Grim Reality

Chapter Seven- Losing Isnt Everything

Day Six
Beeda Facility- Room 201- 11:10 AM

Madison Taylor sighed. The brief exhibition Kodachi had with Shampoo was less informational than it was alarming. Kodachi was good.

Dont worry, Madison, youll be fine. You got to see her in action. There has to be a way for us to beat her, Sakura said reassuringly.

I dont know, Sakura I just dont know. It wasnt the overwhelming odds that scared Madison. It wasnt the amazing talent that Kodachi displayed. It wasnt even the pressure of losing her life. It was the fact that she was powerless.

Kodachi wasnt the perfect athlete- she had to have a weakness somewhere. Madison, meanwhile, was very observant- she could find the weakness if she looked hard enough. But even if she did find it, what did it matter? What could Madison possibly do to topple the giant? She had no powers, no animal friends, and no fighting skills. She was just Madison. She made costumes, she sang, and she videotaped Sakura. She didnt collect cards, she didnt train monsters, and she didnt fight.

Well, as long as you give it your best, then at least you wont have any regrets.

Madison nodded. Youre right. I guess I just have to do what I can. And if I lose Madison stopped. Again, she didnt want to think about it. She had a task, and as daunting as it was, she had to go through with it, no matter the risk. Whatever, she said quietly. She took Sakuras hand and they started out.


Room 209- 11:45 AM

Heres the plan- Tai and I are going to combine our strategies, Izzy said. He and Tai were both in Karis room, explaining the deal to her.

Tai said to his sister, Izzy, me, you, Matt, Mimi, Sora and Davis will spend the night here. Were going to have two objectives. One is to watch your collection of Fushigi Yuugi so that we can be prepared to win our next matches if we need to.

Im working on downloading a few Ranma episodes off the internet so I can do the same. If Mimi and Sora win, theyll have Ranma opponents too.

Right. The other plan- form a plan. We have to brainstorm some way to stop this game. We have to at least be able to come out of it with an idea. We might not be enough, so well have to get some other people into this.

Kari slowly nodded in understanding. She too wanted this all to end. What if Mimi and Sora dont win?

Tai didnt want to have to consider that. Well I guess well just have to find some way to go on without them. I know it sounds bad, but weve got to put a stop to Shougai so we dont lose anyone else.

And we will definitely ask the AA if they really are capable of granting a wish that brings people back to life, Izzy continued.

So Kari how does that sound?

Kari stood up and turned around. She still was a little new to the idea. But at the same time, the thought was just too intriguing. She cracked a smile. Lets take these bastards down.


Announcers Booth- 12:55 PM

Well, the first match was pretty cut and dry as Kodachi Kuno easily won over Madison Taylor, Dave began the telecast for the next match.

No surprises, no doubts no problems! Manny cut in.

Yeah, but the second match today may prove to be more interesting as the final Digimon/Pokmon battle of the first round is coming at you.

Thats right. Misty certainly seems to be in the fighting spirit, but its doubtful that Poliwhirls water attacks will do much damage against the plant Palmon. This should be good.

Misty. You dont have to do this. Ash never really understood Misty, but her actions had never confounded him to this level before.

Yes I do. Misty was solemn. There was no turning back now. There were two options- live or die. Given the choice, it wasnt much of a decision.

Mimi was alone. Despite the unity among the remaining digi-destined, nobody was available to accompany Mimi. Ash folded his arms. He didnt want to lose Misty, but knew that Mimi didnt deserve to die either. It was a messy situation, and Ash would have liked nothing more than to run home and get back on his journey.

Misty began her strategy session: Okay Poliwhirl. Youre a monster. Im a girl. Heres the plan- you go after the monster, Ill go after the girl. Sound good? Poliwhirl nodded. Great. Lets go.

Artie gave the command to begin and Misty and Poliwhirl charged after Mimi and Palmon.

Mimi, stay away from that outer circle and Ill protect you, Palmon warned. Misty and Poliwhirl both looked dangerous. Lets see which ones more dangerous?

You know- I cant really tell, Mimi replied.

Heres hoping- Poison Ivy!! Palmon attacked Poliwhirl, wrapping it up in her vines. Unfortunately, this gave Misty plenty of time to approach Mimi.

Misty smiled. You probably think Im going to do something like slap you or some other demeaning thing thatll set back the womens movement another ten years. Misty scanned Mimi up and down. Then again, I dont think youre too concerned with that anyway. Still Misty punched Mimi in the stomach.

Mimi! Realizing that she had guessed incorrectly in which attacker was more threatening, Palmon whipped Poliwhirl back to the other end of the arena.

Ash managed to detract himself from Misty slugging it out with Mimi to notice the giant blue Pokmon that was about to fly past him. That alone was quite concerning considering that Poliwhirl was flying right towards the outer ring. Approve or disapprove of what Misty was doing, if Ash didnt keep Poliwhirl alive, Poliwhirl couldnt keep Misty alive. Ash wanted Misty alive. Still impulsive, and still idiotic, Ash dived after Poliwhirl to keep him from falling in. He collided with the monster, and both collided with the ground.

Poliwhirl, are you okay? Ash asked. Poliwhirl jumped to its feet, ready to fight again. Ashs shoulder was bruised due to the collision, but he would have to see to it later. At the moment, Palmon was preparing to attack Misty. Ash continued, Poliwhirl. Trust me on this- aim for Mimi. Poliwhirl prepared an attack, and Ash cupped his hands. Poliwhirl- use Water Gun! he screamed, louder than usual. The goal was not to hit Mimi the goal was to distract Palmon. It wouldnt work if Palmon didnt know it was coming. Fortunately, the plant Digimon heard, and turned around to see Poliwhirl launch the attack.

Mimi screamed when she saw it. Dont worry, Mimi! Palmon exclaimed as she jumped in front of it. Misty finally saw what was happening, and quickly retreated. The situation was far too dangerous to continue. She jogged back and met up with Ash and Poliwhirl.

Ash and Misty watched as Palmon survived the attack relatively unscathed. Huh water types are weak against grass type Digimon too, Ash commented.

Yeah change of plan Poliwhirl. You take the girl. Ill take the monster, Misty declared. Poliwhirl acknowledged, and both set out to try again.

Oh jeez here they come again. Mimi held her stomach, obviously not thrilled that the pain was far from over.

At least this time, I know who to stop Poison Ivy! Palmon shot her vines at Misty. Misty was able to dodge it once, but a subsequent attack connected, the vines wrapping around Mistys arms and legs. Poliwhirl continued to focus on Mimi while Palmon picked Misty up.

Misty struggled to get out of the grasp, but she was dangling in mid-air, at Palmons mercy. Fortunately, Poliwhirl was in position. Poliwhirl use double slap! Misty managed to get it out, and Poliwhirl obeyed; the double slap, combined with a brief bubble attack, was more than enough to vanquish Mistys opponent.

Mimi Palmon couldnt believe it. While she was busy with one aggressor, the other had defeated the person she was sworn to protect.

Digi-port open! Palmon looked over to her left. Artie had the Palm Pilot in position, and the Digimon was about to get sucked into it.

Unfortunately Artie hadnt considered the fact that Misty was still suspended by Palmons vines. She began to fall, but Ash fortunately had anticipated it, and dove to catch her. Of course, Ash was never one for timing rather than fall into Ashs arms, Misty fell into Ash.

Ow this was supposed to be your match how come I keep getting hurt? Ash moaned.

Misty got to her feet, and helped Ash up. Thanks, she said.

Ash sighed. He still wanted to run home.

Artie calmly returned Poliwhirl to its Pokball and handed it to Misty. Man that was a good match. Although given the way you were hanging up there, for a second I thought it was going to turn into one of them... never mind. Nice work! Artie stretched, and added, Man all this reffing is exhausting. I need a cigarette.

I need a cream soda, Misty said. She had just killed somebody she had to cool down.

I need an ice pack. Ash had just gone above and beyond his call of duty as a second. And it hurt like hell. Misty and Ash started to walk out of the arena, but neither could ignore the cheers of the hundreds gathered to watch the event. Misty quietly took Ashs hand. Um Misty? Before he knew what she had in mind, she raised the hands in victory.

She smiled brightly, obviously enjoying the victory. At the same time, she wanted Ash to share in the glory. What can I say, I couldnt have done it without you. Cmon Ill buy you a soda. and some ice.

Misty released his hand and they walked out. Ash frowned. Just the ice, please.


Conference Room- 1:30 PM

Sakura Julian said as he popped his head in the door, There you are. I was looking for you. Sakura was seated at the far end of the room. She was silent. She didnt seem angry, she didnt seem sad. She was just silent. Are you okay?

I really thought she could have done it. Was I just kidding myself?

Madison? I dont know. Obviously it would be nice if everybody could live through this, but thats just not possible. I think that the sooner we understand that, the better we do.

Sakura shook her head. Its not just Madison, its everybody. I know that only two people are going to live but I didnt think that only two of us were going to live to see the next round.

Its really disheartening to see all of our friends be killed like that. But they want us to be disheartened. We have to get through it and show that no matter what happens, well still prevail. Julian put a hand on her shoulder. And if anybody can do it Sakura its you.

Sakura turned around and hugged him. Thanks Julian. Youre going to do it too, right?

Julian smiled and rubbed the back of her head. Ill do my best. As long as were together, theres nobody that can stop us.

Sakura sighed happily. Hanyan she whispered. It was barely audible, but Julian heard.

What was that? Julian was somewhat confused.

I dont know. She just said it because it felt natural. The question was why. She had never used, or had even heard of the word before.

Julian dismissed it and released himself from the hug. Well, Im going to go to the gym. I have to get ready for my match tomorrow. Want to come with?

Sure! Sakura dismissed it as well. After all, it was just a word.


Arena- 2:00 PM

Shampoo had every advantage against Miaka. She was stronger, she was faster, and she was more experienced. There was just one problem she had no motivation. There was absolutely no reason for Shampoo take the innocent girls life.

Artie signaled for the match to begin. Shampoo decided then and there that she needed a reason to kill her. She approached the center of the arena.

You phoenix girl come here. Shampoo waved her hand and beckoned for Miaka.

Tamahome Miaka looked over at Tamahome.

I dont know either, he said with a shrug.

Come on. Shampoo no hurt you! Shampoo continued to wait.

Be careful, Tamahome cautioned Miaka as she slowly approached.

Shampoo smiled. Shampoo have no reason to kill you.

Oh heh heh thats nice. So uh you wanna skip this match and go get something to eat? Miaka cautiously smiled.

No we play rock paper scissor.

Why?

Just do it! Shampoo held a hand back. Miaka, though confused, did as well.

One, two, three shoot! Miaka and Shampoo shouted simultaneously. Miaka held out her palm flat. Shampoos was in a fist.

Oh paper covers rock! Miaka smiled.

Yes Miaka defeat Shampoo, Shampoo stated plainly.

Right- I guess I did! Miaka was starting to get excited. Was this it? Her fate determined because she threw paper instead of scissors? Before she could turn around, Shampoo walked up and kissed Miaka on the lips.

Uh Tamahome said, checking to see if his nose was bleeding.

Shampoo walked back into her position by the entrance. On the way, she explained, If Amazon be defeated in battle by girl from outside tribe, it Amazon law to find and kill girl. Shampoo turned around and stepped into her fighting pose. I give you kiss of death now you die!!


Reception Room- 2:30 PM

Misty was relaxed on a chair with her soda. Ash was relaxed on a nearby chair with his ice pack on his shoulder. Misty finished the can and set it on a nearby table. That wasnt that bad was it? Ash stared back at her, and his glare forced her to retract her statement. Ash stared above Mistys head, obviously concerned. She caught the direction of his eyes and looked up and behind. Tai was standing right behind her, wearing his business face. Izzy stood nearby. He too seemed serious, but didnt seem as threatening.

Tai grabbed the back of her neck. We have to talk, he said. Misty had no options.

Ash looked at the menacing digi-destined. He stood up, pointed to nowhere in particular, and said, I, uh have to go over there. Ash walked away. Misty wasnt going to die in this battle therefore she was on her own.

Izzy took one look at Tai, then said to Ash, Sounds fun. I will join you. He followed Ash, letting Misty and Tai have it out on their own.

Whats wrong with you? Thats all I need to know. Tai half-shoved Misty into a corner of the room. He wasnt trying to be threatening, but he needed answers.

Nothings wrong with me Tai Kamiya. Im just finally seeing you for what you are. An egotistical moron who thinks he and his friends are better than everybody else just because theyve saved the world a few times. Misty stood up. She wasnt afraid of him. She wasnt below him.

What are you talking about, Misty?

You may not show it, but I can tell. You think youre better than the rest of us. You think youve accomplished more. And that the idea that you can do anything, the strong bond with everybody, the way you dismiss these reality shows as stupid but still find some way to win them thats your problem. Thats why I dont like you.

Tai held a straight face. So thats it then youre jealous.

Meanwhile, Ash tried to eavesdrop on their heated conversation. What do you think theyre talking about? he asked, holding the ice closer to his shoulder.

You can only postulate, Izzy remarked, then turned to Ash. Hows the shoulder?

Hurts like hell. Ash smiled at Izzy. Of course. Im talking to the master of shoulder injuries. Izzy started laughing. It doesnt matter how odd Mistys been acting lately, shes still not as bad as Nakago.

Well if anyone asks, I tell them I separated my shoulder while trying to shield Rika during the accident we got into. Makes it sound more noble.

Speaking of which, here comes the other Brain, Ash observed.

Rika had entered the lobby, trying to give Jeri some last minute tips on how to defeat Sora: Look Jeri, I know its tough but youve got to go in there and give it everything youve got. You have a huge advantage with Leomon- dont waste it. Jeri considered Rikas words for a moment, then reached into her bag.

This isnt a very fun game, is it Jeri? Her puppet seemed to hold more wisdom than Rika.

No it isnt, Jeri replied to herself.

Rika scoffed, As much as I agree with the puppet, youre going to have to have Leomon fight. It shouldnt be too difficult. I mean, Soras pretty weak. Come on- crest of love? She is so owned!

Oh boy thats embarrassing. Izzy looked away. He didnt want to get involved when Rika was in the position of helping take down a digi-destined.

You arent from the same show, are you? Ash asked.

Nope. It just feels like we are. Its all Digimon in the end, isnt it?

I dont know. Henry certainly didnt think it is. But I know how you feel. Ash paused.

Izzy picked up on Ashs problem. You face Gary next round, dont you?

Well, he is my rival. And I always have wanted to challenge him again. But I dont want to kill him.

Ash, talk to me about it tomorrow. Dont tell anybody but were planning something. Izzy looked Ash in the eyes. His voice was very soft; he didnt know where the cameras and microphones were. Were going to stop this.

Ash returned the look. He flashed a smile. Whatever youre doing you can count on my help. Ill see you tomorrow, Im going to get out of here before Misty explodes at Tai.

 

I cant tell with Tai. At times, he does seem a little touchy, but that could just be a sign of friendship. Im going to keep an eye out for it though. If he does come on stronger, you never know what might happen. Its worth looking out for. From the earliest moments in the relationship, nobody could have predicted the number of twists and turns that were on the roller coaster Tai and Misty were riding.

Jealous? Of what? Look Tai, this whole thing is a lot bigger than you think. Its not as cut and dry as youre pretending it is.

Tai looked at Misty, confounded. What thing?

Everything. This game, this company this world. Its not just about you and your friends.

This game is evil, this company is sadistic, the world would be a better place without Shougai, and were going to put a stop to it. Whats the problem with that?

Misty smiled. This is just like you, isnt it? Pretending everythings so easy and fighting your battles with a one-track mind. You cant win that way Tai. You cant win at all. You dont know who youre dealing with. They control our shows. Therefore- they control us. If you did pull it off- if you did stop Shougai just think of the millions of different ways the Animation Alliance could respond. They hold all the cards. Theres no sense fighting it.

What are you talking about?!" Tai yelled, "We have to stop this!!

No we dont! I know that I can win this! And I know that Ash can too. If were the only two that get through this alive then so be it. I dont care about any cardcaptors, seishi or digi-destined.

How can you say that? Are you telling me that you didnt cringe just a little bit when you saw what happened to that Takato kid?

Its not that I want them dead. Its just that I dont care about them. Misty looked down. They dont care about me.

You dont care? You certainly seemed to enjoy killing Mimi.

Its called relief, Tai. I did what I had to do and stayed alive. And besides, it always feels good winning, even something like this. To have all those people cheering for you. Its a great feeling no matter how you slice it.

So it could have been anybody you won against? It didnt have to be an innocent digi-destined like Mimi?

Misty shrugged. I guess. Ill probably have the same feeling when I beat Kodachi next time. I dont like killing digi-destined. Even if they are all uncaring brats like you.

Uncaring? How am I uncaring?

You dont care about me. Or Ash. Or anybody else. Youre just looking out for yourself and your team. You get on my case for not caring about cardcaptors, seishi, or digi-destined. Look at yourself. Do you honestly care about Anything Goes martial artists, tamers or trainers?

Tai turned away. He had to consider that. Misty had a point- his wish was to bring back his friends. He didnt say anything about those he wasnt friends with. He was going to have to do this for everybody. His friends werent enough. He turned one more time to Misty. She was still in the corner. He still had her pinned. Yet she was smiling. She felt like she was winning. She clearly didnt give a damn about anybody. Tai walked up and stood next to her. At that point, Tai could have done anything to her. She probably deserved anything. So Tai did the only thing that seemed appropriate

He kissed her.

No more pecks on the cheek. No more innocent feels in the hot springs. No more dodgy conversations in art studios. He had to set straight how strong the feelings were. After three seconds, he pulled his mouth away from hers. She was frozen in shock.

Thats how much I dont care. Tai left her standing there. He walked back to Izzy. Come on Izzy, we should be there to give Sora some encouragement.

Izzy looked back at Misty, putting a finger to her lips, still in shock. He started to follow Tai, obviously not clear regarding the last moments of the conversation. Seriously I think Traceys right about that whole redhead thing. Should Rika be afraid? Izzy glanced up at his own auburn hair, Should I be afraid??


South Entrance- 2:45 PM

Sora still didnt know what was going to happen. She was scared of losing. That much was certain. But in a way, she was also scared of winning. She had enough trouble killing Digimon, even ones that were evil. Killing an innocent girl like Jeri, especially if her partner was truly destined to be destroyed, was something Sora could not bring herself to do.

I still dont know if I can do this.

You have to. If I lost you, Id Matt didnt know what to say. He tried not to think about what would happen had Sora lost.

Akane's voice interrupted his train of thought: Come on you can get through this. Matt looked over at the entrance. Tamahome was virtually catatonic, and Akane trying to help him.

Miaka

Akane turned to Mike, standing nearby. Mike, could you give me a hand?

Mike shook his head. Wish I could. But this shots too good for me to interfere with.

I cant believe shes gone Tamahome continued to mumble.

Akane closed her eyes. She knew the truth. She wasnt supposed to know the truth but she did. At that moment, she would have liked nothing more than to tell him that Miaka was alright. But she couldnt. Especially not with Mike watching. Still, as long as she didnt say it directly, she could comfort him. Dont worry. Shes gone to a better place. She smiled. Trust me.

Whats the point why bother? Tamahome stumbled off, leaving Akane behind.

Damn It didnt work. Knowing the truth was eating her inside. All these people were suffering, and she couldnt take the chance of telling them that it was all a charade. She walked away, kicking a potted plant on the way out.

Come on Sora. Lets do this. Matt didnt want to think about it any further. He led her to the arena.


North Entrance- 3:00 PM

Leomon took one look at the situation. This. Is. Not. Right.

Jeri looked up at her partner and concurred. I agree. Lets go home.

Rika grabbed Jeris arm. Sorry Jeri, but they wont let us. Just win so we dont have to worry about it. It shouldnt be too hard. I did it, Ryo did it. You can too.

Yeah, but Takato didnt or Kazu, or Kenta, or Henry

What can I say? Boys are losers.

But

Rika sighed. Im sorry, but theres no way around this. Right now, you have to fight. If you dont, then I cant say whats going to happen to you.

Jeri looked across at Sora and Biyomon. They were in the same situation. They didnt want to be there either.

Arties call to begin the match fell on deaf ears. Neither Jeri nor Sora were all that interested in getting things started.

Sora please. Matt tried to coax her into it.

Sora sighed. If theres no other choice Biyomon?

Biyomon nodded. Right. She slowly flew up and summoned her energy. Spiral Twister!

The shot was on course for young Jeri. Jeri took a step back. Before she knew it, she was the one under fire. The attack was directly on target. Nothing was going to be able to stop it. Nothing, that is, except for Leomon, who effortlessly held out his sword in front of Jeri. The blast of energy harmlessly hit the sword. No matter what the situation might be, I will still protect you, Jeri.

Leomon Jeri whispered.

Leomon, could you do us a little favor and kill Sora for us? I know its not your thing, but it would make things a lot easier. Rika said with a half-smile. She just wanted this match to be over with. There was no way Sora could win over Jeri, but Rika didnt want to leave anything to chance.

Leomon turned to Rika. Im not listening to you. You kinda scare me. I am not willing to take an innocent life at my own discretion, but if Jeri wants me to I will obey.

Leomon Jeri still couldnt bring herself to do it.

Spiral Twister! Biyomon attacked again, this time hitting Leomons shoulder.

Leomon swung around and shouted, Fist of the Beast King! In an instant, Biyomon was on the ground, unconscious. Leomon turned back to Jeri. Okay- the bird was bugging me.

No arguments here, Rika muttered as she saw Sora run up to check on Biyomon.

Biyomon The concern in Soras voice was obvious. Jeri stood next to Leomon and watched the scene. She didnt want to do anything wrong, but there were really no other options. The doors were locked; there was no escape. Biyomon was attacking, so obviously Sora was making an attempt to win. Jeri glanced over at Matt. He was visibly unnerved. He was obviously afraid of what Leomon could do. Unfortunately, his worst fears were about to come to pass.

Leomon Jeri forced back a tear. End this so we can go home. She turned around. She didnt want to witness it.

Fist of the Beast King! The massive attack resulted in a direct hit. When the smoke cleared, Sora had joined Biyomon- not moving, and not breathing.

Sora!! Matt ran up to her. The match had not been stopped; perhaps she was still alive. Matt held her. Her body was still warm, but it wasnt clear whether it was due to her body heat, or her attack.

Artie picked up a walkie-talkie. Tim?

He waited for a second, before Tim got back to him. Wont be long now vital signs are diminishing. Another pause. Shes gone.

Swell. Artie picked up his D3 and ran out into the arena. Digi-port Open! Both Leomon and Biyomon were sucked into his portable computer. Artie turned towards the winning delegation. Jeri stared at Matt, still holding Soras lifeless body. Rika quietly led her away. Neither were in the mood to celebrate, so Artie let them go. He approached Matt.

Artie hold on. Dont go near them, Tom said through the walkie-talkie, Give him a minute. Its the perfect shot.

Tai was also watching them. This was why he had to put a stop to it. Still, he wished that he could have done something to prevent Soras death. He stood from the seating area and walked out, punching a cement wall on the way. Izzy followed. I should tell Rika about our plans." he said, "Are you going to be okay Tai? Tai ignored him, Tai??


Beeda Facility- Room 310- 3:15 PM

Can you hear me now?
Mike was in Izzys room, staring into the hidden camera. With the first round over, half of the kids were now out of the game. Therefore, any cameras in their rooms had to be moved to keep them useful.

Loud and clear Mike. Barbs voice sounded over the walkie-talkie.

Great. Can you see me? What am I doing?

Barb laughed. Youre giving me the finger. Mike smiled and pulled the bird down from its nest.

Okay, everything checks out here. Where to next?

Just the girls. We just have to move a camera from Soras room to Karis.

Im on it.


Kohler Complex- Reception Room- 3:20 PM

Izzy leaned against the wall. Tai was the bathroom, pulling himself back together after what happened to Sora. Izzy caught Rika, still talking to Jeri. He approached the girls.

Rika? Can I talk to you for a second? he asked.

Oh. Hey, sorry about that match. You know we had to

I dont care about that. Well I do but thats not why I need to talk to you. Izzy and Rika headed off to a different corner of the room.

So? she asked.

Were going to stop Shougai.

Who is?

Whomever Tai and I can get to do it. Right now its just him, me, and Kari. Were going to meet with Matt and Davis tonight and try to figure out some way to do it. Whatever we decide on, we may need a lot of people.

Great. Count me in. I dont care what youre doing, just as long as you do something. You know how hard it was for me to convince Jeri to go through with that?

While Rika and Izzy went over the details, Akane watched them. They were planning something. She wasnt sure what it was, but she was glad they were doing it. She had the secret to all this. The secret that made Shougai acceptable and unforgivable at the same time. It was still eating at her.

Hey Akane, you ready to go do some training? Ranma and Shampoo were standing in front of her.

Akane stood. Yeah. Right now I would like nothing more than to destroy something. Its probably best for everybody if it was just some cement blocks. She walked away with her friends.

Ranma? You see Shampoos match? Shampoo asked sweetly.

Yeah- you kicked ass! Ranma replied enthusiastically. Akane merely shook her head. Working up a good sweat would ease her mind for the time being, but she knew that there was only one thing that would rid her of her guilty conscience- she had to tell somebody.

Tai emerged from the bathroom. He had prepared himself mentally in order to deal with the real possibility that Sora would die. He just hadnt counted on her dying like that. He walked up to where he had left Izzy and said, Sorry about that. Its just that I dont know. If anyone deserved to go out painlessly it was Sora. It caught me off guard.

Im sorry I really am. I didnt mean to Tai looked down for the first time at the female voice. He wasnt talking to Izzy. He was talking to Jeri. And Jeri was crying.

Oh, jeez. Its um you. Tai quickly looked around, and caught Izzy chatting with Rika. Oh boy.

I didnt want to do it but Jeri was still sobbing.

Tai wasnt exactly sure what he was supposed to say. He wasnt really mad at her he was just upset that Sora had to go. But in all honestly, would things be any better if the little girl standing next to him was the one to die? Tai had made it a point to want to get to know the third season kids a little better, and if it was going to start- it would have to start now.

Its okay, Tai said, putting a reassuring hand on Jeris shoulder.

What is?

What you did. I dont mind. You didnt do anything wrong.

How can you say that? I took someones life. I

You had to. There was no choice. You cant blame yourself for something you were forced to do.

Jeri remained sad. But she was your friend

Tai forced a smile and pointed to Izzy and Rika. You see Izzy over there. Dont tell anybody, but he kinda had a crush on Yolei. Rika beat Yolei, and theyre getting along fine. So I dont understand why we cant become friends too. Actually, Tai was making that up. But Tai did have a crush on Sora, and he did want to become friends with Jeri.

I just want to go home.

You know something, we all do. Tai lowered his voice. Thats why were working on something to stop this game. Were going to have a meeting tonight to figure out how to stop the AA and send everybody home.

Tai? Izzy said as he and Rika drew near, I was wondering. Would it be a problem if Rika participated in our little sleepover?

Youre talking about some serious stuff here that could land all of us in some major shit. I want in. Rika smiled.

Besides, with Mimi and Sora losing, it would be a shame if Kari was the only girl there. Izzy said. Rika punched him in the shoulder.

You know its strange Tai smiled. I was just about to ask Jeri the same thing. Tai looked down at her. How about it? Maybe itll help get your mind off this match. Were just going to watch some anime. Tai whispered in Jeris ear, At least thats what were telling the AA. Well talk when were in there.

Jeri thought for a second. Sure. She smiled slightly. Count me in.

I suppose its only fair if we invited Ryo too, Rika said, slightly unhappy.

You bet! Tai was starting to grow enthused. Not only would he be able to put an end to this madness, hes get the chance to get to know the Tamers better at the same time. He put a hand on Jeris back and the four headed out.

Meanwhile, Matt was at his wits end. He lost Sora. What was he supposed to do now? He had grown so accustomed to having her around, and was deeply in love with her. But now she was out of his reach. That was bad enough. The final nail was what Matt saw while leaving the arena. The foursome exiting the building. Tai didnt seem to care at all. He was smiling as if nothing had happened. Worse yet was who he was with. Of all people to become friends with, Tai had the nerve to associate with her.


Beeda Facility- Lounge- 4:30 PM

Its not like I didnt miss you. I did. A lot. I mean, having a strong bond with my Pokmon is one thing, but its nice to engage in a conversation now and then, Gary said. June was hanging on his every word. I guess Ill have to treat you as an individual from now on. Youre definitely something special. I know that I cant afford to have all the girls back but I may consider making an exception for you. June smiled.

Uh Gary? Can I talk to you? said Ash, from behind.

Gary turned around, startled. Dont sneak up like that. Youre arent supposed to catch me during my weak moments.

Why not?

Gary shook his head, a cocky smile forming on his face. Ash, Ash, Ash. Dont you know that youre the guy thats supposed to keep me on my toes. Youre the guy thats hot on my trail, thats going to catch up and overtake me if I start to get sloppy. Your job is to make sure I dont start slacking off, and youve been doing a really good job at it. Ash was still confused. My top competition! The WCW to my WWF! The K-Mart to my Wal-Mart! The number two guy! You know?

Not really especially since WCW and K-Mart both went bankrupt.

Gary paused. Oh yeah. So what do you want?

Its about our match in a couple days.

Gary threw a concerned look at June, then turned to Ash. Uh huh. You know, I still dont think you deserve another match against me. But if they say we have to go against each other, then I guess its no problem beating you again. See ya then, loser! Gary started to walk away.

Ash chased after him. Wait a minute! Look, youre talking about Pokmon battles! This match is between you and me! Life and death! Gary, I think youre an arrogant jerk, and I would like nothing more than to meet you in a Pokmon battle and kick your butt eight ways from Sunday. Ash paused. But I dont want to kill you.

Gary stopped. He had the exact same sentiments. Gary had already taken one rivalry too far. He couldnt face himself to do it again with an older, and more fruitful rivalry. But before he could say anything in response, June got in Ashs face and spat, Stop it right now Ketchum. I know what youre trying to pull. Youre just messing with his head. Trying to get him to go soft and lose his focus. But its not going to work. Garys too smart for that. He will win against you. You can count on that.

Ash had no argument for it. If Gary was going to hide behind his cheerleaders, hed have to talk to him later. Ash walked off, unfulfilled.

There. I told him off. June walked up to Gary, pleased with her performance.

Gary merely folded his arms. Yeah. You did he said, looking up at June. But hes right, you know.


3rd Floor Hallway- 5:00 PM

Okay then. So seven oclock in Karis room? Davis was looking forward to it.

Yes indeed. Izzy looked around. Remember. If anyone asks its a party to watch anime.

Technically it is. Its just that well be discussing a lot more than just who between Akane and Miaka is cuter.

Right.

Miaka was cuter by the way, Davis said with a smile.

Um. Sure Izzy concluded and headed to the next destination. Lets see 302, 304, 306 this should be his. Izzy knocked on the door, which was promptly opened.

Yeah? Oh hey Izz. Rika told me about your slumber party, Ryo said neutrally.

Yes, well, I know we havent really gotten to know each other, but since everybody else from both of the Digimon worlds are going to be there or at least the ones that are alive it only seems fitting that you receive an invitation.

You know Rika told me what youre going to talk about. The whole revolution.

Right although thats sort of a subversive reason. Upfront

Look. These AA guys have to be a lot more powerful than you think they are. I mean, theyre basically sanctioning a game of supervised murder. Dont think that theyre not prepared to do what it takes to keep this game in check. Without our Digimon by our sides, I seriously doubt that theres anything we can do to stop them. So you can say whatever you want about your little revolutionary thing. My top priority is staying alive. And if I need to kill someone to save my skin, whether it be that Li kid, Ryoga or even you yourself, I am more than prepared to do so.

Izzy stepped back, partially threatened. So you arent going to join us?

Ryo smiled. Oh, of course Ill join you. Three reasons. First off- if youre going to show Ryoga in action, itll help me out a bunch.

Well, we certainly will. Even if we do have plans, well probably have to survive our matches tomorrow. What are the other two reasons?

Ryos smile became increasingly smug. Two- Rika will be there. Three- Kari will be there.

Izzy laughed quietly. Okay then see you there. Although Ill warn you- their big brothers will be there too.

As Izzy walked away, Ryo snapped his fingers, Aw, thats a bitch.


1st Floor Hallway- 5:10 PM

Tai knocked on Matts door. It was taking a lot longer to get his attention. Hey! Matt! I have to talk to you! Were all getting together tonight. Were going to Tai caught himself. It was lucky he did since Artie was standing a couple yards away, trying to listen in without getting in the way of the camera shot. Were going to watch Fushigi Yuugi and get a report on Tamahome and Tasuki. Tai looked back at Artie. Artie smiled, nodded and gave the thumbs up; apparently, he felt it was a smart move.

Matt finally opened the door. He was clearly worse for the wear. His hair was a mess, and his face carried no semblance of vitality. Man you dont look so good, Tai pointed out.

Matt glared at Tai, before finally opening his mouth. In case you hadnt heard, my girlfriend just died.

Oh uh right. Tai tried to figure out what exactly he was supposed to say. He wanted to say something to comfort his friend, but nothing was coming to mind.

Obviously you either didnt notice or didnt care. Matt seemed angry. You call yourself Soras friend, but right after she gets killed, you go off and start smiling and making friends with her.

Who?? Tai was confused. Jeri?

Yes, Jeri. I cant believe you, Tai. You dont find anything wrong with it either. You find absolutely nothing wrong with trying to make friends with the person that murdered Sora. Matt shook his head. You just dont care, do you?

Matt I just wanted to It was too late. Matt had returned to his room, slamming the door in Tais face.

End Chapter Seven

Authors Notes
Why did I give Madison a whole scene to herself, then not give any coverage to her match? Simple- social commentary! The scene was designed to give you some perspective into the viewpoints of the competitor that knows they have virtually no chance of winning their contest. Whether it be the team Duke plays every year in the first round, the Carolina Panthers right before they play St. Louis, or the U.S. Soccer team preparing for the World Cup. No neutral spectator gives them any respect and they dont do anything to earn it. Still the emotion is there.

If you dont know what hanyan represents too bad!

I hope you liked the Gary/June scene. Ive been getting a lot of positive comments about Garys role in this series, and am trying to keep that going. And yes- the other Jun will be back. Shes just stuck doing nothing in room 215 for the time being.

Chapter Eight- Casualty Insurance
While the Digi-destined and Tamers team up to plot ways to stop Shougai in the Beeda Facility, Yolei has her own ideas in the Moore Facility. When the courses of both plans are set in motion on the same night, will they complement each other, or act against each other to make things even worse? And what will happen if the Animation Alliance finds out?

Current "Shougai" Standings