[novel] digimon adventure: chapter 5

小説 デジモンアドベンチャー〈2〉
8人目の選ばれし子ども

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Chapter 5; Vamdemon’s Castle

① The Inquisitive Heart

   Koushiro Izumi, along with his Digimon partner Tentomon, left the lake and headed for the mountains.
   Since Koushiro’s face did not show even a hint of doubt, Tentomon was quite certain that he knew what he was doing. This is Koushiro-han, he reasoned. He must have a very profound reason.
   But when there wasn’t any development to be seen, one day he asked nonchalantly, “Isn’t it about time you told me what’s there to find on this mountain?”
   Koushiro looked at him blankly. “Find? I don’t know.”
   He spoke as if he wasn’t the one who had suggested climbing this mountain in the first place. Tentomon panicked. “It wasn’t me who wanted to come up here!”
   “I know that. But I wonder what made me decide to go up this mountain…”
   Koushiro folded his arms, getting lost in thought for a moment. Then, pointing to the heavy clouds covering the top of the mountain, he said, “I feel that there is something up there. The feeling is rather vague, but I believe that the answers to why I was called to the Digital World and what the Digital World is can be found up there…”
   It was an evasive argument, quite unlike the usual Koushiro.
   “In any case…”
   As if to change the subject, Koushiro’s hand swept this time to their surroundings and he asked Tentomon, “What do you think looking at all of this, Tentomon?”
   The surface of the long and narrow Temp Lake coolly reflected the sun and the blue skies. A panorama of a richly green forest surrounded it. Here and there the forest was dotted with buildings, in some parts appearing in small clumps as villages. It was a bird’s eye view that could only be seen from the mountaintop.
   For Tentomon it was a landscape he was all too familiar with, since he could fly. Koushiro, however, did not share this ability and he spoke with wonder in his voice.
   “Seeing this brings home to me just how small we truly are.”

   

   While the air was fresh on the mountain, it was also thin, so Koushiro’s breathing naturally began to grow heavier as they ascended. Tentomon kept suggesting that they climb back down, but Koushiro just as stubbornly refused. His irresistible desire to see what lay hidden behind the clouds around the mountain peak was not unnoticed by Tentomon.
   “All right, have it your way, ” Tentomon said, relenting. “Your mind is always ever so curious. I will let you do as you wish.”
   But no matter how much they kept climbing, they could not reach the top.
   The more they climbed, the more it seemed to Tentomon that their distance to the peak grew farther and farther.
   “I think it would be faster if I evolved to Kabuterimon and flew us up there, wouldn’t you say?” he suggested, growing impatient at last. But Koushiro shook his head.
   “We can’t do that. Going step by step is what gives meaning to climbing a mountain,” he said, lecturing Tentomon instead. Tentomon gave in and resumed trudging up the mountain again.
   How many days had passed since they had first stepped onto this mountain?
   Along the slope, they came across a dilapidated mountain hut that was slightly crooked.
   “Let’s take a break here,” Koushiro said.
   When they went inside, they met a single Digimon. He appeared to be either an octopus or a plant Digimon with a giant brain, and called himself Vadermon. He said that he was the landlord, of sorts, of this mountain hut, and had lived here for a very long time.
   “How far away is it to the peak?” Koushiro asked, to which Vadermon replied,
   “What makes you believe that this mountain has a peak?”
   “Um… But it’s only natural for a mountain to have a peak,” Koushiro answered.
   Vadermon slowly shook his head.
   “This is your first time climbing this mountain, is it not? And yet, you have come to the conclusion that this mountain is the same as the others. You put to use your current knowledge, limited in what you only know so far, and you have reasoned that this mountain is probably no different. Is that correct?”
   “W–Well, yes but…” Koushiro nodded, confused. “Is it different then?”
   “I do not know the answer to that. We must not speak of what we do not know,” Vadermon responded evasively.
   This mountain, he informed them, is named the “Mountain of Analogical Reasoning.” While everyone was free to reason on this mountain as much as they liked, it would never give them an answer. That was the sort of mountain it was.

   

   Meeting Vadermon was like a culture shock to Koushiro.
   In a stricken voice, he said to Tentomon, “All this time, I thought that riddles existed to be solved. No matter how difficult the riddle was, I would find the answer as long as I kept gathering knowledge about it. But the more knowledge I sought, the more the number of riddles grew. Just when I think I’ve solved one, another riddle appears. There is no end to it. But I wonder what urged me to solve those riddles in the first place? I used to think that it was because solving things excites me… that I can’t get enough of the satisfaction from solving them. But now I don’t think that’s it. It may be because I’m simply worried. Worried about leaving the riddles unsolved.”
   The boy looked so distressed that Tentomon told him how he honestly felt. “You don’t have to think about this so deeply…”
   Even before he’d finished, Koushiro’s eyes lit up.
   “Oh, so you think so too, Tentomon? I was just thinking exactly that, as a matter of fact. There is no limit to knowledge, and it’s probably impossible for me to learn everything there is within my life span. If I want to get rid of the worry, I shouldn’t talk about it or think about it at all.”

   

   The next day, Koushiro discussed this with Vadermon. Vadermon cheerfully said that he would be glad to help Koushiro gain peace of mind.
   Koushiro was led to the “Room of the Mysterious Universe.” It had no ceiling, walls, or floors to contain it, just a strange air-space that expanded indefinitely. With a diameter of 2-3 meters, the room was rather small, and yet it contained the Sun and the planets, even asteroid belts.
   Vadermon first made Koushiro sit, in the Zen meditation posture, on top of a blue planet that looked similar to Earth, and spoke.
   “The source of your worry comes from the inquisitive heart inside of you. Through training, you will be able to extract it from your body. To begin, you must discard your words. Words make you think unnecessary thoughts. Starting today, get rid of your letters one by one. For your first day, you will work on ‘n’.”
   “I understand.”
   And so, Koushiro dropped his “n”s.

   

   “Te  tomo  , you should trai   with me. Why wo  ‘t you?”
   Koushiro displayed the results of his training to Tentomon, who was watching him from the side.
   Tentomon tried it out for himself.
   “Very well, Koushiro-ha  ” but right away he said, “No, this isn’t for me. Ending at ‘Koushiro-ha’ just doesn’t feel right. It feels icky.”
   “I see. I  deed that is a shame.”

   

   On the second day, Koushiro dropped his “m”s.
   “You   ay   ot u  dersta  d,    Te  to  o  , but I feel as though a heavy weight has bee   lifted off of   y shoulders.”
   “I see. That’s good.”
   Tentomon smiled encouragingly.

   

   By the seventh day, Koushiro had dropped his “t”s and “o”s.
   Tentomon felt somewhat sad that he had been reduced to nothing but an “e”.

   

   By the eighteenth day, Koushiro dropped his “e”s. Tentomon no longer had a name.
   Although he welcomed whatever made Koushiro happy, Tentomon felt somewhat uneasy about the entire thing.
   There was no mistake that Koushiro’s face grew more serene with each passing day. But his eyes… His eyes looked so blank. Nowhere in them could he find that bright sparkle they once had, like at Andromon’s factory, when Koushiro was typing into his laptop with engrossed excitement, or within the empty well in the desert.
   Before he had met Koushiro, Tentomon had always thought that thinking was a pain. But meeting Koushiro made him come to feel that thinking wasn’t so bad after all.
   That’s why it was all the more painful.
   He felt as if Koushiro wasn’t Koushiro anymore.
   Tentomon’s sadness made him degenerate into Motimon, then degenerate even further into Babumon, a slime ball with a pacifier in its mouth.

   

   On the 71st day, Koushiro had rid himself of the entire Japanese alphabet.
   In that moment, Babumon saw something white and circular that looked like a snake eating its own tail slip slowly out of Koushiro’s chest.
   Alert, Babumon watched it travel through the air where Vadermon, who had at one point shown up next to them, sucked it in with a vacuum gun.
   Vadermon stuffed it into a bottle and said, “This is the inquisitive heart. I will take good care of it.”
   He quickly left the Room of the Mysterious Universe.
   Koushiro smiled a quiet, gentle smile, as though he was pleased to have achieved nirvana.
   “Babu, babu…”
   Like Koushiro, Babumon could not speak words. That was because, being a baby level, his vocal cords were undeveloped.
   But although he couldn’t voice his thoughts, his tear-filled eyes expressed them.
   Koushiro-han, is this what you want?
   Babumon’s unspoken pleas pierced through Koushiro’s consciousness. Koushiro did not wonder why he could understand. He had lost his inquisitive heart.
   But seeing his own face reflected in the large beads of tears forming, but not yet falling, from Babumon’s eyes, Koushiro thought absentmindedly to himself, What an empty-looking face.
   Relentlessly, Babumon kept vocalizing to him. “Babu, babu!”
   Koushiro felt that he should at least give him a response, but because he had lost his words, he could not speak.
   As if he could sense that, Babumon’s eyes directed Koushiro to the laptop he was always carrying in his backpack. When Koushiro rested the laptop in his lap, he typed into the keyboard:
   >I’m sorry for making you degenerate.
   He did not know whether or not Babumon could read Japanese. But as if his feelings had reached him, Babumon jumped excitedly in place, speaking happily, “Babu, babu, babu!”
   >Since I don’t have my inquisitive heart, I’m not very sure about this… but I feel that I have been tricked.
   “Babu, babu,” Babumon agreed, nodding his head.
   >Babumon, will you help me take back my inquisitive heart?
   Babumon could only say “Babu, babu,” but to Koushiro’s ears, he could hear the nostalgic tinge of Kansai dialect in Tentomon’s voice telling him, “Of course, Koushiro-han!”

   

   Koushiro and Babumon left the Room of the Mysterious Training on the 71st day.
   They heard someone’s voice leaking out from within a room labeled “Landlord’s Office.”
   “That’s too pricey. Can’t you give me a better bargain?”
   Vadermon spoke.
   “Not a chance. I just procured this inquisitive heart, so it’s very fresh. I am not lowering its value.”
   He spoke with the sharp voice of a businessman, quite unlike how he spoke when he was pretending to be a guru.
   Without his inquisitive heart, Koushiro was unconcerned about who Vadermon was talking to but he knew that the heart that they were talking about belonged to him.
   I have to take it back, Koushiro thought, and opened the door.
   The room looked partly like a cheap saloon in a Western, and partly like a specimen room.
   Standing behind the counter, with his back to shelves lined with bottled hearts, Vadermon was in the middle of a business negotiation with a Digimon customer.
   Vadermon looked at Koushiro and said, “What do you want?”
   Since Koushiro couldn’t talk, he showed by action. Determinedly he walked into the room and grabbed the bottle in front of the Digimon customer that contained his inquisitive heart. Holding it gently to his chest, he apologized to it inside of his mind, “I’m sorry for throwing you away, my inquisitive heart…” and opened the lid.
   The inquisitive heart returned to where it belonged, inside Koushiro. At the same time, the power of speech returned to him.
   “It was wrong of me to throw away my inquisitive heart. Not wanting to know isn’t who I am. I want to know everything. That’s me.”
   “Babuu!”
   From his perch on Koushiro’s shoulders, Babumon blew bubbles of agreement.
   “Hey, what’s going on?” the Digimon customer asked Vadermon.
   “Can’t you tell? He’s stealing.”
   Vadermon took out what looked like a toy gun with a parabolic antenna attached in the front. He aimed the muzzle at Koushiro. “Give it back.”
   “No,” Koushiro said flatly.
   “Then I’ll kill you and take it from your dead remains.”
   Vadermon pressed the trigger and rings of light shot out from the gun.
   “Run!”
   Both Koushiro and Babumon burst out of the room and escaped into the Room of the Mysterious Universe.

   

   Pew pew pew pew pew…
   While Koushiro swam his way through the zero gravity air-space, Vadermon chased after him with the zigzag motions of a UFO, shooting at him at every chance.
   Pew pew pew pew pew…
   The rings of light were more powerful than they looked. The stars that took on a direct hit from them burst into smithereens.
   “Just how do we beat Vadermon?”
   His inquisitive heart back where it belonged, it did not take long getting down to work within Koushiro.
   Calming himself, he analyzed the situation.
   His Digimon partner Tentomon was currently in the form of Babumon, who didn’t have much fighting power. He would have to evolve. But how? What was evolution anyway? What are Digimon? What are the Chosen Children?
   “I want to know! I want to know! I want to know!” Koushiro shouted.
   A single star above his head glittered.
   The star changed into a shape Koushiro had once seen before, flying like a comet into Koushiro’s hand.
   It was a Crest.
   “I have a Crest of my own!”
   Koushiro’s excitement could be felt through the Digivice. The gauge shot upwards and Babumon evolved to Motimon, then to Tentomon, and then to Kabuterimon.
   “How were you able to evolve through the different stages all at once?”
   As if guiding him, Koushiro’s inquisitive heart came up with an answer.
   “I see. The size of this universe is greatly reduced, which means time here is also shortened!”
   In place of a bell that indicated he was right, his Crest gave off congratulatory rays of light.
   “Kabuterimon, super-evolve! AtlurKabuterimon!”
   Kabuterimon changed shape into a bright red, gallant-looking rhinoceros beetle, AtlurKabuterimon.
   Turning to the approaching Vadermon, AtlurKabuterimon valiantly pierced him with his horn.
   “Horn Buster!”
   “Ugyaaaaaah!”
   Vadermon vanished in a spray of particles.

   

   When they left the mountain hut, they found themselves at the summit.
   “What’s going on?” Motimon asked Koushiro, confused. Because he had used up all of his energy, he had degenerated once more.
   “I think the peak covered in clouds was an illusion made by Vadermon,” Koushiro answered with a sunny smile.
   “As expected of Koushiro-han. You know everything.”
   “Not really. It’s still a mystery why my Crest was there of all places. It’s much too convenient to have been a coincidence! Perhaps it is something that surpasses even human intellect–”
   He was interrupted by a voice.
   “Hey!”
   It was Yamato and Takeru. They had climbed up the mountain by following the signal on the Digivice.
   “Let’s go, Motimon. Everyone is waiting for us.”
   And so, Koushiro climbed down the mountain and rejoined his friends.

② Karaoke Princess

   Long, long ago, in a country far, far away, there lived a king named TonosamaGeckomon.[18]
   TonosamaGeckomon loved to sing karaoke, so he would grab the mic every day to belt out his proud vocal cords.
   One day, from the eastern country, a very important sorcerer came to visit and a welcoming party was held in his honor. Chefs throughout the country used their greatest skills to prepare the most magnificent dishes and the sorcerer was very pleased.
   After they had feasted, the karaoke tournament began.
   TonosamaGeckomon had quite a bit to drink, so he was in high humor as he presented to the sorcerer his favorite medley. The sorcerer also appeared to be enjoying himself, beating in time to the music.
   “Allow me to sing for you as my thanks,” the sorcerer said, requesting for the mic when he was done.
   But because TonosamaGeckomon had not had his fill of singing, he did not let go of the mic. Reluctantly, the sorcerer allowed him carry on but when TonosamaGeckomon did not stop singing even when the sun rose the next morning, he finally lost his temper.
   “I do not want to hear your singing anymore.”
   The sorcerer waved his staff once and immediately TonosamaGeckomon fell into a deep, deep sleep. He sank through the stone floor, until only his topknot stuck out from the pavement like the bud of a large plant.
   “Oh dear me, ribbit, oh dear me, ribbit!”
   “What should we do, tama?”
   While the Geckomon and Otamamon servants panicked, the sorcerer said, “Don’t worry. He isn’t dead. Three hundred years from now, a girl who is good at karaoke will come here. If she sings, he will awaken.”
   And so, three hundred years passed.
   One day, accompanied by a Digimon with a large red flower on top of her head, a beautiful girl arrived in that country. Her name was Mimi Tachikawa and the name of her Digimon was Palmon.
   Although she was indeed very beautiful, she did not appear at all like a Digimon. And so it was, for Mimi was something called a human being.
   However, her voice was like the sweet sound of bells, and after talking with the Otamamon and Geckomon, she gave her singing a try.
   Raising her delicate pinky finger as she held the mic, she began to sing.
   Her voice was like a soft breeze brushing against glass, and all of the Digimon listened to her raptly.
   The girl kept a high score on the karaoke screen as she sang.
   And then, would you believe it? The topknot of the sleeping TonosamaGeckomon began to twitch and twitch.
   “The sorcerer’s prophecy came true, ribbit!”
   “Our king is awakening, tama!”
   The Digimon began to raise excited voices. But–
   “I quit.”
   All of a sudden, Mimi stopped singing.
   “W–Why, ribbit?” asked one Geckomon.
   “Well, I’m bored of this,” Mimi said nonchalantly. “Also, I’m hungry. Isn’t there something to eat?”
   The Geckomon and Otamamon prepared a feast for Mimi.
   Once Mimi and Palmon had their fill, they asked, “Now, sing for us once more, tama.”
   But her stomach full, Mimi gave a big yawn and said, “I’m sleepy from eating so much. Get the beds ready.”

   

   From there, Mimi’s selfishness began.
   The castle had Japanese-styled rooms, but because she didn’t like it, they lay carpet on the tatami floors and added chandeliers to the ceilings.
   What’s more, she called together all of the tailors throughout the country so they would make her a gorgeous dress of gold and silver thread, studded with jewels.
   “Now, are you all set, ribbit? Please, continue singing—”
   Reluctantly, Mimi would sing, but she would always stop midway.
   When they challenged her, she would threaten them with “Then I won’t sing anymore” and “I can leave right now if you want.”
   “Anything but that, tama.”
   The Digimon were very keen not to upset her. Mimi’s selfishness grew even worse.
   She made up many strange laws, such as ordering everyone to call her Princess Mimi, and cheer “L-O-V-E, Princess Mimi” whenever she showed herself on the balcony, and use camera flashes whenever she walked along the walkway.
   Those who did not obey her orders were automatically thrown into prison.
   The Digimon servants were very much troubled indeed. They would whisper furiously among themselves,
   “The princess’s selfishness is getting out of hand, ribbit.”
   “We’ve tried everything but nothing works, tama.”
   That was when it happened.
   Two humans who were also accompanied by Digimon, just like Mimi, arrived at this country.
   They were apparently searching for their “Chosen Children” friends, and after listening to Geckomon and Otamamon’s story, the two human children looked at one another.
   “It’s Mimi-chan.”
   “Well, for starters, I’m glad she’s all right.”
   And then, they asked the Geckomon and Otamamon to take them to Mimi.

   

   “Hey, this is no time to be fooling around. Get out of those funny clothes right now,” the boy who called himself Taichi said. From his brisk way of talking, he must be a knight.
   But Mimi pouted her lips.
   “Funny clothes?” she demanded angrily. “How rude! Besides, why do I have to change?”
   The boy who called himself Jou (who must be a scholar or a wandering priest, no doubt), said very reasonably, “It’ll be hard to walk in that.”
   “Why do I have to walk?”
   “We have to go to the others.”
   “Why do I have to go to the others?”
   She kept questioning them back, like a whining child.
   Unable to watch any more, Jou’s companion Gomamon said, “Come on, Palmon. Say something.”
   Palmon, who was wearing a dress just as dazzling as Mimi’s, looked troubled for a moment. However, because her inner desire was to go back to the others, she brought up her courage and said to Mimi, “Mimi, let’s do what the others say. You’re being very selfish and I’ve been thinking for some time now that you’re causing a lot of trouble for the Digimon in this country.”
   As you would expect, those words upset Mimi greatly.
   She screamed almost hysterically, “Selfish, you say?! What’s the point of going back to the others anyway?! We have no idea how we’ll even get back home. I’m going to live the way I want right here. If you want to go, Palmon, you can go by yourself!”
   “Mimi…”
   Hearing those harsh words from her beloved partner, Palmon burst into tears.
   “Crying isn’t going to help,” Mimi said sharply. She turned her back to leave.
   At that moment, Taichi and Jou, along with their companions Agumon and Gomamon, tried to swoop down on Mimi. But she deftly avoided them and ordered her servant Geckomon and Otamamon to hold them down.
   And then, Taichi and the others, along with Palmon were locked in the underground dungeons.
   That night, Mimi had a dream.
   As she was sleeping in bed, somebody approached her. When Mimi sensed that presence and opened her eyes, she was greeted by a familiar face.
   “Sora… san?”
   Sora was a beautiful girl who was of a different type from Mimi. With a face full of love and tinged with sorrow, the girl Sora said to Mimi, “You understand what you have been doing, right?”
   Mimi nodded.
   The truth was that Mimi herself felt that she had gone overboard.
   The first time she had stopped singing midway was because she thought she was in danger. Once she ended the song, there was no telling what the Digimon would do to her after they had no use for her. That was why she never finished the song.
   But since the Geckomon and Otamamon obeyed her every desire, she began to give in to her selfish whims.
   Hearing Palmon chide her for that was a big shock to Mimi.
   And now she had locked Palmon and her friends in the dungeon.
   But, strangely enough, when Sora chided her for the same thing, she felt no annoyance.
   That is the sort of person Sora is. She was like a wonderful big sister, who treated everyone with kindness without any favoritism.
   “I… I’m sorry…”
   Mimi apologized honestly.
   “Then you already know what to do about it, right?”
   “…Yeah.”
   Hearing that, Sora smiled at Mimi gently.
   “That’s great. Mimi-chan, you really are a good girl.”
   Being told to one’s face that one is a good girl can be very embarrassing. But for some reason, Mimi, in that moment, without any denial or pretense, nodded her head in agreement.
   In doing so, sleep suddenly came to her.
   It could have been because she acknowledged for herself that she was a good girl. As if surrounded by the smell of freshly baked bread, she fell into a comfortable sleep.

   

   When Mimi woke the next morning, she found herself gripping a Crest in her hand.
   The events of last night were hazy to her, as if it had all been a part of a dream.
   Mimi released Palmon and the others from the dungeons and prepared to sing. To atone for all that she had done to them, she decided to sing to the very end.
   Changing out of her dress into her regular old clothes, Mimi stood alone on the stage. Palmon and the others sat in the audience seats, and before she began her song, Mimi apologized to them all.
   Palmon and the others forgave her with smiles on their faces.
   The introduction played and Mimi sang to her fullest.
   They all listened to her, spellbound.
   Even TonosamaGeckomon’s topknot, poking out of the pavement, started swinging in time to the music. And when Mimi sang the last note,
   “Ribbit!”
   an ugly, giant red frog appeared from beneath the foor.
   It was TonosamaGeckomon.
   Because the servants had served in generations for the past three hundred years, the description of their lord’s appearance and personality must have been beautified with each telling of the legend. As TonosamaGeckomon began destroying the ceiling and walls the second he woke up, he surprised even the Geckomon and Otamamon, who ran about in confusion.
   “I didn’t know he was such a tyrant, tama!”
   “We shouldn’t have revived him at all, ribbit!”
   Agumon evolved to Greymon, Gomamon to Ikkakumon, and Palmon to Togemon to stop him, but TonosamaGeckomon was too powerful. TonosamaGeckomon saw Mimi standing on the stage with a mic in her hand and realized that she was the girl who had woken him up.
   Grabbing Mimi with one webbed arm, he asked her with a stifled chortle, “Do you know why my mouth is so big?”
   “S–So you can sing with a loud voice, right?” Mimi answered, but TonosamaGeckomon burst out laughing.
   “Gahahahaha! No. It’s so I can eat you!” he said, and he opened his large mouth.
   “Nooo!”
   Mimi screamed. Then it happened. The Crest that Mimi was holding glowed white.
   Then, would you believe it?
   Togemon’s body shone a beautiful golden color, and like a pumpkin turning into a carriage, she changed into a cute flower fairy with a pink bud for her head.
   “Togemon, super-evolve! Lilimon!”
   With the four leaves on Lilimon’s back that served as cute wings, she flew swiftly through the air dodging TonosamaGeckomon’s attack.
   Then holding a flower in both hands, she chanted a magic spell.
   “Flower Cannon!”
   A rainbow light flew out, squarely landing their mark on TonosamaGeckomon.
   “Ribbiiiiiiit!”
   TonosamaGeckomon screamed and fell over.
   In that instant, the roof of the building collapsed, landing on TonosamaGeckomon.
   Caught underneath the rubble, TonosamaGeckomon fell once more into a long sleep.
   And then, Mimi and Palmon left for somewhere to join Taichi and the others in their continuous adventure.

③ The Secret of the Crests

   –Piyomon–
   Hey, Sora, what’s wrong?
   Why won’t you join the others?
   Even Taichi, who we’ve searched so long for, is back now. After being so scattered apart, everyone has come back together again. You’re the only one left, Sora.
   So you’ve been bothered all along by what he’d said after all. When we went to that strange underground storehouse.

   

   It was some time after Taichi and Agumon disappeared that we all went looking for them. In the end, we couldn’t find them and everyone was so tired and driven down.
   But even then, Sora was the only one who kept looking. Sora kept believing that they were around somewhere and that they would be found somehow.
   Koushiro’s laptop wouldn’t even work at such an important time. It can be so useless sometimes.
   Eh? It was working, but it wouldn’t connect to the network no matter how many times you tried? I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about.
   In any case, Etemon was tangled up in a lot of cables when he died, so maybe that’s why.

   

   Never mind that, we were talking about the storehouse.
   You said you would look for Taichi yourself and you left the others.
   No, I wasn’t worried. After all, I’m there to protect you when you’re in danger.
   So, after a few days of walking, we reached the storehouse.
   I didn’t expect there to be an entrance beneath that mountain. I mean, there were these strange dark clouds that kept swirling above it, and it looked so creepy that I didn’t even want to get close. Why did you think about going there, Sora?
   I see… You don’t know why either.
   It’s got to be because your Crest that was inside the storehouse was calling for you. Yeah, right, that Crest. You’re always holding it, Sora. It’s so pretty. The Crest of Love fits you perfectly.
   I had a nasty feeling when we approached that storehouse. The deeper we walked into the forest, the greater that feeling became.
   It wasn’t even near evening yet, but you couldn’t see the Sun anywhere there. All you could see were trees with black leaves.
   Sometimes, on really rare occasions, there were sounds of small Digimon moving, but no one approached us. It seemed as if they were frightened.
   I was a little scared too. But Sora kept walking in deeper and deeper.

   

   In the forest, we suddenly came upon that rock face. I was a little surprised when I realized it was the bottom of a mountain that rose higher than the highest trees. But what happened after was the real surprise.
   When you approached the mountain, there came a strange panicked shout from somewhere.
   Then the rock face split open and we saw a warm, rose-colored light inside. And then he came out, that hateful PicoDevimon.
   I knew right away that shout came from him. You can tell he’s a repulsive guy just by looking at him. He’s smaller, rounder, and darker than I am, but he puffed up with so much bravado.
   And when he saw you, it was the first thing he said.

   

   “So you’re the bearer of the Crest of Love! Damn it, I can’t believe a Chosen Child is here!”

   

   I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but I knew the Crest he was holding was the source of that rose-colored light.
   “But I can’t hand these over to the likes of you. Lord Vamdemon has ordered me to watch this place! True, it might have been Tailmon who found these Crests, but while she’s off doing something else, this area is my territory! You’re not laying a hand here!”
   We didn’t even ask anything and he spilled everything to us. He must have been really panicked.
   But you noticed that there were other Crests inside. Nothing less from you, Sora!
   That PicoDevimon tried to attack us, so I evolved into Birdramon and drove him away. Then Sora walked right into the mountain.
   We wouldn’t have known, looking from the outside, that the inside of the mountain was a storehouse. It was so wide that I could fit in there comfortably as Birdramon.
   There were so many different things inside, but you made sure to find the Crests.

   

   So you are worried over what he said back then.
   “It’s ironic that you’re the bearer of the Crest of Love. You don’t even know what real love is.”
   What a rude guy. How can he say that Sora doesn’t know what real love is?
   I mean, that’s just not possible! You always think about what’s best for everyone, and you’re so kind.
   Huh? Sora, what’s wrong? Why are you so mad?
   …I’m sorry. Please Sora, don’t be mad at me. No, you don’t have to apologize.
   There are so many things I don’t understand very well, so I must have said something in my ignorance that made you mad.
   Real love? Hmmmmmmm… I don’t really know what it is either.

   

   But why do you think that you don’t know what real love is?
   A flower-arranging school? What is that? Someone who teaches flowers?
   So your mother teaches flower arranging. Hmm. Then there must be a lot of these ‘apprentices’ you say, and your mother must always be busy.
   Is Sora’s mother also the mother of those apprentices? Nothing like that, but she has to think about the others all the time, huh?
   What do you mean by ‘family position’? You always have to be on your best behavior and appearance? That must be difficult. So you hate being called the daughter of a master school.
   What about your father?
   Ah, you love your father.
   But he’s never home even though he’s a teacher? Being a professor must take up a lot of time. So your mother has to act like your father too.
   Why do you think that your mother doesn’t care about your father?
   She’s never in the house but she never goes to see your father. So that’s why you think that way. Sora, you think that your mother doesn’t love. I see, so that’s why you think that you don’t have love either.

   

   Your mother is against you playing soccer?
   Not really, but for that match she said you couldn’t play? And then you lost?
   Well, yes, there’s not much that can be done without the ace striker. You wanted so much to fight for the others.
   What happened to that wound?
   Oh, thank goodness. It healed without leaving any scars.
   But because of that, you could no longer be a part of that team.
   I see. So that’s why you think that your mother doesn’t understand you. Because there is no love there, you don’t understand what it is.

   

   But Crests sure are a mystery. Whenever their true owner is close by, they glow such a pretty color. It happened when we found Yamato at the restaurant, when we told Koromon about the mushrooms, and when we found Mimi at TonosamaGeckomon’s castle. It was as if the Crests were calling for everyone.
   Your Crest must have called for you too, Sora.

   

   Sora! Look! That thing flying in the night sky! ‘Dragon’? Is that what you call it in your world?
   Yeah, that thing that looks like a ‘dragon’, a black, black dragon… that Digimon is Devidramon. He’s a very bad guy.
   But never mind that, look at what that Devidramon is pulling. It’s square and made out of wood. It has wheels attached.
   It looks like a carriage? I’m not sure what a carriage is, but something very evil is inside there. It’s very evil. Is it strange for a carriage to be flying in the air? Also, ah, isn’t that PicoDevimon flying behind it?
   Eh, go after him?
   Okay. No matter what happens, I’ll protect you Sora. Let’s go.

   

   The back of the carriage is opening.
   A coffin is dropping out from inside, wah!
   It’s falling.
   Ah, the top of the coffin opened and something’s coming out.
   It’s dropping lightly to the ground.
   It’s a black shadow in the shape of a human. It’s wearing a red mask.
   It looks like a human but it’s a Digimon.
   There’s something very ominous about him. Sora, I have a very bad feeling.
   I don’t know who he is, but he’s definitely someone very bad.
   I see, that must be who PicoDevimon mentioned. Vamdemon.
   Someone’s there on the other side. Oh no! Huh? It’s Taichi. Everyone else is there too. Koromon, Tsunomon, Mochimon, Tanemon, they’re all back to their baby selves.
   Vamdemon is raising his hand.
   “Bloody Stream!”
   Something that looks like a glowing red whip is lashing out.
   Are they fighting?
   Ah, they’re down! The red whip is running through them like electricity! No, Koromon and the others won’t last! Patamon and Gomamon already have their hands full facing PicoDevimon.
   I have to go help them quickly!
   Eh? Sora! Why are you stopping me?
   Sora, I have to go. They’re all in their weak forms.
   You say that I can’t beat him by myself, but I still have to go.
   I have to fight!
   Why won’t you understand?!
   “Night Raid!”
   Ah, a large flock of bats is flying out from within Vamdemon’s cape this time!
   It’s almost upon everyone.
   I’m going! I can’t watch this anymore!

   

   Piyomon, evolve! Birdramon!
   Meteor Wing!

   

   But I can’t inflict much damage to this black figure. I have to save Taichi and the others.
   The red lightning extending from Vamdemon’s hand pierces through my body.
   I can feel my power draining. My consciousness is about to fade.
   I hear a voice.
   It’s Sora’s voice.
   Sora is screaming for me. I can hear it. It fills my heart with a warm feeling.
   The core of my body feels hot. Light courses through me. The Crest on Sora’s chest is glowing.
   Crimson flames come bursting up from somewhere, licking around my body.

   

   Birdramon, super-evolve! Garudamon!

   

   My body evolved into a giant bird human with large wings.
   I evade the “Night Raid” bats that the black figure of Vamdemon unleashes and,
   “Shadow Wing!”
   I unleash a copy of my entire body made out of flames. But Vamdemon is strong. Saving Taichi and others is my first priority. I pick up their bodies and escape high into the sky.

   

   

   “Before I realized it, I was acting just like my mom. I didn’t want Piyomon to get hurt. I understood how Piyomon felt about wanting to fight for the others. I understood so badly, but I just couldn’t let you do it… I finally understand how my mother felt back then.”

④ Gennai’s Underwater Mansion

   It was as if a fire had been lit on Temp Lake. The red of the sunset, as well as the red of the gliding Garudamon bearing the children reflected against the water surface.
   “Hey, Garudamon. How does it feel, seeing your Perfect level self?” Tanemon, her senior of a few days on the Perfect level evolution, asked in Garudamon’s ear.
   “How? It’s like I’m not myself,” Garudamon answered, looking troubled. The transformation of her body had changed her voice so it was now throaty and hoarse.
   “The only ones left now are me and Gomamon,” Patamon said. Of course, he was talking about Perfect level evolution.
   “Oh, here we go again,” Gomamon said, heaving a big sigh. “I was late evolving to Adult too! You’ve got to pull it together, Jou!”
   His tone was spoken in jest, so Jou also gave an exaggerated “Oh, so it’s myyyyy fault?” making everyone laugh.
   It seemed that at some point, Jou took it as his position to comfort the others. His intent to pull the rest of the group along because he was the oldest had disappeared in a good way, and now he was being his natural self among the party.
   It wasn’t just Jou.
   Each of the children’s experiences at the lake had been painful, but all of them had clearly matured.
   “Hey, what’s that?” Takeru asked, pointing to the water surface.
   As they watched, something happened in the lake.
   Gwoooooh… With a thunderous roar, the lake split apart in two.
   “Geh geh geh geh!” Jou cried out with exaggeration, except this time it wasn’t an act.
   “Look! There’s a house at the bottom of the lake! And… a robot?” Mimi said.
   Just as Mimi said, there was a Japanese mansion sitting at the uncovered bottom of the lake and the white body of a robot next to it. Someone jumped out from inside the house and waved up at them.
   “It’s Centarumon!” Koushiro shouted. “He was controlled by a black gear on File Island and attacked us, but Centarumon is a good Digimon.”
   Hearing that, Taichi said, “Let’s go down. It looks like he wants something from us.”

   

   Centarumon hurriedly urged them inside the mansion. Just as the door closed behind them, the two halves of the parted lake came together once more, encasing them underwater.
   “Keeping the lake parted makes the barrier lose effect, so it can’t be held up for very long,” Centarumon explained, but the children were fascinated by the underwater spectacle spread out before them and didn’t really pay much attention.
   “Let me show you to the guest room. We have food ready and waiting for you there, so you can rest easy.”
   The room he led them to was 20-tatami wide, filled with vivid plants and a wide, rosewood table in the center with a magnificent feast waiting for them.
   “It’s like we’re on a school trip,” Jou said after eating his fill and rubbing his full stomach. He lay spread-eagled on top of the tatami mats, taking a deep sniff of its woven rushes.
   The rest of the children were comfortably sitting with their legs spread out or sprawled across the floor. As if pooped out from her earlier evolution to Perfect level, Pyocomon was snoring softly in Sora’s lap.
   Just then, the sliding door opened quietly.
   “Sorry to keep you waiting, children.”
   On the other end of the opened door stood an old man with a wrinkled face. What little hair he had left was tied up into a high ponytail.
   “G—Gennai-san?!”
   The children who were sleeping jerked awake, while those sitting on the ground stood up straight. All of them were greatly surprised.
   Gennai nodded in assent at the children’s exclamation. “That’s me.”
   Centarumon was standing behind Gennai. Taichi immediately got up and stormed towards Gennai.
   “Hey, old man!” he exclaimed indignantly. “Why didn’t you show up before now?!”
   The other children also gathered in front of Gennai.
   “An old wound in my back was giving me pain,” Gennai answered, shrugging his shoulders. “I couldn’t leave the barrier, I’m sorry to say.”

   

   

   “The Digital World appears similar to ours, but it’s strange in places. Its laws of physics are a mess. Why is that?”
   With his inquisitive heart returned to him, Koushiro was full of questions.
   They were in Gennai’s studio, with various machine parts and prototype models scattered across the wooden floor. The walls were made of long panels of resin.
   The other children were sleeping in the guest room, exhausted by the fatigue from their journey and the relief of being in a safe haven.
   However, Koushiro alone could not sleep. He was tired, but there were so many things that he wanted to ask Gennai.
   “In order to understand that, I must first explain to you the composition of this world. This world — the Digital World, is formed from the data information of your world’s computer network. However, it isn’t a virtual reality. It is a place where information and data from the net materialize into actual shape. The reason why this world appears strange is because when that data took shape, the data was either fragmented or broken.”
   “What are Digimon?”
   “Digimon are the physical manifestations of data who act like living creatures. Digimon are born from Digieggs, and when their life span ends they die and are disintegrated back into data to make a new Digiegg. Speaking of which, Digimon are classified as three different types. In other words, data, virus, and vaccine.”
   “Gennai-san, are you a Digimon too?”
   “I am different. I am an Agent. I have no attribute.”
   “Agent?”
   “I serve Homeostasis. Homeostasis governs– no, more like surveys the stability of the Digital World. Will you understand if I described it as the security system? But since it has no physical form, it needs someone who can move and act as its arms and legs. That is us Agents.”
   “Is it Homeostasis that chose us to be Chosen Children?”
   “That’s right. As expected of you, Koushiro. You are very perceptive. But don’t ask me why you were chosen. Homeostasis itself should use a medium one day to tell you.”
   “What are the Digivices and Crests?”
   “They are tools made to match each Chosen Child’s unique trait. Each of their functions are different, but in order to be mutually linked, you Chosen Children and your Digimon partners must share a certain type of information.”
   Gennai explained the extent of what he knew, but of course, there were many things even he did not know.
   For instance, why the Digital World was born.
   “I don’t know that. Instead, let me ask you. Do you know how your world was born?”
   Koushiro was about to answer “The Big Bang,” but stopped. The theory was only a hypothesis, unless someone had seen it for themselves.
   There was only one question that Gennai postponed in answering.
   “What are the Chosen Children meant to do now? Also, will we be able to go back to our world?”
   “I’ll explain that to you along with the others tomorrow. Now, it’s late so you should get some rest. But before you do, I want to borrow your laptop to add some convenient functions to it.”

   

   

   And so, the morning came.
   After eating good food and restful sleep, all of the children’s faces looked and felt refreshed. All of the Digimon’s spirits were also restored, and they were returned to their Child forms.
   After finishing breakfast, everyone folded up the blankets that made up their beds. No one had instructed them to. After seeing Yamato start it, everyone else followed suit.
   As if they had calculated the moment they would finish, Gennai and Centarumon arrived at the door just as they had finished tidying up.
   Sitting comfortably, the children waited for Gennai to begin speaking.
   First, Gennai returned Koushiro’s laptop to him. On the laptop’s side was a port that had obviously been added on by improvisation. When Koushiro asked what it was, Gennai explained, “It’s a port that sends information from the Digivice to the Digimon Analyzer.”
   The Digivice apparently had a function that logged information of the Digimon they had met so far. By attaching a Digivice to Koushiro’s laptop, the information inside of it would display in the Digimon Analyzer program that had been installed into the laptop.
   After explaining this, Gennai spoke on a different topic. “By the way, there’s something I must tell you.”
   Gennai clasped his hands behind his back.
   “Deep within the mountains just a bit ways west from here, there is a castle called Vamdemon Castle.”
   “Vamdemon? You mean, that Vamdemon?” Piyomon asked. Everyone’s faces grew rigid with anxiety.
   “That’s right. Vamdemon is assembling troops right now.”
   “To attack us?” Palmon asked worriedly, but Gennai shook his head.
   “No. He’s getting ready for an invasion.”
   “An invasion… to where?” asked Sora.
   Whether on purpose or by coincidence, Gennai did not immediately answer. Instead, he cleared his throat.
   “For your world. Vamdemon plans to kill the eighth Chosen Child in your world.”
   For one moment, the children didn’t understand what he had said.
   “T–The eighth… You mean there’s another Chosen Child?” Mimi asked.
   “Mmm,” Gennai said, nodding.
   “Vamdemon appears to believe that the eighth child is in Hikarigaoka, but we know that child no longer lives there. But where that child lives now… that we don’t know. However, the Chosen Children will fulfill their destiny when all eight of you are together. If even one of you is missing, it will be the downfall of both this world and yours. Please, children. Find your eighth companion and protect them.”

⑤ Operation Invade the Real World

   Eternal night.
   The thick, dark clouds without any gap in them prevented the forest beneath it from even once receiving light. It was the perfect habitat for Digimon that loved the darkness.
   However, not even those Digimon living in the forest dared to approach the lofty mountain that loomed over them. They were afraid of it. Afraid of both the castle ruins that stood at the top of that mountain, and of Vamdemon who lurked within it.

   

   “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiih!”
   Deep within the moss-covered gloomy halls of the castle, a voice screamed.
   The scream belonged to PicoDevimon, who was tied to a pole and hanging over a fire like a roasting pig.
   He was inside Vamdemon’s torture room. Along its walls, where sprays of blood had dried to a dark black, hung torture devices that clearly displayed their owner’s sadistic pleasure.
   “P–Please forgive me, Lord Vamdemon!” PicoDevimon pleaded desperately, but Vamdemon’s eyes smiled coldly beneath his red mask. His thin fingers with pointy nails like that of a bird of prey ran through the blond bangs that hung over his pale face.
   “Did you believe you could hide the fact that the Crests were stolen from me?”
   His voice was not angry. In fact, he sounded almost happy. He was obviously enjoying himself, relishing the eyes full of fear, the screams, the face twisted with pain.
   What a nasty thing to do…, Wizarmon thought, turning his face away.
   Standing beside him was Tailmon, who appeared to be pitying PicoDevimon’s plight, judging from the expression on her face.
   Since she and PicoDevimon competed with each other to win Vamdemon’s trust, it would not have been strange for her to take pleasure in his failure. Perhaps the reason why she did not was because she had suffered under this sort of punishment by Vamdemon as well.
   The tongues of fire licked PicoDevimon’s body.
   “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiih!”
   Black smoke rose from PicoDevimon’s behind like burning rubber.
   After the punishment was over (or more precisely, after he got bored with it), Vamdemon left the torture room.
   Tailmon immediately followed behind Vamdemon’s trailing red cape, and Wizarmon followed after her as inconspicuously as he could.
   The sound of Vamdemon’s boots clicked within the silence, although the sound was sucked into the surrounding halls and came a few seconds later than the motion of his feet hitting the floor.
   Although the hallways were not narrow, there were no straight corners that could be called corners, giving the feeling that they were trapped inside. If someone who did not know this entered the castle, they would get lost immediately and be driven insane. Wizarmon only realized this for himself very recently.
   The passage they took brought them to a courtyard, which also acted very strangely. For instance, if Wizarmon looked up now, he could see Nanimon dragging the Veggiemon with him “below.” What was up was down, and down was up. In other words, the space here was warped. The distorted pathways and staircases created a trompe-l’œil world.
   Here, Vamdemon stopped. He had reached the front of his room but he made no attempt to open the door for himself.
   Tailmon signaled to Wizarmon with her eyes, so he hurriedly opened the door.
   The room, with its curtains drawn all the way, was naturally faintly dark, and had a musty smell.
   Both sides of the room were adorned with bookshelves filled with thick old manuscripts, and next to the window– the window that let no light from the outside come through, was an ornamental writing desk.
   Vamdemon walked over to the desk, taking the cards that lay there in place of books.
   Then, moving over to the bookshelves on the right side of the room, he turned the needles of a compass that hung on the wall.
   With a low creaking sound, the bookshelves slid apart. Appearing behind them was a pitch-black staircase that led to an underground stone room. Pushing back his cape, Vamdemon walked inside.
   Of course, Wizarmon and Tailmon weren’t far behind.

   

   Red candles burned along the walls of the spiral staircase, their wax dripping like blood at their feet.
   Seeing the candles’ flames cast his long shadow across the walls, Wizarmon felt a bad premonition. It felt like an evil omen lay ahead of him.
   Even when they reached the bottom of the stone room, that feeling did not go away. In fact, it got even stronger.
   The large door that stood before them was a gate that connected this world to other worlds.
   While Wizarmon had traveled through many different worlds before, looking at the door gave him the nasty feeling that this would be his last journey.
   Vamdemon faced the stone slate that stood in the middle of the room.
   The middle of the slate was divided by a box of 3 x 3, with a sign of ∴ on its left and three different shapes carved into its right side boxes. Above the boxes were pictures of a lion, an archer, and a monkey. Within each box, going down, were an increasing number of stars: ☆, ☆☆, and ☆☆☆.
   Vamdemon spread out the cards he had taken from his study before the stone slate.
   And then, as if high on himself and not directed to anyone in particular, he spoke.
   “The key is in my possession. Reveal the hidden meaning of the cards and place them in the keyhole where they serve. Then the door to the other world will open…… Heh heh heh heh, oh Chosen Children. No matter how much you resist, you are already too late.”

   

   

   Screeeeeeeeech!
   A swarm of Dokugumon plopped from the ceiling to the ground, scrambling towards Taichi and the others.
   “Leave this to me!” Gabumon cried.
   “Okay!”
   Yamato’s Digivice and Crest glowed.
   “Gabumon, evolve! Garurumon! Garurumon, super-evolve! WereGarurumon!”
   Palmon also evolved. “Palmon, evolve! Togemon! Togemon, super-evolve! Lilimon!”
   “Kaiser Nail!”
   “Flower Cannon!”
   Their special attacks turned the Dokugumon into specks of data.
   “I’ll fight too!” Agumon exclaimed, but Taichi shook his head.
   “You can’t turn into MetalGreymon in this tight area, you’ll squish us all.”
   “Oh, I see,” Agumon said, sheepishly scratching the top of his head.
   While the Dokugumon gave them more or less a hard time, the children managed to get rid of them and plunge into the next area.
   A Digimon stood there waiting for them. He looked like the misshapen head of an old man on legs, wearing sunglasses. Veggiemon dressed as common foot soldiers awaited his orders behind him.
   “My turn next!”
   Just as Tentomon was about to unleash his Petit Thunder,
   “Hyaaaaaah!”
   the soldiers scattered like leaves to the wind.
   “What the ‘mon was that?” Tentomon said, looking let down. Koushiro immediately tested out his Digimon Analyzer.
   “That’s actually his name. What-the-mon (Nanimon). As expected of Tentomon, you’re very knowledgeable!”
   In any case, they were thankful that no one stood in their path. They needed to preserve as much fighting power as possible, until they reached the stone room ahead where Gennai had told them the gate to the real world lay.

   

   

   “Bad news, Lord Vamdemon!”
   PicoDevimon, who had just finished treating the wounds he had received from his punishment, came flying into the stone room.
   Within the room, the Digimon that Tailmon had recruited from different lands were all lined up, waiting for orders to depart.
   Standing in front of the stone slate with an unperturbed look on his face, Vamdemon asked, “What is it? Have the Chosen Children come?”
   “Yes, sir. What should we do?”
   “Leave them be. Be ready for departure,” he said, raising his voice on the last words.
   Cheers of agreement rang throughout the small stone room.
   “Heed me. Your prey is the Eighth Chosen Child. Find him and kill him.”
   “Yaahhhhh!”
   “Shroud everything in darkness with the power of darkness!”
   “Yaahhhhh!”
   Wizarmon unenthusiastically shook his fist into the air. Above him, he heard voices.
   “Baby Flame!”
   “Magical Fire!”
   “Marching Fishes!”
   “Air Shot!”
   Even Wizarmon could tell that the Chosen Children had arrived.
   But Vamdemon did not appear to be in the least worried. He placed the cards upon the stone slate and raised his arms, chanting a strange spell.
   “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius!”
   The stack of cards floated into the air as if they were being arranged by an invisible hand, separated, and fit themselves neatly into all nine spaces within the stone slate.
   The door that connected them to another world, the door that gave Wizarmon a horrible omen of death, slowly opened towards them.
   “Yaahhhhh!”
   Rainbow-colored light shone from the other side of the door.
   “Agghh!”
   As someone who loved darkness and detested the light, Vamdemon shielded himself from that light with his cape. And, as if to escape from it, he dove into the coffin that was prepared within the carriage pulled by Devidramon, closing the lid over him.
   “Forward!” came the shout from PicoDevimon. He had seized his chance to say the command that, by rights, should have been from Tailmon.
   “Wait!”
   “We won’t let you go to our world!”
   The Chosen Children came charging down the spiral staircase.
   “Hya hya hya!” PicoDevimon flapped his wings in a panic. “It’s the Chosen Children!” he ordered the Digimon. “Get them!”
   But none of them moved. That was only natural. It had been Tailmon who had recruited these Digimon.
   “W–What’s the matter with you guys?” PicoDevimon said nervously. “Attack!”
   Watching PicoDevimon lose his nerve, Tailmon snorted derisively. Then, turning to the Digimon that she had brought along, she said calmly, “Go on ahead with Lord Vamdemon. I’ll clean up here.”
   Obeying her orders, the Digimon passed one by one through the gate. The carriage carrying Vamdemon’s coffin followed after them.
   “Will you be okay by yourself?” Wizarmon asked Tailmon worriedly.
   “I’ll be fine,” Tailmon answered calmly, the ring on her swaying tail clinking. “Never you mind, Wizarmon. Go on.”
   “Understood. Let us meet in the other world.”
   Saying that, Wizarmon headed for the gate.
   Just before he passed through, he glanced back one last time. It wasn’t to check on Tailmon. It was because he wanted to carve into his memory every shape of this world that he may never again return to, of this Digital World that had led him to his fateful meeting with Tailmon.

   

   “What’s this now?” Ikkakumon said.
   Next to him, Jou said, “Shoo, shoo. Get out of the way. You don’t want to get hurt, do you?”
   It was Tailmon they were speaking to.
   Neither Jou, Ikkakumon, or the rest of the group knew Tailmon’s real strength. It was hard to imagine that her small, innocent-looking frame had gone through many a bloody battlefield.
   “You’re underestimating me,” Tailmon said looking slightly miffed. “Watch this.”
   Tailmon jumped.
   Greymon gave her a light swipe with his hand, but Tailmon dodged that swing and landed on his chest.
   “Neko Punch!”
   It looked as if she only touched Greymon lightly. But power that was unimaginable from its appearance attacked Greymon and,
   “Waah!”
   Greymon was blown off his feet.
   “She’s stronger than she looks.”
   Even as Yamato spoke the obvious, Kabuterimon, Birdramon, Ikkakumon and the others pulled into alert, fighting stances. Even so, Tailmon’s continuous Neko Punches brought them down.
   Patamon flew ahead to the gate and was fighting with PicoDevimon.
   “If we don’t hurry, the gate will close!” he cried.
   “I know, damn it!” Taichi said irritably, and clenched his Crest.
   Seeing him attempt to evolve his partner to Perfect level, Tailmon decided that it was time for her to leave.
   The gate would be closing soon.
   Just to play safe, Tailmon hit each of the Digimon with a Neko Punch before running back to the gate.
   “Ah!”
   The gate was only a small gap when Tailmon and PicoDevimon rushed through, closing heartlessly behind them.
   “N–No way…”
   The children were dumbfounded.
   It was their one chance to return to their world.
   It was their duty to protect the eighth child.
   “Damn it!”
   Taichi ran to the closed gate, banging his fists against it in frustration and despair. But the door wouldn’t budge.
   The sounds of Taichi’s fists only rang throughout the stone room in vain.
   As they stood there at a loss, Koushiro’s eyes landed on the cards scattered on the floor.
   Gennai had told him that he had heard of nine cards, when placed correctly according to an established rule in the stone slate, that would open the gates to another world.
   Each of the cards had a picture of a Digimon on it, and there were nine in total.
   Koushiro looked at the stone slate next, at the pictures of the lion, archer, and monkey, and the three sets of stars.
   In other words,

   

   

   they would have to put one card into each of the holes.
   While Koushiro was studying them, he was unaware that Sora had come to stand behind him at some point.
   Now she asked him, “Do you know what it means?”
   “No, not at all. But this ∴ mark on the slate looks familiar. Maybe it was Aleister Crowley…”
   “Aleister Crowley? Who’s that?”
   As the two talked, their other friends gathered around them.
   Gennai had warned that if the cards were placed incorrectly, they could be thrown into a completely different world unlike either the real world or the Digital World. There was also the possibility that the very moment they passed through the gate, their data would be broken down and they would lose their bodies.
   Therefore, they had to be very careful about what order they chose.
   “In any case, let’s try it,” Taichi said, and took the nine cards out of Koushiro’s hand.
   Each of the nine cards had a different design.

   

   Gomamon
   Kuwagamon
   Andromon
   Unimon
   Elecmon
   Drimogemon
   Gazimon
   Digitamamon
   TonosamaGeckomon

   

   “Hmm.”
   Drawing a 3 x 3 box on the ground, Taichi tried out his idea first.
   Looking at how he laid out each card in the nine boxes, Jou asked, “What’s that?”
   “Good guys, bad guys, dirty guys.”
   “That can’t be it.”
   This time Jou knelt down to try it out.
   “Small ones, normal size, big ones.”
   Next was Yamato. He divided them up based on strength.
   Sora separated them by habitat, and Mimi by the number of letters in their names.
   Neither Sora’s or Mimi’s choices even fit three by three.
   They kept going by turns, until Jou, after watching this for a moment, stood up.
   “It’s no use.”
   “No, don’t say that,” Mimi protested, looking ready to cry.
   But Jou said calmly, “We have no basis that any of these are correct.”
   Everyone fell silent. Jou was right.
   Just when a gloomy silence came upon them, Jou spoke.
   “Taichi.”
   “Mm?” Taichi looked at Jou, who said with an animated look on his face,
   “I’ll leave it to you, Taichi.”
   “W–What’s this now?”
   “I’m not trying to avoid the responsibility. I trust your judgment.”
   Yamato stood up.
   “Me too. I’ll follow what our leader decides,” he said in a bright voice.
   “Hey, since when did I become leader?”
   “The moment you disappeared on us, we all fell apart. It was you, Taichi, who brought us back together again.”
   Yamato’s words did not have the slightest hint of sarcasm in them. They were coming straight from his heart.
   “Guys, you’re okay with that, right?” Jou asked all around.
   Sora, Koushiro, Mimi, Takeru, and of course all of the Digimon nodded agreement.
   “Mmm…” Taichi pondered.
   Regardless of whether or not he thought of himself the right person to be leader, he wanted to answer to everyone’s unanimous feelings. How he had learned the gratefulness of friends for the first time when he had been depressed over his mistakes with SkullGreymon also played a part in it.
   Believing in one another was what made friends, friends.
   “Okay.”
   Taichi took the cards and faced the slate.
   He did not intend to run from the heavy responsibility of carrying everyone’s lives in his hands.
   But no matter how hard he glared at the slate, he could not come up with a good solution.
   Taichi tried to think of it as a soccer match.
   This was the chance for a free kick that would turn the score around. The cards were the ball, and this stone slate was the goal. Everyone’s eyes were on him as he prepared for the kick.
   Now, where should he kick? If he knew the goalkeeper’s habits, he would use them to his advantage. But here, he did not know. He could leave it to chance, but if there was someone out there who knew that goalkeeper’s quirks, he could ask him…
   “Koushiro.”
   Hearing Taichi call his name in the moment that would decide their destinies gave Koushiro a little start. “W–What is it?”
   “Can I ask what order you would put these cards?”
   “O–Oh no… are you asking me to decide?” Koushiro said, tears emerging from the corners of his eyes.
   But Taichi said, “No, dummy, I’m the one who will decide. It’s just that, ever since we got here, we’ve relied on your intelligence to get through a tough spot. I can’t ignore that in what could possibly be our last moment.”
   And Taichi smiled.
   All eyes turned to Koushiro. But instead of feeling anguished by their gaze, Koushiro instead felt encouragement. In each of their eyes, Koushiro could see that they all acknowledged him as the rightful tactician of their team.
   Before now, before he had come to the Digital World, Koushiro had considered himself an insignificant and worthless human being. He knew computers, but what use was that? Even he was aware that he stuck out like a sore thumb in class, and he had thought that even if he wasn’t around, the world would still go on.
   It wasn’t completely unrelated to the moment when Koushiro found out the secret of his birth.
   When he was very young, he had heard his parents talking quietly to themselves in the drawing room when he was heading to the toilet one night.
   Hey, honey. When are we going to tell him the truth?
   Let’s wait just a little longer. If we tell him now, Koushiro will be shocked…
   From those few words alone, Koushiro knew that he was not his parents’ real child.
   He didn’t know who he belonged to. His very existence itself was uncertain.
   He didn’t know how to approach his parents and naturally grew timid about interacting with other people.
   But right now, right here, Koushiro was someone that everyone needed.
   “Okay. I’ll do it.”
   Koushiro changed his feelings of anxiety into confidence, a tentative willingness to believe in his own abilities. Taichi stepped back so that Koushiro could stand in front of the stone slate.
   Now then…

   

   Koushiro thought.
   What should I do first?
   If there was a rule that these nine cards must follow, then he must first learn what these nine cards meant.
   In other words, he needed the information of the Digimon on these cards.
   Digimon information… Digimon information…
   That’s right, he’ll use the Digimon Analyzer that Gennai-san had given to him.
   Koushiro knelt to the floor and booted up his laptop computer.
   Wondering what he was up to, the others watched Koushiro’s every move.

   

   Gomamon – Marine Mammal Digimon, Child Level, Vaccine
   Kuwagamon — Insect Digimon, Adult Level, Virus
   Andromon — Cyborg Digimon, Perfect Level, Vaccine
   Unimon — Mythical Beast Digimon, Adult Level, Vaccine
   Elecmon — Mammal Digimon, Child Level, Data
   Drimogemon – Beast Digimon, Adult Level, Data
   Gazimon — Mammal Digimon, Child Level, Virus

   

   That was as far as he knew. But the data for Digitamamon and TonosamaGeckomon was not in Koushiro’s Digivice. That was because he hadn’t met them.
   “Has someone here met Digitamamon and TonosamaGeckomon?”
   “Ah, me,” Jou said, and handed Koushiro his Digivice.
   When he connected it to his laptop,

   

   Digitamamon — Perfect Digimon, Perfect Level, Data
   TonosamaGeckomon — Amphibian Digimon, Perfect Level, Virus

   

   the information popped out.
   As he compared everything, Koushiro noticed a certain rule. They were all cleanly divided between data, virus, and vaccine, and Child, Adult, and Perfect levels.
   “This is it!” Koushiro cried in spite of himself. Everyone’s anticipations rose even higher.
   “But…”
   He didn’t understand the meaning of the lion, archer, and monkey on the slate. The lion and archer were part of the twelve constellations, but that didn’t include a monkey. He imagined the lion, archer, and monkey in his head. And then…
   “I see!”
   Koushiro used the Digimon Analyzer once more. And he received the information he was looking for.

   

   Leomon – Beast Man Digimon, Adult Level, Vaccine
   Centarumon — Beast Man Digimon, Adult Level, Data
   Etemon — Puppet Digimon, Perfect Level, Virus

   

   “I’ve got it!” Koushiro cried. “The lion, archer, and monkey each represent Leomon, Centarumon, and Etemon. Each of them have their own attribute. In other words, vaccine, data, and virus. Next, I believe the number of stars indicate from top to bottom Child level, Adult level, and Perfect level. So if you put the cards according to both categories…”

   

   

   It was a perfect fit!
   “Great job, Koushiro!”
   Everyone clapped and cheered.
   Koushiro looked embarrassed. “But I’m not sure if it’s right or not…” he said, suddenly hesitant.
   But no one paid that any attention.
   It was what Koushiro had decided.
   It was what Taichi, who had depended on Koushiro to find the answer, had decided.
   Even if it was the wrong answer, they were all together. That was better than being alone.
   Their bright faces filled Koushiro to the brim with happiness.
   “Okay then, let’s go!”
   “Yeah!”
   The children’s energetic voices echoed throughout the eerie stone room.
   Taichi placed the cards in the stone slate according to Koushiro’s analysis. The gate creaked open.
   “Well, let’s go, guys!’
   All of them ran for the gate. To the children, the sparkling rainbow light on the other side appeared to be promising them hope for the future.


Read on to the next chapter.


FOOTNOTES
[18] If not clear, this sub-chapter is written like a storybook.

2 thoughts on “[novel] digimon adventure: chapter 5

  1. OMG what an awesome surprise!! I’ve been dying to read this chapter!! Thanks sooo much for not giving up on doing these books!!

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