The words carried across space and time, reaching from the mouth of the frightened undead Digimon to the Tamer's ears. However, they were met with no recollection. No response to show they had been heard. They might as well have been sonar, bouncing off of the ear but leaving no mark, sending no shockwave to the brain that might make them understood. They were lost, much like the mind of Megumi Yamamoto.
She didn't know where she was or how she had gotten there. Quite frankly, she didn't care. Lost among the clouds of pain and nostalgia. Images flashed at her subconscious; short images of things she could not properly make out, though she knew she had seen them before. A fire, a rock, an explosion, a scar... She did remember the scar. She remembered it so vividly that she still felt the pain of the jagged cut, the wet stickiness of blood staining her cheek. And a cry... A cry of pain. Not from her own mouth, though it might as well have been, for the flood of emotions that welled up in her chest at the call of the sound hurt worse than if she had been cut to create a million scars. She wanted to scream, but she could; the sound and the pain were suffocating her... smothering her... enveloping her in an cocoon of pain and of darkness.
Her eyes opened, then shut, as her pupils ran from the blinding light of day. She was awake, she could see... But what she saw wasn't at all what she expected. Instead of lying in a field, in the great plains of the Digital World, she was sprawled across a boulder along the side of a mountain, her body bent and bruised. She could move, but barely, and she saw the action as too much trouble to be worth it. So instead of getting up, or looking around more than she had already, she just lay there, with her eyes closed and her face crusted with blood. She was breathing... she was alive... That was enough. But if she stirred, if she disturbed the peace of her own pain, it wouldn't. For she knew that if she made the effort to get up, then she'd have to walk around, figure out where she was, why she was there, and how she could get back. And at the moment, that was just something she didn't want to do.
However, the mountain by which she rested had other plans, for as she laid there in her own private puddle of pain and anguish, the rocks shifted, forcing her to move to be crushed under their weight. She resisted, but soon gave up the effort and rolled to the side, raising herself to her feet and groggily side-stepping out of the way, perturbed at rockslide for not letting her rest. The color red flooded her vision, and at first she thought it was her own blood she was drowning in, until she realized it was fur. Red fur with uneven black stripes. And then she remembered where she was.
As if she'd just been given a shot of the energy it might have required weeks for her to gain back on her own, she leapt forward and began to clear the rocks, clumsily pulling them off the back and neck of her partner. The beast-dragon Digimon was unconscious, but coming-to, and as she pulled out specific boulder away she found a golden eye looking up at her from under it.
"Megumi..." the Digimon groaned weakly, raising his head and causing a few more rocks to slide off of him. "Where...? What...? I... I mean... Did we get him?"
"Him? Who's 'him'?" she asked, but before he could respond she remembered. The fire, the explosion she'd seen... That had been from the previous battle, when DORUgremon, Angemon, and Etemon had been facing off against Matadormon, a servant of Moon=Millenniumon. The Digimon had only been a Perfect level, like DORUgremon and Etemon, yet it still had released an attack capable of blowing the pair countless miles. Now they had to meet back with the other Digital Security Guards and make their way to the Princess's castle, before Mille could find a minion who would be capable of taking her from their dimension with him. She grit her teeth. This Matadormon didn't seem capable of doing that so far, but it was only a matter of time until Mille found someone who was. The Tamer was just about to ask her Digimon if he was fit to fly, like she had the first time they'd experienced this moment. However, something held her back. Another cloud, another flash of pain. And then, a cold, gripping fear.
The scenery changed. Megumi was no longer standing beside her wounded companion in the wilderness, but rather in a castle, full of bright light. In the air floated a glimmering crystal that captivated her attention as two flames flickered within it. But then those flames took the form of dragon heads, and she realized it was not a crystal at all. It was Moon=Millenniumon.
Two others were standing next to her, one on each side. The human on her right was none other than Yasuo, the eldest of their small band, who possessed a happy-go-lucky, good-willed attitude towards life that would, after this next event which she felt coming with a subconscious dread, be transformed into fear and pacifism. On her left stood another boy, her age, with dark hair, eyes, and complexion. This member of the Digital Security Guard, Ryouichi, the quiet but hot-headed one, hadn't been seen by Megumi since this encounter which she was re-living. She was shocked at his appearance, for though the reality of this reminiscence, which could be best classified as a dream, had captivated her mind, she still felt the effects of time that had separated herself from it, even if she could not recognize the future she'd come out of. But future wasn't important at the moment. What was important was the three of them were there, standing together, in what would become to most memorable moment of Megumi's past.
Above these three floated the Digimon: Alphamon, King Etemon, and Holy Angemon. These evolved forms were new to them, yet not unfamiliar, and they squared themselves off against the dimensional, fully confident in their powers. Behind the villain, with Moon=Millenniumon separating her from her three rescuers, was bound a being who at first sight appeared to be human, though she was far from it in truth. Tears stained her deep purple eyes as she looked down at the three DSG, and spoke words which, by Mille's familiar and in-different reaction that might've said "get on with it," seemed to be fully rehearsed.
"I thank you, young heroes"--this sounded odd, considering her form appeared to be half the age of that of the humans--"for venturing this far, on my behalf none the less. Though I am clearly no omnipotent being, or your aid would not be needed in such a case, I can foresee what you--no, not even you, Millenniumon--cannot. You do not know at what cost your bravery, perhaps your victory if that courage stays true, will come. Therefore I shed tears of compassion for you, now, when you have a chance to see and eventually understand why."
"Nonsense!" came a voice, and Megumi was now only mildly shocked to discover it was her own. "We will be victorious! What this guy has done to you is unforgivable! There is no cost too great for your freedom!"
The captive, an entity know as the Digimon Princess, smiled weakly, ignoring the confident and cruel laughter of the crystaline Digimon hovering in front of her. "Oh, Yamamoto Megumi-chan. If only you knew of the pain your words subject yourself to."
"If only you knew of the pain..."
The next of the events unfolded, and though Megumi knew just what was to happen the instant before it happened, she had not the power within her grasp to stop it. Moon=Millenniumon, bored with the situation and ready to exert his power, shot a beam out at the Digimon Princess, causing her to wail in pain (for although he could not physically touch her or cart her off to another dimension, his attacks still affected anyone with a heart). At such a provocation, Megumi's voice shouted of its own according, commanding Alphamon to act, and soon her battle cry was followed by that of the two others. The partners to the DSG sprang into action, hurling themselves toward the evil dimension-traveler with all they had. Beams flew in both directions, cries were heard, and by some miracle Alphamon summonded the Kyuukyoku Senjin Ou Ryuu Ken. The last Megumi saw of the battle was the sword's blade piercing Moon=Millenniumon's crystal, causing it to crack. And then... a blinding white light.
"Is this... death? The afterlife?"
"No, Megumi-chan. It is a fate far worse."
"What happened? Alphamon's sword... Did we win?"
"In a sense. You have succeeded in your mission. Alphamon did the physically impossible, harming Millenniumon at his core. He has fled this realm, for without a crystal to contain him here, his presence can only be volatile."
"But if he's gone, why do you sound so sad? Princess!"
"The war, the suffering... It is only begun."
The light receded. Megumi opened her eyes, looking out into the world once more. But... what was there to see? Save the unconscious bodies of her two companions, the crystal cavern was void of any other life. The Digimon Princess had fled, and Alphamon... Where was Alphamon?
Her cries echoed. Emptiness. She knew it. She knew it then, what the princess had told her. Had tried to told her, if only she had listened. The palace was empty. Alphamon was gone. There had been a price to pay, and Megumi had failed to see it. Had failed to recognize the greatest consequence. Millenniumon had fled. But Alphamon, King Etemon, Holy Angemon... When Megumi had acted rashly, when the Tamer had been ruthless... The Digimon paid the price for it. Alphamon paid the price.
She was alone.
Her body still lost, her physical being on the verge comatose, Megumi's consciousness awakened. She was still in the past, still caught in the past, but she knew it was past now. She knew this had all happened before. She had still failed to change anything. The promise she'd made to herself, to never put another selfish goal before the life of her own Digimon... What had come of that? How many times had she told herself that she would have done differently, had she the chance to relive this moment? Yet she had. She had relived the torture. And she hadn't been able to change a thing.
Megumi fled the castle. She fled the past and the pain. She wanted nothing more to do with it. No more false promises, no more hurt... Her heart was enflamed. Clutching her chest, she ran, bursting through the palace's broad oaken doors, out into fields of sun and light that couldn't feel colder. Her heart was smoldering, scorching. Who was she kidding? She didn't have a heart! There was nothing there, save the pain and emptiness. A black hole, a bottomless pit of despair. That was all it was. Megumi was never one to give herself up to angst. She did not dwell in metaphors of pain. If she hurt, she screamed. Not out of self-pity, but rather like an animal would, as a temporary relief of the pain and then a moving on, a hiding and forgetting. But she could not scream now. She could not hide, nor could she forget. She had no voice, no cover, no distraction. Her life was a void, and she was just another speck of matter floating within it. She fell to her knees and buried her face in the grass surrounding her, letting her tears slide down off her face and sink heavily into the soil. Alphamon, her partner, her friend who depended on her with such a weighted trust. He was gone, and she was to blame. Again.
"What's the point of this?" she asked herself, her voice muffled by the earth. "Why do I have to feel this pain again? Why do I have to relive this event? Wasn't it bad enough the first time? Hadn't I learned my lesson then? Clearly not." She bit her lip, and the taste of blood filled her mouth. It was sweet, yet metallic, and it soon made her sick. Spitting in out, she let the vile liquid drench the grass, turning it from a thriving green to a crusted crimson. She was painting the hills red. "It's obvious what I've yet to learn, why I had to undergo this torture again. There's nothing I can do. I was an idiot--a fool--to think I could prevent Alphamon's death, prevent the fate, even if I'd known of it ahead of time. But I'm not supposed to, am I? I can't heal. My wounds must be re-opened, and I must feel the sting of them repeatedly. Digital Security Guard. Yeah, right. There's no honor or glory behind that title. It doesn't make me a hero. It just makes me hurt. Fuck."
She stood, wiping her lip and smearing blood along the back of her hand. "Fine, then. Fine. I've learned. I can't prevent the pain. I can't save the world. Fine. If I have to be ruthless, if I have to build up a barrier, I'll do that. But I won't hurt. I've learned my lesson, and this time in truth. I won't hurt, because I won't care. I'm done caring."
Clenching her fists, wiping the blood once more, she began to walk. Not away from the past, this time, not parallel with it, allowing it the chance the catch up with her on its linear timeline, and overtake her. No, this time she set out at a different angle, traveling a different path, not caring where she was going, whether it would cross over with her old history or not. It didn't matter. She wouldn't care if she did. She was beyond caring. She simply walked, and as she walked, shadows formed at her footfalls, and the world around her shattered into a millions little pieces, floating in darkness.
She opened her eyes. They were clouded.