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"Hikari.  Time for bed."

 

Kari glanced up from the travel magazine she had been reading with Gatomon.  The glossy pages, laden with brilliantly colored photographs of faraway places entranced her.  She wanted to be able to take pictures like those.  Someday perhaps she would.

 

"Put away the magazine and turn out the light," came her mother's voice.  Kari sighed.  Sometimes she thought her mother could see right through walls.  "You can read it tomorrow."

 

Kari dutifully turned out the light, and climbed into her narrow bed.  Gatomon was already asleep, her breathing slow and even.  As Kari slid beneath the blanket, a thought crossed her mind.

 

"Mother?" asked Kari, even as drowsiness crept in, her eyelids getting heavier by the second.

 

"Yes, Kari?"

 

"Do you think that someday I could have a camera?"

 

There was a pause.  "If it's important to you.  We can talk about it in the morning.  Now go to sleep."

 

Kari smiled, turned over, and was asleep.

 

Kari sighed, as hands moved deftly over her back, massaging away aches and tension she hadn't even noticed.  She burrowed into his side, mouth nuzzling like a newborn, seeking.  Fingers traced along her jawline, tilting her chin upward.  Her lips parted in surprise, then, only to be covered by another's.  Warm and firm, they pressed against hers.  Something soft and moist traced the contours of her lips, before slipping into her mouth.  Kari froze, even as her body betrayed her, eager for more.  No one had ever kissed her like that.

 

"Open your eyes."  A low soft male voice.

 

Kari obeyed.  Until that moment, she was unaware that her eyes were closed.  Mocking cold blue eyes met her stunned brown ones.  She cried out, and struggled furiously, recognizing her assailant instantly.  He laughed at her as she tried to free herself, crimson lips open to reveal fangs sharp as razors.  "Do you think that you will ever escape me?"

 

Kari blanched in terror.  "Myotismon."

 

Myotismon merely nodded.  His arms wound around her, imprisoning her tightly.  One hand knotted in her hair painfully, jerking her head back, and exposing her throat to him.  Kari fought him, even as his greedy mouth drew closer to her tender flesh, tiny fists flailing at him.  Her heart raced within her narrow chest, as she felt his breath upon her.  She felt nakedly helpless.  He drew her close to himself.  "Ah, yes.  At last, I will have my revenge."  She felt his lips touch her throat.

 

 

 

Kari woke then, body trembling, gasping.  A dream, she thought.  It was just a dream.  Somehow she could not quite convince herself of that.

 

"Kari?"  A soft voice in the darkness.

 

Kari's head snapped around.  She turned to see Gatomon peering up at her, tail moving in restless circles.  "Oh, Gatomon.  You startled me."

 

"What's wrong?"  Gatomon burrowed back into Kari's side, half asleep.  But her eyes, bright blue, never left Kari's face.

 

Kari shivered, forcing the fear away.  "Just a bad dream.  It's okay."

 

Gatomon glanced at Kari's pallid face.  Even during the worst moments of her life under Myotismon's mastery, she had never had dreams that bad.  Something was wrong.  She could feel it, deep inside.  But it was too vague, nothing she could put words to.  Like the first breath of frost in the fall that presaged the coming of winter, its presence was invisible, yet tangible.  A most subtle menace.  All she could do was hope that Kari would tell her if things got too bad.  

 

Gatomon yawned, unable to keep her eyes open.  Soon warmth and softness lured her back into deep sleep.

 

Kari watched her friend fall asleep.  She was relieved, not wanting to explain the dream she'd just had.  The sight and feel of it was all-too clear.  It was so real.

 

Just a bad dream.  Kari lay back down, eyes open, and unseeing, into the darkness of her room.  She raised a tentative hand to touch her lips, now tingling.  Somehow she could still feel the press of Myotismon's lips on her mouth, and on her--

 

Kari knew she was blushing.  Her cheeks burned with sudden heat.  An odd sensation came over her, like a wild bird trapped within her chest, fluttering frantically.

 

Methodically she willed her mind to put aside the dream, empty itself of trivial matters.  She was tired, and wanted to sleep.  It was only a dream.  She wanted very much to believe that. 

 

An hour passed before she could relax enough to fall asleep once again.

 

Myotismon wandered aimlessly, the night breezes brushing through his hair.  He had not had a dream like that since well before his death.  Kari's eyes, filled with fear, staring up at him, even as his mouth had covered her throat.  Unpleasant memories came with it, vivid images of his many victims.  After so long, he had forgotten how many he had killed.  Until now, there had been no reason to remember.

 

Pumpkinmon and Gotsumon.  He remembered their faces as he blasted them into oblivion for their foolishness and disobedience.  At the end, neither feared him.  Even if he did not care for their motives, he respected their conviction.  And, in an odd way, he had missed them.  So very little remained of what he was--for good or bad.  He now understood what it meant that there was something worse than death, and that was to be completely forgotten.

 

He laughed, feeling no mirth.  Kari would surely not forget him.  But he did not want to be remembered that way anymore.

 

 

 

"Kari!"

 

Kari looked up from the book she was reading.  Tai stared at her, leaning against the doorway to her bedroom.  "Dinner's ready.  Didn't you hear me call you?"

 

"No," Kari admitted.

 

"Hey, where's Gatomon?" asked Tai, looking around their room.

 

"She wanted to see TK and Patamon before she returned to the Digital world, and told me not to wait for her," said Kari.

 

"Well, yeah,"  said Tai.  "Matt is bringing Gabumon over later."  He sauntered out the door.  "Come on, then.  Dinner's waiting."

 

Kari stood up.  She stretched lazily like a cat, luxuriating in the pleasure it gave.  Memory returned, spilling images and sensations into her mind...the velvet soft firmness of lips against hers.  She remembered the dream, and blushed vivdly at the recollection of another's touch.  So alien, yet familiar.  Unwanted, yet...  She could not bring herself to admit to wanting such a thing, and that set her off to blushing yet again.  Just as well nobody could see her...

 

"Hey, what's wrong?"

 

Kari, lost in thought, ran into her brother, who now looked at her, frowning.  "What do you mean?"

 

"Your face is all red.  Are you feeling okay?"

 

Kari turned scarlet all over again.  "Ummm...sure, Tai.  I...think I might be allergic to something."  She put her hand to her face.  Not surprisingly, it was hot.

 

Tai seemed unconvinced.  "If there's anything wrong with you, tell someone?  I don't want to see you get sick again, like that one time."

 

Kari nodded.  "I promise."

 

Tai grinned.  Kari nodded, her lips curved into a slight fond smile.  Being overly serious was never his strong suit anyway.  "Hey, race you to the table?"

 

"Ha!  Bet I beat you!" laughed Kari, pushing away the memory.  It was, after all, just a dream.

 

Both dashed down the hall towards the dining room table.

     

 

 

 

"Myotismon?  Your move."

 

Myotismon glanced toward the chess board.  Wizardmon peered up at him, waiting his turn.  Try as he might, he could not achieve the concentration to play properly.  Long fingers hovered over alabaster and gold pieces.  Finally he made his play, taking one of Wizardmon's pawns with his sole remaining bishop.

 

"Myotismon, something troubles you.  Care to tell me what it is?"

 

Myotismon glanced up from the chess board he had been staring at, without the slightest trace of comprehension.  "Eh?  What makes you say that?"

 

"You may be many things, but one of them is not careless.  Usually."  Wizardmon gestured toward the chess men.  "Unless you were trying to put yourself in check?"

 

Myotismon glanced over, and sighed.  Not only check, but mate in three moves.

 

"So tell me," said Wizardmon.

 

"I see no point in doing so," said Myotismon, dismissing his defeat with a flick of his fingers.  "Relating my problems to you solves nothing."

 

"Uh-huh," said Wizardmon, with a low chuckle.  "I see.  Having bad dreams again, are you?"

 

Myotismon's eyes narrowed in a cold stare.  "And if I am?"  There was no reason to pretend otherwise.  Here, inside the megalithic mainframe, there were no secrets.

 

"They disturb you, do they not?  Perhaps there is something in them to be learned."  Wizardmon deftly set up the chess board again.

 

"They disturb me because they are disturbing," explained Myotismon, a trace of condescention threading through the words.  "They would probably disturb anyone in my circumstances."  He despised having to state the obvious.  "Or perhaps you know that, too?"

 

Wizardmon merely grinned.  He was too used to Myotismon's haughty ways to let them trouble him.  "Truthfully I had not...until now."  His bright gray-green eyes sought Myotismon's crystal blue ones.  "I never knew you felt that way about her, either.  Perhaps people can and do change.  It should be interesting to see what happens."

 

Myotismon was baffled, a fact he did nothing to hide.  "Her?"

 

Wizardmon nodded, even as he put the last piece, the black king, into place.  "Kari.  One of the Digidestined."  His grin widened.  "As I recall, you tried your best to kill her, did you not?"

 

"If I was to rule the real world, as well as the digital world, she had to die."  Myotismon shrugged.  "Wasn't it enough that she lived and I perished?  At the time, her death would simply have been the means to an end.  Nothing more."

 

"No more than that?" said Wizardmon.  "Well, time will tell."

 

The corners of Myotismon's mouth twisted downward.  He refused to be baited into asking a question he truly did not want answered.  Instead he changed the subject.  "When can I expect this resurrection you keep needling me about?"

 

Wizardmon grew serious.  "I am not privy to such knowledge.  All that I know is, when the time is right, you will know."

 

Myotismon became annoyed, as he always did, given the topic.  "I have yet to be convinced of the legitimacy of this."  He rose from his chair.

 

"Are you not?"  This time, Wizardmon openly laughed.  "Soon you will be."

 

Another bit of cryptic, esoteric wisdom, thought Myotismon wearily, as meaningful as...what did the humans call it?  A fortune cookie message.

 

"Face it, Myotismon," said Wizardmon.  Myotismon paused.  "What disturbs you more than anything else is the utter lack of control you now have."

 

Myotismon fell silent.  At length he spoke.  "Yes, it is," said he, in a rare admission.

 

With that, he turned and left.

 

 

 

 

Myotismon laughed with the voice of a dark god.  No...not Myotismon.  He was VenomMyotismon now, with enough hunger to devour worlds.  King of the Undead, soon to be Emperor of all that existed.  Power seethed within his now-giant frame.  There was now nothing he could not do.  Here, now, the Prophecy no longer mattered.  

 

This time would be different.  The ragtag group of children, known to the world as the Digidestined, would not stop him from achieving his desire.  How puny and pointless his enemies now seemed, their digimon weak and ineffectual against his might.

 

With a brush of his hand, buildings collapsed, and power lines snapped and erupted in a shower of brilliant sparks.  VenomMyotismon felt countless gigavolts of electricity surge through his hands, no more than a mild tingle. 

 

Ah, his most hated foes.  Angemon and Angewomon hovered nearby, radiant beings of utter hypocrisy and self-righteousness.   Their mere existence infuriated him.  A single backhanded slap knocked them from the air, sent them tumbling to the ground. 

 

From his lofty height, VenomMyotismon looked down to see both Digidestined and their  companion digimon, marshalling their strength.  It mattered not.  Once again, his attention strayed to the eighth child, Hikari.  With but a single step, he could crush her out of existence.  Never again would his humiliation at her tiny hands plague him.  Once the worlds were plunged into eternal darkness, he would cleanse any trace of his shameful defeat.

 

Kari looked up at him.  Across the improbable difference of space and mind, their eyes met, and VenomMyotismon knew a wash of emotions like no other.  Astonishment and impotent hatred seethed within him, as the truth slowly dawned.  No matter what he did, he could not conquer her.  Kari, the Digidestined eighth child, bearing the Crest of Light, who alone stood before him without hate.  He could destroy her, but never defeat her.   

 

Fury in a hot crimson wash took possession of him.  He brought one monstrous foot down on them, and stamped.  He reveled in the raw screams, suddenly cut off, and the brittle snapping of breaking bones, much like treading on dry twigs and branches.

 

It was done.  He was free of her, of them.  Free to conquer and ravage.  His destiny loomed before him, waiting to be realized.  The prize of two worlds to rule lay just beyond his grasp.  But VenomMyotismon turned from it.

 

He was victorious, yes.  But it was an pyrrhic victory at best, devoid of satisfaction.  The faint sound of humans screaming in terror and grief assailed his ears as he stared down at his new domain, and the bloody smear that had once been eight children.  There was nothing left but smoke, rubble and a gnawing emptiness.  Comprehension grew within him, as harsh and merciless to him as the light of the sun.  He understood all too well, now.  True, he had achieved his goal.  But it was not truly his anymore.

 

Her eyes.  Even dead as she was, VenomMyotismon realized that he could still see her eyes, clear and sorrowful.  The pity in them burned his spirit like acid.

 

Tears rained down on him from the grim, overcast sky.  Something vital was missing, though he could not explain it.  Gone forever, and nothing would ever be the same again.  He looked up, as the rain beat down on him, cold and unrelenting, and washed him away.

 

 

 

Myotismon woke, then. His cheeks were oddly wet.  With confusion, he wiped away the moisture, feeling the void within him grow ever wider and deeper.  Sleep, once his only solace, now gave him no comfort.  There was nowhere to go.

 

No matter.  He was still Myotismon.  He had to be. Now more than ever before, it was all he had left.

     

 

 

Kari sat up in bed, so suddenly she nearly catapulted off the mattress.  Her heart was pounding in her narrow chest.  A terrible dream.  She could feel herself even yet being crushed under the monstrous foot.  VenomMyotismon's demonic grin lingered in her memory.

 

As always, Gatomon was there.  "Another bad dream?"  She curled around Kari, tail idly flicking.

 

"Yes," gasped Kari, hand pressed to her forehead, as she tried to calm herself.

 

"Kari, tell me.  If it scares you this much, you should tell someone," said Gatomon.  "You know how much I care about you, don't you?"

 

Kari nodded mutely.  "It was Myotismon.  VenomMyotismon, actually."

 

"VenomMyotismon!  But he's dead!" protested Gatomon.  "How can this be?"

 

"I don't know," admitted Kari.  "But every time I go to sleep, he's there!  What can this mean?"

 

Gatomon fell silent, tail lashing back and forth in agitation.  "I don't know."  She curled up against Kari's shoulder.

 

Kari snuggled Gatomon, her mind blank. 

 

Between the idea

And the reality

 

An odd feeling came over Kari, as a snatch of verse occurred to her.  She recalled it as something she had read once in a literature class.

 

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

     

A poem.  Kari remembered it.  The Hollow Men.  She had to memorize it to recite in class.

     

Between the conception

And the creation

     

T.S. Eliot.  That was the name of the writer.  Kari had struggled with that poem.  Try as hard as she might to understand it, it never meant anything to her beyond its words.

 

Between the emotion

And the response

 

Now it was a clue.  It had to mean something.

 

Falls the Shadow

 

It did mean something.  Kari understood.

"Between the darkness and the light falls the shadow," said Kari, without thinking.  She was startled to hear her own voice.  Those weren't the words of the poem.  But it made more sense to her now.

 

"What does that mean?" asked Gatomon, now thoroughly confused.

 

Kari bit her lip.  "It means I have to go back."

 

 

 

Myotismon stood in darkness, one shadow among many.  He stared out at a world now alien to him, every detail limned in painfully harsh brightness.  Fatigue pulled at him, blurring his thoughts.  In annoyance, he brushed the sensations away, only to have them return.

 

"Avoiding the situation will avail you naught, Myotismon."

 

Myotismon's head snapped round at the sound of Wizardmon's voice.  "Don't you have anyplace better to go?"  The light still bothered him, illogical as that was.  "If I am dead, then there is no need to sleep, or to feel tired."

 

Wizardmon slowly crossed the great hall.  "Perhaps old habits die hard, Myotismon."  "And perhaps there is something you need to do."

 

"Just perhaps it is something you don't know anything about," said Myotismon, fingers pressed to his temples.  "Do you have nothing better to do?"  He moved away from the windows, and into darker shadows.  The ragged shreds of his headache slipped away.

 

"Than to minister to your needs?  I think not," said Wizardmon, smiling.  "This is far too important a matter to leave to chance."

 

Myotismon favored Wizardmon with a weary glare.  "And because of this, you want to send me to bed, like any disobedient child?"

 

Wizardmon's eyebrows rose.  "I have seen nothing yet capable of making you do something you don't want to.  But tell me this."  He moved closer, bright grey-green eyes probing Myotismon's crystal blue ones.  "Why do you spurn sleep so adamantly?"

 

Myotismon did not answer.  His eyes, half-lidded and uncomprehending, closed.

 

Wizardmon muttered under his breath, and grabbed Myotismon by the arm.  "Come with me."

 

Myotismon, too tired to protest, followed Wizardmon down to the crypt.

 

 

 

Gatomon was aghast.  "Back?  To what?"  She stood directly in front of Kari.  "And better still, why?"

 

Kari stopped, eyes wide, filled with visions of things imperceptible.  "To do what we always do.  We have to save the world."

 

"But we have saved the world," protested Gatomon, frowning in displeasure.  "Twice, now.  What more could we do?"  Her long pink tail lashed back and forth, restively.  "Piedmon and the rest of the Dark Masters have been defeated.  What else could there be?"

 

Kari shrugged, her eyes wide and unfocused.  "I don't know.  For that matter, I may never know."  She rose, and paced slowly.  Gatomon looked on, her eyes never leaving Kari's now troubled face.  "I can feel it.  It's something I have to do, in order to make the right things happen."  A small, wan smile turned up the corners of her mouth.  "Sometimes even destiny needs help, it seems."

 

Gatomon was now completely baffled.  "What do you mean?"

 

"I don't know," said Kari.  "But it's true.  I don't know why or how.  You're just going to have to trust me."

 

Gatomon looked dubious, but said nothing.

 

Kari picked Gatomon up and hugged the catlike digimon to her small chest.  She kissed the furry pink brow.  "I'll be fine.  You'll see."

 

Gatomon opened her mouth to speak.

 

"And I'll call you if I need you," continued Kari, smiling.

 

"But how did you...?" began Gatomon.  She thought about it.  "Never mind.  After all this time, knowing you as I do?  I have no reason to be surprised."

 

"Well, it was a logical question on your part, and not hard to figure out," admitted Kari, slipping back into bed.  She yawned hugely.  "Guess I won't have any trouble getting back to sleep."

 

"No, I suppose not," replied Gatomon, as she settled in beside Kari, curling up.

Kari burrowed deeper into the covers.  "Gatomon?"

 

"Yes, Kari?"

 

"Remind me never to take any literature classes again."

 

Gatomon was confused yet again.  Just one of those nights, when nothing made sense.  "Literature classes?"

 

"Never mind."

 

Myotismon opened his eyes.  Another night.  The sky was a velvet black sea inlaid with myriad tiny gems.  At such times, he could almost forget the gnawing emptiness that grew with every passing second.  The night was beautiful, and for the moment, that was enough.  Familiar grey stone walls surrounded him.  He espied the full moon, serene and silver through the windows, and he smiled.  Real or no, it was still his home.

 

Someone else was there.  Myotismon could sense it.  He pivoted to look.

 

Kari again.  Myotismon felt searing anger at her intrusion.  Here, at least, he should have been safe from them.  Once he would have destroyed her without a second thought.  Now he simply wished her far away.

 

 

 

Kari's eyes opened.  She recognized the grey stone walls at once.  It was Myotismon's castle.

 

A dream.  She was dreaming this.  But unlike the other time, this time she was ready for anything that might happen.

 

Footsteps behind her.  She turned, resolute to face whatever was there.

 

 

 

 

Myotismon stared at the tiny form who now stood before him, determination etched on her childish features.  "Kari."

 

"Why am I here, Myotismon?" demanded Kari.     

 

"I have no idea," said Myotismon, "since it was not me who brought you here."

 

Kari stood in silence, brows knit in confusion.  "This doesn't make any sense."

 

"I agree," said Myotismon, the tone of his voice dry.

 

Kari looked at Myotismon in growing anger.  "You're supposed to be dead.  Why can't you leave me alone?"

 

"I might ask the same of you," snapped Myotismon.  "Since you've seen fit to trespass in my home."

 

"As arrogant as always, aren't you?" sighed Kari.

 

"And why should I be anything else?" countered Myotismon.  "I see no reason to pretend otherwise.  Have I ever misled you into believing me the sort of dreary do-gooders you and your friends are?"

 

"No," admitted Kari.  "I really don't know what you are."

 

Moonlight poured through the window, and Myotismon turned his face toward it.  His eyes gazed fixedly upward toward the moon, his face set and expressionless.  "Neither do I."  His words seemed to hang in the still air.    

 

Kari stared at the tall shadow-enrobed figure who used to fill her with dread.  A feeling came over her, utterly overpowering, of melancholy and loss beyond words.  She knew she ought to hate the being before her, but she couldn't.  Compassion and sadness grew within her, even as she fought to understand it.  "Who are you?" she asked.

 

His face resumed a slight sneer, expression hardening into scorn.  Yet there was something different this time.  Kari could sense it.

 

"That question again.  As if it mattered, to you or anyone else.  Do you think I owe you an answer?" snarled Myotismon, with  typical disdain.  "Wasn't killing me enough for you?"

 

"Oh, and you weren't trying to kill everyone else?" snapped Kari.  "What were we supposed to do?"  She glared at him, furious at his never-ending selfishness.

 

"Ah, yes," pursued Myotismon smoothly.  "You mentioned something about not wanting me to harm innocent people."

 

"Yes!  That's what I told you," said Kari.  "Something you could never seem to understand, that people aren't just playthings for you to abuse or destroy!"

 

"As if I cared in the slightest degree what happens to the teeming masses of pathetic creatures that inhabit the so-called 'real' world.  Miserable, worthless, despicable animals."  Myotismon snarled silently, brows furrowed deeply in obvious displeasure.  He dismissed them all with a careless wave of one aristocratic hand.  "I have had enough of this," he grated, his temples throbbing dully.

 

"You?  Had enough of what?!?" cried Kari.  "You brought all of this on yourself!"

 

Myotismon, now seething in anger, forgot himself.  "Who do you think you are to speak to me thus?"  He crossed his arms, focusing.  Both hands began to glow brilliant scarlet.  "Crimson Lightn--"

 

"Knock it off!" yelled Kari.  Myotismon, startled into inaction, stared at her, mouth open. 

"All the suffering, and all the misery you caused and you still don't get it!"  Kari  faced him, arms stiffly by her side, small hands balled tightly into fists.  "Just once, I wish you knew how it felt to be those people you hurt, and how wrong you were!  Just ONCE!"

 

"What difference would it make now?", asked Myotismon, his face stony.  "It's a little late for that."

 

Kari stopped dead in her tracks, confused by his terse, emotionless reply.  "What do you mean?"

 

"I am already dead," answered Myotismon, his voice toneless.  "Soon enough, I will cease to be.  Your troubles are about to end--permanently."

 

"But how can this be?" asked Kari.  "I thought digimon were reincarnated into digi-eggs."

 

"Apparently not all."  Myotismon shrugged, a simple elegant gesture.

 

 

 

Kari fell into troubled silence.  There was no doubt that the world was better off when Myotismon died.  But annihilation?  There was something terribly wrong here.

 

 

 

Myotismon turned, cloak billowing in his wake.  A small voice stopped him.

 

"No--please.  Don't go," whispered Kari.

 

Myotismon looked at her levelly.  "I have no reason to stay."

 

Kari became visibly agitated, her cheeks flushed.  "But you have to.  If you go now, you'll die." 

 

Myotismon was incredulous, then furious.  "What?  Why do you care?  Isn't this exactly what you want--to see me dead?  Again?"

 

"No!" said Kari, startled by her own vehemence.  Her voice lowered.  "Not anymore."

 

"What?  Concern for me?" laughed Myotismon.  "How touching."

 

"Everybody needs someone to care about them," whispered Kari, her eyes wide and solemn.  "Even people like you."

 

"You can't expect me to believe you," said Myotismon, staring down at her.

 

Kari nodded slowly.  "You're right.  I don't expect you to believe me.  But I can hope that you do."

 

"Why?" asked Myotismon.

 

"Because you matter.  Because it's important."  Kari's brows creased, as she visibly struggled to find words.  "I don't know why, but it's horribly important."  She approached him, small hesitant steps, hands wringing in nervous repetitions.  "Even if you don't believe me, please listen to me?"

 

"It's not as if I have anything critical to do at this point," answered Myotismon, his voice flat and glacial once more.  "Proceed."

 

Kari said nothing.  "I really don't know where to begin."

 

Myotismon nodded.

 

"You know, I never once hated you," said Kari.  "Not after you killed Wizardmon."  Her face became serious.  "Not even after you tried to kill me."

 

"A pity I can't say the same." replied Myotismon.  "You and those pests managed not only to destroy my ambitions, but to destroy me as well.  Can you think of a good reason why I should not despise you utterly?"

 

"No," answered Kari.

 

"How refreshing to find someone realistic," sneered Myotismon.  "I'm sure that if it had been your brother arguing, he would have tried to force me to believe that it was my duty to like you.  Because you had made the attempt to befriend me."  The demonic grin widened.  "As you can see, I am not honor bound to anything."

 

"If that's the case, why are you listening to me?" asked Kari.

 

The tall vampire glanced at her, smile now gone, eyes narrowed.  "Perhaps, like you, I want to believe."  He turned toward the window, moonlight shining through the panes.  "Of course I could merely be trying to save myself, too."

 

Kari followed him, one tentative step after another.  Something about him didn't add up--this demon knight with the face of a fallen angel and the soul of a monster.  As she looked on, his image blurred.  Another image superimposed itself, like him, and yet not.  She blinked, as her vision changed.  Her eyes showed one creature, yet her mind's eye saw another.  There before her was the digimon she had come to know, the hated monster who would laugh at the death of a child, who would stop at nothing to conquer a world.  Her mind envisualized a creature of feeling and compassion, who would befriend another damned soul in the heart of Hell itself.  These two had nothing in common.  Yet they were the same person.

 

Myotismon took note of her expression.  "Something troubling you?" he asked, voice dry.

 

Kari nodded.  "I just wish I understood you better."

 

Myotismon listened.  His sly smile reappeared.  "Do you?  Perhaps there is a way."

 

Kari was wary.  "What do you mean?"

 

"Just answer this.  Do you really want to understand me or not?"

 

There was something in the tone of Myotismon's voice that Kari didn't like.  But try as she might, she could not dismiss his words.  The only way to accomplish her task was to trust him--somehow.

 

"Yes," said Kari.

 

Myotismon stretched forth his arms.  "Take my hands, then."

 

Kari looked up at him, her small face solemn.  Then slowly she slipped her small hands into his much larger gloved ones.

 

Myotismon smiled, lips parting to expose his canines.  His hands gripped Kari's tightly then.

 

Kari gasped as the world unsettled itself.  Everything blurred around her.  Her body felt alien, distant

 

"Open your eyes."

 

Kari did.  She looked down at herself.

 

She was taller now, her figure fully developed.  Tentatively, she raised one hand to her bosom.  Her breasts still weren't as big as she had once imagined them to be.  But she no longer looked like a little girl, and that satisfied her.

 

Kari's clothing had changed, too.  She had been wearing shorts and a tank top.  Now she wore a high waisted white gown, slim and close fitting, the material light as gossamer.  She saw how little the dress concealed of her newly matured body, and flushed a bright pink.

 

Myotismon glanced at her, eyes demurely downcast, pale cheeks suffused with color.  "You said that you wanted to understand me, Kari.  This is not a matter for children." 

 

Kari nodded.  A smile flitted across her face, gone so fast, Myotismon wondered if he had imagined it.  "Stuff like that cuts both ways, Myotismon."

 

Myotismon frowned, and glanced down at himself.  Gone were the gold braided dark blue tunic and trousers that he normally wore.  In their place was a white silk shirt with billowing sleeves, bound at each wrist by a scarlet ribbon, and tight fitting black trousers with scarlet piping down the seams.

 

Myotismon raised an eyebrow at this.  Kari giggled, as her eyes moved over his new appearance.  "I like it better."

 

"I'm sure you do," replied Myotismon, the tone of his voice dry.  He raised Kari's hand to his lips.

 

Kari's blush grew more vivid.  "Myotismon!" she gasped.

 

"Am I so hard to comprehend?"  Myotismon pulled Kari closer to himself.  "Have you never wanted anything so much that the want completely possessed you?  Never hungered so much that you would devour the world if you could?"

 

Kari was at a loss for words.  "No.  I never have."

 

"If you would understand me, it must be all of me, Digidestined.  My love, my hate, my ambition."  Myotismon encircled Kari in his arms, looking down at her.  Despite her adult size, Myotismon easily towered over her.  "My desire.  My hunger.  Do you understand?"

 

Kari forced herself to remain calm.  She really had no idea of what he meant.  If she had to free herself, she had only to wake up.  Despite the appearance, she was in no danger.  "Yes."

 

Myotismon simply watched her, and waited, as Kari composed herself.  "Now look at me," he commanded.  Surprised, Kari did.  And in that moment, she ceased to be.

 

She stood apart, haughty and cold.  All the digital world lay at her feet, a prize to be taken.  And there, just beyond her grasp, the greatest prize of all...Earth, with several billion lives to serve her needs and sate her hunger.  The only things that stood between her and her destiny were a handful of human brats and the digimon who allied themselves with the humans.

 

Thirst.  She became aware of a terrible thirst that gripped her, and would not let go.  She had never known such a need, so sharp that it cut through her.  So demanding that she knew she must inevitably yield to the compulsion to drink from the fountain of life.

 

Kari became aware of herself once more. 

 

Myotismon looked at her, and waited.

 

Kari could not reply.  She kept her eyes closed, letting the last of Myotismon's monstrous appetite wane.  A disturbing need seized her.  More than anything, she wanted to strike down the tall brooding figure before her, merely because he stood in her way.  She took long, deep even breaths; it passed.

 

"So now you understand," said Myotismon.  His voice was simple, no trace of scorn or anger evident.

 

"Yes, I see," replied Kari, her voice as toneless as his.  She opened her eyes and turned to face him, no longer a child or completely human.

 

Myotismon read her expression easily.  Here now was someone his equal.  No longer a foe, but a potent ally.  He saw now, as he could never have before, how the very oppositeness of their natures brought them so close together.  She stood before him, neither good or evil, but stern and unyielding as a naked sword.  A fitting weapon, waiting to be wielded by him.  Myotismon found her irresistible.

 

"Myotismon."  Kari's voice filled the chamber, low and impassioned.  Myotismon bent to her, as she moulded herself to him, awaiting his kiss.  An odd smile curved her mouth upward.  She turned her face away, proffering her smooth white throat to him.  Myotismon savored the moment, finding her newfound passion a heady pleasure of its own.

 

Myotismon paused, his lips hovering over Kari's throat.  Something was wrong.  Kari did not move, her expression empty but for that smile.  He looked into Kari's eyes, and saw nothing but a reflection of himself.  She had become him, and everything she now felt was a pale imitation of his own nature.  Even her smile was only his habitual smirk on her lips.  No matter how much she seemed to want him, her desire was not truly her own, but what he wished her to feel.  

 

 Myotismon, repulsed by what he had almost done, felt his hunger wane, becoming cold distaste.  He bent down to Kari again, this time merely to press his lips against her upturned mouth.  He released her, and stepped away from her, a child once more, dressed in simple play clothes.  His mind waged war against itself.  "Fool!" came the voice.  "After waiting so long to taste vengeance, you do nothing but stare at her like a moon-struck calf!  You, the King of the Digital world, utterly besotted by a mere human brat!  Have you gone mad?"

 

Myotismon knew the voice well--it was his own, not so very long ago.  "Perhaps I have," answered Myotismon.  "But I am not answerable to you or anyone else.  My actions are for me alone to judge." 

 

"Destroy this puny human," sneered the voice.  "She and all humans are your rightful prey."

 

"No," answered Myotismon.  "Not anymore."

 

"Weakling!  Miserable incompetent!  Why do you delay?  Kill the girl and be done with it!"

 

"I will not," said Myotismon.  "There is no reason to harm her."

 

"Idiot!  Imbecile!" raged the voice.  "Why aren't you listening to me?  Why do you fail me?"

 

"Because it's wrong," answered Myotismon.

     

 

 

Kari watched in confusion as Myotismon backed away from her, his eyes fixed on her still, but unseeing.  His form shimmered and blurred, garbed once again in the dark blue military tunic.  Myotismon's face tightened into the hateful smile that still had the power to make her shudder.  Then his expression changed again, clothing melting to reform itself into a silk shirt and pair of trousers once again.  This Myotismon's expression was different.  Gone was the smirk.  Here was only a face lined with weariness and eyes too empty of emotion to see.

 

Myotismon's body took on a hazy glow.  Within the shimmering light, Myotismon's body seemed to be spreading, separating into two creatures.

 

Kari knew she had to do something, and fast.  The white-shirted Myotismon was in danger from his evil self.  She had to separate them--now.  But how?

 

Kari felt warmth rise within her, surrounding her.  Instinct now guided her, directing her actions.  She reached one hand toward Myotismon, her hand glowing.  The glow intensified as her hand neared Myotismon's. 

 

Her hand touched Myotismon's hand.  There was a blinding flash of light, as Myotismon screamed.  The figure shivered and splintered into two Myotismons, one clad in dark blue, the other in black and white.  The force of separation knocked both Myotismons from their feet, sending them flying in opposite directions.

 

 

 

Kari ran toward the white-shirted Myotismon, who was the nearer of the two.

 

 

 

"At last I am free of you," said the Myotismon in blue, laughing as he rose to his feet.  "Soon I will be rid of you forever."

 

"Would you stake your life on that?" asked the Myotismon in white, struggling to stand.  "I don't think you have the strength to do anything to me right now."  He stared at his diabolic alter ego.

 

The Myotismon in blue stared at him, cold blue eyes narrowed.  "I see."  He drew himself to his full height.  "Then so be it.  I choose not to waste time with a worthless craven wretch such as yourself.  My destiny awaits elsewhere."  Pivoting on one heel, cloak flying behind him, he vanished into the shadows.

 

The Myotismon who remained staggered, a wash of weakness passing through him.  Kari moved to his side, steadying him.  "Myotismon!"

 

"No," said the being.  "I am that no longer."

 

"What happened?" cried Kari.  "Who are you?"

 

"I don't know," said the man who once was Myotismon.  "I don't remember anything.  Not before--"  His voice trailed off.

 

"Before what?" asked Kari.

 

"Before I met you.  When you told me that you could not allow me to hurt innocent people," said the new digimon.  "I remember nothing before that."

 

"I remember that day," said Kari.  "But what does that mean?"

 

"Even the most hateful of monsters may shelter within its heart some small essence of kindness," the new digimon answered.  "Myotismon was such a creature."

 

"But why...?" Kari was now confused.  "How...did I...?"

 

The digimon smiled.  "You awakened me."

 

Kari thought about it, then slowly nodded.  "But what's your name?"

 

"For the moment, I have no name," said the digimon.  "My place is not here any longer."

 

"Kari."  A woman's voice spoke.

 

Kari turned her head.  Angewomon now stood beside her, gleaming white wings outstretched.  She faced the digimon who wore Myotismon's face.

 

"Angewomon!" said Kari.  "Why are you here?"

 

"I was summoned to this place, as were you.  Because even destiny needs help, as you said," said Angewomon, furling her wings.  "Your words were prophetic."

 

Kari blushed.

 

Angewomon continued.  "Kari, your kindness helped to create this digimon.  Now it is time for him to fulfill his destiny.  Will you help him do that?"

 

Kari looked at Angewomon, then at the other.  "I--yes, I will."

 

Angewomon glanced at the new digimon.  "And you, who were once Myotismon.  Your path ahead will be difficult, and the obstacles you face many.  Do you wish a simpler, less dangerous destiny to fulfill?"

 

The digimon was puzzled.  "Do I have a choice?"

 

Angewomon nodded.  "Yes.  In rejecting evil, you have earned the right to choose."

 

"No, it is a worthy task," answered the digimon.  "I cannot do less."

 

Angewomon looked at him.  "As Myotismon, your sins were pride and arrogance.  Will you accept the punishment for this?"

 

"Yes."  The answer came without hesitation.  "I will repay my debt, if it lies within my power."

 

"It does."  The tall angel seemed satisfied with his answer.

 

"But it's not fair," protested Kari.  "He didn't do any of the bad things Myotismon did.  Why should he have to be the one to get punished?"

 

"His punishment will not be what you think, Kari," said Angewomon.  "In the process of atoning his sins, he will have the opportunity to learn just why his misdeeds were wrong, and to correct his behavior so that they will never happen again.  Punishment is meaningless without the chance to learn and change."

 

"Well--" began Kari.  "I suppose so.  All right."  Her face was troubled.  "But how can I help him?  I don't know what to do."

 

The celestial digimon spoke.  "Do what is in your heart, Kari.  Your heart has always been your wisest counsel, and it will show you the way."

 

Kari listened.  She understood, and then she knew what to do.  It was simple.  The crest she wore on a chain around her neck shone brightly, radiant as a star.

 

"I said that I never hated you for what you did," said Kari.  "But I was mad at you for the longest time.  For killing Wizardmon.  For putting so many people in danger.  My parents, my brother, my friends.  Everyone I knew.  You tried to kill us all.  Anyone else would say that I had the right to be angry."

 

The digimon who had been Myotismon said nothing, his head bowed.

 

"But things have changed," continued Kari.  "Mostly because you have changed.  I can't be angry at you anymore.  I understand now.  The only thing standing between you and reincarnation is--"

 

"--is the need to be forgiven," came a voice from the shadows.  Wizardmon stepped forward into the light. 

 

"Wizardmon!" cried Kari, in surprise.

 

"Kari."  The short digimon nodded to Kari, his face hidden.  Only his eyes showed, bright grey-green.  "He does not have to ask for my forgiveness, since I have already granted it to him.  But you, Kari, the one he wronged the most.  It is not enough that you no longer feel anger toward him.  Can you forgive him?"

 

Kari looked at the digimon who had been the most evil creature she had ever known.  She remembered fear, the fear that she might never see her brother alive again.  Memories of that time came back.  She remembered Wizardmon's murder at Myotismon's hands, and the rage and grief she felt at the death of a friend known too briefly, lost too soon.  No matter what this new creature did, the evil could never be undone.  Yes, she remembered evil.

 

But this was not Myotismon anymore, not the monster she knew.  This being would feel what the other could not, remorse and contrition.  She could feel nothing for him but compassion, and understood then that he would need it.  What was it that the Americans called it?  'A tough row to hoe.'  That was it.

 

"Yes," said Kari.

 

The new digimon touched Kari's cheek. 

 

Kari nodded, her eyes never leaving his face.  She had never noticed how beautiful his eyes were, now that they were no longer filled with hate.

 

"Thank you, Kari.  I will never forget this."  The tall digimon smiled down at Kari.

 

"I'm afraid you'll have to," came a voice well-known to them all."  Gennai now stood beside Wizardmon, his wizened face more sober than usual.  "If you are allowed to remember, it could jeopardize everything."

 

"What could possibly be so important?" asked the new digimon.

 

"The end of the world," said Gennai, the tone of his voice matter-of-fact.

 

There was a universal gasp of shock.  Only Wizardmon showed no surprise.

 

Gennai continued.  "The fate of two worlds depends on a critical sequence of events.  If those events are altered in the slightest, the results could be disastrous."  He peered up at the new digimon.  "You, there.  The one who used to be Myotismon.  You're pivotal to this, you know."

 

The digimon was stunned.  "How does my knowing my past affect the future?  Why should it matter to anything?"

 

"Very well.  Since you insist on knowing, let me explain," said Gennai.  "If you remember nothing of this night, all all that transpired, the future will continue on its course.  But--"  Gennai sighed, and went on.  "But if you remember all this, and know that what you decide to do may affect the future for the worse, you will begin to second-guess yourself.  Rather than automatically doing the right thing, you may end up doing the wrong thing altogether.  Because sometimes the right thing to do, at any given time, may prove to be the wrong thing well after the fact.  Can you see all possibilities, and can you automatically know what is right and wrong?"

 

"But how could you know this?" said Kari.  "What if you're wrong?"

 

Gennai was unperturbed.  "Kari, you already know the answer to your question.  Have I ever been wrong yet?"

 

Kari and the others fell silent.  "No, sir," said Kari.

 

"There is something else you should know," said Gennai, and for the first time, he smiled.  "If the chain of events led to a world where both humans and digimon could live in harmony, would you not wish this?"  He pointed to Angewomon.  "Kari, what would you do to ensure that you and Gatomon could be together always?"

 

Kari's jaw dropped.  Angewomon was astonished.

 

"If all it took to accomplish this would be to forget something you have no need to remember, would you do it?" asked Gennai.

 

"Gennai, is this really possible?"  Angewomon asked.  The normally distant digimon was visibly excited at the prospect.

 

"Yes," said Gennai in irritation.  "Why would I make this up?"

 

"I don't think anyone is trying to imply that you are, Gennai," said Wizardmon.  "Only that it's impossible to see how you reached such a conclusion.  How is it that you know so much about this?"

 

"I am caretaker to the digital world, and integral to the system.  Why shouldn't I know?" asked Gennai.  "But I am not the only one to know this.  Kari knew, even though she didn't understand.  The young lady is quite gifted in such matters."

 

"Thank you," said Kari, and blushed yet again.

 

Gennai merely nodded in response.  "Be that as it may.  What matters most is not what has happened, but what will happen.  Do you have the courage to let things be, to face the unknown as the unknown, and know that things will work out for the best?

 

Kari and Angewomon exchanged glances.  The new digimon was silent.

 

"We agree," said Kari.

 

Gennai turned to the nameless digimon.  "And you.  Do you agree to this?"

 

"I do," said the digimon.  "I would have hoped..."  He looked at Kari, and fell silent.

 

"Someday, perhaps, when this is done," said Gennai, "the truth will revealed to all.  Then you may repay your debt of gratitude to her, if you wish.  For now, it must be as if this night had never happened," said Gennai.  "Soon you will meet another, someone who needs you more than he or you can possibly imagine.  And that is all I am going to say on the matter.  You will not remember what I told you."

 

"I know," said the new digimon, both his face and voice devoid of emotion.

 

"The future will be filled with more marvels than any of you could possibly imagine...yes, even you, Kari," said Gennai, chuckling.  "I don't want to spoil the surprise."

 

He beckoned the nameless digimon to his side.  "Well, then.  Enough chatter.  Are you ready?"

 

"Not quite," said the digimon.  "There is one last thing."

 

"Yes, yes, all right," snapped Gennai.  "But get on with it!"

 

No one was deceived by Gennai's outburst.  He beamed as brightly as the sun, an enormous grin splitting his face, showing one tooth.

 

The digimon knelt before Kari.  "I would have done more for you, after what you've done for me, but I cannot."  He removed a scarlet silk ribbon from his shirt.  "It isn't enough.  Nothing ever could be.  But I want you to have it anyway."

 

Kari took the ribbon, touching the glossy fabric with gentle fingertips.  "Thank you," she whispered.

 

The digimon's form began to glow, his form becoming indistinct as the brightness grew.  Tiny spangles of light filled the air surrounding him.  "Goodbye, Kari."

 

"We will meet again," said Kari.  She felt his smile, a warm, comforting expression.  Then he was gone.

 

"I think it's time to go home." 

 

Kari heard a familiar voice, looked down, and saw Gatomon now standing by her side.  "Yes, I think you're right."  Dream or no, she felt immeasurably tired.

 

The small pink catlike digimon turned to Wizardmon.  "Wizardmon, my old friend.  Will I ever see you again?"  Her voice was sad.

 

"Look for me," answered Wizardmon.  He bent down to wipe one glistening drop from Gatomon's cheek.  "I believe we are destined to be together again."

 

Gatomon smiled.  "I can only hope so."

 

Wizardmon straightened, and spoke to Gennai.  "It is time for me to leave.  My task is finished, and I am no longer needed here."

 

Gennai peered at him from under bushy brows.  "You know what to do."

 

Wizardmon nodded.  "Yes."  He turned to Kari and Gatomon, who stood to one side, listening.  "Until then."  He raised one hand.  "See you around."

 

"Goodbye, Wizardmon," said Gatomon, her luminous blue eyes never leaving Wizardmon's face as he vanished into a cloud of digital data that rapidly dispersed.

 

"What happened to Wizardmon?" cried Kari.

 

"What you two saw," answered Gennai, "was no more than a part of him, whose sole mission was to ensure Myotismon's safety.  Now that the future history of both humans and digimon has been firmly established, and set on the proper course, that part of him became free to integrate with the whole." Gennai seemed satisfied by the turn of events.  "And, of course he, too, will remember nothing of this."  His attention strayed to Myotismon's castle.  "Remarkable workmanship..." he muttered.  "Wonderful masonry..."

 

Kari and Gatomon stared at him.

 

Gennai seemed oblivious to them both, silent for the longest time.  "Now, does that satisfy your need for closure, Miss Kamiya?"  His eyes never left the stonework.

 

Kari couldn't think of a thing to say.  "Yes, sir."

 

Gennai smiled again.  "Kari."

 

Kari glanced back.  "Yes?"

 

"You are going to be a lovely young woman in time."

 

Kari flushed vividly again.  "T-thank you, Gennai."  She smiled, and everything faded away.

 

 

 

Kari woke then.  She'd had such a vivid dream.  Gennai...

 

It was gone.  Nothing remained but the image of Gennai, and the sensation of rightness.  Kari yawned and stretched.  Odd.  She could clearly recall all the nightmares of Myotismon she'd been having, but not a thing of the dream she had just woken from.  Well, life was like that sometimes.

 

"Kari..."  Gatomon sat up, rubbing her eyes.  "I had the strangest dream about..."  She blinked.  "Hey, I can't remember."

 

"About Gennai?" offered Kari.

 

Gatomon looked surprised.  "How did you know?"

 

"I had a dream just like that," said Kari.

 

"Then do you--?"

 

"No, I don't remember anything either," answered Kari.  "I think we're not supposed to."

 

"But why?"  Gatomon puzzled over this.  "What could be so important?"

 

"I don't know," said Kari, sitting up.  "The end of the world, maybe?"

 

Gatomon opened her mouth to protest.

 

"And it's not impossible.  Look at everything we've done so far."

 

"Well...no," admitted Gatomon.

 

"And if that's what it's about," said Kari, "maybe we're better off not remembering."

 

Gatomon nodded slowly, but doubt remained.  Kari saw it, and hugged Gatomon.  "Right now, I'm not worried about anything.  I believe the future will take care of itself."

 

Gatomon snuggled against Kari.  She saw something slip from Kari's fingers.  "Kari, what's that?"

 

"Mmm?"  Kari looked down.  There, spilled across the blanket, was a length of crimson silk satin ribbon.

 

"Where did it come from?"

 

"I don't know."  Kari picked the ribbon up.  It was soft and slick to the touch, so smooth was it.  An image lurked in her subconscious.  Blue eyes...

 

Kari shook her head.  Try as she might, she could not get the image to form completely.

 

Gatomon thought about it.  "Maybe it was a gift from somebody."

 

"Maybe so," said Kari absently.  The image was gone.  Kari smiled and hugged the ribbon.

 

Gatomon nudged Kari.  "Are you okay?"

 

Kari nodded.  "I'm fine, Gatomon.  Everything's going to be okay."  She smiled.  "You'll see."

 

"You know I have to go back soon," said Gatomon.  Her expression was wistful.  "I wish we could be together all the time."

 

Kari glanced back at the satin ribbon.  "Maybe we will."

 

From the hall, a voice bellowed.  "Kari, breakfast is ready!"

 

Kari shook her head.  "Boy, is your brother loud," commented Gatomon.

 

"That he is," answered Kari.  "Come on, let's go."