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Chapter 3; Escape from the Desert
① Server Continent
Tonami Town was a port city, but there were no boats floating in its waters. Instead, there were a number of ships buried into the land with their bows pointing towards the sky. These vertical ships were called buildings in this town.
Right now, the city was bustling with preparations to welcome the “Chosen Children.” A large banner was raised up into the air with the words “Welcome, Chosen Children!” in big letters so that a person could read it with the naked eye even if they were positioned out in the far horizon. What’s more, a cannon had been procured so that once the children were seen on the open sea, it would be fired (which would also indicate the signal for attack).
All that was left now was to wait for their guests to arrive — and yet, not a glimpse of the children could be seen anywhere.
The Flymon who had been sent out to scout the area earlier that morning had come back to report that they had seen the children riding on top of a Whamon in the west-southwest. It wouldn’t be so strange for them to have reached land long before now, so why?
“That is so odd.”
Standing in front of a large trailer that had the words “E-TE-MON” written in kantei-style calligraphy on its sides, a Digimon wearing an orange monkey bodysuit by that very name mumbled to himself as he scratched his hip. The black sunglasses he was wearing made it difficult to see his eyes, but no doubt they must have been filled with confusion.
“Could they have taken a shortcut somewhere?”
Now his back was feeling itchy. The yellow inland sands had come blowing into his suit and were clinging to the sweat of his bare body, which no one had ever seen before or would ever have the chance to.
Giving an aggravated monkey-like screech, “Ukiiii!”, Etemon stomped into his trailer.
The inside of the trailer was like a large karaoke room. A mirrorball hung from the ceiling, while the room was decorated with a sofa that lined three of the walls in a U-shape facing a thirty-inch television screen. There was a table in the empty space the sofa made, littered with drinks and snacks. And, of course, there was a microphone.
However, unlike a normal karaoke room, the walls were covered with an electric scoreboard. On it was displayed a map of Server Continent, with 26×26 vertical and horizontal lines running across that indicated latitude and longitude. A yellow dot was blinking from its position at the elongated tip of the peninsula on the southeast part of the continent, indicating the location of this trailer.
There were also computers that acted as communications equipment. Sitting in front of them and glaring at the screens was a single Gazimon, a Digimon whose face looked like a mean, feral cat.
The computers were currently connected to the cables underground, which stretched throughout all of Server Continent like a weaved net. Because of that, it was not only possible to access designated points of location but also to operate their surveillance cameras set up in distant areas all from this room.
The Gazimon on communications duty looked up as Etemon sat heavily on the sofa and said, “Master Etemon. I’ve just received a communications message from Master Tailmon.”
A slightly annoyed expression crossed Etemon’s face. “Don’t add ‘Master’ to her name. She’s a lower rank than I am.”
What Etemon meant by ‘lower rank’ was that he was an Perfect level while Tailmon was Adult level, not that they were of different status in the organization. That was only one of many reasons why Etemon resented her.
“I’ve received a communications message from Tail…mon,” the Gazimon corrected himself, the uncomfortable expression plain on his face. “She asked if you would need reinforcements, sir.”
Etemon snorted. “Reinforcements? The cheek she has, to make fun of me. Tell her no.”
Even so, the thought did cross his mind to say “Yes, I do need help” just to see how she would answer back. But he could already picture it; Haughtily, she would say that they were busy preparing for the invasion and were much too understaffed to provide reinforcements.
For the both of them to know that and yet for that little witch to still take the time to ask him that silly question meant that she was making fun of him and no mistake.
“By the way, have you determined the whereabouts of the children?”
“N–Not yet, sir,” the Gazimon said with painful reluctance as he kept glancing furtively at Etemon’s face. “Not while the children are still above water and therefore outside our network.”
His expression blank, Etemon took a gulp from a drink that lay on top of a nearby table. It was banana juice made from his own special recipe, filled with honey and protein.
At that moment, the sound that notified that they had received an e-mail rang from the computer. Gazimon opened it to read its contents and exclaimed, “Master Etemon! We’ve found where the children are!” He said this in a gallant voice so that he would appear a capable subordinate in Etemon’s eyes.
Rising up from his seat, Etemon jumped over the table to peer into the monitor behind Gazimon.
“Here,” that Gazimon said, pointing not at the monitor but at a bright dot blinking on the electric scoreboard. “They’re in the Koromon village.”
“Kiiii, when did they get over there?!”
But then a different Gazimon piped up, “Actually, sir, in case something like this were to happen, I had the inhabitants of that village switched with Pagumon.” He sounded rather triumphant. “I thought there would be a possibility that the children would land somewhere other than the peninsula.”
Etemon nodded to himself as he listened to this, but immediately afterwards said, “…And under whose orders?”
“Whose— Oh… Um…”
“I don’t remember making an order like that, at the very least.”
“M–My apologies, sir!” The Gazimon took a frightened step back, his face contorted with near tears, but not even Etemon was that much of a demon.
“Well, I’ll praise you for today. Now, it’s time to leave at once, everyone. Just watch, children. I’ll bring over to you the welcome party that you didn’t get to see here.”
At first, they didn’t realize that it was a night raid.
They thought that maybe the constellations were falling down on them. Of course, the folktale that stars were tied together by string was a result of the rich imagination from people long ago, so the children knew that constellations couldn’t really keep the same shape permanently, much less fall down on them. But this was the Digital World. The Digital World’s night sky was like a large dome, with its constellations seeming to hang off of them in an imitation of Christmas lighting on houses, so they couldn’t help thinking that maybe someone had cut the lines and caused them to fall.
After the “stars” had fallen over the land, sparks roared through them with an ominous electric buzzing sound. Apparently the lines connecting the constellations together had a high-tension current running through them. Its destructive power matched that of a natural volcanic eruption or tsunami, and it reduced the Koromon village to ash in the blink of an eye.
Fortunately, Taichi and the others were in front of a waterfall located far away from the village, so they had escaped the danger. How they had ended up there — would best be explained by going back to the time when they were still sailing through the ocean.
After Taichi and the others had hurriedly constructed a raft that would take them off File Island into the ocean, they were met the next day with the appearance of a whirlpool and the attack of a large whale Digimon named Whamon… who then had swallowed them into his giant mouth.
Just when they were about to be dissolved inside Whamon’s stomach, Taichi and the others spotted the black gear jammed into his pink stomach wall and succeeded at taking it out. Whamon recovered from his senses and not only apologized for his rudeness but offered to carry them towards Server Continent as their ride. Through a conference held by all members (except Mimi, who was sleeping at the time) on where they should land on Server Continent, they had decided on a point at the coastline that was further west from the southeast peninsula. The coastline had been Yamato’s suggestion — it indented into an inward curve, which would better help them to keep an eye out for enemy attacks.
From there they had gone towards the Koromon village that Whamon had told them about, except there had been no Koromon in sight. Instead, the village was full of Pagumon who were the same Baby levels. The children had gladly received the Pagumon’s warm reception, washing themselves clean of the salt that clung to their hair and the stinky sweat of their bodies and diving into the feast that had been provided for them. Just when they were earnestly thinking about settling into a peaceful sleep, Takeru had cried out, “Tokomon is gone!”
Everyone had immediately split up to search for Tokomon, resulting in Taichi and Agumon discovering a cave behind a waterfall, where Gazimon were holding both Tokomon and the rightful inhabitants of the Koromon village captive. After Agumon had evolved to Greymon and chased the Gazimon away, the other children met up with them. It was around this time that the night sky fell down.
Taichi and the others saw what was happening from behind the waterfall, but the suddenness of the overwhelming catastrophe left them standing there in a daze. Their brains couldn’t process at first what had just happened.
It was the abrupt appearance of a monster who looked like a giant monkey that got their brains whirring again.
“Are you still alive, children?” the monkey asked coyly. “What you just saw was my Dark Spirits. It’s my welcoming gift to you~”
As if Etemon’s way of talking upset him, Yamato scrunched up his face in disgust and asked, “Who’s that?”
“I–It’s Etemon!” the Koromon wailed, drawing each other close and trembling as fear contorted their faces.
“Is he strong?” Taichi asked.
“He is! He’s a Perfect level,” one of the Koromon answered.
“Perfect level? What’s that?”
Tentomon answered Taichi’s question this time. “Perfect level is the level that an Adult evolves into. The Adult level is, for instance, when I’m Kabuterimon and when Gabumon becomes Garurumon.”
Would we be able to win against someone as strong as that? The question was unspoken, but it fell like a dark shadow over all of the children’s faces.
“Let’s keep staying out of sight,” Jou said. “If he doesn’t find us, he might think we’ve died and leave.”
However, by that time Etemon was already aware of where the children were located. A surveillance camera nearby the waterfall had caught Taichi and the others, displaying them on the monitor in Etemon’s trailer.
“Oh, it’s too late to run, honey-pies,” the large holographic image of Etemon in the night sky said with a wide grin. “I already know where you are. Just hang on a minute, I’ll be right there.”
Etemon’s holographic display flickered out abruptly and almost immediately after that,
With a cheerful clearing of his throat, the real Etemon, about two meters tall, appeared in front of them. He pulled off the flying V guitar from his shoulder and struck out a single high note as he sang in a random tune,
“It’s the superstar, Master Etemon!”
The children collapsed to their knees and couldn’t move. Perhaps they could instinctively sense the ruthlessness within Etemon’s eccentricity because none of them let out a whimper even though they wanted badly to cry.
“Now, come at me or surrender, whichever you please. The end will be the same either way — you’re all going to die here!”
Etemon approached them, dancing a funny little dance as he went.
“If surrendering leads to the same result, then we’ve just gotta fight!” Taichi said arrogantly. He was apparently intent on winning.
Sora had often seen Taichi make that face during their soccer games. Taichi showed that expression even when they were two or three points behind, and strangely enough they would end up turning the score around. He was the type whose fighting spirit flowed over in the face of adversity.
Sora decided to believe in Taichi.
“Everyone, evolve!” Sora shouted. Even if they were up against a Perfect level, they had to have some chance of winning with six Adult levels on their side.
“Piyomon, evolve! Birdramon!”
“Gabumon, evolve! Garurumon!”
“Tentomon, evolve! Kabuterimon!”
“Gomamon, evolve! Ikkakumon!”
“Palmon, evolve! Togemon!”
Along with the already evolved Greymon, but excluding Tokomon who had only recently hatched from his egg, everyone had evolved to Adult. But…
Etemon raised his right hand into a large arc and made one swooping strum of his flying V guitar. Then without a moment’s delay, he turned a knob on it as if tuning up a violin, so that the guitar’s sound warped out as it traveled into the air. Instantly—
“I–I don’t know how, but…”
“My power is draining…”
The evolved Digimon degenerated back to their Child levels.
“What happened to you guys?!”
It was Etemon who answered the children’s questions. “My Love Serenade has the power to reverse an evolution. A shame for you, dearies.”
Taichi’s next course of action was quick. Picking up a small stone that had fallen at his feet, he threw his weight on one foot and aimed for Etemon.
The stone hit Etemon right on the crown of his head.
“Owie!” Etemon cried out.
“Now, guys! Everyone into the cave!”
The children carried their degenerated Digimon in their arms, pulled their hands along, or carried them on their backs as they passed through the curtain of the waterfall and into the cave behind it. Their desire to live for as long as they could won over the fear that they could be walking into a dead end, so none of them displayed any hesitation.
But Taichi didn’t run.
When Sora realized he wasn’t with them and looked back, Taichi was still on the other side of the waterfall.
“Take that! And that!”
Judging from his words, it sounded like he was still throwing rocks.
“D–Don’t be so rash!”
Whether he heard Sora’s voice or noticed for himself that Taichi wasn’t there, Yamato also came running back.
“That idiot!” he cursed and jumped out from behind the curtain of the waterfall.
Etemon was grinding his teeth as he drew closer to Taichi.
“You little pest! You won’t get away with that!” he screamed, kicking against the ground and flying out towards Taichi.
“Look out, Taichi!”
Sora could hear Yamato’s shrill scream even from inside the cave.
That was when it happened. From the corner of her eye, Sora saw a bright light sparkle suddenly from deep inside the cave.
Sora couldn’t tell what was going on, but because Jou, Koushiro, Mimi, and Takeru had gone further ahead, they had seen how it had occurred up close. The four had reached a dead end in the tunnel, coming upon an enormous rock blocking their path, when suddenly that rock illuminated light and disappeared.
Then, something about the size of a mini-card that shimmered brightly flew across the air in the direction of the waterfall. A hole appeared where the rock had been, and an unknown land could be seen ahead of it.
That glittering something flew past Sora’s eyes and through the waterfall to the outside. As it swooshed over Taichi’s shoulder, it made a beeline for Etemon’s stomach at full force, who couldn’t change direction in mid-air. The thing knocked him back and then flew neatly into Taichi’s open palm from the recoil. Just like how the Digivice had flown towards Taichi at the campgrounds.
His eyes wide, Taichi looked at the thing his hand was holding. It was the “Crest” that Gennai had shown them in the 3D hologram on File Island.
“U–Urgh…” The attack must have been heavy because Etemon lay clutching his stomach and moaning.
Seeing this, Yamato grabbed Taichi’s hand and pulled, shouting, “Let’s get out of here!”
② The Crest of Courage
The rise and fall of sand dunes could be seen stretching endlessly into the distance. The arid land greedily soaked up light from the sun, giving off a heat haze. The children felt like the insides of their shoes could melt off. Their dripping sweat left soak marks on the backs of their clothes, and sand grains in the wind flew into the corners of their eyes, tearing them up.
Several days had passed since Etemon attacked them in the Koromon village. When the rock blocking their path in the cave disappeared to form an exit, Taichi, the others, and the Koromon slipped into it, and it automatically closed up behind them. Apparently it had only opened for an instant before disappearing. When Etemon didn’t break down the cave wall and chase after them despite having the power to destroy a whole village, Koushiro explained that the exit was probably a distortion that connected to a place far away from the Koromon village.
After parting with the Koromon at the oasis (the Koromon were apparently going to build their new village there), Taichi and the others continued on west. According to a map that Gennai had sent them, if they kept going in a straight line west, they should be able to come upon a large lake called Temp Lake. They didn’t necessarily have anything to do at that lake, but considering that Etemon was after them, staying in the barren desert with no place to hide was the bigger danger.
The voices of everyone behind Taichi as he walked ahead of them floated into his ears.
“How far do we have to walk?”
“Until we reach a place where Etemon can’t follow us.”
“Does that sort of place even exist?”
Everyone’s feeling discouraged, Taichi thought. I have to cheer them up somehow.
Turning around to look at the others, he said, “C’mon guys, get a grip on yourselves. Remember, we have this!”
And proudly, he raised the Crest that he had gotten at Koromon Village for everyone to see.
To Taichi, getting his Crest was like getting the newest video game console before anyone else. He even thought the sun gleaming overhead appeared to be pouring down congratulatory rays of light upon him.
But the other children only stared at it darkly. Some eyes were filled half with doubt about whether or not that Crest would help them beat Etemon; others reflected envy and jealousy that Taichi was the only one who had it, while even more were filled with discouragement upon knowing that without a Crest of their own, they were only pulling everyone else down…
But Taichi did not realize this. All he thought about it was that everyone must be pretty tired. It was a sign of his own self-conceit and his innocence.
As if speaking for everyone, Yamato blurted out,
“Will that Crest really help Agumon evolve? And even if it did, would it be enough to win against Etemon?”
Taichi’s lip twisted with annoyance.
“Yes, it will totally help him evolve. And yes, it will get us to win against Etemon. Right, Agumon?”
He grinned widely at his partner.
That uncertainty seemed to irritate Taichi, because he took on the scolding tone he used when lecturing his juniors in the soccer club.
“Get ahold of yourself, man. You’re the one who’s gotta make a stand in the front.”
As if the other Digimon understood their position, they spoke to Agumon with half-hearted cheers of,
“We’re counting on you.”
“Do your best.”
Agumon looked at them in bewilderment, but Taichi thought that everyone understood and looked satisfied.
“But what do we do to make them evolve to Perfect level in the first place?” Jou asked, to which Koushiro answered, “From what I’ve seen of their evolutions thus far, our Digimon appear to consume a large amount of energy in order to evolve. They couldn’t evolve when they were hungry, after all. It also occurs when their partner is in danger.”
“I see,” Taichi said, nodding leisurely. “But still, that energy thing… since he’s gonna be evolving to Perfect, he’s gotta have even more energy than before, right?”
A sly grin spread across his face.
At that moment, Koushiro had no idea of the meaning behind Taichi’s smile. But later on, when he found out why, he regretted what he’d said.
Jou spotted an ancient Roman coliseum in the middle of the desert, where the children decided to take a break. Taichi had confiscated everyone’s food, telling the others that Agumon needed it to evolve to Perfect. It was as close to being an order, but Taichi himself didn’t seem to think that way and kept shoving more and more food into Agumon’s protesting mouth. Agumon’s stomach was already bulged out like a pregnant woman’s and it was obvious to anyone that he was full.
“Do your best to eat! Everyone gave you all of their food because they’re looking forward to you evolving! Right, guys?” Taichi said loudly, looking for the others’ agreement.
Both children and Digimon nodded their heads as they quietly bore hunger pangs. Inside, every single one of them was resentful.
Taichi kept patting Agumon on the back to help make the food go down faster.
“You and I are the only ones who can protect everyone,” Taichi said. He was quite obviously getting full of himself.
Suddenly, the sound of an organ rang out in the air.
It wasn’t the solemn and majestic sound of a church’s pipe organ, but a frivolous one coming from an electronic organ. It was out of place in either the desert or the coliseum, and Mimi must have realized the source of the mismatch before any of the others because she let out a frightened scream.
As if to prove her foreboding, the large aurora vision screen that was the only thing that didn’t belong in the coliseum turned on to reflect Etemon’s amused face.
“I finally found you, children.”
Yamato looked around frantically trying to find the actual person.
“Don’t worry, honey. The truth is, I’d love to be there myself to deal with you guys directly, but unfortunately I’m in a faraway place right now. Superstars are just so very busy, you know. But thank goodness that you sweeties came here so I didn’t have to waste time looking for you. That coliseum is where I hold my yearly concert, with the seats always packed, of course.”
With no one but them currently standing among the empty audience seats, the children could easily imagine a crowd of Digimon forced into their seats and applauding Etemon with stiffened faces as guns were pointed at their heads in every direction.
Etemon continued. “Let me introduce to you a special guest who’ll be taking my place. Who do you think it is?”
“Who cares!” Yamato yelled angrily.
“It’s a Digimon you know very well~”
The seat platform directly underneath the aurora vision screen split in the middle, sliding apart with a loud grinding of gears. And then, from the darkness that came out of that wide mouth was, to everyone’s surprise, a Greymon.
The two Greymon wrestled with each other on the field. The enemy Greymon could be easily told apart by the black cables it was dragging around. The cables were connected back to the dark hole that he had stepped out of from the audience seats, and it was probably through them that someone was controlling him, either directly or through remote control.
Meanwhile, Taichi’s Greymon appeared to be a bit slower than usual. Every move he made was sluggish and his reflexes were dull. It was clear that his overeating earlier was the cause because when he tried to use Mega Flame, what came out instead was an embarrassingly loud burp.
The children shouted cheers of encouragement to Greymon from their hiding place behind the audience seats. The other Digimon were busy swallowing up the few remaining pieces of food to fill their empty stomachs and help them evolve.
“You’ve gotta evolve!” Taichi cried out, raising his Crest high so that his Greymon could see it. “If you evolve to Perfect level, you’ll be able to win! Evolve!”
But the Crest didn’t show any reaction and the other children next to him could see that as well.
“It’s impossible, Taichi-san!”
“You can’t get him to evolve!”
But Taichi didn’t even bother to acknowledge their words.
“It’s not impossible! Greymon! I know you can do it! You’ve just gotta believe in yourself!”
As he spoke, Taichi clenched his Crest tightly and shook it up and down. Still, the Crest showed no change.
Taichi’s Greymon was hit squarely in the solar plexus by the enemy’s tail, and as he was falling back, the enemy aimed for the same area with a Mega Flame.
Taichi’s Greymon screamed with such pain that it made the others want to cover their ears.
Lowering his head and upper portion of his body, the enemy Greymon charged with the intent to hit him with the horn on his nose.
The wound that Taichi’s Greymon had received from the last Mega Flame prevented him from escaping, so all he could do was raise his right arm over his head to shield the blow. The enemy’s horn stabbed into his arm, piercing through the flesh.
Unable to bear seeing this any longer, Sora said, “Evolve, Piyomon!”
“You, too, Gabumon,” Yamato said.
Having replenished their energy necessary to evolve, the two of them stood up and began to move down towards the field.
“Stay back!” Taichi raised an arm, stopping them in their tracks. “Don’t stick your heads in other people’s business!”
“Other people’s business?”
What is this guy talking about? Yamato’s shocked expression said silently.
“It’s not ‘other people’s business.’ Greymon is in trouble!”
“This is his chance to evolve!” Taichi said. His face was as solemn as a father lion about to toss his cub down a bottomless pit.
“He won’t!” Sora said, pointing an accusing finger at the Crest that Taichi was gripping. Her eyes glowered with hate. She thought it was the Crest’s fault that Taichi was acting strangely, and she was right.
“No, he will. I’ll make him,” Taichi said, and his next action surprised everyone.
He jumped down from the audience seats onto the field and ran at full speed towards the Greymon.
“Hey!” he jeered loudly at the enemy Digimon. “I’m not scared of you!”
The children looked on, baffled at what Taichi was starting up now, but Koushiro recognized at once what he was trying to do. He had even said it himself, hadn’t he? — the two conditions for making their partners evolve. The first was that a large amount of energy was needed. The second was when their partner was in terrible danger.
Koushiro had regretted his thoughtless statement promptly after they had arrived at the coliseum and had their rations taken from them, but to think that it would cause him to rue them again…
“Taichi-san is planning to make Greymon evolve by putting his own self in danger. Tentomon, please go save Taichi-san!”
“You got it,” Tentomon agreed. “Tentomon, evolve! Kabuterimon!”
“Piyomon, evolve! Birdramon!”
“Gabumon, evolve! Garurumon!”
—and all three Digimon chased after Taichi.
As he watched the monitor screen within his large trailer, Etemon controlled his own Greymon with a remote control.
Rather than as if he was playing a video game, he looked more like he was choosing a song for karaoke. His commands were a string of numbers that he now sent, ordering his Greymon to change his target from the other Greymon to Taichi.
Feeling the earth trembling up his legs as the enemy Greymon came charging towards him, Taichi froze. All of his instincts were screaming at him to run, but Taichi stubbornly pushed them down.
It was courage, no doubt about that. But unlike the innocent bravery he had shown at the Koromon village to save his friends, something dishonest was also mixed in.
One of them was the feeling of making Greymon evolve to Perfect level.
And the other was that even if it was for evolution, and even if he felt bad for putting Greymon through this rigorous trial for his sake, he wanted the glory that would come from it.
Taichi squeezed his eyes shut. He was prepared for the possibility that he might die.
Unable to stand up as he watched death approach his precious partner, unable to go help, unable to answer to Taichi’s expectations that he evolve, Greymon’s feelings of misery and shame seethed in the pit of his stomach, making him raise a cry of sorrow.
Why can’t I evolve? All of the conditions should be met.
I want to evolve.
I really want to evolve.
As Greymon looked up at the sky and wished for that with all of his being, those feelings made Taichi’s Crest glow with a piercing light. With that, it threw open the forbidden box containing the evolution information sleeping in Greymon’s genes.
Unlike the usual white light they had always seen with evolutions, he glowed like a cheap neon light.
However, the light wasn’t dull and faint, but sharp and intense. It gave such an ominous appearance that anyone who saw it felt a violent dread wash over them.
And then, when that light pulled back, there stood — Having lost his regal shape, the glossy skin that spoke of dignity, and even the eyeballs that showed his pity for the weak, there stood a violent-looking carnivorous dinosaur Digimon changed into a bare skeleton.
It was SkullGreymon.
SkullGreymon bellowed. Graaaagagagagagogogroooo!
It was the roar of a beast who plainly expressed an intent for battle.
Taichi, whose eyes had been shut, opened them upon hearing that voice.
He shuddered upon seeing the overly large form in front of him. The height of that large head was probably even taller than the highest floor in the Odaiba apartment complex that Taichi lived in. Looking up at SkullGreymon with blank amazement, Taichi said, “This… is Greymon’s Perfect level?”
With the blue sky hazy with yellow sand behind him, SkullGreymon moved around so that the scrape of his bones gave an almost belligerent sound as he tested the performance of his newly gained body.
The enemy Greymon, despite being under Etemon’s control, was so terrified out of his wits that his fear won over the black cables. When the enemy Greymon turned his back on SkullGreymon and fled, the large skeleton monster showed how unimaginably quick-witted he was despite his massive body.
SkullGreymon sprang upon his escaping prey, leaning forward to the fullest extent his position would allow to crush him with the palm of one hand.
The enemy Greymon’s bones, flesh, and final cries of agony merged into a bloody meatball pulp.
SkullGreymon brought up the hand dripping with his prey’s blood up to his nostrils and made an act of sniffing it. Perhaps some nerve endings still remained in his nose, or perhaps it was just a reflexive action that had stayed with him from a time when he was still capable of smell.
A growl of pleasure leaked out from between SkullGreymon’s teeth. When he threw what was in his hand towards the aurora vision screen, he seemed to pretend as if he were at a clay pigeon shooting, because he shot out the organic missiles Ground Zero from his back towards it.
Both the enemy Greymon’s remains and the aurora vision screen disintegrated within the flash.
A blast of wind from the explosion swept immediately over the children. Seeing the space where the aurora vision had disappeared without a trace, they shuddered. They felt a renewed astonishment and terror at the amount of power the Perfect level had, that were of equal match to Etemon’s Dark Spirits.
“G–Greymon?” Taichi blinked rapidly, raising an uncertain voice to SkullGreymon. He didn’t know whether or not his voice reached him, but SkullGreymon looked down at Taichi with his hollow eyes.
“Did you really evolve from Greymon?”
Since Greymon’s form disappeared and SkullGreymon appeared in his place, that would normally be the logical conclusion. But as he looked at SkullGreymon, Taichi felt that he couldn’t accept this form. He just couldn’t. He hadn’t felt this way before when Koromon had evolved into Agumon and Agumon into Greymon.
It was neither confirmation nor a denial.
That was because, at this point, Taichi did not enter into SkullGreymon’s field of vision. With the enormous amount of power that SkullGreymon wielded, a small human child like Taichi could not possibly satisfy his thirst for battle. The boy was a worthless existence to him.
Raising his head like a snake and slowly swiveling it around, SkullGreymon looked to see if there were any new enemies he could be entertained with.
There he caught sight of Garurumon.
Garurumon had jumped down to save Taichi, but upon the unexpected arrival of SkullGreymon, he had stood back to watch how the situation would turn out along with Birdramon and Kabuterimon in the skies.
SkullGreymon seemed to have decided on him as his next target, because he ground his teeth merrily and stepped closer, one by one, to Garurumon.
Just as Yamato shouted at him, Garurumon came to the same decision and turned tail. He could feel the intent of bloodlust coming from the other’s eyes.
SkullGreymon chased after Garurumon, his footfalls causing the earth to shake.
Birdramon and Kabuterimon attacked to stop his movements. Normally they would have hesitated to attack one of their own friends, but their instincts told them that doing so would be futile. Of course, they didn’t believe that attacks from Adult levels like themselves would work on their opponent.
Unfortunately, their assumption was accurate and SkullGreymon’s body didn’t even flinch when their attacks hit him. Instead, he made a lazy swipe at Birdramon and Kabuterimon with the back of his hand, from which they crashed into the walls and the ground, returning back to their Child levels.
However, it hadn’t all been a waste of effort. It had given Garurumon the chance to escape.
SkullGreymon let out an unhappy growl and looked around, searching for his lost prey.
Garurumon was rushing up the southern steps of the audience platform. He was intending to leap over the coliseum’s wall and escape outside.
But before he could, SkullGreymon spotted him.
SkullGreymon stooped his upper body, sighted his missiles at Garurumon and launched his Ground Zero.
Boom! The entire southern part of the coliseum disintegrated instantly.
Yamato’s face was ghastly pale. And then Takeru pulled his brother’s hand.
“O–Over there!” he said in a strained voice, pointing to the seats in the western section about 100 meters from where Garurumon had been.
Rubble that had resulted from the explosion clattered around him as Gabumon rose from within it, his wounded body shaking as he tried to sit up. His wounds were of some concern, but it was a miracle that he had barely escaped from dying in that explosion.
Escaping through the space in the wall that he had broken down, SkullGreymon jumped out of the coliseum. The children and the rest of the Digimon were still inside the coliseum, but from their pathetic trembling, SkullGreymon could see that they were not his enemies and lost interest in them.
It sounded like a pleased cry of victory. Rather than the triumph of having brought down his kill, it was more like the joy of being able to freely unleash all of his savagery.
SkullGreymon ran through the desert at an immense speed, raising up a cloud of dust behind him. All Taichi and the others could do was watch SkullGreymon rampage from a distance…
“I’m sorry, Taichi…” Koromon apologized disheartedly, his eyes downcast.
Koromon didn’t realize it, but even though his kind words held no blame for his partner, they made Taichi feel more as if he was carrying a heavy cross over his back. Even though he was able to make Greymon evolve to Perfect level, neither Taichi or SkullGreymon could control its actions.
In the end, SkullGreymon’s wild rampage caused him to eat up so much energy that he degenerated all the way down to Koromon. It was possible that he’d run out of so much energy that he didn’t even have enough to stay in his Agumon form.
From what he could remember while he was SkullGreymon, as Koromon clumsily explained, it had felt as if a dam inside of him had broken apart and he had been taken away by his destructive actions, unable to do anything but look on in the back of his mind like Taichi had.
“It was all my fault. I’m sorry,” Taichi apologized, first to Koromon and then to everyone else. “I really am sorry.”
Everyone forgave him without fuss. Part of this was because they didn’t want Taichi to feel bad about it any more than he already did, but also because they all felt responsible for not stepping in and stopping Taichi from his extreme actions.
If they had blamed him, if they had shunned him and made him go on his knees and beg for their forgiveness, he might have been able to pour out his feelings of regret along with his tears. But because he was unable to do that now, those feelings piled on top of each other like a poison inside his body and slowly ate away at the inside of Taichi’s heart.
Ever since then, Taichi spoke very little. He hardly made any attempt to speak to the others, and when the others tried talking to him, he would answer back with only a “Yeah” or “Okay”.
And like a disease, Taichi’s depressing reserve spread to the other children, until all of them felt as if their hearts were filled with dark clouds and a downpour of rain where summer would never arrive.
One night, three days after they had left the coliseum and set up camp at a water mill that seemed completely useless in the middle of the desert, Sora called out Koushiro and brought up something that she’d been thinking about.
“Would you be able to get in touch with Gennai-san? There’s a lot I want to talk with him about… not just on evolution, but also what we should do from now on.”
“Getting in touch… is not impossible, I think.”
That surprised her. Sora had been certain that he would tell her it couldn’t be done. “If it’s not impossible, does that mean you can do it?”
“If I use the black cables, there could be a way…”
This was what Koushiro said.
Everyone, including Sora, had seen the black cables connected to the enemy Greymon at the coliseum, but after SkullGreymon’s frenzy, Koushiro revealed that he had gone to where the enemy Greymon had first appeared in order to investigate how it had been set up. There, Koushiro discovered that ahead of the ripped black cables was another black cable attached to a modular jack buried underneath the stone floor.
Also, just moments before, he had discovered a low black cable running through a dry well nearby.
“Those black cables are probably laid all throughout Server Continent like a meshnet, creating the network. The modular jack was of the same standard as my laptop, so it may not be impossible for me to use my computer to break into the network.”
Her eyes round, Sora asked, “Why didn’t you tell anyone before about something this important?”
“I couldn’t, not after what had happened to Taichi-san. Even if I did, I believe that it would only raise even more trouble.”
“Trouble? What do you mean?”
“It’s the same network that Etemon uses. If we break into it without anyone noticing us, there wouldn’t be a problem, but if we do get spotted, we’re doomed.”
Sora didn’t understand much about computers or the internet, but she had seen a news report on TV about a hacker who had been caught by the FBI after he’d tried to break into a government agency’s computer to rewrite its data. Was that what Koushiro meant?
“Is there a way to keep us from being noticed?”
“Since I don’t know how the system is set up, I can’t speak with certainty,” Koushiro said first as a way of covering base, “but Etemon’s subordinates must also be using computer terminals for the network. By connecting to it, they may not be able to tell whether or not we’re one of them… although, if it asks us for a password, we’re done for. One prospect that could give us a chance is that there isn’t anyone in this world who would infilitrate the network so it wouldn’t have much of a security system.”
After that, Koushiro talked enthusiastically about access logs and proxies, but Sora couldn’t understand any of it. What she thought Koushiro was trying to say, in the end, was that it was possible to hack into Etemon’s network without him noticing, but if it failed, Koushiro couldn’t take responsibility.
The democratic way of doing this would be if they held a conference with all members present and came up with a unanimous decision… but she could already imagine the outcome. Jou, Yamato, and Mimi would most definitely say no. Takeru might follow what his brother said. Taichi seemed the only one most likely to agree with her, but in his current state, there was no way he would feel up to it and he would, without any doubt, abstain from voting.
But Koushiro (or at least, it appeared that way to Sora) seemed confident. So in that case—
“Try it, Koushiro-kun. I’ll take responsibility for whatever happens.”
She knew that she had no right to be making the decision, but they had to break out of this stifling and cramped situation somehow.
Sooner or later, Etemon would find them and attack anyway, so even if it did end up failing, they would only be speeding up that moment. If it was their time to die, then they would die, she thought firmly. If she was blamed for that, then so be it.
“…Very well. I’ll try it,” Koushiro consented. “But I don’t think we should get our hopes up. I’m used to not finding him.”
He smiled at Sora in an attempt of playfulness in order to set her at ease.
Folding himself within the small bottom of the empty well, Koushiro tapped continuously on his laptop keyboard. From above the well, Sora looked down at him as he worked with a worried frown on her face.
His connection with the network was simple and smooth. It didn’t even ask for a password.
Making a sweeping glance of the system, Koushiro grew astonished as he saw that the network Etemon had built up was well maintained. It wasn’t just connected throughout Server Continent, but in places outside the continent borders as well (there were other continents besides Server Continent around). Perhaps the network had existed there in the first place and Etemon was just using it for his convenience.
It also had a security system fully in place, but for some reason, it wasn’t functioning right now.
Just as a precaution, Koushiro rewrote the access logs and deleted all traces of his presence there, when he received an e-mail from a Digimon who knew of Gennai’s whereabouts.
The address said: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was from the Andromon they had met in Factorial Town on File Island.
Andromon was the supervisor of Factorial Town, an unendlessly cycling factory that made products and then took them apart again. After they had taken out the black gear in him, he had informed them of the sewage system that would take them to Toy Town. He had also given Koushiro his e-mail address in case something happened.
Of course, since Koushiro himself didn’t have an e-mail address in this world, he had to make one. He logged into a random server on the system and illegally created an inbox for himself.
Andromon’s reply came back underneath his e-mail like a chatbox.
“I’ve informed Gennai of this. The reason why he hasn’t contacted you until now was because Etemon was blocking him, but thanks to you, the network has jammed and he can contact you directly,” his e-mail wrote.
Just when Koushiro climbed out of the well, Takeru came to get him and Sora. Gennai had arrived through holographic imaging to give them a message.
“That was fast,” Sora said in surprise, but Koushiro was more concerned about something else.
Andromon had said in his e-mail “thanks to you, the network has jammed”. All Koushiro had done was hack into the network, not do anything that he could surmise would freeze it and shut it down. Or was it because he’d set up that new inbox that it caused some sort of blurp in the system?
A large cactus stood behind the water mill, and that was where the children and their Digimon were all gathered.
By the time Koushiro and the other two got there, they could hear Taichi in the middle of hounding down on Gennai. Koushiro only got to hear the last part of his words, but it was,
The holographic Gennai held his hands together behind his back and answered lightly, “So you’ve evolved. Hmm. The thing is, there are many possible paths of evolution. None of them are a true or wrong path, but the reason why you didn’t achieve the evolution you wanted is because you are still inexperienced.”
“That’s right. Your Digimon evolve in reflection of your personal growth.”
“Then what do I have to do to grow?”
“I’ll send you a trainer. His name is—”
Static suddenly infiltrated the hologram.
“…mon… isten to what he sa…”
The hologram shut off abruptly.
“Ah,” Koushiro said. He had wanted to ask a million questions like, how the Digital World first came about, or how the evolution mechanism worked, and also, what was the reason for why the network had gone weird, but he hadn’t had the chance.
“He said he was going to send a trainer, did he?” Mimi asked Palmon, looking for confirmation.
“Yes, he did.”
“So, maybe that means we’ll get a bodyguard.”
“If we’re lucky,” Jou whispered.
None of them appeared at all that expectant. It seemed that they still had some misgivings about trusting Gennai.
Certain that Etemon would be irritated by now at still being unable to connect to his network, Nanomon sent him an e-mail to confirm that it was back online right after he brought back the security system from suspension.
Nanomon had noticed Koushiro’s illegal access. However, instead of shutting him down, he had stopped the security system and cut off Etemon from the network. Of course, he didn’t intend to report any of what had happened to Etemon. It wasn’t like he even had an obligation to.
He decided to let alone the inbox that Koushiro had made illegally in the network. Gennai’s last words interested him, and it was possible that he could use this information in some way.
④ The Pyramid’s Trap
Controlled by black cables, the one-eyed dragon warrior, Cyclomon, swooped down on them. Grabbing a scrapped Sedan with his right hand, which was of an abnormally larger size than his left, he threw it at the children.
“Harpoon Vulcan!” Ikkakumon’s horn exploded the flying Sedan to bits, while…
“Meteor Wing!” Birdramon unleashed a hot wind of fire from the skies.
But Cyclomon’s movements were fast and even though the fire melted a couple of the scrapped cars, Cyclomon was unhurt.
They were at a car junkyard that stood out all by itself in the middle of the desert. That might make it sound like it was small, but it was actually about as wide as Tokyo dome, and a few hundred, maybe even thousands, of decommissioned cars lay stacked on top of one another.
Cyclomon peered out from the shadows of the stacks and when he spotted an opening, jumped out saying…
…and released a beam of extreme temperature.
“Hot, hot, hot, hot!” The attack hit Kabuterimon, who had been circling around in the air searching for Cyclomon. Losing his balance, Kabuterimon fell to the ground.
But the attack had told the others where Cyclomon was located.
Running lightly on top of the mountain of cars so none of them fell over, Garurumon spat blue-white flames at Cyclomon’s head.
The attack hit, but the enemy jabbed blindly out with his right hand as he fell, hitting Garurumon in the stomach. Garurumon also flew back.
All of them fought desperately. However, Agumon stayed in his Child form and, although it was obvious how much he wanted to join the fight with his friends, he held back and fidgeted.
When he looked at Taichi, all Taichi would do was look on in chagrin as he clenched his hands into fists. Unable to take out his impatience on anything, Agumon distracted himself by stamping his feet.
It was obvious to him, without saying, why Taichi was hesitating.
If Agumon evolved to SkullGreymon again — that worry was consuming Taichi so much that his self-confidence had died completely. Before all of this, Taichi had thought that everyone besides him was dragging him down… but now he was the one doing the dragging.
Although they somehow managed to take down Cyclomon, all of the Digimon who had fought were pitifully covered in wounds from the enemy’s attacks. Taichi didn’t join in the fight to the very end, and he couldn’t meet any of their gazes.
All of the children made considerate gestures towards Taichi in their own way. Yamato, Mimi, and Koushiro tried not to talk to Taichi unless it was absolutely necessary. Takeru looked like he wanted to say something, but unable to find the words, had retreated to simply looking at Taichi with worry.
Jou said, “It’s okay. You’ve saved us from a lot of dangers up to now. Let’s just go like this for the time being.”
It could have just been an act of sympathy on Jou’s part, but putting it strictly, all he was doing was delaying the matter.
Sora wanted in her heart to let Taichi have some peace like Yamato and the others were doing, but if Taichi didn’t have at least one person around to scold him and shake him up, he would never get back on his feet. And the only person who fit that job description was the other member of their two-top formation in the soccer club — her. So thinking this, she took up the role albeit not that enthusiastically.
Sora approached next to Taichi, who had sat apart from everyone else wearing a gloomy expression. The sunset made a red shadow cast over his face, seeming to emphasize his sorrow.
“Why don’t you try challenging yourself again? I know you. You’ll be able to do it. I believe in you, Taichi.”
Even as she spoke, Sora felt like she was spouting cliché lines out of a typical YA movie.
Taichi’s answer was the one she was expecting.
“Sorry. Just leave me alone.”
Saying that much, Taichi gulped back the rest of his words. If he said any more, he felt that Sora would pity him. He thought it over some more before correcting himself.
“Just don’t bother with me.”
Even the fake smile that he scrunched up to keep her from worrying looked pitiful. Or no, perhaps the smile was made from the derision directed at himself.
Without another word, Taichi sluggishly stood up and went somewhere. As she watched Taichi’s sagged back getting smaller from view, Sora felt a pang of regret. Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything after all.
Koushiro was also sitting apart from everyone else, but his reason for it was different from Taichi’s — He wanted to secretly experiment with accessing the network again.
Even if it had worked the first time, the reason why he didn’t tell everyone else about it right away was because he himself didn’t understand why the network was down. Maybe the reason why the enemy hadn’t spotted them so far was because of this break in the network.
The wiser thing to do would have been to keep away from accessing the network for a longer period of time, but now that he had his own inbox, he couldn’t help wondering excessively if someone (like Andromon or Gennai) had sent e-mail to him.
Smiling to himself about how this reminded him of the time he first started using the internet, Koushiro said to Tentomon, “All right, I’m going to dig up the ground.”
A black cable was also running there. As he couldn’t see the modular jack nearby, Koushiro pulled along the black cable until he found it. He blew across the sand that buried it.
“All right then, time to log-in.”
Even more carefully than before, Koushiro connected his laptop to the network. The e-mail inbox that he had set up for himself was still there, unerased.
“Thank goodness. It doesn’t look like we were noticed.”
When he checked his inbox, he saw that he had one message.
“I wonder who it’s from.”
The sender of the e-mail came from someone named “Nanomon.”
The sand in front of them flowed like a muddy stream. It was quicksand.
Gomamon’s Marching Fishes had made a raft out of their bodies, which was now carrying the children on top of the quicksand. The sand flowed in a straight line, although there were some spots where it bent into a 90 degree angle.
“It’s like a belt conveyor,” Takeru said excitedly as he carried Tokomon in his arms.
Jou was standing next to him, biting his nails. He didn’t say it aloud but the question “What do we do if the enemy attacks us here?” was written all over his face.
“We should be able to see the pyramid any moment now,” Koushiro said from his seat at the front of the raft. He was staring down the path they were taking, on the lookout. “That’s where Nanomon should be.”
This was what had been written in Nanomon’s e-mail:
To the Chosen Children. I have heard much about you from the old man Gennai. If you walk in a straight line west from where you are now, you will come to the River of Sand. Please follow it to reach the pyramid where I can be found.
PS: I have also one Crest in my possession.
Koushiro had immediately gone to Sora to discuss the contents of the e-mail with her. Sora had advised him to tell the others that Nanomon had reached Koushiro through his computer much like how Gennai had sent them the map, while omitting the part about how this had been achieved only by accessing the enemy’s network.
Taichi, Yamato, Mimi, and Takeru were as disinterested in computers as Sora was; Jou might have known something about them, but Sora was sure that he would pass it off as something that was possible in this world.
With that, their conference on whether or not they should go to Nanomon began.
Although she expected Taichi to abstain from voting, he gave an assertive “Yes” to going. He didn’t explain his reason, but Sora thought that perhaps the word “growth” that Gennai had mentioned had stung him and he was looking for an opportunity to regain his confidence.
Even Yamato, who she thought would disagree, joined after Taichi gave his vote. Takeru and Mimi followed in his steps.
There was no doubt that, in his heart, Jou wanted to be against, but he didn’t seem to want to be the only one objecting because he answered evasively, “Well, if everyone else agrees…”
In the end, none of them were against and they didn’t even need to count the majority to know that they were going to see Nanomon.
Later on, Sora’s curiosity got the better of her and she asked Yamato, “Why did you agree?”
“Taichi’s showing some motivation at last. I just couldn’t shoot that down,” Yamato replied with a whisper. It appeared that even Yamato wanted Taichi to return to his old self.
“I see it!”
It was Mimi who raised her voice first. But then she continued more uncertainly: “That… is… a pyramid, right?”
The reason why her sentence ended in a question was because the shape of the pyramid was upside-down from the pyramids that Mimi knew.
Although they had been certain that the pyramid would be made up of piled-on stones or bricks, it was made up of large colored tiles instead. Even its tiny passageways had tiles, and the clouds of sand that had come blowing in from above piled across them like a fur carpet. Seeing no footprints, it appeared that no one had come here for a very long time.
A long, long seamless line of fluorescent lights hung on the edges where the walls met the ceiling, and although no one was sure how it worked, the lights turned off behind them as they walked on. When the path split into a fork, only one of the paths was lit up.
“I assume these lights are meant to guide us. Nanomon should be at the end of this lit path,” Koushiro explained to everyone.
With its summit hidden beneath the sand and the underside barefaced beneath the sun (which, in Egyptian mythology, would be considered sacred), most of the passageways in the pyramid naturally sloped downward. They must have walked for about ten minutes or so before they reached a massive steel door that was obviously made out of better material than the cheap titles they had seen until now.
“Is this the place?”
“Let’s take a look.”
The steel door had a brass handle that both Taichi and Yamato tried to turn together, but it was so solid that it didn’t move an inch.
That was as it should be, because the handle was really both a lock and a trap. Normally, if a careless intruder tried to turn it, they would be electrified by the high-current the moment they touched the handle. But because Nanomon knew that Taichi and the others would be coming, he had canceled that system program beforehand.
Koushiro wondered if perhaps there was a hidden switch somewhere, but nothing like that came up in their search.
“What should we do?”
The children wracked their brains, but the answer appeared simple to the Digimon.
“In other words, we just have to break it, right?”
Agumon exchanged looks with the other Digimon, and all of them unleashed their attacks on it as one. They couldn’t break it down at the first stroke, of course, but after their fifth try, the steel door melted like candy in the sun, creating a large hole.
All along the four stone walls of that room were numbers, alphabet letters, and symbols that were lined up fully from end to end like hieroglyphs.
“It’s a program,” Koushiro said immediately, because it was similar to what he had already seen inside of a large battery at Factorial Town.
“A program? Are you sure it isn’t just random scribbles?” Mimi said laughing.
“It isn’t. These, the letters themselves, they create their own energy. In the beginning was the Word, as it’s said.”
Koushiro wasn’t speaking anymore with his usual bluntness. An obvious note of excitement was tinged in his voice.
“By the way, where is Nanomon?” Taichi asked impatiently.
In a corner of the room was a single computer that had been left on, which they assumed was how they had been receiving the e-mails. But no matter where they looked inside that room, a Digimon that appeared to be Nanomon was nowhere to be seen.
Only something that appeared to be a robot had been dropped carelessly in the middle of the room. A crack ran through its glass covered head, with one of its two lights broken. From the broken one peered out a lightbulb that looked like an eye bloodshot from lack of sleep, made up of a bundle of coral pink cable cords that made it look similar to an actual flesh-and-blood eye. No matter how one looked at it, it was rubbish.
“Perhaps he went to the bathroom,” Koushiro whispered as if speaking to himself.
They decided to wait for a while, but found it was also a waste of time.
“I’ll connect to the network and search for him,” Koushiro said, moving towards the computer provided in that room.
The moment he logged onto his inbox, Koushiro thought both “Yes” and “Oh no” at the same time. That was because he’d realized that he was supposed to be keeping the network a secret from everyone.
But Koushiro had nothing to fear. No one said anything. Frankly, it was because none of them understood exactly what Koushiro was doing.
Without pause, Koushiro sent an e-mail to Nanomon’s mailing address.
WE’VE ARRIVED INSIDE THE PYRAMID. WHERE ARE YOU?
The reply came back immediately.
I AM NEARBY.
WE DON’T SEE ANYONE AROUND. COULD YOU BE A LITTLE MORE SPECIFIC?
I AM AT YOUR FEET.
Koushiro turned. All he could see was the broken robot on the ground…
…whose light bulb-eye facing them was blinking red. When Koushiro saw that the infrared port on the computer was blinking in response, he exclaimed,
“T–Taichi-san. It’s the robot. That robot is Nanomon!”
As they exchanged e-mails, it was discovered that Nanomon had clear consciousness but was unable to move as his mechanical body had been damaged. Repairing was necessary, but apparently reconnecting the mass of damaged wiring was enough.
“I’ll do it,” Yamato volunteered, taking off his gloves. It seemed he had a lot of practice back at home.
Nanomon sent written explanations and sometimes graphics to illustrate how to fix the damage, which Koushiro explained out loud in minute detail.
It took about 2-3 hours in all. Yamato couldn’t restore all of the wires, but he managed to repair enough so that Nanomon could make the minimum of movement.
With a buzzing whirl, a motor revolved and his arm’s function returned first. As if testing out his recovering sensations, Nanomon flexed his three fat fingers and then used the same hand to push himself back up.
“All right!” the children shouted as one. Taichi’s voice was loudest of them all.
“Now, tell us. What do I do to evolve the right way?”
Nanomon’s response was to the point.
HOW THE HELL WOULD I KNOW A THING LIKE THAT?
The distinguished writing style in the e-mails that they had been familiar with up to now clashed violently with this rude remark.
“How, you say? What’s with you? Didn’t Gennai ask you to help us?”
HEH HEH HEH. Nanomon let out a snide laugh. I LIED. I JUST NEEDED A TOOL THAT WOULD HELP ME REPAIR MY BODY. THAT’S WHY I CALLED YOU OVER HERE.
“Y–You tricked us?”
YES, THAT’S RIGHT.
“Were you lying about the Crest, too?” Mimi asked.
“What is it you want?!” Yamato asked this time.
I’VE TOLD YOU ALREADY. I WANTED TO REGAIN MY MOVEMENT.
“What I mean is what are you planning to do by moving?!”
RULE THIS WORLD. WHAT KEEPS A WORLD MOVING IS INFORMATION; ISN’T THAT TRUE FOR YOUR WORLD AS WELL? WHOEVER HAS CONTROL OF INFORMATION CAN CONTROL THE WORLD. USING ONLY RAW POWER LIKE ETEMON ISN’T ENOUGH. WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT IS USING WHAT’S UP HERE.
And Nanomon tapped the clear glass of his head with a finger, as if to show off how smart he was.
IT’S TRUE THAT I MADE A BLUNDER AND WAS ALMOST DESTROYED BY ETEMON, BEFORE BEING FORCED TO ACT AS ADMINISTRATOR FOR HIS AND HIS PALS’ NETWORK. THEY EVEN MADE ME CREATE A PROGRAM TO UPHEAVE THE ORDER OF THIS WORLD. BUT THROWING ORDER OUT OF THE WINDOW TO REPLACE IT WITH ANOTHER IS NOT SMART. IT’S BETTER TO TURN IT INTO CHAOS. IF NO ONE CAN SEE HOW THE WORLD IS CONSTRUCTED, THEN THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THEY CAN DO TO CHANGE IT. THERE ONLY NEEDS TO BE ONE MASTER WHO KNOWS THE TRUTH.
At this point, the children could have cared less about Nanomon’s pet theory. What they wanted to know most was something else and it was Sora who asked the question.
“In the end of all this, who are you to us? Our ally? Our enemy?”
FOR THE PRESENT, WE ARE NOT ENEMIES. I NEED INDETERMINATE FACTORS SUCH AS YOURSELVES, EVEN IF ALL YOUR PRESENCE DOES IS ADD CONFUSION TO THE INFORMATION. AS LONG AS YOU CONTINUE TO BE A THREAT TO ETEMON AND HIS PEOPLE, I WILL USE YOU FOR MY PURPOSES. BUT EVEN SO, IT WOULD BE A PAIN IF YOU GOT IN MY WAY AS WELL, SO…
Nanomon’s arm stretched out, latching tightly onto Sora’s arm, who was closest to him.
I’LL BE TAKING THIS GIRL AS MY HOSTAGE.
The Digimon readied themselves into battle formation at once, but they didn’t get the chance to fight. Nanomon’s one covered lightbulb eye glowed red, activating the switch for the pyramid’s security system.
In that instant, the floor dropped out from under their feet and, judging them as garbage instead of as enemies, the pyramid’s security system tossed Taichi and the others outside.
⑤ Taichi’s Trial
“If what he said is true, he won’t bring any harm to Sora-kun.”
“But we can’t just leave things alone the way they are!”
“Hey, I know that!”
“But how will we be able to save Sora-san?”
“If we attacked him from the front, that… would be bad, I know.”
“Koushiro, can you use the network to do something?”
“I can’t. The reason why Etemon hadn’t discovered us before now was because Nanomon… I know saying this doesn’t sit well with us, but it’s because he helped us. Unless we can outwit that Nanomon, I don’t think it’s possible…”
“Then should we attack from the front after all?”
As the children continued to discuss strategy inside a military bunker that wasn’t too far from the pyramid, a big dot dot dot was what their conversation boiled down to. None of them could think of a good way to save Sora.
Even if they wanted to attack from the front, they didn’t have enough people on their side to put up a fight. Without Piyomon to evolve and Sora to help her do that, all they had left were the four Adult levels Garurumon, Ikkakumon, Kabuterimon, and Togemon.
Just then, Takeru who had been quietly listening all that time, suddenly stood up straight and raised his hand. “I have an idea.”
“What?” Yamato asked.
Takeru straightened up even further and said, “I know he’s our enemy, but maybe Etemon could help us.”
Yamato’s ears turned red, all the way to his earlobes. “What are you talking about, Takeru? Of course he won’t do that!”
But as if he held admiration for Takeru’s wild idea, Koushiro asked, “What made you come up with that idea?”
Takeru peeked nervously at his brother’s face as he continued. “Because… Nanomon is Etemon’s enemy, right? Then since we’re the same…”
Mimi smiled crookedly, thinking that it was the sort of view to be expected from a second grader. But next to her, Jou suddenly rubbed his head with both hands, skewing his hair.
“T–That might be a good idea!”
“What do you mean, Jou-senpai?” Mimi asked, staring at him wide-eyed.
“Going up to him and asking for his help isn’t gonna work, but if we set up Etemon to attack the pyramid, perhaps we could create an opening.”
“But wouldn’t that be dangerous?” Mimi asked, her brows furrowing worriedly.
“It may be dangerous, but I do think that it’s worth a shot,” Koushiro said, coming to Jou’s aid. “First, if we make it go right, it may end with Etemon and Nanomon attacking each other. Even if both of them survive from it, they’d have taken on a lot of damage. Secondly, it would give me the opportunity to learn more about the pyramid’s security. If we only keep standing by to watch, the dangers won’t change, so I agree with Jou-san’s idea.”
“Me too,” Yamato nodded, a serious look in his eyes. Then he jostled his younger brother’s head for a job well done. What he really may have wanted to do was pet him, but with everyone watching, he was just too embarrassed to do it.
While their conference was taking place, Taichi was sitting at a corner of the bunker with his mouth shut. Agumon was next to him, wearing the same broody look as Taichi.
Jou skittered over whether he should call out to him or not, and then decided to at least ask for his opinion. “Taichi? What do you think?”
“I think that’s fine. So, what should I do? If you need someone to lure out Etemon, I’ll volunteer, but will you take me?”
From the way he said it, he seemed to be aware that he was not considered a part of the attack force.
“No, we can have Tentomon do that,” Yamato said.
“Eh, me? Well, it’s true that I’m the only one who can fly amongst everyone here, so I guess that’s how it goes,” Tentomon nodded as understanding pealed over his face.
“Taichi-san, why don’t you protect Takeru-kun?” Koushiro suggested.
“Okay,” Taichi said, nodding.
But because his expression looked terribly sad, Takeru, as small as he was, took in the situation and gave him a smart and deep bow. “Taichi-san, I’m in your care.”
After chaining his hostage Sora to the wall, Nanomon used his repaired hand to hit the keyboard keys at a speed that couldn’t be caught by the eye.
He had changed the network system and programs skillfully, without any of his enemies noticing. Etemon, Vamdemon, and the Dark Masters behind them (HAVE THEY ALREADY FINISHED SEALING THE FOUR HOLY BEASTS, I WONDER) seemed to think that by changing the order of the world, it would make it easier to control, but as he had mentioned earlier, Nanomon did not agree.
Nanomon, who had higher thinking processes than those fools combined, no doubt about it, was seeking to bring chaos into the world, which he found ironic as Etemon and the others were seeking order. And thus, Nanomon had a special secret plan.
By releasing someone from the other end of the “Wall of Fire” (EVEN ONE IS ENOUGH) into this world, their presence alone would cause distortions to break out.
Nanomon had no idea how much power it held or even if it could be controlled.
Still, if that ended up destroying this world, Nanomon didn’t care. Even if it was only for a short time, as long as it caused panic in Etemon for disgracing him (DAMN IT, JUST REMEMBERING IT GETS ME RILED UP) and those other morons behind him, that would be enough to satisfy him.
Nanomon didn’t realize it… but the grudges that seethed within his heart when he shouldn’t have felt any emotion to begin with, was due to a fatal error that had sparked out of one of the thought circuits that Etemon had destroyed.
“Go after him! After him!” Etemon’s spit flew as he yelled at the Gazimon next to him from his passenger seat.
The retreating blue form of Kabuterimon was small on the upper-left part of the front glass, but he could be seen.
“Does he honestly expect to escape from me? That idiot.”
The yellow vinyl sheet that Mimi had snuck into camp without telling her father came in handy at an unexpected place. Once it was spread out over their heads, no one could distinguish them from the sandy soil around them.
“Like camouflage,” Yamato said wryly. He was thinking that the pyramid’s security system certainly wouldn’t be expecting them to be using such childish methods.
It was Jou who had come up with the idea. He even went so far as to name it the “Macbeth’s Forest” strategy, but neither Yamato or Mimi were interested enough to ask him why.
Nevertheless, although he was normally so clumsy, even Jou thought strangely of himself that his head was working faster than usual for this plan. At the same time, he felt worry that his actions might somehow lead to the greatest clumsy act of all and Jou strongly hoped that it wouldn’t bring them to a lethal end.
“Ah, he’s here!” Gabumon yelled into Jou’s ear.
Jou couldn’t see but he heard the buzzing of giant wings growing louder and knew that Kabuterimon, with Koushiro riding on top of him, was returning from completing his job.
“Guys, don’t let your guards down!” Jou warned, mostly saying it for himself.
The surveillance cameras informed him of the arrival of Etemon as his jumbo trailer pulled by Monochromon came into view.
WHY ETEMON? Nanomon thought suspiciously. He shouldn’t have made any mistakes in covering up his trail. Did Etemon somehow find out about him tampering with the network system?
Even as he thought this, Nanomon’s hands did not pause in their work.
Interference with the “Wall of Fire” would be capable enough to dominate the Digital World, but its guard was secure. The Agents had once guarded the Wall of Fire, and ever since one of the Dark Masters, Piemon, wiped them out, there hadn’t been a sign of them to be seen. Even so, the guard system for the Wall of Fire kept working.
But no matter, it wasn’t beyond his ability. In fact, back when the Agents were still active, he had hacked into their system once.
Still, the Wall of Fire was giving him some difficulty.
The alarm persisted, asking him what was to be done about Etemon.
During a lull in his work, Nanomon typed in the command “DELETE ALL INTRUDERS” into the pyramid’s security system.
Taichi and Takeru knew the fight started when they heard the sound of an explosion and saw the resulting smoke.
The two of them were waiting on standby at the military bunker they had used to hold their strategic conference. Actually “standby” was the better-sounding way of putting in; in reality, they were in hiding.
Taichi had experienced something similar to this only once in his life before.
It was at a soccer match. In their last game, he had gotten too eager and had made a dangerous slide on the opponent’s defender, getting himself a red card as a result. Because of that, Taichi had been taken off as a starter for their next game and had to sit on the bench.
Even now, he could remember what Sora had said to him before that game.
“I’ve gotta thank you, Taichi. Since you’re out, I get to be the one who scores points.”
She was joking, of course, to keep Taichi from feeling depressed. Still, he hadn’t felt that bad back then.
Now, it was different.
After their fight with Cyclomon, Sora had said, “Why don’t you try challenging yourself again? I know you. You’ll be able to do it. I believe in you, Taichi.”
Those words were more tender than anything she had ever said to him for as long as they’d known each other. Normally she’d be cracking jokes, but the reason why she hadn’t done that was because she knew he was afflicted moreso than before.
Now that Sora was inside the pyramid. Being held hostage by Nanomon.
Damn it. I’m supposed to be the first one in there to go and save her…
He could feel tears of frustration threatening to pour out of his eyes.
It was at that moment when Taichi heard a voice behind him.
“Hoh. I’ve finally found you, pi. Gennai asked me to come here, pi.”
Whirling around, he saw a Digimon shaped like a pink ball with wings floating above him.
Etemon screeched with rage as a laser cannon that had appeared from the side of the pyramid blasted his trailer, his pride and joy, into smithereens.
“That blasted Nanomon, what is he trying to do?! Defy me?! How interesting then, I’ll take him on! I won’t be holding myself back this time, oh no! After I’ve smashed him to pieces, I’ll turn him into real scrap metal!”
And he sent orders en masse to the Digimon enslaved by the black cables.
“Let’s go, sweeties! Charge!”
“Laser cannons from the sides.”
“I think the land mines are an even bigger problem.”
As they took note of various functions the pyramid’s security system had in attacking Etemon’s army, Yamato, Jou, Koushiro, and Mimi were discussing the best and safest way they could enter the pyramid.
“It’ll be difficult to approach from the front,” Koushiro said. “It would help if Etemon’s gang opened up a hole in the sides somewhere.”
“Hey, hey, relying on others for help?”
“If there’s an open hole, I can use my Poison Ivy to sneak us in.”
“But we don’t know how things are set up inside. It could be filled with traps.”
Once again, rather than be concerned by the unusual circumstances, they were more frustrated at drafting up an amateur plan that couldn’t be based on anything essential.
“So, what, all we can do is sit back and watch?”
“I didn’t say that!”
“Now, now. Let’s keep an eye on the situation for a little longer,” Koushiro cut in, stopping Yamato and Jou from the beginnings of a quarrel. But even Koushiro himself didn’t think that they could come up with an ingenius idea if they kept watching. The best they could hope for was that Etemon and Nanomon attack each other at the same time and fall…
“Now, let’s get you started on training, pi,” the fairy Digimon who called himself Piccolomon said.
“Training? I don’t have time for training!”
They were in the midst of a battle and he had to go on some carefree trip to train?! Taichi got angry.
“You’ll have plenty of time, pi. Time doesn’t move inside my barrier, so you can train as much as you want until you’re satisfied, pi.”
“Really? What sort of training are you talking about here?”
“Thinking about what you must do for training is another form of training, pi. Also, it’s no good looking for an answer, pi. For all you know there might not be one, pi. But if you gain something, that will mean your training was a success, pi.”
“Gain something… like a hint to evolution?!”
“Would you like to try it, pi? Or not, pi?”
Seeing Taichi hesitate, Takeru smiled brightly and said, “Taichi-san, you should go. I have Tokomon with me, the two of us can cover each other.”
Takeru seemed to think that Taichi was holding back because he didn’t want to leave the boy on his own. But in reality, all Taichi had been thinking about was himself. He hadn’t even considered Takeru in the slightest.
It was the same back then, too. Taichi hadn’t thought about Agumon’s feelings or everyone else’s feelings at all. He had gotten caught up in excitement all by himself, had rushed forward all by himself, had tripped over and failed all by himself…
…even though he had friends like Takeru who, despite being so young, knew how to treat people like him with kindness.
“You don’t need to worry about this boy, pi. I’ll protect him with my life, pi. I might not look like it but I’m a Perfect level, pi.”
Taichi made up his mind.
“I’ll take the training,” he said. “But it won’t be for me. It’ll be for Takeru. For Agumon. For everyone. I’ll do the best I can.”
As Taichi passed through Piccolomon’s barrier, for some reason he felt a bittersweet nostalgia sweep over him.
Why is that? The scenery looked familiar. When was this? A past far, far away. His childhood?
There weren’t any clouds in the sky, but the scenery around him appeared drab and gray. It reminded him of that one time he had tried on Jou’s glasses for fun and could only see things in a blur.
There was the sound of a crash followed by,
“Oh, man!” a child’s voice wailed.
“Someone’s here,” Agumon said next to him in a low voice.
“Yeah. Let’s go check it out.”
He was on top of a bridge. There was a river flowing underneath which he couldn’t see very well at first, but once the rotten stink of it hit Taichi’s nostrils, it shook up memories that he had forgotten and he could see the river surface as clear as day. It was a dirty, muddy river, filled with plastic bags from the convenience store that floated downstream when they weren’t caught in rocks or brush.
Taichi remembered. It was the place that he had often played in as a kid.
A single bicycle passed right next to Taichi’s side. Pushing on its pedals was his younger self, a younger Taichi…
…who immediately lost his balance and fell to his side along with the bicycle. For a light crash, it gave off a rather noisy sound. The younger Taichi’s face, elbows, and knees were red with scratches as he lay tangled underneath the bicycle.
It was back when he had just turned seven. He couldn’t remember what had caused it, but Taichi had wanted to ride his bicycle without training wheels. If his memory wasn’t faulty, he had practiced from morning to night, thinking that he would be able to get the hang of it in a day. But in reality, it hadn’t been that simple. He kept falling over and over. By the time he gave up for the day and went back home, his mother had been so worried over his state that she had fussed over him.
The younger Taichi held back his tears as he stood up and got back on his bicycle again.
While a part of him thought of how familiar it all was, another part of him felt guilty that he was killing time here, even though time was stopped, and it was making Taichi feel impatient.
What was the point of recreating this memory in the first place? What sort of training was it supposed to give him?
Don’t give up. Keep up the hard work and it will surely answer back one day — was that it?
But something felt wrong. Piccolomon had said it himself, that there was no answer. So, what was it?
Taichi moved his gaze from his younger self to the Crest he held in his palm. According to Piccolomon, the Crest had a name. It was called the “Crest of Courage.”
Taichi remembered the moment he first got that Crest. He let his friends run ahead of him and had prepared to die when he threw stones at Etemon. That had been courage.
Next, he remembered when SkullGreymon evolved. In order to make Greymon evolve to Perfect level, he had jumped out in front of the enemy Greymon. That must have been another sort of courage too.
So what difference was there between those two courages? Now that he thought about it, the latter seemed rather calculating. In order to make Greymon evolve to Perfect, he had forced himself into a situation for courage to come out. Was that it?
While he was thinking of that, the younger Taichi suddenly lost his temper.
“I can’t do it! I can’t ride a bike!”
Taichi’s lip curled involuntarily. So that had happened before. He’d forgotten all about it. Apparently memories were made up so that you could forget whatever inconvenient things had happened to you.
“Taichi. What should we do?” Agumon asked worriedly.
But Taichi said, “Nothing. I’m not the kind of guy to give up just from that.”
And so, he sat down against the railing of the bridge and silently watched his younger self struggle.
I’m pretty stubborn, if I do say so myself, Taichi thought with an exasperated admiration. What am I getting so worked up for…
While the younger Taichi’s face leaked with quiet tears, he’d keep getting back on his bicycle over and over. Each time he’d fall, curse, make abusive sounds through clenched teeth, and even start wailing that it just couldn’t be done.
A vicious battle was raging outside of this barrier (oh, but since time stands still here, I guess it’s weird to say that) but somehow, Taichi had lost concern about that.
How much time had passed already?
The young Taichi suddenly cried out with glee and pride.
“All right! I’m riding it! I’m riding a bike without training wheels!”
And he was — swaying unsteadily as he did so, but he was riding the bicycle.
Seeing that, Taichi looked at his younger self fondly and said quietly, “You did great, Taichi.”
At that moment, Taichi felt a trace as if he had grabbed something. It wasn’t a clear answer, but a dim and faint something. But still, something.
Taichi wasn’t aware of what it was, but — maybe it was probably to acknowledge and accept oneself. No matter who they were, everyone lacked something and everyone made mistakes. But if all one did was worry about their bad parts, they were making it harder for themselves to see what was good about them.
That wasn’t an answer. It was just one explanation.
Maybe this was what Piccolomon was talking about.
Taichi pushed himself off the handrail and spoke to Agumon.
“Let’s go, Agumon. Everyone’s waiting for us.”
His face looked bright and fresh for the first time in days, as if a dark shadow had been lifted from it.
⑥ Perfect Level Evolution, MetalGreymon
The fight kept getting worse.
Still watching the situation from under their yellow sheet, Yamato and the others grew agitated at being unable to come up with a plan.
Etemon’s army already suffered a lot of casualties, so much so that those who were still alive were unable to move closer to the pyramid unless they stepped on the corpses.
Meanwhile, some of the tiles had fallen off the pyramid surface, while a few of the laser cannons were destroyed.
“Just what the hell can we do?” Yamato said, slamming a frustrated fist into the sand.
Even Koushiro couldn’t bring himself to persuade them to wait just a little longer, not in a situation like this. He was almost ready to give up and say that it was no use waiting.
Jou and Mimi felt the same.
Confined inside his one room in the pyramid, Nanomon finally got access to the “Wall of Fire” system.
He was so happy that he even gave a little cry of “All right!”
“What’s all right? What did you do?” Sora asked, but Nanomon didn’t bother to answer. That was because gaining access to the system wasn’t the end of it; he now needed to gain control of the fire that made up the “Wall of Fire.”
Hehe, just watch me, you morons.
Nanomon’s mad eyes gleamed red.
“In that case, we’ll go kamikaze!” Etemon urged his men.
Of course, Etemon only meant for his subordinates to go kill themselves.
Controlled by the black cables and without a will of their own, the Digimon did as they were ordered to and began their final charge towards the pyramid.
“Wh–What is that?” Mimi screamed.
Having turned around because they noticed something flash from behind them, something — something huge — was coming flying towards them at low altitude.
“Is it the enemy?”
“No, look closer!”
What came flying out of the whirling sand was a large orange dinosaur, with half of its body transformed into machine. The giant wings on its back spread out into a horizontal plane and it came flying towards them like a majestic sight.
It looked very similar to Greymon.
“I–Is that… Greymon’s real Perfect level?”
At that moment, the unknown Digimon opened up the hatch on its chest and shot something out of it. It was two missiles that flew swiftly over the heads of Jou and the others looking on, trailing white smoke as they headed straight for the pyramid.
Riding on top of MetalGreymon’s shoulder, Taichi couldn’t hide his glee as he saw the destructive power of MetalGreymon’s Giga Destroyer open a large hole in the side of the pyramid with its single blast.
“All right, we’re gonna jump in from there!”
“Okay. Taichi, you stay hidden within my arm.”
MetalGreymon had a left arm that was mechanically transfigured from the shoulder down and Taichi jumped down onto his palm.
Pulling his left hand closer to his belly, MetalGreymon thrusted himself into the pyramid head-first without losing speed.
The passageway through the pyramid was neither wide nor tall enough for MetalGreymon’s gigantic form to fit through, but he didn’t care. While the ceiling and both sides of the walls fell to pieces around him, he headed to the room that Nanomon and Sora were in.
The alarms clanged noisily, but Nanomon wasn’t paying attention. The “Wall of Fire” security system was much more interesting to him. His intent to outwit it so far had all been anticipated and blocked. At this rate, even if he did open up the “Wall of Fire,” it would only last for an instant.
PIECE OF SHIT!
The machine monster spat out a dirty word.
Nanomon pushed the turn key that could make or break the outcome.
Ever since the universe was made, the “Wall of Fire” that had never paused blowing out an incessant stream of red-hot flames and corona… now changed into a black hole for a fraction of a second.
The voice that could be heard on the other end of hole sounded as if the anger, hatred, and resentment that swirled throughout the entire universe had been gathered up and put into a large cauldron that one whole Milky Way could easily fit into, then left to simmer for millions and millions of years until it became a concentrated jellied mass — that sort of voice.
The “Wall of Fire” function was only down for an instant, but apparently that was more than enough.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
It was a loud laugh, seeped with eerieness and apathy.
That laugh went through the “Wall of Fire” system and reached Nanomon’s computer.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Hearing that voice coming from the monitor, Sora felt sharp chills running through her spine.
“…Wh–Who’s voice is that?”
That voice wasn’t the only thing that was wrong with the computer. All processes it was running were forcibly ended, and the monitor turned pitch-black. In its place loaded a program that Nanomon didn’t remember creating — a strange polyhedron-shape covered with metal chains shaped like a DNA helix spinning around that showed up on the monitor — and it began to run.
WH–WHAT’S GOING ON?
Nanomon didn’t appear to know the answer to Sora’s question either, because he began frantically inspecting the computer cables.
It was then that, with a tremendous force that crumbled the wall down, MetalGreymon’s head came crashing through.
“We’re here to save you, Sora!”
Taichi jumped out from within MetalGreymon’s metal left hand and ran towards her.
Attacks from the pyramid stopped instantly.
“What happened?” Mimi asked, looking uneasy, but no one could provide an answer. Even if they could, the others were more concerned about other questions such as: What happened to the new Digimon looking so similar to Greymon after he jumped into the pyramid? Did this stop function occur because that Digimon had taken down Nanomon or were they in the middle of fighting? There were so many things they wanted to know.
“Let’s go look inside!” Gomamon said.
As if taken up by that momentum, the normally cautious Jou said, “Yeah. Let’s do it!”
He turned towards the pyramid as if to run towards it, but Tentomon stepped in front of him.
“Hold it! Etemon is in the pyramid right now!”
Nanomon was putting all of his concentration in restoring the computer that had gone haywire, so he had his back turned when Taichi arrived to save Sora.
Taichi saw the cuffs on Sora’s wrists and exchanged looks with MetalGreymon. Thudding as he walked, MetalGreymon only slightly grazed a pointy steel claw from his left hand onto the chains, cutting them apart.
“Hi,” Taichi said as Sora rubbed her wrists. “Uh, well… we made it to Perfect level. MetalGreymon.”
He felt that there were a ton of other things that should be said, but at the moment, those were the only words that Taichi could muster up to express his gratitude towards Sora.
However, there wasn’t time to add more.
Thanks to the halt on the pyramid’s security system, Etemon came flying in easily.
“The children are here, and so is Nanomon. Now, who should I start with first…”
Etemon spoke as way of a threat, but Nanomon didn’t even notice that he had arrived. Seeming to mistake that Nanomon was making fun of him, Etemon cried out, “Kiii, I’ll start with you!”
The moment he grabbed Nanomon from behind, it happened.
A double helix of chains shot out from within the computer screen and wrapped around Nanomon and Etemon, dragging them both back through the monitor.
Both Taichi and Sora could only look on with wide eyes at the emptiness where the Digimon had been, unable to comprehend themselves what had happened.
Just then, the monitor started crumpling into itself, as if an invisible person was hitting it with all their strength with an invisible hammer. Before long, the computer was crushed down by that unseeable superhuman strength. From that spot where the computer had once been floated a silently large jet black sphere.
“Wh–What is that?” Taichi said, not expecting an answer, but Sora’s lip quivered, a look of disbelief on her face.
“I–It could be…”
“It could be what?” Taichi asked her.
“A black hole,” Sora ended weakly, her face white.
A wind suddenly blew. It was quiet at first, and then accelerated stronger and more violently. What’s more, it wasn’t blowing from somewhere but trying to suck in. Just like how it had sucked the computer, Etemon, and Nanomon into the small, black sphere.
“We gotta get out of here!” Sora cried out. Her voice was close to a desperate scream.
The entire pyramid looked warped, as if it was being seen through a convex lens. Jou blinked his eyes rapidly, thinking that it was due to heat haze. Just then, one of the pyramid’s walls exploded from the inside and he saw the giant cyborg dinosaur that had jumped into the pyramid earlier come out from the fumes.
“It’s Taichi! And Sora-kun!”
Just as Jou said, Taichi and Sora were riding on the cyborg dinosaur’s shoulders. The two of them appeared to be shouting something at them. Behind them, the fumes of the explosion looked as if they were being sucked in by a ventilation fan because they were being pulled into the pyramid. The inner side of the pyramid began to cave inwards.
“Wh–What’s going on?!”
Paralyzed with horror as they stood in the desert, Yamato and the others watched in confusion as the pyramid disintegrated from within. MetalGreymon landed lightly next to them.
“We’re in big trouble! It’s a black hole!”
Yamato still didn’t seem to get it because he said dazedly, “A black hole… What the heck did you guys do?”
But Koushiro quickly understood that now was not the time for questions and said, “For the time being, let’s get as far away from here as we can, before we end up getting dragged in as well. I’m… not sure how far we should run to be considered safe, but…”
“To the bunker,” Taichi ordered without delay. “Takeru is with a Digimon called Piccolomon. He’ll make a barrier for us that’ll protect us.”
None of the others understood what he meant, but Taichi’s voice and expression were so full of conviction that they all obeyed him immediately.
“Anyway, let’s go!”
None of them dared to look back. If they did, they just might die because of it. Once they got sucked into that black hole, they were done for.
After some time, the crunching sounds of the pyramid breaking down stopped completely. It must not have been big enough to fill the black hole’s bottomless stomach.
The military bunker was almost within reach. Having arrived ahead with MetalGreymon, both Taichi and Sora waved their arms furiously, urging the others to hurry up.
Suddenly a shadow fell around Yamato and the others. There hadn’t been a cloud in the sky earlier, so why?
Taichi called for MetalGreymon, who lent his shoulder for Taichi to ride on. With a grim, determined look on his face, MetalGreymon spread his wings and took off with one mighty flap like a Harrier jet.
The sound of something crashing with something else was heard above the skies.
That was when Yamato and the others heard the first “Ukiiiiii!” and learned that Etemon, having made a miraculous escape from death in the black hole, had been chasing them above their heads.
Although he was still alive, Etemon’s appearance had not stayed the same. He still had the upper half of his body, but his lower half had fused with a ball of material that was made from pieces of scrap iron. They probably came from the ruins of the pyramid. Maybe there were even pieces of Nanomon mixed in.
MetalGreymon’s metal left arm whipped out like a harpoon from a whaling ship. The pointed metal claws pierced Etemon’s abdominal area, making such a large hole that the blue sky could be seen through it.
“Wh–What the hell?!”
Etemon stared at the hole in his stomach as if he couldn’t believe it was there.
“I’m a superstar! I can’t just die here!”
Piccolomon was waiting for Yamato and the others at the bunker, chanting a spell and waving his spear Fairytale with a single flick when they arrived. At that very instant, a barrier rose up around the children, although no visible change could be seen of their surroundings. Only the black hole’s greedy inhaling breath disappeared there.
“Taichi! That’s enough, get back!”
“If you stay there, you’ll get sucked in!”
The children and all of the Digimon didn’t care that Taichi and MetalGreymon were holding a rather spectacular battle up in the air. Every one of them believed that their voices would reach them.
“This is bad, pi.”
Seeing the distortions of the black hole get bigger and bigger, Piccolomon grimaced. He was worried about MetalGreymon as well, but he was uneasy that his barrier would not be able to withstand the unbelievable pulling power. This was the first time in his life that he’d ever encountered a black hole, so he wasn’t sure what would happen.
“Please die down and go away soon, pi.”
All he could do was pray.
“MetalGreymon! That’s enough, let’s get out of here!” Taichi shouted, seeing the distortions of the black hole behind Etemon growing bigger.
MetalGreymon was about to do as Taichi said when Etemon grabbed at MetalGreymon’s left leg with both of his arms and bit down hard. It seemed that he still wished to fight, despite the circumstances.
MetalGreymon tried to sweep Etemon off with his tail but Etemon was prepared to never let go, even if it meant dying in the process.
Even if it means being sucked into that black hole, too, Etemon whispered with wretched determination inside his own heart.
“Ah…” everyone said at the same time.
MetalGreymon had launched his Giga Destroyer at point-blank range towards Etemon, who was clinging by his teeth onto MetalGreymon’s left leg.
Etemon was blown away, getting sucked in along with the blast into the distortions of the black hole.
But it also backfired.
The energy of the missile’s explosion increased the black hole’s appetite, automatically swelling the ball of distortions so that it surrounded MetalGreymon completely.
No one could say anything. They were afraid to say it. If they said it out loud, it would mean that they had to accept it.
And they didn’t want to accept it. They wanted to believe that it was a trick of the eyes.
As if the hunger of the black hole was satisfied from the last prey that it had swallowed, it shrunk rapidly and disappeared. But nowhere against the returning calmness of the blue sky could they see Taichi or MetalGreymon anywhere.
To be continued…