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Fanfic » Anime » Digimon » By Unseen Forces font size: (+) : (-)
Author: Artisan of the Written Word
R - English - Romance/Action/Adventure - Reviews: 171 - Publish date: 02-14-01 - Updated: 07-18-01 storyid: 209419



BY UNSEEN FORCES

THE CRISIS

By Artisan of the Written Word

A/N: HEY! I'M BACK!!! Bigger, better, and uncut! (No, I have not seen the South Park movie, but at least I know the title.) Now on with business.

SPECIAL, SPECIAL THANKS TO KIMARU, WHO UPLOADED "CAN YOU HEAR ME?" (The last part of the How to Fly series) FOR ME! I could go on and on on how she has been, like, the BEST best friend to me. Thanks! I dunno what I'd do without you sometimes! It's great that I found a friend like you that I can trust!

DEDICATION: To anybody out there who has felt that things are out of control, well, sometimes that can be fixed by someone special.

DISCLAIMER: Do I have to? *sigh* I don't own Digimon. I don't own anything but the plot and that stuff. This is *totally* original, so I'd like to take credit for it.

Okey-dokee, amigos. Here goes nothing. My brand-new series, BY UNSEEN FORCES.

Let the show begin!



BY UNSEEN FORCES: THE CRISIS

1

just like any normal day



"Come on, Tai! The water is fine!" Sora shouted to Tai. He looked at her skeptically.

"You're not exactly worthy of my trust, Takenouchi," he said snootily. She looked a bit hurt, but knew he was being sarcastic.

"What's not to trust about me? I'm your best friend and you've never doubted me before! Besides, it's summer break! Have a little fun!" she said playfully. Tai shook his head, not sure what to make of the situation. It was summer break; it had started just a few hours ago. They had just finished their junior year in high school with one more year to go. As a tradition, Tai and Sora had always done something to celebrate it. This time it had been swimming, but Tai just didn't feel like going in. Sora had been trying to convince him, but he, decked out in yellow swimming trunks, was being a chicken.

"I will, but I'm not sure I want to swim right now," he said. Sora suddenly squinted her eyes at him. He looked at her, annoyed. "What?!" She shook her head.

"I'm sorry, I thought I came with Tai. Man, Davis, you and Tai look a lot alike," she said seriously. Tai's mouth dropped open. She was mistaking him for Davis? That was too mean to even be a joke.

"Why you little- fine. I'm coming in, but don't say I didn't warn you!" he shouted as he came splashing into the water. Sora laughed and rolled her eyes.

"What are you going to do? Splash me to death?" Tai smiled mischievously and stalked her playfully, his hands forming claws in the air.

"No, I'm going to... tickle you to death!" he yelled as he dove onto her in the warm waves of the ocean. Sora half-screamed, half-laughed as he began to tickle her mercilessly.

"Stop it, Tai! You don't fight fair!" she managed to gasp, but she kept laughing. She was actually enjoying the closeness to him. She felt safe within his grasp, even if he was just a best friend. He finally stopped, leaving her a bit disappointed. She managed to wipe the downcast expression off of her face as she pushed herself away from him, a devilish grin appearing instead.

"All's fair in war, Sora," he said with his famous lop-sided grin. She shook her head, the devilish grin disappearing.

"Actually, all's fair in love and war, Tai," she said, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips. He looked at her, a completely bewildered look on his face. She just laughed. "Race you!" she said suddenly and began to swim full speed out to the ocean.

"Hey! No fair! You got a head start!" he called after her. Without wasting any more time, he dived deep into the water and began to swim. Soon enough, he caught up to her and tugged on her leg. The salt was stinging his eyes, but he had to see her reaction. Sora dove underwater and pushed Tai downward. He smirked inwardly and kept swimming. Finally, his breath began to run out and he made a break for the surface, where Sora was waiting for him.

"Oh, who's playing fair now?" she asked, panting slightly. Her hair made her look like she had just been caught in the pouring rain, but Tai looked like a drowned rat. He began to tread water.

"Doesn't matter. Truce?" he asked, barely able to stick a hand out to shake with her. Sora shook her head and put up a pinky. He put his hand down as she did and began to tread water a little bit more to keep his head above water. "Aren't we a little old for that?" She shook her head again.

"Some things you never get too old for, Tai," she said matter-of-factly. He nodded.

"Suppose so. Here." He stuck out his pinky and she quickly grabbed it with her own and shook.

"Now it's settled," she said, still panting. Sora looked toward shore and almost gasped. They had come a long way out. They had better start heading back.

"Where's Matt and the others? Aren't they supposed to be here?" Tai asked.

"I don't know. Should we have waited for them?" He shook his head.

"Nah. They're wimps for not showing up early." He began to tread water faster, feeling his muscles get tired. "Can we head back, Sora? My legs are hurting." She nodded.

"Mine, too. I was thinking about being a lifeguard this summer, but I need to get my legs in shape if I'm going to," she said as she began to swim back for shore. Tai looked at her strangely as he swam beside her.

"What the heck are you thinking? Tennis and soccer got you in shape a long time ago. You just didn't stretch before you got in," he told her confidently. She smiled.

"If you say so, Tai. Stop talking and start swimming," she commanded, but the smile remained on her face. Tai believed in her, and that was more than enough evidence for her. Tai began to tell her to stop being his mother when a fierce cramp struck him in his thigh.

"Ahh! Sora! A little help here!" he cried as the pain fixated itself in the most powerful part of his leg. She turned to look at him, still panting, but a look of horror on her face.

"What's wrong?" she asked frantically.

"Damn cramp!" he exclaimed furiously. He looked toward shore and felt something sink in his stomach. They were too far out for Sora to help him swim in. Sora looked at him in dumbstruck terror.

"I don't know what to do!" she cried. Tai looked at her and tried to make himself calm down; two extremely terrified people weren't going to make the situation any better.

"Just calm down, Sora!" he said, but the pain on his face was almost enough to make him say otherwise.

"What the heck are you telling me that for? You could drown out here!" she exclaimed angrily. Tai glared at her.

"Thanks for being positive, Sora," he said just as angrily.

"Tread water, Tai!" she said. Tai looked at her stupidly.

"What the heck do you think I'm doing?" he asked her. He was kicking with his good leg, but that one was beginning to hurt, too.

"Let's start toward shore, Tai," she said, trying to calm herself down. He nodded reluctantly and began to wage war against his protesting muscles. Then, what he had silently prayed wouldn't happen, did. His other leg gave out.

"I can't make it, Sora!" he cried, letting his terror show through. She looked back at him, fear etched deep within her beautiful features.

"I'm not leaving you, Tai!" she called to him.

"Go get help, Sora!" he shouted to her before sinking below the surface.

"Tai? Tai? TAI!!!"

2

a task to ask of courage



As Tai began to sink below the surface of the water, all he was aware of was the warmth of the ocean around him, the bite of the salt at his eyes, and the air escaping from in between his lips.

Finally, as he slowly sank, the air supply from within his lungs was exhausted. Tai just closed his eyes, prayed that it wouldn't hurt, and took in a deep breath of ocean water.

It did hurt. The salt hurt his nose and scratched the back of his throat. The water burned his lungs, and he thought that was what would kill him. He felt like he was in a room that had no air in it. He opened his eyes again and watched as darkness invaded his sight.

He opened his eyes again and was almost blinded by white light.

"Ahh! Shut it off! Shut it off!" he cried, putting up his hands in front of his eyes. Wait... There was no water around him and he could breathe... Was this-

"No, it's not," a voice said sharply. Tai spun around, squinting and trying to make out anything besides the colored dots that speckled his vision. He thought he recognized the voice, but he really couldn't tell. "It's not Heaven, but it's not Hell."

"Who are you?" Tai asked, still having his hand in front of his face. There was a laugh.

"You don't remember me?" the voice asked. Tai began to think. The voice was that of a man, but a very old one. It sounded very familiar, but it also sounded like someone he knew a long, long time ago...

"Gennai?"

"That's right, my young friend." Tai stood, his jaw practically unhinged from his face.

"But how-"

"No time for that. I need you to listen very carefully." Tai nodded, still trying to see the old man, but having great difficulty with the colored dots in his vision. "There is a new threat to the Digital World. This one, however, could kill the Digidestined first." Tai's eyes grew wide, finally able to see the seriousness on the old man's face, but kept quiet. "The evil forces in the Digital World have released an army of minions through the gate to the real world. Demons, in your terms. The Good Forces of the Digital World caught wind of their plan. The only way to stop it is to warn you that they are coming. They will start a chain reaction. Since you are the Digidestined, you have been submitted to extremely unusual situations. This has put you at a disadvantage in this case. You will have to protect one of the Digidestined. If she dies, then all of you will follow her. If there are no Digidestined, there will be no Digital World, and there will be no Earth." Tai stood stock still, trying to capture the jest of what he was saying.

"Who do we have to protect?" he asked. Gennai shook his head.

"No, who do you have to protect, you mean. Courage is the only one that can ward off the Demons, since they are your exact opposite- cowardice. This girl you have to protect is the link to the destruction of all mankind. All you have to do is be around her and protect her and the demons won't be able to harm her. If, as time passes, the Good Forces have not been able to defeat the supplier of the Demons, it will become much harder for you to protect her."

"So you're saying that I have to protect one of the Digidestined day and night for who knows how long. If this girl that I have to protect dies, then the rest of the Digidestined will die, too? Why?"

"As I said, you all have been exposed to extremely odd situations, making you all closer to each other than most humans. When this girl dies, the person she is closest to will die next.... of grief. Then, when that person dies, the person that was closest to them dies, too. It is extremely easy to predict the exact pattern of the chain, but I believe that is something that you would not want to do unless you want to be completely negative about the situation."

"Who sent the Demons?"

"The Assembly of Sin, or the Council of Evil, whichever you prefer. The Assembly or Sin exists in Negative Space, so the Good Forces cannot reach them." Tai pondered this for a second. Gennai seemed impatient. "Hurry, boy! You are going to go back soon! There isn't that much time!"

"Can I see the Demons?" Gennai nodded slowly.

"Yes, you can."

"How will I know it's them?" Gennai shuddered visibly. Tai became worried that he had asked the old man the wrong question.

"Oh, you will know when you see them, my young friend. You will know."

"Who am I to protect?" Tai asked, both excited at the feeling of being needed again and terrified that "Demons" were after one of them... Possibly even his sister. Gennai sighed and heaved his shoulders, deep in thought.

"Her face will shine down upon you when you wake from this deep slumber. You will know her name, for it is etched into your heart. They will do anything to kill her, Tai! This isn't a game. She will certainly die if you do not protect her. You must not let the Assembly of Sin overcome the Good Forces!" he exclaimed. Tai nodded furiously.

"Okay, okay! I got the point!"

"I hope so. For the love of humanity and the fate of two worlds, I hope so." Tai was about to say something when a strange sensation shot through his body. He looked down at his chest and saw that he was beginning to fade.

"What's happening, Gennai?"

"You are being brought back! Do not forget what I said, Tai!"

"I won't," he said, but he was more interested in what was happening to him. He could feel something soft being pressed against his lips as his chest began to rise up slowly, but then something was pressing down on his chest, making all the air go out. Suddenly, a bright flash of light blinded Tai again. He felt himself being pulled fiercely through a cold tunnel. There was a light at the end of it. He entered the light and was blinded again.

The first thing that he could hear was the ocean waves crashing against the shore.



3

the girl is no longer a mystery



Tai felt something press against his lips again.

"Dammit, Tai! Wake up!" he heard someone scream. The voice sounded vaguely familiar, but he dismissed it. He remembered what Gennai said with sudden clarity. When he opened his eyes, the girl's face would shine down upon him. Her name was etched into his heart. Who could it be? It was one of the Digidestined, so it could be Sora, Yolei, Mimi, or Kari. Mimi wasn't supposed to be in Japan, but hey? Anything can happen. "Wake up, dammit!" Well, he couldn't very well remember any of the Digidestined cussing like this, especially Sora or Mimi, so it must be either Yolei or Kari. He felt the sudden urge to cough, so he began to, hacking so hard he thought his kidneys would come up. He felt a rush of hot water come out through his mouth and his lungs become empty. He fell back on to his back and took a deep breath of salty ocean air. Wondering who the girl could be that cussed like that and he had to protect, Tai opened his eyes.

At first, he couldn't make out who it was. All he was aware of was that she looked, well, beautiful. The sunlight shone down behind her head, illuminating the space around her like an angel in a picture. He could make out a faint red outline to her hair, but that was about it. There was something piercing about the way this girl was looking at him. He couldn't make out the color of her eyes, but he knew there was something special about them. The way this person was staring at him made both fear and a foreign emotion stir in his heart. The fear was that this person was actually grieving for him. That foreign emotion was probably no other than love. He figured that if he could have actually seen her eyes, he would have seen the same emotions. That's probably what Gennai meant by her name being etched into his heart, but who could it be? He wasn't in love with anybody!! Not that he knew of, anyway. If this girl, however, was as beautiful as she seemed to be in the situation he was in right now, might change that completely. He could make out the slim shape of her body, almost making him lust after the figure with the ferocity of a pubescent teenager. Then, as her face became more into focus, all those feelings vanished as if they had never been there.

"Sora??"

Tai couldn't believe it. He thought Gennai meant that he was in love with the girl he had to protect! He wasn't in love with Sora. She was more like one of the guys than a girl at all. Sure, he loved her, but as a sister, not as a... a... lover. He didn't think of her as beautiful, either. He may have believed that she was pretty; he had no problem with admitting that, but beautiful? Sora looked down at him, her face wet with ocean water, but there was the unmistakable trail of tears leading from both eyes.

"Oh, Tai! Don't ever scare me like that again!" she cried. She reached down and hugged him as he sputtered water. "Oh, Tai, I was so scared!" she wailed. He sat up as best he could and gingerly put his arms around her as she collapsed into them out of fatigue. He looked up around him and saw a crowd of people around him. Matt, Izzy, Kari, T.K., and Davis were standing among them, looking on happily. Kari had obviously been crying, too, but T.K. had his arms wrapped around her consolingly. Tai growled inwardly, making a mental note to have a little chat with T.K. after this ordeal was over.

"I'm okay, Sora," he whispered to her. Tai looked around him again with sudden confusion. He was way up on the beach. "How did I end up on the beach?" he asked. Sora was too choked up to answer, but Matt answered for her.

"I got here when she was dragging you up on the beach, man. She pushed everyone away and gave you mouth to mouth," he explained. Tai looked at him in surprise. He had a vague memory of the feeling of pressure against his lips and then air being pushed out his chest. That feeling had been Sora giving him CPR. He blushed a little at the thought of Sora's lips being pressed against his own, but he dismissed it almost immediately.

"Sora dragged me up here???" he asked, his eyes wide in disbelief. Matt, T.K., Izzy, Kari, and Davis nodded.

"I don't see how she did it! You must weigh a ton, Tai!" Kari exclaimed. Tai didn't throw any insults at her.

"I don't see how she did it either!" he said finally. Sora stopped crying and sniffed a few times.

"Fear is a powerful motivator," she said quietly. Tai smiled at her.

"Thank you, Sora. You saved my life," he said gratefully. A few minutes passed by and Tai began to feel like he could walk again. He turned his attention the others, his expression turning grave. He paled noticeably. "I'm sorry to ruin your day, everyone, but we need to get to Sora's apartment. Right now." Everyone looked at him strangely.

"What for, Tai?" Davis asked. Tai shook his head.

"I'm not exactly sure, but I know it has to do with the Digital World." Izzy's jaw practically unhinged.

"Then let's get moving!" he shouted and began to run, but Matt caught his shoulder.

"Hold on, Iz. We've got to get Sora up, and she's exhausted from hauling Tai," he said worriedly. Tai looked down at Sora, who was still laying against his chest in a comatose-like state.

"I'll carry her. It's the least I can do since she saved my life," he said, facing the rest. T.K. nodded.

"Need any help?" Tai shook his head and began to get up, but felt his legs wobble underneath him.

"On the other hand, I just might," he said. T.K. helped Sora to her feet as Tai got his balance. Finally, Tai nodded and T.K. handed the girl over to him. Tai turned around with his back to her. "Come on, Sora. Hop on. You can do it," he encouraged. Sora tiredly put her hands around Tai's neck and jumped with all that was left in her, landing with her legs around his mid-section. She rested her head on his shoulder with her mouth next to his ear as they all began to walk at a fast pace. Tai felt a little woozy, but he was determined to make it.

Do you realize you just died, Tai? The thought both terrified and mystified the bearer of Courage.

"Email Joe, Yolei, Cody, and Ken. Tell them that the need to be over at Sora's apartment as soon as possible. Someone email Mimi and tell her that she needs to tune into our conversation over Sora's speakerphone. She can call us so we don't run up Sora's phone bill. We all have to talk about this. It's a threat to all of us," Tai said hurriedly. Kari looked at her brother in mild relief that he was all right and mild confusion to what he was so upset and excited about.

"No problem, Tai, but how do you know something is wrong in the Digital World? It's been a few years since we've even been there," she asked him. He sighed, but he couldn't breathe in very deep for fear of a coughing fit. Sora still had her head on his shoulder, breathing into his ear. The feeling was both comforting and tantalizing, but he pushed the feeling out of his mind.

"I saw Gennai. He told me all about this new threat. That's why I need to talk to you all right away," he said, quickening his step.

"Whatever you say," Matt said. Izzy was thinking non-stop.

What could it be? A new Mega-Digimon? An evil that possesses Digimon? A new Digimon emperor?

While Izzy's mind reeled at the possibilities, Kari and T.K. discussed between themselves what it could be as Davis looked on, pouting. He hadn't gotten over the fact that T.K. and Kari loved each other and were going out. Matt was thinking along the same lines as Izzy, but was not concentrating as much. Tai was thinking about the mystery girl. When he had opened his eyes, her face had shone down upon him.

Sora.

That means you won't be able to leave her side if what Gennai said was true, Tai. You'll have to be with her all the time.

It's the least I can do. She saved my life.

"Mmm... Tai?" Sora whispered into his ear, tickling him. He turned his head slightly.

"What, Sora?" She unconsciously readjusted her head to where her lips were even closer to his ear.

"I was so scared," she murmured. Tai put his head against hers in a comforting gesture; one that she had always loved.

"Thank you so much, Sora," he whispered, smiling. She scooted even closer to his ear, still acting unconsciously. He wasn't even sure if she knew she was having a conversation with him. She was exhausted and with good reason.

"Anything for a friend," she whispered back, a faint smile on her lips.



4

why it had to be sora



"What the heck is going on, Tai?" Mimi's voice asked irritably over the speaker phone. "It's really, really early here, you know." Tai sighed impatiently.

"Hold on, Mimi! Everyone has to be here for this! Even Joe!" he snapped. Mimi just stuck her tongue out at the phone. She could call and stay on the phone like this because of the size of her dad's wallet, but it was still really early and she could still get in trouble. She had gotten the email because she had her email device set on sound, so it would wake her up. Finally, Joe burst in the door to Sora's room. He looked at the scene with a little bit of surprise. He hadn't expected everyone to be there. Sora was lying on her stomach on her bed next to Tai, who was sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position. Matt sat on the other side of Sora with his feet flat on the floor. Izzy was sitting in the floor with his lap top in front of him. He had brought it with him when they went to the beach. T.K. and Kari sat hand in hand on the far side of the room with Yolei and Ken at either side. Davis sat next to Ken while Cody sat on his other side.

"I guess everyone's here, huh?" he said. He put down his briefcase and leaned up against the wall.

"Hey, Joe!" Mimi called from the speaker phone, startling the young man out of his wits.

"Mimi?" he asked in bewilderment.

"Princess of Pink here." Joe chuckled.

"Nice to hear from you again."

"Ditto."

"Can we stop the chit chat? This is important!" Tai snapped. The room went quiet.

"Well, get on with it. I need my beauty sleep," Mimi said suddenly. Tai coughed to gather everyone's attention. Sora's was the hardest to get, however, since she was almost asleep when Tai carried her home.

"You ready, Iz?" Tai asked. Izzy gave the thumbs up and Tai began.

"Okay. Well, as soon as I began to drown-"

"You drowned?!?!" Mimi screeched over the speaker. Tai rolled his eyes.

"I got a cramp while I was swimming, okay?" Mimi managed a "mm-hmm" and Tai continued.

"Well, I got blinded and then I saw Gennai. He told me that there was a new threat to the Digital World and it could kill us all first. He said that this thing called the... the... Assembly of Sin a.k.a. the Council of Evil sent out Demons through a portal into the real world. These Demons have been sent out to destroy the Digidestined by a chain reaction." He paused, making sure he had everyone's full attention. He hit Sora, whose eyes had been slowly closing while he had been talking. "Here's the kicker, though. Gennai told me that I would have to protect this person because I represent the Demons' opposite. I'm courage while they're coward... coward..."

"Cowardice?" Izzy suggested. Tai snapped his fingers.

"Yeah! That's it. Anyway, this person is one of the Digidestined... and it's a girl." Everyone gasped.

"Is it me, Tai?" Kari asked.

"Or me?" Yolei offered.

"Or me?" Mimi chimed in. Tai shook his head.

"Nope. It's Sora." Everyone gasped again. Sora's head popped up drowsily.

"What about me?" Tai rolled his eyes and patted the extremely tired girl on the back.

"You mean to tell me that Sora's the key to the 'chain reaction' you were talking about?" Matt asked. Tai nodded.

"Lemme finish, though. See, Gennai told me that we have been in a lot of strange situations, right?" Joe snorted laughter.

"That's putting it mildly."

"Well, anyway, he said that those situations have made us closer than a lot of other people are. We are, like... linked to each other or something. He said that we're so close that if one of us dies, the one closest to the, uh... deceased would die of... of...

"Grief?" Izzy suggested again. Tai snapped his fingers.

"Right! That's it. He said it would be really easy to figure out the chain reaction if we really thought about it. That's what you're for, Izzy." Izzy nodded hesitantly, not sure if he understood.

"You want me to figure out the chain reaction?" Tai nodded.

"It would start with Sora and continue with the one closest to her and so on and so forth, I believe," he tried to explain. Izzy nodded.

"I'm on it."

"So what happened then, Tai?" Mimi asked. Tai sighed and began to think.

"He told me that I could see the Demons, but he wouldn't tell me what the looked like. But all that's clear to me is that I have to be near Sora none stop. If I'm not..." Tai gulped. "She'll die. I have to be with her all day long. As long as I'm near her, they can't destroy her or me." Sora was wide awake now.

"You mean I'm going to die?" she asked, her eyes beginning to well up with tears. Tai waved his hands in the air and hugged her gently.

"Not if I can help it, you're not." Cody appeared to be thinking.

"But, Tai... If you have to be with her all the time, you will have to spend the night with her. I don't think Sora's mother would be that supportive of the situation," he said, blushing slightly. Sora looked at Tai as he took his arm from around her.

"He's right, Tai," she said, her crimson eyes making her face look pained. Tai sighed.

"We'll figure out somethin', Sora. Don't worry about it," he said reassuringly. She managed a smile.

"Um, Tai? Why am I not supposed to protect her? I represent Courage, too," Davis said from the other side of the room, half-pouting, half-confused. Tai pondered this, but Izzy spoke up for him.

"Probably because Tai was the first bearer of Courage," he said, his eyes never wavering from the computer screen. Davis made a small "oh" sound and remained quiet for most of the meeting.

"Why didn't we defeat the Assembly of Sin or whatever when we were in the Digital World?" T.K. asked. Tai thought and remembered what Gennai said.

"Because it exists in Negative Space and the Good Forces of the Digital World can't get there."

"Negative Space? You sound like Izzy now," Mimi called from the phone. Tai smiled.

"Negative Space is where everything is the opposite of what it is now. I have been there before, but T.K. and I were able to defeat the monsters there. Aren't we a part of the Good Forces?" Kari asked. The room was silent except for the for the tapping of Izzy's keys.

"Where you went was only Semi-Negative Space," Izzy finally said, managing to tear his eyes away from the computer screen. "True Negative Space is not fitted for any force of that kind, I suspect." Everyone nodded gravely, trying to actually comprehend what Izzy said.

"But aren't we a part of the Good Forces? You didn't answer that, Izzy," Kari badgered. He sighed, shrugged, and continued to type. He was busy with the task Tai had given to him and he intended to finish it. Sora sighed shakily.

"I believe we are, but we're not a part of the Good Forces that have been here the longest. That's what I think, anyway. We are only human and I think the job that they've got now is bigger than any of us. This is like Good vs. Bad, the Ultimate Fight. You can't expect us to fight in it," she said. Tai nudged her with his elbow.

"But we are, Sora. By having me protect you, we're a part of the fight. And you know what, Sora? You are the link that is going to save the rest of Humanity."

"I'm not sure if I should feel honored or terrified," she said. Tai smiled at her.

"Feel honored because I'm here to protect you!" he said cheerfully. Sora rolled her eyes.

"That's comforting." Tai scowled playfully as the rest of the room snickered, even Mimi.

"You done, Izzy?" Tai asked, trying to change the subject. Izzy made a few more taps on his keyboard and nodded. "Well, read it off." Izzy cleared his throat.

"Okay. This is starting with Sora and continuing wit h who is closest to the deceased. It's only logical that if Sora died, Tai would die next. They are of the closest friends and he would probably suffer the most grief. Mimi is a close friend, but I'm afraid that she and Sora have grown apart over the years since she moved away. Joe, Matt, the rest of the Digidestined, and I have become a lot closer to her over the years, but Tai and Sora have always been best friends and have remained that way." Izzy coughed. "And it's a wonder they aren't more than that." Tai and Sora blushed slightly. This did not go unnoticed by the rest of the room. "After Tai, of course, would come Kari. That is only natural that she would grieve for her brother. After that, I believe that T.K. would go next." T.K. blushed at this. "If we are so close to each other that we would die of grief, then it is only plausible that two of our youngest members could be in love." Kari joined T.K. in blushing. "After that, Matt would be the next choice as T.K. is his brother." Matt nodded calmly, trying not to think of the upsetting thought at all. "After Matt, it isn't clear who would go next. If there is someone that loves him secretly, that person would almost certainly die next. If it is a girl, which I certainly hope it is, it would most logically be Mimi." They could almost hear Mimi blushing over the phone. Matt sat on Sora's bed, smiling brightly. "If Mimi is the next link in the chain, then it would, ahem..." Izzy began to blush and tug at his collar. "It would either be Joe or me." Joe began to blush considerably.

"What about Ken, Davis, Cody, and me?" Yolei asked. Izzy sighed, grateful that they had changed the subject.

"That's a problem. See, without knowing your secret feelings for one another or who you consider your best friend, there is no way to consider the rest of the chain. If it is possible to have double links, I could possibly figure it out. For example, if Kari died, T.K. and Davis could die next. Or, I think it is possible that once a certain number of people die, the rest will began to grieve themselves to death, too. You know, like if Sora, Tai, Kari, and T.K. go, then the rest of us may grieve ourselves to death one at a time." Sora sighed heavily.

"Can we please stop talking about dying?" Matt nodded in agreement.

"This conversation is rather depressing."

"Well, what you guys really need to talk about is how Sora and Tai are going to stay together," Mimi said. "Oh, gosh, you guys! I've got to go. My dad's coming. Email me or call me when you learn something new or when you can! Bye!"

"Bye, Mimi!" everyone said in unison as they heard a dial tone. Sora walked over and shut it off. Her movements were slow. She seemed to either be concentrating or sleepwalking. Maybe both.

"Mimi has a point," Cody said.

"Yeah. What are we going to do, Sora?" Tai asked. Sora seemed to be thinking.

"We'll figure out something. Maybe we'll luck out and my mom will have a Horticulture Convention or something," she pointed out hopefully. Davis looked stupefied.

"Horti-wha?" he asked. Sora rolled her eyes and laughed.

"It's nothing dirty, Davis. It's just a meeting of people who talk about plants." He nodded, but he had really thought it had to do with someone's sexual promiscuity.

"Well, I hope things work out for you, Sora," Joe said finally after a long period of silence. Sora went over to him, smiled, and leaned up against the wall beside him.

"I hope so, too." There was a comfortable silence that settled in the air.

"Thank you for saving me again, Sora," Tai said suddenly. Sora looked at him blankly.

"Something tells me I'll be saying that to you soon enough," she said grimly. Tai shrugged.

"I still ought to thank you. You were really brave out there." He could have been mistaken, but was it the lighting, or was Sora blushing like mad?

"Thank you, Tai. And you're welcome." He smiled at her. Matt rolled his eyes.

"Oh, get a room. Oh-wait. You'll have one all to yourselves pretty soon," he said mischievously. Tai punched him, blushing himself.

"Shut up, Ishida!" he growled. Sora watched this with a tinge of curiosity. This could get very, VERY interesting.

"Don't beat up on Matt, Tai! You still have to figure out what to do about our parents, too!" Kari chided. Tai stopped in mid-punch.

"Oh, I'll just tell them I'm going to Soccer Team Camp," he said. Kari shrugged.

"Our parents are stupid enough to believe it," she said. Sora laughed.

"Well, my mom's not. I'm going to call her and ask if she has anything planned. Then we'll go from there, okay?" she asked, directing the question at Tai. He nodded.

"Sounds good to me. Thank you guys for coming on such short notice." Cody and Yolei stood up.

"No problem, Tai, but we've got to get going. I've got to fix Cody's computer and I'm eating at his house tonight. I'll see you later. Email me if anything comes up, okay?" Tai and Sora nodded as the two left the room. T.K. and Kari stood up.

"Call us if you need us, Sora. You too, Tai. Don't be too proud to ask for help," she warned. Tai made a playful salute and his sister rolled his eyes as she and T.K. left the room, talking between themselves. Davis snapped out of his trance and realized T.K. and Kari were gone.

"Uh, I better get going after those two, so... BYE!" he yelled as he bolted out Sora's bedroom door. Ken, Matt, Joe, Izzy, Sora, and Tai were all that remained in the room. It was silent again, but a little too silent for Sora, who had become way, way more nervous than she had been two hours ago.

"Well, I have to call my mom at the flower shop." Joe waved to her.

"I'll go if you guys don't need anything else. I kind of owe you guys since you got me out of my anatomy test." Tai smiled.

"Anytime, Kido," he said. Joe rolled his eyes.

"I'm your elder. I'm the one that should be calling you kiddo, you know," he corrected. Tai shook his head.

"I'm talking about your last name." Joe rolled his eyes melodramatically and turned to go out the door. Sora put a hand on Joe's shoulder.

"Take a look at Tai, please. I'm worried that he may catch pneumonia or something because he was out for at least ten minutes." Joe looked at the worried look on Sora's face.

"I'll take a look at him, but I'm no doctor."

"I know that, but please tell me if I need to take him to one. If he's going to be staying here, I want him to at least be healthy," she said, her eyes falling to the floor. Joe lifted an eyebrow, but said nothing about her behavior.

"Sure. Why don't you go call your mom while I look at him?" She nodded and smiled.

"Thank you, Joe," she whispered. Tai looked annoyed.

"What are you two whispering about?" he asked. Matt grinned.

"Are we jealous, Tai?" Tai shot icy daggers at Matt.

"Jealous? Of Sora? Me? Ha! She's a girl! She can't do anything to make me jealous!" Sora heard this, the smile melting off of her face. Joe saw this and quickly tried to atone for Tai's mistake.

"Uh, you go ahead, Sora. I'll take care of Tai here." She smiled weakly and nodded, leaving the room in a rush.

"What's her problem?" Tai asked, totally clueless to what the problem could be. Joe rolled his eyes for seemingly the umpteenth time at Tai's stupidity.

"Well, you just dissed her. She asked me to check you out in case you were suffering any side effects from your little escapade this afternoon. She really is worried about you, but you don't have to be so mean to her." Tai stood aghast.

"I'm not mean to her!" Matt, Izzy, Ken, and Joe all looked around the room. "Ah, come on, guys! I'm not really mean to her!" No answer. "Am I?" Matt looked at Tai, exasperated.

"You insult her all the time, but she still manages to be your best friend. Do you realize that she risked dying with you today?" Tai didn't answer because he hadn't really been aware of the fact. There was about two minutes of silence. Sora was going to go into the room when she heard Ken speak.

"Matt is right. When she was dragging you in, it was a miracle that she made it to the beach at all, considering how much more you weigh than her." Tai snorted laughter.

"Sora weighs more than you guys think!" They all gaped at him.

"How much do you think she weighs, Taichi?" Matt asked. Tai rolled his eyes back in a thinking gesture.

"I weigh about 160, so I'd say she weighs around 140." Tai's answer was met with shocked laughter. Sora stood at the doorway, her heart crushed. Is that what he thought of her? Did she look like she weighed that much? She was met by Joe's answer.

"You're an idiot, Tai! Anatomically speaking, Sora weighs about 110 to 120. That's exactly right for her! You just described as 20 to 30 pounds overweight! I honestly hope she didn't hear you say that!" Joe raged.

"Too late. She already did."

"Sora!" Ken exclaimed. Tai jumped.

"Thanks, Tai. It's nice to know I look like the Goodyear Blimp and all." Tai waved his hands.

"That's not what I meant, Sora!" She just glared at him.

"Did you check him out, Joe?" she asked, her eyes never wavering. She was more hurt than angry. Why couldn't Tai just realize she had feelings, too?

"No, not yet, but I was-"

"Do it. Now." Joe gulped.

"Yes, ma'am." She shot him a look and he quickly walked over to Tai. "You've done it this time, Tai," Joe whispered as he kneeled beside Tai. "And you're going to be staying with her? Poor, poor Sora." Tai scowled at Joe's comment, but kept in mind the conversation they had earlier. Maybe I'm mean to her SOMETIMES, but not all the time... Am I?

"Um, I believe Ken and I have a... meeting to go to.... at the... uh..." Izzy stuttered, seeing the look on Sora's face. Ken began to think himself.

"At the high school!"

"School's out," Sora reminded them icily. They both gulped.

"It's, uh, it's..." Izzy tried, but couldn't get anything out.

"It's for next year!" Ken exclaimed as more of an idea than an explanation.

"Yeah! That's it! So, we've got to be going. Call us if anything happens, okay, Sora?" She nodded blankly to Izzy. He nodded, accepting this as the best he would get as he and Ken walked out the door hurriedly. Matt began to search for an excuse himself. Tai looked at him with a pleading facial expression that said "Don't leave me with her!", but Matt felt no pity for him. He was the idiot who had insulted his best friend/roommate for who knows how long. That was his problem.

"I have band practice tonight, so I need to go get my bass," he said truthfully. Sora nodded, having known this as prior knowledge. Matt insisted that they tell him if anything happens, just like the others did, and left. Sora stared at Tai.

"Take off your shirt, Tai," Joe instructed. Tai groaned and pulled it off. Joe took a stethoscope out of his bag.

"Do you carry that around everywhere?" Tai asked. Joe smiled.

"It pays to be prepared," he said cheerfully. He told Tai to breathe in deep a few times. Tai intentionally flexed the muscles on his back and chest, making Joe extremely impatient with him. Tai just grinned. He looked at Sora however and saw that the glare was gone from her face. Well, actually, he saw it melt from her face. Her eyes weren't aimed at his face, however. His face flushed as he realized she was staring at his masculine body. Her face flushed as well when she realized he knew she was staring. "Well, unfortunately, you'll live, Tai." Joe grinned.

"So he's alright?" Sora asked. Joe nodded. She nodded in response.

"Just keep an eye on him, okay? Call me if you need anything," Joe whispered to her. "Bye, Tai! Take care of her!" Tai waved at him.

"I will!" he called as he put his shirt back on. The house was empty except for Tai and Sora now.

"Well, a lot has happened today," Sora said, finally breaking the unbearable silence. Tai smiled sadly.

"Yeah, I guess... Hey, Sora?"

"Hmm?" she asked, not even making eye contact with him. He sighed and got up from the bed.

"I'm sorry." She lifted her eyebrows.

"For what?" she asked, honestly confused. He stood still, his mouth wide open.

"Well, I, uh... called you, um... I said you weighed more than you did?" he said, more as a question than a statement. He recoiled, expecting to get hit, but was surprised when Sora's face became neutral.

"Oh, that's okay, Tai. I'm used to it from you." He was a bit shocked. He had no idea of what to say. "Don't you want to know what my mom said? It's actually some good news in all this mess." Tai swallowed, keeping in mind what she had said earlier.

"What did she say?" Sora finally cracked a smile.

"That she has a business trip coming up for at least a month." Tai seemed impressed.

"A month? For flowers?" Sora shrugged.

"Who knows?"

"So that means you and I will be alone for a month, right?" Sora looked at him strangely. "Not like that, Sora!" he cried. He was surprised to see Sora have a hurt expression flash upon her face, but it was gone as soon as it had come.

"Right."

"Good. Well, I have to go weave a story for my parents, though. Come with me?" Tai coughed. "I'm afraid to leave you here." Sora sighed.

"Well, what makes you think it's less dangerous out there than it is out there? I think it's a lot more dangerous out there than you think," she said worriedly, her knit brow showing her concern. Tai cupped her chin in his hand. She leaned into it almost lovingly, but caught herself before she did. Instead, she just let her chin sit there, her snow white skin contrasting greatly against his tanned skin.

"I'll be damned if I just let something happen to you, Sora. Don't ever think anything like that. Understand me?" he said, sounding angry. She closed her eyes and took a step back.

"I'm sorry I made you mad, Tai," she said, bowing her head. Tai looked at her strangely. What did he do to her? Must have sounded angry, I suppose.

"That's okay, Sora! You didn't do anything!" he said reassuringly. She smiled at him.

"Let's get going, okay?" He smiled.

"Okay. I want to get you back pretty soon, all right?" She nodded. Tai took her hand and bolted down the stairs, hoping they wouldn't meet any Demons on the way.

As was Sora.

5

underestimating the enemy



To Tai's apartment and back, there had been nothing out of the ordinary. His parents had accepted the spur of the moment story as fact, but had failed to realize how he was going to make it there or how much money he was taking. Kari and Tai had an agreement that she needed to keep them from calling him at all costs. Sora helped him pack his clothes and they had left soon afterward, Kari and T.K. looking on with fearful eyes.

Now, they were walking down the sidewalk to her house, side by side.

"See! Nothing's happened yet today. I think Gennai blew this whole thing out of proportion," Tai said cheerfully. Sora shook her head.

"It's only been about three hours since then, Tai," she said quietly. He looked at her and nodded.

"True, but isn't this a good sign?" he asked. She didn't answer. She just kept walking. "Hey, it might be fun being together all the time. We could play games, get on the computer, and.... and.... Well, I'm sure you'll be able to go outside, right?" Sora looked at him blankly.

"It's the same as always, Tai. We did those things when my life wasn't in danger and two worlds didn't rest on my shoulders," she said in a high, sarcastic tone. Tai didn't let her get him down.

"But it was fun, right? Just you and me doing stuff like that?" he asked. He could practically see the "insert compliment here" sign, so he added, "I always have fun with you, Sora." She turned her head sharply from the ground in front of her and smiled a real smile.

"I always have fun with you, too, Tai," she said, still smiling. He returned it and looked up ahead.

"There's your apartment, Sora. We'll be there in a few...." Tai's eyes became as wide as dinner plates. Sora became worried, not knowing what the heck he stopped talking for.

"What's wrong, Tai? Tai?" she asked, her expression cross, but he still looked terrified. He quickly grabbed Sora's hand and pointed up ahead of them at the concrete sidewalk. She looked and squinted, but saw nothing. "There's nothing there, Tai. If this is one of your jokes to get me scared, it's working!" she exclaimed. Tai's eyes continued to get wider.

"We've got to get out of here, Sora," he said quietly.

"Why? What's going on? What do you see?" she asked. He gulped.

"One of them." She shook her head, not comprehending, but then it struck her. He was talking about the Demons. But he was there to protect her! They wouldn't hurt him, so why was he afraid?

If she only knew what he was seeing.

From Tai's eyes, he was seeing a ferocious monster. And it was only about fifteen feet away from him. It had appeared out of no where and it had almost been enough to make him scream. It didn't seem human. Its skin was a dark, dark blue, almost black, color. It had long arms that touched the ground. It's legs were bent considerable, but it was obviously strong. It was a thin creature; its ribs showed right through its leathery hide, but it still had the look of muscles that many, many humans, or Digimon for that matter, never got. It had leathery wings folded against its back. It looked like a colored gargoyle. There were a few spikes around its mid-section. In a way, this thing looked like a way, way demented version of ExVeemon. Its tail was at least seven feet long and slithered back and forth slowly on the concrete sidewalk. Its teeth were long. Four pointed daggers overlapped both its top and bottom lip. Its ears looked like a dog's, as did its snout. Its eyes were a sickly green color. Those teeth, however, were what made Tai nervous.

The damn thing was smiling at him.

"Can't you see it, Sora?" he whispered. Sora squeezed his hand.

"I can't see a thing," she said in exasperation. She was exhausted and this wasn't where she wanted to be when she passed out from fatigue.

"Let's go. Now." He readjusted his backpack on his shoulder and brought Sora closer to him. "You can't see him?" he asked in disbelief. The thing, at full height, was at least twelve feet tall. Right now, it was an easy eight, but that was still a big animal-er-Demon.

"No, Tai! I can't see anything out of the ordinary," she said. Tai looked straight at the creature.

"As long as I'm with you, you won't get hurt. Let's get going, okay?" Sora nodded and Tai began to lead her. Curiously, the creature took a step back. Tai took this new information with wonder. He took another step and the creature took another step back. Tai smiled. "Let's get you home, okay?" he said, still smiling. Sora looked at him strangely but agreed anyway.

"Is it scary-looking, Tai?" she asked childishly, but was actually being quite serious. Tai didn't answer and looked straight ahead. He let go of her hand and they began to walk side by side again.

"It doesn't look pretty by any means," he said finally. Sora accepted this as a yes and kept walking. Suddenly, the creature jumped from it's spot, still fifteen feet in front of them, and hovered. Tai watched this curiously, but felt sudden apprehensiveness and fear. "Something's going to happen, Sora! Let's get out of here!" he cried. Sora looked at him blankly as he grabbed her hand and began to run. He didn't look at the Demon any more, but he knew something was going to happen if he didn't get Sora to safety.

"What's it doing, Tai?" Sora asked, positively terrified for the second time that day.

"I don't know, but I don't plan on finding out. Pick up your feet, Sora," Tai called back to her. She did so with graceful ease.

The Demon, still hovering in space and now behind them, watched them carefully. It spread its leathery wings and glided over to the traffic. He stuck out one gnarled hand, which look like a huge lion paw. It flexed it when it saw a car coming over the hill. It lowered it's head and dove toward the car at full speed, the driver having no idea what was coming after him.

Tai looked over his shoulder and saw no monster.

"We can slow down, now. I think it gave up on us for a little bit." Sora looked at him skeptically, panting lightly.

"I doubt it, Tai. How many times have we thought that before, but it always turned out that we were wrong?" she asked. Tai ignored her completely and began to walk briskly again. Sora stopped when she heard a car horn. "What was that?" she asked. Tai looked at her stupidly. He was going to answer when he got cut off by a thunderous crash. He looked to the street and gasped.

The creature, although no one else knew it, was standing in the middle of the street. He had just bashed in the hood of one car, making the crashing sound. Sora looked out and saw a demolished car while Tai saw the car and the culprit.

"We've got to get out of here! The Demon did that!" Tai urged, tugging on Sora's hand mercilessly, who was entranced by the scene.

"Whatever you say." Tai began to run with her again, but another prolonged horn blast caught their attention. They both looked out into the street to see what was going on. A car was speeding down the street at break-neck speed, apparently not being able to stop. Tai watched with horror as the Demon flew behind the car, pushing it with a mighty force. The terrified man in the car was blasting his horn as to clear the way, but, of course, one person in another car paid no attention. Tai and Sora watched helplessly as the car speeded toward the other, almost making it a given that they were going to crash into each other. Suddenly, the person who had been paying no attention realized the situation, panicked, and turned a hard right. Tai saw this and gasped.

"It's heading straight for us!!!" he screamed. Sora stood stock still, petrified. Without another moment's hesitation, Tai tackled Sora to the ground out of the way of the oncoming car. For a second, it looked like the car would hit them dead on, but the driver managed to make another hard right and missed them narrowly. Sora laid underneath Tai's protective arm on the ground. Finally, Tai looked up and growled. The Demon was standing a mere fifteen feet from them again, it's teeth still bearing into a grisly smile.

"Ow...." Sora moaned underneath him. He realized she was probably hurt and got up quickly, hoisting her up along with him.

"Are you okay, Sora?" he asked worriedly.

"I've been better. Can we go home now?" she asked, holding her head in her hand. Tai nodded and began to guide her to her apartment, turning his back to the monster. He could still feel the creature's stare boring holes into the back of his neck. "Nothing was going to happen today... That was definitely the wrong assumption." Tai nodded again.

"Yeah, but at least you're okay. That's what I'm worried about," he said sincerely. Sora looked at him questioningly.

"You mean it?" He shrugged.

"Sora, you're my best friend. I don't want anything to happen to you and I'm going to do all I can to keep it that way." Sora smiled.

"Thank you, Tai."

"Think nothing of it."

"No, really. Thank you."

"Anything for a friend, right?" he asked. Sora grinned and nodded.

"Absolutely." She blinked and looked up ahead, squinting. He traced her line of vision and saw she was looking at her apartment building. "Is that it? I can't really see that well," she asked, pointing up ahead to a building. Tai's expression became worried.

"Do you think you have a concussion?" She shook her head.

"No, but I do think I have a really, really bad headache. I had one before I hit the ground. I need some sleep anyway, Tai. It's getting pretty late," she said. They both looked behind them and saw the car. It's hood was bashed in as it had run into a street light. The driver was out of the car, his face bewildered and disoriented. People were gathered around him, asking if he was okay. Sora felt a little queasy that the car could have hit her. Tai looked around him and saw no Demon. It had simply disappeared. He growled under his breath and looked at Sora. Silently, they began to walk together. Their step was brisk as to avoid anymore confrontations with the abnormal. Suddenly, Sora stopped.

"What is it, Sora?" he asked, alarmed. She looked at him.

"My mom is going to be there." Tai looked at her strangely.

"I thought you said she was going to be out of town for a month!" he exclaimed. Sora smiled.

"Yeah... In two days," she said with a sarcastic smile. Tai groaned and hit his forehead.

"We'll have to figure out something. I don't think we can go over to anyone's house because, well, if you just saw what happened, I don't think it's safe for you to go outside until this whole ordeal is over." Sora sighed.

"Dang. I guess we'll be spending a lot of time together, huh?" she asked, a pleasant smile dancing on her lips. Tai smiled back, but found himself staring at the smile. Something about it was mesmerizing him. Entrancing him. "Uh, Tai? Earth to Taichi?" Tai snapped out of the stare and blushed.

"I, uh, um..." Tai was at a loss for words; a current first on his record. She just shook her head and ruffled his hair. He gave a loud protest and she just giggled.

"Here's the deal, okay?" she said, trying to think about something else besides Tai's spaced-out moment. "You come in and eat dinner with me, right?" Tai nodded, wanting to know where this plan was going. "You tell my mom that you're leaving and you go out the door. This will have to be around 9:00, okay?" Tai nodded hesitantly, not really liking the thought of leaving Sora alone for even that long. "You'll have to run and put those legs to good use, too. As soon as she closes the door, you head for the fire escape. I'll wait for you by the window, okay? You should know where it is since you've climbed into my room on numerous occasions," she said, grinning mischievously. Tai smirked.

"Yeah, but I didn't have to save your sorry life then, did I?" he asked. Sora hit him in the shoulder, provoking a yelp from him. He began to say something, but he noticed the look on Sora's face. It was a sorrowful look; something that he had not seen on Sora's face so much until that day. "What's wrong, Sora?" he asked. They approached the apartment building and walked inside. Sora sighed.

"Nothing. I was just thinking that..."

"That what?" Tai coaxed. Sora sighed even more heavily.

"That some of those times you sneaked into my room at night, you did save my life." Tai gulped. Was she being sincere or sarcastic? The expression on her face proved she was being sincere.

"By being your friend?"

"By being my best friend. You never left my side, Tai. Here you are again, still joined at my hip. Or I'm joined at yours, one of the two." Tai grinned. "Remember when we were really young and you used to climb up there after my dad left Mama? You would come up there and let me cry on your shoulder," she recalled. Tai thought back and did remember. He also remembered that she had asked him to protect on her on a few of those nights in case her dad got angry.

"It's had to have been at least five years since I've done that," he said finally. Sora nodded.

"At least. We're what? Seventeen now? So the last time we were both-"

"Twelve," Tai finished for her. She nodded again.

"Yep. And now we're way closer than that, aren't we?" she said. Tai grinned.

"Yeah. Best friends for life!" he cheered. Sora laughed, but the smile on her face suddenly turned a bit sad. Tai noticed this with concern for what Sora was truly feeling. They had always had a kind of unspoken telepathy for each other, but sometimes her signals to him and vice versa were very, very confusing. Was she upset because they were best friends and she wanted to get away from him? Or was she upset that she couldn't have something... more?

There was a disturbing silence in between them.

"Well, Sora. Let's go in," Tai said as they arrived at her apartment door. Sora nodded, stuck her key into the doorknob, twisted, and pushed the door open. Tai stepped in behind her and closed the door, his mind still on the way her face had looked just a few moments ago.

"Mama? Are you home?"

"Sora! How was your day, dear?" her mother asked as she stepped into the living room. Sora smiled.

"It was... different," she said. Tai smiled at the innocence and hidden meaning of the statement.

"Hello, Tai! Are you staying for dinner?" Ms. Takenouchi asked. Tai nodded.

"If you don't mind." Ms. Takenouchi smiled.

"Of course I don't. So what all happened on your last day of school?" she asked as she trekked back to the kitchen. Sora and Tai looked at each other.

"Oh, just stuff."

"That's nice, dear," her mother called from the kitchen. Tai and Sora looked at each other again and stifled giggles.

"This is going to be a long night," Tai said. Sora shook her head.

"That doesn't even start to describe it."



6

one of many races against time



"So, Mama. Tell me more about this month business trip," Sora coaxed nonchalantly. Tai was busy shoveling in his fourth helping of dinner. Sora and her mother had refrained from staring at the way he ate his food for it seemed to make both of them sick. Ms. Takenouchi sighed.

"Well, actually, it's four one-week trips. I'll be coming home every two weeks or so. I'll pack and then head off again. Can you believe one of them is in California?" Sora's eyes got wide. Why hadn't she been told about this? Why was her mother telling her two days before she left of such an important event? "Well, anyway, the first two are going to be in Nagano about new safety regulations and new breeds of hybrids being brought into the market. You know, the usual." Sora nodded. Tai began to listen carefully. He didn't want to let on he was listening because it would seem rude of him, so he kept slurping and chomping away. "The second two are both going to be in California. There, we're going to be talking about receiving flowers from different companies and discussing different financial business issues and things. Should prove to be rather interesting." Sora nodded again.

"Tell me how it is and everything." Ms. Takenouchi nodded.

"Of course." Sora looked at Tai as if to say "Get going now!". For once, he quickly took the hint.

"That was a terrific meal, Ms. Takenouchi!" Tai said as he leaned back in his chair. Ms. Takenouchi smiled warmly at him.

"Thank you, Tai. Well, it's getting really late. Shouldn't you be getting home?" she asked sweetly. Both Tai and Sora were a little stunned at her mother's hospitality that night. She was never that nice to Tai before.

"Uh, yes, I believe I should," he said quietly, casting a knowing glance at Sora, who nodded discreetly.

"May I be excused, Mama?" she asked. Ms. Takenouchi nodded as Sora got up from the table. "Bye, Tai. I'll see you later," she said nonchalantly. Tai waved, hoping the whole thing would go smoothly.

"Bye, Sora! Bye, Ms. T!" he called as he ran through their small apartment to the front door. Sora felt a pang of worry that something would get her before he could get to her room, but she refused to let her belief in him dissipate. She ran up to her room, leaving her mother to clean up dinner. Ms. Takenouchi sighed with her hands on her hips as she stood up. With a shake of her head, she began to gather the empty plates.

"I swear, if that girl doesn't start to take care of herself..."

* * *

Tai was hurrying as fast as he could. It wasn't easy, though. He had to get to the pavement below so he could actually reach the fire escape from the outside. He had given his backpack with all of his clothes to Sora, as it had been pretty heavy. Finally, he broke out the front door of the apartment building. He was making a break for the fire escape now, but he stopped dead in his tracks. He turned around and looked both ways. Tai hit himself in the head with the palm of his hand.

"I forgot where it is!"

* * *

"Come on, Tai. Don't leave me up here. It isn't safe, remember?" Sora whispered to herself. She tucked a lock of red hair behind her ear nervously. She suddenly had a strange feeling that he was going to pop up and tell her to let down her long hair, but she chuckled to herself and pushed the thought away. "Come on." She opened the window and stood back. She tucked the other side of her hair behind he ear and sighed shakily. Her mind began to wander. What did the Demons look like? She was sure Tai would tell her later on.

He may not, though. Her mind reasoned. He looked horrified today. He never looks that way unless it's something really bad.

Sora gulped. She almost felt she was up against God. A battle she couldn't win. But then again, she had always thought that if Tai was at her side, nothing was impossible. She smiled brightly at the thought of him being her hero.

She was so caught up in herself that she didn't notice the sudden ten-degree temperature drop in the room.

The iciness began to take shape, and soon, it had two long arms that could reach out and touch Sora.

Reach out with its icy touch...

And kill her.

* * *

"Which way? Which way, which way, which way?" Tai asked himself frantically. He was beginning to wish it hadn't of been five years since the last time he snuck into her room.

Think, Tai. What would happen when she asked you to come over? She would call you, crying. She would say, "Please come, Tai. They're yelling again." You would almost cry yourself at how heartbroken she sounded and say you'd be right there. You'd run over and you would-

"Go around the building!" he shouted. He began to run as fast as his soccer legs could carry him toward the backside of the building. He had a sinking feeling that if he didn't hurry, something may go terribly wrong. "Come on, Tai! If you ever do anything right in your life, at least do it for Sora!" He managed to hop onto the fire escape. He ran but looked up at the same time. Sora's room was the third window from the top. Tai let out an exasperated moan but ran his heart out anyway. He had to make it. He had to.

At least for Sora.

* * *

Sora was smiling and playing with the tips of her hair.

Tai... a Prince Charming? Can't say that's every really occurred to me before... Wait... When he rescued me from Datamon... and when we were going into Puppetmon's mansion...

Sora's smile widened, but she shivered involuntarily. She rubbed her hands against her bare arms. Her short sleeved shirt, which had served just fine for the delightful temperatures earlier, provided no shelter from the sudden icy blast.

Wow... Did I just walk into a freezer? I don't understand why it's so cold.

Not really suspecting anything out of the ordinary except for a air conditioner was set too low, Sora got up and crossed the room to the thermostat in her room that controlled the small air conditioner next to her dresser. She felt the room get colder as she crossed to it. She read the temperature dial and gasped.

52 degrees!?! How the heck did that happen? Well, might as well turn the air conditioner off.

She switched it to the OFF position and turned around to face the window.

Hurry up, Tai. Can't wait forev-

Another cold blast struck Sora and she shivered again, this time violently. Her smile disappeared from her face and was replaced by fear.

That kind of cold doesn't come from an air conditioner....

Little did Sora know where she was standing.

The icy figure walked forward toward its prey, which was standing right in front of it.

Sora felt the cold become deeper than it had before. Her once-rosy lips were now a blue color. If possible, her skin was even a shade lighter.

Tai!

The icy figure became closer and with a final swooping motion, took Sora into its grasp.

And began to kill her with the shocking cold.

* * *

"Gotta make it... Gotta make it... Gotta make it.... Gotta make it.... I made it!" Tai gasped as he finally climbed the last step of the fire escape. He smiled when he realized his running was over for the day. He made it over to Sora's window and glanced around inside to make sure Ms. Takenouchi hadn't made any unexpected visits to her daughter's room.

What Tai saw almost shocked him almost to screaming.

Sora was in the floor on her knees. Her hands were crossed against her chest. She was shivering violently. Her rosy lips now a blue hue that would have easily have matched Matt's eyes. Her skin was paler than before. Her skin was covered in chill bumps.

And the damn monster was holding her.

It was sickening, really, to see such a hideous monster hold her like that. The thing was holding Sora almost intimately, like it thought of her as a child. Its huge body was kneeling behind her, mimicking her position in the floor. Its long arms were wrapped around her fragile body with almost fatherly care. Its head was rested on her shoulder, breathing heavily. Every time the cold air escaped from its mouth, the seventeen-year-old girl shuddered with almost deadly ferocity. Anybody weaker than she would have died already. She was very close herself.

"Get away from her!" Tai screamed as he bolted through the window toward the creature. It let out a high-pitched scream and stood up. It backed away from Tai, still screeching. Its hands were wrapped around itself now, as if it was feeling the same thing it had done to Sora. As its screeching continued, it began to fade from Tai's sight. About five seconds after it had started to fade, it was completely gone. Sora closed her eyes and slumped over sideways to the floor. "Sora!" Tai rushed over to her and held her close to him.

She's so cold... I'm so sorry, Sora! I just couldn't get here in time!

But he said nothing. He was too choked up to say anything. She probably wouldn't of heard him, anyway. He stood up and carried her to her bed, tucking her in immediately. She had to get warm. She had to. There's was nothing else to it.

But she could go into a coma if she got too cold too fast. I've got to check her pulse.

Trying to remember how Sora had taught him, he placed his fingers where he guessed they were supposed to be. Sighing in frustration when he felt nothing, he bent down and put his ear against her chest, straining to pick up any sign of life at all.

...... beat........beat....................beat...beat.....

It was irregular and very, very faint, but it was a heartbeat. Tai began to rub Sora's hands within his own.

"Wake up, Sora. Come on! Wake up! Don't scare me like this! Come on... Dammit! Wake up!" After saying this, Tai realized he knew exactly how Sora had felt that afternoon at the beach. Afraid... Angry.... Frustrated. As if a sign from God that the events of this escapade would fortunately be the same as the one earlier that afternoon, Sora's eyes fluttered open, but weakly.

"T..." She tried to say his name, but it came out a strained croak. Tai smiled, finding himself relieved.

"Shhh, Sora. I'm here, now. If we can just warm you up, we'll be fine," he said. He began to laugh out of relief. "You'll be okay, Sora. You'll be okay." Sora managed a twitch of her mouth, which Tai took as the failed attempt of a smile.

"Cr...cr... you...." Sora was trying desperately to say something, but Tai silenced her.

"Stop trying to talk, Sora! You need to save your strength!" he scolded, but she persisted.

"You....cr....cry.....cryi....crying... Yo-yo...you're crying," she finally managed to croak. Tai stared at her in surprise. Was he crying? He absently took one of his hands from over Sora's and brushed at his face. Sure enough, his hand came away wet. He hadn't actually felt himself crying. He had cried so few times in his life. He remembered another one of those times had been for Sora, too.

"Yeah, well, let's keep it between you and me, okay?" he said, attempting for humor. Sora's mouth twitched again, but it lasted longer this time.

"C-c-c-c-cold...." she whispered. Tai nodded.

"I know, Sora, but I don't what I can do to help you!" he said, almost shouting in frustration. He suddenly remembered Ms. Takenouchi and gasped. What if she came in? That would be a risk he was willing to take. Tai suddenly remembered one of the lessons he had in health. If you got stranded in a situation that required heat and you had none except for your own body heat, you needed to get as close to each other as possible to promote warmth. "Wait... Maybe I do..." He raced over to the bedroom light and shut it off. He raced back over to Sora's bed and turned on the light on her night stand. Tai threw back the sheets on Sora's bed and slid in beside her. He turned her over gently and put her back to his warm chest. He reached around her and clutched her to him softly yet firmly. He felt how cold Sora's skin was and wondered how she had made it this long.

"Th-th-tha-than-k-k-"

"Save your breath, Sora. Shhh..." he whispered into her ear. He reached over behind him and turned the light off. She didn't move against him at all. She was currently too weak too. Suddenly, the door opened and light poured over the foot of Sora's bed. Ms. Takenouchi was standing there, a pleasant smile on her face.

"Are you asleep, Sora?" Tai hoped it was dark enough that her mother couldn't see the extra figure in her bed. Or that she wouldn't come over and kiss Sora good night. Sora didn't even attempt to answer. Tai wasn't sure she knew she was being talked to. "I guess you are. Sweet dreams, Sora." With that, Ms. Takenouchi closed the door and Tai let out all the air in his lungs in a whoosh.

"Try to stay awake until you're warm, okay?" Sora made a squeak and Tai took that as a yes.

He sighed. He had hoped Gennai was being paranoid, but as usual, the old man was right in his convictions. Tai suddenly realized how close he'd come to losing Sora. It almost made him want to break down and cry. He was supposed to be there for her! He was supposed to protect her! He was supposed to take care of her! But what had he done? He had almost let her die. Tai scowled at his prior behavior.

Well, no more of that. I won't let anything happen to you, Sora. I'll always take care of you.

I promise.

Tai waited until Sora warmed up considerably, but felt himself falling asleep. By now, Sora was able to move a little without feeling paralyzed by the cold. Only one thought could flow through her mind.

Prince Charming saved me.

* * *

Both of them were right about one thing. At one point or another, they had both thought the same thought.



This is only the beginning.



To Be Continued.....





A/N: Well????? How was it? I've had this idea for, like, a really, really long time and I wanted to finally put it in writing. Is it pretty original? I hope so. Please review! I want to know if it is worth all the trouble of writing the next one. If you do not review, the Assembly of Sin will send Demons after you! MUHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! ~er, not really, but it would be nice! I promise there's going to be a lot more stuff in the next few. A lot more Romance, Action/Adventure, Drama, Humor, Davis-bashing, and Sexual Tension! All right here in

BY UNSEEN FORCES!!!!!

Until next time, this is

Artisan of the Written Word

signing off!