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growing up is an undefined process

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“Parrotmon’s been brought back to the Digital World.  Good work, everyone.”  Koushirou’s voice fades and cuts from their Bluetooth earpieces, just as abrupt as Parrotmon’s appearance in the real world.

“Only the four of us showed up huh.  Where’s everyone else?”  Taichi turns around and surveys the team.

A pause, and Yamato speaks up.  “I’m sure they have their reasons for not being able to come.  We’re not in a position to judge them for not helping.”

Catching on, Takeru pipes up to save the conversation from heading down an awkward direction.  “Did everyone have breakfast yet?  If not, want to grab something to eat?”

In the end, it’s just him and Hikari with their Digimons, with Agumon and Gabumon in tow.  They exchange glances as Taichi and Yamato disappear into the morning crowd.

“Do you ever think they take on too much?”

“All the time.  But that’s an older brother for you, isn’t it?”

Bzzt-bzzt-bzzt.  Takeru takes out his smartphone.  “Sometimes I wish they’d depend on us a little more; it’s not like we’re the same kids as when this all started.  And—” he squints at the notification on the lockscreen.  “—why do they think using younger siblings as messenger is the way to do things?”

“Things not going well with Sora-san?”  Hikari starts herding the Digimon towards the family restaurant.

“I don’t know.  One day he just suddenly asked me to take Sora-san for coffee every now and then.  It’s not like my brother is the most vocal person around.” He snorts at his own dig.

She punches him in the arm.  “Well, that makes two.”

“No way.”

“Yes way – let me rephrase.  He just says the wrong things at the wrong time to the wrong person.”  Hikari unlocks her phone with a swipe and shows Takeru a snippet of the chat log.

“Uwah, why are big brothers more trouble than what they’re worth?  Are they actually older than us?”

“Better question, have they grown up at all?”

---

It’s Friday.  It should’ve been like any other school day for any regular university student – go to his lectures, think about his thesis, go to his part-time job, go home and pas—study.  Parrotmon’s arrival throws his schedule out of whack.  Antsy, he calls up Yamato; it’s not like he can call up his classmates (they won’t understand) or the other Chosen Children (everyone’s busy, he gets it).  If he has things his way though, he’d of course call Sora – she’s the best at this advice thing – but lately she’s been replying less and less, with the last message he sent three weeks ago left unread.  Hikari has always said he has a knack of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  He hopes this isn’t the case (this time).

He’s about a quarter into his first pint of beer when Yamato enters the bar.  Taichi waves at him to hurry up, giving him a total of two minutes to set his things down before launching into his rant, talking over Yamato’s order to the server.

“I see.  So in other words, you started doubting about your future.”

“It’s not like that.  Really.  It’s just...them talking made me realize what I really want to do.”

“Then what’s the problem?  Why did you call me out for a drink if you’ve got it all figured it out?”

It’s too late to hold in his knee-jerk reaction.  Taichi glowers at his plate before looking back up, reaching out on a tangent.   “You’re going to grad school right?  Why didn’t you think to look for a job?”

“...who knows.”

“What do you mean, ‘who knows’?!”  He’s always thought Yamato had his life more together than him.

“I don’t know if that would be the right choice, but trying to find what I really want to do feels like delaying the inevitable.”  Yamato polishes off the rest of his beer.  “It’s hard to not feel pressured with so many people around us who’ve already set their sights on their goals.”

Taichi stares at his reflection in the beer.  “I know what you mean.  Jou’s doing his residency; Mimi’s launched an e-commerce start-up; Koushirou’s the president of a company!  Even Hikari and Daisuke seem to know what they want to do.  What about Takeru?”

“He’s writing a novel but he won’t let me read it yet.”

“A novel huh...”

Yamato picks up another piece of grilled meat, trying to sound as nonchalant as he can, “Sora’s gotten really serious about flower arranging recently.”

“Is that so...”

“Things can’t stay the same forever.”  Taichi looks up at the small ring of resignation in Yamato’s voice.  “Friends sometimes grow apart as their lives go in different directions.”

“Is this you trying to tell me about your relationship problems while not saying that you have relationship problems?”

“Wha—where did you get that idea from?!”

Taichi waves his chopsticks at Yamato.  “I haven’t heard from Sora in a while.  You and I both know she’s not the kind of person who would just drop off the face of the earth.  So I maybe pissed her off a bit, but that’s nothing new.  She’s still my childhood friend, you know?  I worry sometimes.  If you have anything, just spill.”

“...”

“Yamato, you’re her boyfriend, you can’t tell me you don’t know anything.”

“We had a fight,” he mumbles.

“About?”

“...stuff...”

And??

“I’m going to apologize but we just keep missing each other.  Bad timing.  You know.  The usual.”

“You should...do that sooner rather than later.  The longer this drags out, Sora gets more stubborn.”

Yamato sighs, long and heavy.  “I know, I’m trying.”

“Wait, how long ago was this?  How do you know what Sora’s been up to?  Are you stalki—”

“I’m her boyfriend, not a stalker, Taichi, don’t let your imagination run away with you now.”  Yamato rolls his eyes.  “Takeru’s been our go-to.  I feel bad asking him to do this, but there are things Sora would tell Takeru but not me.”

“...well, like I said, make up sooner rather than later.  I don’t want to be part of the carnage.”

Yamato sighs again.  “I know.”

---

On a rare occasion, all seven of them are in Koushirou’s office.  The Digimons huddle in a corner, fascinated with the new snacks Takeru and Mimi bring to the meeting.

No one else makes small talk, intimidated by the awkward tension in the room.

Koushirou clears his throat and gets right into business.

“Today, we’re here to regroup on a new problem very likely related to the Digital World.” He fires up the projector so they can all see what’s on his monitors.  “There’s a worldwide mass coma phenomenon going on.  Taichi-san and Yamato-san witnessed an example of this the other night.   Someone’s also reached out to us to look into this issue.”

Click.  A new window opens with a photograph.  “Menoa Belluci.  She told us that there have been over 300 cases.  The common denominator—”

Another click.

“—is that they’re all Chosen Children.”

Koushirou pauses and absorbs their discomfort.  No one speaks up, yet.  He continues.  “Apparently, the consciousness data of the Chosen Children are located somewhere.  We tried looking for it once.  This is what we’re up against.”

Another click.

“Eosmon.”

Taichi tightens his clenched fists, mostly unnoticed but it doesn’t escape Sora’s eyes.  She chooses to let Koushirou finish uninterrupted.

“Eosmon is, hmm, nothing like what we’ve encountered so far.  We recovered a piece and I’m in the middle of analyzing it.  I’m hoping I’ll get some results soon.  But herein lies the other problem.”  Koushirou pauses, turning to Taichi and Yamato.  “Do you—?”

Taichi stops scowling at his hands and looks at Yamato.  Judging from the other’s stony expression, it looks like it’s up to him to pick up the explanation.  “In our battle, we fused Omegamon, but it wasn’t enough to take down Eosmon.  Not only that, Omegamon broke apart before we could do any real damage.”

There’s a collective gasp.  “What?”

“Koushirou thought it was maybe something in cyberspace that prevented that form of evolution.  But Menoa told us something else...something disturbing.”  Taichi looks uneasy, reluctant to be the bearer of even more bad news.  He takes a deep breath, steadying his voice.

“Children are chosen because they overflow with potential.  It’s the child’s growth that triggers their partner Digimon’s evolution.  But as the child grows older, their Digimon’s power steadily declines.  Once that power is gone, the bond between the Digimon and their partner is broken.  The first sign, apparently, is an ability to maintain evolution.”

Taichi takes out his cell phone, the back of it facing the group.  The light from the ring is blindingly annoying.  “This is our last link.  Once it’s gone...”

The group stays silent, letting the information sink in.  It’s heavy.

“So,” Koushirou finally speaks up, “ that’s where we stand.  We should think of a new strategy to go about this.  Fighting Eosmon—”

“No.”

It’s Sora who interrupts.  Mimi and Hikari, sitting on either side of her, look up in surprise.  Sora is the last person they’d expect to disrupt a meeting.

“Sora-kun?”

“I’m sorry, but – I’m going to have to sit this one out.  I’m not going to fight.”

“What are you talking about Sora, we’re going to need you—”

“I’m not going to fight,” she repeats.  “I’m not letting Piyomon fight.”  She turns on her heels and leaves.

“Sora—” Yamato gets up after her, stopping just long enough to prevent Piyomon from running out too.  “Let me.”

---

“Sora.  Sora, wait!”

Yamato finally gets close enough to grasp her hand.  “Sora.”  She refuses to turn around even at the insistent tugging.  Yamato half-drags her into an empty meeting room, mindful to slide the bar outside to occupied so they won’t be disturbed.

“Sora,” he lets his voice drop, gentler, losing the edge that’s been poking at their conversations as of late.   “Come on, tell me what’s wrong.”

She walks over to the other side of the room and stares out the window.  He doesn’t miss the fear and sadness in her eyes.  He follows, standing beside her.  “Is it about—?”

At last, Sora sighs.  (It’s better than utter silence.)  “It’s not.  It’s...” She reaches into her pocket.

Yamato looks down at what she’s holding.  “No...”

There’s a ring of light around Sora’ Crest of Love, and half the spikes are already gone.

“When...?”

Sora simply smiles, not reaching her eyes.  “The battle before Parrotmon.  Birdramon couldn’t evolve to Garudamon.  And then soon after Piyomon couldn’t even evolve to Birdramon.”  She grips at the window sills.  “I tried, Yamato, but I couldn’t force her – I can’t force her.”

“...why didn’t you tell us – tell me?”

“How could I admit that I’m going to be useless in future battles?”

“Is this why you started to throw yourself into flower arrangement?”

“That was just a stroke of luck.”

Yamato sighs.  (He seems to be doing that too much lately.)  “I still wish you told me so we can face it together.  We already don’t get to spend as much time.”  He tentatively reaches for her hand.  She doesn’t shake him off; he breathes in relief.

“Sorry...”

“Don’t be,” he murmurs into her hair.  After all, they’re similar; he sees himself in Sora’s shadow, and he knows for now, she just needs to be held.

---

“Jou, you know I’m really proud of you right?”

“Gomamon...”

“I know you’re going to do great and save tons of people.  You didn’t do all that studying for nothing!”

---

“Hey, Palmon?”

“Yes, Mimi?”

“Promise me that when the time comes, you won’t hide from me again?”

---

“Koushirou-han, isn’t it your mother’s birthday soon?  What are you going to get her?”

“Oh – thanks for reminding me, Tentomon.  You know I’m still terrible at picking out gifts.  Let’s browse some catalogues together later.”

“There’s no one better to ask than me.”

---

“Piyomon... Piyomon...”

“Sora, don’t cry...”

“...I’m not... Piyomon?”

---

 “I couldn’t ask for a better partner than you, Yamato.”

“Me neither.”

“Can I have your harmonica?”

---

“Taichi, I want to eat shaved ice.”

“What?  I guess it can’t be helped... melon flavour is your favourite, right?”

“...you sure have grown up, Taichi.”