blue card hearts
Chapter 11 - Vicchan

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He scanned his card, hoping it was something that would help.

And it was, so to speak. More specifically, it was a blue card.

'Matrix digivolution,' came the voice from the digivice, as blue light swallowed his vision once more. But this time it was a familiar blue light, and there was no dragon to suggest dragon fire instead.

Somewhere in that blue glow, Leomon roared. And then… he didn't sound quite like Leomon anymore. His voice was deeper, and just… different.

Well, Yuuri thought. Of course his voice would sound different. He'd digivolved. But into what?

He blinked, and gradually the blue light faded. Sinduramon squawked, suddenly outmatched. And pummelling it, pushing it back step by step, was…

'GrapLeomon,' said Yuuri. Not the SaberLeomon he had become in the Digimon Adventure series, but GrapLeomon, who would later go on to become either a BanchoLeomon or Leapardmon. GrapLeomon who would walk on two legs than his predecessor… and did that make it easier to adjust in the heat of battle, he wondered? He couldn't actually recall the changes in growth having any effect on digimon coordination. Sometimes it affected their mind, though.

The thought struck him suddenly. GrapLeomon had said nothing at all. He was only punching, and Sinduramon was only flailing in a useless attempt to get free from that barrage.

But he was overthinking again, wasn't he? All he needed to do was ask. 'GrapLeomon?'

'Yes,' GrapLeomon replied.

Yuuri smiled. That was all there was to it, then.

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They walked home later the following evening, after sleeping in well past noon. Yuuri had missed a day of school but he felt as though he deserved it, after all the recent chaos. Things would be a little easier now, now that Leomon had evolved into Ultimate again… but one day they'd face a Mega digimon that an Ultimate or few couldn't defeat, and they'd need to attain another blue card. And then there was Phichit whose Cameramon still hadn't evolved, and JJ who was seeking an Ultimate as well, and Seung-Gil who sought strength…

And a unifying enemy explaining it all. They had no clues, at the moment. It was simply wild digimon after wild digimon appearing, of random levels and types and strengths and in random places. And they became friends with each other, dined at Yuutopia Katsuki (and occasionally, at one of the other's houses) and grew more adept at the cards that had become their weapons together. But there were some things, as Takeshi had said, that they could only work out for themselves. And some things, like Leomon said, that couldn't be worked out after all.

But it had worked out this time. This time, it hadn't ended in tragedy and hopefully it never will. But still… 'Does your digital world have gods?' Yuuri asked suddenly.

'We have the four Digimon Soverigns,' Leomon said, 'with varying degrees of power and status depending on the incarnation of the digital world. And then there is Yggdrasil.'

'Yggdrasil,' Yuuri repeated. 'That computer program. Like Homeostasis.'

'Yes,' said Leomon. 'Yggdrasil and Homeostasis. And Libra. Powers all beyond our understanding.'

'Yeah, the franchise hasn't explained it too well either,' Yuuri mumbled. 'But anyway, do you fancy a side-trip?'

'I suppose I could entertain you.' Leomon smiled. 'You entertained my trip, after all, even after we were delayed a day.'

'Well, I'd rather sleep in than go to school and be a zombie,' Yuuri shrugged. 'Though don't tell my teachers I said that. I mean, I like school alright, but sleep first.'

'I won't,' Leomon promised. 'I am getting rather used to katsudon.'

Yuuri laughed at that. 'Then what was the specialty at the Katou's restaurant?'

'Sake,' Leomon replied. 'Surely it came up at some point.'

'We need to marathon the Digimon series at some point,' Yuuri replied. Had it ever come up? Maybe with that whole mess with Orochimon, but he couldn't quite recall. 'Sake, huh. Minako and my father would have a field day there.'

Actually, on second, it was probably a good thing that was another world and thus not reachable here. Toshiya Katsuki went off the rails when he was drunk and Yuuri could only hope he'd inherited his sister's persistent stoicness instead when the time for his first drink came around. Even his mother's teariness would be preferred.

But there were a few years before he had to think about that, thankfully.

'Anyway, I was thinking of visiting the temple on the way back,' he said.

'The temple?' Leomon replied. 'Alright.'

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Yuuri realised he hadn't thought through his plan very well, because the temple had a lot of stairs and he was still aching from last night.

Leomon took pity on him and carried him, much to his embarrassment. 'I have carried lots of human children like this,' the lion digimon said. 'Do not worry.'

'I'm not worried,' Yuuri protested. 'I'm embarrassed because this was my idea in the first place.'

But they got to the top of the temple like that and nobody was around. Leomon said Yuuri down, and the human wandered over to the bells. 'We ring the bell, then put our hands together and pray: for safety, for good fortune, to pass exams… It's quite popular in exam season.'

'I see,' Leomon replied, and mimicked Yuuri when he rang the bell. That one was for Leomon, and Yuuri, and their friends and family and the world they lived in.

'We also pray for the souls of the dead, and those far away from us,' said Yuuri.

They rang the bells again, this time for Vicchan and all the humans and digimon Leomon had once known, across other worlds.

Yuuri let go of the rope. Leomon rung the bell again.

'That was so you can pass your upcoming exams,' said Leomon.

Yuuri laughed. 'I don't have exams for a while, but thank you.'

.

Takeshi was waiting when they finally got back. 'Took you long enough,' he scowled. 'I had to make up excuses to your teachers and I don't think it went too well.'

'What did you say?' asked Yuuri warily. Takeshi was a good friend, but sometimes caused more trouble than Yuuri could get out of without Yuuko's help. 'And were my friends asking about me?'

'Sure were,' Takeshi replied. 'And seeing as I don't know which know about the whole real live digimon thing and which don't, I gave them all the same excuse. You'd been feeling a little udner the weather, hallucinated Vicchan's ghost, and got yourself good and lost in the woods… or so all the adults thought. I just hope nobody actually calls our families to ask.'

'If I show up tomorrow, hopefully not,' Yuuri sighed. Yeah, that was a messy excuse. 'You seriously couldn't come up with anything better?'

'I figured it was a good idea to at least mention the woods,' Takeshi shrugged.

'And the teachers didn't think to send a search party?'

'Oh, they did.'

Oh boy. At least he and Leomon weren't in the woods anymore, because that would be tricky to explain away. 'I better show off the fact that I'm okay and not hallucinating poodles anymore.'

Not to mention, the poodle he had actually hallucinated was a couple of weeks ago and not Vicchan, but that was a moot point by now.

'I can pretend to be an adult and call?' Takeshi offered.

'Or I can,' said Leomon gruffly. 'I think I will be more convincing.'

Leomon was convincing, and Yuuri was glad he'd made the right choice on that topic, even if Takeshi had been the one painfully covering for them.

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His parents and sister just asked how his camping trip went, but there were lots of questions at school the next day. First was Phichit who stopped him along the way, and Yuuri had to reach across and cover his mouth considering what he was blabbing about with Leo sitting right there.

'It's okay,' Guang-Hong pipqued up. 'You missed Leo's christening.'

'Oh.' Yuuri let go of Phichit. 'Sorry for leaving you out of it for so long.'

'No biggie,' Leo grinned. 'Though I was feeling rather left out at the time. Good to know what it was, though. And that I didn't lose my mind when Musimon popped up out of nowhere.'

'It's the cutest!' Phichit trilled, and showed off all the photos he and Cameramon had gotten. 'I mean, I'm kind of surprised Leo's Musimon and my Cameramon knew each other once upon a time, but hey, it's a small world.'

'It is a small world, sometimes,' Yuuri smiled. And Musimon suited Leo well… though the name was an interesting coincidence. Still, he was glad Leo hadn't gotten Leomon, because he was too used to the lion's company and didn't think he could part with him anytime soon.

Hopefully he won't have to either.

'Anyway, welcome to the club,' Yuuri said, as Phichit continued raving about Musimon in the background. 'Have you gotten into any trouble yet?'

'No?' Leo looked concerned. 'Should I be concerned?'

'Probably,' Yuuri admitted. 'But keep a cool head, keep up with the card game, or have infernal luck like Phichit and you'll be fine.'

Granted, he was making a promise he wasn't sure he could deliver on… but that was a part of having faith, as well. He wasn't about to scare Leo off. It wouldn't be fair to him, or Musimon. And they'd all be there as well. Yuuri and Leomon, Yuri Plisetsky and Meicoomon, Phichit and Cameramon, Guang-Hong and Renamon, Seung-Gil Lee and Gabumon, Viktor and his Monodramon, Jean-Jacques Leroy and Shoutmon, Kenjirou Minami and Agumon (and his three friends at the elementary school with digimon partners of their own), Otabek Altin and Solarmon, Christophe Giacometti and Salamon… and now Leo and his Musimon as well. That was fourteen humans and fourteen digimon that they knew about, and who knew how many others there were, too far away to go to the same school or people who'd just slipped through Phichit's camera lens. Hopefully, for whatever was coming towards them, that would be enough. Hopefully… and, of course, they'd continue working together and getting stronger.

Yuuri and Leomon now had an Ultimate form, but that didn't mean they'd reached the end of the road to self-improvement. There was always more to go and that was one good thing that came out of Yuuri's anxiety, that he was always doubting his own strength and thus always working to improve it… Well, so long as crushing despair didn't cripple him, but the last time it had tried, Leomon had showed up. And they were doing pretty well for themselves, despite the few hiccups they'd faced on the road so far.

'More katsudon at Yuutopia?' Phichit asked hopefully.

'You come to my place just for the katsudon,' Yuuri teased.

Leo perked up though. 'Katsudon?'

'There's always leftovers at my parents' onsen,' Yuuri explained. 'We've been getting together more often. I mean, there's no sign of the big bag evil yet, but the digimon said they came earlier than they normally would because they're on edge and don't want any more sacrifices to be made.'

'Hey, I'm all for being prepared to avoid sacrifices,' said Leo. 'But if they don't know who we're facing, there'll be only so much we can do to prepare…' He looked at his own cards. 'I'm going to do some reconfiguration, with a Musimon on my side.'

'Don't worry,' said Guang-Hong. 'Between the lot of us, there are loads of cards to go around. We'll work out the perfect balance for your Musimon support deck. And we'll catch you up on all the battles you've missed so far, too. And Yuuri ,what you missed yesterday of course.'

'What did I miss yesterday?' Yuuri asked with some alarm. Though hopefully the others had been together and faring better than Yuuri and Leomon alone in the middle of the night in the woods.

'Well,' Guang-Hong grinned.

'Guang-Hong,' Phichit interrupted with a whine. 'I want to be the one to tell.'

Guang-Hong waved his hand.

Phichit grinned. 'Well, the thing is…'

'Out with it already,' Leo exclaimed. 'The bell's about to go!'

'Oh.' Phichit deflated a bit. He'd been about to drag it out, apparently. But he perked up again quickly. 'Cameramon evolved into Scopemon!'

There was a quick chorus of congratulations… and then the bell rang, as Leo said it would. They raced off to their respective classes: Leo and Phichit in one direction, Guang-Hong in another, and Yuuri in another again. He ran into friends in the hallway, at lunch – and the tale of the two new digivolutions spread amongst them. By the time they got to Yuutopia that afternoon, Yuri was threatening anyone who mentioned the word digivolution again with the plunger. 'You guys can clean the men's onsen with it,' he said, grimacing.

'I wouldn't do it,' Yuuri agreed. 'Cleaning the onsen's essentially the only downside of living at one.'

'You're one to talk, Katsudon! This used to be your chore!'

'You – or Meicoomon, technically – broke the onsen windows,' Yuuri shrugged.

'Ah,' said Leo. 'So that was what had happened. Things suddenly make so much more sense now that I know digimon are involved.'

And things would have certainly been a lot quieter without the digimon involved, Yuuri reflected. The cloud of Vicchan's death… he wondered if it would have faded away, by now, or not. Would he have been wallowing in depression like Viktor had after Makkachin's passing, waiting for some sort of shock or sign to get him moving again? Or perhaps he had done that, and it just hadn't had the time to register before Leomon showed up.

Leomon said they may wind up losing things along the way, that they'd already lost some things along the way… but to wish those things had never happened…

Maybe, in the depths of despair, but if losing Vicchan had opened the doors to meeting Leomon, then he couldn't say he'd rather never have met Leomon and kept Vicchan instead.

'I do miss you, Vicchan,' he said afterwards, at the little alter he and his parents had made for the toy poodle. 'I'm not glad you died. Not at all. But what's happened after you died… I can't just wish to erase that all. I guess that's part of moving on and growing and living… But I won't forget you, and that spot in my heart belongs to you and only you.'

And that was how it should be. Vicchan was Vicchan and Leomon was Leomon, and the past was the past and the future was the future. Just like digimon were digimon and humans were humans: there were things missing from one that the other filled in, like two halves of a whole or two sides of a cards. And like a blue card, one wouldn't know the end result until it was tried and tested, and one wouldn't know what the future held until they faced it, by which point it was too late to do anything about the past except learn from it.

But of course, humans weren't as cold and calculating as all that. Emotions ran rampant. Tragedy undid them. Love put them back together.

He hoped and prayed there would be no tragedy in the future… but aside from that, he could only get stronger, with his partner, with his friends, and fight and work for that happy ending together. And he'd try to keep a cool head, and not overthink things, and be at least a little secure in the knowledge that if he slipped up with either of those, there were others by his side to keep him upright.

And that, all of that, would hopefully be enough to save the world, once the force threatening it finally showed itself.