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Digimon: Unholy Crusade

Discussion in 'Role-Playing Games' started by Kamotz, Jan 15, 2016.

  1. Kamotz

    Kamotz God of Monsters

    < Thor Odinson (Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode) >
    - Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature -


    Thor let the White Sword slip from his grasp and return to wherever it chose to reside. He forced himself to remain standing despite everything his body was screaming to him. Glen Elendra continued burning around him, but the pressing danger of the Royal Knights was, at least for the moment, passed. The real question at this point became what to do with the dead. He had heard rumors that the Royal Knights had caused unnecessary human deaths. But this was clearly different. Lamorak had not intended to kill those children, as evidenced by his catatonic nature after the fact.

    "Michael, we need to continue the evacuation," Thor said, his voice strained. Even as he spoke he was trying to pool his strength for his next act of power, but the control kept slipping. With the sword he finally felt real again, and powerful -- but the world felt fragile. Now, without the sword, he felt the reverse. That the world was real and powerful, but he was unraveling.

    Michael nodded, stepping over to each of the Guardians, placing a hand on them one by one and reenergizing them with a small burst of healing energy. Michael wasn't a healer, that much he'd made clear, but he could get them back on their feet.

    The Digimon, at least. Humans he couldn't heal.

    With a grimace, Thor reached inward and grasped at what he was looking for. The skies above Glen Elendra darkened and downpoured. He gasped, straining to catch his breath. He'd never had so much difficulty summoning a simple storm before.

    "Turn off the damn water," Svarog snarled, rising out of the crater. Raindrops sizzled against his skin and shrouded him in wisps of steam.

    "The hell did those other knights come from?" Samael snarled, limping forward from the treeline. He waved off Michael's offer of healing, and Thor could already see glowing red-and-black flames knitting his wounds together. "I thought we left those dumbdumbs back in Kaladesh."

    "Evidently, they followed you," said the BelleStarmon that had fought beside Thor against Lamorak. She, too, walked briskly past Michael. Thor had seen Tessa attempt to heal her during the fight...or had he? He was completely focused on his duel with Lamorak. But then how did he know…?

    Before he could contemplate the how, Samael and Svarog were already snarling and bristling at one another.

    "Hell happened to you, coal-brain?" Samael taunted, standing over the still-hurting war god. "You fight one knight and this is what you're left as?"

    "And where were you, three-eyes?" Svarog shot back, surging to his feet with a grimace and a growl. "Fighting with all your extra help against one knight?" He appeared to gesture to Theo and Okatsu, but his arm flopped lazily against his side.

    "Those two spent more time getting in my way than they did helping me," Samael snarled. "And they barely served as a distraction! And I still woulda' had 'im except I got triple-teamed at the end before I could put the skewers to Gawain."

    "Seems only fair," Svarog snapped.

    "Yeah well you just straight-up lost, burning man," Samael snapped back.

    "Damn, can you lot keep it together for one minute?" the BelleStarmon hissed from where she stood under a low overhanging shelter that had managed to withstand the battle. She shook water from her hands and hair and fixed the two with a glare. "It's no wonder the Royal Knights kicked your asses.

    "Who the hell are you supposed to be? Low-budget, porn star me?" Samael seethed angrily, whirling around.

    "I'm gonna assume that your blood loss has compromised your judgment," Serra said, her voice clipped and even. She strode over to Samael and stared him in down. "But if it turns out you're stupid enough to talk to me like that again, I will put you in the ground."

    Svarog let out a short laugh, despite the pain that cut it short.

    "Oh, and don't get me started on you," Serra fixed Svarog with a withering glare. "I know you're the asshole that almost burned down my bar the other night."
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
  2. Solsabre

    Solsabre The Reforged Soul


    Theo Grayson (BlackWarGreymon)
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature



    Michael nodded, stepping over to each of the Guardians, placing a hand on them one by one and reenergizing them with a small burst of healing energy. Michael wasn't a healer, that much he'd made clear, but he could get them back on their feet.

    The BlackWarGreymon released a sigh with some disappointment as the Archangel laid a hand on the unconscious Okatsu in his arms. The Gabumon X appeared a bit better for the small boost of healing energy, but she needed a proper healer. His own injuries were less noticeable, but physical pain he could deal with. The flashbacks of his brother struggling for breath and life in his arms…

    Eyes clenched shut from the old pain, Theo shook his horned head to shake the image. A single tear escaped the confines of his armor. He needed to be in the present for Okatsu’s sake. He addressed the Archangel, “We need to locate Tessa then. I’ve seen her competence with healing auras. Hoshiko, too. The close proximity of her partner will help support the healing process.”

    He’d know. Kyle had ignited his worn down digicore, when they became partners. He grimaced. He didn’t know how deep their partnership ran. Some humans were very sensitive to the condition of the digimon half. Guilt plagued Theo from his failure to watch Okatsu’s back. Raised voices drew his attention to the rest of the Guardians present. Theo narrowed his eyes sharply as bickering between Samael and Svarog rose in volume in the clearing.

    “Sir Gawain didn’t do this,” Theo said in a low tone. Long were the days when his greymon temper got the better of him, but his words were heated from a simmering anger. “Samael struck Okatsu in the back while fighting Gawain and pinned them both to a tree. If the other Knights had not interfered, he might’ve killed her. She likely would have if I hadn’t gotten her to regress to her rookie form.”

    He waited for the Archangel’s response, while speaking softly, more to himself, “I don’t want to see another comrade stabbed in the back again, not if I can help it.”

    *************

    Tessa Tesla (Wisemon)
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature


    Tessa’s Book floated through the air just above the trees with Aria. The BelleStarmon had been fine after all and headed off for a different part of the burning forest. The small mage would have insisted on the gunslinger taking it slow for a bit, but Tessa was too exhausted to try. Instead, she searched out for the rest of the Guardians.

    The pair reached the edge of the City in a recently cleared opening of the forest. Survivors, human and digimon, loitered about the clearing in confusion. At one end, a familiar pirate appeared in their view, sulking on a rock. Tessa racked her sluggish brain for the pirate’s name. Humphrey? Hendrick? Henry? Bingo!

    “Henry!” Tes called out waving an arm. The Book moved faster now to close the distance. Her stomach turned uneasy from the increase of speed, that and she remember Stein had been with the pirate at the beginning of the battle. “Where’s Stein?”

    The pirate gestured. Tessa’s hidden eyes widen.

    A beaten up Andromon, not a Boltmon, laid prone upon the ground. Tessa didn’t think the CaptainHookmon would mislead her, so it could only him. Releasing a breath she didn’t realize she was holding, Tessa dropped to the ground before the Book stopped. She stumbled over to Stein with uncooperative legs and tripped over the hem of her robes. The young mage flopped beside the unconscious cyborg’s head, resting a shaking hand on the metal head.

    Worry and concern struck a chord deep within the Wisemon that she didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter so much to her right now. Rather, Stein was hurt bad and she was out of juice. A warm spot hummed gently beneath her robes. Tessa brushed her free hand to the warmth resting at her neck line, an idea growing. Her father would understand. Right?

    Mind firmly made up, Tessa rose and faced the other two digimon present, “Help me move him onto my Book, please.”

    Once the Andromon was settled on the Tome’s pages, the small mage sat with Stein’s head in her lap. Tessa touched the hidden medallion with a hand and closed her eyes in concentration. Turning inward, she saw the outer layers of code making up the medallion and locking securely the power the artifact contained. However, Tessa only wanted to borrow a small portion of its power. Just a drop. No more than absolutely necessary.

    With her mind’s eye, she brushed the dormant coding, lighting up a single line of digimoji. To those watching on the outside, blue light flared engulfing the Wisemon. Tessa breathed deep and even out her breathing as she struggled to control the other-worldly energies. After a moment, she grasped the power to her command and blue light focused into the palm of her hands, now resting on either side of Stein’s head.

    Tessa shared a tired, but determined glance to Aria and Henry. “I’ll heal your injuries too, when I’m done with Stein but this is going to take me a while.”

    The Andromon’s wounds were extensive, yes, but she was more worried about losing control of the energies if she attempted the healing too fast. So, Tessa began methodically checking Stein over and closing one wound at a time.

    “My Book can carry us all,” Tessa said without opening her eyes as she concentrated on the task before her. “If you see anyone else, just say so. The Book will listen to your directions.”

    Then added as an afterthought, “Most of the time, anyway.”


    ************************

    Andrea Mercer
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature



    She felt hands shaking her. A voice she heard but couldn’t yet comprehend. Not yet. Finally, her eyes cracked open, feeling rain fall gently onto her face.

    “Andrea, Deneb!”

    “James?” Andrea asked groaning. Her hearing cleared up, but that was the only thing making sense at the moment. She held a hand out and felt it grasped by another, yanking her into a seated position. Her vision swam as someone supported from behind. Then the memory of Sir Tristan’s brutal attack came to her and terrible scream of pain that accomplaint it.

    “Deneb! Where’s Deneb?” Andrea asked alarmed, trying locate her partner by sound and touch as her vision still tried to clear up.
     
  3. Kamotz

    Kamotz God of Monsters

    < Michael Ha'Yisrael (MagnaAngemon) >
    - Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature -


    Michael fought the urge to curse, but the sentiment rolled out of him in a ragged sigh. He shouldn't have been surprised. By all accounts he wasn't, this was wholly in line with Samael's usual methods. But Michael had -- he realized now foolishly -- hoped for better. For more.

    But it was his own fault: put Samael with honorable Digimon and the fallen angel would be sure to both disappoint him and astound him with his savagery. Michael should have been there. Should have been there to curtail Gawain himself, to prepare for the arrival of the other Royal Knights and formulate a strategy for their intervention.

    What was it Sir Tristan had said? Sir Gawain was given "tactical oversight," but Tristan was given "command."

    Michael needed something similar. It was one thing to lead Heaven's armies, where all hearts beat as one and all minds were focused on the same goal. But this was a group of disparate methodologies and sometimes-disastrous personality-clashes.

    "Neither do I," said Michael. He thought for a moment how to assuage Theo's worries, but nothing came to mind. Should he scold Samael? Would that accomplish anything more than aggravating Samael to the point of attempting the same stunt again for the sheer thrill of defiance?

    No. Michael needed another. Someone to share the burden of leadership with. Who could inspire their group in battle, implement the tactics that Michael devised, but also improvise in the thick of it when things changed.

    But who among their motley group was up to the task. Certainly not Samael, for reasons that needed no explanation. Svarog was far too interested in the fight itself to be bothered to lead, and had a generally low opinion of the group as a whole (and individuals). Michael wanted to ask Thor...but the Asgardian spent his time sulking and worrying about the sword, and then struggling to control it during the fighting. That already excluded anyone who lived beyond the last 100 years.

    Who was even left in consideration? Tessa? Aria? Stein? Certainly not. Theo?

    Michael glanced over at the BlackWarGreymon, glowering quietly and morosely. He was certainly capable as a fighter, but could he lead when called upon? Or would he, like Thor, sulk and sputter amongst his own insecurities?

    Other than the Tamers and their partners, that just left Henry. And while Michael supposed he might be a fine pirate there was no way to know how he'd lead this group...though Michael had to admit they more resembled a pirate crew than his phalanx of angels.

    That left the three Digimon partners and their Tamers. Deneb had just run wild, so Michael was in no hurry to add responsibility to his plate. He'd fought alongside both Okatsu and Artanis, and while they were each competent fighters they were each lacking as well. Okatsu seemed cold and dispassionate. Artanis was was perhaps too passionate...and had yet to reach the Mega level.

    Was there anyone at all who Michael could see standing across from Galahad or Lancelot and declaring themselves their equal?
     
  4. TheSequelReturns

    TheSequelReturns Phantom Thief

    + Frantz Stein (Andromon) +
    - Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature -

    The warm sunlight filtered down on Stein for what felt like the last time. He was weak, powerless, as the SkullMeramon dragged him into the dark, cold, mouth of the factory. He was small here, in this buried memory. Small and weak and helpless. A child.

    The shadows closed in, held at bay by the eerie flames of his captor. There were sounds now, echoing from somewhere deep in the bowels of the facility. Loud clangs and crashes. The piercing screech of metal on metal. And every now and then, a soft, deep groan. It was impossible to tell if it came from a slowly opening set of doors or something much more living.

    Time stretched away. Minutes into hours into days into years. One moment his cell seemed like a fast expanse. A bitterly cold tomb to bury him in. The next it was small and cramped. Not enough room to stretch out and move. Not enough room to pry the tomahawk from his back. A cage for a beast.

    They made him fight. Sometimes they made him kill. He remembered them only here, when his mind was free to wander deep into the dark corners of his pshcye, past the mental block that sealed off this part of his memory circuits. Faces he knew swam before him in hazy renditions. Some he knew from the other cells. Some, more recent. Some too long past to recall fully. Some of the faces had voices to match. A soft, dainty voice singing a song wafted by. The melody was pure and sweet, a balm in this dark place. Other voices cried out in pain for the last time as the memory of their deaths drifted up and into focus one by one. First his fellow prisoners. Then his captors. Then the SkullMeramon. Then, a small, pathetic Hagurumon. He could not remember killing one so small.

    He tried to reach out to the child, but his arm wouldn't move. His body was still and unmoving. He could only watch as a Datamon, his features cruel and void of any compassion, wrapped his wires around the child and dragged it into the abyss.

    He could not remember killing the Datamon either.

    The darkness lurched. Light, blinding light pierced this place like a supernova. It scorched away the darkness with such force and heat that Stein could feel his memory circuits singing. There was nowhere here the light did not touch. No dark unknown corner it did not sear painfully into clarity. This world of dreams melted away in the blinding light, giving way to the waking world.

    ---

    A burst of light erupted from Stein as the Boltmon sat up straight. He had digivolved right as he awoke, returning to his Boltmon form but also doubling in size.

    He felt... okay. Which was a surprise in and of itself. The last thing he remembered was the Royal Knight, tinted red and blurry from his rage at the time, cracking him in the jaw so hard his skull was probably still vibrating. But he also felt something stirring deep in his mental processes. What that something was, he wasn't quite sure of yet. It was warm. But also painful. His logic circuits returned errors each time they tried to analyze it and the organic part of his brain wasn't having much luck either. Maybe the Knight had actually knocked a screw loose? Stein didn't know if he had screws in his head or not. Henry seemed to think so, and the Captain was pretty knowledgeable about things Stein knew nothing about.

    "Hey there ya big lug." The pirate called out with a wave. "Glad to see you haven't keeled over just yet."

    Stein pumped his fist, ignoring the screams of his aching muscles. "Stein does not know what a keel is Captain. But there may be a screw loose in Stein's head."

    Henry turned towards the two ladies, Aria and Tessa, with a smirk on his face. "Well, there you have it."

    -+-+-+-

    ~ Aria Morningsong (Lilamon) & Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) >
    - Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature -

    While Stein and Tessa caught up and the other, more important members of their group grumbled among themselves about what the plan was, Aria and Henry found themselves off to the side with nothing to do and nowhere else to be.

    "Well, it wasn't a total loss this time." Henry offered. His attempt to break the silence was met with little more than a grunt from the worn and tired flower mon. "You know, you are the least pleasant flower mon I think I've ever met."

    "Oh?" Aria huffed. "Look around for once instead of down into a bottle and you might find a few reasons for my less than sunny disposition."

    "I am lookin' around lass. And you know what I see? I see civilians gathering over yonder. I see all of our number, even the wounded, still kicking. I see the flames being put out. And I don't see the Knights anywhere around here. Compared to Kaladesh, this is a blasted victory."

    "Anything would be better than Kaladesh. If this is what winning feels like then I can understand why you drink so much."

    "The drink has its uses, aye." Henry kicked the empty and broken flask on the ground as if to punish it one last time for its failure to protect his rum. "Maybe this is a victory. Or a defeat. Depends on how you weigh it. Depends on what you consider to be valuable, you see. But this isn't what winning feels like. No lass, winning is the feeling you get when you sit back in your chair as you watch the sunset over the ocean. Winning is patting your pocket, fat on coin, and hearing the clink of the loot you've earned." Henry patted his pocket absentmindedly as he spoke. They didn't clink. "But this is what life feels like. And if you can't see that we came out of this storm far better off than we could have then you're still just a landlubber who hasn't made it out of the port yet."

    "Your sailing metaphors are wearing thin, pirate." Aria frowned. "I'm not a sprout and I'm not as naive as you seem to think. I just can't look at a scene like this, a place I used to call home mind you, and feel anything remotely pleasant. So don't try to preach to me about the hard knock life. I've seen my fair share of trouble just as I'm sure you have and I'm not going to duel you in a contest of who can out pity the other."

    "I'll have you know I've only ever lost one duel." Henry said, a little quieter than usual.

    "Good for you. I'm sure it was painful to sully that perfect record."

    "Aye, like a bullet to the chest."

    "What did I say about the pity party?" Aria scoffed. She stamped her foot in the dirt. Then once more for good measure. "Start taking this seriously or leave me alone."

    "All I can do is deal with it my own way." Henry said, his head hung low. "We're all different ships lass. We each have to sail our own way."

    Aria nodded, her arms crossed defiantly. "Right. You deal with things with strange sailing puns and I do it by telling you how stupid that is. So pardon my sass."

    Henry looked up and over towards the flower mon, who had turned her back to him. "Oh, your sass is fine. And if you don't mind me saying so is your-"

    "You are absolutely insufferable." Aria said, turning to face the pirate. She walked up to him until she was just a foot away, staring right at him. "What are you trying to do? Cheer me up? Flirt? Do you even have a plan? Okatsu is wilting away over there, Stein was beaten within an inch of his life, and this city is half burned to ashes. So no, I don't want to flirt. I don't want to chat. And I don't want to hear another two-cent sailing quip." Aria took a deep breath. It felt good to let out some stream. To shout. To rage. "I do however want some drink, as long as it isn't yours." she added.

    "Its your lucky day then lass. I'm all out of drink." Henry laughed. Aria's brow furrowed and she started to say something else but Henry spoke first. "That's the trick to people lass. We're all insufferable. You just have to find someone who's issues you can handle. Someone you can let yell at you when they need something to fuss about." The pirate smiled a half smile and shrugged. "You know lass, I was a captain. I do know how to handle a crew." Before Aria could respond, Henry sauntered off towards the others. He gave the empty rum bottle another kick as he passed.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2018
  5. storymasterb

    storymasterb Knight of RPGs

    Okatsu Sekishusai (CresGarurumon)
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature


    “Okatsu!”

    The voice sounded distant, as though Theo were miles and miles from her. She lay in agony on the ashen ground, only faintly aware of the BlackWarGreymon at her side. She felt him gently grip her head, and even disrupted by pain her keen senses felt him lean in close

    “Okatsu, you need to regress, but you can't with the sword still inside you. I'll pull it out, but you need to regress immediately before you lose too much blood and data.”

    His words washed over her without sinking in, lost in between the spikes of pain that flared as he held her. Samael's blade burned at her core, like the hellfire he had bathed her in.

    Theo drew in a breath. “Okatsu, you have to do this. Reach deep, past the pain. You're not alone. I'm here with you.”

    Again the words didn't sink in. She was holding firm to life, but it felt like each surge of pain threatened to drag her from the rock to which she clung. In her mind, the name echoed like a mantra. Even with the sword like poison in her heart, she gripped that thought tight and held it with all her strength as though it were her own life.

    Theo's hand stroked along the back of her head and feverishly she imagined it was her for just an instant. She wanted, needed...

    “Hoshiko needs you to come back to her.”

    Hoshiko.

    It was like dragging herself up a mountain, broken as she felt, but the name was a comforting fire at her core. Her partner's face smiled in her mind and Okatsu forced herself to focus enough to nod to Theo. It was a weak, small gesture, and even that was a terrible effort.

    The sword tore itself from her heart, ripped free by Theo's hand, and though its edge was smooth it felt like barbs cut her from the inside-out every inch. But she clung to Hoshiko through the pain and held herself together, focusing on that truth. Hoshiko needed her.

    “Okatsu, now!”

    She let go of the power that was so useless to her in this moment, and let herself surrender to the weakness. Her body collapsed into light and reformed, but when the Gabumon X was left behind, Okatsu was unconscious.

    -

    Hoshiko Yukimura
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature


    The spike of pain tore through her chest again and her knees buckled before it. She slammed down, crying out as both the psychosomatic pain and her left knee hammering down onto a rock ripped through her. But even with her knee aching in protest, she forced herself to her feet.

    The spike was gone, replaced by a dull throbbing ache that then became nothing.

    What did that mean?

    Did it mean someone had found Okatsu and healed whatever terrible injury she had suffered? Or did it mean...

    Violently forcing that dreadful thought from her head, she continued onward, shouting Okatsu's name from her hoarse throat.

    -

    James Reeve
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature


    Rain was falling now, appearing so suddenly from the sky that it couldn't be natural. Had Thor called it down to douse the flames? If so, it was working, the inferno around him, Andrea and Deneb hissed in protest but was snuffed out by the downpour. Their heat was abruptly replaced by the cold water seeping into his clothes.

    Andrea stirred.

    “James?” she groaned, pulling his attention back to her. He held out a hand to take hers and helped her to sit up, his other hand supporting her back. She was conscious at least, and the rain had put out the flames now. She was looking around, but something was off, her gaze didn't seem to settle on anything and she seemed confused.

    “Deneb! Where's Deneb?” Her hands were reaching out, brushing past him in a panic.

    “Hey, hey, it's okay,” he said, gently catching one of her hands and steering it to Deneb's unconscious form. “He's here. You both got hit hard, but you're okay, you're safe.” He smiled even though he wasn't sure she could see it.

    It wasn't okay, though. They had been beaten again. The sounds of battle had faded enough for it to be clear the fight was over, and from the glimpses of battle he had seen, he doubted they had won.

    “Can you stand up?” he asked, rain dripping down his face. “We should probably get back to the others and find out what happened. And Tessa or Michael can patch Deneb up too.”

    He wanted to find Artanis too. Even feeling that his partner was alive, he needed to be certain, and being apart from him this long was horribly unfamiliar after months fighting at his side.

    -

    Artanis Dawnflame (RizeGreymon)
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature


    Before Artanis could take flight and try to find James, Theo descended to Michael, holding something light blue in his arms as though cradling an infant. The RizeGreymon stopped, attention drawn, and moved closer to get a better look. As the BlackWarGreymon touched down, his arms moved enough to give Artanis that look.

    It was Okatsu.

    Michael was moving around, healing each Guardian. He had already done so to Artanis, forcing back the fatigue that had nearly made him regress back to his Agumon form. It was only a stopgap, but for a while longer, he could stay evolved. As the archangel came to Theo, he placed a hand on the BlackWarGreymon, then Okatsu. Words were exchanged, quietly enough that Artanis couldn't hear them from where he stood, but the sigh Michael gave in response suggested something amiss.

    What had happened to Okatsu?

    Before he could move closer to investigate, something broke the treeline close to him. On edge, he whirled, only to see Hoshiko less composed than he could ever remember seeing her. A cut stained her cheek red, she was evidently soaked from the rainfall, and she looked utterly panicked and distraught.

    -

    Hoshiko Yukimura
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature


    The skies rumbled above her, rain hammering down through the trees. The fires nearby voiced their displeasure with angry hissing, but were forced to submit to the downpour and die out. Water soaked into her clothes and droplets caressed her skin, but she kept running and crying out with a throat that hurt.

    She broke the treeline and came into a clearing, seeing them stood beneath the storm. Thor, Svarog, Samael, Michael, Aria, Henry, most of the group in fact besides James, Andrea and Deneb. Three bodies lay on the ground some distance away, but for the moment their presence didn't sink in, blocked out by her desperation. Where was...

    “Okatsu,” she said, staggering over to the Guardians, legs worn out from running, cuts on her arms and cheek stinging. “Where's...”

    She stopped dead as Theo turned and there was her partner, unconscious in the BlackWarGreymon's grip. All thoughts scattered to the wind, she rushed over to him and took Okatsu in her own arms. She scanned her partner desperately and there on the Gabumon X's chest she saw the wound. No doubt reduced by her regression, it was still obvious, blood staining her flesh around it. Something had stabbed right through her chest.

    Hoshiko remembered the terrible spike of pain impaling her. Her suspicions were horribly confirmed, that the agony she had felt was Okatsu's.

    The Gabumon X's breathing was faint but steady, her chest barely rising and falling with that wound in it. Hoshiko cradled her there, forgetting that the others stood around her, forgetting the water that chilled her skin. All that mattered was the person she loved most in the world lying so grievously wounded in her arms.

    “I should have been with you,” she whispered. “I should have...” What could she have done, the logical part of her whispered, but it was drowned by the feelings she usually didn't show. All she knew was that she had been separated from Okatsu and come back to find her in this state. Theo and Samael had been there and yet this had happened.

    She thought to turn to Michael and plead for help, but that thought was stopped by the realization that Theo had been stood talking to Michael. The archangel had to have already done what he could, surely. If so, how much worse had Okatsu's injuries been before his efforts?

    Raindrops soaked into her hair as she pulled Okatsu closer to her, wanting already to never leave her like that again. Anxieties already stirred by leaving her and by Andrea's innocent suggestion of going back to Analog were made worse, coiling in her stomach like snakes. How close had she come to losing Okatsu? Her relief at finding her partner alive mixed bitterly with her lingering fear and horror at what had happened.

    Slowly she raised her gaze, forcing herself away from Okatsu for a moment to look up at Theo.

    "What happened?" she asked, her voice made a whisper by her aching throat and the turmoil still swirling in her chest.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
  6. Kamotz

    Kamotz God of Monsters

    < Svarog Rodsyn (Apollomon) >
    - Glen Elendra -


    Svarog had been many things over his long. A prince, a soldier, an exile, a wanderer, an avenger; he'd had a kingdom and had it cast away. He'd had a name and worship, and then discarded it all. He'd been beaten and bloodied, he'd been victorious and glorified. But in all his life he had never been humiliated so thoroughly. Caradoc had thrown him around like a toy. The Royal Knight had barely broken a sweat; even against the heat and fire of Svarog's indomitable solar heart the knight had stood tall over him. And it was only what little remained of the knights' "noble calling" that left his body intact.

    He had, for the moment, reverted to his Flaremon form. That was even further insult. The defeat left him with barely-contained rage. A Svarog incensed was not a pretty sight...or a safe thing to be around.

    The pirate -- Svarog hadn't cared to remember his name -- kicked an empty bottle of rum out of his way as he strode by. Svarog felt whatever little was left of his patience run out.

    "What kind of pirate only brings a single bottle of rum," he snarled angrily -- intending, of course, for that to be part of his inner monologue, but shouting it for all to hear. He was really beginning to regret starting the fight in the bar the other night if it was really owned by the BelleStarmon that had come limping and bloody -- but glorious -- through the flames of battle.

    ==\=/==

    < Samael Cain (Beelzemon) >
    - Glen Elendra -


    Samael limped away from the self-important bigwigs, his body stitching itself together with each painful step. He was relatively unscathed by the whole ordeal. A few light gashes, another few cracked ribs; hardly something to write home about. Even Digimon without his demonic healing factor would've been able to walk those injuries off...probably...after a day or two. Whatever.

    No one would ever accuse him of caring one way or the other. No. What he did care about, however, was his sword. They were special. Forged from the sharpest Obsidian Digizoid. They were one -- two -- of a kind. No other Beelzemon had anything like them. He'd been forced to drop it when shifting into his Blast Mode. But for the ever-damned life of him, he couldn't remember where he'd put it.

    Crap! Why the hell was he having so much trouble with this? It must've been the blow to the head. Hadn't quite recovered from the Magnamon's punch -- he was still seeing triple-ish. He knew it was somewhere...important? That didn't seem right. He had the vague recollection of think that the yuppies would be mad about it though.

    He growled irritably. He was getting annoyed with his own injured brain. Why was that always the last thing to heal? He remembered thinking that the two yups would be fuming. Something like, "Clean up your mess, Samael." Or "Why did you think that was the best place to leave your sword, Samael?" And then Michael, who'd know better than to start an argument over something as trivial as where he put his sword would roll his eyes in that "classic Samael" sort of way.

    So who were the idiots he was fighting with? He glanced over the rag-tag bunch. Eh. They all kinda looked the same - all varying levels of useless and stupid. He tried replaying the battle in his head, but all the parts he wasn't directly involved with had been so boring that he barely remembered it. Although…

    Oh! He caught sight of the lumbering gloom of the BlackWarGreymon and instantly recognized him.

    "Oi! You! Lizard Lips," he shouted, wincing as his own shouting caused a splitting headache. Yep Definitely concussed. "Where the hell is my sword? And before you go starting with that 'I don't know' crap, I remember specifically -- probably -- leaving it with you or uh...the…" he snapped his fingers, wracking his brain trying to remember who else he'd been fighting alongside. "The other one -- him, her, whatever -- I gave it to one of you nit-wits when I had to step in and save you from that knight. Remember? And then, just as I'm about to win, I get punched in the head," he pointed to the side of his head.

    "And I'm not saying you two -- or three? I don't remember -- not sayin' you didn't help out," he continued. "But I pretty much handled that pointy ponce on my own. So," he stopped and took a breath. "I'm not blaming you -- for the record, you were useless -- but I'm willing to admit it's not entirely your fault and I probably shouldn't have trusted you to do something as simple as carry your weight in a fight.

    "But again -- and I mean this -- I'm willing to forgive you and offer all that warm fluffy bullshit from the bottom of my cold black heart as long as you tell me where the hell you idiots left my sword."
     
  7. Solsabre

    Solsabre The Reforged Soul


    Tessa Tesla (Wisemon)
    Glen Elendra



    Blue light poured from Tessa into the unconscious Andromon, her hands shaking in fragile control of the potent, primordial energies. She’d only tapped the medallion’s dormant power for an amount the equivalent of a grain of sand, but it was still a strain for her mortal body. She had to shunt the excess energies somewhere, but her natural reservoirs were insufficient. But where?

    A moment of inspiration struck, the young mage paused the healing process. She withdrew a radianting hand from the broken down machine’s forehead and placed her hand and the energies upon herself. No change was visible to the naked eye aside from her hand moving, but her vision exploded with the outer layers of the world peeling away, revealing the digital make up of her immediate surroundings and of herself. Gazing inward, she saw the bright digicore that was her own unique self. Now she wasn’t foolish enough to mess with that, but focused on the small area right below it. With her mother’s healing abilities she could restore damaged data, but perhaps with a Wisemon’s innate understanding of high coding and digital underlayers, maybe she could take it a step further.

    Change.

    Reshaping the healing light into a slender elegant scalpel, she made an incision into her digital wireframe. Pain shot down her spine, but Tessa pushed on, determined, using the cleansing light to push aside the pain so she could work. A familiar line of digimoji sprang to life, the same coding she used to open portals. However, she used only the beginning lines of the portal activation sequence. A portal with no end point. A dimensional pocket. Not unlike the pockets sealed within her books to store items as she traveled or the portable laboratory hidden within the pages of her father’s Book. Tessa summoned a new sequence of digimoji from memory, one she’d used less frequently, and anchored the new dimensional pocket to the fabric of her digital wireframe. Sweat dripped down her brow with intense concentration. Almost done.

    Tessa summoned one of her smaller books with a flick of a finger. The next set of sequences were more complicated and she needed a reference. The book hovered at eye level, flipping to the page she desired. Seals, grafting, and assimilation processes. Very specific and refined coding sequences to connect the pocket to her digital biological functions and trusting the intuitive qualities of her healing abilities to make it work. The light burned through her body, following the directions she’d outline.

    The Wisemon slumped forward over Stein breathless and lightheaded, but it was done. With one more strained effort, the young mage shunted the excess primordial energies into the dimensional pocket. However, she didn’t completely seal the pocket shut, instead she allowed a slow steady current to course through her body from it. A sequence of coding regulated the inflow of energies, so she wouldn’t have to worry about an instant burn out.

    She opened her eyes, gazing at her hand. The coolness of the blue healing aura had returned to normal. No longer did her nerves burn from the intense scalding sensation of such raw energy.

    Tessa mentally groaned. She wanted to sleep so badly! However, a deep stirring in her core reminded the Wisemon of her task. Returning her glowing hand to Stein’s forehead, she went about to finish what she’d started. Never did she stop to wonder, if what she just accomplished was normal or even possible for a Wisemon.

    Time meant little to her as she healed Stein, until finally she was done. Tessa scooted back as her Book tilted to let the Andromon slide off the pages and gently onto the ground. Though she and the others didn’t have to wait long until Stein sprung up with a jolt and a flash. The small mage wearly chuckled at the confused look on his face as he returned to his Boltmon form. Tessa was glad the lumbering lug was back on his feet so quickly. The Wisemon contently sat cross legged on her Book as Henry greeted Stein.

    "Hey there ya big lug." The pirate called out with a wave. "Glad to see you haven't keeled over just yet."

    Stein pumped his fist, ignoring the screams of his aching muscles. "Stein does not know what a keel is Captain. But there may be a screw loose in Stein's head."

    Henry turned towards the two ladies, Aria and Tessa, with a smirk on his face. "Well, there you have it."

    “Keel,a nautical term. a central fore-and-aft structural member in the bottom of a hull, extending from the stem to the sternpost and having the floors or frames attached to it, usually at right angles: sometimes projecting from the bottom of the hull to provide stability.” Tessa muttered exhausted, head propped up by her arm and knee. She smiled beneath her hood, “though that’s not quite the ‘keel’ the captain is referring to in this case.”

    Her smile faded a bit at Stein’s complaint of a screw loose. Had she missed something? Her Book floated over to the Boltmon, looking the cyborg over intently. Her head spun again from the sudden motion. She hoped Henry and Aria wouldn’t mind waiting a bit for her to heal them. Tessa needed a break badly.

    “Stein, would you describe your ‘loose screw’ to me?” Tessa asked, a book sat in her lap. However, she held the ink pen in her hand instead. She no longer had the mental concentration to will the book and pen into motion. The little mage hid her other trembling hand within the deep sleeves of her robes.

    Andrea Mercer/ Deneb Odebu (Poromon)
    Glen Elendra


    “Hey, hey, it's okay,” James said, gently catching one of her hands and steering it to Deneb's unconscious form. “He's here. You both got hit hard, but you're okay, you're safe.”

    Her hand brushed against a soft, feathery body. Andrea breathed a sigh of relief. However, the feeling was short-lived. Her partner had regressed to his in-training form. That hadn’t happened in years. The cold rain chilled her; she nestled the Poromon close to keep him warm. Andrea blinked as water seeped through her hair and onto her face.

    “Can you stand up?” James asked. She could see him vaguely now.

    “I think so,” she said, tucking her partner under one arm and pushing off the ground with the other. In the end, she needed James’s help to stand and steady her wobbly legs. “Deneb took the hit more so than me.”

    At least, she thought so. Their biomerge had been so disorienting. She thought Deneb had been the one up in the air, but why did she recall seeing a plant-like humanoid on the ground? Hadn’t that been her?

    “We should probably get back to the others and find out what happened. And Tessa or Michael can patch Deneb up too.”

    Andrea nodded, leaning on James as they walked through the smoking forest. The outcome of the battle was unknown to her since Sir Tristan blindsided the pair, but she did know one thing. “Deneb and I managed to secure several groups of tamers and digimon locals in the northwest corner of the city. That’s the largest group. Others are scattered in pockets elsewhere, but I can point them out roughly on a map.”

    If the hidey holes of thick vegetation manipulated by Ceresmon stayed intact, Andrea thought grimly. The trio moved through the forest, their digivices tracking Hoshiko’s location. However, the direction they were heading in was away from where they’d left her and the other tamers. Andrea frowned and shared a concerned look with James.

    After a while, they finally reached a clearing and spotted the Guardians at the far end. However, Andrea wasn’t watching the group. The female tamer pulled away from James, running with a limp.

    Three bodies laid still among the bushes and ferns.

    Andrea gingerly set her pink-bodied partner on a soft grassy patch. She knelt down to touch a pale arm, but the tomboy lurched to her side suddenly. Holding a hand over a rebelling stomach, Andrea swiped the bile from mouth with the sleeve of her torn jacket. She hated this part of her job. Nor was this the first time she’d had to do it.

    With an iron resolve, Andrea checked the bodies for pulses, despite already knowing what she’d find. The female tamer choked back a snob, knowing James was nearby. She refused to let anyone see her cry, except for Deneb. Her body was taut with grief, hands clenched into tight fists on her knees.

    “I’m sorry, and thank you.” Andrea whispered. She glanced over her shoulder to James and nodded towards the bodies solemnly, “Deneb and I might not have biomerged to save more lives, if we hadn’t seen them fall.”

    “Somebody has to inform their families, if that’s even possible,” she said, staring off into space. A TV news report popped to mind. “Back home there’s been an escalation of missing person reports for our age group. Their families need to know.”

    “But how does one tell the average human in Analog what really happened?” She was rambling. Sir Tristan’s attack left her more off balance than she’d previously realized. Andrea glanced at the fallen tamers with a prolonged sigh. Painful memories returned to the light of day: a painfully slow knocking on the door of the family home and the dreaded phone call. “I don’t know which is worse; delivering the news of a dead family member or receiving it.”


    Theo Grayson (BlackWarGreymon)
    Glen Elendra


    "Neither do I," said Michael.

    Theo carefully shifted his arms as he held the unconscious rookie. He missed the scrutinizing glance Michael sent his way, too concerned for Okatsu. He was about to reply to the Archangel, when a frantic Hoshiko broke through the tree line, asking desperately for her partner.

    The old dragon turned and knelt down, surrendering the Gabumon to her partner. He bowed his head in silence. Theo could find no words of reassurance for the female tamer.

    “I should have been with you,” Hoshiko whispered. “I should have...”

    He should have been watching her back. Instead, he’d gotten distracted by his own internal turmoil and the bitter reality of Sir Gawain recognizing him.

    “I’m so sorry, Hoshiko,” he said softly.

    Hoshiko tore her fearful gaze away from Okatsu and asked with a hushed whisper, “What happened?”

    Before Theo replied, however, a jarring shout interrupted him.

    "Oi! You! Lizard Lips. Where the hell is my sword? And before you go starting with that 'I don't know' crap, I remember specifically -- probably -- leaving it with you or uh...the…" he snapped his fingers, wracking his brain trying to remember who else he'd been fighting alongside. "The other one -- him, her, whatever -- I gave it to one of you nit-wits when I had to step in and save you from that knight. Remember? And then, just as I'm about to win, I get punched in the head," he pointed to the side of his head.

    The black dragon’s whole body tensed at Samael’s jiving words. His clawed hand automatically reached for the black sword tucked in his belt, gripping it tightly. Theo remembered why he detested dealing with demon spawn. Having been retired from the Royal Knight service for twelve years now, his wariness of demonkind had lessened. Heck, he’d been willing to give Samael the benefit of the doubt when he and the Archangel first joined up with the Guardians. Theo snarled quietly. The memory of Samael lashing out at Tessa at the temple resurfaced with a vengeance.

    "And I'm not saying you two -- or three? I don't remember -- not sayin' you didn't help out," he continued. "But I pretty much handled that pointy ponce on my own. So," he stopped and took a breath. "I'm not blaming you -- for the record, you were useless -- but I'm willing to admit it's not entirely your fault and I probably shouldn't have trusted you to do something as simple as carry your weight in a fight.

    His grip tightened around the blade, an impulsive temptation lurking at the back of his mind.

    Kyle’s digivice flared to life, beeping urgently. A ghostly hand settled over the clenched fist. Take it easy, Theo. Remember what you taught me about letting anger control your actions.

    Theo released a heavy breath, his grip on the curved blade relaxed. He didn’t turn around yet to acknowledge the Fallen.

    “Hoshiko,” he said in a low voice. He pointed towards the Wisemon and Stein, “ Go to Tessa, she can heal Okatsu for you.”

    He gently nudged her, indicating haste. Theo wanted her and Okatsu at a safer distance. Just in case.

    "But again -- and I mean this -- I'm willing to forgive you and offer all that warm fluffy bullshit from the bottom of my cold black heart as long as you tell me where the hell you idiots left my sword."

    Theo recognized the danger walking the same path as them. Samael was a snake coiled, waiting to strike if you weren’t watching cautiously. He should’ve paid more attention from the start.

    The old soldier rose and faced the demon spawn. He grabbed the black sword in a fluid motion from his belt and threw it skillfully through the air. The blade pierced the earth upright a few feet in front of Samael. Theo anchored his emotions in the discipline forged from years with the Royal Knights. Don’t drop your guard. Remember, what happened to Asher. The battle may be over, but a clear danger is still present and you’re exhausted. You’re not with a highly trained team anymore for support.

    Choose your battles.


    He couldn’t hide his disgust and disdain, but he finally stifled the urge to strike. The black dragon didn’t want to make the situation worse, if that were even possible.

    “Exactly where you left it,” Theo snarled, “buried in Okatsu’s back.”


    Tessa Tesla (Wisemon)
    Glen Elendra


    A distraught voice snapped Tessa out of her fading mental state. A terrified Hoshiko held the unconscious Okatsu to her chest, pleading for her to heal the stricken samurai. Tessa breathed a sigh, closed her dripping wet notebook slowly, and nodded. The Wisemon knew she was done after this. She’d pushed past her limit too many times in a short period. Her Book hovered to rest on the ground so Hoshiko could step up more easily.

    “Lay her here,” Tessa said quietly, shifting onto her knees for a better position. The young Wisemon suddenly felt the world tilt sidewise and she had to catch herself with a trembling arm. The Book’s pages crinkled from the ongoing rains as Tessa tried to upright herself.

    “Sorry,” she said, voice badly strained. “Just...give me a second.”

    Tessa reached into her robe pockets, withdrawing a small elixir bottle. Popping off the top, she drank the bitter herbal cocktail with a grimace. The bitter drink hit her senses hard and a resemblance of her normal mental clarity returned. Temporarily.

    “Okay,” Tessa said. Blue light flared to life once more. The Wisemon examined the nature of Okatsu’s wounds and frowned. She directed Hoshiko to support her partner upright, so that she could access both sides of the wound at once. Tessa placed a hand each over the entry and exit wounds, visualized the damage inside and out, and poured her healing light over Okatsu. Moments later, the light frizzled out and Tessa slumped back.

    “I’ve done what I can,” she muttered, before swaying and collapsing onto her side.
     
  8. Solsabre

    Solsabre The Reforged Soul

    Theo Grayson (BlackWarGreymon)
    Glen Elendra


    The old soldier started turning away to check on how Tessa’s healing of Okatsu was going. He didn’t get very far, when the Fallen shouted at his back.

    “Oi! Where the hell is Ukatsuzbek? Never heard of it.”

    He whipped around to face Samael with an incredulous expression. “Is that all you have to say? That stabbing someone in the back is of no consequence to you?” Theo shook his head in disbelief. Why would the Host send someone who was their anti-thesis? “ I supposed I shouldn’t have expect anything less from demon scum.”

    “Oh no, my feelings. Please stop. Your words cut so deep and true.” The leather-clad biker deadpanned, while rolling his three eyes. "And I didn't stab anyone in the back, I stabbed her through the back. There's a difference. I don't see how that has anything to do with you, but there's definitely a difference."

    “Semantics. Once is chance, twice is a coincidence, three is a pattern.” He recited an old Royal Knight saying. The black dragon narrowed his eyes. “I’ve spent twenty years dealing with types like you. I don’t have to guess whether or not you’ll follow through and injured a Guardian again.”

    “Lord Michael, have you nothing to say on the matter?” Theo said accusingly at the Archangel. “Or does the Holy Host not hold their people accountable for their actions?”

    “Oh boo-hoo, you blubbering bore.” Samael butted in, waving vaguely in Hoshiko’s and Okatsu’s direction. ”She's gonna be fine-ish in a few.”

    The Hand of God signed, frustration evident on the otherwise composed angel. “Samael is--”

    “Speaking for himself, thanks.” Samael interrupted bluntly. The Fallen One turned back to address the simmering BlackWarGreymon. “I ain't one of "their people", as you've pointed out twice now. They sent me here for a job. That's what I'm here to do.” Samael lips split into a toothy grin. “Put down these shiny **** heads by any means necessary.” His eyes danced with wild excitement. “I'm the black blade of the Host, I'm the walking grave, the defiler, the lord of riots, the murder-king. Accountable? Jack, the only reason I'm here is to bring accountability to this doomed little quest we've got going on.”

    Suffocating walls closed in on Theo, the reality of their situation rearing its ugly head. Did they really have any hope at all to defeat the Knights? Or were they kidding themselves? The Council wanted to bring the Knights to trial for their crusade against the Tamers, but did the Host have a different opinion? He stared at the destruction brought to Glen Elendra. Their hastily put together group was to supposed to the hope that stopped the Knights, along with the other teams.

    The Guardians. What a mockery. They had a demon among them willing to sacrifice another to get the job done. This wasn’t hope. This was desperation.

    “So that’s what it’s come to…” Theo muttered, his shoulders sagged. The old soldier looked to the other Guardians; the fight no longer in him. “A doomed quest...the demon’s right. Fighting the Knights is difficult enough, but achieving victory over them while watching our backs from our own side…it’s impossible.” He let out a short, dark laugh.

    “If this is the best we have to offer... We don’t stand a chance. We’ve barely survived the previous battles already and we’ve yet to see Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot on the battlefield.” Theo said grimly, he recalled his years training with the previous generation of Knights. “The few times I’ve faced Sir Lancelot in combat was for training purposes with my squadron. Our only objective was to hold out against him for as long as possible, until we were forced to yield...there’s a reason he does not join the battle very often.”

    Blackness gnawed at the edges of his vision. The memory flashed rapidly like a projection screen; Asher dying in his arms, the cold bleak emptiness replacing Kyle’s presence, him comforting a dying tamer after their first battle, Samael plunging his sword into Okatsu. The despair he’d been fighting since leaving Kaladesh overcame the black dragon. He gazed helplessly at the three dead tamers and how he failed them and countless others.

    “The Knights can’t be stopped. We can’t protect the tamers from them.” Theo whispered hoarsely, “...I can’t protect anyone.”

    “I’m done.”

    “ Again, boo-freakin-hoo. Crying about watching your back -- the hell else are you doing? What, you don't know how to fight? Watch your damn blind spots!” Samael yelled, sneeringly at the depressing dragon man. “Or are you pissed I showed your grumpy ass up? Big man over here, looking to impress his own bosses. Lookin' to carry the torch for someone. Burdened by all those emotions and feelings and this…” The fallen angel threw out a hand flippantly at the old soldier, “... glum and boring disposition.”

    “Leave if you want. Uh.” Samael muttered, points a hand vaguely at Okatsu. “Oshkosh over there was way more helpful. Maybe if you didn't have such a raging hard-on for your old bosses you'd have carried your weight a little more. Don't you worry: when Lancerfrans shows up I'll kill him too.”

    “We're not here to kill the Royal Knights.” Michael inisisted.

    “Of course not,” Samael said, winking.

    “I mean --”

    “Done here,” the demon said, walking away with his arms behind his head.

    “Samael!” Michael shouted.

    “Is not listening! Please leave a message at the beep.” He flipped the Archangel the middle finger. “BEEP!”

    Theo’s eyes narrowed at the departing demon’s back. However, he grimaced with pain and shame, refusing the make eye contact with the others. He approached Andrea, avoiding James and the three fallen tamers.

    “Andrea, we’re leaving,” he said, with no room for argument.

    “What?” Andrea asked, warily perplexed.

    “I’m not letting you stay to fight,” Theo frowned, “It’s too dangerous.”

    “It’s dangerous anywhere the Knights are hunting Tamers,” she insisted.

    “Exactly why you should head back to Anal-”

    “Theo, I am not leaving Deneb!” Andrea said stubbornly, upset by the suggestion. The pink little poromon awoke with a jolt from the shouting, groggily confused.

    Theo shook his head frustrated, “I understand, but if something happens to you, your mother…”

    “Do not bring my family into this, Theo,” she cut him off sternly, her voice tight with hurt and rising in volume. “My mom knows now. About our partners, our adventures, and the threat endangering them and us. She doesn’t like, but she understands.”

    “Just because you were my brother’s partner, doesn’t mean you can order me around” the normally private young woman continued berating the astounded greymon. “ I’m staying with the Guardians and seeing this fight through.”
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
  9. TheSequelReturns

    TheSequelReturns Phantom Thief

    Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) >
    - Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature -


    "What kind of pirate only brings a single bottle of rum," Svarog snarled angrily.

    "The broke-ass kind, that's what." Henry shot back. He turned to face the god with no respect left to offer. He seemed a little shorter than he remembered. And less bulky. Well, tan his hide. The bastard had been beaten so silly he'd reverted back a level. That should take him down a peg.

    "Tsk. That's right, I've got no crew, no ship, no money," Henry waved his arm, as if gesturing to all the things that had been taken from him, "and as of now, no rum. Everything a free, seafaring man should have in abundance I'm missing. If that means I'm a sorry excuse for a pirate then so be it. I caught a bad wind somewhere I suppose if the only place I have to be is here with this washed up excuse for a crew."

    He waved his hand dismissively, almost turning to walk away, but the words kept flowing and so he turned back to face the others. "And about that. What in the seven seas is wrong with you lot?"

    Henry was probably going to walk to plank for this but damn it, this was a cause he had decided to pick up. And he felt like he was one of the few people here who actually took all of this seriously. That could not and would not be allowed to go without challenge on his watch. So if they wanted to rip him to pieces after this, then fine. He probably deserved that much at least.

    "I don't know if some of this lot even knows how to fight with any skill at all. We've got folks with brains but no brawn to back it up. And vice versa. Some of us are adrift with no clear purpose," he said with a slight glance in Theo's direction, "and some of us don't have a full grasp of our own power. We can't win like this. We will never win like this.

    "And thanks to that one," he pointed a thumb over his shoulder towards Samael's retreating form. "We don't even know if our own teammates will betray us or not. This little crew of ours works about as well as a schooner made of paper. So what are we going to do about it? Cause damn it, I'm prepared to take up this cause as my own but if you sorry lot expect me to throw my life away without even bothering to chart us a proper course then I'll be following the old lizard's example and finding a better port."

    Henry was worked up now. Samael had walked off one way. Theo had jumped overboard. The crew was one rough wave away from all out mutiny. Either someone took charge and got their sails aligned to the same wind or the fleet would completely scatter.

    "How long are you going to let Samael walk all over you?" he asked Michael. "He disrespects you to that degree and you offer soft words?

    "And you three," he turned and gestured towards the collected group of Aria, Stein, and Tessa, "Between the three of you there's one good brain, two strong arms, at least one fine body, and a whole lot of average. The lot of you made the choice to be here so start taking it seriously.

    "I couldn't even begin to understand what the deal is with the tamers and their weirdness, but you," he turned back to Svarog, "Bloody hell, you're a god. The Knights should be groveling at your feet. Instead they beat the Mega stage right off you and you could probably send me to Davy Jones' Locker with one hand behind your back. So if you can't handle the Knights then how are us mortals supposed to do any better?

    "Do the Knights have something that we don't? Can we hope to actually match them? To best them? Because if we can't, if this is a bitter draught of a quest with naught but fool's gold at the end, then tell me now so I can go live the rest of my life in peace. But if we actually have a shot then can we figure out how that's gonna work before we all get each other killed?"
     
  10. storymasterb

    storymasterb Knight of RPGs

    James Reeve
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature

    They staggered through smoldering trees and ragged thickets, forcing their way past vines and fallen branches. Glen Elendra was scarred, its beauty marked by the battle waged beneath its canopy. The forest would heal, given time. Not everyone who had fought would.

    “Deneb and I managed to secure several groups of tamers and digimon locals in the northwest corner of the city. That’s the largest group. Others are scattered in pockets elsewhere, but I can point them out roughly on a map," Andrea said as they walked.

    "That's good," James replied with a smile. But the smile slipped as he took note of Hoshiko's signal on his Digivice, and his look of concern was met by another from Andrea. They'd left Hoshiko at that tree, the tree that lay somewhere behind them in the drenched, burnt forest. Her signal came from ahead of them. Why would she leave those Tamers and their partners? He was reminded of that haunted look in her eyes. She hadn't seemed quite herself, but with the battle he hadn't had time to fully process it. Now that the sound of clashing swords was gone, he remembered it. Was it just separation from Okatsu? Had Hoshiko left those Tamers behind to try and find her partner? The signal seemed to line up with where he'd glimpsed the Guardians fighting through the trees.

    The trees thinned out and a clearing opened up. He scanned it, seeing first the welcome sight of Artanis. The RizeGreymon looked battered and weary, but none the worse for wear. The other Guardians stood assembled solemnly with him on the far side of the clearing. Hoshiko was ahead of them, running across the clearing. Before James could call out, though, Andrea broke his supporting grip and limped forward. He followed her path across the grass, already anticipating what his gaze fell upon. Three broken bodies just lying there.

    The three Tamers Lamorak had killed.

    The sight of them brought a surge of pain from deep inside him. His elation at finding Andrea and Deneb okay, at seeing Artanis and Hoshiko safe evaporated. He remembered seeing them fall in the midst of the battle. Again he wished he'd found them, spoken to them, talked them out of it. Done... something. Anything to avoid their fate being the shattered corpses he now looked at. He knew the forest was large, that even if he had gone their way he might not have got there in time to stop them from attacking Lamorak. But then, perhaps it was his example that had spurred them on. What had Hoshiko said before?

    “It’s nothing,” she murmured. “You’re just so…” She let the thought trail off, before seemingly capturing it again. “Heroic.”

    Andrea set Deneb down gently as James stopped just behind her. She reached out to touch one of the Tamers, but lurched sideways. James reached out to steady her, but stopped short as she caught herself, running a sleeve across her mouth. He knew what she must be feeling. He'd done this. He remembered kneeling at Matthew's side like this, mask in pieces, grieving and guilty and uncertain. He watched solemnly as Andrea pressed her fingers to the neck of each Tamer in turn, knowing that it was futile. She probably knew it too. But that didn't stop you from hoping. After all, you heard about the miracles, the people who survived such long falls by landing on something soft or by some coincidence. So you checked in the desperate hope that chance or God or something had chosen that person to be one of those miracles. He'd checked Matthew's pulse the way Andrea had just checked their pulses, clinging to that slim chance for as long as he could. He heard a soft sound from her, wondering if she was burying her grief for his sake.

    He knew that far too well too.

    Andrea's frame tightened, her hands resting on her knees. He saw the clenched fist as he moved up just slightly, closer to her side than her back now.

    "I'm sorry, and thank you," she whispered, her voice just loud enough for him to hear. She looked over her shoulder at him. “Deneb and I might not have biomerged to save more lives, if we hadn’t seen them fall.” He remembered watching the Ceresmon rise and the forest itself become a weapon against the Knights and their forces. At the time, he'd thought that Deneb's new power could turn the tide. He of all people should have known better. A few times, he'd seen Tamers and their partners find new strength during a battle against the Knights, only to have their new form defeated with marginally less ease by the Knights. One new evolution, even one with that sort of reach and power, couldn't suddenly overturn the pinnacle of martial skill that the Knights embodied.

    "You saved me," he offered softly, weakly. It was a tiny sentiment in the face of the loss before them. But it was true. He couldn't have escaped or fought the SaviorHuckmon. Deneb's power was all that had let him get away from that situation.

    “Somebody has to inform their families, if that’s even possible. Back home there’s been an escalation of missing person reports for our age group. Their families need to know.” Families. The word was like a knife to the gut. He knew it was only right that the families of fallen Tamers know what had happened. But it wasn't something often talked about, at least not in his experience. It seemed like Tamers came to Saga wanting to escape the cold dull clutches of Analog, and for many, those clutches included their families. Some with broken families, others whose families hated them. He didn't know anything about Matthew's family besides the odd tidbit from here or there when they'd just chatted away.

    It was easy to forget things like that on Saga. How long had it been since he'd gone home? Months, probably. It felt like an age since this crisis had started and ever since, he'd stayed because at any second Tamers might need his help. But even with the Tamers staying in Saga, the Knights' actions were having an impact on Analog.

    “But how does one tell the average human in Analog what really happened? I don’t know which is worse; delivering the news of a dead family member or receiving it.” Her eyes betrayed old pain. Kyle, he was sure. Her words dredged up more painful memories, this time from years before he'd so much as glimpsed Saga. Him as a boy, seeing the doctor at his father's hospital bed. Seeing the pained shake of the head and his mother breaking down, clutching him close. His world shattering as he understood the meaning behind what the doctor was saying. It had taken him years to find himself again after that, and even now, he wasn't the same.

    "When I was a kid, I lost my dad," he confessed quietly. "I... he was ill. I knew that. But when the doctor told mum and me he was gone..." He let the words trail off. Even years later, it hurt. And she knew that pain too. "I wouldn't want to make anyone else feel that pain. But... finding their families, if we can, and telling them the truth is the right thing to do. Letting them cling to false hope would be crueler."

    Before he could say more, shouting from across the clearing shattered the moment like a hammer through a glass pane.

    "Oi! You! Lizard Lips. Where the hell is my sword?"

    It was Samael.

    -

    Artanis Dawnflame (RizeGreymon)
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature

    Artanis watched in solemn concern as Hoshiko took Okatsu from Theo. The RizeGreymon moved closer, keeping a respectful distance but wondering what had befallen the Gabumon X. He caught side of a red wound in Okatsu's chest, made less serious by regression but clearly a severe injury, if survivable. His eyes narrowed in concern.

    Gawain's weaponry couldn't have inflicted a wound like that. The wound's pattern was thin and long, and Gawain's rapier was a stabbing weapon with a concentrated point. It would have pierced a clean round hole. Not to mention that if Gawain had been in a position to deliver such a blow, he would likely have killed Okatsu outright. One of the Knights from Kaladesh, perhaps?

    "Oi! You! Lizard Lips," Samael interrupted. Artanis turned his head to watch the demon saunter in from the forest, heading towards Theo. "Where the hell is my sword? And before you go starting with that 'I don't know' crap, I remember specifically -- probably -- leaving it with you or uh...the…" he snapped his fingers. "The other one -- him, her, whatever -- I gave it to one of you nit-wits when I had to step in and save you from that knight. Remember? And then, just as I'm about to win, I get punched in the head," he pointed to the side of his head.

    A movement from Theo caught Artanis' gaze. He saw the BlackWarGreymon reach for something dark at his belt, and recognized the distinct shape of the weapon. It was the blade Samael had swung towards Tessa's throat in the temple what felt like an eternity ago. Why did Theo have...

    Samael broke his train of thought even as it hurtled to a disturbing conclusion. "And I'm not saying you two -- or three? I don't remember -- not sayin' you didn't help out. But I pretty much handled that pointy ponce on my own. So," he stopped and took a breath. "I'm not blaming you -- for the record, you were useless -- but I'm willing to admit it's not entirely your fault and I probably shouldn't have trusted you to do something as simple as carry your weight in a fight." Artanis' eyes narrowed. He expected this sort of self-centered arrogance from Samael's ilk, but still, to have the demon act so blissfully ignorant of his stricken comrade in Hoshiko's arms made the RizeGreymon's blood burn with anger. He kept himself controlled. Blind anger did no good.

    He saw Theo's grip on Samael's sword tighten and tensed, prepared to intervene. Even with the dark thought seething in his mind, he couldn't be certain. As he watched, Theo's grip loosened and the BlackWarGreymon spoke to Hoshiko.

    “Hoshiko. Go to Tessa, she can heal Okatsu for you.” She nodded and walked over to the Wisemon, but Artanis didn't follow her. He was fixated on this confrontation.

    "But again -- and I mean this -- I'm willing to forgive you and offer all that warm fluffy bullshit from the bottom of my cold black heart as long as you tell me where the hell you idiots left my sword." Artanis glared Samael's way, then looked back at Theo as the BlackWarGreymon stood. Theo's arm swung and the dark sword spun through the air, slicing into the dirt between the two dark figures. Theo's disgust was plain and only reinforced that dark idea in Artanis' head.

    "Exactly where you left it," Theo snapped. "Buried in Okatsu's back."

    His suspicion validated, Artanis' gaze whipped back to Samael, a surge of rage burning through his veins. He tempered it with his Akilae discipline, shackling it. Fighting Samael would achieve nothing. Even if the Beelzemon couldn't defeat him with a few blows, he would not sink to the same level. There was no justice to be found in that. Instead, he waited like a statue for Samael to offer some justification or refutation, or for Michael (who knew Samael best) to step in.

    -

    Hoshiko Yukimura
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature

    Okatsu's wound knitted closed as threads of light stitched through it, Tessa's magic doing its work. The Wisemon finished, the wound reduced to an ugly red scar.

    “I’ve done what I can,” she said wearily, and collapsed. Hoshiko made to kneel and make sure she was okay. She had been tuning out the argument behind her, ignoring Samael as best she could even as he spat a tide of jibes at Theo and, by extension, the unconscious Okatsu, but as she knelt at Tessa's side, Theo's words cut through the quiet.

    "Where you left it. Buried in Okatsu's back."

    Hoshiko froze. Her fingers stopped an inch from Tessa, legs locking. She felt suddenly numb, turning her eyes to the ugly scar on Okatsu's chest. Looking at it reminded her of those spikes of pain dragging through her chest from behind, of feeling what she was sure had been Okatsu's pain and distress tearing through her. She processed Theo's words slowly and painfully. Samael had done this? Was that why Theo had hurried her away without answering her question?

    “Oi! Where the hell is Ukatsuzbek? Never heard of it.”

    The words sank in, hammering into her as though Samael had punched her. Quick as the numbness and shock had set in, it was replaced, the rare feeling of anger burning up from within her. Hoshiko's body unfroze and she slowly rose, trembling as she turned and glared at the demon. Artanis stood nearby like a sentinel, his eyes fixed on Samael too, both of them looking past Theo.

    “Is that all you have to say? That stabbing someone in the back is of no consequence to you?” Theo shook his head. “ I supposed I shouldn’t have expect anything less from demon scum.” Hoshiko's fists slowly clenched, nails biting at her palm.

    “Oh no, my feelings. Please stop. Your words cut so deep and true.” The leather-clad biker deadpanned, while rolling his three eyes. "And I didn't stab anyone in the back, I stabbed her through the back. There's a difference. I don't see how that has anything to do with you, but there's definitely a difference."

    Hoshiko took a step forward, shaking with passion, fists tightening. She saw herself taking another step and then another and another after that until she reached Samael and could drive her fist right into that smug gloating face again and again, but before she took the second step, she found Artanis' hand blocking her path. The RizeGreymon glanced her way and slowly shook his head. She wanted to yell at him to move aside, at Theo too. This jeering demon was mocking them, mocking Okatsu after he'd left his sword in her back. She opened her mouth to speak, but Theo spoke first.

    “Semantics. Once is chance, twice is a coincidence, three is a pattern. I’ve spent twenty years dealing with types like you. I don’t have to guess whether or not you’ll follow through and injured a Guardian again.” He turned to Michael. “Lord Michael, have you nothing to say on the matter? Or does the Holy Host not hold their people accountable for their actions?” She already knew what Michael would do. Make an excuse. Say that Samael was valuable. He'd waved off Samael before, at the temple. When Samael's sword had almost gone into her face and Tessa's throat, all because of a bit of water. Michael had drawn his sword and stopped Samael, and then carried on.

    “Oh boo-hoo, you blubbering bore.” Samael butted in, waving flippantly towards her and Okatsu. ”She's gonna be fine-ish in a few.” She pushed against Artanis' hand, ignoring the pain where her nails cut at her palm, wanting nothing more than to hit him over and over, but the RizeGreymon held firm. The logical part of her that at the moment lacked control said that he was doing it to keep her safe from a repeat of that incident in the temple. Her anger didn't care.

    The Hand of God sighed in clear frustration. “Samael is--”

    “Speaking for himself, thanks.” Samael interrupted bluntly. The Fallen One turned back to address the simmering BlackWarGreymon. “I ain't one of "their people", as you've pointed out twice now. They sent me here for a job. That's what I'm here to do.”Samael lips split into a toothy grin. “Put down these shiny **** heads by any means necessary.” His eyes danced with wild excitement. “I'm the black blade of the Host, I'm the walking grave, the defiler, the lord of riots, the murder-king. Accountable? Jack, the only reason I'm here is to bring accountability to this doomed little quest we've got going on.”

    If Artanis would move his hand, she'd show him accountability, Hoshiko's thoughts growled. She strained against the RizeGreymon's hand.

    "Stop," Artanis said softly.

    "He could have gotten her killed," Hoshiko snarled. "And look at him!" Artanis shook his head, but before he could speak, Theo turned with a hollow look in his eyes. It shook her to the core, not enough to dispel her fury, but enough to stop her struggling against Artanis' grip.

    “So that’s what it’s come to…” “A doomed quest... the demon’s right. Fighting the Knights is difficult enough, but achieving victory over them while watching our backs from our own side… it’s impossible.” He let out a short, dark laugh. “If this is the best we have to offer... We don’t stand a chance. We’ve barely survived the previous battles already and we’ve yet to see Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot on the battlefield.” Theo said grimly. "The few times I’ve faced Sir Lancelot in combat was for training purposes with my squadron. Our only objective was to hold out against him for as long as possible, until we were forced to yield... there’s a reason he does not join the battle very often.” His dark words threatened to douse her rage like the rain had doused the flames in the forest, but the anger still burned hot, fueled by Samael's jeering and the image of that terrible wound in Hoshiko's chest.

    “The Knights can’t be stopped. We can’t protect the tamers from them.” Theo whispered hoarsely, “...I can’t protect anyone.” She stared at him now, her struggles against Artanis stopped. “I’m done.” The meaning of the two words sunk in and the passionate fire in her breast was reduced to seething embers by sudden shock and dread. She stared silently at Theo, unable to find words. Artanis seemed to be musing, preparing words perhaps, but as always Samael found his voice first.

    “ Again, boo-freakin-hoo. Crying about watching your back -- the hell else are you doing? What, you don't know how to fight? Watch your damn blind spots!” Samael yelled, sneeringly at the depressing dragon man. “Or are you pissed I showed your grumpy ass up? Big man over here, looking to impress his own bosses. Lookin' to carry the torch for someone. Burdened by all those emotions and feelings and this…” The fallen angel threw out a hand flippantly at the old soldier, “... glum and boring disposition."

    "Leave if you want. Uh.” Samael muttered, pointing a hand vaguely at Okatsu. “Oshkosh over there was way more helpful. Maybe if you didn't have such a raging hard-on for your old bosses you'd have carried your weight a little more. Don't you worry: when Lancerfrans shows up I'll kill him too.”

    The backhanded compliment to Okatsu was tinder for the fire and Hoshiko's eyes narrowed, her loosened fists tightening again. How dare he use Okatsu to get the last word in this argument. But then, she wasn't truly surprised. Nothing was beneath him. He didn't care, didn't give a damn about anything but himself. Why the hell was he even here?

    “We're not here to kill the Royal Knights.” Michael insisted.

    “Of course not,” Samael said, winking.

    “I mean --”

    “Done here,” the demon said, walking away with his arms behind his head.

    “Samael!” Michael shouted.

    “Is not listening! Please leave a message at the beep.” He flipped the Archangel the middle finger. “BEEP!”

    Hoshiko watched them squabble and Theo stand with those hollow hopeless eyes. She wanted to yell at the retreating demon, to demand that he come back and account for himself. The urge to just hit him was still burning, her fists still painfully clenched, but Artanis still had that guarding hand preventing her from letting the anger out. The RizeGreymon turned his gaze to Michael, keeping a wary pupil on Hoshiko. She felt a stab of shame. Anger wasn't like her. She was supposed to keep herself in check, guarded and quiet like Okatsu. She could count on one hand the number of times she'd been angry since coming to Saga, and she had never been as angry as she was now. Angry enough that she'd left Okatsu on the ground behind her because she wanted to drive her fists into Samael's face, damn the consequences. Her impotent rage slowly died away and she leaned against Artanis' hand, feeling the weariness finally catching up with her.

    Clearly confident that she wasn't going to try and attack Samael, Artanis spoke to Michael. "I cannot speak for our comrades," the RizeGreymon said quietly. "James swore to be a Guardian, as did I, and we shall not break that oath." He cast a disappointed look Theo's way. "But I cannot fight beside one who might, at some demented whim, decide it is to his advantage to put his blade through my back, or worse, James' back. I will fight the Knights to my last breath, but I cannot both fight a Knight and watch that Samael does not repeat this."

    What would Okatsu think, Hoshiko wondered. Would she say the same? It was likely. Okatsu had her code of honor, and even that aside, no warrior wanted to fight with an 'ally' they couldn't trust if they could avoid it.

    “I should have been with you."

    Slowly she turned around and wearily knelt by Okatsu and Tessa. She rested a hand on Okatsu's unconscious form, barely registering as Theo walked past her.

    -

    James Reeve
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature

    His grief was gone, his confession to Andrea lost.

    James glared at Samael, anger blazing in his veins. He listened to the argument, creeping closer to Artanis, but his reunion with his partner was interrupted by the revelation of what had happened to Okatsu. The pieces clicked into places. Samael had back-stabbed Okatsu. Hoshiko had somehow found out that something was wrong and that was why she had abandoned the Tamers in the hiding tree, driven by fear for her partner. The urge to command Artanis to strike was there, so tempting, so obvious, but he could tell even at this distance that Artanis was fighting the same. And he knew what happened if you surrendered to it. The bond between Tamer and partner was poisoned by anger and hatred. Power could be found there, but always at a price.

    He'd seen it first-hand in this war. A partner turned into a monster by their Tamer's rage. It hadn't saved them and had only gotten more people hurt.

    He drew in deep breaths, keeping his rage in check. He wouldn't achieve anything. That was why Artanis was restraining his own anger, and why he could see the RizeGreymon physically holding Hoshiko back as she tried to stride towards Samael with clenched fists. James prepared to intervene if need be, but his partner held the raging woman tightly. She struggled, but Artanis was far stronger than a human in his evolved form, easily keeping her in place. Watching her, he remembered Nyon struggling against Artanis, Cielstraza and Tahu, recognizing the same wild anger. It was anger fueled by grief and pain, anger he knew too but kept under control.

    Hoshiko blazed a while longer as Samael mocked Theo and Okatsu, the demon's flippant jeering stinging James. He hated the impotence of just standing by, but none of them were in a fit shape to fight Samael, and even if they were it wouldn't do any good.

    "He could have gotten her killed," he heard Hoshiko snarl. "And look at him!" The raw anger in her voice was disarming. He had grown so used to the quiet, composed Hoshiko that it was startling to see this side of her. Even if he understood it, it was still a shock to behold, quenching his own fury. As he listened to the argument, his attention was drawn away from Hoshiko by a change in Theo's tone from furious and accusatory to defeated and lost. He noticed Hoshiko stop struggling against Artanis, as though Theo's despondent tone had put out the inferno inside her.

    “The Knights can’t be stopped. We can’t protect the tamers from them.” Theo whispered hoarsely, “...I can’t protect anyone. I’m done.”

    James stared at him in raw disbelief. He didn't know Theo well. Perhaps better than most of the others, he knew about Kyle, after all. But he had never thought Theo the type to just give up. Some did. Some had surrendered to the Knights, or just said their farewells to their partners and gone back to Analog with a vow not to return to a world that had turned against them. He didn't hate them, after all, it was understandable. But Theo had stood up with them in the temple and sworn to fight at Michael's side against the Knights. For a moment, his inner grief whispered out to him, saying the same. Hadn't he failed to protect Matthew, to protect the three Tamers behind him, to protect so many others? Wasn't he tempted to give up? He forced it away, burying it. No. Never.

    Samael launched more jeers and taunts before sauntering away, but evidently Theo's depression had cooled hot tempers, for Hoshiko glowered for just a while before finally turning and sinking wearily to her knees at Okatsu's side. Artanis spoke to Michael about Samael, and James nodded his agreement, preparing to walk over and affirm his partner's words. Before he could, however, Theo came towards him, gaze averted from any of the other Guardians. The BlackWarGreymon walked past Hoshiko, who didn't acknowledge him, and strode past James towards Andrea and the fallen Tamers.

    The young man followed cautiously.

    “Andrea, we’re leaving,” Theo said as he reached her. James stared.

    "What?" he heard Andrea reply. He circled around to see both of them clearly.

    “I’m not letting you stay to fight,” Theo frowned, “It’s too dangerous.”

    “It’s dangerous anywhere the Knights are hunting Tamers,” she insisted.

    “Exactly why you should head back to Anal-” James filled in the end of the word. Analog. He knew this argument. He'd had it made to him by the people who gave up. Go back to Analog. Abandon all this danger, go somewhere safe. He didn't begrudge them their choice. But if Theo was going to try and make that choice for her...

    “Theo, I am not leaving Deneb!” Andrea said stubbornly. The pink little poromon awoke with a jolt from the shouting, groggily confused.

    Theo shook his head, “I understand, but if something happens to you, your mother…” Mother. The word echoed through him as though Theo had struck a gong and let the vibrations echo. He felt pangs of guilt that he hadn't seen her in so long, that she didn't know how he was. That she didn't even know about the Guardians or what he was doing, even if she knew about Saga. It reminded him of what Andrea had said about the missing persons reports.

    “Do not bring my family into this, Theo,” she cut him off sternly, her voice tight with hurt and rising in volume. “My mom knows now. About our partners, our adventures, and the threat endangering them and us. She doesn’t like, but she understands.”

    “Just because you were my brother’s partner, doesn’t mean you can order me around. I’m staying with the Guardians and seeing this fight through.”

    James recovered from his shock as she finished, looking between the two. He felt like he was intruding, like he shouldn't be there at all. This was their matter. He shouldn't interfere. But he was a Guardian too, they were his teammates, or at least Andrea and Deneb were. He moved around to Andrea's side, meeting Theo's gaze. He glimpsed the dead Tamers as he did so and more emotions stirred at the sight. He understood Theo's position. James couldn't pretend he hadn't thought about making the same argument to Alexis and the others sometimes, when he felt especially weak and desperate. He'd thought long about it after Matthew's death, but he knew they wouldn't hear it. They were too loyal to the Tamers, to their partners, to Saga, perhaps even to him. There was that thought again, giving him pause. People dying because of his example.

    He pushed his doubt aside.

    "I know you want to keep Andrea safe," he said quietly. "I understand that feeling. I've felt the same about my friends." He paused. "But I know if I ever suggested going back to Analog to them, they'd say no in a heartbeat. And who are we to decide for them? If people want to go back and escape this, that's their decision. I understand that feeling too. But I don't feel that way. The others who fought beside me before we formed the Guardians don't feel that way. And I'm guessing you don't feel that way, Andrea." He looked at her, then back at Theo. "I'm fighting because I know there are Tamers here who can't bear to abandon this world, Theo. Artanis and I decided to fight to protect the dream of Digimon and human working together when the Royal Knights started this. And other Tamers and their partners joined us because they wanted to protect that dream too. I could go back to Analog." He held up his Digivice to accentuate the point. "But if I did that, I'd lose Artanis, and I could never forgive myself for giving up without fighting to the end against this. If people wish to fight, if they're old enough and they understand the dangers, like Andrea does, who are we to tell them that they can't fight for what they believe in, Theo?"

    -

    Artanis Dawnflame (RizeGreymon -> Agumon)
    Glen Elendra, the Kingdom of Nature

    Artanis looked around, seeing James and Andrea talking to Theo. He hadn't noticed when James had entered the clearing, too distracted by Theo, Samael and Hoshiko, but now he wanted to return to his partner's side. Before he could, however, Henry came in and began to speak. Surprised by the CaptainHookmon's sudden boldness, the RizeGreymon listened.

    "And about that. What in the seven seas is wrong with you lot? I don't know if some of this lot even knows how to fight with any skill at all. We've got folks with brains but no brawn to back it up. And vice versa. Some of us are adrift with no clear purpose," he said with a slight glance in Theo's direction, "and some of us don't have a full grasp of our own power. We can't win like this. We will never win like this. And thanks to that one," he pointed a thumb over his shoulder towards Samael's retreating form. "We don't even know if our own teammates will betray us or not. This little crew of ours works about as well as a schooner made of paper. So what are we going to do about it? Cause damn it, I'm prepared to take up this cause as my own but if you sorry lot expect me to throw my life away without even bothering to chart us a proper course then I'll be following the old lizard's example and finding a better port."

    Artanis nodded warily. It was evident that his lack of a Mega Level was far from the only problem the Guardians had, and odd as it was for the pirate to address the group, perhaps they needed a captain's guidance. Henry shot critiques in the directions of Michael, Aria, Stein, Tessa and Svarog, before concluding:

    "Do the Knights have something that we don't? Can we hope to actually match them? To best them? Because if we can't, if this is a bitter draught of a quest with naught but fool's gold at the end, then tell me now so I can go live the rest of my life in peace. But if we actually have a shot then can we figure out how that's gonna work before we all get each other killed?"

    Artanis pondered it, finally surrendering his evolved form. He shrank back to an Agumon, though even in that lessened form he felt weariness creeping over him. This sort of thinking was not his forte. He had not had much experience with the principles of command and leadership, his training in Korshakal focused more around single combat than the logistics of fighting in a team or leading soldiers. Regardless, he tried to puzzle it out, allowing the others to offer their own insights in the meantime.
     
  11. Kamotz

    Kamotz God of Monsters

    < Svarog Rodsyn (Apollomon) >
    - Glen Elendra -


    Svarog glared at Henry as he continued his tirade. He hadn't asked about any of that other nonsense. Those were the sorts of things that people afraid to die worried about. All he wanted to know was why the pirate had only a single bottle of rum. And learning that he was penniless certainly explained it. Still…

    "Well bring more rum next time," Svarog grumbled in frustration. "It'll make all this other nonsense more palatable."

    There was another outburst of commotion at something Samael did, and Svarog scoffed at the absurdity of it all. Theo -- of course it was the dour dragon making the biggest fuss. Svarog should have realized it the first time they met at the bar; he was grim and...gross.

    "If you don't want the demon to stab you in the back make sure he understands what it will cost him," he snarled at the group before shifting his glare to Samael, who stood a bit further off and matched his glare with a smirk. "And for Rod's sake don't let a little stab wound ruin your day."

    Henry turned back to Svarog "Bloody hell, you're a god. The Knights should be groveling at your feet. Instead they beat the Mega stage right off you..

    Svarog let out a growl of rage. Angry fires engulfed his form and with a snarl of rage he emerged as Apollomon once again. He strode towards Henry and glared down at him, furious. But to his credit the pirate didn't back down or even blink. He just continued his tirade, jabbing Svarog in the chest with a finger before turning to the rest of the assembled Guardians (Svarog almost scoffed at the thought of the name).

    "And you could probably send me to Davy Jones' Locker with one hand behind your back. So if you can't handle the Knights then how are us mortals supposed to do any better?

    "Do the Knights have something that we don't? Can we hope to actually match them? To best them? Because if we can't, if this is a bitter draught of a quest with naught but fool's gold at the end, then tell me now so I can go live the rest of my life in peace. But if we actually have a shot then can we figure out how that's gonna work before we all get each other killed?"

    "What the Royal Knights have is a thousand years of combat experience," Thor said, stepping forward. He looked ragged, like he was struggling to catch his breath. "Each knight passes down their combat knowledge and experience to their successor -- all their service as a Royal Knight and everything they learned beforehand. It gets passed down time after time after time, for the last thousand years. All of that, distilled into a single Digimon. There's no one in this world, god or mortal, can match them in that regard."

    Svarog rolled his eyes. "If we could harness your self-pity and turn it into a power source the Knights wouldn't stand a chance," he snapped. He felt his anger and frustration boiling up through him. Everyone here was so...feeble. "All of you. Your weakness and frailty astounds me. But at least this one has the stones to speak up." He jabbed a thumb Henry's direction.

    "Take note," Svarog said. "Apart from the humans there are thirteen of us standing," he glanced down at Okatsu, "or such -- here. There are thirteen Royal Knights. If it's not apparent to you that each of us needs to be able to contend with a Royal Knight one-on-one, then you're fooling yourselves. And if you believe yourselves incapable of doing so, then you should follow that sallow dragon and leave." He nodded in Theo's general direction.

    "You'll never beat the Royal Knights in experience or technique. They've had a thousand years to perfect themselves," he continued. "You'll need to find what it is that allows you to overcome even that. Whether that's power," he motioned to Thor, "or brute force," nodded to Stein, "murderous intent," he glared at Samael, "or whatever it is that makes you so great," he waved at Michael. "The helmet, perhaps."

    "Big talk for a guy who got his ass kicked one-on-one," Samael jeered.

    "Aye," Svarog growled. "But the Dynasmon left me alive. And he'll come to regret it."

    \==\=/==/

    < Michael Ha'Yisrael (MagnaAngemon) >
    - Glen Elendra -


    Svarogs words were harsh but they rang true. If they were going to continue their fight there was no way to assure that they'd be able to maintain the numbers advantage in their battles with the Royal Knights. It was an entirely new conundrum for him to deal with now. And that was on top of Samael's newly-found enjoyment of needling Theo (to say nothing of actually stabbing through one of his allies).

    He could see how desperately human and Digimon both wanted him to tear into Samael -- dress him down in front of everyone -- without realizing that was the absolute worst way to get anywhere with the fallen angel. He thrived on that kind of attention, that kind of defiance. He'd practically begged Michael for the same thing. It was the only reason Michael hadn't done so.

    "Ghan is here," he said, watching the GrandLocomon pull into the charred remains of the Glen Elendra rail station. "Let's get the Tamers prepared and send them back to Axis Mundi. We'll figure out our next steps on the way."

    Michael watched as their charges filed onto the train, most were clearly in shock. The Peacemaker group from earlier -- Drakn and his squad -- ushered them in car-by-car. The Guardians remained outside on watch until the last Tamer and partner pair were safely on board. Only then did they file on themselves. As Samael made to board the train, Michael held out a hand and stopped him.

    "That was the last time you harm one of our own," Michael said, his voice low. Everyone else had already boarded. It was just him and Samael.

    "Oh, what's all this 'our own' nonsense, Mikey," Samael said with a toothy sneer. "You think we're like them? You think there's even an 'our' at all here?"

    "I won't say it again," Michael said, his voice even.

    "You gonna be the one to stop me?"

    "Yes," Michael said simply.

    "You think you can take me, Michael?" Samael said, his voice a low growl.

    "Yes."

    "Tsk. You're no fun," Samael jeered. But Michael had heard the split-second hesitation in his voice. The brief moment of uncertainty. He could only hope it was enough. God knows he didn't want an all-out fight with the fallen angel on top of what they were already dealing with. But the other Guardians were right -- Samael was his responsibility.

    Samael planted towards the rear of the front car where the Guardians were sitting and made a display of pulling out his blades and sharpening them, glaring at Michael every so often. The archangel did his best to ignore him. Let him sulk and fume all he wanted as long as he understood.

    "We need a leader," Michael said to Thor, loud enough for most of the car to overhear if they wanted, and pulling the god from his silent musings. He'd looked to be deep in thought but there was time for that later and Michael needed someone.

    "I thought that was you," Thor muttered, clearly unhappy to be pulled out of his head.

    "If you haven't noticed, I've got quite a lot on my hands at the moment," Michael said with a subtle nod towards Samael.

    "Seemed to be doing fine. Your strategies were sound," Thor said shortly. Michael frowned. The thunder god was being purposefully obtuse.

    "Tactics isn't leadership," Michael insisted, fixing Thor with a pointed look. "Gawain provides the strategy, but Galahad provides leadership." He glanced over the train car at the Guardians. "We need leadership -- alignment -- someone to get this disparate souls working as one." He sighed. "Or at least the semblance of it."

    "And you think that's me?" Thor asked.

    "No," said Michael. "Because -- and take this however you like -- you've been demonstrably selfish since this started." Thor made to object, but Michael cut him off. "You don't need to justify yourself to me. But you need to understand that this is about more than just the legacy you carry."
     
  12. storymasterb

    storymasterb Knight of RPGs

    James Reeve
    Locomon Car

    The Guardians filled the front car, their assembled members crowding the space. James sat at about the middle of the car, looking up and down it. Artanis sat to his left, and past the Agumon James looked down the carriage to where Samael sharpened his wicked swords. Seeing their edges gleam stirred the embers of disgust and anger that still glowed faintly, and he quickly averted his gaze from the demon. To his right, Hoshiko's attention was undivided, focused on Okatsu's unconscious form in her arms. With how they sat, the Gabumon X's head spilled over her partner's arm and brushed against James' own. She was stable, as far as James could tell, but still unconscious. He'd spoken briefly to Hoshiko as they boarded, but she seemed lost in a little world consisting of Okatsu.

    The atmosphere felt heavy with failure. They had rescued Tamers, the proof of that was in the carriages behind this one. But it was far from a victory. The proof of that also lay behind them. The bodies of the dead Tamers lay in one of the carriages, taken from where they had broken on the ground to be laid to rest, be it here on Saga or on Analog.

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

    The memory of Thor's words was like rumbling thunder in his head, added to by Svarog's recent words to the same effect. He forced himself to look down the carriage, past Artanis, past Samael and his swords to the door. Past it were Tamers and partners, terrified and traumatized and scarred. Because the Guardians weren't strong enough. Weren't united enough. Weren't enough. He knew Artanis felt it too, not least because without a Mega level, Artanis was a weak link that the Knights could exploit.

    His gaze wandered back up the carriage, past the others, and rested on Theo. The black dragon-man was like a sitting gloom, exuding despair. James frowned. He didn't want to judge Theo, especially when the same thoughts had run through his own head, but the broken promise stung. Was it because he'd felt overwhelmed by the Knights too, especially after Matthew died?

    "We need a leader." Michael's words snapped him from his thoughts and he turned his attention to the angel, seeing him looking at Thor. But the words had been loud enough for the whole carriage to hear, and he wondered if that was intentional.

    "I thought that was you," was Thor's reply. James had thought the same, at least passively. He hadn't given it much thought, and Michael had been handing out the plans and orders. He followed the conversation, glancing at Hoshiko to see if she was too. But her gaze was fixed firmly downward, staring at her slumbering partner with pain-stained eyes.

    Leadership. There was a part of him deep down that wanted him to stand up, to make a speech and rally the Guardians behind him. He'd led others before, hadn't he? Alexis and Gabriel, Ariel , Ryuga and Kazumi, all of them. He'd led them into battle against the Knights, and they'd saved people despite the odds. Couldn't he do the same? Inspire the Digimon and humans around him like he'd inspired the humans and Digimon who wanted to do something to help? He wanted to give a speech or even just say something profound to rally them to the cause of the Tamers. He remembered Erin and Megan and the other frightened Tamers he'd spoken to. It was for them that he was fighting. So they and their partners could be together without the threat of being ripped apart looming over them. A memory came to him.

    "Good job, guys," he smiled to them. They smiled back in their own ways. Matthew with his warm but composed look, Nyon noble as always beside him. Alexis with a wide grin and bright eyes, Cielstraza at her side with warm contentment. Gabriel's more vicious grin that spoke of exhilaration at a battle well-fought more than of having saved lives, Jara less open but still clearly excited by the thrill of battle. Ryuga's smirk so close to Gabiel's, with Valryon proud at his side. Ariel's smile was a distracted one as she hurried away towards a crying boy with Talise in tow, and Kazumi's a gleeful smirk, Zeta blank-faced beside him. "These guys are safe because of us." He gestured to the crowd of Tamers filtering into the camp nearby. "That was a great save from Guinier, Alexis, Cielstraza." She beamed at him, her Dorumon partner inclining her head in thanks. "Ryuga, Valryon, you did a great job getting up in their faces. I'm sure they'll be telling each other how much of a pain you were." Ryuga's smirk widened and the Vorvomon beside him let a chuckle slip out. "Kazumi, Zeta, Tosh, Jara, good one on the fire support. We'd have been toast without it."

    "Don't mention it, brother," Gabriel replied. "Shooting down some Royal Knight goons be my pleasure."

    "Exactly," Kazumi added with that wide smirk.

    James chuckled. "Get some rest. There are Tamers and partners still here today because of you, you've earned it." They cheered.

    "That was close," Matthew commented as the group dispersed, Alexis trailing just behind the pair, Gabriel, Ryuga and Kazumi strolling off to presumably find seats at the Tamer-friendly bar, and Ariel comforting the boy. "Caradoc nearly had you there." The six of them headed through the teeming masses of the Tamer camp, seeking out their own tents.

    "Nearly," James replied, as though the Dynasmon was nowhere near as fearsome as his reputation suggested. In truth, Artanis had only narrowly kept out of Caradoc's monstrous grip.

    "You need to be more careful," the black-haired young man said softly. "None of us want to see you dead, James."

    James was silent for a moment. "Well, if it does happen, you'll wind up leading this bunch of misfits, Matt." He forced his smile to widen as he looked at his friend.

    "That's what you do best," Matthew replied with a shake of his head and a little smile. "You're the leader here. That's what those mean." He gave a little chuckle as he gestured to the red goggles slung around James' neck. "They suit you better than they do me."

    James rested fingertips at his neck for a moment. The goggles weren't there anymore. Now Alexis wore them like he had, leading the team like he had. And even had they been there, Matt wasn't. He saw his friend's broken body and Nyon the Wingdramon standing over it, roaring in anguish. He had descended to the ground on Artanis' back, flinging himself to the ground and to the body's side without a care. His fingertips had found the neck, but there was no pulse to beat beneath them.

    He glanced around the carriage, his urge to stand and speak quelled by the painful past. And regardless, there had been a shared sense of purpose with the others. All Tamers, all knowing that if they were to fail, then the Knights would separate them from their partners for good. That wasn't present here. Samael didn't care. Svarog didn't care. Thor seemed to care little about anything not inside his head at present. Theo had given up. How was he supposed to inspire and lead them without that common ground to bridge them?

    He stood up, driven not by wanting to put himself forward but by wanting to distract himself. "I'm going to check on the Tamers," he said to the car. Hoshiko had looked up at some point but had not spoken, and her gaze met his. The pain in her eyes was like a mirror of his own, and he only held the gaze for a moment before he carefully made his way down the carriage, pausing by Artanis.

    "I will remain here," his partner said. James nodded. Artanis probably wanted to see who would put themselves forward to lead, and perhaps keep a wary eye on Samael. Without further discussion, he moved to the door, passing Samael and those swords. He glanced at them in passing, but didn't stop as he made his way out into the carriage beyond.

    -

    Hoshiko Yukimura
    Locomon Car

    She watched James go and wondered what he was thinking behind those haunted-seeming eyes. Was it the stress of the battle gone by? The tension of Samael at one end of the carriage and Theo at the other? Or something else? She didn't know. Okatsu's warmth in her arms wasn't as comforting as it usually was.

    She looked over at Michael and Thor, but she knew already that she had little to offer this discussion. She was a leader, yes, but of scholars and archaeologists. Not of angels, not of gods, and definitely not of backstabbing demons. Just the thought stirred the pain and anger in the pit of her stomach.

    No. She couldn't lead the Guardians. Even if she were to stand up now with Okatsu blood-stained in her arms and offer herself as the leader Michael sought, would Svarog listen to her? Would the despondent Theo? And she thought Hell would freeze before she could trust Samael not to put his sword in her back, let alone follow her into battle. She didn't trust herself to lead them the way Michael was suggesting. Even without other personalities at play, she had always been more dutiful than inspiring, she knew that. Too reserved to make a big rousing speech. Her thoughts kept too close to her chest to create the sort of trust that soldiers needed. And that was what they were. Soldiers in a war for the Tamers' way of life.

    The dead Tamers were a sobering reminder of that.

    Distracted by concern for Okatsu and that burning rage towards Samael, she hadn't noticed them for a while. But when the anger ebbed away, she had finally spotted the corpses, and even now they shook her to the core. It wasn't that she hadn't seen a dead human before. People had died in the march to Axis Mundi, overcome by their wounds or by the harsh conditions. She'd had to bury them herself, piling more grief onto her shoulders that she only shared with Okatsu. But James had said something in their terse conversation before boarding the Locomon, something about finding the Tamers' families in Analog somehow. It scraped at an old wound, one already opened unwittingly by Andrea. She felt a stab of shame. Her angst was nothing here, not in the face of the loss of three Digimon and three humans.

    She glanced over towards Henry. The CaptainHookmon had made his speech, a speech she hadn't fully processed, but one she remembered him making. For a moment he had stepped up. Would he do it again now? She considered calling him out, but what use would there be in placing him on the spot? If he wished to lead, he would step forward.

    Okatsu moved in her arms and Hoshiko's gaze snapped back down, but her partner did not open her eyes yet. Worry clawing at her insides now, she gently stroked the Gabumon X's head. The turmoil in her chest was wearing away at her, adding emotional exhaustion to the physical, and without Okatsu she felt lost.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018
  13. Solsabre

    Solsabre The Reforged Soul

    Tessa Tesla (Wisemon)
    Departing Glen Elendra


    The wisemon remained obvious to the ongoing commotion of her fellow Guardians. She’d heard the initial outbreak of the fallen one throwing a tantrum about his missing sword, but her mental clarity had been dulled to the point she didn’t fully register it. Especially, when a frantic Hoshiko rushed the injured Okatsu to her.

    Tessa laid deeply asleep on her side, maybe forgotten by most of the Guardians. But not by her trusty Book. Like a watchful shepherd, her father’s Book nestled flat on the damp ground beside her. The pages flipped in a rush with the sound of a quiet swoosh, until the desired page revealed a very special seal. The seal glowed with a soft light and a ghostly image materialized on the page. Nikolai Tesla. Tessa’s father.

    A Wisemon’s Book is a record of a their accumulated knowledge and countless spells, but it is also a living Testament, a spiritual vessel of their essence and memories.

    Nikolai knelt next to his daughter, running an affectionate hand over her hood. He reverently picked up the small unmarked book left dropped on the ground by her side, tucking it with care in her robe pockets. He lifted the unconscious Tessa into his arms. The slumbering mage rolled her head in the nook of his neck. Nikolai stepped back onto the pages of the Great Tome, slowly rising above the ground. With a flicker, both wisemon and the Book disappeared…

    …only to reappear in the front Locomon car. Nikolai gently laid his daughter on the cushioned seats. With a final stroke of her hood, the elder Wisemon faded into a string of digicode and returned to the Tome. The Book shrunk in sized and slipped beneath Tessa’s head, much like a pillow.


    Andrea Mercer
    Locomon Car


    Andrea strode into the front car with purpose. She’d just finished with the loading of deceased tamers into the back of the train, a few of the Peacemakers helping with the grim task. The young woman needed the distraction from the hurt she’d felt at Theo’s words, but at the same time she felt she had a duty to do so. Deneb, still a Poromon, slept in the car behind her next to her beaten up backpack.

    The atmosphere in the car was heavy and tension. Samael was the first ‘Guardian’ she stepped past upon entering the car. She paused for moment, watching him with a steady eye. She had been occupied with the three dead tamers, but she’d heard the ruckus painfully clear. Watching her brother’s partner fall further into the despair had been gut-wrenching. To say no less of Okatsu’s injuries.

    She’d been mulling over her own feelings, while she worked moving the dead. Could she and Deneb, as Ceresmon, have prevented Samael from acting as they had defended the other tamers? Maybe not. Too focused on the bigger picture, they couldn’t react properly in multiple locations. Their senses had been too overwhelmed as the biomerged pair tried to sort through the sensor input, leaving them distracted and vulnerable to Tristan’s attack. Given their situation, she couldn’t see the Fallen going away anytime soon. Better to treat him like a suppressed wildfire that could lash out of control at any moment, than believe it was a one time occurrence. The temptation to join the Peacemaker group was a strong one…but she wasn’t about to abandon James or her friend, Hoshiko.

    "We need a leader.” Andrea paused in her stride, further into the train car. Michael was speaking to a seemingly reluctant Thor, but his words easily carried to her.

    "I thought that was you." I thought so too. The young woman glanced around the scattered group slowly, momently unsure of her current objective. She paused by the distraught Hoshiko, placing a hand on the other woman’s shoulder to get silent permission to see Okatsu. She’d wanted to look over the Gabumon X’s wounds for herself anyway, but it gave her an excuse to stall and listen more to Michael and Thor.

    "I'm going to check on the Tamers," James said out loud, as he rose and exchanged quiet words with Artanis. She didn’t blame James for wanting to get some distance from the current atmosphere. Truthfully, she just wanted to go back to Deneb, but had wanted to report the status of the tamers to the Archangel. However, she stalled a moment longer, listening.

    "Tactics isn't leadership," Michael insisted, fixing Thor with a pointed look. "Gawain provides the strategy, but Galahad provides leadership." He glanced over the train car at the Guardians. "We need leadership -- alignment -- someone to get this disparate souls working as one." He sighed. "Or at least the semblance of it."

    Andrea shifted in the seat next to Hoshiko, staring off into space blankly. Her brows knitted in frustration. She’d ignored the feeling that had started forming on their swift run to Glen Elendra. Michael’s prompt dismissal of the humans from the battle. She hadn’t spoken against it at the time, since she had been a newcomer to the team and didn’t want to disrupt what she thought was an established team dynamic. Only there wasn’t.

    She shook her head, fed up with that status quo. “We need more than that.” The words slipped from her lips before she realized it. Internally, she cringed from any Guardians that might have glanced right at her. She hadn’t spoken quietly herself. Taking a steadying breath, Andrea rose and approached the Archangel. Might as well finished what she started. “What good is leadership if you can’t communicate orders effectively out in the field? What good are tactics if you’re not utilizing all your assets?”

    “Lord Michael, you told us, tamers, to stay out of the fighting. I didn’t agree with it, but having just joined the Guardians I went with it anyway. I assumed you had a good reason for it, but that was my mistake.” Andrea exhaled, she usually didn’t get worked up like this, but Michael was preaching the need for leadership to unite the team as one. However, she felt the Archangel thought along the lines of only the Digimon, as if their tamers were just add-ons. She stepped forward more boldly. “We ride with our partners from here on out. Spread us out evenly among the group in the next battle. James, Hoshiko, and I can communicate to one another via our digivices. The range isn’t unlimited or a perfect method, but it’s better than nothing. So, if circumstances change drastically again like they did today or someone runs into trouble and needs help, we have a means of keeping everyone up-to-date. It is the standard operating procedure of my rescue guild to always have a tamer pair or two on hand.”

    “Maybe you didn’t know that about us, but you didn’t ask either.” Andrea spoke firmly, not backing down. She took a moment to look around, meeting the eyes of anyone bothering to pay her any attention. “If you really want the Guardians to start thinking like a team, then you need to start including us in that equation. We stand to lose more than anyone else here, you might as well let us join the battle with our partners.”

    Andrea wound down from her momentum, taking a second to catch her breath. Her cheeks tinted pink with embarrassment from her outburst. She’d intently just wanted to inform Lord Michael that the Peacemakers were working on a head count of the surviving tamers and Digimon and to apologize for attempting to use an untested form of theirs in the middle of battle so clumsily. However, she needed some time to settled down. She’d catch up with him later at Axis Mundi to let him know what evolutions were available to her and Deneb, in case they proved useful in his strategies.

    The young women turned away from the thunder god and archangel and moved further to the front of the car. Her heart thumped uneasily. Standing up before almighty angels and immortal gods seemed far easier to face than him. Theo sat secluded to the far front away from everyone else. His whole upper body slumped forward over his knees, completely obvious to everyone else. Andrea reached out a tentative hand to touch a knee, but stopped before she did and let her arm dropped.

    “Theo…” her voice was strained and tight. She didn’t think the elder greymon heard her, but a slight chinking of armor revealed he did. He’d raised his bowed head ever so slightly, his dead empty eyes meeting hers. The words she wanted to say back at the clearing before stuck in her throat.

    “I haven’t changed my mind,” she whispered. The black dragon shut his eyes, returning to whatever misery that dwelled in his mind. Andrea looked at him with a heavy heart, “I hope you find yourself again, Theo. I know this isn’t you. My brother thought the world of you.”

    She turned away. “Goodbye.”

    Andrea returned back to the previous train car, a single tear escaping the tight grip of her emotions. She passed through the car door and immediately leaned against them with a heavy and painful exhale.

    Her digivice buzzed and a light blinked. Deneb, even in his deep slumber, reached out through it to comfort his distraught partner.
     
  14. Kamotz

    Kamotz God of Monsters

    < Michael Ha'Yisrael (MagnaAngemon) >

    Despite Michael's attempt to try and glean who might help the Guardians come together, Andrea seemed intently focused on the tactics of it.

    “We need more than that.” Andrea rose and approached the Archangel. “What good is leadership if you can’t communicate orders effectively out in the field? What good are tactics if you’re not utilizing all your assets?”

    "Leadership isn't orders. You're thinking of a commander," Michael said, reiterating the point he'd just made to Thor. He tried to keep his voice even and remember to find his calm, but wasn't used to being challenged so directly by anyone...much less humans. "Galahad gives no orders. He doesn't lay out tactics or strategy. But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes that he does not lead the Royal Knights."

    She wanted someone who would micromanage each moment of combat, someone who could tell them what to do at any given time to their utmost efficiency. But the Royal Knights didn't operate like that. Leaders didn't operate like that. Michael himself had attempted to do so when they arrived at Glen Elendra - partition his forces, mitigate the unknowns, and assign everyone where he felt they would fit best. And it had ended disastrously.

    It didn't mean that tactics served no purpose - leadership without tactics was equally insufficient. But they had tactical capabilities. They could analyze situations and see where each others' strengths and weaknesses were best balanced.

    He raised his hand palm out and faced the group. "This is us now," he gestured to his five separated fingers. "Each of us acts alone and ineffectively. Strategy gives us each a purpose." He brought his fingers together, his hand flat and rigid. " But tactics and orders hinge upon the strategist." He pushed his rigid fingers against the nearest wall. His middle finger pressed against the train first, leaving a significant gap between the rest and the wall. "You can adjust," he rolled his wrists awkwardly, pressing his rigid hand up and down, different fingers pressing against the wall at each angle. "But you lose strength. And if the linchpin of a strategy collapses," his middle finger folded and the rest of his fingers crumpled clumsily against the wall. "Everything falls apart."

    He raised his hand again, fingers spread slightly apart. "Leadership, however, is alignment of purpose." He pressed each fingertip evenly against the wall. "It allows you to put weight behind your actions where before that weight would have caused them to collapse. You can hold something up, or," he made a fist. "Punch through an obstacle."

    Andrea, however, seemed not to hear him. “We ride with our partners from here on out. Spread us out evenly among the group in the next battle. James, Hoshiko, and I can communicate to one another via our digivices. The range isn’t unlimited or a perfect method, but it’s better than nothing. So, if circumstances change drastically again like they did today or someone runs into trouble and needs help, we have a means of keeping everyone up-to-date. It is the standard operating procedure of my rescue guild to always have a tamer pair or two on hand.”

    “Maybe you didn’t know that about us, but you didn’t ask either.” Andrea spoke firmly, not backing down. She took a moment to look around, meeting the eyes of anyone bothering to pay her any attention. “If you really want the Guardians to start thinking like a team, then you need to start including us in that equation. We stand to lose more than anyone else here, you might as well let us join the battle with our partners.”


    "This is exactly what I'm trying to avoid," Michael said firmly, turning to face Andrea fully after a prolonged glance back in the direction of the fallen Tamers. "There is a difference between a rescue and a battle. And you humans are fragile. A twelve-foot fall could break your bones. Any wayward attack from a Royal Knight would atomize you on the spot. The shrapnel kicked up in a blast would shred through you like paper.

    "You stand to lose so much because what you have to lose is lost so easily," Michael said, his voice hard.

    "Right now all we have is tactics, and I am the only one who seems willing to provide them," Michael continued, his voice rising. "But no tactics we have will ever be great enough to overcome what the Royal Knights can bring to bear against us."
     
  15. storymasterb

    storymasterb Knight of RPGs

    Hoshiko Yukimura
    Front Locomon Car

    A hand fell on her shoulder and she looked up, seeing Andrea standing over her. She hadn't spoken to the other woman since they had parted in the forest, she realized wearily. Without a word, Andrea took the seat where James had been sat, filling his absence with something comforting. Something familiar. She found herself leaning a little closer to Andrea and didn't know if it was a longing for that familiarity or just the exhaustion that ran faster than this Locomon to catch up to her. It had been a long day, to say the very least.

    She listened to the argument raging as Andrea added her voice. She knew from a conversation long ago that Andrea did something relating to rescue work back on Analog, which was why she popped in and out of Saga like she did. Perhaps that was where this tactical insight came from, but even wanting to back Andrea up, Hoshiko knew that Michael had far more experience in that field than any human could match. She had come across a few accounts of the Host's military actions in her digging across the world, and they had all shared an admiration of the Host's precision and grace, be that admiration genuine or grudging. What did she or Andrea or James have to offer to one such as Michael where military tactics were concerned? And besides, as Michael spoke, tactics were not the issue.

    "Riding our partners into battle is reckless," she forced herself to offer, looking up from the slumbering Okatsu. "It's tempting, I know. Wanting to face the Knights, to laugh in their faces." Like James does, her mind added unbidden. "Not wanting to be separated from your partner in case..." Her gaze fell again. "But we're fragile, Andrea. I've seen just how so. The Knights hold back and yet still Tamers die."

    Artanis looked at her, then back to Michael. He had been silently weighing the conversation. "And yet, they are so willing to enter the battlefield with us," the Agumon mused. "I imagine you feel the same, Hoshiko Yukimura." Did she? Not before now, not really. Even when she'd stared down Guinier and spoken directly to the Royal Knight, she hadn't thought of it like that.

    "I should have been with you."

    Her own words echoed in her head, almost mocking in the face of this debate. Was that what she'd meant all along? That this war was life or death for her regardless? That being separated from Okatsu and forced back to Saga might as well be a death sentence, if unintentionally more prolonged and crueler. She'd never really wanted to fight before, not in person. Not the way James did. He was reckless and courageous and heroic, she'd always thought, skirting the edge of madness in the way that heroes seemed to. That wasn't her. She was quiet and controlled and, dare she say it, shy.

    "Regardless," Artanis continued, "Michael is correct. We require a leader of the inspiring sort. The tactical command is not what is in question, Andrea." Andrea by this point was leaving regardless, heading over the gloomy figure of Theo. Hoshiko felt a stab of pity, almost. She didn't really know how she felt about the BlackWarGreymon, whether it was disappointment, pity, anger or sorrow. Probably a strange mix of them all.

    "I thought James was an inspiring leader," Hoshiko said softly, just loudly enough for the Agumon to hear. He turned his gaze to her. "And yet he's gone."

    Artanis shook his head. "I am certain that if James felt able to step up and offer himself, then he would have done so." She'd expected the Agumon to defend his partner, naturally. Okatsu would have done the same for her were the situation reversed. "What of you? You once led your guild. You know authority and leadership."

    She had already thought about that. Already discounted herself because she was no soldier. She had not fought, she did not know the ways of war. All she'd done since this madness began was try to preserve what she could, even as it slipped between her desperate fingers. Anand. His partner. So many others. The guild. Kaladesh. The Tamers in Glen Elendra. How much more would slip from her grip before the fighting was done? More people she cared about? Some of the Guardians? Okatsu? She shuddered and clutched her partner just a little tighter. No. She couldn't lose Okatsu.

    "Not me," she whispered. "Not for this." Andrea passed by again as she spoke, heading toward the rear of the car.

    -

    Artanis Dawnflame
    Front Locomon Car

    "Not me," Hoshiko said very quietly. "Not for this." He looked at her, seeing how fragile she seemed in that moment. He could tell even with how she tried to keep her thoughts buried that there was a great weight on her shoulders. He had heard a proverb once, that when you grieved, you were carrying the ones you grieved for on your shoulders. Hoshiko's shoulders seemed burdened indeed. Normally she hid it well, but in this moment, he could see her pain. Was that why she refused as she did? Was her grief too great for her to step up?

    Was James' grief too great as well? He shook his head. Humans were strong in spirit. Even if the fragility of their bodies could not be ignored, their spirits could be as unbreakable as a mountain. James had proven that, soldiering on despite the losses and the hopelessness, using his heroism as a torch to drive the darkness of despair back. Some had said it was useless, but James had ignored them and carried on. He didn't want to lose Artanis and Saga and the whole idea of Tamers and partners. It was a beautiful idea and so Artanis fought for it too.

    He cast a glance down the carriage to where Theo brooded. Was that what he would become, were James to die? So broken and despondent? It was a melancholy thought and he pushed it aside. No. They would fight on, die together if they had to. James wouldn't let it be any other way after what had happened to Okatsu. Artanis knew him well enough to be sure of that.

    His attention turned back to the question of leadership. He had already discounted himself. The Akilae had taught him to fight as an army of one, relying on his own strengths without concern for those around him. He had learned to fight besides others through necessity as their comrades had fought with them against the Royal Knights, but he was not comfortable leading. Actions were his forte. Battle was his expertise. James could inspire, but he clearly felt unable to lead the Guardians. Artanis could only guess why, though he suspected it had something to do with the fiery god and the sword-sharpening demon also occupying the carriage. Michael was right, of course, without leadership they were lost. Tactics could only take them so far. But who would step up? His gaze, wandering, found Henry. He recalled the pirate's speech. It was the sort of speech his mentor Tassadar might have given, if coarser than the eloquent sort of speech Tassadar would have given. The Agumon pondered. Could the pirate be the leader they were seeking?

    -

    James Reeve
    2nd Locomon Car

    The car was packed with Tamers and partners, drowning in sound. Wails and sobbing, words of comfort, words of grief. He let it wash over him as he stood there, seeing faces turn towards him, weary, some with cuts and bruises. Some with hollow eyes being comforted futilely by those at their sides. It hurt to look at them. To know that their partners were gone because the Guardians had failed.

    "You're James Reeve, aren't you?" a voice said softly. He looked at the Tamer, a boy not older than thirteen, a Veemon at his side. Before he could answer, another voice cut in.

    "He is." It was Megan, her Dorumon partner curled up in her lap. James gave her a weary smile, glad to see her safe.

    "I, um, thank you," the boy mumbled. "You... and them..." He gestured to the door. James kept his smile, but inside, he was glad the boy couldn't see the turmoil beyond. That he didn't know about Samael's sword in Okatsu's back, about the strife. They couldn't see that. The Guardians and the Peacemakers were meant to be protecting them, yet the Guardians couldn't pull together. And the Peacemakers didn't seem enough either. They were dispersed throughout the train as far as he knew, but none of them were apparent in here.

    "What're your names?" he asked, kneeling down to be on the boy's level.

    "I'm Kevin, and, uh, this is Fi," the boy replied nervously with a gesture to his Veemon partner. The blue dragon was clinging to him like Hoshiko had clung to Okatsu.

    "Good to meet you," James replied. "I'm glad that you're safe." He looked over to Megan. "You both as well. And all of you."

    "Not all of us," someone said. James slowly rose, finding a hollow-eyed Tamer. "Lyanna didn't make it. She... she..." She was crying openly, tears glistening coldly down her cheeks, and it cut at his insides. A boy hugged her, but she weakly shrugged him off and continued to stare at James. "We heard about you. You're this... hero... right? Saving us?"

    James didn't move.

    "What are you doing?" the girl said, her tone turning accusatory. "What were you doing? Saving us?" Her voice trembled with grief and rage, rage he wanted to think was misguided. But he had already thought the same. If the Guardians had been enough...

    "Lay off him," an older girl said. "They did their best. I saw them all fighting out there."

    "My Lyanna..." the girl whispered, broken. "Where were you? When those soldiers found us? When Lyanna died to save me? Where were you?!"

    James stood like a statue, not flinching, not breaking their locked gazes. "We were fighting," he said softly. "We were trying to save people."

    The girl spread her arms widely in anger, almost slapping those around her. "You didn't save Lyanna. You didn't save his partner, or his, or hers, or hers." She pointed across the carriage to more Tamers and Digimon with those hollow eyes. He wanted to make the rebuttal that he couldn't save everyone. That people died in war, for that was what this was. But that sounded too much like...

    "You of all Digimon know what can happen in war."

    Tristan mocked him from the recent past. He couldn't just cast aside her pain with words that were so close to the Gallantmon's cold dismissal.

    "Blame the Royal Knights!" someone shouted at the girl. "Not the guy putting his neck on the line to try and stop them!

    "No," he said, softly, but loud enough that the girl could hear. "I... I'm sorry. That I didn't save Lyanna. That we didn't save Lyanna." He kept his gaze fixed on those eyes full of pain. "We're fighting to try and stop them, so that no one else has to lose their partner." The words sounded weak in the face of her grief, but he kept speaking. "We'll keep fighting until the last breath if we have to, to make sure this 'crusade' of theirs doesn't claim more innocent lives. So that people like us can be safe here on Saga, living without fear that the Knights and their followers will send them back to Analog or kill them or..." His words trailed off.

    A hand gently touched his arm. Megan had reached out. "We all know," she murmured. "We saw you."

    They didn't see him really. They saw James Reeve, hero, champion, savior, leading his band of Tamers to fight legends. Not James Reeve, the young man in over his head. They couldn't see that James Reeve. That one couldn't protect, couldn't inspire, couldn't give them hope to keep them going. He took a step forward.

    "I want to stop what happened to Lyanna from happening to anyone else," he said. He saw Matthew's broken body and Nyon screaming as he strained against Artanis, Cielstraza and Tahu. It kept happening and happening, and every time he wished for it to be the last death, but people kept dying despite the Knights' pretty words. Some who followed them formed mobs and found brutal solutions to the Tamers. 'Accidents' saw Tamers left broken on cold hard ground, or ripped apart by stray attacks. More deaths to haunt his dreams. More dead to ask the same the girl asked him.

    "Where were you?!"

    "Even if you do... it won't bring her back," the girl whispered, tears glistening in the dying light.

    He bowed his head. "No. I can't bring her back." He wished he could. That he could give Lyanna back to this girl, that he could bring back the three Tamers and their partners, that Hoshiko's dead and his dead and all the dead could come back to those who loved them. That the families on Analog he had talked to Andrea about over the three corpses could have their children and their siblings and their lovers and everyone else back. But he could never do that, he knew. Perhaps out there, his legend had become someone who could, but he was still just James Reeve, wearing a mask to try and give the Tamers the smallest hope in the midst of despair.

    She was a step away now, eyes so hollow yet so much pain apparent in how she trembled. The other Tamers watched silently. "Promise me. That you'll stop them. That you won't let them kill more people. Lyanna would have wanted that." She was young, he thought, before it sounded condescending and he hated himself for thinking it. But she was. Thirteen or fourteen. Only just taking the first step between childhood and adulthood. And she was broken with raw pain and grief. He would be lying if he made that promise. He couldn't stop the Knights from killing people, apparently even the Knights couldn't stop themselves from killing people. He could say whatever he liked to her and people would still die. But he was James Reeve, a young man in over his head who nonetheless couldn't let these people see him broken. They needed hope.

    "I promise," he said quietly. "I will stop them. We will stop them. We'll put an end to their crusade. And we won't let more people die."

    She was silent for a moment, gazing into his eyes with hers. Green eyes met grey-blue ones dripping with tears. "Thank you," she said, her voice less than a whisper, and he slowly reached out and she let him pull her into a hug. Tears soaked into his jacket and she trembled in his arms. "I'm... sorry..."

    "It's okay," he whispered back, so quietly only she could hear. They stayed there for just a few short moments, James taking her tears, feeling her tremble with the pain and grief. He wanted to break down as she had, the weight of failure heavy on his shoulders, but he kept himself strong. Slowly she pulled away and he let her go, seeing new tears already falling to replace those that had soaked into his jacket. She took her seat slowly and the Tamers around her replaced James' arms with their own, holding her close. Seeing their compassion pushed the burden back just a little. That was why he kept fighting, after all. For the Tamers. For humans and Digimon together, for the community they had formed and the love for one another that this terrible war had brought to the forefront. Digimon fighting to protect humans. Humans running into the battlefield to save those left behind. He had seen it so many times and yet even gestures as small as this still reignited his conviction.

    The lying promise was cold, though. He kept stoking the myth of James Reeve, hero, and then trying desperately to live up to it. He had to. He had to help these people as much as he could. It was all he knew to do. He couldn't just abandon them. He couldn't just sit in Axis Mundi and count his blessings either. He had to keep fighting to save as many people as he could.

    He felt someone's eyes behind him and slowly turned. Andrea stood there, a tear visible on her cheek. She seemed as weary as he felt, leaning against the car door and clutching her Digivice. He wondered why she'd gone into the front carriage, but quelled the thought. He walked back to her, navigating a sea of feet and legs and partners, finally finding himself at her side. He wanted to ask "Are you okay", but that seemed painfully futile. Of course she wasn't okay.

    "Where's Deneb?" he ventured, wondering where the Poromon was.
     
  16. TheSequelReturns

    TheSequelReturns Phantom Thief

    ~ Aria Morningsong (Lilamon) ~
    Front Locomon Car


    Aria watched Andrea as she chatted with Michael and wasn't sure what to think about either. Andrea seemed be arguing for the emotional take. Keep those with bonds close. Communicate. Work together. Fine sentiments, but sentiments would crumple under the weight of the Royal Knight's convictions. Michael on the other hand was trying to get her to see the rational side. Organization. Unity of Purpose. Things that would hold under the pressure of the Knight's assault.

    What neither of them seemed to be elaborating was that you couldn't find unity of purpose with actually agreeing on a purpose. You couldn't communicate effectively without both speaking the same language. Michael was calling for someone to actually try and do that with this group, but he seemed unwilling to do it himself.

    Andrea broke from the conversation to look around, and Aria caught her gaze. She looked worked up. Never have a serious discussion when emotional. Aria had learned that the hard way many, many times. But hey, emotions were a fickle thing. Even for gods and angels apparently. Andrea continued her argument. “If you really want the Guardians to start thinking like a team, then you need to start including us in that equation. We stand to lose more than anyone else here, you might as well let us join the battle with our partners.”

    But Michael had a very apt counter point. Humans were fragile little creatures. And he explained as much. "You stand to lose so much because what you have to lose is lost so easily," Michael said, driving the nail home.

    And there was the root of the problem. Humans were the ones who were unwanted. Humans were the ones being singled out for persecution. But humans couldn't fight for themselves. Not against digimon. So they needed digimon to fight on their behalf.

    But how could you ask someone who had nothing to lose and no stake in the matter to put their lives on the line to fight and possibly die for you? Aria looked down at her own hands and laughed. By appealing to their soft side, of course. That was why she was here after all. That was enough to get people to fight. But not enough to unify them.

    Aria let her head fall back until it knocked against the wall of the train car. When in the hell had her life become so complicated? The fact that she now seemed to spend more time musing about these kinds of thoughts instead of having any kind of fun at all was depressing. She looked around for some familiar faces. With any luck, they would be feeling just as depressed. It sucked to be the only one in the room who felt like a wilted flower.

    Stein was sitting perfectly still, rubbing his head like he was trying to puzzle something out. Henry sat against the far wall, mulling over a scrap of paper and scowling. Tessa was out cold, the poor thing. Aria made a mental note to talk to her later. The Wisemon was gifted, but she pushed herself too hard. The tamers had scattered. Artanis was looking like he was lost in thought. Theo was...

    Theo sat against the wall of the train car looking like a corpse.

    Andrea was walking away from him, heading towards the other car. Aria couldn't see her face, but humans weren't that great at hiding emotions. Something was clearly wrong.

    The Lilamon took a moment to collect her thoughts before slowly floating her way over to the old soldier. He looked dead. Like his soul had been sucked right out of his body. Aria had seen that look before. In the dark back corner of taverns. On solitary faces sitting by gravestones. It was distilled sadness. Grief bottled up and aged like a wine. But at some point, you had to drink it.

    She let herself sink to the ground until she was sitting cross-legged next to the BlackWarGreymon. She waited a moment for acknowledgement, knowing it wasn't likely to come. It didn't.

    "Have you ever been to a small town tavern?" she asked him.

    Nothing. Not even a tilt of the head. But she knew he was listening. That was enough for now.

    "I don't mean any old tavern, mind you. No city joints. Not the loud, busy, smelly places like the one back in Axis Mundi." She laughed softly. "The small places. The taverns with vines growing up the walls. Places lit only by candle light and filled with laughter and the only music is the simple folk songs that have been sung in those halls for ages." She said with just a bit of wistfulness.

    She could have sworn his head tilted just a bit in her direction.

    "I like those places more than the big ones. I didn't used to. The city bars are all chaos and bluster. They have to be rebuilt every week and there's little more to them than booze and sweat at the end of the day. But the tavern's with history, with character, are something special. They have stories to tell. Songs to sing and pass on." She sighed, long and deep, and crossed her arms.

    "Its the songs, I think, more than anything else," she continued, lost in memories. "Songs let us sing out loud the things we can't bear to say."

    Aria coughed, trying not to give in the emotions that were starting to well up in her heart. "I have a song that's special to me. Its just a little thing, passed down back at home. I used to resent it. My mom made me practice it every day until I got it right. The last time I sung it for her, I was just a kid. I didn't have the voice for it and I never did get the whole thing out. But now that I've been out here on the road, seeing the things we've seen, all I want to do is sing that song for her again. I don't know when that day will come, but until it does, I'll wait and keep that song safely in my heart."

    She turned to look at Theo now, hoping to get something, anything out of the old dragon. "Is there a song you're waiting to sing again?"

    -+-+-+-+-

    + Frantz Stein (Boltmon) +
    - Front Locomon Car -

    After making sure that Wise One had made it safely about the train, Stein once again found himself with nothing to do.

    The Captain had blown him off and was currently mulling over some old papers and mumbling under his breath. Flower Friend was sitting next to... to... What was the BlackWarGreymon's name again? Stein rummaged through his databanks but came up with nothing. His databanks were notoriously fickle. His brain gave it a shot as well, but couldn't decide between Duo, Theo, and Gramps and ultimately gave up.

    With no name to be found, that meant a nickname was in order. "You shall be..." Stein mumbled aloud. "Sad Man." he decided. The dragon looked sadder than anyone Stein had ever seen. And he was also a man. So it worked.

    Wit that crucial bit of info stored away, Stein could move on to other problems. His mind fumbled a few ideas around. Things like "Why did everybody look so sad?" kept popping up, so Stein settled on that. Sad Man wasn't the only one. The whole air in the train car was anti-smile. Even after Captain gave an energetic speech and there was all that shouting. Stein scratched his chin, then jumped up as he remembered that three Huemon's had been killed. Stein hadn't been conscious at the time, so he hadn't thought about it. But now he remembered seeing the Huemon's bodies being put into the train car with great care.

    Something about that seemed wrong.

    Stein ran that through his processors one more time. The error came back again. Digimon dispersed into data when they died, right? Sometimes Digieggs, but not often. And the Huemon's definitely hadn't regressed into eggs. So... how were their bodies still here? A problem of this magnitude was too much for Stein's processors, which promptly ejected the issue entirely and suggested he ask someone. The Boltmon nodded in agreement with himself.

    He looked around for the nearest Huemon and saw... What's-Her-Name standing with... that Gabumon who had been stabbed by Angry Demon. Stein raped his knuckles on the side of his head with a satisfying ding. He had to find a way to learn names better. He ran a few cycles to come up with something to call the tamer pair but nothing immediately came to mind. Maybe if he talked to her, he'd come up with something.

    Carefully, so as not to accidentally step on anyone, rock the train, or hit his head on anything, the Boltmon gradually made his way over to where Hoshiko was. She had Okatsu held tightly in her arms, but the Gabumon was out cold.

    Stein, very gently, sat down nearby the tame and her partner. "Hello, miss Huemon." he offered, ignoring her reaction to the strange greeting. "Stein had a question that he can not answer. If you know, can you help?" he waited a beat.

    "Oh, Stein is sorry. I forgot to ask the question." He scratched his chin with one huge finger. "Why did the Huemons who died not disperse into data?" he asked, unaware of that question's weight.

    -+-+-+-+-

    < Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) >

    Despite everything that had happened today, the thing that surprised Henry the most was that he had gotten so worked up as to give a drunken speech without actually being drunk, and then poked Svarog in the chest like he would a disagreeable deck hand and somehow he was still breathing.

    There were confidence boosters, and then were was boosting your confidence into orbit.

    If that traitorous former first mate his was here right now, Henry was sure he could kill him with one hand tied behind his back. But that was the problem wasn't it? Years had gone by without sight or sound of his old ship. Either Avery was even more of a sneaky bastard than Henry knew, or his old ship wasn't sailing. But why? That was one mystery Henry couldn't figure out. Why steal a ship, kill half the crew, and then not use it?

    He stared at the map in his hands. His father's old map Saga. Marked with notes, secret ports, buried treasures, and all sorts of goodies. It could tell him everything his father had ever done. And everything his grandfather had ever done. And a few of the things he had done, even. But it couldn't tell him what he needed to know right now. Was he destined to be a captain? Had that right been stolen from him unfairly? Was it all a mistake? A chance inheritance he was never meant to hold? Or did all of this happen for a reason, to lead him to this moment? Who could say?

    But Henry had sat and pondered his father's map and his misfortunes. He had looked around at everyone's dejected, pathetic faces. And he had heard one too many people or gods or angels or demons pass the buck around and talk endlessly about the problems without actually trying to do anything about them.

    What Svarog had said was true. The knight's could not be beaten by tactics or experience. The Knight's had those in an abundance that no one here could hope to match, except maybe Michael or Samael. But everyone one of them here could still stand up the Knights in their own way. They had all proven that by fighting this long.

    And what, exactly, was a crew if not a collection of individuals with assorted skills, all aligned towards a common goal?

    The one with the best eyes became the lookout. The ones with the best aim maned the cannons. The ones who could actually read and do math kept track of inventory. It worked, not because everyone could do everything. But because each person was slotted into the role where their skills could excel. Each of the Knight's had strengths and weaknesses as well. But it wouldn't be enough to think of it in terms of offense and defense. Each of the knights also had a personality. Flaws of perception or character to exploit. Weakness like pride or tunnel vision they could use to gain the upper hand when simple strength wasn't enough.

    To beat the Knights, they couldn't just out-fight them. They had to out-think them, and out-smart them, and out-maneuver then, and out-last them, and they might have to straight up trick them with a low blow. The old sand in the eyes tactic. Whatever works, works.

    Henry folded the map and stowed it away. He had heard the phrase "we need a leader" around here one to many times today.

    Calmly, he walked towards the front of the train car. When most of the room was behind him, he turned around and gave one last look over the assembled faces, just to steal his will. He saw sadness, and despair, and annoyance, and malcontent, and pain, and disregard, and thoughtfulness, and empty stares. What he did not see, was someone else who wanted to do something about that. So be it.

    He cleared his throat as loudly as he could. Shifting back into Henry Vane, Captain of the Queen's Ransom, was proving to be easier than he had expected.

    "Alright, you bunch of sad sacks. Listen up." He cracked his knuckles. "It's come to my attention, that there's been some calls for a leader around here. But lo and behold, no one seems willing to step up to the front of the line."

    He started pacing back and forth, calmly, slowly, as he would when talking to his old crew. "Now, I know we have some real tough customers around here. We've got veterans, and gods, and angels, and demons, and Tamers, and all sorts of characters. But still, no one seems willing or, dare I say, able to step up. Well, the sea's not getting any calmer out there and there's a storm brewing on the horizon. A storm that goes by the name of the Royal Knights. And if we're gonna survive that storm and make it back to port in one piece, we're gonna need some actual leadership around here."

    He stopped pacing, turning back to face the group. His metal leg struck the ground with a clang. "So since I'm the only one standing here, I nominate myself."

    He looked out over the crowd one more time. "So if anyone of you has an objection, then by all means, voice it. If any one of you thinks they'd do a better job, then by all means, step up to the front. If you want this job instead of me, you can have the damn thing. But if you're not willing to this in my place, if you're not willing to take responsibility for this little crew of ours, then sit down and shut up."

    Henry grinned. "So, what's it gonna be?"
     
  17. Solsabre

    Solsabre The Reforged Soul

    Andrea Mercer
    2nd Locomon Car


    The female tamer leaned against the car door, her thoughts in a spinning tizzy. Andrea thought she knew what she was getting herself into when she first jumped through the portal from Analog. She'd taken the first battle in stride, helping those she could, when she could, however she could. Flying through the trembling city of Kaladesh, she flew on Deneb's back as she always had and whispering directions and warnings, until they stumbled across Okatsu and the Archangel, Michael, fighting Sir Guiner. Joining the pair against the Royal Knight had seemed like the obvious and right choice at the time.

    A choice that wasn't any different than that of the three tamers that fell.

    Could she had shared a similar fate in the first battle at Kaladesh? She hadn't been riding Deneb's back then, since his Sirenmon form was too small to carry her in prolonged flight. And being thrown off his back was unlikely with the ingenious safety harness system, created by a clever inventor back in Kaladesh, to keep her from being dislodged while high in the air. But there were other ways of falling to one's doom. The three tamers fell in her mind again and Michael's harsh words rang with the mental image.

    "There is a difference between a rescue and a battle. And you humans are fragile. A twelve-foot fall could break your bones. Any wayward attack from a Royal Knight would atomize you on the spot. The shrapnel kicked up in a blast would shred through you like paper.”

    Even Hoshiko had chimed in how reckless it was for them to ride with their partners. Andrea's expression had soften then as she gazed at the older woman, so lost as she watched the sleeping Okatsu. Their partners took the risks for their partners freely and willing. But how could she ask Deneb, or anyone else for that matter, to fight on her behalf if she was not willing to do so herself and take the same risk?

    "You stand to lose so much because what you have to lose is lost so easily," Michael said, his voice hard.

    Her face cringed ever so slightly from pressing her back too hard on the carriage door. A small section of skin on her back flared with a brief jolt of pain. The healing skin and muscle was still tender and sore from a fallen burning branch that had struck her a month ago. Deneb was going to fuss at her when he woke up, they'd been in the other's mind after all. Fragile indeed.

    Andrea sighed, gently fiddling with the damaged dogtags around her neck. Yes, any of them could die at anytime with a bad wind... These things we do, that others might live. She gripped the precious tags tightly. She couldn't let that stop her, the fear, that the next day, hour, or second could be their last. Not when Deneb, who hated having to fight, was willing to fight on her behalf.

    No. Not when they still had each other. Deneb reminded her of that in the last battle. Her partner did not fight alone, he never had. Andrea always backed him up with an evolution ready to go or informing him of changing circumstances if he was distracted. The young woman realized that being apart had never stopped them from working together. It just affected how they did so. At Glen Elendra, the reality of their situation really hit her as she watched the three tamers fell and none of Deneb's available ultimate forms seemed to be doing any good.

    However, they still had each other and Ceresmon was born.

    The biomerged pair had messed up royally at Glen Elendra by not knowing how to use it properly, but they were still alive. She and Deneb would learn. Her digivice chirped and glowed softly, echoing her slumbering partner's sentiments.

    A sad smile escaped Andrea, her eyes passing over the tearful humans and digimon ahead of her. Not all were as fortunate as her and Deneb, a certain BlackWarGreymon came to mind. The young women bite her lip, the hurt still fresh from the older greymon's insistence that she leave the fight. However, her hurt was compounded with guilt at the same time.

    She shouldn't have left him then. The thought of the defeated greymon nearly pulled a sob from her. The same haunted eyes from a year ago stared at her today, but more worn and wasted away. Would Theo have dwindled into the shadow that he is now, if she had insisted on staying by his side? To this day, Andrea didn't know what she had been thinking that dreaded day. Theo had woefully demanded to be left alone with his grief, so she had respected that. But being alone was the last thing he needed. It was true as it was true now, but this time she wouldn't be able to given him that support. Not when she and Deneb were needed to fight the Knights.

    "Where's Deneb?" Andrea was pulled from her thoughts. James stood in front of her with a concern look. The young woman quickly straighten up, a few loose hairs from her braid hung to obscure the small trail of tears to one side her face.

    “He's sleeping at the other end of the car.” Andrea replied stiffly, rubbing her arms in distraction after gesturing vaguely to an open seat in that direction. “Regression took care of most of the damage. He'll be black and blue for a while, but otherwise he's fine.”

    “What can I do for you, James?” Andrea asked, uncertain of were this was heading.

    Theo Grayson
    Front Locomon Car


    Voices floated throughout the train car as the defeated Guardians left Glen Elendra. He shut it all out.

    Seated to the far front of the car, Theo slumped forward dejectedly. Arms hung limp over his knees. His head low between them, staring blankly at the floor. Soft steps approached him, the shadow of a slight figure entered his vision.

    “Theo...” A pained voice called to him. The elder greymon raised his heavy head ever so slightly. Andrea stood before him like a leaf on the breeze, ready to take off at any moment.

    I haven’t changed my mind,” she whispered. The black dragon shut his eyes, returning to his misery.“I hope you find yourself again, Theo. I know this isn’t you. My brother thought the world of you.”

    “Goodbye.”


    Brother...

    The word caused the incident with Samael to play over and over in his mind, but instead of Okatsu, the blade pierced through the chest of his younger brother, Asher.

    He'd been too far and too slow to stop it. The momentary shock and fear in his brother's eyes as they stared at one another in that eternal moment haunted Theo to this day. He ran, catching his brother as the younger WarGreymon X fell. He held tight as Asher breathed his last breath, slowly dissolving into data. The old soldier had left the Order shortly there after.

    He couldn't save his brother. He didn't come to Okatsu's aid in time. He couldn't save anyone.

    "Have you ever been to a small town tavern?"

    He didn't acknowledge the spunky flower maiden, too wrapped up in his own helplessness and guilt. However, he couldn't shut her out easily, not when she sat right beside him and just...talked.

    "I don't mean any old tavern, mind you. No city joints. Not the loud, busy, smelly places like the one back in Axis Mundi." She laughed softly. "The small places. The taverns with vines growing up the walls. Places lit only by candle light and filled with laughter and the only music is the simple folk songs that have been sung in those halls for ages."

    The yearning in her words, echoed a deep buried ache of his. Theo tilted his head to listen. Memories of him and Asher growing up together at their village's orphanage. Aria continued with her reminiscing of places buried with deep history and character. He and Asher only each other and the other children to rely on. When they were older, the brothers took off together to enlist in the Royal Knight forces. Their lives side by side, unchanging over the years. At least up until that last year....

    Its the songs, I think, more than anything else," she continued, lost in memories. "Songs let us sing out loud the things we can't bear to say."

    "I have a song that's special to me. Its just a little thing, passed down back at home. I used to resent it. My mom made me practice it every day until I got it right. The last time I sung it for her, I was just a kid. I didn't have the voice for it and I never did get the whole thing out. But now that I've been out here on the road, seeing the things we've seen, all I want to do is sing that song for her again. I don't know when that day will come, but until it does, I'll wait and keep that song safely in my heart."

    "Is there a song you're waiting to sing again?"


    Again Aria's words washed over him, the painful ache welling up inside. He remained silent for several long moments. Yes. Yes, he did. He couldn't remember where he heard it from, likely Kyle. His son listened to everything under the sun. Melancholy words slipped from this lips with just a mere whisper.

    The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
    And darker days are drawing near
    The winter winds will be much colder
    Now you're not here.
    I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky
    And one by one they disappear.
    I wish that I was flying with them
    Now you're not here


    Theo didn't realize he was speaking them out loud. His thoughts were stuck in the past.

    A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
    As if to hide a lonely tear
    My life will be forever autumn
    'Cause you're not here!


    The old soldier fell silent, a hand rubbing his tired eyes to wipe away the resulting droplets. In a hoarse voice, he added, “He was going to leave the Order at the end of the year to start a fa-”

    Theo choked on his words. He just couldn't say it.
     
  18. Kamotz

    Kamotz God of Monsters

    < Michael Ha'Yisrael (MagnaAngemon) >

    Michael eyed Henry carefully. The CaptainHookmon wasn't his first choice for the role...but truth be told he didn't have a first choice to begin with so this was as good an outcome as he could have expected.

    "You'll need to get them ready for the next fight," Michael said, his voice low. "It's not my...expertise, but if you need assistance let me know."

    It was all he could offer. More, public, suggestions would only undermine the very tenuous leadership Henry might have grasped at. And besides, Michael knew how to prepare and motivate angels...and these Guardians were very different.

    Pirate crew indeed.

    ==\=/==

    < Serra Castiel (BelleStarmon) >

    Serra had moved through the train towards the rear observation car and the open-air platform. It wasn't her place to intrude on the different squabbles of the Council's chosen warriors. She passed by several weeping humans and some shell-shocked Digimon partners as she did, mulling quietly over what she'd seen and experienced in Glen Elendra. She leaned against the guard rail and let the wind whip her hair. Everything had gone tits-up but she'd survived as best she could, like always. She could rebuild her distillery. She could find somewhere new to recoup those losses. She'd survived, paid back some of her hurt, and even drawn a bit of blood for her troubles. As far as she was concerned her part was over and done with. She should move on and let this conflict play out without her. She knew this to her bones.

    Then why the hell was she thinking of getting involved?

    "Well I'll be damned. I'd recognize that ass anywhere," said a voice that sounded like blade drawing from its scabbard. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end and she bristled. "Serra f*ckin' Castiel."

    She didn't need to turn to recognize who'd called her. She knew that voice from her dreams, where she filled its owner full of bullets before opening him from balls to brains just to see what he was made of.

    "Samael," she said, her voice clipped and measured, fighting back against the memories his voice dredged up and the overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame that followed. She finally turned to look upon him. "Shouldn't you be off somewhere drunk and committing some unspeakable acts?"

    Samael was leaning against the doorframe, silhouetted in black from the gloom of the darkened car behind him. He wore that same careless smile he always did, full of bladed malice and sharp teeth. Even after all those years he looked the same -- unhaunted by his deeds, unbothered by his own twistedness.

    "Should say the same t'you," Samael slurred. He wiggled a flask her direction, his version of an olive branch. But nothing with Samael was ever that straightforward.

    "You really never knew me at all," she said aloud without meaning to.

    "Course I know 'ya," Samael sneered, palming the flask and slipping it back into his coat. "You an' I're cut from the same after all."

    "I'm nothing like you," she snapped.

    "You see a mirror lately?" Samael said with a wild smirk. "You've always been more like me than you wanna' admit. And I don't just mean the way you look."

    "The hell do you want!?" Serra snarled, eager to get on with it and get it over with. Her blood was already beginning to boil and all those dark thoughts that she'd thought over and done with were beginning to bubble to the surface.

    "Shit, is that any way to talk to family?" Samael said, taunting once again.

    "We're not family," Serra snapped with a clipping of her teeth. Her claws unsheathed and she wheeled on him.

    "Who found you when your pretty nephilim ass leapt from heaven?" Samael growled, his voice low.

    Serra set her features grimly. The low-voiced Samael, the one who wasn't shouting and bloviating for all to hear, was more dangerous than any other version except...well…

    "Who took you in? Taught you how this world worked, eh? Trained you. Gave you somethin' to work at. Who hid you from the guys hunting you until you could find a more…suitable form?" He gestured to her with a leer. "Remember that day? How ya felt to be free?"

    "I was never free with you. Nothing ever was," she seethed softly. "We always paid, one way or another."

    Samael shrugged. "Never in the way I wanted though, did you?" he grinned.

    "You always did act like you were owed something from me," Serra bristled.

    "You owe me everything you have," Samael snarled, all pretense of tranquility flashing from him like boiling water. "I turned you from a nephilim on the run to a gunslinger doing the hunting. How're the guys after all this time?"

    "Wouldn't know," Serra said shortly. "Haven't seen them in a long time."

    "That's right," Samael said in a long drawl. His eyes narrowed. "Heard you and they had a falling-out. Burning bridges everywhere, aren't you, Serra."

    "You'd've been proud of them," Serra said, gnashing her teeth. "They took every twisted lesson you taught us to heart."

    "You're pretty mouthy for someone who'd be dead without those lessons," Samael snarled. His positioning and demeanor changed abruptly. He stood opposite her, shoulders squared. She could "see" every muscle and tendon itching to move and strike at a moment's notice through her third eye. She matched his stance and caught the barest twitch of surprise flutter across his features before he caught himself and took control again.

    "I shoulda left you where I found you," Samael said, sliding the door behind him shut. "Maybe better yet -- used you up and killed you when I was done. Woulda saved myself a lot of trouble."

    "Don't pretend like that wasn't the idea the whole time," Serra said, her voice smooth and calm despite the danger of the impending fight.

    She carefully weighed her options. She was still sore and stiff from her injuries sustained in Glen Elendra. She healed quickly and then had the Wisemon assist her, but even that didn't match up favorably with Samael's actual demonic healing abilities. It wasn't a chance she felt she could risk.

    "Still might be," Samael sneered, teeth flashing in the flickering sunlight streaming through the trees around them in the passing forest.

    "Might be what?" rumbled a voice in the shadowed car behind Samael. The fallen angel glanced over his shoulder with a toothy snarl as the same Imperialdramon stepped into view. "Am I intruding."

    "Ye--"

    "No. Not at all," Serra cut in, shutting Samael's mouth. "Samael was just leaving."

    "Tsk. Whatever," Samael waved her off and bumped past Thor into the train. Thor stepped forward and let the door slide shut behind him.

    "I had that under control," Serra said curtly after Samael had disappeared from sight and Thor stepped fully onto the rear platform.

    "I don't even know what 'that' was," Thor said. "Just wanted some air." He leaned heavily against the railing beside Serra. "Too many big personalities and not enough room."

    "Everyone else was saying you're some big-shot Eternal prince," Serra drawled, leaning back over the rail. "Can't believe you don't know how to handle that. 'Less you're a crappy prince." She let her head fall backwards and let her hair fly loose in the wind behind them, let the roar of the wind and the rumble of the train seem to drown out everything else.

    "Some might say so," Thor admitted with a heavy sigh. "Here I am fighting against my father's very legacy when I could be home making sure my kingdom prospered."

    "Sounds like you are a bad prince," she chuckled.
     
  19. storymasterb

    storymasterb Knight of RPGs

    James Reeve
    2nd Locomon Car


    "I..." He paused for a moment, struck by her own uncertainty, then continued. " I wanted to thank you, and Deneb too. Back there in the forest, you saved me." He recalled the SaviorHuckmon and the vines and roots clutching its limbs. In reflection, perhaps soured by the end of the battle, it felt less triumphant.

    "Uh, you're welcome," she answered with a tired-looking smile he guessed he probably shared and a small nod. "It was chaotic. I-We weren't really sure who we were protecting from the Royal Knights. Just that we were. Really Deneb did most of the work." He hadn't thought about that, how hard it must have been to exert their will through an entire forest, guiding individual roots and branches to act like grasping claws and tentacles. How could a human do that? It was just another facet of the miracle of Biomerge.

    "You did it, though. Both of you. I'm sure there are people who are only safe on this train because of what you did together," he mused, with a look back at the crowded carriage to try and emphasize his words. But as he thought of the enormity of that achievement, he was reminded of his own contributions. "I wish... Artanis and me could have done the same," he continued more quietly. "Protected as many people. Maybe then..." His gaze rested upon the grieving girl who had poured out her anger at him. If he and Artanis could act as one just like Andrea and Deneb had, could they have saved Lyanna? Could a ShineGreymon have carved a wall of flames to cut off the soldiers? Could a WarGreymon have brought his shield to bear for her?

    Andrea's voice brought his gaze back to her. "Don't beat yourself up over it, James.... maybe there are times we can't help everyone ..because so much in the world is out of our control. But we still try nonetheless and hope everyone makes it through." Her hand gripped at something below her neck.

    "I know. But like you say, we still try. I... we have to. What else can we do, besides give up? I couldn't bear that. Knowing that I didn't keep going to the bitter end when..." The words poured out and once they had left his mouth he was just silent for a moment, letting their echo hang in the air. His eyes found her hand and the glint of damaged metal within. "You said you're a firefighter, didn't you? Are they yours?"

    She looked up and clearly hesitated before answering. "Wildland firefighting, but no..." She halted and it seemed like she was dredging up old pain. He could relate to that. "They were my dad's, back when he flew for the Forest Service's air fleet..."

    The solemnity of the answer made him silent, as did the thought that he could already feel where this was heading. But regardless, he ventured the question. "What happened to him?"

    "He was dropping water on a residential area under threat of fire. He left to reload at a nearby lake, but a random updraft threw his helicopter into an uncontrollable spin. He didn't pull out of the spin." Her fingers visibly tightened around the dog tags. "These were all they could recover from the wreck after the fire passed over.” His gaze fell. He instinctively wanted to say "I'm sorry", or something like it, but he knew it wouldn't help. Surely she'd heard it so many times since. And besides, it was such a small thing to say. It paled in the face of such a loss, just like it had when his dad died. He had appreciated it when people said it, but it would never heal the pain.

    It could never come close to.

    Andrea's face was scrunched, as though in recollection. "Back at Glen Elendra...after the battle...you mentioned something about your dad, what was it?” He grasped for the memory, which already felt as though months had passed. It came to him, confessing to her in the ashes of Glen Elendra, in front of three broken bodies. His gaze came up to her face.

    "I said that... he's dead. That he died when I was young."

    She nodded, and her tone was understanding when she spoke. "You, too, huh?" Her gaze slipped past him towards the other Tamers. "I've heard similar stories from other tamers as well. You know...sometimes I've wondered if we were chosen specifically to come to Saga because of our tragedies. Of all the humans, why us?”

    He gave a nod in answer. "I've wondered myself, sometimes." He took his Digivice, holding it up. Sometimes he had just looked at it and wondered who had sent it to him, who had picked him to come to Saga. Had they picked him because his dad had died when he was young? Or was it something else that had made them choose him? "Who sent us these? Who sent those messages? No Tamer I've asked knows. It's not something I've thought about lately, though, with..." He looked back to where her gaze had turned, to the Tamers and partners behind them. "With all this." Wondering had gone, replaced by cruel reality. It didn't matter who or what had called them to Saga, not so long as the Knights and their followers were so determined to see the humans gone.

    "Yeah, the knights can be ruled out without a doubt. I was hoping for some downtime with Deneb to explore some of the coastal regions...but well..." She grimaced, rubbing her neck. He'd never thought of the Knights as a candidate to begin with. They had always seemed too wary of humanity's presence in Saga to secretly be the ones who'd summoned the Tamers to begin with.

    "I guess it doesn't make much difference who it is. I'd like to thank whoever it is, I suppose," he sighed. "I'm just... trying. Helping." His gaze turned to the carriage door behind her, and he spoke more softly. "Ever since dad died, that's what I've done. But more so now than ever, because I can't step back from something like this." How was he supposed to? Just return to Analog and know that he'd abandoned Tamers like the ones who grieved and cried out and comforted each other behind him? No. It was as impossible to him as it would be for him to fly unassisted.

    "I was really young too, when I lost my father," Andrea said, stirring his attention once more. She was looking at the dog tags. "I took up rescue work to continue what he taught me, other times I do it to feel a bit closer to him. What would he do in our situation? Would he approve of me joining the Guardians and joining this war? Maybe.. I don't know for sure." He wondered for a moment at those words. If he'd never come here, never met Artanis, would he have done the same? Aimed to be a police officer or a firefighter or something of the sort, just so he could help people the way that James Reeve had to?

    "I don't know what my dad would have done either. I think he'd have chosen the same. That he couldn't bear to let other people suffer without at least trying to help them, however he could," he said, voice barely a whisper. He didn't know for certain, but he felt it was true. Or at least, he wanted to believe it. "What would he think of me now?"

    "I don't think he'd be disappointed, James." He looked at her. Deep down, he thought she was right. How could his dad be disappointed that his son was trying to save people like this? Risking his own life to protect others like this?

    "Perhaps," he finally murmured. As he mused, Andrea looked to the side with a wistful smile forming on her lips. "I...I can remember one time. Mom took my brother and me to Dad's workplace. I forget why we were there, but he'd let us sit in the cockpit of his work helicopter." It made him smile too. It sounded like such a sweet memory. His dad had died before James could make memories like that with him. "Who do you still have back home?"

    "Your brother? Kyle?" he asked, before catching her question. "Just mum. It's been just me and her since dad passed..."

    Andrea gave an idle nod, then seemed to catch herself. "Wait...how do you know his name?"

    "Oh..." It occurred to him that he hadn't had a chance before now to speak to Andrea about what Deneb had told him. "I heard Theo say it, before Glen Elendra. And Deneb explained about him. About the accident..."

    She sighed and rubbed her forehead, muttering as she continued. "Deneb talks too much sometimes...can't be helped I guess..." She looked over her shoulder at the door behind her. "I'm...I'm worried about him, James. Theo hasn't been taking care of himself and after what Samael did to Okatsu...I'm not sure what to do." He stared at the door as she did, struck by this admission. "Talk to Theo," she'd said before. Like Theo had been changed by Kyle's death, as Deneb had hinted. Like how Nyon had been changed by Matthew's death. They were talking about whether the Tamers were chosen because of their past trauma, but the Digimon among them almost seemed just as dysfunctional. Theo with his grief and despair, Samael with that bloodlust. No wonder they were having leadership problems. He doubted that Michael was used to that sort of thing, from what he knew the angels were loyal and obedient to a fault. He pondered it for a moment, his smile weakening to a frown as he reflected on Samael.

    "We carry on, I suppose," he murmured. "What else can we do? We just try to watch each other’s backs and take care of one another, even with all this..." He recalled his friends again. Alexis and Cielstraza. Gabriel and Jara. Ariel and Talise. Ryuga and Valryon. Kazumi and Zeta. The last time he'd seen them was when he was handing his goggles over to Alexis. All of them had hugged him goodbye, wishing him the best, and he knew they'd all wanted him to stay with them. He'd wanted to stay with them too. But by being a Guardian, he could help to end this nightmare faster and save more people. He was doing more good here than with them.

    At least, that was the idea.

    Andrea gave a slow nod in answer, still staring at the door. "Yeah... I think I'm going to go check on Deneb..." She straightened and turned to walk past him, before pausing. "Thanks."

    "You too," he murmured as she departed.

    -

    Hoshiko Yukimura
    Front Locomon Car

    She was stirred from watching Okatsu and absent-mindedly listening to the rest of the carriage by the sensation of someone sitting down where James had sat. Someone large.

    "Hello, miss Huemon." It was Stein. Despite herself, she couldn't help but smile at being called "Huemon". There had been a Guilmon in the town she'd first arrived in who had insisted on calling her Hoshikomon all the time she knew him, no matter how often he was corrected. It had grown on her in a way, to the point that she'd just chuckle and stop correcting him.

    "Stein had a question that he can not answer. If you know, can you help?" the Boltmon continued, then fell silent. She waited for the question, looking at him curiously.

    "Oh, Stein is sorry. I forgot to ask the question." He scratched his chin with one huge finger. "Why did the Huemons who died not disperse into data?" he asked, as though he were inquiring about the weather. She wondered about him. Where had Stein come from and how had he come to be here? Why had he been asked to join the Guardians? She glanced down both to collect her thoughts and to check on Okatsu once more. How to explain it?

    She slowly looked up to meet his gaze.

    "Humans don't disperse," she murmured softly. "I don't know why, precisely. Perhaps because we're originally from Analog and this world doesn't know how to disperse us the way it does Digimon." It wasn't something she'd wondered, she reflected grimly. Even when she was burying bodies in the snow, giving her fallen friends all the respect she could, it had never crossed her mind to consider why they hadn't dissolved into data particles as Digimon did. The cold thoughts made her clutch Okatsu a little closer to her chest. Her gaze fell from the Boltmon's own. "When we die, we leave bodies behind."

    So many bodies, she reflected, seeing them in her mind's eye.
     

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