This chapter took longer than it needed. I thus hate it for tormenting me like that, although I'm not sure if it's really worth the hate. Even so, I'm just glad I got this over with.
Ah, well. Hopefully you'll enjoy.
“Where did you guys want to be dropped off at?”
Kari's question was like a dope slap upside Gatomon's head. “Uh... we didn't talk about that,” she mumbled, glancing up at Wizardmon. He found her blank expression to be amusing.
Once the Digi-Port was booted up, the girl blinked at the coordinates. “Was this where you went to, Gatomon?”
Ears twitching, the feline looked over on tip-toe. “In the canyon? Yeah.”
She scarcely gave it a second glance before shrugging it off, facing the Digimon with a smile on her face. “Are you two ready?”
Nodding in unison, they turned toward Yuuko and Susumu, who were off to the side in a relatively neutral stance. Taking notice of the placid smile on the woman's face, Wizardmon bowed. “Thank you for your hospitality,” he said. “I apologize for any wrongdoings I may have caused.”
“It's not your fault,” Yuuko said, waving a hand. “I'm sorry for the way I acted yesterday. I promise it won't happen again.” Her husband patted her shoulder as he nodded in agreement.
“It's understandable. It was all unexpected, so naturally it would throw everything off.”
Gatomon wryly nibbled on the inside of her lip as she glanced away. She figured he was able to get on their good side after the rocky start, but inwardly, she had a feeling that even if he were to visit regularly, things wouldn't change between them. Adults, she had noticed, were hard to convince and be accepting to change.
Kari pulled out her D-3, and beamed at her parents. “I'll be back in a few minutes.” Then holding it to the screen, she shouted, “Digi-Port, open!”
In succession, they were pulled into the light and breezed through cyberspace. The two momentarily caught up to her just as they jumped out of the TV—and immediately hobbled backward away from the edge. Smoothing back her hair, the girl looked around in thought.
“This place feels familiar,” she muttered, almost to herself.
Gatomon wasn't sure if she wanted to point out where the World of Dreams was located. In slight distraction, she frowned down at the television set Wizardmon had made and turned it away from the cliff. He didn't notice as he remarked, “Two days ago aside, I'm getting a nostalgic feeling here. Is that how you feel, Kari?”
“Eh... more like an uneasiness.” She shot them a smile as she shifted her weight. “So, where are you two going to go?”
Once again, Gatomon's mind was backhanded by the question. “I dunno. Did you have any ideas, Wiz?”
“Wherever the wind carries us.”
The feline let out a disgruntled sigh, ears flattened. “Some help you are.”
Kari giggled. “Would it be possible for me to join you?”
“I personally don't mind,” Wizardmon said, sounding pleased.
Gatomon's mood lifted, leaning in her direction. “Yeah, same here, but if you have things to do today...”
“Far as I know I don't, but it was really more of a wonder than something I wanted to do.” She laid a finger delicately on her chin with a wink. “I figured I'd leave you two alone the whole week.”
“You're still welcome to join us anytime,” he invited.
Kari clasped her hands together. “Thanks, I'll consider it.”
Gatomon didn't know why she felt relieved for a brief moment. “We'll still come back to visit next week,” she said to shake it off. “Wizardmon may be back, but it doesn't mean I should forget my partner.”
“If I knew my being here was going to be a wedge in your friendship, I wouldn't have come back,” he said, sounding serious. “Your relationship comes first, as it always should be.”
Glancing at the tag hanging from the girl's neck, the feline smiled. “You're right, Wiz. Though now I have two relationships to juggle.”
Kari laughed. “Tai may be moving out next year, but I don't think it gives Wizardmon a free pass to stay every two weeks.”
“If Gatomon wants to visit, I won't stop her. It's not going to kill me each time she does—that was a poor choice of words,” Wizardmon ended up muttering, rubbing his chin with furrowed brows.
Gatomon chose to ignore it. “And since the DigiWorld and human world run on the same time, you wouldn't have to wait years for me every single time.”
He perked up. “Oh, did everything get reset? That would explain why this doesn't feel like the same Digital World I last was in.”
Stretching her arms out as she sighed, Kari rocked on her heels. “Well, we have a whole week to figure it out. If you get any ideas, let me know, okay?”
She knelt on a knee to scoop her Digimon into a hug. “I'm glad you won't have to be alone anymore,” she whispered in her ear. “I don't want to be the wedge in your friendship.”
The feline felt like her heart dropped, only to quickly dismiss it to pat her back. “Thanks, Kari...”
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Kari reached into her pocket to pull out a camera. “I want to commemorate this moment.”
Gatomon shot a slightly gratified look at Wizardmon, and the two nodded in unison. She remained at her partner's side as her friend stepped to where she gestured him to kneel. The brunette leaned in closer and held the camera at arm's length, eying the position of the lens.
“Alright, if I'm gonna get this right, gotta squeeeeze in,” she muttered to herself, steadying her arm. “Big grins!”
The shutter went off just as Wizardmon reached up to fix his hat, though the other two didn't notice until they checked in the menu. “Ooh, good thinking there, Wizardmon,” Kari noted, beaming down at it. She reached out to lovingly stroke her Digimon's head. “Yeah, having Gatomon in the middle balanced it out.”
The Champion only pursed her lips at the squint she was making in the photo, and let her gaze wander over the rest of it. She had come to admire her partner's skill in photographing, even if the girl said she did it for fun and thought she wasn't great at it. Though at the same time, she envied how she could hold the camera, one of the few times she wished she had thumbs.
Wizardmon personally didn't like how his mouth was partially visible, but didn't want to comment on it as he smiled over at Kari when he stood. “I'd like a copy, if it's possible.”
Gatomon did a double-take while the DigiDestined laughed. “Sure, I can print it out! I'll give it to you next week.”
Picking herself up and dusting off her knees, Kari waved. “You two take care.”
He smiled with his eyes. “I'll bring her back safe and sound.”
“Why don't I like the sound of that?” Gatomon flatly asked.
Beaming, the girl disappeared through the TV set, which turned off the moment she was through. The sick sensation didn't leave with her, a feeling the white cat couldn't put her claw on why. It had been a long time since she had last felt heavy when Kari left, the last she could remember being six years ago—although back then, she had believed they were never going to see each other again. As it wasn't a hunch or a premonition, she figured it would pass eventually.
Rolling her shoulders back, Gatomon turned her attention to the sky when her mind suddenly drew blanks. “Now what?” she muttered, peering over at him for ideas.
His expression remained unchanged. “We start walking.”
“Where to? As long as it's not off the cliff.” She gestured to the edge behind them.
His brow quirked like he had the same idea. “We can just fly over to the other side.”
She didn't want to humor him. “Well, I don't know where to go.”
“Question: where do you go after coming back from the Kamiya house?”
“Uh...” She shrugged, giving him a disconcerted look. “Wherever I feel like going.”
“And that's what we're going to do. And I feel like heading east.”
Wizardmon pointed with his staff. “Directly in front of us.”
Gatomon scoffed, but trudged along. “So what are we going to do as we head east?”
His eyes twinkled under the shade. “Whatever we want as long as it doesn't involve bodily harm.”
Her eyelids drooped. “Yeah, no, I'll probably end up smacking you sometime this week if you keep this up.”
His smile grew lop-sided. “Your jokes are cruel.”
She shook her head to study their surroundings. Whichever region they were in had nothing but mountains surrounding them, though the sky was luckily cloudy. “Oh, Wizardmon, how far away is this place from Myotismon's castle?”
He scanned the area. “I don't recognize the mountain ranges. I would consult the map, but I fear it may be outdated.”
“...yeah, that's going to be a problem,” she grumbled.
“Why do you ask?”
She gave a half-hearted shrug. “I kinda want to visit someone, and he lives on the outskirts of a forest near the mountains.”
“Well then, if you're in a hurry—”
She quickly side-stepped when he made a leaning motion. “I'm in no hurry to see him,” she verbalized her point. “We'll walk the entire way if we must.”
Wizardmon didn't appear fazed, although he readjusted his cowl. “Very well. It wouldn't hurt to get a new map, though.”
Gatomon looked him over before shrugging. “Not that I think a map would do us any good since he lives in a lake, but okay.”
“In a lake?”
“Oh, did I forget to mention that?” She smirked before it quickly faltered to a grimace. “You could say he's... waterlogged.”
Meanwhile, as Gennai was finishing his breakfast, his nose tingled, but managed to stifle back a sneeze before he swallowed. With a sniff, he looked outside at the lake, up to where the surface was.
“I must be expecting a visitor,” he mused to himself.
“I'm heading out, Mom.”
Yuuko looked up from her catalogues as Kari entered the kitchen for a quick snack. “Do you have some place to be?” she asked.
Taking one of the wrapped rice balls on the counter, she shook her head. “Not really. I may visit a friend's place, but I'm just going out for a while.”
“Well, you wouldn't mind stopping by the mart on your way home, would you?” The woman pulled out a pen and paper that she began scribbling on.
Her daughter gave a shrug, saying, “I can if you want me to.” Excusing herself, she hurried to her room to grab her purse, doing a double-take at the D-Terminal before deciding to take it with her. Passing by to the door, she was handed money and the list that she skimmed as she put on her shoes. “Would Dad want anything?”
“Well, he's not here to say. I'm sure the doria will be filling to him.”
Kari could still hear the twinge of contempt in her tone, knowing it wasn't over the food. With a smile and wave, she announced her departure and lightly stepped out for the city. After reaching the sidewalk where she slowed, she began to look over the list as she tucked the money inside the purse's pouch.
“Huh, guess she did save that seafood for something,” she muttered.
Folding it into her pocket, the DigiDestined began to pick up her pace only to take out her D-Terminal. Sticking close to the far side, she searched through the messages, decided to reply back to Davis' more recent e-mail, then stopped at the flagged mysteries in her inbox. She steadily frowned the longer she looked between them, wishing she had a reference on her to make the translations. Knowing it wasn't going to stop nipping at her, she settled to get to the bottom of it.
Izzy, I'm forwarding these two messages to you. I need a translation.
Once it sent, Kari took a breath to clear her mind, but couldn't help losing herself to her thoughts. She had more questions than answers, and the circumstances surrounding Wizardmon's return bothered her more than it should have. He and Gatomon never gave all of the details, but she had waved it off then out of her excitement to see him again. Now alone to herself, as much as she didn't want to pry into it, there was the nagging feeling something wasn't right.
All of last week, Gatomon was miserable from being sick, then she inexplicably seemed to get well once Wizardmon came back. And as miraculous as his return may have been, it was almost like it was normal that they never treated it as a special occasion outside of a tearful reunion. In not once pressuring them into explaining what really happened, both before, during and afterwards, it quickly came to a point it was like he had never left. Nothing about it was making sense, they had to have either missed or overlooked something in the process.
Kari hated questioning it. She was truly happy for them, yet deep down, she couldn't help being saddened by it. Things weren't going to be much different, so they say, but she knew better. Gatomon had always been strong and independent, and with the differences between the two worlds, it was no surprise they were slowly but surely starting to drift apart. She loved her Digimon, and she would never give up their friendship for anything, however, she never wanted it to control their own personal lives. As much as she would love to spend every moment with her, it was impossible and selfish, and she knew high school was definitely going to bring about problems after seeing it between Tai and Agumon.
Wizardmon would never even think of keeping them apart, though he made it sound like he was willing to sacrifice his time and friendship with Gatomon just so she could be with her. A selfless act, she couldn't deny it, but it still felt something was being ripped out of her at the mere thought of it. She had to keep reminding herself Digimon were different from people, so perhaps it was normal? Not that it never happened between people, as she thought back to Tai's friendship between Sora and Matt.
The comparison unintentionally made her smirk. That had to have been an inappropriate example, comparing her dilemma to that of her brother's.
The beeps made her think it was Davis replying to her. Glad to have a distraction, she wasted no time in opening it up only to blink at Izzy's name. “Well, no use ignoring it,” she sighed as she pressed a button.
The first message says, “Go to the World of Dreams”, and the second says, “It's open in the Digital World”. There's no known sender, but why was it only sent to your e-mail? Did you talk to them? Why was it about the World of Dreams?
Chewing on her lip, she replied back,
I didn't have it on me, but I have a good idea of who it was and to whom. I was just wondering what they said is all. Thanks.
She let out another breath. “What's going on?” she mumbled.
Startled by her ringtone going off, Kari quickly drew out her cellphone for a glance, and then smiled as she answered. “Tai, hey!” she cheerfully greeted, closing the D-Terminal.
“Whoops, meant to call the house number. Fingers must've slipped.”
She laughed, shaking her head. “Sure, Tai, you just can't go long periods without talking to someone.”
“I can, too!” he defended, a smile in his voice. “I'm filling out an application, I just forgot to bring the address book with me. I was going to put down Joe as a contact.”
She briefly wondered when he last updated the addresses. “I don't know his information, I'm out-and-about right now.”
He snorted. “Figures. Are Gatomon and Wizardmon with you?”
“They're in the DigiWorld for the week.”
“So soon? I wanted to see them off.”
“Sorry, but they wanted to go early.”
Tai made an “eh” sound like he shrugged. “I don't blame them. They probably just want some time to themselves for a while.”
Kari came to a stop, resting up against a nearby wall. “Say, Tai? This might sound a bit off-kilter, but isn't six years a little... too soon? Or even a little too late?”
There was a slight change in tone. “What makes you say that?”
“I'm happy he's back because Gatomon can be happy,” she said, noticing she was growing solemn. “But in those six years, Gatomon was happy. Outside of the annual Odaiba Memorial, we rarely ever brought him up. In fact, it was better off that way. I can only think of one time Gatomon had nightmares or some kind of emotional breakdown over it, and when we had a talk about it, she was fine.”
There was a pause. “Kari, what are you getting at?”
Her voice steadily lowered. “I'm saying Gatomon has changed, but Wizardmon hasn't, at least from what she has told me—well, not directly. It's to be expected, I suppose, but I worry it could put a strain on their friendship. The only reason they became friends was because they had no one else to turn to or to lean on. Gatomon's become a different person ever since she met me, and even then she doesn't rely on me for her own happiness.”
Those weren't her thoughts, they couldn't be. So she was sad about it, yes, but she had to be running around in circles at this point, or trying to come up with excuses for why it bothered her. She would be singing praises about it if it had been any other day or place.
Tai caught on quick. “They both seem to be aware of that. There's no need to worry.”
“I know. I just think it's sad for close friends to drift apart.” It wasn't a good sign if she was derailing from her original point. From the way it stung her heart, however, she wasn't sure if she was talking about Gatomon and Wizardmon, or Gatomon and herself.
“We've all had friends we've lost touch with. I don't think Digimon's concept of friendship is any different from ours.”
That was so like Tai knowing what to say. Kari supposed she could score one point for similarities in that regard, yet her face still slowly fell the more she thought on it. “No... I think it's more like a purpose.”
“A purpose?” Tai echoed. “Like it was programmed into them to want a companion?”
“Something like that.” She gently rubbed her thumb along the casing of the fake tag and crest. “You know how our Digimon partners have waited for us for all those digital years, and how much it saddens them each time we part for long periods of time?”
He hummed a little, clearly not agreeing with her there. “I think that's on a more different level, but I can see it being similar.”
Even she didn't know where she was going with that. “Well, I sometimes wonder that the only reason Gatomon's stayed as strong as she is is because we're together. If Wizardmon had died sooner or never became her friend before she and I met, I don't think she would've lived.”
“Because she had no purpose?” he hesitantly said. She could just imagine him with a perplexed expression. “Well, what about the possibility of her becoming a completely different Digimon? Like if she just remained evil?”
“Yeah, I suppose there's that. But something tells me that this purpose she has, whatever it is, is the same purpose Wizardmon has. And I think it could ruin their friendship even though that's how they became friends in the first place.”
“You're worrying about it too much, Kari.” It was blunt, knocking some sense back into her. “I doubt that's an actual purpose that can be programmed into a non-partnered Digimon.”
Once her heart began calming down, she nodded. “I hope you're right,” she whispered. “I don't want to see his return be in vain.”
She imagined he would've ruffled her hair if he was there in person. “You take care of yourself, Kari. I'll hopefully be home by dinner.”
“Be careful, Tai.”
Hanging up, she sighed and drew out the rice ball to open up. Dismissing the message alert, she turned her eyes thoughtfully to the sky.
Gatomon came to an abrupt halt, her fur standing on end. “Hold up, Wizardmon.”
He blinked down at her, taking in the peculiar, but familiar stance. “What is it, Gatomon?”
She sniffed the air and swiveled her ears about. “It's Agumon. He's nearby.”
He quickly recalled the stout reptilian Digimon, and cast his eyes about the rocky area. “Ah, does he live around these parts?”
“He wanders, but this looks like the kind of area he frequents.”
“And this is the Agumon we're talking about, yes, and not a whole herd?”
Her face then scrunched, giving him a slight dirty look as she walked on. “I don't want to get the whiff of a herd of Agumon,” she hissed. “One's already enough.”
“That's mean of you to say,” he said as a smirk curled behind his cowl.
“Get a face full of Pepper Breath, and then come back to me.”
She plodded by a large boulder, and immediately she skirted around for the other end. She let out a sigh to find he was snoozing, a small pile of what had to be chicken bones beside him. “Should I bother him or not?” she mumbled to herself, paw tucked under her chin.
Wizardmon walked up behind her, glancing between the two Digimon. “Gatomon, what are you thinking of?” he asked in a near-warning tone.
Her tail gently whipped about, still in thought. “I wonder if Tai's told him yet.”
They stood there in silence for a few moments, watching as he limply scratched at his belly before snoring. The Wizard Digimon rubbed at his neck with a frown. “It's nice that he happened to be in the same area, but we should leave him be.”
“I want to ask him where the nearest map is.”
He raised a brow at how quick she answered. “I have a hard time believing that.”
Agumon suddenly snorted, and he jerked himself awake. Blinking idly, he looked over and grew alert, sitting up with a loud crick that briefly chilled them. “Oh, Gatomon! It's been a while!”
She brought herself to laugh. “Yeah, it has.”
“How're you doing? I heard from Tai you were sick.”
Even though the two hadn't seen each other for a month, it cleared up Gatomon's question on if they were still talking. “I'm better now, thanks for asking. I, well, we have something to ask of you.” She gestured to her friend, shifting her weight.
Agumon gave Wizardmon a curious stare as he bowed, then turned back to her. “Did you make a new friend?”
So he hadn't yet been told. “No, he's Wizardmon, remember?”
He nodded, a brow lowered. “I do, but he's a ghost.”
“I returned two days ago,” the mage answered.
“Oh.” Then it was like he got smacked upside the head, and once recovered, hurried to his feet. “Oh, welcome back, Wizardmon!”
Gatomon pinched her brows. Neither of them seemed to have noticed.
“You stayed in the human world for a bit? So how did Mrs. Kamiya take to you?”
Wizardmon rubbed the back of his neck. “She brandished a broom at me.”
Agumon laughed. “Sounds like you got the wrong end of the stick.”
The sorcerer grinned down at Gatomon. “He's Tai's partner, alright.”
“Hilarious,” she grumbled, dropping her arm. “Agumon, do you happen to have a map or know of any around here? Or at least the coordinates we're currently in?”
“Hmm...” The dinosaur rubbed his chin and glanced behind them. “You look like you came from the direction of the canyon. Where are you headed?”
He lifted his arms apologetically. “I don't have a map. I just know he's just past some mountains.”
“If you knew that, Gatomon, I could've flown us there,” Wizardmon pointed out, almost tongue-in-cheek.
A little irritated, she immediately waved him off. “Which mountains?”
Agumon thought a little bit more, looking around. “I don't think he's over those mountains,” he said, almost in a mulling tone. “There's a forest past them, but it's not the same one.”
Gatomon ran her paws over her face with a huff, and kicked at the dirt. “Ugh, the DigiWorld changes so much, I wouldn't be surprised if he lived in a mountain by now.”
Looking between her and Wizardmon, he suggested, “If you need directions, Tentomon or Izzy can give them to you.”
“It's nothing important anyway.” Sighing, the feline gave him a small smile, her face softening. “Nice seeing you again, Agumon.”
Her companion gave a nod when she turned to leave. “You take care of yourself.”
As he watched the pair walk side-by-side, Agumon couldn't help breaking into a toothy grin and calling after them, “Congratulations to you two!”
They paused to look at him. “Huh?” Gatomon uttered in confusion.
Realizing he was too vague, he amended, “In that you're together again. What else?”
Meeting each other's stares, the small Champion tilted her head with a smile, and waved at the Rookie. “Thanks,” was all she said before she picked up her pace, Wizardmon right behind her.
Yawning, Agumon contemplated going back to sleep, but a slight concern ended up nipping at the back of his mind. Once they were out of sight, he started his hunt for the nearest television set.
Cutting knife still in hand, Yuuko peered around the wall to smile at her son as he kicked his shoes off. “You're early, Tai. How'd it go? Get anything set up?”
Kari looked over as well when he let out a sigh, his shoulders rolled back. “It's probably because I'm still a student, so I haven't gotten anything. I even put down 'part-time', and still nothing.”
Their mother smiled in assurance and returned to chopping vegetables. “You still have six months, give them time,” she said as he walked over for the computer room. “Though depending on the college you're attending, you might not start working until after you graduate.”
Tai let out a quiet snort. “Well, that's comforting to know,” he muttered in a near-dry tone, flipping on the light when he entered.
When he disappeared behind the door, the young brunette dropped her eyes to the sink, feeling as if a weight was pressing down on her. She briefly glanced over at the refrigerator where a photograph was right above the calendar, greeting (or taunting) her with immortalized smiles of them when they were young, his hair still bushy but not as wild and her bangs still hanging in her face. It was almost odd to see and remember such immaturity from the past. Even if their appearances were hardly any different from when they were children, she couldn't say they were the same.
“Kari, you look like you have something on your mind.”
Distracted from her thoughts, Kari nodded over at her mother. “Yeah, sorry, Mom,” she muttered, returning to washing the dishes.
Yuuko resumed cutting up the vegetables, but still peered over from the corner of her eye. “If you want to talk to Tai before he begins his studies, go ahead,” she casually said, a small smile in her voice.
Despite a brief hesitation, the girl dried her hands and slipped out of the kitchen to stand by the doorway, suddenly unsure how to talk to him. She didn't want to repeat their talk from earlier, but she still wanted some clarification. Taking a breath, she poked her head inside to find Tai hooking up the printer, the desktop loading on the monitor.
When he sat back with a sigh, he glanced over his shoulder and blinked. “Need something, Kari?”
She gave a small shrug, briefly averting her gaze. “Not really...”
He had an all-knowing look on his face before turning back to the computer to open a web browser. “You're still bothered by it.”
She couldn't help smiling sheepishly. “It's that obvious, huh?”
Tai quietly hemmed as he began typing away. “I think this is something you should talk to Gatomon about,” he simply responded, his tone-of-voice similar from that afternoon. “She'll understand.”
Kari slowly nodded, lightly gripping at an arm. “I just need to figure out how to approach her about it...”
An alert suddenly blared from the speakers that turning the knob didn't quiet down, though it mercifully lasted a couple of seconds. “What's going on in there?” Yuuko called out.
“It's just the dial-up!” Tai lied, watching as the Digi-Port scrolled into view. He quickly pushed himself away from the desk the moment light streamed through, though he grew relieved when it morphed into a familiar shape.
Once the light cleared and their eyes met, Agumon lifted a hand as he grinned. “Tai! Kari!”
They hid their concerns about the unannounced visit with pleasant smiling, and a welcoming fist bump between partners. “Yo, Agumon! You should've called us or something.”
The dinosaur tilted his head in puzzlement. “I don't know your phone number.”
“You know what I mean, you goof.” With a grin, Tai affectionately rubbed the top of his head.
Kari loved how the two interacted with one-another, having always admired how the two could be apart for long periods of time, and still be tight-knit friends like it was only for a few hours. While she had a similar relationship with Gatomon, it wasn't to the extent as theirs, if only because they had separate experiences. She had always felt more had happened between Tai and Agumon than what she had been told, but she never tried to pry it out of them.
Stepping further in, she calmly asked the Digimon, “Are you staying for a visit, Agumon?”
There came loud shuffling in the kitchen at that moment. Neither of them had to look to see what the commotion was about.
Lightly scratching at his cheek, Agumon said, “I don't think your mom's... happy about it.”
“She's had quite a week, didn't she?” Tai smirked to the side.
“She didn't like Wizardmon all too well, apparently.”
Their stomachs slightly flipped from the statement. “So did they visit you? That's nice of them.”
Nodding, the Dinosaur Digimon turned to Kari. “That's what I'm here about. Gatomon wants to go see Gennai.”
She blinked in intrigue. “What for?”
He shrugged. “She didn't say.”
Lips pursing, she raised a hand to her chin. “I wonder if it's because of the comment Izzy made.”
“What happened was Wizardmon crossed over into the real world virtually undetected,” Tai explained.
“He got around the firewall?” Agumon gasped.
The young man ran a hand through his bangs, shifting his weight. “Gennai couldn't identify him at all. Some important data was missing, apparently.”
The Rookie's brows rose. “In the system, or in Wizardmon?”
“Well, Gennai has information of or access to all the Digimon species in the Digital World, right?” Kari asked, which earned her a slight nod from her brother. “If he couldn't identify Wizardmon, that would mean he doesn't have anything on him.”
“You know, come to think of it, are there other Wizardmon out there?” Agumon questioned, frowning.
Tai folded his arms in thought. “There should be. Unless he's one of those rare or exotic types?”
“What confuses me more is that Gennai should know that,” the young brunette pointed out, mimicking him. “Who knows if an individual Digimon's information is kept, but one would think that there'd be more than one member of a Digimon species. So there has to be a record even if the species went extinct.”
Her brother sucked in a breath. “Well, the only other possible explanation would be that he's not a Digimon.”
They looked at each other in brief stunned silence as they took it in.
Tai continued his thoughts like he was backpedaling on it, “Then again... aren't all of the worlds linked together? Or in the same dimension?”
Kari gave half of a shrug, feeling mentally drained. “I'm saying 'no'. It would explain how out-of-touch the World of Dreams and the Dark Ocean are, although it doesn't explain how we could go there.”
“This is getting confusing,” Agumon moaned, rubbing his head. “And all of this talk is making me hungry.”
The mood was loosened up when the DigiDestined laughed. “Looks like we need to let Mom know,” Tai said. He turned to his sister with a smile smile of assurance. “Guess we're thinking too deeply into this, which is fine, but don't let it bother you too much. Alright, Kari?”
She had to nod in agreement, only to let out a ragged sigh. “Although it wouldn't hurt to ask Izzy to look into it some,” she suggested, though more to herself.
“I'm thinking I should make myself a star chart.”
Gatomon peered over her cup at the mage across from her, his eyes cast to the starry night sky. “Why's that?” she asked, not meaning to sound disinterested from being tired.
His knowing smile was the one expression she had seen coming from the start. “The stars look different than what I remember them being.”
She took another sip of her drink and glanced over at the forest edge they were camping by. “I don't remember the night sky from before the reset,” she muttered her response, tapping the bowl with a claw. “The sky must've rearranged itself when it did.”
“The only reason I know this is because our constellations are missing.”
She raised a brow turning back to him. “Define 'our'.”
Wizardmon chuckled, although it was melancholic. “Ah, well, it doesn't matter anymore.” After swallowing down a spoonful, he inquired, “How's the tea?”
The subject change left a discomforting feeling behind, but she didn't want to press him on about it. “Oh, it's good. It feels like it would've been filling enough if we hadn't had food on us.”
“Was that before or after you started eating?”
Gatomon narrowed her eyes at the tease. “You're such a smart-ass,” she grunted, resuming her eating.
He looked flattered when he shrugged. “I'm just making an observation.”
She sneered at him until she dropped her gaze to the fire. It felt right then like she was on another reconnaissance mission, traveling long distances to find suitable Digimon for the Nightmare Army. Those days were some of the rare moments she was outside of the castle, and she could breathe if she didn't have to put up with colleagues she hated. If Wizardmon accompanied her, they sat away from the main camp and talked about anything, although they had their shares of silence she had appreciated.
It was a little funny how they always seemed to have bonded just by gathering around a campfire. Not that they hadn't while in the castle, but they had more “liberties” outside, it seemed. Perhaps it brought them full circle to their first meeting, or it was coincidence.
“Let's have a sparring match.”
She blinked up at him at the abrupt suggestion, ears perked in interest. “Seriously?”
“I don't see why not. It wouldn't hurt to keep up some training.”
Gatomon took in the sly gleam in his eye, starting to feel skeptical. “I'm not against the idea, but it's just for practice?”
The mock surprise on his face got her to fluster. “Hesitating, are we? If I recall correctly, you loved sparring matches.”
She didn't like his tone-of-voice right then. “I still do! It's just...” She trailed off, unsure how to word her reasoning.
Sparring back when they were soldiers had been more harsh and physical than what the practice usually was to toughen them up faster. Brought up once as an issue, their size differences were approached as a challenge and not a hindrance when they first trained together. They weren't looked upon by the other henchmen very well for it (not that anyone got along to begin with), which she hadn't cared for in the slightest even with the harassing that came about. As the two were rarely open with each other in public, sparring was one of the few times their closeness was observed regardless of how physical it would get, and the compatibility had to have been one of the reasons why they often went on reconnaissance missions together.
After watching the other Digimon partners and accidentally knocking out a couple of them, she had to learn to consciously “tone it down”, even with her tail ring removed. Regardless, she never felt she gained anything out of those short-lived matches and resorted to being a coach more often than not. Pumped at the thought of being able to go head-to-head with an old friend, she knew she'd be returning to her old habits more powerful than before, but still wondered if she should go all-out. She guessed he'd be the same in strength and stamina, a thought that surprisingly disappointed her.
Wizardmon had to have sensed her reluctance. “It's alright, Gatomon. I don't care if you're stronger than me.”
Lips pursed, the feline glanced over questionably at the calm expression present on his face. Did he have to be so nonchalant about it? Steadily inhaling through her nose, she couldn't help rolling her eyes to the sky as she yielded. “Okay, then,” was her quiet answer as she set down her bowl before standing.
They stepped off a ways from the fire to face each other. Though both were looking forward to it, their postures were mismatched: Gatomon had a paw lazily rested on a hip, while Wizardmon had his wand poised defensively before him. The longer she stared at his amused gaze, the more she felt a need to punch him in the face, but she pushed it back.
Her tail swayed gently when she asked, “How do you want to do this?”
He just shrugged. “However you want.”
She flexed a paw. “Who's making the first move?”
“Ah, good point.” He drew out a coin from his vest and flipped it. “Call it.”
The smile that flashed on his face was indicative enough before he announced the reveal, “Alright, let's see what you got—ha!”
When he blocked her kick with his staff, the feline swiftly dropped to sweep her tail at his feet, only for him to catch himself with levitation to flip back around. With a snap and point of his fingers, bolts of blue electricity struck the ground before her, blinding her with a flash and blast of dirt until a bright orb sent her flying. She landed on her front paws, then launched forward with her claws extended, swiping at Wizardmon in quick successions. Not bothering to back off out of her range, he blocked or dodged with relative ease despite some snags in cloth here and there, then threw out punches that she also weaved around.
It was once he tossed away his wand that Gatomon came to loosen up with him and feel themselves move as one entity. So what if six years may have widened a gap between them? She could feel it closing up in those few minutes alone.