Chapter 4

A Truth Revealed

Where was she? What had she been doing? These were among the questions Kari asked herself as she hovered in the fuzzy black that surround her. She might have remained in that place if it wasn't for a sudden jolt and someone calling her name. Her eye's flickered open and she found her brother standing before her.

"We're here. The Dark Area," Tai stated before he tilted his head and began looking out the window at the black sky.

That's right; she was on the DarkTrailmon with the other Digidestined. They had been traveling all night and had finally arrived at the first terminal of the Dark Area.

"You okay?" Tai questioned her with a look of concern.

That's right, she needed to say something.

"I'm fine, just still a little sleepy," she weakly smiled as she pushed herself up off of the bench.

"I could tell. You slept most of the way here," Tai examined her face for any sign of problems.

"I'm fine, Tai," Kari sighed, "What time is it?"

"It's actually about eight a.m., but you couldn't really tell here," Tai responded. "It seems that this place is well named since it appears to always be night here… or dark might be the proper word for it."

Turning to look out the window Kari was greeted by a dark starless sky. There was no moon or clouds for that matter. It just looked like someone had pulled a black sheet over the sky through which no form of light could pass. On the ground dark trees with even darker leaves grew out of the dark brown earth with patchy grass. Outside the other side of the cars window was a small platform built of gray wood, illuminated by dim lanterns hanging from the posts that went up to a wooden hanging roof.

"It's strange… I don't see any stars or even the moon, but I can still see everything around us pretty clearly," Kari noted with a look of interest.

"Izzy, brought that up a while ago too," Tai commented.

"And?" Gatomon questioned on behalf of her partner.

"We spent a while trying to figure it out, but eventually we went past this patch of glowing moss that answered that question," Tai replied. "The moss seems to grow on pretty much everything, giving off enough light to see by. Izzy said something about it being bio-luminescent"

"I see…" Kari said as she looked around for the rest of the group. Out on the platform she spotted the others gathered around Izzy's laptop which was resting on the railing, casting off a blue glow on everyone's face. "Any idea why it's always night here?"

"Not really sure," Tai replied. "It took us all night to get here, and when the sun should have been coming up we crossed into the Dark Area and that was a few hours ago… and so far no sign of it."

"I wonder what that means?" Kari questioned before following her brother out of the train car and to the group waiting on the platform.

As soon as Kari was off and the cars were empty the doors slid shut and the DarkTrailmon began to pull out of the small station. With a release of steam and a fading red light it vanished into the horizon, on its way to its next stop.

"So… anyone got an idea where we should start looking now that we're here?" Tai questioned the group. Normally, he would make a suggestion at this point, being the leader and all, but the Dark Area wasn't his choice to begin with so he was at a loss.

"I'm not sure… but there are a few locations that stand out," Izzy replied as he doubled clicked on three locations on the map, zooming in on them while he gave notes on them. "There's the Lightless City; the Black Towers; and last, the Dusk Yang Keep… but that one's the home of the Dark Master, so we might want to avoid going there unless we have to."

"Yeah, from what Darcmon told us, it's best to stay away from the different rulers castles unless invited or if we have business there," Sora commented, recalling the warning the bartending angel digimon had given them about dealing with the sectors where the rulers lived.

"The Lightless City actually sounds like it's the least dangerous out of the three," Ken stated. "And since it's a city I'm sure plenty of information passes through it."

"Ken has a point," Tai agreed in a tone of voice that told the group that he had made up his mind. "It's also the only one within walking distance considering we got off of the DarkTrailmon before we decided to look at a map," Tai concluded with a sigh.

When he had finished a dark cloud set in over the group. Tai was right; they had exited the DarkTrailmon and let it leave without think about the fact that two of the three locations would have required them to ride to another stop within the Dark Area if they didn't want to walk for days.

"I guess the decision was kind of made for us…" Matt laughed.

"Okay then, which way to the Lightless City, Izzy?" Davis jumped at a chance to talk again.

"According to the map it should be a few miles in that direction," Izzy answered, pointing towards a small mountain range in the distance. "This little Trailmon station looks like it's actually a part of the city, just separated by quite a distance."

"Right, let's get moving," Tai announced before walking off in the direction Izzy had indicated.

"What's the point of building a Trailmon station this far from the city," Mimi whined after they had been walking for an hour.

"It seems like it would take longer to walk to the station and get a ride than to just walk to where ever you wanted to go," Yolei agreed with her.

"I think it's like the Trailmon that took us to the Flame Terminal said," Kari stated, "they like it quiet here, so they put everything in the middle of nowhere."

"Kari's right…" Davis quickly agreed, "I guess if you wanted it to be quiet, you wouldn't want a Trailmon station in the middle of your city."

"There's that… and did anyone else notice that we didn't pass anything on the way here?" TK added as he scanned their surroundings. Ever since they had arrived in the Dark Area he had been on the constant lookout for any dangers laying in wait.

"What do you mean?" Cody inquired.

"I think TK's talking about the fact that when we were traveling on the Trailmon in the Flame Empire we passed all kinds of small towns and other structures, but here in the Dark Area, there was nothing along the route… not even any signs or lights…" Ken answered for TK who hadn't seemed to have heard the question, or had just chosen to ignore it while he kept up his defensive search.

"Yeah… I wonder why that is?" Joe questioned, not really expecting anyone to try and answer.

"For that matter if it wasn't for these glowing plants and moss we'd be completely in the dark," Matt commented. "No one seems to have taken the time to make this place as nice as the Flame Empire… or just didn't care to."

"It is kind of strange that there's so little here that shows any sign of life," Tai stated as he looked about, the conversation starting to make him and the others feel a bit on edge.

"It's almost like this place is dead…" Mimi said with an uneasy feeling to her words.

"But despite all of that… this place doesn't feel dangerous, but something is still wrong here…" Kari noted to the surprise of the others.

"I don't know whether that's an encouraging thought or a reason to worry more…" Tai commented, putting an arm over his sister's shoulders to comfort her.

After another hour of walking the Digidestined found themselves cresting a collection of large rolling hills. As they reached the top of the largest hill a large city of twisting black buildings came into view. The buildings appeared to have been built of either metal or stone and reached into the dark sky like cones of barbwire. There was very little light in the city; just enough of the pale white luminescence was present to illuminate the outlines of the structures and city.

"Wow…" A few awes went up from the group as they became transfixed by the sight.

"This is definitely one of those places you can only see in the Digital World…" Izzy commented as he lifted up his laptop and took a picture of the city in the distance.

"We should get down there," TK stated, pointing towards a path cut through the hills that ran all the way up to the city limits.

"You're probably r…" Tai began to agree before Kari interrupted him with an emotionless look.

"What's that?" Kari asked her finger extended out towards the center of the city.

Out in the distance, poking out over the top of a few buildings was five pure white points. The points looked as if they were made of crystal and were putting out enough white light to illuminate the city and light up the cloud cover above, which only now they realized was jagged and dark. Pulses of white light ran up and down the points, the time it took for each pulse to go down and return to the top seemed to signify that the structure ran all the way to the streets of the city.

"I have no idea… but it really doesn't look like it belongs…" Sora noted.

"Maybe!" Was all Tai managed to get out in response when a sudden blaring noise cut him off.

It sounded like a foghorn going off in the distance, but it quickly swelled up into a deep echoing groan, like that of an awakening, ancient, mechanical, giant. The grinding roar continued to grow louder and louder the longer it went on, as if the source were approaching.

"What the hell is that!" Davis yelled, covering his ear in an attempt to block out the growing noise.

"I don't know! But it can't be good!" Matt winced at the sound digging its way into his head.

"It just keeps getting louder," Mimi groaned, wanting the sound to stop.

"Is it coming...!" Tai began to state before something new started, "IS THE GROUND SHAKING!"

"IT IS!" Sora replied as she fell to her knees after losing the fight to stay up on her feet against the shaking earth.

"IT'S JUST THE GROUND AROUND US," Ken announced, motioning towards a patch of trees and a sign hanging from a set of chains in the distance that wasn't shaking, swaying, or moving despite how violently the ground shook around them. It was proof that only a select section of earth around them was being effect by what was happening.

"HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?" Yolei begged her boyfriend for an answer.

"WE SHOULDN'T HAVE…!" Kari cried, but her words were cut short as the concussive wave of force rushed forth from the city and crashed into them.

In an eruption of earth and energy that seemed to be coming up from the planet itself the Digidestined and digimon were lifted off of the ground and tossed into the air. All around them chucks of the hills and clusters of power rushed by, threatening to crush or burn them. Wordlessly the Digidestined tried to fight the current of force pouring up from the large dark pits below and avoid smashing into the upheaval of rocks, but in a final concussive blast of energy their bodies seized with pain and quickly turned numb as they began to black out.

In Kari's final moments she felt her arms close around Gatomon, pulling her tightly against her chest, as she watched the images of her friends and family vanish into the static fill distance while the land around them began to break up as well. Tightening her muscles in an attempt to brace herself she awaited an impact with either the ground or the flying debris, but if that impact ever came, she wouldn't know because the darkness of her mind quickly overcame her and the world faded away.

"Ahhh…" Kari's small voice groaned as her consciousness returned.

She was lying ragged on her stomach, a slight pain and tingle running up and down her body. Her clothes were a dirty and tattered, a good representation for how she felt.

"Ahhh…" With another pained groan she tried to push herself up, but her arms quickly gave out and she fell flat on her face, sending a new wave of pain through Kari's body and mind.

"Damn…" Kari cursed at the sensation.

Giving up on getting up Kari rolled onto her back and tried to look around. All around her walls of dark brown earth rose up into the sky. She had obviously ended up at the bottom of some crater, but was it the same one that had been created by the eruption of power from the Dark Area. The sky above her was a mess of gray storm clouds which threatened to unleash their wrath at any moment; but, beyond the clouds she could make out hints of the sun.

"If that's the sun… this can't be the Dark Area anymore…" Kari reasoned as she tried to take comfort in the return of the sun. But the secure feeling wouldn't last long as her vision began to fade once more.

Kari could feel the numbness overtaking her senses once again and knew that she was about to pass out again. In a desperate surge of adrenaline she tried to fight off the blackness for even a second longer as she tried to find any of the others. With a frantic search she found no one until her eyes landed on a white and purple striped fur tail hanging off of a ridge a bit above her.

"Gato… mon…" Kari spoken in broken words as she reached out to the tail, but her arm quickly fell to her side limp and lifeless. The sensation of it hitting the cold hard surface of the stone floor beneath her and the first drops of rain hitting her skin being the last thing she felt before her mind clouded over and her consciousness slipped away.

"Gatomon…" Kari groaned, awakening to the flickering light of a fire dancing on the wall gray stone walls.

Without another word she opened her eyes and stared up into the warm gray stone ceiling above her, wondering where the storm clouds and the rain on her face had gone. The surface she awoke on now was much softer than the hard one she remembered having fallen asleep on. It was a large bed, much bigger than any bed Kari had ever seen before. It was covered in a soft, thick blanket of dark brown fur under which silk sheets of gold and red were pulled tight. Her head was resting on a big pillow at the end of the bed. Someone had placed her at the foot of it, closer to the crackling fire in the fireplace in an attempt to warm her up.

"Where…?" Kari questioned. Her response quickly came in a rush of returning memories which ended with her blacking out at the feet of the Flame Emperor. "He saved me…" she noted with a conflicted voice.

"This isn't my bedroom in the castle," Kari said to herself as she sat up with a dull ache in her body.

The room she was in now was five times bigger than the room she had been given by Babamon. The ceiling was twice as high and the room was filled with different, more elaborate tapestries of gold and red fabric. The finest wooden furniture was spread around the room, but most notable among it all was a large table with a 3D map of Network being projected from it surface and a few weapon racks holding up large swords and other steel implements that flashed in the fire light. This definitely wasn't the room of a guest or any official of the Flame Empire, it was far too regal.

With a small groan Kari rolled onto her side and locked eye's with something that made her jump back in surprise. Right beside her was the crimson and golden helm of the Flame Emperor; it was hard to mistake it for anything else. However, just as quickly as she had recoiled from the shock she realized something about it… it wasn't attached to anything. The helm alone had been placed at the end of the bed beside her, the empty black eye sockets watching over her.

Silently and carefully, Kari reached out and tapped the helm with a finger, checking to make sure it was really empty. The metal felt warm from sitting near the fire, but it was cool enough to touch, so with cautious movements she picked the helm up and began to examine it.

"It's not as big as I thought it was…" Kari noted after turning it over and looking inside at the curves and metal work that gave it shape, "...It's almost like the helmets knights from my history books wore… like it could be worn by a…?" As Kari continued to muse about the helm she scooted to the edge of the large bed and sat up, but the moment she was up something at the edge of her peripheral vision stopped her last thought from leaving her mouth.

At the end of the bed with its back turned to the roaring fire was a large armchair covered in black fabric which seemed to drown out the light that touched it. Next to it was another like it which instead faced the fire, meaning someone had probably turned the one next to her so it was looking at the bed and her while she slept. And that being was most likely the one sitting, shrouded in shadows, in the armchair, its blue unfocused eyes staring straight ahead and down slightly.

"The Flame Emperor!" Kari mentally gasped as she dropped the helm on the bed, allowing it to roll to one of the edges. She was completely paralyzed by his presence before her, memories of how she had felt when she had first seen him in the courtyard rooting her in place.

However, as she looked into his blue eyes, face hidden in the shadows cast by the fire, a new memory began to overtake her fear filled one. The longer she looked at him the more headway the memory of him saving her from the Karatenmon brothers made. For a few minutes she continued to stare at him motionless while trying to gather her courage. When she finally felt brave enough she pushed up off of the bed and got to her feet slowly, fearing that any fast movements might set off the emperor; but as she moved he gave no hints whether he noticed or cared.

"Is he okay?" Kari questioned as she tried to shift her line of sight so she could get a better look at his face, but no matter how she tilted her head or shifted her feet could she see through the shadows.

Kari's curiosity as to the identity of the digimon that had risen to the rank of emperor slowly got the better of her and she began moving her feet forward. In a slight crouch and with small slow steps she moved towards him. After closing half the small distance between them she tried again to make out any features, but even thought the shadows had lessoned all she was able to see were his blue eyes shining in the flicker of the fire.

Taking a deep breath and steeling herself she began to move closer to him, but the closer she got the more she began to realize that the only way she was going to see his face was to get right up in front of him. This prospect was terrifying, but the urge to know continued to draw her nearer despite the lingering sense of fear.

After a few more steps she was now standing before the Flame Emperor, her legs feeling like they would give out from under her at any second if not for her need to know his identity keeping her up. With a shallow gulp she slowly leaned forward to get a look unobstructed by the shadows; but just as she was getting close the blue eyes flared up and emperor lunged forward. The room became a blur as Kari was thrown backward onto the bed, landing in the middle with a cushioned thud. As soon as she regained her senses Kari quickly attempted to get up, but she found it to be a struggle with her left arm and legs pinned against the mattress by the Flame Emperor.

The Flame Emperor was kneeling over her, his knees planted on either side of thighs and his right hand to hold her wrist against the bed. In a panic Kari tried to struggle, kicking her legs and trying to squirm out from under him. This was a very bad situation, in a bad location, in a bad position, and it could possible lead to something Kari didn't want to think about. However, no matter how much Kari struggled she couldn't make the emperor move even an inch.

"Please get off!" Kari begged, swinging out her free hand and striking the emperor in the side; but all she got from the attack was a painful stinging in her hand from impacting his armor.

"Please don't!" Kari continued to beg as she closed her eyes and strained her entire body in a final attempt to squirm free, but it met with no success.

Kari's strength quickly gave out in her panic and she was left panting, sore, and drenched in a cold sweat. However, now that she was out of strength she had time to realize that the emperor wasn't doing anything other than holding her down. He wasn't advancing on her or actually hurting her, he was just kneeling there motionless. So, summoning up her courage once more Kari opened her eyes and looked up and what she saw was enough to make her heart skip a beat.

She had expected to find herself looking up into the eyes of some fearsome digimon, a dragon type maybe, considering the look of the helm and armor; but what she saw now was no digimon. The face that had once been hidden under the helm was a pale pink in color, as if it hadn't seen the sun in years, a strong chin and cheekbones, a pair of lips pressed together in an emotionless smile, long dark brown hair that spilled down from the head and snaked out across the bed, and a pair of dull blue eyes. It was the human face of a boy who couldn't have been any older than Kari herself.

"You're human?" Kari questioned in a gentle whisper of surprise. She had been expecting quite a few things as of late, but not that revelation.

"…" The boy said nothing in return to her question. He might not have voiced himself, but at the mention of the world, human, his eyes seemed to have briefly altered in color and a bit of focus seemed to return to them. The changes remained for less than a second, so short that Kari couldn't be sure she had even seen them.

"Who are you?" Kari questioned unable to stop herself from digging into the mystery of the boy straddling her and gazing down so intently into her face.

"…" He didn't answer or show any sign that he had heard her.

"Why are you here?" Kari moved on to a new question in hopes of finding one he felt like answering.

"…" Again he didn't say anything, but the new question brought the change in color and focus again for a second.

"I'm sure of it this time! His eyes turned a little brown for a second…" Kari noted to herself unsure of what it actually meant. Wanting to test her theory more she asked the question again, "Why are you here?"

However, this time there was no change in his eyes. Instead he began moving his right knee up the bed towards Kari's abdomen, catching her dress as he did, pulling if up along her silky legs and sending an electric chill up Kari's body, growing as it climbed higher and higher. When he was in his new position, straddling Kari's hips and shortening her dress to a length near that of exposure, he lowered his face closer to hers and stared into her eyes.

"Is he even looking at me… really looking at me?" Kari questioned herself, forcing her head back into the mattress to increase the distance the boy had shortened.

Looking into his eyes Kari could see that he was looking at her, but it was an empty stare, as if he were just trying to give the illusion of trying to understand her. His eyes obviously worked just fine, but somewhere between his eyes and his brain he was losing something.

Without a word the boy again lowered his head, this time stopping just a few inches from her face. "Don't you think you're getting a little too close?" Kari inquired as a deep blush spread across her face.

The boy said nothing as he raised his free hand up and ran it along Kari's side, starting at her hip and running up to her shoulder. His touch sent a warm tickle shooting through Kari, making it difficult for her to think about what she was going to do if he expected some premarital fun.

"Premarital fun! Now I'm starting to think like Babamon," Kari berated herself for thinking that the marriage was actually going to happen. Though, considering she now knew that the emperor was in fact a cute human boy, she felt less worried.

"I wonder what he's like… The long hairs kind of cute, but I don't know about being with a guy with hair longer than mine… Kari! Stop thinking like that! What's wrong with you?" Kari pleaded with herself to stop allowing such strange thoughts to cross her mind. This was probably the worst time to be thinking like she was.

"Where do you think you're going with that hand?" Kari suddenly yelled when the boys hand released her shoulder and moved until it was hovering over her heaving chest. "Seriously, don't even think about it," she added in a growl as she watched his hand twitch over her.

"I said stop," she yelled, swinging out a hand aimed at his face; but with lightning fast reflexes he moved his hand and caught her swing in midflight. He quickly followed up the catch by pressing her arm down into the bed next to her other one.

"Oh, this can't be good," Kari reflected on her current predicament. Pinned to a bed and straddled by a cute boy more powerful than any digimon she had seen before, and on that note, she had this real problem with constantly calling him cute. Her dress was an inch away from no longer being able to be called a mini-skirt and she had no free hand by which to defend herself. "On the bright side, both of his hands are tied up holding me down so he probably can't feel me up now," she added with a somewhat relived smile.

As if he had heard her last thought he began slowly dragging her arms together over her head. Kari arched her head and rolled her eyes back so she could see what he was doing above her. The moment her two wrists came together he released her left wrist and pressed her right down on top of it, pinning both to the bed with only one hand.

"That's cheating!" Kari argued as her vision constantly shifted from her pinned wrists and the boys now free hand.

"Let's talk about this," Kari tried to begin a conversation as his hand began to wander over her again.

His hand slowly moved over her on its way back to her chest, or that's what she had thought. It stopped its movement over her head and began to lower, making Kari cower back and close her eyes in fear of what he was going to do. In the darkness she felt the leather palm of his gauntlet gently come in contact with her cheek and stay there. With a surprised look Kari opened her eyes and looked back up at him.

"They're slightly brown again…" Kari noted as she carefully considered what she should do next.

"My names Kari Kamiya," she stated with a confident and focused look, "what's yours?"

"…name…" he brokenly spoke letting Kari hear his voice for the first time.

"You talked!" Kari didn't hide her happiness at the fact that he was talking. "You're finally talking to me. I'm so happy," she continued on with a bright smile.

"…" he said no more and he returned to looking into her eyes.

"…I thought I was making some progress… but…" Kari's thoughts trailed off when the Flame Emperors grip started to tighten. "You're hurting me!" She cried out when the armor at the finger tips began to feel like it was digging into her flesh.

Something had made him change for the worse and Kari had to figure it out before things got really bad.

"Please stop!" Kari begged as the pain grew and thin crimson trickles of blood began to run down her arm. "Please st…!" she cried again but choked on her second plea when she opened her eyes and looked up at him.

"What is that!" Kari shrieked into the reaches of her mind at what she saw. She could still see the boy, but his blue eyes had deepened in color and his pupils had stretched out into points like those of a lizard or dragon. However, it wasn't the change in his eyes or attitude that scared her. It was the massive shadow behind him. Large arms covered in what looked like thick armor where arched over his and a sharp head, similar to the helm the Flame Emperor wore, looked down from above his shoulders. She couldn't look away from the dancing shadows of flames framing it or the feeling that it was looking at her, but was truly intimating was the heavy pressure she felt coming off of it.

"It's huge… and it feels angry…" Kari noted to herself, ignoring the pain and fear to take in all she could about whatever she was looking at.

Before the pain could take over once more the shade vanished and the boy's eyes regained their focus and almost turned all brown. Looking up into them Kari could see that a horrified and shocked expression had overcome him as he stared up at her arms.

"…blood…" he whispered in a regretful voice before releasing her arms and scrambling off of Kari and the bed. Without a word he grabbed his helm and locked it into place on his shoulders with a metallic click before holstering his blade and heading for the door.

"Wait!" Kari called out to him in hopes of getting him to stay as she pushed herself up off of the bed and to the edge with her bleeding hands.

For a moment the Flame Emperor hesitated and turned to look back at him. However, Kari knew she wouldn't be able to hold him when the eyes she saw turned blue once more. When all of the brown had been drowned out by blue he turned away and grabbed his dark brown cloak off of the wall and wrapped it around himself before pulling the door open with a yank and storming out.

With a loud echoing slam of the door Kari was left alone in the room with the pain in her hands.

"What just happened?" She pondered from the edge of the bed, blood dripping off of her hands and soaking into the fabric of her flame colored dress. "I have to know," she forced herself up off of the bed and ran to the door. With a slight wince of pain she took hold of the handle and threw it open, her blood mixing with the old iron.

"KARI!" Gatomon suddenly called out, drawing Kari's attention to the left end of the hallway she found after exiting the Flame Emperors room.

At the end of the hall she found her partner charging down at her with a relieved expression on her face. Behind her Kari could see Rosemon chasing after her with a worried expression while the angry voice of Babamon echoed down the hall.

"Gatomon…?" Kari stated in slight surprise as she dropped to her knees and prepared to hug her partner, but when she remembered that her hands were bleeding she hid them behind her back.

"Kari!" Gatomon beamed as she bounded at her partner, but before she could reach her Rosemon snatched her out of the air with a diving grab.

On her back Rosemon slid within inches of Kari, Gatomon raised over her head so that she was looking Kari in her eyes.

"I got her…" Rosemon unhappily yelled in hopes of quieting her grandmother's shouts. "Do you realize how stupid it was to just come running up here? I don't even want to think about what would have happened if I hadn't told those guards that I would deal with you," she angrily added in a whisper so Babamon wouldn't hear.

"But how else was I going to find Kari after the Flame Emperor took off with her after the fight," Gatomon growled in response, apologetic hints in her voice directed at the mega digimon.

"I would have found a way to get you to… Kari!" Rosemon trailed off when she finally noticed the girl kneeling on the floor in front of them.

"Hey," Kari just smiled at the strange, almost friendly, exchange the two were having.

"Kari, are you alright? He didn't hurt you, did he?" Gatomon asked while still suspended in the air by the digimon beneath her.

"It's okay, Gatomon," Kari returned with an uneasy smile, trying not to think about the slight tinges of pain running through her hands.

"That doesn't answer my question," Gatomons eyes narrowed in distrust after seeing that her partner was trying to hide something. She had been with Kari long enough to know when she was trying not make others worry by holding something back. "Did he hurt you?" She insisted on an answer this time. Beneath her Kari could see that Rosemons face had turned to one of concern as well, not liking the idea that she could have been hurt.

Looking away Kari brought her hands forward, showing the five puncture wounds on the back of her hands and wrists. Warm blood was continuing to trickle out, but it had greatly slowed since they were first inflicted.

"I'll kill him!" Gatomon roared at the sight of her injured partner, furiously fighting to get free of Rosemons grip to chase down the opponent whose location she had no idea of.

"He didn't mean to do it!" Kari loudly insisted to her partner. Hearing Kari's adamant claim Gatomons body went limp as she stared at her partner in shock. "I know he didn't mean to hurt me. It was an accident…"

"How can you say…!" Before Gatomon could question her claim a familiar voice cut in over hers.

"What makes you so sure that he didn't mean to hurt you?" Babamon inquired, her voice sounding much softer than it normally did.

"I just know…" Kari replied in a quiet voice as images of the boys face played back in her mind. "I could see it in his eyes."

"Babamon," Gatomon growled, "Do you see what he did to her?" She added, pointing towards the trickles of blood running down her white skin. "I don't know what you're planning for Kari, but you can't want to see her hurt. She's just a human girl. He'll kill her if she has to stay with him. You have to let her go."

"Now that the girl knows the truth she will no longer find any locked doors here. She is free to leave if she should choose to," Babamon stated as she began to walk away.

"Just like that?" Gatomon questioned. She was sure it was some kind of trick since the diminutive digimon had been so intent of making Kari a member of the royal family. Even Rosemon was having difficulty believing what her grandmother had just said.

"Just like that," Babamon answered back with a real smile.

"I don't know what happened, but this is great!" Gatomon cheered, "We can finally get out of here and start looking for the others."

Despite Gatomons happy mood and the great news, Kari couldn't think of anything else but the brown eyes she had seen looking back at her. She was sure she had seen a plea for help in them.

"Let's hurry up and get out of here before she changes her mind," Gatomon happily smiled as she pulled at Kari's dress in an attempt to get her to her feet.

"I'm not leaving!" Kari suddenly proclaimed as she shot to her feet; her proclamation shocking her partner and Rosemon.

"We've been trying to escape this place for almost a week and now that we're free to go, you want to stay!" Gatomon balked with wide eyes.

"Why do you want to stay? What could you possibly hope to achieve by staying?" Babamon asked in a sly tone without turning back to look at the girl.

"I'll stay here as long as it takes. I won't leave until I can take him from here with me," Kari retorted with a determined look. Somehow the encounter with the boy had sparked her old fighting spirit back to life.

"Take who with you?" Gatomon questioned, but her words went unheard.

"How do you plan to make that happen?" Babamon stopped in her tracks, but still didn't turn to look at the girl.

Kari had no immediate answer for that question. She had managed to get a reaction out of him before, but never anything that she could call a stepping stone towards understanding him. Then, with a flash, inspiration struck and she had an answer, "I'll start by getting him to tell me his name." It was simple and didn't seem like much, but she knew it could make a big difference in him.

"Interesting… very interesting…" Babamon noted as she shook her head, hiding the fact that a big smile had spread across her face. "Do as you wish. Ask anything of the castle guards or workers and they will grant it. But if you really want, I could tell you his name," she tempted Kari.

"I don't know why… but I know it won't change anything unless he tells me," Kari gentle smiled at Babamon's back.

"Then, have it your way," Babamon waved her free hand, motioning for her granddaughter to follow; which she quickly did after shooting Kari a questioning glance. Kari just reassuringly smiled back at her. So with Kari's consent Rosemon left to follow the matriarch of her family.

"Kari… what is going on?" Gatomon begged for an answer in a voice of utter confusion. "Who do you want to tell you their name? And why is something like that worth staying in this horrible place?"

"The Flame Emperor," Kari simply responded as she stared down the empty hallway.

"We can't leave because you want him to tell you what kind of digimon he is?" Gatomon yelped, surprised that they would remain for such a silly reason.

"Not for his type, Gatomon. I want him to tell me his human name," Kari replied, her eyes still affixed to the distant corner.

"…human… name…?" Gatomon questioned, her eyes widening in wonder and surprise. She wasn't sure if she had heard her partner right. "Why would a digimon have a hu…" But before Gatomon could finish her new inquiry Kari looked down at her with a serious look.

"Gatomon, he's human… and I know he needs my help…" Kari said with a determined look as the rain outside finally stopped falling.

To be continued…