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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

BY UNSEEN FORCES

Soul Deep



A/N: First of all, I'M SOOOOOOOOOO sorry that it took so long! It's never taken me THIS long before. *sigh* Anyway, we'll go on.

That was a bit of a difficult chapter name to come up with. However, not a difficult chapter to write... and in my opinion, this is the best one yet. Let's get this over with...

DEDICATION: This is to anyone out there who believes that, in love, anything is possible.

-To Dad, which, as you all should know, is Logan. No, it's not biological. He's just a really good friend with his heart in the right place.

-To Mom, or Angel as you may know her by, who... no matter how much trouble she gets into, she'll still be my friend and I'll always be her friend... as long as she permits me to be, anyway.

-To Ashley, who, if she knows something is wrong, will NOT leave me alone until she gets to the bottom of it. *mumbles something about all people from Oklahoma have something wrong with them in the head* ^_~ Just kidding with ya. *smiles* Anyway, she's been one of the best friends I've ever had. Thank you for being there for me. Just don't forget... Dr. Whit is always here. ^_^

-To Kimaru, who in her state of frenzy with school, uploads these blasted fics for me and reviews 'em too! Gotta give her credit people! *applauds* Anyway, she's still my best friend and I want to thank her for making time for me no matter what. Thank you so much!

-To Star_Fairy for working up the nerve to talk to me... the crazy person I am... although, she may have the one-up on me for the insanity plea. AND WHO NEEDS TO PUT HER POEMS ON THE SITE! For CRYING out LOUD!

-And to Kari, who's become like a sister to me. She's a great person and I respect her. ^_^ (Uh oh! What's imooto-chan up to? She's being nice! Who woulda thunk it? ^_~)

DISCLAIMER: *crickets are chirping while silence ensues* ....... Do I have to? *sigh* Well, I wouldn't want those lawyers to sue me for my precious pocket lint and all, so no... Contrary to popular belief, I do NOT own Digimon.

*wipes sweat from brow* It's over! Thank GOD for small favors.

Now, it brings me pleasure to present the next chapter of-

BY UNSEEN FORCES



BY UNSEEN FORCES: Soul deep



1

trying to discover the link



"Sora! Calm down and tell me what's wrong!" Joe cried in frustration. Sora sighed and her shoulders shook. She put her head in her hands while Joe felt ashamed for snapping at her. "Please... I didn't mean it like that... I just need to know what's wrong!" Kari stood by Joe, along with T.K., Matt, and Izzy. After she had called Joe, Sora had called Kari. Well, obviously, a string of calls ensued and everyone was going to be there.

"He... I was going to... I was going to wake him up and he just.. He woke up for a second, but... he... he... he was shaking really... really bad and I don't know what to do!" she cried. Taking breaths between words had helped her pace herself, but that was about it. Otherwise, she was a physical and mental wreck. She was safe... but at what a cost.

Izzy paled.

"It's happening."

Everyone turned to look at Izzy. Sora was still shaking... She had composed herself enough to grab clothes and actually gather herself enough to put them on, but otherwise, she was in the same state she had been earlier.

"Izzy... what are you talking about?" Matt asked slowly. Izzy sighed and looked at Matt.

"The night before last, I called Tai about some new information that Gennai had sent Yolei and I."

"Izzy, why didn't you-" Kari started, but Izzy interrupted her.

"Why didn't I call you guys? Because it was something that I wanted to leave up to Tai and Sora to tell you." Sora had a blank expression on her face and Izzy's eyes widened. "He didn't... tell you?" Sora shook her head.

"No...No, he didn't," she said, shaking her head slowly. She had her arms crossed and was gripping her biceps in both hands. So much had happened in such a short period of time that she didn't know what to do with herself at the moment.

Izzy stared at Sora for a bit and then at her bed, where the fallen hero laid silent. Tai seemed to be sleeping restlessly. His arms and legs twitched at times, as did his head, but it was almost as if he lacked the energy needed just to move.

Three short knocks snapped Izzy out of his thoughtful haze.

"I'll get it," T.K. said immediately, running through the house. Joe sighed.

"Wait until they get back to tell us... I'll go ahead and have a look at Tai." The tall young man took three long strides to Tai's bedside and immediately brought a stethoscope out of his always-handy bag. He began to listen to Tai's heart. By the look on Joe's face, it was something so weak that he could barely hear it. Sora took slow steps to Tai's bedside, never taking her eyes off of his chest. It rose... and lowered... It was a bit before it actually rose again and she could see that it was getting harder for him to breathe because it was a shaky breath... One that required a lot of energy. Joe took his stethoscope out of his ears and laid it around his neck. His motions were slow and thoughtful. Sora was about to ask him what was wrong when T.K. walked into her room again.

"Well... Here's the rest of the gang." Ken walked in behind T.K., along with Cody and Yolei. Next came Davis and Mimi. When the new arrivals took their first look at Tai, their reaction was like that of the others when they had first gotten there.

Silence ensued for what seemed like an eternity and a day before anyone said anything.

Mimi mumbled something and Joe snapped out his thoughts to look at her.

"What did you say?"

"Lifeless."

"Pardon me?"

"He's lifeless. So... unlike Tai." Sora looked up at Mimi, who met her gaze with one of deep sympathy and sorrow.

"We know," T.K. whispered as Kari put buried her head into his shoulder and stifled back sobs. He fought back his own tears as he kissed the top of her head.

Sora looked around the room. Her body seemed to be in this haze where she could only move slowly... where she couldn't answer a question in a short amount of time... where she couldn't be herself.

"Joe... J-Joe? What's... What's wrong with... with Tai?" Sora asked, slowly tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Her voice was small and childlike. Joe stood up and tried to look Sora in the eye, but could not make eye contact with her because she wouldn't look at him.

"Well... Sora, I don't know. His heart... Something's really wrong with his heart because I've listened to hearts of patients with heart disease that sounded better than this... Maybe a heart attack? A stroke? Something caused by physical trauma? I don't know. All I know is that he needs a stronger heartbeat because he's not getting enough blood to all parts of his body, making him weak. One of those parts, however, maybe his brain. That would explain why he's having trouble breathing. But besides that..." Joe sighed deeply, pushed up his glasses, and crossed his arms. "I don't know, Sora. I honestly don't."

The expression that came onto Sora's face was enough to make Joe and the rest look away from her.

"Oh." Matt looked at Joe and then to Izzy, carefully guiding his gaze away from Sora. She shouldn't be seen like that... The pain that was showing through on her face was something that Sora would have never let show in her right mind. She needed to be left in peace, but they couldn't very well leave her or him like this.

"Uh... Izzy? What did you tell Tai?" he asked. Izzy looked up at Matt from his stare-down with the carpet.

"Well, Matt... I... I told him that after he and Sora... saved the world, I guess... Well, he would be left in a totally vulnerable state." Everyone looked at Izzy with perplexed expressions except for Sora, who was gazing at Tai's weak body.

"Meaning...?" Mimi said, waiting for the blank to be filled in. Izzy sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and put a thumb under one of his backpack's straps.

"Meaning that Sora may not be vulnerable to the Demon..." Izzy sighed. "...But now, Tai is."

An incredible silence hit the room like a bolt of lightening.

"You're kidding..." T.K. started, but knew that Izzy had told the truth.

"That's not all. I told Tai that it was very possible that... that the goal of the Demon may have been to kill Sora, but the goal of the Assembly was to kill Tai. Either way, they would have won the Demonic War."

Silence hit the room again. They looked at each other, stunned expressions on their faces. What could they do? Was there anything that they could do?

Everyone slowly awoke from the silence that had taken their voices, but they still said nothing. Matt sighed, Kari sobbed quietly, T.K. kept trying to quiet her, Izzy pulled his backpack strap up farther on his shoulder, Joe put his stethoscope away, Mimi rubbed her eyes, Davis scratched the back of his head, Yolei had her face in her right hand, Cody tightened and relaxed his fists unconsciously, and Ken crossed his arms, seemingly thinking.

And Sora never moved.

"Um... Sora?" Izzy called to her. She made no sign of response, but Izzy tried to reach her anyhow. "Sora? I need to talk to you." Still nothing. "I need to know what kind of bond you share with Tai now." Nothing. "Please, Sora... This could be the only way to save him."

Sora never answered Izzy. Instead, with slow and graceful movement, she sat down on the edge of the bed. Then, almost as slowly, she swung her legs up on the bed and laid back, facing Tai.

All of the Digidestined looked at each other in bewilderment.

Sora looked at Izzy from her position on the bed and softly began to speak.

"You want me to find the link. I can't find it with all of you here. Please... Go elsewhere until I call for you. There is a way to save him, but I have to find it. Please."

Izzy looked to the rest of the Digidestined to gauge their reactions. Joe, who had since wrapped his arm comfortingly around Mimi's shoulders, nodded to him. T.K. and Kari did the same. Yolei and Davis looked at each other then back to Izzy, nodding. Cody and Ken both gave short nods. Matt, who was leaning up against the wall, hung his head and mumbled a "let's go".

"Alright, Sora. We'll be in the living room, okay?"

Sora didn't respond.

She laid back down on the bed and stared at Tai's powerful facial features.

Izzy waved to the rest of them and they all headed out Sora's door. All hoping that the link could be found.

Sora reached one hand out to Tai's hair and touched a lock of his hair.

"Oh, Tai... This is too hard... I don't know what to do," she whispered, tears beginning to form in her eyes.

A severe wave of fatigue washed over her. She felt her eyes drop closed, but she opened them again. She couldn't go to sleep! Not at a time like this! When all of her friends needed her? When Tai needed her?

Another wave of fatigue hit, this time exponentially worse. The sleepy feeling seemed to be calling out to her to just let herself go and fall into a heavy slumber, but she couldn't do it. Not when he needed her!

Yet another wave hit and Sora could fight it no more.

Without much resistance, Sora slipped into a deep, deep sleep.



2

she denied him



Sora opened her eyes. She felt fully rested. Almost strangely so. She looked at the clock and her eyes widened.

9:30 a.m.

She rubbed her eyes and looked again. It had felt as if she had been sleeping for days almost, but only thirty minutes had passed that she could remember... Unless...

Sora ran to the door, wondering if she had slept into another day. When she heard the laughter and low mumbling of her friends in her living room, she decided that she hadn't.

Only thirty minutes had passed.

"Weird..." she whispered. She put her hands on her hips and slowly turned back to Tai, whose breathing was growing more steady, but his twitching was becoming more frequent. She put a hand over her mouth and sighed deeply. "Oh, Tai."

Sora....

At that, Sora's eyes went wide. She had not heard the voice... She had felt it... deep within... As if... as if...

Don't be afraid of me, Sora! Please... please... Don't shut me out again.... I'm not strong enough to break back in...

"Tai? Tai! Is that you?" But of course, it was him. She knew it. He didn't even have to answer.

Talk with me... You don't have to talk....you don't have to... to...

The feeling of his words trailed off. Sora became alert to what he was trying to say.

I don't have to talk out loud.

....That's right...

Tai! Please don't leave me!

I should be... be saying... the s-same to you...

Sora narrowed her eyes. How sick was he? What was happening to him? What was making him so weak that he could hardly complete his thoughts?

What do you mean?

You... You... You shut me out... You were so scared that you would... lose me that you... you shut out the link...

What are you talking about?

The link, Sora.... The link... We are one now... If we try, we can talk to each other through the soul link...

Oh....

Listen, Sora.... You can't shut me out anymore... It took almost all of my strength to get you to sl-sleep... Don't leave me again.... Please... I need you...

You put me to sleep?

It was the... the only way... Your fear was making a wall around your heart and soul... I was calling to you, but you didn't hear me... I had to put you to sleep so I could get to your mind...

I'm so sorry, Tai! I was so scared! ....I still am...

I'm scared, too...

What can I do, Tai? What can I do?

Sora... We haven't discovered the full link yet...

What?

There's more to it... than just... talking... tele...tele...

Telepathically.

Yes...

Are you saying that I'm the only one that can save you?

....

You don't have to tell me... I can feel the answer...

See, Sora... That's more of the link...

I can feel your thoughts... the answers... the words...

I can feel you, too... I can feel your emotions.

I can feel that, too.... You're being very brave, Tai...

But, can... can you feel the rest?

You're... scared... very...

You are, too.

Yes, yes I am.

....Sora... You have to discover the rest of the link...

Yes, Tai... I think I knew that.

Good... You're the only one that can save me... Sora?

What?

Search my mind... this may be the last t-t-t-

Tai! Please don't say that! You'll survive!

You're... you're...you're angry, Sora.... It hurts me... I can feel your anger and it... it... it burns...

Tai! Please understand! I don't want to be angry!

I don't want you to be.

Then stop saying you won't survive!

I'm not... not saying that...

Then what are you saying exactly?

That this may be the last time... not that it is, but... but that it may be...

I'm sorry, Tai...

Don't be... This isn't your fault...

What do you want me to do, Tai? I'll do anything you want...

Oh, Sora... you always... you always loved me... didn't you?

...Yes, I think I did....

I think I d-d-did, too.

What do you want me to do, Tai?

Search what little of my soul is left... The Demon... It's inside of me...

What?

That's what's wrong... The Demon... The Demon is inside and is... it's eating my soul away...

No! It isn't true!

Sora...

No!

Sora, please...

Tai, no! It isn't true!

Search me-

No! You're not going to die!

Feel me-

No!

Love me... please...

Tai...

Love me...

Oh, Tai...

Sora! It hurts! It hurts!

Oh, Tai! I'm not angry!

It's not you... it's the.. the Demon...

Oh no...

Oh God, I'm losing... I'm losing it... I'm losing everything inside...

Tai, no!



With that, Tai faded out of Sora's mind.

For what she feared would be the last time.



3

forming a plan



Sora burst through her bedroom door, ran down the hall, and stopped at a dead halt in the living room. Everyone stopped talking at once and looked at her. T.K. got up and reached out to her. Sora looked like she'd seen a ghost, and her face showed that the news she had received was very sad news, indeed. Trails of tears were still visible on her face and it was obvious that they were going to be retreaded before she had finished what she had to say. T.K. walked toward her and tried to get her to speak.

"Sora? Are you o-"

"Tai's dying! Please! We've got to save him!" she cried. Everyone jumped a little at the news. Yolei mumbled something about tact, but Mimi elbowed her quickly.

"Whoa, Sora! Slow down!" T.K. exclaimed. He knew what she had to say, but he was hoping that maybe-just maybe-he had heard wrong. As predicted by all of them subconsciously, Sora's tears began to run their pre-made tracks down her red cheeks.

"He's dying, T.K.! We've got to save him!"

"How do you know he's dying?" Izzy asked, his curiosity overwhelming his conscious side.

"I talked to him... It's part of the link. I can talk to him without speaking! He said that the Demon's inside of him! It's eating his soul away!"

Terrified gasps came from all sides of the room almost immediately. Silence soon followed. Finally, Ken spoke.

"What do you suggest we do, Sora?" She looked at him and sobbed.

"I don't know!"

"Sora! Get a hold of yourself!" Joe demanded in a stern yet strangely fatherly voice.

"I can't! I can't!" she moaned. Joe looked at everyone else and then back at Sora.

"Come on, Sora! I know you can! Just think. What did Tai tell you?"

"...."

"Sora! He told you something! He had to of or we don't know what to do!"

Sora appeared to be thinking, but no words escaped her lips.

"Sora, please think!" Matt blurted out from his position in the room.

"Did he say something or not?" Izzy asked. Sora shook her head, trying to think. Yolei walked over to her with Kari and Mimi not far behind her.

"Come on, Sora. Calm down and think," Yolei whispered, trying a different approach than what all of the guys had done.

"Do what she says, Sora.... We have to have your help," Mimi added. Kari sighed heavily and noticeably stifled back a sob.

"Please, Sora! For my brother? Please?"

Sora looked at Kari through her tear-glazed eyes and saw that she was literally begging Sora to think. Sora turned away, put her hands over her ears, and began to think as best she could.

"Yes... He told me... He told me something about the link..."

"Yes...." Izzy said.

"That there's more to it and... I have to... I have to find out the rest of the link."

"Did he tell you why?" Ken asked, piping up from across the room. Sora sighed and closed her eyes.

"He said that it was the only way to save him," she said with little or no hesitation at all. She opened her eyes to the silent room.

No one said a word.

"Well, I guess that means we need to get to work," Matt said finally. Izzy nodded. Everyone looked at the genius of the group, waiting for something. He rested his chin on his hand, his eyes staring intently into the empty space in front of him. Finally, he spoke as if there had never been silence in the first place.

"Yes, it does. I'm afraid the only way to put her inside of Tai's mind... as in, where she could see, feel, and hear everything inside... but that's impossible!" he exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air.

Sora slowly got up, crossed her arms, and then looked at Izzy. She bowed her head and closed her eyes. With a sudden movement, she raised her head and nodded, her eyes still closed.

"There is a way." Everyone looked at each other.

"How, Sora?" Ken asked. "How can we get inside of Tai's mind? There isn't a method known to man that can do that. And you know it." Sora smiled.

"Yes, I do... but we left the realm of impossibilities a long time ago." Ken crossed his arms and sighed.

"Then what do we do?"

"Follow me." Sora turned on her heels and headed back toward her bedroom. The Digidestined looked at each other and then followed. Sora walked casually, but there was something about it that bothered all of the others. She was too calm about this. What had gotten a hold of her? Not even five minutes ago she could barely remember her name, but now she seemed to have the answers to everything. What was going on?

Matt couldn't take it anymore.

"Sora! Stop right now!" Matt yelled at her. She didn't stop. Matt looked at the rest of them. "Do you think the Demon is in her?"

Silence.

"It can't be. She has Tai's Courage inside of her now... doesn't she?" Mimi said questioningly. T.K. shook his head.

"I don't know. She's not acting like herself." Kari shrugged.

"She has a right to act differently with all that's been going on."

"Mimi's question brings up a good point. Can we trust her anymore?" Cody asked.

"What can we do if she is the Demon? Beat her to death? We can't kill on of our own," Davis said.

Joe pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose in one furious motion.

"Stop it! All of you! Have faith in her!"

Sora stopped with her back to them, listening.

"You have NO idea what she has been going through, do you? Do you?"

Everyone bowed their heads or looked away in shame.

"She has a right to act differently! Her freedom was taken away from her, her mother is dead, and Tai is on the verge of being in his grave, too! And have you all forgotten that Sora's mother's funeral is tomorrow? What if she can't go? I think she'd be more devastated than she is right now!" Joe ranted. Sora's eyes began to water, but she still said nothing.

"...We're sorry, Joe," Mimi said finally. Joe shrugged angrily.

"I'm not the one that deserves to be apologized to." Sora turned around, making all of them jump. In a way, they had forgotten her presence temporarily.

"Are you going to follow me or not?" she asked indignantly, her tone suggesting that she couldn't care one way or the other.

"Yes. We will," Matt said without referring to anyone else for the answer. They all looked at each other, shrugged, and followed Sora as she began walking again, her arms wrapped around herself as if she was experiencing a stunning chill.

"I believe there is a way to... exist inside Tai's mind. The link has to be more complex than it is right now. Tai knows that or he wouldn't have asked me to find the rest of it. He's really weak right now, though. I believe that if too much more destruction goes on inside of him, he will be completely destroyed. When I talked to him, his thoughts were fragmented and hard to understand."

Sora stopped talking as they arrived outside of her bedroom. She sighed and took a step forward, putting her within five feet of Tai. The nervous twitching of Tai's hands was beginning to lessen, a sign that his nervous system was being broken down past the point of violent shaking. Although, only Joe and Izzy knew what this meant.

"We're running out of time, Sora," Izzy said quickly. Ken looked at Izzy and then at Joe. Joe was staring intently at Tai. Ken traced his gaze to Tai's quivering hands, which seemed to be the liveliest thing about him at the moment. Sadly, that was true.

"Is there anything we can do, Sora?" Ken asked. Sora sighed and shook her head.

"I've gotta face this alone."

Silence ensued.

"How do you get inside?" Cody asked.

"Inside of Tai?"

Cody nodded.

"I'm not sure."

"Do you think the Digivices could help, Sora?" Davis asked. Everyone looked at him and then back to Sora. Sora hesitated before shaking her head.

"I doubt it. As of now, Tai and I are more advanced than the Digivices are. The Digivices let you control your power, but their systems would probably overload with so much information."

Yolei narrowed her eyes and looked from Sora to Izzy.

She knows more than he does... have they switched places?

"Anyway, all I need for you all to do is monitor our bodies. If anything happens, as in a being of some sort appears, I want you all to have your Digivices ready. They may be the only thing left to repel the Demon."

"Good luck, Sora," Ken said. Davis nodded in agreement.

"I know you can save my brother, Sora. I know you can," Kari whispered softly. Sora smiled.

"I know I can. It's just a matter of... never mind. No sense in worrying anybody... right?"

All of the Digidestined looked at her blankly.

They're already worried, Sora... they're terrified, too... How saddening... to think that your best friends in the whole world might just die trying to save each other.

Project Sacrifice must begin... Hopefully, it won't live up to its name.

Despite her thoughts, Sora smiled at everyone and sighed deeply.

Concentrate, Sora... concentrate...

Instinct began to make its moves in Sora's mind.

Slowly but surely, she put her hands over her heart. Her heart sped up quickly, but she didn't feel nervous or panicked. Not at all.

She understood what was happening.

Her heart was one with Tai's. She was putting her soul inside her heart... making her mind a part of it all, too... It was almost as if she was folding in on herself.

She was becoming link.

Within a few seconds, she closed her eyes, bowed her head, and felt herself being pulled into another world.

The world of her lover.



4

deep within



Burn... It burns...

Sora opened her eyes slowly and looked around her.

Darkness.

God... where am I? What am I doing?

"Tai!" she screamed suddenly. "Tai! I'm here! I can help now!"

Light flickered and finally fixated on a dim setting. Sora gasped, covering her mouth with one hand.

The land was barren. Nothing. Nothing that could account for anything, anyway. It was all dust. The ground was cracked from what would have seemed to be a serious drought. Sora turned around. For what seemed like miles and miles, nothing was there. All that could be seen was where the grey sky touched the land in an almost invisible horizon. The air was making her lungs burn. Even though this seemed like everything was already wrong, Sora felt something else, too. She couldn't put her finger on it, but she knew it was there.

How could it have gotten this bad in such a short amount of time?

An abrupt sound that was like a mix of a dinosaur and a demon roared throughout the land. Sora jerked in that direction, scared from the quiet setting she had been in.

All was quiet again.

"Tai! Help me!"

Silence answered her. She had been confident before she had come here. Now, she wasn't sure what she felt. She was scared, for one. She may be there, but where was she supposed to go without Tai's help? Without someone's help?

"Hi, Sora!"

Sora jumped and cursed. Her eyes went wide.

"Agumon?"

The little reptilian digimon waved a claw at her and made what seemed to be a toothy grin.

"That's me!" Sora sputtered.

"But how-I mean-you're in the-aren't you-why aren't you in the digital world?" Agumon tilted his head sideways and put up a long claw to his bottom jaw, a gesture that would be considered to show thinking on a human. Finally, he dropped his claw to his side and shrugged.

"I don't know! I guess I'm just here." Sora's eyes narrowed a bit.

"Either that or you may not even be here at all..." she whispered to herself.

"What?"

"Oh nothing. Agumon... can you show me the way to Tai's soul?"

"His what?"

"Oh good grief."

"I know where his mind is." Sora thought about this. The common misconception in the earlier days was that the heart was the center of thought in the human body. Back then, all emotions were considered to be from the heart. Could that not apply here? The idea of soul and feelings all come from the brain. Could it be there? Or is his soul in his heart? Or was she already in his soul? She didn't know.

"Have you seen a Demon around here?" Agumon's eyes narrowed.

"...Was it something big?"

"Very."

"...Blue skin? Kind of like the blue of the sky?"

"It was darker."

"Uh huh. I saw him."

"Uh... That's not a-" Sora stopped.

"It's not a what?"

That's not a "he"... It's an "it"... wait...

"I love you.... I love you, Sora... I love you..."

No... The Demon was a he. Or at least she hoped so.

"Where is he, Agumon? You've got to tell me!"

"What's the big rush?"

"Tai will die if you don't tell me." Agumon's jaw dropped, revealing two rows of jagged teeth.

"He's in the heart. He's already been through here. Is Tai going to be okay?"

"I don't know, Agumon. You had better come with me, alright?" The digimon shrugged his orange shoulders and started to walk away.

"I want to help, Sora."

"Sure... but where are you going?"

"Do you want to find the Demon or not?" he asked as he kept walking, never looking back. Sora quietly slapped herself in the forehead and ran after Agumon, hoping that there was enough time left. As they walked away, Sora realized what else felt wrong.

The land was dead.



5

running out of places to hide



She's here... I can feel her... She's here...

What I would give to hold her... to feel her... I want her.

I need her.

But no... NO! They made the link! I cannot go near her. I have to hide from her... but where will I go? I don't want go!

She hurts. She burns me.

She made me feel! She made me learn to love!

And she is angry. Angry and outraged at the things I have done.

She hates me.

If she cannot have me, she will have no one!



The Demon let out another scream of agony and continued ripping Tai's soul to shreds.



6

forgiven



"For crying out loud! How many years do we have to walk to get there?" Agumon whirled around and put his claws on his hips... er... where they would have been, anyway.

"If you can get us there any faster, I'd like to see you do it!"

"Don't you understand? We shouldn't be walking at all! We should have been there a long time ago! It may be too late!" Agumon shook his head.

"If it was too late, would we still be here?" Sora closed her mouth and exhaled lingeringly.

"Let's get going, okay?" she said finally. Agumon began walking again and stopped suddenly. "Uh... I don't see a sign that says anything about a heart, Agumon." Agumon sighed and punched his claw forward. Then, the air that had been there became like broken shards of glass. The horizon that had been there shattered like a broken mirror. Agumon stepped through the hole he had made. Sora looked at Tai's digimon incredulously, but then sighed, figuring that she didn't know what else she could do. Without further deliberation, she stepped through the hole that had been made. Immediately, she gasped.

Trees surrounded Sora on every side. As she took in a deep breath, the air burned her lungs like fire. She saw birds flying across the canopy as she looked up. She looked to her far left and saw a stream. She glanced at Agumon, who said nothing. Sora walked over to the stream and crouched on the bank. The water was crystal clear. As she tried to see the bottom, however, she saw nothing. The stream could have been considered a narrow river because, as far as she could tell, the bottom had to be at least 200 feet down.

As she looked across the water, she saw more trees. All the trees she had seen were exactly the same. Almost suspiciously so. There were sounds that she couldn't identify at first, but finally she realized that it was the sound of crickets and frogs. It was almost like a warm summer's night. Mimi had once told Sora about how she had gone to the country last summer to visit cousins. She had described it as comforting noise. Sora believed this is what Mimi had heard, except she was absolutely sure that it wasn't as intense as this.

"Agumon..." The orange dinosaur-like digimon padded over to her.

"What?"

"Where are we?"

"The Forest." Sora turned to him.

"The Forest? This is not where you were supposed to take me, Agumon!" Agumon padded a few more feet toward her.

"It's not just any forest, Sora. It's the Soul Forest." Sora's face went from exasperated and worried to curious and questioning.

"The Soul Forest?"

"Everything here represents Tai."

It isn't Agumon... it can't be. It has to be Tai... or his subconscious. It's his subconscious because the... conscious Tai wouldn't have been able to think of this. Agumon represents... Tai's subconscious!

"Oh really?" Sora ventured, looking around for any sign of the Demon. "Agumon" took the bait.

"Yeah. See the trees, Sora?" he asked. Sora sighed.

"How can I miss them?"

"Touch one." Sora's gaze fell to Agumon.

"What for?"

"Hurry. There's not much time. Don't argue."

OH yeah... it's Tai's subconscious alright. Agumon was never really assertive like that.

Sora sighed and took three steps forward to the nearest tree. She looked at Agumon warily, who said nothing. She took her hand and, with only a moment's hesitation, put her hand on the tree. Suddenly, she felt a surge of energy that made her throw her head back and shut her eyes in pain.

***

"Look! Look!" Cody shouted. Everyone turned to where he was pointing. Sora's head was back, her eyes watering. She seemed to be in a painful situation. Her hand was glowing a dull golden color.

"Get out your Digivices! Now! We've got to be ready!" Matt shouted. Everyone held them up to Sora and hoped for the best.

***

Sora moaned as she felt herself being pulled into something that ran deep.

It hurts me to be with her.... but I have to stay with her. I love her.

Sora jerked her hand away from the tree and glared at Agumon.

"You didn't tell me it would hurt," she said in a deathly tone. Agumon sighed.

"That's just a part of being here." Sora rubbed her palm gingerly with the fingers of her left hand.

"It hurt, Agumon." Agumon shook his head and made what appeared to be a grim smile.

"Just wait until we get to the dead trees." Without looking at Sora's suddenly pale face, Agumon began walking through tight spaces between the trees. Sora hesitated only for a moment as she fought the tears that threatened to fall.

***

"I.... I think it's okay now." Matt never moved his eyes from Sora.

"Are you absolutely sure, Izzy?"

"Honestly, no."

"I won't lower the Digivice until you're absolutely sure." Izzy sighed.

"Matt. She's okay." Matt, never wavering his eyes, lowered the Digivice to his side and slipped it in his pocket.

"We'll see."

***

"Agumon... where's the Demon?" He shrugged.

"Somewhere in the Forest."

"What do all of these things represent?"

"All you need to know for now is that the trees represent Tai's soul and the ideas that have become a part of him."

(it hurts me to be with her)

"Why did you make me touch-"

(but i have to stay with her)

"-that tree? Was there any-"

(i love her)

"-reason that you made me do that?"

"Yes. There was."

"Why was that?" Agumon sighed heavily, but kept walking.

"There may be a time that you question his love for you. That tree represents an idea that has become a part of Tai. No matter how much you hurt, he will be there. I told you to touch the tree because you need to know that you are a part of him. A part of what makes Tai 'Tai'. If you question his love for you... what he really feels, you'll remember that there is proof he lives for you. That way, you won't have to question everything he feels for you... Later on, the lack of proof could cause you to separate. If you did that with the bond you have now, however, you will both die."

"Oh."

"Keep walking, Sora. Our time is short." Sora was almost in a jog to keep up with the little creature, no matter how large she made her stride, he always seemed to be at least 5 feet in front of her.

Suddenly, a roar of stupendous proportions rang throughout the once-peaceful forest. Sora felt her heart skip a beat, but she remained calm. She forced herself to. She knew that being in panic would be no help to the situation at all. Agumon stopped abruptly.

"You are on your own." Sora's eyes went wide with fright.

"Agumon, no..." she moaned. Agumon took a step backward.

"Good luck. Save him, Sora."

"NO! You can't leave me, too! No!"

"Go through the trees ahead of you-"

"No! Don't leave me!"

"-and keep going until you reach-"

"Please! Please don't!"

"-the Demon. He will be waiting for you because-"

"Tai! I know that's you! Please don't leave me!"

"-he can sense your presence."

"Agumon! Tai! Whoever, please! Don't leave me!" Sora sobbed as the tears began to run down her face in salty streams.

***

Ken's eyes went wide with astonishment.

"Everyone! Look!" he called, a hint of sadness in his voice at the sight. Kari sighed.

"She's crying..."

"No... this isn't just crying... this is... is... more than that. What if she's lost someone else? What if she's lost Tai?" Mimi asked worriedly. "Those are not just tears. There's something that goes with them. I can tell by looking at her."

"If she's lost someone else, it isn't Tai."

"How do you know, Izzy?" He laughed quietly, his sadness making his voice heavy. He looked at Mimi and shrugged.

"We're not dead."

***

"I have to leave, Sora. I have no choice. You are on your own. Realize that." Sora fell to her knees, the tears coming on more heavily.

"Don't leave me, too! Don't! Please!" Agumon just took another step backward.

"You are never alone, Sora. Live for those who love you and live for those who will always love you."

"Agumon, please!"

"Live for their love and you will survive." As Agumon began to walk backwards at a more steady pace, he steadily disappeared into thin air. Sora watched in disbelief as Fate and Destiny dealt her a cruel hand.

Sora sobbed for what seemed a few minutes. With strength that she had dug up from within herself, she got to her feet and dusted off her jeans.

Everything's so real here.

"I-I'm... I'm coming, Tai. Hold on. Please."

With words of Courage from within herself and within Tai, she trudged on.

On her way, she didn't touch another tree.

***

"She stopped crying. That's good news, I guess," Davis said with a shrug. Everyone else nodded in agreement.

"Let's hope nothing gives her reason to start up again," Matt said quietly.

With all of their attention focused on Sora, everyone went still again.

***

"It can't be far!" Sora cried in exasperation. She had been walking for what seemed an eternity, but in earth time was only a few minutes. Her patience with the Demon had grown far too thin and, in her current frame of mind, was ready to tear the... thing apart.

Another roar rang throughout the forest. Sora staggered as her hands flew to her ears. When she thought that it had stopped, she put her hands down warily.

That roar had sounded very close.

So close it seemed that she should be on top of the Demon.

Where was it? He? Whatever? Where was the thing?

Sora began walking again. It couldn't be far. With confident nod, she started walking a bit faster.

In about five minutes by earth time, Sora ran into something and fell back.

"What the-?" she yelled, rubbing her head. She looked up and tried to see what she had run into, but all she saw was trees, trees, and more trees. She got up, cursing silently, and dusted off her jeans again. She put her hand up carefully to the spot where she had hit something and her mouth dropped open. What appeared to be the landscape was a flat surface. She ran her hand along it and saw that it was not just a flat surface. It was a huge wall. She ran her hands up as far as she could and felt that the wall was at least eight feet tall-well out of her reach. But... this wall was smooth. Like... Like...

Glass.

Sora pushed on it to see if it was really glass - that maybe it had a little give to it - but she only confirmed that it was glass. Sora sighed.

This might hurt a little bit.

Sucking in a deep breath, Sora cradled her right fist with her left hand and rammed her elbow into the glass wall. In astonishment, she watched as it shattered into what seemed to be a million pieces, leaving a gaping whole wide enough for her to step through. Then, with her eyes wide open, she watched as the pieces of glass simply disintegrated. She stared at the air where the pieces had been in the air and then at the whole in the wall. As she peered through, she gasped.

Dead.

Everything was dead.

The trees were all discolored and dying. There were no birds and no crickets as there was on the other side of the wall. There was no trickling stream that Sora could see. Most of the trees appeared to have been cut... or torn down. As she walked into the place, she felt dread settle in the bottom of her stomach. She looked up and saw a black sky. The forest itself seemed to be giving off just enough light for her to see, but it was almost too little. She bent down, examining one of the cut trees, and saw claw marks marring the bark.

She stood up and felt an abrupt pain in her right elbow.

***

"Joe! Joe, look!" Joe brought his head up sharply from his comfortable position against the wall. He had almost been asleep.

"What is it, Cody?" he asked with a hint of irritation. The boy began to stutter, so Mimi took over.

"Sora's bleeding!" she said in an exasperated tone. Joe quickly hopped to his feet, pushing his glasses upon his nose at the same time.

"Give me my bag! Quick!"

In the commotion about Sora, no one noticed that where the fallen hero was laying, the sheets were rapidly turning a dark red.

***

She looked down and saw the blood running down her arm. She held her forearm in her left hand as she began to examine more closely. She saw that the blood had already run down onto the palm of her right hand. As she looked at her elbow, she saw that there was absolutely no glass in it. Just deep cuts. She looked up, her eyes wide with frightful awareness of her surroundings.

I've got to go on...

Gripping her elbow as tightly as she could manage to stop the bleeding, she trudged on.

***

"That should stop the bleeding sooner or later... She hasn't lost that much blood," Joe said with a sigh as he backed away from Sora, who now had a heavy bandage on her right elbow from Joe's bag. Everyone looked at each other. Kari looked at T.K., who had his back to Tai lying on the bed. All at once, she shrieked.

"Kari? What is it?" T.K. asked frantically. All she could do was put one hand over her mouth and point with a shaking finger to something behind him. He whirled around and made a choking sound as his breath caught in his throat.

"Joe! Tai's bleeding!"

***

"Whoa-kay... This hurts just a bit more than planned," Sora muttered through her teeth. "Reeeeally smart, Sora... smash through glass with your elbow. You won't get hurt. Really. It'll just slice your elbow open but you won't feel a darn thi-"

Sora stopped her grumbling immediately once she heard what sounded like a tree crashing to the ground.

It's CRUNCH time!

Sora smiled wryly at the annoying voice in her head. Without thinking, she let go of her elbow. She drew in a hissing breath, but quickly recovered. Slowly, as not to startle the monster, she began to walk around the trees to look at where she thought the Demon was.

And... she was right.

There, slicing away at tree with an intense anger that Sora could feel, was the Demon.

The Demon's body seemed to pulse a navy blue light. As... he brought back his hands to deliver another striking blow to the tree, Sora saw that there was no skin on his claws from the way he had been tearing everything down. It was a raw surface that seemed on the verge of bleeding, but she wasn't sure that Demons could bleed. There were scratch marks on his whole body from where it had recklessly ran through the trees. The Demon howled in misery once again, the sound mimicking that of what we would associate with a dinosaur. Perhaps a t-rex. Sora could not see the Demon's face, but figured that there was something disturbing showing through on it. The spikes that had been around the Demon's waist had been retracted apparently for they were no longer showing. It's tail swung around like a wilted bat, but exponentially more dangerous. Sora knew it could sense her presence, but what was she to do?

Go by instinct.

"Hello there," she said softly.

The Demon whirled around with lightning quick reflexes, but those same reflexes were of someone who had been scared. Sora saw that something she hadn't seen before when the Demon had his back to her. His claws were coated in sticky, dripping, dark red blood.

Suddenly, Sora felt this hatred well up within her.

He's killing Tai... and he killed my mother...

The anger... the rage... the sadness... the fear... it all hit Sora at full force in that one moment.

And she could barely keep it in.

"You.... You...." she began to sputter, but clenched her fists.

Don't lose composure.

"You need to leave right now," she said in what she hoped was an assertive tone.

The Demon, its sickly green eyes glowing brightly, hesitated. Then, ever so slowly, shook his head. Sora felt anger well up within her, but kept it back by pure will.

"Now."

The Demon didn't respond. Sora felt something within her grow like a monstrous disease. It both sickened and strengthened her at the same time.

"Leave now."

No response. The Demon stood there with his knuckles hanging past his knees. Sora felt the thing inside her grow.

"Leave!"

Again, no response.

The fear.

The fury.

The sadness.

The guilt.

The grief.

She felt it all hit her exponentially harder.

All in one second.

With a force that she had never felt before, she began to pulse with white light, illuminating everything around her. She even blocked out the Demon's dark pulsing light. The monster inside of Sora grew... and grew... and grew. She almost couldn't control it. Some sort of instinct kicked in and, suddenly, the power she felt within her began to channel itself... concentrate into a much more controlled substance. Then, that little instinct in the back of Sora's mind, let go.

Then, almost as if everything were in slow motion, it all happened.

The white glow that had surrounded Sora had changed into a channeled beam that shot from her then outstretched hands, throwing her a step or two back. The beam rushed out of her hands and hit the Demon squarely in the chest. The Demon released a roar of pain that shook the forest and everything in it as he began to fall backward. Sora watched with a sick amusement that frightened her as the Demon's chest seemed to shatter.

Sora took a few steps forward as the white glow built up around her again.

"You've taken my freedom."

She held her hands out in front of her hand pointed them at the Demon. In another second, Sora hit the Demon squarely in the chest again, causing the Demon to let out a more pain-ridden roar. An expression came onto Sora's face of satanic happiness. It wasn't a smile, but it was something akin to the feeling of contentment.

"You killed my mother."

She held out her hands again, repeating the motion that she had done already twice before. This time, as the white beam of energy hit the Demon in the chest, he only twitched and moaned loudly. Sora felt even more anger when she saw that the Demon wasn't dead.

"You're killing Tai."

This time, the glow charged up even more. Sparks began to fly around Sora as the power became almost too much for her. The anger was getting worse... more intense. Sora felt it burn her... hurt her... but she didn't care. The scary part of this... power was that it made her feel good in an almost evil way. She was enjoying the pain that it brought her. It was allowing her to destroy the thing that she... she...

Hated.

It was allowing her to destroy the thing she hated.

And she loved that.

The sparks that had been coming from her settled on the ground all around her. In her carelessness, Sora didn't see that the dry ground and the small amount of vegetation that was still on it had burst into small flames. The fire spread and soon all of the dead trees, whether they had just been cut down or not, quickly became fiery statues.

Sora! Stop!

Sora ignored the words in her mind... rather, they were too weak for her to hear them. She continued to concentrate the power within her. Loving the pain it brought her in hopes she could kill the thing that killed part of her will to live.

Suddenly, a movement caught her eye. Temporarily distracted from concentrating, Sora let the power die down a bit and looked around her.

There, with the scars of a warrior and the pain of a dying man etched into his features, stood Tai.

Sora stood in shock as the power within her that she had concentrated into an unstoppable beam died down.

"T... T... Tai?"

Staggering toward her, Tai managed to make a nod. He had scars all over his body. It was strange because he hadn't been that way in real life, but on some subconscious level, Sora knew that these were emotional and mental scars. He was in regular clothes. He had on blue jeans and a yellow shirt. They were blood caked and sweaty, but Sora didn't care. For some reason, he was holding his elbow. When she looked closer, she saw that blood was dripping around his hand. On this, she did not make the connection. Instead, she felt happiness that he was alive. That he had made it this far. That she hadn't been too late to save him. Sora ran to him and suddenly laughed as she put her arms around him to steady him.

"You're okay!" Tai looked up at her and shook his head sadly, still staggering. When Tai spoke, Sora felt the shame and guilt hit her like a ton of bricks.

"Look what you've done!" he cried in pain. His face was covered in a kind of hurt that made Sora feel like she should be shot on the spot. Tai made a gesture to the world around them and Sora looked in horror.

Everything was burning.

And this was Tai's soul.

Sora came to the horrifying conclusion.

She was burning Tai faster than the Demon was.

She looked back to Tai, her expression loaded with guilt and shame. A lone tear traveled down her cheek as Tai looked at her with so much pain.

"Your... Your hate... You hate the Demon... that hate is killing me, Sora!" Sora shook her head in disbelief as she took her arms from around Tai.

"I was trying to get rid of it!" she said, neglecting to tell Tai of its gender in her one and only chance to defend herself.

"Look at it and tell me if you've killed it!" he screamed at her. Sora glared at Tai, but realized he had every right to be this way to her. After all, she had burned the soul trees that made his essence... who he was... She had hurt him almost as much as the Demon had. And to think, the fires were still burning. So Tai was still dying.

And she was the cause of it.

Tai made a wild gesture toward the Demon with the hand that had been supporting his bleeding elbow. When Sora saw the blood again, she realized why.

Oh my God... we're connected...

She looked down at her own elbow and then at Tai's.

Both were in the same condition.

Oh Tai... Oh Tai, I'm so sorry...

"Sora! Look! Please!" Tai cried, this time weakly. He hadn't meant to yell at her... but some things have to be done to get the point across.

Sora looked up at Taichi's face, a face with so much pain and regret on it, and then at the ground. With a courage that she knew was never hers, she turned around slowly and gazed upon the Demon.

The Demon's head was back against the ground. His arms were lying flat and crooked on the ground. Compared to his body, they seemed like logs sticking out of a huge muscular yet seemingly malnourished torso. His legs were bent at the knee, rising up in the air like lone mountains on the desolate plain that was his body and the ground around him. Sora looked back at Tai who made a furious motion to look again. This time, she knew exactly what he wanted her to look at.

The Demon's chest.

Sora gasped in sudden horror and disgust at her actions. The Demon's chest had been skinned. The force of the beam of power that Sora had shot into it three times had forced the skin back to reveal ribs that were hitching slowly. There was black blood everywhere and there was a low moan of pain coming from the Demon that Sora had not noticed before.

This... thing wasn't dying.

It was just suffering.

"Sora.... Don't you see???" Tai said weakly. Sora turned back to him, the tears in her eyes too much for her to keep back as they tumbled down her cheeks.

Tai hobbled over to her and gently put a shaking hand on her shoulder.

"You're being... being... evil... at heart. You're out to make the... the... Demon suffer... If you had just killed it... it would have been different... but a part of you wanted to make it suffer," he finally sputtered out. Sora looked into Tai's eyes.

"Are you even really here?" she asked quietly. Tai nodded.

"I... I did what you did... became a part of the link... I am here.... with you," he whispered weakly. "This... this Soul.... Forest... isn't just mine... it's both of ours combined... You're hurting yourself... those trees that are burning... you're hurting yourself, too... you're just so... so... angry you can't feel it."

Sora cried silently, not even bothering to wipe them away.

"Touch one of the trees... Touch a burning one... see what you've done."

"But Tai! I already KNOW what I've done!"

"The hell you do! You have to feel it to know!" he yelled. Sora cringed. "I'm sorry... I must do that... yell at you... to get you to understand. Otherwise... you think it's not real... Sora... you can't afford not to believe that it's real... you're killing us both here."

Sora closed her eyes and clenched her fists. He was right... she didn't really understand. She was feeling too much... it was blocking out all of the pain.

"Touch that burning tree."

"But Tai! The fla-"

"They won't hurt you." Sora looked at Tai skeptically, but obediently walked over to the tree Tai had gestured to with his head. Taking three steps that were heavy and hesitant, she came within reaching distance of the burning tree. Glancing back at Tai's hurt yet stern face, she looked back and put her hand on the tree.

She was struck with a sudden pain that made her throw her head back. She screamed as pain ripped through her body. The flames on the tree licked at her hand, but never left a mark. Sora would have gladly accepted the burns they would give versus the hurt she was feeling. A sharp heavy throb struck her head like a monstrous headache. Her legs felt weak as her knees gave out and she fell to the ground, sobbing.

Tai hobbled over to her as best she could.

"What did you hear, Sora?" he asked as calmly as he could. Sora sobbing figure couldn't make out words for a second. Finally she answered.

"Scr-Screams... I h-h-h-heard scr-eams..." she sobbed out. Tai put a hand on her back and felt the sobs as they came continuously, fighting his own tears. He hadn't meant to hurt her, but she had to learn.

"Do you know whose screams those were?"

There was no answer from Sora... just her tearful sobs as she tried to recover from the event that had just happened. She couldn't have come up with an answer if she had tried.

"Those screams were mine, Sora."

Sora looked up at Tai with a wet face and a dull horror etched into her features. For a moment, the pain on his face was gone and he looked impassive to her. Perhaps that was so he wouldn't feel anymore of her pain. Sora bowed her head and began to sob again at full force.

"Sora... Sora, look at me."

Sora refused, shaking her head.

"Sora, look at me."

She shook her head again, sobbing even louder.

"Look at me!" he screamed. He had raised his voice to her so many times that day, but she wasn't listening to him.

"What do you want from me?"she cried. Tai narrowed his eyes in a pitiful attempt to keep from crying.

"I want your attention!"

"Well, you have it!" she screamed. Tai sighed in exasperation.

"Sora... don't you realize that the hate that's a part of you has changed you? The old Sora would have NEVER made a creature suffer. The only reason you didn't kill the Demon right off is because you wanted it to suffer, didn't you?" Sora just glared at Tai. "Didn't you?" She bowed her head and sighed.

"I don't know why I did. I didn't even know I could do that."

"You had the power to... you may not realize it, but somewhere deep in your mind... your heart... your soul... you wanted the Demon to pay for what it had done." Sora just stared at Tai. "The Demon is like... Piedmon or Puppetmon... or Devimon or any of those evil Digimon used to be. They're all working for a higher power. It does you better to destroy them and weaken the supreme enemy than it does to just let them suffer and build up their strength to use for revenge, doesn't it?" Sora said nothing. "When we are hurt, we have more of a reason to come back and cause harm than we do if we're just left alone... we can't come back if we're dead. You understand that." Sora nodded slowly. "Well, then... If you just hurt this Demon... make it suffer... it's going to come back sooner than it would if you just killed it. As we know with Myotismon, he may come back... but it will take him a while to get here." Sora nodded again. "But... you did want the Demon to suffer instead of just dying because you wanted it to feel the pain it had brought you. If you didn't feel that way, the Demon would already be dead." Sora sat silent for some time.

"He killed my mother." Tai nodded slowly.

"I know that..." His eyebrows then knit in confusion. "Wait a minute... you just called the Demon a-"

"He. The Demon is a he, Tai."

"How do you know?" Sora sighed deeply and got up from the ground, her breath hitching a bit from her sobs.

"Because..." Sora stopped. What harm would it do to tell Tai? I mean... he couldn't get jealous or anything so... "The Demon is in love with me, Tai."

At first, Tai showed no reaction. Then, a slow frown crept onto his lips. He managed a small "oh" and went silent.

"Tai... nothing's going to happen... I mean... look at the situation..." Sora started, trying not to let herself believe that Tai might be jealous. Tai nodded with a slight smile.

"I know... I mean... I know... but..."

"But what?"

"It's different now."

"Why is it different?"

"Before... we could have just killed it. Now... Now..." Tai narrowed his eyes to finish as he looked at the Demon, but no words came from him. Sora narrowed her eyes at Tai.

"Now... what?" she coaxed. He sighed deeply and looked at her.

"Now the Demon has... humanity."

Sora's jaw practically unhinged from her face.

"Tai... you can't be serious. I mean-"

"Sora, the Demon has humanity. He can love now," Tai said simply. Sora opened her mouth to object, but sudden thoughts stopped her. Tai had a point. If the Demon could love from a background of so much hate, then maybe there was a chance for the Demon to change completely. Sora saw what Tai was thinking of. She was surprised he had thought of it instead of herself.

"I know what you mean... but..." Sora stopped. What could she say? Maybe the Demon was under the influence before and was slowly breaking free from the spell that the Assembly of Sin had cast on it. She was totally clueless to what she could do.

Suddenly, the Demon twitched and rolled over onto his side. Taking a deep breath that sounded like a dull roar, the thing literally hopped onto his feet. Both Sora and Tai stood in disbelief as the Demon cast a glare to Tai and began stomping off at what would have been considered running pace for a human but only long strides for this huge monster. Tai looked at Sora with his jaw hanging loosely from his face.

"We've got to find out where it... he... whatever is going!" he exclaimed, casting a glance at the rapidly disappearing figure that was the Demon. Sora gave a weak sigh.

"But Tai! What are we going to do to it?" she asked. Tai shook his head.

"That's up to you. I can't fight anymore. I'm too weak," he said, speaking hoarsely. Sora closed her eyes and fought the tears so she wouldn't feel so weak when she cried.

"So you're not coming with me." Tai shook his head sadly, holding his elbow in one hand.

"I can't."

"Then I'm on my own."

"I'll be there... I think... it'll just be in a way that can't really help you." Sora opened her eyes and looked at Tai with a perplexed expression.

"What do you-"

"You'll see." Sora sighed deeply and turned away.

"Then I guess... goodbye for now." Tai reached out weakly and brushed her cheek with a part of his hand that had no blood on it.

"For now... just for now." Sora smiled weakly and felt Tai's hand fall away from her cheek. She turned in his direction to say something, but, to her surprise, he was no longer there.

"...Just for now."

With that, Sora began to run as fast as her body would allow her to. She had to catch up with the Demon.

It was literally a matter of life and death.

* * *

"Have you got Tai bandaged up yet?" Davis asked worriedly. Joe smiled grimly.

"Yes... but he's lost a lot of blood. I'm afraid to move him because of... well... whatever the hell is going on." Joe laughed bitterly and stood up, pushing his glasses further up on his nose. Kari stared at the body of her fallen brother blankly while T.K. put a reassuring arm around her shoulders. Cody sighed deeply and looked at the elder Digidestined around him. They all seemed so... stoic. No unaffected, however. Just stoic. It was hard to explain. They all had this certain sadness about them, but other than that, nothing seemed to be wrong. It was like they were all in shock after someone had just... died.

Ken saw Cody's examining gaze and smiled wryly. He knew what he was thinking. He had had the same look on his face at his own brother's funeral. Then it struck him. They had all given up. They thought that they were going to lose Tai and Sora, no matter how hard the two tried to save themselves. A part of them all had all given up and they were already grieving.

How can we call ourselves friends when we give up before the fight's even over...

With an expression of extreme helplessness, Ken buried his face in one of his hands and began to cry softly.

* * *

Sora panted as she ran. She had been running nonstop for the last few minutes and it was beginning to take its toll on her already weak body. She was used to running. Any athletic person would be. She was exceptionally weak however from the loss of blood and harrowing encounters with hurtful thoughts.

This is the first time I can actually recall being hurt by a tree.

Sora smirked a bit and kept running. Suddenly, she felt stronger. Her body began to feel rejuvenated. She slowed down and began to take notice of the things around her. She was in a part of the forest that wasn't dead now. Everything was lush and green. Just as it had been when she had entered the Soul Forest. Trees stood farther apart than before, but they were just as beautiful and breathtaking as they had been when she had entered the forest. She looked at the ground to see what seemed to be an infinite amount of flowers. All red and gold. She smiled as she realized the symbolism of the two colors. She could feel something... it was almost like it was in the air... but she could feel it... Oh... how she could feel it. She closed her eyes and placed a hand over her heart and smiled broadly.

It was Courage... she could feel Courage.

She could feel Tai.

She sighed with temporary happiness that disappeared as soon as the breath left her lungs. She had to find the Demon. And she had to find him now.

Sora walked for a little bit until she spotted some trampled flowers. She bent down and examined them closely. Sure enough, the size of the area that had been stomped on was the approximate size of the Demon's foot... as best she could remember, anyway. She realized that she had just wasted time by even trying to examine the footprint because there was only one thing it could belong to, but... here, she was never sure of anything.

She scanned the area for a similar footprint and found one four feet away.

That is one hell of stride that thing has.

Sora thought in amazement at how long the Demon's legs must have been to reach that far. She scolded herself for wasting time again on such a trivial matter and began to jog in the direction the footprints were pointing. She waded through a knee-high flowered clearing. The trees ended on a neat row. Beyond that row was a field of beautiful red and gold flowers. Gentle hills were spotted along the horizon and covered in these beautiful flowers. She kept walking until she saw what she had been looking for.

The Demon.

And it was dying.

Sora could tell because in this place, you could feel emotions and certain other things. She could feel sadness in the air that had been with the courage. The courage was thick and strong, but the sadness was almost as powerful. There was also a certain pain. She couldn't actually feel the pain, but she knew it was there. With a sigh, she took a step forward.

"You know who I am, I take it," she said quietly. The Demon, who was sitting with its back against one of the trees that was on the neat row, looked up at her with those sickly green eyes. Its chest was healing, but very slowly. It was obvious that he would die before there was a chance to recover. If there was a chance he could, however, then he was probably going to be crippled. In some way or another, what Sora had done would affect this Demon's future.

"Can you talk?" she asked softly as she kneeled in front of the Demon with her back to the sunny hills. She sat on her heels with her hands folded neatly on her thighs. The flowers that were around her came up to her shoulders from the way she was sitting. The Demon bowed his head and nodded slowly.

"You can? Why don't you talk to me?" Sora asked. The Demon looked up at her again, using visible effort to raise her head. He opened his huge mouth, revealing sharp teeth and a black tongue, but said nothing. His chest rose shakily... a sign that his strength was running out. Fast. "Are you too weak?" The Demon slowly - very slowly - shook his head. With great effort, the monster began to speak.

"I can speak," he said simply. Sora was startled by the deep bass sound to the Demon's voice. She was also startled to hear how... gentle it sounded.

"If I can help you, will you let me?" she asked, trying to get past her first impression of the beast. The Demon looked into her eyes with his own sick cloudy green ones and shook his head slowly. "Why not?"

"Because I deserve to feel this pain." Sora's eyes narrowed. He was right. He deserved to feel the pain that he had forced upon others... didn't he? "You do not understand, little one." She looked up at him.

"Why don't I understand?" The Demon took a deep breath and continued without a crack or weakness in his voice.

"Because you think I am wanting to feel this pain because I took part in the death of your mother. That is not why. For the sins I have committed against you, I have paid for. I have had my black heart turned into a living thing and then crushed by my own wants and desires. I am paying, little one." Sora frowned slightly. The Demon's voice was so caring... and so was the nickname that had become hers.

"Then what are you dying for?" she asked quietly. The Demon shifted and let out a deep moan.

"I am dying for the sins of those who commanded me here." Sora shifted her legs out from under her and drew her knees to her chest, linking her hands around the shins.

"You shouldn't. It's not your fault. You were forced. They should pay for what they've done... not you." The Demon shifted again, this time bending one of his knees close to his chest.

"But they cannot pay. They cannot be destroyed. No matter what evil they have done, they cannot be destroyed. They should not be. If the Assembly of Sin was destroyed, the ultimate balance would be disrupted." Sora made a frustrated gesture.

"But... you shouldn't have to pay for what they did! You don't deserve that! You deserve more if you've changed!" she exclaimed, tilting her head slightly. The Demon made a groan.

"Someone has to pay." Sora got on her hands and knees and crawled the few feet that separated the Demon and her. She then sat right beside it, looking at its features. The Demon made no effort to look at her, as it had no strength to do so. Sora narrowed her eyes in intense concentration. With only a moment's hesitation, she slowly extended her hand and touched the Demon's blue skin on his arm. It was soft yet tough. Sora realized that she must have had some sort of massive power in her to even leave a scratch on the Demon's hide. She looked up at his face and put a hand there.

"But you don't have to be the one to do so."

The Demon slowly closed his eyes and sighed deeply, his chest hitching at the climax of the breath.

"If I do not, no one will. Little one... I must." The Demon opened his eyes and turned his head over on the side to look at Sora, who was crying unconsciously. The Demon put up a clawed hand and stroked her face gently with a part of it that wasn't calloused or bloody. Sora let out a sob as she let herself rest her head on the Demon's huge hand, which was large enough to palm her head and then some. "I must."

Sora closed her eyes and let her tears fall silently onto the Demon's open palm.

"You can't give up... you can't give up. Not after you've changed!" The Demon slowly took his hand away.

"How can you be so sure I can change? I can only love. That is only one of your emotions. All the rest of mine are things that you would consider hellish in their origin." Sora put both of her hands on the Demon's enormous head.

"Love is the first step to any change. Acceptance. Love. If I can accept you after what you've done, then there are others who will do the same. You have shown compassion. Sadness. Anger. Those are all emotions that can tie into each other. You have felt a wide range of emotions. If you come to our side of the fight, your skills would be of more use," Sora said softly with the tears rolling down her cheeks as she stroked the Demon's skin. The Demon closed his eyes.

"I almost killed your mate." Sora's breath hitched in her throat, but she let it go quickly.

"I know."

"That does not phase you? At all?" the Demon asked with what seemed to be disbelief. Sora shook her head slowly.

"It did. I can't deny that. But it doesn't anymore because I know you were forced to kill one of us." The Demon shook his head.

"I was sent to kill you. I was trying to kill your mate because you would not love me," he said without hesitation of any of his words. Sora sighed deeply and studied her hands.

"I know." Suddenly, what seemed to be hope flashed upon the Demon's face.

"Little one?" Sora closed her eyes and sighed again.

"Yes?"

"If you save me, does that mean you will stay with me?" Sora narrowed her eyes and looked up at the Demon.

"...What do you mean?" The Demon shifted again to where he was more or less facing Sora.

"If I tell you that you can save me, will you stay with me? Will you leave your mate? Can you help me become who you say I can be? Will you... love me?" he asked with a hopefulness that was heartbreaking. Sora felt the tears tumble down her cheeks in steady streams.

"I-I-I-"

"I will take care of you. I will hold you when you need me. I have learned in my time that I have spent here that humans do that. I will need you as you will need me. In time, perhaps?" Sora's eyes were wide with shock. The Demon put out a hand with the palm up. "Please. This is my offer. Please take it." Sora stared at the hand and then began to shake her head furiously.

"No! I can't! You don't understand! I love Tai because he has always been here! He loves me! He needs me! I need him! You can't just make an offer for someone to love you! You don't understand!" she exclaimed. The Demon's hope disappeared as quickly as it had come. He dropped his hand at his side and just stared at Sora in silence.

Sora realized what she had done and felt terribly guilty. There was a long period of silence. Finally, Sora worked up the courage to apologize.

"I-"

"Then forgive me for what I must do." Sora's eyes went wide again.

"What?"

"I will die. Here and now. Watch me for you seem to take joy in my pain." Sora shook her head furiously.

"NO! You just didn't understand!"

"Someone must die. If it must be me, so be it. I will pay for the sins of those before me." The Demon bent down to where he was eye to eye with Sora. "And I will feel the pain of a thousand tortured deaths. I will die for those who will not pay for their own sins because it is deserved." With that, the Demon rolled his head back to where he was staring straight ahead. Sora shook her head slowly.

I almost had him! He was almost ready to go on!

"Little one? I need you to do something for me." Sora frowned slightly, but said nothing. "I want you to forgive me before I die."

Sora felt angry. Very angry. She had tried to get him to come back. To get him to heal. But he wouldn't listen. Why should she forgive him?

"NO! I won't do it!" she cried. She jumped up and walked away from the Demon.

"Little one... please... I need to hear you say you forgive-"

"NO! You're giving up! You're paying for something you didn't do! But you won't listen to me!" Sora screamed. The Demon became silent. With abrupt, jerky movements, he began to try to stand. At first, he tried getting up on his own, but his knees were weak. He grabbed onto the tree that he had leaned against and gradually got to his feet.

"Then I will die in utter sorrow," he said calmly. With that, the Demon let out a monstrous roar that scared Sora so badly she fell backwards. The roar was so ferocious and loud that the Demon's chest could be seen vibrating at a high pace. The vibrating from the roar caused his bleeding chest, which had temporarily slowed down, to begin bleeding so heavily that it was hard to believe there was any blood left in his body after a few seconds. Sora watched in horror as the black blood from the Demon's chest began to coat the flowers at his feet. The gold and red colors were blacked out by the heavy sticky substance. She reached out a hand to the Demon, but for the first time, realize that he didn't have a name. She began shouting at him, trying to get him to stop.

"No! Don't do this! You can make a difference! Just don't give UP! This isn't the end! You don't have to die for what they've done!" she cried, tear kissing her cheeks briefly before hitting the petals of the flowers around her. She got up and ran to the Demon, but knew it was too late. The blood was beginning to run thin and the Demon was staggering. The sickly green eyes were rolling about in their sockets, not being able to focus on anything. Sora saw that he had bled himself dry. Just for the sins of those who would never pay.

She could see in his rib cage now. White ribs showed through like beacons compared to the Demon's black skin. She could see something that seemed to be beating very weakly and slowly. It was reddish in color. Sora realized with a sympathetic gaze that without any blood to pump, the heart would simply die. The Demon staggered again, this time backwards, finally losing its balance. Sora watched with a dull shock as he toppled over. He let out a low, pain-ridden moan as he hit the ground.

"No!" Sora cried as she ran to him. The Demon was gasping for breath, but there was no life force in him to make his efforts worth anything. Sora felt the compassion within her take over as she kneeled beside the fallen Demon. All the Demon could do was let out a low, mournful moan as he felt Sora touch him. "You didn't have to do it! You could have stayed!" she sobbed. The Demon just made a forlorn moan that could break even the hardest of hearts. The Demon managed to look at Sora and made what would have been a deep sigh. Sora grabbed the Demon's hand and wrapped his large knuckles around her own, swallowing it. One abnormally large tear ran down Sora's cheek before it landed on the Demon's hand that was wrapped around her own. The Demon moaned again, this time weaker. Sora sighed deeply and decided what she had to do. She let go of the Demon's hand and crawled over close to the Demon's head. With a deep breath, she bent down close to his head and whispered ever so softly the phrase he had wanted to hear.

"You are forgiven."

The Demon made what seemed to be his own version of a small smile. Then, without a moment's warning, the Demon's head slowly fell on its side. Its eyes still open with a dumbstruck look to them.

He was dead.

Sora closed her eyes and sighed. When she opened them, the Demon was still there. She reached to its face and closed its eyes with her right hand. Closing her eyes again, she bent down and kissed its left cheek softly. She sat up with her eyes still closed and began to cry silently. She drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her shins, burying her face into her knees.

She felt something touch her shoulders and link around her waist. With a tearful, fleeting smile, Sora realized it was Tai. He was holding her as she cried. Something he had done so many times before, but it meant so much more this time. At this time, Sora let herself collapse into Tai's invisible grip, feeling his hold on her tighten even more.

And she cried.





Epilogue



The wind swept the sandy beach with a gentle touch. The ocean's tide rolled upon the shore, making a hypnotic sound as it crashed. The waves were gentle today. Very much so. They hardly made a sound. The sunset reflected beautiful shades of gold, red, and orange. A soft and gentle breeze kissed the cheeks of two young teenagers in love before what some considered their time.

"It's a beautiful sunset," the girl whispered. The boy smiled lopsidedly.

"Yes... very. There was a time when both of us weren't sure we'd see another." The girl looked at the boy with an eyebrow raised.

"There was more than just one time." The boy shrugged.

"True... but you have to admit... this last time... we almost lost." The girl looked from the boy's face to the horizon where the sun was rapidly setting.

"Almost." The boy sighed and looked up at the sky overhead.

"The stars are coming out... Look at that dark sky..." he whispered, a slow smile creeping onto his features. The girl looked up and smiled.

"It's beautiful... and to think... this is where all of our troubles began a month ago. It doesn't seem possible that such a breathtaking place could be the start of a war to save both worlds."

"Well... that's not exactly true. The war has been going on since the dawn of time and before that... but it was the first time that we personally had become a part of it without someone or something to protect us. We had to do the fighting ourselves." The girl looked at the boy skeptically.

"You have a lot of insight. Is that something that has just come around or have I been missing it?" The boy smirked.

"We've both been missing it." The girl smiled softly as the boy turned his gaze to her. The girl's eyes fell to the boy's lips, but she turned away and blushed as soon as she realized what she was thinking. The boy smiled broadly and turned the girl's face back to him. "It's okay. I promise." The girl's blush deepened, but she relaxed a bit. He slowly leaned in with his eyes closed. The girl did the same. Their lips were only inches apart. And then-

"SORA! TAI!"

Almost jumping out of their skins, both teenagers turned around to see a whole herd of Digidestined tromping toward them. Sora massaged her forehead as Tai fumed angrily.

"You people need to work on your timing," Sora said with a frustrated smile. Joe grinned.

"I think I know why, too." Sora smirked and shot him a "So what?" look. Joe's grin just widened.

Behind Joe stood Izzy, Matt, Kari, T.K., Davis, Yolei, Ken, Cody, and Mimi. Tai sighed, finally pushing his anger aside.

"So are we ready to get this over with?" he asked impatiently. Izzy nodded as he opened up his laptop.

"Just about." Tai pointed over to a group of round picnic tables about fifty feet away.

"Let's go over there. That way we won't have to worry about sore feet in the morning." A few of them laughed as they followed the original and second leaders of the Digidestined, for Davis had joined Tai in the front. Tai still had a bit of a limp, but was healing faster than any of them had expected. Sora was directly behind them with Mimi at her side. They were followed by Kari and Yolei, who were backed by T.K., Matt, and Cody. Ken and Joe walked behind them as Izzy lagged behind, typing furiously at the keys.

"I hope Gennai will tell us some good news," Sora whispered to Mimi. Mimi shrugged.

"That old man has hardly ever given us any good news without some bad news to go with it." Sora laughed.

"True true."

When they arrived at the spot that had been pointed out, Tai sat down and Sora automatically sat down beside him. Davis sat across from them with Yolei at his side. Kari sat between her and T.K. At T.K.'s side, Cody sat. Mimi sat down beside Sora and Joe hurried to sit by her. Matt sat at his side. Ken took one of the only places left, which was a spot just big enough for him between Matt and Davis. Izzy between Cody and Tai with the white screen of his computer lighting up his face. Joe sighed and pushed his glasses up on his nose.

"Someone please REMIND me why we decided to meet here at 8:00?" he said. Sora laughed.

"So no one would see us and we could meet in secrecy. No one would look here for us." Joe sighed and propped his chin up in his hand as Mimi just shook her head and laughed.

"Alright. I'm online. Just have to wait for Gennai- never mind. He's here." Everyone situated themselves to where they were at least a little bit comfortable and waited for Izzy to tell them what was going on. "He says hello to everyone. He hopes Tai and Sora are doing well." Sora smiled.

"Tell him we're doing a lot better than we were." Izzy rapidly punched a few keys and smiled.

"He said he's glad to hear it. I'm going to tell him we need to hear any information he can give us about the Demonic War... are there any questions that any of you would like to ask?" Izzy said, looking around the table.

"Let's hear what he has to say first. That way, we can ask our questions wisely," Cody said quietly. Izzy nodded.

"Sounds like a plan. Oh great. He's typing." Everyone groaned and waited patiently. A few moments later, Matt sighed in exasperation.

"That guy must be THE slowest typer." Ken laughed.

"No... I doubt that. It's just the connection between the Digital World and the real world needs a little work... Right, Izzy?" Izzy nodded without looking up. Sora raised an eyebrow.

"Didn't you say you were going to work on that?" Izzy smiled nervously and glanced at her.

"Maybe. Maybe not. Oh, well looky here. He finally got done." Sora smirked at the quick save.

"Well, what does it say?" Yolei asked. Izzy sighed and began to read.

" 'I would like to congratulate Sora and Tai for making the difference that was needed. The Demonic War is over, but it was only a phase of the real battle at hand. You all fought in different phases of the war when you fought as Digidestined. I realize Sora's losses have been great and there is nothing that I can do that will help her with her grieving. I send my condolences on her mother's death.' " Sora frowned. Tai put a reassuring arm around her shoulders and squeezed slightly. Izzy continued without pause. " 'I also know that Sora and Tai may be feeling guilty about the act they committed due to their religious backgrounds.' " Sora blushed deeply as Tai bowed his head to avoid showing his embarrassment. Izzy looked up, raised an eyebrow, smirked, and then went back to reading. " 'I have some news that might erase that guilt.' " Sora and Tai looked at each other in bewilderment.

"He's typing. Hold it."

"Damn! He leaves off at all the good places!" Matt said loudly. Joe elbowed Matt and made a gesture with his head toward Cody. Matt blushed slightly and managed to choke out a "sorry".

"Ooh! He's back!" Izzy exclaimed. Everyone seemed to lean forward in anticipation.

" 'As most of you know, prophecies are usually made before the time or birth of those mentioned in them. In Sora and Tai's case, this prophecy was made hundreds of years in another universe before they were born. You all know the prophecy since I have already told you that, but there is a part of it that was left out because I was not allowed to tell you the last line of the prophecy. It had to be that way. The last line to the prophecy is: ' "

"He's gone for a second. Hold on," Izzy said. Tai rolled his eyes as everyone else made similar signs of exasperation. "Oh. He's back."

" 'Once they are forever intertwined, they will have also been bonded in the way of humans in their world so they or any other being cannot condemn themselves for they have righted themselves in their religion and views of others.' "

Everyone looked extremely confused, even Izzy.

"I'm asking him what that means," he said as he typed in the question. Sora nodded.

"Somebody please do." Izzy waited patiently for the answer. Suddenly, his eyebrows became raised and a slow smile crept onto his lips.

"Well...?" Tai coaxed. Izzy's smile grew wider.

"Well... it appears that... you didn't need to ask her to marry you, Tai," he said as he looked at his friend. Tai felt something click in the back of his mind, but couldn't identify it. The others had a vague idea, but weren't sure that they were right.

"And that means.... what?" Izzy laughed.

"The second you... well... you know... you..." Izzy laughed again.

"Spit it out, man!" Sora exclaimed.

"You got married."

Utter and total silence.

"You've GOT to be joking..." Tai said finally. Izzy shook his head.

"Sora is now Mrs. Kamiya... at least according to the Digiworld." Sora's eyes widened.

"Uh... huh."

Silence came again. Suddenly, all the male Digidestined got up at the exact same time except for Cody and Tai and walked over to Tai, clapping him on the back.

"Welcome to married life, Tai!"

"You're a goner now!"

"I feel sorry for Sora!"

"I hope you stay happy with the news! I surely wouldn't!"

Sora just sat there with her jaw unhinged. Mimi, Kari, Yolei, and Cody all shook their heads.

"This is all a bit... sudden to say in the least," Sora managed. The girls laughed.

"I bet it is. You're going to be happy, though," Mimi said with a wry smile. Sora managed to return it and nodded.

"Yes... I will be." She looked at Tai, who just smiled weakly at her as the elder men in the group continued to joke and playfully punch him.

Izzy glanced at the computer screen and saw Gennai had sent another message.

"Everyone! Sit down! Gennai's got something else to say!" Everyone groaned and sat down, still talking to each other about the news. Sora and Tai just smiled at each other weakly, not knowing what to say.

" 'On a much sadder note, I must tell you something about the Demon.' " Sora's mind instantly cleared as her eyes narrowed in concentration. To her, this was still a sensitive subject. On some level, she thought she had failed miserably in one of her only chances to save another life. If there was anything that might provide the closure that there was nothing she could have done, she would jump at the chance to hear it. " 'I have heard the story of what happened inside of the link. I've heard it from both Sora and Tai's points of view. I am sorry to say that the Demon could have been saved if he had not killed itself intentionally. The Demon, in essence, committed suicide.' " Everyone agreed to this statement as they had all come to that conclusion long before Gennai had said this. "However, the way the Demon could have saved himself just by walking away. At one point, Sora describes a feeling of courage flowing through her. That very well may have been Tai or the part of the forest she was in. Whatever it was strengthened her tremendously.' Alright. Just a second. Okay. He's back."

" 'Her courage became enough that she could go on. Remember the Demon must stay away from Courage, correct? When Sora's courage was strengthened, she became the most deadly enemy to the Demon.' " Sora's face twisted as she came to the conclusion before Izzy could read it. " ' In other words, Sora was what killed the Demon. All he had to do was get up and stay away from her and he could have healed. The Demon would not do this, however. It could almost be described as a dying wish that he wanted to be with her when he died.' "

Silence.

"That's why he asked me if I would leave you..." Sora said slowly as she put her face in her hands. Tai put his arm back around her shoulders.

"He loved you that much," Tai whispered as Sora fell into his shoulder, crying softly. Tai kissed the top of her head softly and began to rock her gently.

There was a beat of silence before anyone spoke up.

"I think... that the Demon learned a lesson from us," Tai said quietly. "Or rather, from me." Everyone looked at him as he rocked Sora. "I learned myself that... to love someone... you must feel their hurt... you must let them feel your hurt. If you don't, you're not in love... You have to be willing to feel the pain that they bring you, no matter how severe." Everyone nodded. "The Demon loved Sora. He loved her so much that, in the end, he stayed with her... even when it was killing him." Tai looked up with tears in his eyes. "That Demon learned that lesson quicker than I ever did."

Silence overtook all of the Digidestined for the next few minutes.

"I've got to take Cody home... his mother will be worried about him," Yolei said finally. Everyone nodded and told both of them goodnight as they left. Quietly, Izzy mentioned his own mother would be worried. Matt said he would walk T.K. and Kari home. Davis came along just to "watch out" for T.K. and Kari. Joe began to leave with a silent wave to Sora. He took in a deep breath and kissed Mimi on her cheek. Mimi, surprised by the action, blushed deeply. Joe offered to take her to her hotel room and she accepted graciously, waving goodbye to Tai and Sora. Ken decided to go on before it got too late for, as he said, his mother was prone to worrying. After he left, only Tai and Sora remained.

Sora slowly brought her head up from his shoulder and smiled.

"I'm sorry." Tai waved it off and smiled back.

"Don't worry about it. Some things need to be cried about. I know how you feel... you feel you failed at changing someone... or at least that's part of it." Sora nodded slowly.

"I do feel that way."

"Well... you've changed me, Sora. You changed that Demon to where he could love... He died with purpose because of you. I live with purpose because of you. You've changed more things than you realize." She smiled tearily.

"You have too, you know." Tai shrugged.

"I know I have. I've helped restore life to the same place that I was responsible for killing so many."

"Tai... we were sent to the Digital World to kill evil. There's nothing wrong with that." Tai's eyes became glassy as he looked Sora in the eye.

"What about those who were innocent?"

Sora sighed deeply.

"Let's go, Tai. We both need to go to bed." Tai nodded and looked out at the ocean as he got up. The sun had completely set, but the stars were scattered across the sky in a beautiful array. Tai managed a smile. Sora walked with her head down. She took off her shoes and walked across the sandy beach. Her jeans were lose at the bottom and you could barely see her feet, but, walking behind her, Tai could see the soles of her feet kicking up every step. He ran up behind her and picked her up, swinging her around. Sora screamed and then began to laugh madly. "Tai! Put me DOWN!" she cried in fits of laughter. Tai laughed as he put her down gently. He took her hands and put them against his chest. Sora smiled and felt the magic of the moment. On the beach... late at night... the stars shining down on them... it was almost too perfect.

"So..." Tai said finally. "How does it feel to be 'Mrs. Tai Kamiya'?" he asked. Sora sighed deeply.

"I'm not so sure that the idea has actually sunk in yet, but as far as I know, it feels great," she replied with a grin. He returned it as he leaned forward and touched noses with her, closing his eyes.

"I love you, Sora." Sora closed her eyes.

"I love you too, Tai." Tai smiled softly and opened his eyes at the same time Sora did. With a wry smile, he closed his eyes again and slowly lowered his lips to her own. Sora closed her eyes and met him in that kiss with a passion.

Slowly, things began to start happening. Sora and Tai's heartbeats began to get louder. They could be heard in both of their ears. A magical feeling of peace and happiness washed over them and stay there like high tide. Then, the strangest thing began to happen.

At first, it was very faint. Very very faint. But then... it grew brighter... and brighter... and brighter... until a golden glow the color of fireflies began to show through their chests.

Their hearts were glowing... and beating...

All of this was being done in unison.

Due to the link between them.

The feeling that took over the two was something that brought their love to a new level. It was a love that was parallel to that of something of a higher power would feel... not lowly humans.

As the kiss between Sora and Tai deepened, so did the bond between them. The glow grew brighter and so did the loudness of their heartbeats.

The link was complete.



And somewhere in the universe... in a place where anything can have a new beginning... anything can have a new end... where anything can find peace... or where anything can find eternal suffering...

Something with the appearance of a beast and the heart of a lover mourned over long lost love.

But knew his chance would come again.



So many things happen to us in our lives

So many things that we cannot control

They hurt us

They burn us

They can even kill us

But then...

They can change us

Mold us

Make us new

Make us reborn

They can give us hope

Or take it away

These things can give us love

Or shatter our hopes of ever having it

But we must hold on to the life we have

For we can only live it once

We must hold on to the hope of love

The hope of life

The hope of redemption

We must hold on

If we can become strong in our beliefs

And learn that anything can happen to any of us

Bad or good

Then whatever unseen forces come to us

We will be able to overcome



The End







A/N: .......

HALLELUJAH!

I'M DONE! FINISHED! MUHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I'm SOOOOOOOOOOO sorry it took so long, but I've finished! Thank GOD I've finished!

This was a pretty good chapter... it felt like I was rushing it. (lol I know. A three month rush, right?) It just had a rushed feel to it, but I think it was a good chapter all in all. I hope you guys like it! If I do not get at least ONE *VERY VERY* LONG REVIEW, I will be just a BIT upset. Take your time and review, you guys. I worked very hard on this and I really want to know what you thought... whether your thoughts are deep and thoughtful, or you just want to rant at me about how much better it could have been, go ahead. I'm waiting. I DESERVE some good reviews. ^_~



Until the next time, this is

Artisan of the Written Word

Signing off.



A/N 2: If you want to e-mail me or talk to me online, my e-mail is dragonsouldreamer767@hotmail.com and my AOL screen name is DreamStormer767. Yes, I do have MSN instant messenger, so if you want to talk to me on either AOL or MSN, I'm online a lot of the time. You can almost always catch me. ^^



Adios!