so long as you’re in the server in this room. It functions as a standalone usually, but when connected to an outside network, it has a robust anti-intruder system of my own design, with threefold security, and needs my personal authentification.”

“If the Infection has an origin …” Taichi murmurs.

“Any ideas?” Sora asks.

Before Taichi can reply, Leomon startles suddenly, and rushes to the window, throwing open the doors and sweeping back the curtains, staring furiously at the empty space on the balcony. Yamato moves up behind him, tilting his head. Leomon’s eyes are wild and panicked in a way he never remembered seeing six years ago.

“Leomon … ?” He asks.

“It’s nothing. Nothing,” Leomon says. “I thought I -- it doesn’t matter.”

There’s something distant about his gaze for a moment, as if he’s losing his train of thought before he can even finish it. Then he seems to rally, blinking off the haze.

“For now, Leomon should stay here. He’d attract too much attention otherwise,” Koushiro says. “I’ll contact you all if I have any updates.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
To: Taichi Yagami, Yamato Ishida, Sora Takenouchi, Mimi Tachikawa, Jyou Kido, Takeru Takaishi, Hikari Yagami.
From: Koushiro Izumi.
Subject: Infected Digimon in Odaiba.

I’m tracking a distortion that’s materialising in Daiba Metropolitan Park. Chances are very high that an Infected Digimon is going to appear there.

To: Koushiro Izumi.
Cc: Taichi Yagami, Yamato Ishida, Sora Takenouchi, Jyou Kido, Takeru Takaishi, Hikari Yagami.
From: Mimi Tachikawa.
Subject: Re: Infected Digimon in Odaiba.

Meiko-chan and I are on our way there now!! Palmon and Meicoomon are with us!! We’re pretty close!

Yamato doesn’t reply. He excuses himself from band practice and ignores his bandmates as they yell about how he can’t keep running off, jogs out to his scooter, and sets off towards Daiba Park.

When he passes Taichi on the way, he doesn’t say anything. He watches him, doing his best to look cold and aloof, waiting for Taichi to tacitly admit that it’d be quicker for them to go together. Eventually, Taichi chains up his bike and clambers onto the scooter behind Yamato.

Neither of them say anything, or look at each other. There are a dozen different things Yamato wants to say, and first and foremost among them is asking why Omegamon’s fusion broke down -- but the middle of an Infected Digimon attack isn’t the time.

(It never actually seems to be the time.)

By the time they arrive, the area is already cordoned off, and neither Mimi nor Meiko are anywhere to be seen.

Sora pulls up the news on her phone, holding it up for them all to see. Yamato has to strain over the others to get a good look at the tiny screen, at the helicopter footage of two monsters battling. They’re blurs, but he recognises the shape of Togemon, Mimi’s partner, at least.

Takeru is the one who first calls attention to the other Digimon. “Is that … ?”

Yamato turns his attention onto the other blur. It’s smaller than Togemon, green and black, with a shock of white hair and something pale in its hand. It takes Yamato a moment to realise exactly who he’s looking at.

“That’s Ogremon,” Sora says.

Yamato feels his stomach lurch. Every Infected Digimon they’d encountered before had been new to them, but Ogremon was -- is -- a friend. He’d risked his life fighting for them multiple times. He’d been at Jyou and Mimi’s side when they’d faced MetalEtemon, fought with them against Piemon’s army.

They’re still watching when Koushiro jogs across the plaza to them, open laptop nestled in the crook of his arm.

“What’s Mimi doing?!” He asks, breathlessly. “I told her to fall back until we got here.”

None of them have time to answer, because at that moment the helicopter moves closer, right into the range of Togemon’s spray of needles. There’s screaming, before the feed cuts out, and just past the trees, a helicopter tumbles smoking from the sky.


“... And then Leomon appeared through one of those distortions and took Ogremon back with him,” Mimi finishes.

With the battle finished, the group has gathered nearby -- all of them except Jyou, at least.

Yamato watches her for a second, then glances at Koushiro. The boy is staring intently at his computer, with Sora looking over his shoulder.

“It looks like everyone in the helicopter is okay,” Sora says. “Or -- nothing a few weeks bed rest won’t sort out, at least?”

Yamato can hear in Sora’s voice the same idea that’s running on a loop through his head: We were lucky. They could have been killed, and Mimi and Palmon would’ve been murderers.

Maybe, maybe he understands a little why Taichi is so hesitant. He has no intention of ever admitting that.

“I’m -- I’m sorry,” Meiko says, without looking at any of them. Sora shifts around slightly to put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“It wasn’t you guys,” Takeru says. “That helicopter got too close.”

“It’s not Meimei’s fault!” Mimi exclaims suddenly, standing up. “I told her to come with me.”

“Didn’t I tell you to hang back?” Koushiro asks, sharply. It’s the first thing he’s said since the battle ended.

Mimi either doesn’t notice his tone, or doesn’t care, because she turns to him, frantically explaining. “I’m sick of Palmon and the others being vilified! I wanted to show everyone that there are good Digimon. Aren’t you sick of it, too?”

She addresses that last to Taichi, who just barely has time to respond that he is before Koushiro cuts in, voice very level.

“So you acted out of good intentions. Now look at the result,” he says, coldly. “This is a serious and delicate situation, and you made it worse. You behaved selfishly.”

Yamato’s eyes flick over to Mimi. She’s scowling, ready to fight, but before she can say anything, Koushiro talks again.

“Mimi-san, you ... have a very egotistical side to you.”

For the first time since she’s come back to Japan, Mimi seems not just angry, but wounded. Genuinely and deeply hurt. She doesn’t say anything for a long moment.

“That’s uncalled for,” Sora says, gently but with no room for argument, and moves past Koushiro to put her hands on Mimi’s shoulders, giving them a squeeze.

Mimi shakes her off. “I’m going home.”

As she storms off, a few of the group call for her to come back, before Sora silences them with a quick shake of her head. “Leave her be for a while.”

For a second, all they can do is stand around awkwardly.

“Where’s Jyou?” Yamato asks, eventually.

“I did text him,” Koushiro says.

“I couldn’t reach him on his phone,” Sora adds.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened. Jyou wants to become a doctor, and that means private school, cram school, endless exams which he has to do well in if he wants to stand any chance of studying medicine. Even with the boost that his family name gives him, the pressure is still constant.

They’d barely seen Jyou in a year. He was always studying.

But then, there hadn’t been Digimon attacks during that year.

“With all this going on, is studying still more important to him?” Yamato says, scowling.

“Lay off,” Taichi says softly.

“I know Jyou overthinks things, and he’s overly cautious, and he’s under a lot of pressure,” Yamato continues. “But he also used to know what’s important. He used to know what we should do.”

They could use the guidance right now, he thinks but doesn’t say.

“And yet -- …”

“I said lay off,” Taichi says, and this time it’s unmistakably a command. Yamato obeys, but doesn’t bother trying to hide exactly how much he wants to punch Taichi in the eye right now.

(He’s half convinced Taichi would welcome it.)

“I’m sure Jyou knew he should have come,” Taichi continues. “So he must have been unable to.”

Yamato sticks his hands in his pockets and looks out over the waterfront, hoping that the view will calm him down. It does, a little. But only a little.

“I know that,” he mutters.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
“Ah, how long has it been since we went to a hot springs?” Daigo beams, glancing over at Maki. She keeps her eyes fixed on the road, her expression unreadable. “The first time, we forgot to decide when we’d get out of the baths. I got out of the water so early! But you, Hime-chan, you were in the water for ages.

Maki gives him a slightly sharp look. He clears his throat, turning his head to look out the window. “I know today we’re going out of duty. Nothing else.”

He finds a file thrust against his chest.

“This is the latest analysis,” Maki says, looking back towards the road. “By comparing the areas of distortion, and the movement patterns of the Infected Digimon, we’ve reached a hypothesis.”

“The Infected Digimon are appearing to hunt a specific target?” Daigo reads.

“They say ‘a specific target,’ as if they didn’t know,” Maki replies derisively.

“I know,” Daigo says. “The Infected are after one of them, or one of their partner Digimon.”


The hot springs has a sauna, it turns out. Even better, it has an empty, quiet sauna, which is why Yamato ends up there, arms folded, eyes shut.

Of course Taichi would have the same idea, he realises when Taichi opens the door ten minutes later. Being depressingly alike is practically a fusion partners job requirement.

(He wonders, silently, if Takeru ever finds Iori as annoying as Yamato sometimes finds Taichi.)

You’re alone. Talk to him about Omegamon. Ask him why the fusion broke down. Do it now. Talk to him. Ask him why. You might not get another opportunity like this.

Except -- …

Except they’re in a fucking sauna, and having the ‘hey, tell me why Omegamon’s fusion broke down, is it because you have doubts, is it because you secretly hate me’ conversation while wearing a towel and sweating seems like a scenario dragged straight from one of Yamato’s nightmares.

But it’s fine. He can be mature about this.

He’ll just completely ignore that Taichi is even there.



It’s the first time Meicoomon has ever been in a hot springs. There’s so much food and so many lights and so much water, and steam so thick that sometimes she can barely see.

They’re in the gardens when the older humans, Maki and Daigo arrive. Meicoomon hangs back as Meiko talks excitably to Maki, as Mimi asks if Maki and Daigo are dating, as Daigo wryly says that they’re actually exes, and as havoc breaks loose as Maki snaps at him and Mimi yells in excitement.

Later, the humans start to split up, but the Digimon all stick together.

“Gabumon, you can’t go in the water with your fur on,” Tentomon says, tugging on Gabumon’s paw. “It’ll get covered in mould.”

“But if I take it off I’ll be … naked,” Gabumon protests.

“So what? I’m naked all the time,” Gomamon says.

“Yes, but I have standards,” Gabumon replies, very earnestly.

As the Digimon attempt to convince Gabumon to remove his fur, Meicoomon finds herself wandering away, padding through the wooden hallways of the hot springs until she isn’t sure where she is, or how to get back.

But the lights -- the lights are so pretty.

Meicoomon can’t stop looking at them, until the world starts to fall away, and all she can hear is something droning in the background, louder and louder, deafening -- …


She feels Meiko’s hands on her, and suddenly the droning is gone, and she can move again, as Meiko picks her up and cradles her close.

“It’s okay. You’re okay,” Meiko says.

“Mei,” Meicoomon says softly.

“Don’t ever run off alone.”

“I won’t.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Her name is Maki Himekawa, Senior Intelligence Officer at the Incorporated Administrative Agency, in charge of ‘managing’ the Chosen Children.

‘Managing.’ Even on a good day, Maki has little patience for euphemisms: Her job is to monitor the Chosen and, if necessary, to render assistance to them -- and oh, how the old men who run the Agency had wrinkled their nose at that last part, as if it truly pained them to admit they had to rely on eight youths, only one of whom was even old enough to vote.

When the Kuwagamon had appeared, and when the call had to be made that Maki and the agents under her command should act like glorified chauffeurs, she could hear the strain in their voices over the phone.

In truth, it had never been an issue before. The Agency had been established in 1999, in the months after Apocalymon, in the panic that ensued when every person in the world had found themselves staring at the sky, watching as eight children from Odaiba had fought, struggled, and ultimately prevailed.

A dozen agencies had been created just like it, in a dozen countries. All of them had withered within two years, when it became clear that they had no information, no weapons, no understanding of the situation. To make matters worse, no agency could retain any information on the Chosen -- as soon as it was on any kind of network, it would be deleted.

Only the Incorporated Administrative Agency had remained.

That, Maki knew, was down to two people.

One of their earliest recruits, Professor Mochizuki, who had brought with him a curious cat-like Digimon, the apparent partner of his daughter Meiko. They had studied the thing, dubbed Meicoomon by the child, gently, kindly, according to the rigid ethical practices that the Professor insisted upon.

Eventually, they had had to cease study. Meicoomon had a partner, after all, and it seemed as if it was only truly itself in Meiko Mochizuki’s presence.

The second person was Gennai. He was an agent of the Digital World’s host computer, an old ally of the Chosen that was somewhere between mentor and servant, and the force that worked ceaselessly to delete any data on any of the eight Chosen. Maki was never sure what had made him approach the Agency, but he had, and he’d brought information with him.

Slowly, the Agency had grown. Slowly, it had blossomed into an organisation that could truly help. So when the Infected Kuwagamon appeared, Maki had sent agents out to each of the Chosen, to take them to their Digimon, to take them to battle, and had herself gone to the airport to pick up Mimi Tachikawa.

None of them had been exactly like their files had led her to believe. She liked them, Qinglongmon help her. There was a warmth to all of them, a gentleness that belied the hints of iron and sharp edges she caught from them all every so often.

The Agency considered the battle against Kuwagamon a success and so, when Alphamon appeared, they had called on Maki again.

She’d been ready when they called, and very carefully, she’d reached over and unplugged her office phone.

She settled into her office chair and watched the battle unfold, because Alphamon was special. Alphamon was precious. She couldn’t miss a moment of that battle between Alphamon and Omegamon, and besides -- …

Besides, it would do the world some good to see what could happen when two Royal Knights clash, even for a moment. There was nothing wrong with a little bit of perspective.

It had been easy to explain away. A large Digimon like Alphamon would naturally cause communications issues, after all. Her superiors had believed her immediately when she said that she’d answered the phone to static and hadn’t been able to call them back.

Now, weeks later, Maki sits in her office, as an e-mail with no sender listed arrives in her inbox. She opens it to reveal the angular, blocky characters DigiCode, a language not even most Digimon understand. She does.

These two sides of the universe are as two faces of a coin,
And if you desire true power, then you must know the darkness and go beyond it.

She smiles slowly.

On her desk, her phone rings. She picks it up.

“Maki? It’s me, Dai -- …”

“Nishijima,” Maki says.

Daigo Nishijima is a -- passable agent. He has managed to juggle both his work as an agent with his work as a calligraphy teacher at Tsukishima High School deftly enough that Maki has wondered more than once if he’d be happier if he was teacher. He has a genuine affection for the Chosen.

Sometimes, she thinks the only reason he hasn’t quit is out of some misplaced sense of loyalty, the product of a shared history

She tries not to think about it. Or him. Or all the lies she tells him.

She gets by.

“-- It looks like all the kids are going to be off the grid for a few hours. Well, except Kido, obviously,” Daigo says, sounding almost wounded by how formal she’s being.


She can swear Daigo is grinning like a fool when she hears what he says next. “Feel like a trip to some hot springs?”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Crest of Friendship)
The sky is red when Ogremon comes to the Village of Beginnings.

Elecmon has no idea when everything changed. One day, Ogremon and Leomon were the protectors of File Island, safeguarding it against anybody who would disturb the peace. Every day, new eggs in the village hatched, new babies for Elecmon to look after, until he was sure he’d have to go hunting around for extra help.

Things had been -- idyllic. It wasn’t a word Elecmon would usually use to describe the Digital World.

When things changed, they didn’t change immediately. One day, Ogremon went missing, and when Leomon found him, he was standing in the snowy wastes at the edge of the island, staring out over the water at something only he could see.

More and more, his attention seemed to drift, and before long Leomon was patrolling on his own, while Ogremon wandered the island, searching for something he couldn’t find.

Then he started to become violent. At first, it was only in short bursts, as a stray word or an unexpected touch made him snap his teeth and swing his bone club. Then, he was violent more than he was peaceful. Then, finally, he lost his mind completely.

He wasn’t the only one, either. Whatever had seeped into Ogremon and twisted his mind, it wasn’t long until the rest of File Island started to succumb. Mojyamon went first, then Frigimon, then the many Numamon. Monzaemon and Centalmon turned next, and then the Kuwagamon.

Elecmon stayed in his village, hatching his eggs, hoping it would blow over.

But eventually, Ogremon came to him.

He moves with a single-mindedness Elecmon hadn’t seen since he’d first started to change, smashing every egg he comes across, trampling over their shells. When Elecmon attacks, Ogremon just ignores him, too focused on his task to notice.

So Elecmon stops attacking. Instead, he gathers as many eggs in his arms and starts to flee. He doesn’t know where he’s going to go, when nearly everyone on the island is mad. Maybe he’ll hide in the ruins of the Ancient Dino Region, or take the eggs to the top of Mount Infinity.

Ogremon’s attention snaps towards him before he even makes it five paces.

As he comes stomping towards Elecmon, Leomon jumps in, sword at the ready. They clash, club and sword crashing together, Leomon darting out of the way as Ogremon flings himself into the air and comes down with enough force to throw up dust and dirt around himself.

When the dust clears, Ogremon is fleeing, and Leomon is clutching his chest, hiding a glimmering slash across it.

As Leomon gives chase, Elecmon catches a glimpse of a figure, standing among the broken shells. Not a Digimon. A human boy, with a shock of dark hair.

Elecmon blinks at him for a moment. “Ken Ichijouji?”

The human doesn’t seem to notice him, and as Leomon and Ogremon vanish over the horizon, he flickers blue and vanishes, like a mirage, leaving Elecmon alone with the broken remains of his village.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
As the night progresses, the two make their way around the various food stalls, try a few more funfair rides, and eventually head out.

They reach the river just as the fireworks start, and get a pretty good view of them.
angry_friendship_wolf: (01: Default)
For a long time, the children are silent.

Where the pyramid had stood, where Taichi, MetalGreymon, and Etemon had battled, there is only sand, and the quietly whistling wind. Yamato can hear his heart thudding in his chest, as his thoughts race and stutter in his head, as he tries to make sense of what he just saw.

Taichi’s gone. Vanished into some swirling distortion.

“We need to find shelter,” he hears himself say, and he doesn’t know how he manages to sound so cold. “We can’t be caught outside when the temperature drops. Sora, get everyone ready to move. Koushiro, find a cave or a building on your map.”

“Yamato …” Sora starts, staring at him.

“We need rest,” he says, maybe a little too quickly. “And then tomorrow …” He realises that everyone is watching him now, staring at him intently, the way they usually stared at Taichi while waiting for instructions.

Except he isn’t Taichi. He can’t do what Taichi does. But -- but for now, at least, he has to try.

“Tomorrow we find Taichi,” he says.

“Yamato, you saw what happened,” Jyou says, voice trembling. “I think he’s -- …”

“In all likelihood, the distortion would have torn him apart,” Koushiro says. “It’s very unlikely that he survived passing through it, and even if he did, the chances of it sending him anywhere habitable are miniscule.”

“A lot of stuff that’s not likely has happened to us already,” Yamato pushes. “Back at summer camp, you wouldn’t have said it was possible for us to get dragged to another world, Koushiro. It was a miracle that we survived our first day here, an even bigger miracle that we defeated Devimon, pretty much impossible that we would all find our Crests. A week ago, could any of you have imagined that we’d defeat Etemon?”

He can see their moods lifting, just a little. Maybe just enough.

“Taichi’s done more impossible things than the rest of us put together. Trust that he’s survived this,” Yamato says. “And if you can’t do that, then trust me.

For nearly a minute, they just watch him. Yamato knows he can’t be persuasive like Taichi is, that he doesn’t have the same charisma, that if it was Taichi talking now, they’d have all agreed.

“I trust you,” Takeru says, eventually. “Let’s find him.”

Sora gives a quick nod. “Piyomon and I are in, too. If he’s out there, we can find him.”

Yamato’s heart lifts, but the momentum grinds to a stop there, the others turning away, frowning. Takeru and Sora were easy sells -- but Jyou and Koushiro are more pragmatic, and Mimi hasn’t said anything since Taichi vanished.

“Let’s do it. We’ve not got anything else, right?” Jyou’s partner, Gomamon, says cheerfully. “I’ll ask the fishes to go find him. Just, er, as soon as we find some fishes in this desert.”

Jyou hunches his shoulders slightly, and meets Yamato’s gaze over his glasses. “Then I guess that’s the two of us in.”

“I’ll start looking for shelter,” Koushiro says, opening his laptop. “And I’ll see if I can contact Gennai and ask if he knows anything about Taichi’s location.”

Koushiro gets to work, with Tentomon hovering behind him, and Yamato takes that as agreement, of a sort. All of which just leaves Mimi and Palmon.

“I want to go home,” Mimi says, staring at the sand. “I want to see my parents. I want to sleep in my own bed. I want to go to school, and see my friends, and eat actual, proper food that isn’t cooked over a fire. I don’t want to be walking for hours, or to have people trying to kill us every day, or sleep on the ground in a cave.”

“Mimi …” Palmon says quietly.

Before Yamato can say anything, Sora approaches, crouching down in front of Mimi.

“I know,” she says. “It’s not just you. We all feel like that. We’ll go home soon, okay?”

“We’ll go home together,” Yamato says. “All seven of us.”

Mimi shuts her eyes for a moment, then nods, standing and taking Sora’s arm. “If he doesn’t show up quickly, I’m going to be so angry with him.”

A few minutes later, Koushiro finds a cave on his map, and they start walking.

Yamato knows he’s no Taichi, but maybe, for now, he can try.
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