Once Upon a Time

By Time Lady

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Disclaimer:  I do not own Digimon.

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Chapter 2

As was their custom, Lou and Sora were up at the rising sun.  Lou appeared somewhat dejected as he realized his boat was gone for good.  “My husband,” said Sora, “do not worry.  You had often spoken of building a bigger boat.  And what good would a boat have been to me without a husband?”

“Yes, and had I heeded your words, you would have had both a husband and a boat.”

“What is past is past.  Did you not say the Ikkakumon asked you to show him something of the surrounding area?”

“That is true.  And while we are out I can see to finding suitable trees to fell to build a new boat.”  Lou sighed.  “I will need new nets and traps as well.”

“I can set about weaving new nets as soon as I have cared for my garden.”  Sora bustled about.  “In fact, I have more onions and peppers than I need.  You might take Ikkakumon to show him the market, and trade some vegetables for some grain, then purchase some spices.”

“Very well.  Prepare what you wish to send to market while I see if Ikkakumon is out and about.”

Deep within his cavern bedroom, Ikkakumon awoke with a start.  Blinking, he looked around the cavern.  It took a few minutes before he remembered where he was.  The great Digimon beast yawned and lumbered out of this cavern and down the tunnel to his dining area.  As Lampmon had instructed, he threw the cloth over the table.  Removing it revealed several platters of food.  Ikkakumon ate ravenously.

Lou walked into the cave entrance.  His eyes widened as he saw the tunnel illuminated by the large jewels set into the cave walls.  Cautiously he made his way forward.  “Ikkakumon?” called the fisherman.

“I’m here.  Second cavern down the tunnel,” returned Ikkakumon between bites.  Amazed at the transformation of the tunnel, Lou followed Ikkakumon’s instructions.  He paused and stared in astonishment at the dining room.  “Have you eaten?” asked Ikkakumon.  “There is plenty, if you would like to join me.”

“Thank you, but no.  I have already broken my fast today.”  Lou looked at the plates heaped before Ikkakumon.  Many of the foods were unfamiliar to the fisherman.  “You had wished to see some of the countryside.  My wife had asked me to go to town for her and I was wondering if you would like to accompany me.”

“I would stand out in town.”

“True.  But the streets are wide to accommodate the Mammon and other large Digimon who dwell in the land.  The markets of our town are something that must be experienced firsthand.  Merchants come from all over the lands around to sell their wares.  Once I saw a trader with merchandise from as far off as Unixico, Adaptina, and other countries over the oceans beyond Filand.  Another time someone was lucky enough to have brought through some goods from Chata and Jeypegan, a rarity since Emperor Poi Zhuhóng ascended the throne of both countries.”

Ikkakumon’s eyes narrowed at the news.  “The Chatese crown prince?  Ruler of Jeypegan?  And since when has Prince Zhuhóng ruled Chata?”

“The stories are unclear.  According to the rumors in the marketplace, Prince Zhuhóng was responsible for the murder of his own father, then assumed the throne and sought to increase Chata’s property. Emperor Kido of Jeypegan’s eldest two sons were killed trying to hold off Chatese forces.  Then Emperor Poi Zhuhóng’s conquered the lands and forced Emperor Kido to commit ritual suicide.”

“Did not Emperor Kido have three sons?” asked Ikkakumon as he looked away as sadness welled up from deep within.

“The youngest prince disappeared a year before Chata’s invasion, so the rumors say.  Now the current emperor of Chata’s lust for expansion grows.  Some say first he will take over Netpal, then he will try to conquer Inputia.”  Lou wrung his hands.  "They say that he taxes his people until they are starving, and that his soldiers take the prettiest women and female Digimon for their own, even if they are not willing."

The great beast's massive claws dug into the ground as he heard Lou description of the Emperor Poi Zhuhóng's actions.  "I am not surprised at this.  Reportedly he was extremely violent in his youth.  I remember a rumor that the previous emperor considered passing the mantle of ruler-ship to the second son."

"No one knows."  The cavern became very silent.  After a few minutes, Lou asked "Have I said something to offend you?"

"I'm sorry my friend.  I was in Jeypegan for many years.  Many people close to me are still there.  It pains me to know that they may be suffering."  Ikkakumon let loose a deep sigh.  "I need some distraction.  Let's go to the market."

---

“Miyako, what _are_ you doing?” asked Mimi as she and Mina entered the library for their morning lessons.  They found Miyako staring at a map.

“Trying to figure out where our future husbands are coming from,” returned Miyako.  “But these maps are old and faded.  Vizier Izumi probably has all the good maps in his rooms.”

“That’s enough,” said Kabukimon.  The princesses turned to find their governess in the doorway behind them.  “It is time for your literature lessons.”

“But Kabukimon. . .”  Mina found her protest cut off by a withering glare from Kabukimon.

“If your highnesses had been studying your geography, you would know the countries in each region.  Since you apparently have not, you will just have to wait until your daily lessons are over.”  Kabukimon walked over to the shelf used to store the books used for the princesses’ studies and took off four books.  She handed one to each princess.  The princesses then took up seats on their cushions.  “Now, we shall pick up from where we left off yesterday morning. . . .”

Mina, Miyako, and Mimi weren’t listening.  Instead they were racking their brains to try and remember the maps from their studies.

---

Ikkakumon remained quiet as he walked alongside Lou.  The fisherman talked about different land features and points of interest.  As much as Ikkakumon tried to pay attention to what Lou was saying, his mind wandered to Jeypegan.  It had been at least five years since he had been at the island nation.  The news he had heard was particularly disturbing.  What made it more disheartening was, as much as he wanted to, he couldn’t return. Not yet.

They reached the top of a hill overlooking the city.  "There is Datali, The capital of Inputia," announced Lou.

Ikkakumon's eyes widened.  A sea of colored roofs and awnings surrounded a hill topped by a magnificent white marble palace.  As they descended the hill, Ikkakumon could make out gray paved streets and buildings of white plaster.  

A Mammon strode down one of the main roads.  An Airdramon flew overhead and touched down in an area apparently designated for landings.  Lou led Ikkakumon through the streets, occasionally passing a human or a Digimon carrying packages, chasing their young, or selling wares.  Though Lou occasionally looked at the goods of the street vendors, he pressed forward to the city’s main market.  Ikkakumon tried not to stare.  It had been a long time since he had been in a place as large as this on dry land.

The streets were paved with smooth gray stones.  A man in a white turban, blue tunic-like shirt and wide-legged pants swept the street.  Several Kentarumon holding spears marched down the road.  A woman in a coffee-colored sari carrying a basket passed the travelers by.  

Finally Lou and Ikkakumon arrived an area that seemed to be several city blocks.  Tents and tables were arranged in rows.  Digimon and humans called out to passers-by trying to entice them with their wares.  Scents of spices and perfumes mingled with the odor of livestock.  Nearby a cloth merchant displayed lengths of silk and muslin for saris and turbans.  Lou paused and fingered a length of lemon yellow silk edged with blue.  “How much is this?” he asked.

“Twenty gold chips,” returned the Renamon behind the table.

“TWENTY?” returned Lou, his face showing his astonishment.

“This is the finest Chatese silk,” explained the Renamon.  “The Emperor of Chata charges high tariffs on all goods exported.  If you would prefer, I have some local muslin for less than two gold chips.”

“I will have to consider this,” said Lou.  He turned away with a sigh.

“What troubles you?” asked Ikkakumon.

“I had hoped to surprise Sora with a new sari for the feast of Zhuqiaomon.  She has never owned a sari made of silk.  The price, however, was too steep.  Perhaps elsewhere I will find something more affordable.”

Ikkakumon glanced over his shoulder to the cloth merchant, then turned back towards Lou.  The fisherman waved to a few people.  He then stopped at a table with boxes of spices.  The Gotsumon running the table seemed more willing to bargain.  For a few silver chips, Lou obtained several small boxes of curry, cumin, coriander, and other spices.  They moved on.  A man tried to entice them to look at his pottery.  A Muchomon called “Fresh bananas, ripe mangos, sweet melons!”  Lou stopped briefly, then moved on.  Ikkakumon simply followed his friend.  His eyes took in the sites, his ears the sounds, and his nose the scents of the market.

Finally, Lou reached a table laden with baskets of vegetables.  “Greetings Chuumon.”

“Lou!” exclaimed Chuumon.  “Have you any fresh fish today?”

“I apologize, but my boat was wrecked.  Had it not been for my friend here,” Lou gestured to Ikkakumon, “I would not be here to visit you.  But instead, my wife has bade me to bring you some of her garden’s vegetables and her homemade preserves.”

Chuumon peeked into Lou’s basket.  As they began to haggle over the basket’s contents, Ikkakumon looked at some of the tables.  A strangely familiar accent caught his ears.  Looking around, his eyes lit on a Igamon.  The ninja Digimon appeared out of place in the Inputian market.  “Fine rare goods direct from Jeypegan,” intoned the Igamon.  A few stopped at his table, then wandered by.  Lou and Chuumon were still bargaining, so Ikkakumon decided to investigate the table.

“Fine porcelain from Jeypegan, good sir,” said Igamon with a bow.  “I also have elegant lacquered boxes and trays.”  Ikkakumon’s eyes studied the wares.  “Perhaps a wall scroll?”  Igamon unrolled a scroll painted with images of Jeypegan.

“How did you come by these wares?” asked Ikkakumon.  “I have heard that Poi Zhuhóng is now Emperor of Chata, and that he also rules Jeypegan.”

“The emperor rules from Chata,” snorted Igamon.  “Not everyone accepts his rule in Jeypegan.”

“You have been there recently?”

“Not too recently.  I have a comrade that sends me messages regularly.  You are familiar with Jeypegan?”

“I lived there once. . . over five years ago.  At that time, Emperor Kido and his sons were alive and well.”

“Rumor has it that the third son is still alive.”  Igamon leaned forward confidently.  “They say the youngest was stolen away by the ruler of the moon.  One year after the prince disappeared, Chata attacked and the eldest two princes were killed in battle.  The emperor of Jeypegan was given the choice of an honorable death or a lifetime of enslavement.  As Emperor Kido had been in poor health, he chose ritual suicide.”

“And no one fights Poi Zhuhóng?”

“There is a resistance.”  Igamon’s voice dropped lower.  “My comrades send these goods to me at a reduced rate. . .”

“Smuggled.”

“Er, well, the proceeds from the purchase of these goods go to support the resistance.”  Igamon studied Ikkakumon appraisingly.  “A Digimon like yourself would be a great asset to our effort.”

“I cannot return to Jeypegan.”  He closed his eyes.  “Not yet, at least.  Please do not ask me to explain further.”

Igamon stared at Ikkakumon.  The ninja Digimon didn’t press the issue.  “I am due for another ‘shipment’ from Jeypegan in a couple of weeks.  With it will be further news from my comrade there of the current state.  Should you wish the latest news, seek me out.  And, should your circumstances change, we would welcome your assistance.”

“I believe I shall.”

---

“Can Kabukimon make the lessons any longer?” complained Mimi.  

“When Father passes on, you will be ruler of Inputia,” Mina reminded her gently.  “She is making sure that all of us would make capable successors to the throne.”

“I can’t believe she threw us out of the library after lessons though,” griped Miyako.  “I wanted to look at the maps.”

“Perhaps she has good reason,” returned Mina.  

“Now there’s nothing to do.”  Miyako threw herself onto a pile of cushions.  

“I have an idea.  Let’s see if Father will let us go to the marketplace,” suggested Mimi.  “I am almost out of my favorite perfume and the servants never seem to pick the right one.”

An hour later, the three princesses rode out through the palace gates on the backs of three Kentarumon guards.  With them were Kabukimon and a retinue of servants.  Mimi and Miyako entered the market gleefully.  They dismounted from their bodyguards, who were hard pressed to keep up with the princesses.  Mina, on the other hand, would have liked to slip off quietly to browse the marketplace by herself.

Mina spied an interesting looking table.  “Please, wait here,” she said to her bodyguard.  The princess drew her head scarf across her face, partially obscuring it.  “I do not wish to be recognized.”

“Is this wise Princess?” asked the Kentarumon.

“I will be within eye sight.  I would like to look at the merchandise without the merchant fawning over me because of my rank.  My sisters may enjoy it, but I do not.”

Her guard nodded his understanding.  Mina warily approached the table where an Igamon was involved in a conversation with a giant Digimon she couldn’t readily identify. As she drew near, the two abruptly stopped their conversation.  The large, furry Digimon seemed to tilt his head in a courteous gesture while the Igamon bowed.  Mina returned a polite nod.

"Fine silks, imported from Jeypegan," said Igamon.  "Or perhaps a porcelain tea set as delicate as yourself."

Mina blushed.  She glanced over the table.  Her eye fell upon some scrolls.  “Are those writing scrolls?”

“No,” returned Igamon.  “Works of art.”  He unrolled one of the scrolls, a scene of Jeypeganese children playing under flowering trees.  Then he unrolled another.  “This is a painting of one of the royal residences of the late Emperor Kido.  But if landscape is not to your liking, perhaps you would prefer a portrait.”  The Digimon picked up another scroll and unwound it, revealing a portrait of a boy about twelve.  From the fine clothing, Mina assumed the boy was of the nobility.  An elaborate, but uncomfortable looking headdress sat atop blue-black hair.  Mina found herself instantly drawn to the boy’s onyx eyes.  They seemed very thoughtful and gentle. She noticed the large Digimon next to her looked away.

“Is the person in the portrait known?” Mina asked.

“Ah yes. . . this is a portrait of the lost prince of Jeypegan.”

“Lost prince?”  Mina’s interest grew.

“A long and sad story,” returned Igamon.

“And a story with which I am well acquainted,” said the furry Digimon.  “Pardon me, my lady.”  He nodded politely to Mina, then walked off to a table where a man was bargaining with a Chuumon.

“The story begins in Jeypegan about five, six years ago,” began Igamon.  “Jeypegan had three princes.  The youngest, Prince Jyou, was a curious fellow.  His imperial highness developed a huge interest in the skies.  For his twelfth birthday he received a far-seeing device that the court astronomers use.  Prince Jyou would spend hours gazing at the stars.  One night, he was gazing upon the full moon.  What he saw, no one truly knows.  But the unfortunate prince somehow offended Lady Devimon, ruler of the moon.  It is said that Lady Devimon herself swooped down upon the palace, grabbed the young prince, and flew off back towards the moon.”

“How horrible,” Mina interjected.

“Prince Jyou has not been seen since.  One of the rumors is that Lady Devimon sent Karantenmon, the current court mage of Chata, to aid Poi Zhuhóng in his ambitions.  First the death of the previous Poi emperor, then the attack upon Jeypegan.  All of Chata’s greatest battles came on nights of the full moon.  Another rumor is that Emperor Kido did not lead his troops into battle himself, as he still mourned the loss of his youngest son.  Very tragic.”

“Tragic indeed.”  Mina stared at the painted scroll.  She didn’t exactly know why she decided to buy it, but something in the eyes stirred her heart.  The princess also purchased a pair of embroidered satin slippers and an alabaster container of jasmine scented cream.  With a nod of her head, she took her purchases, thanked Igamon, and returned to her waiting bodyguard.

“You look troubled my friend,” said Lou as Ikkakumon looked at a table of items from Filand.  

“I’m just tired,” returned Ikkakumon.  “Perhaps a tad hungry.”

“There is a small restaurant nearby,” suggested Lou.  “The food is tasty, and the prices are reasonable.”

“That sounds fine.  Let’s go.”  Ikkakumon tried to block out the memory of his conversation with Igamon as he followed Lou to the restaurant.

The restaurant turned out to be a very large tent.  The front flaps were tied back to allow fresh air inside.  As they drew close they could smell the curry, coriander, cumin, and other spices.  Inside they could see low wooden tables surrounded by cushions for the patrons.  A large, egg-shaped Digimon stood at an iron pan over an open fire.  Somehow the Digimon was managing to sauté vegetables on the pan without visible arms.  About a handful of patrons sat around tables eating.

"Digitamamon!" called Lou.

The Digimon turned when he heard his name called.  “Ah, Lou.  It’s a little late for a fish delivery.”

“No fish, my friend, for several days.  My boat was wrecked in yesterday’s storm.”

Digitamamon winced.  “How sad.  You always give me the best prices on the freshest goods.”

“I plan to begin building a new boat as soon as return home.  However, my friend here is new to town,” Lou gestured to Ikkakumon, “and has yet to taste the cuisine of this land.”

The egg-shaped Digimon sized up Ikkakumon.  “Well then, this calls for two specials.  One giant sized.”  He returned to his cook top and called for his assistant.

“Let us be seated,” Lou said to Ikkakumon.  “Digitamamon cooks everything fresh.”

---

Mina and Miyako were tired of shopping.  They sat upon the backs of their Kentarumon bodyguards while Mimi continued browsing the tables.  One of the servants carried a huge bundle of scrolls, while another held a huge stack of books.  A third held Mina’s package from Igamon’s table and a couple of other small things.  Three more servants were burdened down with bundles and sacks purchased by Princess Mimi.  The Renamon selling saris fawned over the princess, bringing out the best silks she had.

“How many saris does she need?” muttered Mina.  

Miyako shrugged, but contemplated returning later.  The middle princess’ stomach growled.  Food was, at the moment, more important than a new outfit.  “Mimi, come on already,” complained Miyako.

“But I just can’t decide,” returned Mimi.  “The pink and gold sari or the pink and silver.”

“If your highness would like to think your choice over during a meal, I am certain the merchant would hold both,” said Kabukimon diplomatically.  “Am I right?”

“Most certainly, your highness,” said Renamon with a bow.

“All right," agreed Mimi.  "I'll be back soon."

"I will put these two away until you return," said Renamon as she carefully folded the delicate fabric.

"Finally," said Miyako.  "Now we can go get something to eat."

"But if we return to the palace for lunch, we'll have to ask Father’s permission to go out again,” said Mimi.  “You know he never gives permission twice in the same day.”

“Oh great,” complained Miyako.  “Either we go back to the palace to eat, or we keep shopping.”

“I had seen an eatery nearby,” said Mina.  While she didn’t care to continue shopping, excursions outside of the palace grounds like this were few and far between and provided a welcome change of scenery.

“Your highnesses would consider eating in a common establishment?” asked Kabukimon in surprise.

“I’m not going back until I’ve purchased everything on my list.”  Mimi gestured to her bodyguard, who handed her a rolled up parchment.  The paper extended to the ground when unrolled.

“Very well,” sighed Kabukimon.  When Princess Mimi was in a shopping mood, there would be no stopping her.  

The royal party made their way through the market.  Had Mimi not been seated astride her Kentarumon bodyguard, she would not have made it more than a few steps.  The princess wanted to stop at practically every table.  Even Mina rapidly became frustrated with her elder sister.  

“ARRGGHH!  At the pace we’re going we might as well just go back to the palace!” groaned Miyako.

“No. . ,” returned Mimi.

“Then perhaps you should leave your shopping till after we’ve eaten,” said Mina gently.

“Very well,” sighed Mimi.

Mina directed the party to the tent she had seen earlier.  “Mmmm. . . that smells heavenly,” said Miyako as the scent of fragrant foods reached her nose.  The princesses slid off the backs of their bodyguards.  Kabukimon stepped through the open flaps followed by Mina, Miyako and Mimi.  

“All hail their highnesses, the crown princesses of Inputia!” announced Kabukimon, much the chagrin of the princesses.  A startled murmur rippled through the clients, who then prostrated themselves upon the floor of the restaurant.

“This is embarrassing,” muttered Miyako to Mina, who nodded.

Critically, Kabukimon looked to see if all present were showing their proper respect to the princesses.  Everyone present was on their knees with their heads touching the ground.  Everyone, that is, except one strange Digimon.  Despite the large size of the stranger, Kabukimon approached him haughtily.  “How dare you?!?  Kneel before their highnesses!”

The giant Digimon stared at Kabukimon levelly.  He glanced over at the princesses, then back at the Digimon before him.  “I kneel only to three beings, one of whom is long dead, the others of whom are not present.”  Two Kentarumon suddenly flanked Kabukimon.  Tilting her head to see past Kabukimon, Mina realized that this was the Digimon she had seen earlier at Igamon’s booth.

“Who are you that you defy me?” demanded Kabukimon.

“I am Lord Ikkakumon, aide of Lord Metal Seadramon, ruler of the oceans and seas,” he returned simply.

<to be continued>

RL Notes:  OK, here's chapter 2.  After this, I'll be posting another chapter every two weeks (or less).

Things are going to get interesting here.  All sorts of characters are going to be popping up throughout this story, both old and new.  Most of my info is coming from Megchan's Digimon Encyclopedia.

Thanks again to anyone who's beta read this story.