Chapter 15 - Kurayami
by Senashenta

Notes (for Syenite Kai): You have a sick mind, my friend. ^-^;; Actually, to tell you the truth, Saruman's last line disturbed me, too. I didn't even notice how sadistic it sounded until I'd already finished the chapter and posted it, and then it was too late. I'm kinda' afraid to admit it, but I like the way the last chapter turned out. ^_~ Ehe.

Dedication: Prosopopeia! Wow. I hope I spelled your name right. ^^;; Ehe. Yay! Glad you like my ficcies... you found them at Tarnished Wings? ^-^ I'm infinitely proud to have my fics posted there. I love the site, so when Meimi asked if she could post Company and Digital I practically danced. Anyway, yes, Company followed the movie plotline. :p I'm ashamed to admit this, but I have yet to finish the books. *ducks flying fruit* Aside from that, by what I've read the books are a lot more intricate than the movie turned out to be so (yes, this is a cop-out...) doing Company by the movie was easier. Also, I completely and 100% respect your right to hate Arwen, even if I'm still kind of iffy on the subject. (I haven't decided how I feel about her yet...) *sigh* Ne? Really? *goes to check* Oh my. I didn't catch my misspelling of Nazgul before. Domo arigatou for pointing it out. ^^ *fixes* Yosh! I love stubborn, tough and opinionated Takeru, too! He's fun to write, even if he keeps picking fights with Ruki...

Takeru: She's the one who-

Me: *clamps hand over mouth* Not now!

Disclaimer: I. Don't. Own. Digimon 02. Tamers. Or. Lord of the Rings. (How's that for a bunch of really short sentences? ^_~ Boo-yah! lol.)

~Chapter Fifteen~


Not for the first time in his life, but certainly for the first time in years, Takeru found himself acting as a guide to the Digital World. This was partly due to the fact that, of those who had set out to Mount Infinite with him, he was the only one who knew the way. It was also due to the fact that Aragorn insisted he not overwork himself, which the blonde found only semi-annoying, as he was still in considerable pain.

<My wounds are healing well, though, thanks to Jou and whatever Digimon-medicine those Floramon gave him.> Currently standing beside Aragorn, Takeru was attempting to remember which direction to go. He had done well, for the most part, but he hadn't been to Mount Infinite since the... unfortunate... incident with Devimon and Angemon when he was seven years old. <I count myself lucky that I've gotten this far without walking everyone off a cliff.>

He didn't say this out loud, obviously, as Ruki was within hearing distance and the last thing he wanted was to give her more ammunition. Damn her. Sighing, Takeru frowned, glancing to the right, then turned his gaze to the left. The trees, no matter which way he was turned, all appeared to be the same.

"Which direction?"

The Child of Hope looked at Aragorn, "it's been a while since I came through here..."

Behind him, Ruki snorted. "You're lost, aren't you?"

Defensive. "No! Just give me a minute to think, okay?"

The girl glared. "You know how ruthless Saruman is! The more time it takes for us to find this Mount Infinite place and Isengard, the more chance there is that Ken will be dead when we get there!"

Takeru fought against the anger that bubbled up inside him, "don't you think I know that, Ruki?!" He snarled, "of course I do! I'm not an idiot! What do you think is keeping me going? I'm hurt badly enough I should still be unconscious, but Ganda-" he broke off, hesitating, and turned, putting his back to Ruki.

Tension was obvious within the small group, though the reasons for it were still partially vague. This was the first time that Takeru had openly admitted (being the stubborn person he was) to the severity of his injuries, first of all, and most of them had a sneaking suspicion that he had been saying "Gandalf" before cutting himself off. Only Takato and Guilmon were in the dark, and no one cared to enlighten them right then.

Aside from that, Ruki's comment about Ken had obviously put him on edge.

Everyone was silent for a moment, waiting.

"Ken's in trouble." He said finally, "and that's why I'm here, but rushing through the forest and getting lost won't help so shut the hell up and let me think."

Ruki, who had seemed surprised at first, by the force behind his original outburst, had quickly regained her normal expression. Rolling her eyes, she crossed her arms and waited with a semblance of patience as Takeru inspected the trees.

On his shoulder, Patamon fidgeted to get his attention. "I think it's left," the Digimon told him, "but I'm not really sure, either. The Digital World changed a lot after BelialMyotismon and Oikawa..."

"I know, Patamon."

Patamon fluttered up from his perch, "I'll go up and look. I'll be able to see Mount Infinite from above the trees, right? Hang on and I'll be right back."

Without waiting for a response, Patamon vanished, and Aragorn turned a concerned eye on Takeru. The blonde, unaware of the Ranger's gaze on him, brought a hand to his ribs and winced, then took a deep breath as he forced the pain from his eyes.


"Yeah?" He looked at Aragorn, dropping his hand to his side again. "What, Aragorn?"

"You are in pain."

"No shit." Takeru laughed, though it was a humorless one. "I'll live."

"Despite my warnings," the man fixed a hard stare on him, "you are pushing yourself too hard."

"Not this again..."

"Takeru, you will only make your injuries worse by-"

"Aragorn!" Takeru threw his hands up, exasperation in his tone, "what do you expect me to do?"

"I expect you not to push yourself, and I am beginning to become annoyed by your constant ignoring of my orders."

"Orders?" Another laugh, "no offense, but I'm not going to-"

"You realize, do you not, that you are beginning to bleed again."

"What?" The Child of Hope blinked, glancing down at his side. The motion made him wince again, and he shook his head when he noted the tiny spots of blood that were beginning to show through his tunic. "Damn it."

"Perhaps now you will listen to me?"

Noncommittal. "Perhaps."

Aragorn shook his head, "at least re-bandage the wounds before Patamon returns and we continue on."

That, he had to admit, was probably a good idea. Nodding, he watched the Ranger search through the pack of medical supplies Jou had given them, and then accepted a roll of bandages. Seating himself on a nearby rock, he began to strip off the various layers of clothing he was wearing.

If he had to choose one thing to complain about when it came to Elvish-style clothes or, in fact, any clothing styles from Middle Earth it would be the numerous layers involved in each and every outfit.

By the time he made it to the last layer, his side was screaming again and he wished he had gotten something from Aragorn for pain as well. Naturally, he didn't say anything, and instead concentrated on getting finished with the re-bandaging as soon as he could.

He didn't like being so exposed.

Granted, he was still dressed decently, but the feeling of being... naked... was familiar to him, especially during the times when he wasn't armed. Right now the feeling was tolerable, as he still had his sword strapped to his hip and his bow was only an arms length away.

Wincing, he unwound the bandages that were already wrapped several layers thick around him from his shoulders to his waist. Dried blood caked the inner layer, and the newer blood, sticky, was smeared across his side. "Shit."

"Here, give me that."

The blonde looked up, surprised. "What?"

Ruki held out her hand. "Just give me the bandages."

Takeru was floored. "Why?"

She rolled her eyes, "so I can wrap you up again, you jackass."

"But-" he couldn't have been more confused if he's tried. He blinked when she made a disgusted noise and snatched the fresh bandages from his hand. Within seconds she was wrapping them efficiently around his ribs, and Takeru could only wonder. <Uh... o-o-okay.>

"There." Tucking the end of the bandage in so that it wouldn't unravel, she shoved the remaining strips into his hand and stood. "You wouldn't have done anything but hurt yourself, anyway."

And she spun on her heel and left to snap at Takato, who was giggling over something with Guilmon, and tell them both to be more serious.

Takeru stared blankly.

<What the hell just happened here?>

Footsteps beside him and he could hear the amusement in Legolas' voice when the Elf stated, "she claims to have no friends and need none, but that could not be farther from the truth. She cares for all of us, more than she would be willing to admit. Hers is a special soul."

The Child of Hope snorted, "no offense, Legolas, but you're kind of biased."

"That could be true." Legolas agreed vaguely, "but, should you think about it, you will most likely find that I am right."

He had to agree, though he did so silently. He and Ruki were friends, grudgingly, and he knew that deep down, under her Ice-Queen image she really did care about him. And, without saying so, obviously, he cared about her as well.

<Just not in the same way Legolas does.>

"How are your wounds?"

The abrupt change of topic made Takeru glance up at Legolas, even as he began to pull the first layer of his clothing over his head. Tucking the thin material of the undershirt into his belt, he shrugged. Which was stupid, as it made his stitches ache. "I'll be fine."

One of Legolas' eyebrows raised and his lips quirked into a half smile, "that was not what I asked."

"Okay, okay." Takeru sighed, pulling on another layer. "They hurt like hell, and I'm bleeding again, so think I might have popped a stitch. Better?"

"Much. I do not appreciate half-truths."

"For your information," the blonde informed him, standing as he laced up the front of his tunic, "that wasn't a half-truth. I happen to be confident that I won't die, thank you."

Legolas chuckled, "that is true."

After a moment, Takeru looked at Legolas curiously. The Elf's eyes were trained on Ruki as she conversed with Renamon, who had recently appeared again in a blue of yellow fur. "Legolas, can I ask you something?"

"Hm? Of course."

"Have you fallen in love with her?"

"Mani ume lle quena?" Legolas yelped, his dignity dropping several notches for a split second as his gaze jerked from Ruki to Takeru. He composed himself quickly, before anyone else could notice, but Takeru had to curb the urge to snicker at the Elf's expense. "W-what?"

"Very smooth." The Child of Hope commented with a grin, "am I to take that as a 'yes'?"

Legolas gave semblance of a glare at his words, muttering, "antolle ulua sulrim," under his breath before sighing and glancing back toward Ruki once more, "I fear I am becoming transparent."

"Only when it comes to Ruki," Takeru agreed pleasantly, chuckling. His side twinged at that and he winced, reaching a hand to put pressure on the stitches for a moment. "You never answered my question." Then, with a Look, "and I may not understand Elvish, but I'm sure you insulted me as well."

"I apologize. It was uncalled for."

"Apology accepted. So?"

"You do not intend to let this go, do you?"

"Of course not." He followed Legolas' gaze once more, eyeing Ruki as she argued with Gimli about something that was probably unimportant. In any case, it seemed to be a friendly argument so it was nothing to be concerned about. He sighed, "really, I don't get it. But then, I'm not you, am I?"

"That I will agree with." Legolas nodded, "and as I do not completely understand your relationship with Ken, I believe we are even. Therefore," he continued, sounding pleased with himself, "I do not need to explain myself."

Takeru gaped. "My God, she's rubbing off on you."

"I fail to see how."

The blonde shook his head with a sarcastic smile, and looked up when Patamon fluttered back through the trees, appearing to land lightly on his head. Aragorn, who had been seated on another nearby rock, looked up expectantly. Ruki and Gimli fell silent, proving that their argument had been more to entertain themselves than to actually argue. Renamon simply turned her head. She had been watching Takato and Guilmon crack jokes and generally make idiots of themselves in an attempt to lighten Wormmon's spirits.

"Takeru, the Digi-World is different than I remember it!" Patamon complained loudly, peeking down at his partner from where he was nestled in Takeru's hair. "I don't like it. There are mountains where there shouldn't be, and there are caves and stuff! And the lake where Gennai used to live is gone!"

Impatiently. "What about Mount Infinite?"

Happy. "Mount Infinite is right where it was supposed to be!"

"That's good." Takato said, "isn't it?"

"That depends on where we are, lad." Gimli pointed out.

"Exactly," Takeru agreed, "so where are we, Patamon?"

"Well," the digimon considered, "we aren't that far away from it, but the thing is... you know those caves and mountains I mentioned that just popped up out of nowhere? They're kinda' in the way. I mean, the mountains are in the way and the caves go through them to the other side. We'll have to go through the caves."

<Why is it always caves?> Rolling his eyes, Takeru groaned. "Fucking wonderful..."

"The good thing is that the mountains aren't really far. It shouldn't take us too long to make it through, and Mount Infinite is pretty much right on the other side." Patamon sounded proud of himself, "so we can just go through and we'll be there, right?"

No one said anything as they all contemplated what they had just been told. In the end, though, they could all only concede that they had no choice. It was either go through the caves, or attempt to go over or around the mountains, which could take forever.

<And we don't have forever.> Takeru's concern for Ken was growing. He feared for the other boy's life, and the longer they took (as Ruki had so kindly pointed out previously) the more the chances were of them finding Ken already dead, or not finding him at all. <Damn it, we need to get there!> Frustration rose in him and he clenched his hands into fists, pushing it back down. "Well?" He asked, even as Aragorn was getting to his feet, "let's get moving."

No one argued, and they set off into the forest once more, this time with Patamon leading the way. Takeru, though he never said as much, was concerned that his lifelong friend may have been wrong about the way to Mount Infinite... after an hour of walking, his concerns had grown. Still, he said nothing. He trusted Patamon... but the traveling was wearing on him. His side was aching terribly, and he found himself unconsciously holding it.

"Are you sure you should be here?"

This time, Takeru didn't even jump when Renamon appeared beside him. "Why?"

"There's fresh blood on your clothing."

"Yeah. I took care of that."

"Still," Renamon argued flatly, "you are far too badly hurt to be doing this. You should have remained in Primary Village."

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you were concerned."

"And if I am?"

Takeru smirked, "and if you are?"

"I consider you to be a friend," Renamon informed him, "am I not allowed?"

"You're my friend." The blonde shrugged, then, "I think..."

"Here." She offered a paw, and when he held out his hand she dropped a tiny bundle into it. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a leaf, folded several times and tied with a string. "Sycope paste." She explained, "it's made from the Sycope flower that grows in the Digital World. I thought you could use something for your pain."

"What do I do with it?"

The gave him as close to an exasperated look as she ever could. "Eat it, Takeru. But be careful too much will put you into a daze, and we need you alert." Though he surely looked confused, she added, "it's bitter... but I had nothing to sweeten it. I was lucky enough to find the Sycope itself."

<She made it?> Blinking, he turned to thank her only to find her gone. <Help from both Ruki AND Renamon in one day. It makes me wonder if they expect me to die in the next week or two...>

"Here!" Patamon's voice called excitedly, "look! See? I told you I could get you here!"

The little digimon looked so happy as he hovered in front of the cave entrance that Takeru had to laugh. Plucking Patamon from the air, he set his friend on his head as the others all muttered vague thanks and congratulations. They were all grateful, but they were also galled by the idea of going into yet another cave system...

Darkness was all that could be seen within, and Takeru shivered when his mind conjured up memories of Moria. There was a general hesitation from everyone, as they all peered into the gloom beyond the entrance.

Finally, without a word, Takeru headed inside.

Footsteps behind him, and the others reluctantly followed.


Elvish Corner!

Legolas: Mani ume lle quena?

Aragorn: "What did you say?"

Legolas: Antolle ulua sulrim

Aragorn: "Much wind pours from your mouth." ^^;;


Me: Note the new formatting on all the chapters? I fixed up all of "Company" and all of "Digital"! It took so long... ^^;; So! Whee! New chapter! *is proud* Well, some cute scenes in this one. Oh, please note that I made up the Sycope Flower and Renamon's digimon cure. It's important, though (okay, not really important...) so remember about it. ^_~

Takeru: Caves. What's with you and caves?

Me: They're fun!

Ruki: You're not the one who gets ambushed in them ever time.

Me: -_-;; Anyway! I was torn between calling this title "Kurayami" aka "Darkness" (which, obviously, I ended up doing) and "Nozomi" aka "Hope". But despite some of the happier scenes, this chappy fits "Darkness" better, so...


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