Thomas and I followed Statuedramon into the dimly lit, old-fashioned restaurant. The swinging doors creaked softly as the two of us walked through them and into the diner.
Nothing about this place has changed in the last six years, I see. The entire building, on the outside, stood out from the other houses and buildings in Linnea; it was the only building to be constructed of wood, rather than stone, and it was noticeably shorter than the others, in spite of being two stories tall. It had a run-down look to it, making it appear older even than the stone buildings. The inside of the diner, however, was anything but run-down. Lively and rowdy, there were circular tables packed full of Humans and Digimon on both floors — so much so, that a majority of them were standing up, leaving little room for Thomas and I to walk around and find Statuedramon. We eventually found him at a miraculously empty table, looking around eagerly as a tall Digimon walked up to him at the same time Thomas and I did.
“Good evening, weary travelers, and welcome to our fine restaurant!” The Digimon, who I instantly recognized as the same Meramon who had once been kind to me all those years ago, walked up to Statuedramon and vigorously shook his hand. Thomas sat down next to Statuedramon, and I next to Thomas, far away from Meramon.
Hopefully, he won’t recognize me…
“Is there anything I can do for you today, my fine friends?” Meramon spoke to us in a hearty voice and was grinning widely the entire time he spoke, and I kept my head hung low in hopes that he wouldn’t notice that I was there. Thomas, apparently catching on, removed his coat and placed it over my shoulders, and I pulled the collar up to help shield my face.
“I’ll take one of everything you’ve got; I don’t care what it is, I just want it!”
Statuedramon said. Meramon laughed as he wrote down Statuedramon’s order on a notepad.
Oh, please don’t let him notice me…Leaning over, I whispered into Thomas’s ear, “Could you please tell Meramon that I’ll have the same?” Thomas nodded. I took a quick glance at Meramon. He was glaring at me.
“You…I remember you,” Meramon said, his eyes narrowing slightly in anger. “You may hide your face…But you can’t mask your aura.”
Well, so much for them forgetting about me…
“What does he mean by that?” Statch asked.
“Get out!” Meramon said in a harsh tone, completely different from his hearty and friendly voice from a moment ago. The entire diner had gone silent. Every customer was staring at our table. “…You can’t afford to be seen here, or by anyone else in this village. Have you honestly forgotten what they…what we did to you?! You can’t stay here!” To Thomas’s and Statuedramon’s apparent surprise, the other customers had begun to taunt us, supporting Meramon’s words.
I guess I shouldn’t have expected any of them to forget about me…
“If you won’t leave, I will be left with no choice but to force you to leave!” Meramon said.
“Is that a threat?!” Statuedramon yelled; however, the Champion Digimon ignored him. I stared down at my hands, folded neatly in my lap as Meramon engulfed his hands in roaring flames. Statuedramon jumped onto the table and brandished his sword, swinging it at Meramon, who reached out and grabbed it without turning to face Statch. As it looked like the two would fight, the other customers ran out the front doors of the diner, leaving the four of us alone at this table.
“What’s the matter? Don’t like what I’m doing?”
“Damn right I don’t! NOBODY threatens my friends and lives!” Statuedramon pulled his blade out of Meramon’s hand.
“This girl is your friend?!” Meramon sneered. It was evident by the look on his face that he was more confused than disgusted. “But…you’re a Digimon! You should be able to tell; she’s different from the other Humans! Whatever the hell she is, nobody here wants her to stay! Trash like her…doesn’t belong in a nice place like this.”
“What the hell do you mean by that?!” Thomas shouted. “All we’ve heard is that all of the Digimon here hate her, and they haven’t given us any good reason!” He took a step toward Meramon. “Start talking…or you will be stabbed. Multiple times.”
“Well…I guess nobody here really knows why, either,” Meramon said. He seemed to have calmed down; he had lowered his voice and the flames on his fists were growing less wild. “All we know is that we can…We can just sense that she’s different, and we don’t know what it means. Her presence is…disquieting, and we don’t like it!” Meramon looked around the restaurant, and was shocked by its sudden emptiness, not having noticed the other customers fleeing when Statuedramon attacked him.
“Your reasoning isn’t good enough, Meramon,” Statuedramon said angrily.
“Statuedramon, please, don’t make a big deal out of this; I’m used to being treated this way,” I whispered, still looking down at my hands.
“I may not have known this girl very long — only a few hours, to be perfectly honest — but she is the kindest person I have ever met, and I’ve lived a hell of a long time, Meramon! So, I know a hell of a lot of people!” Statuedramon said, ignoring me as he aimed his sword at Meramon’s throat.
“Statuedramon…don’t attack him. Remember what we’re in this village for,” Thomas said. I looked over at him as he spoke, and though his voice was calm, he looked as ready to attack Meramon as Statuedramon did.
They…care about me this much already? Even though I should be worth nothing to them…?
“We cannot draw attention to ourselves; this is a job that requires us to be as unnoticeable as possible. Got it?” Thomas asked. Statuedramon lowered his sword with a disappointed look on his face as he jumped off the table. “Let’s just leave before something happens…Something that we might regret…okay?”
“Yeah…we probably don’t want any of their food, anyway; I’m sure it tastes much worse than the moldy crap Digitamamon gave me,” Statuedramon said as he shoved his way past Meramon.
“That does it; nobody insults the food at my restaurant! Fireball!” Meramon formed a ball of flames in his hand, but as he prepared to throw it at Statuedramon, a large missile sailed past the open doors of the saloon and struck Meramon in the left leg. The Flame Digimon fell to the ground, clutching his injured leg in pain as three Digimon walked into the diner.
“Meramon…attacking innocent bystanders again,” the tallest Digimon said. “Whatever are we going to do with him, Giromon? Tankmon?”
“Volcamon…I do not attack innocent people,” Meramon snarled, picking himself up off the floor. “You of all people ought to know that by now!”
“You can’t trick us; you were just about to attack these three, weren’t you?!” Giromon asked, waving his chainsaw at Meramon.
“Well…yeah, but…They deserve it! That girl; she’s—”
“Don’t waste your time with him, Giromon,” Tankmon said. “We should just destroy him now and get it over with; a violent thug like him has no place in a village like this!”
“I’m not the criminal; you three are!” Meramon shouted.
“And why, pray tell, would anybody believe you, after seeing you attack these three?” Volcamon asked. “The three of us work for an honest, hard-working Digimon that cares about the safety of all the Humans and Digimon in this village. You…you just tried to attack three innocent people. What have you got to say for yourself?!”
“…Why did you come here, Volcamon?” Meramon asked.
“We’ve had enough, Meramon; we came here to blow this place down to put an end to your cruelty,” Tankmon said.
“However, we’ve decided to give you one more chance,” Giromon said. “If you allow us to take these three off your hands and into our…protective custody, we’ll leave you and this little shack of yours alone for the moment.”
“However, if we ever hear about you doing something like this ever again, you’re dead!” Volcamon shouted.
“What in Arcadia’s name would you want with them?!” Meramon glared at the three mechanical Digimon spitefully. “…Fine; take them with you, but don’t you let me see them ever again!”
“You’re hardly in the position to be making threats, Meramon,” Tankmon laughed.
“You three,” Volcamon looked over at the three of us. “Please, come with us.”
“Gladly!” Statuedramon quickly followed the three Digimon out of the saloon. Thomas and I stood up to follow the Digimon out of the diner.
“Keep your guard up,” Thomas whispered. I looked at him and nodded, though his words weren’t necessary. I was already too familiar with how even the nicest Humans and Digimon could end up hating you…or worse.
“…Thank you, Thomas,” I whispered back. “I’m used to being treated the way Meramon was treating me…But still, you…” I stopped walking for a moment, and Thomas turned back to look at me. “Nobody’s ever…done something like that for me before…Treating me like a friend…” Thomas smiled at me. The same smile that made me feel shy and self-conscious. Averting my gaze from his, I removed his coat from my shoulders and returned it to him.
“Meramon was yelling at you for no reason. I couldn’t let that keep happening…not after what you did for me,” he said. “Although…I guess I didn’t really do anything to actually stop him, did I?”
I shook my head. “No…The fact that you stood up for me like that…It…means a lot to me. Thank you…Thomas.”
“…You have a story, don’t you?” Thomas asked. “Things have happened to you…Things that shouldn’t have.”
“…You could tell?”
“Everyone I know tells me I have a gift for reading people. But you? I can’t even get past the first page,” he continued. “It just seems that…even when you’re smiling, you always seem so…crestfallen. When we’re done here in Linnea Village, would you please tell me your story?”
“…No…No, I can’t. If I tell you…You’ll hate me, too…I can’t have that.”
“Very well, then. If you ever feel the need to talk, I’ll be ready to listen.”
“Well, now that that’s all out of the way, we should hurry and find Statuedramon before he gets himself lost…again.”
“This is a small village; there’s only one road. C’mon!” I said. I led Thomas through the village along a dirt road until we finally found Statuedramon sitting at a table just outside a different restaurant. With him were the three Digimon from earlier, and all four looked to be having a pleasant conversation until Volcamon spotted us. The tallest of the four Digimon stood up and walked over to us.
“Are you both unharmed? Meramon didn’t actually attack you, did he?” Volcamon asked.
“No; you three came just in time!” Statuedramon said. “Thanks for saving us like that, Tankmon!”
“Aw, don’t mention it,” Tankmon said.
“Tell me; what do you know about that Meramon?” Thomas asked.
“Meramon…he’s one of the worst Digimon out there,” Volcamon said gravely. “He’s really strong, too; the three of us fighting together would have a rough time defeating him. He gets so drunk with his power, it’s like…”
“I fear he may one day burn down the village,” Giromon said. “I’m sure that Meramon would love to do nothing else, but there’s no way he’d do it right now.”
“Oh, really? Why not?” Statuedramon asked.
“Because of our master, Lord Etemon,” Tankmon said. “He’s the strongest Digimon around; the only reason Meramon hasn’t burned this place to the ground is because he fears Etemon’s strength!”
“If Meramon’s as bad as you say he is, why is he still here?” Thomas asked. “Shouldn’t Etemon have done something about him by now?”
“Well…it’s shameful for us to admit this,” Volcamon said. “But…Etemon’s power isn’t exactly enough to completely defeat Meramon. However, we all do our best to make sure nobody is hurt by that evil Digimon!”
“There were a lot of people at his restaurant that seemed to support him when he was…ridiculing our friend,” Thomas said.
“Yes, unfortunately, a Digimon like that is bound to have a few followers here and there,” Giromon said. “He’s also managed to fool a lot of the people in this village into thinking we’re the bad guys, and he’s the protector of this village!”
“The nerve of that punk!” Tankmon spat.
I can’t believe Meramon’s really such a bad Digimon…He was so kind to me five years ago…But the way he acted today…Could he really be the Digimon that Thomas and Statuedramon are after? Every time I thought about Meramon, my thoughts about him would go back and forth, between liking him and fearing him.
“Never fear, though; a few people in this village know the truth about that monster,” Volcamon said. “Anyway, that’s plenty enough about us; tell us, who are you three? We’ve never seen you around before.”
“We’re here on business,” Thomas said. “We’ve…been given orders to eliminate a certain person.”
“…Really? And who might that be?” Volcamon asked. The once-friendly tone of his voice disappeared momentarily as he looked at Thomas.
“We aren’t sure yet, but by the sound of things, we believe our target is Meramon.”
“Oh, wonderful!” Volcamon exclaimed. “With your help, we might actually stand a chance against that bastard!”
“Would you like to come with us to meet our master?” Giromon asked. “I’m sure he’d be quite pleased to become acquainted with you.” Giromon’s eyes were fixated on me as he spoke.
“Actually, yes; that sounds like a good idea,” Thomas said.
“Very good; please, follow us,” Volcamon stood up, and Tankmon, Giromon, and he began leading us through the village until a small castle came into view.
“Is that where he lives?” Statuedramon asked.
“Indeed it is; you’ll all be granted plenty of food, and rooms to sleep in for the night by our gracious master,” Volcamon said.
“Awesome; I can’t wait! So, what kind of food does he have?” Statuedramon asked as Volcamon and the others led the three of us through the open doors of the castle.