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Three months after defeating Apocalymon in 1999, the Chosen Children were called back to the Digital World as Homeostasis finished creating a new peacekeeper program in the form of Shakamon, an Ultimate-level Digimon programmed to preserve peace and prevent the rise of dark forces like Apocalymon.

Approximately eight minutes after awakening, Shakamon concluded that the most effective way to do this was to establish complete control over the Digital World. After absorbing both the Sovereigns and Homeostasis, it possessed Hikari Yagami's body and reformatted the Digital World into its perfect paradise.

Fleeing, the kids attempted to mount a resistance against Shakamon, with no success, until they eventually resorted to drawing on the power of the Dark Ocean, warping their digivices and altering their Digimon. Gabumon was transformed into Sangloupmon.

Six years on, they're wanted rebels in a Digital World that's utterly devoted to its new god, while Shakamon has assembled its own Chosen in the form of Daisuke Motomiya, Ken Ichijouji, Miyako Inoue, and Iori Hida.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
In a corner of the Village of Beginnings, there’s a cluster of eight eggs.

Elecmon, the village caretaker, has checked on them every day since they materialised. They’re warm, healthy, likely to hatch before long. The first thing he learned, on the very first day, was not to remove the old whistle draped around one of the eggs. The first time he did that, the eggs went very cold, very fast.

He’s preparing to sleep for the night when one of the eggs, the one patterned like a Greymon’s hide, shakes. Then shakes again. Then again. Next to it, the one patterned like a Garurumon gives the tiniest shake.

“Ready to hatch, are you?”

The Greymon-patterned egg shakes once more, then cracks, as a tiny, black-furred Botamon pokes its head up.

By the time morning comes, all eight of them have hatched.
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“Good morning!
Summer vacation begins with bustling resorts and amusement parks. Here in Odaiba, students and families have been pouring in since morning. There are blue skies across the nation, and the weather is warmer than usual, making for a refreshing day.”


The Bureau’s surveillance of the Digital World has always been poor, a matter of observing the world’s effect on the Analog World and surmising what they think could be happening in the other world.

Right now, all their study suggests that the Digital World rebooted successfully. Since the Reboot, there’s been no radio interference, no glitches that would be telltale signs of the Infection, and none of the disasters that would follow the Digital World being swallowed by the quantum sea.

“It’s been a week,” Maki says to Nishijima, as he sits on the other side of her desk. “The quantum sea hasn’t materialised in the Digital World yet. We can assume the Reboot was successful.”

“Is that so?” Nishijima replies. He sounds glum, but Maki supposes that’s to be expected. The last week was also the last week of school -- he would have spent it teaching half the Chosen, seeing them every day. “It’s one hell of a trade-off.”

Maki gives a small nod. “I know,” she says. “Those kids just have to move on. Move forward. It won’t take as long as you think.”

Nishijima looks up at her, and Maki can tell he doesn’t believe her. There’s a momentary pang of bitterness in her chest -- what has Nishijima ever known of loss? -- but she pushes it down. It’s unfair to feel like that.

“In six months, new buildings will be up, and Odaiba will be just like it was before,” she says, instead. “In a year, everyone will have forgotten what happened there. No-one in the world will even mention Digimon anymore.”

“Even those kids?”

“That’s just part of becoming an adult.”

---


A lot of that first week is a blur.

Yamato takes Takeru home, tells him that it wasn’t his fault (not that Takeru even hears him), and waits with him until he’s cried himself to sleep. Then he lopes back home, lets himself in, and heads to his own room.

He expects the grief to come crashing in, now that he’s alone. It doesn’t. He just feels numb. He stares at the ceiling of his room, thinking about what happened, but no matter how hard he thinks about it, none of it feels real.

That numbness is still there the next day, and the next, and the next. He all but sleepwalks through the last week of school, barely hearing anything anyone says, and when the last day of school ends, he realises he wasn’t even aware of how many days had passed.

On the first day of summer, he almost just stays in bed. Even moving his fingers feels like too much effort compared to staring at the ceiling and waiting to drift in and out of sleep. Eventually, the heat becomes uncomfortable, forcing him to move.

He visits Taichi. They walk, buy ice cream, sit near the edge of the sea. They talk, but nothing they talk about matters -- it’s all useless small talk, skirting around the issue of the Digimon, and eventually, Yamato just tunes it out.

He’s snapped back to reality by his ice cream, now melted, dropping onto the ground. There’s the briefest of moments where he thinks that this, the loss of half a cheap raspberry ice cream, is going to be the thing that pushes him that last millimeter over the edge.

It doesn’t. He leaves anyway.
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Usually, Yamato only hears about a distortion appearing for an Infected Digimon to come through when Daigo or Maki texts him.

There’s no text this time.

Instead, Gabumon tips his head up sharply, as if hearing something Yamato can’t, then goes still, staring into the middle distance.

She’s here.

---


Maki steeples her fingers, watching the alerts appear on her computer screen, then picks up the phone to call Daigo. It’s barely started ringing when he picks up.

“Agent Nishijima,” she says, as soon as he answers. “We’ve detected a distortion at Tokyo Big Sight in Makuhari Messe, increasing in size and intensity at an exponential rate, creating significant radio interference and space-time oscillations.”

“Meicoomon?”

“Almost certainly.”

---


Meiko feels Meicoomon arrive, but even if she hadn’t, her digivice does, humming and sparking within the drawer she stuffed it in.

She pulls it out immediately, holding it up. It’s still black like a rotted tooth, the colour it turned just before Meicoomon lost her mind and killed Leomon, but the edges are sparking purple and the screen is flickering, a column of bars rising up and then dropping back down.

She sprints for the door, ignoring her mother calling her.

---


Yamato’s moped isn’t going to get them anywhere, not while the traffic is blocked, with the roads clogged with cars trapped in place by the disaster going on at Odaiba’s Eastern edge.

Garurumon is quicker, sprinting across the tops of cars without even scratching their paintjobs, as Yamato sits between the feathers on his back.

He arrives at Makuhari Messe to see a distortion flickering beneath the Tokyo Big Sight, and Meicoomon on the ground, with Greymon, Ikkakumon, Birdramon, and Togemon all pinning her there, and Meiko hurrying towards the battle.

“What’s she doing?” Garurumon asks. “Meicoomon’s her partner, if they’re near each other -- …”

From within the pile Greymon, Ikkakumon, Birdramon, and Togemon have formed, there is a sudden red and violet glow, twisting the air into funnels and eddies around it, followed by a burst of something that smells and feels vile and unclean.

“Meicoomon, super evolution.”

All four Digimon are thrown backwards. Ikkakumon, by far the heaviest of them and the closest to the blast, careens through the air like he’s made of crumpled up paper, and collides with a building, smashing through it.

Yamato flings himself off Garurumon and lands on his feet, sprinting towards Meiko, knocking her out of the way of the falling rubble. He lands on his elbows, scraping the skin off them as he shields Meiko with his back.

On the plaza, the glow dims, as something orange-furred like Meicoomon, but taller and wilder, with clawed black armour on its legs and arms, rises to its feet.

“Meicrackmon.”

Garurumon throws himself into the fray, just behind the other four as they shake off their damage and fling themselves back at Meicrackmon, and the five push against her, driving her back towards the distortion.

Yamato pulls himself off Meiko. “Are you okay?”

She’s on her feet immediately, sprinting back towards Meicrackmon, and Yamato has to grab her and pull her back.

Idiot. Do you want to die?”

“Let go of me,” Meiko says, in the sharpest and strongest voice Yamato’s ever heard from her. “I’ve got to stop Mei-chan.”

Yamato drags her back towards him. “Garurumon and the others are doing the best they can. You’re Meicoomon’s partner, if you get hurt in the crossfire, she could become more violent. Fall back.
Meiko seems to listen to that, enough that Yamato lets go of her arm and helps her back towards where Taichi and the others are.

They reach the others just in time for Takeru and Hikari to arrive, their partners in their arms. Tailmon gives Hikari a quick nod before jumping out of her arms and running towards the battle.

“Tailmon, super evolution! Angewomon.”

“I can fight, too!” Patamon says, but Takeru just grips him tighter, hugging him to his chest.

Angewomon swoops in, adding her strength to the other five’s, and together, bit by bit, foot by foot, they push Meicrackmon into the distortion, following her through.

Within the wide open space of the distortion, Meicrackmon quickly shakes them off, darting between each one, sometimes throwing them against each other, as she barrels back towards the real world.

Her head has just managed to poke through the portal when Greymon and Garurumon grab her by her back legs. They’re quickly joined by Ikkakumon, the three of them straining to pull her back in without any success.

“Takeru, let me go!” Patamon yells. “I need to help them! Takeru!

“If … If you go now, you’ll …” Takeru says, and clutches Patamon tighter to him.

Hikaru glances over at him in alarm. “... Takeru-kun …”

Don’t go, Patamon,” Takeru pleads, burying his face in Patamon’s fur.

“We have to do it,” Patamon says, nudging his nose against Takeru’s cheek. “We have to protect your world. It’s why we came here.”

Patamon.

“It’ll be okay. You’ll be okay without me,” Patamon says, wriggling loose from Takeru’s arms and fluttering up into the air. “Goodbye, Takeru.”

As Takeru yells, Patamon turns, flying towards the distortion.

“Patamon, evolution! Angemon.”

Angewomon is thrown out of the distortion first, nearly colliding with Angemon, followed by Meicrackmon leaping out into the real world again. Angemon swoops in from one side, and Angewomon from another, pushing Meicrackmon back, close enough for Greymon and Garurumon to grab her from behind.

---


“This base change,” Koushiro says, staring at the screens of his office computer. “I can’t even compare it to any of the other Infected Digimon. Why did it occur when Meicoomon appeared?”

Realisation dawns. He breathes in sharply, tilting his head back, taking in all of the data.

“What is it?” Tentomon asks.

“The distortions and the Infected Digimon only began appearing when Meiko-san and Meicoomon came to Odaiba,” Koushiro says. “Meicoomon didn’t get Infected. The Infection came from Meicoomon in the first place.”

“Meicoo-han? That can’t be possible.”

“I’m not completely certain of it,” Koushiro admits. “But it makes sense.”

Tentomon glances out the window, then back at Koushiro. “We need to go help.”

“Wait. I need to transfer this program to my laptop,” Koushiro says. “This is how I’m going to save all of you.”

---


Maki frowns at her computer.

Homeostasis should have triggered the reboot process by now. Any longer puts everything at risk.

Come on. You can’t wait any more.

---


It happens just as they’re driving Meicrackmon back into the distortion.

Angemon cries out, as his textures glitch, then turn a deep purple, the very edges of them fizzing and crackling. As Meicrackmon is dragged back in, he pursues, diving through the portal and immediately making a beeline for Angewomon, attacking her with a barrage of energy blasts.

“Angemon’s Infected?” Sora asks.

Yamato turns to stare at Takeru, because suddenly all the caginess and evasiveness makes sense. His brother had lost Patamon once before, and he must’ve known for weeks that he was going to lose him again.

As Angemon battles the others, Koushiro sprints up behind them, laptop under his arm. “Where’s Meicoomon?”

“The others are keeping her in the distortion,” Taichi says.

Koushiro nods, sitting down on the plaza and opening his laptop.

Within the distortion, Birdramon soars towards Meicrackmon, before suddenly seizing up, careening into a wide spiral as her orange feathers crackle and turn purple, and her eyes turn white. Togemon is next, curling in on herself as green turns to violet.

A split second later, Yamato feels a surge of pain unlike anything he’s ever felt from Garurumon. He just manages to keep his eyes open as Garurumon’s fur glitches, as his eyes turn white, and then suddenly the pain’s gone, their link too clouded for Yamato to feel anything from Garurumon.

As one, Garurumon, Birdramon, and Togemon turn their attention away from Meicrackmon, and move to attack their friends.

Ikkakumon is next, then Angewomon, each one screaming before going silent and turning on the others.

Meicrackmon starts to fly towards the portal again, only for Greymon to grab her by the leg, his body lighting up orange as a burst of heat rushes out from Taichi.

“Greymon, super evolution! MetalGreymon.”

With a violent throw, he tosses Meicrackmon deeper into the distortion.

Koushiro’s screen flickers, before a window opens on it, unbidden.

REBOOT
09:59.


“Reboot?” Mimi asks.

“What the hell is a reboot?” Takeru adds.

---


REBOOT
09:48.


Maki dismisses every agent working out of her office, and fixes her eyes on the countdown, praying that nothing happens to stop it.

---


“Even the Digimon’s memories will be lost?” Sora asks, once Koushiro and Taichi have explained the reboot.

“They’ll even forget us?” Jyou adds, not bothering to hide the touch of desperation in his voice.

“I have a counterplan,” Koushiro says, and Yamato just about catches the tremor in his voice. He starts typing furiously, transmitting reams and reams of code into the distortion.

Within it, the other Digimon converge on MetalGreymon, battering him about. For all of MetalGreymon’s power, Yamato knows that even he can’t stand up against a sustained assault from seven other Digimon, including Meicrackmon.

REBOOT
08:29.


Koushiro presses a key, and in the depths of the distortion, a glowing green cube appears, expanding until it’s the size of the house and floating sedately in place.

“I’ve created a backup field. If the Digimon enter that, I can save their data,” Koushiro says. “If I have everyone’s data, I should be able to filter out the Infection and restore them as they are now, with their memories intact.”

It’s the only flicker of hope Yamato’s had in a while, he realises.

“Tentomon, please cooperate with MetalGreymon to put everyone into the backup field. Once they’re inside, they shouldn’t be able to escape,” Koushiro says.

“Roger that!” Tentomon lifts off, flying towards the distortion. “Tentomon, evolution! Kabuterimon.

First they try to herd the other Digimon, pushing them around in an attempt to move them towards the field. When that doesn’t work, they settle next to the field, drawing the other Digimon to them before trying to throw them in.

But it’s like they know, even when Infected, and each one just narrowly avoids touching the field, curving around it.

Before MetalGreymon and Kabuterimon can make a third attempt, the Infected Digimon split up, with Meicrackmon driving MetalGreymon in one direction while Garurumon drives Kabuterimon in the other.

One by one, they attack Kabuterimon: Angemon first, then Angewomon, Togemon, Ikkakumon and Birdramon, before Garurumon delivers the finishing blow, a stream of blue fire that sends Kabuterimon flying backwards, glowing as he shrinks back down into Tentomon.

REBOOT
06:13.


MetalGreymon manages to grab Meicrackmon, holding her tight in his arms, preventing her from moving. Yamato’s heart soars again: It’s a long shot, but with his bulk and power, MetalGreymon might just about be able to knock the others into the backup field.

A ripple of purple spreads over MetalGreymon’s textures, and all of Yamato’s hope dies in his chest. His textures blur, crackle, then turn to the same deep purple as the other Infected Digimon, his eyes turning completely white.

Tentomon’s the only one left. One Child level Digimon against two Ultimates, six Adults, and Meicrackmon.

REBOOT
04:42.


“Tentomon!” Koushiro calls. “Enter the backup field! Even if you’re alone!”

“I can’t.”

Tentomon!

“I can’t,” Tentomon repeats. “MetalGreymon and the others did their best to stop Meicoo-han. It’s just me now. I can’t go into the field and just watch. I won’t let your world end.”

Koushiro’s hands shake at his keyboard. “Tentomon, I -- …”

“When we met, I didn’t know anything about you,” Tentomon says. “Getting to know you has been the greatest joy of my life. Always remember that knowing nothing is just the chance to learn something new. So, please, keep learning. Learn everything you can, and enjoy it.”

A flicker of purple glances across his textures. Tentomon laughs softly, shaking it off.

“Tentomon,” Koushiro says, softly.

“Forgive me for not saying this before,” Tentomon says, and flies towards the others. “Koushiro-han, farewell.”

REBOOT
03:47.


Tentomon, evolution! Kabuterimon.

Kabuterimon burns purple -- not the sickly purple of the Infection, but the rich, royal purple of the Crest of Knowledge -- as a sharp charge of static electricity crackles out from Koushiro.

Kabuterimon, super evolution! AtlurKabuterimon.”

As Meicrackmon flies towards the portal, AtlurKabuterimon overtakes her, closing a claw around her, trapping her in place.

“I won’t let you through,” he snarls. “I will never let you through.”

As he turns his back to the portal, the other seven Digimon stare down at him, ready to attack. MetalGreymon moves first, claw out as he rushes in.

A surge of power tears out of Koushiro, his digivice humming at an almost ear-shattering pitch, as AtlurKabuterimon explodes into violet lightning and white light.

“AtlurKabuterimon, ultimate evolution! HeraklesKabuterimon.”

REBOOT
02:18.


He keeps one claw tightly curled around Meicrackmon, and grabs MetalGreymon with his free hand. Angemon and Angewomon swoop in from either side and are caught by his remaining two claws.

With nothing to defend himself with, HeraklesKabuterimon finds himself buffeted between Ikkakumon and Togemon, before Garurumon and Birdramon land against his chest, driving him back towards the portal.

HeraklesKabuterimon crashes into the real world, tiles flying up as he skids across the plaza. As he keeps his grip on Meicrackmon, the others pile onto him, holding him in place to wait out those last few minutes before the reboot.

REBOOT
01:20.


“Is this what you want? Is this how you want to say goodbye?” HeraklesKabuterimon asks, pushing up against them. “You’ll make everyone sad.”

Yamato feels something flicker in his link with Garurumon. Just something tiny. He can see in everyone else’s faces that they feel the same, a momentary spark from their Digimon.

HeraklesKabuterimon pulls himself onto his feet, braces himself against the ground, and with a voice like thunder bellows: “Now, open your eyes!

He throws them off him, clutching Meicrackmon to his chest as the others land against the plaza.

Yamato feels that spark again, and slowly, just slowly, his link with Garurumon clears, just enough for him to feel the edge of his pain.

One by one, the purple fades from their Digimon’s textures -- MetalGreymon first, then the others. Their eyes are still clouded, but Yamato can feel Garurumon’s mind, however much in disarray it might be.

They move in, and embrace HeraklesKabuterimon, helping him hold Meicrackmon still.

HeraklesKabuterimon sighs softly, bowing his head.

“Thank you, my old friends.”

REBOOT
00:31.


He takes a slow step, pushing them with him, then another, then a third, back towards the portal.

REBOOT
00:19.


Another step, and another, and another. Meicrackmon screams.

REBOOT
00:08.


They start to pass through the portal, one by one, until only HeraklesKabuterimon is left, pushing them in.

REBOOT
00:03.


The last of HeraklesKabuterimon vanishes inside. The Digimon stay huddled together, embracing each other, struggling against the pull of the Infection.

REBOOT
00:02.

00:01.

00:00.


Yamato feels his link with Garurumon snap.

He just has time to see all of them dissolve, turning into motes of light and scattering, like every enemy they’d ever faced had, before the portal crackles and fades, space folding in on it.

REBOOT COMPLETE.


Then there’s just silence.

No, there isn’t. Not really. Mimi’s crying, and Takeru’s crying, saying that it’s all his fault, and that if he’d told them this wouldn’t have happened. Jyou is babbling that there has to be some kind of mistake.

It may as well be silence. To Yamato, it all feels like it’s happening to somebody else.

He wraps his brother in a hug, murmurs to him that it’s not his fault. Takeru doesn’t hear him, and that’s fine.

Yamato doesn’t know how long they’re there for, until nobody can muster the energy to cry or say anything. He keeps expecting Gabumon and the others to come back, to reveal that they got away from it somehow.

They don’t. He can’t feel Gabumon at all, just the emptiness of being alone with himself, in a way he hasn’t been since he was eleven. His digivice is silent. The Crest of Friendship, usually as cold as ice, is warm against his chest.

There’s nothing left for them. They lost.
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Koushiro leans back, staring at his laptop screen.

“I see now. This is what’s causing the computer errors and electromagnetic interference.”

Tentomon hurries over, hovering up near Koushiro’s shoulder to look at his screen, at the patterns of code open on it. “What did you find?”

“Our digital systems all work in binary, or in other systems that are convertible to binary,” Koushiro says. “But look, it’s all been overwritten into an unknown numeration system. Computers across the world are getting bugs because on contact with the Infection, their code is overwritten into an unfamiliar one. It’s not binary, decimal, or even hexadecimal, it’s something more complex than anything I’ve seen before. No digital data in the world uses this numeration system.”

He settles his hands on his desk, on either side of the laptop, staring at the screen. “If I’d realised sooner, I could have made a plan, maybe analysed the data to find the cause of the Infection … “ Tentomon hears a note of panic enter Koushiro’s voice. “No, but if I don’t know the base number … I could compare the original data with the converted data, but processing the converted data might make my computer unusable. Even if I know the base, how do I change it back, how does that tell me anything about the Infection …”

Tentomon jumps as Koushiro slams his hands down on the desk, balling them up into fists. “I can’t do anything. I’m ignorant and incompetent, and staring at this shit is pointless, I can’t do anything, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t …

“Koushiro-han.”

Koushiro’s shoulders are still shaking as his gaze snaps over to Tentomon, now settled on the floor and watching him with big, green compound eyes.

“Is not knowing something really that shameful?”

“Of course it is,” Koushiro says, settling his weight onto the floor in front of his desk. “I can’t do anything if I’m ignorant.”

“So you give it your all,” Tentomon replies. “Isn’t that what you’ve been doing? Koushiro-han, you probably haven’t noticed, but when you’re doing research or learning something new, you truly look happy. You really enjoy it. But you’re -- different right now.”

“Of course I am. Think of our situation!” Koushiro protests.

Tentomon shakes his head. “I don’t want to see you like this. It hurts.”

“Tentomon …”

Tentomon reaches forward, touching a pincer to his arm lightly. “There’s only one thing to do.”

---


Koushiro blinks at him. “A reboot?”

“We’re already prepared for it,” Tentomon says. “All of us. You don’t have to kill yourself trying to find an answer.”

“It will get rid of the corrupted data?” Koushiro asks. He’s on his feet again in a flash, working at his laptop. “If that happens, if there’s hope, I can do something about it."

Koushiro doesn't even sit down, staring intently at his screen as his fingers blur across the keyboard, writing lines upon lines of code. "Hurry, hurry, hurry.

“Koushiro-han, you don’t have to -- …”

“I can do it,” Koushiro says. “If the Digital World’s going to reboot and purify itself, I can figure out what to do, I just have to be quick enough. I can make sure that all of you keep your memories.”
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“Yamato, will you play the harmonica for me?”

Yamato cracks open an eye midway through strumming his guitar, giving Gabumon a quick, confused look. “Harmonica? I’m busy with practice right now.”

Gabumon says nothing, refusing to meet his gaze, staring instead at a scuff mark on the floor.

“Gabumon?” Yamato asks. “Is something wrong?”

“Oh! No, no, nothing’s wrong.”

“Gabumon?”

“You should keep practicing,” Gabumon says, giving him a broad, cheerful smile.

Yamato considers pushing the subject, trying to force the issue and find out exactly what’s really wrong -- but it’s not as if his recent track record on that is any good, and Gabumon is as stubborn as he is.

He half-heartedly strums a few more chords on his guitar before he has to stop again, crossing the small room to the leather couch by the door and setting his guitar down next to it.

“What’s wrong?” Gabumon asks. “Yamato?”

Yamato rummages in his bag until he finds his harmonica, the old Hohner Blues Harp that he carries everywhere with him, and sits down, staring at the wall.

“I just feel like a change of pace, that’s all,” he says, and lifts the harmonica, starting to play before Gabumon can protest.

It’s an old song, the first one he ever learned, the one he always returns to, the simple blues tune he’d play to put the other Chosen to sleep on their first trip to the Digital World. The last time Gabumon had asked him to play it, they’d been sat on a hill next to Dragon Eye Lake, in the hours after they and the others had defeated Apocalymon, with neither of them knowing if they’d see the other again, and neither of them wanting to say goodbye.

It hits him midway through the song that this is the same: One last memory for the road, an unspoken goodbye, or at least a ‘I’m not sure how much longer we have.’ He keeps playing. He even manages not to make any mistakes. This song, at least, is second nature to him now.

When he’s done, he holds his harmonica in his lap, turning it over silently.

It’s a few moments before Gabumon says anything.

“What’s wrong?”

“I wish I could go back to when we first met,” Yamato blurts out. He shuts his eyes. “That’s not really how I think, most of the time, but I wonder if that’ll change. If one day all of this is just going to be a memory. All of it. And then, sooner or later, maybe I’ll forget all about it, when I become an adult.”

“You won’t forget,” Gabumon says, a little sharply. Yamato looks up, looking him in the eye. Gabumon meets his stare evenly. Softly: “You won’t forget.”

Yamato breathes out, lifts his harmonica, and starts playing again.
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Hikari Yagami is leaving class when her phone rings, the screen flashing with an unknown caller ID. She peers at it for a moment, then flips it open, pressing it to her ear.

digicode


Then everything goes black.

---


“Agent Himekawa, the Digimon have left Koushiro Izumi’s office.”
“Let them be. I’ll keep an eye on them.”


It’s not difficult to find them.

The Digimon meet in the same place the humans always do, in the shade of the Ferry Futo bridge, gathering around in a huddle.

Maki sets herself up on the nearby hill, where she can see and hear them, but they can’t see her. She doesn’t approach yet. She can guess the conversation they’re about to have.

“Should we have told Koushiro where we’re going instead of sneaking out?” Piyomon asks.

“I don’t want to disturb him,” Tentomon replies, rubbing his pincers together anxiously. “We won’t be out here for long, right?”

Patamon doesn’t meet his gaze. “S-Sure. We don’t need to be out here for long. I just thought you all needed to know that I’m …” his voice catches in his throat, “I’m …”

“You’re Infected, right?” Gabumon asks, gently.

Maki feels a pang in her chest. She does her best to ignore it. She knew this was coming, sooner or later, had thoroughly detached herself from the concept, but hearing it said out loud rattles her more than she’d like to admit.

Patamon nods without looking up.

“Does Takeru know?” Gomamon asks.

“He found out just after the school festival,” Patamon says. “I bit him. I keep -- losing time, and when I wake up, I realise I’ve gone berserk, like the other Infected, just for a few minutes. He won’t let me fight because he worries that if I do, I’ll …”

Patamon looks up sharply. “I’m going to go somewhere else. That way I won’t be a danger to all of you. I won’t Infect you.”

Gabumon shakes his head. “You don’t need to do that,” he steps forward, pulling back the sleeve of the pelt he wears, showing a patch of skin flickering in red and violet shades of static. “I realised yesterday evening. I’m Infected as well.”

“It’s not just you two,” Tailmon says. “I think I blacked out for a few minutes this morning. Nobody was around for me to hurt, but -- I’m Infected, too.”

Tentomon reveals he’s Infected next, then Gomamon, Piyomon, Palmon, until only Agumon remains.

He shrugs. “I dunno! How would I tell? Does being Infected feel different?”

“I don’t really know,” Patamon says, ducking his head again. “I’m sorry. You must have all caught it from me.”

“There’s no way of proving that,” Tailmon says. “We could have been Infected by our contact with Meicoomon, or even in our fights against other Infected Digimon. We might even have been Infected before we ever came to this world.”

They sit in silence for several minutes more, and Maki wonders if they’re just going to go home, tell their human partners what’s happened, and if the Chosen would come to her for help if they did. Maybe she’d even give it to them. She’s not so sure, looking down at the Digimon, that she could keep herself detached if they asked her directly.

Gabumon curls an arm around Patamon, letting him rest against him, while Agumon digs into the snacks they brought.

Before any of them can talk again, the wind picks up. There shouldn’t be any wind, not this strong, not out of nowhere on a clear day. She can catch the smell of orchids, cherry blossoms, and roses on the air, even though she knows that there aren’t any growing nearby.

Her gaze alights on the figure walking towards the Digimon. Hikari Yagami, stumbling, dressed like she came straight from school -- except she’s suffused with white light, her eyes turned rainbow colours, and where she steps, grass and flowers start to burst through the concrete.

Maki shifts onto her back foot automatically, but she can’t wrench her gaze away, even as any sympathy she had melts into burning, nauseating anger.

“Listen,” the being says with Hikari’s voice, echoing unnaturally.

“That’s not Hikari,” Tailmon says.

Of course, Maki realises. The Digimon had seen this before.

“Listen,” the being repeats. “I am the one who desires stability. I am Homeostasis.”

The name hits Maki like a punch to the gut. She can’t help herself from taking steps down the hill, unsteady, holding onto the rail for safety.

Homeostasis, a security program of the Digital World. Formless, bodiless, unable to interact with the world save by willingly possessing a Chosen, or by commands to Gennai, its chosen servant.

Nine years ago, when two Digimon had battled in the residential district of Hikarigaoka, the last remnants of a war that had ended with no victors, Homeostasis had turned its gaze onto the district and seen eight children with abilities it couldn’t quantify or understand, and had named them its new Chosen Children, to replace five old, unwanted ones who had failed to fulfill their function.

“I have borrowed this body to speak with you,” Homeostasis says, “because the Digital World and the human world are in grave danger.”

Maki’s read the reports. She knows that twice previous Homeostasis had possessed Hikari, using her as a medium with which to wield her powers -- once to separate WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon from battle, and once to empower the Chosen to destroy a Dark Master. She knows that even if Hikari doesn’t remember it afterwards, Hikari must have consented to this.

That doesn’t make the display any easier to watch.

“A significant majority of the Digital World has been Infected now, with the percentage growing with each passing hour. Passing from Meicoomon to other Digimon to the fabric of the world itself, the Infection has now spread and mutated to the point where it will soon spread to the quantum sea itself.”

“I don’t -- quite understand,” Tentomon says.

“All worlds arise from the quantum sea, and all so return. Once the Infection reaches the quantum sea, it will spread to all worlds, eventually causing their collapse at the point where they have succumbed entirely to Infection.”

“You’re saying the world will end?” Tentomon asks.

“Yes. The Digital World will end first, and all Digimon will perish with it, initially depriving the human world of the usage of electronics. The human world will likely be Infected next, and other worlds will follow, until only the quantum sea is left, before it too will collapse, removing any further possibility for new worlds to be born from it.”

“Can’t we stop it?” Gabumon asks.

Maki shuts her eyes. She knows what Homeostasis is going to say next. To her surprise, Homeostasis is silent at first, staring straight ahead, calculating the answer to that question.

Then: “The Infection has spread to a degree such that there is only one way to avoid total annihilation.”

“What?” Agumon asks.

”A great sacrifice. At the point at which the Infection exceeds my capacity to contain, when the primary Infection vector, the Digimon designated Meicoomon, appears once again, the Digital World will be purged,” Homeostasis says. “And our time will end.”

Usually Homeostasis leaves gently, in Maki’s experience, but this time, the light fades in a split second, and Hikari’s body tumbles towards the ground.

Maki’s there in a heartbeat, catching her and laying her down onto the concrete, as gently as she can.

“Himekawa-san?” Piyomon asks.

“I’m not entirely sure what’s happening,” Maki lies. “But it seems like some other being possessed Hikari’s body. She’s unhurt, though.”

“Homeostasis,” Tailmon says. “We’ve encountered it before.”

“What did she mean by ‘a great sacrifice?’” Gabumon asks.

“I can’t be sure,” Maki says. “But most likely, she means a reboot.”

“A reboot?” Tailmon asks.

Maki thinks for a moment, debates whether or not to tell them the truth. It doesn’t take long for her to decide. If this is going to happen, if this has to happen, then they deserve to know as much as she can tell them.

“The Digital World exists as a shadow of sorts of this world,” Himekawa says. “So long as this world exists, it can be remade. That’s what rebooting is. The Infection didn’t originally exist in the Digital World: It can purge itself of all Infected data, including the Infected Digimon, and restore it all from back-up files.”

“Then why hasn’t Homeostasis done that yet?” Patamon asks.

“Understand that rebooting isn’t like the cycle of rebirth that already exists in the Digital World. Those Digimon restored wouldn’t have their memories of their previous lives. Every Infected Digimon would be starting over from a blank slate,” Maki says. “Including all of you.”

Gabumon frowns. “But still -- …”

“And it’s a last resort. The Digital World and the human world, and countless others, sit on a quantum sea. Rebooting brings with it the possibility that it might disturb that quantum sea, causing it to consume the Digital World, or worse,” Maki adds. “If Homeostasis is considering this, then it must be a desperate situation.”

Tailmon shuts her eyes. “Are we out of time?”

“Yes,” Maki says. There’s no sense varnishing that. “If nothing is done, every world will be destroyed, so Homeostasis will reboot soon, while it still has the chance.”

“And rebooting will save Yamato’s world?” Gabumon asks.

“It should, so long as no Infected Digimon are within the human world during the reboot,” Maki says. “If even a single Infected is here, it will escape the reboot, return to the Digital World, and begin the Infection again. All traces of Infection must be gone from this world before the reboot happens.”

“So, if Meicoomon comes back …” Gomamon starts.

“If Meicoomon returns, it’ll be down to you to force her back into the Digital World, before the reboot.”

Gabumon takes a step forward. “How do you know all this stuff?”

Maki gives him her best nonplussed look. “Because I’m a high-level person at the Bureau.”

“No,” Tailmon says, sharply. “How do you really know all this stuff?”

Maki can’t help but smile at that, but rather than answering, she scoops Hikari up, standing. “I’ll see Hikari back to school. We can’t just leave her here.”

“If everything is rebooted, we’ll lose all our memories, right?” Agumon asks.

“We won’t even know we lost them,” Tentomon says. “We won’t have any idea that we’ve forgotten them.”

Maki gives a quick nod. She’s good, now, at looking sympathetic but professional, she knows that, even if she can feel the muscles in her jaw twitching, and her eyes starting to sting.

“But,” Gomamon says, forcing a smile onto his face. “We’ll be saving this world. Saving it for Jyou and everyone else. We’ll make sure the sun rises tomorrow.”

“How long do we have left?” Piyomon asks.

Maki breathes out slowly, and hopes against hopes that she’s right, that this can be quick and easy for them. “Hours. Enough time to say your goodbyes.”

She starts to walk away, heading for the hill, and to her car on top of it. It’ll be a short drive to take Hikari back to Odaiba Middle School, and only a slightly longer one to return to her office, to wait the last few hours before the inevitable.

“I’m sorry, for you and for your partners,” she says, once she reaches the foot of the hill. “If it helps, in time I’m sure it’ll hurt less. Eventually, even the Chosen Children have to grow up.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yamato's room is actually less tidy than usual, today. Not by much, but he looks like he might not have made his bed this morning, there's a few items of clothes on the floor, a few boxes left out on the worktop, and various other small signs of clutter instead of it being as immaculately neat as it usually is.

"Er, sorry about the mess," Yamato says, quickly. "Won't take me long to freshen up, but if you want, I'm pretty sure there's lemonade in the fridge."
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yukidarumon -- a snowman the size of a truck, and a friend who had helped Yamato in the past -- drops from the sky, and lands in the middle of the road with a thud.

Yamato steps between him and Takeru, glancing quickly at his phone. There are a few quick, hurried texts reporting on what Digimon have appeared: Centalmon, Meramon, Unimon, Bakemon, and Ogremon.

Almost all of them allies and friends, and Yamato can’t help but wonder if that’s not the real attack, if there’s someone who knows them directing Infected Digimon that used to be their friends to attack them.

“Takeru, let go,” he hears Patamon say, but Takeru keeps a firm hold on him. “I need to fight …”

No,” Takeru says, a little sharply. “Just stay here.”

Yamato has no time to ask, because Yukidarumon lurches forward at that moment, the textures on his skin flickering violet, and Gabumon leaps forward to meet him.

---


There’s a flash of blue, and Garurumon skids across the road, ripping up tarmac where he lands, as another of Yukidarumon’s punches knocks him down.

“It’s like the Kuwagamon,” Garurumon says, pulling himself to his feet and shaking himself off. “The Infection’s made him stronger.”

Yamato sees a flicker of red on the horizon, and a familiar winged shape rise up over the island before curving back down again. Elsewhere, he sees more flashes, in more colours.

“Then we cheat,” he says, pressing one hand over his chest. His Crest starts to glow, pulsing with a gentle blue light. “Ready?”

“You sure about this?” Garurumon asks, turning his head to fix one eye on Yamato.

He gets a quick nod in return. “He wouldn’t want to hurt anybody. Better this than that.”

Garurumon breathes out. “Then I’m ready.”

Yamato shuts his eyes, and the temperature around them plummets, a thin layer of frost forming on the ground around him.

As Yukidarumon swings forward again, Garurumon explodes into blue light, twisting and reshaping itself.

“Garurumon, super evolution!” A furred hand emerges from the light, curling around Yukidarumon’s fist. “WereGarurumon.”

WereGarurumon sweeps a foot in an arc across the ground, taking a deep breath, and kicks upwards. For a moment, the world burns with yellow and blue light, and when Yamato’s blinked the spots out of his eyes, Yukidarumon is on his back, his outline blurring, his shape collapsing into cubes and then reforming again, again and again.

WereGarurumon backs off, glowing as he shrinks back down to Gabumon, and Yamato approaches Yukidarumon, crouching next to him.

Yukidarumon looks at him, but there’s no recognition in his gaze, nothing at all except sheer fury, and for what might be the first time Yamato feels a surge of sheer, ugly rage at whatever it was that did this -- stripped Yukidarumon of his kindness, Leomon of his discipline, Ogremon of his pride.

He holds out a hand, and Yukidarumon’s ridiculous snowy mitten hand snaps around it, squeezing so hard Yamato thinks the Digimon might crush the bones in his hand, and he’s fairly sure that’s the point.

“We’re here,” he says, keeping his voice steady. Gabumon approaches from Yukidarumon’s other side, putting a paw on his shoulder. Yamato lets Yukidarumon squeeze. “We won’t let you go alone.”

It must only be seconds passing, but it feels too long anyway, and eventually Yukidarumon starts to drift away, cubes of data flowing up from his feet, working their way up his body.

Yukidarumon opens his mouth and lets out a guttural scream, long and loud, until his throat goes hoarse and, for a moment as his face relaxes, he looks almost like the Digimon Yamato and Gabumon knew.

“Until next time,” Yamato murmurs, just before the hand around his scatters into data.

He thinks he sees a smile as Yukidarumon’s face vanishes. It’s probably a grimace.

With a rumble, a distortion opens in the sky, sucking the data into it. Yamato watches it as it goes.

“Look,” Gabumon says, pointing. Across Odaiba, four other streams of data are spiralling up into distortions.

“One left,” Yamato says. He breathes out, then pushes anything he’s feeling aside and turns. “Takeru, we need to -- …”

Takeru doesn’t reply. He’s already turned on his heel, walking back towards home, and as Yamato opens his mouth to call him, Gabumon tugs on his trouser leg. When he looks down, Gabumon just shakes his head.

“We need to go,” Yamato says to Gabumon.

---


The last one is Ogremon.

Yamato arrives as the others do, and sees Ogremon squaring off against Togemon and Ikkakumon.

Ogremon had been an enemy once, then a friend, then an ally. He’d fought against them with Devimon, and with them against MetalEtemon and Piemon. Whatever else he’d been, he’d never been -- this. This slavering, mindless monster, white-eyed and purple skinned, shrieking and throwing himself at his friends.

Togemon curls her arms in on herself, and green light engulfs her like the petals of a flower, before scattering to reveal Lilimon’s delicate, tiny form, dwarfed completely by Ogremon.

Yamato knows what Mimi’s trying to do. He knows in his gut it won’t work.

Lilimon curves about Ogremon, daisies and lilies trailing from her hand until they make a ring around Ogremon. He’d seen her do this before: A magical wreath of flowers to heal a Digimon of corruption, an ability unique to Lilimon.

Ogremon does go still, though. He stops screaming. He stares up at the sky in blank silence.

Then, with a snap, he breaks the wreath, turns, and swings for Lilimon with his club.

Mimi doesn’t say anything. From the set of her jaw, Yamato can tell she wasn’t expecting anything different.

The battle is short. A blast of green light from Lilimon and a volley of torpedoes from Ikkakumon, and when the smoke clears, Ogremon is on his knees as cubes of data flake off his back and float towards the heavens.

Mimi steps forward, throwing her arms around Ogremon’s shoulders, and while Yamato expects Ogremon to retaliate, like Yukidarumon did, he doesn’t. He remains still, head bowed, as Lilimon hovers down and embraces him from the other side.

After a few short moments, his form collapses altogether, and a distortion opens to suck up his data. Mimi sinks to her knees, tears streaming down her face, as Lilimon shrinks back down to Palmon.

Jyou speaks first, his voice hoarse. “Does Koushiro have a cure yet?”

Nobody else says anything. Jyou breathes out slowly, then pushes his glasses up his nose.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
It’s the evening, but still as bright as day, and although Odaiba is busy as usual, there’s something oddly peaceful about it.

As soon as his classes end, Yamato darts across town, catching Takeru as he leaves school (with a small gaggle of girls around him, Yamato notes somewhat grumpily) and offering to walk him to Koushiro’s office and then home.

This time, he’d get Takeru to talk about whatever it was that was bothering him.

By the time they reach Koushiro’s office, Takeru’s managed to deflect all of Yamato’s attempts to broach the subject. Every time Yamato is even about to ask about it, Takeru finds some way to distract him, or some pretext to distract himself so that he doesn’t have to pay attention to what Yamato is saying, and by the end of the twenty minute walk, Yamato can’t help but feel like he’s playing a game of conversational chess with a grandmaster.

When they reach Koushiro’s office, Tentomon lets them in, and for a moment, any thought of asking Takeru about anything vanishes from Yamato’s mind. Koushiro’s chic, stylish office is strewn with discarded bottles of Oolong tea, fast food wrappers, and dirty plates. Koushiro, working behind his computer, doesn’t even acknowledge that they’re there.

“... Didn’t Jyou come by yesterday to clean things up?” Takeru asks Yamato.

“He did,” Yamato replies. He glances over at Tentomon. “How’s the work going?”

“Ah, um. Koushiro-han hasn’t told me anything,” Tentomon says. “But I’m sure he’ll figure something out soon!”

“When’d he last eat?”

Tentomon rubs his pincers together nervously. “He had a WcDonalds burger earlier. I haven’t been able to convince him to have a proper meal.”

“Right.”

Yamato gives Takeru a nod, and the both of them set to work, tidying up the mess around the office. When Tentomon offers to help, Yamato orders him to relax, and the insect Digimon settles on one of the chairs, watching them nervously.

Once that’s all said and done, Yamato stops into the office’s kitchenette, puts together a sandwich of, at least, some nutritional value, and brings it out.

Koushiro doesn’t look up at all.

“Hey, Koushiro,” Yamato snaps, in his best commander voice. “Sandwich. Eat.”

“Huh?” Koushiro looks away from the screen for a moment, and Yamato sees that his face is pale and drawn, and that there are bags under his eyes. He grimaces slightly. Koushiro blinks at him for a moment, then down at the sandwich. “Oh.”

“Eat it,” Yamato repeats, and Koushiro reluctantly digs in. “And no Oolong tea until tomorrow, you’re going to give yourself indigestion.”

“It’s actually very cleansing, and -- …”

“I’ll ask Jyou and Sora to check on you later tonight,” Yamato says, ruffling Koushiro’s hair roughly and turning towards the digital playpen, giving Gabumon and Patamon a quick nod. It looks like all the others have already been picked up.

Gabumon bounds out immediately, closely followed by Patamon, who flies to Takeru’s arms. Out of the corner of his eye, Yamato sees Takeru smoothing over Patamon’s fur, as if checking for -- something.

He makes a mental note to bring that up.

They leave, and are halfway down the street when Yamato notices that Takeru isn’t letting go of Patamon, instead hugging him to his chest like he’s afraid he’s going to fly away. Even for Takeru, that’s oddly overprotective.

“... Hey,” Yamato starts, when he’s sure that Takeru’s too preoccupied to counter him before he even starts. “You know, if something’s bothering you, you can tell me. Or Sora, or Taichi, or even Mimi or Jyou.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Takeru says, a little too quickly. “It’s just -- we watched Leomon die. I know Mimi and Jyou have seen him die before, but it was the first time for me. It just reminded me of when Patamon -- …”

Yamato can’t figure out if he’s telling the truth or deflecting again. He can read Takeru like a book, usually, but this time, there’s enough truth in what he’s saying to make it difficult to pick out if any part of it is a lie.

Takeru gives him a massive smile, and the weight in Yamato’s stomach intensifies. What aren’t you telling me?

Before he can say anything, or just demand to know what’s really going on, both their phones buzz. Takeru tugs his out immediately, and after a moment’s hesitation, Yamato pulls his out as well.

From: Maki Himekawa,
To: Taichi Yagami, Yamato Ishida, Sora Takenouchi, Koushiro Izumi, Mimi Tachikawa, Jyou Kido, Takeru Takaishi, Hikari Yagami.

Six distortions detected around Odaiba.


“Six?!” Yamato says, bewildered. “That’s more than we’ve ever -- …”

He doesn’t say anything more, because at that point the sky above them splits open.
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.”

“Right.”

“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.

“Ikkakumon!”

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.

“Vikemon.”

“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.

Vikemon.
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.

“Togemon!”

“Mimi!”

“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.

Rosemon.
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.”

“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.”
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