Hida Iori had trouble concentrating for the rest of the evening. Though he had not been late for dinner as he had initially feared, his grandfather Hida Chikara had noted that he had come home later than usual, and asked where he had been.
"I was with Inoue Miyako and Motomiya Daisuke," Iori answered honestly and formally. "I also met a new student in the school that just transferred into Daisuke's class, Takaishi Takeru."
Hida Chikara sipped prune juice from a glass as he sat in the apartment living room. Iori's mother Fumiko sat on the couch opposite him. "Is that all?" he asked.
Iori hesitated. "No..." He swallowed. "But I'm not allowed to say anything else."
"Oh?" Chikara set his glass down on the coffee table and turned to Iori. "My, are you already at the age to be keeping secrets?"
Iori bit his lip and looked down at his feet.
"Don't look ashamed, Iori," said Chikara. "You're growing up fast. There's nothing wrong with that."
Iori nodded, and bowed to his grandfather apologetically before going to his room. He closed the door behind him.
Chikara sighed and turned back toward the table and Fumiko, and began nursing his juice once again. He noticed that Fumiko seemed a bit bothered by what had just transpired. "Relax Fumiko. A boy can't tell his mother or his family everything."
"Iori's a good boy. He knows the difference between things that can be kept secret and things that should be shared despite one's feelings." He chuckled softly. "Just be glad he's not a teenager yet. Even if they mean well and want to be honest, with all the hormones raging within them sometimes they'll lie by pure instinct over the most trivial things."
Fumiko sighed and fidgeted. "It's not really that I'm worried about Iori. It's more like... I'm not sure about my own parenting sometimes." She laughed softly. "I envy you. How do you do it?"
"I like to think that I've learned from the mistakes I made with Hiroki," he replied, draining his glass. As he set it down, he looked to the alter to his left, and the picture set there. The image of a uniformed man stared back at him, serious and proud, and yet the eyes were loving.
It was Chikara's favorite picture of his late son. No other picture had come so close to capturing the complexity of the man's character.
Iori only had vague memories of his father, but his grandfather tried hard to ensure that Iori would grow up knowing who Hida Hiroki had been. Hida Chikara did his best to share stories, both good and bad, of both successes and failures, but most of all he did his best to instill qualities in Iori that he was sure Hiroki himself would have wanted in his son.
One such quality was honesty, and so as Iori closed his door and lay down to rest on his bed, he felt torn over what Daisuke and Takeru had asked him to do. He drew the small device, the so-called Digivice and held it up above his head as he lay on his back. What did this small device truly mean?
Daisuke had said that these devices meant they had been chosen to be shown the secret world, chosen to explore it and have adventures there. Takeru had not agreed explicitly, but he had implied that Daisuke's beliefs weren't entirely incorrect, that the three of them had been chosen by the world. But then, Takeru had also encouraged them to get home and forget what they had seen. After seeing the battle that had been fought, and realizing the dangers of entering a world full of monsters with such destructive powers, Takeru's encouragement to leave the world behind was quite understandable to Iori.
But another quality that Iori had been taught to embrace was empathy. Takeru had said there was a war going on in the other world, and Iori had glimpsed the war first hand in the battle between Flamedramon and Monochromon. He had glimpsed the costs of the war, in Takeru's tired expression and the dark red and brown stains on his shirt and cloak.
Could he really be asked to forget all that? Other world or no, injustice was injustice. Suffering was suffering.
Iori frowned and pocketed the device. His father and grandfather would want him to do the right thing. And ignoring such a serious problem could not be the right thing.
Pteramon vs Snimon
"Well, this is it," said Daisuke with a smile he stepped through the apartment door. He held his blue D2 Digivice out in front of him, as Vmon had said that he could see the outside world through the device's screen.
"This is where you live?"
"Yeah. Pretty impressive right?"
"Humans sure live in small cramped spaces..."
Daisuke ignored the comment as he took off his shoes and made his way through the hallway. "I'll show you my room."
"It gets even smaller?"
"You're one to talk when you're inside this tiny little thing," said Daisuke to his Digivice. He stepped inside his room and locked the door behind him. "Well, let's give you the grand tour. Over here is my bed."
"It looks kind of small for you."
"No, that's not my bed," said Daisuke, turning the screen of the Digivice away from the pile of dirty laundry that had built up on the floor. He pointed again. "That's my bed."
"Oh. Yeah, that looks like a better fit."
"And that over there's my work desk." He directed the screen toward the mess of old and half-finished assignments strewn over the wooden desk.
"Is that human art?" asked Vmon as he saw the old assignments with all their red marks.
"Not exactly," said Daisuke quickly, gathering the old returned papers together and stuffing them away. It was only after he was finished that he wondered why he had bothered to hide his less than stellar grades from someone who probably didn't even fully understand what the term 'school' meant.
"Hey, can I come out? I kind of want to get a feel and smell of this place too."
Daisuke hesitated. "I don't know, this place might be a tight fit for the both of us..."
"Ah, so you do admit that this place is small."
"What? No I don't!" He aimed the screen of the device at his bed and remembered what Takeru had told him. "Reload, Vmon!"
There was a flash of light, but to Daisuke's surprise, it was not Vmon that came out. Instead, a much smaller form, about the size of a typical stuffed animal, emerged and landed on the bed. The creature seemed surprised as well, and looked down at its body. "Huh? I devolved into Chibimon when I came out!"
Daisuke checked his D2 Digivice. Sure enough, the device claimed to be reading a different signature.
Chibimon: Baby II level. Vaccine Attribute. Dragon Type. Dragon's Roar. Special Attack: Hop.
Daisuke looked over his now much smaller partner. He remembered what Takeru and Terriermon had said about Digimon being able to evolve to become stronger. "Devolved? So, you would evolve back to Vmon?"
"I don't know. Maybe I'll evolve back when I go back in the Digivice, or when I go back to my world." He looked up to Daisuke. "Or maybe you can lend me your strength so I can try evolving now. I mean, we're partners and all."
"Well, maybe we should keep you that way for now. If you're this small, we can keep you outside the Digivice more often."
Chibimon brightened upon hearing this. Not having to spend all his time hiding was surely worth being in his smaller weaker form. It wasn't like he'd be in any danger in Daisuke's room. "Yeah, sure!" He immediately jumped up, and was surprised by how bouncy the surface of the bed was. Immediately realizing the implication, Chibimon laughed and began jumping up and down.
"Hey, take it easy on that, will you?" said Daisuke, also laughing. "I have to sleep there."
The sound of the doorknob shaking caught Daisuke's attention, and he jumped in surprise. "You're locking your door again," said a feminine voice from the other side of the door.
"Keep quiet!" said Daisuke quickly to Chibimon as he aimed his D2. "Return, Chibimon!"
Once his partner was safely loaded in the device and the device was safely inside his pocket, Daisuke cautiously unlocked the door and opened it a crack. Immediately, a strong force pushed the door further, nearly sending him to the floor as a taller girl almost five years his senior entered.
"Hey! Who said you could come in?"
The girl, Motomiya Jun, ignored her younger brother's outburst and looked around the room. "Who were you talking to?"
"What? No one! You're hearing things!"
Jun frowned and looked over her brother suspiciously, but decided to drop that line of questioning. "You know, mom asked you to stop locking your door."
"Maybe I wouldn't have to if you kept trying to barge in all the time!"
"What do you have to hide?" Jun suddenly smiled and covered her face with her mouth. "Unless... you've already gotten to the age where you've discovered..."
Daisuke flushed red and pushed his sister to the door. "Out!"
"There's nothing to be ashamed of Daisuke! It's perfectly natural!"
"Out!" Daisuke finally succeeded in forcing his sister out of the room and closing the door.
"Fine, but you can't stay in there for long. Mom says dinner is almost ready."
Daisuke didn't reply, but instead pressed his ear against the door. He waited until he heard Jun sigh and walk away. Once the footsteps were no longer audible, he slid down to the floor in relief and drew his Digivice.
"Who was that?" asked Vmon from the Digivice.
"My older sister," said Daisuke. "She drives me crazy sometimes." He paused. "Hey, do you know what sisters are?"
"Of course. We Digimon have brothers and sisters too, but not exactly in the same way that humans do. We don't have parents and we don't reproduce like you do."
Daisuke turned slightly pink. "You know how humans reproduce?"
"Well... not exactly. I just know that Digimon don't reproduce like that."
Daisuke suddenly remembered that his sister had mentioned dinner. "Hey, do you need to eat?"
"Well, yes, but I don't feel hungry at the moment. I think being loaded in the D2 somehow takes care of that." There was a pause. "But then again, it's not like I don't want to eat..."
Daisuke chuckled. "I get it. I'll smuggle you some good stuff tonight."
Takeru was in class the next day, as he had promised he would be. He looked exhausted, and yet still managed to keep up with the note-taking. Daisuke had wanted to talk more about the other world, but Takeru had only shaken his head and said to talk later.
At lunch, Takeru politely declined Daisuke's offer to eat together and left the classroom. He was not quite sure of where he was going, but he had the general idea of going either to the computer lab or the school roof.
As he passed the open door of the computer lab, he heard the voices of Miyako and Iori, and glanced inside. Sure enough, they were there, seated opposite one another with lunch boxes on their laps. Did they spend all their free time in there?
"Do you really need to pick at every grain of rice?" came Miyako's voice. "The way you eat it's like you want to make sure you get every last molecule."
"My late father always said that it is disgraceful to waste food," replied Iori.
The sudden piece of new information reminded Takeru that he was eavesdropping, and quickly knocked on the door frame and stepped inside. "Hello again," he said quietly to the others.
Unlike in their previous meeting yesterday, Miyako only gave the briefest of glances before turning away from him. Takeru had not quite expected such a cold reception, but he was hardly surprised.
Iori, however, seemed perfectly fine, and acknowledged Takeru's greeting in his usual polite manner. "Good afternoon," he replied with a slight bow of his head.
There was an awkward silence. Takeru remained in the doorway, wondering why he had even gone to the computer lab. Had he wanted to make a quick excursion to the Digital World during the lunch period? He had left all his food supplies in the other world after all, and being in the Digital World would give him free reign to let his partners out of the D2's so that they could eat together.
He glanced at his wrists. On the other hand, his partners generally preferred to use the time he was at school to sleep and rest inside his Digivices, and might not enjoy having their sleep interrupted.
"If you wish to come in and sit, please do," said Iori. "Make yourself comfortable."
Takeru entered and slid the door closed behind him, but he did not sit down. Another silence hung over the room for quite some time.
Takeru cleared his throat before speaking. "I'm sorry for what happened. I'm sorry that I put you two in danger."
Miyako glanced back at him, but only frowned and looked away again.
Iori, however, shook his head. "There is no need for you to apologize. It was not your fault." He hesitated for a moment and looked down at the lunch box on his knees. "If anything... we should be thanking you for the help you gave us yesterday." He glanced at Miyako hopefully, but the girl remained silent, keeping her eyes on her lunch box as she put food in her mouth with mechanical regularity.
Takeru lowered his gaze, and hesitated for a moment. "Listen... your Digivices... If you don't want them, you can give them to me."
The other two looked up and stared at Takeru, but to his surprise, neither of them moved to take out their Digivices to give to him. Miyako looked surprised, but otherwise betrayed no other emotion. Iori almost looked hurt.
"Yesterday, you said that to receive a Digivice was to be Chosen," said Iori.
"Yes, but I also said that you have a choice yourself," said Takeru. "I said that there is a war going on, one that is not yours to fight."
"But you also said that your war was one of liberation. I saw what this Kaiser was doing to the inhabitants of the Digital World. Enslavement. Forcing brother to fight brother. How can you ask me to ignore it?" He looked at Takeru almost accusingly. "If you truly care about this war of yours, then shouldn't you be happy to find allies? Shouldn't you be encouraging us to join you?"
"It's not that simple. I can't ask you to make the sacrifices that you would need to make. You barely know anything about the Digital World. You have no reasons to become involved with it. Why would you want to?"
"Because it's the right thing to do," said Iori, louder than he had intended.
Both of them fell silent, and for a while no one spoke.
Iori played around with the last of his food with his chopsticks. "You are right," he said quietly. "It is true that I know very little about this Digital World. But I know right from wrong, and I know empathy. I know how to care and love other things. It doesn't matter how little I know, I still feel pain to see others get hurt and suffer. Is it really that strange to feel passionate about something, even if one does not know it that well? In that case, I will simply learn more about this Digital World, about this Kaiser, and about you and Terriermon."
Takeru stared with a faint hint of wonder in his eye. There was far more to Hida Iori than initially met the eye.
When he returned to class after lunch break had ended, Takeru found it a bit more difficult to concentrate on the the lecture. Though Miyako had not said anything, she still did not make any offer to return the Digivice that had been given to her. Iori seemed firmly resolute on his insistence to continue going to the Digital World and joining the effort to protect it.
Takeru looked up from his notes to glance over at Daisuke, who instead of paying attention to the lecture was busy playing with his blue D2 Digivice under the desk. He and Vmon had figured out how to use the device's text-based communication system, and were making full use of it. There was little question over Daisuke's decision regarding the Digital World.
He had no right to ask them to become involved with the Digital World. But now he was starting to realize he had no right to ask them not to either.
When classes had finished, Daisuke packed up things as quickly as he could and looked to Takeru expectantly. The other boy gathered things at a much slower and more careful pace, avoiding meeting Daisuke's gaze.
"So we're going again today, right?" asked Daisuke as he followed Takeru out the door into the hallway.
"I'm going at least," replied Takeru quietly.
"But you're taking all of us with you right?"
Takeru hesitated for a moment. He remembered telling Daisuke that the D2 was enough to access the Digital World, and therefore Daisuke would be able to cross over without Takeru's help. Had Daisuke forgotten that?
"Daisuke, if you want to go with me, you may. But be warned that today I am going to go on an offensive. Are you and Vmon willing to lend me your strength?"
"No, really think about it. Yesterday, you were just defending yourselves against one opponent. Today will very likely be different."
"We're sure. Vmon and I both."
Takeru sighed and nodded. They reached the computer lab, and found it empty.
"That's funny, they're usually in here all the time," commented Daisuke as he looked around.
The other boy made no reply, but quietly pulled up his left sleeve and dismounted the green D2 Digivice from his bracer. He checked its screen before approaching one of the computers. "There's a Gate that I can open through here," he explained quietly.
"Shouldn't we wait for the others? I mean, you said their Digivices couldn't open a closed Gate."
So Daisuke had remembered after all. "Maybe it would be better for them not to come with us."
"What?" Daisuke looked offended by the idea. "We can't just leave them behind. They would get so mad at us! Besides, they still need to find their Digimon partner and their Digimentals." He snapped his fingers. "Oh, that reminds me. You must have a Digimental of your own, right?"
"You can't say for sure that Iori and Miyako have partners waiting for them," said Takeru, dodging Daisuke's question.
"Why not? It seems like a reasonable enough idea. Vmon said that he didn't remember much about the Digimentals or anything, but he told me a lot about how he knew that he was going to meet me someday. Vmon can tell you himself." He glanced down at his own Digivice. "Speaking of which, can you tell me how to turn this thing's audio back on?"
Takeru sighed and showed Daisuke the necessary inputs.
The door suddenly slid open, and the two boys looked to see Iori and Miyako enter, plastic bags in their hands. "I hope I didn't make you wait," said Miyako with a smile. Takeru was startled by how much her attitude had seemed to change since seeing her during lunch period.
"Miyako thought it would be prudent to bring some food supplies," said Iori. "We stopped by at her family's convenience store to pick up these snacks."
"Great!" said Daisuke, immediately running up and grabbing a bag from Iori.
Vmon's voice came from his Digivice. "Daisuke, can I have a taste?"
"Sure thing!" He drew his Digivice and aimed the screen into the bag. "Reload!"
In a flash of light, Chibimon had emerged, and promptly began rummaging through his new environment and sampling what he could.
Iori and Miyako looked on in surprise. "Is that Vmon?" asked Iori.
"Chibimon now," said Daisuke as he watched his little friend eat. "He said he devolved or something. He has trouble maintaining his form as Vmon when outside the Digivice in our world."
"He's pretty cute this way," said Miyako, squatting down to watch Chibimon eat as well.
Takeru took a step back, and considered excusing himself and going on ahead. Iori, however, quickly approached him.
"Are you preparing to cross over?" asked Iori. "Will you allow us to go with you?"
"I have no right to stop you," replied Takeru. "But I will warn you that today might be especially dangerous."
"I am prepared to face danger."
"Do you know what danger really is?"
Iori looked up at Takeru, staring into his eye. "Yes. Yes I do." With eyes like those, Takeru could not doubt that Iori was completely serious.
"Hey, you automatically evolved," said Daisuke as they landed in the Digital World.
Vmon looked down at his body. "Yeah, I did."
Daisuke looked down at his own body. "I didn't feel anything different. Are you sure you need me to evolve at all?"
"He does," said Takeru without even glancing at them. He stepped past them to study the landscape. "The power he needs from you when making the transition to the Child level is just relatively small."
"This doesn't look like where we were yesterday," commented Iori, stepping beside Takeru to look around. They were on an open plain, with some hills visible in the distance.
"It's not," replied Takeru, pointing out into the distance. "The forest is mostly liberated. We're here to investigate something in the hills over there."
Daisuke shaded his eyes with his hand and squinted. "All the way over there? Why couldn't we have landed a little closer?"
"This was the closest Gate," said Takeru simply. He adjusted the straps of his backpack and began walking. "Stay close. I'm not totally familiar with this area, and I don't like being in places with little cover."
Daisuke and Vmon followed after Takeru, with Iori and Miyako taking the rear. At first, the surrounding field looked perfectly normal, as if it could have been a field in their own world as well. However, as they continued, they soon found what appeared to be small vending machines scattered around the field.
"Woah," said Daisuke as he saw them. "Are those...?"
"Don't touch them," said Takeru. "You'll disturb the inhabitants."
"Inhabitants? Do Digimon live in there?"
Takeru nodded and kept walking. He increased his pace slightly.
Daisuke kept up easily enough. "Say, why haven't you brought out Terriermon?"
"Let's him rest. He doesn't have to walk this way."
"Huh. I never thought of that." Daisuke turned to his partner. "Hey, Vmon..."
Vmon shook his head and crossed his arms. "I'm not lazy. I can walk on my own."
"Alright, I get it, I get it." Daisuke looked to the unusually quiet two in the rear. "Well, are you guys excited? Who knows? Maybe we'll find partners for you guys very soon too."
Miyako frowned and avoided Daisuke's gaze. "I'd rather not end up like you and Vmon, thanks."
Daisuke blinked and stared for a moment. "End up like me and Vmon...?"
"I do not agree with what Terriermon said yesterday," said Iori. "Partner or no, I must do all that I can."
They drew nearer to the edge of the plains. At the front, Takeru suddenly froze and raised his arm, signaling the others to stop. He was deathly still, and raised his head to study the sky.
"What is it?" asked Daisuke.
"I should have brought Terriermon out earlier," whispered Takeru. He quickly pulled up his left sleeve. "Reload, Terriermon!"
The white child level emerged and landed on the grass in a sitting position, rubbing his eyes with one paw. "Huh?" he said groggily. "What time is it?"
"Terriermon, can you hear anything?" said Takeru impatiently.
Terriermon yawned and blinked and looked to Takeru. "Hear anything...?" His large ears raised up into the air. "Well..."
He jumped up to his feet, his drowsiness suddenly gone. "Yes! It's coming on fast!"
The buzzing sound that had plagued them yesterday became audible. "Get down!" called Takeru to the others, just as the green form of Snimon suddenly emerged from behind the hills and rocketed toward them at a speed one would have thought impossible for an insect of that size.
Everyone only barely ducked underneath the ranged energy attack Snimon fired from his foreleg sickles. As the insect passed over them, Terriermon stood up again and fired green energy blasts from his mouth. The larger Digimon expertly dodged them all.
Daisuke got back on his feet as well, drawing his Digivice and calling for Vmon. While still on the ground, Takeru noted the other boy's natural instinct for battle while under pressure. Those were admirable qualities for a potential soldier.
But before Daisuke could do anything further, the ground beneath his feet suddenly cracked and shattered, revealing a sudden hole and sending him falling. As the hole widened, the others quickly crawled away from the edge until the hole had reached its maximum size.
"Daisuke!" Vmon looked over the edge, and breathed a sigh of relief to see his partner alive, clinging and clawing and rocks and dirt in the sloped sides of the hole.
Both of them looked down at the very bottom, where something resembling a drill was spinning, clearing away dirt. A large quadruped beast with violet fur emerged, the spinning drill making up its nose. On its front left limb was a Dark Ring. Daisuke freed up one of his hands to check his D2.
Drimogemon: Adult level. Data Attribute. Beast Type. Nature Spirits. Melee Attack: Screw Claw. Special Attack: Drill Spin.
Distracted by his partner's plight, Vmon was caught by surprise by Snimon's second overhead pass. A blast from the insect broke the ground at the edge of the hole, sending Vmon sliding down as well. Drimogemon crawled forward and grabbed Vmon and Daisuke, one in each paw, before turning and vanishing into the ground.
Miyako watched from the edge of the hole, shaking and gripping her head. "Daisuke..."
Iori stood beside her, shaking as well. "We have to save him..."
That had been Takeru's and Terriermon's first instinct as well, but as Snimon turned to made another pass, Takeru forced himself to remember that he had once made a similar mistake, and ran to rejoin the other two. "We need to get you two to safety!"
Miyako looked to Takeru and spoke to him for the first time in a long time. "We can't just leave him!"
"We're not, but you two getting captured too won't help him!" Takeru threw manners aside and gripped the two's hands to urge them to follow him. "Come on!"
They began sprinting down the rest of the plains toward the hills as Snimon followed, harassing them with the occasional blast. From his perch on Takeru's shoulder, Terriermon returned fire with his breath attack, doing his best to ensure the other Digimon couldn't line up a killing shot.
Once in the hills, Takeru led the others through what recesses he could find to hide from Snimon's sight while occasionally throwing rocks ahead and behind them in an effort to confuse Snimon's powerful hearing. As they wandered and hid, the sound of Snimon's vibrating wings lessened, and eventually vanished entirely.
Terriermon, ears raised, hopped onto Takeru's head and studied the sky. "We lost him."
Takeru checked the device mounted on his left forearm. "Right. We should continue on."
"Continue on..." Miyako suddenly turned to Takeru, fire in her eyes and her voice. "What about Daisuke?"
"We're not in a safe place yet," replied Takeru. "There is a nearby refuge. You two will be safe there, and I can go back for Daisuke and Vmon."
"And how are you even going to find him?" demanded Miyako.
Takeru casually showed her the screen of his Digivice, which was displaying a grid covered in contour lines, like a primitive map. On it was flashing a small blue dot. "My Digivice can detect Daisuke's. So long as he hasn't been separated from his, I can find him without any problem."
Miyako frowned, but apparently found the answer satisfactory and changed her line of questioning. "Where are you taking us?"
"A refuge. It's not far. Follow me." Takeru began leading the way again.
Miyako crossed her arm and glared at Takeru's back. Iori gently touched her arm. "Miyako, let's go."
The elder girl sighed and shook her head, but followed after Takeru and Terriermon. Iori held the rear.
As they made their way through the hills, the paths gradually became more and more rocky and the vegetation more and more sparse. Eventually, Takeru showed them to something resembling stone steps carved out of the side of a hill, leading up to what resembled a small temple, also cut out of the hill itself. Terriermon blasted some lamps flanking the outer door and lining the hallway leading inside.
Miyako glanced around as they entered the building. "First vending machines and now this? And this is supposed to be a world without humans? Who built this place?"
"This world has been influenced by the actions of humans in their world, and so naturally produce things similar to things in our world," said Takeru. "This place and the vending machines you saw back in the fields can be considered 'natural structures' here. Nobody built them."
Terriermon's ears suddenly raised again as they neared the end of the hallway. "I hear another Digimon."
Takeru stiffened and signaled the others to stop. He stepped into the next room as quietly as he could. Upon seeing what was inside, he relaxed and motioned to the others to follow.
They entered a square central room, not too unlike the cave they had taken refuge in the previous day. Like the cave, at the center of the ceiling was a small opening, allowing sunlight to fall upon a central pedestal. Upon the pedestal was a somewhat conical gray and blue object, with two wings extending from its sides. On the front of the main body between the wings was a symbol resembling a heart.
But perhaps more interesting was the small creature curled up at the base of the pedestal, the Digimon that Terriermon had heard. It appeared to be a mammalian quadruped, with an armored head and back. Takeru checked his Digivice.
Armadimon: Child level. Vaccine Attribute. Mammal Type. Nature Spirits. Melee Attack: Scratch Beat. Heavy Attack: Rolling Stone.
The four cautiously approached the Digimon. No Dark Ring could be found on its body.
"He's probably a refugee that just happened to find this place," said Terriermon, hopping down from Takeru's shoulder. He gently nudged the sleeping Digimon. "Hey, hey. Are you alright?"
Armadimon lazily opened his eyes and looked drowsily at Terriermon. "Wha...?" As his gaze shifted to the other three present in the room, he suddenly rose up, suddenly wide awake. "Ah...!"
"Calm down," said Takeru quickly. "You're safe here."
Armadimon did not look entirely convinced, and backed up suddenly, bumping into the pedestal. He quickly glanced behind him as he felt the obstruction, before turning back to the others.
"We're making him feel cornered," said Iori. "We should step back."
As the others did, Iori knelt down so as to not tower over the Digimon, though as he was already the smallest of the humans, he was already quite close to Armadimon in size. "Hello, I'm Iori," he said politely.
"Armadimon," replied the Digimon, still looking a little anxious.
"It's nice to meet you Armadimon. You don't need to be afraid. We're not going to hurt you."
Armadimon glanced at the others, then back to Iori. "Are you... Are you the one I've been waiting for?"
Iori blinked. "Who are you waiting for?"
"I... I don't know. But I'm supposed to wait for someone... Someone who's supposed to help me..."
In the back, Takeru stiffened and hesitated. After a moment of contemplation, he called to Iori. "Show him your Digivice, Iori."
Iori drew the device, and as he did, a light flashed from the screen. Armadimon almost jumped back in surprise, and Iori looked down at the Digivice in wonder. It felt warm in his hand.
"Are you the one I've been waiting for?" asked Armadimon.
Iori swallowed as he stared at the device. "I... I don't know..." He looked back to Armadimon. "But... I don't think it matters whether or not I am. If you need help, I will help you."
Armadimon raised himself up on his hind legs. "You are my partner," he said.
Takeru cleared his throat. "Iori, behind Armadimon, on the pedestal, is the Digimental of Love. You may try to lift it if you like."
Iori stood up straight and looked back to Takeru. "Love? But..."
"Love is about passion and caring," said Takeru quietly. "But it also reflects responsibility, commitment, and loyalty. Ideal love is unconditional and selfless." He coughed. "Iori, I think you should try it."
Iori looked back to the pedestal. Armadimon shuffled aside to clear the way, and motioned toward it himself.
For a moment, Iori hesitated, unsure of what he had heard and what Takeru had just said to him. If he were to describe his own feelings about the Digital World, what would he say?
It seemed ridiculous, given how he had just discovered the world, but from the very beginning, as soon as he had learned of the world's plight, he had wanted to do something about it. He had told Takeru that he was willing to commit to helping the world.
"Love at first sight?" said Iori to himself, remembering the old phrase his grandfather had once explained to him.
He stepped forward and lifted the Digimental from the pedestal. As he did, his Digivice flashed and grew larger, turning into the same shape as the D2 version, lined in yellow.
The blindfold was torn from Daisuke's eyes, and he instinctively closed his eyes as he was blinded by the sudden change in lighting. After he had been captured by Drimogemon, he had been strapped to some sort of metal panel, his arms and legs bound by metal shackles. As his eyes adjusted back to the light, he slowly opened his eyes. The panel he had been strapped to was now atop a sort of canyon, and near the edge of the canyon stood a figure dressed in dark blue and gold, holding the blindfold in his hand.
"So you're the new one," said the figure, adjusting his gold-rimmed dark glasses. "After seeing what you did yesterday, I was honestly expecting someone a bit less... pathetic..."
Daisuke began struggling against his restraints, but the shackles refused to give him any room to move at all. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"You don't know me?" The other boy looked almost offended. "The other two worms didn't tell you about me?"
"Are you the Kaiser?"
"Ah, so you do know. 'Kaiser.' A fine title, don't you think?"
"You're just a kid like me!" spat Daisuke. "I don't know what 'Kaiser' means but dressing up in a blue suit and glasses probably doesn't make you one."
The Kaiser stiffened, but remained calm. "You're an insolent one, aren't you? Well, I can break you, if it is needed. Your little partner too."
Out of the corner of his eye, Daisuke saw another metal panel, smaller than the one he was strapped too, wheeled forward until it was next to him. Upon the smaller panel, Vmon was bound with similar shackles.
The Digimon gave a sad laugh. "Sorry Daisuke, I got caught too."
"A touching reunion, no?" said the Kaiser. "Now, don't be thinking of trying to escape. Not only is evolution blocked here by the power of my Dark Digivice, but you also lack certain key elements necessary to do that little trick you did yesterday." He raised his hand, revealing Daisuke's blue D2. "Like this, right?"
"That..." Daisuke struggled uselessly against his shackles again. "Give that back!"
"Well, if you play nicely, I might consider this. How about we start with a few questions? For starters, you can tell me where you got this thing, and how you were able to come to this world."
"You really think I'll answer your questions?" said Daisuke defiantly.
"I suppose you are allies with those two," said the Kaiser. "I admit that it was getting boring just fighting them alone, though they did have this annoying ability to organize resistance against my conquests, and I still know so little about that 'Armor Evolution' trick. Another newcomer isn't entirely unwelcome, if it can make the game more interesting and varied. Especially if I subvert the usual conventions."
The Kaiser turned away from Daisuke toward Vmon, and reached for his belt. "In the end, I really don't have to do much with you. Why bother, when I can merely use your friend here instead?" He drew a Dark Ring.
Daisuke recognized it immediately. "That! You keep that thing away from my partner!"
The Kaiser ignored Daisuke's protest and casually tossed the Ring into the air. It came to life immediately, flashing red symbols as it began to spin and hover in mid-air above their heads. "Quite an impressive piece of work, don't you think?" said the Kaiser with a whimsical laugh. "I designed the whole thing myself."
"Hey, you listen here!" cried Daisuke angrily. "Stop that thing!"
"Daisuke, it's fine," said Vmon, glaring up at the Kaiser with a defiant smile. "That thing won't work on me."
"Oh?" the Kaiser laughed and crossed his arms, cocking his head slightly to one side. "And why's that?"
"Two reasons," said Vmon. "First, I've been waiting for Daisuke for a very long time, and now that I've finally met him, there's no way I'm going to let you steal me away from him."
"And the second reason...?"
Vmon smiled. "...Is just arriving."
The Kaiser realized what the Digimon meant a moment later, as he heard the distant roaring sound. He jumped aside and ducked, just as the Dark Ring exploded.
The attacking Digimon flew over Daisuke and the Kaiser as the shattered remains of the Dark Ring fell to the ground. The Kaiser looked up, trying to identify the attacker as it passed, but was only barely able to make out a sleek blue and gray blur. It was as if a fighter jet had passed overhead.
As he had leaped aside to avoid the blast, the blue D2 had slipped from the Kaiser's hand and slid a short distance away. He turned to retrieve it, but stopped as he saw another Digimon now standing beside it.
Terriermon picked up the device in his arm and waved with his free one. "Hello again."
The Kaiser sneered, and lifted up his forearm to yell into the communicator built into his bracer. "Snimon!"
The green mantis emerged from the canyon and roared. As all eyes turned to it, the Kaiser dusted himself off as best he could and took his leave. He made sure not to disgrace himself by outright running, but still walked away as quickly as he could while still maintaining some air of elegance.
Snimon first focused on Terriermon, but as it raised its arm blades to use its ranged attack, it heard the roar of the other aerial Digimon, and flew aside to dodge a barrage of missiles.
As if oblivious to the sudden battle breaking out above him, Terriermon casually hopped forward to where Daisuke and Vmon were bound. "I think you dropped this," he said, holding out the blue D2.
"Terriermon!" said a new voice with a hint of scolding. Daisuke and Vmon turned their heads to see Takeru, Iori, and Miyako running toward them. "Now's not the time to be playing around," said Takeru disapprovingly. "Hurry up and help them free!"
"Right, right," said Terriermon. "Hold still now." He opened his mouth, and a ball of green energy began to build near his tongue.
Daisuke stared for a moment. "Uh... Is... Is this safe...?"
Terriermon unleashed the blast, blowing away the shackle on Daisuke's left arm. The Digimon immediately began charging up another blast as Daisuke flexed his now free arm.
Miyako was at their side immediately. "Daisuke! Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," replied Daisuke. Terriermon blasted off another shackle. "Miyako, can you hand me my D2 Digivice?"
"What?" Miyako crossed her arms and looked down at Daisuke disapprovingly. "That's the first thing you think to ask?"
"Well, if I get my D2 back, once Vmon and I get free we can use that Digimental to evolve and join the fight. Speaking of which..." Daisuke looked up where Snimon was dodging another barrage of missiles as the gray and blue blur passed once again. "Who's that up there fighting Snimon?"
"That's my new partner," said Iori, joining them. "Takeru took us to a refuge with another Digimental, and I met Armadimon there."
Daisuke, completely freed, stretched his limbs as Terriermon set to work on freeing Vmon. "Armadimon, huh?"
"Well, Pteramon now. I also unlocked the Digimental and used it."
Daisuke checked his D2 digivice.
Soaring Love, Pteramon
Pteramon: Armor level. Data Attribute. Dinosaur Type. Wind Guardians. Special Attack: Side Winder. Heavy Attack: Beak Pierce.
Daisuke gave an impressed whistle and looked back up at the sky, where Pteramon had made another pass by Snimon. "He's like a fighter jet! He's even got missiles under his wings! So cool."
Vmon pouted slightly as he watched his partner become excited from watching the other Digimon, but focused on standing up as Terriermon blasted away the last of the shackles. Upon freeing Vmon, Terriermon returned to Takeru and hopped onto the boy's shoulder to whisper something into Takeru's ear. Takeru nodded and turned to the others. "Daisuke, the Kaiser was here in person?"
"Huh?" Daisuke turned to the other boy. "Oh yeah, that's right, he was. That guy is a total..."
"I'm going after him," said Takeru, cutting Daisuke short. "Daisuke, Vmon, you two should try to give Pteramon support against Snimon. Like it was with you two yesterday, Iori has only just unlocked the Digimental, and Pteramon will need all the help he can get."
"Uh, yeah, sure," replied Daisuke, surprised by the impatient and anxious nature of the other boy.
Takeru nodded and began sprinting the direction Terriermon pointed out. Daisuke stared after them, but Iori and Miyako were already shifting their focus back up to Pteramon and Snimon.
"Takeru said that we should aim for the Ring and try not to hurt the controlled Digimon," said Iori. "But Pteramon hasn't even been able to hit with a single of his attacks. What should we do?"
"Simple," said Daisuke, holding out his D2. "Add more firepower! Come on Vmon!"
Daisuke held up his D2. "Digimental Up!" Nothing happened.
Daisuke and Vmon looked at each other. "Uh... Vmon...?" coughed Daisuke awkwardly.
"Don't look at me," said Vmon. "You need to use your Courage."
"And how do I do that?"
"Just use your Courage, like you did yesterday!"
"That..." Daisuke looked at his D2 and groaned. What was 'use your Courage' supposed to mean? He still had no idea what exactly he had done yesterday to get the Digimental to work.
Miyako sighed and shook her head. She stepped past Daisuke to stand next to Iori. "Forget them. Iori, we just need to play this in a smart way."
Iori looked up at the elder girl. "What do you mean?"
"It's like in a flight simulator computer game," said Miyako. "Pteramon's like a jet, right? That means he's going really fast, which is great for chasing other jets, but against something like that mantis it can be harder to aim. Being fast means he has to shoot his missiles a good distance away, which gives the mantis plenty of time to dodge it."
"So we need to find a way to keep Snimon from dodging..."
"The canyon," said Miyako, pointing down over the edge. "It's like a tunnel down there. No place to move left or right. A nice straight shot if we trap him down there."
"But how do we get Snimon down there?"
Miyako frowned and stroked her chin as she thought. She snapped her fingers as an idea came to her. "Bait the thing. Make that bug want to go down into the canyon."
Iori nodded and held up his D2 to his mouth to use it as a communicator, like Takeru had shown him. "Pteramon, can you hear me?"
"Perfectly," came Pteramon's gruff voice.
"Pteramon, land in the canyon and stay there," said Iori. "Get Snimon to come to you."
Miyako stepped up and peered over Iori's shoulder to talk at the device. "You've probably really made him angry with all your passes, so he'll want payback. If you land in the canyon, he'll think he has an opening and attack. That's when you hit him back, and he'll have no room to dodge!"
"Ah, I see!"
As Pteramon flew back toward Snimon, he angled his wings to slow down and descend into the canyon, landing on the bottom in a storm of dust. Seeing this, Snimon, lowered its head and dived down at Pteramon, roaring and lashing out with its blade arms, sending slashes of pink energy down at Pteramon. The Armor digimon awkwardly shielded himself with his wings from the hail of rocks and dirt as the blasts tore through the rock walls on either side of him, making him unable to see his enemy.
But Iori had that covered. He looked over the edge and saw Snimon hovering over the cloud of dust and dirt, charging up another attack. "Pteramon, now!"
Pteramon unleashed a Side Winder missile, its sleek form catching Snimon by surprise as it burst through the dust cloud. It caught Snimon in the junction of thorax and abdomen, blasting away the Dark Ring.
Once freed, Snimon departed immediately. Though the others did not know it, now that it was free, Snimon had reverted to its instinct to hunt Virus attribute Digimon, and so had no interest in interacting with them any more. Daisuke and Miyako watched Snimon slowly vanish into the distance, as Pteramon flew up to the top of the canyon and reverted to Armadimon.
"I didn't get to do anything," pouted Daisuke. He looked down at his D2. "How did I get this thing to work yesterday?"
Miyako slapped him on the back of the head.
"Ow." Daisuke rubbed the back of his head and looked back at Miyako with resentment. "Hey, what was that for?"
"What does 'didn't get to do anything' mean? You were kidnapped by a giant mole with a drill for a nose and bound to a table by a kid who wanted to do who knows what to you!"
Daisuke blinked. "So...?"
"So? So you were in tons of danger, and you're complaining that you 'didn't get to do anything?' What is wrong with you?"
"Hey, everything turned out all right didn't it?" said Daisuke with a smile. "What's an adventure without a little danger and excitement?"
"Adventure? You..." Miyako put her face in her hand and sighed deeply.
On the other side of her, Vmon went over to Iori and Armadimon to introduce himself. Armadimon made a little bow in reply.
"So you're the new part of the team, huh?" asked Vmon cheerily.
Armadimon tilted his head to one side. "Team?"
"Yeah, all of us together are going to be a team," said Vmon. "Daisuke told me about it. We're going to build a super strong team to fight evil and explore the world!"
Iori paused for a moment and thought about what Vmon had said. "Armadimon, Vmon, what do you two know about your world?"
Vmon looked at his feet sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. "Well, not much I admit... I was sealed away for a while, and I don't know for how long. I don't remember much from before I was sealed either for some reason..."
"I don't have many memories either," admitted Armadimon. A shadow passed over his eyes. "All I remember... is waking up, without knowing when I fell asleep... And then I was running, running away from those Rings..." He shook his head and brightened again. "But never mind about that. Now's as good a time as any to see the world again. And with Iori, I can fight back against the Rings!"
Iori turned pink. "But I... I didn't do anything..."
"What? Don't say that," said Armadimon. "You unlocked the Digimental and gave me the strength to Armor evolve! Do you think I could have faced Snimon the way I am now?"
Iori studied his now yellow D2, an 8-bit image of the Digimental of Love on its screen. He looked back to where Daisuke and Miyako were still arguing. "I was able to lift it and unlock it, but does that mean I will be able to use it?" he whispered to himself. "Why couldn't Daisuke and Vmon use the Digimental of Courage today?"
Daisuke finally tore himself from Miyako and looked around. "Say, when is Takeru getting back?"
Miyako crossed her arms and looked up at the sky. "Good question. It is getting pretty late."
"He did say that as long as we had a D2 we could open a way between worlds," said Daisuke, looking at his Digivice. "But he never exactly told us how to do that, did he?"
"He mentioned that the D2 could detect signals coming from other Digivices," offered Iori. "That's how we were able to find you after we were separated."
"But I don't know how to do that either..." Daisuke squatted and held out his D2 with both hands, staring at his screen. "Is it voice activated?"
Miyako leaned over his shoulder. "Let me try. You don't know anything about electronics." She reached out and began fiddling with the screen and buttons while Daisuke was still holding it.
"Hey, you don't even have one of these yet," shot back Daisuke. "What could you possibly...?"
"See?" said Miyako, pointing at the new image on the screen. "Looks like a map doesn't it?"
Daisuke looked down at the grid that had appeared. Iori, Armadimon, and Vmon walked over beside Miyako to look over Daisuke's shoulder as well. "That's the screen Takeru used to find your signal," said Iori. "We're on the right track."
"Yeah, I think we have a signal," said Daisuke. He squinted to get a better look. "There's this silver dot here..."
Vmon and Armadimon both raised their heads, their attention suddenly snapping somewhere else.
The next moment, they flew apart and crashed on the ground, grunting in pain from the force of the sudden blow. A white cat had seemingly appeared out of nowhere between them, and caught the two of them with a spinning kick.
Miyako shrieked and jumped aside. Iori instinctively ran after his partner, helping the wounded Digimon back up. Daisuke turned at the sound of approaching footsteps. He glanced down at the silver dot on the screen, and back up at the approaching figure.
In front of him stood a girl, beautiful but terrible, staring at him with cold dark eyes.
"Who... who are you...?" stammered Daisuke.
The girl ignored the question and held out her own silver D2 as if displaying it proudly.
In his head, Daisuke heard the Kaiser's words again. "I suppose you are allies with those two."
The Kaiser's previous statement took on a whole other meaning.
"So you are the ones who took my Digimental," said the girl. "I'll be taking it back now. Tailmon?"
The white cat Digimon from before leaped backward and landed in front of Daisuke, its clawed paw raised and aimed threateningly at him. "Yes, Hikari..."
"Hold on, I don't know what you're talking about," protested Daisuke, holding out his hands defensively.
"The Digimental of Courage belongs to me and me alone," replied the girl coldly. She glanced over at Iori. "I don't know which Digimental you stole, but I will take that one as well. Whether or not it is mine, it will be of more use in my hands than yours."
Vmon, ignoring his injury as best he could, ran between Daisuke and and the girl to protect his partner. "I don't know who you are, but you're not going to even touch my partner!" said the Digimon, spreading his arms out to shield Daisuke behind him.
The girl looked down at Vmon disdainfully and checked her D2, which had protected an image of Vmon with a summary of his information. "That's your partner?" She looked back up and glared into Daisuke's eyes. "How pathetic."
"Vmon isn't pathetic!" said Daisuke, shaking his fist.
"Both of you are pathetic," replied the girl. "If you were a competent partner, you would have looked up Tailmon on your D2 immediately to judge the situation. Then you would have known the difference between that blue lizard and Tailmon is greater than that between earth and heaven."
Daisuke bit his lip and glanced down at his own D2.
Tailmon: Adult level. Vaccine Attribute. Holy Beast Type. Virus Busters. Melee Attack: Cat Punch. Special Attack: Cat Eye.
"Adult level...?" Daisuke looked up at the white cat, so small compared to Monochromon, Snimon, and Drimogemon. Even Vmon looked taller and heavier.
But the next moment, Tailmon had vanished from his sight. The cat was behind Vmon, and sent him flying forward with a heavy punch to the back of his head.
"Ah! Vmon!" Daisuke made to run to his partner, but stopped as Tailmon turned to him and glared at him.
The cat was so fast and strong. Vmon didn't even stand a chance. Daisuke suddenly realized that his knees were shaking. His partner had been beaten down so easily. What should he do?
His eyes darted down at the D2 in his hands. If only he could use the Digimental of Courage. Flamedramon might stand a chance against this Tailmon. 'Use your courage,' they had said, but what did that even mean?
"Your D2 Digivice," said the girl. "Hand it over, and Tailmon just might let you and your partner leave with only a few bruises."
Daisuke remained frozen, unable to move or speak.
"Hold on a second here!" said Miyako, recovering back to her feet. She pointed at Tailmon and the girl disapprovingly. "Is this any way to behave? You can't just appear out of nowhere and pick a fight for no reason!"
Iori stepped forward, helping Armadimon walk as well. "Right! There is no need to resort to violence!"
The girl glanced at Miyako, Iori, and Armadimon, but gave them no other reply. "Tailmon. On my command." She raised her D2 in her hand as if to give gravity to her order with that gesture.
Daisuke took a step back. A cold sweat had built underneath his rectangular goggles, and was beginning to drip from his forehead and irritate his eyes. Tailmon raised her paws and prepared to pounce on him. The girl began to drop her hand to give Tailmon the signal to attack.
All eyes turned to Takeru, who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere beside the girl. He had caught her by the wrist before she could signal to her partner. Tailmon pounced, but backwards, landing beside the girl and Takeru.
"Please stop, Hikari," said Takeru quietly. "They haven't done anything."
"Unhand me," said the girl coldly. Takeru obeyed instantly and took a step back, head bowed.
"I thought as much," continued the girl, Hikari. "So you were the one that showed them our world. You showed them the locations of the Digimentals."
"I did not," replied Takeru, still in a very subdued voice. "They came to this world on their own. The Digivices came to them."
"And the Digimentals as well?"
"I did not specifically lead them to the Digimentals to show them. In any case, they were able to unlock two of them of their own power."
"Like they were destined to?" said Hikari mockingly. "Like they are some new generation of Chosen children?"
Takeru swallowed. "I don't deny the possibility."
Hikari's eyes narrowed as she glared at Takeru, who avoided her gaze. "I thought that you more than anyone didn't believe in destiny," she said.
"They themselves chose to come back to this world of their own free will after I sent them home. There is no destiny in this meeting."
"The Digimental of Courage should be mine," she growled. "I will not suffer three complete strangers to enter this world they do not understand and take what is not theirs!"
"They've only just discovered this place. You can't hold them to such expectations. Give them a chance." Takeru glanced over at the others. "Were we so different when we started?"
"We did not have the luxury of leaving and going at will like some after-school activity." She stared coldly at the others, who seemed to cower at her gaze. "But I will spare them this time..." Her gaze shifted to Takeru. "...Because I will leave their fate to you. It will be you who will take back the Digimentals from them, the next time you meet. Consider it a lesson, Takeru."
Takeru stiffened. "But..."
"That is an order."
Takeru stared for a moment, and looked as if he desperately wanted to say something. But in the end, he lowered his head with a small nod. "Yes..."
Hikari turned on her heel and began to walk away. "Tailmon?" she called.
"Yes, Hikari." The white cat Digimon leaped from her position at a blinding speed, almost fast enough to leave an after image.
Iori and Armadimon stared, unable to find words. Miyako shook her head, unable to think of any other motion. Daisuke swallowed, his throat incredibly dry. "Takeru..."
Takeru would not meet his gaze. He turned away as well. "I'm sorry. This is where we part ways. Let us hope we do not meet again."