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Book 1 Chapter 03

Page history last edited by Daneel Rush 9 years, 9 months ago

GOSPEL

Book One

“Trials of Worthiness”

Chapter Three

The Farther From You, the Better

 

 

Reality Protocols: the term ‘Reality Protocol’ refers to any algorithm possessed by a digitalized divinity or Aeternal (it is recommended to read Digitalization of Supernal Entities as an additional reference before studying this document) which grants him the intrinsic powers that differentiate it from a mortal entity, either Natural Powers or Agenda Powers. The name comes from the fact that most (if not all) Reality Protocols with a visual display exert some influence over the supernal entity’s surroundings.

 

The term was coined during the days preceding Gospel, when the Matsuki siblings, Takato and Takako, settled in the city of Tokyo and began sharing some1 of their vast knowledge with the technicians and the Hypnos database. Both Takato and Takako were fully conscious of the existence of Reality Protocols, as well as their nature and purpose2. However, most Reality Protocols are passive in nature, and even their possessors are unaware of the nature of most of their Reality Protocols. For this reason, it is very difficult to make an accurate measure of the quantity and characteristics of a supernal being’s Reality Protocols. To this date, XANADU’s scientists have not been able to make an accurate and trusty measurement. The only precise information in XANADU’s possession is that kindly given to us by the Matsuki siblings.

 

According to Matsuki Takako’s information (confirmed during the visit to the Zohar Laboratory), the original products of Project A.D.A.M had a variable number of reality protocols that grew greater and greater with each subsequent creation (a “rather inefficient approach”, according to Matsuki Takako). Takako has admitted that she has estimated the number of her Reality Protocols to be 666 (refer to Pnakotic Manuscripts for more detailed information). Also, according to her estimations, Asmodeus had 768, and Moloch probably had something between 1200 and 1500 protocols by the end of his existence.

 

The reduced number of Reality Protocols the second incarnation of Matsuki Takato, Adam Kadmon, was born with (144), is another statement of his efficiency and the utmost quasi-perfection with which he was conceived.

 

The distribution of Matsuki Takato’s Reality Protocols separates… [the remainder of the text is omitted]

 

To open a new window with a list of Matsuki Takato’s known Reality Protocols (to this date), click here.

 

1We were certain they kept most of it to themselves, and we were proven right.

2At least we can be sure Takako was, and she might have then taught Takato about them.

 


 

Kyoto Brighton Hotel, Kyoto-3, Japan (Southern Quadrant)

Room ????

July 28th, 2018

8:18 A.M.

 

Slowly, very slowly, Alice McCoy opened her eyes.

 

Immediately, she was forced to close them again. The bright of the morning sun on her eyes was too much to bear. With her eyes closed, her mind, much quicker than her body right after waking up, began to make some accurate assumptions.

 

Since the sun had hit her as soon as she opened her eyes, she inferred she was facing the balcony. That would mean she was facing to her left. By the feeling of the loincloth against her left side, she knew her whole body, not just her head, was turned to the left. That would mean she had her back turned to Takato.

 

Takato…

 

The very thought of his name sent wave after wave of unbearable heat through her body, as the memories of the night before flooded her mind. She felt her face flushing bright red, and the rest of her body soon following it. She began sweating all over, and the warm summer morning did not help relieve her at all. She was pretty much forced to remember all the ‘things’ he had done to her. She had no other word for them, for she was sure some of those things did not even have a name to begin with.

 

And then, she reached a shocking conclusion.

 

She wanted him to do those things to her again. And again. And again. And again…and again. And maybe seven more times to be sure.

 

Alice shook her head in shame. God! I’m not…I don’t want to! It’s embarrassing…and perverted.

 

No, it’s not! The voice in her head quickly replied. He’s your man!

 

My…man…the one just for me.

 

Alice let go a deep sigh. So what if she wanted to be a little kinky with the man he loved? She was pretty sure he wouldn’t complain!

 

There had been no reaction from Takato next to her. Alice guessed he was still sleeping. She could not blame him; he had utterly floored her with his…performance, last night. That led to the planning of how she would wake him up. She was in the mood to be all nice and sweet.

 

Really in the mood.

 

After last night, she was in the mood for anything he wanted.

 

Maybe she’d wake him up with a kiss? As corny as it sounded, she had never done that before, for that same reason. Should she do it? Would he like it?

 

She decided to just go for it and see what happened. Whatever the reaction, she might follow up with a trail of kisses down his chest, and then…maybe…maybe she could try that most visually unappealing thing she had seen in that porno Lauren showed them…if, if it was for him, she…

 

Only her pride prevented from giggling like a schoolgirl.

 

“Takato…” Alice moaned seductively while she turned around, her eager fingers ready to trail down Takato’s well-built torso.

 

Takato was not there.

 

Alice quickly got up, reflexively covering her torso with the sheets, looking around the bedroom. There was no other living being other than her.

 

In a moment, the flames of passion were subsumed. What was left was one very pissed off woman.

 

 

The streets of Kyoto

8:26 P.M.

 

He could feel them. Their presence was like tingling electricity crawling under his skin. The morning was warm and nice, if a little humid. But their presence was like the cool winds of winter in Seattle.

 

It was an ordinary day in Kyoto, and Takato calmly walked, perfectly blended with the crowd. Takato, despite the situation, still managed to enjoy the scenery of the ancient capital of the nation of the rising sun. The perfect amalgam of ancient tradition and cosmopolitan Japan never ceased to amaze him, as the flowing contrast was a lot stronger when seen live than in any picture.

 

As he expected, the amount of people decreased as he walked. The mass suggestion he implanted in the mind of those he crossed paths with jumped from mind to mind, spreading like a virus until it covered a sizeable portion of the city. The suggestion unconsciously obliged them to walk away from Takato. A mental manipulation of such magnitude was a heavy strain in Takato’s brain, but, well, this is Takato we’re talking about.

 

Takato, how’re you doing?

Fine…focus on your part.

But I just can’t detect anything!

 

Takato sighed. Guil?

 

“They’re closer…Takato, they smell weird…I don’t like it.”

 

How many are there, Ryuudamon?

 

“Too many to tell.”

 

Sorry, Ruki, but I do trust their noses.

 

I know…as much as it hurts me to admit it, I trust them too.

 

Finally, they made it to a deserted street. As far as he could see, both in front of him and behind him, the absence of humans was astoundingly terrifying. Even the buildings were empty, as if Takato had suddenly stumbled upon a ghost city in a post-apocalyptic movie setting. The mass suggestion worked incredibly well. However, he would not be able to keep it much longer. The limitation on the amount of energy he could accumulate while in the Material World was taking its toll.

 

There! Takato, there’s something in my scanners!

You know, it doesn’t really work if it’s already in front of my eyes…

 

Indeed, the mist familiar to every wild Digimon appearance slowly swallowed the ghost city and circled Takato like incorporeal tentacles of an ancient, phantom evil. However, it was not the usual digital fog. Takato’s heart would not beat the way it did had that been the case. The fog in Kyoto was darker, deeper, thicker, more threatening somehow, as if it had a will of its own, a sentience that sought to devour him and never let him go. Takato dismissed the silly thoughts as a consequence of reading too much Lovecraft during the plane trip and focused on the task at hand. He needed a way to move the incoming battle to the Digital World, and he needed it quickly.

 

It was about that time that the enemy Digimon appeared, but this time it was different. The fog itself, which had flowed wide and tall, enveloping Kyoto in a blanket of twilight, was shaping itself. Not into one, or two, but myriads of the same shape. It was a familiar shape, a shape he did not find enjoyable. Recognizing it was not the issue, though, the important thing was just how many of them there were.

 

Ruki…

45…65…75…105 and counting…150…

 

Guilmon and Ryuudamon materialized by his side when the shapes took full form. The shadow-stuff that composed their bodies took shape and gained distinctive color and features, the beings becoming effectively identical clones of what they were supposed to look like. Ruki finished her count at the same time the “Digimon” finished their transformation.

 

…255.

Of course…two to the eighth power, minus 1. The hexadecimal number FF. Which only means the code that created these…things…is rather simple, at least to its creator. Whoever made these things is toying with me. Ruki, prepare a Gate Circle.

That’s not possible.

……you’re kidding me, right?

Takato, I’d do it immediately, if those were Digimon. It is clear to me they aren’t. I do not know what they are; hence I cannot affect them in any way until I acquire a minimum amount of data about them.

…wonderful. Well, what are you waiting for?

Scanning is already at 8%. Please hold on for a while.

…don’t talk to me like a friggin’ answering machine…

 

Takato looked at the vile pseudo-Digimon, who sneered at him with perfectly identical devilish grins. Their slender, muscular ebony bodies, their torn bat-like wings, the fiendish horns and the crimson eyes. He knew them from the Digimon TV Show, and he had fought an “albino” version of them.

 

Rika’s face showed up in his mind together with that memory. He fondly remembered her serious face despite her young age. Despite her stubbornness, it was a cute face. He might have had a crush on Jeri at that time, but he was pretty sure he had already acknowledged Rika’s looks by then.

 

What am I thinking?

 

Takato slapped both his cheeks and forced himself to refocus. He returned the glares of 255 Devimon with a glare of his own, as he slowly lowered his right hand to his waist; to his card holder.

 

“Ryuudamon, ready to evolve. Guilmon, you go back to hiding and look out for human presence. It’s just a matter of time before the suggestion weakens enough for the media to start moving.”

 

“Yessir.”

 

“Yay yes, Takato!”

 

“Ryuudamon, digivolve to…GinRyuumon! GinRyuumon, digivolve to…HishaRyuumon!”

 

The immense serpentine dragon loomed above his Tamer, waiting for instructions. His two Digicores, which he held in his immense claws, eerily glowed as if in expectation of the battle to come. The many Devimon eyed HishaRyuumon with uneasy gazes, and Takato smiled. Obviously they didn’t expect him.

 

“Eden’s Blade,” Takato whispered, and the long sword of blade erupted from his Digivice in all its blazing glory. That blade could slice through Champion Digimon with little trouble, but those Devimon in front of him were not Champion Digimon, so he couldn’t assume it would be as easy. But there was only one way to know that, right?

 

In less time that it takes to blink an eye, Takato was in front of the closest Devimon. Before the fakes could even react, Takato attacked. His blade sliced like a knife through butter, and Takato felt a sort of sick pleasure at the sight. Takato quickly absorbed the data, and immediately felt an incredible urge to empty his stomach.

 

This viral data is too much! Ruki! Filter that virus and analyze it! That should speed up the scanning process, shouldn’t it?

Takato! You took such a risk just to speed up the scan?

It comes to show just how much I think about you!

 

“HishaRyuumon!”

 

“Yes!”

 

“We might not need to use the Gate Circle after all!”

 

A hint of a smile appeared on the mythical dragon’s expression. “Yessir!”

 

At once, 254 Devimon attacked. At least half of them took to the air, and eight moved to confront Takato, the others dividing in two groups, one to attack HishaRyuumon, the other to wait for Takato’s actions. Takato quickly eyed the ones in the sky. He managed to eye at least 20 or 30 of them preparing an attack before looking back at the eight who quickly approached him to use their Death Claw attack.

 

“Genbu’s Shield!”

 

Takato’s defensive barrier created a shockwave that repelled the eight Devimon and negated their attack.

 

“Razor Wind!” Many voices sang in chorus, and a gale of deathly cold wind assaulted Takato’s body. Takato took a card from his deck.

 

“Digi-modify! Black Win-aargh!”

 

A surprisingly smart Devimon took the chance to tear Takato’s body with its sharp crimson claws before Takato could scan the card. Takato couldn’t even voice his pain, as the fake Digimon twisted its hand and his insides in the process. He could feel his mouth filling up with blood, blood trailing down his ripped skin, and his shirt getting soaked. He could also see spare trails of data flowing out of the wound. Then, he saw the blue glow coming out of the wound. The Devimon saw the same thing, and Takato quickly grabbed its arm before it tried to move away.

 

“You’re so not getting away,” Takato muttered with a devilish grin.

 

Immediately, a bolt of blue lightning struck the offending Devimon on the chest, sending him flying at least 60 feet away and dragging another unfortunate Devimon with it, disintegrating both of them with a blinding flash and a thunderous explosion. Once that was over, a red-white flame enveloped the wound, which quickly started to heal by itself.

 

I’m going to run out of energy at this pace.

 

Takato eyed HishaRyuumon for a split second. While the Ultimate had little trouble crunching Devimon with his huge jaws, crushing them under his enormous frame or swatting them like flies with his powerful forelimbs, as expected, their smaller size and superior numbers threatened to overwhelm him.

 

Ruki!

48%...

 

“Argh, dammit!”

 

Takato dashed as fast as he could towards the nearest enemy. The Devimon raised its left arm to try a claw attack, but Takato quickly moved to his right and dodged it, while he lifted his left arm to grab Devimon’s face. Then, Takato used sheer strength to send it to the pavement, and beheaded it with a quick slash of his Eden’s Blade. Two more came from opposite sides. Takato used Genbu’s Shield to knock away the one to his left and his blade to parry the one to his right, using the force of the parry to move the attacking arm aside and deleting the fake Devimon with another clean swipe.

 

“Takato!”

Guil!

“Coming! Two…uh…what was the name…vans!”

Time!

“Two minutes, three tops!”

Good! Come and help us here! Ruki, we’re counting on you!

No problem!

 

Faster than Takato could have possibly predicted, Guilmon leapt out of the shadows in the best raptor style, catching a lone Devimon with his powerful clawed legs. After pounding it against the ground, Guilmon quickly crushed its head between his mighty jaws with a sickening sound, just like a real skull being cracked would sound like. The Devimon deleted, Guilmon quickly looked up, his feral eyes looking for his next prey.

 

Takato shifted to a defensive stance, keeping a wary look of the Devimon nearby. He needed to avoid taking as many hits as possible. Every time he took a hit, the retributive Blue Dragon Lightning and the Red Sparrow Flame would be triggered, which implied a costly expense of energy.

 

“Seiryuujin!”

 

HishaRyuumon suddenly turned into a giant sword, and sliced through hordes of Devimon with a single mighty swipe.

 

“Great!” Takato exclaimed. With the Devimon scattered, it was much easier to prepare an attack. However, there was still the matter of those in the air…

 

“HishaRyuumon, take care of those above! Don’t worry about me! Guilmon, cover me with Pyro Clusters!”

 

HishaRyuumon took flight above the soaring Devimon while Takato ran to strike a lone Devimon. His plan worked perfectly: Guilmon’s ranged technique prevented other Devimon from approaching Takato, effectively allowing him to fight one-on-one with the chosen target. And Takato never would lose a one-on-one against a fake pretense of a Devimon.

 

A Devimon flew backwards and used its Razor Wind. Takato blocked it with Genbu’s Shield and leapt to split open its head.

 

A group of six Devimon in a shifting circle formation attacked Takato with ranged Dark Claw attacks. Takato leapt, dodged, ducked and parried while he subtly and slowly approached one of them. Before the target could notice the sudden proximity, Takato used an uppercut of sorts, slashing open the Devimon’s head. The other five aimed their evil blasts at him, and Takato quickly jumped up, using the extra force from the explosion below him to propel his body close enough to a second Devimon, which fell to a swift slash of the Eden’s Blade. Takato quickly zigzagged to a third Devimon, which raised its right claw to attack, but the much-faster Takato slid behind him and split him right above the waist. The remaining three were quick to take flight, but Guilmon leapt out of nowhere and caught one before it could escape. Two clean shots of Eden’s Light were enough to deal with the remaining two.

 

Six were done, and fourteen more approached him. Takato disabled the Eden’s Blade, for he was in need of his two hands.

 

“White Tiger Aura.”

 

White energy coalesced in his hands, shaping itself as a set of incorporeal claws. The first Devimon came from the left with a frontal thrust. Takato caught the arm between his left elbow and his lifted left leg and thrust his right hand between its eyes. He quickly lowered his left arm to catch a low kick and twisted a full turn counter-clockwise, moving to the left as he did so to dodge two pairs of claws. His repositioning left him facing three Devimon, well aware that there were another five behind him. Yet another Devimon leapt from behind those in front, in a fashion similar to Guilmon. Takato moved a step to the left, allowing one of the Devimon to land a hit to his waist. While the Devimon who had hurt him paid for its folly by taking the Blue Dragon Lightning, Takato quickly grabbed the Devimon standing by his five o’clock and pulled him in front of him, using it as a shield from the leaping, clawing Devimon. The Devimon clawed through its clone, and Takato tore through the two of them with his energy claws.

 

Takato quickly looked to his right, where Guilmon was fighting with a group of four Devimon. After deciding that he was fending off just fine—surprisingly well for a Rookie, in fact—, Takato resumed his attack. He parried a thrust from his two o’clock by knocking the incoming claw upwards, and took a step backwards to dodge a claw from his left. He then grabbed that claw and pulled the arm, swinging the Devimon to slam it against those behind Takato. After making a mess of five Devimon, Takato quickly turned to the five that originally were in front of him. Two of them withdrew backwards, preparing their Razor Wind. Takato was prepared for that. He aimed his Eden’s Light to a Devimon by his left, and the target reflexively moved to his own left to dodge Takato’s attack.

 

“Gotcha!”

“Razor Wind!”

 

The foolish Devimon took two blasts of evil energy on his back and was swiftly deleted. In the confusion caused by the explosion, Takato released his Eden’s Gate to knock back the two other Devimon that were still nearby. Then, he turned to the five Devimon behind him, which had finally managed to disentangle and stand up. A Devimon at Takato’s one o’clock attempted a swipe with its left claw, but Takato quickly moved his body to the left and grabbed the arm. He quickly moved behind that Devimon, twisting its arm in the process. There was another Devimon to that Devimon’s left, which attacked Takato as he passed between the two. Takato parried that claw with the very claw he held and then jumped up and used a roundhouse kick to knock away that Devimon, if just for a few seconds. Takato pushed the Devimon he held away from him, towards the other three Devimon, using the few seconds of confusion to slash a card.

 

“Digi-Modify! ADR-03, activate!”

 

Twenty-five or so yards away, Guilmon had a battle of his own. Confronted by four entities with the power of a Champion Digimon, he knew it was a matter of using his great power in the most efficient way. Most of the time he had Takato’s indications for that, but this time his Tamer was busy in his own battle.

 

However, Guilmon was observant. He had fought with his Tamer for so long, and he had learnt. Takato’s style, Takato’s optimism, Takato’s arrow-mindedness…what we could call Takato’s “Philosophy of Combat” had been effectively absorbed by Guilmon, and the bulky dinosaur Digimon could fight on his own just fine.

 

A Devimon swiped his wings to gain extra speed in an impulse preceding a horizontal left-to-right claw swipe. Guilmon quickly ducked and replied with a headbutt on its chest. Two more came behind that one Devimon, attempting a diving attack from the air. Guilmon used his powerful legs to jump backwards. The fourth Devimon had somehow escaped his sight for a split second and was now attempting an attack from the flank. Guilmon bluffed by turning his back to him and pretending to look around. The fooled Devimon smirked, and Guilmon smirked too when he slammed his muscular tail on its face. The force of the tail slam was enough to send it with the other two Devimon Guilmon had just dodged. The reptile Digimon leapt above them and fell on the lone Devimon who had taken the headbutt, interrupting it as it tried to stand up.

 

“Rock Breaker β!”

 

Guilmon buried his sharp claws in the fake Digimon’s chest. Its cries as it dissipated into data were quite real, though. Guilmon quickly turned to face the other three, who were already up and ready to go. This time they tried circling him. One slowly approached him from the front, while the other two took positions behind him from opposite sides. Guilmon decided to try the neat little trick he had come up with in the United States.

 

“Pyro Cluster!”

 

Guilmon fired his flaming ball, aiming at the one at his eight o’clock. As expected, the other two attacked as soon as Guilmon turned his back to them. The other Devimon immediately took flight to dodge the incoming fireball, but that didn’t matter. At Guilmon’s will, the fireball divided into four smaller bolts of fire, as it was the usual. However, this time not only the division took place, but the fire bolts also abruptly changed direction, retracing their trajectory and even flying past Guilmon to strike the two Devimon behind him.

 

The red dinosaur used the surprise element to his advantage and quickly attacked the third Devimon, who stood still in midair, stunned by what had just happened. Guilmon’s mighty leap dragged him back down to earth, both Digimon and fake-Digimon falling on the wall of a building and crushing it with the force of their impact. Guilmon made sure the loss of that wall didn’t seem to have an important consequence on the stability of the building it belonged to, and opened his huge mouth to deal the finishing blow.

“Pyro Blaster!”

 

Guilmon’s signature move, taken at point-blank, was enough to take down even a Champion Digimon. Guilmon turned to face the two remaining Devimon, which stood fifteen yards away. Guilmon looked up and to his right, where HishaRyuumon was dealing with his own aerial battle.

 

Despite his size, HishaRyuumon’s snake-like body granted him immense fluidity and dexterity in flight, which allowed him to dodge more attacks that he would otherwise have been able to. Most of the attacks he actually took did little damage to his tough armor skin. However, like a man who takes too many mosquito stings, he was starting to feel kind of sick. He swatted four Devimon with his sinuous tail, slamming them against the windows of a fourth floor. One of them was deleted. How many had he deleted already? 30? 50?

 

A daring Devimon appeared in front of him, apparently aiming at his eyes. HishaRyuumon quickly shifted his body and swallowed it whole. Unlike his father creator and his brother Guilmon, who were deeply focused on their individual fights, HishaRyuumon had plenty of chances to check on them. He was glad that, so far, he had not needed to intervene.

 

Two Devimon came from the left. The green Digicore he held in his left clawed hand glowed, and two beams shot out, obliterating the two pretentious beings instantly. However, HishaRyuumon could not see the one coming from below. The crimson claws dug through his softer lower skin. While they did not deal considerable damage, they revealed a vulnerability the Devimon would be eager to exploit.

 

So it had to come to this…

 

Hisharyuumon twisted his body so that he made an almost-perfect circle, his muzzle barely touching the tip of his tail. His two Digicores started glowing, quickly enveloping him in a cloak of light; an amalgam of emerald green and sunset orange.

 

“…Juuouguruma.”

 

And all hell broke loose. Myriads of dual-colored beams shot out of HishaRyuumon’s body, swallowing dozens of Devimon and tearing apart the city around him in one single cataclysmic display of eldritch artillery.

 

Takato’s arms became long extensions of twisted cable ending in a pair of wide-arc cesti-like blades. He quickly released one of the pendulum blades behind him, slicing in half the Devimon he had kicked a few seconds before. The blade then flew back to him, but Takato kept it in movement by swinging it like a lasso. He had four Devimon in front of him and other four closing on him from the left. Takato threw the blade he was swinging forward, and the battle was renewed with even greater intensity.

 

The Devimon struck with their eager crimson claws, and Takato parried with the flying blades, that seemed to respond more to his thoughts than to the dexterous swings of his cable-arms. When Takato decided it was time to take the offensive again, he retracted the blades, which effectively replaced his hands. Then he leapt forward, ready to strike. One eager Devimon jumped and tried and attack from above. Takato jumped to the right and ignored it, continuing his mad dash to meet the other seven, apparently more cautious targets. As soon as he got within melee range, four of them raised their claws to strike, one took flight and two dashed to opposite sides to flank Takato. Takato parried the leftmost attack, turned to his right to dodge two more, turning his back to the Devimon in the process, and quickly raised his left arm to parry the fourth attack from the fourth Devimon, right behind him. The two flanking Devimon attacked from opposite sides, and Takato bluntly took both attacks, blocking them with his own weapons. Realizing he was in a compromising position, he opened his legs to the max, falling on the warm ground. He slammed his blades against the ground, burying them in the pavement, and used the support to lift his body with his arms, following with an inverted double roundhouse (a helicopter) kick that forced all six Devimon to move a few steps back. Takato quickly recovered his footing to dodge the first Devimon, the one he had ignored, as it attempted yet another leaping attack. Takato then thrust its left hand-blade in that Devimon’s chest. His muscles bulged as he raised its disintegrating form, and then Takato used his right arm to deliver a mighty punch to the agonizing shadow-being, which propelled what was left of it until it slammed the Devimon that had taken flight. It was Takato’s turn to leap like a raptor at the fallen Devimon, which didn’t have time to react before Takato beheaded it. He was standing up when a sudden surge of flying colors and a loud explosion from farther down the street took him by surprise. He didn’t need to look up to know HishaRyuumon had used his Juuouguruma.

 

Takato faced the remaining six Devimon, and then he noticed there was a sudden silence in the air. He quickly looked around, and noticed that even Guilmon’s and HishaRyuumon’s battles had reached an eerie standstill. The Devimon seemed to be looking at the distance, at the city beyond the battlefield.

 

It was then when Takato noticed the sound. A familiar sound.

 

The screech of rubber on concrete.

 

Two vehicles, rapidly approaching.

 

Dammit!

 

The six Devimon looked at him, their smug face silently asking him what he’d do now. Takato growled.

 

Ready here, whenever you are!

On the nick of time, as usual!

Oh, you know I just love drama!

Gate Circle! Transport me, HishaRyuumon, Guilmon and all the Devimon to a random wasteland location in the Digital World! NOW!

As you wish!

 

A giant glowing red circle appeared on the ground, extending its area all over the battlefield. Sinuous curves, straight lines and runes in an unknown language were quickly written within the circle, as it glowed brighter and brighter, until the city itself seemed to be cloaked under a bloody sky. Takato found the scene disturbingly similar to the Shinjuku of his nightmares in the United States. Finally, the circle reshaped itself as the infamous Digital Hazard symbol, and Takato prepared himself for the sudden dimensional and quantum-level shift. A flash of light, and Kyoto was gone.

 

They were in the Digital World. And Takato’s grin returned in all its Machiavellian glory.

 

“Now, now…I guess this is it for you guys. So, how many of you will I have to obliterate before I get some answers?”

 

Guilmon, by my side. HishaRyuumon, de-evolve and come here. Ruki, setup Guilmon’s bio-merge protocols.

 

…Bio-merge protocols activated.

 

Takato waited for a second…and then sighed. Nothing happened. The familiar spark; the burning feeling that sent waves of excitement and anticipation before bio-merging, it had disappeared. He simply could not bio-merge with his original partner.

 

“Takato-sama!”

 

Takato barely had time to turn around before he was wrapped by Nix’s tight embrace.

 

“Yaaay! Takato-sama’s here!”

 

“Ha-Haa…glad to see you, too, Nix…you too, Dobermon.”

 

Alice’s Dobermon subtly nodded behind the overly enthusiastic Witchmon. The greetings were interrupted by sudden movement on the part of the Devimon; obviously a reaction to the arrival of reinforcements in Takato’s side. Some Devimon willingly destroyed themselves, their data quickly absorbed by the others. Those who absorbed data started shining a pale lilac that got darker by the second. Takato didn’t like the look of it.

 

“Ryuudamon, prepare to bio-merge at any moment.”

 

“Standby and ready, father.”

 

Takato, without taking his eyes off the glowing Devimon, picked the evolution cards he would use on Guilmon, Dobermon and Nix.

 

Ruki, Dobermon as additional partner.

Done.

 

Takato slashed the cards at the same time the Devimon’s glow grew so strong that only their outline could be distinguished. The same violet-black mist that had covered Tokyo extended all over the digital wasteland, until it took the shape of a familiar dark dome. Waves of nostalgia assaulted Takato as he remembered his last battle against the Nightmare. That time, Rika was with him.

 

Takato hated to admit that, for some reason, he had thought of Rika that day more than he had done so during his whole stay in the US. Which was a lot. Was it the fact that he was in Japan? No, not just that. The whole situation was triggering something within him. A question he had repressed in the back of his mind for years, since he first fought the Nightmare. That time, he had never found out who created the virus, or for what reason. He wouldn’t—he couldn’t let that happen again.

 

For now he was sure that the entities in front of him were incarnations of viral data shaped by the Nightmare’s code. He felt it. Ruki’s analysis would just be a confirmation. But there was another problem…

 

Ruki, at this point, Hypnos will detect this massive coalescence of data!

Not at all. The algorithm that generated this dome is coded with cryptography techniques I’ve never seen before. It’s almost as if it were exclusively intended to conceal itself from Hypnos’ systems.

Well, that’s good to know. It seems even they are helping me conceal my existence.

 

WarGrowlmon T, Cerberumon and Bastemon stood behind Takato, ready to fight. Takato quickly counted between 70 to 90 Devimon remaining. HishaRyuumon had done a magnificent job in Kyoto. Finally, the fiendish light that hid the Devimon faded, revealing their new form.

 

“They evolved…”

 

Yes, they had evolved, but not into a form he could recognize. Ruki…

 

Sorry, Takato, I’ve got nothing on these…

 

They looked just like their previous form, maybe four to six inches taller. Their skin was now dirty silver, but their waist down was covered by tight leather pants that ended in big leather boots from which sharp spikes protruded upwards. Their wings had changed color, to the color of coagulated blood. Their face was covered by featureless golden masks, from which two thin, sharp horns grew backwards. They wore golden kneecaps with black inverted crosses engraved on them, and they had sets of three crimson spikes coming out of their elbows. Their wrists and hands were protected by bands of red leather which ended in five razor-sharp golden claws.

 

A synthetic pseudo-evolution for pseudo-Devimon…

 

Takato moved a step forward. “Do you have a name?”

 

The entities all spoke in unison. “We are NeoDevimon.”

 

Not very original… “You are the spawn of the Nightmare Virus, aren’t you?”

 

Takato…

 

“The…Nightmare Virus.” The NeoDevimon spoke together. “That is the name given to it by you, Matsuki Takato, and the local media. Niflheim was destroyed by Matsuki Takato and Nonaka Rika.”

 

“Then who created you?”

 

The NeoDevimon tilted their head to the side in a curious and mocking way. “We…are Jörmungandr.”

 

Takato made a face. “Haa? Fans of Norse mythology, aren’t we? Should have known with the whole ‘Frei’ and ‘Freya’ thing…oh well.”

 

Ryuudamon rubbed against Takato’s right leg, not unlike a cat. Takato caressed his Omnivice with his left hand, and Ruki purred like a kitten. Takato narrowed his eyes.

 

“Well then. Let us play.”

 

 

Kagayaki Shinzou High School Building 

Classroom 1-A

12:29 P.M.

 

Asagi Nami had the unusual habit of occasionally eating her lunch in the classroom where she imparted homeroom. It was a habit she started two and a half years before, right after Takato’s death. She still remembered the words they exchanged right before he and the Tamers left to the Digital World for the first time. That seemed so long ago…

 

She had sworn she would become a really good teacher, in Takato’s memory. Like so many others besides her, that little brat with the silly grin had changed her life.

 

It was one of those days. So, she looked at those students who chose to eat in the classroom, mostly those who brought lunches of their own. Amongst them, the most notorious were by far the Digimon Tamers, plus Tanaka Rei. It was not like they did it on purpose, but there was somehow this unmistakable alienation between the Tamers and the other students. Of course, it was a psychological suggestion instilled on the other students by those other students themselves. They knew very well that, despite all the stuff, the Digimon Tamers were just teens like any other. However, somehow, their corner of the room felt…brighter than the rest of the classroom. Asagi-sensei did not know how to explain it properly. Simply put, the Tamers irradiated a different aura. Even Tanaka, who was not even a Tamer, felt somehow different from the rest of the classroom, which in a way made her “compatible” with the Tamer group. The teacher guessed it was that “big sister” aura of hers that also made her the class president. Her enviable looks did not make things much easier to the “ordinary” students.

 

Despite that, though, classes in room 1-A were tranquil and peaceful, at least until Terriermon pulled one of his witty remarks or a summons from Hypnos interrupted a lesson.

 

The teacher took a remote control from her desk and turned on the TV wall-mounted on the corner of the classroom to her right. Every classroom included one of those. They were mainly intended to display important announcements and educational programs, but there was nothing in the school rules that prevented her from using it to watch the news.

 

“-in Kyoto. I repeat: we have confirmed the cause of the explosions in Kyoto.”

 

That got her attention. She turned to get a better look at the screen. It showed a street in shambles. Pieces of glass and concrete littered the cracked pavement, and the marks of many explosions were the constant in the place. At first she thought there had been a terrorist attack, but she immediately discarded the idea as stupid. Why would a terrorist attack Kyoto of all places? And even then, there are much better places to strike than some random street.

 

Besides, the overall look of that site was strangely familiar…

 

 

12:30 P.M.

 

“And when I began eating the ice cream he said ‘you’re very skilled with your mouth, Tanaka-san.’ That was so embarrassing!”

 

Hirokazu and Kenta almost choked on their lunches before laughing out loud at Rei’s anecdote. Rei had met with some old friends from middle school during the weekend, and she was sharing a few tales with her new friends, the Digimon Tamers. Rika was simply shaking her head, stating that she did not find the story funny at all. Henry stifled a chuckle, and looked at her girlfriend, whose cheeks had taken a delightful pinkish hue. Suddenly, Henry paused. Terriermon was taking quite a while to make a comment on Tanaka-san’s tale, wasn’t he?

 

Henry turned to his right, where Terriermon had interrupted his lunch to look at the TV news. Surprisingly enough, even Renamon had phased in and was standing next to his partner. Henry looked at the TV screen.

 

“This image confirms that the cause of this destruction was, indeed, a rampaging Digimon.”

 

Henry could not stop himself from opening his mouth agape. The image on the screen was a still picture in a video recording. It showed, indeed, an elongated dragon-like figure partially concealed between some buildings. The recording had been made at a considerable distance, hence few features of the creature could be detailed, but Henry could tell that Digimon was unlike any Digimon he could recall. The only Digimon he could remember with that long, snake-like shape of the eastern dragons were Azulongmon, Majiramon and Magnadramon, and that Digimon was neither of the three.

 

Henry also noticed several much-smaller shapes all around the giant dragon, but they were too small to even make an attempt at recognizing them.

 

“Rika!”

 

He would never know why he called for Rika and not the whole group. In any case, he got everyone’s attention. Rika and Jeri heard his voice, and Hirokazu and Kenta followed when Rei, after hearing Henry’s voice, suddenly stopped talking.

 

“What is it?” Rika asked in her no-nonsense tone. Henry pointed at the TV screen, which, at that time, had become the center of attention of the entire classroom.

 

The Tamers managed to get a good look at the still image of the giant dragon Digimon before it changed back to the reporter in the disaster area.

 

“Nobody can explain why that area was deserted, and why there are no witnesses of what happened. Our crew rushed to the scene as fast as humanly possible, but we were only welcomed by this sight. The damage is mostly structural, and both local and national government have already sent agents to the area to make damage estimations. In any case, the image you just saw a minute ago confirms that at least one Digimon was involved with the devastation you see behind me. Digimon have appeared in Kyoto.”

 

Immediately, the gazes of everyone else in the classroom fell on them. However, they were as confused as their classmates and teacher. Kyoto? Why were Digimon emerging in Kyoto?

 

The five Tamers’ cell phones rang at the same time. Rika sighed and looked at her colleagues.

 

“Guess that’s our call.”

 

Silently, the Digimon Tamers gathered their belongings and proceeded to depart the classroom.

 

“Hey.”

 

They stopped. Rika turned to look at Rei, who gave them a wink and a thumbs-up.

 

“Take care, you guys.”

 

Asagi Nami felt a tinge of guilt at those words. She felt as if she was the one supposed to say them.

 

Rika smiled at her classmate. Somehow, it felt good to hear those words.

 

“Sure.”

 

 

12:35 P.M.

 

The bookstore offered little space, and the three males had to squeeze themselves against each other to watch the TV screen together. It was a cramped old store that offered old used books at cheap prices. Regardless of the fact that they were the only customers, the fact that the space between the only two shelves was a mere foot guaranteed that, no matter how many people entered the store, it would be cramped.

 

But, why were Taichi, Takeru and DC in that place, after all? The answer should be obvious to anyone who’s read this up to now.

 

Takako’s whim.

 

As soon as they step foot on Tokyo, Takako entered “little girl mode.” Sometimes they forgot that Takako, despite her powers and knowledge, does have the mental age of a twelve-year-old, the age at which both her physical and mental development were halted. Not just that, she was a girl who had spent her entire life in a glass tube until two and a half years before.

 

For Takako, it was her first time in the Material World. All her knowledge of that world came from the Internet, which she could access through her innate data manipulation abilities as Gabriel/Lilith.

 

So, she looked at everything with the eyes of one who looks at things for the first time. Amazed by even the simplest things, the girl dragged her three companions all over the metropolis. Eventually, Takako was drawn to that old shop, and quickly absorbed herself in the immense world of literature. The old owner gave warm looks at the little young girl who seemed so interested in old classics. He watched her in quiet complacence as she picked a book, took a peek at each page and put it back in its place. On the other side, the three men who accompanied her seemed to be more interested in whatever was in the news. Finally, one of the men, the youngest-looking one, looked away from the screen and to the girl.

 

“Takako.”

 

“Hmm?” The girl replied absent-mindedly.

 

“Would you mind taking a look at this?” The young man said, pointing at the TV screen. The girl groaned.

 

“Is it really necessary? I’d rather take a look at more of these,” Takako confessed, pointing at the books. The old shop owner silently wished his grandchildren were more like that little girl.

 

“A Digimon appeared in Kyoto,” The boy insisted, effectively catching the attention of the old man. Even he knew of Digimon and the potential danger they could represent if let on the loose. Digimon showing up outside Tokyo was indeed big news.

 

The girl did not seem too impressed, though.

 

“Is that so? Guess idle time is over, right? Ah, here it is…” Takako muttered as she picked a small and just a bit damaged leather-bound book.

 

“About damn time,” DC muttered. Takako walked closer to the three men, clutching a book in her tiny hands.

 

“I’ll take this one, DC.”

 

“Sure, whatever.”

 

There was a long silence, in which Takako pierced DC with her large almond orbs.

 

“…you…don’t expect me to pay for it, do you?” DC muttered again. Takako nodded as she offered him her most dazzling smile. Any other man would have melted under the sheer moé-ness of that smile, but this is DC we’re talking about.

 

Takeru laughed behind the Tenth Archangel. “Don’t worry. I’ll pay for it, Takako.”

 

Takako bowed politely as she handed over the book to Takeru. “Thank you very much, Takeru.”

 

The old man noticed how the girl didn’t use proper honorifics with the adult blonde, and how the adult blonde did not seem to care at all. DC and Takeru looked at the name on the cover together. ‘A Selection of Short Stories by H.P. Lovecraft.’

 

Both Tamers grimaced. “…disturbingly appropriate, isn’t it?” Takeru muttered. DC nodded in utmost agreement. Takako tilted her head cutely.

 

“Now what could that possibly mean, you two?”

 

“Ah! Nothing! Nothing at all! Ah, uh, mister, if you’re so kind…” Takeru hurriedly escaped Takako’s sharp look and proceeded to pay for the book. Takako wrapped her arm around DC’s and dragged him outside the store, laughing delightfully while DC blushed and complained. Taichi calmly followed them, a smile of amusement blatant on his face. While the old man looked for a paper bag for the book, he exchanged a few words with Takeru.

 

“You’re not from around here, are you? But you do not have accent…”

 

Takato chuckled. “Yes, you could say we’re not from around here.”

 

The man frowned. “That girl…she’s not an ordinary girl, is she?”

 

Takeru’s smile disappeared. He looked behind him, where Takako spoke to Taichi and DC, her carefree expression gone. As she turned to look at Taichi, then at DC, and then at Taichi once again, the two men nodded at whatever they were told.

 

“What makes you say that?” Takeru asked the man behind him.

 

“Anyone would have been surprised at the appearance of Digimon in Kyoto, yet she seemed to care little to none about it.”

 

Takeru smiled. It’s not that she doesn’t care; she does not think it poses a major threat, apparently.

 

“Few girls her age are so interested in books nowadays…”

 

Takeru chuckled again. She’s not really that interested, she’s just never read anything on paper before.

 

“…and much less in reading Lovecraft, of all things.”

 

You got me there, old man.

 

“And also…well, when you four entered the store, well…”

 

Takeru turned to face the old man again. The man lowered his head and his voice.

 

“I hope you will forgive me for this, but, when the four of you entered…she came in first.”

 

“…what about it?”

 

“…it’s just…sir, well…it’s just…something in the way she moved, her expression, and her eyes…”

 

“Sir, from the first moment I saw her, I knew who was in charge. It was as if a distinguished princess from a faraway land and her three servants had arrived to this humble store.”

 

Takeru looked at the man for a moment…and then he sighed. “She’s a princess, alright. Just not the sort of princess you might be thinking of.”

 

“Takeru! Let’s go already!”

 

“Coming!” Takeru quickly replied to Takako’s demand, shooting a wink at the old man as he walked his way out of the bookstore. He stopped under the doorframe, though.

 

“Maybe in a not-so-distant future you will understand, good sir. Have a nice day.”

 

 

1:03 P.M.

 

When the Digimon Tamers stepped outside the elevator, they felt they had left their world and entered a completely new realm: a world of chaos and confusion, cloaked by a red veil. Hypnos’ alarm blared loudly, and all the technicians were a single wave that flowed through the walkway to the Main Control Room, while they were showered by the red alarm lights. The five Tamers stood by the elevator’s entrance, stunned by the sight, until Henry noticed his father, his little sister and Akiyama Ryo among the crowd.

 

“Father! Suzie!”

 

“Henry!” Janyuu tried to move against the flow, but it was extremely difficult. It was a lot easier for the five Tamers to reach Henry’s father.

 

“What’s going on?” Henry had to shout to make his voice heard through the alarm.

 

“You haven’t seen it?” Janyuu replied in a surprised tone.

 

“Seen what?” Rika spoke before Henry could even open his mouth. Janyuu frowned and took his little daughter’s hand.

 

“Come. You have to see this. Especially you, Rika-chan.”

 

Rika blinked, but nodded and followed Henry’s father, the other Tamers close behind. Henry felt a slight tug on his right arm and turned to his girlfriend, who pointed at his sister who walked in front of him. It was then when he noticed.

 

Suzie was shaking. Her whole body was shaking. Her little left hand was held by her father, and in the other hand she tightly clutched her D-Ark.

 

Not too far away, Takako and her merry friends watched the same thing the Hypnos crew was watching, from the many TV screens of an appliance store. While Taichi tried to make something of it and Takeru pondered on its significance, DC simply looked at Takako. She had her tiny hands clenched into tiny fists, and her hardened expression revealed him she was gritting her teeth.

 

It’s trying to draw him out…it’s calling them…who is this who defies the way of things? Where is this insolent, so I can smite him myself?

 

Takako took a deep breath.

 

No…take a deep breath, Takako…your time hasn’t come yet…trust in onii-chan…he’ll do just fine…it’ll be okay…

 

…but if this thing stands in my way, I’LL CRUSH IT.

 

“Change of plans,” Takako stated.

 

“Huh?” Three male voices uttered together. Takako nodded.

 

“We’re not going to Hypnos yet. I need to think for a while. I need a quiet place where I can think clearly.”

 

A short pause. “Well, it’s time for lunch, so…”

 

“I second DC!”

 

“Of course you do, Tai…” Takeru muttered. Takako ignored the exchanged, her eyes and ears focused on the TVs.

 

…Ta…ka…to…

 

Deja vú was the common feeling among those in the Hypnos Main Control Room. Exactly the same had happened three years before. The virus publicly known as “The Nightmare” easily breached through Hypnos’ defense and invaded their computers, displaying a message such as the one before them. ‘Freya’ and ‘Frei’ had done the same, except for the message thing. But, in that moment, the association between The Nightmare, Frei and Freya, while latent and obvious, was the last thing in their minds. It was the message itself which baffled and confused them.

 

…Ta…ka…to…

 

The black screen slowly displayed each hiragana of Takato’s name, while a hoarse, inhuman voice called the name. The voice called for Takato three more times before someone dared open her mouth.

 

“Sir!” Onodera Talley announced. “We’ve confirmed the same is happening all over Japan!”

 

“Japan?” Yamaki flicked his lighter. “What about outside Japan?”

 

“Nothing, sir! It seems to have confined itself to our country.”

 

That’s too intelligent a behavior… Henry thought. A virus that can willingly limit its area of effect? Just what are we dealing with?

 

Henry turned at the only (living) person who had directly interacted with the Nightmare Virus. He refrained from opening his mouth at the sight of Nonaka Rika. From a distance, he could see she was clearly very pissed off.

 

“First Digimon showing up in Kyoto, and now this…just what the hell is going on…?” Yamaki mused, more to himself than to the large audience with him.

 

“Hmm…about that…” Janyuu added. “I want to talk with you about this Kyoto incident…in the meeting room, perhaps?”

 

When, three minutes later, the Tamers, Janyuu and Yamaki were comfortable on their seats, surprisingly, Henry was the first to speak.

 

“Father, I think I can see where you’re going.”

 

“If that’s the case, go ahead.”

 

Henry nodded before standing up to speak to the others.

 

“As we know, Digimon are attracted to other Digimon’s data.”

 

Massive nodding.

 

“Digimon come to Shinjuku because they’re attracted by our Digimon’s massive quantities of data. The only other occasion in which Digimon appeared outside of Tokyo was during the whole Okinawa situation, but that was mainly because of human involvement. And there’s also the Digimon emergence in Hiroshima last December, but that was only because Impmon was there.”

 

Henry looked at his Tamer partners. Ryo’s witty half-smile told him he had already caught up with the idea, too. Jeri, Suzie and Kenta remained blissfully ignorant, and Rika seemed deep in thought. Henry knew it was a matter of seconds before Rika, too, understood what he meant. Renamon’s piercing eyes told him her intuition was still stronger than Rika’s. Elecmon was in a meditative pose. Was he still processing his words, or had he already understood and was now pondering the consequences? Guardromon did not seem to be paying attention at all. In fact, he seemed to be sleeping…if android Digimon sleep, that is. Lopmon, unlike Suzie, who was still unaccustomed to meetings of this sort, looked at him with his tiny but penetrating orbs. Henry knew Lopmon already understood. He just knew.

 

“So what are you trying to get at, Henry?” Hirokazu asked. Henry smiled at his friend. But it wasn’t a warm smile, it was mostly a reflexive act in an attempt to light the weight of the bomb he was about to drop.

 

“If Digimon have appeared in Kyoto, it can only be because of two reasons, as the past has proved: either human intervention or they were attracted by the presence of yet another Digimon in Kyoto.”

 

“Human intervention it is, then,” Rika stated. “There are no Digimon living in Kyoto, or this would have happened before.”

 

“Unless this other Digimon just arrived to Kyoto…” Janyuu muttered to himself. Rika, Henry and Renamon looked at the older man…until they heard a gasp from the opposite side of the table.

 

Suzie’s gasp.

 

She was trembling as she hurriedly raised her D-Ark over the table and fidgeted with the buttons. She then mouthed a word, too soft to be heard by anyone.

 

“Suzie, is something wrong?”

 

“Ahh! No! No! Nothing at all, Jeri-chan!”

 

Janyuu (who had a strong suspicion since he picked up Suzie at school and told her what was going on) and Renamon (who can read lips) narrowed their eyes, while the others took Suzie’s words at face value and continued their discussion.

 

“Well, if there’s some idiot luring Digimon, human or Digimon, it’s just a matter of going there and beating the crap out of him, right?” Rika uttered, a bit angrily.

 

“Eager to do some tourism, Rika?” Ryo joked with a smug smirk on his face.

 

“The farther from you, the better.”

 

“That’s true to a point, but…” Henry began.

 

“……you mean the ‘farther from Ryo’ part?”

 

“Terriermon!”

 

“…there’s also that message.” Kenta finished Henry’s idea. As he said that word, Talley burst inside the room, holding a laptop.

 

“Sir! You have to see this! The message is changing!”

 

Immediately, the group gathered around Talley and Yamaki, who placed the laptop on the table. The laptop was connected through a wireless network to the rest of Hypnos’ systems, allowing it to show the same thing that was displayed in every electronic appliance with a proper screen in Japan.

 

Instead of the three large hiragana symbols on the middle, tiny copies of the name “Takato” appeared randomly all over the black screen, until they formed a grand matrix of 24 lines and 16 rows, each cell of the matrix containing the name. When the matrix was filled, the screen went full black, and the process repeated itself again. However, there was an additional detail. In the bottom right corner of the screen, there was a tiny counter, which increased itself by one every time the screen went black.

 

24…25…26…27…28…

 

Rika estimated the whole process between each change of the counter took about three or four seconds.

 

“What is this…?” Jeri muttered, somehow sadly. Rika slammed her right fist on the table, startling everyone.

 

“What kind of sick game is this?”

 

The other Tamers agreed with Rika, despite not showing it in such aggressive ways. The overt reference to the defunct Tamer was almost unbearable. What was that hacker trying to do, toying with them like that?

 

The group remained in an uneasy silence, wondering just how many times that counter was meant to increase.

 

…125…126…127…128.

 

What happened then froze the people in that room in stunning shock. The screen began showing a flowing sequence of images: a movie. It was a recording, to be precise: a recording of the Digimon Tamers in their final battle against D-Reaper. They watched and remembered how Justimon and Sakuyamon combined their powers and fought together, how Gallantmon changed to Crimson Mode and defeated the Jeri-Type, and how MegaGargomon destroyed D-Reaper itself.

 

But the video didn’t end just there. It followed the Tamers’ battle after the Digimon’s return, starting with the battle between Galfmon and BlackWarGreymon, followed by the battle between Takato, Guilmon, Terriermon and Renamon against Piedmon, Panjyamon and BlueMeramon. After that it followed with the battles against the Nightmare in the Digital World: first Henry’s, then Takato’s and Ryo’s, and finally Takato’s and Rika’s. Rika found it inconceivable that all their battles had been captured in video by some freak and were now shown to all of Japan. Everyone also noticed that, unlike the other battles, which were pretty much reduced to their most significant fragments, the battle against the final form of the Nightmare was being shown with more detail. Rika was forced to punch Terriermon when he snickered at the little scene when Gallantmon touched her where he shouldn’t. And she felt a soothing feeling of warmth in her heart when she remembered when their minds connected as one, in the form of a Dual Force attack.

 

Most of them thought the video would end there, but they were mistaken. The video continued with the battle at the beach between Rapidmon and MarineDevimon and Tylomon. When the video (for some reason) skipped ChaosGallantmon’s battle at the beach, as well as the Tamers’ battle against ChaosGallantmon, everyone sighed in relief. That was one battle they didn’t want to remember…and one battle they did not want the public to see, either.

 

Then, it followed with the Daemon War. Japan witnessed Takato’s defeat and the Tamers’ desperate efforts to keep Daemon from seizing him: Sakuyamon’s and Beelzemon’s team battle to save Takato from the first strike team; Daemon’s arrival; the Tamers’ defeat and the destruction of the Metropolitan Government Building, and, finally, Henry and the others’ futile efforts against Daemon. Rika understood their pain and frustration at being forced to relive those moments, and she found herself clutching Jeri’s left shoulder in what tried to be a comforting gesture. Jeri was far more surprised than comforted, but she appreciated the action.

 

The scenario suddenly shifted to Rika. She and Renamon were surrounded by a pack of Diaboromon. Takato lay unconscious on the pavement. Rika and Renamon were on their knees by his side.

 

Then, Rika lowered her body, bent down, and kissed him.

 

Nobody said anything (not even Terriermon). Words were not appropriate. They had seen something they probably should not have. Some closed their eyes, waiting for Rika’s reaction, but nothing happened.

 

Because Rika did not care anymore.

 

Let them know. Let Japan know she loved Matsuki Takato. But if she got to meet the author of that video, there would be hell to pay.

 

Then, the others saw for the first time Rika’s battle against the Diaboromon, in her last effort to protect the boy she loved. They saw her fight, take blows, fall and stand up again. Rika didn’t feel proud of what she had done that day, for it had been the worst day of her life, but the others, deep in their minds, acknowledged that what she had done for Takato was truly heroic.

 

Rika (namely, Sakuyamon) was finally defeated, and the screen went black. Everyone assumed it was the end of the transmission.

 

Nothing could have prepared them for what happened next.

 

Whoever had captured their battles, it had done so until the very end. Rika gasped when she saw Takato stand up next to her unconscious body. Eyes all over Japan were fixed on their screen as they saw a boy in the verge of death face his doom with courage few can possibly muster. They saw Guilmon’s sudden appearance, and their final bio-merge to Gallantmon. Everyone saw Takato’s final battle against the Diaboromon, his final minute of existence a blur of sublime violence.

 

It was a short battle, and it ended in Takato’s defeat but, in the eyes of many people, it was Takato’s most magnificent fight.

 

Jeri looked at Rika. Tears had finally escaped her eyes. Rika had either not noticed yet or just didn’t care about being seen anymore.

 

The defeated Takato stood up and faced his would-be executioners, Guilmon next to him. Heartbeats stopped when the Diaboromon took aim…

 

Riley and Talley gasped and Jeri took solace in Henry’s arms when Takato and Guilmon were engulfed in the combined beams that obliterated their bodies. Hirokazu and Kenta couldn’t help but look away from the screen. Rika simply closed her eyes. She had always wanted to know how Takato had died. Had he just died on the same spot she had left him? She finally had her answer.

 

Had she been able to read minds, she would have surprised to find out most of the others in that room were thinking among the same lines as her.

 

Takato had fought until the end. Despite the many times he had said he wished to simply drop dead, he did not do that. He always stood up and fought, no matter the overwhelming odds. And he didn’t fight for himself. That was meaningless to him.

 

He had fought for everyone else but him. It was precisely his selflessness which touched the hearts of every single person in Japan. Men and women all over the country offered silent prayers for that wonderful young child.

 

In room 1-A of Kagayaki Shinzou High School, Asagi Nami was crying tears of admiration for her most annoying student. In the back row of that classroom, Tanaka Rei was shaken to the very core of her being. The Matsuki Takato she had admired and respected was not even a tenth of the sheer kindness and bravery of the real Matsuki Takato. She had met dozens of much older guys who didn’t have a hundredth of the manliness that little kid showed every single time he fought.

 

His death had appalled her, but watching his final moments made her heart beat so fast she felt like a time bomb about to explode.

 

But the video wasn’t done yet.

 

It followed with the Diaboromon encircling the area where Takato’s body had been until seconds before, as if they making sure there was indeed nothing left. They actually looked a bit disappointed with the fact there was not even data to absorb. Then, they turned to the unconscious Rika and Renamon, raising their arms, with the obvious intention of doing to them what they had just done to Takato and Guilmon.

 

Rika’s heart skipped a beat. Renamon’s eyes widened. Japan was paralyzed. Hypnos was paralyzed. They were about to see the last piece of the puzzle. The very end of the Daemon War. They knew that something had prevented the Diaboromon from firing their beams at Rika and Renamon, otherwise they would not be standing there with the others.

 

Henry felt Terriermon’s tiny hands pulling his hair. He couldn’t care less.

 

Tanaka Rei clutched the edges of her short skirt. Come on…come on…Takato-sama…

 

The Diaboromon aimed…and disappeared in a sea of brightness. Even through plasma, optical or holographic screens, the sheer radiance of that light was so powerful everyone was forced to close their eyes. Jeri even let go a tiny shriek when her retinas were overwhelmed by the sudden stimulus. Slowly, every slowly, they opened their eyes as they felt the light receded.

 

In front of them, there was a sight to behold.

 

His shining crimson armor glowed in an almost hypnotic pattern, only enhanced by his golden extensions. Wielding an energy sword in his left hand and a silver spear in his right hand, it was a crimson knight wrapped by five pair of clear white angelic wings. It carried both Rika and Renamon in its arms, covering them with its wings in a lovingly, almost motherly way. He was protecting them from its own power, the power that obliterated the Diaboromon. It was beautiful.

 

He was sublime.

 

Gallantmon Crimson Mode.

 

 

4:53 P.M.

 

Takako and friends entered the Metropolitan Government Building as if they owned the place. Takeru flashed a badge of some sort which allowed them to get past the security. Once in the elevator, Takako proceeded to relay her instructions.

 

“Takeru, you’re our contact here, so I’ll leave the talking to you.”

 

“You have to settle a number of things.”

 

“First, we need a permanent residence in West Shinjuku, as close to Hypnos and Kagayaki Shinzou as possible. You should at least strive for two rooms: one for the three of you and another in which I’ll live with onii-chan.”

 

Takeru groaned. He should have expected that. “Haaaai.”

 

“Our expenses must be completely assumed by Hypnos, and our budget must be limitless.”

 

“You have got to be kidding me.”

 

“Paperwork for my acceptance at Kagayaki Shinzou must be completed immediately. I must be in the same classroom as the Digimon Tamers, under an alias, of course.”

 

“That can be done.”

 

“And finally, my identity must remain a secret from the Tamers, of course.”

 

“Mm-hmm.”

 

“Taichi, you must remain ‘dead’ to everyone for a while longer. You must not even be seen by the Tamers, okay?”

 

“I won’t complain.”

 

“DC, as soon as we’re done here, you are to depart to Kyoto immediately. There I want you to assist onii-chan anyway you can. I hope I don’t have to remind you that onii-chan, too, must remain hidden.”

 

“Got it.”

 

Who am I to argue with her in the first place? Besides, it’s a reasonable petition, coming from Takako.

 

Despite Takako’s apparent confidence as she spoke, DC noticed a few odd quirks in her behavior: the way she impatiently tapped her right foot, how she kept her eyes fixated on the display that showed which floor they were passing through, the way she embraced herself as if scared of something only she could see…

 

“Is there something wrong, Takako?”

 

Takako sighed. She had hoped nobody would notice. She had to recognize DC was more observant that she had thought.

 

“I…don’t like elevators. I don’t like cramped places.”

 

Takeru actually felt sorry for the girl. Her reaction was understandable, after having lived for so long within a glass tube.

 

“You didn’t have that trouble in the bookstore,” the insensitive Taichi noted.

 

“The entrance was open all the time…and I was distracted by the books.”

 

When the door of the elevator opened, there was a welcoming party waiting for them.

 

“Takaishi Takeru-san.”

 

“Yamaki-san.”

 

Yamaki and his two main technicians received the “shadow lord” of Hypnos with anything but warmth or emotion. In front of him, they were all business. The three bowed politely, and Takeru quickly replied. Yamaki then turned to look at the other three newcomers.

 

“And these are?”

 

Takako chuckled. Luna…

Yes, ma’am!

 

On Takako’s command, a Gate to the Digital World was opened right by her side, from which four Digimon emerged. Of course, the three Hypnos members hastily retreated a few steps backwards; a reflexive reaction to the surprise. Patamon and BlackTerriermon quickly perched themselves on their Tamers’ heads. Agumon walked next to Taichi and Lucemon calmly hovered behind Takako, swallowing the foreign environment with his clear cerulean eyes.

 

“This is Digimon Tamer DC. I believe you are already familiar with his partner, BlackTerriermon, from the previous Nightmare crisis.”

 

“Yo!”

 

Yamaki and the two women behind him nodded. Takeru continued.

 

“This is my colleague and friend Kamiya Taichi, and his partner, Agumon. He’ll put his abilities to our service from now on.”

 

Taichi bowed. “Pleased to meet you.”

 

Yamaki, Riley and Talley could have been more surprised at the presence of yet another Digi-Destined, but their familiarity with Takeru made it a lot easier to handle. Besides, they didn’t know Taichi was supposed to be dead, as Takeru never told them that part of the story.

 

“And this is Takako, Matsuki Takato’s twin sister, and her partner, Lucemon.”

 

That they did not expect. Takako, with the flair of a princess, elegantly crossed her legs and bowed.

 

“I’m pleased to be of your acquaintance. I thank you for your favors towards my onii-chan so far.”

 

DC made a grimace and BlackTerriermon gagged, but the two admitted Takako was one hell of an actress.

 

The three Hypnos members were stunned, and Takako’s bewitching smile didn’t help much. Not even Yamaki knew how to react to this…stunning surprise. He thought that day had been hectic enough, and then they dropped that bomb on him. What was he supposed to do then? As the three looked at Takako more closely, they did realize that the similarities were blatantly obvious. Save for the hair–Takako’s hair almost reached the floor at this point, flowing like a perfectly still river, far from Takato’s spiky style—and height—Takako was even shorter than Takato’s height at the moment of his death, by almost a head—, the girl in front of them was a mostly identical copy of the deceased Digimon Tamer, with the wrong chromosome.

 

“Bu-But…how?” Talley managed to mutter. Takako explained herself before Takeru made an attempt.

 

“I am a product of Project A.D.A.M, which you know as Project Asmodeus, just like onii-chan.”

 

The three looked at Takako, then at Takeru, and then at Takako one more time. Takeru sighed.

 

“Shall we go to a meeting room? We have lots to discuss, Yamaki,” Takeru stated, finally dropping the honorifics, stating his position as Hypnos’ superior.

 

“You tell me,” The man in shades muttered with a flick of his lighter before turning his back to the newcomers and guiding the way to the meeting room.

 

Despite her intention of having Takeru do the talking, Takako could not stop herself.

 

“May I ask where the Tamers are?” She questioned in her best ‘innocent-little-girl’ voice. DC felt like throwing up. Her victim was Ootori Riley, who turned to gaze at her with a loving look.

 

“They’re not here, Takako-chan. They’ve gone to their homes, to prepare to depart to Kyoto in an hour.”

 

“I take it you are aware of the current situation,” Yamaki interrupted, the question aimed at Takeru, who nodded in response.

 

“Of course. Nobody in Japan is unaware of the situation.”

 

“Care to enlighten us on what’s going on?”

 

Takeru shrugged. “For once, I know just about as much as you do.”

 

 

6:11 P.M.

 

Rika was silent. It was a silent trip for the Tamers, as the bullet train took them to Kyoto. The shinkansen took roughly an hour and a half to get from Tokyo to Kyoto, so she guessed they still had an hour or so to go.

 

Henry, Suzie and Hirokazu had agreed to stay, in case Digimon attacked Shinjuku. Rika would have preferred (even if she would never admit it) having Henry (or even Suzie) in the Kyoto group, as she considered that 1 Mega and 1 Ultimate should be more than enough to handle whatever wild Digimon that tried to emerge while the others were away (besides, they could still count on Impmon, if more firepower was needed). However, Henry had a good argument that, given the current situation, things other than ordinary Digimon might show up (they still grimaced at the memory of Megidramon Nightmare Mode).

 

Hence, she was in charge of “Team Kyoto” (yes, she, not Ryo), taking Ryo, Kenta and Jeri with her. Of course, Jeri tried to make Ryo stay in Shinjuku so that Henry could come with them, but, in an unusual display of intelligence, Suzie had a decent strategic argument to justify Ryo’s place in “Team Kyoto.”

 

Rooming had already been arranged at the Kyoto Brighton Hotel through a contact of her mother’s agent. One room for the males and one for the ladies. But Kyoto was the last thing in her mind. The images in the video she had just seen less than five hours before were still vivid in her mind.

 

Rei had been right all this time.

 

Takato had saved her.

 

Takato had saved them all.

 

Takato killed Daemon. Channeling his remaining life energy through his Final Justice attack, he died, taking Daemon with him.

 

Takato…

 

Her eyes watered for the nth time that afternoon. The pain was almost unbearable.

 

She missed him so much, and it didn’t help if she was reminded of him over and over. So many disparate things reminded her of Takato, from the two-person seats of Kagayaki Shinzou to the laughter of children. For some reason she always associated Takato with small children. After all, he was so carefree…he could carry the weight of the world on his tiny shoulders and still keep that idiotically cute smile of his.

 

I guess he would have been a terrific father…would I make a good mother?

 

…what am I thinking?

 

She would never be a mother. Not anymore. She just could not see herself with a man. Not anymore.

 

Not again.

 

Just like before.

 

But, unlike before, she would not hide herself under a shell of ice. She would live, just like he had wanted her to.

 

But that did not change the fact…that she missed him a lot.

 

“Rika.”

 

She turned to Jeri, who took the seat next to her and offered her a can of soda.

 

“I bought these before we got in the train,” Jeri explained as she opened a can of her own and took a sip. Rika smiled in gratitude.

 

“Thanks.”

 

Jeri smiled back. Rika wondered when in God’s name she got in such good terms with Katou Jeri. She guessed her mother was right: humans need interaction, and she was no exception. As a girl, she needed girlfriends to confide in. And who better than another Tamer, someone who understood the kinds of pressure she’s had to deal with, to take up that role? Besides, it’s not like many other girls would even dare approach her.

 

The image of Tanaka Rei invaded her mind for a second. Well, that’s one…interesting exception.

 

“Something in your mind, Rika?”

 

Rika shook her head. “Nah, just thinking…”

 

“About something in particular?”

 

“…Takato.”

 

She would have never said that to anyone else. But Jeri was a girl: a girl in a relationship, a girl who cared for Takato, and a girl Takato loved.

 

Jeri understood. Jeri would never make fun of her. Besides, Henry’s damned Digimon was miles away.

 

“If you could talk to him one more time, what would you tell him?”

 

Rika turned to look at Jeri, blinking in surprise. She wasn’t ready for such a question. She looked down.

 

“I…I don’t know. I guess…I guess I’d just go with whatever my mind could come up with in that moment.”

 

Jeri chuckled. “Definitely sounds like Rika to me.”

 

Jeri suddenly closed her eyes. Somehow, Rika thought Jeri looked surprisingly mature.

 

“I…I kind of regret…there are many things I could tell him. When Daemon attacked…I couldn’t…I couldn’t even say goodbye. My last memory of Takato is him being dragged inside a black van…just how sad is that?”

 

Jeri was crying.

 

“You know, Jeri…he wanted to turn back.”

 

“Huh?” Jeri opened her now reddened eyes again.

 

“When you and Henry stayed to fight Daemon and we left in the van, Takato wanted to turn back and help you.”

 

Jeri stiffened a chuckle. “That’s Takato for you.”

 

A short pause. No sounds other than those caused by the train filled the empty transport. A sizeable portion (if not the whole train, they didn’t know) of the train had been emptied just for them and their Digimon. It was not a luxury, of course. It was simply because their Digimon’s presence could be a potential problem in a train full of people. Kenta and Ryo were far enough to remain oblivious to the girls’ conversation. Rika knew Renamon was listening, and so was Elecmon under Jeri’s seat, but if there were two trustworthy Digimon among the Tamers, it were those two. And Lopmon.

 

“Takato…always tried to protect me. He always tried to care of me. He always tried to keep me out of trouble and danger. I think it wasn’t because he saw me as weak…I hope that was not the case. I guess it was because…well…you know…”

 

Jeri’s blush completed the sentence.

 

“…because he had an interest in you?”

 

Jeri nodded. “Takato liked me. I understand that now. That’s why he reacted the way he did when Leomon…”

 

She left that thought drift into oblivion.

 

“That was Takato’s constant.” Jeri continued.  “He always worried so much about taking care of others that he seldom took care of himself.”

 

“You tell me,” Rika mumbled, a bit angry.

 

“So, if Takato took care of everyone, who was there to take care of Takato?”

 

“I…could only offer him my friendship. Even less than that when I left Tokyo. He meant a lot to me…he still does, but…I couldn’t be the one who took care of him…not in the way he needed to be taken care of. That’s why…I was…kind of glad…when you two began spending more and more time together, and started getting closer and closer.”

 

Rika felt her face heating up a little, but, at the same time, she felt kind of happy.

 

“I could tell he had fallen for you, and you didn’t precisely hate him, either. And I was very happy for both of you.”

 

“Takato was full of love; it was great he had someone to give it to. And you definitely could use some of that at that time. You couldn’t have asked for a better best friend, Rika. That’s why it hurt me to see him every time he faced your rejection, your contempt and insulting. He tried to get closer to you, to be rejected over and over.”

 

“…”

 

Jeri suddenly grinned. “But if there’s a person more obstinate than Nonaka Rika in this world, it’s Matsuki Takato, isn’t it?”

 

The shorter girl finally looked away from Rika and sighed. “It was sad, wasn’t it? ‘Takato and his one-sided love.’ That’s what I thought until today. But…”

 

She looked back at Rika, and Rika blinked. Jeri’s eyes showed warmth and gratitude beyond comprehension.

 

“When we asked you to take care of him, as his end was drawing closer, you did it, Rika. You helped him live through his final days, and you protected him with all your power. We Tamers are a team, and you were a wonderful team member that day. Now that I’ve seen how you fought to protect Takato from those Diaboromon…”

 

Jeri held her can of soda between her legs and took Rika’s hands in hers. She was crying again.

 

“For taking care of mine and my boyfriend’s best friend…thank you.”

 

“For being there for him…thank you.”

 

“For loving him…thank you so much, Rika.”

 

Rika swallowed Jeri’s words and vomited them in the form of tears. She felt incredibly sad yet bursting with happiness at the same time, as the biggest of all burdens was finally relieved off her exhausted heart. Somehow, Jeri’s acknowledgement of her feelings for Takato meant a lot to her.

 

“I loved him, Jeri…I really did…” She said between muffled sobs. Jeri nodded happily and frantically.

 

“…I still do…I always will…”

 

 

7:26 P.M.

 

Alice McCoy was pissed off. VERY pissed off.

 

Takato hadn’t shown up at all that day, and she had to spend her day locked within that room watching random Japanese TV channels that challenged her knowledge of Japanese language to the max. Of course, she did follow the news on the apparition of Digimon in the city. She heard the explosions from her room, and she did recognize HishaRyuumon in the still image shown in the newscast. But, still, she was bored! It was supposed to be their lovey-dovey magical honeymoon! Well, not really that mushy, but at the very least they were supposed to spend their time together, right? He could at least send a message or something! She knew he had the means to do that!

 

And she had seen the weird summons for Takato…and the video.

 

Takato didn’t really talk much about his experiences as a Tamer post-D-Reaper. Maybe because she never really asked him. After watching the video, Alice felt like asking many questions. She was his wife after all. She was supposed to know everything about her husband. She was sure Takato would keep his quota of secrets: it was almost a given with someone the likes of him. But she wanted to learn of his childhood; of the time before they met, before and after D-Reaper. That seemed like a nice plan for the honeymoon.

 

As for Nonaka Rika…she couldn’t help but dislike her. She was sure she wasn’t a bad person, or even deserving of hatred, and she acknowledged Rika’s feelings for Takato, as someone who also feels the same. But Alice’s hatred of Rika was simply a natural thing.

 

Alice is a jealous and insecure person. Hence, she can’t help but feel threatened by any female who shows attraction towards her husband.

 

She was tired of being in that room, so she was now in the elevator. She would at least have dinner outside those four walls. She was pondering whether to dine in the hotel’s restaurant or go outside when the elevator stopped and the doors opened before her.

 

“Welcome to the Kyoto Brighton Hotel, Nonaka-san and companions.”

 

Alice’s heart skipped a beat, only to accelerate to an almost painful pace. She had unconsciously tightened her fists and widened her clear blue eyes.

 

A few paces away from her, by the reception, Alice could see four of the Digimon Tamers and three Digimon: Akiyama Ryo and Monodramon, Katou Jeri and Elecmon, Kitagawa Kenta (she correctly guessed MarineAngemon was hidden in a pocket), and HER (and Renamon).

 

W-What are they doing here? What is SHE doing here?

 

Alice’s breathing became terribly heavy, and she felt a little dizzy. The answer to that question was obvious. If Digimon were presumed to have appeared in Kyoto, it was obvious the Digimon Tamers would be dispatched to investigate. But why did they have to stay in this, of all the hotels in the city?

 

Alice stood there, in front of the elevator, unsure of what to do. It was a matter of time before her staring was noticed by, of course, the ever-sharp Renamon. Alice gasped when the vulpine creature fixed her narrow eyes on her. Of course, Renamon’s memory has always been as sharp as her eyes, and Renamon quickly recognized the girl in front of her as the grown version of that girl of non-Japanese origin that granted the Digimon Tamers the blessing of evolution to fight against D-Reaper. What she did not remember, though, was her name.

 

“Rika,” she muttered, drawing her partner’s and everyone else’s attention. Alice gasped for the second time and unconsciously moved a step backwards when her violet orbs followed Renamon’s gaze.

 

Rika frowned.

 

“What is it?” Rika asked her partner. Renamon realized her Tamer seemed to not remember. Fortunately, the knowledgeable Ryo eliminated the necessity of her to explain.

 

“You are! Yes! Dolphin’s granddaughter…what was the name…Alice! Alice McCoy!”

 

Renamon nodded. “Yes. She helped us bio-merge during the D-Reaper situation.”

 

“Ah, the girl with the Dobermon.”

 

Alice twitched. So she was just “the girl with the Dobermon.”

 

Rika suddenly looked at the blonde gaijin with new eyes. Alice found herself slowly shaking her head, as if trying to deny her identity.

 

“And just how do you know that, Akiyama?”

 

“I happened to be more knowledgeable of the Monster Makers, Rika, dear.”

 

“Eat that last word.”

 

“Aaah!”

 

Alice’s shriek was loud enough to be heard by the Tamers. And Alice had a VERY good reason to shriek. Rika frowned again at Alice’s expression of sheer terror and surprise. It couldn’t be the Digimon. So far they hadn’t gotten more than odd looks as they walked with their partners, not even in the hotel. Besides, that girl, if she was who Ryo claimed she was, was then quite familiar with Digimon. It didn’t take her long to realize Alice was no longer looking at them, but at something, or someone behind them. So, she turned around…

 

…to the entrance, where Matsuki Takato was just walking inside the hotel…

 

 

7:26 P.M.

 

“Ahh…Alice must be mad…” Takato groaned after these words. Ruki chuckled.

 

I guess…

 

Guilmon and Ryuudamon were hidden, of course. Dobermon stayed in the Digital World with Nix, after Takato promised him he would gate him the next day. Takato had reappeared on the roof of the Kyoto Brighton Hotel, and idly chatted with his Omnivice companion while she used her mapping algorithms to select the most appropriate place for him to go down.

 

“But I couldn’t help it, you know! They just kept coming and coming!”

 

I think you must have noticed it definitely seemed as if they intended to stall you…didn’t you?

 

“Of course I did. That would mean they wanted to keep me away from this side. I wonder if something happened. I’ll ask Alice whether she noticed something odd.”

 

If she lets you.

 

“Yeah, if she lets me.”

 

Any ideas?

 

“Not really. You know I’m not really an expert in women management.”

 

So modest, my Tamer…well, you could always repeat last night!

 

“…you…were in idle mode, weren’t you?”

 

O-O-O-Of course! Wha-Wha-What are you trying to imply?

 

“Me? Absolutely nothing. So, how’s the scan going?”

 

Ah! Umm…there’s a safe back alley two blocks to your left. The exact location should be visualized in your head as we speak.

 

“Indeed, it does.”

 

An instant later, Takato was in the aforementioned alley. He let go a deep sigh.

 

You okay?

 

“Sure. Shouldn’t I?”

 

Takato said as he walked out of the alley and began walking the two blocks that separated him from the hotel. He could have just gated inside the room of the hotel, but Takato was very careful when it came to using his powers and keeping an appearance of normality. He left the hotel through the main entrance; hence he had to return through the main entrance.

 

You did use a lot of your abilities there: lots of Eden’s Lights and Eden’s Gate, as well as Genbu’s Shield. And you made an awful lot of Instant Moves, including the one just now. Adding to that the Mass Suggestion this morning…

 

Takato smiled. “Thank you, Ruki.”

 

…huh? Why?

 

“For taking care of me. You’re a wonderful friend. I can’t even remember how things were before I met you!”

 

Oh, Takato, you’re embarrassing me!

 

“Do not worry. Most of the fight took place in the Digital World, where, as you know, my power is virtually boundless.” He allowed himself an impish grin. “I’ll admit I’m a little tired, this being my first decent battle since my rebirth, but it’s nothing a good night’s sleep can’t fix.”

 

That’s good to know…but I’ll run a scan on you just to make sure you’re not just trying to make me feel better, okay?

 

Go ahead, do as you please. And, um…Ruki.

 

Hmm?

 

…I love you.


Hmm…heh-hee…I love you too, idiot.

 

Takato walked the two blocks in no time and reached the hotel’s entrance.

 

“Aaah!”

 

A loud shriek caught his attention. Alice?

 

It was, indeed, Alice. And she looked very scared. She had already noticed his presence. In fact, he was sure he was the reason she had shrieked. Did he look that bad? Had he surprised her? It seemed she was backtracking to the elevator, but he couldn’t see very well with Renamon blocking his…

 

She was there.

 

In front of him.

 

He could clearly see her back.

 

He could see her gloriously bright scarlet hair he had loved to caress, now tied in a ponytail.

 

It looked great on her.

 

She still preferred t-shirts and jeans over more “girly” clothes. But that was okay.

 

That was the Rika he knew.

 

She was taller. It was to be expected: as a woman, she had already gone through her main growth spurt. From a distance he guessed she was two or three inches taller than him. She would be tall, for Japanese standards. Her father must have been quite tall. She was in stark contrast with Alice, who, Takato thought, would turn out to be surprisingly short.

 

He was stunned by her presence, even if he was just looking at their back. The others, too, had their backs to him, but to hell with the others. He had eyes for her, and only her. She was just that powerful: in his eyes, in his mind…

 

Rika…

 

She was turning around. He knew he was supposed to evade her eyes somehow, but…

 

Takato!

 

He was frozen still on that place, unable to escape the magnetic pull that seemed to trap him and reveal his existence.

 

Takato!

 

He was breathing heavily. Suddenly, he managed to understand Alice’s expression, for he was scared, too. He was scared of himself. Because he had to admit that, deep inside, he wanted Rika to see him.

 

Takato, get a hold of yourself!

 

*PZZT!*

 

An instant later, he was in his hotel room. His whole body was shaking, and the only sounds came from outside and from his labored breath.

 

Ruki…Ruki…I…

 

Takato…

 

He sat on the bed behind him, clutching his head with his hands. What…seriously…what…

 

 

7:31 P.M.

 

Rika looked behind her…

 

…there was no one there…at least no one besides the usual hustle of a popular hotel. She turned to Alice, who was breathing as if she had just run a marathon.

 

“What was that about?” Rika muttered to herself.

 

Had Alice’s fingernails been a bit larger, she would have drawn her own blood. She was scared, frustrated, embarrassed, sickened, dizzy, and angrier than she thought she could possibly be. She was angry at herself, for reacting like that and almost revealing Takato’s presence. She was angry at Takato, for scaring her like that.

 

But the core of her anger was focused on Nonaka Rika, for being the cause of what had just happened: for eliciting such a reaction from both her and Takato.

 

If she just weren’t there…if Nonaka Rika did not exist…her life with Takato would be perfect.

 

Rika moved a step backwards when she received the full force of Alice’s hateful glare. It was a familiar sight, as she had often seen such faces on her classmates at her previous schools, before she joined the other Tamers in their schooling. But Alice’s face took hatred to a whole new level.

 

“Nonaka Rika…”

 

Rika was simply confused by the spite in the blonde girl’s voice. What had she done to deserve such treatment? The others were just as confused. The American girl, despite her short stature and soft features, looked terribly intimidating. Her blue eyes glowed with the raging fury of a blizzard, like the wrath of a merciless goddess of ice. Her pale skin, unlike what anyone would expect, looked even whiter in her rage. Jeri unconsciously associated Alice with the treacherous snow lady of Japanese legend, the yuki-onna.

 

“I wish you had never been born, Nonaka Rika.”

 

And she walked inside the elevator, disappearing when the door closed behind her.

 

Somehow, the place seemed to get warmer when she left.

 

 

End of chapter 3…

 

 


 

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