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Digimon: Unholy Crusade

The Gray Keep

Zainab "Zaza" Cadaceus (MagnaKidmon)


She knew this was going to happen. She had expected from their reputation alone. No one gained the renown of 'mons, the fear of criminals and the scorn of the arrogant like the Royal Knights without earning it. And yet still she absolutely loathed the fact that Gawain quickly dictated the flow of the battle like the conductor of an orchestra and a merchant with a monopoly on a business. It may seem like they were doing pretty well since they weren't getting skewered by the Royal Knight, but they did nothing in return. He just weaved, deflected and predicted their shots.

Like they were nothing.

Like their lives were nothing.

She wanted to shoot him full of lead so much she felt like bursting.

A slight prick at her sense though made her glance to her left to see Henry looking at her, almost as if he wished to ask something, as if he wanted to know if she had his back. So she simply gave the hardest, and likely most burning, stare from her rage and an subtle nod.

And then it happened.

Michael suspiciously charged forward like there was no tomorrow (which was very much a possibility) and got himself thwackwd away by the leopard knight. Henry took this chance to digivolve into an AvengeKidmon and followed up on Miachael's "mistake".

Zaza grinned like a madwoman.

Now Henry was the one to close in but because of the unexpectedness of the MagnaAngemon's choice, it was Gawain's turn to start reacting to all the point-blank lethal shots. But with every move he did, Zaza was now right there behind him to force him to either take her bullets, Henry's bullets or another move entirely. Unsurprisingly, he was more than fast enough to avoid their shots. But it was obvious from the once again very slight shift of his eyes that he expected their shots to slow down with her and Henry's close proximity and potential for friendly fire.

They didn't.

She and Henry kept firing like the other wasn't there, not caring the injuries either got and it seemed to actually annoy the Leopardmon that now he was taking a quite a number of hits because of their lack of care of friendly fire. Oh sure Zaza would admit that she made sure any shot that could potentiall be lethal on Gawain wouldn't also be the same on the AvengeKidmon simply because of the trajectory. And yes it always hurt like hell whenever she not only took the bullets of Henry but a swipes of Gawain.

But she was smiling too much to care, her eyes once again burning.

So what if this was probably a bad idea in the long run?

If Zaza had her way, the Royal Knight wouldn't be able to capitalize on that at all, damn their reputation as the protectors of their world.

They deserved to be humiliated for starting this whole mess.


Shula Hernandez & Tyfrigo "Frost" Rex
Current Form: Machinedramon


Back, forth, back, forth, back forth.

That was the simplest Shula would put their fight and that was all she really wanted to describe because, well, it really was simple. They and Dagonet traded blows, some of them skills and some of them not. They trying to wear down on the knight and his famous defenses, him actually slowly wearing down on theirs. All Shula, and by consequence Frost, could think about was what was in front of them. That was all they could do. No fancy tricks, no clever schemes, just two warriors with a gigantic skill gap in between them going at it and it showed.

Which was why she was grateful, and surprised, when a BelleStarmon came and assisted them against knight, managing to grab his attention after basically shooting at the blade of his spear. With that chance provided, they bodied the shield and spear knight into the ground with a Booster Claw, face first. But they were not done. They then braced themselves and charge up their cannons to full blast. The arrival greeted them, but all Shula and Frost did was nod, putting their cannons in point blank range before they said,

"Infinity Cannon!"

And let loose their all.

With no chance to brace himself from their blast, the Royal Knight was sent flying across the keep, right through the ground and sending him crashing into the floor below, the attack being a laser meaning Shula and Frost and the BelleStarmon didn't have to worry about the floor collapsing below them. And then as soon as they finished that energy blast, they said,

"Catastrophy Day!"

And released a barrage of missiles from all over their body straight at the fallen knight.

She and Frost had no idea how well that worked on him, but it was enough they allowed themselves a single moment of rest, eleasing steam from all of their joints like a docking Trainmon. Yes, they were still in the middle of fight, she knew, but they wouldn't last long if they didn't pace themselves.

Besides, there was someone by them and it'd be rude not to answer her so Shula said, with a only a hint of Frost's voice and of course still keeping an eye on the Craniummon below,

"Don't mind at all. Thanks."

However, their rest, as she expected, didn't last long as a roar sounded some distance away.

But Shula, with some consolation from Frost, knew she wouldn't be able to deal with it since it was only them and Serra against the Craniummon.


Kogoro Cadaceus & Morgan Cadaceus
Current Form: DarkKnightmon


Morgan had been fighting with the newly digivolved Ceresmon and its Medium, a grand Digimon he would've likely stared at in awe if it were any other situation, and holding his ground quite well if he said so himself. He was at a level lower than the other after all. He felt the thrill of battle fueling his movements and his wish to protect his family empower them, filling him with so much energy that...

...he was once again disappointed when Sir Bors, the unstoppable Sir Bors, was stopped and practically disappeared in a show of rock and fire.

He knew he should be grateful but...

That was TWICE he had been in a middle of a fight and his opponent taken care of without him contributing much to it on the same day.

So he felt he could cut himself a little slack for feeling let down.

Those feelings vanished though as Kogoro unexpectedly appeared from behind him and said,

"Morgan."

He twirled at him with wide eyes. "Brother?" he said, worried for his safety. "What are you—"

And then Morgan turned once again when a roar shook the air and the Ceresmon moved protectively in front of him, his brother and its Medium.

Before them stood the towering and fearsome presence of a Titamon who...

...felt almost like Auntie Zaza for some reason, but much, much mote hostile.

Was it its anger?

"Get ready," Kogoro said.

He shoved aside his concerns and stood at attention. "Yes Brother."

Morgan brandished his double spear, ready to fight with the Ceresmon but would take priority of keeping his brother safe.

Kogoro, meanwhile, looked at the Titamon with a notiecable frown.

He didn't know who this Titamon was, but he knew it couldn't be one of the Royal Knights and he knew there was a very low chance it was an evolved Greymon, the form not draconic one bit except perhaps the rage it exuded. So there was only one conclusion he could draw in such a short time.

"Don't hold back but nothing lethal," he said. "There's a chance it's a Guardian."

Of course Morgan jumped a bit in surprise but returned to being alert, knowing the danger.

With Morgan at the ready, now all Kogoro needed to do was figure out if there was a way to calm the Titamon.

He feared his chances were very low though.


Dinadan Snow (Mistymon)


Well, Samael, who he assumed was the Beelzemon that was before him, certainly lived up to the stereotype of demons. He had appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the fight between Greysvald and his BlackWargreymon ally who he assumed was the "Theo" Shula had described before, not only rending the leader of Greystone fatally wounded, but drawing out the agony from him, confusing and threatening him before his final moments came to pass, absolutely bloody and uneccessary. Dinadan flinched at sight, almost as if he hinself were feeling the pain of being mauled. On instinct, Dinadan's hands twitched in preperation for healing, but he held them back. Even if it wasn't too late to save the Chief, he had to conserve his energy for his allies. He would deal with any injured from the enemy side later.

Speaking of healing though, he healed the aged Theo as much as he could in a couple of seconds, which left the BlackWargreymon near top form barring his stamina. He was tempted to do the same with the demon, but even if he didn't seem like the kind who would refuse such a thing, Dinadan noted no concerning injuries on the Beelzemon.

However, it was that moment the ground exploded some distance behind them, sending someone flying overhead from the looks of it, and some very angry Digimon walked out of the destruction. Understandably Theo urged him to follow him to go against the thing, also likely using it as an exuse wanted to get away as soon as possible from the Beelzamon. Before he actually followed the BlackWargreymon, Dinadan turned to the demon and said,

"Thank you for dealing with him."

And he meant it, even if the demon wouldn't like the thanks nor did Dinadan particularly like his cruel methods.

With that, he finally followed Theo, scanning the area for any injured allies nearby and ready to help offensively or supportively.
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Svarog Rodsyn >
The Grey Keep, Greystone


Lancelot was a damn near perfect fighter. Any attempt to out-range him was useless -- he could out-pace any attack thrown at him from a distance. He had his cannon, and could alternate between strafing beams and rapid fire. Up close, he had that wickedly sharp blade, and was skilled enough to out-fight just about anyone.

There was almost nowhere that Svarog could conceivably gain an advantage, except one. Ultra-close range combat; fighting Lancelot too close to effectively utilize his weapons, where his long, thin limbs would be more of a hindrance. Where Svarog's superior hand-to-hand capabilities would allow him to edge-out the Royal Knight; close enough that he couldn't bring his cannon to bear without throwing off his rhythm entirely. Close enough that he couldn't swing the sword without having to turn and thrust at an awkward and cumbersome angle.

Who could possibly close the distance between themselves and Lancelot, break his guard, and hold their ground at that range? For anyone else it would've been a pipe dream, and impossibility.

For Svarog...there was a chance. If he kept close, weathered the attempts to create distance, and kept his blows tight and concise. He could do it, fighting in the cramped spaces of Greystone's underbelly, surrounded on all sides by a mountain of rock. They fought through corridors and hallways, smashing through storage rooms, armories, bunkers, and holding cells. Svarog fought with everything he had, all elbow and knee strikes. Each blow Svarog stuck sent Lancelot into a backpedal; Svarog pushed forward to match him.

Every strike came from a single, linear direction, directly from Svarog's center. He held his fists high and tight, ready to strike out with a fist jab or elbow, or block any attempted counter, and danced nimbly on the balls of his feet, ready to throw a hard knee-strike towards Lancelot's center mass. He kept his profile tight and small so as to stay as deep within Lancelot's guard as possible.

Each blow set his bones rattling. Lancelot was impossibly powerful; impossibly swift. Despite his lithe frame and cumbersome-looking armaments, he hit and moved with the momentum of a digimon three times his size. It was like fighting a comet. He'd quickly found that, even with this strategy, for every step he forced Lancelot back, the knight pushed two forward. It was maddening.

Svarog hadn't felt this alive in over three hundred years.

A whipped-up elbow cracked Lancelot in the jaw and sent him staggering back. Svarog grabbed the wrist of the knight's WarGreymon arm and allowed himself to be pulled along with him, then used that momentum to deliver a pair of knee-strikes that doubled Lancelot over with a gasp of pain.

But Svarog realized his misstep a moment too late. The double-over Lancelot was in the perfect position to drive his shoulder into Svarog's midsection and slam him through the heavy stone walls, carrying him through room after room after room. Svarog held on for all he was worth, knowing that if he let the distance between them grow, he'd never be able to close it again. Lancelot wasn't the most tactical fighter; he could see that now -- the knight had probably never needed tactics before. Never come up alone against a foe that could contend with his overwhelming power. And if something could? Just turn the job over to Galahad or Gawain.

Svarog held fast, wedging Lancelot's sword arm under his own, and snaring him in a front headlock while wrapping his legs around the knight's torso. He wrenched back hard, his hands clasped together, twisting at Lancelot's neck and shoulders. The knight thrashed in his grip, but couldn't break free. Every attempt he made to rise to his feet, Svarog countered by twisting him back to the ground. His sword arm flailed awkwardly in Svarog's lock, and Svarog's superior wrestling skills kept the knight's cannon arm either pinned beneath their wrestling mass, or mis-positioned for a strike.

And with each passing moment, Svarog's flames billowed with greater fury. He could feel the knight's white armor begin to glow hot under his touch, could feel the knight's struggling become more and more desperate while the heat drained his energy at the same time. He felt the thick slabs of the Grey Keep begin to grow soft beneath them, and they began to sink down. Slowly. Slowly. Just a hair's depth at first, but then the stone grew even softer, hotter, and more liquid. And they sank deeper and deeper into it.

Until the heat and fire became too much for Lancelot to bear. He let out an actual howl of pain as the molten rock seared into his armor, seeping into the cracks and flashing against his skin. But the liquid rock gave Lancelot's longer limbs purchase before Svarog's own, and he used that leverage to his advantage, maneuvering his cannon arm out of Svarog's manipulations, and pressing the cannon's mouth into Svarog's side.

With a bubbling howl of "Supreme Cannon!" Lancelot sent a torrent of supercooled power into the room. Svarog was tossed away in the blast and the rock resolidified around them. Before Svarog could right himself, Lancelot had burst through his rocky entombment and was upon him. There was a searing pain in his abdomen, and the war god only just managed to grasp the blade of the Transcendent Sword before it drove fully into him.

Svarog snarled with the effort of holding back the one arm of the Royal Knight. He was shaking -- all the effort of raising his body temperature to pummel Lancelot into submission had drained his strength, and the chilling blast from Lancelot's cannon had extinguished the flames and cooled the molten rock around them that he might have otherwise drawn strength from.

He felt the strength of Lancelot's arm falter for a moment, and forced the tip of the sword from his chest. He locked eyes with the Royal Knight, but found only grim certainty. The sword was pulled back and out of his grasp, and the mouth of the cannon slammed into his gut, forcing the air from his lungs.

Svarog had a moment of recognition -- he'd seen this move before -- then a frozen blast of power exploded from the cannon's maw, bore into him, and buried him in the chilling darkness.

==\=/==

< Michael Ha'Yisrael >

Michael kept his wits about him, even half-buried under crumbled slabs of volcanic stone slabs. He'd positioned himself as he fell, positioned his shield and bracer against the falling rocks above him, ready for the moment when opportunity presented itself. Henry had been right, when he'd chastised them earlier; Michael hadn't been giving Henry enough credit, hadn't trusted him. He'd wanted Henry to deal with the minutiae of organizing the Guardians and keeping them motivated and energized while he had the freedom to deal with the bigger picture (and Samael).

But that wasn't working. It couldn't -- it wasn't their dynamic (they had none). So Michael had chosen instead to do the least-predictable thing he could think of: lose, and take himself off the board, hoping to distract Gawain with this just enough to make him question each step against Henry and their new ally, while trusting Henry to do what he did best:

"I prod the map, I look for anything at all that might give us an edge."

He lay still and pooled his power, watching with eyes half-shut for the moment when he could make his move. Henry and the MagnaKidmon (he swore she introduced herself as "Zaza" but that couldn't be right), were quickly becoming an effective duo. Henry was all he claimed to be -- adaptable and cunning. The two of them were quickly learning to work together, with scarcely an introduction between them. And with Michael out of the way they no longer had to worry about him getting caught in the crossfire.

Their similar capabilities also meant that Gawain was no longer splitting his attention into two separate fighting styles. He was solely focused on their fighting, developing a rhythm to counter them. The Royal Knight was gaining ground, slowly beginning to encroach on their range. But he was still moving in long-range motions; his movements were long and graceful, his sword positioned more for launching his attacks than engaging in close. Michael had seen the way he fought up close; that weapon struck like a shrapnel in a tornado.

He'd have precious few seconds to pull this off before Gawain regained his bearings and they were back at square one.

With Gawain distracted by the MagnaKidmon and Henry, Michael made his move. He leaped from the rubble he was trapped under and shot towards the Royal Knight, digivolving mid-flight. He felt the added weight of his thick silver armor, but also felt the strength and the power of the form. His eight white wings became ten wings of gold, and they shot him forward with renewed speed. It had been a long while since he last donned the Seraphimon form, but he immediately regained his bearings. His blade ignited with a flash, drawing Gawain's attention a split second sooner than Michael would have liked.

Gawain disengaged from the others and readied a parry, but a burst of gunfire from Henry slowed his movement by a heartbeat and his defense was half-formed. Michael's slash was deflected, but not entirely. His blade found purchase in Gawain's shoulder beneath his pauldron, and tore into and through his flexible armor. Gawain pulled away from Michael's blade, but the motion sent him spinning in place.

Michael stopped, wheeling around to face Gawain who, despite his injury, had already managed to raise his guard and step into a defensive stance. Michael shot forward, then swerved away at the last moment as more gunshots fired from Henry and the MagnaKidmon and peppered Gawain and sent him stumbling back.

Michael whipped through the dust and smoke and shot back towards Gawain. He slashed heavily, capitalizing on Gawain's stumbling; another haphazard block saved the Royal Knight any additional damage, but undermined his footing even further. They faced off again, and again Michael darted away as his allies let loose a volley of gunfire. Gawain backpedaled into another clash of blades; this time Michael didn't wait for the barrage to finish. He let his heavier armor take the shots, and let the tactic throw Gawain into further confusion.

He noticed, however, that in the midst of all this, Gawain had continued to reposition himself and had regained a stable footing and fighting stance. Seconds. That's all it had taken. Despite a dizzying barrage from all sides, Gawain had defended himself, regained his bearings, and gotten a read on their rhythm.

They were falling into a comfortable pattern; and even after mere seconds, Gawain was beginning to read it. On his next charge, Michael didn't feint or leap to the side. He struck full force with his blade, locking against Gawain and pushing him back across the quickly-crumbling stone floors of the Keep. He had to keep this up, had to build a new pattern. It was like chess; he and Gawain could counter one another's moves all day, but in the end Gawain would win. He'd demonstrated that much. Michael's only choice was to take a page from Henry's book: "Slip a gun under the table so that the game hardly matters."

He had to keep Gawain guessing, keep him reading the patterns in their movements, and trust that Henry and the MagnaKidmon were competent enough to fill in the blanks with their own attacks. Until the time was right for him to shoot from under the table.

He struck again, this time with an upward sweep of his blade to break Gawain's guard, positioning his charge so that his allies were directly behind him; a broken guard would leave Gawain wide-open for their next volley. Gawain's guard broke, but he recovered quickly, stumbling through the fired shots into a defensive stance that allowed him to batter the last few safely away.

Michael moved again, this time swinging harder and more recklessly. Again Gawain managed to withstand his strike, even keeping his footing, and Michael moved out of the way as Henry and the MagnaKidmon's volley tore behind him.

He continued on. Keep Gawain guessing. Continue to change the direction and strength of each strike. Let him grow comfortable with the pattern, but make him attempt to anticipate the wrong part of the pattern until he was closing back in on an even footing with the three of them.

Then...

Michael dropped down from the sky with his blade energized and a shout on his lips. Gawain heard, and braced for a quick block, and their blades clashed for an instant. Then Michael deactivated his blade suddenly. Gawain stumbled forward and Michael dropped under his guard. He coiled, and drove a crackling fistfull of energy hard into Gawain's unguarded chest.

Gawain let out a breathless gasp of pain that was quickly swallowed up as Henry and the MagnaKidmon let loose with a final barrage of blasts. Michael followed them with a shout.

"Seven Heavens!"

Seven iridescent spheres of blinding light punched through the air and drove themselves, one-by-one, into Gawain.

The Royal Knight lay in a crumpled heap on the hard stone, surrounded by charred and half-molten rock. Michael allowed himself to feel (but not show) a moment of elation and relief. This was a victory, for certain. It had taken three of them to obtain it, but it was a victory nonetheless. And it was a validation of all their efforts so far.

He took a steadying breath. They weren't done; they had to find a way to secure Gawain and assist the others against the remaining Royal Knights.

"Well done," Michael nodded to Henry and their new ally. "Now let's--" He stopped suddenly as a massive pressure built behind him.

Michael whirled around and crossed his arms in front of him just as a massive blast of power slammed into him. It filled his world with explosive light and drove him into the ground. He clawed his way to his feet just as a shimmering white form dropped from the sky. There was a flash of gleaming metal, and Michael raised his Excalibur blade on sheer instinct to clash against the falling blade of his foe.

The energy blade held for a heartbeat's length, then crumpled under the pressure of his opponent's strike. It slashed down and shred through his armor. A second slash shattered his Seraphimon form entirely and sent him careening into darkness.

...

Lancelot paid the archangel no further mind as he crumpled to the ground like a puppet without its strings. He turned solemnly to the other two who had attacked Gawain. Wretches. He raised his cannon and fired two quick shots, striking both Digimon center mass.

==\=/==

< Thor Odinson >
The Grey Keep, Greystone


Gunnar lowered into a fighting stance and Thor stepped into a loose one of his own. The fiery sword and shield ignited in his grip, his wings flared, and he shot towards Thor. But he met Gunnar's charge, outpacing him and slipping into his guard. A slash of his sword forced Gunnar's weapons upward, and Thor drove the pommel of the White Sword into Gunnar's chest.

Thor stuck again with his sword, and Gunnar threw up a sloppy block. He held for a moment, and it seemed like he could block Thor's strike in full. But then Thor's power raced along the blade's length and Gunnar's flames sputtered out under it. Thor knocked his hands aside and grabbed the ShineGreymon by the throat, hoisting him into the air.

"I didn't come here to kill you," Thor said. He glanced quickly around to the other four Greymon lying prone on the ground around them. "Despite what you and your lot tried. I came in peace. I will offer you one last mercy. Yield."

Gunnar struggled, but it was in vain. He couldn't break free, regardless of how hard he fought and struggled and clawed at Thor's arm. Thor could feel the heat of Gunnar's power building beneath his fingertips.

"Screw...you…" Gunnar choked out. He choked out a roar and brought his hands in front of Thor's face. Before Thor could throw him away, Gunnar released his power in a torrent of fire. The force of the blast broke Thor's grip and pushed him back, though he managed to remain upright.

Thor shook his head and squinted against the blinding light. When his vision cleared he saw Gunnar standing across from him, his arms spread wide and his body bursting with red-hot fire. He raised his hands above his head, pooling the power there for a brief moment, and then hurled it towards Thor with a cry of "Final Shining Burst!"

"Omni Sword!" Thor shouted in reply. Light cascaded from the edge of his weapon. The collision of his and Gunnar's attacks sent fire and light spilling out over the courtyard and flooding the entirety of the Grey Keep.

==\=/==

< Samael Cain >

Samael rolled all three of his eyes at Theo and turned to stalk off. He scanned the chaos, peering through the ash and fire, but even with his vision he couldn't see more than a few feet in front of him. Then a massive explosion caught his attention. Half of Greystone seemed to explode along with it. Two more blasts followed in quick succession, bursting with enough force to hurl away the smoke and dust of the battlefield.

A grin split Samael's face as he took in the chaos. Greymon lay strewn about, moaning and groaning, clutching injuries to staunch the bleeding. The Royal Knight...red-horse and gold-loincloth were down for the count. Ratty-wings and Sir Edgelord were on the ropes and weren't going to last much longer. That just left…

Samael's grin faded as he caught sight of the white knight in the middle of everything. He had his foot planted on Henry's chest, holding him down. Thankfully, for Henry's sake, he seemed to be just staring down at him, none of that incessant jabber that these holier-than-thou types loved. Scattered around the knight lay Michael and a red-Henry.

"Ugh," Samael sighed dramatically. "Guess I'll save them." He cracked his knuckles and strode forward. "Oi!" he shouted. He drew his pistols and waved them towards the Royal Knight. "You just posing there? Or are we gonna--"

He shut his mouth as Lancelot turned. There was a crack, and then the knight had closed the distance between them by half, with a damn-near sonic boom in his wake! Samael stood stunned for a split second before his instincts kicked in. Lancelot planted his foot hard, sending cracks through the weakened stone and almost shaking Samael's footing. But despite Lancelot's explosive power, Samael was quicker. More nimble.

Samael moved through Lancelot's strike, pivoting and stepping out of the blade's path and then weaving back beneath his guard. Then it was Lancelot's turn to stammer. A half-heartbeat, but that's all Samael needed. He let out a savage howl and drove the double barrel of his weapon into Lancelot's face and filled his eyes with hellfire.

The blast snapped Lancelot's head back hard. He spun, a tight backflip through the air, then stopped suddenly with his cannon extended and sent a huge blast barreling down onto Samael from barely an arm's length away. There was nowhere for Samael to dodge. The blast swallowed him and the ground around him and exploded, hurling him away and crashing across the ground in a smoking heap.

His body was charred and bloody as he clawed his way to his feet. His instincts urged him on. Samael had his blades up just as Lancelot crashed upon him again. A goddamned avalanche. Samael's blade groaned under the force Lancelot unleashed, and none of his deft swordplay or quick footwork afforded him an inch. Not that he could use much of his highly-vaunted skills with his body half-ashed, with two of his ribs sticking through his chest, and his hip dislocated.

For the first time in ages Samael felt the strain of his injuries overwhelm the ferocity of his demonic healing.

A sweep of Lancelot's blade knocked Samael's defenses aside; he repaired his guard too slowly and Lancelot plunged his blade into Samael's guts. Samael was lifted off the ground and slid down the blade's length to its hilt. He gasped and gagged, and a dark voice in the back of his mind laughed low and deep and condescending.

Yes. There it is. That sound. The gurgle. The slow drain of life and strength and will that precedes one's inevitable failure.

He clawed frantically at the armored forearm of the Royal Knight, until the barrel of a cannon filled his vision. He glanced from that to Lancelot's face and saw only grim certainty. How many of these very moments had he experienced, either himself or through whatever fakakta ritual the knights went through? Did Lancelot know? Did he have a sense of that number?

The question gnawed at Samael as his mind raced and time seemed to slow down. Did the Royal Knights know? Or did they just have some vague sense of being there before, like deja vu?

They couldn't know, not for sure, not the way he did. Him, with his near-perfect recall, with every face etched into the hollow chasm inside him where his soul used to be, filling up that space with hundreds upon hundreds of kills. The knight's couldn't know, or there'd be no "grim certainty," no "holier-than-thou," no "noble cause." They would just be twisted and empty and hollow.

Just like him.

The thought set him off, and he scrambled wildly at Lancelot's arm as time quickened around him. He was Samael. Heaven's First Murderer. And he would not be done in by some mopey man-child who couldn't even remember his kills.

He grabbed the edge of Lancelot's cannon, tensed his shredded abdomen, and threw himself up and off the knight's blade just as a blast of power ripped through the space he occupied a split second before. He flipped through the air and over Lancelot's head, feeling his body begin stitching together the more serious wound in his stomach at the expense of the others. But he didn't have time to wait. He landed hard on his good leg--the one not attached to his dislocated hip--and pivoted.

He landed, sprang forward, and drew his blade in a single swift motion, before Lancelot had a chance to finish turning around himself. Samael ducked the blind slash of his sword and drove his own blade hard into the knight's exposed underarm.

Lancelot seized up and let out a howl of pain. Samael grinned and pulled back his blade, only to find that Lancelot had not in fact "seized up," but had pinned the demon's blade under his arm while still embedded in his body!

Badass, was the last thought that went through Samael's head before Lancelot swung his cannon down in a rage. The blow cracked Samael's jaw clean in half and drove him through the floor into the bowels of Greystone. The white knight followed with a howl of righteous indignation and let loose a torrent of cannon blasts into the hole, filling the foundations of Greystone with fire.



Lancelot collapsed his cannon and pulled the Obsidian Digizoid blade from his underarm. He gave it a look of disgust before tossing it away.

Lancelot turned from where the demon had fallen. Filth. Its presence among the Council's forces was proof enough that the Royal Knights were acting justly. That the Host of Paradise had even dared to send such a cretin only made their fall from grace more apparent. The world was corrupt it was dying all around them. And it had started with the humans. They had to be culled -- from Saga and the very least.

If that meant that Lancelot had to burn a few stale fortresses to the ground, then he would gladly do so. And if that meant he had to journey to the human's world to put them in their place then he would do that as well if his lord commanded it.

There was a flare of light from elsewhere in the castle, and it drew Lancelot's attention to Caradoc. His brother knight fell back under a two-pronged assault; though he should not have been so easily overcome. That could only mean...Lancelot did the math...the CresGarurumon was a Biomerge, that had been reported already. The BlitzGreymon was then the Agumon and the Tamer that he'd fired upon when they first sprung their trap.

Lancelot turned and strode towards them, watching them carefully as they continued to engage Caradoc. A small smirk played at the corner of his mouth; he could appreciate the ironic symmetry of the coming exchange.

He waited for them to charge, to strike at Caradoc; he waited for them to move and be unable to stop. Then he exploded forward.

Lancelot was on them within two long strides. He raked his blade across the BlitzGreymon's chest before it even realized he was there. The electrified barrier around it crumpled like foil. Then in the same fluid motion he whirled and fired his cannon into the chest of the CresGarurumon. Its blade had barely a chance to swing towards Caradoc before it was swatted out of the air.

"Lancelot," Caradoc coughed. He pulled himself to his feet and glared at the Biomerged Digimon. Lancelot could feel his comrades disgust, the revulsion at such a phenomenon. Galahad had called it a desecration of a Digimon's self. Lancelot was more pragmatic, less...emotional about those sorts of things. What was the real difference if humans were infesting Saga or its Digimon? The end result was the same.

No. The true problem with the Biomerge was the strength it gave their enemies. These two…children were given power to overcome Caradoc.

"See to the others," Lancelot said, not taking his gaze from his opponents. Caradoc began to object, but Lancelot raised a gauntleted hand and stopped him. "Enough. See to the others."

His word was final. Galahad may have been the heart of the order; and Gawain might have been the brain; but Lancelot was its indomitable will, it's unrelenting hand.

He readied his weapons. Caradoc had underestimated his enemy and it had cost him. He had taken them seriously only after the damage had been dealt, or he would not still be standing. Lancelot would not make that error. He did not make mistakes. He did not falter or flail or stumble. He pointed himself at his target and went through it.

Lancelot burst forward, overwhelming them with the force of his charge. They had gained an advantage over Caradoc, but it had cost them. They were tired. Weak. And even at their best they would not be enough to stand against him.

He broke the CresGarurumon's guard with the force of his charge alone. A single stroke of his sword shattered its weapon and ripped a hole through its armor all at once. A stiff front-kick caved in its chestplate and sent it flying. The BlitzGreymon had avoided the charge and taken to the air, then turned and fired volleys of azure energy his way.

Lancelot weathered the tired blasts without worry. He fired a single shot that shred through the BlitzGreymon's defenses and sent it careening from the sky. Three more shots followed as it fell, each one perfectly placed, blasting it further and more violently towards the ground.

==\=/==

< Serra Castiel >

They'd managed to get Dagonet on his heels, which was impressive enough with just the two of them. The odd reverberation in the Machinedramon's voice signified it was either a Biomerge or (even rarer) a Jogress. Either way, Serra didn't much care -- power was power, and that Machinedramon had just sent a lot of it Dagonet's way.

It wouldn't be enough. It never was with these types. And true to form, the indigo-armored knight rose from the rubble. He was scuffed and scraped, but his movements were liquid smooth and seamless. Eerily not the movements of a Digimon that had just been blasted -- twice -- from damn-near point-blank range.

"I'm really regretting my decision to get involved in this mess," Serra muttered to herself, but she kept her eyes trained forward. The why of it escaped her now that she was asking herself the tough questions. Why had she gotten involved. It wasn't just because they wrecked her distillery in Glen Elendra, was it? It couldn't be. If that were the case she would have cut her losses and wiped her hands of the whole thing.

Why was she still involved in this?

Dagonet left her no time to ponder. He leaped out of the crater with surprising grace and landed gently in a crouch.

"Way to stick the 'hero landing,'" Serra clapped her hands mockingly. Dagonet whirled his spear and prepared to charge, but then the streets of Greystone erupted like a volcano. A shower of superheated stone blasted from the underground chambers with a deafening boom. Somewhere, tumbling through the shower of debris was the battered and beaten body of Sir Percival.

Dagonet turned to the source of the explosion, whirling his spear to clear away the smoke and dust, only to come face-to-face with a charging Titamon. It was huge, towering even over the burly Dagonet; arms like Glen Elenda tree trunks, shoulders as wide as some Digimon were tall, fists that looked bigger than her entire torso, and a sword bigger than Svarog's ego.

The Titamon's blade slammed against Dagonet's spear, and to the knight's credit he held firm. He swiped back, scoring deep cuts along the Titamon's chest and arms, but they didn't seem to faze him. A huge uppercut caught the green Digimon on the chin, but barely managed to move his head back. Dagonet's shock was palpable, and he hesitated just a split second too long.

The Titamon struck back with a blow of his own that cracked across the knight's face and knocked him to one knee. A huge slash ripped downward and Dagonet barely brought his spear up in time. The spear itself held, but the floor beneath Dagonet shattered. The force of the blow sent Dagonet deep into the earth with a monstrous boom.

The Titamon howled with all its monstrous fury.

"Hey, uh, do you know who that is?" Serra asked the Machinedramon. "I guess he's on our side?" But the wild and murderous glare the monster sent their way erased that notion from Serra's mind.

It let out a furious roar, only to have that roar swallowed up by a trio of explosions that bore deep into its emerald hide. A sweeping arc of fiery energy crashed into Serra and the Machinedramon, throwing them into the wreckage.



Lancelot strode forward, weapons at the ready. He eyed the Titamon warily. Lancelot recognized power when he saw it. Three dead-center shots, unprotected, and it was already clawing its way to its feet. This was something new. Something unexpected. But it burned and bled. It had managed to defeat Percival with some assistance and had caught Dagonet unawares. It would not have the same luxury with him. Unexpected or not, it would be dealt with.
 

storymasterb

Knight of RPGs
Hoshiko Yukimura and Okatsu Sekishusai
The Grey Keep, Greystone


They smashed to earth, landing heavily in a crater as shards of metal clattered on the ground around them. Okatsu's weapon was in pieces, her armor ripped and torn by Lancelot's fury. It had taken him so little effort, Hoshiko thought as they reeled, pain surging through her nerves where Okatsu had been wounded.

Slowly the CresGarurumon rose, shaking her head but doing little to break the concussion. A clawed hand brushed over her chest, her chestplate in ruin, a new wound left where the Grey Sword had rent Digizoid like paper. The hand came away red-stained, not before it touched scar tissue and the sensation stirred memories of what that wound had been.

Hoshiko closed a fist inside her cocoon of data, nails biting her palm.

A warm tendril of thought brushed her mind, Okatsu's concern resting on her own thoughts a moment. She was fine, she retorted, they had to focus. The CresGarurumon looked from the crater and found Lancelot's majestic figure in the distance, his cannon hammering shots into the chest of a Titamon. Icy determination made them rise toward him, injured legs buckling but Okatsu dug her claws into the broken ground and pulled herself up. Hoshiko felt the stone and dirt like it was her own hands in the earth.

Okatsu's palm found a sharp edge, the stone cutting like-

The thought ended abruptly as they took in the battlefield, seeing Artanis some way away. The BlitzGreymon was looking Lancelot's way, his armor chipped and dented, but he seemed unharmed otherwise. Even the Omnimon couldn't put him down, it seemed. And even after the beating he'd taken, Artanis seemed like he was preparing to charge back in.

Of course. The thought was like a shard of black ice, cold and sharp, stuck in her mind as Okatsu nodded to their fellow Guardian and weighed the field.

-

James Reeve and Artanis Dawnflame
The Grey Keep, Greystone


It happened so quickly. One second they were about to finish Caradoc, the next Lancelot entered the fray and both Biomerges were swept aside. Okatsu was swept away by a brutal flurry of attacks, the Omnimon's onslaught too fearsome for either of them to spare a glance at where she had ended up. The Supreme Cannon roared four times and hammered them into the dirt, forced to their knees by the icy power. It was like a blizzard coalesced into a sphere of energy each time, too fierce to weather when they had spent so much already brawling Caradoc.

Even if they were fresh, Lancelot wasn't to be reckoned with. James had seen enough of him to know that.

Even so, they rose, pain lancing back and forth across their bond. Plates of armor creaked as the BlitzGreymon stood, the Elec Guard so broken that James doubted they'd have it back before the battle ended. Artanis was buckled and dented, but not yet broken, enough strength left to fight on. And even if his strength was spent, his spirit was unconquered. They scanned the terrain to find where Lancelot's attack had blasted Okatsu, finding her literally clawing her way out of a crater. Her armor, lighter than Artanis's to begin with, was shattered, a few plates miraculously intact but her chestplate in tatters. Her weapon was gone completely, leaving her with just tooth and claw and ice to fight on. She met their gaze across the field and nodded curtly, gathering mist into an icy halberd in her grip.

Artanis turned his gaze to where Lancelot stood, cape billowing majestically as though the wind recognised the Omnimon's power and chose to enhance his gravitas accordingly. They followed his eyes to the Titamon. Stein? That was James's best guess, but the way it rampaged seemed at odds with the surprisingly gentle Boltmon. In any case, it clearly wasn't Lancelot's ally; he'd hurled three cannon shots at it.

"We can't beat him," James admitted. "Not like this. Thor could, maybe."

"Even so, if that is Stein, we can hardly let him bring his full power to bear," Artanis replied over the bridge where their thoughts touched. James nodded in agreement out of habit, even though his thought alone was enough to agree. The BlitzGreymon looked at Okatsu and found her still, like she was waiting to see what they would do. He inclined his head in Lancelot's direction as the Omnimon's cannon came up to fire at the Titamon once more. If he'd noticed them, he clearly didn't consider them a threat.

Artanis ignited his boosters and rocketed over broken ground, closing the distance in a matter of moments. A crackling fist drew back to strike. "Plasma Stake!"

Fast as thought Lancelot turned, sword blazing as it slid from his WarGreymon arm's mouth. "Transcendent Sword!" The arc he swung met Artanis's fist and effortlessly halted the punch, the Omnimon holding a moment before a sweep of his arm hurled Artanis aside in a wave of flames. Embers bit at scales through broken armor as Artanis landed and skidded to a halt, looking up in time to find Lancelot's cannon aimed his way. "Supreme Cannon!"

Artanis crossed his arms in a makeshift guard, but James knew even before the attack hit it wouldn't be enough. Metal shrieked and buckled as icy energy washed over them, the force of Lancelot's attack impossible to withstand. It tossed them like a leaf across the ground, the edges of Artanis's armor gouging earth and stone as he rolled to a stop.

Slowly he rose again, glaring Lancelot's way, the Omnimon's attention already back on the Titamon. At least that was the way his head turned. James was sure that if they attacked again, he'd counter just as quickly as he just had. But every moment he attacked them was one he wasn't attacking the Titamon, so with just a glance that found Okatsu making her way cautiously over, they raced back into the fray.

A stroke of Lancelot's blade screamed through armor and bit at the scales of Artanis's forearm, the BlitzGreymon straining to try and stop Lancelot forcing him to his knees. The Omnimon stared down, impassive, untouchable, invincible. It was like trying to duel a comet, that was what they might as well have tried to do. He didn't have to exert himself much to hold them at bay, cannon coming around almost casually to blast them again.

But they would rise again, the two thought as one. Again and again, as many times as it took.
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
Power and fire flooded the Grey Keep in a flash of light, superheating stone and armor for a brief moment before rushing out and down the mountains. Lancelot stepped out of the Titamon's reach and wrapped his cape around him to weather the burst. Before him, the huge beast howled its fury, pausing only as its skin blistered in the wave. Lancelot was impressed.

The smell of charred hair and giant-flesh filled the space around the monster. Lancelot was struck by the impressions of his forebears. A thousand other battles, a hundred-thousand other foes. Just like this. All full of rage and uncontrolled power. All burning before him.

Then something flashed within the wash of power and fire. He raised his sword just as a force, like a crack of lightning, shot through the glow and crashed against him. He was thrown back, but regained control quickly and skidded to a stop on his feet a few paces away.

He stepped into a tight stance and stared across the battered courtyard at Thor. Superficial scorch marks trailed up and over the Eternal's armor, but he seemed otherwise unharmed by the fight with the Greymon.

So much for Gawain's meticulous planning. He should never have relied on outsiders to handle something so important.

Lancelot watched the Son of Odin carefully, studying his own stance for any weaknesses and insecurities. They were there, but few and faint. He searched his impressions, as they always did, for sequences and familiarities. He found…

None.

None of his forebears had done what he was about to do. None had stared down the edge of the White Sword, faced Odin's power head-on in true combat. In a thousand years. Not a single one.

Lancelot felt a shiver run down his spine. He felt adrenaline flood his body; he felt his heart hammer in his chest, a feeling so utterly foreign and strange that it almost shattered his focus and his fighting form. What was it?

The corners of his lips twitched upwards beneath the sheer white faceplate of his armor.

Excitement. For the first time in nearly twenty years. He was finally feeling something new. And not just new, but significant. This would not just be another impression added to countless similar ones, passed down the line of succession until the end of time. This would be unique and wholly singular; it would be his own lasting and immortal legacy.

The knight who broke the White Sword.

=\=/=

< Thor Odinson >

Before, when battling the ShineGreymon, Thor had thought himself the immeasurable sky above; now, despite that vastness, Lancelot was threatening to tear through him like a meteor.

It wasn't just the knight's power. He could handle that...he could match it -- no, it was the sheer explosiveness of his motions, the overwhelming force in the way he moved; the precision of his strikes, the power behind those strikes. There was nothing wasted. He could put on sudden bursts of speed to push through the already-breakneck pace of his combat style. No flourishes, no recalibrations. He was simply there. Always in position to measure the next strike.

Odin's Eye, it was impressive.

And for the first time, Thor found himself on the backfoot despite the Paladin Mode's power. It was sobering, to be suddenly unable to rely on the form's overwhelming strength. But Lancelot could match that power blow for blow...if not surpass it.

A sudden flaring of speed almost took Thor's head off his shoulders. He raised the White Sword and blocked the strike, but found himself bracing against its force with almost the entirety of his body. He had held a Burst Mode's strike at bay with one arm, but Lancelot's blow shook him from his hands down to the soles of his feet. He felt the bones in his shoulder grind and scream in protest as he pushed back against the white knight.

Lancelot danced back and Thor's balance faltered against his sudden absence; in that faltering, Lancelot struck again. Thor threw up a sloppy block, one that would have gotten him laughed out of his father's courts, but diverted Lancelot's blade from piercing through his heart.

He realized too late that the strike was a diversion. With Thor focused solely on the sword, it left him wide open to Lancelot's cannon. The knight thrust it forward swiftly, jabbing it into Thor's chest like a heavy haymaker. It knocked the wind out of him a split-second before its maw exploded with power and sent him flying across the ground.

Thor recovered more quickly than even he expected, but realized the blast had knocked the White Sword from his hands. He spun to his feet just as Lancelot was upon him. It was only a lifetime of training and battle-honed instincts that saved him from getting skewered; he stepped into Lancelot's charge and caught him with a hip-throw that sent the knight tumbling gracelessly over the stone ground.

Lancelot landed hard and whirled to his feet in a single, swift motion; before Thor had much chance to scan the battlefield for the lost sword. Then Lancelot was on the attack again, and three cannon blasts ripped towards Thor.

The Asgardian prince slipped around the first blast. He tried to do the same to the next, but miscalculated. The blast clipped his shoulder and halted his movements, forcing him to bring up his arms and guard himself against the third as it hammered home. The force and the sheer cold drove the breath from his lungs and left him gasping. Thor shook himself back into focus just as Lancelot closed the gap between them, his sword held high.

Thor reached his hand out and grabbed the base of the blade before Lancelot could muster the momentum to bring it down and, caught at the apex of its strike, Thor held it at bay. The Royal Knight maintained the pressure and swung his cannon to bear. But again Thor stopped it before it could find him.

He dug the fingers of his left hand into the barrel, fighting for purchase against the smooth metal. Blood ran down his right arm from where Lancelot's blade bit into his hand. But still he held. For dear life, he held strong, locked in place with the strong white fist of the Royal Knights.

But it wouldn't last. Thor could feel the edge of the sword begin to grow hot. He could feel the barrel of the cannon chill beneath his grasping fingertips. Both burned at his hands in their own terrible ways. He had to act; digging deep as he was, he could barely maintain the strength and focus to hold them back, but he dug deeper still. He sharpened his focus along the power of the White Sword and split his mind into three parts; two to focus entirely on holding back Lancelot's weapons, and the third…

"Giga Crusher!" Thor shouted. He straightened and the dragon-headed armor on his chest opened its mouth. The positron emitter slid forward and power built in its eye.

And then it was Thor holding Lancelot in place as the knight tried to backpedal. Thor's attack exploded from his chest and drove itself into Lancelot. It picked him up and hurled him across the Grey Keep.

But with impossible grace, Lancelot pushed himself off the sphere of power and threw his cape between it and himself. Thor's attack detonated, washing Lancelot in its baleful light. But instead of being crushed beneath it, Lancelot was "merely" hurled further away.

The Royal Knight landed hard, his armor aflame, his cape in tatters, the spiked ornamentation of his weapons cracked and scored; but he found his way to his feet in the span of a few breaths.

Thor felt his limbs begin to shake and grow numb as the weariness and exhaustion set in. His mind had been sharp when facing the Greymon, and he had held on to that sharpness when he charged into battle against Lancelot. But exhaustion was creeping in, and he was beginning to feel his hold on the White Sword's power slipping. It was taking every ounce of focus and willpower to keep himself from fraying.

He should have been proud of himself. He'd pushed so far; become so much more than he had been. But all that still fell short against the Royal Knight's overwhelming might.

Lancelot strode from the nuclear inferno of Thor's power, and Thor held his gaze with a glare. The white knight raised his cannon and positioned his blade beneath it. Power flashed along the blade's edge and pooled in the cannon's maw. Then, without words, or posturing, or anything at all, Lancelot's power exploded, and Thor's world went white.
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
- Aria Morningsong (Bancho Lilimon) -
- Grey Keep Underground -


So much for avoiding collateral damage. Aria thought to herself as she flew up and out of the pit Stein and Percival had blasted into Greystone’s foundations. The rest of the keep wasn’t looking any better. Between the molten slag that had been scattered all over, the still-smoking craters from wanton attacks, and the piles of dislodged rubble it was hard to tell if this was a city center or a volcano.

Aria only had a moment to take in the scene before a blast of white-hot power nearly blinded her. She had a split second afterimage of Thor standing against Lancelot burned into her eyes before she tumbled through the blast of hot air and landed unceremoniously near the still molten edges of the pit.

Lancelot was still standing. Thor wasn’t. Not many others were either. How badly had the battle gone up here while they were dancing with Percival?

They had one shot left as far as she could tell. The Titamon who was roaring at the top of his lungs towards the lone Royal Knight. It was almost comical how much larger Stein was than the Royal Knight, but Aria knew well enough that size wasn’t everything. And even in his current state, he might still need help against Lancelot.

“Aria!” Theo called out. The older Greymon landed beside her to see if she was alright. His eyes shifted towards the Royal Knight and Titamon. “Are you alright? What’s going on?”

“Not even going to mention the new duds I see?” Aria said with a pat of her cloak. But the jab was half hearted at best. She shook her head. “Nevermind. That,” she nodded towards the Titamon, “is Stein. And right now he’s the only thing standing between us and Lancelot. Unless I’m missing something? Cause it looks like you guys got stomped while we were underground. Who else is left?”

While Aria was talking, Stein charged. He and Lancelot met with a thunderous clash as the two began trading blows.

“I haven’t seen Svarog for a while, nor has Thor gotten up yet just now.” Theo said, glancing over the ruined battlefield. “Hoshiko and James were fighting with their partners just a moment ago against Lancelot.” A beeping sound carried from a pouch at Theo’s waist, startling him. The BlackWarGreymon raised his clawed hand, revealing a yellow and grey digivice blinking rapidly.

“It’s Andrea.” He muttered. “Ceresmon has taken to the air.”

“I remember moments of Stein’s fight from Glen Elendra, but this...” He gestured to the mayhem between the Titanmon and Sir Lancelot.

“Stein isn’t recognizing friend from foe,” Tessa interrupted, the Sakuyamon spoke up. Her voice was tight and missing it’s usual merry and light tone. “He’s going to be fighting us as much as Sir Lancelot.”

Theo sighed, “then we’ll need to keep his attention on Lancelot.”

“And Lancelot’s on him.” Aria said. “Easier said than done, and yet…”

She looked down at her hand, already cut and bruised from the last fight. What was this feeling welling up in her heart? This was always the part where she ran away. Played it safe. Snuck around the edges and let everyone else take the big risks. But this time, she wanted the fight. Wanted the struggle. Wanted the risks.

She clenched her fist tight. “I’m going in. I’m going to help take down Lancelot. Who’s coming with me?”

“I am,” Tessa said determined. The enchantress stood a little taller. “I’ll help with redirecting Stein’s attention if it comes down to it.”

Theo hesitated for but a moment, like he didn’t want to leave these young guardians on their own. “We’ll need more of us. Buy me some time. I’ll go see who else is able to fight aside from us and Ceresmon.”

Aria nodded. “Tell Andrea to give us some air support. And don’t leave us hanging, alright Gramps?” She turned towards Tessa and gave her a pat on the back. “Let’s go.”

“Andrea will cover you.” Theo said, returning the nod. He called out to the Mistymon that followed him. “You with me. We may need your healing abilities again soon.” He then launched himself into the air in search of the other Guardians.

Tessa struck the bottom of her staff on the ground, leviating into the air after Aria.

The two of them flew past a Darkknightmon on the way to the fight. Aria didn’t recognise him, but considering there was a human standing next to him it felt safe to assume they were friendly. “Hey strangers,” Aria called. “You can come help us fight or help the wounded, but I wouldn’t stand still if I were you.”

She didn’t stop to see if the pair were following or not. The longer they let Lancelot fight Stein one on one, the better the chances of the Royal Knight finding a way to win.

On the bright side, Lancelot didn’t seem to have anyone coming to his aid. At least, not yet. On the downside, if even half of the stories Aria had heard about Lancelot were even half true, he might not need it to win anyway.

They arrived just in time to see Lancelot parry a blow from Stein’s massive sword and use the momentum to lift himself into the air and blast the Titamon in the chest before Stein could block. The icy blasts from the Supreme Cannon left vicious scars across Stein’s chest, but he either didn’t notice or didn’t care. By the time Lancelot was firing his third shot, Stein was leaning his entire mass into the cannon fire. To Aria, it almost looked like he was trying to bite Lancelot.

She couldn’t rely on long range hit and run in this form. It was new to her, but it already felt like a second skin. No, not even that. This was her true self. And she knew immediately what she could and couldn’t do. She had to fight Lancelot in close range. Suicide didn’t even begin to cover it, but she didn’t even slow her pace as she closed the gap. She dove around Stein’s head, using the Titamon’s body to hide her approach and lashed out with her yo-yos.

Either Lancelot had x-ray vision, saw her coming and predicted the timing perfectly, or had reaction speed on par with lightning. It didn’t matter which. Her yo-yo’s hit his cape, bounced off, and left her wide open for a snap kick to her chin. It was like getting an uppercut from a meteor. If she wasn’t already airborne and moving, she might already be down.

Lancelot paid for his strike as Stein’s forehead slammed into him and sent him spiraling to the ground. And of course, he landed on his feet.

Unfortunately, Aria was now the closest thing to Stein and sitting right at head level.

“Hey big guy. Remem-”

Stein roared and charged Lancelot, taking a swipe at her as he passed. She wound a yo-yo around his finger, used it to pull herself around, and landed squarely on the back of one of Stein’s shoulder spikes. The dark miasma hit her like a wave, even with the majority of the cloud billowing downwards and away it was still enough to make her sap run cold just from what little brushed her legs.

Note to self, stay out of the scary black clouds. She thought as she waited for another chance to strike.

“Amethyst Mandala!” Tessa said, with a thunk of her staff into the ground, clearing the dark miasma away from Aria. Her wind kuda-gitsune distracted Stein by breezing past the Titamon’s head, earning a swipe from the rampaging digimon.

“Aria! I’ll give you and Stein a boost! Mandala of Light!” An aura of light surrounded both guardians with a green glow, energizing the pair. Tessa floated in the air a little ways back, always keeping Stein between her and Sir Lancelot.

Stein bore down on Lancelot, with single minded determination. As he ran, he drug his sword across the ground, drawing a trench like a scar across the stone and letting the dark miasma seep into the earth. Skeletal warriors answered his call, rising to swarm Lancelot. Even so, Stein crushed several of the underfoot as he closed the distance.

Despite it all, Lancelot stood still and calm. His eyes darted from target to target as he prepared for Stein’s attack and expended only the minimal required effort to deal with the skeletons. Stein closed the gap and dropped his knee towards the knight, who sidestepped it and slashed Stein’s leg in the same motion. Stein lost no momentum at all and slammed his full weight down on Lancelot, shoulder first. A blast from the Supreme Cannon gave the Omnimon the momentum he needed to backstep and Aria took the chance to attack.

With Tessa’s magic in her, she felt stronger. Faster. Like she had just drank an entire pot of coffee. “Twin Petal!”

She called the attack at the last second, when her foot was already halfway to her foe. She still wound up kicking Lancelot’s raised arm right on the greymon helmet. It felt like kicking a steel beam, but she wasn’t done. Aria was keenly aware of Stein pulling himself up and towards them only feet away. She had a few precious seconds. Her yo-yo lashed out, trying to wrap itself around Lancelot’s sword arm and give Stein a chance to hit. Sakuyamon’s electric spirit fox latched onto Sir Lancelot’s sword as well to try to force the muscles to spasm and hinder his movement.

Lancelot’s next move happened so fast, that Aria wasn’t even sure what happened.

In a single motion, Lancelot spun forward hip checking Aria and elbowing her in the side of the head with his gun arm. The jaws of the garurumon head snapped shut on her yo-yo, and slung her into Stein’s head, then snapped back open as the spin brought him around to face Tessa. In less than a second, he had her in his sights and fired two quick shots towards the Sakuyamon.

Before Tessa herself could react, her four spirit foxes rushed to her defense, forming an elemental barrier. The elemental barrier absorbed the first shot and shattered. The second shot hit it’s target and struck Tessa into the ground unmoving.

Aria bounced off of Stein like a piece of rubble, tumbled through the dark cloud that billowed from his skulls, and landed in a heap somewhere behind the Titamon with her head spinning and feeling like she had just taken a bad tumble through a snow bank. A snow bank that wanted to seep into her skin and freeze her to the core. Whatever that stuff was, she didn’t know how it was coming from a guy like Stein. Had that darkness been in him this whole time?

Stein raised an arm to hammer his fist into Lancelot. The Royal Knight raised his sword to strike back, but Stein punched right through the blade. Even as the Transcendent Sword burned a path into his clenched hand Stein didn’t even flinch. His bloody fist hit Lancelot center mass with enough force to drive the Omnimon back several feet. Stein’s blood sizzled as it hit the stone, hot as oil and giving off wisps of the miasma. Even as the wound on his hand bleed, it was cauterizing itself shut. And Stein was moving again, barreling down on Lancelot before the Royal Knight had even stopped sliding.

Stein swung his sword wide and fast. A slab of sharpened bone the size of a train car and moving as fast as one closed the distance to Lancelot too quickly for him to dodge. He raised the Transcendent Sword to block and as the blades connected the Royal Knight was sent flying backwards and into the wall of the keep like an incredibly deadly golf ball.

“Burning Blood Shell.” A fiery red energy beam descended from the heavens. At it’s end was a dense sphere of energy that crashed into the preoccupied knight. Ceresmon screamed it’s own challenge, while maintaining the energy attack for several long seconds. The massive raptor flew high in the heavens, circling with it’s great wings keeping it aloft. For a moment, it seemed as though that kept Lancelot down, but the Royal Knight launched into the air after the massive bird barely seconds after the bird ended its attack. Lancelot fired Supreme Cannon midair. The ice beam collided with Ceresmon before they could manuaver away, freezing it’s left wing and unable to fly.

Ceresmon dropped like a meteor. Lancelot lashed out with Transcendant Sword as the massive bird dropped through the air beside him, severing off the earth and wind creature’s club-like tail. However, Ceresmon shot out a talon foot with lightning-fast reflexes and grappled with the Knight around his waist. “Island Freefall.”

The Knight and Biomerged Ceresmon dropped to the earth with increased speed from Ceresmon’s weight. Lancelot fired the Supreme Cannon at point-blank range. Ceresmon screamed in pain and agony but stubbornly held onto the Knight with a locked talon, trying to angle the Knight to be below Ceresmon’s body mass.

They collided with the barren rocky earth of Greystone. The soul bird of Ceresmon shattered upon impact, sending earth, rock, and dirt flying everywhere with Lancelot beneath it upon impact.

A fiery cut slashed through the mass of plant matter and rubble as Lancelot freed himself just in time for a large shadow to appear overhead. Stein hadn’t lost sight of his target for a second. He stood over Lancelot holding a chunk of the keep the size of a small tavern overhead and moved to slam it down on the Knight.

The Omnimon fired a barrage of blast from the Supreme Cannon towards the chunk of castle that was barreling down on him. It cracked and shattered in Stein’s hands, raining boulders the size of cars all over. Stein sunk his fingers into one of the chunks as he fell, never once slowing down or changing direction. Every muscle in his body was driving him towards Lancelot like his life depended on killing him.

Stein slammed his boulder against Lancelot who held his arms up and took the blow. As the rock shattered, he blasted Stein again point blank in the arm and chest and leg. Stein tumbled, but kept moving forward even as Lancelot tried to back up and keep his distance. The Titamon clawed his way through the remains of the Cesresmon’s soul bird, clawing his way forward. He had left his sword behind when he grabbed the wall and had both hands free to use. Even with Lancelot flying and taking pot shots at Stein, he still clawed his way forward enduring every hit and all the damage they were doing to him. He pulled himself to his feet. Lancelot blasted at his footing and Stein tumbled, rolled forward, pressed off against the ground and now, even with his back to Lancelot, kept his forward momentum. Lancelot landed and prepared to strike with his blade as Stein rolled around to face him again.

The vines sprang to life, wrapping around Lancelot’s legs and reaching upwards still for his arms. The blade that had been meant for Stein curved downwards, slicing through the vines as Lancelot took to the air again. It had only slowed him for a moment, but it was enough. Aria’s yo-yo caught Lancelot’s sword arm and pulled her towards his back where her second yo-yo spun its spikes into his scrawny-looking midsection. And for the first time Aria heard Lancelot let out a gasp of pain. A single breath that told Aria that she had done more than most could claim.

Her excitement didn’t last long. Lancelot drove his elbow back into her gut and knocked the air from her lungs. Aria dropped like a weight as she gasped for air. She tried to catch herself with the yo-yo still wrapped around the horn on his sword arm, but Lancelot cut the vine with a single quick stroke and turned his attention back to Stein with just enough time to dodge a swipe from his hand.

Lancelot dove back, getting distance. And Stein gave chase. But Aria was once again between him and his target. His prey. She barely had time to brace herself as Stein backhanded her and sent her flying.

But impact with the ground never came. Tessa’s water spirit fox caught the Bancholillimon with its long body and halted her momentum. The water spirit floated away having completed it’s task and rejoined it’s siblings in surrounding the staggering Sakuyamon protectively. A blue glow emitted from one hand resting over a wound in her side. The other hand glowed a brilliant green while gripping an ancient medallion hung around the Sakuyamon’s neck. She spoke Words of Power under her breath as she tapped into the dormant power of the medallion. Primal energies released in a bright flash and enveloped Tessa’s whole body in a green aura.

“Mandala of Light!” She cried, releasing the supercharge of power to spread it’s effect to Aria and Stein once again to bolster their strength or abilities. However, her fists trembled as she gripped her staff tightly, barely maintaining control of the ancient power except by sheer will.

Emboldened, Tessa launched herself into the air and thrusted her staff in Sir Lancelot’s direction. “Spirit Strike!” Three fox elementals hounded the Royal Knights with fire, water, and electricity, howling and nipping at his heels. Their bodies were thicker, denser, and glower more brilliantly than before.

Lancelot slashed at the water fox with ease, only to turn around to strike another and cut through the fire spirit fox. The fire fox erupted in a massive explosion upon contact, burning Lancelot’s cape and charring his pristine white armor further. The electric fox then latched onto the metal Transcendent Sword, sending an electrical surge up the Royal Knight’s arm, forcing Lancelot to flinch for a split second.

Stein charged the Royal Knight, while attempting to swipe Tessa because she was in the way. However, her wind fox wrapped its corporal body of wind energies around her and lifted out of harm’s way with greater speed.

Stein’s arm passed through the space Tessa had occupied a split second earlier as the Titamon gathered a huge handful of vines and stones and tossed them towards Lancelot. Lancelot sidestepped, taking the opportunity to fire a shot towards the fleeing Tessa, before bringing his sword up and cleaving through the mass of rubble and plant matter with a line of flames. The royal Knight stepped through the embers of his attack, drove his sword into Stein’s shoulder as he came down to strike, and launched himself up and over Stein slashing twice more at his head and back as he flipped.

Each slice of the Royal Knight’s blade hit deep and true and a roar of pure fury split the arena. Aria was keenly aware of Lancelot’s speed and skill. If he wasn’t keeping tabs on Stein the entire fight, she wouldn’t stand a chance.

The miasma seeping from Stein was wilting the plants all around him. And the superheated blood from his wounds wasn’t helping either. The battlefield was beginning to reek of death. Decay. Perhaps it was because she was a flowermon that it had such a demoralizing effect on Aria. But there was no backing away now. She wasn’t sure Lancelot would give her the chance. If she turned her back for a second, she’d take a cannon shot to the back and that would be it.



Stein roared and backstepped, but Lancelot slashed at his ankle and then dodged the retaliatory swipe just by leaning back. Aria dove in yo-yos at the ready, but Lancelot’s cannon was leveled at her without the Knight even taking his eyes off of Stein. She narrowly dodged the first shot as she tried not to lose her footing in the tangled mess on the ground. The second was too quick. Too accurate. Aria spun to the side, taking a glancing blow to her back. To her surprise, her cloak seemed to take the brunt of the impact. She still wound up tumbling through rubble and vines, but she was still standing, still moving.

The third shot ended her enthusiasm and left her laying in a frosted heap.
_____

Tessa Tesla ~ Sakuyamon

Her wind fox ‘spirited’ her to a safer distance, but Lancelot had shot off his cannon in her direction without a second thought as the Knight engaged with Stein once more. The wind kitsune released Tessa to intercept the incoming ice beam and dispersed the fox’s corporal form.

Tessa dropped to her knees, her chest heaving harshly from the effort of maintaining control of the primal energies coursing through her body. Tapping into the ancient power of the Sage’s Medallion, entrusted to her by her father, had been an act of pure desperation and she was beginning to pay the price.

Stein’s roars of pain and fury struck at Tessa’s heart like a physical blow. Lancelot slashed at Titamon's form repeatedly and without relenting. The Sakaymon called upon her kitsune again from the pipes resting on her waist.

Nothing. Her spirit foxes were spent.

The Sakuyamon forced herself to feet, staggering. She refused to let Stein face Lancelot alone even if he wasn’t himself. She flew back in the fight.

Only to get backhanded by Stein’s clawed hand.

She would have been sent flying if she hadn’t grabbed onto Stein’s white dreadlocks. He didn’t appear to notice her pulling on them to stop her momentum. His rage solely focused on the Royal Knight. The pair were thrown back into a pile of rubberrubble by the Transcendent blade, Tessa just barely avoided being crushed. Lancelot powered up his cannon with a charged shot.

Tessa didnt stop to think, leaping between Stein and the incoming attack. “Amethyst Mandala!” She cried, thrusting her staff into the air, forming a protective shield over herself and the Titamon.

The icy blast slammed into her shield with crushing power. This wasn’t a quick charge, single shot, but a sustained beam of power from Sir Lancelot’s Supreme Cannon. Tessa screamed in agony, diverting the remaining raw primal energies she’d syphoned from the medallion into the shield and what little power of her own that was left. Her blood was burning in her veins. Her nerves spasmed as she held up her staff. Her very digital core felt like it was about to come undone.

For several long and impossible seconds, Tessa held back Sir Lancelot’s attack. However, Lancelot appeared barely more than annoyed. An added surge of power from the Supreme Cannon pulsed and obliterated the Sakuyamon’s faltering shield. The beam surged forward and slammed into Tessa, sending her flying into a pile of rubble.

Light flashed over her form, leaving a deathly still wisemon curled up on her side, barely breathing.
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
Lancelot prepared to move on the fallen Asgardian prince. He had warned him, those weeks ago; of what would happen — "Were you not the son of Odin, my sword would not have stopped at this side of your throat," he had told him said. "Were you anyone else, I would not have allowed you to speak to the Royal Knights in such a manner."

But instead Thor had done more. He had raised arms against them. And so Lancelot would end this prince’s little struggle.

His sword fell, but instead of cutting into Asgardian armor and flesh his entire body shook, pitched, and tumbled sideways. Lancelot smelled burning hair and flesh. The force whatever it was that hit him knocked the air from his chest and he drew in a reflexive gasp. The acrid air flooded his lungs and set him coughing violently, even as he struggled to push his assailant away and rise to his feet.

The Titamon.

Lancelot drove his heel into the slavering beast’s midsection and knocked it away, eager to put some space between them. He hissed, trying to find his breath again, but the monster’s stench was overpowering.

“Stein?” the Odinson wheezed by the Titamon’s feet. The beast glanced down, pure hatred etched into its features, and with a howling roar it backhanded the Asgardian prince and sent him tumbling over the crumbled stone. The Titamon turned back to Lancelot and howled once again.

“So ‘Stein,’ is it?” Lancelot mused. “I will remember that name. If only for your stench.”

Stein charged, and then there was a huge sword in its hands. Lancelot must have been so sickened and delirious from the monster’s fumes that he hadn’t noticed it before. Stein swung the blade in a vicious, reverse-handed arc, but Lancelot stepped into the blade’s path and blocked it with his own, planting his feet as he did so. He planned to weather the strike as he had with Thor’s, then catch the beast as its momentum faltered.

He was not prepared for the sheer force of the strike crashing into him. It forced his blade back suddenly and savagely, nearly embedding itself in his own head. His shoulders strained against the power of the blow. Then his footing gave way; his heels buckled and Stein carried through his strike, sending Lancelot flying over the broken earth. Lancelot rolled himself to a stop and readied his cannon.

Bolts of power exploded from its maw, pummeling into Stein as the Titamon charged. The first blast clipped his shoulder and spun him around, but he continued charging, backpedaling as he stumbled back into pace. The second blast slammed into his knee; and he skidded forward, but he didn’t even slow. He scrambled, loping along with one arm and one leg, his sword in the other hand and his injured leg dragging awkwardly.

Lancelot’s blasts drilled into him, blasting away armor and singeing off hunks of flesh. But Stein endured. Clawing and ambling towards Lancelot, backwards and forwards and at some moments even upside down.

He slammed into the Royal Knight, clawing at him as they tumbled violently over the ground. Lancelot held the monster’s sword at bay, but felt his mouth and nose fill with blood as the Titamon drove his forehead into his faceplate over and over as they rolled.

Lancelot pushed back with a shout. He wedged his cannon between them and prepared to fire. But Stein moved with an unexpected speed, and drove his fist through the incoming blast. Lancelot barely had time to register his surprise before Stein swiped hard with his sword, forcing him to throw up a hasty block. The force cracked through him and he felt, for a moment, like a fragile pane of glass, threatening to shatter under the force of his opponent's strike.

The white knight surged, throwing all of his might into his strong left arm. He forced Stein’s blade down and into the ground, then threw his cannon forward and unleashed all the power directly into Stein’s chest. This time there was nowhere for the Titamon to go; nothing to do but catch the full force of the blast — nearly as big around as he was tall — as it drove into him and threw him back.

But amazingly, Stein managed to gain his footing. He dug in his feet to stop his fall and tore his fingers into the blast. Lancelot could smell more of that burning hair, even over the scent of ozone emanating from his cannon’s maw. He could feel Stein begin to rip into the blast with his bare hands.

Furious, Lancelot poured even more of his legendary strength into his attack. The beam of power grew wider. He would end this nuisance, no matter the cost. It was only a matter of how long it might take. Through his connection to the attack he could feel Stein begin to falter, could feel the blast begin to buckle the Titamon’s knees; he felt it sear through his fingers and hands, burn the flesh from his bones, boil his skin.

Then, suddenly and without warning, Stein was no longer there. Lancelot’s blast passed swiftly through the space Stein had occupied mere moments before and detonated in Greystone’s heart.

Lancelot caught sight of Stein being dragged; stubbornly, but weakly, out of the blast’s path. The BanchoLilymon - one he had thought already taken care of - retreated her viney weapons as the blast passed. She spared Stein a fleeting glance of who-cares-what, and then threw herself into battle.

Yo-yos (absurd) drove towards him again, but Lancelot batted them away with a casual backhand. He’d felt their sting. And nothing more. The next strike snared his sword arm, and the BanchoLilymon dug in, trying to pull him down.

He tugged gently on the vine and almost yanked the Bancho off her feet.

Pathetic. Feeble.

He readied to throw her across the mountain, when a blast of electrified energy set his nerves on fire.

That damned BlitzGreymon, the biomerge, rained down blast after blast of crackling plasma upon him. His muscles twitched violently under the assault. There wasn’t enough power behind the blasts to really threaten him, but his metal armor did little to insulate him against the electrifying side effects of the attacks. And combined with the BanchoLilymon’s constant tugging Lancelot was forced to one knee.

With a snarl, Lancelot flung his sword arm wide. It yanked the BanchoLilymon off her feet and pulled her through the air like a rag doll. He swung her hard, slamming her into the BlitzGreymon and knocking it from the sky. Then he swung her another way, driving her into the CresGarurumon that was trying to sneak up behind him. They both let out a shout of pain.

Dishonorable.

Lancelot swung her back around again and sent her crashing into the DarkKnightmon that had appeared during their attack. He threw her into the grim Digimon so swiftly that the knight’s armor splintered and the Digimon was sent crashing head over heels into the rubble. He pulled back, whirling her over his head.

This time she hung limply at the other end of the vine. A flower petal in a maelstrom.

He whipped her in a circle. Once. Twice. Three times. Then drove her down hard, slamming her into the CresGarurumon once again and driving both into the larger Machinedramon with enough force to crush the CresGarurumon painfully between the two and knock the metal dragon off its feet.

The vine slipped impotently from his arm.

Then he raised his other arm and sent a volley of cannon fire towards the three downed Digimon.

He was interrupted as the BlitzGreymon - again - threw itself in front of him and drove a heavy fist into his jaw. It barely moved him. Faster than the Greymon could blink, Lancelot ripped upward with his sword, cutting a deep gash through its torso and up through its shoulder. He drove his cannon into the wound and fired once. The blast exploded, sending an Agumon and his human partner tumbling violently over the ground.

Lancelot would have perused them and ended their interference, but a pressure built in the air behind him. The ground rumbled and a low screech shook through him. He turned and saw, rising from the rubble, a massive Ceresmon.

==\=/==

Theo searched the rubble for his allies. He and the Mistymon, Dinadan, sifted through stone and rock and fiery wreckage. He made a mental checklist of who could possibly still make a difference. Thor and Stein had fared the best. Svarog…maybe? Who knows what had happened in the bowels of the fortress. The Biomerges had the raw power to contest, but…

He’d watched Lancelot tear through Artanis and Hoshiko so quickly. Did the strength of a Biomerge even matter?

His thoughts wandered to Samael, and he glanced over the ruin. No. Let the b*stard rot.

“Dinadan, help me with him,” Theo said as they reached Stein. The Titamon lay on his side, surrounded by ruined stone. Greystone looked more like a wasteland than a fortress now. There was barely anything left standing.

Theo clawed his way through the rocks covering Stein, cutting them into more manageable and moveable pieces.

“He needs healing,” Theo said. “Until we can locate the others, pointing him at Lancelot is our best chance to get out of here.”

And that was the key. It wasn’t about winning anymore. It was about getting away with everyone intact.

“On your feet, Stein,” Theo urged, pushing the last boulder aside. “Don’t you want to pay back the one that did this to you. The one that hurt you.”

A low, deep growl rumbled from Stein’s chest. His huge eyes opened and locked on Theo’s. They shook in their sockets, quaking with…“rage” seemed too small a word. Stein’s chest heaved, deep laborious breaths. Theo wondered how many ribs were broken underneath the shredded skin, how many organs were half-mush.

Stein rumbled low again, gasping, but made no move against him.

“Do you know me?” Theo dared to ask. He reached a hand towards the Titamon, searching his eyes for any recognition, any sort of tell that Stein was somewhere in there.

Rrrreoo,” Stein grumbled. He reached out.

“Still in there, eh?” Theo couldn’t help the faint smile that curved his lips. It was grim, but a smile nonetheless. “Let’s get you back up and at ‘em.” Theo reached down to Stein, grasped his hand, and pulled him to his feet.

And then his arm exploded with pain. The Dramon Killers crumpled like foil and then splintered like glass under Stein’s grip, digging jagged shards of metal into his arm. He felt his bones scream in protest before buckling all the same. He could barely utter a shout of protest before Stein pulled him off his feet and slammed him into the ground.

Over and over. Back and forth. He felt his shoulder pop and dislocate as Stein threw him around like a toy. Theo lost count of how many times Stein whipped him into the burning stone before discarding him. His vision went dark at the edges, his mouth filled with blood as he choked on broken teeth.

Theo was vaguely aware of Dinadan stepping in, but there was a horrendous squelching sound, and then something fleshy and soft tumbled limply over the ground. Another shout, and Theo raised his head in time to see the DarkKnightmon’s chest all but explode as Stein drove a massive fist into it.

Stein bellowed, turning to him once more. He raised his hands, empty, as the sword was somehow missing, but something stepped between him and Theo.

Tessa. The Wisemon stood on shaky feet, her arms stretched to either side, between him and the Titamon. Gods, she was brave…and tiny.

“Stein. Please,” she all but begged.

Stein drove the knuckles of his huge arms deep into the ground, and leaned forward, apelike. He opened his huge, razor-toothed jaws and roared. Tessa’s robes and wings whipped under the force of his howl.

Theo couldn’t make out the rest of her pleas over the ringing in his ears and the screaming pain all through the rest of him. Through darkening vision he could see her pleading with him, reaching out slowly to him. Stein hesitated, and then reached out himself. One hand to touch her face with more tenderness than Theo imagined possible for someone who had just used him to till stone.

But there was no tenderness in Stein’s face. Just that same awful mask of…hatred he realized. Pure hatred.

Stein pulled back, and Tessa stepped forward reassuringly.

No. Wait.

Theo could barely utter a strangled shout of warning.

Stein swung both arms. And Theo’s warning offered Tessa only just enough time to blaze with evolutionary light and take the Sakuyamon form before Stein’s hands thunderclapped together on either side of her head.

Her fox-shaped mask shattered. Blood exploded from her eyes and ears. It poured from her nose. Her mega form faded around her as she dropped to her knees. Digivolved and forced out of that form in less than a second.

Stein let out a howl of rage and grabbed the Wisemon by her head, threatening to crush her skull between the fingers of his massive hand. Tessa thrashed in his grip. Theo had never heard such screeching.

He was going to kill her.

Until he wasn’t.

Serra, bloodied and bruised, landed a heavy heel-kick to Stein’s jaw, blasting with the hidden gun in her boot in the same movement. It cracked his head to the side. Stein wheeled around, dropping Tessa, discarded and forgotten. He let out a bellow of rage, but it sounded strange through the limp, dislocated jaw.

A huge punch lifted Serra off her feet and Theo heard a sickening crack; even though she’d blocked with both arms, the force had snapped the bones in her forearms and sent her flying.

But before Stein could continue his rampage, a massive explosion in the sky caught his attention. Deneb and Andrea were wreathed in flame as they fought with Lancelot.

With another howl, Stein launched himself towards them, closing the space between them with a single bound.

Theo could only look on in horror and wonder just what they had unleashed.

==\=/==

Lancelot took to the air and drove his shoulder into the Ceresmon, hitting with enough force to nearly fold it in half. The huge bird let out a gasping, strangled cry, and Lancelot shot higher towards its head. Before the Medium portion could even regain its bearings Lancelot was already upon it. He drove his sword forward towards its chest, aiming right at its heart.

The Medium just barely managed to catch the blade between its armored gauntlet as it pierced it. It struggled desperately, but it was only a matter of moments before Lancelot put it out of his misery. The bird beneath them thrashed around, but was unable to reach him until it sent a surge of vines and vegetation coiling around him.

Lancelot was snared and pushed away, but his blade ignited with power and atomized the leafy bindings. He leveled his cannon at the Medium and fired. But at the last moment, the bird surged upward and threw its head back. Lancelot’s blast caught it on the chin and exploded.

Before Lancelot could capitalize, he was knocked from the sky. The Titamon was on him again.

Stein. Damnit.

They rolled through the air; Lancelot was unable to regain his bearings in Stein’s grip or catch himself before slamming through what little remained of Greystone’s towers and spires. They crashed heavily through the stone ruins, and only then did Lancelot manage to knock Stein away and climb to his feet.

Lancelot readied his weapons and looked for Stein in the rubble, but Stein was already up, and held the remnants of an entire tower over his head. He hurled it onto Lancelot with a howl, and the white knight could only brace himself against the impact. The rock exploded around him and drove him into the foundations, but he poured power into the Grey Sword, and with a shout he burst his way through the rubble.

Stein roared, but he was done. Whatever store of strength he’d drawn from to down Lancelot had taken the last of it. He breathed heavily, huge arms sagging, knuckles dragging along the stone. His leg still bled heavily from where Lancelot’s cannon had nearly severed it at the knee.

Lancelot’s armor was a blackened and dented travesty. His cape was little more than tattered cloth. But his breath was steady. His arms were heavy, but still had strength in them for the fight.

Stein charged, but it lacked the menace of his earlier assaults.

Lancelot stepped into his charge and tripped him, then slashed up with the Grey Sword to send him spinning horizontally in the air. Then, before the Titamon could even make a full rotation, Lancelot spun around, drove his cannon into Stein’s chest, and fired.

It was finally too much for the monster to withstand. He fell into the ruins of Greystone and collapsed, leaving nothing but a sparking and twitching Andromon behind. No longer a monster. Barely even a mon.

Lancelot paid him little mind; he could eliminate him later, when the mission was complete. He glanced around; he was the only one still upright amidst the ruin. Greystone burned all around him, looking more like an impact site or a caldera than a city that had lasted a thousand years.

“Royal Knights. Report,” Lancelot’s voice cut through the cacophony of noise. There were a few weak replies as shapes moved in the smoke.

Gawain was the first to emerge.

“Gods,” he whispered, his eyes wide. “What did -”

“Find the Odinson, finish the mission,” Lancelot ordered.

“This is madness, Sir Lancelot,” Gawain protested. He gestured around them. “We can’t dig through this. Find one Digimon? Everything is on fire.”

“Fires die,” Lancelot said simply. And even as he did, the fires seemed to abate, flickering and dying away. The largest were little more than coals. “You see?”

“See what?” Gawain demanded. “Fires that…Oh no.”

“What is it?” Lancelot asked. He raised his brow curiously. It wasn’t like Gawain to get so flustered over collateral damage.

But then the last bit of Greystone erupted into a roaring white-hot fire, and something streaked from its ruined depths like a meteor. Stein was hurled away in the burst.

Ah. Of course. Now Lancelot understood.

Svarog, the little god, hovered in the air above them. One arm hung limp and useless at his side. One eye was crusted shut with blood. His teeth were cracked, his armor crumpled. But still he glowed, white-hot with rage.

“I will drive you into Greystone’s volcanic heart and melt the very flesh from your bones!” the little sun god howled. His body pooled all the borrowed power of Greystone’s decimation into his one still-working hand.

Lancelot readied his blade.

“Lancelot. No. We can’t,” Gawain protested.

“He cannot win,” Lancelot said, certain.

“Are you sure? He’s a god.”

“And?”

“And even if you win, no one else here will survive. This is a stalemate,” Gawain said

“I do not partake in stalemates,” Lancelot snapped at his fellow knights. The gall of—

“Then you consign all of Greystone to fiery death.”

Lancelot said nothing, he merely held Svarog in his glare.

==\=/==

Michael hauled Henry to his feet. Despite the unbelievable pain permeating every inch of his body, they had managed to sustain the least of the Guardian’s injuries. The memory of Lancelot falling upon him still haunted him. Through the haze and smoke he could already see James and Artanis helping some of the others out of whatever holes Lancelot had put them in.

Svarog held his place in the sky, like a terrible star of promise and ruin. His presence drew in all the flames of the battlefield, leaving little more than embers and smoke behind. The Guardians coughed and wheezed as they fought their way through the smoke. Michael and Henry led them onward, urging forward those that could stand while they helped those that could not

“The ship,” Michael coughed, pushing them forward. They climbed on and he watched the rear as Samael stumbled in - last except for himself, Henry, and Svarog.

Only once they were all securely in the ship and the engines started, did Svarog drop from the sky and stumble into the ship alongside them.

==\=/==

Gunnar clawed his way free from the rubble. He’d come to, buried in the ruins of his home, and it had taken him what felt like forever to regain his bearings and strength enough to climb free.

“A ‘stalemate’,” Lancelot chided. And Gawain bristled. “Royal Knights. Sir Lancelot. A stalemate.”

“Send word ahead,” Gawain radioed with a cough. “As soon as they pass within range of our patrols, shoot them from the sky.”

Gunnar looked around. It was carnage. Decimation. His home, where he had lived his entire life. The Bastion of Courage was in ruins. He could only guess at the casualties. He made his way over to Sir Lancelot in a daze, but with each step his mind cleared, sharpened by loss and anger.

“My Lords,” he bowed. “The Greystone Special Squadron swears allegiance to the Royal Knights.” He placed his fist over his heart and stood at attention. “Until vengeance is had. They will pay for what they’ve done.
 

TheSequelReturns

Faithful Crusader
- Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) -
- Airship -


Henry stumbled into the airship at the last minute right behind Michael and followed only by Svarog.

What an absolute mess. He waited for the airship to lift off and the ramp to close behind them before he sat the unconscious, and barely alive, Andromon in his arms on the floor against the ramp and collapsed into the nearest seat.

He had found Aria, beaten so badly that she was a walking bruise, stumbling along and trying to drag Stein behind her with her vines.

"Let me take him." Henry had said.

Aria didn't even respond. The vines slackened and she stumbled past him on legs that could barely hold her weight with a nod so weak Henry wasn't sure he hadn't imagined it.

It took every last drop of strength he still possessed, but he managed to achieve Avengekidmon long enough to carry the Andromon back. Stein might have been beaten to a pulp, missing around half his armor and some of his body, and had a leg that looked like it was only attached by the internal wiring, but he was still breathing and Henry wasn't going to leave him behind. Not until he had an explanation for the carnage he'd seen.

Henry slumped into his seat, utterly exhausted. If even one of the royal knights was still spry enough to give chase, he wasn't sure there was enough fight left in the entire airship to do anything about it.

A small breather then, was all he could allow himself. His body was battered and beaten, but his mind was still racing on the leftover adrenaline. And it didn't like anything about their current situation.

Slowly, Henry struggled to lift himself to his feet. He wasn't about to lead from a chair, no matter how tired he was.

"Alright lads and lasses, listen up." he said. "I know we've got a lot to talk about." he swept his gaze over the room and cast a nod in Stein's direction. "But it will have to wait just a moment. We're not in any shape to argue or debate, and I think we can agree on that." He paused, just to catch his breath. His core still felt cold from that blast from Lancelot, which he still couldn't believe he survived.

"There will be plenty of time to talk once we're safe and rested. We can't afford to let our guard down yet, we don't know if there's a rear guard waiting for us. Or if one of the Knights is trailing us as we speak. Its what I'd do in their position. So stay frosty for just a spot longer and we'll get through this." He nodded, as much to himself as anyone else. "Ok, status report. If you can still stand, speak up. If you can still speak, let me know how bad a way you're in. And if there's someone next to you who can't speak, speak for them."

"I'm alive, I think." Aria managed through a horribly raspy throat.

"I'll take it." Henry said before turning towards the others.
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Michael Ha’Yisrael >
Airship


Michael checked himself quickly, in the event that the adrenaline had masked some more serious injury. He was luckier than most; despite the force of Lancelot’s strike, his Mega form had held - more or less - intact until the blade had passed through, allowing him to drop to his stable MagnaAngemon form without any lasting injury. But he was certainly more the exception than the rule.

He nodded to Henry. Part of him wanted to feel guilt for not being more injured; to feel shame for not suffering the same way the others did. But that was a worthless sentiment. And a dangerous one.

“We’re —” a wrenching sound. “Fine over here,” Samael sneered between fits of bloody coughing. “Nothing like a good stabbin’ to get the blood flowing in the afternoon.” A thick puddle of half-congealed blood pooled between his feet. His hair was matted with blood and a huge, gaping wound had split his abdomen.

“Your intestines are hanging out,” Michael said.

Your intestines are hanging out,” Samael snapped back. But he looked down. “Ah, sh*t.” And he stuffed a handful of his guts back into the wound. “Happy?”

No. But Michael didn’t have the energy to argue. Samael would be fine. Sore, unhappy, and unpleasant, but fine.

Svarog glowered towards the rear of the ship, glaring out a window towards the smoldering crater that was now Greystone. Michael wondered, briefly, what the god could possibly be glaring at so intensely, but quickly pushed the thought aside. Svarog was crusted with a mixture of his own blood, ash, and dust; his left arm hung limply, but he was still upright. Michael had more pressing concerns.

Serra sat, wracked with pain towards the front of the ship. Her forearms looked as if they’d been snapped in half, hanging sickeningly in her lap. She’d rebuffed Thor’s efforts to tend her wounds (what healing could he have possibly done anyway?), and he seemed all too relieved to collapse against the wall.

Michael made a quick headcount to confirm they were all present — them and their new additions. But they all needed medical attention. Michael had a single healing technique; mostly used for emergency battlefield medicine, to keep a soldier alive until proper care could be administered. Other MagnaAngemon could utilize the technique to great effect, but his skill in it was limited and he wouldn’t have the strength to utilize it to even that limited extent.

Tessa had demonstrated healing, but she…

Michael glanced down to the Wisemon. She was a bloody and ruined mess. He didn’t know who had struck her so hard but she hung limply. She was in as bad a way as any of them.

“Can anyone else heal?” Michael asked. “I can mend injuries and bones, but I can’t…my abilities are limited. Especially now. So if someone knows how to set bones and properly…fix…lacerations that’ll go a long way.”
 
Airship

Dinadan Snow (Mistymon)


"Well, that could've been worse," Dinadan said, gritting his teeth and moderating his breathing as he carefully set the bone in his arm.

He wouldn't be able to heal anyone if he wasn't in a stable condition after all.

A scoff to his right. "That's puttin' it lightly kid," Zaza said, absolutely exhausted but still with a hint of amusement.

"I'm not," he said, because it was true. "We have no deaths among the Guardians."

"Well for now. Not unless you do you're job..."

"I will. That's why I'm doing this."

Because they didn't have materials for slings right now so he would have to fix his arm in order to do his job.

He focused some his healing so that the bone would stick in place as Henry stood up and asked for a status report.

"Just chipper, Captain," Zaza said, now completely amused as she did a two-fingered salute.

But Dinadan could tell she was still alert and seriously from her eyes. He was used to the look of a wary, injuried warrior, both towards himself and potential threats.

"We're still up," Shula said, attempting to smile but it came off more as a grimace with how pained she clearly was.

"More like my partner is stubborn enough that, should we need to, we can push ourselves," her partner, Frost, said looking at her with a flat expression.

The blonde woman chuckled sheepishly.

"I...am fine considering the circumstances," Kogoro said, looking scratched, dirtied and bleeding a bit, but otherwise fine. "My brother..."

"My...apologies...but...I doubt...I can...do much..." the BlackGatomon said as he breathed heavily in his human brother's arms.

The boy nodded at the cat before he turned silent in his spot beside his aunt. Whether it was from shock or in deep thought, he couldn't tell. But for now he would put that on hold as at this point. Just as his arm was put in one piece and usable and finished with assessing the rest of his own wounds—condition was fair. The same injuries as Kogoro. Maybe even worse but it was nothing compared to everyone else and he could live with it—who he assumed was Michael asked, “Can anyone else heal?” as well as explaining his limitations on dealing with it.

"I can. I'm Dinadan Snow. I'm a certified healer," he said with a slight nod of respect. "I will appreciate assistance should I need it, Sir Michael."

First he checked to see if Stein, who was now a badly broken Andromon, was in any danger of going into critial condition. But it seemed that, for now, though his wounds were serious, he wasn't in any risk of dying. So he moved onto the next...which was a brief glance at Samael and the Apollomon who could be no one else but Svarog. The latter seemed fair, all things considered. Possibly a broken arm with how limply one hung, but that wasn't a priority. Besides, he doubted he would want the medical attention. And seeing how the former just nonchalantly put his guts back in and was retorting despite his state, Dinadan believed he could put him on hold as well. Michael was well.

There was a Lilamon, Aria he presumed, who looked absolutely ruined that he worried for her, but considering she could speak and move her limbs, he also put her on the lower end on his list.

The first one he decided to deal with was Tessa, partially because of her wounds and how bad off she looked, partially out of hope that she would wake soon to assist him. But he wouldn't pin his hopes on that. Still he focused his energy so that the bleeding would stop. When that was done, he went for one of their members who was worse off. This one he didn't have a name for unfortunately, just a BelleStarmon who Thor seemed to fuss over before she rebuked him and he looked ready to collapse from exhaustion. From that, he was unsure whether she'd accept aid, but unlike with, say, Samael or Svarog, he doubted she had that level of regeneration and/or fortitude. So because of that chance, he said, in hopes for her consent,

"May you allow me to set the bones?"

Kogoro Cadaceus & Morgan Cadaceus the BlackGatomon

Kogoro knew it.

The moment Lancelot stepped on the field after the Titamon who was revealed to be Stein, their chances of winning dwindled to infinitesimal, what with everyone having been busy facing off other Royal Knights, their team synergy still being in its eaely stages and Stein, at that time, being a loose cannon. All those factors and more led to the disaster that was the Gray Keep being razed to the ground from their "fight" against the Omnimon, if one could even call it a fight.

It wasn't a slaughter at the very least, on their end anyway. Kogoro could only imagine the casualties on the Greymon side.

Combine that with their symbol of pride being destroyed, there was a fairly good chance of the survivors now loathing the Guardians for what they did. Even if, by some miracle, they didn't blame them for what they did, they could certainly blame the result. It was yet another stain against their success rate from what he has heard of the Guardians' exploits thus far.

At the rate they were going they were never going to be able to—

"Oy. Stop that azizam."

—he startled as he felt Aunt pull him into her lap and cover his view with her crimson stetson.

"Aunt...?"

"Rest."

He frowned and made to remove her hat. "But..."

"Don't worry about it. You know you can't do much right now with your brother out of action."

Kogoro lifted the stetson just enough to glance down at his own lap to find that, indeed, Morgan had fallen asleep, the exhaustion from the fight and making sure he was safe catching up to him. He sighed.

"Okay Aunt..."

He could hear her smirk. "Knew you'd see it my way." She gently pushed her hat over his eyes again. "Now come on. Sleep."

"Okay..."

And he closed his eyes, focusing on the warmth around him in hopes of keeping any nightmares at bay.
 

storymasterb

Knight of RPGs
James Reeve and Artanis Dawnflame
Airship


Even now, James felt like his bones shook.

That last blast, the one that had torn their Biomerge apart, still thundered distantly in his ears. But he was less harmed than most. He bled from little cuts that were already scabbing over, burns stained his hands where they'd caught hot stone in his desperate digging, and he could feel the bruises sting all over his body where he'd landed after Lancelot shattered the Biomerge. But he could walk. He'd helped dig the others from the rubble as best he could, helped them to the airship with Artanis. The Agumon was battered and bruised too, one arm weak and fractured, his scales ripped where the stones caught. Red lines marked where he'd taken Lancelot's blows over and over, deep gashes in BlitzGreymon form reduced to shallow cuts in Agumon.

They bled, but they hadn't died. Looking back, he couldn't say justice had been done nor victory served either. Greystone was an inferno, a ruin.

Hoshiko sat with Okatsu in her lap, arms protectively folded around the Gabumon, eyes unfocused as they wandered. James tried to catch her gaze and offer her something, some semblance of hope, they'd all made it out at least.

"Because surviving - because this - isn't enough."

Lancelot's silhouette loomed in his mind as he remembered facing the Omnimon head-on. All that power, like they'd tried to stop the earth from turning. Even if they'd gone in rested, even if it had been just Lancelot, James couldn't say he thought they'd win that fight. He and Artanis tried to win through raw perseverance but it felt like Lancelot hadn't even broken a sweat with them. And Hoshiko and Okatsu's tactics hadn't fared any better, because it seemed like Lancelot knew their attacks even before they did.

"I am alive," Artanis confirmed at Henry's question. "I would chance at better than most."

"Me too," James added. "Just cuts and bruises." Blood dripped from his fingers, a red trail running across his hand. How much blood did he have on them now, he found himself wondering deep down. Greystone too...

-

Hoshiko Yukimura
Airship


Her arm stung where flames had licked it, her sleeve torn and seared, her skin red and stinging. She'd had to hobble onto the airship, her ankle twisted after their Biomerge broke and she'd stumbled on broken stone in the rush to the airship. James had had to turn back and support her the last few feet, saying reassuring things every step.

Hoshiko looked up. "My ankle's sprained, I think, and my arm's burnt. But otherwise I'm fine." Okatsu rested weary in her lap, the Gabumon X dishevelled from all the attacks she'd had to weather. Her pelt was stained with soot, one eye nursing ugly purple bruises. The human tightened her uninjured arm and retreated into herself, thoughts whirling in an exhausted tempest as Okatsu managed to confirm her own state.

"I live."

That was the best they could say. They were alive. Greystone was a ruined crater. Lancelot had walked through them like they were nothing. But they were alive. She'd dared to hope but it had been snatched away so easily by the Omnimon. Artanis had charged him again and again like a madman, pit his might against something beyond might, and Lancelot had broken his shield and armor like they weren't there. And when she'd tried to pit tactics and cunning against him...

Again she saw it, that impossible swing. First Aria thrown into Artanis, then back into Okatsu, without looking. Like Lancelot knew they were there.

She looked at James, trying to escape her own failure. Was Lancelot an opponent they simply weren't meant to defeat, whether with might or strategy? There was something about the whole concept that made her pause, a Greymon, a Garurumon, an Omnimon, some kind of irony or symmetry, but she forced it out of mind and reined her thoughts back in.

They were alive, she thought again, eyes still on James. But you shouldn't be. Not after what you did. There it was again. James Reeve, laughing in the face of danger, charging into the fire and emerging merely singed while others burned. Like a phoenix he'd dived into flames and emerged reborn, more powerful than before with Artanis's Biomerge and Mega unleashed at once.

James looked her way, tried to meet her gaze, but she looked away toward the ruined form of Stein. She'd seen the monster he'd become. Miraculously stayed out of its path until she'd been nearly buried by a collapsing building, digging her way out of the rubble with hands that bled. There was Samael too, somehow still himself with his guts tumbling out. Two monsters. What was it Caradoc had said? They couldn't even stop fighting themselves.

Not even with everything that lay on the line.

She clenched her burnt hand and pain lanced up it, making her forearm shake as her nails found her skin and dug in, touching the blood that had dried there. She clenched her teeth against the urge to cry out, head bowed so her tangled hair fell to veil her face. Okatsu's hand found her healthy one, concern and worry plain in the gesture, and Hoshiko forced herself to untense and draw in a deep breath. Her teeth unclenched and she tasted ashes again, the smoke she'd breathed in that desperate scramble.

She thought what she wanted to voice but knew they were all thinking, those of them conscious anyway. They'd gone there to sway Greystone back into the fold, and yet if anything the destruction they'd caused would just drive any survivors further into Galahad's camp.
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
Andrea Mercer
Airship

Exhuastion and weariness weighed Andrea down like armor. Her left shoulder screamed from the shared pain of Ceresmon crashing into the ground a final time, despite Deneb bearing the brunt of the fall. Her side was extremely tender from where Sir Lancelot pierced Ceresmon Medium with his sword. Minor burns and singed clothes exasperated the sensitive skin on her arms and back of previous injuries. She wanted nothing more than to hunker down in her seat with the semi-conscious Deneb in her arms.

Instead Andrea found herself standing carefully on her seat, leaning over the mangled and shredded gauntlet on Theo’s left arm. She busied herself with trying to carefully remove the metal slivers embedded in the black muscle flesh that her smaller fingers could reach. Undoubtedly concerned at the state of her brother’s former partner, Andrea fought to ignore the growing numbness and shock from her and Deneb’s battle with Sir Lancelot. Keeping her mind and hands busy was her means of coping with the overwheleming feeling of futility of their fight.

The female tamer glanced up at the old soldier, his eyes clenched shut in agonzing pain. Understanding dawned on her as she remembered Theo's words back at Glen Elendra. While the BlackWarGreymon had spoken in moment of despair, his words weren’t without merit and backed up with his experience with the Royal Knights. She understood a little bit better now why Theo didn’t want her to fight.

Theo had wanted to walk away. And he almost did but yet….he had chosen to remain.

Andrea couldn’t help but wonder at how Theo managed to keep pressing onward despite his many losses. Her brother, Kyle, had shared a bit of Theo’s past, so she was aware of his own brother’s passing. She could understand how Theo and Kyle had gravitated to one another, filling in each other’s emptiness.

But Kyle wasn’t here now to support Theo, leaving the greymon to suffer from the breavement of his dead partner. Despite that, Theo stayed with the Guardians, tapping into a hidden reserve of strength of will she suspected he didn’t realize he had.

Even now, the battered and bruised BlackWarGreymon fought to stay conscious by sheer will alone as blood dripped down his head and jaw.

Andrea shook herself from her thoughts, when Henry asked for a roll call. “I’m mobile, but that’s not saying much and Deneb’s not going to be flying for a while either.”

She rested a reassuring hand on Theo’s arm, resolving to help the greymon since Kyle couldn’t. “Theo’s going to need medical attention right.” She said, not elaborating on the primary contributor to the old dragon’s current condition, though her eyes drifted in the andromon’s direction with an unreadable look.

Theo cracked open pain-filled yellow eyes at the mention of his name. He coughed, spitting out a wad of blood to clear his airway. “Are we...are we being...followed?” He struggled to say. He then stubbornly raised his good arm to his left shoulder, shifting the hanging limb properly in it’s socket. The BlackWarGreymon muffled a strangled groan while passing out momentarily from the pain.

_____________

Soothing energy washed over her body. Yet she laid there in her seat, unmoving with every nerve feeling like they were on fire. Her eyes opened a crack trying to blink away the dry blood on her face, but still hidden within the depths of her hood. She waved a hand feebly and without much thought. Someone was talking but it all sounded jumbled up to her. Dim eyes drifted acrossed the cabin unfocused. At least until they locked onto the Andromon piled forgotten in the back of the airship. She wanted to reach out but she couldn’t. She wanted to call out to him, but she couldn’t. Her vocals refused to cooperate.

Tessa wanted to sit up, but her small body felt like it weighed a ton. Shivers rattled her body with intensity, but at the same time she felt like she was burning up. She tried to puzzle out what was wrong with her, but her thoughts were unfocused and disjointed. All she could do at that moment was lie there and let whatever was happening run its course.
 
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Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Michael Ha’Yisrael >
Airship


"May you allow me to set the bones?"

Serra just glared at the Mistymon, but she didn't pull her arms away, and in fact offered the shaking limbs to the other Digimon. She grit her teeth against the pain but didn't cry out as Dinadan realigned her bones and splinted them.

One by one, the Mistymon looked over the Guardians, making sure injuries were manageable, that bones were splinted correctly, and that lacerations were aligned. Michael knew basic healing techniques - to remove ailments and mend injuries - but only by accelerating their individual regenerative properties. If the injuries were not properly prepared his methods might only make them worse.

A few of the Guardians declined his efforts; Thor waved him off politely, flexing his shoulders and hands as if to prove to himself and everyone else that he was unhurt. Samael just flashed bloody teeth and the Mistymon and shooed him on his way.

Then there was Svarog, still glowing white-hot and threatening to melt his way through the floor of the airship. He growled as the Mistymon approached and let out a roar. His white hot glow drew inward, the bones and joints in his arm realigned with stomach-turning cracks. His jaw popped, and gashes seared shut.

Michael waved the Mistymon onward. Then only when the Mistymon signaled that he was finished did Michael step forward and bring forth his rarely-used skills. It drew out of his own strength and stamina -- converting that into a healing light that flooded through the cabin of the airship. It was meager healing, mending bones and closing wounds only as much as they normally might. It wasn't magic by any means, or as powerful as focused healing techniques. But it would bring them back to their feet faster, and keep them there until such healing could be found.

He staggered as the light faded, exhausted by the effort, but waved off any assistance and made his way back to his seat.

"Ugh," Samael dry-heaved. "I feel so glowy and warm and fluffy...I think I'm gonna be sick."

Michael ignored him.

“Are we being followed?” Theo had asked. Michael turned to Henry.

“We need to get clear of this,” he said, motioning vaguely and tiredly. “Back into Axis Mundi airspace. There’s no telling what patrols are looking for us.”
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
They were safe, for the moment. Serra let her arms relax. Her forearms ached something wicked, a deep ache of broken bones that had only just been fused back together through some sort of magic healing from the Mistymon. She glared over at Stein - he’d dealt quite a number on her, but that was nothing compared to poor Tessa. She hadn’t deserved any of that.

Despite how annoying Tessa had been, asking questions about the Host and trying to prod into Serra’s life before…all this, she was a good kid. Just curious.

“That was a mess,” Serra muttered to herself. “That whole damned thing.”

“I pushed for it,” Thor grumbled beside her.

Yes, you did, she wanted to say. She didn’t know whether to punch him in the mouth or lean against him for support. He’d pushed for them to go to Greystone — Svarog, too — and it’d blown up in their faces. The Royal Knights had been waiting for them. They knew Thor so well that they were able to manipulate him into walking into a trap; against the one type of Digimon he was hardest-pressed to defend against.

If she hadn’t stepped in when she did — again, she might add — he’d be shish kebab. Despite all his power, all that legendary strength, it had been Stein that allowed them to get out with their limbs intact…at least for everyone else, of course.

He was stupid to just jump for such an obvious trap…then again, it was easy to see it in hindsight. And she had pushed for the same thing.

But before she could get any further in her thoughts, the airship lit with flashing lights and sirens erupted loudly from some carefully concealed speakers. Not a moment later, the ship began to shake violently; slammed from side to side by near-miss explosions.

They were being shot at. And at the speed they were currently moving it could only be Royal Knight patrols sent to shoot them down.

There was a horrible screeching sound from the front of the ship as the cockpit erupted into flames. Their Stingmon pilot screamed a string of curses, shouting what sounded like a name as the ship pitched and dove.

“Henry, go!” Michael shouted from the back of the ship. Serra braced herself and slid out of Henry’s way as the pirate clambered through the tangle of fallen bodies and climbed into the cockpit.

Serra didn't see the rest, but a series of explosions rocked the ship from side to side. Then something solid landed on top of them; there was a bursting sound, like rapid-fire weaponry, emanating from whatever had landed on them, and then the shaking stopped. Whatever it was had managed to chase their pursuers off and give them some breathing room.

A few more stray shots continued to rock the ship, but lessened as they descended. Whatever Henry and that Stingmon were doing up front, it was working. They dropped fast and hard, but weren't being blasted on all sides.

There was a shout from up front, a "hold on!" from Henry. Then they hit the trees hard, skimming the forest canopy like a skipped stone. The trees snapped in their wake for a violent few moments before they lurched to an abrupt stop.

Serra had the good sense to strap herself in, but those that hadn't -- namely Svarog, Samael, and a few reckless others -- were sent flying roughly to the front of the cabin and slammed into each other. As soon as they stopped, the explosions started up around them again.

"Out," Michael urged. With a stroke of his sword he cut through the loading bay in the back. Thor followed close behind and knocked the door open with a shoulder-check. The forest behind them had a huge gash in it from their crash, and the horizon was dotted with incoming enemy fliers.

"Hey," a Paildramon dropped down from the sky and landed nearby. She raised her hands. "We've got to get outta here. This place is crawling with Royal Knight sympathizers and allies. My team is holed up in a bunker nearby."

"Your team?" Svarog muttered with a raised brow.

"Peacemakers," the Paildramon said. The name rung familiar in Serra's ears. Where had she heard that before? "We took shelter here after fighting Lancelot in Meletis."

Damn. That was it! But...damn! Meletis was far away from the…

Serra glanced around, trying to get a sense of where they'd landed. She only had a vague feeling of where they might be. Somewhere west of Greystone, but not yet at Axis Mundi...the Chess Kingdom? Or maybe the surrounding provinces. She'd always wanted to visit the Chess Kingdom -- they were supposed to have some of the best vineyards in the world -- but she'd never expected to visit under these sorts of circumstances.

"Peacemakers," Thor repeated, glancing pointedly to Michael and Henry -- who had just climbed from the twisted wreck of the cockpit.

"The pilot?" Michael asked him. Henry only shook his head.

"If you're done, let's go," the Paildramon urged them. She dashed into the forest, and they followed closely behind. They fled the wreckage and dodged through the trees. Thor had Stein slung over one shoulder, while Michael cradled Tessa gently. The rest limped along weakly. Even Svarog and Samael, who she supposed in any other circumstance would welcome the opportunity to fight an entire army of enemies, were too beaten down by the battle with the Royal Knights to stand for any more fighting.

The Paildramon led them through the tangle of forest, and despite the difficult terrain, Serra was thankful for the densely-packed and inter-woven trees. They raced along the treeline at the edge of a river towards a large waterfall. Their guide waited for them at the rocky cliffside, and then ducked behind the cascade.

A secret entrance?

They followed through a long passageway, where rough wet stone floors and walls quickly gave way to neatly placed squares of black and white marble. They wound through the corridor, which opened into a large and spacious room.

This was hardly a bunker. More like a fancy, upscale hotel.

A few Digimon were sitting around the room. A GrandisKuwagamon was laying on a large, four-post bed; his back facing them. A MachGaogamon and a Justimon were sitting at a nearby table with a QueenChessmon, studying a holographic map.

"Dunk and Azur are out scouting," the Paildramon said. As if that would mean something to them. "They should be back any minute, right?" She directed this more to the other Digimon at the table. The MachGaogamon nodded absently.

"We've been recuperating here since we fled Meletis," she said. She made quick introductions of the rest: Justin, Khep, Galic, and Victoria -- their Chess Kingdom supporter. "We're with the Peacemakers. I'm Pyra."
 

TheSequelReturns

Faithful Crusader
- Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) -
- Airship -


There was a horrible screeching sound from the front of the ship as the cockpit erupted into flames. Their Stingmon pilot screamed a string of curses, shouting what sounded like a name as the ship pitched and dove.

“Henry, go!” Michael shouted from the back of the ship. Serra braced herself and slid out of Henry’s way as the pirate clambered through the tangle of fallen bodies and climbed into the cockpit.

The front of the airship was a mess. It looked like it had taken a direct hit, right through the viewport, and the shrapnel from the broken glass had hit the small space like shot from a blunderbuss.

“Take the controls,” the Stingmon urged Henry. His arm bled from where a jagged shard of glass had embedded itself in his bicep. More shards peppered his hardened carapace, and rivulets of blood poured down his chest.

There were no signs of his Waspmon copilot, just a mess of smoldering slag in the seat beside him.

Henry helped the Stingmon out of his seat and settled into position himself. There was no time to be gentle about it. The ship was going down. The wind rushing into the cockpit through the shattered glass caught his hat and threw it somewhere into the back of the airship and Henry blinked until his eyes adjusted to the change in light and the force of the air rushing at him.

He gripped the unfamiliar controls with as much certainty of effort as he could muster. He knew how to steer a ship on water. How hard could it be to adjust to one in the skies? The ship wanted to dive hard to the left, and he needed to fight against it before they wound up as a smoldering crater on the landscape below.

The pirate pulled hard to the right, surprised at just how much the controls fought his effort. This thing was steering like a ship that had lost its rudder. It was all he could do to level it out and mediate the descent.

And there was still the unanswered question of what exactly had hit them. They could take another hit at any moment.

“Fasten your seatbelts and hold on to your booty,” he called to the back, “We’re in for a rough landing!”

“Not if they shoot us out of the sky,” the Stingmon groaned, wincing as he slumped against the cockpit.

A shrieking sound broke through the howling wind of the blasted-open cockpit. A squadron of Pteranomon and MailBirdramon streaked by, firing potshots at the ship. A trio of Wingdramon led the charge, blasting the sides with bursts of flame.

“Ship won’t hold,” the Stingmon winced. He pulled himself to his feet, and ignited the spikes in his wrist armor. “Keep her steady. And good luck.” Then he threw himself out of the gaping hole in the windshield and right into the closest Pteranomon. He remained in line with the sputtering ship for a few moments before a Wingdramon impaled him through the chest and his body exploded.

Henry winced. That made two crewmates lost under his command. It wasn't something you got used to.

The squadron strafed the ship as Henry fought to keep it in the air. The Wingdramon trio slammed the ship from side to side, threatening to strip Henry’s already-precarious hold of the ship and send it plummeting. He wanted to fire back, but that was hopeless. He'd never get a shot lined up as long as he had to steer this blasted airship.

Then just as one of the trio was coming around again, a loop of cables snared around its neck. It jerked hard, as whatever was attached to the other end used the flying dragon as leverage to launch itself into the air.

A Paildramon embedded it’s arm spikes in the Wingdramon, then threw its cables around the gaping hole in the airship and swung aboard.

“Take her down over there,” she motioned Henry to a forest beyond a series of castles below. “I’ll keep them off your back.”

"Much obliged." Henry tossed a quick wave her way and tilted the ship towards its new landing zone.

She swung back up and onto the roof of the ship and opened fire, blasting their pursuers with rapid fire shots from her hip cannons.

They dropped quickly with the engines shot to hell. "Tell your people to hold on!" the Paildramon shouted. The forest closed in quickly; just before they hit the Paildramon took to the air and leaped away from the falling ship.







- Later, Inside the Bunker -

Michael set Tessa down gently on one of the nearby beds and nodded to Dinadan. "Please take another look at her," Michael asked. "I…" he glanced over to Stein, who was still unconscious. "I don't know how hard she was struck."

"Lord Michael," Pyra announced her presence as she walked over. In the next bed over, the GrandisKuwagamon scoffed. Pyra ignored him. "I'd like to ask for an update, and see if there's some information we can share."

Michael was ready to respond, but stopped himself and nodded to Henry. "Henry has been given command of the Guardians."

"The pirate," Pyra said. It wasn't so much a question as it was an expression of tentative disbelief.

"Yes."

Henry fought the urge to grin.

"Not you?" He shook his head. "Not Lord Thor?" Again, he shook his head. The Paildramon looked like she might object, but swallowed her response with a shake of her head and muttered something about "not of the way." Michael didn't really follow.

He noticed Serra and Aria standing nearby, watching Tessa with concern. He wanted to comfort them, to lend his presence and ease their anxiety, but at that moment he was running on fumes, and any attempt would be disingenuous. So instead he regarded them with a quiet nod and went over to the table to listen in on Galic and Victoria's conversation.

As Michael made his exit, Henry turned back to Pyra and gave a respectful nod. The same sort he'd greet a fellow ship captain with. "I know what you're thinking." he said. "I wasn't my first choice either, but here we are. I'd be happy to get you caught up on the results of our trip to Greystone. And I'd like to know what we've just walked into in return."

He cast a long look over his crew. "But first things first. Any help you can offer our wounded would be greatly appreciated."

==\=/==

- Aria Morningsong (BanchoLilimon) -
- Swanky Bunker -


Serra watched Tessa lie deathly still in the bed. Whatever healing mojo Michael and the Mistymon had worked on them all seemed to have barely made a dent on the poor girl's condition. She was so intent on Tessa that she barely noticed Aria standing beside her until the other woman shifted.

"How the hell did everything go so tits up? We had it," Serra whispered, half to herself, half to Aria. "We had it," she said more forcefully this time. "We outnumbered the Knights like four to one! How the ever-loving f*ck did this happen!?"

Aria knew. And her aching body knew as well. Lancelot had outclassed them all. He'd taken on some of the best their little team had to offer and walked away with a draw only because Svarog threatened to go scorched earth on the whole countryside.

And yet...

"We beat Percival." Aria said softly, staring at her hand. He new form hadn't abated. She wasn't sure it would. "Stein, Tessa, and myself, that is. When I first joined this mission, I thought a single attack from a Royal Knight would end me. Today, I beat Percival. I fought Lancelot and I'm still breathing."

She nodded towards Tessa. "And she is too."

She balled her hand into a fist, ignoring the sharp stabs of pain. When she turned to look at Serra there was a fire in her eyes. "Tessa's going to be fine. I believe that. That girl has a strong heart. And mark my words, the Knights will pay for the damage they've done. That, at least, I no longer believe is impossible."

She was fully aware that she looked like a walking bag of mulch at the moment, but she wasn't going to let that get her down. There was too much around here to cry over already.

She sighed and winced as she let her hand relax. Her eyes wandered over to Stein, who was propped up in a large armchair. He looked like a prop. Like an old, damaged mannequin forgotten in a backroom. He was barely breathing, but Aria could already see the tiny bits of data dancing across his wounds as his body stitched itself back together.

"I'm more worried about Stein. Whatever that was fighting with Lancelot at the end, whoever it was that hurt Theo and Tessa and you and the others, that wasn't Stein. It couldn't be."

But as she watched the Andromon in the chair and just how quickly his injuries seemed to be healing without assistance, she wasn't sure what to think.
 
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Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Samael Cain >
Chess Kingdom


Samael found a chair and slumped into it. Despite the agony in his still-knitting-together guts, a wicked grin cut itself across his face. The rest of the room seemed so unbelievably morose. And why? Because a few idiots kicked the bucket?

“So what’s the plan, fish legs?” Samael addressed Henry, his grin wide and sharp-toothed. “We gonna set this kingdom on fire too?”

Henry promptly ignored him, so Samael turned his attention to a different target.

“How ‘bout you, wolf girl?” he grinned at Hoshiko. “I noticed you managed to get through this one without crippling injury.”

Hoshiko shot him a glance like a cold knife. "Because we could trust James and Artanis," she retorted, more sharply than she'd meant.

“Nah, you just haven’t realized you can’t trust them yet,” Samael sneered.

She tried not to flinch, tried to stay composed as he cut right to the heart of her. Like a shard of black ice digging in, chilling her core with doubt.

"I would trust them centuries sooner than I would you," Okatsu retorted, pointedly resting a claw on the scar in her chest.

“There it is,” Samael’s grin grew wide at the sight of Okatsu’s hesitation. “Pretty ideals are nice. They make you feel fluffy. Trust. Loyalty.” He spit. “None of it’s real, no matter how many centuries you wanna wait. You trust them because you haven’t realized they’re lying to you.”

"They fight for the same cause as us," Okatsu said. "With the same reason. You fight because you relish bathing your blade in blood, no matter who that blood flows from,it seems.”

Samael belly-laughed. “Yer gonna’ feel real stupid when they let down those lofty expectations of yers,” he spat. “Don’t presume to know why anyone else is fightin’ this fight. Not until you figure out why yer so eager to start killin’, too”

“I just want the killing to stop,” Hoshiko snapped. “I want the fighting to stop. To defeat the Knights be it in battle or by convincing them, and then see Saga safe for Tamers and partners again. Like it was before.” She glared at the demon. “If we win this fight, I’ll go home. Back to the guild. Try to rebuild it and make a haven. What will you do if we defeat the Royal Knights? Carry on looking for more blood to shed?”

Samael laughed derisively. “Yer more naive than I thought if ya’ ever figured Saga was safe for yer kind,” Samael nodded to Hoshiko. “And yer foolin’ yerself if you think things will ever ‘go back to how they were before. Not for you’n yours.” He leaned forward. “This world is full’o monsters, little girl. Even right here in this room. I’m just honest about it.”

“We weren’t being hunted before this,” Hoshiko retorted. “I came here…” She remembered hesitantly, taking her Digivice and holding it up. “I was invited here. I woke up surrounded by monsters and yet they showed me nothing but kindness. They took me in. Fed me. Protected me.”

“Ya didn’t know you were being hunted,” Samael pointed out. “But the monsters were always here. Always lookin’. What’s to say it wasn’t little ol’ me keepin’ from sinkin’ their teeth into that pretty neck of yours?”

She set her jaw and fixed the Beelzemon with a cold stare. “I know that this world is better than the picture you’d paint, demon. Not all of us will stab each other in the back for the sake of it.”

“For the sake of it?” Samael laughed. “Girly, I almost killed a Royal Knight with that move ya’ll seem so hung up over. And I left you with a lesson to always watch yer back. You should be thankin’ me.”

Her glare turned colder, fingers clenching tight around her Digivice as she folded her arms around Okatsu. “We only watch our backs when you’re around. I’ve felt your blade in my back. Maybe Michael can shrug that off, but I won’t.”

“You would be the last person I would trust to be protecting Hoshiko in my stead,” Okatsu growled. “And for all that you speak of the world being full of monsters, Stein was not in his right mind when he went on his rampage. You needed no such reason to turn your sword upon an ally the moment it suited you.”

“You think so?” Samael chuckled mockingly. “I’ve been killin’ monsters in the dark since before your grandpappy was a glimmer in his daddy’s eye. You’ve known that big green idiot a day and a half. Ya’ don’t know what his ‘right mind’ is from a hole in the ground. Fer’ all you know that is his ‘right mind’.

==\=/==

< Svarog Rodsyn >

Svarog stood by the entrance to the bunker, glowering into the long, winding corridor. His blood still boiled, despite the weariness of his body and bones. He had converted all the power absorbed from Greystone's destruction into healing his body, but that did little to recover his stamina, and left the rest of him exhausted.

Still, it was not his nature to relax his guard, not around allies, and certainly not with enemies overhead. He should have fought them off, torn through each and every one of those flying lizards and charged back to Greystone to put a final end to the Royal Knights.

Damn - who was he kidding? He'd thrown everything he could against Lancelot. Every cunning trick, tactic, and movement of brute force he could muster fell short. He'd been outclassed in every way. He needed to be more -- more than just Svarog, son of Rod; more than just Svarog, the god of war -- if he were to stand against that kind of overwhelming presence and win.

"You stood up for yourself," he said to James and Artanis, almost before realizing it. He hadn't intended to speak to them at all. Perhaps it was his exhaustion taking its toll on his dignity. "It was reckless and foolish. And almost respectable."

"One might say our entire course is reckless and foolish," Artanis answered. "But how many of the heroes of eld were branded such in their time? As they did, we fight against the odds where others might falter."

"Not that I blame them," James murmured. "But someone has to take a stand for what's right. That's all. No matter how hard it is, no matter how reckless or foolish it seems, I can't just let the Royal Knights go unanswered while Tamers and partners suffer." He paused, the ghost of a frown on his lips. "I thought we might have won them over for a moment. But I suppose they were decided before we even arrived."

“That’s because they’re cowards,” Svarog said with a dismissive wave. “Anything that made them great and mighty died long ago when they took refuge behind their high walls and thought to rest on their laurels and their names.”

Artanis frowned. "Aye," he said, brow furrowed. "Regardless, their turn against us is a bitter blow. It will embolden those who also wavered to likewise turn to the Royal Knights if Galahad can count those laurels and names his supporters."

"We almost had them," James considered. "The two of us, Okatsu and Hoshiko, we had Caradoc almost beaten. But then Lancelot swept through us like…"

“If I couldn’t beat him what hope did the rest of you have?” Svarog waved him off again.

“True,” James, chuckled, forcing it out to cover the melancholy. “But we have to beat him, somehow. Somewhen. There has to be a way.”

“If we accomplish it, that might well be the story of our own saga,” Artanis commented wryly. “Far off as it may seem at this moment.”

“You’ll need to dig deeper into your rage if you plan on overcoming these Royal Knights with your own power,” Svarog chided. “Mere heroics will not be enough. Their ‘heroics’ will outstrip yours every time. But their rage is lacking. They’re so convinced of their purpose and righteousness, but their strength exists only on the surface. Righteous purpose only exists when recognized by the masses.”
 
Bunker, Somewhere in Chess Kingdom

Zainab "Zaza" Cadaceus (MagnaKidmon)


Of course, just as they suspected, not long after Zaza told her nephew to rest, they were attacked in the sky, scouts and such trying to take them down. The ship shook and Zaza cursed her current state, wishing she could just go and shoot their pursuers down. But just as lucky, they had a friendly in the area, and though they essentially crashed, and lost their pilots on their way down, Zaza was still gratedul they weren't breathing their last breaths.

With her nephews in her arms, she followed the others after the Paildramon who helped them. From the looks of things, and considering the direction they had been going in, it seemed they were somewhere in the Chess Kingdom, though it wasn't any spot she was familiar with. Soon enough, they found themselves in a...bunker. Though if she put aside semantics, it certainly didn't look like a bunker. It was way too fancy to feel that way, what with the high quality beds and furniture. But on the bright side, it meant some of their members could find it much easier to relax, herself included as her merchant mind squealing in delight at seeing such exquisite pieces.

Kogoro had of course woken up during the course of all of this, but thankfully he didn't put up much resistance or fuss to her insistence on him getting rest, reminding him of the logic behind it as he put him and his brother on one of the beds, alongside Michael who placed Tessa not too far away. The angel spoke to Dinadan, who quickly rexamined the Wisemon, while, Henry and Pyra were talking about status reports and such. Before that though, their captain said,

"But first things first. Any help you can offer our wounded would be greatly appreciated."

The Mistymon perked up at that and said, "I would like that. We have quite a bit of injured and no supplies."

"I got some but not much," she said, getting one of her packs to show the first aid inside.

"Little supplies. So more would be appreciated."

And then the doctor went back to his job, specifically asking the BelleStarmon and BanchoLilimon that were near Tessa's bed if they had seen how she been injured as they had spoke of her... and other things. Like how this all flew sideways worse than stocks crashing...and that they had managed to beat Percival. Zaza smiled in pride at that bit of info. Oh yes it was small considering where they were now, but she would take every victory they had over the Royal Knights. But for now, as much as she wanted to ask how the BanchoLilimon managed it, she left them alone.

After all, Henry Vane was right there and about to brief the Peacemakers, much to the Paildramon's disbelief and Zaza's amusement. She wanted to hear what had happened before she, Shula and the others arrived. She knew her nephew would want to hear it. Plus, it was Henry Vane, captain of the Queen's Ransom. ... Okay, former captain, considering he was here and all, but she was glad to see him. When the Queen's Ransom's targets seemed to have changed, Zaza had lost her respect for the ship that she felt was a good check for the greedy and gluttonous among merchants. But now she knew for sure that it was because someone else took the helm of the ship. And they did quite well as a team in the last fight, if she did say so herself.

She was going to take the chance to talk to the 'mon as soon as he was done with his status report, so she would just patiently wait.

Though maybe not about whatever caused him to lose the Queen's Ransom. It was...very likely a sore spot for him.

At least she would've simply sat and listened to Henry...if "Mr. Samael" hadn't started to antagonize Hoshiko and her partner.

Zaza resisted rolling her eyes. She didn't want the 'mon to get more fuel for his drivel. Oh he wasn't completely wrong, she would admit that. She had seen her fair share of corrupt and, in her eyes, irredeemable monsterd. But he sure knew how to make himself sound completely right and Zaza knew that wasn't true. If it was, she wouldn't have been able to build her business without anyone she could trust, especially in regards to their treatment of humans.

So she did the best thing she could think of at that time while running on fumes.

She just stood up, plopped in front of Hoshiko and said,

"Hey, Hoshi, how're you feeling? Here, let me deal with that ankle of yours."

And promptly gave Hoshiko a distraction as she took out some of her supplies to compress her ankle, pointedly ignoring "Mr. Samael's" presence but still kept an ear on Henry's conversation with Pyra.

"Don't know if you still remember me, but the name's Zainab Cadaceus. I like trinkets so I'd check with archaeologists and stuff," she said, lifting her hat in greeting. "I prefer Zaza though, so feel free to call me that if you want."

He could call it whatever insult or derision he wanted. The best way she found to deal with 'mons and people like him was to not give him any steam.

But then again he was one hell of a wild card of a demon. It might not work on him at all.

But hey, that was the thing about plans. The ones that worked were the ones that were flexible.



Shula Hernandez & Tyfrigo "Frost" Rex the BlackAgumon

Shula frowned as she looked over their team in the room.

To say the least, the sight made her heart ache.

They were all injured, it was likely whatever the Guardians had been doing in Greystone had failed, and they were no closer to being a tight knit, if not working, team. Shula heaved a heavy sigh. The only comfort she had was Frost staying close by her. He didn't need to say anything. She knew what he had to say, and he knew what she was thinking. As much as she wanted to comfort each and every one of them, she knew that wouldn't do much right now, or at least others were handling it. True, she could help Dinadan with the injured, and normally she would, but right now she felt she had something more important to do.

So she went to Henry and the newly introduced Pyra and sat by them, Frost wrapped in her arms and rested on her crossed legs.

"Mind if I listen in? I wanna know what happened before me and the ones I brought with me jumped in," Shula said, Frost nodding in agreement.
 

storymasterb

Knight of RPGs
Hoshiko Yukimura
Bunker, Chess Kingdom


“He asked me why humans leave bodies behind,” Hoshiko remembered. “Innocently. Curiously. Like a child. Not like you at all.”

“Oh, and that makes it better, of course. Sounds like he’s definitely in his right mind then,” Samael sneered sarcastically. “As naive as y’all are I’m sure someone not understandin’ that is cute or some sh*t.”

“At least a child has no malice in what they do and has the potential to be sorry if their actions harm others,” Okatsu said. “Your ilk know full well the harm you cause and you care not. Had I died because of your actions, Samael, I have no doubt you would still have carried on the same way. As nonchalant as you are now.”

Riiiight. Except you don’t really know that, do ya? I gave you a little stick to try an’ end our mission quicker, but big green an ’ugly wrecks an entire city and almost kills half the team and he’s ‘just a child’,” Samael snorted. “Someone’s biases are showing.”

Hoshiko didn’t speak a moment, looking at him even more coldly than before. Something dark and icy lurked behind her eyes. “Why did you decide to talk to me?” she asked. “You must have known we were hardly going to greet you with open arms and warm smiles after what you did to us.”

“Cus’ I’m bored,” Samael drawled with a shrug. “And because I’m sick of picking my guts up when the rest of y’all fail to carry yer own damn weight in this fight.”

And then, just as things were getting fun, who should plop herself down right in his way but some two-bit wannabe Gunslinger.

“Like a low-budget Tymaret,” Samael said. He wondered - for the briefest of moments - what had become of Tymaret and his other Gunslingers. Serra had mentioned them in passing…some sort of jab maybe? But he’d barely paid attention.

His grin spread. He’d have to look ‘em up. He was feeling all nostalgic now.

"Hey, Hoshi, how're you feeling? Here, let me deal with that ankle of yours. Don't know if you still remember me, but the name's Zainab Cadaceus. I like trinkets so I'd check with archaeologists and stuff," she said, lifting her hat in greeting. "I prefer Zaza though, so feel free to call me that if you want."

Samael leaned forward, lacing his fingers together. He leaned forward onto the table, watching the MagnaKidmon closely. His red eyes traced every movement. Okatsu stiffened when he leaned closer to Hoshiko, lips curling back to bare just a sliver of her fangs.

“Take yer time,” he drawled. “Don’t want her keelin’ over just as things were gettin’ good.”

“You are an animal and a beast,” the Justimon declared angrily, standing up suddenly. He pointed an accusatory finger at Samael. “Of the most vile sort.”

“I’m way worse than that, Shiny,” Samael sneered back. “So sit yer *ss down before ya pick a fight you’re not gonna win.”

“In defense of the innocent I would face down a villain like you without pause,” Justin declared.

“There ain’t no villains like me,” Samael drawled. “And yer tone is all wrong. You gotta find a way to fix it, or you’ll end up gettin’ gutted.”

Justin glared at him from behind his shining faceplate.

“See?” Samael said, turning back to Okatsu. “You and yer pet should take notes. All it takes is a word. Shiny there, he ain’t nothin’ - he can handle himself in a fight I can tell - but a word, that’s all it took to shut his yap.” He stood up from his seat. “I’m doin you a favor, kid. First class education.”

A grin split his face as he smiled down at them, with a strange, dark, knowing look gleaming in his eyes. Then he turned and stalked away.

“I don’t need to learn anything from you, nor am I here to amuse you,” Hoshiko muttered, voice dark and icy. That cold gleam still blazed in her eyes, before a blink buried it while she turned to Zainab. “Thank you… Zaza,” she murmured, letting the MagnaKidmon inspect her sprained ankle. She tried to grope back through the past to recall if she had met her before, but inwardly she seethed. Samael was gone but his shadow lingered, reminding her of a spike of pain driven through her chest. It still ached, even if Okatsu tried to hide how the wound still throbbed away.

She’d thought she hid her own thoughts well, yet somehow, infuriatingly, the demon had cut right to the quick. She tightened her grip on Okatsu as Zainab worked, her presence not as reassuring as it had once been. Maybe it was because her worries were so much greater now.

“You had good timing,” she said quietly, looking at the MagnaKidmon. “We would have been hard-pressed without you.”

-

James Reeve
Bunker, Chess Kingdom


“Rage is dangerous,” Artanis frowned. “We have seen that in evidence more than once, Svarog. Partners turned into monsters by it. Poisoned by hatred until their ire is turned upon everything they chance to see, friend and foe and bystander alike.”

James slowly nodded, admiring his partner’s conviction in that, yet finding Svarog’s words about righteousness uncomfortably close to the chest. “If there’s power to be found there, it’s the kind I’d only want to touch as a last resort,” he murmured. “Perhaps it’s reckless and foolish to think so, but I’m sure there’s another way. A harder way, maybe. A slower one. But a better one.”

“That one went beyond rage,” Svarog said, shaking his head. He chided them as it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Rage is not some…thing that drives you to rampage across the world. Rage is clear. Focused. What Stein found was something else.

Hate. I felt it all the way down in the bowels of Greystone, down to the very marrow of my god-bones,” he said. “I’ve never felt a thing like that before.”

“Would you shut the hell up!” the GrandisKuwagamon shouted from the nearby bed. “You and your wannabe…whatever-the-hell nonsense you’re spewin’. You sound just like the ’gods’ that got us into this mess in the first place.”

“I’d tell you to stand and say that to my face,” Svarog growled. “But from what I hear Lancelot hit you once and you’ve been down ever since. Smart of you to stay that way.”

“I’d stand but I wouldn’t want you to accidentally think I respected you,” the GrandisKuwagamon spat. “You sure do talk a lot for a guy in the same place as the rest of us. You must be some sort of demigod with the bull you’re spewin’. Son of who-gives-a-damn from who-cares-where.”

Svarog wheeled to the GrandisKuwagamon and shouted back, leaving James and Artanis as an afterthought.

James stared after him, looking between him and Khep. His gaze caught Samael striding away from Hoshiko across the room, his brow furrowing at that meeting. It wasn’t hard to tell that she hated the Beelzemon, not that he didn’t understand that either. It had been so much simpler when it was just him and the others, he mused. Before Matthew had died and reality had hammered it all home more than ever.

“Perhaps there is some meaning in what he says,” Artanis thought aloud. “Righteous rage surely exists. The mentors taught us that such was what our forefathers felt when they beheld the destruction wreaked by the ravenous swarm when they came to the land that would become Korshakal. Rage at the sight of injustice.” The Agumon listened for a moment as the Apollomon and GrandisKuwagamon traded words.

James’s eyes stayed on Hoshiko. A MagnaKidmon knelt by her, inspecting the ankle she’d twisted on their escape. He remembered carrying her with her arm over his shoulder, helping her hobble along. Something painful and ugly had been in her eyes when he helped her into a seat, before Okatsu jumped up into her lap anyway.

What was wrong with her?

“We’re fighting to protect people above all,” he said, looking down at his partner. “We agreed then, didn’t we?”

Artanis slowly nodded, not needing words. They both remembered after all. A desperate dive they’d known would end with their deaths. But they couldn’t leave Hoshiko and Okatsu. That wasn’t who they were, either of them. He wouldn’t pretend they’d expected to be saved by the Biomerge, and even if Lancelot had rendered it moot he still felt some small triumph. Finally they weren’t a burden. Finally they weren’t so helpless before the Royal Knights.

But still he wished that his words could have changed Greystone. That they’d sunk in like he’d dared to hope in that moment he stood before the Greymon.
 

TheSequelReturns

Faithful Crusader
- Aria Morningsong (BanchoLilimon) -
- Swanky Bunker -


“I dunno how you call that thing not* Stein, but what the hell else was it?” Serra asked. “He snapped my arms in half and cracked Tessa’s skull like an egg. That was Stein. If you want to pretend it wasn’t, that’s no help to any of us.

“Because everyone has their monster,” Serra continued. “Stein, Svarog, you, me. You really think there’s a difference between Stein and that Titamon? That was just the thing inside him, let loose.”

Aria rubbed her forehead. "Maybe you're right. Maybe that's all there is to it." She looked again at Stein, then back to Tessa where her gaze lingered. "Having anger is one thing. Harboring deep seated rage, or having a dark edge you keep hidden, that I understand. But I just can't reconcile the Boltmon who asked me to sing a song on the airship or who frets over Tessa's wellbeing with the monster that did that." She nodded towards the Wisemon.

She held an arm over her chest and squeezed her shoulder. Just standing her talking was already starting to tax her injuries. "That look in its eyes. There was no recognition there. No personality. Just two dark pools of hatred and emptiness. Too void to be a person, too hateful to be a beast. I've never seen anything like it."

She shook her head and turned to find who she was looking for. "Theo, you saw it too right? What do you think?"

“The brightest light casts the deepest shadows,” Serra said. “It’s as true for angels as it is for your ordinary Digimon. We’ve known Stein for a few days. That’s it. You’re looking for some greater meaning, some sort of hidden truth. It’s not there. Some people are just bad and really good at hiding it.”

Aria blinked. Damn, had it only been a few days? The attack on Camelot felt like a lifetime ago.

Theo turned stiffly to join the pair. He glanced at the Andromon with an unreadable expression. “I don’t know, Aria. I thought perhaps he recognized me for a moment, but I may have been wrong.” Theo carefully massaged his right arm and shoulder with a grimace. “However, there was a difference between what we witnessed from Stein in Glen Elendra and Greystone. One could make an argument for the amount of collateral damage from both battles, but the Stein from Glen Elendra did recognize his allies then. So what was different this time?”

The BlackWarGreymon shook his helm wearily, ‘but we aren’t likely to figure out any definite answers until Stein regains consciousness. I’ll reserve judgement until then.”.

There was more Aria wanted to say. A lot more. But it was all speculation and she was too tired to start a debate. “Given our shared concerns then,” she turned towards where Stein sat propped up in a chair. “Should we… restrain him? Just in case?”

“It would probably be prudent to do so, given the circumstances,” Theo said, grimly.

“What’re you going to restrain him with, some curtains? Bed sheets?” Serra scoffed. “You think anything we’ve got on hand right now is gonna be enough? Or did you miss how that thing tore through an entire city?”

“No, that’s not it.” Aria said. “I’m not talking about the Titamon. If we’re concerned he might turn into that… beast again without warning, then we’ve endangered everyone here just by bringing him along.”

Aria pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to keep the throbbing of her head at bay. “Even if he wakes up and he’s the normal, friendly Stein, we don’t know what he’ll remember or how he’ll react. At the very least, we should probably move him. I don’t think that,” Aria nodded towards Tessa, “should be the first thing he sees.”

“No, it shouldn’t,” Theo solemnly agreed. “ Tessa was the only one that made him pause for even a mere second in his destructive rampage. She saved my life. She has to mean a lot to him for that to have been possible.”

“We really need to consider the types of… allies we surround ourselves with,” Serra said. She made a point to not look at Samael as she did so. “Even if we can’t always trust each other at every moment, we need to at least be predictable… among one another.”

Serra gestured to Svarog, standing by James and Artanis. “I don’t really like that Apollomon - he tried to burn down my goddamn bar! But I know what he’s about. Same thing with Michael.” She nodded to where the archangel sat, deep in conversation, with Galic. “I’ve got a lot of problems with his kind, but I know we can depend on him when the fighting starts.”

Her eyes flickered briefly to Samael, all grinning teeth and sneers talking with Okatsu and Hoshiko, before settling back on Stein’s prone form. “But…Stein,” she sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “What the hell is he? And what the hell are we supposed to do with him now?”

“Wait and see,” Theo sighed, swaying ever so slightly on his weary feet, “Provided he doesn’t lash out upon waking and bring the roof down over us. Question him for answers.”

Aria shook her head. “I don’t know. Tessa probably knows him better than any of us, but even she seemed surprised by the Titamon form. We’d need someone with her level of coding expertise to run an analysis on him as it is, so unless anyone has a better idea I think we’re stuck until Tessa wakes up.”

She sighed. “For the time being, I think we need to consider him a threat until proven otherwise.”

“The smart thing would be to kill ‘im now and save yourself the trouble later,” Samael said, sliding up next to them, almost appearing out of thin air. Serra hissed audibly, her eyes went wide and wild with a mix of surprise and fury. “No guarantee we’d be able to kill ‘im once he wakes up and starts wrecking the place.”

“No one asked you,” Serra snarled. “And if we’re eliminating threats you’d be first in line.”

“Eh,” Samael shrugged. “I’d be second in line, much as I hate to admit it. That big green dork smashed y’all up way worse than anything I did.”

Serra glared at him, then fixed Theo and Aria with a somewhat less-scathing look. “Fine. Do whatever you want.” Then she stalked off.

Samael shrugged again. “Man, she used to be fun.” He stood silently for another few seconds, his eyes scanning the room, before he moved away, weaving through the others in the room like a black snake.

Theo gripped his aching shoulder, before glancing down at Aria, speaking more softly, “You did well out there, get some rest.” The old dragon looked at the unconscious Tessa, a grimace of guilt flashed over his features briefly.

Aria’s hand tightened into a fist. “Yeah, I did.”

Her eyes scanned over the room, and the assortment of misfits and rogues and blowhards that filled it. “You ever wonder how many of us actually care about stopping the Knights?” she said to Theo, if only because he was the only one still there to hear it. “Cause it's starting to feel like we’re more likely to kill each other than anyone else.”

“Yes,” Theo rumbled in agreement, “it ranks up there with the question, “Do we stand a chance against the Knights?” He glanced towards the exhausted tamers and their partners. “That’s why I remind myself of who has the most to lose. To keep fighting, despite any despair or uncertainty.”

"The one with the most to lose is always yourself." Aria said. "Fighting for the sake of others? That's great motivation. But when it comes down to it, your own life is always what matters most. When you're at your limit, real strength comes from your own will refusing to budge. Not from words or feelings or any sense of 'what's right'."

"You struggle because you doubt. You doubt because you fear. The sooner you strangle that fear and refuse to bend your will, the sooner you'll find the strength to carry your own weight."

Aria turned as if to walk away, but stopped for a moment longer. "Because if today proved anything, it's that we do stand a chance against the Knights. The only question is what price we're willing to pay to beat them."

-+-+-+-


- Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) -
- Chessmon Bunker -


“And that’s the half of it.” Henry said as he finished his summary of the battle. “To summarize: We went there to parley, and the king’s treachery pulled the wind out of our sails. We tried to keep it under control but Lancelot’s arrival and Stein’s bloodrage just threw fuel on the fire. I’m afraid there isn’t much left of Greystone. Or its king, for that matter.”

Pyra’s mouth was in a hard line. “Greystone has fallen?”

“I’m afraid so.” Henry said. “And I’d bet solid coin that the survivors are galvanized against us. The Knights had set themselves up in the perfect position to blame us for the devastation.”

“It shouldn’t have escalated that far. How did-”

Henry raised a hand and interrupted. “In my defense, Greystone was not on my map until a certain someone put it there. My opportunities to actually lead this group have been few and far between. If it wasn’t for Micahel’s trust in me we’d still be following Thor’s whims wherever they might carry us.”

“And you think you are more qualified than Lord Thor to lead your group?” she asked.

“Well, Greystone would still be standing if they had taken my advice.” Henry shrugged. “But I’m not here to argue over fool’s gold.”

Pyra sighed. “No, I suppose not. I hate to say it but we fared no better against Sir Lancelot than you did.” A look crossed her face that made Henry raise an eyebrow. She looked downright ashamed, but it faded quickly. “Meletis was…”

“Did your crew make it out in one piece?” Henry asked.

“Mostly.” Pyra glanced towards a Superstarmon across the room. “No permanent injuries at least.”

“Then you did well, especially if Lancelot was involved.”

“Perhaps.” Pyra said. She paused for a moment. “Leading any group seems to be a difficult task. Especially one with so many volatile personalities.”

“You have no idea.” Henry muttered. He cleared his throat. “But back to business. You mentioned Meletis? How did the city fare?”

Pyra sighed. “Not well.”

Henry nodded. “Seems to be a pattern. I think it might be best if we avoid fighting the Knights in cities if we must. The collateral damage hurts our morale as much as it rallys the citizens to their cause. I’d almost wager that was their entire plan from the beginning.”

“A surprisingly astute observation.”

“I’m a pirate, lass.” Henry grinned. “Running a galleon takes more intellect than we get credit for.”

“Have you had any news from the other Peacemakers?”

“The last time we saw any of them was on the train back from Glen Elendra. The QueenChessmon’s group I believe.”

“They were faring well?”

Henry crossed his arms. “About as well as any of us I reckon.”

“Fair enough. Any other recent news?”

“We did run into some… interesting tamers up near Valeron.” Henry said. “Been here a while I think. Strong fellows too. They’ve built quite the little settlement up there.”

Pyra seemed a bit taken aback. “What of the council’s plan to relocate the tamers to Axis Mundi?”

“They didn’t bite.” Henry laughed. “In fact, I respect their decision quite a bit. They have a life there they want to protect. And any chance we had of negotiating was ruined the moment Thor started barking orders anyway. They did offer their aid though, so it wasn’t a completely empty haul we got for our trouble.”

Pyra looked like she was trying not to bite her lip. “You don’t seem very fond of Lord Thor.”

Henry laughed. “Don’t get me wrong lass, he’s a decent fellow. His heart is in the right place, it's his head that gets him into trouble if you ask me.”

“Still, I think a certain measure of respect is due.”

Henry laughed to himself. “You haven't met many pirates have you? Respect is not a currency we tend to trade in.”

The Paildramon didn’t seem convinced, so Henry dismissed the topic with a wave of his hand. “In any case, I think we’ve been caught up. And I’m still curious as to why we’re holed up in a bunker.”

For a moment, Pyra looked like she still had something to say, but she shook her head and turned towards where Michael and Galic were standing. “That may be best covered with the others.”

“A good point.” Henry motioned towards the table. “After you.”

Pyra held up a hand. “I’ll be over shortly. I need a word with Lord Thor first.”

The pirate nodded and made his way over to the table where Michael, Galic and Theo were already talking.
 
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Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
Theo Grayson (BlackWarGreymon)
Hidden Bunker


"You struggle because you doubt. You doubt because you fear. The sooner you strangle that fear and refuse to bend your will, the sooner you'll find the strength to carry your own weight."

Aria turned as if to walk away, but stopped for a moment longer. "Because if today proved anything, it's that we do stand a chance against the Knights. The only question is what price we're willing to pay to beat them."


Despite himself and his growing exhaustion, Theo couldn’t help but grin slightly in approval at the flowermon’s change in attitude. She was right, regardless of the apparent stalemate and flight from Greystone, the Guardians were slowly closing the gap between them and the Knights. He just needed to believe it himself more.

For a brief second, Theo closed his right fist tightly as though holding a greatsword, remembering its weight in his- no their claws. He remembered the hours of practice he -they- put in to master it. The burning blaze within his core surged through his body-

A warm hand rested lightly against his black-scaled calf, snapping Theo back to reality. He glanced down to his side, expecting a brown-headed young man to be standing there. Instead, Andrea’s concerned eyes met his own as she held a dazed Deneb in her arms.

“You okay?” Andrea asked. Theo could tell she wanted to say more, but he vaguely recalled Kyle mentioning that his sister tended to clam up when there was a crowd of strangers around. The Guardians were one thing, but the rest of the Peacemakers were probably a bit much.

Nonetheless, he was touched by her concern despite her own weariness.

“I’m doing better,” Theo said to reassure the young woman and allow her to tend to her partner’s needs instead. Andrea nodded, satisfied for now, though he knew they would have to talk in private at some point.

Theo grimaced as he was reminded of his own injured state, though Michael’s efforts on the shuttle had been a tremendous help. Speaking of which, he noticed the Arch Angel approaching the table where a MachGaogamon was reviewing a map of the continent. He walked with a sway over in their direction.

Michael acknowledged Pyra and Henry with a nod and damn-near collapsed into a seat at the table where the MachGaogamon and Justimon were reviewing a holographic map. He was holding his Ultimate form only because he was so accustomed to it. Any other angel would have fully reverted at this point.

“It sooehnds like you 'ad yooehr fair share o' defficoehlty dis time arooehnd,” the MachGaogamon - Galic, Pyra had introduced - said. It took Michael a moment to wrap his head around the thick accent. It sounds Iike you’ve had your fair share of difficulty this time around. He stepped away from the map and offered Michael a pitcher of iced water and a glass.

Michael took it graciously and poured himself a glass. He winced at how shaky his hands were. He nodded his thanks.

“You, too, mester dragahn,” Galic said, offering a glass to Theo. “You bot look like you've been throoehgh 'ell and back.”

“Despite the ironic connotations of saying that to an archangel, you aren’t far off,” Michael murmured. He stared into his glass for a moment. “We have been woefully unprepared this entire time.”

“If it makes you feel any better, i don’t dink any o' oehs 'ave been fully prepared fahr what we've decided to do,” said Galic. “If a tragedy is shared it's 'alf a cahnsolation. Dat's what me people 'ave always said.”

“I don’t think the people of Kaladesh and Greystone would share that sentiment,” Michael said darkly.

“Ah. best naht den,” Galic sighed."Boeht we're alive. All o' oehs. Despite deir best efforts. Even when you lose you can learn. Dat counts fahr sahmethin, right?"

“So long as you can make those losses count,” Theo said, dropping with a heavy thunk into a chair. He rubbed his face tiredly with a clawed hand, exhaustion hung from his shoulders. He stared at an empty glass wistfully, “There wouldn’t happen to be any spirits in this bunker would there? I’d find that more helpful at the moment.” He gestured to the shoulder he was favoring.

"I'm sure you would, but dat'll only make dings wahrse. A strahng tea, maybe, if only I 'ad any o' me travelin soehpplies still wit me," Galic said, looking longingly over at the stove and the unused kettle sitting on it.

“Making the losses count is a fine sentiment,” Michael murmured, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He’d removed his winged helm and faceplate, and his pale golden eyes glowed weakly. “But the only thing I fear we’re counting is casualties.”

“You can count Greysvald among those casualties.” Theo sighed, finally caving in and pouring himself a glass of cool water with his good arm. “You-know-who killed him during my fight.” Theo mentioned this cryptedly so as not to alarm Galic.

Michael sighed, damnit. He’d sent Samael to make a pathway out specifically to avoid that kind of scenario. If he could direct Samael towards a specific task, he thought he’d be less likely to just start killing.

“I should’ve anticipated that,” Michael said. “‘Cut off the head of the snake,’ that’s always been the most direct approach. And Samael knows this.”

“Greystone won’t recover from this battle,” the BlackWarGreymon pulled the map on the table closer to him. “The surviving forces will likely be absorbed into the Royal Knight ranks.”

“That will at least take them time,” Michael murmured. Time to let them figure out how to proceed, because their current path was only ending in disaster.

"It sounds like you've got trouble wit your team." Galic said, turning his eyes to the Guardians scattered around the room. His brogue was becoming easier to understand. "You might need to decide whether you want dis Samael character watchin your back if you can't rely on 'im to fahllow directions."

“Watching my back is the last place I want Samael,” Michael said.

"Den i 'ave to ask why you 'ave someone like dat fightin beside you at all," Galic said.

“I’ve wondered that myself.” Theo muttered, looking towards Michael. “Unlike most of us, I can’t imagine he volunteered. In that case he was sent and I would like to know why.”

“The Host of Heaven has a vested interest in seeing that the Tamers are protected,” Michael said, settling comfortably into his seat. “I don’t know exactly how it’s done - it’s beyond my sphere of influence - but we select humans to become Tamers in hopes of bringing the prophesized Digidestined into our world and heralding an age of peace and light.” There was an unwelcome clinical tone in his voice, one that he hadn’t verbalized before, as if - for the first time - the words meant nothing to him and were just a story instead of his dogma.

“Samael has…” he struggled to find a tactful term. “Red in his ledger,” is what he settled on. “He’d like to wipe it out. The way I see it, he figures if he does this, if he safeguards the arrival of the Digidestined…maybe that puts him in the black.”

“By any means necessary, I suppose then,” Theo said with an edge. “I just can’t see how his methods would be met with approval by your leaders if...redemption…” Theo honestly had a hard time putting that word together with Samael. “...is what he seeks.”

“God works in mysterious ways; sometimes even violent ones,” Michael admitted; without really saying much. “Safeguarding the Digidestined is as high a calling as there has ever been. It is of no less importance than the defeat of the Demon Lords. What are ‘methods’ in the face of such cosmic events?”

“Those affected by them.” Theo muttered to himself, gesturing with a claw to change the subject. “I’ve heard the theories about the DigiDestined actually being human. Even in the early days when I was still a soldier in the Knight’s ranks, there was much unease regarding tamers. I wonder if it is possible the Knight’s were considering the potential of it, aside from the fact we didn’t know much about them at the time.”

“I’ve often wondered the same,” Michael admitted. “For those who have fought for and protected this world for so long…” he sounded weary. “The notion that it all could end…that your purpose, the thing you’ve given your life to and the life of everyone that has come before you, could be at an end…” He collected himself and straightened. “I imagine it is hard to be adrift. To feel obsolete.”

“It’s...hard to redefine yourself.” Theo said slowly, twirling the empty glass idly in a claw. “My…,” Theo hesitated for a moment, then continued, “partner and I had originally planned to re-enlist together in the ranks to try and change the organization from the inside to help eliminate any misconceptions and improve tamer acceptance within Saga.” Theo closed his eyes in pain. “But he was too-damn- young for me to drag him into that life in good conscience. Not without more experience.”

"You served wit de Royal Knights, den?" Galic asked.

“Over 20 years,” Theo said. “I didn’t have many other prospects when I was of age and the Royal Knights rarely turned away potential greymon recruits.”

"Does your experience wit dem lend you any insight to what deir larger plan might be?" Galic asked.

“Beyond removing all humans?” Michael asked.

"Well dat seems like a nebulous sort o' goal, doesn't it?" Galic asked. "You said yourself, de Host sends selects humans to become tamers. Is dis just de first part o' some endless campaign? Do de Royal Knights eventually wage war against de Host directly?"

“It’s a troubling thought,” Michael murmured. “On a military level, if the cost of sending humans to our world is too high, one would expect the Host to relent.”

"Remembar; dis isn't just a military mission fahr de Host," said Galic. "Dis is dogma. De fate o' de wahrld, if dat's to be believed.” He looked at Michael. "Of a war -- real war -- comes to dem, dey'll fight to de last mon standin, no?"

Michael's grave look was all the reply they needed.

“How much about the human world does the Host actually know, Lord Michael?” Theo inquired.

“It has never been my arena,” Michael admitted. “The ‘Hand of God,’” he said with a strange resignation. “I am the tip of the spear. Not a priest or a missionary. But I suppose they knew at least enough to interact with their technology and call the Tamers to our world. The rest we’ve all learned from the humans themselves.”

“I... had often helped my boy with his history homework, so I have a general idea,” Theo explained, though he was more reluctant to say the next bit, “The humans have a long history of war. The Knights may fear a future war as more tamers reach adulthood, especially since humans have an unpredictable effect on digimon.

The BlackWarGreymon gestured to himself, “I’m over 50 years old, but sometimes I feel like I’m back in my 30’s.”

“This is new ground for us all,” Michael said. "Humans carry within them staggering potential. For ruin, yes. But their potential for creation, their capacity to hope and persevere…that is all no less than our own."

“Gods above you're bot so dramatic," Galic rolled his eyes. "Dat talk o' potential is well and good but you're both lookin at things the wrong way,” Galic said. “Galahad isn't gettin caught up in deir potential one way or another. 'e's made up 'is mind already." He looked Michael over. “Once those tamers are gone, can dey be brought back?”

“Not likely, or the Host would not have taken such measures to ensure Galahad is stopped,” Michael surmised.

"That bein’ da case, do de Royal Knights eventually wage war against de Host?” Galic wondered, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “And de Council? And every kingdom and realm dat disagrees? And de humans’ entire world?”

“No,” Theo said, eyes narrowing in thought, “If they simply couldn’t push back the humans to Analog, then they’d simply go to the source rather than risk further war in Saga. Three cities have already been destroyed. But they would need a method or a gateway similar to how the Tamers travel to our world and theirs. Tamer devices as far as I know only allow for that individual’s travel. How might one construct a gate big enough to send an army to another world?”

"You know deir capabilities best, I'd say. But do you really think dat's deir play?" Galic asked. "I'm not sayin i know de answer either. But I’ve got a nose for dis stuff. We -- all o' us -- need to change de way we're thinkin about dis fight. Because we’re missin somethin big.

"You can't go to war wit an entire world. Not when you'd 'ave to still fight in dis one," said Galic.

“No…” Theo muttered to himself, deep in thought as he studied the holographic map more closely. “There is one thing that does concern me though. Kaladesh and Glen Elendra are in ruins, so there are no longer any ally forces to provide a deterant between Axis Mundi and Royal Knight advancing forces and their allies.”

“Nothin but space,” Galic agreed. “But it’s a long March to Axis Mundi just to fight de Council and deir armies on deir own turf.”

“The Council made that mistake once. The Royal Knights have an elite force, but not on that scale; to wage war across the continent,” Michael acknowledge with a nod. “We should have Henry and Pyra here for this, to figure what our next steps should be.”
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Thor Odinson >
Chess Kingdom


Thor sat quietly as the Guardians and Peacemakers spoke all around him. He’d tried focusing on one or two conversations but found his mind wandering, unable to hold a single focus for very long. He’d done it, again; and once again only in a time of great need. He’d called upon the White Sword to vanquish his foes. But unlike every other time, this one found him wanting. Lancelot had withstood his onslaught and won.

He couldn’t even pretend it was because he was tired from his battle with the Greymon - Lancelot had fought at least as severe a battle with Svarog. But not only had Lancelot defeated the sun god, not only had he defeated Thor - he’d defeated the White Sword itself. And then gone to thrash everyone else.

Thor couldn’t stop his mind from racing, from wondering just how it had gone so wrong, so backwards. He’d never doubted the White Sword’s power before. It had always been so absolute in his mind; and every time he wielded the Paladin Mode that certainty only grew. But there were limits to that power. Obviously.

The most obvious was the existence of the Royal Knights in the first place. If Odin Borson could vanquish any foe with the power of the White Sword and the Paladin Mode, what need would there be for Royal Knights? What need would there be for the armies of Asgard; for the Valkyries, for the Einherjar? What need would there have been for him to take up the sword at all?

The power was not absolute. He knew that now, more than just theoretically. There were clear limits to the power, clear limits to the way he had wielded it; and if the Guardians were going to stop failing so spectacularly he would have to learn how to rely on more than just his father’s power.

Serra’s sudden presence in his field of vision. She dropped angrily into the seat beside him, her arms folded tightly across her chest. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead, all but burning a hole through Samael. The demon flashed her a razor-sharp grin, then rolled his eyes and turned away. Thor didn’t think it was possible, but her frown deepened.

“I hate him,” she muttered under her breath, still not taking her eyes off the demon. “I hate that he’s here. I hate that I’m here. I hate that he won’t leave. That I - for whatever goddamn reason - won’t leave either.”

“He’s an instigator,” Thor nodded the demon’s way and scoffed and his continued display of sharp-toothed disdain for everyone around him. “My brother is the same way. He needs to be the center of attention, twist everything around him; the more it riles people up, the better.”

“Samael doesn’t care if you’re riled up, he just wants you afraid,” Serra said.

“Afraid?”

“He needs everyone around him to know that he could kill them, and then go right back to poking and prodding and needling the next person,” Serra almost spat.

“Do you really think, in this room, that anyone would let him do that?” Thor asked her. His brow creased.

“And get away with it? No,” Serra admitted. Her eyes narrowed slightly. “But do you really think anyone could stop him before he did?”

“You have history then,” Thor said. It wasn’t a question, though he left it open for her to turn down.

“Yeah,” her answer was curt, and almost seething. Thor could hear the venom dripping in her voice. “When I…left Heaven he found me. The Host hadn’t…hadn’t called on him for years. Maybe he was restless, maybe he was bored, but he took me in.”

That was the absolute last thing Thor had expected to hear.

“They would have hunted me down and killed me if he hadn’t shown me how to…” she seemed to struggle to find the words. “I didn’t fall, not like him. But I was out…and he showed me how to sever myself from Paradise.”

“That seems oddly uncharacteristic…of both parties,” Thor offered. Though to be honest, he’d had precious little interactions with angels - fallen or otherwise.

“You’d think,” Serra muttered.

“What changed in him?” Thor asked.

“Nothing,” Serra spat. “He just got bored with us, too.”

“‘Us’?” Thor asked. But Serra shook her head. Her eyes hadn’t left Samael the entire time. There was something about her, that kind of wild fury, that fascinated him. She was wholly unpredictable, like a downed wire sparking and whipping through the air.

“And why don’t you leave?” Thor asked her. He drew himself up and turned to her, trying to pull her attention from Samael. Half for her sanity, and half for his own selfish vanity. “You were pulled into this fight. You have a choice.”

“You’re right,” she said, turning to him. “I do have a choice.” Her eyes bore into him, glowing a while sunset pink, and he half feared that she would stand up and leave. “And I’m choosing to try and be more than what that b*stard tried to turn me into.”

“You are,” Thor said, though he found his voice wavering; still struck by the vibrancy of her stare. Her gaze softened, and she shook her head sadly. So he gathered himself, and said, more insistently, “You are. You’ve saved my life more than anyone else here; maybe more than anyone else anywhere.”

Thor realized then how close they were to one another. “You chose this fight. No one summoned you, or ordered you to fight, but you’re here,” he said.

“Maybe I want payback,” she said, glancing away from him. “For burning down my distillery in Glen Elendra.”

“You’re smart enough to know better,” Thor said. She was trying to find ways to cut herself down. “You could have helped us in Glen Elendra for that reason and then been done with it. You could have put us up in your inn that night out of camaraderie and been done with it. And no one in the world would have thought less of you. But you didn’t.”

Thor placed his hand over hers. “You’re better than you give yourself credit for,” he said. “And that’s why you’re so torn. You’re already more than what Samael tried to make you.”

Serra cut him off. “You don’t know what he - ”

“I don’t need to,” Thor said. “I just need to see that you’re torturing yourself; knowing that you and he are in the same place, fighting on the same side. And you’re wondering how you could possibly be anything else except what he tried to make you if you’re here fighting alongside him. But the reason you haven’t run screaming from this place - ”

“Really, ‘screaming’?”

“It's because you’re already more than that, and you’ve refused to allow yourself to admit it.”

Serra looked into his eyes for a long, drawn out moment, then sighed; and all the tension seemed to leave her shoulders.

“This is a terrible idea,” she said, though it sounded more like she was speaking to herself.

“What is?” Thor asked. Serra glanced down to their hands, where their fingers had found themselves interwoven. He didn’t know why, or when the thought had first occurred, but he had expected her hands to be soft and gentle. Instead they were hard and strong. Fighter’s hands. He imagined they smelled like gunpowder and whiskey.

“Ah,” he said. He fought the urge to smile. Her eyes sparkled with the same restraint.

“It’s just…” she fought herself for words. “How many times were we gonna fight together before this happened? That’s all it is.”

“Maybe,” Thor admitted. “But I’ve lived a long time and fought beside many Digimon.” He didn’t say the rest, but let the implication hang in the air. This is different.

“I’m a novelty,” she said. Cutting herself down again. Thor couldn’t figure out why that upset him. “I’m different and new. For what it’s worth, so are you - but that’s all this would be. A distraction.”

“Maybe,” Thor said again. Maybe not..

“I don’t need distractions. I don’t need novelty,” Serra said. Her eyes flickered to Samael and then back to him. “You get bored with those. You go from novelty to novelty, until nothing means anything anymore.”

“Doesn’t sound much like me,” Thor said.

“Didn’t say it was you,” Serra said.

Thor nodded and loosened his fingers. Serra did the same and drew them away. Slowly.

“It’s not a good idea,” Serra said again. Thor fought a smile. She was trying hard.

“Maybe,” he said again.

She pursed her lips and wrinkled her nose. “Now you’re just making fun of me.”

“Never,” Thor smirked.

“Looks like you learned more from your brother than you thought,” Serra shot back playfully.

“That cuts deep.”

“Ha,” Serra laughed sarcastically. He smiled despite himself. What was it about her that he found himself so drawn to? They settled into a moment of comfortable quiet.

“Lord Thor?” Pyra the Paildramon stepped forward. “Might I have a moment of your time?”

“That’s my out,” Serra said with a grin. She stood with a nod to Pyra and a wink to Thor, and swayed off. She just couldn’t help herself.

Pyra stood awkwardly for a moment. “Sorry. I - uh…didn’t mean to…”

Thor waved her off, and then stood to greet her. “Pyra, was it?” he asked. “Of…”

“Valeron,” she said, standing straighter.

Lady Pyra, then,” Thor acknowledged, he inclined his head ever-so-slightly, in deference to Valeron’s customs, while also acknowledging himself as a prince of another realm.

Pyra bristled, noticeably fighting a frown, but bowed deeper. Thor struggled to remember the Valerian customs and etiquette, but that had never been his forte.

“Perhaps Syr Pyra is more appropriate?” Thor said, finally remembering the Valerian rank of knighthood.

“I have never been knighted,” Pyra admitted, and a flush of embarrassment colored her face.

“Oh,” Thor felt the tension in the air, awkwardly hanging between them. “But yet, here you stand.”

Pyra glanced to the bed, where the GrandisKuwagamon lay, then looked over to Samael. “I don’t know if any of this helps my chances,” she said, and then said softer, “This is not of the Way.”

She looked at him once more. “It’s just…you’re an Imperialdramon,” she said.

“I am.”

“And you’ve mastered the Fighter Mode.”

“There’s a nuance to that statement, but for your purpose; yes.”

“I need to know how you did it,” Pyra said, and Thor heard the desperation in her voice. Fear. “I’m stuck as the Dragon. It’s a wild beast. I can’t control it. Or fight with it. It’s just - ”

“It’s none of those things, Syr Pyra,” Thor said, stopping her before she lost herself to her anxiety. “The Dragon Mode doesn’t come from somewhere else. It’s not an other that takes hold when you Digivolve. It’s you.”

“It’s not,” she said through gritted teeth.

“It is,” Thor said again.

“I’m not a feral,” she bristled.

“No, and neither is the Dragon,” Thor said. “But its instincts are more vibrant. Its emotions, stronger. It’s more averse to feeling constrained. Anyone else might have some trouble adapting to it, but you’ve spent your entire life practicing control, practicing measured action and reaction. So that part of you wants to fight free that much harder when you take that form.

“The forms beyond what you have now require balance,” Thor said, reflecting on his own lessons. “You can fight it if you wish, but that will only take you down darker and more destructive paths.”

“Are you speaking from experience?” she asked.

Thor thought for a moment, weighing how to answer. “I was not always worthy,” he said. “That was my struggle; yours is something else. But until you accept it, the next step will elude you. You’ll never win a fight against yourself.”

“And the Paladin Mode?” Pyra asked. “What does that require?”

Thor smiled sadly, and glanced down at his own black-armored form. “I wish I knew how to answer that,” he said. He was silent a moment more, as he considered the words he’d just spoken to her. “But…I suspect the same holds true for it as well.”

He thought Pyra might say something in reply, but there was a sudden commotion between Svarog and the GrandisKuwagamon. She let out a heavy sigh.

“I’ll deal with this.”

==\=/==

< Svarog Rodsyn >

“Ah for everyone’s sake just shut up already,” the GrandisKuwagamon, Khep, groaned. “We get it, you’re loud and you talk like a cartoon, get over yourself.”

“You talk a lot for a Digimon who still hasn’t managed to shake off a fight,” Svarog growled. “Were you planning on sleeping here until the battles were over? Maybe hoping the rest of us would do the fighting for you?”

“Screw you, Redbeard, you’ve been getting your *ss kicked the same as me or you wouldn’t be here,” Khep snapped.

“I fought Lancelot on my own,” Svarog growled. “With my own power. With my own two hands. And I left the fight standing on my own feet, not carried across the continent like an invalid.”

“Yeah. Big mon, walked away from a fight,” Khep rolled his eye.

“I’ll still take that over being carried,” Svarog gnashed his teeth. “When everyone else had fallen to Lancelot I was still standing. My power put an end to the Royal Knights’ mad dog and his rampage. As it has always been. Svarog, son of Iroas Rod, god of war—“

“Oh, so you think you’re a god,” Khep scoffed. “That explains a lot.”

“I am the first and only true-blooded son of Iroas Rod,” Svarog snarled. “I was old before your forefathers were even born, and I will live to see the memory of even those who buried and forgot you fade away.”

“You do sound like a cartoon,” Khep rolled his eye again. “And, again, you’re still hiding in this bunker like the rest of us lowly mortals. So excuse me, your highness, if I don’t grovel at your feet and fall down in worship.”

“I would have won!” Svarog roared, and the room fell silent for a moment. “I had him; I had all of them. I could hear his heart hammering in his chest. I could smell Gawain’s fear in the burning winds. I would have put down that dog and brought us that much closer to victory if the rest hadn’t been so close and defenseless.”

“Speakin on behalf o' dahgs everywhere, i'd ask naht to be lumped in wit dat knight, please,” said the MachGaogamon, Galic, if Svarog remembered correctly. “I 'eard what 'appened in Greystone - what you ded; it was right impressive. And maybe you could’ve won, i'm naht one to argue wit a Mon who knows 'is own capabilities. But imagine de cost. What would be left in your wake?

“Greystone was already in ruins,” Svarog said.

“Big surprise, god leaving only destruction behind him,” Khep muttered.

“Yes, i 'eard. But think o' de Digimon. 'ow many were already lost and 'ow many more would’ve joined dem. Me people never fahllowed de gods strictly, but your father was de god o' valor, no?”

“My father has been dead a thousand years,” Svarog said, but he was already beginning to understand Galic’s point.

“You probably sucker-punched him in a bar fight, too,” Khep spat.

“Ah, so your attitude is all because I beat you and got you thrown in jail,” Svarog mused. “You’re just a sore loser.”

“Oh that’s it!” Khep snarled, he rose from the bed in a stiff, jerky motion, angry but still encumbered by his injuries. Svarog smirked - this would be too easy.

“Both of you put it away!” Pyra shouted. “I’m not letting either of you blow our cover so you can try to figure out whose is bigger.” She glared at Khep. “You’re healed enough to argue, you can be healed enough to help out with scouting or planning our next moves.”

“Yeah, I’m not really the planning or scouting type,” Khep waved her off.

“Oh I think you’re gonna learn to be,” Pyra said. “Otherwise our next stop is that Bogarden supermax.”

Khep grumbled to himself, then rolled his neck and shoulders. “Whatever,” he said, and without another look he stalked after Pyra over to the room’s central table where Michael, Theo, and Justin were still sitting. Galic gave Svarog a polite bow before joining them.

Children. The lot of them.

==\=/==

< Samael Cain >

Samael watched them with blood-red eyes. A whole bunch of bleedin’ heart idiots. They were all going to get each other killed; him, too, if he wasn’t careful. The knights would find a way to gank one of ‘em, then the rest would stumble all over each other crying about it ‘till they were next. And then he’d be left, on his own, against however many Royal Knights he hadn’t killed yet at that point.

Not the odds he wanted to deal with.

“Gonna need more than just a ‘plan’ if ya wanna not get yer asses kicked next time,” Samael grumbled, just loudly enough for the group sitting around the table to hear him.

“What is it with you guys and pretending you didn’t get stomped just as hard as we did?” Khep demanded, turning around in his seat to glare at Samael with his big ol’ dumb single eye.

Samael slid up to the table, poured himself a glass of whatever they were drinking and took a seat.

“First of all, don’t lump me in with these idiots,” he said. He took a swig of the drink. “Gah! This booze tastes terrible.” He took another few test swigs.

“It’s water,” Michael murmured, not taking his eyes from the holographic map in front of them.

“What!? Ugh!” Samael wretched and spit out a mouthful of water. “F*cking warn me next time. Hell kinda s*x dungeon doesn’t have booze?”

“This is a bunker, not a s*x dungeon,” Pyra said, blanching. There was a split second flash of embarrassment coloring her features.

“Look, lady, I’ve been to a lot of both, and let me tell ya, you don’t put a bunch of four-poster beds, swanky furniture, and fireplace mood lighting in a bunker,” Samael said. Behind Pyra, Khep chortled under his breath.

“Hardly looks like a dungeon to me,” Pyra countered.

“Been to a couple, eh?” Khep offered. Pyra glared at him. Samael grinned.

“Yeah, I figured this place’d be just your speed, all prim and vanilla and not a pair of restraints or whips in sight,” Samael teased.

“Samael,” Michael admonished.

“I figured that’s why you were blushing so hard.” Samael ignored Michael.

“I’m not blushing,” Pyra protested, but of course, this just made her blush deepen. “If you’re done interrupting and distracting us, I—”

“You know her gauntlets actually extend into these weird cable things, right?” Khep pointed out. He tapped a metal cuff around his left wrist. “She’s also got control over my inhibitor.”

“Oh sh*t, my bad, you’ve got some kink in ya after all,” Samael smirked. He nodded to Khep. “And look at you bein’ all confrontational when your dom’s her finger on your zap button. Y’all are weirder than I gave you credit for.”

By this time, Pyra’s face was burning.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Khep’s face soured. “I love being all tied up.” He glanced over to Pyra. “Maybe I’d heal faster if you turned this thing off.” He wiggled his wrist.

“No I think you’re doing just fine,” Pyra snapped. “So if you’re done wasting time you can either help or go out on patrol and see if Dunk and Azur are on their way back.”

“Rude,” Khep muttered. He looked at Samael. “Okay, so what’s ‘second’ then?”

“Eh?”

“You said ‘first, don’t lump me in’ or whatever,” Khep said. “What’s second?”

Samael shrugged. “Who gives a sh*t?”
 
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