Data Fragment 39: Maverick
For a moment, Kari saw Wizardmon instead of a charred child.
She saw her crest shining. She saw Gatomon turn into an angel.
She saw Wizardmon crumble into bytes of data despite it all.
Except this body was still in her arms, still solid, still warm.
Wizardmon was long gone.
So was Tai, and TK, and all the others too…
Gatomon, at least, was beside her.
And Tai had tried, for a time. A Tai. Sometimes more than one. The one who'd rolled in the pigsty at her when she'd made a fool of herself. The one who'd used to coax her out from under the table with the whistle that later became her own. The one who'd played soccer with her even though she was sick, who hadn't treated her like a porcelain doll and later beat himself up for it when she proved she was a porcelain doll after all. The one who'd been by her side in the Digital World. The one who'd eventually died and become a Saint and now spent most of his time with the others and less and less with her. And all the Tai's who wouldn't ever really be, because didn't time freeze for the dead ones?
Kari looked at her hands, where Gatomon's tail ring rested around her finger like a promise ring. It halted the virus, yes, but it did nothing else.
It couldn't save Wizardmon.
It wasn't going to save this child, these children, either.
Still, she had to try. Her soot-covered hands readjusted him, came to rest on his charred and brittle chest. There was no heartbeat there. He was too far gone. But digimon didn't have heartbeats to begin with.
The light of life, Azulongmon had once said. But she'd not once saved a life with it.
'Come on,' she said, suddenly angry, and it seemed several pairs of eyes were suddenly on her. But she ignored them. She'd had enough of having to watch, powerless. She'd had enough of not being able to save anyone.
Here was a body in her hands and she was still the Digidestined of Light.
'Kari.' Gatomon was warm, beside her.
'Gatomon,' she parroted. The anger bled from her head and heart. Into her fingertips, instead. The tail ring warmed. 'I'm tired.'
'I know you are.' And Gatomon's eyes were wide and sad. She was tired too.
'I lost everyone.'
Of course, Gatomon knew that too. And Ryo, standing there enjoying the view.
Maybe Takuya Kanbara didn't know the whole story, but he was the only one.
She offered him a smile: shaky and thin. 'I'll try and make sure you don't.'
He didn't look comforted. She couldn't blame him. She hadn't proved she could do anything, after all.
And Ryo laughed. He didn't believe her either. 'You can't save him,' he said, confirming it. 'Even if you awakened your full potential, you can't save the humans who couldn't adapt. You don't even want to.'
Her palms grew warm. She ignored Ryo. Focused on the boy in her lap instead. 'Come on,' she told him softly. 'Your brother's waiting.'
He glowed. Nothing else happened. His eyes were still hollow holes in his skull. His skin was still charred black.
She looked through him. His soul wasn't there anymore. It wasn't anywhere any more.
Their world was very good at taking and giving nothing in return.
'They would have come back,' she said.
She'd denied the Saints, denied her family and friends, for what?
Gatomon pressed closer to her side.
'In the Digital World, they'd have come back.'
'Wizardmon too,' Gatomon agreed.
What had they been fighting for? Her? Davis? Willis?
Well, she doubted Willis would agree to anything else, but Tai had offered a hand and she hadn't taken it because she'd been wearing a ring around her finger.
'Whoops,' Ryo said suddenly, and then he was gone and a shadow had risen from the Kanbara's house instead.
'ShadowWereGarurumon,' said Gatomon.
Her ring was cracking, she noted. And Kanbara was on his knees, staring at her – no, at his brother – with too wide eyes. He probably didn't even see the shadow.
She couldn't save the boy in her lap, but she could save the other one.
Gatomon nodded. She knew. Knew exactly what she was asking. What she wanted.
What she'd denied for all these years, and she couldn't even say why.
Tears slipped down her cheeks. She'd denied those, too. She'd lost her family, her friends, and now a student too.
And she wanted them all back.
'Tai, TK… Everyone.'
Her ring cracked. Her digivice cracked too.
Gatomon's fur went from white to black.