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Digimon: Unholy Crusade

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Samael Cain (Beelzemon) >
Bullet Club, Axis Mundi


"And where would you go to find them?" Serra asked. She took a swig of her morning beer. "Any idea where they might be?"

Samael smirked -- she was just as pragmatic as ever; she remembered everything he'd ever taught her. He could see that now. He kicked himself for letting her get away. But...that wasn't quite the truth, was it? No. It was a fun experiment for a few decades, put together his own band of outlaws, Digimon just like -- or enough like -- him, who discarded the false veneer of the world and let their inner monsters out freely. He'd found them, and he helped twist them further into his little shadows. His Gunslingers.

But damn, did they get dull. He supposed mortal Digimon found some sort of comfort in routine and habit. But he hated all of that sh*t. After five years of it he started getting restless. After ten he was downright bored. He'd taught them enough, spread some chaos in the world. It was time to move on. And so he did.

He should have stuck around a little longer, made sure all of his lessons had stuck with Serra. But she had moved on just the same. Now she was busy owning a bar, pretending to be respectable and a contributing member of society. Trying to hide that little monster inside her.

"Doesn't matter." Henry said. "Let the other Peacemakers worry about their own crew. If they're to be any help against the Knights, we have to assume they know how to handle themselves."

He tapped a knuckle on the old map that lay on his table. "Most of you seem convinced that we should head to Greystone. But let me ask you this, what exactly do we have to bargain with? If Greystone respects strength and action, then why shouldn't they side with the Knights? Kaladesh and Glen Elendra are still smoldering and we're 0 for 2. If we want to convince Greystone, or the Chess Kingdoms, or anyone else that they should fly our flag, we have to have a point on our board."

"Ixalan." he said after a short pause. "That's the only course that might give us an edge."

“The Riverlands are nothing,” Svarog said. Firefarts -- Samael hated agreeing with him. Hated agreeing with anyone. But if there was one thing he could almost respect about the Apollomon, it was his want for a fight. Their reasons were different, but Samael could at least agree it was time to sink his teeth into something.

“Never have been. All we know is that there are ‘disturbances’...somewhere. How is that any sort of edge? You want to keep this world from spiraling into all-out war? Show the Greymon strength.”

And blood, Samael added silently.

“They’ve seen the Council falter against the Knights. But we’ve already fought them twice to —arguably— a stalemate,” Thor added. “Show them who we are. Let our presence speak for us. Let them understand our convictions for themselves.

Samael made a display of rolling his eyes. He smirked as a few of the others glanced quickly in his direction and then looked away. Serra's glare held.

He grinned wildly.

“More importantly Greysvald needs to see them,” Thor motioned to James, Hoshiko, and Andrea. “He needs to see convictions equal to those of the Royal Knights. From those that are most directly impacted by their crusade.”

"A stalemate?" Henry said. "Tell that to Kaladesh. And what do we do if we go to Greystone and find the Knights there, waiting for us, because they knew the two of you would jump at the first sign of a mutiny."

Damn. Who cares? Samael had thought Henry was more fun than this. But here he was, playing hero. Lying to himself just like everyone else.

"And I thought we had something together," Samael sighed to himself sarcastically.

"A lead's a lead. And they don't always look like much. Whatever's happening in the Riverlands was big enough to catch the Council's eye. Might be more than it seems."

Oh, Henry, running after approval, playing the Captain again? He was letting his old life get the better of him -- run after secrets and treasure, and booty. The mystery and possibility was always better than the sure, boring, certain thing. Samael knew that. But the mystery was so often disappointing.

"But I concede that I don't know this Greysvald. If he's publicly declared for the Knights, then he's already taken a stand. How sure are you that his mind can be so easily swayed?"

And there it was. Uncertainty. Trying to play the leader when you didn't believe it yourself. He should learn to have convictions in his lies.

"By many accounts those were stalemates," Michael said. "Not tactically, of course. But by combat -- we are all alive, several Royal Knights were cleanly defeated, others retreated. Their objectives were just as muddled as ours."

“Greysvald declared for the Council two damn days ago. Now he’s declared for the Knights. How easily swayed do you think he is?” Svarog snapped, before muttering sourly, "putting stock in the Council's whims."

All the fire god wanted was to fight. Samael couldn't blame him after getting his @ss kicked last time. He wondered just how far the god could be pushed before he burned an entire city to the ground in his anger. That'd be a hell of a sight.

"If his allegiances are so fickle that he flips sides at every display of might, then any defeat we deal the Knights should be enough to flip him back." Henry said. "If that's all it takes, we'd be better served going to Valyria and hoping for a chance to do just that. At least then we'd be helping some tamers while we're at it."

Ol' flip-flop fishboy.

"Objectives aren't the only thing that matters." Henry added. "Public opinion will gut you just as fast as a dagger. If each of our 'stalemates' levels a city and causes a wave of evacuations, how much longer will anyone put up with us? We'll send cities rallying behind the Royal Knights just to keep their homes intact."

"I'm with Henry. Why do we need to showboat for some old greymon in person, when it's our actions in the field that will have the greater impact?" Andrea jumped in. "Besides, how do we know that there aren't any Royal Knights currently waiting at Greystone?" Andrea pointed out. "Seems like a bad recipe for another wrecked city."

"We need to get Greystone back in line because they have hundreds of soldiers ready to deploy at a moment's notice," Thor said, and Samael caught the scent of ozone in the air. Thor was holding himself in check, but he was just as likely to explode as Svarog was; except he had no idea how to reign himself in once he did.

"And if the Royal Knights are there, all the better!" Svarog snapped. "That's our entire point of being here. But of course let's run off on wild goose chases and babysitting missions,"

"Let the Council deal with public opinion," Serra said. "Let's get to kicking ass."

That's my girl, Samael sneered.

"Then go, " Andrea said stubbornly, "Go to Greystone and do what you do best, flex some muscle to impress Greyvald for us or go looking for a fight against the Knights if you want."

"I'd rather do something I'm good at. Saving lives." Andrea said, "Even if that means going into the line of fire between two cities, escorting tamers to a safe place, or fighting against the Knights if I have too. My actions out there should speak plenty of my convictions. I'm going to Valyria."

==\=/==

< Michael Ha'Yisrael (MagnaAngemon) >
Bullet Club, Axis Mundi


"I agree with Andrea," Michael said. He stepped forward to stand beside Henry, slightly perturbed that he wasn't doing more to align the group. "We need to think strategically here. The Tamers in Valeron might be safe, but that region has always been volatile. We can't let the humans get caught up in a war between the Three Warring Kingdoms. Especially if they are gathering in mass."

"Lotta 'ifs' here, Mikey," Samael sneered. Of course Samael disagreed. "'If' the soft-skins are gathering in Valyria; 'if' the Chess Kingdom follows suit; 'if' these disturbances in the Riverlands amount to anything; 'if' those Peace-bums are really in trouble. Lot of uncertainty. Way I see it the only thing certain is that those horn-heads were on our side, and now they're not. That's about as straightforward as it gets."

Samael leaned back in his chair and kicked his feet up on a table. "Oh, and that means all the humans there are in trouble, I guess. But that's none'a my business."

"This is all actionable intelligence, Samael. Not guesswork," Michael said. And you would rather fight someone than help another, he added silently. He turned towards the others again.

"Greystone's Tamer population is small, mostly Tamers with Greymon-subspecies partners. A few dozen at most. Valeron has always had a larger human population. Same with Halcyon. Regardless of their requests or not, that should be where we focus our efforts to make sure the humans are safe."

"The Greystone tamers would be able to seek shelter in the outlying villages, at least temporarily." Theo commented. "I know of one village that would take them in." Michael nodded. He was thankful for his support.

"Oh yeah?" Samael laughed. "Proud, war-hungry Greystone idiots would disobey the decree of their king-chief? They'd actively disobey? And work against the Royal Knights? C'mon son."

It would have made a decent point, if it weren't made with the subtlety of a thrown brick.

"How would they even know where to go?" Thor asked. "What chance would they have had to leave? Do you think they'd even get the chance?"

Michael was almost beside himself, though he dared not show it. He never would have imagined the day that Thor, son of Odin and Crowned Prince of Asgard, and Samael Cain, the literal God-damned Fallen One, agreed on something.

"I was at Greyhaven just days prior to arriving at Axis Mundi. A handful of tamers were already there seeking shelter and spoke of bringing others." Theo said to Thor, ignoring Samael completely. "So there is a chance that some tamers were able to withdraw from Greystone in time."

"A 'chance'," Serra sighed. Michael saw that she was tense and angry, too. She glanced repeatedly towards Samael each time she thought to speak. Not in the way that so many of others did -- out of fear or concern -- but in a manner that seemed to be weighing whether or not she wanted to be in agreement with the fallen angel.

Samael had spent decades wandering the roads of Saga. Was she someone he had crossed paths with before?

"So you're basically guessing. Three days ago Greystone was allied with the Council," Serra continued. "There wouldn't have been any danger or reason to seek shelter there. What's to say the people of Grayhaven wouldn't have turned on them as soon as head honcho Greymon told them to?"

"If we're less certain of their safety than we are the safety of the Tamers in Valyria, our choice should be obvious," Thor said, his teeth almost-grinding. "They are in a hostile kingdom, the loss of that kingdom's allegiance represents a significant threat to our ability to succeed in the future, but there is still a chance to regain that kingdom's allegiance. None of the other crises represent anything as pressing."

"Except the greatest need for us is in Valyria," Michael said. He kept his voice voice implacably calm, completely unaffected by Thor's royal opinion. "A mass gathering of Tamers counts for more than a few dozen; it attracts more attention from the Royal Knights. It causes more concern among the general Digimon populace. Maintaining a strong relationship with the many kingdoms of Valyria is a more feasible task than rebuilding a relationship with a single kingdom that has defected."

Tessa snapped her book shut with an audible thud. She had been scribbling furiously in her books, likely keeping an accurate record of events per a Wisemon's usual...compulsion. “Then it seems I must impart my sacred Wisemon wisdom.” She held up two fingers, “Two birds,” then held up one finger. “One stone.”

“One group heads to Valyria to assess the situation and act accordingly.” Tessa nodded to Henry, Michael, and Andrea. Then the mage gestured to Thor, Svarog, Serra, and Samael, “The second group goes to Greystone."

“Splitting up would resolve the argument, but would reduce our combined strength.” Theo muttered softly. He crossed his arms pondering. “Maybe either choice is too obvious. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sir Gawain had this same intel and took advantage of us being distracted with either.”'

In all honesty, Michael was tempted to yield to Tessa's "sacred Wisemon wisdom" -- if only to end the back-and-forth arguing. But then what? Would they split the group each time there was a disagreement on where to go next? How would they ever stand a chance if they did that?

"Ixalan is a gamble, yes. It could be nothing, or it could be the only lead we get that Camelot is landing forces." Henry shrugged. "But I can see you lot aren't the gambling type. In which case, I'm with Michael. Valyria is a powderkeg. All its needs is the right spark, and there will be a tempest in the north. A tempest with a whole lot of civilians and tamers caught up in it."

Henry considered Tessa's words. "Splitting up is also a gamble, but if Greystone's problems boil down to convincing a singular leader to reconsider backing us, it may not be a bad idea."

"Besides," Aria cut in, still nursing her hangover, "I don't recall seeing any of Greystone's forces backing us up lately. They have numbers on paper, but moving armies takes a lot of prep. And how many of us could it take to wrestle with the big cheese and give him a rousing speech? I certainly won't be much help there. So I'll vote for Valryia too."

“We’ve been fighting for two days,” Svarog said to Aria. "We've barely even begun to fight a war."

“And the entire point was to avoid bringing entire armies into this conflict and dragging the world into all-out war,” Thor said, glancing pointedly at Svarog. "This is why we need a show of strength to bring Greystone back into the fold. All of us. Together. Going before their king-chief and convincing him to renounce the decision to declare for Galahad. You don't insult him by sending some of us."

"I agree," Michael said, his gaze holding steady with Thor's. "We don't succeed in anything if we split our forces. It's foolish. But none of you -- none of us -- have stepped up to lead. We've asked Henry to do so. As long as that's the case, then we'll follow his lead.

"Unless anyone else wishes to volunteer?" Michael turned to them for a few moments. When no one spoke up, he turned back to Henry expectantly.
 

TheSequelReturns

Phantom Thief
< Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) >
Serra's Tavern

Henry nodded along with Michael's points. And the the angel gave the offer of leadership again. Henry waited expectantly for someone, anyone, else to claim the role. No one did. For all Thor's composure, all Svarog's fire, none of them wanted the responsibility of leading this group. Of making the calls.

"That's twice now the captain's hat has been offered, but it seems like I'm still the only one who cares to wear it." Henry said. "Fair enough."

He glanced at his map, already knowing what path he would take. But thinking again on the possibilities each destination represented. The gains. The losses. His decision here would mean life and death for strangers he had never met. It was no wonder no one else wanted the job. It was always so much easier to critique the leader from the moral safety of the crew than it was to actually risk your pride on making the wrong call.

But Henry had been a leader before, in a previous life. A good leader he liked to think, but one who was all too quick to chase after his own thoughts. Too quick to think a quick word of praise and some drink would quiet the passions of his crew. He had learned that lesson painfully. And he wasn't going to make the same mistake again. Ixalan was intriguing. It was the only unknown. But it wasn't the leader's job to chase after every unopened chest. He wasn't a pirate anymore. He had to carefully consider the words of his crew.

"We'll head to Valryia and try to deal with the situation there." he said. "That seems the issue most likely to turn sour the fastest. The tamers are, after all, at the center of this conflict. After that, we can all go knock some sense into Greystone together."
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Thor Odinson (Imperialdramon: Fighter Mode) >
Bullet Club, Axis Mundi


Of course no one stepped up to challenge for leadership. No one else had the fortitude or patience for it...or, like Thor himself, knew they had other responsibilities. His was stopping the Royal Knights, standing against them. Not just ideologically or tactically, but as a sheer physical force. Thor couldn't do that when also worrying about the personal minutiae of the team.

Serra's words from the night before still haunted him. Stop trying to be 'as worthy as Odin' and remember to be worthy as yourself. Thor's already worthy of the sword. You just need to realize that being Thor is enough. Thor turned his gaze inward to where he always pictured the White Sword in his mind's eye. Would that really be enough? To trust in his own worthiness?

Still, a strong, rebellious part of him disagreed with everything they were about to do. To Hel with Valyria, to Hel with command. Greystone was where he needed to go.

He shook his head and chased all thoughts of leaving the others from his mind. Despite all his insecurities he knew that abandoning the others was not what the worthy Thor would do.

"The Council's secretaries have arranged transportation for us," Michael said, as if he'd sensed that they needed to be moved along before the debate flared again.

"Think we'll get t'kill some humans in Valwhatsitplace?" Samael asked with a wild grin.

"Why--why--why would we do that?" Serra snapped, almost at a loss for words. She'd shot to her feet and glared over at Samael, her claws digging into the wooden table.

Samael shrugged. "Never know. Could be fun," his contemptuous sneer cut itself across his face. "You used to be fun, Serra. I miss those days."

"You!" Serra snarled, reaching for her pistols, and her wild, angry expression almost matched his.

"If we're going to kill the demon I'll go first," Svarog volunteered.

"You sure will," Samael snarled, gnashing his teeth.

"Enough," Michael said. His voice was harsh and weary. "This isn't helping us. If you three want to kill each other do so after we stop the Royal Knights."

"Fine with me," Samael drawled. "Gonna need somethin' t'do when this is over anyway." Samael waved them all off and strolled his way out of the bar. He was down the street before the rest of them got out the door.

"Nadia, watch the bar. We'll be back soon, I hope," Serra said in a not-at-all ominous way. She jabbed Thor in the shoulder. "Let's go, Your Highness."

Michael led them back up through the lower district and towards the Temple of the High Council. It was a silent procession; the reminder of the previous day's failure weighed heavily on them, and the disagreement over where to spend their efforts raised the tension to a palpable level.

"We'll be going ahead in this," Michael informed the group. The great courtyard was once again utilized as a staging ground, where a single, sleek black dropship stood waiting for them.

Unlike the mass-transport airships from the initial assault on Camelot, this was made for speed. Each back-swept wing was outfitted with a massive glowing engine. The tail had two pairs of stabilizer fins jutting up and down. The pilot's cabin hung over the forward-facing cargo bay entrance. A single Stingmon and Waspmon directed a group of Fanbeemon around the exterior of the ship, finalizing checks and takeoff preparations.

"We're ready whenever you are," the Stingmon said to Michael and Henry. A quick word from their "captain" and the two insects whistled sharply to the Fanbeemon. The small insects split into two groups; one group cleared the tarmac while the other dashed into the dropship and began prepping the controls. The larger insects followed suit and led the way into the ship.

The cargo bay was set up for the Guardians. Several seats of various appropriate shapes and sizes lined the sides while the middle was mostly clear. The cockpit was situated at the end of a short, narrow hallway at the top of the pair of stairs that lined either side of the dropship.The Stingmon and Waspmon made their way up and began takeoff preparations. The Fanbeemon buzzed about the interior before settling into several smaller spaces that lined the hallway

"Buckle in, we're going to make this fast," the Stingmon said from the cockpit.

Michael and Henry had chosen seats towards the front of bay closer to the cockpit hallway so they could communicate better with the pilots. Samael, naturally, had chosen to place himself as far out of Michael's eyesight as possible, and chose a spot at the back.

Thor strapped himself in, picking a spot on Henry's side of the ship where he could still see Samael. He left a space between himself and Henry; he didn't want to give the impression that he was attempting to crowd in on Herny's leadership or make any sort of challenge now that they'd had a disagreement. Serra dropped into the seat between himself and Henry with an undignified crash. She looked at everyone except Samael.

Svarog took the seat diagonally to the left across from Thor. He didn't strap himself in, but settled into a glower. The rest of the Guardians followed suit.

==\=/==

Taichi "Tai" Kamiya & Khorvath (Agumon)
Highton, Valeron


Tai watched the Tamer camp from the top of the hill. Nearly a hundred Tamers and their partners had gathered in Highton since the Royal Knights began their crusade nearly a month ago. The Council and the angels hadn't been able to coordinate any sort of assistance until the last few days. Tai had taken it upon himself to protect the rest of the Tamers.

He and a few others, his best friends, had established Highton years ago. First it was just a Tamer camp, where they could rest, hang out, and trade stories with other Tamers. But as time went on it grew beyond anything they could have imagined. What started out as collection tents and a well, was now a thriving community.

The first thing they'd built had been the "mess hall" -- but it had grown into an entire town hall since then. They'd paved the roads with cobblestone and flattened down walkways into packed dirt paths. The well at the center of the encampment was now a fountain; they'd since incorporated Kaladeshi engineering to create indoor plumbing. They'd even implemented a rudimentary solar and thermal-power energy grid, providing clean, renewable electricity to the settlement.

Radiating outward to form a near-circle were the four wedge-shaped sections of Highton, divided by the two major crossroads. From the community center back was the northern section, where they'd built a number of small, permanent cottages with modern amenities. Tai and his friends lived at the far end of this section on the hillside.

The eastern section started at the inn, across the street from the community center. It wasn't much, but it provided a place for visiting Tamers and other Digimon to stay if they didn't have permanent residence yet. It also had a tavern, though they'd never settled on a name. Tai and Matt had argued for days about what it should be, until another of their friends had taken the reigns and named it "Mimi's." Neither of them were really willing to argue. Behind that were number of small "camp-out" areas. They'd become more crowded since the crusade began, and more tents seemed to be setting up daily. There was also a community garden, but that seemed to be getting crowded out more and more.

The western section started with the warehouse in the center. Any Tamer could apply for a locker or storage section, where they could keep their valuables and adventuring gear that didn't fit in their smaller homes, and where they could hold things when they went out adventuring and gave up their permanent residence.

Behind that were a smattering of shops and workshops; a "bookstore" connected directly to the internet and made it easy to import any kind of media entertainment. A "healer" -- aka their former med-student-turned-Tamer who'd abandoned his schooling to pursue adventure in the Digital World -- had actually set up a small clinic to help out anyone who'd gotten sick or injured on their own adventures. Human diseases and injuries behaved differently in the Digital World, and he was at the forefront of that research. The nearby smithy, electrician, and mechanical workshop meant that he was never short on people injuring themselves. A smattering of other shops featured whatever treasures and wares had been found on various outings.

The southern section was the open-air Market, lined with stalls and carts. This was what Tamers and Digimon from the surrounding areas flocked to. It was open every day for whoever was still in town and not out exploring, but every Saturday, the entire market crowded with Tamers returning from their adventures, selling and buying goods and treasures from across Saga.

Around the entire settlement was a wall, made of metal, stone, and wood. Tai had been eyeing that wall for the past thirty minutes. With the way Tamers were pouring into Highton, he suspected they'd need to expand very soon. But that meant tearing down at least one section of the wall and breaking the perimeter. If the Royal Knights were really drumming up support across the world, Tai really didn't want to leave Highton undefended for even a minute.

"Still thinkin' about that wall?" Matt walked up beside him. They always butted heads over these sorts of things, but for once since the start of their adventure, Matt wasn't actively fighting him. And that scared Tai more than anything else. "The others think you're crazy."

"Surprised you aren't leading that charge," Tai muttered.

"I'm normally the one keeping your crazy in check," Matt said with a sigh. "If the others are already doing that I don't need to. But…"

"'But'?" Tai wondered.

"But I think you're all wrong. Izzy agrees, too," Matt said before Tai could object. "There's no way we're safe here. We're comfortable, but that's way different. If the Knights come then we're stuck."

"If the Knights come, we'll fight," Tai declared steadily. "We've got almost one hundred Tamers here. More are coming every day."

"Not everyone has the experience we do," Matt pointed out. "A lot of them are going to get hurt if they fight. Hell. We might, too."

"Someone has to do something," Tai said. "Someone has to take a stand. If that's gotta be us, then that's what we'll do. And if it has to be just me? I'll do that too."

Matt sighed the way he always did when Tai spoke, like he was talking to his little brother. It drove Tai crazy. He ran a hand through his hair -- man, the dude really needed a haircut.

"Sure I can't convince you to head to Axis Mundi?" Matt asked. Tai shook his head and held Matt's stare. "Well I'm not about to let you get killed all on your own."

Tai mirrored his smirked. "Then here's where we make our stand."
 
Last edited:

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
Theo Grayson (BlackWarGreymon)
In route to Dropship


The Guardians filed out of the bar. Theo lingered behind until he was the last to leave, he’d caught the questioning eyes many Guardians had sent his way during the discussion.. The elder Greymon shared a parting nod with Nadia.

“Eyes up, Guardian,” Nadia called after Theo,as he firmly shut the bar’s main door behind him. She was right. He needed to keep his eyes forward here on out. The BlackWarGreymon hasten his pace to catch up to the other Guardians.

A hand clasped Theo’s shoulder, stopping him. It was Henry, who was starting to carry himself a little less like a disheveled pirate and a little more like a disheveled captain. He stood straighter, held his head a little higher, and was looking at Theo the way a commander might a wounded soldier.

“So lad, you decided to tough it out with us after all.” He patted his shoulder again, firmly. Keeping him in place. “You sure you’re up for it? You look about as fighting fit as a one-legged Ogremon with a three-day hangover.”

“If you’ll still have me,” Theo said somberly. His eyes drifted to the backside of the tamers. “I have to try. I don’t want them to go through the same pain I did and I set a poor example yesterday.”

Henry nodded along as Theo spoke. “Admirable, if I bit too selfless for my tastes,” he said. It wasn’t readily apparent if Henry was joking or not. “You’ve acted like you were ready to jump ship on us for a while now lad. What changed your mind? Did that flowermon use her femine wiles on you?” He nodded towards where Aria was walking up ahead.

“As femine as a drunk flower can get,” Theo mumbled, “but she did help me realize I still had some fight left in me for one more war. I was trained by the best to fight and I was good at it. Only difference now, is that I’ve got nothing to lose. The Tamers stand to lose everything. Losing a partner...is the worst pain imaginable for any tamer pair. I won’t let the Royal Knights sever that bond.”

“You’ve clearly never been to any of the port towns near Glen Elendra.” Henry said, but he released his grip on Theo’s shoulder and motioned for him to follow as they resumed walking after the others. They were trailing behind enough now so that their conversation wouldn’t be overheard.

“I understand your motivations,” the pirate said, “I do. But you’re wrong when you say you have nothing left to lose. Men like you. Men like me. We’ve been to the bottom of the barrell. We know how far we have to climb just to get a glimpse of the sun again.” he leveled a finger at Theo. “What you risk to lose is your future. Same as any of us here. But you have something more beyond that to lose. Redemption. Purpose. Absolution. Call it what you will. That thing your soul needs like a man stranded on a sandbar needs a cup of fresh water. You die without that, and you die a shell. Your name is forgotten. And your life goes down as just another cautionary tale, if it goes down at all.”

“But a hero story? That is a tale the lads will drink to for ages. You want to make a lasting impression? Do something good for the ones to follow you? That’s what you do. Fix your broken soul and if you die you die as yourself and not as the ghost of a man you used to be.”

Theo remained silent for a moment as they passed through the lower district, contemplating the pirate’s words. What did he have left? He flashed back to the only time he held his infant nephew...the welcoming warmth of his sister-in-law Kassy...He hadn’t seen them since before Asher died. If...if he managed to survive this damn war first, then perhaps, it was past time for him to amend that.

The BlackWarGreymon glanced in Andrea’s direction. She was family too, in a sense. They’d both shared the same pain of loss. He didn’t want Andrea and Deneb to suffer the same hollowness he faced everyday.

“Henry,” Theo spoke after a long pause, “Thank you.”

Henry grinned. “That’s the spirit lad.” After a moment, he scratched the back of his head. “You know, I thought that’d be harder. Guess I am feeling a little bit of the old swagger today.”

He mumbled quickly, “Got another one of these talks to give too.”

“Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been part of a team. So, it’s taken a few of you to help me see more clearly.” Theo said. The older Greymon raised an eyebrow. “Let me guess, Aria?”

The pirate nodded. “Aye. The lass is determined, I’ll give her that much, but she’s getting reckless. Last thing I need is you, or her, dying on my first mission as captain. Gives a man a bad reputation.” He kept the thought that certain other leader-type figures in the group would never let him hear the end of it to himself but Henry’s poker face was well out of practice.

“So, naturally, I’ve got to handle it. Pep talks are one thing, but that little flower has an attitude that I don’t think I can crack. I’m as likely to make things worse as I am better. So, I started with you lad.” he said with a round of laughter.

“I probably didn’t help much last night,” Theo admitted, “She was drunk and upset with me. So, I dumped a glass of water on her to bring her to her senses. Apparently it doesn’t work on flower types like it does new recruits.”

Henry had to fight to hold back his laughter. “You splashed water on a flowermon? Lad, I‘m surprised you’re still kicking. She must have a soft spot for you after all.” He scratched his chin. “That, or she was too drunk to stay mad at you.”

Theo slipped a small smile, chuckling, “I may never know.” He frowned, thinking about the flowermon. “I can try keeping an eye out for her if it will ease your mind,” Theo offered, “but that’s not going to help Aria in the long run. If anything, she might resent me more if I ended up coming to help her.”

“You, I get.” Henry said. “I know what it feels like to be lost. I know your sickness and the cure you need. But Aria?” he shook his head. “The lass needs something I don’t know how to give. She isn't lost. She’s right where she wants to be. But I don’t think she knows why.”

Up ahead, Aria glanced back for just a moment, as though she was aware they were talking about her, but she frowned at the bright sunlight and turned around just as quickly. Henry quickly mumbled something unintelligible under his breath before turning back to Theo. “Sorry, old superstition. Don’t want to risk inviting any bad luck now.” He didn’t explain any further.

“Hhmmm,” Theo thought back to last night’s conversation. He sighed, “Aria... needs to be given a specific task or role suited to her. Set her up for success, not failure.” Theo shook his head, “Active combat really isn’t the best scenario to do this, since anything can happen. But it’s not like we’ve got much of a choice.”

“Sometimes being given a responsibility helps someone to settle down,” Theo said, remembering the change in his brother, when he became a father. “How does Aria get along with everyone else?”

Henry though back on the last conversation he had with the Lilamon. And on the moments he spotted her from a distance, not that he made a habit of that. “About the same as any of us.” he shrugged. “She found a couple of chums and she seems content to hang with them.” It took a second for Henry to realize that Theo might not know who he was talking about. “That’d be Stein and the little Wisemon.”

The pirate shrugged. “You’re a soldier, right? You know how to work together. How to take orders. How to be part of a crew, so to speak. She doesn’t. A lot of them,” he motioned generally towards the whole lot of digimon in front of them, “don’t. Everyone thinks they are in charge of themselves, but that’s not how crews work. Though the odd part is Thor and Michael seem content to let me take the helm, which I still can’t quite understand.”

“A functional team, we are not. That’s been obvious since our first battle,” Theo sighed. “Even with Lord Michael initially leading us, we’ve not found our cohesiveness. Perhaps, it’s simply that we must reply on a different leadership style or method to pull us together.”

“So they’re taking a chance on me, is that what you’re saying?” the CaptainHookmon sighed. “Figured as much, but a second opinion never hurts.”

They walked in silence for a little while before Henry spoke again. “What about you though? Where do you see this heading taking our little crew?”

“Honestly, the odds are against us no matter who is leading,” Theo admitted. The BlackWarGreymon’s gaze drifted over the group as a whole. “However, I’ve allowed that knowledge lead me to believe that this fight was impossible. I’m standing here now because you and several of the others -Theo gestured to the Guardians ahead of them- have reminded me why I went to Axis Mundi in the first place. The Guardians are a mismatched group, but we’re the ones that remained after the failed attack on Camelot. So we make it work. Somehow.”

Theo glanced at the CaptainHookmon. “You have my respect, Henry, for taking charge. It’s not an enviable position. I was entrusted with a trainee platoon for a time before I resigned from the Order’s ranks. Not sure I’m ready to try again, but I have been there. However, I can help you out I will.”

“Yeah, well, at least it was my choice this time.” Henry said. “I just hope for all of your sakes that I do a better job this time around.”
 

storymasterb

Knight of RPGs
James Reeve
Airship

James seated himself at Theo's side purposefully, curious about the BlackWarGreymon's return to the fold. He had noticed Theo at their strategy discussion, but hadn't gotten to speak to him with Henry taking the dark dragon-man's attention all the way to the airship. Samael was on Theo's other side though, and his presence cast the same shadow as before. Artanis took a seat between his partner and Svarog.

Valyria. He was still torn, which was why he had been quiet. His gut had told him from the start that it was where he wanted to be, where James Reeve should be. And yet Greystone had beckoned too, because of the promise of Tamers in greater danger and the threat of escalation. Perhaps from the perspective of some this was already a war. Heaven knew it had felt like it, with the hollow-eyed casualties on plain display. The corpses broken on burning battlefields. The friends lost...

He forced his eyes up. He was a Guardian. Eyes up, as he had heard Nadia said. His gaze found Andrea sat opposite, then Okatsu and then Hoshiko next to Thor. He could tell that she'd have been on Thor's other side if she could, where Serra sat next to Henry. Away from the demon two seats to his right. Though she seemed to be trying to lock her gaze either forward or to the side, he caught her glancing occasionally past him into the dark corner. He tried to meet her gaze and draw her away, but when their eyes met he saw the ice within. It wasn't a new pain to see. The kind of pain that fuelled the flames of rage.

As impersonal as the Knights tried to make their crusade, no one could endure what the Tamers had without some letting their passions take hold. People who had seen friends and loved ones blasted away or banished from Saga without mercy weren't inclined to preach forgiveness, after all.

He forced himself back to the choice that had been at hand. Greystone or Valyria? He wasn't sure even now if they'd chosen correctly. It probably wouldn't be clear until they'd seen this through, but all he knew was that either way he wanted to see as many Tamers safe as they could manage.

All of them if possible, no matter how the odds piled up against them.

"It's good to see you, Theo," he finally ventured to the BlackWarGreymon.

-

Hoshiko Yukimura
Airship

She sat herself consciously as far from Samael's dark corner as she could, available seats allowing. Okatsu dutifully joined her, Andrea on the Gabumon X's other side.

Hoshiko wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand, she had felt from the start that protecting the Tamers in Valyria was the right thing to do, and Michael's agreement on that point was heartening. But on the other hand, even if she didn't want to, she could see the importance of Greystone. It felt almost like they were making a mistake by going to Valyria, where the Tamers were not in immediate danger, and not Greystone, when the Greymon threatened to join the Royal Knights and provide the opportunity to escalate the conflict. She had confided her feelings quietly to Okatsu out of earshot of the others before they had boarded the airship, and the Gabumon X had noted that it was a difficult dilemma. To preserve more lives immediately, or to act in the hopes that their action would preserve a greater number of lives in the long term?

Perhaps in the past she would have judged it with a colder gaze, she thought. But not right now. Not when she still remembered the feeling of Samael's sword in her chest. Not when she had fallen slowly to sleep wishing for someone, anyone to make it to safety. Her gaze wandered, falling into the void of Samael's presence. For a moment she glanced at the demon, before she caught James watching. Judging. As though he understood. But he didn't understand. He rushed into danger with laughter on his face and joy in his eyes, dragging others in his wake with the fetters of his heroic presence. Blinded by his glory, other Tamers tried to emulate his feats. But they lacked his luck. His dumb luck that spared him even as others fell screaming all around him.

And yet it never seemed to affect him. He shrugged it off and kept going. How could he do that, unless the thrill of battle drowned out any grief or pain he felt? Unless the flames of his passion burned away any guilt for the Tamers who followed blindly in his footsteps? She wanted to admire his heroism and yet she could see how reckless it was with cold clarity. He rushed laughing into the face of death like a madman.

And then there was Samael, joking about killing humans, shrugging off burying his blade in an ally's back like it was nothing. Her heart grew colder just thinking about his jeering laughter.

Okatsu's paw brushed her hand, stirring her from her icy thoughts. She found the Gabumon X's questioning gaze and forced a smile, then looked at Andrea in turn. Then she glanced to her other side where Thor sat, Serra and Henry beyond him, Michael right at the front opposite Henry.

-

Okatsu Sekishusai
Airship

The Gabumon X sat cautiously next to Hoshiko, resting a paw on Hoshiko's clenching fingers. She stared at her partner as Hoshiko looked away, but she had seen it. The coiling anger. Theo's warning came back to her, blighting the reassurance of his presence. Yes, Theo had come back to them, perhaps spurred by her harsh words, perhaps by something else. But the Guardians were far from harmonious. They could not even decide decisively on their destination, though she could not claim any triumph, she supposed. Her instincts as a warrior said that Valyria was their place, but she understood well the importance of Greystone. Their fight was a perilous one as it was, let alone if the Knights were free to march whole armies where now smaller strike forces launched their attacks. The Guardians could withstand strike forces. But their might, even such as it was, would not overcome an army.

She had caught James's watchful gaze too. Did he see what she saw?
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
Gunnar Cyndir - ShineGreymon
Valkas, Greystone


Gunnar strode into position in the forum. He was flanked on either side by members of his elite team, the Greystone Special Squadron. With all the uproar regarding Royal Knights and Council-appointed task forces, Lord Raegin was quick to assemble a team of Greystone's best to act on the kingdom's behalf. It had been a quick and graceless process, but Gunnar had assemble a team that no others in Greystone could compete with.

They'd worked together for years already; with diverse skill-sets that covered one another's weaknesses. They could read one another like open books. There was never a need to openly discuss basic plans and strategy; they didn't need to -- and it just wasn't the Greystone way.

Sigmund Gyld - ZekeGreymon; Starkad Galvanyz - BlitzGreymon; Angrim Charrad - BlackWarGreymon; Hrothgar Koall - WarGreymon.

Gunnar had wanted his old friend Rhys Koenig to join, but he'd already volunteered for Council's task force. The idea of working against Rhys put a bitter taste in his mouth, but it wasn't something that could be helped. Greystone had declared for the Royal Knights. Even if Gunnar couldn't quite see the danger the humans represented, he understood playing it safe. He understood trust. The Royal Knights had protected Saga for literally a thousand years. He couldn't fathom the kind of experience each knight had. And all that collected and distilled experience was telling them that the humans were dangerous.

How could he -- or anyone -- argue with that?

It was just smarter to send the humans home, wasn't it? No one had ever accused him of being a "strategic thinker," but surely someone could take a few years to figure out what kind of impact the humans could potentially have. If they were really a boon to the world then they could come back after. It seemed simple.

How was the whole world going to war over this?

"Humans to one side, Digimon to the other," Gunnar announced to the gathering. Around three dozen Tamers remained in Greystone after the battle between the Council and the Royal Knights a few days prior. The others had already begun traveling to Axis Mundi. Greystone patrols were already looking for them. "Digivices out and ready for collection. No sudden moves. No one gets any ideas. And everyone gets to go home."

"This is our home!" a young human shouted. Gunnar couldn't really tell with the young ones whether they were male or female -- he knew there was some difference. "Ahiba is my friend!" The human gestured frantically to his Agumon partner, just out of reach.

A Greymon pushed his way between them and shoved the human to the side. It yelped in pain and cried out as the Greymon then ushered the Agumon -- Ahiba -- to the other side of the forum.

"Hey! What's your name?" Gunnar demanded of the Greymon.

"Sedrik," the Greymon rumbled, with a low nod.

"Well, Sedrik, go easy with the humans. They're baby-level fragile, got it?" Gunnar ordered. Sedrik growled his acceptance with another bow and moved back into formation.

Gunnar kneeled down before the little human. "I'm going to need your Digivice," he said, extending his hand. He spoke softly, but left no room for question.

"You can't!" There were tears in its eyes. But Gunnar didn't blink. He just held out his hand. Finally the human relented and dropped the Digivice from its shaking hands into Gunnar's. "Please don't."

"Sorry, kid, this is the way it's gotta be," Gunnar rose and tossed his Digivice to Starkad at the center of the forum. "Let's move everyone back to a safe distance and dispose of the Digivices."

Starkad placed the Digivice in a pile, and the disposal team moved into position. Gunnar joined them, his hand extended and glowed hot.

"No!" shouted that same young child. It scrambled against the Greystone guards, trying desperately and hopelessly to reach out to its Digivice...or was it reaching for its partner? "I don't wanna go!" The guards pushed him down.

"Cindy!" cried Ahiba. She clawed at the guards on the other side of the forum. The big Greymon, Sedrik, growled angrily and slapped her back.

"AHIBA!" a scream tore out of the throat of that same young child. Like lightning, its Digivice flew from the pile and into its hands. A horrible black aurora shone from the device and twisted itself into a spiraling beam that struck the human's partner Digimon right between the eyes.

She let out a piercing wail as her body seemed to ignite with torrid black flames.

"Defensive positions!" Sedrik shouted. He and some other Greymon gathered around the glowing Ahiba, while the rest ushered humans and Digimon away. Before anyone else could make a move, however, a massive skeletal hand exploded from amidst the billowing black fires and sent Sedrik flying across the forum.

The newly-SkullGreymon Ahiba turned her attention to the rest of the Greysguard and swatted them aside like flies. She tried charging Gunnar, but he leveled her with a vicious uppercut and sent her sprawling backwards.

"Damnit," Gunnar snarled. "This is exactly what I was trying to avoid." He turned to his team. "Special Squadron, form up! Sigmund, hold her down. Let's keep this contained. Starkad, Angrim, Hrothgar -- defensive positions around the forum. Keep the damage contained."

Sigmund grabbed Ahiba and pinned her down. "She's stronger than she looks!" he shouted.

"Need help?" Hrothgar teased.

"Oh please," Sigmund rolled his eyes.

"Kid...Cindy, right?" Gunnar said. He stood over the human and held out his hand once again. He didn't try to hide the urgency in his voice. "I need that Digivice. Now."

"I--I can't!" the human wailed, clutching the black monstrosity to its chest.

"What's wrong with Ahiba?" another human asked, slightly older. Probably with more sense.

"Cindy is," Gunnar said, his voice clipped. "This is what happens when all of your darkness gets transferred to your partner. They run wild. If we weren't here Ahiba might destroy the whole block, maybe even the city." Okay, that was a lie -- the Greysguard would definitely have her contained before then. "It's too dangerous for you to be here anymore. You need to give me that Digivice and. Go. Home."

Cindy stopped crying and reluctantly held out the Digivice. Gunnar snatched it quickly, and with more effort than he expected, he crushed it in his hands.

Ahiba immediately stopped struggling against Sigmund's grip. She lit with yellow light and shrunk back into a Koromon form.

"Cindy?" she said weakly. "I don't -- what happened?"

"I'm sorry, Ahiba!" Cindy sobbed. Her body was starting to pixelate and lose focus. Trails of data leaked from her edges, and she began to displace from the Digital World back into Analog. "I didn't mean to. Please. I'm sorry!"

And then she was gone.

"Coulda' gone better," Starkad muttered.

"Coulda' gone a lot worse, too," Gunnar pointed out. He turned back to the collected Digivices. "Let's finish up here. Glorious Burst!"
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul

Tessa Tesla
Wisemon
Airship (between Aria and Svarog)


Her father’s massive tome carried Tessa through the streets. All the while, the female Wisemon predictably had her nose buried in a book, while the other hand wrote rapidly in a yet untitled book in her lap. Even as she boarded the airship, her eyes remained focused on the page. Her body brushed against Stein’s leg as she past his seat when she walked towards the front. Tessa plopped her small body into the seat between Aria and Svarog.

“Do you suppose we’ll encounter the Royal Knights at Valriya?” Tessa asked the Archangel, finally putting the leather-bound book in her lap. “I’ve been drafting time differential spells- temporary changes to the relative rate of time within a confined spatial area or object- with at least two possible delivery methods.”


________________


Deneb Odebu
Hawkmon
Airship (between Andrea and Stein)


Deneb slumped in his seat deflated. His stomach rumbled loudly at him in protest. He’d been sleeping extremely well, when Nadia began drumming on the doors to wake everyone. But was breakfast waiting to greet them in the bar downstairs? Nope.

Rather, he was met with heated discussion regarding the Guardians next course of action. Couldn’t their departure wait at least thirty minutes, so they could eat? Nope.

The poor hungry hawkmon couldn’t get a single word to make such a suggestion. The whole way to the airship, he flapped through the air in sorrowful silence and seated himself next to the large Boltmon. His beloved Andrea sat on his other side. Deneb perked up immediately when he noticed Theo taking the remaining seat in the airship beside Samael.

“Elder!” Deneb exclaimed, excitedly. He learned forward in his seat, careful to avoid eye contact with Samael’s smoldering glare. “You’ve decided to remain, good show sir!”

The BlackWarGreymon’s expression softened as he regarded the Hawkmon, “Just Theo, Deneb, but yes I have, with some help of course.”

Deneb noticed his tamer meeting Theo’s eyes with a tired expression. She silently mouths something to Theo, before closing her eyes to rest them longer.

An awkward silence hung in the air as Theo glanced about the airship with interest and quickly changed the subject.“It’s been a while, since I’ve been abroad one of these dropships. They’d just come out of production, when I had retired. The fusion core engines are a more recent development, though, makes landing and take-off much swifter.”

“I suppose so.” Deneb muttered, not really impressed.

Stein scratched his chin.“This ship is much more cozy than the last one Stein was in.”

“If one can call being strapped in small metal box flying above the ground cozy.” Deneb fidgeted in his seat. “Frankly, I trust my wings more so than this contraption.”

Theo chuckled softly. “Don’t worry a twinjet dropship is a very reliable model with a long-standing safety rating. The stabilizer fins in particular keep the ship very steady in the air. You could hit a rough patch of turbulence and not hardly feel it.”

“Stein thinks it is pointless to worry about the ship.” Stein said, shrugging. “Maybe it will crash, maybe it will fly. Stein can not do anything about it.”

“I suppose not. I just wished we could have taken a few minutes to eat breakfast before running off. I miss making my chokeberry pancakes with jam before a busy day’s work.” Deneb complained as he stared wistfully to an empty spot in the air.

“Choking berries do not sound like good breakfast.” Stein rubbed his forehead. “But Stein’s head is fuzzy. I do not know if I like beer beers as much as root beers.”

“Breakfast, my good mon, breakfast is the cure to restoring one’s vitals.” Deneb nodded sagely. “Even simple toast would have sufficed!”

“I seldom drink, Stein, but I do know simply drinking water between drinks does help with the fuzziness you’re experiencing.” Theo said to Stein.

“Cinnamon! I wondered if our most skilled Nadia had any there. Cinnamon toast is a most excellent breakfast!” Deneb interrupted loudly.

“Stein will remember to try the water.” The Boltmon studied Deneb for a minute. “Stein has always heard that breakfast was the most important meal, but I always thought lunch was most important. You never see anyone skip lunch.”

“Probably because they skipped breakfast. Really by that point in the day, how can one possibly continue without stopping to refuel at lunch. Unfortunately, I’ve had the displeasure of skipping both breakfast and lunch at times, due to my dear Andy’s work. However, that is what second breakfast, elevenses, and afternoon tea are for, when I must skip.” Deneb glanced around the ship’s hull searching. “You don’t suppose they keep some sort of emergency rations abroad somewhere. Really, I’ll eat anything right now.”

Stein looked at Deneb visibly confused. “Second breakfast would just be lunch.”

“No, no, not in the least. Breakfast is breakfast. It is simply one’s second breakfast. Lunch is always at the proper time of 12 noon.” Deneb corrected the Boltmon.

“Second breakfast is breakfast, but again? Stein usually calls that extra helpings.”

Deneb shook his feathered hands animatedly to clear the confusion. “Yes, no, sort of? What you call ‘extra helpings is simply extra portions of the same dish. For proper digestion, you should eat small light portions of either toast or a bowl of fruit to jumpstart your body for the day, that is the purpose of First Breakfast. You have now supplied your body with the fuel it needs to digest the heavier foods served at Second Breakfast. Sausage Rolls, pancakes with apple butter and jam, eggs greased in bacon juices…” Deneb started drooling as his listed off the various dishes. “..oh, and the Analog dish called ‘French Toast’. The syrup they traditionally put on it has to be imported, but it is absolutely heavenly!” Deneb let out a long sigh. “Of course, one must wait two hours between First and Second Breakfast. Food from First Breakfast aids in digestion of Second Breakfast. Keeps you from feeling drowsy afterwards!”

Stein let out a hearty chuckle. “You remind me of Wise One. She also uses a lot of words when she gets excited.” He paused for a moment. “Food must be really important to you.”

“Food is fuel for the body as song and dance is food for the soul, my good fellow!” Deneb said, patting the giant Boltmon on the leg. “If we must eat, why not enjoy the ritual of taking in substance? Would you not agree?”

“Sub-stands?” Stein scratched his head. “Are those tasty?”

Deneb tilted his head in confusion. “I believe you mean ‘subs’ which are sold at food ‘stands’. An Analog specialty no doubt. Andrea describes them as being similar to a sandwich, but long, narrow, and too much bread. So I couldn’t verify if they are ‘tasty’.”

Stein nodded. “So there are foods you haven't tried yet. That gives you something to look forward to. If we beat the Knights, Stein would like to eat a sub-stand with you.”

“Very well, then let us shake on that promise.” Deneb said, holding his much smaller arm out. “Besides, food always tastes better when enjoyed in the company of friends.”

The Boltmon stared at his huge hand for a moment before offering Deneb a single finger to shake with. Deneb shook the offered finger, looking quite pleased with himself.

____________


Theo Grayson
BlackWarGreymon
Airship (between Samael and James)


Theo permitted himself to faded from Deneb and Stein’s rather mundane-if quite amusing- conversation. After his talk with Henry, the black dragon really had little desire to speak further on the subject. He’d dwelt on the past and his most recent behavior long enough.

Valriya or Greystone. Theo’s thoughts bounced between the two choices of the morning argument. In all honesty, he’d been torn. His heart yearned for the mass gathering of Tamers in Valriya, while his rational, military-trained mind demanded that Greystone was the more immediate priority. Yet...still both choices were both crucial, that much as obvious. Maybe too obvious.

That thought bothered Theo more than he cared to admit. Instead, he’d chosen to explore the other choices, voicing them to the group to see if anyone agreed. Rather, he’d been shot down quickly. The old soldier scratched the side of his helmet, hoping-praying- that his gut was wrong, and that Sir Gawain wasn’t counting on the Guardians being too distracted with Valriya and Greystone.

He cast his eyes about the airship, paying more attention to the individual Guardians than he’d done before now. His eyes lingered on Hoshiko for a few seconds longer, concerned for the young woman. Every so often, his glaze would flicker to his right side. Even if his seat hadn’t been the last one available, Theo would have still chosen to place himself between Samael and everyone else. He didn't care if there was a target on his back, better him than the others. His freshly polished and sharpened dramon breakers laid strapped to his arms comfortably. The BlackWarGreymon was interrupted from his brooding thoughts.

"It's good to see you, Theo," James said.

The BlackWarGreymon caught the meaning behind the young man’s words. Theo glanced at James and Artanis. Seeming the young man and the agumon together, reminded Theo painfully-and longingly- of his early days with Kyle, when he’d spent time as an agumon again. The biggest difference was that James was much older than 13-year-old Kyle and Theo had worn red straps over his clawed hands. Theo suspected that James and Kyle would be roughly the same age if his partner still lived.

“Likewise,” Theo said, trying to shift the conversation away from himself, “how are you Artanis holding up?”


_________________

Andrea Mercer
Airship (between Deneb and Okatsu)



Andrea released a breath, relieved to see her brother’s partner back with them and in better spirits. She wanted to talk with him, but felt uncomfortable doing so in front of the whole group. Plus, she wasn’t sure how to talk to him. For as long as they were aware of each other’s existence, they didn’t know one another aside from their shared connection of her brother. She hadn’t exactly reacted well, when Theo had demanded she abandon Saga and Deneb.

Instead Andrea reached for the bag resting on the floor between her legs, pulling out the Rider System gear she’d described the night before. Sal, reliable as always, gladly donated two sets for Hoshiko and James. Seeing as how Artanis sat across from her and Okatsu to her right, Andrea passed out the anchor attachments to both partnered digimon, describing how they worked.

“The anchoring devices shouldn’t be uncomfortable. They are design to shift with your forms as you evolved. Just placed them on your shoulder or back roughly where Hoshiko or James typically ride along in your higher forms.”
 

TheSequelReturns

Phantom Thief
< Aria Morningsong (Lilamon) >
Outside the Airship


Aria's head was pounding still. How long had it been since she'd actually lost track of how many drinks she'd had? Not long enough, if this headache was any indication. She was stuck between regretting her life decisions up to this point and trying to forget about how pathetic she probably looked compared to the rest of the group.

She already felt like she was a bigger hindrance than a help. She didn't need to act like it too.

"How are you holding up lass?" an annoyingly familiar voice said. Aria turned and frowned at the pirate, who was standing next to her but looking out at the airship.

"I was doing fine until a moment ago."

Henry laughed. "Your constitution take a sudden dip?"

She rolled her eyes. "If you have something to say, get on with it. My head is still aching."

Henry's expression hardened. "I'm here to tell you to go home."

Aria blinked. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me right." Henry was still looking at the ship, not her. "Go home, before you bite the big one. I don't need your death on my conscience."

"You might be the new leader, but you aren't my boss. You can't make me leave." The Lilamon scowled.

"No, I can't." The pirate took a deep breath. "But I can keep you off this plane." He took a deep breath. "I know a dead man walking when I see one. I once captained a ship."

"You did?" Aria said sarcastically. "I'd never have guessed."

Henry continued, undeterred, "The lads who ended up in the crew because they wanted to be a pirate, they did well. The lads who saw being a pirate as an obstacle to suffer though and overcome so they could move onto something else, they survived. But the lads who wound up on the ship because they had nowhere else to be? The ones who floated aimlessly into the pirate life like a hunk of driftwood, they never lasted long."

He finally looked at her, and Aria was struck by just how sincere he looked. It wasn't an expression she was used to seeing on his face. "If you can't give me one real, honest reason for you to be here, then you need to leave. No stubborn refusals. No excuses. Your life is on the line. And if you don't have something to hold on to, something to fight for, a purpose of your own, then you will die. And maybe that's what you want. I've seen the type. The one's who don't have the guts to punch their own card, so they wander unprepared into danger, hoping someone else will do it for them."

"I know the danger." Aria said. "I'm here because I want to be. Why does everyone treat me like a child?"

"That's not an answer." Henry said sternly.

The Lilamon huffed. "What do you want me to say? That I'm here for the tamers? That I'm here to be a hero? That I'm in it because fighting is fun?"

"I want you to tell me the truth." Henry said. "Why are you here?" Up ahead, the various digimon manning the airship had completed their preparations and signaled that it was time for their group to embark. "Time's up. What's it gonna be?"

Aria was practically shaking with frustration. "Why does it matter so much to you?" Henry didn't respond, but it wasn't until the pirate sighed and turned to leave that Aria finally answered him.

"There has to be someone out there who needs me." she blurted out.

Henry stopped. He was quiet for a moment, then he motioned for her to follow him. Without really knowing why, she did. The assembled Guardians all funneled aboard the airship and Aria took a seat near Henry, beside the angel Michael, again without any particular reason.

She just wanted him to say something. To knowledge her statement in some way. Any way. But the pirate just glanced at her knowingly, then went about his business and didn't make any attempt to continue the conversation.

And so Aria was left feeling restless and uncertain. But that nagging thought wouldn't go away. Why had she told Henry that? Was she trying to embarrass herself into oblivion? But by not answering her, that thought was now stuck in her head. She could think of nothing except what she had told him. Was that what he intended this whole time? The bastard.

Was mattering to someone really what she wanted? Or had she just said something to placate Henry? Why did she even care what he thought anyway? She had always been alone. Always. There wasn't anyone that she needed. She could do fine all by herself, thanks.

Tessa plopped into the seat next to her, that giant book in her lap. And immediately, she started talking to Michael. Or rather, talking at him. “Do you suppose we’ll encounter the Royal Knights at Valriya?” Tessa asked the Archangel, “I’ve been drafting time differential spells- temporary changes to the relative rate of time within a confined spatial area or object- with at least two possible delivery methods.”

That part of her personality that couldn't stand to be ignored was already flamed up. But with Tessa literally talking past her, it was impossible for Aria to keep quiet.

"I can't imagine they'd ignore a large gathering of tamers." Aria said, deliberately not responding to the part of Tessa's statement that her aching head wasn't prepared to digest. How she and Stein could actually communicate with each other was a mystery. "I just hope that we're able to help. Trouble seems to follow us wherever we go."
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Michael Ha'Yisrael (MagnaAngemon) >
Highton, Valeron


“Do you suppose we’ll encounter the Royal Knights at Valriya?” Tessa asked Michael, finally putting the leather-bound book in her lap. “I’ve been drafting time differential spells- temporary changes to the relative rate of time within a confined spatial area or object- with at least two possible delivery methods.”

"We very well might," Michael answered. "Any area with enough humans is bound to attract their attention. At the very least we can arrange transport for those Tamers to Axis Mundi where they'll be more secure." He cautioned a glance over at Thor, whose frown only deepened. "You remain unconvinced, Odinson."

"This conflict has been building for a while, since Galahad approached me a month ago," Thor said. He turned his sky-blue gaze to Michael. "In that time Tamers have traveled to Axis Mundi from across the world. But in spite of that, these Tamers are gathering in Valeron. Why? Why not go to Axis Mundi? It's simple. They don't want to."

"Or they don't recognize the urgency," Michael countered. Thor bit back his reply and -- though Michael didn't see how it was possible -- deepened his frown even more.

"Couple minutes left!" a call shouted over the in-flight intercom. The Stingmon pitched the ship and they angled towards the ground. "Good news is everything looks pretty quiet. Lots of humans out and about in the area below."

On Henry's orders, their pilot set them down in a clearing at the outskirts of a large settlement. A high wall surrounded the Tamer...city. It was impressive, but wouldn't last an hour against the forces the Royal Knights could bring. Their crew disembarked the dropship and spread out in sloppy formation...or lack thereof. Michael walked beside Henry towards the city's main gate. Dozens of humans peeked their heads out from behind buildings and fortifications as they approached. All on their guard.

"We're not here for a fight," Michael announced, stopping a few yards away from the main gate.
"We have been sent by the Council to oversee your evacuation and transport you to safety in Axis Mundi."

A group of humans stepped through the gate, flanked closely by their partner Digimon. The leader, a lanky male with wild, spiky brown hair, moved to the front of the group with his Agumon.

"We're all good here. Thanks though," he said. He crossed his arms and smiled smugly.

"You don't seem to understand the gravity of your situation," Michael said. "You--"

"No, you don't seem to understand," said another human. A male with long blond hair. A Gabumon stood at his side. "You can't protect us. We've heard what happens when you try. So we're gonna stay here and protect what's ours."

"This land isn't yours," said Thor. His deep voice lacked Michael's diffusing calm. "Your time here has been a generosity. And we've been asked to move you to Axis Mundi in order for the already tense political climate in this land to remain separate from the larger conflict with the Royal Knights."

"But they're not the ones asking, are they? You are," said another human, a female this time; tall with reddish hair and a Biyomon at her side. "They gave us this place to build on and make a home from. And this is our home now. We know you want to protect us, but we aren't going to abandon this place out of fear."

"Foolish child," Svarog snarled. "Whatever cute adventures you've skipped through in this domesticated little slice of world, that you feel has given you the illusion of strength...I guarantee you, that so-called 'strength' will fail when you come upon real challenges."

"Oh, a challenge?" the first male said teasingly. "You mean like you?"

"Tai," the blond groaned. "Not again."

The spiky-haired human waved him off. "Because maybe you're afraid. Maybe you don't have what it takes to win. But don't project that on us."

"Boy, I am older than every human and Digimon in your little pittance of a town combined," the fire god snarled. "I have fought in single wars longer than any of you have been alive. I am not a challenge for you to overcome. You may as well try to fight the sun itself."

"If that's what we gotta' do then that's what we'll do," the spiky human said with a shrug.

"Tai, for real?" asked one of the younger-looking ones. A blond male with a hat and a Patamon partner.

"Yeah, why not?" this Tai asked the others. "Our best against one of you. If you win we'll pack up. If we win, we stay."

"Tai this is crazy!" said a male with dark hair, glasses, and a Gomamon partner.

"Nah, we got this," Tai said, smacking his fist into his palm. He and his partner Agumon stepped forward.

"Wait," said the male with the Gabumon. "What are you doing?"

"Getting ready to fight, Matt. Obviously"

"Why?"

"What do you mean, 'why'?" Tai asked. "Weren't you paying attention?"

"What makes you think you're the one to fight?" Matt asked.

"I mean...I did say 'our best,' right?" Tai asked.

"And that's you?" Matt fumed. "Out of all of us." He motioned to their group of 16. "Out of everyone here?" He motioned to the walled city behind them. "You?"

"C'mon, man, don't be this way," Tai pleaded. "Let's be real here."

"Oh, you don't think I'm as tough as you?" said a tall, light-haired female with a Palmon partner. "You don't think Rashmi is as tough as Khorvath?"

"Mimi, that's not what I'm saying," Tai seemed to backpedal. "Just listen for a minute--"

"Oh, we're listening alright, Tai," said a younger woman with a Gatomon partner.

Michael took a moment to survey the rest of the Guardians. They were all displaying some equal mixture of shock, annoyance, and disbelief at what was happening in front of them.

"Look, Khorvath and I just have the most experience," Tai said. "It's not a knock against any of you."

"My calculations do indicate that Tai and Khorvath have the best chance of winning a fight against an unknown opponent," said the last human, a shorter brown-haired male standing beside a Tentomon. He held a tablet computer in his hand.

"What calculations? I'm calling bull, Izzy. Lemme see that," said Matt. He pushed his way through and grabbed the tablet from Izzy's hands. He glanced over it once, twice, then narrowed his gaze at Izzy. "I have no idea what any of these numbers mean."

"It's just data I've collected," Izzy snatched the tablet back from Matt and cradled in like a small child. "Based on our experiences here and what's been reported and collected by other Tamers in the camp."

"Gahiji and I have just as much experience as Tai," Matt objected.

"And that's why there's only a percentage point or two between you," Izzy said. "But Tai has something else, too. He's got the instincts to make a tough call with almost no information to go off of. When it's just his gut."

"I've got instincts--"

"Not like that," Izzy said. "None of us do. When you've had time to think and figure out an enemy, you and Gahiji are better fighters. You win faster and take fewer hits."

"Then--"

"But that's only when you've had the chance to watch and figure things out, Matt," Izzy said. "It's not bad, it's just not what we need right now. Tai and Khorvath win on little more than their gut and determination." Matt seemed to deflate. "Tai knows how to make those tough calls without being worried about facts or strategy or forward thinking."

"That sounds a little harsh," Tai muttered.

"It's not," the entire group chorused.

"But that's what we'd need in a situation like this," Izzy said.

"Right!" said Tai. He and his Agumon, Khorvath, stepped forward towards the Guardians. "So who's it gonna be?"

"Is anyone else still at the part of this conversation where we're calling this a crazy idea?" asked the female with the Biyomon. "No? Just me?"
 

storymasterb

Knight of RPGs
James Reeve
Highton, Valeron

It was like looking into a mirror, James thought. As he looked across the group of eight Tamers and their partners, he saw other people in their places. Himself where Tai stood. Matthew replacing Matt. Alexis where the girl with the Biyomon was. Just like his friends. And he knew how this would go. He could see himself in Tai's place and Michael, Svarog and Thor saying their piece to him.

He would say no just as they did, and he couldn't rightly say they were unjustified. Wrong, perhaps. He'd heard of Tamer settlements like this in the time before the Council had formally created the Guardians. All of them had survived exactly until the moment the Royal Knights had come knocking. But were the Guardians doing any better? They had that right. Up until now, the Guardians had failed and failed again. Perhaps even coming here rather than Greystone was another failure, but he forced that out of mind.

"They do not want for courage," Artanis said, with a dry edge to his tone. "Especially that one." He indicated Tai.

"Courage will not save them," Okatsu replied. James hadn't noticed that she and Hoshiko were stood by him. "Not from what's coming." The Gabumon X frowned as she looked at her opposite number. It was disconcerting, James thought.

"Are we really going to do this?" Hoshiko asked quietly, sharing much the expression of the girl with the Biyomon. "Entertain this idea of theirs?"

"What other option do we have?" Artanis noted. "Our only alternative would be to turn around and set a course for Greystone. And they are at least amenable to our offer under some circumstance." James nodded, but he did understand where Hoshiko was coming from. It was a trial by combat, more or less, and all that it would prove was that one fighter was stronger than the other. Sure, it might suggest that in that situation, Tai and Khorvath could beat whichever Guardian stepped up, but it would prove only that.

The Royal Knights would crush Tai and his friends all the same as the settlement burned. Some would say that Tai would have brought it on himself. That the Guardians shouldn't waste time with people who didn't want to be saved and prioritise those who wanted and needed help. But James Reeve looked at him and said no. That wasn't who they were. That wasn't what they did.

-

Hoshiko Yukimura
Highton, Valeron

"This is foolish," Hoshiko murmured. She was certain that Thor or Svarog could defeat Tai and his partner in a heartbeat. Perhaps she was wrong, perhaps the pair were stronger than she thought. But strong enough to protect this city when the Royal Knights inevitably came? No. Surely they weren't. She wanted to be wrong. She genuinely did. She wanted to hear that this city had stood firm where other Tamers had faltered and fallen. She wanted the sixteen in front of them to do what the Guardians hadn't.

But she knew that when dreams and reality met, reality only rarely backed down.

"But at what point do we have to allow foolishness?" Artanis answered, looking up at her. "I agree. It is foolish. But, were we only to do the most sensible thing, would all Tamers not have returned to Analog the instant the Royal Knights set upon this course?" She couldn't hold his gaze at that, the mere thought stirring those memories. Okatsu crept closer, sensing her discomfort. "A stand has to be made somewhere."

"You would say that," she thought deep down with a look at James. He was looking at Tai as though recognising something familiar. Of course. She looked from one to the other and saw the same recklessness. Courage, Artanis called it. But it was such a thin line between courage and recklessness.

"Will you fight?" Okatsu asked Artanis and James.

Artanis shook his head. "While I do not know how strong they are, James and I cannot Biomerge and I do not have a Mega Level. I would be an unworthy champion." He clearly hated that admission. "What of you?" Did she want to do it? Volunteer Okatsu to force Tai to see sense? Would that bring unity enough that she and Okatsu would Biomerge to face down whatever Khorvath brought to bear?

"If Hoshiko wishes it, then it shall be so," Okatsu said simply, looking at her. "Do you want me to be our champion, Hoshiko?" Hoshiko frowned, disliking this sudden spotlight. She didn't have an answer. Before she could commit, a voice rang out.

"Tell me something," The woman with the Palmon, Mimi, spoke across the open ground, her gaze now fixed on the small cluster of Guardian Tamers. "You've got Tamers with you, but you're doing all the talking." She glanced at Michael, Svarog and Thor, then back to James, Hoshiko and Andrea. "What do you guys think? I see you whispering away there."

James immediately stepped forward. "I agree with Michael. It's safer for you in Axis Mundi than here."

"Is it really?" she retorted. "We heard about Kaladesh, and Glen Elendra too. If the Council's hand-picked team can't stop the Royal Knights, then do you blame us for trusting more in our own strength?" Hoshiko frowned, feeling the rightness in that statement but rebelling against it. "You come here on your high horse, no request from Valeron, just your own feeling that you're right, and expect us to go be corralled in Axis Mundi on your say-so. Do you see what that looks like to us? 'For our own safety', you say, 'for the protection of Saga', the Royal Knights say." Hoshiko tensed, a fist clenching. She saw how Mimi could make that argument, how she might see it the same way in their shoes, and yet they didn't realise.

"I know how you feel," James said, staring at her. "But I've seen the alternative. I've seen... Tamers without partners. Partners without Tamers." He looked back and for a moment Hoshiko wondered who he was looking at. Her? Andrea? Or something else? "I've seen people die. You think you can stop that, I know. There were others who thought like you do, Mimi. Tamers I tried to lead to Axis Mundi who told me they could protect themselves." He paused. "I turned around and left, and later I'd find the few survivors left running for safety." His voice was uncharacteristically quiet and melancholy. "I don't want to see more people get hurt when I could have prevented it. I don't want to go back to Axis Mundi and hear in a few days or weeks that your city was wiped off the map by the Royal Knights."

-

James Reeve
Highton, Valeron

He stared at Mimi, who was silent in the aftermath of his words. He wanted them to see, to stand down. To come and be safe.

The young man with the Gabumon took a step forward. Matt, that was his name, right? "You tried to lead people to Axis Mundi before? And you're a Guardian? Then you're... James Reeve?" James nodded and Matt smiled for just a second. "We heard about you. Rumors. Stories. It was inspiring." He glanced at Tai. "Reminded me of someone. And that's why I don't understand. You're like us, aren't you? You could've sat in Axis Mundi, or you could've handed over your Digivice and gone back to Analog. So why not?"

James was silent. Because he couldn't just stand by. Because it would hurt more than anything to run away while others suffered. Because he didn't want to lose Artanis and this world. "Because someone has to take a stand."

Matt looked at him with recognition that James didn't understand. "I've heard that before." He glanced meaningfully at Tai. "I tried to be the voice of reason about it, but you know, sometimes what's safe isn't what's right. Someone has to take a stand, more than you did, even." James's eyes widened. As he looked at Matt, for just a moment, Matthew stood in his place. And their stares were the same, that same look of exasperation and concern. He'd thought already that Tai was like him, but he hadn't realised how close the similarities cut. "But hey. You win, we'll pack up and come with you. We win, we've got a hill to make our stand on."

"And to die on." It was Hoshiko who had spoken, very softly.

Matt's gaze turned to her. "Hoshiko Yukimura, I presume?"

-

Hoshiko Yukimura
Highton, Valeron

She took a step forward, Okatsu at her side. Tamer and Gabumon faced Tamer and Gabumon. "Yes. I am Hoshiko Yukimura."

"Head of the archaeology guild, right?" Matt answered. "I'm sorry." She saw the fire in her mind's eye. The burning. The screams. The pain.

"A Guardian," she answered quietly. "Your friend there, with the tablet. His calculations won't prepare you for what's coming. No matter how ready you are, no matter how thick your walls are, it won't be enough when the Royal Knights come."

"Then maybe this is the hill that we die on," Tai answered, picking up the conversation. "Like you said. But someone has to make a stand. And maybe when the fighting is done, we'll have done what you were meant to do and stopped this."

"Maybe," Hoshiko retorted. "But you haven't fought the Royal Knights like we have. You haven't seen your home burn like I have. How many people are you willing to let get hurt so you can make your stand?"

"You cannot protect them all," Okatsu added, her voice stained by the ghost of failure. "Not from foes such as the Royal Knights. It is folly."

"If you want to prove to us that we can't do this, then step up," Tai said, staring at Hoshiko and Okatsu, then across the Guardians. "That's the only way you'll get us to come with you. Beat Khorvath and me."

"They won't listen," Hoshiko thought. Their hearts were set on it. Svarog and Thor had provoked them and that was that. They had tried to talk the Tamers down and now it seemed that it would all come down to Tai's trial by combat idea. Thor or Svarog could win, she was quite certain. But what would that prove? And how would that look? That these gods had swept in on a whim and forced their will upon the Tamers here and their partners. She could understand resentment about that. And moreover, she still remembered the guild's fall. Safe at home one second. Trapped in a blazing ruin in the next. She looked at Okatsu and Okatsu at her. She saw the still visible scar where Samael's sword had struck and remembered what she had whispered to Okatsu.

"I should have been with you."

As one the two stepped forward, in front of the other Guardians. "Then we will be your opponent," Okatsu declared, staring down Khorvath.

"This is your home," Hoshiko said quietly, meeting Tai's gaze. "We know how it feels to lose that, believe me. But we will prove to you that regardless of what happened before, we can protect you. We can defeat the Royal Knights and end this." She held up her Digivice, gripping its edges tightly.

"We?" Tai echoed, before smiling as his gaze caught something. "Ah."

I will fight with you.

Two hearts beat in tandem, and light burst from Hoshiko's hand as she clasped the Digivice to her heart.

"Biomerge Digivolution," the Digivice spoke.

"Biomerge, activate!" Hoshiko and Okatsu declared with one voice. The light wrapped around them in a sphere ringed by chains of coding and Hoshiko felt it envelop her, warm like a caring embrace. Beyond the blinding light, Okatsu's body shattered and reformed where the data chains passed, golden armor replacing cold blue fur. A white-furred tail lashed through the glow and a blue scarf took form. Finally a clawed hand burst from the radiance and took hold of the Kiju Engetsutou, the light fading to reveal Okatsu's CresGarurumon form.

Within her partner's body, encased in a warm protective sphere, Hoshiko stared out through Okatsu's eyes and drew in the air's scent as Okatsu did. Their hearts beat as one and she felt Okatsu all around her. Their minds rested against one another and shared a single thought.

"We will prove it to you."
 

TheSequelReturns

Phantom Thief
< Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) >
Highton, Valeron

Henry hadn't realized just how much he had gotten used to being treated as a commoner until he was suddenly being treated with respect again. It was strange. He had been a leader for nearly his entire life. When had he suddenly gotten so used to following orders instead of giving them? But having the Stingmon look at him expectantly, having the airship land at his word, watching Thor stand a few, respectful steps away, it was reminding him of the good old days in way that made his heart ache.

At that moment, he'd probably sell his soul to have his ship and crew back.

But there would be time for reminiscing and long contemplation on finding a crossroads later when the shadow of the Royal Knights was cast a little less darkly.

Aria floated up to his side, as he expected her to do, and stood quietly even as the tamers came out to meet them. Thor and Svarog took point and spoke to the tamers first, as he expected them to do. And the tamers refused to surrender their entire lives for a death march, again as expected. Henry was starting to wonder if his father's tale of his mother being clairvoyant had any weight or if his years of experience were finally coming out of hibernation.

"Take a good look and tell me what you see." he said to Aria, letting the other leader figures handle the tamers for now.

"A bunch of humans and a wall?" she said.

"Aye, that's true enough. But look closer."

The two of them watched and listened as the tamers refused Thor's pressure and stood their ground. They issued a challenge, and Hoshiko and Okatsu answered, going so far as to Biomerge to prepare for the battle with the tamer's leader and his Agumon partner.

"Tamer against tamer?" Aria frowned. "Why doesn't Thor or Svarog take point here and save us the trouble."

"You should know why. Watch how the humans act with each other. With their partners." Henry motioned towards their Biomerged comrades. "Why do you think they stepped up?"

Aria huffed. "I'm not a mind reader. Why don't you ask them?"

"For someone who wants so badly to be needed, you don't seem to care what others are thinking."

"And you don't know when to butt out."

Henry sighed. "If you'd put your thorns away for just a moment, you'd be surprised what you can learn from others."

The Lilamon took a deep breath, but said nothing. She didn't have to though. Henry could read her like a book. That impassable mask she had worn back at the start of this adventure had completely broken. And in its place was the face of an angry little flower who felt that the world had done her wrong and hated it for it. Henry knew that feeling well cause he had spent a year or two in that haze of despair himself. You don't wash ashore like a piece of driftwood after having our entire life ripped away and just walk it off. But a wound on the soul doesn't heal up and scar like a flesh wound. It sits and it festers until its a horrendous sore that gnaws at you day and night. You have to heal it yourself.

"Are you up for a deal, lass?" the pirate offered.

Aria turned towards him, looking skeptical. "You aren't going to ask me a riddle are you?"

"No tricks." Henry spread his arms, palms up, and shook his head. "Just a gentleman's wager."

"Fine. Shoot."

"I'm going to tell you exactly where you came from, where you think you're going, and how you feel about it."

"I thought this was a wager?" Aria said, looking extremely unconvinced.

Henry held up a finger. "Let me finish lass. If I get anything wrong, you can walk away and I won't bother you with this again. Captain's honor."

"And if you're right?"

He smiled. "We'll cross that sea when we get there. For now, just listen." Henry cleared his throat and started, "You have never truly belonged anywhere."

"Accurate." Aria said, with a sigh. "Thanks for that, can I go now?"

Henry ignored her. "For you, it was never about family, or friends, but about camaraderie. No one thought the same way you did. No one understood where you were coming from. And because of that, you lashed out at the world and went your own way."

Aria frowned, but her eyes had suddenly found a very interesting spot of ground to focus on.

"This didn't help and you only became more and more of an outcast. So you left home. Left your family. Went out into the world and did whatever your little heart desired. You had no plan, but you were confidant that if you just looked hard enough you'd find a place where you fit in. And finally, it seemed like you did. A whole group of misfits and outcasts out to do the world a favor. But the world just wouldn't let you catch a break and what looked like the perfect wave to surf now seems determined to crash upon on the rocks and leave you to drown."

"Still with the sailing metaphors?" she said weakly. A token protest.

"So you've decided that the problem isn't you, its the world. The whole world is broken, and until you fix it you won't be happy. But you aren't strong enough to do that. You can't snap your fingers and fix the problems of the world. So all that anger has nowhere to go but in until the only thing you hate more than the cruel, broken world around you is your own helplessness. Does that sound about right?"

Aria snorted. "And what do you know about belonging?" she said, her voice rising. "You're a pirate! You do as you please, go as you please, take what you want, and drown your sorrows in a bottle."

The pirate took a calm, measured breath and tugged at the loose collar of his shirt, pulling it down until the huge scar on his upper chest was visible. Aria blanched just a bit at the sight of it.

"This scar was given to me by a man who I thought was my best friend for years. His bullet missed my digicore by a hair and the wound only got to heal after bathing in salt water for a few days. Before giving me this lovely parting gift, he killed my most loyal friends. Every single one of them. Then the bastard stole my ship and left me for dead in the middle of the ocean. Up until that night, that ship wasn't just my property, it was my home. Those friends of mine weren't just a crew, they were my family. I lost my entire world in the span of a few hours and spent a few years in a living hell of my own design. So yes lass, I understand what it feels like to belong somewhere. And I understand what it feels like to lose that."

Aria's face was pale and sullen. "I'm... sorry."

"For what, lass?" Henry let a small, weak laugh slip. "You weren't there."

"That's what people are supposed to say right? Condolences?"

"Words you say only because you're supposed to mean about as much as a flask full of salt water."

"Then what do you expect me to do?" Aria said defeatedly.

"Nothing!" Henry said with a laugh, "I expect nothing of you, or anyone else for that matter. Expectations don't matter to a pirate. Only deeds. Honesty. Something real." He pinched and rubbed his fingers, the way one does when discussing coinage. "Stop caring about what the world expects of you lass. Don't waste your life trying to impress the ghosts of your past. Live each day for what it is. Enjoy life. Because it doesn't last forever."

Aria was quiet. The Lilamon looked like she was at the end of a long rope, dangling over a pit the bottom of which she could not see. Afraid to let go, but lacking the strength to climb. Henry reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. She didn't brush it off.

"You'll figure it out lass." He gave her shoulder a pat. "Go clear your head." And with that, Henry walked off towards the front of the group to watch the battle, leaving Aria alone with her thoughts.
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul

Tessa Tesla (Wisemon)
Highton, Valeron



The little mage huffed as she shut her book on time differiental equations with an audible whump. Tessa was bummed. She wanted to fight the Tamer and his Agumon. A perfect opportunity to field test the coding of her time differential equations to see if she got the desired effect of slowing down a target. Oh well. One of her Orbs continued to run simulations in the meantime.

The female Wisemon slipped off the giant Tome, losing interest in the whole affair. However, Tessa’s mind could never sit idle for long. Instead, her remaining Orb hovered over her shoulder to record events while her thoughts meander elsewhere. She could always review it later. Instead, the female Wisemon considered her ongoing dilemma.

Her healing gift. The Wisemon Elders had determined her healing aura to an incidental by-product of her parents’ union and thus a lesser ability not noteworthy enough for further study. Tessa shook her hooded head in denial. Yes, she had become more clever in finding ways to sustain and enhance her healing power. Deneb’s singing, herbal concotations, borrowing power from her father’s medallion... However, in the last battle she’d passed out several times after healling many of the Guardians of serious injuries. Had she truly found her limit or was she just being very inefficient with the whole process?

There had to something else, something she was missing.

Her father’s massive Tome bumped into her backside and flipped rapidly to the front. Tessa held out her notebook of equations and allowed it to disappear into the flurry of paper, until the Tome paused at its index. She ran a claw down the Index’s surface, until a finger paused two-thirds down the page.

Memiors.

The Tome shuffled it’s pages once again. From the page, Tessa extracted a well-worn journal that had been carefully repaired multiple times. Holding the precious journal to her chest, Tessa leaned comfortably against Stein’s leg without much thought. Within the journal’s worn and creased pages, simple pictures (not elaborate Wisemon playbacks) were carefully crafted into the paper. Words were inscribed underneath the photos.

However, it wasn’t her father’s handwriting.

Elegant calliography, without flaw and in gold lettering, breathed life into the photos. Tessa brushed the tips of her fingers lightly over the familiar words written in the language of the Holy Host. A sense of deep longing invaded Tessa’s musings.

Five years. Suriel had delayed as long as she could to share every precious second with her daughter, before being called back to her duties in Eden. The journal contained simple still photos. A moment in time frozen forever. Tessa closed her eyes to recall those moments with clarity.

Inscribed on the final page:

My dearest daughter:

I wish you the strength to face challenges with confidence…

...along with wisdom to choose your battles carefully….

…..I wish you adventure on your journey….

…...and may you always stop to help someone along the way….

…….Listen to your heart and take risks carefully…

……….Remember how much you are loved…

………...and have faith that we shall meet again someday…

Your mother,

Suriel


Tessa stared at the page lost in thought. She’d read her mother’s final message more times than she could count. But a word in the final line stood out in a new light.

Faith.

To have faith like angel. Tessa pondered the word for a long time.


Theo Grayson (BlackWarGreymon)
Highton, Valeron


The BlackWarGreymon felt for the Tamers. He really did. Many had been chased from their homes already and were ready to make a stand. Theo believed in their strength and their bond. But so many where still so young...were the partners mature enough to recoginze when they needed to pick and choose their battles? To understand that to make a stand, you also needed to make sure it counted?

Theo recalled Kyle muttering a phrase once, "It is acceptable to spend their lives if necessary. It is not acceptable, however, to waste those lives. Do you understand the difference?"

The BlackWarGreymon couldn’t remember why his partner had said that at the time. Except that the boy had been glued to the TV in Theo’s home, running a combat simulation with a controller compromised of two joysticks and several buttons.

His digicore ached with longing, watching the young tamer (Tai was it?) standing together with the Agumon, Khorvath, determined to protect their home. Not unlike when he met James and Artanis for the first time in the Council Chambers. His core reached out blindly, searching in the darkness. Theo’s breathing shook when he could not find the familiar warmth in the broken connection.

A phantom touch brushed the side of his orange calf. I am here. Whenever you are ready.

The BlackWarGreymon shook his horned head, the only visible sign of his distress. He snapped back to the present. Hoshiko and Tai were still going back and forth. Either way, cities established for centuries were destroyed within a day when their battles had broken out. The tamer encampment wouldn’t last past the hour.

Theo held his breath and closed his eyes, listening to the exchange a moment longer. His weight shifted onto one foot ever so slightly and prepared to be the two Partners’ opponent. No point in letting this nonsense to continue. Nor did he want to permit Thor or Svarog time to get involved and go at it with overkill.

"Then we will be your opponent." Hoshiko and Okatsu spoke in unison, stepping forward.

Theo relaxed his stance marginally, crossing his arms and nodding his head slightly with approval as a light engulfed them. He watched the pair with concern, remembering the anger etched on Hoshiko’s face at her partner’s injuries. Relief flooded him, when the light faded and there stood both tamer and digimon as one. CresGarurumon.

"We will prove it to you."

A hand brushed the side of his orange calf, warmth radiated from the contact. “Theo.”

The black dragon glanced downward. It was Andrea.

Theo knelt carefully to one knee, bringing himself close to eye level with the brown-headed tamer. Deneb skipped contently behind Andrea, munching happily on a protein bar that the female tamer had just given him.

“What is it?” He asked, cautiously. They hadn’t spoken on the best of terms previously.

An awkward silence hung between the two. What had been said and what needed to be said….

...would need to wait.

“I’m concerned. There’s really no other way to gain this group’s cooperation is there.” Andrea watched as the biomerged Guardians prepared to face off against Tai and Khorvath.

“I suspect not,” Theo affirmed. “Not after how the tamers were provoked into complying initially. Why? Are you concerned that Hoshiko and Okatsu won’t succeed, since this is their first biomerged?”

“No, I trust those two to know what they’re doing, but look around us.” Andrea gestured to the whole encampment. “Everyone’s attention is likely to be drawn to this fight. Even those tamers standing up on the encampment walls keeping watch. I doubt anyone would want to miss out on it.”

“Good point,” Theo agreed, glancing around for himself to confirm. The BlackWarGreymon cursed inwardly. He should have realized that himself sooner. He needed to stop focusing on his own issues and start paying attention more. Currently, this fight was potentially leaving the Tamer’s village opened to attack without any warning.

“Deneb and I are going to go out and patrol around the encampment, just in case.” Andrea said, somewhat tensely, as though expecting Theo to object. “There’s really no point in all of us standing around here.”

“Very well,” Theo conceded, catching the brief surprised on Andrea’s face. “But not alone.” The black dragon glanced around their group, honing in on the distracted flowermon. “Ask Aria to go with you at least. The three of you going will be more discrete than myself going with you. Though it wouldn’t hurt to be somewhat obvious about it and remind the Tamers here to pay attention to the horizon.”

Andrea nodded. Theo gently touched the 19-year-olds shoulder before she and the Hawkmon ran off. “If the Knights do show up, don’t engage by yourselves, please,” Theo couldn’t stress this enough. “Fall back immediately, until we can back you up. I’ll keep an eye on things here and inform Henry of what you’re doing.”

“Sure thing, Theo,” Andrea replied, holding up her digivice. “I’ll connect James directly if anything comes up. If nothing else, you’ll be seeing a big a** bird filling up the sky to warn you.”

Theo stood up as Andrea and Deneb headed in Aria’s direction. He tried to not let his worry show. As much as he didn’t want Andrea involved in the fighting, he accepted that he couldn’t stop her.

She and Kyle were both very stubborn, when they had their minds made up.

Theo stepped back to inform the Guardian’s self-proclaimed leader.

___________

Andrea Mercer & Deneb Odebu (Hawkmon)
Highton, Valeron


The two partners made their way over to the Lilamon.

“Aria!” Deneb called out to her, excitedly. Andrea knew the Hawkmon was nervous. He tended to get overly animated and spoke with much agusto to hide it. “We are off on a perilous quest. Seeking danger whereever it may dare hide.” Deneb scanned over the landscape with a feathered hand over his eyes.

Andrea just shrugged and translated, “We’re going to check the perimeter to make sure the Knights don’t catch us by surprise.” She held her digivice towards Deneb. Light flashed and a Kiwimon appeared, looking at the flowermon hopefully. “ Do you mind coming with us?”
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
Tai Kamiya
Highton, Valeron


Tai frowned as Hoshiko and Okatsu stepped forward. "Aw. Thought we'd get to fight the Apollomon or that BlackWarGreymon over there." He pointed at Theo. "Remember when we did that? Good times." His brows raised as they lit with the energies of Digivolution and joined together. "First Biomerge? That's cute."

"Should we do the same?" Khorvath asked with a smirk.

"Eh. I dunno. We can do it on the fly if we need to, but I had a really big breakfast," Tai mumbled.

"That's true," Khorvath nodded. "You should really watch what you eat a bit, you know?"

"Oh that's rich coming from you," Tai accused.

"I'm a Digimon. What's your excuse?"

"Could you two be taking this any less seriously!" Joe shouted.

"Man. Everyone's so grumpy today," Tai muttered to Khorvath.

"They should've eaten a bigger breakfast maybe," Khorvath suggested. Tai smirked

"Well, let's get to it," Tai palmed his Digivice, a different model than the one every other Tamer had. Instead of the rounded, almost egg-shaped model, this one was more rectangular and silvery in color with three blue buttons. But as Tai raised it to his chest, it began to glow bright orange. "Show them what you've got, Khorvath!"

"Warp Digivolve!" Khorvath shouted. A beam of orange light erupted from Tai's Digivice and slammed into the Agumon. His body was cast in a blinding glow and changed size rapidly, growing through all his evolutionary levels in the blink of an eye. "WarGreymon!"

"Let us begin," the CresGarurumon declared after a moment, staring down the evolved Khorvath. She brandished the Kiju Engetsotou in a defensive stance, ready to meet Khorvath should he charge as she anticipated. "If you think this is a game, then I would discard that illusion. We shall not hold back."

"What a weird thing to say," Tai said, his eyes narrowed. "Heads up, Khorvath. She's a talker. Take her down like we did with that VenomMyotismon."

"That Digimon was ten stories tall!" Sora shouted. "How is this remotely the same?"

"Man, everyone's a critic," Tai muttered. "It's the general idea."

"You got it, Tai!" Khorvath growled, his voice rumbling and low. Khorvath charged, zipping low to the ground, but swerved just before clashing with Okatsu and Hoshiko and shot up over them.

"Terra Force!" an enormous ball of fire and power erupted from Khorvath's hand, and he brought it down hard directly on top of them. Khorvath dropped down to stand outside the conflagration. "Not all that tough now, are they?"

"I would not speak so soon," Okatsu said, Hoshiko's voice layered over hers by the Biomerge as she emerged from the flames. Her radiant armor was stained with soot, but the damage seemed fairly superficial. "Geki Hyougetsuga!" Shards of ice crystallised in the air around her and shot at the WarGreymon as he fell.

Khorvath whirled in place as the ice shards speared towards him. His body lit with a burning orange heat and the ice melted. What didn’t melt was pulverized by his spinning claws.

“You picked a cold-based attacker to fight us?” Two raised his eyebrows. “Khorvath. Just like when we fought Matt.”

“Wow. Really?” Matt muttered awkwardly. “Not cool bringing that up. Pretty sure you lost either way.”

“No I definitely won.”

Great Tornado!” Khorvath sliced through the air like a blades whirlwind, colliding hard with Hoshiko/Okatsu and knocking them across the field.

The CresGarurumon landed on her feet, claws gripping the ground tightly. She could feel Hoshiko's mind against hers, so close that their thoughts bridged that infinitesimal gap and washed together like two rivers colliding. They searched together for vulnerabilities in Khorvath's stance and technique. "Jurou Daikaiten!" As the WarGreymon had, Okatsu launched into a spinning onslaught, her blade seemingly everywhere around her at once.

Instead of dodging, Khorvath met Okatsu's charge. As she whirled in a circular arc, he shot within her stance and blocked her spinning overhead slash with his arms crossed and his Brave Shield joined. The shield took the brunt of the blow, though the rest of its force sent the ground splitting apart beneath Khorvath's feet. Nonetheless, it stopped Okatsu/Hoshiko cold. Before they had a chance to recover, Khorvath struck, tackling them through the air. He whipped into another Great Tornado with them still in his grasp, and spun them hard into the ground.

Khorvath floated back to stand by Tai, allowing Okatsu/Hoshiko to pull themselves up out of the ground.

"We spent years here in the Digital World," Tai said, all trace of joking gone from his voice. "When we first arrived we were lost in the Savage Lands. We thought that's all Saga was. Just wild, lawless jungle. We spent months there, surviving. Just us and our partners against every would-be despot and wanna-be world-ender the rest of the world chose to ignore -- Council and Royal Knights included.

"So you might not think we can handle this, but let me assure you, we know exactly what we're up against."

"The deterrent, the protection for this community," said Matt, stepping forward alongside his partner. "It isn't the wall. It isn't the sensors or the radar or any of Izzy's early-warning systems. It's us."

Okatsu rose to her full height, bringing her weapon to bear once more. With a howl, she leapt forward, the air becoming mist around her as the icicles formed. Geki Hyougetsuga!" Icicles rocketed at Khorvath, but rather than hanging back, Okatsu pressed herself to race just behind them. The CresGarurumon deftly struck towards the WarGreymon's unarmored thigh.

Khorvath slashed away the incoming projectiles and was almost caught unawares as Okatsu/Hoshiko closed in. But as they struck he drew his leg up, raising his greave, and blocking the strike. He retaliated immediately with a brutal head-butt that caught them in the shoulder.

"Nice. Sneaky," Tai smirked. "But we've dealt with sneaky before."

"Fought a Piedmon once," Khorvath grumbled wistfully. "Turned me into a keychain. Not gonna happen again."

Okatsu reeled back, feeling Khorvath's bladed horn scraped against her shoulder as the headbutt landed. Across their bond, Hoshiko felt the blow too, but even so Okatsu sensed her partner searching for opportunity. The CresGarurumon returned to the assault, blade flashing as she aimed a jab at his neck.

Khorvath tilted his head to the side and Okatsu/Hoshiko's blade just scraped across his armor. He raised his gauntlet and caught the shaft of the spear in the claws of the Dramon Destroyer, then shoulder-checked them away.

"Uh, maybe let's not try to kill each other!" Tai shouted. "Khorvath, let's put an end to this."

Khorvath shot forward and drove his knee into their chin, then landed a drop-kick to their chest and sent them tumbling backwards towards the rest of the Guardians; most of whom went scrambling out of the way.

"Terra Force!" Khorvath shouted, and hurled a sphere of glowing energy towards her.
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
Andrea Mercer & Deneb Odebu (Hawkmon)
Highton, Valeron

While Andrea waited for the Lilamon to respond, the Kiwimon knelt low to the ground for Andrea to mount his back. The female tamer placed a hand on her partner’s back and heaved herself up. Deneb straighten up and began preening a spot among his short brown feathers due to a sudden itch.

Aria watched the two for a moment, mulling over her thoughts. Finally, she nodded. “Sure. I could use the distraction.”

“Excellent!,” Deneb squawked, running in place as though ready to go, “Then let us be off to survey the land and discover that which is hidden from our sight with these keen eyes of mine.”

Andrea glanced apologetically at Aria, “I’ll just say sorry now, since he’ll probably be like this the whole time.” The Kiwimon marched onward away from the tamer encampment, paying no heed to his tamer’s tone. “He can’t help being overly dramatic.”

“Nonsense!” Deneb puffed up indignite. “History is being made. Tales will be told of our endeavors and our roles in them. I merely intend to play my part well.”

“No one’s going to be singing tales about my endeavors.” Aria said with a small laugh.

Deneb slowed his march to a more leisure pace, “Not true, I could very easily compose a few stanzas if you wis-”

“Deneb,” Andrea said, interrupting her partner. The female tamer frowned slightly, “Does it matter? We’re all fighting for the same goal if not for the same reason.”

“Some of us are fighting better than others, I’d say.” Aria shrugged as she floated along behind the tamer and her partner. “I just... “ the words died in her throat. “Forget it. I’m done starting pity parties. Let’s just get on with this patrol.”

Andrea nodded in agreement. Deneb picked up speed to an easy jog. The brown-haired tamer watched out over the horizon, her hands gripping tight to Deneb’s feathers. She cast a glance back toward Aria, “I can relate. I can’t fight without Deneb and I didn’t always have him.”

“Its… different, I think.” Aria buried her face in her palm for a moment, as if fighting through a headache or struggling to find the words. “The difference between you and Deneb isn’t something that can be bridged. No amount of effort will let you digivolve or use special abilities the way a digimon can.”

The Lilamon sighed. “You have a power all your own, one that makes Deneb stronger. That’s enough to help. But the difference between me and someone like Thor? Or Michael? Or Henry, even. I should be able to close that distance. But it's like I’m staring at a chasm with no way across. Every time I try to reach for strength, it slips through my fingers like I’m trying to catch the wind.”

“Then perhaps, my dear Aria, you are reaching for strength in the wrong away.” Deneb looked over his shoulder. “The wind cannot be grabbed, but it can be caught. A mighty tree is rooted into the ground, but it cannot ascend into the skies. However, a little seed can open it’s wings to catch itself on the wind and let itself be carried to great heights and vast distances until it finds that place to sprout. And no two seeds travels on the winds with the same method either.”

“Do I need to translate that?” Andrea asked Aria.

Aria dismissed that notion with a flick of her wrist. “No, I’m fluent in colorful metaphors by now.” She floated on in silence for a few moments. “Sorry, but I’m not in the mood for anymore poetic encouragement. It all sounds like empty platitudes at this point.”

Deneb visibly deflated. Andrea patted him on the back. “Let’s just do what we can for now and keep an eye out. It may not amount to anything, but I’d feel better doing something than not.”

“Tell me about it.” Aria said. It was several minutes before Aria spoke again. But as they moved on their patrol, it was clear that the Lilamon’s thoughts were on anything but the task at hand.

“Hey,” Aria said, breaking the silence, “How do you know the difference between what you’re supposed to do and what you should do?” She looked embarrassed almost as soon as the words left her mouth. “No, nevermind. I’m being childish.”

“I don’t mind,” Andrea shrugged, her brow creasing in thought. “You’ll have to be more specific though, both parts of that question can be pretty similar in meaning.”

“Forget it.” Aria said. “It's just… something Henry said won’t get out of my brain. And I’m starting to think I’ve made a terrible mistake.” Her pace slowed down significantly. “I don’t belong here.”

“What made you decide to join up in the first place?” Andrea asked confused, but otherwise keeping her tone even.

Aria stopped. Her gaze drifted up to the sky, her expression unreadable. “You know,” she said, “I just thought it sounded fun.”

She laughed, though there was little joy in it. “That’s terrible isn’t it? Lives are on the line and I’m here to enjoy myself. But the truth of it is, I care because I feel like I’m supposed to care. And when I see other people actually caring, or worse, caring and moping about it, I hate them for it. And I hate myself for hating them.”

Andrea nodded, simply listening. Deneb matched paced with Aria and kept his attention to the horizon, occassionaly glancing back at the Lilamon. “I am terrified of losing my Andrea. I do not want to experience the same sorrow that afflicts Theo, when we lose our partners. So I do appreciate you caring enough to at least being here and trying, whatever your reason.” Deneb said with hesiatation.

“Even if its a lie I’ve sold myself?” she said. “I don’t think you understand. I’m a flowermon without empathy. I may as well be an Airdramon without wings. You have Andrea and she has you. But I don’t know what that’s like. Nor do I want to know what that’s like, if it causes you and everyone else around here so much grief and worry and pain.” She shook her head. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you any of this.”

She laughed, this time a real laugh. “Maybe it just feels good to tell the truth for once.”

“Well, you certainly sound like you wouldn’t mind knowing, even if you can’t seem to make up your mind about it,” Andrea shot back with some heat. The female tamer took a calming breath, “But by all means, if you need to let it out, let it out. I don’t mind listening if it’s what someone needs.”

“It’s worth it though,” Andrea said softly. Her eyes firm on the horizon. “The pain, the worry...yea, it can be scary, when you think about how deep those feelings go. But I didn’t have anyone I was close to, when I was younger. My brother and I drifted apart after dad passed….” Andrea didn’t elaborate further. “Deneb and I are nothing alike, but it’s like we fill in the gaps of where the other is lacking. I know I’m reckless, but he’s there to catch me when I’m about to go over a cliff. I keep him focused on the job at hand, but he reminds me to laugh and enjoy myself too. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

“Anyway…” Andrea looked away as though a bit embarrassed herself. “It might not be for everyone.”

“Thank you for sharing.” Aria said sweetly. Her voice sounded sincere, but her eyes were cold and distant.

“That’s what you want to hear, right?” Aria said flatly. “That’s the expected response when someone tells you something personal. Say anything else, act anything less than impressed or interested or appreciative and people get upset. No one wants to hear their feelings get dismissed. No one wants you around if you tell them that you don’t care about where they came from or how they got here or who they left behind. Nothing can be done about it, and yet people insist they share it. And they expect you to smile and clap and pat them on the shoulder.”

“I don’t get it.” she shook her head. “All we have is right now. There’s no time to carry around baggage. No amount of tears will change the past and no amount of hope will guarantee you tomorrow. So why is it so hard for people to live and let live? Why do people let themselves drown in emotional puddles instead of just standing up and moving on?”

“You could have just told me to shut up, you know?” Andrea said bluntly. Deneb’s feathers ruffled in agitation.

“What good would that have done?” Aria said. “You’d be upset either way.”

“There are worse things to get upset over than being told to shut my trap,” Andrea commented, choosing to look back over the horizon as Deneb continued to walk, while muttering ‘I beg to differ’. “Funny enough, you were sprouting off quite a bit there a minute ago.” Andrea let her words hang there.

Aria shrugged, “You’re the one who started monologuing about the past.” She absentmindedly pulled out her coin purse, took out a single coin, stowed the purse, and started flipping the coin and catching it if only to give her hands something to do.

“Fair point, though it’s only because I’m often told I don’t open up enough,” Andrea replied, giving Deneb a gentle pat.

“Well, you don’t,” Deneb said softly, craning his short neck to look at his tamer.

“You do that plenty for both of us, Deneb,” Andrea sighed, but there was no real heat in her tone. Just simple fact. “I’m afraid to even ask how many of my secrets you have blabbed at this point.” The Kiwimon sheepishly looked away.

Aria watched the pair with a curious look. “How do you two get by like that? Blabbing things to anyone who happens to chat with you, that is.”

“I don’t blab that badly--”

“Yes, you do,” Andrea interjected. The female tamer shook her head, taking a moment to think. “Honestly, it was mostly an issue when we first became partners and traveling on our own. We often got the short end of bartering or attention from the unsavory sort. We just quickly figured out that if things were going south for us; Deneb would distract the audience with his flair for theatrics and I’d figure a way out for us. Plus, I can usually pull a surprise evolution out for Deneb.”

“I don’t recall us discussing that,” Deneb glanced at Andrea somewhat confused.

“Didn’t have too” Andrea smiled slightly, “I just let you be the attention hog that you are.”

The Kiwimon grumbled under his breath.

Aria flipped her coin high into the air and caught it. “Sounds like a lot of trouble to me. I don’t think I could stand having to rely on someone else to protect me.” She flipped her coin again and this time it bounced off her hand and went flying off into the grass. Aria muttered a curse under her breath. “Honestly, that’s part of why I’m in such a sour mood lately. And that damn pirate isn’t helping things either.”

“I dare say, that scallywag had better not be behaving inappropriately,” Deneb exclaimed suddenly in complete seriousiness, “After seeing him share drinks with that demon, I’m not sure how far I trust our self-elected leader.”

Andrea facepalmed.

“Tsk.” Aria took a moment to calm herself. “I don’t do ‘trust’, but even if I did, he’d still annoy the hell out of me. He acts like he’s my father or something.” She thought back to their conversation earlier and snorted. “Or worse, he actually thinks he’s helping. But I’m not about to whine to you about it.”

“I am surprised about one thing though.” she motioned towards Andrea. “Most people would have bailed on this conversation by now. I’m not exactly pleasant company.”

Andrea shrugged, shifting into a more comfortable position on Deneb’s back, “I meant it, when I said I don’t mind. Honestly, I don’t go out of my way to make conversation with people I don’t know well often. It’s usually easier to let them lead the conversation if they want to have it. Besides, it’s not like we can avoid each other, since we’re on the same team.”

“I don’t know about that. Plenty of those knuckleheads I haven't had a chat with yet.” The Lilamon sighed and started zig-zagging through the air a bit. She almost looked bored. “I’d give anything for a good old tavern brawl right about now. All this knight and tamer business has me wilting like a potted plant.”

“You still owe me a rematch,” Deneb jumped alongside Aria, dead serious. “I demand we have a best 3 out of 5 Karaoke showdown.”

“Oh?” Aria said, her eyes narrowing, “I’d crush you like an ant. And I despise karaoke.”

“Dance off then!” Deneb said confidently. Andrea silently suffered through her partner’s antics, as she resumed her surveying the terrrain.

“Changing the game already? Such confidence.” Aria laughed.

“No, I am a bird and a natural at karaoke. That would actually be an unfair advantage.” Deneb said with a mocking tone, though you could tell he was enjoying himself. “Better to humiliate you in something you might prefer better.”

“And you suggested dancing? With your gangly legs? Please.” Aria dismissed him with a wave, but her mood seemed to have improved as well. “How about cards then? Then I can rob both of you blind at the same time.”

“Keep me out of this,” Andrea pleaded, pretending she wasn’t part of the conversation. “Deneb, you’re not allowed to gamble remember?” The Kiwimon rolled his eyes.

Aria snickered. “That’s too bad. It’d be fun to watch him beg for mercy.”

“I’ll take you word on it. I’ll be hiding in the back.” Andrea chuckled, making her own jab at her partner’s expense.

“Well,” Deneb huffed, “We’ll see if I give you any more free rides after this, my dear..”

“Sure, Deneb,” Andrea said, knowing her partner perfectly, “I just have to leave the room and you’ll be scampering right behind me.”

“You have him so well trained.” Aria said with enough deadpan to make it hard to tell how serious she was, “You will have to tell me your secret.”

“He cooks too,” Andrea added.

“Oh, enough already,” the indignite Kiwimon muttered. “We’ll figure out something, when we get the chance.”

Aria smiled, but her usual downcast look slowly crept back. She looked at Deneb, then Andrea. “I really don’t get you two.” she said. “After everything I said, you can turn around and lure me into banter. I’m.. not used to that.”

For a moment, the Lilamon looked like she truly didn’t understand what was going on. “Why did you invite me out here anyway?”

“It was Theo’s idea,” Andrea explained as she glanced at the Lilamon. “He didn’t want Deneb and I coming out here alone, when I told him I wanted to take a look around.”

“Gramps?” Aria shook her head. “That idiot. Figures he’d put you up to this.”

“Up to what?” Andrea asked, confused.

Aria blinked. “To this.” she gestured vaguely at nothing in particular. “No one invites me to anything.” She pulled out her rather heavy coin purse again. “You see this? Takes a while to earn this much coinage. And I haven't worked an honest day in my life. Every last one of these coins was stolen, pilfered, gambled, or otherwise taken from the sap who actually earned it. That’s how I’ve made my living. And I’ve done it all on my own.”

“Now, it’s my turn to be confused. You’re being pretty forward for admitting to be a swindler.” Andrea said carefully. Deneb remained silent, though he was visibly concerned. “You’re starting to vaguely remind me of my brother when we were younger…” Andrea immediately stopped and shook her head. “Nevermind.”

“I’ll take that as fair warning though.” Andrea replied, “so no cards or bets. Understand, Deneb?”

“Yea, yea,” Deneb muttered half-heartly.

Aria laughed and put the pouch away. “Well, if you’re cool with everything I’ve said so far, then there’s no point in hiding it from you.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ll be watching, but if Deneb enjoys your company enough for conversation or whatever. That’s fine enough for me.” Andrea said with a crooked smile. “Besides I got bigger things to worry about.”

“That’s fair. You’re the first ones not to immediately shun me or blame me for theft at this point, so thanks for that I guess.” She floated along in silence for a few moments. “Gods this is awkward. I don’t know if I should keep talking or shut up.”

Andrea snorted, “You’re telling me, usually Deneb is the jabberjay between the two of us.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Deneb huffed, cocking his beak upwards indignite.

“Then get jabbering,” Andrea teased him.

“Then perhaps a tale to help pass the time?” Deneb offered as the trio continued their patrol around the encampment.

******

Theo Grayson (BlackWarGreymon)
Highton, Valeron


Khorvath shot forward and drove his knee into their chin, then landed a drop-kick to their chest and sent them tumbling backwards towards the rest of the Guardians; most of whom went scrambling out of the way.

"Terra Force!" Khorvath shouted, and hurled a sphere of glowing energy towards her.


The older dragon jumped in front of his fellow Guardian, meeting the giant fireball with his black shield held out in front of him.. His black armor body twisted into a fast rotation, generating massive winds.

“Great Tornado!” Theo’s counterattack blocked and redirected the fiery energies to the side and skyward. A smoky haze and a dense dust cloud filled the air for several seconds until the air cleared, revealing a soot- covered Theo.

“That’s enough,”Theo held a claw out to Khorvath, indicating a halt to the fight. “This is completely unnecessary. Our shared conflict is with the Knights, not each other.”

“If you do not wish to leave your homes, no one here will force you,” Theo spared a glance to a few of the more...forceful Guardians. The old soldier reached a hand out to help the biomerged Okatsu and Hoshiko to their feet. He turned back to the gathered tamers. “I believe you, when you say you know what you’re up against.and prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect your home. You’ve fought and survived with only your partners and each other. But you don’t have to face this battle alone, not anymore.”

Theo closed his eyes for a second, taking a breath. The familiar ghostly hand pressed up against the backside of his right calf. He locked eyes with the Tamer, Tai. “Help us.”

“If you want to make a stand, then make it where it will have the greatest impact. Walls and homes can be rebuilt.” Theo gestured to the encampment. “But the lives lost and bonds broken…” The BlackWarGreymon shook his head. “Many groups of digimon and tamers have gathered in Axis Mundi seeking shelter, but there is no united leadership, no singular voice to speak on their behalf. From what I see here, I think you could manage that and help us prevent the same devastation that fell upon Kaladesh and Glen Elendra.”

“What do you say? Up for the challenge?” The BlackWarGreymon then turned to nod in Henry’s direction.
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Svarog Rodsyn (Apollomon) >
Highton, Valeron


“If you want to make a stand, then make it where it will have the greatest impact. Walls and homes can be rebuilt.” Theo gestured to the encampment. “But the lives lost and bonds broken…” The BlackWarGreymon shook his head. “Many groups of digimon and tamers have gathered in Axis Mundi seeking shelter, but there is no united leadership, no singular voice to speak on their behalf. From what I see here, I think you could manage that and help us prevent the same devastation that fell upon Kaladesh and Glen Elendra. What do you say? Up for the challenge?”

"I'm going to stop you right there," Matt interrupted. He stepped forward with his Gabumon at his side. "You think you're the only ones coming to us with that kind of talk? Because we've heard all of that before. Everyone who's ever come our way gives us the same sort of speech. But here's the thing." He glared over at Theo. "We're not on the same side. And it's not your fault -- you probably don't even realize it -- but we're not about to let some Digimon we only just met -- and who have failed to protect Tamers at every step of the way so far -- round us up and tell us how to protect ourselves."

"The problem is that despite all your years of experience, you're still thinking of this conflict in binary terms: 'us or them' -- Tamers or Royal Knights," said Izzy. "There are shades in this conflict that you're not accounting for; the humans that perhaps should be removed, the --"

"There are only ever two sides in any war. Mine and the losing side," Svarog snarled. Flames licked across the surface of his skin; the back-and-forth and the talking had worn through his already-limited patience. "You can talk politics when the fighting is done."

"And that's the problem!" Matt shouted. "You've got this idiot hothead itching for a fight when there are real stakes beyond just his overinflated ego."

"You sniveling little --"

"Oh, sit on it already," Matt rolled his eyes.

Svarog saw red. He let out a wild roar and charged. In the back of his mind somewhere he acknowledged that he wasn't going to kill the human, just scare him into a more respectful mindset. The other Guardians reacted a split-second too late, and Svarog was looming over Matt by the time they began to move.

To Matt's credit, there was no fear in his eyes. His jaw was set, his eyes narrowed. Just determination, and a certainty that Svarog had never seen before. Then something struck the war god across the side and sent him tumbling over the ground, biting and snarling at his neck and shoulders as he did, spewing liquid nitrogen breath over his burning form and shaking viciously. But he wrapped his hands around the wolf's snout and he felt the cobalt metal hiss, and the wolf squeal in pain.

Svarog swung Matt's partner away with a roar, only for Khorvath to slam into him. Svarog drove his elbow into the WarGreymon's solar plexus before decking him across the face with a vicious haymaker. The WarGreymon recovered but was sluggish - slower than he'd been against Okatsu. The effort had worn him out more than he'd shown; that much was obvious to Svarog.

"That's enough!" Michael shouted.

"Tai!" Matt shouted. The human rushed over to his friend's side as their two Digimon stood shoulder-to-shoulder. Their renewed hesitancy and wariness calmed Svarog. They would respect him, or they could learn to respect him as he beat that respect into their partners. "Ready?" he asked. The two turned their glares to Svarog and their partners readied to charge.

"Svarog, enough!" one of the Guardians shouted - Thor probably.

"Foolish," Svarog snarled as his rage boiled up again. "A beating it is."

The three Digimon charged one another. Svarog lit with flames, and the two partner Digimon lit with energies of their own. But a split instant before they collided, the two Digimon slammed together themselves and nearly blinded Svarog with a flare of white-hot light. Then something drove into him; impossibly strong. The strike plucked him out of mid-flight and hurled him back across the ground.

Svarog rolled to his feet as his vision cleared, and found himself staring into the ice-blue eyes of an Omnimon. They glared at one another for a few brief heartbeats, and then, despite the cries of protests from their various allies, they took off and charged one another again. They struck. Svarog's fist deflected the Omnimon's sword, but the force of their collision hurled him backwards. The Omnimon rushed in, sword held high, but right before they clashed again another form split the air between them and struck the ground with enough force to send them both tumbling back.

The Omnimon and Svarog scrambled back to their feet only to see Thor standing between them with the White Sword in hand. Though he seemed to be carrying himself better than before, Svarog could still see the strange distortions around him as his body fought to contain his power.

"You five are the biggest idiots I've ever met!" Joe shouted. "Does everything always have to devolve into some macho pissing contest?" Svarog glanced over to the two human Tamers, who were being thoroughly throttled by the human woman named Sora.

"Not worth my time," Svarog growled, then turned away with a snarl.

"Yeah, walk away," said the Omnimon, with a strange dual-toned voice. "I had you beat."

"You're bigger fools than I thought if you truly believe that," Svarog shouted back.
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Thor Odinson (Imperialdramon: Fighter Mode) >
Highton, Valeron


“I hope you’re proud of yourselves,” Thor snarled to Svarog and the Omnimon. He glared back at Michael and the others. “How much time have we wasted here with those that do not want our interference?” He let out a steadying breath and released his hold on the Paladin Mode.

"We had no way of --"

"I all but told you as much!" Thor interrupted Michael. "And now we've wasted hours of time and energy bickering and fighting here instead of concentrating on the real and present threat."

"And I didn't even get to kill anyone!" Samael complained from his spot laying on the grass. Thor didn't know when the demon had lost interest and decided to take a nap, but he assumed it was sometime after he was restricted from joining the fight.

"You need to control your animals," the Omnimon said, with that same two-toned voice. "They're going to get someone else killed." He then lit with a brilliant light and returned to his separate Agumon and Gabumon forms.

It was a strange thing, to see a Digimon of that power partnered with the humans. The WarGreymon had matched the Hoshiko-Okatsu biomerge blow for blow, even if the effort had cost a significant amount of energy. And the Omnimon was easily as strong as Svarog...and all of this without biomerging. As long as they had the stamina to maintain that power they'd certainly be able to at least withstand a battle with the Royal Knights.

"We've indulged this," Thor turned to Henry. "We've said our piece. We've offered protection and safe passage, and they have declined. What more do you need?"

"Look, we get you're under a lot of pressure. You don't really seem to know which of you is in charge," said Tai. He glanced back to the group of Tamers. "And you know what side we're on if push comes to shove. But we can't be just as certain of that with you." He glanced at Svarog, Samael, and Serra. "So we're gonna stay where we know what's certain." His eyes lit up. "But, if you need us…" he fished around in his pockets for a minute then tossed a small metallic object towards Hoshiko.

It was a slim, rectangular device, smaller than even a Tamer's digivice. "That'll let you ring right to our Town Hall from wherever you are." He gave her a thumbs-up.

"We've isolated our network from the rest of the world with some significant firewalls," Izzy explained. "We've got volunteers monitoring incoming communication, but it's kind of a crude call center if you ask me. Those cards bypass all of that, but can only be used by humans."

==\=/==

< Camelot, Avalon >

Brudiclad the Andromon worked tirelessly at his keyboard at the center of the great courtyard and a massive construction project. Over the past month, Sir Galahad had ordered the entirety of one of the southern castle's courtyard to be duplicated to exact specifications in Camelot‘s center, and the accompanying stelae carried in from the castle ruins. The original courtyard had been damaged several centuries prior, leaving its masterwork inoperable. The hope was that with this new project, the Royal Knights would be able to recreate the relic within Camelot. Camelot had been gutted in order to fit the massive construction in its heart.

He was patched into the entire Royal Knights network, hardwired into seven other Andromon, and utilizing their processing power to run his calculations. It was barbaric, in a sense, to be so reliant on a physical link to form a Uni-Mind, rather than the global network they typically operated under, but ever since the Royal Knights began their crusade they'd been cut off from the global network by the High Council. The nations sympathetic to their cause could theoretically offer their processing power but that meant exposing their system to potential breaches from Council operatives, so Sydri had ordered the Knights' network severed and isolated. It was the only way to protect their operations.

Brudiclad was Sydri's best datamage and she had charged him with completing the Henge.

It was a large group of enormous monoliths arranged in an even circle -- for the moment. They were smooth, rectangular slabs of metal. The central third of each was a more reflective vertical field -- almost like a screen, Brudiclad theorized; he believed that as soon as he was able to activate the system the stelae would indeed present with digimoji to be manipulated.

A singular mountainous stela dominated the center of the circle, and acted almost as the gnomon of a massive sundial. At sunrise and sunset, the shadows of the surrounding monoliths fell in such a way that the central stela seemed to glow, brighter and brighter as their workers got closer to completing the reconstruction. The surrounding stelae were in the process of being lifted and moved into their specified positions. Moving a monolith even slightly was a monstrous feat of strength. Hence the extended construction time and the precision of Brudiclad's mechanical brain.

It was an almost-impossible task, and even with seven additional Andromon assisting him, Brudiclad was barely able to keep on schedule with Sir Galahad's demands. The attack on Kaladesh gained them considerable resources and materials for the project; their forces were able to acquire the nature-magic programs from Glen Elendra; but they still had so much more to do. And they lacked the sheer power to activate the Henge.

"Status report," a voice said, breaking through Brudiclad's train of thought. He prepared to snap at the intruder to his thoughts before realizing it was, in fact, Sir Galahad himself.

"My Lord," Brudiclad snapped to attention, quickly disconnecting himself from the Uni-Mind to salute the Lord of Knights.

"At ease," Galahad said, his voice was quiet but firm, and seemed to carry further than it should have been able to. "Lady Sydri says you've made good progress."

"I'm flattered," Brudiclad sighed. He set the other seven Andromon to process calculations in his stead before turning back to Galahad. "But she's perhaps being too kind. This work is...unprecedented. A work like this hasn't been attempted since the Time of the Relics, since --"

"Yes," Sir Galahad cut in. "Since he gave them to us. Tell me freely, Brudiclad, what are your obstacles?"

"Sir?"

"I need honesty. True honesty," said Sir Galahad. "Brutal honesty, if necessary."

Brudiclad gave Sir Galahad a tentative look. There was no hostility in the Lord of Knights' eyes, but he was still wary about criticizing his Lord and Master.

"The theories seem sound," Brudiclad began, glancing over the Henge. "It isn't my place to question the accuracies of your historians and philosophers, and I admit my metaphysics is just a notch above rudimentary. But the math is correct. The engineering and architecture as well..."

"I sense a 'but' from you, however," Galahad said.

"Yes, Sir," said Brudiclad. "But the math is all theoretical. The victories at Kaladesh and Glen Elendra gave us the raw materials and infrastructure to move to the final phases and utilize entirely new branches of mathematics that we invented specifically for this purpose, but without a significant source to power the reaction this is all just...an art piece."

Galahad fixed Brudiclad with that same unblinking gaze, and the android could feel a very natural sweat begin to pour down his organics.

"My thoughts exactly," Galahad said, and despite the admission of defeat, there was a sense of excitement in his voice.

"How did Odin power the original Henge?" Brudiclad asked, and grimaced at the twitch of irritation flashing across Galahad's face with the mention of the name.

"I don't know," Galahad answered, with the same irritation evident in his voice. "But I have an idea for how you might." He raised his hand and conjured a virtual communication screen. "Bring them up."

A few minutes later, Sir Caradoc and Sir Gareth emerged from Castle Avalon, escorting the captured Council members, Karametra and Kruphix. Both were bound in shackles and restrained with lines of digimoji, rendered as harmless as even the most gentle newborn Digimon.

"The Council?" Brudiclad asked. "Do you think they know?"

Galahad fixed him with that inscrutable gaze. "Fit the reactor to utilize them as a power source," the Lord of Knights said.

"My Lord?"

"What could possibly provide more power than an immortal Digimon god?" Galahad asked him, in a voice that told him there was no real question or debate, and Brudiclad found himself unable to answer or speak at all.
 
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TheCharredDragon

#HelloLoki
Shula Hernandez & Tyfrigo "Frost" Rex
Tamer Encampment, Axis Mundi -> En route to Greystone


It stung.

That was the only way Shula could describe it.

Things seemed to be going well in Kaladesh all things considered. But it soon all went downhill and Shula still wasn't even sure how considering she, Frost and their tactician and her partner were busy fighting the Sleipmon Royal Knight. Simply put, they were forced to retreat and, from what she could tell, it was on the only Locomon that had managed to escape, filled with grieving humans and Digimon.

That silenced her more than anything.

Though her exhaustion from running, carrying whoever they passed on their way to the train, and the fight with the equine knight was also a contributing factor.

It was because of this that she hadn't said anything as the rest of the group "discussed" with each other. She wanted to rest, and Frost was of the same mind as he laid by her side, easily accepting Shula wrapping her arm around him. It was rather a blur as the group spoke...until she heard someone say they were going to go split off from the train and head for Glen Elendra.

Mind alert but body dragging, she made to stand but Frost held tight.

"Frost..."

"No," he said. "Besides, who will protect the train should someone come?"

That had made her quiet once again. Conceding to her partner's point, she asked Fiona to tell the team she and Frost would stay and guard the survivors back to Axis Mundi. Wih that dealt with, she stayed against the wall, holding her beloved BlackAgumon against her, and then he said,

"Rest, Shula. I will keep watch."

"But..."

"I'll wake you when it's your turn, yes?"

A moment of pondering. Then she nodded and said, All right..."

The rest of the trip was thankfully uneventful, Shula and Frost escorting everyone to one of the Tamer camps by Axis Mundi. However, when she got there, she and her partner quickly decided to help the clearly overworked healers and doctors there. Not only were they dealing with the newly arrived survivors from Kaladesh, but were also handling other Tamers and Digimon that had arrived either from the fight with the Royal Knights on their home turf or from running from their various forces across the world.

To say the least, Shula was glad she got to rest on the Locomon.

But as she was eating breakfast in the encampment along with Frost the next day, as she had wanted to comfort some of the patients she had assisted in healing and thus stayed for the night at the camp, she heard some of the Tamers panicking, saying that Tamers from Greystone contacted them—whether because they were friends or relatives—and told them they and their Digimon were being rounded up, with one of those Tamers being the little sister of one of the people here.

Shula gripped her spoon tighter at the memories of her older brother on Analog, and the reminder that she had all but abandoned him and father, not realizing she could've gone home anytime. She briefly considered going back, to apologize, to show she was fine and to see how they were doing, if they still lived in the same house.

But as heard the young man in the camp was being convinced by his friends to not head to Greystone yet, she knew she couldn't. Not yet. Besides, she couldn't just go there and then come back to Saga with them knowing she was part of a war. So after having their meal, she told Frost,

"We're going to Greystone."

Unsurprisingly, he was in disbelief and trying to convince her to not go, or at least tell the other Guardians. But it was that moment that Shula saw a familiar face, Dinadan Snow, the most famous Digimon healer capable of healing humans. Remembering the Guardians had no healer, she went straight up to him and asked if he could join her and the Guardians. Frost wasn't pleased with that.

Even more so when, as if by fate, a young man that looked about James's age, a BlackGatomon on top of his head and a MagnaKidmon, came up to her and the brunette boy asked if he could join.

She said yes of course, much to Frost's chagrin, and Dinadan soon said yes, with the red capped Digimon accompanying the clearly Tamer duo insisting she on joining as well. Shula knew she had no authority to recruit anyone, and she knew she should likely confer with the rest of the Guardians but they needed all the help they could get and the Tamers were in some sort of trouble. She couldn't ignore it. She would deal with the consequences later.

So for now, after much talking and proving she was in fact a Guardian and thus totally allowed to have one of those fancy quick jets the Council transport her and her little "crew", they were on their way to Greystone to, at the very least, assess the situation, preferably by landing some distance from the Greymon capital so they won't be seen as a threat and scouting what was going on.

"I still think that you should at least tell the Tamers in the Guardians where we're heading," Frost said once they took off.

"All right, all right," Shula said, taking out her Digivice and sending a message to both James and Hoshiko, having been able to get their "numbers" when they first met after the fight at Camelot.

Heading for Greystone, it said.

With that done, she turned her attention back to her new "recruits". The boy, Kogoro, asking one of the flight crew that wasn't busy about the specifications of the plane that was declassified, the insect Digimon looking surprised and unsure. The boy's BlackGatomon partner smiled slightly, most likely at his human partner. And lastly Dinadan and the MagnaKidmon, Zaza as she liked to be called, sharing stories, currently about human inventions, Frost soon joining in to tell of what he knew from her. Shula smiled.

It was good to see strangers getting along. She could only wish it was the same with more of the world...
 

TheSequelReturns

Phantom Thief
< Henry Vane (CaptainHookmon) >
Highton, Valeron


"We've indulged this," Thor turned to Henry. "We've said our piece. We've offered protection and safe passage, and they have declined. What more do you need?"

"Yes, and a fine job you all did of it." Henry shook his head and turned towards the tamers, ignoring Thor for a moment.

"I apologize for my comrade's presumptuousness," Henry said to Tai, "And I thank you for your offer. It was my intention to seek your aid, not your submission, and I hope that we may still come to an understanding. When the time comes, I hope we can count on your aid. And should you need us, we shall return the favor in kind." Henry tipped his hat and rejoined Thor and Svarog and the others.

"A word, if you would." Henry said, directed mainly at Thor, Svarog, and Michael. "This is right mess you've made. You approach free men and women who have carved out a life they're willing to fight for and start listing demands and giving orders like they're your serfs. The hell did you think the outcome was gonna be? Its a boon that they're still willing to help us at all. Are you lot of kings and gods and divinities that out of touch? Or are you so used to barking orders from on high that you've forgotten what its like to look a man in the eye and talk to him like an equal?"

Henry huffed. "And another thing, the lad's right. Who, exactly, is in charge here? I'd like to know, because I don't remember any of you running that discussion by me before you opened your mouths and shoved your feet right in. I've seen better negotiations from a hungover Etemon. Are any of you displeased with my brief tenure at the helm? Do I have to remind you that the only reason I stood up at all was because none of you wanted the task? So if any of you lot think you can do a better job, than by all means, take the captain's hat for yourself. I'll gladly go back to following orders like a good crewmen. But one thing I will not do is bear the weight of making decisions only to get blamed for the choices you lot make."

He shoved his hand into his pocket. "So what's it gonna be lads? Are you going to follow orders or do you want the hat? And if I hear a half-answer or a self-righteous condemnation I'll save you the trouble and walk off into the sunset so you can figure it out for yourselves."

-+-+-+-

< Frantz Stein (Boltmon) >
Highton, Valeron


Stein watched the proceedings with visible confusion. He just didn't understand why so many digimon wanted to fight all the time. Fighting wasn't fun. It was something you did because you had to.

The Boltmon sighed, long and deep. A few stray thoughts were still bouncing around his RAM. Stein would usually spend moments like this trying to sort them out. He'd pick one at random, examine it for a while, then let its find its own way out of his mind. But Wise One was currently sitting with her back against his leg and something about that was making it hard it pick a thought and focus on it.

For a moment, Stein tried anyway. But his thoughts slipped back out of his mind as soon as he thought he had it. Giving up on thinking too deeply for the moment, Stein instead looked down and tried to read the book Wise One had open. No matter how hard he squinted or which way he turned his head, he couldn't make any sense of it and eventually he had to give up on that too.

"Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmm." Stein grumbled as he tapped his head. Why was thinking so difficult sometimes?

There was a shuffling of pages and Stein looked down to see that Tessa had taken another, smaller book from the large one and was reading it instead. Had the big book had a baby? He didn't know books could do that, but it was not surprising for Wise One to have a special book. Intrigued, he was forced to crane his neck to see since Tessa was holding the book so closely, but Stein was happy to see it was a book with pictures. Stein always found pictures more useful than complicated words. He watched along as Tessa moved through the pages, studying the pictures with a fervent curiosity he didn't know he had.

For a moment, Stein forgot he was eavesdropping. "What is that picture?" he asked.
 

Kamotz

God of Monsters
< Thor Odinson (Imperialdramon: Fighter Mode) >
Highton, Valeron


"This is a right mess you've made. You approach free men and women who have carved out a life they're willing to fight for and start listing demands and giving orders like they're your serfs. The hell did you think the outcome was gonna be? It's a boon that they're still willing to help us at all. Are you lot of kings and gods and divinities that out of touch? Or are you so used to barking orders from on high that you've forgotten what it's like to look a man in the eye and talk to him like an equal?"

"I have yet to find a digimon that is my equal," Svarog snapped with a glare. Thor grit his teeth in dual frustration. Leave it to a mortal pirate to try and shame him on one side, and for Svarog to further add fuel to the pirate's case.

"And another thing, the lad's right. Who, exactly, is in charge here? I'd like to know, because I don't remember any of you running that discussion by me before you opened your mouths and shoved your feet right in. I've seen better negotiations from a hungover Etemon. Are any of you displeased with my brief tenure at the helm? Do I have to remind you that the only reason I stood up at all was because none of you wanted the task? So if any of you lot think you can do a better job, then by all means, take the captain's hat for yourself. I'll gladly go back to following orders like a good crewman. But one thing I will not do is bear the weight of making decisions only to get blamed for the choices you lot make.

"So what's it gonna be lads? Are you going to follow orders or do you want the hat? And if I hear a half-answer or a self-righteous condemnation I'll save you the trouble and walk off into the sunset so you can figure it out for yourselves."


"Where was this outpouring ten minutes ago when we needed you to speak up?" said Thor, bristling. He refused to be spoken to like a child. "It was your decision to come here, when I advised otherwise," Thor said. "It was your decision to remain silent and watch everything going on. You have no problem speaking up now, but when eyes are on you, you make less noise than the Wisemon."

"You're not here to lead me," Svarog said. He gestured to the rest of the Guardians. "You're here to keep them alive and out of my way so I can do what I was born to do and fight this war." He stepped face-to-face with Henry and glared down at him. "Step down or walk into the sunset, I don't give a sh*t."

"Svarog," Michael snapped.

"Oh shut your mouth, Michael," Svarog snarled back, embers dancing from his eyes. "You're the worst offender here. Shirking all responsibility for leading this…group. You found the first Digimon with even the barest hint of leadership experience and put everything on him. It didn't matter that all he knew was how to pirate and had no business leading this disparate mess of Digimon to war. As long as you could wash your hands of it to play politics with the Council and strategize from your ivory tower."

"That is a foolish way of looking at any of this," Michael chided calmly.

"You're right," Svarog snapped. "You're also busy making sure your demon doesn't kill the wrong Digimon, aren't you?" He glared back from Michael to Henry. "Do I have this right? Or am I missing something? And I'll save you the trouble of answering, because I don't really care."

And with that he stalked off back to the dropship.

Thor, Michael, and Henry remained silent for a few long moments. Thor was painfully aware of the eyes on them, on the divisive nature of their discussion -- no, it was an argument. Bickering egos and little else. He took a steadying breath, but before he could even exhale a raspy voice sliced through his attempt at calm.

"So...ya'll gonna fight or kiss or what?" Samael drawled. His expression appeared bored, but his eyes betrayed the twisted joy he took from misery. When no one spoke he rolled his eyes. "Ugh. Fine. I'll be in the jet. Wake me when you get interesting again." He folded his hands behind his head and made his way back to the far corner of the ship.

Thor released the calming breath he was holding in, but found himself no calmer than before. He resigned himself to that, and turned to Michael and Henry once more. "Do you want -- need -- to step down or walk away?" he asked Henry. "Because if you do then you should." He shook his head. "I'm not -- I'm not accusing you of anything here. But if you find that you cannot do this or cannot speak up then make that known.

"I cannot lead this group and fight the Royal Knights and hold this power together," Thor continued. "I would if I could, but it's too much for me right now." He glanced at Michael. "The same, I assume, for him and watching Samael."

Michael fixed him with that same inscrutable, haughty glare the angels were known for.

"If you can't, we'll find another way," Thor said. "But this isn't something you're doing for me, or Michael, or Svarog. You're doing this for them." He glanced over to the rest of the Guardians, most of whom were desperately trying to look busy.

"If you want to give orders, do so. I will speak up if I disagree," Thor said. "But don't hold your tongue and then complain that no one gave you the chance to speak."

==\=/==

< Serra Castiel (Beelstarmon) >

There was a lot of talk and bluster going around. Serra had no clue what to make of Svarog. He at once seemed entirely antithetical to Samael while also embodying the exact same qualities that made the demon unbearable. He was entirely two-dimensional. A caricature.

And all of that talk and posturing between him and Henry and Thor and Michael was something she could certainly do without. Michael was one thing. But reconciling this strange mopey Thor with the Digimon that had appeared in the flash of light to fight the Jesmon in Glen Elendra was becoming more and more difficult.

"Not bad, ladies," she said, turning to Okatsu and Hoshiko, who had since returned to their natural forms. "Certainly could've been better, sure, but not bad for a first time. Next time don't posture so much. You're gonna give it all away. Make them work for it."
 

storymasterb

Knight of RPGs
Hoshiko Yukimura
Highton, Valeria

The CresGarurumon's form broke into motes, exposing a radiant silhouette beneath. That single form split into two, reformatting into Hoshiko and Okatsu side-by-side. Hoshiko panted for a moment, short of breath even though it had seemed like she had only stood within that sphere of code and light. But every swing of Okatsu's blade, every motion, she'd felt as her own. Returning to her weaker human senses was jarring enough that she had to take a second to adjust, but she could feel adrenaline still coursing through her body. Okatsu's mind was no longer touching her own, instead a distant presence once more. Everything felt less vivid, colors less vibrant, sounds softer, scents fainter.

James was behind her, resting a hand on her shoulder. "That was great," he said, but she pulled away from his touch, trying to mask her unsteady footing as she adjusted back to feet rather than paws. No. She hadn't achieved anything. She remembered the thrust of Okatsu's weapon aimed at Khorvath's throat. That cold instinct that had guided that strike. Perhaps it was fortunate that Theo had intervened. She felt like they could have won, on reflection it seemed like Khorvath had been tiring when faced by Svarog, but now cold reflection forced her to confront the fact that it wouldn't have done anything.

She stared between Svarog and the Omnimon. That was exactly what she'd hoped to avoid. But in her own way, she hadn't swallowed her pride. She should have said the plain truth: they had made a mistake, and they should have turned around and gone to Greystone. Hopefully not before it was too late to make a difference.

Hoshiko was pulled from her thoughts by Tai tossing something her way that gleamed as it caught the sun. She caught and examined it, recognising it as a communicator of some kind even before Tai explained such. She received his thumbs-up with some awkwardness, after all, it felt like only moments before she had been fighting his partner. But she offered a smile in return. "Thank you," she said simply.

Henry spoke up before she could say anything more. That sent a stab of guilt through her. She'd forgotten about him, wrapped in her own thoughts and feeling like the weight of things were on her shoulders.

Okatsu looked at her, and her at Okatsu. The same thoughts passed across that gaze.

-

James Reeve
Highton, Valeria

She shrugged away from his touch like he'd stung her, and before he could offer more than a soft 'sorry', arguments were blazing like wildfires.

"How are we meant to do this?" He hadn't meant to speak aloud, and his words were soft enough that only Artanis heard regardless. The Agumon was looking at the majestic figure of the Omnimon with reverent admiration. James knew the feeling. If only they could be so strong. If one thing had come out of this, it was Hoshiko and Okatsu Biomerging, but now he was only more painfully aware that he and Artanis were like a weight chained to the group's ankle. Unable to stand alongside the rest.

They should have been stronger by now. Surely they should. Even though there were no hard and fast rules, he felt like they should have reached that same pinnacle.

"You think that we too should be so strong," Artanis mused. The Agumon wasn't even looking at him but of course he'd thought the same.

"All the strength in the world means nothing," Okatsu said from where she stood by her partner, watching the arguing unfold with a frown, "if not supported by conviction."

The words reminded James of what she'd said the night before. "Do you think we don't have the conviction?" he asked.

The Gabumon X wasn't looking at him, fixed on the argument still. Samael jeered from the sidelines before stalking away and James felt a stab of disgust. Somehow Okatsu remained composed, he wasn't sure how given what she had suffered at the demon's hands just a day ago. "I do not doubt your resolve." Svarog and Samael were gone, and James wondered if she meant just them.

Hoshiko stepped forward towards Thor and Henry, fingers tight around the card Tai had given her. The step was unsteady, perhaps she was still adjusting back to her human body. He'd heard that those with more varied partners suffered even more extreme unease when they separated from their Biomerge. But before she could do whatever she was going to do, Serra came to her.

-

Hoshiko Yukimura
Highton, Valeria

"Not bad, ladies," she said, turning to Okatsu and Hoshiko, who had since returned to their natural forms. "Certainly could've been better, sure, but not bad for a first time. Next time don't posture so much. You're gonna give it all away. Make them work for it."

Hoshiko nodded. "Thank you for the advice. I just..." Just what? Hoped talk would do something? No amount of talk would have done anything. Tai and the others had made that clear, and she had failed to acknowledge it. She looked at the Beelstarmon, glad to be distracted from the argument. She had thought about trying to break it up, trying to inject some reason into the discussion, but it seemed hypocritical. And she couldn't undermine Henry right now, especially not when he was already threatening to simply walk away.

She didn't want to expose her vulnerability to a stranger, so she forced herself to focus on the argument. Samael's form was thankfully retreating towards the dropship, though his jeering had stirred a spark inside her. Svarog too was gone, leaving only Michael and Thor stood by Henry with the Guardians watching from around them. It was like an arena, only with words instead of blades.

Before she could put together something more to say, her Digivice chimed, along with James's from behind her. She pulled it out to inspect it, seeing a message she certainly didn't expect.

Heading for Greystone

"Shula?" she said, surprised. She looked back at James and he had much the same expression, having apparently received the same message. "Heading to Greystone?" James nodded, still looking stunned.

"What is she thinking?" Okatsu said in astonishment.

"She must have heard about what's going on there," James said. "And I guess she heard we were coming here and decided to go on ahead." He had a rare frown on his face. "But if Greystone turns, she'll be trapped there."

"It is recklessness," Artanis mused. "Perhaps she intends to salvage the situation alone, but how?"

"How does she even know what's happening in Greystone?" Hoshiko said. "She wasn't with us when we were briefed, she's been... who knows where she's been." She frowned. "For all we know she's working off of hearsay." She was aware that Serra was likely very confused about this discussion, and she turned back to the Beelstarmon. "Sorry, Serra, but this is... another Guardian is going to Greystone. One who got separated from us yesterday."

"We have to go, now." James's frown gave way to a look of focus. "The longer we waste, the closer she gets to danger." He turned to the ongoing argument, glancing at Hoshiko. "The others need to know."

She nodded her agreement, and so did their partners. Part of her was almost glad. Something to break this argument. A cause they could rally to. Some semblance of a second chance to be pulled from this mistake. But at the same time, though she knew Shula less well than James, she was worried. What if they were already too late? How was Shula even travelling to Greystone? Every second could be vital or they might get there hours before her, but they couldn't take chances.

The four stepped into the space where thunder god and angel debated with pirate captain, Digivices in hand. They waited for a lull in the argument to speak.

"We're sorry to interrupt," Hoshiko said. "But you need to see this." She held up her Digivice, projecting Shula's message in holographic form for them to read. "Shula's... I don't know what she's thinking, but she's headed to Greystone."

"We don't know how she's travelling, but she's potentially heading right into danger there," James added. "What should we tell her to do? Turn back to Axis Mundi? Or wait for us?"
 
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