Episode 11: Satori
by Ajora Fravashi
Disclaimer - See the one on episode 1. I don't have time to retype it.
Noto peninsula jutted out of the spine of Japan like a crooked finger
trying to beckon Korea closer. As Daisuke looked over the map in the
process of marking down Firefly Village, he thought the islands of
Japan looked a bit like a sea horse. Hokkaido was the head, the
scattering of islands that included Okinawa was the tail, and Tokyo
was at the belly. He wondered vaguely if anyone ever saw it that way
before. In fact...
"Hey, Takeru? Ever notice that the nation of Japan looks like a sea
horse," he asked conversationally.
Takeru glanced at Daisuke in surprise at the sudden question, but his
eyes returned to the road once he was fairly certain Daisuke was being
serious. "Can't say I've ever thought of it."
V-mon scrambled closer to Daisuke to look over the map. He cocked his
head in an attempt to see what Daisuke was talking about, but
something was puzzling him. "What's a sea horse?"
"It's a little ocean creature," Patamon offered helpfully. "Takeryu
showed me one at an aquarium once! They look funny." Patamon looked up
at his partner. "Takeryu, why do they call them sea horses when they
don't look like horses?"
"I don't know. Ask Daisuke?"
Daisuke shot Takeru a half-hearted glare for redirecting the queries
to him. "I dunno, okay? People do weird crap like that."
"Humans are so strange," groused V-mon. Patamon made an agreeing noise
While Daisuke was preparing to counter that with the observation that
digimon were pretty strange too, the rover slowed its progress to
walking speed. He looked up from the digimon to see what caused the
Approaching them on the derelict old highway was a group of people,
many with packs and carts that suggested a nomadic existence. They
walked with a kind of calm assurance that didn't seem quite normal to
Daisuke. As he tried to figure it out, his eyes drifted over to the
front of the procession and he completely forgot about anything else.
He didn't even notice when the rover stopped.
She was a vision in the white and red robes of a Shinto shrine maiden,
with shoulder-length hair of a warm brown color and breath-taking
cinnamon-colored eyes. There was a glow around her that wasn't
actually seen, but he was fairly sure everyone sensed it. He would
like nothing more than to be with her. Then she looked in his
direction and the world's most radiant smile appeared on her face. He
didn't really notice when the rover slowed to a stop, or anything else
for that matter. She broke into as much of a run as her
traditional sandals would allow and was heading straight for-
His jaw dropped as his mind fought to reconcile reality with fantasy.
The priestess rushed into Takeru's arms, and he hugged
her like they were familiar with each other. Very familiar with
each other. Out of the corner of his eye, Patamon cheered and launched
from the rover to flap over to a white cat who remained by the
priestess's side. What the hell was going on?
"Takeru! Where have you been? We were so worried about you," the
priestess said once they parted.
The ecstatic grin on Takeru's face faded. "Everywhere, mostly. Can we
talk in private?"
With a murmur of understanding, the priestess turned back to her
congregation. Her silvery voice rose just high enough for them to hear
her. "Let's make camp for tonight and we'll resume the pilgrimage
The crowd made various noises of agreement and dispersed to do
something or other that Daisuke couldn't guess. The only other people
remaining behind were a man with untamable hair kept out of his face
by a pair of goggles and a deformed-looking boy hidden under a
broad-rimmed hat and poncho. The man's warm brown eyes caught his and
seemed to smile for the briefest moment before returning to Takeru and
"Mind introducing us to your friend, Takeru?"
Takeru had the grace to look a bit embarrassed at forgetting Daisuke
for the moment. "Oh, right. Motomiya Daisuke, meet Yagami Hikari," the
priestess smiled shyly at Daisuke, "and Taichi." Taichi gave him a
friendly wave. Curious, V-mon poked his head out above the dashboard
and glanced around. "And V-mon, meet Tailmon and Agumon." The white
cat, Tailmon, nodded gracefully in acknowledgement as the kid took off
the hat and revealed himself as a small orange dinosaur.
V-mon flushed and muttered a quick greeting. Daisuke considered asking
if it was possible for digimon to form crushes, but Hikari spoke up
before he could say anything. "If you're all willing to stay the
night, we can offer our tent to share."
"Sure thing," Daisuke blurted out enthusiastically before he could
think better of it. To his surprise, Hikari didn't seem offended in
In all likelihood, there would have been an awkward silence had Taichi
not taken advantage of the moment to announce that he and Hikari would
be needed to help set up camp, which was on the beach a bit further
north if they'd like to come along. With that, the Yagamis and their
digimon led the way down the road. After a quick word to Takeru,
Patamon fluttered to Tailmon's side.
As the rover followed along at as slow a speed as it could manage
while still capable of moving, Daisuke figured it was probably the
best chance he had to ask Takeru about things. V-mon's still-red face
suggested that he wasn't up for much interrogation for a while. "Say,
um, Takeru? Are you and Hikari an item or something?"
The rover came to an abrupt stop as Takeru slammed on the brakes and
looked at him in surprise. "Us? An item? What do you mean?"
"Are you guys romantically involved?" Might as well get the answer
now and not embarrass himself later.
Blue eyes searched his, perhaps hoping it was a bad joke. When Takeru
was sure he was serious, he sighed. "No. You're attracted to her,
"Well, of course," Daisuke said with just a touch of
exasperation, as if it would be obvious to anyone. "Who wouldn't be?
V-mon likes Tailmon too."
V-mon made an indignant sound but did not deny it.
A faint, humorless half-smile ghosted across Takeru's face. "Well,
good luck trying, then. I love her like a sister, and it's the same
with Patamon and Tailmon, but that's about it. She's asexual."
Bemused, Daisuke took a moment to consider the word. Did Takeru mean
what he suspected his friend meant, or was there some other meaning
that he didn't consider? "What does that mean?"
"Just what the word suggests. She's not physically attracted to
anyone, male or female." At Daisuke's sudden crestfallen expression,
Takeru gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "That doesn't mean
you can't be friends with her. Hikari's friendship is much more
valuable than whatever brief encounters can come of a romantic
relationship. Same goes for Tailmon."
V-mon looked fairly optimistic at that. "So I can be friends with
The half-smile turned into a full grin. "Of course. Besides, it's
better this way in the long run."
For a long, silent moment, Daisuke carefully considered the options.
Maybe Takeru was right. He had had lovers before, but they
rarely stuck around after a break-up. True friends, however, remained
loyal through thick and thin. When the rover started moving again,
Daisuke decided that that was the best outcome he could hope
Yagami Hikari had always considered herself somewhat weak. While
Taichi (and Takeru, back when they traveled together regularly) meant
well in trying to protect her from the world, it left her with little
confidence in her own strength. In the Digital World it wasn't
her that was powerful, it was the spirits of Light that used
her body as a physical medium to display their powers. Consequently,
when the Apocalypse came, she was surprised by her own willpower to
keep going. Their parents would have wanted her to live, not give in
to the despair that would have been so easy to end with just a razor
blade and a tub full of hot water.
At first she lived in Taichi's shadow, content to wait in safety with
Protomon and Koromon until he came back with food and water. When they
were joined up by Yamato and Takeru, Yamato would frequently go off
with Taichi on food runs while Takeru was told to wait behind and
protect her. Everyone was always protecting her. After a while, Yamato
and Takeru went off to try and find their parents again, and again she
was left with only the digimon and her brother as company. As she grew
older, more and more people started leering at her, wanting something
she had no desire to give to anyone. Once a thug who had been eyeing
her in the markets attempted to molest her while her brother was away.
It had been the trigger for Protomon's evolution to Tailmon, and as
the wounded thug stalked away, Hikari realized that she couldn't
always count on Taichi to be there for her.
The Shinto shrine maiden robes had been a defense at first, something
to hide behind and warn people that she was not something to take
their pleasure from. A shrine maiden was untouchable, pure of body and
spirit. However, she should have realized sooner that the other
children would assume she might have been a real priestess. People
came with the expectation that she would be able to perform religious
services for them; and after the first few times she was approached on
the matter, she came to the conclusion that she might as well play the
part. For several years, she read all the holy books and philosophies
she could come across. As her role grew greater than she had ever
anticipated, her own beliefs crystallized into something that might
have best been defined as the sum of the world's religions.
Now, years afterwards, she knew she had power. The people looked to
her for reassurance and purpose when they couldn't find it anywhere
else. Her blessings absolved the guilty. She preached peace to former
Clansmen and self-reliance to the downtrodden. Above all, her message
was one of the sanctity of life.
Taichi, Agumon, and Tailmon had been there for her throughout it all.
When there was no longer any need for Taichi to find food for them
all, he stood by as guardian during public events and kept order
during the pilgrimages to various shrines. Tailmon would listen to her
self-doubts and assure Hikari that she would always be there. Hikari
loved and was loved, and base biological drives she had no interest in
were never a part of it.
Sunset lit up the formerly grey sky with hues of vibrant reds and
oranges that faded into purples as the sun steadily retreated beyond
the sea's horizon. On the beach, just a bit away from the national
highway, was a campsite that saw use many times before. Several tents
of varying composition clustered around the main campfire, where fish
were being spit-roasted in preparation for supper.
Daisuke gazed longingly at the atmospwhere of warm camaraderie,
wanting to join in but unable to quite yet. Takeru was busy at the
radio and their digimon partners were already busy socializing with
the Yagamis' digimon. He didn't know why he had to stay here,
especially since Takeru was the one who monopolized the radio, but Ken
insisted he had to be in hearing range so Takeru wouldn't have to
repeat their orders.
"Are you certain you want to pursue this? Remember the problem we had
"Hikari isn't Genki," Takeru interrupted in exasperation. "She's a
Chosen Child like me and Sora. I trust her."
If Daisuke strained a bit, he could just barely hear Ken's grunt of
irritation under the radio's crackling. "I'm wary about placing trust
in a cult leader-"
"She's not a cult leader!"
"Takeru! Will you stop interrupting and hear me out?"
"Okay, fine. She's still not a cult leader."
There was a brief pause, which Daisuke suspected Ken was taking
advantage of to grit his teeth, before he continued. "I've never heard
of her before, save for passing mention from you and Sora. What
resources does she have? What would make her a valuable ally?"
"Her congregation is primarily nomadic and most of the members have
friends and family in high places. Hikari herself is going to write an
introduction letter for me to gain audience with the Shogun of
Niigata." Takeru paused to grin smugly at that, which Daisuke couldn't
really fault him for. They hadn't known that Hikari knew the Shogun,
but when he was mentioned in passing on the way to the campsite,
Hikari said she was friends with the guy! Daisuke was convinced
then that Hikari was the best ally they would ever find. "You did want
us to talk to the Shogun, correct?"
The pause on Ken's end was longer this time. Daisuke wondered faintly
what a surprised expression on Ken's face would look like. "Er... Yes.
"They have links everywhere, Ken, and just because they're a bunch of
pacifists does not mean they won't help out. A lot of them have basic
first aid training and when things do come to war, they'll willing to
treat our wounded. And, if anyone ever figures out how to lift that
restriction on evolution, the two digimon here would be able to evolve
to Angewomon and WarGreymon."
"What do they want in exchange?"
The satisfied look on Takeru's face fell into something that looked
far more like worry. "Well, here's where it gets weird. None of them
will join the military, but they do want us to find and protect
something called 'The Grail.' It's not an artifact and not connected
to the Holy Grail of European mythology, but I think it might be a
person. Hikari says the Grail is somewhere near our area, but not in
the base itself. She also says that it's imperative to keep the Grail
out of Amaterasu's clutches, but I'm not sure why."
Daisuke could just imagine Ken frowning at the thought of sending his
agents on a wild goose chase. "Does she have a description of this
person? Anything more to work with?"
"Nothing, sorry," Takeru responded with a frown of his own. "All I
know is that the Grail is somewhere in our area and has something
valuable that Amaterasu would want if they knew this person had it."
"Perfect." Ken's voice practically dripped with sarcasm. "These people
can offer us a fortuitous alliance, but only in exchange for something
without a name or description. Shouldn't be a problem."
Impatient for this argument to come to an end, Daisuke plucked the
handset from Takeru's hands. "Yo, Ken! The best we can do is keep that
area out of enemy hands, right? Keep a lookout for anyone who might
look like they're carrying secrets or something. I think that's what
Hikari means. Maybe when Hikari's group is in the area, she can have
the freedom to look around."
There was a sigh under the radio's crackling. "Very well. What are
your opinions on the matter, Daisuke?"
Daisuke blinked in surprise. Why the hell would Ken want to know what
he thought? "I like Hikari. I mean, I haven't heard her sermons yet,
but she's not some crazy jackass like that Genki guy. She's very
sweet, and modest, and kind, and-" His companion gave a low, amused
chuckle at that. He shot Takeru a warning glare before continuing.
"And a bunch of other things. If I was in your place, I'd go for it."
"All right." Ken sounded like he actually trusted Daisuke's word. "Do
what you two can to seal the deal, then I want you to head to the
shogunate as soon as possible."
Takeru grabbed the handset before Ken could close the connection. "Oh,
Ken? One last thing. See if you can get some mint tea back at the
base, okay? I'm sick of mulberry tea. Over and out."
Before Ken could respond, Takeru killed the radio connection and got
out of the rover's cab. At Daisuke's befuddled expression, he gave a
slight shrug. "You have Jun and Shaochung to socialize with at the
base, but I have to entertain Ken while Sora's busy doing whatever she
does for an hour a day."
A look of dawning comprehension appeared on Daisuke's face. "Ohh, I
wondered where you'd run off to all the time. What do you do?"
"Play Risk and drink tea," Takeru said with an exaggerated air of
despondence. "I may not be able to stop him from kicking my ass and
taking over my territories, but at least I can try and convince him to
make the tea more palatable."
Daisuke gave his friend a sympathetic pat on the back before moving to
rearrange the branches arranged around the rover. It wasn't that they
didn't trust Hikari's congregation to keep a lookout for stray
bandits, but habits were hard to break and keeping the rover hidden
wasn't a habit they would want broken. When they were certain it would
be hard to pick out from the rest of the scrub and trees south of the
highway, they returned to the campsite.
By now the cloud cover had mostly broken up, revealing a full moon
shining down from the sky. The moisture still in the air gave the
appearance of a halo of silver light around the moon and amplified the
glow of the stars. Daisuke didn't really notice it until they were at
the campsite proper and he could look up. Takeru went on ahead of him
to join Taichi at the campfire.
"Beautiful, isn't it," Hikari's voice whispered from somewhere behind
him. Daisuke blinked in surprise and turned to look at her. Bathed in
the silver light, Hikari looked even more angelic. Yeah, that was the
"Uhm. Yeah, you are-" Daisuke cut off abruptly when he realized his
faux pas and stammered in embarrassment, "I mean, it is." He
wondered faintly if the sand would be so kind as to open a rift
The priestess simply smiled reassuringly at him, which made him feel
just slightly less stupid. "Will you walk with me?"
He suddenly felt very light-headed. "Yeah, sure."
Hikari turned and led him away from the campsite, towards a cluster of
boulders along the coast. Clinging to the hope that maybe he had a
chance and "asexual" might not include him, Daisuke followed
willingly. Picking their way around the rocks was surprisingly easy
under the moonlight, and it wasn't long before the campfire was no
longer visible. Hikari's bare feet looked white and frail against the
black boulder they were climbing on, making Daisuke wonder if the
roughness was causing her any pain. It didn't look like it did, but
Takeru said Hikari was the type to internalize things, so-
"Here we are," she announced once they reached the top. There was just
enough flat space for two people to lie back and watch the stars. With
a grateful sigh, she sat with slender legs dangling over the edge and
patted the space beside her. "Join me."
Somewhere in the back of his mind was a mental image of a cartoon
version of himself cheering in triumph. He shoved the mental image
away and sat beside her. "So, uh..."
"Is Takeru faring well," Hikari asked in concern.
Daisuke's optimism abruptly deflated. So that's what this was
all about. Well, at least he could be honest. Takeru was still his
friend, and this he firmly reminded the part of himself that was
starting to get jealous. "From the outside, he looks like he's just
fine. But, I dunno. He clams up when I ask, or says it's nothing."
"We were just children back then. We were just children, but there
were evil digimon who wanted us dead. How were we supposed to cope?"
Daisuke blinked in surprised and tore his eyes from the horizon to
glance at Hikari. Her eyes were distant and her face carefully
impassive, as if the memory was an old wound that had never fully
healed. "For me and Takeru, our method of coping was to appear
perfectly happy on the outside. The others counted on us to keep their
spirits up. The world could fall apart around us, but we had to keep
going. Then the Apocalypse came and the masks became second nature."
A slight frown tugged at the corners of Daisuke's lips. He heard the
stories, of course. Etemon, Devimon, the Dark Masters, and Apocalymon.
Patamon's death and rebirth, and a promise to Sora to protect Hikari.
Various things in between. "Yeah, I heard about it. I just have no
idea what to do when he gets moody and stuff."
"Right." The words started coming in a torrent, but Daisuke honestly
didn't care. Hikari probably knew Takeru better than anyone else, so
maybe she had an answer. "He gets pissed off over random shit, and if
it's bad enough, he'll go violent. Otherwise he just stews and I'm
worried that one day he'll go berserk and I won't be able to stop him.
Or what if I'm not there to stop him? He says he talks to Sora about
it, but I don't think it's really doing anything to help him with his
issues. What do I do?"
Hikari was silent for a moment; and before she spoke, her hand slid
over his to give it a reassuring squeeze. "I'm not sure anymore. What
triggers his rage?"
"Completely random shit. When we first met, he attacked me for
attempting to make off with his ducks (which I did kinda deserve),
then there was another time when he, uh, accidently killed the guys
chasing him. I wasn't there for it, but later I heard that they were
from Amaterasu's Cave and were responsible for burning a bunch of
settlements. And then there was the attack on the guy manhandling
Momoe, but I think that was because he couldn't attack Genki..."
Daisuke trailed off when an idea came to mind. Might as well ask while
he was on the subject. "Which reminds me, why does he have a problem
with religion when he's friends with you?"
A wan, humorless smile appeared on Hikari's face. "He has a problem
with people who plant false hopes in others. Many street preachers
expound upon the notion of gods and eternal paradise, with strict
rules that would ensure that no one would be able to access that
paradise without paying off the preacher or rejecting the very things
that makes one human. To him, that's an abuse of other people's
beliefs and good will."
"I'm really sorry if this is rude or something," Daisuke began, "But
what do you offer that's any different? I mean, it's all the same to
Hikari pulled back until she was lying on the boulder's surface and
looking up at the sky. Curious, Daisuke followed her example and did
the same. He noticed that the moisture was thickening around the
moon's halo, up to the point where silver light bounced off some
small, nearly transparent clouds near the moon and formed strange,
ghostly white shapes on either side. He'd never seen it happen before.
"What do you see up there?"
"The moon, a bunch of stars, and some weird shapes by the moon. Why?"
Hikari's voice lowered into a whisper. "I offer people no more or less
than what I see. And what I see is a natural miracle."
Daisuke frowned slightly. "What does that mean?"
"Ours is the only planet in the solar system that has life, at least
that we know of. Can you imagine what it must have been like billions
of years ago, when the Earth was young? Life managed to begin and hold
on and evolve, despite everything the universe threw at it. It
took billions of years for tiny cyanobacteria to create an oxygenated
atmosphere, and millions of more years for life to crawl out of
primordial oceans and populate the land. And even when the great
extinctions eliminated all but a handful of the lifeforms on Earth,
life still hung on. When our own race nearly became extinct, we still
survived. That is all I preach: admiration of the miraculous tenacity
of life. Whether or not there is a god or set of gods responsible for
that kind of miracle doesn't matter to me. Should we not appreciate
this gift, regardless of who or what it came from?"
Somehow, the light of the moon and stars seemed warmer than they
usually were as Hikari spoke. Odd how he always took them for granted.
"I think I get what you're saying."
He could just imagine her smiling beside him, but made no move to sit
up and look at her for confirmation. For what seemed like an eternity,
they laid under the starlight in a comfortable silence that went
beyond peace or want. He was content to listen to the waves and
distant noise from the congregation that seemed so far away. But then-
"I used to have these dreams," Hikari whispered at last, "in which
things were different than they are now. I'd dream about a world where
the Apocalypse never happened, where our parents never died. They were
usually nebulous and I'd forget most of them once I woke, but every
now and then something would strike me as familiar. When I saw you and
V-mon, I felt I've seen you two before, but it wasn't until now that I
remember seeing both of you in the fragments of dreams."
Confused, Daisuke turned his head to glance at her face in an effort
to see whether or not she was teasing him or something. Her eyes were
fixed on the stars, looking for all the world like she was a million
miles away. "What do you mean?"
Hikari's lips pressed thin as she tried to find a way to express what
had only ever come to her as half-formed theories. "Ever get the
feeling that this isn't the way things should have been? That maybe
this reality is just one of several?"
"Oh." What would have been. He'd seen this kind of thing before,
usually in kids who weren't satisfied with the fact that at least they
were alive. Kids who felt that the Apocalypse was a nightmare that
they'd wake up from sooner or later. "It's denial. I've seen a lot of
kids with it."
"No, nothing like that. I know that this is real. But, I also know
that I keep having these dreams of things that never happened with
people I've never met before. You were in my dreams long before I met
you, as were several others. How is that possible when the events in
those dreams never happened? Maybe there are multiple realities and
I'm somehow able to remember the history from at least one of them."
If he wasn't still lying down, he would have given a shrug. "Maybe. It
doesn't matter though, does it? This is our reality, and I know
it's ugly and painful, but we've gotta make the best of it. Right?"
To his surprise, Hikari rose to a sitting position to peer closely at
him. "It does matter, a bit. I wouldn't have invited you out here if I
hadn't known you were trustworthy."
A warm, happy feeling curled up in his gut at that. No one had called
him trustworthy before, and certainly not a girl he liked. "Thanks."
They remained silent for another long moment. While he knew they had
to go back sooner or later, Daisuke figured he should enjoy the peace
while he could. With Hikari, he didn't feel the need to fill the
silence with inane comments.
"Daisuke?" Hikari's voice was a whisper just barely audible above the
gentle lapping of waves on the shore. "Will you keep an eye on Takeru
for me? Make sure he doesn't get into trouble?"
With a sigh, Daisuke brought himself back into a sitting position. "I
can try, but I can't guarantee anything. He does have a mind of his
"That's all I can ask of you." With that, Hikari climbed the rest of
the way down the boulder and waited for him to join her on the way
Warmth was all Tailmon was really conscious of at the moment. It
lulled her into the vague half-sleep state of a cat nap even as the
other digimon were chattering amongst themselves over some subject or
another that didn't really matter to her. Agumon seemed to be managing
the others well enough, the campfire was warm and bright enough to
chase old memories from her dreams, and her stomach was full of fish.
Someday she ought to have Hikari write for her a Zen koan on the life
of a cat. Not that she exhibited all the behaviors of a cat (and she
was ever thankful that "in heat" never once applied to her), but this
was close enough. She wondered if real cats were ever...
Tailmon blinked blearily when she woke up again, not quite sure how
much time had passed since her last conscious thought. What was it
again? Oh, yes, were real cats ever aware of how good they had it if
they knew nothing but a loving home and owners? Her past was something
she wouldn't have inflicted on anyone else, but it made her appreciate
her partner all the more. She suspected she was the only digimon fully
aware of just how bad it could be to yearn for something that wasn't
there when she hatched, to search ceaselessly until darkness and anger
became the entirety of her existence. Every now and then, she felt
that she didn't deserve Hikari, who would then cuddle her and reassure
"Tailmon! You're up!"
With an irritated huff, Tailmon cracked open an eye to give Patamon a
half-hearted glare. She hadn't wanted to join in on the conversation
again, but Patamon's giant blue eyes were difficult to resist. "Now I
"Well, V-mon and Agumon were talking about evolution and why it's so
hard to get to adult form, but then you're an adult digimon so we
wanted to know why you made it when we couldn't." Patamon ended with a
noticeable shortness of breath.
"I'm special," she responded dryly. When Patamon wouldn't budge, she
stretched languidly before deigning to answer him. "It probably has
something to do with my holy ring. I suspect it's a power-booster."
Red eyes fixed on the fluid motion of her tail as she displayed the
ring she once found years ago. A lavender-tuffed ear twitched in
amusement at the decidedly besotted lot on V-mon's face. He was acting
like several of Hikari's former suitors, just before she took up the
robes of a shrine maiden. They were best handled by discouraging them
as soon as possible. She flicked the tail one last time and tucked it
under her gloved paws. "A bit of advice, V-mon," she whispered in a
tone so low that only he could hear her, "energy is wasted in pursuit
of someone incapable of reciprocation. It is better to make friends
and let things grow naturally."
Embarrassed, V-mon squirmed. "Yeah, I know, it's just-"
Much to V-mon's relief, Hikari and Daisuke returned to the campsite.
Tailmon purred and stepped gracefully to her partner's side as Hikari
settled on the old rug they used to keep from sitting in the sand.
"So, what are we talking about?"
"Evolution," Agumon said, "and why we can't evolve higher than the
stages we're at now."
Patamon beamed at Agumon as he shuffled closer to the orange dinosaur
and made room for Daisuke in the circle around the campfire. "We can
always get Taichi to overstuff you again."
What tension there was broke as Agumon panicked at the memory of the
events leading to the SkullGreymon evolution. "No! No! I don't need to
evolve right now!"
Patamon giggled, which then set off Hikari and Tailmon. V-mon and
Daisuke glanced at them all curiously but said nothing until the
laughter wound down.
"There's this girl at the Rocky Country who works with the unbonded
digimon," Daisuke began in hopes of contributing to the conversation,
"and she said that no one has managed to make it past adult form in
years. Something about being away from the Digital World for so long
affecting the digimons' power levels."
Tailmon's ears perked in thought as she settled into her partner's
lap. "That makes sense."
"Then if we could find some way into the Digital World, we'd be able
to recharge," Agumon said. "Has anyone found a weakness between the
V-mon shook his head. "We've had scouts in the Rocky Country looking
for that kind of thing for years. The Digital World is sealed shut."
A peculiar wave of homesickness struck Tailmon, even though she had
long since redefined her idea of "home" as wherever she went with
Hikari. As many negative emotions as she had tied to the Digital
World, it was still where she came from and what she fought to defend.
A quick look around the campfire revealed that the other digimon were
just as homesick. As if sensing her feelings, her partner started
petting her fur in sympathy.
"We'll get back somehow," Patamon said in as positive a voice as he
could muster. "It can't be sealed off forever 'cause the worlds are
linked and there's always a chance a portal will open up again."
"Until then, I have to wear clothes," Agumon groused. "Do any of you
know how hot it gets under that poncho?"
Daisuke blinked and looked at Hikari. "Hikari, your congregation knows
about Agumon and Tailmon, right?"
The hand on Tailmon's fur stopped. "Well, yes, but they're the only
ones who do. That's why Agumon isn't wearing clothes right now."
"Well, the Rocky Country is taking up a display-your-digimon policy
kind of thing now that we're waiting for Amaterasu to drop in again.
It's so people will think we're powerful and stuff, and want to be our
allies." Daisuke's grin faded when he noticed a faint frown on
Hikari's face. "It's purely for show. Besides, you guys handled the
Dark Masters, right? You handle anything."
"That was before the Digital World crashed and locked us out." Tailmon
fixed Daisuke under a stare that made most people squirm. "We can't
very well take on the Dark Masters now."
"We're not asking you to," V-mon said defensively. "Like Daisuke said,
it's all for show."
Agumon, who had been scratching his snout thoughtfully as the
discussion was going on, seemed to feel that it was a good time to
intervene. "If other digimon are coming out of hiding too, I think we
should follow their example. If other humans want to attack, we're
still capable of defending ourselves. Either way, people are going to
have to get used to seeing digimon."
The fingers in Tailmon's fur stiffened. "I don't want anyone to get
hurt, human or digimon. I'd like to hear Taichi's opinion first."
Patamon took that as a suggestion and fluttered above them to get a
better view of the campsite. His eyes darted from campfire to campfire
until he found what he was looking for and started flying as fast as
his wings could carry him. Tailmon snorted at the sight. All this time
and Patamon's top flying speed was the same as his walking speed. Good
to see that some things never change.
Shortly afterwards, Taichi and Takeru arrived at their campfire.
Takeru looked worse for wear, but Taichi trotted along with his shirt
tied at his waist and well-toned muscles gleaming with sweat.
Tailmon's nose wrinkled in a reflection of her partner's expression.
"Taichi," Hikari exclaimed in mock-horror, "I hope you plan to wash up
before going to bed tonight. You're going to stink up the whole tent."
Not the least put off by Hikari's disapproval, Taichi grinned and
settled cross-legged behind Agumon. "I'll think about it. What's up?"
As Hikari explained the whole thing to Taichi, Daisuke glanced over at
Takeru and stared at the smudge of a bruise under Takeru's right eye.
"What the hell were you and Taichi doing?"
"He has this stupid idea that I should be able to defend myself in a
fight." Takeru scowled even as Patamon settled back on his usual
perch. "We started training together back when Yamato and I used to
travel with them, but I fell out of practice and, well, he thought we
should spar. He got better over the years, I didn't."
Before Daisuke could respond, Taichi called them back over to the
fire. "I say it's high time the digimon stopped hiding. If anyone
wants to start up anything, they'd have to get through me and Agumon.
Nothing different when you think about it."
Hikari simply bowed her head in concession to her brother's decision.
After a while, people around the other campfires started dispersing to
retreat into their own tents for the night. While Tailmon was content
to remain with her partner, the lower-level digimon clustered together
to talk about their own partners. Takeru cleaned up and went to sleep
once Hikari tended to his wounds. Tailmon watched through slitted eyes
as Taichi and Daisuke talked about something or other that didn't
interest her in the least.
"Boys will be boys," Hikari whispered. Tailmon simply purred her
In a sharp contrast from the day before, the morning sky was nearly
cloudless. It was too nice a morning to sleep in, despite every fiber
in Daisuke's being urging him otherwise, so he dragged himself out
from the mess that was his sleeping bag and stepped out of the tent.
V-mon, the lazy bum, mumbled nonsensically and ignored his calls.
To his surprise, Taichi was up too. Oblivious to his presence, the
older man went through some sort of martial arts katas Daisuke would
never be able to identify if he tried. It was rather graceful, but the
problem with martial arts was that they relied on just this sort of
grace and repetition. He watched with interest, cataloguing the moves
and considering how to counter them, until Taichi stopped and turned
"Do you fight?"
"Yeah," Daisuke responded automatically. "Well, I don't pick them, but
I try to hold my own."
A grin appeared on Taichi's face, which made Daisuke immediately
suspicious. "Want to spar? I promise I'll go easy on you."
"I dunno, man. I might hurt you."
Taichi stared at him, probably in an effort to see if he wasn't faking
it, then laughed. "It's fine. You won't hurt me any worse than what
I've been through before."
Daisuke started shrugging out of his jacket and shirt. To be fair, it
had been a while since he'd had this sort of exercise. "Don't say I
didn't warn you," he muttered as he removed his boots and socks. Sand
was so difficult to fight in with shoes.
The first rays of the morning sun peeking in from the east illuminated
the sand underfoot and signaled the start of the fight. Daisuke
shifted from foot to foot, waiting for Taichi to make the first move.
When the circling was getting a little too long for Daisuke's tastes,
he lunged forth and skidded as if he were kicking a soccer ball out
from under another player's nose. He just barely missed Taichi's
balancing leg and, to make up for the error, lashed out to grab the
older man's ankle and yank away from Taichi's center of gravity.
Taichi fell hard, but rolled away before Daisuke could get to him
again. Daisuke jumped up to his feet and stepped back, and here they
were circling again!
"You played soccer, didn't you," Taichi asked conversationally once he
regained his breath.
Confused but unwilling to let his guard down, Daisuke responded.
The sudden, rather fond smile on the older man's face worried him. It
could be a ruse to unsettle him, for all he knew. "Oh, I did too when
I was a kid. Good times."
"Soccer field next time," he suggested helpfully. It would be so
cool to play soccer with someone again!
The smile turned into a huge grin. "Sure! But first, we finish this."
Taichi moved first this time, kicking out to sweep Daisuke's legs out
from under him. Daisuke let out a short curse as Taichi just barely
missed one leg, only to trip up the other and make him hop back on one
leg in an attempt to regain his footing. Taichi was entirely too good
with his legs, so Daisuke had to target something else. The problem
was that Taichi would expect any kicks now, and any attempts to
unbalance him by the legs would be futile. But...
Taichi's eyes widened in surprise as Daisuke's open palm swung out to
catch the wrist on his weak side. Fingers closed tightly and Daisuke
yanked his arm away from his center of balance, making him stumble in
an attempt to regain his footing. Daisuke darted behind Taichi,
dragging the arm with him and twisting it against his back, and then
trapped one of Taichi's feet behind his own. The sharp pain from his
left arm and a lack of good balance would have made it all too easy
for Daisuke to shove him face-first in the sand and finish it all. And
yet, amazingly, Daisuke let go of his arm and instead helped him
regain his footing. Not that it helped, for soon enough they both
collapsed on the sand in exhaustion.
"How'd you guess to take me down that way," Taichi asked once he
regained his breath and brushed the majority of sand off his skin.
"I noticed that you focused a lot on your legs, but didn't pay much
attention to your arms." Daisuke felt very clever for figuring it out.
"I knew you'd be expecting any kicks from me after the first bout, so
I had to take advantage of the parts of your body you weren't paying
attention to. Gotta expect the unexpected, y'know?"
Taichi's agreement was reduced to mumbles as he pulled a shirt over
his head. Figuring it was as good a time as any, Daisuke followed his
example. By the time the sun had fully risen from the horizon, they
were both fully dressed and waiting for everyone else to wake up.
"So, did Hikari tell you about her dreams," Taichi asked after a long
period of silence punctuated by the occasional sleepy activities of a
few congregation members. Daisuke was fairly surprised to see a
thoughtful expression on Taichi's face.
"Some of them, I think. Why?"
A resigned sigh and Taichi reached up to pull off his goggles in one
quick tug. He regarded them for a moment before folding the lenses
against each other and wrapping the black elastic band around them.
"In her dreams, you're wearing my goggles. I didn't think much of
them, but then you turned up and actually exist. So... Here."
Daisuke blinked in surprise at the proffered goggles. "Dude, I don't
know if I can take them."
"Oh, come on." Taichi pressed the goggles into his hands, despite his
best efforts to deter him. "Take care of them for me."
His fingers closed around the old goggles even as he tried to come up
with some other excuse to refuse them. Nothing at all came to mind.
"I'll do my best. Thanks."