In perfect sync, Minervamon and Masaru came at Lilithmon, Masaru with his fist charged and Minervamon with her sword poised to gore.

The Demon Lord had been preoccupied with the pleasure she had gotten out of her heinous act and didn't even have time to react. Within the next second, Lilithmon's agonized scream mixed in with the final echoes of BanchouLeomon's. Unlike Lilithmon's blow, Masaru and Minervamon gave her no room to even feel her wound. Minervamon had slashed her accursed arm, Masaru her abdominal area, and she was gone in a flash, replaced by a Digiegg with ornate purple swirls. Their combination had been so perfect, yet neither of them cared to rejoice their victory.

Not giving the Digiegg a second glance, Minervamon put away her weapon and shield and went to BanchouLeomon's side, inspecting the spot where he'd been pierced.

" You defeated her..." his first words were muted.

" BanchouLeomon, this wound..."

" ...It won't heal."

" What?"

The other Digimon de-evolved and went up to BanchouLeomon with the others.

" This attack... is a concentration of all the water Leviamon had brought forth. It's taking over my body and will poison me soon. There's not enough time to stop it," BanchouLeomon said, resolute in his end.

" No..." Minervamon almost whimpered, lifting him in her arms.

" Minervamon, Masaru, Agumon, Tohma, Gaomon..." BanchouLeomon said slowly, deliberately. Each one looked back at him desperately as he called their names.

Tears started spilling out of Minervamon's serpent eyes. " That DAMN Lilithmon! She... She used an illusion of Mercurimon to thwart us... I should have known... I should have known...!!"

" Don't blame yourself, Minervamon. I was... the one to make the mistake."

" But I..."

" Minervamon," BanchouLeomon repeated, not letting his warrior friend continue on the subject, " Go to the dojo. There's a hidden panel in there I want you to check. Near the chimney..."

" BanchouLeomon..." Minervamon said, distressed.

" BanchouLeomon!" the others said frantically in unison.

The lion man smiled at them with his remaining strength, glad to hear his name. " Sorry I couldn't stay with you longer... Masaru, there's one very important thing I have to tell you."

" ...What is it?"

" There's no need... to search for your father anymore. You won't find him."

" ...What?!" Masaru's eyes widened.

" Suguru has... passed on already..."

" No..."

" As will I..."

" No!!"

Masaru lunged forward to grab onto BanchouLeomon, but the moment he made contact, the banchou's surface became transparent and his hands slipped through. Gradually, BanchouLeomon faded away, and in Minervamon's arms, only a Digiegg remained. It was patterned in Digisoul squares.

There was no blood, yet the amount of grief in the tears she spilled on that spot weighed that of a full ocean of it, at least in her consciousness.

Yoshino, Ikuto and their Digimon approached not long after, celebrating their victory until they saw the extra Digiegg in Minervamon's weeping position. Then they too joined the mourning.

" We need to go to the dojo and find whatever it is he left for Minervamon. The least we can do right now is follow his final request," Tohma told them quietly.

" We'll go with you," Yoshino volunteered. Ikuto stood beside her, trying to hold back his own tears.

Masaru could tell that the little boy had wanted to cry.

He'd gone into the fight, fully assuming that they'd all come out flawlessly victorious. And he had assumed BanchouLeomon was the most invincible among them.

Yet there he was, reduced to a Digiegg in Minervamon's arms. Those powerful arms and legs, the cool mouth leaf, the symbolizing cap, the sight of his prideful gakuran flapping against the wind, all gone. All through an attack that he barely even saw.

Just like the time with Mercurimon.

Even the greatest beings could meet their downfall from the smallest occurrences...

Masaru stared at the spot where BanchouLeomon had been just a moment ago. Impossible...

And as if he had enough trouble believing what had just happened in front of his eyes, what BanchouLeomon had said about his father...

He couldn't bring himself to tell Yoshino and Ikuto about it.


In the dojo, they inspected everything near the chimney, looking for any sign of what BanchouLeomon had spoken to them of. It was Ikuto who dug through the old fire logs and found the hidden panel under the ashes.

And inside it was a metal safe with a password lock. Ikuto pulled it out and showed it to Masaru, who looked at it curiously.

" So what's the password?"

" I think I have an idea," Tohma said as he went up to the lock, which had its own QWERTY keyboard. He entered in "DGOS" followed by a long series of numbers that none of the others could catch up to remember, except possibly Gaomon. The lock authorized the password and opened up the safe, much to the others' amazement, although Tohma didn't look too impressed with himself as he finished the password.

Inside was a giant letter marked MINERVAMON. Masaru picked it up.

" Looks like he left this letter for you... Did he know this was going to happen?" Yoshino remarked.

Minervamon stared at her letter in Masaru's hand, looking frankly quite lost. Masaru handed the letter to her.

" So what are you going to do?" Masaru asked her.

" I'm... not sure what to do..." she said forlornly, lips still quivering. " Is it all right if I go back to your mansion, Tohma? I need a room to myself for a while."

" You're certainly more than welcome."

She tightly clutched the envelope to her chest along with BanchouLeomon's Digiegg.

" We better head back so we can seal up these menaces for good too," Yoshino said as she looked upon Beelzebumon's egg in her arms. She clicked her transmission earpiece to make contact with the headquarters back in the real world as they left the dojo.

Masaru looked at the envelope in Minervamon's hands. More questions were flooding his head by the second.


Back in the real world, they arranged all seven of the Demon Lords' Digieggs in a massive, grave-like hole in the ground. Tohma brought out his Digiwindow as the rest of the DATS team and Minervamon watched. They watched the final activation of the Digital Code and as the Digieggs soon disappeared from their sight. Kurosaki and Shirakawa came in with machinery to bury the hole.

They had just made a huge success in bringing peace to their worlds, yet the mood was hardly celebratory.

All of the humans had come dressed in black, as if attending a funeral. It had been cloudy noon, as if rain wanted to come down, but it wouldn't rain.

Minervamon refused to let go of BanchouLeomon's egg ever since they came back to the real world. She stood through the event tightly holding onto it the whole time. Afterwards, she said she would be heading back to her room to open her envelope.

Satsuma had told them all to take the rest of the day off, which everybody accepted with few comments.

Masaru watched Tohma speak some words of condolence to the ancient Digimon as the rest of the people departed the site.

Despite not being very close to her, Masaru could sympathize with her situation. She had just lost her only remaining friend in the Digital World. After seeing how upset she could get about Mercurimon, he could only imagine how much she was suffering now, having to deal with losing both Digimon.

Masaru had no idea what to say to her up in person, however. He couldn't expect her to know anything about his father, or fathers in general...

No, she probably did know. After all, she'd read so much about the humans through their literature. But she had plenty on her mind already.

He was about to say something to her when she leapt high into the air and disappeared, heading off on her own towards Tohma's mansion.

Perhaps it was better that way. He was mourning BanchouLeomon's loss too, but things were complicated for him in other ways.


" Masaru. About your father..."

Tohma and Masaru were riding in Tohma's limousine, away from the burial site. The others had left to go home for the day, and Masaru couldn't bring in any mood to refuse Tohma when he offered the ride.

" As much as I looked up to BanchouLeomon... I can't get myself to believe that."

" ......"

" A banchou never lies... but..."

It was too much for him to take all at once. He was devastated enough that BanchouLeomon was taken down, the thought of someone even closer to him gone even before that wasn't registering in his mind.

He did remember, however, how BanchouLeomon had mentioned his father once, back when he was in such a confused state of mind back at the DATS shelter. Back when he had forgotten who he was fighting for...

He was fighting for the Digimon, right?

Fighting for his comrades, his loved ones... his father...

Now he wondered if it was really all for his father in the end. Like Tohma had spent so many years searching for a cure for his little sister, Masaru had been chasing after his father all this time. Was it truly all for naught?

Tohma sighed. " I said I'd tell you something after the battle, but now..."

" I still want you to tell me."

" You won't believe me."

" Try me... I doubt you could say anything more unbelievable than what just happened today."

" It would be... for you," Tohma said solemnly.

" What do you mean by that?"

Tohma didn't say anything for a while, just giving Masaru a look that plainly said "don't regret you made me say this..." As the limousine came to a stop at a traffic light, the fighter just edged him on to get going with what he was going to say. Tohma took a deep breath before continuing.

" Your father... was BanchouLeomon."


The hell?


Impossible. It sounded like a big joke to him. BanchouLeomon was BanchouLeomon, not his...

But Tohma wouldn't joke with something like this... Masaru knew that, but...

The hell. Just because he was having difficulty believing his father was no longer alive...

That was too much. That was crossing the line. He wasn't going to stand getting toyed around like this.

" Don't fuck with me!!"

He sent a massive force of his fist into Tohma's cheek. He froze as he saw Tohma tumble back in the vehicle, almost hitting his head on the side.

What did he just do...

He seriously wasn't thinking clearly.

" ...I gotta leave."

Before he really knew what he was doing, he opened the vehicle door to the streets and ran out, ignoring the couple people who stared at him from the sidewalk.

Without looking behind himself, he ran. The sounds of few, scattered people in the streets around him fell empty on his ears, the view of the street signs were all a blur. Yet, he soon knew where his body was making him go.

After a long run, changing from the solid pavement, there was the crunch of rock and sand below his feet. He found himself at a playground near his old elementary school. No one else was within sight, as the grey clouds overhead had kept all the visitors away. He knew this playground. He knew that swing set, that seesaw, that sandbox, those monkey bars...

Pathetic. He'd just run away, he realized. Purely out of the guilt from punching Tohma for saying that during his current state of mind...

He slumped onto the swing set, idly kicking his feet against the rocks on the ground.

State of mind? What state of mind? He could hardly think about anything now. His mind and body seemed to have both gone blank and cold.

" Aniki..."

He felt a jolt at the quiet voice. He'd forgotten about Agumon, still in the Digivice in his suit pocket.

" Agumon..." he said as he brought out the Digivice to face his partner. " Sorry I can't let you out right now... I... I don't feel like going home yet."

" Are you feeling okay?" his Digimon asked worriedly.

" Don't worry about me... Are you hungry or anything?"

" Just a little sleepy right now... It's been so long since I evolved, I ended up using all my energy for that fight!"

" Oh... that's for sure."

The slightest of smiles started to creep onto his expression, relieved to hear Agumon's words. Even in this situation, there was still someone who could talk to him like nothing had changed. And how thankful he was for that...

" You were great today, Agumon."

" So were you, Aniki..."

Masaru was almost waiting to see if the yellow Digimon would go on about how awesome he was, but it ended up as a long yawn instead. Masaru smiled anyway.

" Hurry up and get some sleep. You can come out when I get back home, all right?"

" Oookayyy..."

He swung at the swing set for a few minutes, barely noticing the dark clouds overhead starting to churn more rapidly. He still didn't feel like going home... His mother and Chika were out at one of Chika's friend's for a day-long birthday party anyway. They weren't planning to come back until the evening. If he were to come home now, no one would be there. And when they did get home, what would Masaru tell them...

The swing slowly came to a stop as he stopped moving. The wind started blowing in harder, causing him to rock back and forth a bit.

And then he saw Tohma in front of him, the blond shooting silent daggers at him with his eyes.

" How'd you find me..."

" I had Gaomon lend a nose." Tohma took hold of Masaru's wrist while Masaru still had his hands on the swing bars.

Ah... was he going to get the payback punch? It'd only be natural...

But instead, the blond said, " It's going to rain any moment now... Let's move somewhere else."

Masaru hesitated to look at Tohma as Tohma practically dragged him up off the swing. No punch... Although, honestly, he was kind of hoping for it.

" Don't bother with me."

" You're probably hungry. We haven't eaten since we went out for the battle. Want to suggest a place to eat?"

Although he knew Tohma was fiercely gazing at him, the blond's words were quite generous for having been punched just earlier...

And he was right, Masaru was hungry. He'd been ignoring his stomach because of all the other things on his mind.

He sighed quietly to himself. " You're not my physician anymore, you know."

" I'm not asking you as a physician, Masaru..."

Masaru suddenly returned Tohma's gaze, and they had a slight staring contest until Masaru cleared his throat.

" This is the playground where I fell off the monkey bars and got the injury on my forehead when I was little," he said out of the blue, walking up to the mentioned monkey bars. He used to awe at the height of the bars back then, always having to jump with all his might in order to reach them, but now he could easily grab onto them with his feet flat on the ground.

Tohma eased his expression to one of slight surprise, but he didn't say anything.

" I was here with my father. My head was bleeding a lot... He carried me and ran all the way from here to the hospital that day." Masaru grabbed the monkey bars with one hand, wandered under with a slow swing, then pointed another direction with his other hand. " Otherwise, we'd often eat at the ramen house on the way back home, over that way."

Suddenly, Tohma went under the monkey bars with him and grabbed the pointing hand as he passed by. " Then let's go there. I'll pay."

Masaru felt himself get pulled along somewhat forcefully. " Hey, wait! Fine, fine." He shook off Tohma's hand and started following the blond towards the direction he had indicated.

They went in silence, the most noise coming from their rushed steps and the increasingly heavy, blowing wind whisking through them. He felt something unsettling about Tohma rushing them the entire way, but he went along anyway.

It was for the better, since as soon as they shut the glass door entrance to the ramen house behind them, the rain started pouring. It happened at amazing timing, really.

" Yo, Masaru-kun," the restaurant owner behind the counter said. His eyes opened wide at their appearance. " What's the occasion? It's rare to see you on a day like this. And who's this person you've brought with you? He looks really familiar..."

Tohma picked up his mental guard as the man peered at him. The blond was obviously regretting that he didn't put his public disguise on.

But the older man just shook his head after a while. " Well, no matter. Come have something to eat. That's what you're here for, right?"

There was no one else in the restaurant for the time being, seeing as they had arrived after usual lunch hours and the weather was... as it was.

Masaru sat down on one of the counter chairs like it was his second nature and then went on to blank out. Tohma followed his example and cast his eyes briefly on the menu written on the boards at the top of the walls.

" Which one do you like the most?" Tohma asked.

Masaru gave him a delayed response even though the question was easy for him. " The house special... there's nothing else like it."

" All right, then let's get two of those. Unless you want something else?"

" ...Whatever," Masaru said, continuing to give that blank stare.

The man behind the counter blinked at the atmosphere between the two boys, but then he clapped his hands together. " Two house specials on the way!" He went behind the small drape cloth that led to the kitchen to prepare the order.

The sound of the heavy rain outside and the shuffling of kitchen preparation occupied them for a few minutes.

Masaru put an elbow on the counter and rested his forehead on his hand. " Tohma, you know how it's like to lose one of your parents, don't you?"

" ...How do you know about..."

" I overheard you talking to your father yesterday, upstairs in your mansion."

" ......" Tohma's expression changed, as if he were feeling guilty that Masaru had heard that conversation.

But Masaru looked past it, lifting his face from his hand to stare up at the blond. " What am I supposed to do now, Tohma..."

He really was an idiot. A big, freaking idiot.

He knew Tohma wasn't lying when he said BanchouLeomon was his father. Tohma had known and he hadn't. Even if Tohma was a genius, this was Masaru's own father. He had no excuses. It hurt all the more realizing how oblivious he'd been for something so important.

" What did you do when she passed away?"

Tohma responded slowly. " ...I cried. I cried a lot. I was only six years old back then. And it happened right in front of my eyes..."

" In front of your eyes..."

" It was a traffic accident. We were walking towards a festival, and a truck..." He didn't finish his sentence.

The pattering of the rain outside gave them white noise as Masaru let things sink in. He'd wanted to know, yet now that he did, he wasn't sure what to make of it.

But there was one thing he did know for sure...

" All right!! Two house specials, ready for ya!" came the sudden call from the kitchen. Two large bowls of noodles were served before them, each with a freshly-cracked-open egg resting on the top.

" That was fast..." Tohma commented.

" Yeah. Hiroshi's great like that. Thanks for the food," Masaru said as he took a set of chopsticks and split them.

And right then, the rain let up. There was nothing but a light sprinkle out now, making the brevity of the pour just earlier seem like a lie.

" I'm gonna head out to the back for a bit and check up on some stocks. You guys can take your time and all. And thanks for comin'!"

As the owner left, leaving the two alone in the restaurant, Tohma blinked. " Is it really okay for him to be leaving the place alone with just us around?"

" Yeah, he trusts me like that."

Tohma split his own set of chopsticks and began eating... perhaps a little too soon, since he started puffing on the insides of his mouth to relieve himself from the heat.

" Give it a couple more minutes, man," Masaru said, grinning a little.

" Mm, I knew that... It's really good though."

Masaru grinned some more. " Isn't it?"

The brunet leaned over the counter again, this time resting his chin on his hand. They watched quietly as steam rose from their noodle bowls.

Ah... of all things to happen, he didn't think he'd be sitting there, sharing a meal with Tohma right now. So much had happened in such a short time, and now he was finally free to ask the things that were on his mind, yet he now also had a bazillion extra things on his mind.

The best thing to do, he figured, was punch his way through them.

" You grew up with her while she was still around?"

" Huh?"

" Your mother..."

" Oh... yes, I did."

" Was she nice?"

" Of course..."

" Do you miss her?"

" Of course I do..."

" What do you miss?"

" I miss..."

Yes, this kind of punching. Bombarding. Bombarding with questions, questions coming to the top of his mind that were trying to plague him. Slowly, he could allow himself to ask them, to get them out of his mind.

Because it seemed Tohma was willing to answer now.

He knew it was only putting more into his mind as Tohma answered questions about his mother, yet he was welcoming it. Both of them were welcoming it.

They continued to have small talk about Tohma's mother over their food, and Masaru slowly came to realize once more... Tohma wasn't as different from him as he'd thought. He wasn't just some high-in-the-sky nobleman prince living in a completely different world full of genius-intellect science. He yearned to go goldfish scooping at the local festivals, to try out the new dumpling food stall that opened up, to play in the park and see all the dogs in the neighborhood on their walk... his childhood had really been a lot like Masaru's. It was just that while Masaru had the most memories with his father, Tohma had for his mother...

Tohma was right there, talking frankly to him about his deceased mother, about these issues Masaru had trouble bringing up to his own family. It was such a strange feeling...

Yet as time passed, as the rain started to die down outside, he was starting to understand more and more what these feelings were.

And he could sense that they both knew... while they were avoiding the subject, Masaru knew that he had to face it sooner or later.

He had to face a lot of things sooner or later...


The owner, Hiroshi, came back after a while, and Masaru finally gave him and Tohma a proper introduction before Tohma paid for the meal. It was pretty obvious by then that Hiroshi recognized the blond from a certain long-passed television program, but he mentioned nothing of it, and they bid their farewells afterwards.

The rain had ceased altogether by then.

" Are you ready to go home yet, Masaru?"

" Ready..." Masaru reiterated, noticing the wording. " Mom and Chika shouldn't be home for a few more hours. But... I might as well head back anyway. Thanks for the meal, Tohma."

" I'll walk with you back home too."

" Ah?" Masaru tried stopping the heat from rushing into his cheeks but he wasn't sure if it worked. " You don't have to-"

" Until your mother and Chika come back at least... You'll need someone with you."

Masaru frowned at him. " I've got Agumon with me. And even without him, I'd be fine."

" No offense, but Agumon's not enough. Not for this."

Masaru's eyes widened at the blond. Tohma was being awfully assertive...

" Fine. Do what you want." He started heading back home, just a few streets down the road. He was rather disgruntled that Tohma was being so stubborn, but at the same time, he was happy for it... although he wouldn't admit it.

Tohma, who had been constantly avoiding certain matters between them in his irritatingly slick way, was now directly involving himself. Whatever had brought about the change, Masaru wasn't about to push it away without seeing where it'd go.

As they turned the corner to the street where Masaru's house was, Minervamon stood in their view. Her sudden appearance gave Masaru déjà-vu, as he realized BanchouLeomon had once done something similar.

" Whoa, what brings you here, Minervamon?" he asked.

She simply pointed to Masaru's chest, confusing the ponytailed man in the black suit.

" You've got a metal hexagonal pin, don't you?"

" It's a tag, not a pin, but yeah, I do."

" Can I see it?"

Masaru blinked. " Sure..."

His suit was already unbuttoned, so he dug out the tag from his undershirt and showed it to Minervamon, although he kept the chain around his neck.

" It really is the same..." Minervamon unclipped the hexagonal pin from her forelocks and brought it up next to Masaru's tag to compare them. " In that case, these are for you."

" Huh?"

Minervamon flashed two envelopes in front of his face, slightly smaller than the one she had received earlier.

Masaru took the envelopes with an even more confused look on his face.

" What are these?"

" That's for you to find out. I'll be gone now... I need more time to myself," Minervamon said quickly. And she was gone in an instant.

The labels on the envelopes stated "MASARU" and "DAIMON FAMILY" respectively.

" ......Call me overprotective, but I'm going to see what's in my envelope before I tell Mom and Chika about this other one."

Tohma said nothing in objection.


They arrived in front of the Daimon residence.

" You're going to see what's inside your envelope, right? Let me come with you."

Masaru gave him a funny look.

" But..."

" I know it's addressed to you only, but... just this once, let me make this selfish request."

That got him. For once, Tohma was asking something of him. Tohma, who always seemed to have things set the way he wanted, without bothering to ask...

Tohma stared at him straight in the eyes.

He was asking, yet Masaru knew he couldn't refuse anyway.

Was he surrendering? Which one of them was surrendering?

" All right. Come up with me."

Masaru realized Agumon from his Digivice, only to find that Agumon was still dead asleep, so Tohma asked Gaomon to keep Agumon company downstairs while the reptile napped on the couch.

Closing his room door behind him, Masaru sat down on his bed while Tohma kept to standing, although Masaru had invited him to sit next to him.

He thought twice about it after Tohma politely refused. Tohma, he...

Blah, it was too much to think about all at once. The envelope in front of him that was calling out first.

He broke the seal on the envelope. Inside was a single letter, which Masaru unfolded and took a heavy glance through before starting to take in the words written on it. With mixed feelings, he started reading it out loud for Tohma.

" Dear Masaru,
If you are reading this letter, then it must mean BanchouLeomon directed you to it. This is from your father, Daimon Suguru."

His heart jumped.

" Dad..."

He soon gave into reading it silently to himself, and Tohma sat down next to him on the bed anyway to read over his shoulder.

" About eight years ago, in my search for Yggdrasil and not long after meeting BanchouLeomon, I fell ill to a deadly digital virus for which there was no cure at the time. I had frantically attempted to discover a cure, with BanchouLeomon carefully aiding me with my research and health needs. However, when I reached a certain stage, seeing my body as a deadly contaminant, Yggdrasil appeared before me and sought to delete me.

I begged Yggdrasil to spare me. I had so much left to do for my family, after all. Yggdrasil wouldn't have any of it. Just when I was about to lose hope, BanchouLeomon came in and stood up for me. He offered his body as a container for my soul since only my body was the one that was contaminated. However, he couldn't bring my soul into himself on his own, since doing so would force the virus upon him. That's when Yggdrasil offered to transfer my soul into BanchouLeomon without the risk of transferring the virus.

Yggdrasil would only do this transfer on specific conditions. One, it wanted to keep BanchouLeomon under tracking for maintenance purposes, in the case that a human soul inside a Digimon would cause any harm. Two, I would never be allowed to tell anyone directly that BanchouLeomon was housing Daimon Suguru's soul, in the slightest case that the wrong being would find out and try to exploit the generosity Yggdrasil was offering. I had no better option than to agree to these conditions.

But I am still glad I did accept. If I hadn't, I would have never gotten to see my son achieve the Burst Mode, my proudest proof of our connection to the Digimon. You've carried it well, Masaru, as I knew you would.

If you are reading this letter, then it also must mean my time has come. I'm sorry it had to come to this before I could tell you. I wanted to tell you earlier, but again, our agreement with Yggdrasil meant that it would not be a possibility while I was still watching over you.

Although my soul may continue on with the Digimon, it's time for us to move on. I'm sure you'll be fine, Masaru. You've already proven yourself to me. I'll always be proud to have you as my son.

-Daimon Suguru"

Masaru's hands started shaking as he read the last parts of the letter, and to stop himself, he let Tohma hold it instead.

This is what it boiled down to?

" When it's written out in his handwriting like this, I've got no choice, do I? He's really gone..."

He couldn't bring himself to say anything. He knew Tohma was there next to him, possibly waiting for some kind of response. But it was the fact that Tohma was there that he couldn't bring himself to do anything. Yet it was also because Tohma was there that he knew there was something more, and he wanted to know what it was.

" I've known... for a while..."

Masaru gave him a prodding look. What was he talking about?

" Back when he gave me that hint for the development of the Digital Code. I kept thinking about who else would know that much about that end of digital research, and there was simply no possible way it could be someone else."

So that's what had been on his mind back then...

" I had no idea this would've happened... that BanchouLeomon would..."

Ten years of being missing, and now when he finally found out where his father had been, he had already passed on, both in body and soul? He'd been with them the whole time, yet they had to stay in the dark about it until it was too late?

" Why didn't you talk to me about it earlier..."

" I couldn't ask him to confirm it. and I didn't feel it was in my right to ask about it anyway..."

Masaru's shoulders slumped. He wanted to believe it was impossible. He had no indication that BanchouLeomon had his father's soul dwelling within him this whole time. No... he did have indications. He just hadn't read into them that far. It was his own fault.

He found out too late. He never even got to call his father's name to him.

His mother never got to call him affectionately again.

Chika never got to call him either. She had never once gotten to call his father in her whole life.

He'd been standing with them, fighting with them all those months, and he had no idea... his father's own son had no idea.

" He really was my father..."

a put the letter on a nearby desk and stood next to Masaru as the ponytailed fighter held his face between his hands. Masaru could feel a shock jolting throughout his body. He didn't know what to do.

" But he'll be reborn, right? It's not as if he's completely gone..."

" He won't retain his memories when the Digiegg hatches."

" You don't know that for sure! I mean, Agumon was able to keep his memories..."

" Your father said in the letter that he was ready to move on, Masaru. He's... he's gone."

Masaru sensed his eyes blur out at Tohma's words. Tohma was only telling him the truth. If only he had known. If only he had been stronger...

And he hated the feeling. Even Tohma had figured it out before him. How many times had he told himself that he needed to be stronger already? When would it ever be enough? When was it ever enough?

Was this what Minervamon felt like after finding out what happened to Mercurimon? There was no way his father could...

Who was he kidding. What was he trying to deny... His father was gone. And he'd never come back.

" He's gone..." Masaru repeated blankly. Memories of his father flashed through his mind, memories of them playing catch ball, running out in the fields... " I've been hoping to find him after all this time, and now..."

The banchou's words were starting to echo in his head.

' Even warriors are allowed to cry for their lost comrades. But denying them will do them no honor.'

Those words were for Minervamon, but he probably would've said something similar right now, if he were there... wouldn't he?

If Masaru could see BanchouLeomon one more time, would he be there to comfort him like he did for Minervamon? Would he gently put his hand on Masaru's head again, and would he say something similar about Minervamon's warrior traits for Masaru's manliness?

Would they be BanchouLeomon's words, or Daimon Suguru's? Both? Did it matter?

And just as if the banchou were there right now, he felt a great warmth wrap around him, urging him to sink in with it.

He soaked up the heat and let himself get carried away for a moment... and then he realized who was actually there.

Tohma had his arms around him, holding him close to his chest, leaning in on bent knees.

He ceased to breathe for a moment. What... Why... were the two words that ran through his mind... He backed up.

" Tohma..."

Tohma wouldn't say anything back. He simply remained with a resolute face that silently declared that he was there, and it was just the two of them and no one else. He needed no words to say that.

Masaru stared at him. No way he'd allow his pride to do that... he wanted to tell himself, but the banchou's words would just come back to his head and he'd be lost about what to do again.

But soon all thoughts came to null as the warmth overtook him and Tohma's presence engulfed him. Between his arms, he was giving Masaru a place to bury his head and let it all out.

And so Masaru did. That regretful area in his heart that he'd hope to never feel again erupted against his consciousness, and the tears spilled out without restraint.

Tohma soaked in every last drop with his black suit, pressing even further and allowing Masaru to rub his face in.

He was hurting on the inside, worse than he had ever felt before. Even worse than when he had mourned for Piyomon, Mercurimon, the other Digimon. Even worse than when his own legs had their bones snap while being suffocated by his most trusted teammate...

The same teammate who was tightly holding him in now as his rampant tears poured out. He felt Tohma sink next to him on the bed... and before he knew it, Masaru had brought his own arms up to clutch against Tohma's suit, and they were pressed up head on the other's shoulder. Through his blurred vision, Masaru saw the view of the cloudy skies next to his balcony curtains, and he just barely realized what position he was in...

But he was hurting too much to do anything about it. He clung on even tighter, practically digging his nails into the back of Tohma's suit, almost wishing to cause him pain, to make him feel what he was feeling somehow... He knew inside himself, Tohma had already felt this once before. Tohma had felt the pain of losing someone so important, someone he spent years in adoration of. Someone he'd never imagine to lose before his own time was up...

Tohma made no flinching movements, no outraged sound to Masaru's clench. He just sat there, holding Masaru as the young fighter broke down in his arms.


Some time later, when he heard the faint voices of his mother and Chika downstairs talking to the Digimon, Masaru realized he had dozed off and he snapped back up to attention. Tohma still had an arm around him, but it was in a supporting position, as Masaru found out he had drifted off to sleep right there, on the blond's shoulder.

" Ah... sorry..." he muttered to start, avoiding Tohma's eyes.

" No need," Tohma said tersely. He got up from the bed, indicating where the envelopes had been placed on the desk. " The family letter... probably has similar content to yours. I'll leave you to read it privately with them."

Masaru hesitated, peeking a glance at Tohma. Was it just him, or were Tohma's eyes redder than usual? But he hadn't heard...

Tohma started moving towards the door, but Masaru made a grab for his arm before he reached for the knob. The blond looked back at him with a cautious expression.

Masaru had acted before even thinking. What was he doing?

" Tohma... I'm glad you... you made that so-called 'selfish' request."

" Hmm?"

" Make sure you let me repay the favor, all right?"

Tohma slowly nodded, although looking confused. Well, that was all right with him too.

They went downstairs, with Tohma greeting the other Daimons on the way and excusing himself at the same time. Masaru waved as Tohma's butler arrived in the Norstein limousine with incredible timing and drove off with the nobleman. He closed the door behind him as the sight of the vehicle disappeared into the distance.

He paused there at the door for a while, thinking back on what just happened. And in his chest, he felt a fresh clearing, a defogging of the clouded feelings that had washed over him. Not just feelings he had been plagued with that day... everything that had been carrying on within him for the past ten years seemed to have been affected. Those ten years of waiting for his father to return to finally come to this...

He had known Tohma's intentions when he had come in, and he had known it would come down to something so heartbreaking that he wouldn't be able to hold it back in anymore... But somehow, he was starting to feel all right now, knowing he still had the support of those dear to him...

So dear to him...

His mother and Chika came up to him at the doorway, carrying massive bags of groceries in their arms. Sayuri spoke up. " Masaru, Agu-chan's not telling us how things went today. Did something bad happen? And why are you dressed like that?"

He had their envelope with them in the pocket of his suit.

Now, he was finally ready to tell them.


Author blab


Next one's the last...?!