Covered in Darkness
Chapter 11: Darkness Approach
by Quatre's Girl
edited by Keyanna
Happy Anniversary! ::blows noisemaker:: Yes, it is indeed the one year anniversary of Covered In Darkness (and I haven't finished it yet...^_^;;;;)!!! Enjoy! Happy anniversary!!!
They were close. Daisuke could feel it. He knew it. They were narrowing down the possibilities every hour they searched. The map of the Digital World they carried was full of red "x" marks, showing the amount of land they had covered in their search. They were so close, he could almost taste it. So why didn't he feel good about it? They were going to find Ken, weren't they? He was supposed to be happy, or anxious, or agitated to find his friend.
But he wasn't. He wasn't experiencing any of those emotions, only a sick, gnawing feeling deep in the pit of his stomach. Yes, they might be finding Ken, but would he even be alive when they did? And if he were, who or what would they find? What if he had been consumed by darkness, because they couldn't get to him quickly enough? What if they had failed him through their own doubts and incompetence? What then? Would he even recognize them? What if Arkenimon had him attack?
Daisuke had promised himself not to fight Ken again. He didn't want to know what the pain he would cause would do to Ken. Even if the boy had surrendered to darkness and went so far as to draw blood, to hurt him, to kill him, Daisuke would refuse to fight. He would let himself be killed, sacrifice himself. It would be better than the alternative. Any harm he could do to Ken, even if it were intended to help him later, would be worse, so much more damaging, than anything Arkenimon could do to him. That was because of friendship. The pain derived from an enemy could heal, and there would be no animosity that wasn't there before. But if pain inflicted upon someone is caused by a friend, a trusted person, that...that creates wounds that are so deep, so incurable.
Daisuke had become Ken's friend, as had the rest of the Chosen Children. Ken had bonded with each of them in his own way, and they all, on some level, cared for him deeply. But Daisuke had felt something that he knew the others hadn't. When Stingmon and XV-mon had first jogressed, their entities had joined into one being. The Digimon's human partners had had a similar experience, bonding in essence and mind rather than body. Daisuke had felt Ken's heart beating in his own chest. They had shared a mind, shared their innermost thoughts and feelings with one another. That had exposed the fear and hurt hidden deep inside of Ken to Daisuke. He had felt everything that plagued Ken, learned of his pain and inner torment. After discovering all this, Daisuke swore he would never hurt Ken again. He could never bring himself to harm someone who had already suffered through so much pain.
With a groan, I dragged myself up from the dregs of unconsciousness, slowly sliding my eyelids open. I blinked, my clouded vision clearing to reveal the cracked ebony of the cell. I shut my eyes again, softly breathing a sigh. Relief, in its smallest form, spread through me. It was a dream. It had just been a horrid dream. I hadn't been forced to obey the darkness, to become a captive to its midnight chains...yet. Even though I was not imprisoned by it, there was still the threat, and it loomed over me like a dark cloud, hovering, waiting.
My attention was drawn as the biting pain of the wounds in my back throbbed, my senses sharpening as I awoke. My body ached. The deprivation of food was like a parasite, eating away at my insides. I didn't know how long I had gone without food or if my body had begun to deteriorate; time had lost all relevance by then. The whip slashes, even bandaged, stung when I moved the slightest. I didn't want to move, didn't want to be awake to feel the pain. I just wanted it to stop.
I shivered. It was cold, not the cold I had experienced in my nightmare, but a still, chilling frostiness that hung in the air. My shuddering breath came out in small white puffs, hovering in mid-air for seconds before vanishing. I drew my body in closer, pulling my thin and torn garments tighter against my skin, trying to retain some heat.
My eyes felt dry, aching; I had cried all the tears I could. It was so...frightening. Waiting, lying there cold and alone, not knowing what horror was going to happen to me next, if I were to be killed or broken by darkness. I had never experienced such a raw terror, not even when I had been beaten. I had known what was going to happen, and while I had been afraid of the physical punishment, it was not nearly as awful. The uncertainty of what was to come, the sheer dread at being taken by darkness, at going back to that cold, black prison, was what I was most terrified of. It was wearing me down. The constant fear, the pain, all the horrors repeating in my head, it was exhausting and frightening. My mind and body couldn't cope with any more. I knew I was going to give in soon. I...I just couldn't take it.
A tearless sob escaped my throat. It was so hard, trying to hold on, waiting for friends I didn't even know would come for me. It hurt so much...
Daisuke was ashamed of his other reason for feeling the way he did about finding Ken. He didn't want to. He was so afraid of what they would discover upon finding their friend. He didn't want to see it, didn't want to see how the two wicked Digimon had tortured his friend. If he didn't see Ken, if he didn't have to witness Ken's pain, it wouldn't have to be real. He could pretend that Ken was fine, at home with his parents. Safe. Protected. Not hurt and vulnerable, struggling to withstand the darkness that was threatening to consume him. That was what he feared; to see Ken hurt again would be to admit to his failure to protect his friend.
Never again did Daisuke want to see him like that. He could recall all too clearly Ken after his defeat as the Kaiser. Ken, lying on the ground, sobbing brokenly after his heart was ripped to shreds by Wormmon's death. Daisuke never wanted to have Ken experience pain that great again. His friend didn't deserve it, didn't deserve any of it. He had already repented for what he had done. He didn't need any more pain.
A noise broke my sorrowful reverie. The large door was being unbolted. My eyes alone followed its actions as it opened and allowed someone into the cell, but I made no further attempt to move. I knew it was Arkenimon without even straining to see the details of her face or outfit; she was the only one left to come to me. My hopes of rescue were feeble at best. All I had to keep the darkness at bay were the horrible memories of what I, the Kaiser, had done, and my obstinate will to prevent it from ever happening again.
I shut my eyes. Maybe if I lay perfectly still, she would think I were asleep or even dead, and wouldn't torment me any longer. That would be so wonderful, not having to worry about anything, to simply be nothing in a painless, empty void of-
A sharp kick to my side cut into my thoughts. I moaned as my pain doubled, Arkenimon's booted foot feeling like a sledgehammer slamming into my ribs.
"It's time to wake up, Kaiser."
When they had first jogressed, Daisuke had felt Ken's presence inside of him. Ken was so lost at the time, had all but given up hope. He was prepared to run straight into certain death, but Daisuke's words had held him back. Ken's presence felt so...frightened. He didn't know what was to become of him, as though he were using the risk of death as a desperate cry for help. Ken needed to be protected, cared for, and kept shielded from pain and sorrow. From that point onward, Daisuke wanted, needed, to protect Ken. To have him ripped away, to be hurt once more...that felt horrible on a level Daisuke didn't even know existed.
He knew the others felt the same way. They had become a team, through their success and hardships. Even if they didn't show it, every member of the group cared deeply for Ken. He had bonded with each in his own way, and Daisuke knew they felt the need to protect him as strongly as he did. He wasn't sure how he knew this, but it was a deep-rooted belief that came solely from his heart. None of them were going to give up Ken without a fight. He could only hope, pray, that they would find him before it was too late.
I gazed wearily up at Arkenimon, the pain of my bruising side reflecting in my eyes, as she stood, glowering down at me, hatred pouring from her sunglasses-covered eyes. How much longer would my torment last? It was so hard, trying to hold on, to resist the temptation to simply give up and surrender to darkness. But to surrender would be giving them what they wanted. I just wished the pain would end.
"Thinking of giving up already? I'm surprised, Kaiser. I thought you were more resilient than that." My eyes narrowed in a flinch.
"Don't...don't call me that..." I whispered. Though my voice was cracking and weak with pain, more pleading present in it than anything else, still I managed to retain the smallest bit of resistance. I wouldn't give her the pleasure of a surrender. When I had one of them with me, it was easier to resist. I wouldn't side with them, let them know they had won over me.
"Why ever not? It's what you are. A tainted, corrupt, conceited, hateful Kaiser, the bringer of pain and suffering. You know it. Deep down inside of you, you know it. You just won't admit that you belong with us," she spoke, each word punctuating like an ice pick being driven into my stomach.
"No...Stop it!" It couldn't...she was lying...
"You know I'm right; you've known all along. You've become so immersed in shadows that you're no longer worthy of things such as this anymore." She held up something I had all but forgotten.
A warm presence on Daisuke's shoulder, Hikari's hand, broke him out of his unnaturally quiet reverie. He turned to her, their eyes locking, a similar expression of fear and worry passing between them. She gave him a mirthless smile, more for understanding of his and Ken's pain than anything else.
"We'll find him," she whispered. He nodded once, affirming her statement with confidence he tried, but failed, to feel. She, of all present, could relate to the situation the best. She had felt it too, the looming darkness. Times before, she had had to fight it, yet prevailed with the others' love and friendship. Now it was her turn to protect someone threatened by the blackness; she would penetrate Ken's dark shroud with her shining light.
Daisuke looked to his other friends. They had joined up, the older ones staying back to search by computer, while the new generation searched manually as a group. Each one of his friends had found his or her reason to fight for Ken, to help him when he needed them the most.
Wormmon had cried all the tears his little body was capable of creating, and instead a heart-wrenchingly painful look had appeared in his eyes, that being almost worse to watch than his crying. The small Digimon simply couldn't handle the kidnapping of his partner, his bond with Ken affecting him in ways the others couldn't even begin to imagine.
Takeru was searching alongside the caterpillar Digimon. The blond Chosen Child seemed more subdued than his normal cheerful appearance, frightened, even, for Ken's sake. He was trying to keep up his hopes that Ken would be rescued. They had been told recently that his was one of the two crests created for battling the darkness. Ken needed all of the strength he could get to fight against his enemy. Daisuke sent an encouraging, albeit empty, smile to Takeru, trying to keep the hope alive inside his friend.
Miyako and Iori hadn't spoken a word since their last passage into the Digital World. The twisted recording sent to them by Arkenimon had left such an impact upon them. Ken was struggling, desperately trying to beat back the darkness. Alone. He was fighting a battle he would inevitably lose if they couldn't reach him in time. They had already expressed their doubts about Ken's abilities to resist the temptations of darkness, as well as his loyalty to the Chosen Children, but the recording had affected them. Talking, wondering about what Ken was going through was one thing, but hearing his voice, terrified and despairing, was so much different. Ken needed them, needed their help. Daisuke hoped they would be able to offer it.
Suddenly, randomly, an idea hit Daisuke. The moment he had thought it, though, he felt like hitting himself for not thinking of it sooner. He unclipped his D-3 from his belt and turned it to its search mode. Moments later, his yell of achievement startled all of the other Chosen and their Digimon.
"Come here! I think I found him!" Daisuke exclaimed, his voice fast-paced and a mixture of happiness and fear. On the miniature map of the Digital World, a small pinkish light was blinking a ways away from them. That light was attributed to only one thing Daisuke knew of: Ken's...
"...crest." A tight knot formed in my stomach, its presence sickening. She was holding my crest.
"W-why do you have that?" I whispered, my voice hoarse in terror. Arkenimon smiled, turning the small pink rectangle over and over in her hands.
"Why? Now why ask a question like that? You don't need it anymore, Kaiser. You won't have any use for kindness once you've reverted," she spoke, her words harsh. I strained, desperate to sit up. I needed my crest back; it was my only link to the person I had become. Without it, I...
"Give it back," I half pleaded, half ordered. Her smile widened. She spoke, ignoring my words.
"It represents your kindness, a piece of you that you found once you banished the Kaiser for good. You were wrong, though. He isn't banished. He lurks inside of you." Something in my memory twanged, like a sharp pain, but I was too fixated on Arkenimon's words to remember.
"He's coming for you. He's coming to beat this pathetic, weak Ken into submission, so he can take control again. There's just one thing blocking his way. If that's destroyed, then you'll be easy prey. Can you guess what it is?"
My eyes widened in shock. My crest had been...protecting me? If I still had it, the darkness couldn't take me. I struggled once more to get up, an animal-like instinct beginning to spur inside of me. I desperately had to have my crest, had to hold it in my hand and feel it protect me. Arkenimon saw my frantic need for my crest, and made a pondering noise.
"Oh, you want it, do you? Well, here." She dropped the pink chip to the ground, where it clicked upon landing. It was right there in front of me, calling to me, my salvation, my hope. I summoned all the strength I had left in my body and reached a trembling hand out, making a grab for my crest. I was going to be protected. I could feel the hope rising in me, my fingers inching closer to the physical form of that hope. A moment away from touching it, my forefinger hovering a centimeter away-
My world was split asunder as Arkenimon's heel came smashing down, shattering my crest.
The pink light on Daisuke's D-3 flashed brightly for an instant, then disappeared altogether. He started in surprise.
"What happened?" Hikari asked, as the others crowded around Daisuke. His face had a look of surprise, his brow furrowed. They all looked to his D-3, but saw only the colors of their own crests and Digimentals, grouped together.
"Daisuke, where's Ken's?" Takeru questioned, a puzzled look on his face. Daisuke pointed to where he had seen the light.
"This doesn't make sense. It was there a moment ago, but then it flashed really brightly and disappeared," he murmured, confusion and worry present in his voice. Iori blinked, thinking.
"If his crest is behaving oddly, that means something is disrupting it somehow. I've never seen our crests give off bursts of energy, except before jogress, and they never disappeared," he mused, speaking his first thoughts since entering the Digital World.
"What if...what if something drastic has happened to him?" Hikari asked, fear carrying in her words. All of the Chosen were frightened now, almost more so than they had been. If there were a fluctuation in Ken's crest...no one wanted to think about what could be happening to him. Takeru looked down at the map once more, frowning in concentration.
"Wait, Daisuke. Where did you say the signal came from?" he asked. Daisuke pointed to his D-3 screen once more, making Takeru's eyes widen in fear and realization.
It wasn't happening. I begged for someone, anyone, to tell me it wasn't happening, to wake me up and explain that it had all been a horrible dream. My only hope, the last thing that could save me, and it was being crushed under my enemy's foot. It was my protection, my defense against the shadows, the consuming darkness.
"No...it...you..." Unconnected words came from my mouth. I didn't even know what I was saying anymore. It didn't matter. Another turn of Arkenimon's heel, crunching the small rectangle further, and it felt as though my heart were in its place, being crushed instead. The sound of it pierced into my soul, cutting deeper into me. I was an easy target, open and unprotected to any attack the darkness could throw at me. Desperation, pain, sorrow. All of them magnified one hundred times as they consumed me. It was a feeling beyond them combined, more powerful than the most painful injury. It hurt so deeply...
A last twist of her heel and Arkenimon stepped away from my destroyed crest.
"There, there, Kaiser. You won't have to feel the pain for long. Your soul will be blackened, consumed very soon. The kindness is gone. It's time for you to come home."
"That's the Digital World's desert. The last time we were out there was to destroy-"
"How could we have been so stupid?!" Miyako practically screamed.
The five Chosen Children began running, their Digimon alongside them, trying desperately to reach their destination before it was too late.
"I can't believe we didn't think to look there!"
"That's because we destroyed it!"
"Then they must have used the broken parts to rebuild it! And, oh Ken..."
'Ken...hold on, please. We're coming to save you,' Daisuke thought, frantically hoping his friend could hear his reassurances.
'Ken-chan!' Wormmon ran as fast as his legs could carry him, praying they would make it in time.
They had been to the desert before. The very place they were running to happened to be the exact location where, not too long ago, the Kaiser's base had fallen.
My body began convulsing with shivers as the cell was plunged into ice-coldness. It was so cold. I was alone in the frozen air, the shadows in the cell growing larger and larger. No one was there to hear my frightened cries, my nonsensical murmurings of terror. Everything around me pulsated with dark energy, waiting for the precise moment to consume me. The darkness was getting bigger, swelling to unimaginable quantities. The pain in my body burned as though my flesh had caught fire, the invisible flames tearing across my skin.
It was getting darker. The blackness was getting deeper; I could no longer see. I could hear the voices, calling to me, beckoning for me to rest, to give in and allow the horrid darkness to consume me. They surrounded me, hissing in my ears as I tried in vain to ignore them. It was so cold. It felt as though I were lying on a slab of ice, letting it slowly freeze my body. Cold...so cold...dark...I couldn't do it; The darkness was going to win...
After running for what seemed like ages to the Chosen Children, their fear and worry peaking, they came upon the Digital World's desert. The barren plain stood out before them, the sand, caught up by high winds, burned their eyes, scratched their skin, but still they continued onward, evolving their Digimon so they could reach their friend faster. Only one thought was passing through each child's mind. They had to save Ken. They had waited too long, and there was something drastically wrong with their friend. Never had a crest emitted a burst of energy and vanished before. And if Ken really was being kept prisoner in his old base...
"That's it!" At last, they had come across the base, immobile, but rebuilt almost exactly as if it had just crashed. It was horrifying to see again, all of the memories of the Kaiser's reign came flooding back as the Chosen Children stared at the recreated base. Those who could jogress did, and the five children, Wormmon, XV-mon, Shakkoumon, and Silphymon ran inside.
"They found the base. I don't know how, but they found it."
"Well, they're too late. Ken is moments away from being consumed."
"Shall we attack?"
"Of course. Let's go kill those whelps once and for all."
It began creeping up; I could feel it pulling on my feet at first. The darkness had turned into a liquid, and was slowly beginning to fill my black prison. It was lapping at my feet, painful, sharp, cutting. It sliced into my bare ankles, trickles of blood running over my skin. It began to crawl farther up my legs; the darkness was rising.
"Ken, where are you?" The children and Digimon called out as they ran through the weaving tunnels of stone and metal in the base. It was a maze, a virtual labyrinth of hallways and rooms, each one feeling cold, dark. It was a horrible place to be in, even for a moment. Daisuke shuddered to think of how Ken felt, being trapped there for days.
They continued to run, fear spurring them onward, desperate to find their friend, rounding a corner-
"End of the line, brats."
Darkness swirled and coiled throughout the cell, threads of midnight whipping about in the black expanse, the creeping wave of ebony dragging itself over my body. I was helpless to beat back the freezing shadows; my arms were pinioned to my sides, my legs restrained by the binding darkness. Blood ran slick over my skin, the black ropes lacerating my flesh as they covered more of my body. My only thoughts were of horror; I could feel naught but pain. As a last desperate, frightened attempt to fight back, I screamed, only to have my voice ripped away as I was covered in darkness.