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Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
I think I like your version of the three Holy Angel mon best than other interpretations in media or fan stories. They have likeable qualities despite having to be rigid and upright in their ruling. The conversation between the Demonlords was also amusing. I would be hard pressed to keep everyone straight in the back and forth dialogue.

Also, I love the maturing of Saviorhuckmon that you've been building the last several chapters. Though I will admit I am horribly biased when it comes to him and I can't wait till he takes to the battlefield as Jesmon and his three little lights. LOL.

Thanks, Solsabre! I tried to strike that balance with the Three Angels. And the Demon Lords conversation was definitely fun to write.

Haha, that's good to hear. Don't worry, we'll be seeing more of him in the future as his story continues. Haha, who knows when he'll get his three glowing basketballs?

Thanks for the reply! It's always appreciated.
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Chapter 30: Restraint​

A heavy snowstorm raged across the Cathode Tundra. The air was cool and biting, warmed only by the condensation in the form of thick drops of wet, slushy snow. The flat, barren expanse was gradually becoming covered by the white snowflakes that began to pile up on the ground, creating a crisp layer of sparkling ivory. The snow was a few centimeters deep and it was just warm enough in the Cathode Tundra for some of the snow to melt upon hitting the ground. Still, the snowstorm was thick, and it didn’t just precipitate hefty fragments of snow, but also large bits of stray data. The data packets were harmless, but they further obfuscated the vision of anybody who was passing through.

It wasn’t that common for Digimon to travel into the Cathode Tundra during a snowstorm, as the weather could become pretty intense. Despite this, residing in this harsh landscape were local inhabitants of the tundra – nomads, herds, or solitary Digimon; those who did their own thing separate from being a part of Digimon society. However, even they knew to be careful during one of Cathode Tundra’s snowstorms. Comparatively, the present weather was just a light snowfall, but it was possible that the winds could pick up and become treacherous. It was all a matter of luck.

In spite of this, three Digimon were travelling in the thick of the snowstorm. One was a giant eagle with majestic wings and red feathers. The determined Aquilamon led the way through the flurry, shaking snow from his wings with every powerful flap. Soaring alongside him was the round, brown and white form of an owl. The owl Digimon had a metal visor over its eyes and a pair of antennae-like sensors for ears. The Owlmon was having trouble keeping up with the Aquilamon, especially with the thick veil of snow, but he just about managed it. Nearby was a hybrid between a Pterodactyl and a fighter jet. The Pteranomon contained a violet, metal body which dripped with water as he flew through the air. Stretching out from his sides were two, fixed wings that became caked with snow while flying through the curtain of precipitation.

They were a recon patrol from the Order of the Royal Knights. This was evidenced by the yellow buffs emblazoned with the Order’s crest that they wore on their bodies. They were tasked with scouting out the Cathode Tundra around the coordinates where one of the Seven Great Demon Lords was said to have emerged.

“Aquilamon, this is preposterous!” the Owlmon protested as he struggled to keep up with the large eagle. “We should go back! Or at least wait for the storm to die down! We shouldn’t fly in such unclear weather under any circumstances!”

“No, we need to do this. We have a schedule to keep,” the Aquilamon firmly said, glancing over his shoulder. “You heard what the Weathermon said; it’s just going to be a bit of snowfall.”

“Besides, we’re looking for one of the Demon Lords here. This isn’t small fry we’re talking about,” the Pteranomon scout added with a grin. “This is a big deal. We have to find something!”

“I can hardly see a thing in all of this snow!” the Owlmon explained while looking around through his specialized visor, which could switch between normal vision, night vision, and infrared vision.

“Switch to infrared,” Aquilamon told him dauntlessly. “We’re almost at the coordinates. We have to see if there’s anything there.”

“If it isn’t all buried in snow,” Owlmon murmured.

“I sure hope we find this Demon Lord guy,” Pteranomon said with a grin. “Wouldn’t mind blasting him back to the Dark Area.”

“We are not to engage,” Aquilamon said calmly and firmly. “Captain Grani has made that perfectly clear. As patrol leader, I agree with him.”

Pteranomon looked off to the side as he flew forwards through the falling snow. “…See anything, Owlmon?” he asked the smaller of his feathered friends.

“Not yet…” Owlmon responded, gazing down and rotating his head around to properly scan the ground many meters below them. Suddenly he stopped flying and beat his wings in order to fly in place. “Hold on…”

“What is it?” Aquilamon asked, stopping as well and looking behind him.

“Do you see something?” Pteranomon wondered.

“There’s a heat source about two hundred meters ahead of us. A big one,” the Owlmon scout explained, frowning behind his visor.

Aquilamon narrowed his eyes and looked forwards, through the blinding snowfall. Despite the snow, Aquilamon’s sharp, eagle-eyed sight managed to notice a dark colour within the white, off in the distance. “…Proceed with caution. Let’s get visual confirmation and then get out of here,” he ordered, softly flapping his wings and gliding forwards.

“Is that all?” Pteranomon muttered, flying after him.

“Affirmative,” Owlmon answered, soaring forwards as well. He kept a tight gaze on the heat source in the distance.

As they approached, the rainbow-silhouette in his infrared vision became clearer and shapelier. The image was that of a massive Digimon far larger than any of them were, even Aquilamon. Despite it being on the ground, they were forced to fly high in the sky to keep themselves at a safe distance. As the Owlmon looked at the shape, the heat source seemed to be top-heavy in nature. He also noticed that the shape wasn’t simply at body temperature; the infrared was picking up temperatures far hotter than anything he expected.

Aquilamon flapped his wings and flew forwards. “…Why isn’t there any snow falling here?” he asked.

“Because of that…” Owlmon stated fearfully, pointing his talons downwards.

The group looked down to see a massive, brown-furred Digimon hovering above the ground. They were stunned at what they saw below them.

It was Belphemon.

The giant Demon Lord was slumbering peacefully in the middle of the snowy tundra. The ground around him was completely devoid of snow, which had melted into the grass and dirt. Even the snow falling above him melted into water, falling onto his furry body and soaking his fur. The intense heat was from the greyish-black flames that emanated from the chains wrapped around his body. The goat-like demon seemed to be completely static and immobile. All he did was breath gently as he slept.

“It’s Belphemon…” Aquilamon said direly, gazing down at the Demon Lord apprehensively. “Target confirmed. Let’s return to base.”

“What?! We’re going to just leave it here?!” Pteranomon protested, frowning at Aquilamon.

“We have our orders; let’s go, Pteranomon,” Aquilamon ordered.

“This is our chance! He’s asleep!” Pteranomon protested, looking from Aquilamon down to the Demon Lord. “If we can get rid of him here…!”

“Don’t be an idiot! This is a job for the Royal Knights. We won’t be able to touch him!” Aquilamon said unwaveringly. “We’re leaving now. That’s an order!”

“Come on, Pteranomon. Aquilamon’s right,” Owlmon agreed cautiously.

“What if we leave and he wakes up before the Royal Knights get here?! He could go on a rampage!” Pteranomon protested. “I’m not letting that happen. Cover me!”

With that, much to Aquilamon and Owlmon’s horror, their Pteranomon comrade wheeled around in the sky and put his thrusters into full emission. He began swooping down towards Belphemon with determination.

“Pteranomon, stop it! That’s an order!” Aquilamon shouted, flying after him. “Get back here!”

Pteranomon sneered and tilted his body so that his angle of descent lined up with Belphemon’s position. As he dove down, the collection of missiles on the undersides of his wings began to emit steam and unlock from their fixed positions. “Side Winder!” he shouted, launching his entire payload, one pair of missiles after the other.

The first pair of missiles sailed down and exploded on contact with Belphemon, creating two large explosions against the Demon Lord’s head. The next set of missiles pierced through the flames and detonated within them, causing an even bigger explosion against the Demon Lord. The final pair of missiles slammed into Belphemon’s chest so that the whole of his large body was obfuscated by the resulting explosions.

Upon seeing that all of his missiles hit true, Pteranomon let out a proud laugh. “I did! I hit him! Did it delete him?!” he uttered in the midst of his adrenaline.

He gazed down and observed his handiwork, watching as the billowing explosions and smoke continued to rise into the air. At first, it seemed as though there wasn’t anything behind the fiery swell, which told him that he had deleted him.

Pteranomon grinned and looked over his shoulder. “See? No sweat. He was still weak and his power was—“

“Pteranomon! Look!” Owlmon yelled at him.

Pteranomon blinked and looked forwards. He could finally see through the flames and smoke of his explosions. To his horror, Belphemon: Sleep Mode was still there. He was completely unharmed by the missiles. The only damage that he had to show for it was a few burnt fur ends. The Demon Lord of Sloth still floated there, sleeping contently.

Mostly contently.

The explosions caused enough of a disturbance to make Belphemon’s cat-like mouth yawn cutely. This was no ordinary yawn, however… From his mouth surged a massive shockwave that caused the very air to ripple under its power. The crushing blast of air rolled towards Pteranomon.

Pteranomon’s confident smirk suddenly faded from his face and he stared towards the oncoming attack like a deer in the head lights.

“Pteranomon, look out!” Aquilamon shouted, diving towards the stunned scout. Right as the blast was closing in on him, he grabbed Pteranomon with his large talons and flew them out of the path of the shockwave.

Aquilamon flapped his wings furiously to get them to evade the blast. Despite the fact that he managed to fly fast enough get them clear of the snoring attack, the sheer force of the blast was apparent. Aquilamon’s left wing was grazed by the residual shockwave of the blast, and the mere, glancing blow was enough to slam into it with tremendous, crushing force.

Aquilamon released a screech as his wing was crushed by the blast. The wing bent backwards and red feathers erupted out in the wake of the impact. Aquilamon was caught up in the auxiliary shockwave and send plummeting to the ground with Pteranomon in his talons.

Owlmon stared in shock as the giant eagle Digimon crashed into the snowy ground. He sneered and flew over to them as fast as he could. “Aquilamon! Pteranomon!” he shouted, diving down towards the pair.

Pteranomon pulled himself out of Aquilamon’s talons and hovered in the air. He turned and looked at the wounded bird. He saw that his wing was in bad shape. “Aquilamon! Aquilamon!” he shouted, grimacing with guilt and worry.

Aquilamon groaned with pain as he lay in the snow. “I c-can’t… move my wing… He’s too strong…!” he said, his deep voice shaky as he grimaced in agony.

“Damn it…” Pteranomon said, wincing. “We’ve gotta get outta here!”

“Oh, so now you’re listening to me!” Aquilamon grunted through his pain.

“I’m sorry…” Pteranomon muttered guiltily. “Now let’s go, before he attacks again,” he said to him urgently. “I’ll help you walk. Can you stand?”

“Just… barely,” Aquilamon responded, pushing against his uninjured wing and getting himself onto his talons. He winced as his left wing hung limply on his side. “L-Let’s go. I’ll be fine.”

Pteranomon nodded and put his smaller body under Aquilamon’s right wing to keep him standing and help him walk. “Owlmon, lead the way!” he told the concerned owl Digimon.

“Got it. Let’s hurry, if you can,” Owlmon stated, looking nervously over at the slumbering Belphemon.

It didn’t seem as though they woke him up, but he was still very worried about another one of his devastating snores. If he was this dangerous while asleep, he certainly didn’t want to see what he’d be like while he was awake.

“Yeah, let’s go…” Aquilamon stated, hobbling away and into the centimeters of snow with the help of Pteranomon.

Owlmon soared forwards, using his keen vision to lead the way out of the Cathode Tundra. Aquilamon glanced over his shoulder at the giant Demon Lord.

“We need to report back to Headquarters ASAP…”

With that order, the patrol of scouts made their way out as swiftly as physically possible. They left the Demon Lord slumbering in thick of the Cathode Tundra. They just hoped he would remain asleep for at least awhile longer...

-

“How do you feel, GrandisKuwagamon?”

GrandisKuwagamon grunted as the sturdy straps binding him were loosened from the bed that he was lying on. With the pressure released from around his body as the straps falling beside him, he slowly sat up and moved his arms. He reached his hand up and rubbed the back of his neck, where there was a slight stinging pain.

He was inside the medical bay in the large, basement level of Castle Albion. He was situated in a separate room that was connected to the medical bay; the room was a sterilized area that was used for surgeries and other delicate procedures. In the room with him was Duskmon, who was eyeing him with a few of his several eyes. Duskmon was busy cleaning up the tools that they had used during the procedure.

Also in the room were Karatenmon and Magnamon, both of whom leaned against the wall and kept a watchful eye on GrandisKuwagamon.

“I feel weird…” he responded, shifting in the bed so that his legs hung over the sides. He attempted to move pincers, but found that they were still unresponsive. “I guess I still have that inhibiting virus, huh? Just great…”

“I told you that the purpose of this procedure wasn’t to remove that virus,” Karatenmon pointed out.

“It was to give you less freedom, not more of it,” Magnamon added, frowning at GrandisKuwagamon as he stood up from the wall. “We aren’t so naïve as to let you walk around freely and use your abilities. You would take the first opportunity to stab them in the back and escape.”

“I wasn’t asking you, runt,” GrandisKuwagamon responded offhandedly, prompting an angry glare from Magnamon. He glanced at Karatenmon. “So, what did you guys do to me?”

Duskmon gazed at him. “We just implanted you with a passive virus which restricts your freedom of movement,” he explained as he walked towards the door of the room.

“Oh, wonderful. Just what I always wanted,” the black insect sarcastically responded, still rubbing the sore spot on the back of his neck. He felt a small hole in his carapace there.

GrandisKuwagamon watched carefully as Duskmon walked out of the room, the doctor’s shoulder eye still fixed on GrandisKuwagamon as he walked. In the dark physician’s hand was a pneumatic injector that was attached to a small vial filled with a bright green substance imbued with binary code. The mercenary eyed Duskmon as he detached the vial and placed in a large medical cabinet outside of the room.

“You did agree to do things our way. You aren’t exactly in a position where we can easily trust you,” Karatenmon observed.

“Especially when you deleted and wounded several Digimon of our Order,” Magnamon added with barbs to his voice. “You knew the deal when you agreed to work with us.”

GrandisKuwagamon grunted and tentatively stood up. “Fine. Whatever you say, big guy,” he answered with a standoffish leer. “You know, I’m putting my *** out on the line for you guys. A little reciprocation would be nice.”

“You aren’t putting it on the line for us, you’re putting it on the line for yourself,” Magnamon pointed out, bristling at his height remarks. “Don’t act like you’re doing us a favour, GrandisKuwagamon.”

GrandisKuwagamon turned and gave Magnamon a sideways leer, acknowledging him. “Even so, if the type of Digimon I associate with catch wind that I’m working with the Royal Knights, that’s my credibility as a merc completely tarnished. There’s nothing we hate worse than informants. Especially the ones who work with the Royal Knights. I’d be black-listed or worse.”

“You mean like Dorbickmon?” Karatenmon put forward.

“Is that why you sent the mob on him?” Magnamon asked pointedly.

GrandisKuwagamon folded his arms indignantly. “I did that because he was trailing us and feeding you guys information so you could capture us,” he responded. “It was nothing personal. Just survival. You gotta take out threats before they take you out.”

“I see…” Karatenmon said with a grin. “So, you won’t mind working with him, then?”

“…What?” GrandisKuwagamon asked blankly.

“He’s going to be on the team that’s escorting you,” Karatenmon informed him with a smirk beneath his beaked helmet. “That’s not a problem, I take it.”

“Yeah, it kinda is a problem!” GrandisKuwagamon answered sharply. “The big lizard’s gonna have it out for me now that I dropped him in it! He’s probably gonna try to screw me over or shiv me in my sleep.”

“He assured me that he would behave,” the crow ninja responded.

“And you believe him? I wouldn’t,” the black beetle man countered.

“I believe that you both have a common interest. I think you’re both smart enough to know that working together is a better option than working against each other,” Karatenmon explained with a smile. “You don’t have to like each other, but you’ll both be helping each other’s credibility in the long run. You’d be helping him dispel the idea that he’s working with us, and that’d also be in your interest, since you don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as him – you know, being an informant for the Order. I’m sure you’re both professional enough to put the bad blood aside.”

“Tch,” GrandisKuwagamon scoffed, hating to admit that he had a point. “Whatever. I’ll play along, but I’m not about to start trusting him.”

“I’m sure the feeling will be mutual,” Karatenmon mentioned with a grin. The spymaster stood up from the wall and folded avian arms. “Can you walk?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m good,” GrandisKuwagamon responded, taking a few tentative steps forward.

“Then why don’t you go meet the team that will be escorting you?” Magnamon stated, walking forwards and stepping out of the room to the main area of the medical bay.

“Sure, why not? I could use a good laugh,” GrandisKuwagamon stated. He made his way through the door and out into the greater medical bay area.

Standing in the middle of the room, talking to Duskmon, was Paildramon. Upon seeing GrandisKuwagamon, Magnamon, and Karatenmon walk out of the room, she said goodbye to the physician and turned to face them.

GrandisKuwagamon walked forwards but then suddenly stopped upon seeing Paildramon. He frowned and gazed at her. His crimson eye looked her up and down, sizing her up. After his gaze lingered for a moment, he looked up to meet her own red eyes.

Paildramon stared at him with a firm, dauntless, and cool gaze. She made the first move and walked straight up to him. “GrandisKuwagamon?” she asked, stopping right in front of him.

“That’s me,” he answered standoffishly.

“I’m Paildramon. I’m the team leader for our mission,” she stated confidently, offering her clawed hand to him. “We will be working together. It is nice to meet you.”

GrandisKuwagamon leered at her and stared down at her hand, stonewalling her for a few moments. After a few tense seconds, he frowned and took her hand, shaking it firmly. She returned the solid grip. “We’ve met before. You shot at me,” he dryly mentioned.

“You have a good memory,” she said, releasing his hand. “Yes, I did; when you took one of the members of the Order hostage.”

“…Your aim sucks,” GrandisKuwagamon told her with a goading smirk.

Paildramon stared coolly at the insect mercenary in front of her but didn’t rise to the insult. “We will be leaving tomorrow morning. That should be enough time for you to rest up and recuperate from the procedure,” she explained. “Does that suit you?”

“Do I have a choice?” he responded, his grin turning ironic.

“Not really, but I would like for you to be a cooperative member of our team. It would suit all of us. Especially since this is a dangerous mission,” Paildramon explained.

“Whatever. I’ll do what benefits me,” GrandisKuwagamon responded with some hostility.

“Okay. That’s about what I expected,” Paildramon told him. “Helping the team would benefit you.”

“Uh huh. You done?” the black beetle Digimon questioned with brusque nonchalance.

“Not yet. I’m going to take you to meet the other two members of the team,” she explained. She looked at Magnamon and Karatenmon behind GrandisKuwagamon. “May I, Sir?”

“He’s all yours,” Magnamon said with a nod.

“Yeah. I’ll stick around to bring him back to his cell when you’re done,” Karatenmon agreed.

Paildramon nodded and saluted before turning around and beginning to walk out of the medical bay. “This way,” she said, giving GrandisKuwagamon a look as she passed him.

GrandisKuwagamon grinned and looked her over as she walked away from him. Magnamon gently elbowed him and looked up at him with a stern gaze. “I’d follow her, if I were you,” he suggested, tacitly telling him to stop what he was doing.

The insect mercenary rolled his eye and followed after Paildramon. “Whatever you say…” he stated, walking after her. He quickly caught up and began walking beside the dragon woman Digimon. GrandisKuwagamon leered at her out of the corner of his eye. “Paildramon, was it?”

“Yes, that’s right,” she answered, glancing at the insect Digimon beside her.

“You walk like a soldier, but you don’t talk like one. You sound educated,” he observed. “Wealthy background?”

Paildramon glanced at him with a look of veiled annoyance at his accurate read of her. “You’re observant… Yes, I guess I am,” she responded, intentionally omitting the fact that her father is one of the councillors of the Council of Seven. “It’s not that odd for soldiers to be educated though. It’s a noble profession.”

“Yeah, real noble. Unlike mercenary work…” GrandisKuwagamon said with a smirk. “Yeah, I guess working for the Royal Knights must be pretty prestigious. So, just how loaded are you? You from an aristocratic family?”

“Please mind your own business,” Paildramon responded, giving him a cold leer.

“Oh. Did I strike a nerve?” he asked, grinning at the fact that he managed to annoy her.

“No, I just think we should keep our interactions strictly professional,” she said to him. “I won’t ask about your past and you don’t ask about mine. It’s better that way.”

“Whatever. Not that I actually care. I was just making conversation,” he said with a shrug. He then grinned again. “…Keep things professional, huh? Why do you say that? Are you fighting the urge to tear my armour off and have your way with me? Because I wouldn’t say no to someone as sexy as you...”

Paildramon shot him an annoyed look. “Watch it, GrandisKuwagamon,” she warned him.

GrandisKuwagamon merely laughed and continued walking down the castle corridor. They neared a corner halfway down the hallway and turned left down it. Despite not hearing footsteps, GrandisKuwagamon knew that Karatenmon was following them. He looked at Paildramon again. “So… You’re a Paildramon. Did you use to be an ExVeemon and a Stingmon until you jogressed? …How does jogressing work anyways? Is it like sex? Did you put your Spiking Strike in his—“

“No,” Paildramon interrupted bluntly, rolling her red eyes. “I’m not a jogress Digimon. My lower form is ExVeemon.”

“How the hell does that work?” GrandisKuwagamon questioned, assuming that all jogress Digimon came from two composite parts.

“My father is an Imperialdramon. I already have the insect data in me necessary to reach this form. No partner was required in this case,” she explained.

“So, what you’re saying is that you’re single,” he teased her.

She didn’t grace his joke with a reply. “They’re up there,” she informed him, looking ahead.

GrandisKuwagamon turned his gaze away from her and looked down the illuminated castle corridor. He could see Dorbickmon talking with a familiar Digimon. To his incredulity, the Digimon he was talking to was none other than the annoying blockhead who had volunteered to help guard the dungeon: VictoryGreymon.

VictoryGreymon was talking to Dorbickmon animatedly. There was a familiar glimmer of excitement in his wide, green eyes.

“Seriously? Him? You chose him?” GrandisKuwagamon asked, gazing at Paildramon with an irritated look. “You’ve gotta be kidding… I’ve seen him trip over his own tail.”

“His qualities outweigh his flaws,” Paildramon insisted, walking towards them.

“…He once said, ‘For all intensive purposes’,” the mercenary insisted, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he followed after her.

“He’s a good, dependable soldier,” she stated, not really leaving any room for debate.

GrandisKuwagamon scoffed. “I hate soldiers. They’re usually too stupid or too weak to think for themselves,” he grumbled. “All they can do is follow orders blindly.”

“That isn’t true at all. Good soldiers are able to think outside of the box, take the initiative, and make snap decisions in high pressure situations,” Paildramon insisted.

“Whatever. There’s still a chain of command, so they’re always getting their orders from somebody,” the bug Digimon stated. “There’s no such thing as independent thinking in the army. You’re always doing what somebody else tells you, not matter what you actually think. You never have to make hard decisions for yourself; you get to just say ‘Well, those are my orders so it’s not my fault’. It’s weak and pathetic, really.”

Paildramon’s scarlet eyes slowly turned and fixed themselves on GrandisKuwagamon. She stared at him pensively for a few moments. “…You don’t like authority, do you?” the dragon woman deduced, observing the black beetle carefully.

The insect man grinned a bit and shrugged. “Not particularly. And authority doesn’t like me either,” he responded matter-of-factly.

“Aren’t I lucky?” she murmured with an exasperated breath.

“To get to look after a good-looking guy like me? Yup. You sure are,” GrandisKuwagamon responded with a teasing smirk. “Just too bad I’m stuck with a leader who thinks it’s a good idea to bring a big, thick, walking encyclopedia of the Royal Knights along.”

As he walked with Paildramon up to VictoryGreymon and Dorbickmon, he overheard their conversation.

“You’re really friends with Sir Examon?!” VictoryGreymon asked excitedly. “What can you tell me about him? Is it true that he lived in the mountains for years, perfecting his battle skills and training?! Is it true that he jogressed with a Breakdramon to become Examon? I was told that he didn’t have a fusion partner, but--”

Dorbickmon stared at the muscular dragon man with a raised brow. “Uh… Look, I knew him as a kid and then we reconnected recently. Everything in between, I’ve got no idea about,“ he explained, hoping that would get him to stop asking questions.

“Aww, well, alright… Thanks anyways,” VictoryGreymon responded, smiling sheepishly as he twiddled his fingers and played with the tip of his tail. Upon seeing Paildramon and GrandisKuwagamon approach, he smiled broadly. “Oversergeant Paildramon! Hi.”

“Hello, VictoryGreymon,” Paildramon greeted, nodding at him as she came to a stop beside them.

“So, this is the crack team?” GrandisKuwagamon sarcastically asked, folding his arms and looking over the group judgmentally.

“No, no. The Crack Team is made up of about seven Digimon and they mainly operate on Colossus. It’s rare to see them on our continent,” VictoryGreymon explained as he proudly placed his hands on his hips.

GrandisKuwagamon turned and gave Paildramon a bland look. “Not the brightest bulb, is he?” he asked her.

Paildramon sighed. “GrandisKuwagamon, this is Dorbickmon and VictoryGreymon,” she introduced them.

“I know,” he stated flatly.

“Hey! I’m really glad you made the right decision and started working with the Royal Knights,” VictoryGreymon happily said, holding his hand out amiably. “Maybe we can finish that handshake now.”

GrandisKuwagamon stared at VictoryGreymon blandly. He then gazed down at his hand distastefully and stared at it. He then looked back up at the dragon man.

Paildramon leaned over to the insect mercenary slightly. “Shake his hand,” she whispered low enough that VictoryGreymon couldn’t hear her.

GrandisKuwagamon rolled his crimson eye and took the VictoryGreymon’s hand. VictoryGreymon squeezed his hand tightly, hard enough to send pain shooting through GrandisKuwagamon’s hand. Judging by the big, dumb grin on VictoryGreymon’s face, it was clear that it wasn’t malicious. It seemed that the dragon man didn’t know his own strength, of which there was plenty.

GrandisKuwagamon stifled a wince and swiftly retracted his hand. “Hell of a grip,” he muttered.

“Oh, sorry. Too tight?” VictoryGreymon asked with a sheepish smile as he scratched the back of his red-haired head. “I get that a lot.”

“I’ll live,” GrandisKuwagamon answered, glancing at Dorbickmon. “Assuming he doesn’t try to kill me in my sleep.”

Dorbickmon gave him an unnerving, toothy grin. “Tempting, but I promised that I wouldn’t touch a hair on your head,” he explained. “You’re safe from me, bug.”

“You’re the one who’s safe,” GrandisKuwagamon countered. “Attacking me would be your last mistake.”

“Huh. And I thought I was safe because you got your powers bugged… bug,” Dorbickmon responded with a dark grin. He folded his arms across his armoured chest and looked at GrandisKuwagamon with smug satisfaction. “Aren’t you on a leash right now?”

GrandisKuwagamon sneered. He did remember that Karatenmon mentioned that they had implanted another virus in him in order to restrain his movement. Apart from being unable to evolve and use his attacks – both effects of the first virus – he didn’t feel any different from usual. He didn’t like not knowing what the virus was and how it was affecting him. He needed to know what his limits were. The fact that he was in this situation at all got under his exoskeleton, but he knew it was his best option, so he stomached it.

“What do you know about it?” GrandisKuwagamon asked accusingly.

“I know that you won’t be running off any time soon,” Dorbickmon said with a rough chuckle. “You’re tied to us.”

“How the hell does that work? I feel fine,” GrandisKuwagamon responded sceptically.

Dorbickmon grinned at him and nodded over his shoulder, down the corridor. “Give it a try if you don’t believe me. Walk down the length of that hallway.”

GrandisKuwagamon frowned and looked at Paildramon. “Is it dangerous?” he asked her.

“It shouldn’t be,” she answered, frowning as well. “Would you mind? It won’t be pleasant, but we need make sure it works without any problems or unwanted side effects.”

“What am I? A test subject?” the insect mercenary questioned bitterly.

Paildramon shook her head. “This inhibitor has been field-tested several times. We just need to make sure that it has acclimatized to your body properly. It’s for your own safety,” she explained.

“We’ll be right here, GrandisKuwagamon,” Karatenmon’s voice suddenly said from behind them.

VictoryGreymon let out a sharp, high-pitched yelp and he jumped into the air in surprise. Upon landing, he stumbled over his feet and staggered into the stone wall.

The other three reacted less dramatically, turning around to see the ninja spymaster suddenly standing behind them.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to surprise you,” he said with an amused grin. Karatenmon looked at GrandisKuwagamon. “Go ahead. I’m sure you’re curious about it.”

“Tch. Fine…” GrandisKuwagamon responded. On the one hand, he was curious. He knew that it would probably be a bad experience, but he had to know. On the other hand, if the virus didn’t work, this would be the perfect opportunity to escape from the Royal Knights. He had to try.

GrandisKuwagamon began beating his x-shaped insect wings and his body lifted up from the stone floor. He began to tentatively fly down the long, wide corridor as the group of Order Digimon stayed where they were. The mercenary flew forwards, making his way down the length of the hall.

He passed about ten meters but didn’t feel any different. Feeling emboldened, he picked up his speed slightly. Twenty meters passed. Still nothing. He flew faster and further. At thirty meters, he was halfway down the corridor and he still felt fine. A smirk grew on his face.

He began to feel more confident that nothing was going to happen. He increased his speed further and his mind was beginning to toy with the idea of escaping. GrandisKuwagamon was nearly at the end of the corridor, where it turned into two hallways to the left and right.

As he approached fifty meters, GrandisKuwagamon suddenly began to feel a faint, static feeling tracing his body. He thought it was strange, but it didn’t seem that strong at the moment, so he pressed on and ignored the warning. He was nearly there.

However, once he passed fifty meters, everything changed. A strong surge of electricity coursed through his body for two seconds. The electricity caused his body to seize up and he was knocked out of his air. GrandisKuwagamon crashed to the ground with a loud clamour. In the wake of the surprising jolt of lightning, his muscles suddenly began to go numb. He found that he couldn’t move his arms, legs, or wings at all.

“D-Damn it…!” he hissed, panting heavily as his body was wracked with pain and rendered immobile. He knew that this was the virus setting in.

“We should help him now,” VictoryGreymon said, wincing sympathetically at what looked like a very painful experience.

Paildramon nodded and the group began to walk down the hallway towards them. Once she was in proximity, the effects of the virus began to subside.

GrandisKuwagamon swore under his breath, feeling relief when he felt prickling sensations in his muscles as he began to regain control of his body. The numbness faded and he could feel his muscles begin to respond to his movements.

The group walked over to him and VictoryGreymon offered him his hand to help him up. GrandisKuwagamon shot him a furious glare and swatted his hand away, still feeling lingering traces of electricity in his twitching muscles. He stood up on his own. “What the hell was that?” he demanded.

“That was the virus doing its job,” Karatenmon explained. “How do you feel?”

“I just got electrocuted; how do you think I feel? I feel pissed off!” GrandisKuwagamon responded matter-of-factly.

“The inhibitor keeps you from moving more than fifty meters away from your teammates. Once you do, you will receive a static sensation that warns you that you’re reaching the limit of distance. If you continue going past it, you will receive a sharp, electric shock and then your muscles will go numb, rendering you immobile. You will be immobile until you are, once again, in proximity to the group,” Paildramon explained.

“Like I said, think of it like a leash so that you don’t make a run for it,” Dorbickmon said with an amused grin.

“Wonderful,” GrandisKuwagamon muttered, brushing himself off. “Not at all limiting or inconvenient! How am I supposed to do my job with this pain in the *** in me?”

“You’ll get used to it. We won’t be far away during this mission,” Paildramon explained.

Karatenmon looked at GrandisKuwagamon. “Any lingering side-effects?”

“Just a bad mood,” the insect answered bitterly.

“You had that anyways,” Dorbickmon joked, folding his arms.

“Hilarious,” GrandisKuwagamon answered flatly, making it clear that he didn’t see the humour in the situation.

Karatenmon grinned. “Anyway, we’ll take you back to your cell. You four are heading out tomorrow morning, aren’t you?” he asked them.

Paildramon nodded affirmatively. “Yes, Captain,” she confirmed.

“Then you should all get some rest. Alphamon wants to speak to you before you leave, as well,” the raven informed them.

“He does?!” VictoryGreymon exclaimed excitedly. “That’s so awesome! He’s going to address us personally?! I might be too excited to rest!”

“Try, V. We have a long journey ahead of us,” Dorbickmon said to him with a grin, patting the dragon man on his broad shoulder.

“He’s right. You get some rest too, GrandisKuwagamon,” Paildramon told the mercenary.

GrandisKuwagamon folded his arms and narrowed his eye. “Assuming I don’t get electrocuted as I sleep.”

“You’ll be fine,” Karatenmon assured him. “Just remember why you’re doing this.”

“Yeah, I know…” he muttered, looking away.

Karatenmon nodded and smiled. “Anyways, you’re all introduced now, so you’re dismissed. I’ll see you four tomorrow before you leave,” he stated.

Paildramon and VictoryGreymon saluted him before turning and walking alongside GrandisKuwagamon and Dorbickmon.

Paildramon gazed at the mercenary quietly. For safety reasons, they were making it seem like the virus bound GrandisKuwagamon to the group, but in reality, it was she who he was tied to. It was best that the mercenary didn’t know that. She didn’t trust him and she knew that he was capable of many things, so she knew that she would have to keep a close eye on him.

It would be a dangerous mission, but, at the least, GrandisKuwagamon was subdued.

-

(Continued in the next post)
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
(Continue from the previous post)

-

A day passed…

It was a generally cloudy morning over Splendour’s Reach. The sky was covered by white clouds with the occasional patch of grey. There were small gaps between the clouds that allowed rays of light to intermittently shine down across the grassy landscape every so often. These holes teased blue skies and sunlight as the clouds lazily drifted overhead.

It was still early in the morning, so only the early birds and the Order members who were on duty were up. Dozens of Digimon walked around the grounds of Castle Albion. Guards walked along the walls and some soldiers practiced in the firing range and training ground while the areas were still empty.

Nearby, Alphamon walked alongside Omegamon and Dukemon, all of whom had woken up early. The three meandered down the main road in front of the castle, heading away from the main building of the HQ. They passed by shops and stalls that lined the road leading up from the main gate. Many of the merchants and shop owners were just opening up for the day.

Their metal boots rattled against the cobbled road softly as they passed by the blacksmith’s. Dukemon grinned and waved good-naturedly at some of the recognizable show-owners as the trio passed by. When they neared the end of the road, Omegamon looked over at the pair curiously.

“May I have an update on the scouting reports?” he asked them, his soft, double voice revealing hints of unease.

“Are you getting antsy, Omegamon?” Alphamon questioned, gazing at Omegamon and his gold eyes shimmering with levity.

“Somewhat… With every day that passes, the threat of the Demon Lords grows. We have no idea what they are planning or even what they are doing,” he explained.

“Yeah, I don’t blame you. I’m itching to go after them too,” Dukemon agreed, looking over with a small smile reflected in his goldenrod eyes. “I’ll be the first to admit that I’m getting impatient.”

Alphamon nodded softly. “I understand completely, but there is only so much that we can do until we find them. We’re scouring the continent of Eniac as swiftly as possible. Until then, we just have to remain patient and trust Grani, Karatenmon, and their capable subordinates,” the black knight explained even-headedly.

Omegamon sighed. “Yes… You are absolutely right,” the white knight admitted sheepishly. “I just feel edgy about the whole situation. They are capable of so much destruction.”

Dukemon narrowed his eyes and nodded in agreement. “We’ve experienced that firsthand,” he stated, his demeanour suddenly growing serious. “We need to stop them before they can cause any more destruction and suffering in the Digital World. They’re just too dangerous to be allowed to roam freely…”

As Dukemon spoke, Omegamon’s soft, blue eyes lingered on him pensively. He quietly nodded in agreement.

“I’m inclined to agree,” Alphamon stated, idly reaching over his shoulder to readjust the hem of his flowing cape. “However, it isn’t as straightforward as simply going to beat them up, as tempting as that might be… If we have learned anything from our previous encounter with them, it’s that we need a strategy to take them down. Barbamon is a capable strategist, and they are all extremely powerful, so it is too risky to rely on brute force alone.”

“Sometimes brute force works,” Dukemon countered, looking over at Alphamon. “When we first faced them, there were only seven of us. Now there are twelve Royal Knights, and we’re all stronger.”

“That may be, but we don’t know how powerful they are,” Alphamon responded. “DarkKnightmon came out of the Dark Area more powerful than before.”

“That’s true in the long term, but in the short term, when they come out, they tend to be weaker, don’t they?” Dukemon questioned. “I don’t know the reasoning behind it, but it seems like they need to regain their strength.”

Alphamon eyed Dukemon calmly. “I would prefer to be cautious... When we first fought them, they had only recently achieved their demon forms. They were likely weaker than they are now,” he said sceptically. “We need a plan.”

“I have a plan, oh ye of little faith,” Dukemon answered, grinning playfully at Alphamon.

“Oh?” Alphamon asked with a touch of amusement in his voice. “Well then, what do you propose, Dukemon?” he asked him.

“As soon we find the Demon Lords, we hunt them down, attack them, and make the strategy up as we go along,” he declared with a confident grin.

Alphamon stared at Dukemon with flat incredulity.

Omegamon, on the other hand, folded his arms and closed his eyes, nodding sagely. “Ah, yes. An improvisational-search-and-destroy-operation-with-strike-force-capabilities-and-adaptatable-variables-for-greater-operational-flexibility,” Omegamon agreed completely, dressing up Dukemon’s words to make the idea sound better than it actually was. “An excellent idea, Dukemon.”

Alphamon looked between the two Royal Knights, his steady, deadpan gaze slowly shifting between Omegamon and Dukemon. Alphamon palmed his face. “You two are as bad as each other…” he said, sighing with exasperation.

He could count on Dukemon to be impulsive, but Omegamon had a hidden reckless streak that would emerge every now and then when he was particularly adamant about something. It was an aspect of Omegamon’s personality that carried over from his WarGreymon side, sometimes contrasting with his measured demeanour that came from his MetalGarurumon side.

Dukemon laughed good-naturedly and placed his hand on Alphamon’s shoulder. “Oh, come on. We know what we’re doing, Alphamon,” he said with a grin, patting the ebony paladin reassuringly.

“I have a long history of getting you two out of trouble,” the black Royal Knight reminded them.

Dukemon flashed a smile at his black armoured friend. “It isn’t all one-sided, you know,” the crimson-caped knight was quick to remind him. “We’ve each gotten you out of some scrapes too, if you’ll remember.” He winked playfully.

Alphamon couldn’t help but smile. “That may be… However, I still believe that we need to be strategic in dealing with the Demon Lords,” he explained, rubbing his chin with his thumb and index finger. “What is that old saying…? ‘A good warrior knows when to move, but a good commander knows when to remain still.’?”

“You just made that now, didn’t you?” Omegamon responded with a small, knowing smile.

“You crafty fox,” Dukemon teased, smirking and folding his arms. “Have you been deceiving us with your clever, philosophical sayings all this time?”

Alphamon grinned at them playfully. “Only sometimes… I thought it sounded pretty good for something I just made up on the spot, don’t you…?” he said with a hint of humour in his voice. “With that said, perhaps we should leave this discussion for when we actually find the Demon Lords. It is better to engage in a debate like this when there are hard facts rather than hypotheticals.”

Omegamon smiled and nodded. “Yes, I suppose you’re right,” he concurred. “We can speak with the other knights about it once we hear solid reports of their activities.”

“Yeah, that sounds good to me,” Dukemon stated, placing his hands behind his helmeted head as the three walked up the road beside the training grounds. “I’m awaiting news from Grani.”

“You rang?” a voice abruptly said from behind Dukemon.

Dukemon jumped a bit and spun around, moving his red cape out of the way with his arm. “Don’t sneak up on me! You’re spending too much time with Karatenmon,” Dukemon exclaimed, although with a grin.

“No, I am certainly not,” Grani responded with a bit of a huff. “More importantly, I have just received an urgent report from one of my patrols.”

Alphamon and Omegamon looked at Grani with interest. “What is it, Grani?” Alphamon asked him curiously.

“It’s the patrol that was sent to investigate the influx of data up in the Cathode Tundra,” Grani explained, his sapphire eyes calm but emanating the severity of the situation. “…They have located the Demon Lord, Belphemon.”

The expressions of all three Royal Knights suddenly became serious and their eyes narrowed. “What?” Dukemon asked.

“They found him at the exact coordinates positioned on the DADAR scan. It must have been where the dark rift had been located,” Grani explained as he hovered before the three Royal Knights.

“What happened?” Alphamon inquired.

“The patrol encountered Belphemon, who was merely floating there in a state of slumber. It seems as though his power is still sealed in his Sleep Mode,” the crimson Zero ARMS explained.

“Good,” Dukemon said with a sigh.

“However…” Grani said ominously. “One of my scouts decided to break protocol and attack Belphemon while he slept. As you can expect, this was a foolish decision. Belphemon was unharmed, and it appears that he is still capable of attacking, even in his Sleep Mode. He released a snore in the form of a shockwave; just being grazed by it was enough to dislocate Aquilamon’s wing.”

Alphamon frowned at this news. “So, Belphemon is not to be taken lightly, even when his powers are restrained and he is in his Sleep Mode,” he mused. “I suppose we should at least be fortunate that he is immobile and unconscious.” The Aloof Hermit gazed at Grani with concern. “How is Aquilamon?”

“He will be fine. He is being treated by Duskmon now,” Grani explained. “But, yes, it appears that Belphemon is still subdued by the program that was placed on him when he was banished to the Dark Area. He is neither conscious nor mobile.”

“Lucky for us, then,” Dukemon stated, folding his arms and looking at Alphamon. “Alphamon…?”

Alphamon nodded. “I know… We must reach Belphemon before the rest of the Demon Lords do,” he responded with firm resolve.

“We should gather the other Royal Knights and prepare a morning meeting to discuss it,” Omegamon agreed. “Dukemon?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Dukemon responded. “I’ll try to wake up Dynasmon.”

Alphamon looked down the road. “I will catch up with both of you. There is something that I need to attend to first,” he explained.

“You mean Paildramon and them?” Dukemon questioned, beginning to turn around. “Alright. Wish them luck for me.”

“We’ll be in the meeting room,” Omegamon said, nodding at Alphamon.

“Okay. I won’t be long,” Alphamon assured them.

The two Royal Knights then turned and began flying back down the road at a more pressing pace. Alphamon watched the pair soar back the way they came towards the entrance of the main building. As soon as they turned the corner and disappeared behind the towers and walls of the castle, Alphamon continued walking up the road towards the staging area.

Ahead of him, he could see Karatenmon standing in front of four Digimon, talking with them casually. Paildramon stood up straight, nodded politely, and calmly conversed with him. Beside her was the muscular member of the Greymon Five, VictoryGreymon. The dragon man talked animatedly with Karatenmon with a excited, green eyes and a broad smile on his face. Next to him was Dorbickmon, who stood with a relaxed demeanour. He occasionally chimed in with an impish smirk on his face. Off to the side was GrandisKuwagamon, who stood with his arms folded, not really interested in taking part in the conversation.

Alphamon made his way over to them, garnering their attention as he approached.

VictoryGreymon gasped with excitement. “It’s Alphamon! Alphamon’s coming over to talk with us!” he fanboyed, nearly bouncing on his toe claws with excitement and allowing his draconic tail to snake back and forth. “He looks so cool; he carries himself with such composed confidence--”

“Okay, settle down,” Dorbickmon said with a grin. “This isn’t the first time you’ve seen him.”

“Seriously, enough with the fangasm,” GrandisKuwagamon agreed with a roll of his eye. “It’s embarrassing to watch.”

“Sorry,” VictoryGreymon responded, rubbing the back of his head with a sheepish smile. “Alphamon’s one of my personal heroes.”

“Along with the rest of the Royal Knights,” Dorbickmon pointed out with a sarcastic grin. “I think we get the picture.”

“Hey, what about me?” Karatenmon asked with a good-natured smile. “Don’t us Captains get any acknowledgment?”

“Oh, of course!” VictoryGreymon spoke excitedly. “You’re really cool too, Captain Karatenmon! The adventurous ninja from Yakumo who broke the code of his village in order to free them from the bonds of their ancient, sacred duty to the Spirit of Wood! You were the mentor of the famous Warrior of Wood, Shurimon, who went on to become AncientTroiamon of the Warrior Ten! You taught him most of the ninjutsu that he knows, and he helped you in your time of need! It’s such an awesome and beautiful story!”

At this, Karatenmon couldn’t help but be taken completely off guard. He blinked and awkwardly scratched his black, feathery cheek with a talon. “…Those things… aren’t supposed to be common knowledge…” he admitted, a bit shocked that VictoryGreymon knew that much about him, given what he knew about VictoryGreymon.

“Impressive,” Alphamon said, walking over and looking at VictoryGreymon with a smile. “You’re quite knowledgeable, VictoryGreymon. Being a ninja, Karatenmon is adept at keeping things a secret. His role as our spymaster isn’t known outside of the Order, barring a few individuals. I’m amazed you know so much about him.”

At this VictoryGreymon’s face turned bright red. A big, dumb smile formed on his face, he ducked his head, and rubbed the back of his head. “Me? Knowledgeable? Nah…” he responded humbly, although unable to hide his embarrassment and happiness at being complimented by Alphamon. “I’m pretty dumb when it comes to most things. I just love everything about the Order, so I like to know as much as I can about it. Plus, I like the Warrior Ten too. I did a bunch of research after I joined and asked around.”

“Probably stalked him,” GrandisKuwagamon muttered under his breath.

Alphamon smiled warmly at VictoryGreymon. “I see. It’s good to have such a dedicated member in our ranks, then,” he stated, stopping in front of the group of five.

“Hahaha…!” VictoryGreymon laughed with goofy embarrassment, still rubbing the back of his head with a massive grin on his face.

Paildramon smiled, tolerant of his obvious excitement. She took a step forwards and saluted Alphamon with a vertical swipe of her clawed hand. “Sir Alphamon,” she greeted professionally. “Good morning.”

“Oh!” VictoryGreymon stammered. He blushed and quickly caught himself from his fanboying. He puffed his muscular chest up and hastily saluted as well. “Ready and awaiting your orders, Sir Alphamon!” he exclaimed, trying to save face by looking professional.

Dorbickmon merely glanced at Alphamon and nodded. “Hey,” he greeted.

GrandisKuwagamon folded his arms and leered at Alphamon out of the corner of his eye.

“So, this is the team,” Karatenmon said, gesturing with his talons to the group of four.

Alphamon nodded and saluted the two soldiers gently. “A solid bunch. Are you all ready?” he asked them.

“Yes, we all know what our job is,” Paildramon explained.

“We won’t let you down, Alphamon!” VictoryGreymon promised him, his eagerness and determination flashing in his sharp, green eyes. “We’ll bring those mercenaries to justice!”

“Ahem…”

VictoryGreymon turned and saw GrandisKuwagamon standing beside him, shooting him a sarcastic stare. “Oh!” VictoryGreymon exclaimed sheepishly, smiling with embarrassment. “Sorry! No offence, Grandis! Uh, you too, Dorbickmon!”

GrandisKuwagamon rolled his eye.

“Remember, VictoryGreymon, you’re only going to gather information about their client. Capturing them is not the priority,” Karatenmon explained. “A ninja must gauge when it is best to act and when it is best to merely watch.”

“Of course, Captain Karatenmon, Sir! I’ll be a good ninja! I promise!” VictoryGreymon insisted eagerly.

“Yeah, right,” Dorbickmon muttered sceptically, inwardly thinking that ninjas don’t usually trip walking up the stairs.

GrandisKuwagamon narrowed his red eye and turned towards Alphamon. “…What are you doin’ here? Checking up on me?” he asked the Royal Knight pointedly.

“In a manner of speaking,” he diplomatically responded. “Are you still okay with this? I know that you were close with Blitzmon and Bolgmon…”

“Not that close apparently,” GrandisKuwagamon muttered. He turned and folded his arms across his chest, facing Alphamon directly. His locked his red eye with Alphamon’s golden ones. “…You’ll hold up your end of the bargain?”

“Of course I will. You have my word as a Royal Knight,” Alphamon assured him.

GrandisKuwagamon nodded, satisfied with the answer. “…Then, yeah. I’m good. I’ll do whatever ensures my freedom. That’s all I care about,” he replied bluntly. “There’s no love lost between me and them, so if I get to screw them over while helping you guys, all the better.”

“Very well. As long as we agree…” Alphamon responded, steadily studying the mercenary.

“It’s not like I can do much else with this shock collar on me,” GrandisKuwagamon pointed out with a bit of acerbic defiance in his voice.

Alphamon sighed. “I know it’s not ideal, but we have to be pragmatic. And you did agree to do things our way,” he pointed out.

“Yeah, yeah,” GrandisKuwagamon dismissively replied with a wave of his hand. “Do I at least get my Gran Killers back?”

“Nope,” Karatenmon stated matter-of-factly.

“What the hell am I supposed to do if we get into a fight?” GrandisKuwagamon sarcastically asked. “Swear at them?”

“Your ugly mug should be enough to scare them off,” Dorbickmon said with a taunting laugh. He smirked at the black insect Digimon. “If not, just hide behind Paildramon. She’ll protect you.”

“That’s true, but the purpose of this mission isn’t to get into a fight,” Paildramon stated, looking at her three teammates.

“Paildramon’s right,” Karatenmon said. “This mission is simple information gathering. The idea is to avoid confrontation and gathering a lot of attention ono you. If you’re getting into a fight, you’re doing something wrong.”

Alphamon nodded in agreement. “Correct. Just find out who Black Pincer Company’s client is. There shouldn’t be any need for violence,” he concurred.

“Things aren’t always that simple,” GrandisKuwagamon explained. “There’s a chance that something could go wrong and we could be attacked. I want to be able to defend myself if **** goes down.”

“And I’m not taking the chance of you skewering us in our sleep,” Dorbickmon challenged, locking eyes with GrandisKuwagamon.

Alphamon closed his eyes pensively. “Your abilities may be sealed, but you still have your natural weapons, even without the Gran Killers. I’ve seen your hand-to-hand abilities first hand. Those should be enough in a pinch. After all, you don’t need to kill the enemy.”

“And we’ll back you up too!” VictoryGreymon assured him with a warm smile. “We’re a team, after all! Teammates help each other! If you’re in trouble, we’ll be there.”

“Aww, thanks!” he responded disingenuously. GrandisKuwagamon sighed with exasperation. “…Okay, fine; we won’t get our cover blown,” he said, although making his distaste clear.

Alphamon nodded and gazed at GrandisKuwagamon. “Good. I knew I could count on you to be professional,” he stated.

“Well, no ****; we ran a professional merc company. If you get into the mercenary game, you’ve gotta be serious. No devil-may-care, fly-by-night stunts there. You’ve gotta have a reputation for getting the job done or else you’ll find yourself getting crushed by bigger, more professional companies,” GrandisKuwagamon explained, folding his arms. “I know you knights don’t approve of the jobs we took, but even the darker parts of the Digital World have standards.”

Alphamon smiled. “I’m aware of that, GrandisKuwagamon,” he said to him. “Treat this as one of your jobs. Do your best, don’t try anything, and we’ll live up to our end of the bargain.”

“I intend to,” GrandisKuwagamon answered, not shying away from his gaze.

“And we’ll keep him in line,” Dorbickmon said, placing a hand on GrandisKuwagamon’s shoulder with a grin.

“Like hell, you will,” GrandisKuwagamon said, shrugging his hand off.

Paildramon looked over at the protesting bug. “I’ll be doing that,” she told him.

“Well, at least you’re better-looking than this guy,” GrandisKuwagamon said, thumbing at Dorbickmon.

“I also have an Ultimate form, so keep that in mind as well,” she warned him matter-of-factly.

GrandisKuwagamon managed a grin. “I’ll look forward to seeing that,” he mentioned goadingly.

Paildramon gave him a flat look and turned back to Alphamon. “We are ready to move out, Sir Alphamon,” she stated. “Captain Karatenmon was just informing us on the latest intel.”

Karatenmon nodded his helmeted head and turned to Alphamon. “I’m done. I was just waiting for you to show up and see them off,” he explained. “Grani filled me in on what happened with the patrol too.”

“Good. We’re going to be telling the other Royal Knights after this,” Alphamon responded. “But enough about that…” He turned to the team of four and smiled gently. “Good luck. Keep safe and do your best to uncover this mystery…”

“We will, Sir,” Paildramon assured him.

“We won’t let you down!” VictoryGreymon added with an eager smile.

Dorbickmon looked at Alphamon with a frown. “Tell Examon…” He stalled, his tongue sticking on the roof of his mouth as he thought. He shook his head and dismissively waved his hand. “Never mind. Forget it.”

Alphamon looked at Dorbickmon curiously, but nodded, accepting his change of mind.

“Come on, let’s head out. We have a long journey ahead of us,” Paildramon said to the other three. She saluted her two superiors before walking past them and heading down the stone road, away from the staging area.

VictoryGreymon saluted as well, his excited eyes lingering on Alphamon for a moment before he followed after Paildramon. Dorbickmon followed after them at a leisurely pace, while GrandisKuwagamon matched pace with them, not wanting to activate the effects of the virus implanted in him.

Alphamon and Karatenmon watched as the group of four walked off down the stone road and headed for the exit. The black and gold armoured Royal Knight turned to the avian ninja. “Do you they’ll be okay?” he asked the spymaster.

“I think they’ll be fine. Paildramon’s a strong, intelligent leader. Dorbickmon and GrandisKuwagamon are both street-smart and they have a vested interest in working together. If Dorbickmon is seen with GrandisKuwagamon, then his reputation as an informant will be put into doubt, and GrandisKuwagamon will want to help Dorbickmon with this or else people will start thinking that he’s working with our Order too,” Karatenmon explained.

Alphamon nodded. “I can see your logic. Hopefully they can put that bad blood behind them as well,” he mused. “What about VictoryGreymon?”

“Well, he’s not the most intellectual or outside-the-box thinker, but he’s loyal, dependable, and he’s strong enough to hold off a few Ultimates-levels by himself,” Karatenmon answered. “They’ll be fine.”

“I can only hope so…” Alphamon said, glancing after them.

He exhaled and began walking past Karatenmon, down the road. “Come on, Karatenmon. Let’s go meet with the others,” he stated, striding with his cape flowing in the wind. “We need to discuss what to do about Belphemon…”

-

Bagramon and six out of the Seven Demon Lords walked down a decayed, beaten road. The ground below was cracked, sunken, and dirty. It was clear from the state of disrepair that hardly anybody ever travelled down the path. It was wide enough for Leviamon’s massive body to walk down it without any problems.

Flanking the sides of the road were bent, gnarled street signs – some were half melted and others were twisted around multiple times. Behind them was the Void Mountains, which loomed over the landscape ominously. Its crooked, rocky peaks and outcroppings, especially when cast against the backdrop of the dark grey sky, made it especially foreboding. The surrounding area on both sides of the road stretched out as far as the eye could see. The fields were barren and desolate with dirt. Every so often, there were scars in the land: furrows and craters from long ago that had mostly (but not completely) filled in. They were remnants from the cataclysmic battles that took place there, in the Desolate Wastes. In the far distance, on the far, western side of the Void Mountains, was a cove that connected to the Delta Ocean. Even the cove was placid and still. The whole landscape had the lingering feeling of death.

Parts of the sky occasionally flickered and distorted. It was like there were miniature cracks and implosions that took place for a millisecond before the appearance of the sky would return to normal. It was the result of damaged data that couldn’t be repaired. It was harmless, but it was caused by one of the major cataclysms that tore through the area and across the Digital World. The ground had similar impurities – flickering blocks of glowing data. The area was lifeless and desolate. Littering the dark wasteland was out-of-order electrical equipment. There was a non-operational TV tower standing tall over the dreary terrain. Scattered around the forsaken fields were several warped cell phone towers and a few street clocks whose hands were spinning wildly and chaotically. The landscape was like something out of a surrealist nightmare.

Bagramon walked alongside the six other Demon Lords. He noticed Lucemon walking at the front of the group, leading the way down it. Bagramon followed directly behind him, as did Demon. Behind them was Lilithmon, who meandered up the road at a leisurely pace. Barbamon strode beside her, looking around the bleak landscape curiously. Taking up the rear was Leviamon, whose massive body waddled up the street. He was heavy enough to cause cracks to appear beneath his feet in the already fractured road.

Driving beside the group was Beelzebumon, who chugged along on the Behemoth in short, impatient bursts. The leather-clad demon man rolled along the bumpy road, occasionally looking over at the other Demon Lords to see if they would hurry up. It was clear that they weren’t going to. A vein of frustration throbbed in his forehead and he wore a broad, toothy scowl on his face. The Behemoth was meant for speed and so was he.

After a few more minutes of walking at what seemed like a snail’s pace. Beelzebumon suddenly revved the engine of his motorbike. “**** this! I’m going on ahead without you losers,” he declared, raring to go.

Barbamon smirked and folded his arms. “That didn’t take you long, Beelzebumon…” he observed with a condescending, knowing tone to his voice.

“My joints aren’t rusty like yours, old man. I’m out of here!” Beelzebumon fired back, about to slam his foot onto the accelerator.

Lucemon: Falldown Mode turned around. “Wait,” he spoke calmly.

“I’m not waitin’ around for you guys,” Beelzebumon defiantly responded, leering at Lucemon.

“Just a minute,” Lucemon replied, folding his arms.

Bagramon stopped and nodded with agreement. “Lucemon’s right. Now would be a good time to decide who is going where,” he added.

“Think you can manage to wait that long, Beelzebumon?” Lilithmon asked with a sly smile.

“Tch. Make it quick,” the three-eyed demon answered curtly, coming to a rolling stop.

“Hmph,” Barbamon scoffed, placing the butt-end of his staff against the road. “As I mentioned before, it would be more efficient if we split into two groups. One group will go to the Desolate Moors, near Sepulcrum, to curry support from the demon aristocrats there. The other will head directly to the Cathode Tundra in order to secure Belphemon. Time is not something that we are rich in, so rather than all of us going first to Sepulcrum and then to the Tundra, we should split up.”

“Yes, that seems sensible,” Demon stated, leering at Barbamon behind his hooded robe.

“I will go to Sepulcrum. Obviously, my intellect and diplomatic skills are most required there,” Lucemon: Falldown Mode announced as if there was never any doubt in his actions. He placed a hand on his hip and turned to the others. “If any of you wish to follow me, you may do so.”

Leviamon rolled his gold eyes and grunted. “I’m going after Belphemon,” he declared in a deep, booming voice. “You guys can do what you want.”

“I shall accompany you, Lucemon,” Bagramon explained. “I arranged the meeting and I am well acquainted with many of the elites whose support we need.”

“Naturally,” Lucemon agreed. “Barbamon, you come as well.”

“Of course. You need somebody strategically and fiscally-minded to be there,” Barbamon confirmed, walking up to him. “We can plan our movements better that way.”

“Why do you think I asked?” Lucemon stated, tilting his head back with a smug grin.

Lilithmon idly examined the back of her hand. “Hmm… I think I shall come along as well. A good negotiation requires a delicate touch. I can definitely be more even-headed than some Digimon with larger egos,“ she pointed out, casting a grin to Lucemon. “Besides, I would rather be exploring the streets of Sepulcrum than looking after Belphemon.”

“Whatever. You guys go courting the demon pansies. I’m not kissing any asses – well - not in a non-sexy way, that is,” he pointed out, a smirk growing on his face as he leaned forward on the handlebars of the Behemoth. He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “Point is, I’m gonna go pick up the furball. I’m hopin’ to see a little action while I’m there. You did say it was possible that the Royal Knights or the Heavenly Choir might show up there to get Belphemon first.”

Do try not to engage them if you can manage to restrain yourself,” Barbamon advised him in a sardonic tone. “I know for a fact that you aren’t yet at full power. We need to play this intelligently. If you get yourself killed, you’re putting us at a disadvantage. Just focus on getting Belphemon somewhere safe.”

“Gee, I’m touched,” Beelzebumon snarkily responded. “Where the hell’s the fun in that?”

“I’ll go with Leviamon and Beelzebumon to make sure that they stay on track,” Demon told the group that was going to Sepulcrum.

“You do that,” Leviamon muttered distastefully.

“Whatever,” Beelzebumon dismissively uttered. He sat up on his bike and put his clawed hands on the handlebars. “We decided? Good. I’m goin’ on ahead. No sense sitting around on our asses.”

As Beelzebumon began revving the Behemoth’s engine. Demon flapped his dark wings and began rising towards the grey sky. “We’ll go ahead. Don’t get too far ahead, Beelzebumon,” he warned him. “And, Leviamon, don’t slow us down.”

Leviamon scoffed and began walking off of the worn down and fractured road. “I’ll swim up the coast along Delta Ocean,” he answered, beginning to head westward. “I’ll meet you two there. It’s faster this way.”

“Whatever scale-butt,” Beelzebumon dismissively stated. He glanced over at Lucemon and Bagramon with a smirk. “Good luck with making friends. We’ll get the fluff ball out safe and sound.”

“Make sure that you do,” Lucemon warned him with a cold leer.

“Uh huh,” Beelzebumon responded, looking forwards without a care. “Later, suckers.”

With those words, he slammed his foot onto the gas pedal and performed a wheelie on the Behemoth before accelerating up the stone road. He ripped up chunks of broken rock with the thick wheels of the bike as he tore down the path.

“We’ll meet up afterwards,” Bagramon said to Demon. “Good luck.”

Demon nodded and flapped his wings, speeding after Beelzebumon. Meanwhile, Leviamon wandered off towards the distant ocean.

“I supposed we should speed up as well,” Lucemon stated, flapping his dichotomous set of wings.

Bagramon nodded and flew into the air alongside Lilithmon and Barbamon. They took off to the north east, making a direct flight towards the Gloaming Fields and the city of Sepulcrum. The fours demon lord Digimon flew in relative silence, apart from the occasional sniping between Barbamon and Lilithmon. As they travelled, the Sage of Death thought to himself.

This is merely the continuation of the rebellion that started so many years ago… I have had years to build up my strength and my plans… It is finally time to put all of those plans into action,” Bagramon thought to himself.

A dark smile crawled on his face. “What will you do, Alphamon?” he wondered. “As if I don’t already know the answer…

-

Alphamon sat at the round table in the Royal Knights’ meeting room. All twelve of the armoured warriors sat around the table. There was a feeling of anticipation lying heavy in the earthy air of the stone, council room. The eleven other Royal Knights all stared at Alphamon as he finished telling them the news about Belphemon.

“…So, that’s the situation,” he explained, looking around the table from the Empty Seat.

“So, we know where Belphemon is. That’s great!” Dynasmon exclaimed enthusiasically.

“Finally, we have something to work with,” Magnamon agreed, clenching his blue fist with determination.

Gankoomon smirked and punched his opened palm with his fist. “I was getting impatient. I’m fired up!”

Alphamon turned his head, gazing at all of his fellow Royal Knights. “The next order of business is deciding what to do…”

“Isn’t that obvious?” Craniamon asked straightforwardly. “We need to find him and take care of him.”

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily that clear,” Alphamon replied calmly.

Dukemon glanced over at Alphamon. “I think the best idea is to go to Belphemon’s location as quickly as possible,” he explained in a way that made his fiery determination shine through.

“That may be, but I do not approve of going in ill-prepared,” Duftmon responded, folding his arms as he thought about the situation at hand. “We require a strategy.”

“That is what I believe as well,” Alphamon added, gazing back at Dukemon.

“What strategy?” UlforceVeedramon said with a chuckle. “According to that report, Belphemon is in the middle of nap time; it seems pretty straightforward to me. All we have to do is go there and send him back to the Dark Area.”

“It isn’t quite that simple,” Alphamon explained. “Belphemon is still dangerous, even with his powers restrained. Also, by attacking him, we risk awakening him from Sleep Mode. His powers are well sealed, but there may be a point in which his self-preservation measures may kick in and override the restraints.”

“The other Demon Lords will also wish to locate him, most likely,” Duftmon suggested. “We must be prepared for these measures.”

“If the other Demon Lords want to find him, then that is all the more reason why we should get to him first, isn’t it?” Omegamon offered, looking at Alphamon.

“What about the Warrior Ten?” Sleipmon suggested, frowning. “They’re closer, and AncientMegatheriummon is best suited for the Cathode Tundra.”

“As are you, Sleipmon,” RhodoKnightmon pointed out, reluctant to let the Warrior Ten do this in their stead.

Alphamon looked across the table at Sleipmon. “This is our mess, Sleipmon. We played into the Demon Lords’ hands by going to war with the Metal Empire. We had no idea that we were being used. Therefore, it is our responsibility to be the solution. We must take care of the Demon Lords. We must fix our mistake. We must finish what was initiated decades ago.”

Sleipmon sighed. He didn’t especially fancy the idea of having to fight and kill so soon after their bloody battles with the Metal Empire. However, he knew that what Alphamon said made sense. This was their responsibility as Royal Knights. “Yes, I suppose you’re right…” he agreed.

RhodoKnightmon looked at Alphamon. “I also believe that we should reach Belphemon swiftly,” he stated.

“I sure as hell don’t want to sit around talking about it when we could be doing something about it,” Gankoomon added, leaning forwards on the table.

“We can’t always rely on a detailed strategy. We need to be able to think on our feet,” Craniamon concurred.

Examon frowned as he listened to their discussion. “Strategy is important… However, it seems like speed is of the essence. We can still strategise a little: now, en route, and at the destination,” he suggested, trying to play the middle.

Alphamon nodded. “Very well… All in favour of leaving within the day with minimal time wasted?” he asked the Royal Knights.

All of the Royal Knights apart from himself and Duftmon raised their hands. Alphamon looked around and saw the determination in the eyes of his comrades. He released a sigh of defeat. He was wary of rushing in, but… he couldn’t ignore that they had a point.

Alphamon placed his hands on the table and gazed at the Royal Knights. “Alright, it’s decided… A team of Royal Knights will leave as soon as possible,” he affirmed. However, his gold eyes softened. “All that I ask is that you don’t underestimate Belphemon.”

The Aloof Hermit turned his gaze to Omegamon and proceeded to look around the table. “Omegamon, Dukemon, Magnamon, Dynasmon, Rhodo, and Ulforce… You all know how dangerous the Demon Lords are individually. Be prepared to face Digimon as strong as yourselves. It’s possible that they could even be stronger – we can’t know for sure. We aren’t dealing with the D-Brigade here. That’s why I want us to be cautious.”

Omegamon levelled his sky blue eyes at Alphamon, staring at him pensively. “…Is that the only reason?” he couldn’t help but ask.

Alphamon’s eyes shifted back to meet Omegamon’s. “That’s…”

Duftmon cleared his throat. “Apologies for interrupting,” he was quick to add, briefly glancing down at something in his lap, “but can we use this time to get some strategizing in before you rush off to your undesirable fates?”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Duftmon,” UlforceVeedramon said with a grin.

“Well, strategy is important precisely to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” Duftmon countered. “Alphamon? How large of a team do you suggest?”

“No fewer than three,” Alphamon stated, turning his attention away from Omegamon. “Also, I would like someone who has fought the Demon Lords before to go along. I don’t want to take any chances if we don’t have to.”

“I would suggest four,” Duftmon added. “Four should be more than enough to destroy Belphemon, even if his inhibitors break. We cannot spare more than four knights for a single mission at this point.”

“Belphemon is ferocious and not to be underestimated, but yes, four Royal Knights should be enough to contain him,” Alphamon explained. “Dynasmon, Magnamon, and AncientGreymon were the ones who contained him last time.”

Magnamon nodded. “He may look big and brawny, but he moves like a high speed Trailmon when he’s active,” he informed them.

“He hits like one too,” Dynasmon added, folding his arms.

Dukemon stood up from the table. “I volunteer to go,” he declared confidently. “I was the one pushing the hardest, so it’s only fair that I go.”

“I’ll go too,” Sleipmon said with a smile. “I’m the one best-suited for the Cathode Tundra.”

“I’m in,” UlforceVeedramon stated. “I think speed is a pretty good idea. A mix between mid- and short-range.”

Duftmon nodded. “Long range is out of the question due to the poor visibility of the area,” he mused. “Powerful mid-ranged attacks would be the best option.”

“In that case, I will go too,” Omegamon offered, knowing that mid-to-close range was his forte.

Alphamon looked over at Omegamon. He smiled a bit and nodded. “Very well… That’s four,” he observed.

“We’ll be safe, Alphamon,” Omegamon assured him meaningfully.

“I trust all of you,” Alphamon answered.

Dukemon smiled and got out from behind his seat. “Good… We’ll take care of him. Then we’ll just have six more to deal with. It’ll be easier if we can take them out one-by-one.”

Omegamon nodded and stood up as well. “We should go prepare. We can have a quick strategy briefing before we leave,” he suggested.

“Wish I was going,” Gankoomon muttered, standing to his feet.

“There’ll be plenty more chances,” Dynasmon told him with a smirk. “For you to make an *** of yourself, that is.”

Gankoomon scoffed but grinned. “We’ll see, Bull-face.”

Alphamon closed his eyes and rose to his feet. “Things are rarely that easy…” he said to the Royal Knights as they concluded their session.

As he spoke, the rising Royal Knights turned to him, heeding his words.

“I’m sure that the path ahead of us will be far from straightforward… I feel that it will be twisting and chaotic…” Alphamon advised. He looked up at them with serious, crimson eyes that revealed the intensity of his thoughts. “We will need to be prepared for anything.”
 
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Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Here's a the first of the three-part chapter.

Chapter 31: A Crisis of Faith (Part I)​

It was sunny that day.

An impressive mansion stood at the plateau of a small hill. It was a sizeable building made of pale, grey stone with sturdy, unshakeable foundations. The architecture of the great building projected a powerful and austere appearance, one that was daunting but not boastful. It was an old building that contained cracks in the stone every so often, indicating its time-weathered flaws despite its grand, outward appearance.

The mansion stood proudly on its hill; it overlooked the grassy landscape surrounding the estate, as well as the town down at the base of the hill. It was as if the building was standing sentinel over the whole area, protecting it with its power and dominating appearance.

The town below was large, and there were many Digimon walking around, getting on with their day. A small road led from the edge of town, up the hill to the mansion’s outer gate.

Outside, the sun shone its golden rays down across the tranquil, grassy environment. The blades of grass and colourful flowers glowed radiantly under the warm shine of the revolving sun. A gentle breeze flowed down the hill towards the town, passing a breath of mild air through the streets. Meanwhile, a large cloud that was shaded grey began to drift overhead. The air currents carried it in from the distance so that it loomed over the landscape.

The mansion was owned by two aristocrats. Two brothers, in fact.

One of the brothers was currently at home in the mansion while the other was away on business. He sat on a white, leather, sectional couch that was in the shape of a right angle. In front of the couch was a large, glass coffee table which was empty except for an ornate, ceramic tea pot and two steaming cups.

The form of the figure was humanoid and angelic. He had a lithe, athletic body, which was clear from the musculature of his arms as he reached for his tea cup. His body was unassuming in presentation. It was cloaked in pristine, white robes that draped over his biceps and shoulders before swathing over his winged back. Matching these religious garments were a pair of ivory-white pants that he wore over his legs. Four pairs of white, feathery wings protruded from holes in the fabric covering his back. Matching these was a fifth pair of wings that extended from the sides of his head.

The sunlight shone through the window and onto his body, giving him a warm glow. The Digimon had long, black hair that flowed down past his shoulders and partway down his back. The raven hair shimmered dully in the sunlight and contrasted with his ivory attire. He had long locks that flowed down past his chin; there was one on each side of his face, as well as one wavy lock that hung down between his eyes and in front of his face. He brushed the fringe aside with his hand as he brought the teacup to his lips. His skin was a soft tan colour which contrasted with the stark white of his garments and the deep black of his hair. His sand-hued face was slender and clean-shaven. His eyes were soft and youthful, but they were also deeply contemplative and reflected a hidden maturity. Above his eyes were long, slim eyebrows that rose up into unique, three-pronged tips at the outer edges of his face. They were furrowed in thought as his comrade continued to speak. The words of his guest reached his ears – long, pointed ears that were lengthy enough to avoid being hidden by his thick, black hair. His left ear was pierced with a golden earring that sparkled in the light.

As the angel Digimon placed his teacup back down on the coffee table, two golden bracelets around his wrist jangled softly. He placed his hands on his lap and gazed across the coffee table to the opposite end of the couch. Sitting across from him was an angel Digimon who was clad from head to toe in soft blue and golden armour that shimmered resplendently in the sunlight. The Seraphimon opposite him gazed at his fellow angel Digimon eagerly, although his words were calm and methodical.

“It is in great part thanks to you that we were able to make such progress on our project. That is why I think it is only natural that you deserve to be at my side as one of the hallowed leaders of the Sky Colony. You shall have many duties, but I have faith that you are more than capable,” Seraphimon explained animatedly as he held a teacup and saucer in his hands. “What say you, Bagramon?”

A young Bagramon looked up at Seraphimon and stroked his smooth chin contemplatively. “…It would be an honour, Seraphimon,” he responded calmly. “In whatever way I can serve our Exodus project, I will. But what will my responsibilities be?”

“We will all have boundless shifting and dynamic responsibilities early on. As you are aware, the effort required to build a new society is demanding. There will be very much bureaucracy required in order to ensure that everything progresses as we wish it. We will all have to work together harmoniously in order to ensure that Sky Colony: Lambent thrives,” Seraphimon explained to his fellow angel. “However, we will each have our own individual roles as well, based on our own talents and the needs of the many. I shall govern over God’s laws and God’s justice. Ophanimon shall govern over God’s love and mercy. Cherubimon shall govern over God’s wisdom.”

“And myself?” Bagramon questioned, leaning forwards on his legs slightly.

“You shall govern over death…” Seraphimon responded. After a moment, he let out a single chuckle. “I know that must sound intimidating and malevolent, but death is both a natural and unnatural aspect of God’s intent. Digimon have a life cycle and it must be ensured that the termination of life runs smoothly up in the Sky Colony. The process of reformatting Digimons’ data to the Dark Area will be necessary, even on the Sky Colony.”

“Death…” Bagramon repeated, thinking to himself. “Yes, I can see your point. That does make sense. Death is necessary, sad though it is… Very well… I accept the responsibility.”

“Thank you. Not everybody would have the fortitude and courage to do so,” Seraphimon responded, placing his teacup back down on the plate. “That is why I requested you first, brother.”

Bagramon smiled warmly. “I am honoured that you have placed such trust in me, Seraphimon. The same goes for Ophanimon and Cherubimon as well. Without you three, the Religion of Light would never have become as successful as it has been,” he responded genuinely.

“We would be nothing were it not for our followers,” Seraphimon humbly replied. “As well as our loyal, hardworking friends such as yourself.”

“It is a goal well-worth its toil,” the black-haired angel explained avidly. “We require the Sky Colonies in order to become closer to the Being of Goodness. These colonies, disconnected from the Digital World, are required in order for our faith to survive.”

Seraphimon nodded with agreement, placing his teacup down on the table. “It is a poignant truth, but we are not accepted here. Those who follow Yggdrasil view us as a heretical sect who are corrupting and warping their beliefs. They believe whole-heartedly that Yggdrasil was the one who created the Digital World. We are all learned in the scripture and canon, so we know that there are problems and ambiguities. That is how, after much discussion, deep studying, and heated debate, we have found the truth. That truth is that the Digital World has been created and is being overseen by the Being of Goodness. It may very well be that Yggdrasil is the Being of Goodness in actuality.”

“But nobody will ever accept that,” Bagramon mused. “Certainly not those who believe that Yggdrasil is the creator and overseer deity. Even those who follow Huanglongmon view us with derision. We are not one of the Two Faiths. That is why the Exodus is necessary. We must go and create a society just for us.”

“Yes, we must create the Sky Colonies…” Seraphimon stated with a soft nod. “A beacon in the clouds… A paradise where we can live freely under the direct supervision of God. It is there that we will best be able to serve the Being of Goodness. We will carry out His commands and help to make the Digital World a better place.”

“I am as devoted to this cause as you are, Seraphimon. This is our new found purpose. I truly believe that this is the best way for us to eradicate that darkness that exists within the Digital World. It is Angel and Fairy Digimon like ourselves who are most drawn towards the light. It is our responsibility to make sure that this succeeds, as the vanguard of light,” Bagramon responded, pensive as he raised the cup to his lips and drank softly. “…You have my full support.”

“Thank you, Bagramon. You have my gratitude,” Seraphimon answered graciously, bowing his head slightly. “…I do hope that I am not pressuring you with my enthusiasm. Ophanimon and Cherubimon both say that I go too far sometimes. Please, request that I refrain, if I am.”

Bagramon smiled and shook his head softly. “I am doing this of my own will, Seraphimon. Like the rest of you, I have seen the light that illuminates the truth of the world. The light of God…” he reassured him. “I will help this Exodus succeed.”

“I see. Then you have my eternal thanks and brotherhood,” Seraphimon responded, offering his hand across the table to Bagramon.

The black-haired angel Digimon took Seraphimon’s gauntlet and shook it gently. “I merely believe that our path is the right one. I have seen too many tears and too much suffering in the Digital World. I wish to put it right,” he explained.

“As do I…” Seraphimon concurred, letting go of Bagramon’s hand. “So, Bagramon, are there any other questions that you have for me?”

“How is the progress on the Sky Colony going?” the humanoid angel asked, brushing back some of his black hair with his fingers.

“It is progressing as desired. The cloud data is currently being altered into a solid, stable form. Enough clouds will allow us to safely build upon them. At this stage, the cloud data shall be more than strong enough to support a city. Our architects are already well into the planning of the Golden City,” Seraphimon responded.

“I see… This project will need as many funds as possible,” Bagramon mused.

“Correct. Unfortunately, good will and hard work are not the only ingredients for success,” the armoured angel mused.

“…This mansion is worth a lot of money…” the lithe, black-haired angel offered. “There won’t be any need for it once we leave for Sky Colony: Lambent.”

Seraphimon tilted his head curiously at the proposition. “You mean you wish to sell this place…? You needn’t go that far. What of your brother?”

“He won’t have any need for it either,” Bagramon assured him. “I have already had the land valued. As the elder brother, the deeds of the property and land are in my data signature.”

“I see... I shall have no part in your decision,” the sky blue archangel replied, not wanting to sway him. “It is entirely yours to make.”

Bagramon smiled. “I have already made my decision,” he responded.

“In that case, I must thank you once again,” Seraphimon stated. He looked at Bagramon with what would be a smile if he weren’t wearing a helmet. “However, I really must be going now. There is a meeting at the cathedral tomorrow. We shall be discussing the Exodus and other matters that we must prepare ourselves for,” the angel said as he stood to his feet and flexed his ten wings.

Bagramon stood to his feet as well. “I will be there,” he reassured him. He walked around the table and stepped up to Seraphimon. “Allow me to see you out.”

Seraphimon nodded and placed his hand on Bagramon’s shoulder. “Thank you for having me, brother,” he told him.

He began to turn and walk out of the large living room, which was contained many bookcases lined with books, scrolls and tomes. The pair began to make their way across the room towards the door on the opposite wall, leading out into the entrance hall.

As they walked into the mansion’s marble foyer, the large set of double doors leading outside was open. Standing in the doorway was a tall, broad-shouldered knight. The Digimon, bigger and taller than both Bagramon and Seraphimon, was covered from head-to-toe in black and silver plate armour with gold trimming. A black and blue cape was draped over his back. The dark knight’s presence was intimidating for many Digimon to behold.

The knight closed the door behind him and turned just as Bagramon and Seraphimon entered. As he craned his head towards them, the holy light emanating from the chandelier caused his metal face mask, the jagged crest on his breastplate, and his gold, horned helmet to shimmer. His glowing, golden eyes landed on Bagramon and Seraphimon, scrutinising the pair.

“…Bagramon?” he asked in his deep, sophisticated voice.

Bagramon frowned slightly and looked up at the taller Digimon. “DarkKnightmon…” he responded in subdued surprise. “You are back earlier than I expected…”

DarkKnightmon glanced at Seraphimon suspiciously. “I can see that…” he murmured. “How do you do, Seraphimon?”

“I am well, thank you,” the archangel politely responded. “And yourself?”

“Fine. I have just come back from Castle Albion,” DarkKnightmon answered somewhat curtly.

“Ah, yes… That new order that you and your comrades founded a few months ago. The Order of the Royal Knights, correct?” Seraphimon inquired.

“Correct… We are still outfitting the castle, but we have already begun our operations. Just last week, we intervened in a turf war and put down a bandit raid in a small village that they were extorting,” DarkKnightmon explained emphatically.

“Interesting. I certainly hear that it has some prestigious members,” Seraphimon responded, placing his hands on his armoured hips. “Alphamon, Omegamon, Magnamon…”

DarkKnightmon nodded affirmatively. “Yes, they are close comrades of mine,” he answered proudly. “They are my fellow Royal Knights.”

Seraphimon nodded softly. “Well, I hope that it prospers. Good luck, DarkKnightmon,” he told the shadowy knight Digimon. “If you will excuse me, I am just leaving.”

“Very well…” DarkKnightmon replied dubiously, stepping to the side and out of the way of the large doors.

“Farewell, Bagramon. Thank you for having me, as well as for everything else.” Seraphimon stated graciously, looking over at the black-haired angel Digimon. He then placed his firm hand on the ornate, crescent moon-shaped door handle and opened the door. Basked in the morning light, Seraphimon gave the two brothers a nod and flapped his ten wings, taking off into the sky.

As soon as he was gone, DarkKnightmon closed the doors to the mansion. He turned around and gazed at Bagramon with his cool, monochrome, golden eyes. “…What was that about, Brother?” he asked Bagramon suspiciously.

Bagramon gazed at DarkKnightmon, picking up on his pointed tone of voice that needled him slightly. “Seraphimon was simply visiting,” he explained calmly, trying to dissuade him. “We were just discussing our faith and what our next steps are to be.”

DarkKnightmon frowned in response to his words. “You have been spending a lot of time with Seraphimon and the other angels,” he pointed out. “You have been seeing them increasingly more over the past year.”

“Indeed I have. They are my comrades. Just like you and your fellow Royal Knights have been spending a lot more time together,” Bagramon responded, brushing his hanging lock of black hair to the side.

DarkKnightmon wiped his muddy boots on the entrance mat and then stepped onto the grey marble floor of the mansion foyer. “Of course I have been busy… We are forming a great Order. It requires a lot of time and hard work. It isn’t quite the same, elder brother,” he responded, pointedly looking at Bagramon.

“I respectfully disagree. The logistics surrounding our Exodus movement will require an immense amount of time and hard work. More than creating an Order, I should think,” Bagramon defended, frowning at DarkKnightmon.

The tall, muscular knight scoffed behind his helmet. “More of this ‘Exodus’ nonsense, Bagramon?” he inquired dismissively.

“It isn’t nonsense, DarkKnightmon. The Exodus is happening. We have a concrete strategy for both the long-term and the short-term. We are currently pouring time, effort, and funds into this project. It is no longer a hypothetical dream like you might believe; it is reality,” the angel Digimon insisted with an irritated undertone in his otherwise composed voice.

“Very well. If you insist…” DarkKnightmon conceded, although making his doubts clear in his deep voice.

Bagramon sighed and turned around, striding back into the spacious living room. “I assume that you had a long and tiresome trip. There is some hot tea left over in the pot if you would like some,” the raven-haired humanoid Digimon explained, glancing over his shoulder at his larger, younger brother.

“I appreciate that,” DarkKnightmon responded diplomatically, following him inside the lavish living room. As he walked into the living room, he noticed that it seemed more empty than usual. However, he put that thought aside and walked over to the coffee table. “I cannot tell you how much I need a decent cup of tea…”

“Is the tea situation that bad down in Camaerleon?” Bagramon questioned, going and sitting back down on the white couch. “I would have thought that the Royal Knights would have plenty of it.”

“Actually, we are calling it ‘Splendour’s Reach’ now…” the knight corrected. DarkKnightmon angled his head towards his smaller brother with a faint look of levity in his eyes. “Oh, and there is plenty of tea. The problem is that Alphamon keeps spoiling each batch and using us as test subjects for his unholy creations… He added wasabi mayonnaise and green onions to the batch that I had before leaving. It was all I could do to choke it down.” DarkKnightmon shook his head severely. “It’s madness, Bagramon. He must be stopped.”

Bagramon couldn’t help but chuckle warmly. “You have my sympathy…” he responded, bending forwards and pouring DarkKnightmon a cup of warm, orange tea. “But I can tell that, despite the horrifying tea, you love it down there.”

“Pardon?” DarkKnightmon asked stoically, not giving anything away.

Bagramon smiled up at DarkKnightmon. “Whenever you come back from the Order, you are full of energy and stories,” he noted.

DarkKnightmon took the tea cup and levelled an unconvinced, deadpan expression at Bagramon “Me? I find that hard to believe…”

“Maybe not overtly, but I am your brother; I can detect the subtle differences,” Bagramon explained. “You always have something to say about Alphamon or the progress of the Order or your grand vision… You speak much more than you used to...”

DarkKnightmon didn’t respond. He quietly brought the cup to his mouth and sipped the steaming liquid.

“I’m glad about that. I am happy that you found friends that you can be comfortable around,” Bagramon stated, finishing off his own cup of tea. “It makes me feel less guilty about…” The angel Digimon caught himself and trailed off.

The large, dark paladin frowned. “About what…?” he inquired suspiciously.

DarkKnightmon thought about it for a few moments, quickly putting the pieces together in his mind.

He placed his cup of tea down on the table and gave Bagramon and accusatory leer. “Bagramon… Where is all of the household staff?” he posited, remembering that he noted how empty the mansion seemed compared to usual. “What is going on…?”

Bagramon’s smile vanished and he placed his cup down, sighing. He stood to his feet and gazed DarkKnightmon in his cool, golden, monochrome eyes. “I have terminated their contracts and released them with three months’ pay in advance,” he explained, preparing himself for his younger brother’s response.

“…Why would you do that?” DarkKnightmon inquired, his voice, while remaining calm, becoming pointed and icy.

“Because I won’t be requiring their services any longer…” Bagramon explained in a calm, matter-of-fact voice.

“And why is that?” the dark paladin scrutinized, leering at his elder brother as if trying to see into his mind.

“Well, you are at Castle Albion for most of the time. You only ever come back here for a day at a time in between months. The price for their services is no longer worth it,” Bagramon explained, staring back at DarkKnightmon. “I will not require them, and neither do you.”

“Do not deflect the onus of responsibility to me, Bagramon…” DarkKnightmon warned him, his deep voice bristling. “Tell me what is going on here… Although I am confident that I already know…”

Bagramon narrowed his soft, red eyes and leered defensively at his brother. “…I let them go because I plan to sell this mansion and the estate to the town. I have already spoken with the mayor and the treasurer. I will also be selling any non-sentimental furnishings. You can take what you like before I do,” he informed him resolutely.

DarkKnightmon’s facial features darkened. “I knew it…” he whispered. He grunted and turned his head away. “You are selling our home?”

“For the past six months, you have been living at Castle Albion with the so-called Royal Knights. You never stay here anymore. The upkeep is too expensive for you to have a summer home that you rarely ever visit. This change should not affect you in the slightest,” Bagramon explained, folding his arms across his chest.

“Who are you to make that decision without asking me? You cannot do this. This is my home as well, Bagramon,” DarkKnightmon protested offendedly.

Bagramon frowned gently at DarkKnightmon. “Yes, I can, DarkKnightmon,” he insisted. “I am the elder brother. I am the one who inherited this estate. The house, the land… they are in my name and data signature. I can do with it what I please.”

DarkKnightmon quietly balled up his black fists as he glared at Bagramon.

Bagramon looked away, unable to help but feel a pang of guilt at the harshness of his words. “…Understand, DarkKnightmon… You know that I wouldn’t do this if you didn’t have somewhere else, but you do have elsewhere now. You have the Order of the Royal Knights. I will give you a share of the money that I will receive from the sale,” he assured him, trying to be softer in his approach.

“…How magnanimous of you. The teachings of the Religion of Light have really rubbed off, haven’t they?” DarkKnightmon responded, his voice thick with sarcasm. He placed his hands on his hips and levelled a challenging stare at Bagramon. “And yourself? Where will you live?”

“I no longer need this place. The Exodus is right around the corner,” Bagramon responded with a clear, confident voice.

“Oh, yes. Of course. The great ‘Exodus’…” DarkKnightmon sardonically retorted, making his opinion on the matter clear. “That was why Seraphimon was here, was it not? He came to fill your mind with more rubbish and meaningless utopian ideals.”

Bagramon sneered gently. “Is it not rubbish, DarkKnightmon. If you weren’t so close-minded, you would understand that. The Exodus is important to me,” he implored him.

“It is so important that you are willing to turn your back on your brother and spend all of our money on the Exodus. That is what you are planning on doing, is it not?” DarkKnightmon pressed further. “You plan to sell this place and use the money on your fanciful project that will amount to nothing. Your mind is clouded by your beliefs and your ideals.”

“My mind has never been clearer, brother,” Bagramon protested. “You’re just a cynic. You’re suspicious and distrusting. You always see the worst in everything.”

“No, I see things as they are,” DarkKnightmon argued, narrowing his golden eyes at his brother. “You are the one with your head in the clouds – quite literally, as it happens…” The dark knight shook his head and placed his cup of tea down. “I suppose that once you leave, you will be having tea with the so-called Being of Goodness instead of myself, hm?”

“Again, you mock my faith… This isn’t the first time you have disparaged my new found beliefs. I would have said that it was because you follow Yggdrasil, but I am not even convinced that you have any such convictions whatsoever,” Bagramon pointedly replied, glaring at DarkKnightmon. “You joined the Order of the Royal Knights, who are supposed to be agents of Yggdrasil, and yet I have rarely ever heard you espouse the beliefs that Yggdrasil exists as the creator of the Digital World. At least I actually believe in the path that I am choosing.”

DarkKnightmon scoffed. “Yes, I am quite aware of your beliefs, Bagramon…” he sardonically commented. “As for my own beliefs… I think that there could very well be an Yggdrasil. That is not what is important. The ideological part of the Order has its benefits, to be sure. However, what is most important is the practical effectiveness of the Order. We will be able to make the Digital World a better place,” DarkKnightmon explained honestly. He looked into Bagramon’s eyes. “You are free to call me a hypocrite, but the Order of the Royal Knights is not some flight of fancy. We know what we are doing.”

“As do we, brother,” Bagramon responded. “I know what I am doing. The Exodus is not a flight of fancy; it is a noble investment. We are going to create a holy society in which we will be able to serve God, where we can better ourselves and Digimon-kind, unravel the mysteries of the Digital World, bring justice to those who--”

DarkKnightmon slammed his fist down on the coffee table with frustration. The impact caused the tea cup to bounce and topple over, spilling the liquid everywhere. “It is a cult, Bagramon!” he exclaimed heatedly, his calm exterior breaking. “At least speak with your own words rather than Seraphimon’s!”

Bagramon scowled back at him. “It is not a cult!” he argued back, standing to his feet with clenched fists. “Why must you undermine everything that I do?!”

“Because you constantly dance through life, guided by your mercurial emotions and misguided ideals. You are being led astray and you don’t even realise it. You believe so strongly and so arrogantly in your own convictions that you never stop to question whether you are doing the right thing or not. You are blind, Bagramon!” DarkKnightmon countered, standing to his feet as well.

“I am not blind, DarkKnightmon. You are simply throwing a tantrum because you aren’t getting your way! You don’t like the idea that I am in charge of this property and its money. You can’t stand the idea of not being in control,” Bagramon fired back, glaring at his taller brother. “You love to pretend that you are intellectually superior and more pragmatic, but the truth is that you are simply jealous of me and my power. You always have been! You resent the fact that I am the older brother. That is why you refuse to be happy for me.”

DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and glared coldly at Bagramon. “Me? Envious of you…? You really are delusional…” he icily responded. He shook his head with a veneer of calm. “What I can’t stand, Bagramon, is watching you get taken advantage of by fanatical ideologues who think that they can create a utopia for their pitiful, fallacious, upstart, religious sect. You are being made a fool, Bagramon. You are being manipulated into giving up our money to a trio of deluded charlatans. That was the true reason why Seraphimon was here: to swindle you out of money.”

Bagramon scowled deeper. “We have found the truth, DarkKnightmon! Through years of deep study and discussion, we have found the truth about Digimon and the Digital World! You simply refuse to believe because it clashes with your own small-minded, cynical world view. I am not being made a fool.”

DarkKnightmon closes his eyes and released a hollow laugh. “Ah, I see… You are correct… You are a fool,” he said with sad realization. “You are a fool for believing in an imaginary deity. Do you really think that our world is governed by an omnipotent, omniscient, intrinsically moral being? Have you seen the amoral world that we live in, Bagramon? At the very most, there is a being or a core program that has created the Digital World and that runs processes that stabilize the natural laws of the Digital World. Yggdrasil or Huanglongmon - or whoever - is a passive being that exists to keep the world in order. It is amoral and neural. It serves as a balance - nothing more. What you have ‘discovered’ is a falsehood. You simply believe what you want to believe. You are swallowing every fanciful tale that this cult of heretics is feeding you.”

The corners of the angel Digimon’s mouth turned downwards. “I find that awfully rich coming from you, brother… You are a hypocrite. You joined the Order of the Royal Knights; it is in your very creed to serve Yggdrasil. Are you telling me that you are taking orders from a mindless, non-sentient program? A series of code? If that’s true, then I do worry for not just yourself, but for all of us in the Digital World. …However, I am not convinced. Does the Aloof Hermit really believe that, DarkKnightmon? Do the other Royal Knights share the same view as you?”

“I believe that they are smart enough not to rely on blind faith when making their decisions. If they know something about Yggdrasil, then it is because they have reason to,” DarkKnightmon coldly responded. “That is more than can be said for you and your fellow exiles.”

Bagramon sneered at DarkKnightmon and took a step forwards. “I have had enough of your smug, condescending, derisive opinions!” he exclaimed angrily. “You believe that your precious Order is the only possible way of doing any good for this world. I think it’s all a sham. You’re just a member of a glorified adventurers’ club who goes around beating up bandits for fun. You style yourselves as noble heroes, but let us not forget the sort of ‘elite’ company that you keep: a Digimon who was the precursor of a massive calamity, and a Digimon who has the potential to cause another…”

At this, DarkKnightmon balled up his fists tightly. There was a gleam in his golden eyes as he restrained his anger. “Do not insult my friends, Bagramon,” DarkKnightmon warned him.

“Then do not insult mine,” Bagramon countered sharply, his anger reflected clearly in his eyes. “If you really think that your Order can do anything of worth, then you are the delusional one. There is more to changing the world than simply might and power. You are short-sighted, Brother. You always have been. I am looking far into the future, whereas you think that you can fix everything in a matter of years.”

“You are calling me naïve, Bagramon?” the dark knight asked with an incredulous chuckle. “You really have fooled yourself.”

Bagramon looked at DarkKnightmon with narrowed eyes, his body radiating restrained frustration. “Naïve…? No… You are cold, cynical, spiteful, and malicious. You are clinging onto a stagnating world, DarkKnightmon. You are arrogant enough to think that you and your friends can do something about it. I will leave the Digital World behind and move to the Sky Colonies in the Exodus. Once we have finished building our model society, we will return and spread our success to the rest of the Digital World. That is how true change will be achieved.”

DarkKnightmon stared at Bagramon quietly. His cold eyes bore into his older brother’s passionate ones, as if it was a battle of wills. After a few intense moments, DarkKnightmon turned his gaze away. He shifted his body and bent down to pick up the cup of tea that he had spilt on the coffee table.

“Very well. Leave, then,” DarkKnightmon told him brusquely. “I obviously cannot convince you otherwise.”

Bagramon frowned deeper. “I was going to leave regardless,” he assured him.

“You’re a fool, Bagramon,” DarkKnightmon answered, placing the teacup back on the plate.

“You are free to think that, brother,” Bagramon told the large, armoured knight. “I don’t require your permission or your approval.”

“I’m aware; you never sought it to begin with,” the paladin bitterly replied.

The angel Digimon narrowed his eyes and looked away. “I would have if you were a little more understanding and a little less demeaning,” he muttered.

DarkKnightmon glanced at his older brother. “You mean, you would rather that I lied and told you what you wanted to hear. That is not something that I can do, brother,” he explained, standing up straight with defiant pride. “However, you have made your decision and I have said all that I could. You may sell the house, take the money, and go on your all-important Exodus to your utopian Sky Colonies. I won’t stop you.”

Bagramon scowled and turned to DarkKnightmon. “Damn it, DarkKnightmon!” he shouted in frustration. “Why must you be so obstinate?”

The younger of the two brothers leered at Bagramon coolly. “I’m not… You are free to leave. I am not standing in your way. I have accepted the fact that you cannot be swayed,” he responded calmly, although his agitation was clear in his deep and collected voice. “However, if you are waiting for my blessing, you will be waiting a very long time.”

“Very well, then…” Bagramon answered, balling his fists up and trying to restrain his anger. “Then that is all there is to say, isn’t there? You have your life and I have mine. You have your Royal Knights and your boundless cynicism, whereas I have my dreams and ideals.”

DarkKnightmon’s eyes darkened softly. “We have been going in different directions for some time now… Ever since you have started meeting with Seraphimon and the other angel Digimon on a regular basis… Ever since you became swept up in this so-called ‘Religion of Light’…” He looked away. “I cease to recognise you, Bagramon. You have become deluded, obsessive, fastidiously studious, and arrogantly certain of your own beliefs. You are not the brother that I once knew…” he spoke, his voice sombre and sour.

“And what about you?!” Bagramon argued adamantly. “You think that I am the only one who has changed?! I’ve watched you change before my very eyes, DarkKnightmon.” He gritted his teeth and glared at him. “SkullKnightmon…”

DarkKnightmon narrowed his golden eyes, locking them with Bagramon’s passionate gaze.

“SkullKnightmon… That’s what I used to call you. He used to be my younger brother… Intelligent, witty, sarcastic, shrewd, but always caring…” Bagramon bitterly recalled, remembering back into the past. “That is, until you met your other half… DeadlyAxemon. That aggressive, savage, boisterous, and foul-tongued excuse for a Digimon… He became your new brother… Ever since then, I have seen you change for the worse.”

DarkKnightmon raised his hand in front of his chest and closed his fist tightly. “I am still SkullKnightmon… I am the dominant component of the DigiXros. DeadlyAxemon, my faithful companion and my sworn younger brother, is an important part of me now…” he explained, staring intensely at Bagramon. “You never liked DeadlyAxemon, from the first moment that I invited him into our home…”

“Now that we are putting everything out in the open… no, I haven’t,” Bagramon honestly explained. “He is a ruthless and vulgar little brute. He is leading you astray with his nasty ways. I’ve watched your moral character deteriorate into the cynic that stands before me.”

DarkKnightmon released a half-scoff, half-chuckle. “Utter nonsense… Don’t use DeadlyAxemon as a scapegoat, Bagramon. I have a mind of my own… As I travelled the world, I brushed shoulders with the worst Digimon and experienced many different things, many of them sad and unpleasant. I have come to my own conclusion that this world is flawed. You may call me cynical, but I see the world for what it is. You cannot accept the fact that I have changed. Instead, you put the blame on the object of your jealousy: DeadlyAxemon. You say that I am jealous of you, but you are jealous of him, Bagramon. You feel threatened that I chose him as a brother. You feel threatened by the Royal Knights as well. You know that you cannot compare.”

“Ridiculous… That Digimon is hardly your brother,” Bagramon answered scathingly. “However, I am starting to realise that you both deserve one another. Your mind has become as cynical and your tongue as cruel as his. I wonder how long it will take for you to turn against me completely…?”

DarkKnightmon grunted and turned his gaze away. “…And I am starting to realise that I can no longer call you my brother, Bagramon…” he said sullenly.

Bagramon winced gently. “…Yes… Me, as well…” he bitterly agreed with a heavy heart. “…You and I are no longer brothers…”

With that exchange, a tense, painful silence began to creep into room. Neither looked at the other, and neither knew what to say next. They stood opposite to each other, with rays of light shining in from the window and landing between them.

The silence was empty but deafening. It seemed to amplify as the reality of the situation set in. Their intense feelings, which had been building slowly for years, had finally come out explosively, and a scorched earth was left in their wake.

DarkKnightmon released a breathy exhale. “Very well, then… That is all there is to say…” he finally spoke. “I will collect my things and move to Castle Albion permanently.”

Bagramon grimaced and turned away. “V-Very well…” he responded, flustered. “That would be for the best for both of us…”

“I agree… I will go take stock of my possessions,” DarkKnightmon responded, turning and striding towards the door that led to the entrance foyer.

Bagramon watched as DarkKnightmon walked away from him. He was unable to help but feel pangs of guilt in his heart. “…I will send you a generous share of the money once the sale of the property is formalized,” he reassured him.

“That is not necessary, but if it makes you feel better to do so, then you may,” DarkKnightmon answered, not turning around to look at him as he neared the doorway.

Upon reaching the threshold, DarkKnightmon stopped in the doorway. He turned his head slightly and, out of the corner of his eye, glanced back at Bagramon.

“Goodbye, br--… Bagramon…”

Bagramon winced and looked over at DarkKnightmon. “…Goodbye…” he answered wistfully.

Upon hearing his farewell, DarkKnightmon continued walking without another word. He stepped through the threshold and disappeared from sight, leaving Bagramon alone in the living room.

Bagramon stood on his own in the empty room, listening to his brother’s echoing footsteps getting further and further away from him. With a grimace on his youthful face, Bagramon turned and stood in front of the window. He felt the warmth of the sunlight against his body as the rays engulfed his form. A tear of guilt and regret rolled down his tanned face, sparkling in the light as it fell.

In spite of it, Bagramon released a deep, centering breath and stared into the sky, which was a bright blue tint, complete with a rolling cloud. He began to feel comfort as he gazed upon the fluffy, white cloud - its thick, ethereal body laced with light. Its beautiful sight imbued within him a sense of hope, even with everything that happened. He closed his eyes and acknowledged the pain that he felt, hoping that he would be able to move on. He knew that he had a bright future ahead of him.

That was what he told himself.

Bagramon released his breath and stared towards the sky. Towards the future.

“Goodbye, SkullKnightmon…”

-

(Continued in the next post)
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
(Continued from the previous post)

-

A year had passed since that day.

The Exodus was well underway. Sky Colony: Lambent had been successfully built on the clouds. Faithful angel and fairy Digimon began to move to the Sky Colony to help with the rest of the colony’s construction.

The three spheres of the Sky Colony had been successfully completed, as well as many of the most important buildings. Among these buildings were the Supernal Sanctum, the Palace of the First Sphere, the Eternal Chapel, the Library of Wisdom, and the Court of Truth. They were stunning, architectural feats, made of the smoothest stone and the most beautiful marble, constructed by some of the Digital World’s finest architects. The buildings were cultural and aesthetic marvels that encapsulated the hope and devotion of the angels and the Exodus project.

Now that the structural foundations of the Sky Colony had been firmly built, the construction of the Golden City, the main city of Sky Colony: Lambent, was going along nicely. There were building sites all over the three spheres of the Sky Colony, but especially on the Third Sphere, the largest of the three. Grey and gold buildings were gradually but efficiently being built across the Sky Colony in a precise, methodical fashion.

Clouds drifted serenely over the Sky Colony, and the sun cast warm rays across the Golden City, causing it to give off a truly golden radiance.

The mega platform of the Third Sphere was surrounded at different points and levels by smaller platforms that were built on peripheral clouds. Connecting the various platforms of the Sky Colony were beautiful bridges of stone and marble, which also served to keep the smaller clouds moving at the same speed as the larger ones.

On one of these bridges was Bagramon. He leaned against the marble railing of the bridge and gazed over the side. He could see the Digital World a few kilometers below the floating Sky Colony. It was partially obscured by small, low-hanging clouds, but he could see the greens, browns, and blues of the distant landscape. A part of him missed Digital World’s beauty, but his resolve didn’t falter. He came to the Sky Colony for a reason. That reason was to help the world that he left behind.

Bagramon peered over the edge and examined the ground far below. There was a distant look in his eyes that revealed his inner reflection.

“Is there something on your mind, Bagramon?” a deep voice inquired.

Bagramon stood up straight and turned his head towards the familiar baritone. He saw a large, pink, rabbit-like, angel Digimon walking across the bridge, towards him. “Cherubimon,” he greeted the much larger archangel. “Nothing in particular…”

“You seem deep in thought,” Cherubimon observed, smiling softly as he meandered up to Bagramon’s side. “Is it an issue that I may be able to help with?”

The jet black-haired angel Digimon shook his head. “No. I was merely thinking about the progress that we are making. We still have a ways to go. We have set up the bureaucratic side, but we still need to finish construction of the three Spheres. We also require more followers,” he mused.

Cherubimon smiled and rested his large arms on the marble guard rail. “Patience, Bagramon. These things require time and effort,” he assured him. “We are making good progress on the Golden City. We also have followers spreading the word of our beliefs and our Exodus in many of the major cities. I believe that we shall be able to resume normal life here within a year.”

“Yes, you are probably right,” Bagramon responded, resting his arms back on the railing and gazing over the precipice.

Cherubimon smiled and looked down at the smaller archangel Digimon. “Is there anything else on your mind?” he questioned.

A tiny grin appeared in the corner of Bagramon’s mouth. “You are too perceptive for your own good, Cherubimon…” Bagramon answered. He looked up at the large rabbit Digimon. “Do you miss the Digital World at all?”

“At times…” Cherubimon admitted. “What of yourself?”

“Not exactly… I am just thinking about the things that we left behind, I suppose,” the humanoid angel explained.

Cherubimon nodded sagely. “I can understand that…” the large archangel Digimon concurred. He smiled softly and gazed off into the cloudy horizon. “I sometimes think about my apprentice, Sleipmon. We parted ways with different beliefs a couple years ago. However, I still care about him.”

“Different beliefs, hm?” Bagramon inquired with interest. “He is a believer of Yggdrasil?”

Cherubimon nodded again, this time more softly. “He is. Just like I used to be. Back when I helped to start the Religion of Light, he couldn’t understand why I would turn my back on my beliefs. We had a long talk about it, and I explained to him that I didn’t view it that way. I merely altered my perception in light of new information. Many of the things within the Yggdrasil belief system still hold true. However, there are things that I believe are better explained by our beliefs.”

“A divergence from canon…” Bagramon mused thoughtfully. “And what happened? Could you and your apprentice reconcile your differences of opinion?”

“Thankfully, we were able to… We agreed to disagree, but we are still very close. Sleipmon and I occasionally exchange letters, but I have not heard back from him for some time,” Cherubimon answered, more to himself than to Bagramon. He gave Bagramon a reassuring smile. “…I believe that we should be able to co-exist with the other two faiths. Truthfully, I do not believe that they are so different from us. It is important that we are able to understand each other rather than view others with inferiority or suspicion. That is what I taught to Sleipmon, and I stand by those beliefs.”

“Those are commendable ideals to strive for,” Bagramon explained, looking forwards, his eyes a bit distant. He remembered his brother DarkKnightmon and how it was impossible for them to co-exist with their different opinions. He closed his eyes and shook his head. “So, your apprentice… Where is he now?” he asked, changing the subject.

Cherubimon nodded and bent forwards, leaning his chin on his large hands. “He resides in Ocean Cove. As my apprentice, he took over my previous job. Sleipmon guards the Arcane Ruins. The place that I once thought held the secrets of the Digital World’s creation,” he explained. He released a cross between a sigh and a hum. “I do miss our long chats.”

Bagramon nodded quietly and continued staring into the cloudy sky with thought.

Cherubimon lifted his head and looked at Bagramon with an understanding smile. “I heard that you dealt with your first deletion today…”

The raven-haired angel smiled a bit. “Ah, I should have guessed…” he knowingly responded.

“How are you feeling?” Cherubimon asked him with a deep, concerned tone. “If the burden of governing death is too much to bear, please, tell us. We would not wish to put you through any pain.”

“No, I’m just introspective. That’s all,” Bagramon assured him, shaking his head softly. “I don’t feel upset or guilty. Deletion is part of the natural cycle. The natural processes must be overseen, just like anything else. And, sometimes, they must be enforced.”

Cherubimon nodded at Bagramon. “I sincerely hope that there will not be any of the latter. Although killing out of the defence of oneself and others is sometimes necessary, it is something that should be avoided if at all possible,” he explained.

Bagramon stood up and turned to Cherubimon. “I completely agree. Not without just cause, and even then, it should be used sparingly,” he stated.

“That is why you are the right Digimon for the job,” Cherubimon answered with a smile.

“That is what I said, as well,” another deep voice stated.

Bagramon looked past Cherubimon’s large body, down the long, marble bridge. Walking towards the bridge from the city was Seraphimon and another Digimon. The Digimon beside the armoured archangel had the appearance of a young, teenage boy. The boy was fair-skinned and slender, and he was clad in a traditional, white toga. Intricate, violet tattoos ran down the left side of his body. The jagged designs of the paint lined his chest, his arm, his leg, and his cheek. Sprouting from his back were five pairs of angelic wings, covered in pristine, white feathers. Four of the pairs pointed outwards, fluttering slightly in the breeze, while one pair curled around his waist. A final pair of wings emerged from the side of his head.

The young angel Digimon’s blond hair blew slightly in the soft breeze as he walked alongside Seraphimon. He looked around curiously with striking, blue eyes, which seemed to impart both curiosity and maturity. As he strode over, the golden, holy rings around his wrists and ankles rattled softly.

Cherubimon turned towards them and smiled. “Ah, Seraphimon, Lucemon…” he greeted.

“Hello, Cherubimon,” Seraphimon responded before looking over at the slender, black-haired angel Digimon. “Bagramon, how are you?”

“I am fine, thank you,” he answered, gazing back at Seraphimon and Lucemon. “Greetings.”

“What are you two doing?” Cherubimon wondered.

“We are taking a much needed break from our duties,” Seraphimon explained, gesturing to Lucemon.

“It pleases me to know that you are finally pacing yourself, Seraphimon,” Cherubimon noted with a playful smile. “While we do have much more to do, it is important to take a step back now and again.”

“So Ophanimon has told me…” Seraphimon responded wearily, as if having heard it a thousand times.

Cherubimon let out a deep, soft chuckle. “There is wisdom in her words,” he pointed out to him.

“So Ophanimon has told me,” Seraphimon echoed dryly.

Bagramon managed a small smile and turned to face Lucemon. “Lucemon, how are things going at the Library of Wisdom?” he asked him.

“Hm… Things are going well,” Lucemon responded with a smile. “I am still in the process of sorting all of the texts and transcribing those that are in poor quality. I am about 25% finished.”

“I know you are the curator of the library, but it sounds like a lot of work,” Bagramon mused. “I find myself having a lot of free time, if you need any help.”

“Thank you, but that is unnecessary,” Lucemon insisted. He looked at Cherubimon with a smile. “Cherubimon assists me when he can. To be honest, it isn’t as daunting of a task as it was when I first started. It just requires a lot of discipline.”

“Which is something that Lucemon has plenty of,” Seraphimon explained, patting the short angel’s back.

“It still surprises me that a Digimon so young has such talent and commitment,” Bagramon observed, looking at Lucemon.

“Lucemon is something of a prodigy,” Cherubimon noted.

Lucemon smiled. “I suppose so.”

“Impressive… You must be if you can handle the contents of such an expansive library,” Bagramon noted.

Seraphimon walked over to Bagramon and Cherubimon on the bridge. “Bagramon, how are you doing? The first deletion today has been summoned to my attention,” he asked him with a bit of concern in his echoing voice.

“I am fine, thank you. A deletion isn’t enough to break my spirit,” Bagramon calmly assured him. “It is my job, after all. There is still much for us to do here.”

“That pleases me to hear,” Seraphimon responded with a soft nod. “In addition, if you and Cherubimon can spare the time later, I would like some assistance in going over additions that Ophanimon and I have made to the legal code.”

“I’ll be there, Seraphimon,” Bagramon answered with an affirmative nod.

“Of course,” Cherubimon agreed as well.

“Good,” the golden archangel said appreciatively. “Lucemon and I are headed to the Third Sphere for some mid-day nourishment. Would either of you like to partake?”

“I would,” Cherubimon answered, stepping forwards.

“No, thank you,” Bagramon replied. “I would like some time to reflect on my own.”

Seraphimon nodded. “Very well… If you would like to share your thoughts, do not hesitate to do so,” he assured the black-haired archangel. “Problems are best addressed when thy heart is bared to a friend.”

“Thank you, but it won’t be necessary.” Bagramon looked up at the large, pink archangel beside him. “Cherubimon has been quite helpful.”

“Of course he has. Cherubimon is an excellent listener,” Seraphimon answered, turning to the rabbit Digimon.

Cherubimon grinned. “Do I sense a joke about my ears coming?” he wryly inquired.

“Not at all, brother. It is all in your head,” Seraphimon assured him with a touch of light-hearted humour in his otherwise professional voice.

“My ears are indeed in my head. Thank you, Seraphimon,” Cherubimon responded with dry wit in his deep baritone voice.

The two archangels spoke amicably with each other as they began to walk away from the bridge, heading towards the Golden City.

Lucemon gave Bagramon a lingering look, followed by a short nod. The young angel then began to follow Seraphimon and Cherubimon away.

Bagramon watched as they strode off down a marble path towards the city. As the three angels disappeared around a corner, Bagramon turned back to leaning on the bridge’s railing. He leaned forwards on his arms as he observed the sun and clouds playing off each other. Staring off into the cloudy horizon, Bagramon thought to himself quietly.

The one who governs over the aspect of death… That is my responsibility.” he pondered. “I oversee the passage of a Digimon’s life into deletion, reformatting, and rebirth. It is a cycle, both natural and unnatural… Not only do I oversee the termination of Digimons’ lifespans, but I am also expected to carry out the punishment to those who carry out the ultimate crimes… My actions see the passage of Digimons’ data to the Dark Area for judgment.

Bagramon closed his eyes as he thought. “This is something that I can do. I can close off my emotions and do what needs to be done for the greater good of the Digital World. I am able to delete those who threaten the safety and dreams of the Heavenly Choir,” he mused calmly. He opened his eyes a bit and looked down pensively at the Digital World below. “But… what is the purpose of death? Why would the Being of Goodness create such a process that leaves sorrow, anger, and regret in its wake? Is it merely a natural process that comes with being a Digimon? Did the Being of Goodness create it for a reason? Is it a means of balancing out the population?

He spotted on the marble railing one of his white feathers. Bagramon carefully picked the feather up and observed it. “Once every several hundred years, there is a calamity that wipes out a massive proportion of the Digimon population. A cycle-ending tragedy that leaves smouldering ruins in its wake. …Most recently, it was the Death-X Incident. A massive swarm of undead mutants that ravaged the land. The percentage of Digimon killed was in the double digits… Was there a particular purpose for all of that devastation and sorrow? Or was it just something that happened without reason? Was it really a mad scientist whose research on that prototype Digimon ended up going awry? Did God plan that? Or was He powerless to stop it? Did He even want to stop it?

Bagramon shook his head and released his feather, letting it float over the side and drift slowly down towards the Digital World. “I don’t know why I am getting so philosophical. I suppose it is because it was the first deletion that I have overseen… It must be causing my mind to wander…” The angel stood up straight with pride and resolve. “There is no room for idle doubts and foolish, existential questions. I know what my duty is and I am proud to carry it out. I will guide the termination of the good and execute the evil whenever justice wills it so. I am a proud servant of God, a loyal believer of the Heavenly Choir, and a friend to the Three Great Angels.

Bagramon turned and gazed towards the Golden City with determination, the sunlight flickering in his narrow, red eyes.

I am Bagramon, the Archangel of Death.

-

Decades of years had passed.

The Sky Colonies prospered. The Golden City had been long completed and the Heavenly Choir was well established. They were relatively minor players in the Digital World and they mostly kept to themselves, focusing on the internal rather than the external. The Religion of Light was growing in influence; it still paled in comparison to the Yggdrasil and Huanglongmon beliefs, but it was gaining more followers.

Things had been going so well that they had created two more Sky Colonies, Empyrea and Sanctea. These colonies were smaller and trailed behind Lambent on different clouds. They were built to accommodate the growing population of the Sky Colonies as it increased in followers and structure. Things seemed to be going well for the Heavenly Choir. At least, on the exterior.

However, there were ruptures below the surface…

A throng of angel and fairy Digimon were gathered in the large colosseum on the First Sphere on Lambent. The Forum of Judgment was a marvelous piece of architecture, built in a classical style. It was a fully circular amphitheatre with seating tiers on every side, surrounding the expansive open area in the middle. Unlike some colosseums, this wasn’t used for combat or games. The Forum of Judgment was primarily a public space where official decrees were announced to a wide audience. When not used for official matters, presentations of the arts were sometimes allowed to be held there. This included the productions of plays, performances, chorals, poetry readings, and art exhibits.

However, the Forum of Judgment had another, more sinister purpose as well. It was the place where the worst criminals of the Heavenly Choir were brought for public and divine punishment after their trial in the Court of Truth.

That was what was taking place now. A large, wooden stage was set up in the center. On one end of the raised platform were the Three Great Angels. Seraphimon, Ophanimon, and Cherubimon looked at the center of the dais, where the criminal was put.

In the middle of the platform was an Angemon. His hands were shackled behind his back and he kneeled before the Three Great Angels. There was a defiant sneer on his face.

Standing next to him was Bagramon, garbed in ceremonial, golden armour and black robes. He looked down at the prisoner with a cold yet pensive expression. Clasped between his hands was a long sword, resting with its tip against the wooden floor. With cool red eyes, he silently gazed at the criminal, patiently awaiting the moment that he would have to deliver judgment unto him.

The whole colosseum was stark. There were no cheers or hisses. The arena was completely quiet, silenced by discipline, respect, and anticipation. On the lowest tier of the stands, Lucemon sat with the likes of SlashAngemon, ClavisAngemon, and Dominimon. Lucemon watched with a thoughtful gaze.

“…Angemon, do you acknowledge the crimes that you have committed?” Seraphimon asked, his voice sharp and firm like the steel of a sword. “The crimes against the Heavenly Choir and God Himself?”

Angemon scowled. “What crimes have I committed aside from speaking the truth?” he demanded.

“The crimes you have committed… include high treason and heresy,” the archangel responded resolutely. “You sold top secret information about the Sky Colonies to our enemies and rivals on the Digital World.”

“I sold nothing. I passed that information on for free. They deserved to know what the Heavenly Choir was up to,” Angemon insisted.

“Treason, nonetheless,” Seraphimon spoke, his voice echoing across the completely silent colosseum like the reverberations of thunder. “And, as bad as that, if not worse, is your heresy… You have been disseminating subversive falsehoods, criticizing not only the Three Great Angels – we, who are closest to God - but also the entire nature of the Heavenly Choir and the Being of Goodness Himself!”

“Hmph…” Angemon muttered with outwards obstinacy.

Seraphimon calmly turned his head to Bagramon. “Bagramon, if you please. The evidence that was presented at Angemon’s trial.”

Bagramon nodded quietly and turned to the table beside him. After briefly inspecting the contents of the table, he picked up a small pile of identical papers as well as a large scroll. With one hand, he held them up in front of himself.

“Pamphlets that Angemon had been secretly handing out at his poetry club,” Seraphimon explained. “Fortunately, none of the members took the pamphlet seriously, and one of the club’s members reported him with a copy of such a pamphlet. The Powers raided his home and found many more copies of the leaflets that he had been printing in secrecy. They also discovered that scroll. It is Angemon’s personal journal, where he openly speaks utterances of treason, heresy, apostasy, and blasphemy.”

“He has admitted that the journal and pamphlets belong to him,” Cherubimon added with a soft frown.

“And so he has been found guilty,” Ophanimon spoke, looking at the kneeling Angemon, a neutral tone to her voice and appearance.

Seraphimon looked at Angemon directly. “Do you deny these accusations?” he questioned.

Angemon raised his head and leered through his helmet at Seraphimon. “I cannot deny the truth of my own words. Not a single word,” he answered with emphatic resolve.

Cherubimon folded his large arms behind his back as he gazed at the accused heretic. “We offer you this chance to recant, Angemon. Recant publically and your life will be spared. Otherwise, you will face the full weight of justice. You should consider your next words very carefully,” Cherubimon advised him.

“Unlike yourselves, I am no hypocrite,” Angemon answered contentiously. “I will not recant the truth.”

“Thou hast such arrogance…” Seraphimon murmured, his voice reverberating behind his helmet.

Ophanimon’s lips curved downwards softly. “Do not be stubborn, Angemon… Are your misguided ideas worth your life?”

“Are yours?” Angemon fired straight back.

Seraphimon clenched his fists lightly. “…Was that a threat?” he demanded.

“Seraphimon, temper yourself,” Cherubimon said to his comrade. The large archangel Digimon looked at Angemon with a beseeching frown. “Please, Angemon. Recant for your own sake... Do not be obstinate,” he pleaded. “Do not make this a dark day in the Sky Colonies.”

“Your obstinacy is what will cause dark days for the Sky Colonies,” Angemon responded bitterly. “If I am to be deleted, my blood will be on your hands. My blood will be the proof of your hypocrisy and fallacious beliefs.”

“I have heard enough,” Seraphimon thundered. He extended his hand towards Bagramon. “Bagramon, if you please. Prepare yourself.”

At first, Bagramon didn’t hear him. He had been focused on gazing at the kneeling heretic. The Angemon was so convinced that he was right. There was a certainty in his doubt. Likewise, the Three Great Angels were positive that he was wrong. There was a certainty in their belief as well.

Something tugged at Bagramon’s insides. The intangible feeling slithered through his stomach like a snake, causing him discomfort and unease. It crept through him, niggling, pulling, and prodding at his core. It was a sensation that he hadn’t felt in decades.

It was the soft, creeping feeling of doubt.

He didn’t know why it was there, but for some reason, the situation unfolding before him caused him pause. Normally, he would carry out his duties without question; that was the way of the Heavenly Choir. Society was a well-structured, efficient machine with clear rules and hierarchy. His duties were clear to him and he had no hesitation in carrying them out. He had executed other Digimon before: murderers, traitors, spies, heretics… He was not unused to killing in the name of God’s justice. However, something about this Angemon began to cast doubt inside of him. He was so certain in his dissenting beliefs, despite all evidence seeming to point to the contrary. Was he crazy? No… He seemed enlightened, calm and confident in the way that he spoke.

Fortunately, Seraphimon didn’t pick up on Bagramon’s wandering mind, as Cherubimon’s deep voice spoke up in protest. “Please, Seraphimon, give him another chance to repent,” Cherubimon insisted.

“To what purpose? He had his chance. It is clear that he has no intentions of changing his mind,” Seraphimon stated.

Cherubimon looked at Ophanimon. Ophanimon sighed remorsefully. “I’m sorry, Cherubimon, but we both know that there are only so many times that we are able to ask before it no longer serves any purpose. Angemon will not budge. God’s mercy can only be extended to those who accept it,” she explained.

Cherubimon grimaced and turned his head away. “Very well… This is the verdict that we have reached…” he murmured, although making his misgivings clear.

Seraphimon turned back to Bagramon. “Bagramon?” he questioned.

Bagramon was pulled to attention and he seamlessly turned to Seraphimon. “Yes?” he questioned.

“Please prepare to execute God’s judgment,” the gold and blue archangel commanded decisively.

“Yes, Seraphimon,” Bagramon responded, raising his blade from the ground without hesitation.

Angemon scowled and eyed the rising blade, his fists clenched and his wrists straining the manacles.

“Is there anything that you wish to say, Angemon?” Seraphimon asked him. “This is your final chance.”

“All it would take is a few words,” Cherubimon added, his words emphatic and beseeching.

The heretic bowed his head quietly for a few moments. “I have a few things that I would like to say…” he spoke up, his voice wavering.

Bagramon looked down at the Angemon with interest. Was he going to recant? The audience looked on with bated breath as well. Lucemon was particularly interested in what the heretic would say next, as he watched with calm but curious blue eyes.

Suddenly, Angemon’s resolve hardened and he straightened his back. He lifted his head and gazed around at all of the onlookers in the stadium. “All of you! Ask yourselves this! Do you think that we can continue to live in an ivory tower, detached from the rest of the Digital World?! Can we pass our holier-than-thou judgment onto everybody else while living in this false utopia?! Is that what God wants?! A society just for angel Digimon?!” he shouted. “If God really did create the Digital World, is this what God’s representatives should be doing?! Should we be ignoring the vast majority of the population of the Digital World in favour of our own little society?! This is not the manifestation of the Being of Goodness’ will, and if it is, is God truly a moral being?!”

“What…?” Seraphimon spoke, quietly seething at Angemon’s words. He took a step forwards but felt a hand on his arm, halting him. He turned to see Ophanimon gripping him and gazing at him with a soft expression.

“Let him have his final moments,” she said to him. “It would be unseemly to silence him.”

Cherubimon watched quietly, a rueful look on his face.

Seraphimon sighed and conceded, although somewhat reluctantly. “Yes… You are right…”

Angemon turned and gestured his head towards the Three Great Angels. “If they were really the representatives of God, would they be spilling the blood of somebody who merely questioned their beliefs?! Is a questioning mind so wrong?! Is it so wrong to point out the flaws and hypocrisy of what we are being told to believe?!” he demanded.

“It is wrong to give our secrets to our enemies and endanger the whole of the Heavenly Choir,” Seraphimon resolutely said.

“How else will you all change?” Angemon asked him with a sneer. “Those that we left behind on the Digital World will rise up and knock you all down from your high tower! This foolish idea was started by three Digimon who thought that they knew better. They built an entire society around the idea that they are the ones who are closest to God. It is utter nonsense!”

Lucemon watched the Angemon speak ardently. His soft, studious gaze was fixated on him.

Cherubimon frowned angrily and stepped forwards. “You say that, but have you ever conversed with the Being of Goodness? We have, Angemon…! None of it is nonsense, apart from what you are suggesting!” he passionately retorted.

“And the Being of Goodness is telling you to kill? How much blood has been spilled in the name of God?” Angemon asked. “What kind of God asks that of His followers? What sort of cruel, unjust God treats Digimon preferentially and commands that some be deleted? Is that the sort of God all of you want to follow?!” he finished with a passionate shout.

There was silence among the on-looking Digimon. None of them reacted to his words.

Bagramon watched the Angemon quietly. The heretic walked a fine line between truth and madness, it sounded to him. Some of the things he said touched a chord in Bagramon’s heart. The argument about justice particularly resonated with him. They were thoughts that had entered his mind before. They were thoughts that he ignored and discarded to the edge of his mind, far away from his foremost thought processes. They were dangerous, destructive ideas that he couldn’t afford to give a moment’s attention to. He had a duty and he believed in the Heavenly Choir. It was what he left his old life behind for. He wouldn’t be swayed by idle doubt.

However, he felt discomfort upon feeling these thoughts return to him. Questions began nipping at the edges of his mind. His heart faltered.

The heretic went quiet and bowed his head. “I have said all that I can say… My heart is at ease…” he explained to the angel Digimon around him.

“Very well…” Cherubimon said, looking at Bagramon.

“Bagramon, are you ready?” Seraphimon asked the raven-haired angel Digimon.

Bagramon nodded and dauntlessly raised his sword, holding it over the Angemon’s head with its tip pointing downwards towards his neck. Without question, he remained perfectly still and awaited his signal.

“Are you prepared for your judgment?” Seraphimon asked Angemon.

“Yes,” Angemon answered with a sharp breath.

“May peace be with you when your soul is reborn,” Ophanimon said gently.

“Light be upon you,” Seraphimon said to Angemon. He turned and nodded at Bagramon.

Seeing the signal, Bagramon gripped his sword unflinchingly. His blade erupted with a blinding, holy light that washed over his body. With a mighty thrust, he plunged the tip of the radiant sword into the back of the Angemon’s neck with expert precision. He drove the sword down into his body and straight through his digicore.

Angemon’s body glowed with blazing light and he was deleted instantly. His data burst apart and scattered around Bagramon.

There were a few gasps from the colosseum stands before silence resumed. Lucemon watched the execution unflinchingly.

Bagramon pulled his sword up, the light dimming from the metal and blood dripping from the tip to the ground. He wordlessly looked up from the place where Angemon had been kneeling and turned towards the Three Great Angels.

“Justice has been dealt…” Seraphimon spoke somberly to the onlookers. “It is deeply unfortunate, but such unrepentant heresy and treason could not go unpunished.”

Cherubimon walked over to Bagramon’s side. “Thank you, Bagramon. It is a sad day when things have to come to this.”

Ophanimon nodded. “Now we must deal with the vestiges of Angemon’s heresy,” she explained. “Bagramon, we ask that you destroy every pamphlet that Angemon had created, as well as his journal.”

Seraphimon nodded. “It is necessary to ensure that his misinformed madness doesn’t create needless doubt among our loyal brothers and sisters,” he agreed. “Purge them in their entirety.”

“Of course, Seraphimon,” Bagramon obeyed. He walked up to the table and picked up the stack of pamphlets and the scroll.

“Thank you…” Cherubimon responded. The largest of the three angels turned to the audience. “Thank you all for coming and bearing witness to this unfortunate event. It is important that the light of truth shines ever-present throughout the Sky Colonies, so I humbly thank you all for coming and watching over us as we deliver God’s judgment.”

“Yes, thank you very much. Do not let these events lay heavy on your hearts,” Ophanimon added with a warm smile. “If there is anything bothering you, please speak to one of the Virtues and put your mind at ease.”

“And do not feel tempted by Angemon’s words, however charismatic he may have been. We all know the truth of the Religion of Light deep in our hearts. Do not let yourselves be led astray by unjustified doubt or the temptation of cynics. We lead a blissful life here, do we not? We live with order and goodness. We live with a clear purpose,” Seraphimon finished.

Cherubimon nodded gently. “And with that, you all may leave,” he said to everybody.

As they spoke, Bagramon silently cleaned off his sword with a soft cloth, wiping away the blood of the heretic from his blade. When his sword was clean and pure, he placed the cloth on the table and sheathed his blade. He collected all of the pamphlets from the wooden surface as well as the large scroll.

When they were gathered in his arms, Bagramon turned to the Three Great Angels. “Shall I leave now, as well?” he asked them calmly.

“Yes, Bagramon. Simply destroy those documents and then meet with me afterwards,” Seraphimon told him. “Thank you once again.”

“Of course, Seraphimon. Heretics and traitors must be dealt with harshly,” Bagramon responded with a short nod.

“I am glad that it is not a burden on your shoulders, brother,” Seraphimon said, his firm voice finally softening.

“Not at all…” Bagramon answered, his words lingering for but a moment. “I will deal with these now.”

“Very well,” the archangel agreed, watching as Bagramon turned away from him.

Bagramon flew down the steps of the wooden stage and began to head towards one of the exits at the edge of the arena.

He closed his eyes as he glided across the smooth floor, brooding over the day’s events. As much as he tried to, he couldn’t shake off his feelings of unease and doubt.

Bagramon opened his eyes slightly and gazed down at the floor as it passed beneath him. “God certainly exists… but is this his justice…? Why direct the Heavenly Choir in such a manner…?” he couldn’t help but think in passing.

I wonder…

-

An hour passed since the execution.

Bagramon flew around the Sky Colonies idly. He carried himself above the clouds and the gold and white buildings, floating on his pure, feathery wings. He ruminated on the day’s events and how they were affecting him more than he would have thought. It put his heart in a state of discomfort and deep introspection. He reminded himself to pay a visit to the Pools of Reflection so that he could hopefully put his restless mind and agitated heart at ease.

On the way, Bagramon had seen a HolyAngemon and a Silphymon from the Powers leading away a Pidmon, one of the members of the poetry club. He assumed it was for questioning on his activities and if he had any connections with the heretic Angemon. Heavy-handed, but routine where heretics were concerned. Heresy had a way of taking root in underground clubs among learned individuals. After all, that was how the Religion of Light started back on the Digital World, Bagramon noted.

The archangel of death climbed on the soft breeze, up towards the First Sphere. The circular platform was held up by clouds and large columns, standing sentinel over the Second and Third Spheres.

As Bagramon rose up above the edge of the First Sphere, he climbed higher and looked down on the highest of the districts. He flapped his multiple white wings and swooped down, his long, black hair blustering behind him. He dove towards a huge, white building, the Library of Wisdom. The library had a circular base and a domed roof, supported by classical columns. The building was made of smooth, washed, unassuming, light grey stone.

Bagramon descended and lightly touched down in front of the large entrance of the Library of Wisdom. Tucked under his arm was a large scroll.

Although he destroyed every single one of Angemon’s pamphlets, Bagramon found himself hanging onto his journal. For some reason, he had trouble destroying it like the other documents. As such, he came here to carry out the rest of his duty.

The archangel walked forwards and pushed open the massive library doors, which stood at twice the height of Cherubimon. As Bagramon entered, he was greeted by a soft draft of stuffy, library air, which was accompanied by the pungent notes of old paper and dust. The interior was circular in shape as well, with the walls covered with bookshelves. The floors were marble and there was a domed ceiling with a glowing orb of radiance gave off light within the large building. There were countless different aisles of bookshelves, and the library was extremely organised, with all of the documents sorted by type and genre.

Directly ahead of him was a large, wooden reception desk that greeted all who entered from the foyer. Sitting behind the desk was the small form of Lucemon, who seemed to be writing something down. Bagramon approached the front desk, not attracting Lucemon’s attention initially. He approached the desk and noticed that Lucemon had a soft frown on his face as he wrote digi letters on a booklet.

“Lucemon?” Bagramon asked him.

Lucemon looked up with initial surprise, but he regained his poise and calmly closed the booklet. “Bagramon… Hello,” he said with an innocent smile.

“Pardon me. Am I interrupting?” the tan-skinned angel asked.

“No, not particularly,” Lucemon responded, his pure, blue eyes gazing up at Bagramon. “How are you? Is there something that I can help you with?”

“Well…” Bagramon answered uneasily. He shuffled slightly, readjusting the scroll’s place underneath his arm.

It was then that Lucemon noticed the scroll. His eyes lit up with interest. “Is that…?” the youthful angel wondered.

“Yes…” Bagramon responded. He pulled the scroll out and placed it on top of the library desk. “It’s Angemon’s journal. I have destroyed the pamphlets, but… I can’t seem to bring myself to destroy somebody’s personal journal, as heretical as the contents are.”

“I see… I understand, Bagramon,” Lucemon responded, his voice level and soft. “What do you want to do with it?”

“I thought that I would give it you to deal with,” Bagramon responded. “You are the curator of the Library of Wisdom, so you are in charge of all written documents. I thought that you would know how to deal with this type of thing better than I would.”

Lucemon nodded gently.

Bagramon frowned and looked down at Lucemon. “Can I entrust the duty of destroying that journal with you, Lucemon? It would be a burden off of my shoulders,” he said to him.

The fair-skinned angel Digimon smiled softly. “Of course, Bagramon. Leave it with me,” he responded helpfully.

“Thank you. I want no trace of it left,” Bagramon explained. “Eliminate it completely.”

Lucemon reached over and took the scroll in his hand. “I will make sure that it is taken care of…” he assured Bagramon, bringing the scroll closer to him.

“I appreciate it,” Bagramon said, giving Lucemon a slight nod before turning around. “I have to go meet with the Three Great Angels now.”

Lucemon nodded, his hand lingering on top of the scroll. “Bagramon, what did you think of that Angemon?” he asked him inquisitively.

“I do not know… To go to such extreme lengths while knowing the consequences… He really believed in what he was saying,” Bagramon mused. He frowned and looked at Lucemon. “What did you think of him?”

“He was a babbling lunatic, of course,” Lucemon responded with succinct aloofness.

“Yes, you are right; he must have been crazy,” the darker angel responded, looking over his shoulder at Lucemon. “I will leave you to your business, Lucemon. Thank you again.”

“Of course…” the small, innocent-looking angel responded. He watched as Bagramon strode to the exit of the library, the angel’s white robes flowing softly with each step. Lucemon’s sharp, blue eyes gazed at Bagramon every meter of the way to the exit. They watched as he opened the giant doors of the foyer and closed them behind him with a great echo.

When Bagramon had left, Lucemon glanced around cautiously. He was positive that he was alone, but it didn’t hurt to be sure. Once he was satisfied, he slowly opened the scroll, great interest flickering behind his blasé expression. He swiftly began to read the journal, his eyes darting back and forth across the page adeptly.

“A babbling lunatic…” Lucemon mused to himself. “But many of his arguments are not dissimilar to my own thoughts… It wouldn’t do to destroy the message simply because of the imperfect messenger… In fact, I couldn’t destroy such an important document…”

Lucemon stood up from the desk and tucked the scroll underneath his arm. “I will have to find some place to hide this… This whole affair has made me reconsider many things,” he mumbled to himself.

The angel Digimon walked out from the desk and travelled deeper into the Library of Wisdom, a tiny smile growing on his youthful face.

“And I know I am not the only one…”
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Chapter 31: A Crisis of Faith (Part II)​

An orange glow cast across a dark tavern. Flames danced and flickered on the wicks of candles that were set up across the bar counter and a couple empty tables. The dull flames cast trembling shadows across the walls of the bar, keeping the darkness at bay.

It was night in the Sky Colonies, and long past closing time for the bar. It wasn’t the sort of bar where Digimon came to get drunk. The Virtues, the scholars and moral enforcers of the Heavenly Choir, looked down on the use of alcohol, calling it a substance that numbed and distorted the mind. They said it caused Digimon to turn away from their disciplined teachings and towards a life of debauchery, excess, and lust. Only small portions of wine were allowed at celebrations. Therefore, bars in the Sky Colonies tended to serve non-alcoholic drinks.

There were seven Digimon in the after-hours bar at the time. Standing behind the bar, was a tall, skinny Digimon who was clad in white, angelic robes from neck to toe. He had long, lanky arms that were nearly as long as his body, which were folded in a relaxed position on the bar counter. His right arm was covered by a long, conical sleeve that was wrapped in belts, fixing pages of paper to his arm. A white cape was wrapped around his collar and hung down across his back, with an interior containing thousands of different pages. The lower half of his face was covered by a mask, and his blond head was wrapped in blue cloth. Only a pair of aloof, crimson eyes, a few patches of blond hair, and some grey skin were visible. There was a third eye on his forehead that glowed dully as he watched the scene before him.

In the Baalmon’s clawed hand was a tall mug of ale, smuggled in from the Digital World. He sold it at his bar only to a select few of trustworthy customers.

Sitting at one of the candle-lit tables was a Seraphimon, and an Ophanimon. However, they were not the Three Great Angels. They were high-ranking subordinates of the Three Great Angels. The Seraphimon was a high-ranking commander of the Powers, and the Ophanimon was in a high-ranking position in the Virtues.

Sitting behind them in a wide, open space in the bar was a giant, pink dragon. His long, serpentine body was coiled up so as to save space. Covering his body was a carpet of soft, pink fur, and his pairs of sturdy arms and legs rested on the stone floor of the bar. His horned draconic face rested on one of his coils and his sharp, green eyes gazed over to the center of the room from the side of the bar. The Holydramon’s head was surrounded by a mane of fluffy feathers, giving him a regal appearance. Matching these were five pairs of wings that extended from his back. Holydramon, like the Seraphimon, was one of the commanders of the Powers.

Over at another table sat two more figures. One was an angel Digimon garbed in the finest white vestments. A giant pair of wings rested on his back, the silky, ivory feathers matching the feathered robes that hung from his shoulders. Around his waist was a large, metal belt with the symbol of peace etched onto it. His face was fair and long, blond hair hung from his back, down to his waist. Concealing the upper half of his face was milky, conical mitre, which was flanked on the sides with two small wing designs and covered only his forehead. The HolyAngemon: Priest Mode listened quietly, softly tapping his gloved hand on the table top. HolyAngemon: Priest Mode was the treasurer of the Dominions.

Lastly was a short humanoid Digimon with the appearance of a bird man. A pair of red feathered, avian legs hung over the edge of his chair, his yellow talons brushing the floor. His upper body was covered in white plumage, matching the white robe covering his shoulders and back. He had a deep tan tint to his skin as well as scruffy, shaggy brown hair that didn’t match up to the pristine standards of many Heavenly Choir Digimon. Over his eyes was a metal visor which connected to a red helmet with cat ears that covered his head. He lazily leaned forwards on the table, putting some of his weight on his feathery arms. He listened idly with half-attentiveness at what was being said to them. He was one of the Virtues charged with protecting the Being of Goodness.

“And these fallacious opinions and unjust laws reveal to me the sheer folly of God…” a voice quoted to the six Digimon who listened.

At the center of everyone’s attention was Lucemon, who stood on one of the chairs. He read from a large, opened scroll with passion gracing his calm, charismatic voice. There was a serious expression on his face as he read from Angemon’s journal in a secret gathering of close, like-minded associates.

Lucemon lowered the scroll and looked around at the six other Digimon. “There is truth in Angemon’s words. We are being misled by the Three Great Angels’ interpretations of the Being of Goodness. They started the Exodus to the Sky Colonies, yes. However, they weren’t appointed to their positions by anybody but themselves. Why should we accept their judgment subserviently? Why should we keep to ourselves, far removed from the Digital World? Why should we listen to three incompetent Digimon who only have their own interests at heart? Why should we be forced to speak like this in secret, when all we are doing is ?”

HolyAngemon: Priest Mode nodded softly and lowered his chin onto his clasped hands. “You make valid points, Lucemon. We could be doing so much more if it weren’t for the Three Great Angels and their holier-than-thou morals. We should be trading with the different regions of the Digital World, but they only allow for minimal trade with the Digital World based on necessity such as agricultural products, food, fabrics, medicines and building materials… and most of those trades are brokered by our own supporters and sympathisers who live on the Digital World! Our economy is small at best. We aren’t even allowed a central bank because loans with interest are deemed immoral, and price hiking is restricted for businesses here as well. They won’t listen to what I have to say because my ideas of making money apparently ‘go against the spirit of community and cooperation that the Heavenly Choir was built on’. According to the Three Great Angels and the Virtues, making money for its own sake is sinful,” the treasurer said with an acerbic edge to his voice. “It is utterly ridiculous.”

The nearby commander nodded. “They are foolish and naïve,” the Seraphimon declared, a note of anger beneath his words. “We have a highly disciplined army that goes to waste. We could be waging a war on the followers of Yggdrasil, yet we hide away, far up in the clouds like outcasts. The Three Angels say that we are a peaceful group and that the Powers are only for policing and self-defence. It’s wasteful, naïve and short-sighted. Even now, we should be attacking the Republic of Node, the ones who Angemon sold our secrets to. Then we could show the Digital World that we are to be taken seriously. We could spread our influence properly onto the Digital World; the intention was always to return there, after all. We need to take back what is rightfully ours. Seraphimon, Ophanimon, and Cherubimon are too weak-spirited to ever consider that possibility, however…”

“Hmph… Indeed…” Lucemon said, getting down off from the chair and sitting down at the table. “Why should they be the ones in charge when they are so incompetent? I could surely do a better job at leading the Sky Colonies than them.”

“It is a shame… Our society is so rigid and stuck up,” the Ophanimon of the Virtues spoke with nonchalant disdain. “The constant, repetitive teaching of morality, self-discipline, and decency to the point of nausea… According to them, there should be absolutely no alcohol, no sex, no fun, apart from in the context of the sacred traditions. The most fun around here are the plays and poetry debates, and those are about as exciting as cloud-watching. Is that not the saddest think you have ever heard?” The Ophanimon rose a glass of smuggled wine to her lips and took a drink. She sighed after a polite sip and sat back in her chair.“Honestly… The rules and moral policing here is absolutely stifling. I can’t walk in the Hallowed Sanctorum without a disapproving glance or a sanctimonious whisper… By the light, I doubt that Seraphimon’s loins could even be aroused by Lady Ophanimon crawling on top of him naked at this point. …Hah – as if she even takes her unsullied, modest drabs off at all. She wouldn’t spoil herself even by having a bath. Really, I bet even the rabbit is chaste… and that is saying something.”

Holydramon lifted his head from his coil and squinted his piercing, green eyes, a soft scowl on his bestial lips. “The Three Great Angels… They’re so full of themselves... Their egos are inflated by their hoards of loyal, empty-headed following, lapping at their heels like a bunch of lost Plotmon. They think they’re so great because they supposedly communicate with God. A dubious claim at best… Who the hell made them in charge? They really think they can just dictate to us without a single word of doubt?” he growled, his snarl brimming with resentment. “I get passed over for a promotion in the Powers and they expect me to know my place and simply accept it? I think not… They’re a bunch of sanctimonious, imperious balls of empty fluff. I could do a better job than they could. Hell, a drunken Numemon could do a better job.”

“Heh, you are about on the same level as a drunken Numemon…” Baalmon mused, mockingly, from behind the bar.

Holydramon lifted his head and shot Baalmon a dangerous glare. “What’d you say, three-eyes?” he growled.

Baalmon smirked behind his mask, not intimidated by Holydramon. “Nothin’, fluffy,” he teased the large, pink dragon.

“I don’t want to hear any clever jibes from you, reaper,” Holydramon hissed, leveling a sour stare across the bar. “Not only were you offered my rightful position of Commander in the Powers, but you turned it down… and for what?”

“It is a shame; you were being considered as the next commander of the Empyreal Host special forces,” Seraphimon added, glancing over at Baalmon. At this revelation, Holydramon stifled an annoyed growl.

“Why the hell would I want to be a commander in the Powers or any of that?” Baalmon retorted with a nonchalant shrug of his covered shoulders. He nodded over at Ophanimon before looking back at Holydramon. “Like the lady said, there’s already enough rules in this damn place. Know how much damn responsibility you have if you want to be a commander in the Powers? Just ask Seraphimon there.” Baalmon gestured to the Seraphimon and lowered his mask to take a drink from his beer. “The paperwork, the drills, the rules of conduct, the leading by example – moral and spiritual leadership and all that crap… Why not just put a leash on me and be done with it? If you want that job so bad, fluffy, me and Seraphimon here will put in a recommendation to SlashAngemon, because I sure as hell don’t want it. Why tie myself down with needless responsibility and bureaucracy when I can enjoy the relative freedom of owning my own bar?”

“Such freedom that you are required to smuggle in liquor purchased from the black market,” Lucemon sarcastically responded.

“Hence the reason I’m hosting all of you in my bar for our little seditious meetings. You’re welcome, by the way,” Baalmon pointed out with a mischievous grin. “All I need is good food, good drinks, attractive customers, some excitement, and less of the damn rules. Don’t see much of any of those around here in the Sky Colonies though.” The reaper Digimon leaned forwards on the bar counter, glancing at Silphymon. “And what do you think, Silphymon? You’ve been quiet. Did you lose your tongue or something?” he wondered with a glimmer of levity in his eyes.

Silphymon shrugged lazily. “All of the rules are a pain in the ass… Why make me protect God when He may not even be there or serve our best interests? It’s a waste of my time…” he groggily said. “Better off without all this… The Three Great Angels anger me…”

“Gee, that’s scathing, coming from you,” Baalmon said with a chuckle before turning to Lucemon. “Sure I can’t tempt you with a beer, Lucemon?”

“Do you honestly think that I would drink that stuff?” Lucemon asked with a dismissive leer. “For all the unjust laws, this is one that I agree with. That liquid corrodes intelligence and clouds the mind. We need to have our wits about us right now. We shouldn’t even be meeting here like this. All it takes is one minor screw up for us to be discovered and arrested for conspiracy and heresy.”

Baalmon laughed. “Hey, hey! What’s this about conspiracy? I don’t see any conspiracies, do you? Hey, I thought that we were just a book club!” he joked, gesturing to several books on the tables. “Besides, we’re not actually planning anything yet…” There was an excited, devilish gleam in his three red eyes as he prepared the question that was on everyone’s minds. “…Are we?”

“We are simply discussing the gaping flaws of the Heavenly Choir and the folly and injustice that the so-called Being of Goodness commands upon the Digimon that he created,” Lucemon calmly responded, each word methodical and pointed. “Anything beyond that… is too hasty at this stage. Before we could even consider taking action, we would require… supporters. Many supporters.”

“We will not find much support among the Virtues,” the Ophanimon informed them, idly trailing her finger around the rim of her glass. “Given how devoted everyone in the Virtues is supposed to be. Their loyalty is stronger than the oldest of mountains.”

“Except for your good self, of course,” HolyAngemon: Priest Mode sarcastically pointed out.

“Besides, I am sure that you can find other male Digimon to sway to our thinking…” Holydramon added with a goading smirk.

“Naturally, if I so desired… I am charismatic and beautiful,” Ophanimon dryly responded, looking at Holydramon with a soft, rivalrous grin. “Unlike you, Holydramon. You couldn’t convince an Aquilamon to fly or a Whamon to swim.”

Holydramon scoffed deeply. “I have friends who I could discreetly talk to,” the celestial dragon explained.

“You have friends?” Ophanimon chuckled incredulously. “You do surprise me.

“I have friends,’ Holydramon defensively responded, glaring at her. “Ones that I don’t have to seduce to get to like me,” he pointedly added.

Ophanimon tapped her finger on the side of her glass and grinned confidently at Holydramon. “I’ll have you know that I don’t seduce; I charm. I have a social and vivacious personality that causes Digimon to naturally be drawn to me. People enjoy my company and want to be kind to me. So… about the complete opposite of yourself, Holydramon.”

“I have friends, damn it!” Holydramon protested.

“I find that hard to believe,” HolyAngemon: Priest Mode grunted.

Baalmon chuckled and finished off the rest of his beer. “Hey, he isn’t that bad-looking, for a fluffy, pink dragon,” he ribbed.

“The same can’t be said for you,” Holydramon grunted acerbically.

“Hey, maybe you’d be less grumpy if you were getting some. That’s the real reason why we need to do this,” Baalmon said with a mocking laugh.

“Shut up, all of you. We’re getting off topic with your petty quibbling,” Seraphimon scolded them irritably.

“Indeed,” Lucemon said with silent irreverence for the others. “We must focus on swaying others to our way of thinking. We have clear evidence to prove our ideas, but it will not be an easy job. Deference, discipline, and faith are deeply engraved in every angel Digimon. We must be extremely careful about who we try to convince. Put out gentle, innocuous questions and gauge their responses. Our confidants must be trustworthy to us and pliable. If they betray us and our actions are revealed to the Three Great Angels, we will be hunted down and subjected to the same fate as Angemon.”

Seraphimon nodded. “Holydramon and I will speak to some close colleagues and junior officers of ours in the Powers,” he said to the others. “You all should too. Be smart about it.”

“I will speak to some high-ranking friends of mine,” Ophanimon responded, removing her fingers from her glass and leaning back in her seat. “I will be the soul of discretion. I am confident that I can persuade a few powerfully allies to our cause.”

HolyAngemon released a hum and folded his arms. “I have some friends in the Dominions who share my grievances. I have faith in my ability to sway them and others…” he added with a grin.

Baalmon smirked. “I’ll talk to a few customers I know personally and the guys who help smuggle the alcohol up here,” he informed them.

Lucemon nodded softly. “I was thinking of speaking to Bagramon,” he mused.

Seraphimon looked at Lucemon. “Is that wise, Lucemon?” he sceptically questioned. “Bagramon is one of the highest ranking angels. He is the Archangel of Death. He is surely one of most loyal to the Three Great Angels.”

“He was the one who gave me this scroll to destroy, rather than have to do it himself,” Lucemon noted. “I sensed doubt in him when I spoke to him.”

“Be that as it may, ‘doubt’ is not the same thing as disbelief,” HolyAngemon stated, looking over at Lucemon. “We cannot afford to deal with those who are merely having qualms of conscience. They could change their minds back on a whim and report us out of guilt for considering it. We can’t allow ourselves to depend on those with divided loyalties.”

Lucemon closed his eyes. “Hmph… Very well, Seraphimon… I shall refrain from including him for now,” he spoke. He tucked the scroll under his arm. “We all know what we must do. We should break up this meeting now. Let’s meet up again every two weeks to keep track of our progress.”

“Sounds fine to me,” Holydramon said with a grunt. The large dragon lifted his head and stood to his four feet.

“Try not to get seen while you leave my bar, fluffy,” Baalmon said to him, standing up straight behind the counter. “You’re a big, pink target pointing right here.”

“Tch,” Holydramon indignantly scoffed, beginning to make his way to the door.

The rest of the angels stood up as well, their session concluded.

“Be careful how you tread,” Lucemon said to them. “One misstep and we could end up falling right off the edge of the Sky Colony.”

“And remember to read up to Chapter 20 for our next meeting,” Baalmon jokingly reminded them, tossing one of the books in the air and catching it.

One by one, the angels began slipping out into the night. They put space in between their exits so as to not draw attention. Lucemon was final one to leave the tavern.

As he stepped out into the night, he gazed up at the dark sky. He watched as a particularly bright star glimmered within the vortex of clouds that swirled overhead. Lucemon smiled to himself.

So, the plan for reformation begins… I shall be its leader.

-

Five months passed…

The seven angel Digimon met once again in Baalmon’s tavern in the dead of night. It was their tenth meeting since Lucemon first brought them Angemon’s journal. Progress on their increasingly conspiratorial plans was being made with every passing day.

“Things are moving along incredibly nicely,” Lucemon mused, a confident smile gracing his lips. “Through my efforts, everything is coming together as planned.”

“Not just your efforts,” Holydramon grumbled, his sharp green eyes piercing at Lucemon. “But, yes. Things are going smoothly.”

Seraphimon pounded his fist into his open palm. “Holydramon and I have convinced many of our disaffected fellow officers in the Powers to side with us. Like us, they are tired of being cast aside in favour of the bureaucrats in the Dominions and the scripture readers in the Virtues. They want the Powers to have more sway and influence. They do not approve of the way those damn, God-pandering archangels are leading our society further into the clouds. They agree that we should be putting our military to good use. The Three “Great” Angels and their precious Being of Goodness won’t even see us coming,” he stated firmly.

“Indeed, they will get exactly what is coming to them…” Ophanimon hummed, a dark smirk growing on her face. “The Celestial Commander doesn’t suspect discontent brewing within his ranks, does he, Seraphimon?”

Seraphimon scoffed with derision, as if the very thought was laughable to him. “Of course not. SlashAngemon is as oblivious as he always was. He has his head so far up his *** with his drills, routines, and bureaucracy,” he spat, scorn and malice dripping off his every word.

Baalmon laughed, his sharp chortle laced with perverse recalcitrance. “Hey, I guess now we know where his head goes when he curls up to use his Heaven’s Ripper attack,” he noted with a nonchalant shrug, smirking widely behind his cloth mask.

HolyAngemon: Priest Mode sneered. “You may have some support within the Powers, Seraphimon, but I highly doubt that you will command a majority of it. The soldiers within the Powers are as loyal as dog Digimon. Some may follow their commanding officers, but many will not. At the very best, the Powers will be split down the middle between those who support us and those who support the Three Great Angels. We can also assume that the Empyreal Host special forces will be completely loyal to the Three Great Angels, as they are hand-picked and extremely loyal. When the time for rebellion comes…”

“We will crush whoever opposes us,” Seraphimon declared, slamming his fist on the table.

“I do love it when you get passionate, Seraphimon,” Ophanimon teased him with a grin.

“Oh, so do I,” Baalmon joked, laughing as he sat on his bar counter. “It smells of sexual frustration and pent up rage. I bet you’re wild in bed.”

“Shut up, demon,” Seraphimon snapped at him. “Focus, you damn layabout.”

“When will the time for rebellion come?” Silphymon asked, making his annoyance clear. “I’m tired of waiting…”

“One month should give us the necessary time to prepare,” HolyAngemon: Priest Mode explained, frowning and stroking his smooth chin. “However, any later than that is too much. With every week that passes, the risk of our plot being discovered grows. We need to strike the right balance.”

Ophanimon nodded. “That makes sense… If we strike too soon, we risk going into it unprepared and recklessly, which is sure to end in failure. Timing will be everything.”

“And what is the plan?” Baalmon asked.

“This is all hypothetical until we know exactly how many troops that we’ll have at our disposal,” HolyAngemon explained. “We will need to divide into different formations. Our priority will be to take key locations on the First Sphere and Second Sphere, but I anticipate that most of the fighting will take place on the Second Sphere and within the Golden City on the Third Sphere. The loyalists will likely outnumber us, so we will have to fight intelligently. We will have to rely on urban warfare, surprise attacks, and guerilla tactics to whittle down their numbers until we can fight them on an even level. We will need to use whatever methods we can in order to win, no matter how reprehensible they might seem. I personally have no qualms about it, but some of our followers may need to be emotionally prepared for such actions.”

“If their conviction to our cause is true, they will do what needs to be done,” Lucemon responded matter-of-factly. “We will do whatever we have to in order to overthrow these ridiculous, unjust rulers, for our cause is pure… Only I can reform the Heavenly Choir to the way it should be.”

“Only we can,” Holydramon corrected irritably.

“Go on, HolyAngemon,” Ophanimon said to him, folding her arms. “We need the details. I want to hear what exactly our objectives will be.”

“Yes, I’m getting there,” he responded snappily. “Our main objectives will be to take control of the First Sphere. Particularly the Palace, the Supernal Sanctum and the Eternal Chapel. On the Second Sphere, we will need to take control of the Hall of Dominion, the Hall of Valiance, and, most importantly, the Treasury. The Third Sphere and the lesser colonies of Empyrea and Sanctea are not strategically important, apart from the cloud docks; those docks will need to be secured. They will serve as important battlefields in the early days of the Rebellion, however.”

“Days? How long will it take?” Silphymon asked with a groan.

“It could take as long as a week. Maybe more,” HolyAngemon responded.

“Ugh… Too long… Why can’t we just finish it in a few hours?” the avian Digimon questioned.

“Because those would be bad tactics for this situation, Silphymon,” HolyAngemon explained, his voice dry and barely able to contain his mockery.

“Use your head, bird brain,” Baalmon chimed in.

“What about the Three Great Angels?” Holydramon asked. “If they step in, it might be better to act quickly. They might be colossal assholes, but they are all strong. The same goes for Bagramon and SlashAngemon, as well.”

“We can’t be hasty and reckless. We will likely have to face them, yes, but they will probably depend on the Powers at first. We will need to wear them down before we take them on,” HolyAngemon insisted.

Baalmon smirked, excitement gleaming in his eyes. “So, I’ll get to have a shot at the Three Great Angels?” he asked, a dark chuckle in his voice. “Can’t wait to blow those condescending pricks straight off of the Sky Colonies…”

“It seems like a waste, but they brought it upon themselves if they’re going to be so damn obstinate and stringent,” Ophanimon mused with a blasé sigh. “Oh well, we must do what we have to. I wouldn’t mind wiping the condescending smiles off their faces.”

“They deserve everything they are getting,” Seraphimon said with a soft growl, tightening his fist enough for his knuckles to blanch.

Lucemon narrowed his sharp, blue eyes. “Yes… They need to be removed along with their heretical message in order for the Heavenly Choir to be saved…”

Suddenly, the sound of snapping wood cracked through the dark tavern like a whip.

All seven of the angels stood to their feet with alarm. The front door of the tavern split apart into several fragments of wood, collapsing violently.

Standing in the gateway to the outside was an angel Digimon who came storming inside. He was tall and well-built, with a terrifying silhouette. The tavern’s candle flames glimmered off the silver breastplate that covered his upper body. Jagged, metal wings, made of the sharpest blades protruded from his back. His forearms were covered by a pair of massive, curved swords that were almost as long as his body. Even the boots that he wore were bladed. He had the appearance of a fearsome angel of retribution.

He stormed into the tavern, the emblazoned, sky blue sash around his waist waving with every forceful step. The only part of his face that could be seen were his fair cheeks and the firm, professional frown that graced his rigid lips. The rest of his face was covered by a silver helmet that covered the front of his head. A blade protruded upwards from the forehead, and his sky blue hair blew softly in the draft that blew in from the outside.

Seraphimon rose to his feet and clenched his fists. “Celestial Commander SlashAngemon, Sir!” he forced himself to say, his voice harsh and incredulous. “What are you doing here?!”

“I would ask you the same question, Commander, but I already know the answer,” SlashAngemon explained bitterly.

“I’m afraid we are at a loss, SlashAngemon,” Lucemon responded, his initial surprise fading into calm condescension. He gestured to the books on the tables they were sitting at. “We are simply a book club meeting for our biweekly discussion. We have permission to meet like this. I have filled out the necessary forms and they were confirmed by the Dominions.”

“I know all about the kind of ‘literature’ that you read here, Lucemon,” SlashAngemon snapped. “Don’t insult my intelligence with more lies.”

Lucemon’s facial features darkened as he bowed his head. Seraphimon, Baalmon, and Holydramon’s muscles subtly tensed as they glared at SlashAngemon and they exchanged brief looks.

Sensing threatening movement, SlashAngemon raised his blade arm towards them. “Don’t move a muscle. The Powers have this bar surrounded,” he explained. SlashAngemon glanced over his shoulder. “Move in, troops!”

It was not a moment after he finished speaking that angel, faerie, and some avian Digimon flooded into the bar, standing at SlashAngemon’s side with weapons drawn. Among them were HolyAngemon, HippoGriffomon, Angewomon, Seraphimon, Ophanimon, Shakkoumon, Piccolomon, and MarineAngemon species. At this happened, a team of Empyreal Host Special Forces burst through the back door and poured into the back of the tavern. The elite team of Perfect and Ultimate level Digimon surrounded the conspirators from the back, preventing any escape. From the distant sounds of wing beats and footsteps, it was clear that there were more outside.

They weren’t the only ones there. Bagramon pushed through the crowd with his sword drawn, walking to the front of the platoon.

The angel of death stepped up beside SlashAngemon. His gaze was firm on the exterior, his red eyes cold as they looked across the seven. However, his eyes fell on Lucemon, who looked back at him with determined blue irises. Bagramon could see the purpose and resolve in his eyes.

The seven rebelling angels glared at SlashAngemon, who stood before them unwaveringly. Their postures were rigid and their bodies exuded antipathy.

SlashAngemon didn’t lower his blade for a moment. He stared at them, cold steel piercing from his hidden eyes.

“In the name of God’s holy justice, I hereby place you all under arrest,” SlashAngemon firmly stated, his words as sharp as blades. “The crimes committed against the goodness of God, His devoted followers, and the paradise that they inhabit include the following: heresy against the Being of Goodness, in the form of doubting and insulting His existence and intentions, as well as those of the Three Great Angels. Conspiracy, in the form of secret meetings which take place under the guise of a literature club, where you seven have been spreading the seeds of dissent and plotting against us. Treason, in the form of plotting to overthrow the Three Great Angels and the established order of the Heavenly Choir. The smuggling, consumption and sale of unlicensed, illegal substances, in the form of alcohol. And, finally, the breaking of public curfew, in the form of staying out past midnight without expressed permission.”

SlashAngemon frowned and took a step closer, pushing one of the bar chairs aside with a blade. “You all have the right to a fair trial in the Hall of Truth, where the truth must be heard before the highest ranking Digimon of every order. After which point, an impartial judgment will be made and you will await your punishment in the Halls of Justice. Until then, you will be placed in confinement. Is that understood?” he clarified as per procedure.

“Damn it…” Ophanimon murmured, a menacing scowl forming on her face.

“Damn you, SlashAngemon…” Seraphimon growled, seething with barely-contained rage and enmity.

“How did you find out?” Silphymon demanded, an annoyed sneer on his face.

“One of your supporters reported you to us,” SlashAngemon explained. He turned his head and looked across the tavern. “Do not resist.”

Bagramon nodded softly. “I would advise that you submit peacefully…” he suggested, his voice calm and level.

“Hmph… Very well…” Lucemon responded, closing his eyes and raising his hands. “I am the one who has justice and reason on my side, so I have nothing to fear.”

The rest of the conspiratorial angel Digimon reluctantly conceded as well, their postures slackening somewhat. They knew that fighting under these conditions would be disadvantegous.

“Move in and place them under a firm guard,” SlashAngemon ordered to his troops, who began to move into the tavern to apprehend the rebels. He stared at Lucemon and the other angels. “You can say your peace in your trials.”

Lucemon’s eyes narrowed slightly as he was grabbed and apprehended. “…I plan to,” he assured him.

Bagramon watched with silent eyes as the seven were arrested. For some reason, the feelings of doubt that he had managed to cast aside began to return. He almost felt a slight sympathy for the lawbreakers.

Bagramon closed his eyes and stepped out of the tavern and into the night to clear his head. The thoughts that lingered in his mind were cast aside. He couldn’t afford have feelings on the matter. For he would be one of the seven judges to oversee their trial.

He watched as the dissident angels were led out of the tavern and onto one of the grey boulevards of the Golden City. His red eyes lingered on them as they were ushered up the lane and off towards the Halls of Justice on the Second Sphere.

Bagramon frowned gently as the niggling inside of him continued. “This is justice, isn’t it…?

-

Exactly ten days later, the trials took place.

Each of the accused conspirators was given an opportunity to make their cases to either justify or refute their actions. They were expected to represent themselves to a panel of judges, who would judge their innocence or guilt. Given that this was a massive case of treason and heresy, committed by some extremely respected and high-ranked angel Digimon, the panel of judges consisted of the highest ranked angels. This included the Three Great Angels of Seraphimon, Ophanimon, and Cherubimon, but also Dominimon, ClavisAngemon, SlashAngemon, and Bagramon.

Due to the deferential, order-focused nature of angel Digimon, once the arrest was made, the defendant usually confessed to their crimes. It was rare that there was a lengthy trial where the defendant refuted the evidence. However, for the sake of balance and justice, the judges were to meticulously go through the merits of whether or not a crime had been committed. They would not allow justice to be delivered wantonly.

The group of seven judges sat behind a long bench of grey marble at the front of the room. The whole interior of the Court of Truth was made of austere, grey marble. The courtroom was not ornamental apart from the rows of columns on each side of the large, expansive area, existing merely for structural support. The austerity of the Court of Truth showed the respect that the Heavenly Choir had for the law.

The judges’ faced the gallery, which was made up of dozens of marble pews. In between the gallery and the bench was an open area, with a raised dais in the middle. At the apex of this dais was a lectern that faced the judges, who looked down at it from the raised bench. Standing behind the lectern was Lucemon, who stood on a stool in order to be seen behind the raised surface. This was the final trial of the day.

“What do you have to say for yourself?” Dominimon asked.

Dominimon was the leader of the Dominions, the administrative branch of the Heavenly Choir. Similar in appearance to a HolyAngemon, he was an archangel Digimon with four pairs of feathery, golden wings. He was garbed in majestic armour for the occasion, with silver and golden breastplate covering his upper body. His arms were protected by massive shoulder guards, azure in colour, their rims gold and etched with Digi-Letters, and their convex faces emblazoned with golden, cruciform stars. He wore white garments over his legs and a beige sash that was wrapped around his waist. His face – half-covered by blue helmet - was pensive and stern as he gazed at Lucemon.

“How could such a respected Digimon have fallen so far?” ClavisAngemon questioned. “How hath a heart as pure as yours corroded so wickedly?”

ClavisAngemon was the leader of the Virtues, and acted as one of the moral leaders of the Heavenly Choir, as well as the guardian of the Kernel, the place where God was believed to reside. His body was clad in splendorous white armour, pristine, stainless and trimmed with gold embellishments. At the center of his breastplate was a keyhole, which symbolised his role as the key holder of God. Under his white armour was crimson under-armour that matched his bright, red sash and the striking lining of the helmet that covered the top of his head. His wings, which rested against the back of his seat, were more ostentatious than most of the others’, consisting of spiralling bases and long, individual feathers.

Bagramon stared at Lucemon silently, his eyes not diverting from his face for a moment. It was as if he was trying to read his mind and deduce what the angel wanted to say.

Cherubimon frowned with bitter regret and turned to Lucemon. “Please, Lucemon, you may speak. Help us understand how you got to this extreme point. Is it something that we are doing wrong?” he asked him. “Why have you not said anything?”

“Thou should not make excuses for him, Cherubimon,” Seraphimon stated firmly. “There is no excuse for such a betrayal.”

Cherubimon sneered and turned to look at Seraphimon. “Then what is the point of having a trial at all, Seraphimon?” he rhetorically asked him. “Why are we here if not to try and understand?”

“We are here to pass judgment for heinous crimes committed against God and the Heavenly Choir,” Seraphimon responded ardently.

“After hearing all of the facts and what the defendant has to say,” Cherubimon argued passionately. “There is more to this trial than mere punishment.”

“Please, you two. We will be able to do neither if you do not let Lucemon speak,” Ophanimon insisted firmly, looking between the two Digimon flanking her. She cast them both a stare that told them to be silent.

“Very well, the accused may begin his defence,” Seraphimon spoke, his voice firm and reverberating as he stared unflinchingly down at Lucemon.

Lucemon smirked and looked up confidently, not an ounce of fear or doubt in his blue eyes. “Thank you for giving me this opportunity…” he calmly said to the judges.

The young angel cleared his throat before beginning, standing at ease behind the lectern. “You have put me here to deliver upon me justice for what you claim to be crimes. However, you are the unjust ones here, for none of the things that I have done are crimes.”

Bagramon frowned and raised an eyebrow at Lucemon’s confidence and audacity. He never would have expected that the quiet bookworm would have the boldness to say such things to the Three Great Angels. He could tell that there was not a sliver of doubt in Lucemon’s mind. Had he ever doubted himself like Bagramon was doing now? How did he come to see things so clearly? Had he gone mad like the Angemon? Or was his purpose so clear to him that he could say these things without a trace of uncertainty?

“What…?” Bagramon heard Seraphimon mutter incredulously.

“Would you care to elaborate?” Ophanimon suggested, her voice calm and unemotional.

“Yes…” Lucemon responded, entirely composed. “All that I have done is point out the poor decisions and the hypocrisy in the way that the Three Great Angels govern. You say that you are carrying out God’s orders. We are expected to believe that you three communicate directly with God. That certainly is a convenient excuse for you three to remain in charge.”

“It is no excuse,” Seraphimon boomed passionately. “To suggest that we are so power-hungry and conceited to lie simply so that we may reign over the Sky Colonies is an insult and a flagrant lie. We three chosen have been chosen to execute God’s wishes. We are the loyal servants of the Being of Goodness and we do, indeed, communicate on a personal level with the Being of Goodness.”

“Prove it,” Lucemon responded, a victorious smirk on his face despite his situation. “Prove that you communicate with God.”

“We need not prove ourselves to you, Lucemon,” Seraphimon responded irately. “We are not the ones on trial here.”

“So, you cannot,” Lucemon answered with a soft grin.

“We cannot prove something so spiritual – so intangible – with physical evidence,” Cherubimon calmly responded. “However, simply because something is intangible that does not mean that it is not true. That is precisely why faith is important. Our followers trust us, and we would never betray their trust. We do communicate with the Being of Goodness. That is something that everybody believes – something that you once believed, Lucemon.”

Lucemon closed his eyes. “It is not God’s existence that I doubt, but the actions of him and you. You impose imperious rules on society. You deny us freedom to speak our minds and act to our hearts content. You drive us away from our brothers on the Digital World and into the clouds, away from reality. We have built a rigid society exclusively for ourselves and the Religion of Light. What about our brothers and sisters back on the Digital World, who have yet to see the light of truth. Are we to abandon them?”

“We have not abandoned them; they do not believe what we believe. They believe in Yggdrasil and Huanglongmon. When we lived on the Digital World, they disparaged and discriminated against us; that was the reason why the Exodus began. Furthermore, it is not our responsibility to force our beliefs onto those who wish not to believe,” Seraphimon responded firmly. “We have built a new home for ourselves here. We will return one day.”

“I doubt that. What we should do is make them see that their ways are ridiculous. We should force them to see the truth,” Lucemon insisted. “We have abandoned them to a world of injustice and strife. We are selflessly ignoring them for our own benefit.”

-

(Continued in the next post)
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
(Continued from the previous post)

-

Bagramon’s frown softened as he listened intently to Lucemon’s words. His feelings of uncertainty began to blossom. The things that Lucemon was saying struck a dusty chord inside of him. Bagramon did feel that they have abandoned the Digital World. With every year that passed, he began to doubt that they would ever return like they had intended to when they first made the Exodus. The end result of the Exodus was always to return to the Digital World and to spread their beliefs and teachings in order to make the Digital World a better place.

“That is nonsense, Lucemon,” Ophanimon responded. “We have never abandoned the place that we originated from. The Being of Goodness created the Digital World, so we have never lost our respect for it. We still trade with different groups from the Digital World as well as recruit followers, but they are not yet ready to accept us back.”

“It should be up to us, not them,” Lucemon answered plainly, unsatisfied with the answer. “Leaving that aside, what about the way you govern over the Heavenly Choir?”

“What do you mean?” Seraphimon asked, his fists clenched firmly on top of the long table they were seated behind.

Lucemon looked up at them standoffishly, refusing to waver. “We are stifled by your oppression. We are told what we can and cannot do, what we can and cannot think… All of these rigid rules and bureaucracy are in place to control us.”

“The bureaucracy keeps our society efficient, organised, and well-managed,” Dominimon contended. “Would you prefer chaos and disorder?”

“The rules and laws are in place to keep our hearts and minds pure,” ClavisAngemon added. “How would alcohol make our society better? By creating alcoholics and drunkards who commit sins? Are we to remove the rules banning malicious slander, extortion of innocent Digimon, thievery, or murder? Would you like the Golden City to turn into a hive of intemperance, depravity and debauchery? Rules exist for a reason, Lucemon.”

“Some rules are mandatory. Others are not. We are not even permitted to question holy decrees or our own beliefs. This society is so disciplined that we are not allowed to look inwards and question the things that we practice. If we cannot question our own beliefs, then how can we expect to change them for the better? How can we have independent thought? How can we rise to the top as individuals?” Lucemon debated avidly.

“Our society is not about individuals. It is about the community,” SlashAngemon responded. “We support each other. Each level of society reinforces the other. From the Three Great Angels down to the merchants. We are a community first, individuals second. That is how our society functions so well. As soon as the “we” turns into “I”… well, that is how Digimon like you emerge…” the Commander of the Powers bitterly said.

“Individuality begets selfishness, selfishness begets pride, pride begets contempt, contempt begets cruelty,” ClavisAngemon spoke is a soft, sage-like tone.

“And so everybody follows your every word like dogs, without looking out for their own interests,” Lucemon responded, shaking his head. “And when they do, they are punished, sometimes by death. Nobody can say a word against God without being branded as a heretic. Digimon have doubts about the way God operates, but rather than listening to them, you punish them. Where is the justice in that? …Are these God’s wishes? If these are God’s orders, then is he really worth following? What if God orders us to do something truly despicable to other Digimon? When do we draw the line?” the angel asked, looking over at his fellow Heavenly Choir Digimon in the pews.

Bagramon narrowed his eyes and quietly gritted his teeth. These words… These thoughts… they had been nipping at the back of Bagramon’s mind for years. He was the one who carried out the punishment of heretics, so he had first-hand knowledge of what it meant to deliver justice. However, not every case was so clear. His conscience was not clear. Carrying out God’s justice… it did not feel the same as what he felt that justice truly was. Bagramon was not swayed by Lucemon’s charisma words; his mind was already thinking these things for himself. Lucemon was merely putting Bagramon’s thoughts into words, unfiltered through a voice that was not clouded by doubt.

Justice…” he thought, closing his eyes and thinking heavily to himself.

“The Being of Goodness would never order us to do such a thing,” Ophanimon insisted. “He is a benevolent being. He created the Digital World and Digimon itself.”

Yet He allows such catastrophe and strife to occur in the Digital World that he created,” Bagramon thought to himself darkly. “Wars, calamities, abominations who wreak destruction… How can he allow such evil in the Digital World? Such unreasonable justice of the world…? Where is God’s justice then?

“The unreasonable punishments that you speak of, Lucemon, are not directed at good, honest Digimon. They are only directed at dangerous heretics who plot to overthrow us and discredit the foundations that the Sky Colonies are built upon,” Seraphimon responded pointedly. “That is why you stand before us.”

“Dangerous heretics…” Lucemon mused with a smug smirk on his face. “What are we if not dangerous heretics? The Religion of Light was originally part of the Yggdrasil belief. That is, until you all changed your beliefs and created a system anew. How is that any different from what I am doing?”

Bagramon lowered his head, bowed in thought. “He has a point. This is a bit hypocritical when the Religion of Light itself is divergent…” he quietly deliberated.

“The difference between us is that we did not call for the destruction and the overthrow of the established society,” Cherubimon sarcastically responded. “We broke away peacefully, whereas you conspired to overthrow us by force.” Cherubimon sighed and his beady, black eyes softened into a sad look. “How did you change so much, Lucemon? You were such a good Digimon… How did you come to despise us so?”

“I have merely opened my eyes. Any intelligent Digimon would do the same,” the young angel dismissively answered.

“Enough of this,” Seraphimon’s voice fervently reverberated. “All we are doing is giving Lucemon a platform from which to spew his rebellious, heretical nonsense. He wanted a stage from which to perform and we are giving it to him. Let us get to the actual proceedings.”

“I agree,” Dominimon spoke. “This has become less of a trial and more of a public debate.”

“I suppose we should move on,” Ophanimon said in agreement, sighing gently.

Cherubimon winced but nodded. “Very well…”

Seraphimon sighed and relaxed his fists on the judges’ bench. He stared at Lucemon with a commanding gaze. “Lucemon… You know the charges before you. Heresy, treason, and conspiracy to overthrow us. Do you deny them in the Court of Truth?” he asked him, his voice softer than its previous firmness.

“No, I don’t deny them,” Lucemon answered boldly. Surprised whispers echoed throughout the courtroom.

“You don’t?” ClavisAngemon asked him.

Lucemon smiled at them with a soft but confident grin. “No. I embrace the charges before me. Yes, I dare to question God. Yes, I conspired to overthrow you. I am not so weak as to cowardly deny my own actions,” he audaciously explained, still smiling impudently. “In fact, I have many followers who agree with me and who are willing to support me. This conspiracy goes deeper than just the seven of us… What will you do? Will you arrest us all?”

“Such arrogance…” Seraphimon calmly but bitterly observed.

“So, you admit to being guilty?” Ophanimon asked him, frowning.

“Yes, I do,” Lucemon casually responded. “Guilty of speaking against an unjust system.”

“He is unrepentant…” SlashAngemon mused, shooting daggers at Lucemon. He looked at the other archangel Digimon. “Shall we each make our judgments? If he claims to be guilty, then there is not much point to continuing this trial. We have studied the evidence before us in great detail in the precedings. Things are fairly clear.”

“I suppose that would be the best course of action…” Cherubimon murmured with a lingering whisper of regret.

“Very well…” Seraphimon spoke, looking down at Lucemon from his place behind the bench. “I, Seraphimon, the executor of God’s laws, find you guilty.”

Ophanimon calmly gazed at Lucemon as well. “I, Ophanimon, the conferrer of God’s love and mercy, find you guilty,” she was the next to say.

Cherubimon sighed. “I, Cherubimon, the guardian of God’s wisdom, find you guilty,” he disappointedly declared.

“I, SlashAngemon, the Celestial Commander of the Powers, find you guilty,” SlashAngemon sternly judged.

“I, Dominimon, the Celestial Commander of the Dominions, find you guilty,” Dominimon determined calmly and even-handedly.

“I, ClavisAngemon, the Celestial Commander of the Virtues, find you guilty,” ClavisAngemon said with a sigh.

Finally, it was Bagramon’s turn. He opened his eyes and stared at Lucemon, who gazed right back at him.

Bagramon quietly mulled over the situation that he was in. He was surprised to find himself conflicted, a situation that he rarely ever found himself in when passing judgment. He agreed with Lucemon about the injustices that he perceived. However, could he stand up for Lucemon when he had so flagrantly admitted to treason and heresy? Could he put himself in a dissenting position? He was already outnumbered, so was there any point in protesting out of principle? He didn’t have a leg to stand on, so he made a decision out of pragmatism.

“I, Bagramon, the guardian of death, find you guilty.”

Lucemon smiled and bowed his head with calm resignation, unafraid of his fate.

“The decision is unanimous,” Seraphimon declared. “Lucemon, as the sword of God’s justice, I sentence you to deletion for the crimes that you have committed.”

“Death?!” Cherubimon protested, his rabbit-like head jerking towards the smaller angel. “Seraphimon that is too far!”

“He plots our downfall, Cherubimon,” Seraphimon insisted, looking back at him with a restrained but quietly passionate gaze. “We gave the same sentence to Angemon for the same crimes. Do not waver just because he was once our friend. If we give him a meter of rope, he will use it to strangle us.”

“There is still a chance that he could repent,” Ophanimon offered.

“That is unlikely and we all know it. Lucemon is dangerous. He is unrepentant and if we let him go freely, he will continue to spread his lies and seeds of dissent. He will continue to plot our demise and it is clear that he is determined enough to see it through to the end. I am afraid that the sentence will have to stand,” Seraphimon insisted.

Cherubimon sneered, but found that he could not speak out against his argument.

Bagramon quietly narrowed his eyes in response to the sentence. “And he expects me to carry out this injustice…” Bagramon pondered, glancing over at Seraphimon. “How can I…? How can I do that when I don’t believe in his judgment?

Bagramon turned his angry, narrow eyes away from Seraphimon and towards Lucemon. Lucemon was merely looking at Seraphimon with a challenging smirk.

Seraphimon stood to his feet unflinchingly. “Guards, please take Lucemon to the Halls of Justice. He will wait in prison until his punishment tomorrow,” he commanded.

The black-haired angel watched as Ultimate level Digimon immediately came flying over from the side aisles to apprehend and guide Lucemon to the Halls of Justice with the others.

Bagramon closed his eyes as he heard Lucemon being shuffled off to prison. He folded his arms across his chest and thought long and hard.

After a minute of soul-searching, deliberating, and accepting his own emotions, he finally came to a decision.

I know what I have to do…” Bagramon concluded, opening his eyes. The doubt and unease that graced Bagramon’s crimson eyes was now erased. It had been replaced with a sharp stare of resolve.

He made a plan, and he had every intention of carrying out. Bagramon’s mind was now clear and the misgivings that plagued his heart were now gone.

As the other angels stood up, Bagramon was the last to rise. He stood with determination and purpose.

Emotion burned behind his crimson eyes as be resolved to carry out his plan. “Just like with DarkKnightmon, the right path is sometimes the most painful one… You know what to do, Bagramon. Right the wrongs, and set this unjust world ablaze…

-

The day turned to night in the Sky Colonies. Hushed murmurs crept through the darkness in response to the scandal of Lucemon’s trial. Many were shocked that such a respected and outwardly unassuming angel such as Lucemon would do such terrible things. There were many who though that he deserved the sentence that he got. However, there were also those who were silently outraged by the result.

A schism was forming within the Heavenly Choir.

Bagramon walked through the Halls of Justice. His stride was focused and purposeful. Bagramon’s eyes were fixed ahead of him, alight with determination.

As he walked down a long corridor, he passed by an open window. He briefly turned his head and glanced outside, brushing his ebony locks away from his face to better see. The night sky was starry, with clouds passing high overhead. He could see the underside of the First Sphere floating above them, as well as the lights of the Third Sphere far below. In the distance were the two full moons, glowing luminously and resting side-by-side in the distant night sky.

Bagramon strode down the long corridor towards the prison area of the Halls of Justice. He walked up to a large, sealed door and placed his hand against it. The door glowed with a single pulse and proceeded to open up for him, revealing a medium-sized room. It was the processing area for the prison. There was a large, locked door leading to the prison dungeons. There was not very much crime in the Heavenly Choir, so only a small prison was necessary to fit their needs.

Sitting behind the desk was a HolyAngemon. He was busy writing digi-letters on a scroll using a feathered quill. Upon feeling Bagramon’s presence enter the room, he looked up and over at the archangel. “Oh, Commander Bagramon… I wasn’t expecting you,” he said, putting his quill down and standing to his feet, adjusting the violet mitre on his head as he rose.

“I apologise for coming unannounced. I wish to speak with the prisoner,” Bagramon explained.

“With Lucemon?” HolyAngemon questioned, a bit surprised at the unusual request. He hadn’t heard anything about this request from SlashAngemon. “On whose authority?”

Bagramon’s eyes narrowed and he turned to the angelic overseer. “My own authority. I am the Guardian of Death, remember… I will be executing that Digimon tomorrow. I wish to speak with him,” he commanded in a dominant voice, reminding HolyAngemon that he was Bagramon’s subordinate and that he could not refuse him.

“O-Of course. I apologise, Sir. I will let you in right away,” HolyAngemon quickly deferred, turning and walking towards the large, heavily-secured, chrome digizoid door on the opposite side of the room from Bagramon.

As HolyAngemon turned, Bagramon spied a giant ring dangling from his waist. There were dozens of keys hanging off the metal ring, jangling together with every step. As he reached the door, he unhooked the keys and began to unlock the door to the dungeons. “You will find him in Cell Number 6,” HolyAngemon explained. “It’s around near the end of the corridor.”

“Thank you,” Bagramon said, walking over to the unsuspecting angel from behind. He quietly raised his sword. “And, I apologise.”

“Apologise for wha--?!”

The HolyAngemon was cut off when the heavy hilt of Bagramon’s sword swiftly and sharply impacted the back of his head. His face slammed into the chrome digizoid door and he crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

Bagramon gazed down at the knocked out angel calmly. “For that sin,” he responded, kneeling down and picking up the ring of keys. After the keys were in his possession, Bagramon hauled HolyAngemon out of the way of the door and tucked him safely behind his desk. With the angel removed, Bagramon opened the fortified door to the dungeons.

The thick, metal door opened with a deep, groaning creak, requiring a good amount of muscle strength to open fully. Bagramon pushed the door open with a strong shove and walked inside. The dungeons were not particularly dark, as there were small globes of white light hovering in place below the ceiling. They kept the dungeon well lit. Each of the cells were surrounded on all sides by chrome digizoid walls, with only a door with a small slit providing access to the cells.

Bagramon walked down the corridor towards Lucemon’s cell. He knew that the other six rebelling angels were locked in here too, but he wanted to start with Lucemon.

He stopped in front of the door with the digi-letter for ‘6’ on the front. Bagramon placed the key in the hole and opened the door. The interior of the cell glowed with rippling, white light. A force field of holy energy lined the metal walls of the cell. Bagramon quickly pressed a couple buttons on the panel beside the cell and deactivated the cell’s barrier.

Inside the cell, Lucemon was sitting on a bed, reading a large book that was on his lap. The angel nonchalantly closed the book and rose to his feet, as if not at all surprised to see Bagramon at the door of his cell.

“I was wondering when you would show up,” Lucemon calmly said, casually walking towards Bagramon.

“I almost didn’t,” Bagramon admitted.

“If not you, then somebody else would have,” Lucemon confidently answered. “But even so, I appreciate the gamble that you are taking on my behalf.”

Bagramon frowned and looked down at Lucemon. “So, you know why I’m here?” he asked him.

Lucemon nodded. “I suspected that you had doubts about the way the Heavenly Choir is being run. You have come here to free me. You are not the only one who shares similar sentiments,” the angel explained. “An undercurrent of reform is running beneath the Heavenly Choir. There are many of those like us who seek a new order for the Heavenly Choir… They recognise that I am the best Digimon to lead the Sky Colonies towards a better future. I am the only one who can do it.”

Bagramon eyebrows twitched downwards slightly. “I wouldn’t go that far… I am not following you. I just think that you are the best chance for me to launch my own reforms,” Bagramon silently thought to himself. “While I agree with many of the things that you said, I am just using you and your support for my own purposes…

“Yes, I recognise that there is wave of discontent among some of the angel Digimon living here. You and your six companions are the vanguard for that dissatisfaction…” Bagramon answered diplomatically. “I believe that the right course of action is to let you seven continue with your plans. And we both know what those are.”

Lucemon nodded. “I concur absolutely…” he agreed, smiling devilishly.

Bagramon moved out of the way and allowed Lucemon to exit his cell. “…How many supporters do you have?” Bagramon inquired, staring down at him thoughtfully.

“A couple thousand, perhaps?” Lucemon suggested. “It depends on how many have the bravery to stand with us when the actual combat starts.”

“So, it will be difficult, but entirely possible,” Bagramon mused, resting his sword against his shoulder.

“Correct,” the blond-haired angel mused, striding self-assuredly out of the prison cell. Once free, Lucemon turned his head to look up and down the dungeon corridor. “Could we release my other colleagues as well? They are crucial to the plan.”

“I was planning to,” Bagramon responded. “They should be—“

Bagramon’s words were cut off when he heard an explosion in the distance. The floor rumbled gently from the blast’s resulting reverberations. It wasn’t in the immediate area, but it was nearby – definitely on the Second Sphere. It sounded like it came from the Hall of Valiance, the Powers’ headquarters.

“What was that?” Bagramon asked, looking at Lucemon.

“It sounds like it has begun,” Lucemon mused, stroking his smooth chin. “It must be my loyal followers rising up. They will likely attempt to break us out of here as well.”

“I see…” Bagramon responded with a soft frown. “We had better get moving.”

“Yes, let’s release the others. The sooner we can communicate with our followers, the better,” Lucemon told him, walking down the corridor.

Bagramon pensively gazed at Lucemon as he walked away from him, down the illuminated dungeon hallway.

There is no turning back now, Bagramon. You have committed to this rebellion. Now you must see it through to the end,” the tanned, dark-haired angel told himself. He tightened his grip around the hilt of his sword and his look of determination returned to his emotion-filled red eyes. “If there was a God worth saving, none of this would be happening in the first place. I know that my cause is righteous. If I need to stain my hands with blood to ensure that justice returns to the Digital World, then so be it. That is my burden to bear.

-

Bagramon dashed down one of the streets of the Second Sphere. The moonlight flickered off the surface of his drawn blade. He held his great sword firmly in his hand as he ran down a street of white marble laced with golden embellishments. White light flickered off the pristine surface as it guided the way for him. He flapped his wings gently and glided across the street down towards a large garden outside of the Hallowed Sanctorum.

The fighting had begun and it was intensifying. The cracks of the Heavenly Choir had split open into a violent schism. The quakes could already be felt rupturing the ground on which they had built their utopia.

As he flew, he could see streaks of beams lighting up the partially cloudy sky. Every so often he would notice the flashes of swords or the flickers of attacks in the forms of shooting stars. The majority of the fighting on the Second Sphere was coming from Hall of Valiance and the surrounding training grounds. The Powers had split into those who were loyal and those who were rebelling.

Moving alongside at him were the seven dissident angels who he had just freed from captivity. Lucemon, Seraphimon, Ophanimon, Holydramon, HolyAngemon: Priest Mode, and Silphymon. All seven moved swiftly down the marble streets, fully intent on starting their rebellion.

A HolyAngemon, a Harpymon, a Pegasmon, and a Valkyrimon flew around a corner ahead of them. The group of soldiers spotted them and stopped immediately, stunned at the sight of the eight Digimon before them.

“Soldiers, to me!” the Valkyrimon shouted, aiming his crossbow. “The prisoners have been released! Eliminate them!”

“Kill them!” Lucemon shouted, glowering and pointing at the platoon of soldiers. “Kill any who aren’t with us! Don’t hesitate!”

“Gladly!” Baalmon shouted with an adrenalized laugh, suddenly disappearing from sight like a flickering shadow.

Seraphimon ripped forwards, towards the group of soldiers. “Die, you fools!” he shouted, closing the distance between himself and the squad of Powers Digimon. He flew up to the HolyAngemon and slammed his opened palm into the angel’s ribs before firing a burning orb of light at point blank range. The incandescent orb tore through the HolyAngemon’s chest and ripped across the street and into the gardens behind them.

As the HolyAngemon burst into data and Seraphimon turned his wrath towards the next closest Digimon, the Valkyrimon turned and aimed his crossbow at him.

“Aurvandil no—“

Suddenly, Baalmon reappeared behind the Valkyrimon, the double-barrelled shotgun emerging from his long sleeve, the muzzles aimed at his back. There was a look of wild intensity in his eyes. He fired a blast from his shotgun that peppered the Valkyrimon’s back. He then swung around and plunged his crimson sword deep into his digicore.

The Valkyrimon gasped and arched backwards before he could fire. His body broke apart into data, which surrounded Baalmon’s form.

Baalmon laughed with excitement as he beheld the data floating around here. “He seemed strong while he lasted. Let’s see here…” he mused, grinning. He closed his eyes and began to absorb the Valkyrimon’s data into his body.

Bagramon stopped and balked at the sight. “Baalmon, what are you—“ he began to incredulously say as he watched such a taboo take place in front of him.

Baalmon let out a pained but exhilarated cackle as his body glowed and he absorbed the scattering data into his body. “Haha! Holy ****! That feels amazing! The power surging through my veins, making my skin crawl…! I can feel myself getting stronger!” he shouted, arching his back with pleasure.

The Pegasmon and Harpymon momentarily watched the scene with both terror and repulsion. “Why you…” the Harpymon said, beginning to fly away.

“I don’t think so, dear. Sephirot Crystal,” Ophanimon said with a dark smirk, creating eleven crystals of burning light in the shape of the Sephirot in front of her. She pointed his double-sided spear towards the two Digimon and sent the crystals shooting towards them. The pair of winged Digimon didn’t have time to evade before the crystals tore through their bodies, exiting with streaks of blood. They burst into data as well.

“More powerful, huh?” Seraphimon asked, drawing their data into his own body as well. He grunted and doubled over, clutching his stomach. “Rrrrgh…” he moaned, clawing at his armoured chest as pain and ecstasy suddenly coursed through him. “Yes… I can feel my power increase, if only slightly…” the declining angel growled with dark intensity.

“Is that so…? The strength of the Digimon must factor into how much power one gains from absorbing their data,” HolyAngemon: Priest Mode mused. “This could help to balance our numerical disadvantage…”

“Fascinating… Perhaps we should make use of the data that becomes available to us, then,” Ophanimon mused with a grin. “Waste not, want not…”

“I bet if I absorbed the data of Seraphimon, I would be unstoppable…’ Holydramon growled to himself, excitement flashing in his emerald eyes.

Lucemon smiled softly. “An ugly practice, but if that is what it takes to overthrow these pitiful nobodies, then that is what we must do…” he calmly mused.

Bagramon couldn’t help but narrow his eyes at the things that they were saying. He didn’t understand how they could just accept such a cruel, vicious, and unforgivable action such as absorbing another Digimon’s data. Surely they knew that it meant that the Digimon could no longer be reborn. Such a thing was unspeakable to Bagramon. Did they really fall so far in such a short time? Or were these the lengths that they were willing to go to for their cause?

It didn’t matter to Bagramon. He didn’t have to approve of their actions. He only had to use them to his advantage. There would be dirty and underhanded things that he would need to be willing to allow if he truly wanted to stand up to God’s unrelenting injustice.

“Come on,” Bagramon spoke, his voice dark. “We need to continue and meet up with our allies. To the Hallowed Sanctorum.”

“Yes, indeed,” Lucemon agreed. He flapped his feathery wings and floated down the street, unperturbed by the carnage.

Bagramon narrowed his eyes and followed the seven angels as they flew towards the open gardens of the Hallowed Sanctorum. As he glided after them, he kept a watchful eye on his surroundings. More beams streaked through the sky, illuminating the clouds.

He noticed that dark grey clouds were forming above the Sky Colonies, completely blotting out the light of the moons and stars. They were thick, tumultuous, and foreboding. The deep, nebulous clouds were as dark as soot, almost bordering on black. They swirled restlessly. It was unusual, even for the Sky Colonies.

Bagramon focused on what was before him. Ahead of him, he watched as Seraphimon unleashed his almighty wrath onto a Shakkoumon who stood on guard in the lush, colourful gardens. His Seven Heavens attack released seven burning orbs of light which tore through the Shakkoumon’s sturdy ceramic form and tore him to pieces.

The black-haired angel continued running after him, gripping his sword tightly as he prepared to use it at a moment’s notice. From what he could tell, the garden seemed clear. Most of the Powers soldiers must have been scrambling in the chaos. They were probably focused on the battle raging a few blocks away. The signs of the violent, disharmonious battle were clear as the dark clouds above flickered and glowed from the stream of purging light.

He watched as the seven angels landed within the gardens, taking up defensive postures. Bagramon slowly touched down at the edge of the gardens, landing on a few flowers as his feet hit the ground. The seven gazed at the Hallowed Sanctorum, a giant, cathedral-like building made of glossy, white marble and stone. The gardens were full of flowerbeds, and there was a large fountain in the middle of the square that they landed in. The peaceful sound of trickling water was discordant with the sounds of rebellion and death nearby.

On the opposite side of the gardens, the shadows of Digimon danced across the grass. The seven angels prepared themselves to attack.

“Over here! Lucemon!” a voice called out. “Commander Seraphimon!”

The group turned to a HolyAngemon, an Angewomon, and an Angemon, who ran out of the shadows towards them.

“HolyAngemon…” Seraphimon spoke, recognising him as one of his junior officers loyal to their cause.

“You are free. We have initiated the operation in your absence. We were going to free you,” the HolyAngemon officer said.

“Good. What is the situation?” HolyAngemon: Priest Mode asked him.

“Those loyal to us have begun attacking the Powers’ headquarters. We also have divisions launching attacks on patrols in the Golden City. We have platoons moving to secure the bridges to Sky Colonies: Empyrea and Sanctea,” the HolyAngemon explained.

“Good,” Lucemon mused. “We will need to move quickly.”

“We should support the attack on the Powers for now before retreating,” HolyAngemon: Priest Mode explained.

“I agree,” Seraphimon spoke, stepping forwards.

Bagramon watched from several meters away as the conversation unfolded. He was tense and uneasy. It wasn’t just because he was betraying everything that he had known. It wasn’t because he was taking a huge gamble based on his beliefs, which could result in his death. It was something else. He felt uneasy with the whole situation he found himself in. Something physically felt wrong.

The archangel of death lifted his head and gazed up into the tempestuous sky. The dark clouds were swirling, churning, like a maelstrom. The black mass of vaporous data coalesced in an agitated state. It was unnatural.

Bagramon began to open his mouth to speak, but the words stuck in his mouth.

“Come on, what are we waiting for?” Baalmon spoke, an untamed levity in his voice. “Let’s kill the bastards!”

“We will show them what it means to cross us…” Seraphimon said with restrained fury.

“Can we toy with them a little?” Ophanimon asked with a soft smirk.

Bagramon frowned as he stared at the seven angels. The center of storm seemed to be forming directly above them. Was it because of them…?

“Let’s finish this already… Let’s destroy them…” Silphymon spoke, bearing his fangs with rage.

“I’ll take those sanctimonious bastards down, alright…” Holydramon snarled, his claws digging into the ground as he stared towards the distant battle. “I’ll make them pay for overlooking me…”

HolyAngemon: Priest Mode sneered and looked at the six angels. “Stick to the plan. If we want to take these imbeciles down, we will need to do it right,” he reminded them.

Lucemon smirked proudly. “Of course… Everything must go according to plan,” he spoke, his voice soft, yet aloof and arrogant. “Only then will I lead us to victory…”

Bagramon looked up and watched as the turbulent clouds suddenly became more violent. The dark grey clouds suddenly split open, their gaseous data spreading apart. The clouds began to glow.

The colours of the light spectrum began to appear in the clouds. However, they weren’t the bright colours of the rainbow. They were dark, discordant colours, glowing ominously in the menacing sky. A sharp green, a sickly yellow, a murky violet, a deep blue, a fierce orange, a sea blue, and a menacing red all gleamed enigmatically within the dark clouds.

The colours soon manifested in the form of shapes. Seven circles appeared within the clouds, and strange sigils began to form in their centers.

They were the crests of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Bagramon’s eyes widened with shock. He looked down at the seven angel Digimon in front of him. Before he could say anything, the crests suddenly surged with dark power. Pillars of dark energy plummeted down from the skies. Each column impacted and consumed the seven rebellious angel Digimon.

Bagramon grunted and braced himself as the impacts sent a ripple of darkness out around the points of contact. It passed through him harmlessly, although he staggered backwards several steps from the blast. The ripple also washed over the HolyAngemon, the Angewomon, and the Angemon, obscuring them from sight with the darkness.

“Rgh… What in the…?” Bagramon uttered, wincing as he stared ahead of him, into the spectral glow consuming the gardens.

His eyes widened with shock at what he saw.

The seven angels were changing.

Darkness consumed their bodies. They grew. They changed. They morphed into something else. Something more sinister and malevolent.

Their bodies grew dark. Their angelic feathers moulted, withered and died, replaced by black leather. Horns grew out of their heads, claws burst from their fingertips, fangs formed in their mouths. In some cases, their bodies enlarged into that of rippling muscle, scales, and fur. Their forms became dark, tainted, and blemished. Holy became unholy. Pure became corrupt.

Angels became demons.

HolyAngemon: Priest Mode’s formal, ceremonial robes changed and darkened. His body decayed and withered into a dilapidated, stave-wielding demon: Barbamon.

Silphymon’s body swelled and enlarged into a hulking, snarling goat demon. His skinny body became a mass of chiselled muscle, covered with dark brown fur. Six, bat-like wings extended from his back, and his tree trunk-like arms were wrapped in burning chains. Golden belts with a fish-shaped clasp wrapped around his biceps and thighs. His snarling, goat-like face roared as he looked around. His eyes were blood red and feral, and long, wavy horns stretched back from his head. Over his hands were golden gauntlets, from which long, glowing, emerald beam claws extended. He became Belphemon: Rage Mode.

As darkness consumed Baalmon’s body, his white robes, embroidered with vast swaths of information, were replaced. His ceremonial garbs were replaced with leather garments that more visceral, unceremonious, and dark. Baalmon morphed into the wild and wicked Beelzebumon.

Holydramon’s long, draconic body morphed from something of grace and holiness into a bestial, reptilian monstrosity. His pink mouth elongated into a massive snout almost the size of his whole body. His pink fur was extinguished, replaced by crimson scales. His green eyes flashed before turning a reptilian yellow. Holydramon became a demonic leviathan of envy: Leviamon.

Meanwhile, the grace and virtue of Ophanimon corrupted. Her regal armour became replaced by loose, revealing clothing. Her hair became dark like a crow’s feathers and her eyes became shadowed and aloof. This Ophanimon transformed into the demon, Lilithmon.

Seraphimon also lost his noble armour and his angelic wings. The once dignified angel became replaced by a ferocious, horned, demon man. His body became covered with thick fur, demonic wings grew from his back and large horns grew out of his skull. Seraphimon became the wrathful Demon.

Lastly, Lucemon’s pure, innocent, and youthful body corrupted. His small form grew to twice his size, standing at the same height as other humanoid angel Digimon. His modest robes were replaced by an ostentatious black, white, and gold suit. His hair grew darker and longer, and his blue eyes became dark and baleful. Half of his body retained his angelic features like his feathery wings, but the other half of his body became tainted with demonic black wings. Lucemon became Lucemon: Falldown Mode, retaining only his aloof, blue eyes and his smug smile.

As the darkness consumed them, it rippled outwards. The rebellious followers - HolyAngemon, Angewomon, and Angemon – all transformed as well. The HolyAngemon soldier turned into a lanky, grey, six-eyed demon – NeoDevimon. Likewise, the Angewomon and Angemon both transformed into the black demons, LadyDevimon and Devimon.

The same shadows washed through the spheres, affecting the other rebellious Digimon as well.

Bagramon watched, his eyes aghast, completely stunned by the transformations before him. “What is happening…?” he whispered. “They’re becoming demons…?”

The angel of death watched as the darkness died down. The thick clouds remained in the skies, but the crests’ glow began to dull. Bagramon narrowed his eyes and stared at the seven demon Digimon – the Seven Great Demon Lords.

What… happened to them? Was that… a punishment from God? …Or did they do that to themselves, somehow? Was it… a Dark Evolution…?” Bagramon wondered, his eyes narrowed. He looked down at his own body to see if he had been affected. He didn’t feel any different. Indeed, his angelic body was still intact, unblemished from how it was before. “And why didn’t it affect me…?

“What… What happened to me?” Leviamon growled, his voice rougher, deeper – his words rolling like a snarling gargle. He was crushing entire beds of flowers with his large body just by standing in place. “I feel… different…”

“You look even more hideous than usual…” Lilithmon noted. “But I feel different as well…” The demon walked over to the nearby fountain and gazed into her reflection in the fountain. “Hmm… A different form… This look suits me better. I look stunning…”

Demon grunted and looked down at his clawed hands. “We evolved… I feel stronger… Like I can take on Seraphimon himself…” he spoke, his voice scathing.

“Hahahah!” Beelzebumon laughed, his blood still pumping. “I can feel the power of this body surging through me! It’s ****ing amazing!”

Barbamon looked over his new body with interest, his eyes particularly drawn to the jewelry and the ornaments. “Yes… Perhaps this is exactly what we needed to turn the tides… We can make up for quantity with quality…” he suggested. “I feel more confident in our chances now… But why the sudden change?”

“Does it matter?” Lucemon asked with a shrug and a shake of his head. He grinned darkly. “With these new forms… The Three Great Angels and their lowly dogs are no match for us. We can destroy them and their old, stagnant ways. We now have the power to make them bow before us… With this hallowed body, I will summon forth a wave of reformation.”

Belphemon: Rage Mode released a bestial howl. “WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?! LET’S KILL THEM!” he roared, his eyes wide with primal rage.

“Woah! Settle down, big guy! Where’d that come from?” Beelzebumon exclaimed, unable to help but grin at Belphemon’s sudden energy and rage.

The stunned Bagramon walked forwards tentatively. “Are you all alright…?” he asked them, frowning suspiciously. “What happened?”

Beelzebumon turned towards him with a lopsided smirk. “Maybe it was a gift from God,” he said with sarcastic laugh. “Why the hell didn’t you change?”

“I don’t know…” Bagramon responded uncertainly.

“It matters not,” Barbamon spoke. “Our plans have not changed, even though our bodies have. Are you with us, Bagramon?”

“Of course,” Bagramon assured them, his determination returning to his voice.

The NeoDevimon subordinate staggered forwards, unused to his new legs. “C-Commanders!” he called over to them, his voice deep and raspy.

Demon turned towards the masked fallen angel, his lavender eyes piercing as they observed his subordinate. “HolyAngemon… You have changed as well.”

“Yes… Commander. To my liking,” the NeoDevimon responded. “We have more to report. It involves Baa—“ He glanced at the Digimon who was formerly Baalmon, unsure what to call him.

“Name’s Beelzebumon now,” the aforementioned Beelzebumon explained, intuitively knowing the name upon taking the form. He folded his arms and smirked. “What’s up? Wait! Let me guess: the *******s turned my bar upside down. No big surprise there…”

“Yes, that is correct,” the NeoDevimon explained. “However, we managed to save the smuggled goods that were confiscated by the authorities.” He turned and pointed to a few boxes piled on a small, mobile cloud that they were using to transport the heavy boxes. “We were in the middle of moving them somewhere safe when we came across you.”

Beelzebumon cocked an eyebrow and walked over, a bit uneasy on his legs as well. His heavy combat boots made audible clunking noises against the stone path as he approached the large boxes. The demon grabbed hold of the largest of the boxes and pulled the cloud down to the ground so that he could easily pull the lid off of the crate. He let the lid drop against the side of the crate and peered inside. Within the crate were dozens of bottles of foreign wine, stacked upright from end to end.

“My shipment of smuggled wine all the way from Colossus. Bottled at Bacchusmon’s own vineyards,” Beelzebumon said with a grin, taking out a bottle of deep red wine and admiring it. “Here’s to a new order!” he declared. The demon smirked wider and hurled the bottle at the Hallowed Sanctorum, the headquarters of the holy Virtues. The bottle shattered against the wall and sent blood red, alcoholic liquid down the white marble, staining it a deep rose hue.

“Why bother with that nonsense? You were supposed to be smuggling in resources for our Rebellion. We were this lucky to have some of the Olympos XII happy to support us, and you go and waste it by buying more booze from Bacchusmon?” Barbamon asked Beelzebumon irritably. “What were you planning to do? Hope that the angels would break a habit of a lifetime and drink themselves stupid? Or do you just want to get yourself inebriated?”

“Cripes. Don’t blow a gasket, old man,” Beelzebumon said with a roll of his three eyes.

“Actually, there is more than wine,” the NeoDevimon explained, opening the box beside it. “This will be more useful.”

The NeoDevimon opened up the crate to reveal that it was full of weapons. There were immaculate swords, hammers, arrows, beam weapons, rods, and guns piled up in the rest of the boxes.

Beelzebumon whistled, impressed at the designs and quality of the weapons. “****… Vulcanusmon doesn’t play around. Even his cheapest, most mass-produced stuff is better than most top-of-the-line artisan models,” he mused, taking out a sword and spinning it around in his claws.

“Something came with it, especially for you, Lord Beelzebumon,” the NeoDevimon informed him, handing him a small, metal, attaché case.

Beelzebumon frowned and took the case curiously. “I didn’t order anything extra…” he mumbled, opening up the briefcase. His eyes widened with glee at what he saw inside. Two short-barrelled shotguns, immaculately crafted. “Oh… ****…”

“There was a note addressed to you from Vulcanusmon,” he said, giving Beelzebumon the note.

Beelzebumon read the laconic message. ‘The Berenjena. Free of charge. To Baalmon, the only Digimon who is worthy of wielding them. Take care of them and use them to the best of their abilities. – Vulcanusmon, Master Blacksmith.’

“**** yeah!” Beelzebumon cackled with excitement, immediately pulling out the shotguns and spinning them around on his claws adeptly. With dexterous skill and ease, he stopped the spinning guns in his hands and pointed them at the Demon Lords to test out their weight and feel. “Holy ****. These are ****ing amazing!” he exclaimed, grinning ear-to-ear like a Child Digimon with a present.

“Looks like somebody’s got an admirer,” Leviamon mused, smirking with amusement at Beelzebumon. Underneath the surface, he began to resent the demon for getting something while he didn’t.

“You can play with your new toys later, Beelzebumon,” Barbamon dismissively stated, deciding to use his new name. “There is a rebellion beginning as we speak and we must be on top of it.”

Bagramon nodded firmly. “Time is of the essence, I’m afraid…” he explained to them.

Lilithmon smiled at him. “Then we continue as planned,” she said, her smooth voice tinted with notes of excitement.

“And unleash carnage on the Sky Colonies…” Leviamon added, his reptilian eyes narrowing and his double tail flicking irritably.

“Yes…” Seraphimon spoke in a near whisper. “We will show The Being of Goodness and his bootlickers what revolt looks like…”

Lucemon smirked and stepped forwards. “Indeed… And then we will replace this disgusting, unjust society…” he mused purposefully. “…Perhaps we will even replace God himself…”

Bagramon closed his eyes. He could feel the determination, the hatred, the zeal of the Demon Lords. The war was beginning and he would have to pick a side. No… He had already chosen. Bagramon had chosen what he saw was the path of justice. He was going to stick by that choice, no matter how much blood was spilled by his hands. He knew that he was going to have to spill the blood of those who he had considered his brothers.

However… He had already cast aside one brother for his ideals. He would do so again. They were the ones who had become unjust, not him, he told himself. If introducing justice to the Digital World was the result, it would all be worth it…

Bagramon gripped his sword tightly in his hand for a moment before relaxing his hold. He released a calming breath and slowly opened his eyes. He matched gazes with Lucemon and nodded gently.

“So be it…”
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Chapter 31: A Crisis of Faith (Part III)​

“Don’t you see, Seraphimon?! God is the cause of all of the suffering in this world!”

Bagramon tore upwards into the darkened, night sky. He flapped his powerful white wings and propelled himself towards the archangel of blue, silver, and gold. With strength and zeal, he raised his long, glowing sword over his head and swung it down on the seraph Digimon.

Seraphimon crossed his armoured forearms over his head and blocked the blade. Light flashed between their bodies at the mighty impact. Seraphimon drove his heel into Bagramon’s armoured chest and sent him reeling backwards. “What is this nonsense, Bagramon?! God is the source of everything good!” he protested angrily. He raised his hand towards Bagramon and outstretched his fingers. Electricity began to crackle and dance along his palm threateningly, intertwining his fingers. “What happened to you, Bagramon?! Have you lost your mind?! Stop this senselessness at once!”

“I have seen the light, Seraphimon,” Bagramon protested, recoiling from the blow and glaring at the archangel opposite him. He didn’t expect Seraphimon to understand. He poised his sword and tensed his body, preparing to move in an instant. Where his will was once uneasy, it was now dauntless. He would even fight his friend if he had to. “I have finally acknowledged the feelings that I have been casting aside all this time. God is cruel and imperfect. I cannot serve him any longer. I cannot serve you any longer, Seraphimon.”

“You have been deceived by that duplicitous heretic Lucemon!” Seraphimon boomed, lightning exploding from his hand. “Divine Breaker!”

The stream of divine lightning ripped out from his palm in a sudden, powerful streak. The jagged tendrils of burning, sanctified light snapped through the night sky towards Bagramon. The dark-haired angel only barely managed to evade the piercing surge by flying sharply to the right. The potent lightning bolt swept by him, adding another flicker to the flashing, burning clouds of the umbrous Sky Colonies.

A week had passed since the Demon Lords had been freed and the rebellion had begun. It was a week of terror, bloodshed, violence, and betrayal.

The Heavenly Choir was divided, fractured. There were those who followed the Seven Great Demon Lords and rose up against the Heavenly Choir. In the process, most of them had become demon Digimon themselves as they fell from grace. Then there were those who loyally supported the Three Great Angels and the Heavenly Choir. They were greater in numbers than those of the rebels, but as the days went on and their numbers dwindled, the situation was beginning to equalize.

Much of this was due to the sheer strength and ferocity of the Demon Lords. Individually, they were powerful enough to destroy dozens of angel Digimon at a time. They were a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, and it became bad enough that the Celestial Commanders and Three Great Angels had to step in to fight them directly.

The Rebellion had started off slowly in the first night, but it swiftly escalated. Even the Virtues and the Dominions, as well as the lower orders of angel Digimon, entered the fray out of a sense of duty to whichever side they supported. The battle raged in the Second Sphere between the loyalist soldiers of the Powers and their rebellious colleagues. Over the course of the week, the fighting there was inconclusive, as both sides battled each other bitterly to a stalemate.

In the first night of the rebellion, the fighting immediately spilled over into the Third Sphere. It started off as isolated attacks from the demons, but soon, skirmishes and eventually full scale battles erupted within the Third Sphere of Lambent. Thick layers of smoke wafted up from the Golden City. The black fog added to the thick veil of stygian clouds that endlessly clotted the night sky. Meanwhile, the First Sphere was largely untouched except for a few blasts upon its surface after failed attempts by the rebelling demons to capture it. The First Sphere was well-defended by the Three Great Angels, and, unless the Second Sphere was captured, the First Sphere could not be taken.

However, as the days went on, the tide of battle began to turn in the Demon Lords’ favour. After the third day, their sheer power helped to gain them the upper hand, along with Barbamon’s cunning tactics. Under Barbamon’s direction, many strategic points in the Third Sphere had been successfully taken by the demons. The Golden City was ravaged under this wave of attacks, and many unspeakable atrocities took place. The executions of prisoners, the murder of civilians, and other heinous acts were carried out. Most of these brutal massacres were perpetrated by the demons; they were savage, merciless, and often sadistic in the way that they acted. However, the angels refused to give any leniency to what they called heretics either. They showed the demons no mercy and often killed them on the spot. The fighting was brutal and personal. Friends turned against friends. Colleagues against colleagues. Brothers against brothers. Sisters against sisters. They knew the Digimon they were fighting. It only served to amplify the brutality and the tragedy.

In these middling days, the demons were able to take control of much of the Golden City, as well as the bridge to Sky Colony: Empyrea. From that point, they were able to capture the whole of Empyrea, purging the lesser Sky Colony of most of its defenders. Those who got in their way were slaughtered in the streets. The marble roads of Empyrea ran red with blood and the air became congested with smoke and dispersing data. Barbamon’s strategies were proving brutally effective for the Demon Lords. The momentum was fully with them, and the Three Great Angels were losing traction and soldiers quickly.

Then, on the fifth day, a minor miracle happened.

Although no outside help was requested by the Three Great Angels, it was received. Out of nowhere, a massive black dragon Digimon clad in red armour and goggles barrelled in and blasted the Demon Lords’ strongholds in the Golden City. It was AncientGreymon, and with him were nine other Digimon. The Warrior Ten had arrived to help the Three Great Angels. Rumours had spread in the Digital World about an uprising of demon Digimon in the Sky Colonies. When AncientGreymon heard that they were committing despicable acts, he determined that they had to be stopped. Although some of them were reluctant to get involved at first, he convinced the rest of the Warrior Ten that it was their duty to help the beleaguered angel Digimon. It took him a day to convince them, but they finally relented under his persuasion. AncientGreymon flew them up to the Sky Colonies himself. They coordinated with the Three Great Angels, and through the Warrior Ten’s abilities and Shurimon’s exceptional strategies, they were able to retake half of the Third Sphere.

However, as the Seven Great Demon Lords fought back against the Warrior Ten, progress slowed down on both sides. The Demon Lords were on the back foot, but they fought back strongly enough to drag the battles to a deadly stalemate. The Demon Lords began to resort to more desperate and brutal tactics to ensure that they got the upper hand. Sporadic and intense fighting took place through the night, and the conflict was in danger of going either way.

On the sixth day, AncientGreymon sent AncientBeatmon down to the Royal Knights to call for their aid. When he arrived and explained the situation, the Royal Knights were sympathetic to their plight, but they couldn’t agree amongst themselves on whether or not to intervene. As far as they could tell, it was a civil war, and they weren’t sure they had any business intervening. There was also the fact that they had no relationship with the Heavenly Choir, which followed the Religion of Light. There were many uncertainties that they felt that they needed to discuss before committing to putting their lives on the line. They told AncientBeatmon as much and asked him to tell AncientGreymon their dilemma, even offering him a long-range audio communicator so that they could relay the message directly once he returned. AncientBeatmon was sent on his way back to the Sky Colony, and, once he arrived back, AncientGreymon got on the line and gave them an angry, impassioned speech to the Royal Knights. Mincing precisely none of his words, the goggled dragon told them to get off their asses and help them before more innocent Digimon were killed. Spliced with his anger was his desperation, which shone through when he told the Royal Knights the grim realities of the situation was up there. Hearing his emotional plea and the fact that innocent Digimon were being massacred was enough to shift the Royal Knights into agreeing.

It was on the night of the seventh day that all of the warring parties found themselves in the decisive moment of the war. The Third Sphere was a fiery battleground, and the Second Sphere was teetering on collapse. Barbamon had given orders to their subordinates to prepare for a last resort strategy involving Sky Colony: Empyrea. The decisive battle was raging as both sides struggled to defeat the others.

“Ascension Hallow!” Seraphimon called out, raising his hand towards the sky. The clouds erupted with columns of destructive lightning as he summoned forth God’s justice. The giant lightning bolts descended towards Bagramon as they did battle over the Second Sphere.

Bagramon grunted and dodged the rapid surges of light to the best of his ability, using swift, refined aerial manoeuvres. He managed to dodge three of the bolts, but one blast stabbed down directly behind him, grazing one of his wings. The electricity shot through his body and his wing quivered and seized up. He winced with agony as his muscles burned and trembled, but he kept himself aloft. He flapped his sore wing and flew towards Seraphimon. As he closed in, he raised his hand and fired a blast of burning, holy light towards the archangel.

Seraphimon swerved to the side, but the beam of light glanced by his hip with enough pressure to cause his body to pivot towards the blast. The fully armoured seraph caught himself and ascended higher towards the sky. He stopped, clenching his fists and glaring down at Bagramon.

“Why?! Why, Bagramon?!” he demanded, the anger in his voice laced with the staccato of pain. “We were friends! You were one of my most trusted comrades! How can you turn your back on all of that?!”

“How can you ask me that when God turns his back on the Digital World?!” Bagramon fired back passionately. “How can you put your life on the line for a God who allows such misery and violence?! How can he allow what is happening here, right now?! A true god would have stepped in to put a stop to all of this violence, and yet he does nothing! Do you know how many lives have been lost in this past week?!”

“You hypocrite! You are the cause of all of those lost lives and yet you have the gall to judge God for not stopping it?! The fault that so many innocent Digimon have died lies with you and those despicable demons! Do you commit a transgression and then blame the judge for not stopping you?! Take responsibility for your actions!” Seraphimon furiously fired back. “You are a heretical traitor, Bagramon! Whatever love and respect I once had for you is now gone! It pains me that you have forced my hand, but I shall show you no mercy!”

“Now who is a hypocrite?!” Bagramon yelled back, glaring up at him with fiery eyes. “You act as though you have no choice, but there is always a choice! Take responsibility for your own actions, Seraphimon!”

Seraphimon’s body tensed up with anger momentarily before he forced himself to relax. “From now on, we are enemies, Bagramon. I can no longer call you my brother… Reconsider your actions and surrender, and I will be merciful. I will extend you that kindness.”

“I do not need your kindness, Seraphimon,” Bagramon responded bitterly, glaring up at the archangel. He prepared to charge him, but he stalled, seeing something out of the corner of his eye.

Seraphimon sighed and brought his hands together in front of him. He created seven holy orbs before himself that glowed with the radiant luminosity of seven, miniature stars, lighting up the darkness of the night. “So be it, Bagramon…” he answered, without the anger that he previously displayed. His words were instead filled with the sorrow and regret that lay within his heavy heart. “Seven Heavens.”

As he coiled his arms back to launch the orbs, something came barreling towards him. He turned and saw a massive, brown beast hurdling towards him at high speeds.

“Gift of Darkness!” Belphemon: Rage Mode snarled, slashing his hellfire-wreathed claws down on Seraphimon as he charged into him like a Locomon. The claws burned into the Great Angel’s armour, sending obvious pain shooting through his body. The mass of demonic muscle slammed into him and knocked him away from Bagramon, carrying him through the night sky.

Bagramon watched the explosion of light as Seraphimon drove his seven orbs into Belphemon’s chest at point blank range, throwing them apart. He observed as Belphemon released a roar that ripped through the Sky Colonies before sending unholy green flames from his body towards Seraphimon.

“I’ve got you covered!” a deep voice bellowed out from above him.

Before the flames could impact the seraphim, AncientGreymon swooped down in Seraphimon’s path and began spewing an endless torrent of blazing fire from his mouth and back-mounted cannons. The orange-white inferno swelled, roaring against the emerald hellfire as it contended with it. AncientGreymon flapped his mighty wings to blast heavy bursts of ember wind forwards to fuel the blaze. The flames of the Warrior of Flame began to overpower the Demon Lord’s and blow back on Belphemon. AncientGreymon’s fire burned white hot as it poured forth and consumed Belphemon: Rage Mode.

A primal howl pierced the air from within the flames. Without warning, giant chains began shooting out of the blaze in random directions. The chains that wrapped around Belphemon’s body surged out from his form, fueled by pure rage. One chain slammed into AncientGreymon’s face, causing his head to jerk back and his body to falter in the air. Another chain pounded into AncientGreymon’s gut and threw him backwards with titanic strength that he wasn’t prepared for. A third metal cable shot towards Seraphimon, but he acted quickly enough to evade it, the links grazing along his shoulder armour before he pulled away.

As AncientGreymon’s flames died down from the savage attack, Belphemon took the opportunity to burst through the embers towards the giant dragon who was his equal in size. He snarled and coiled his muscular arms back, preparing to drive his blazing beam claws into the dragon. From the look of utter fury and hatred on Belphemon’s face, he seemed like he wanted to rip him apart with his bare hands.

“Dragon’s Roar!” a voice called out from below before that could happen.

A pair of helical beams, one of burning flame and one of compressed wind, spiralled upwards and impacted the charging Demon Lord’s chest. The pair of complementary elements ignited and exploded, violently tossing Belphemon sideways.

Despite the cracks forming in his helmet and armour, and the trickle of blood dribbling down the corner of draconic his mouth, AncientGreymon looked down with a grin. Below him, he was pleased to spot Dynasmon.

Dynasmon shot upwards and slammed his own mighty body into Belphemon’s. He reeled back his large fist and cracked his knuckles across Belphemon’s face, sending the Demon Lord of Sloth flying away from the strength of the impact.

“The Royal Knights are here to save the day!” Dynasmon exclaimed with a broad grin, looking over his shoulder at the dragon.

AncientGreymon’s initial grin soured slightly as he looked back at Dynasmon. He turned his head and stared down to see the rest of the seven existing Royal Knights.

He saw Alphamon spreading his wings as he ascended above the ground level of the Second Sphere, firing emerald lasers from his hands into a several attacking demon Digimon. Omegamon flew up alongside him, firing repeated blasts from his Garuru Cannon into the cluster of demons who were making a push to retake control of the Second Sphere. The bursts and lasers swept through the Adult and Perfect level demon Digimon, annihilating those caught in their paths.

Dukemon stood on Grani’s back, gliding through the sky. He flew along with Magnamon as the pair broke off and headed in an opposite direction. Dukemon fired a beam from his lance that strafed along the marble streets of the Second Sphere, consuming a SkullSatamon. From beside him, Magnamon unleashed a salvo of missiles from the ports in his armour. The missiles sailed through the air and descended onto several Devidramon, who had corrupted from Gargomon. The group of dragons were destroyed in the explosions that sent tremors through the floating platform.

Finally, there was RhodoKnightmon and UlforceVeedramon. RhodoKnightmon jumped into the thick of the fray, lacerating demons with his razor ribbons and spinning around to send a concentrated blast of pressure from his Pile Bunker into the group of demon Digimon. Meanwhile, UlforceVeedramon disappeared in a blur of azure, barely noticeable in the night sky except to the trained eye. He headed towards the Demon Lords who were on the Third Sphere.

AncientGreymon growled a bit. “It took you bloody long enough!” he called over to Dynasmon. “You should have been here yesterday instead of yammering on about it for so long!”

“I know, but we had to be smart about it!” Dynasmon called back. “We’re here now!”

“A lot of Digimon are dying!” AncientGreymon shouted to him with a grimace. “These demons are the cause… Will you fight with us to stop them?!”

“You know we will…” Dynasmon responded soberly, clenching his smoking fists with determination.

AncientGreymon smiled at him appreciatively. “Cheers, Dynasmon…” he said to him, his gratitude lingering beneath the word itself. His blazing blue eyes hardened and his body emanated with duty and resolve. “Right then. Let’s get to work. Time to put these demons in their place…”

Bagramon watched from afar as the Royal Knights arrived out of nowhere. His eyes widened at the sight of Alphamon, Omegamon, and the rest suddenly showing up unannounced. He never expected that the Royal Knights, the staunch supporters and warriors of Yggdrasil, would bother themselves with the likes of the Religion of Light. Why would they step in now? Do they honestly care about what happens here? Would they intervene with their own brand of justice even up here, kilometers above the Digital World?

As shocked as he was, an incredulous grin managed to emerge on his face. For a split second, he pictured his brother, SkullKnightmon, chuckling at the absurdity of the situation and offering a dry, witty quip at Bagramon’s expense. It would probably be something about the irony of him and his Royal Knight friends needing to come stop them because the Exodus ended in such an obvious failure. He would also probably mock the fact that Bagramon had fallen so far from his hope and idealism, so much that he rose up in revolt against those he supported so staunchly.

It was then that the fleeting smile disappeared from Bagramon’s face. It was replaced by scowl as he was greeted by the reality of the situation.

The Royal Knights had arrived to fight against them. Each member was an incredibly skilled fighter with immense power, a strategic mind, and expert martial capabilities. They were barely holding their ground against the combined forces of the Three Great Angels and the Warrior Ten. With the Royal Knights against them as well, things were not looking good.

And more than that… Bagramon wondered if SkullKnightmon… DarkKnightmon was there. Was he still with the Royal Knights? Would he have to fight against his own brother? Could he bring himself to go that far? Would he have to kill him?

Those thoughts raced through his mind as he plunged his sword through an attacking Silphymon’s chest. After withdrawing his sword and letting the Digimon plummet, Bagramon sneered and looked towards where he saw all seven of the Royal Knights emerge. He didn’t see an eighth. He didn’t notice DarkKnightmon with any of them. He wondered why… DarkKnightmon would have been there with them. He wouldn’t back down from facing the Religion of Light, even if it meant fighting his own brother. Even then… they both renounced that title that fateful day, long ago. That day felt so long ago… so out of reach…

Bagramon wondered… Was DarkKnightmon absent because he couldn’t face him? Or could it be that the rumour that he had heard was true. Did DarkKnightmon truly rebel against the Royal Knights? Was he really defeated and sent to the Dark Area? “The fool,” he briefly thought.

However, Bagramon then remembered his own situation. Did both brothers rebel against the things that they both so desperately defended from the other? Did they both turn their backs on the things that were once so important to them? He couldn’t help but feel a certain tragic irony if it were true.

While Bagramon was curious… it didn’t matter to him any longer. They were no longer brothers. Bagramon had a greater mission now – one that transcended brotherhood. He was the one who ruled over death. He was the one who delivered justice. Now, it was his job to make sure that justice was delivered equally and fairly. That was something that God could never do, he believed. If DarkKnightmon was there, he would fight him. If he wasn’t there… that was better for him.

This was not the time for introspection. This was the time for action. Bagramon was not about to let his goals and ideals be quashed by a bunch of petty, interloping knights. He gripped his sword and raised his palm out sideways. He fires a thick beam of light from his palm that swallowed two HolyAngemon who swooped down to attack him. Bagramon flapped his wings and raced towards the thick of the battle.

The result of the battle was in the balance now. He had to fight as hard as he possibly could to ensure that they would prevail. Not even the Royal Knights would get in his way.

-

Beelzebumon bathed himself in the thick of the fighting.

His dual Berenjena shotguns snarled as he pumped bullets out of their twin barrels. The heavy slugs tore through flesh and gnarled armour. The lithe demon spun around acrobatically, firing blast after blast in a graceful dance of death. There was a dark smirk on his face and his narrow, focused, red eyes glimmered with adrenaline and excitement. As he tore through the crowd of angel Digimon, Beelzebumon was surrounded by the scent of gunpowder, blood, and exhaust. His senses were alert and his reflexes instinctive as he immersed his body in the violence that he craved.

Beelzebumon lunged up into the air and landed onto the Behemoth as it came tearing down the gold-hued street. Upon seating himself on the large motorcycle, he immediately spun around and fired a bullet through a HippoGriffomon who tried to catch him off guard.

He scoffed and lowered his smoking shotgun as the avian beast crumpled to the street and burst into data. “Tch. This is too easy. Where’s the challenge in fighting all these small fry?” he asked, glaring with disappointment. “How am I supposed to enjoy myself if they all keep dying so easily?! I need to be fighting somebody who’s on my level!”

As if on cue, a pillar of holy light streaked towards him. Sneering, Beelzebumon suddenly pivoted his bike to the side. The tires screeched as the rubber dragged along the marble road, sending spider hair cracks through the glossy stone. Beelzebumon veered to the left as the beam slammed into the ground in front of him, tearing up the middle of the street with destructive power.

He felt the blast against his body as the holy light stung his eyes and burned the ground beside him. He was nearly thrown from the Behemoth, but he shifted gears and caught himself. He pivoted towards the beam to keep himself balanced as he drove. After righting himself, Beelzebumon looked ahead of him to see the Digimon that fired at him.

The Demon Lord of Gluttony’s trio of eyes narrowed and locked onto a white and crimson clad figure in the distance. He spotted Dukemon riding atop Grani, his shield raised protectively and his lance poised forwards as if racing down a jousting lane. Beelzebumon grinned competitively as he sized up the Royal Knight, watching as he sped towards him. Quickly, he looked the knight’s body up and down. “Not bad…” he murmured, still wearing a debauched and excited smirk on his face. “Not bad at all…” He put his foot on the gas.

Dukemon bent his knees for balance and prepared his assault. The steel surface of the Gram still glowed dimly in his hand after his last Royal Sabre attack.

Grani swerved to the side as Beelzebumon started shooting at them with a spray of scattershot. Dukemon adjusted for Grani’s curve and watched as Beelzebumon fired at them with one hand while driving and steering with the other.

“He’s strong, but undisciplined and new to his form,” Dukemon said to Grani, raising his shields to allow the bullets to rebound off the sturdy surface. “The other six are too. I think we have the advantage here. They’re vicious and brutal, but I think we can beat them as they are now.”

“Hm,” Grani affirmatively responded. “How do you wish to proceed, Dukemon? Shall we perform a direct charge on him?”

“Let’s go, Grani,” Dukemon answered in agreement. He raised the Aegis in front of their bodies as Grani began circling around. The aerial Zero Arms set a direct course for Beelzebumon.

Beelzebumon looked over his shoulder and saw Dukemon flying towards him from a different angle of approach. He returned fire with both shotguns, letting the Behemoth drive itself. Grani countered this by swerving back and forth erratically, making it harder for Beelzebumon to aim. The shots that didn’t miss were reflected by Dukemon’s durable Aegis.

Dukemon felt his arm strain at the bullets pounding his shield, but he was undeterred. “Just tell me when, Grani!” he called out to his partner.

“Five seconds,” Grani informed him, his voice as calm as a lake. “Four.”

Dukemon sensed Grani’s motions, completely accustomed to working with him for so many years. He leaned forwards on the balls of his feet. The second that Grani began to pivot at an outwards angle, Dukemon pushed against his back and lunged off, meters away from Beelzebumon.

The Royal Knight soared towards the Demon Lord with Grani’s added momentum. He bashed Beelzebumon off of the back of the motorcycle with his shield and lunging at him in a full body tackle.

Beelzebumon grunted and flew off of the still-running motorcycle. The Demon Lord felt his back collide with the hard, marble road and then experienced a large weight on top of him. Beelzebumon winced from the impact and looked up to see Dukemon on top of him. He began to raise his arms and twist his wrists to aim the Berenjena at Dukemon, planning to shoot him at point blank range.

Expecting this, Dukemon pushed his large shield and lance over Beelzebumon’s wrists, pinning him to the ground. The action brought the Royal Knight face-to-face with the Demon Lord, barely inches apart. Dukemon glared down at the demon man with anger and fire burning behind his golds.

Beelzebumon merely grinned up at Dukemon nonchalantly. “…Hey there, big guy,” Beelzebumon greeted with a suggestive edge to his words. He glanced down at Dukemon’s muscular body and then back up at Dukemon’s serious face with an insolent, provocative smirk.

“Surrender while you still can,” Dukemon ordered him, pressing down on the comparatively smaller demon.

“Hah!” Beelzebumon laughed in his face. “I don’t surrender to assholes like you. If you wanna take me down, I’m gonna be kicking and clawing every step of the way.” He slowly moved his foot down Dukemon’s backside and between his legs, winking up at him. “That goes for in the sack too… You might be pretty hot, but you’re predictable… Uptight guys like you think you’re so dominant, but it wouldn’t take much for me to turn the tables on you.”

Dukemon’s eye twitched at these unexpected words. “What…?” he incredulously asked, unable to believe that the Demon Lord was flirting with him in such a situation.

Beelzebumon smirked and leaned up towards Dukemon, dangerously close to his face, breathing his warm breath onto his mask. “Don’t tell me your blood isn’t pumping. I can see the adrenaline running through your data – that barely restrained rage and aggression – just waiting to be let out… You think you’re above it all, but you’re still just a savage beast like me,” Beelzebumon smirked darkly up at him, his deep red eyes gazing at him hungrily. “And all that delicious data… ****… Think of how much stronger I’d be if I absorbed a powerful guy like you…”

Dukemon snarled as Beelzebumon’s words began to get to him. He glared down at him and kneeled upwards so that he could prepare to stab him with his lance. “Not going to happen!” he declared.

“Sucker!” Beelzebumon cackled as soon as his arm was free. He fired a blast from his shotgun into Dukemon’s armoured chest, not penetrating but pounding him with enough force to send him staggering backwards. As Dukemon tried to get to his feet, Beelzebumon slammed his boot into Dukemon’s gut.

Winded and feeling pain shoot through his chest, Dukemon stumbled backwards but managed to steady himself on his feet.

“Dukemon, look out!” Grani warned him as he circled around from above. “To your right!”

The sound of a roaring engine and screeching entered Dukemon’s ears from down the road. He turned to see the Behemoth driving towards him at full speed, riderless. Dukemon lunged out of the way before the rabid motorcycle could run him down.

The Royal Knight dove into a roll as the bike whizzed by him, narrowly missing him with its tires. In no less than a few seconds, Dukemon was back onto his feet and spinning around.

Beelzebumon took the opportunity to leap up with incredible flexibility and agility. He jumped through the air and towards the speeding vehicle, which seemed to slow down for his benefit.

“Royal Saber!” Dukemon shouted as he pointed his lance towards the airborne demon. Light spiralled around the conical shaft and gathered at the tip of the Gram. The lance flashed as the holy power fired in a powerful burst of light. The beam streaked through the night sky and slammed into Beelzebumon before he could land on his bike.

The Demon Lord of Gluttony hissed in pain as the burning light surrounded him and blasted him through the air in the opposite direction. Through his pain, Beelzebumon’s combat instincts kicked in and he was able to right himself in midair. The leather-clad demon angled his body and touched his feet against the wall of a nearby building. He bent his legs to absorb the impact before straightening them and propelling himself off.

Beelzebumon holstered his shotguns and dove towards Dukemon. As he sailed towards him, he brandished his long, jagged claws with a wild look in his eyes. Seeing this, Dukemon pushed off the ground and began flying across the fractured road. He pulled his arm back, poising the Gram that rested over his forearm, and met Beelzebumon’s savage assault.

The two clashed in midair. Dukemon struck first due to the greater reach of the Gram. The tip of his lance dug into Beelzebumon’s leather suit, tearing into it and grazing across Beelzebumon’s hip. The Gram drew blood as the rest of the weapon brushed past Beelzebumon, the crimson liquid oozing from the Demon Lord’s grey skin.

Beelzebumon winced and growled. He drove his claws towards Dukemon’s neck, but the Royal Knight brought his shield up just in time, causing Beelzebumon to slam into it. Dukemon swept his left arm outwards, throwing Beelzebumon away with the face of the Aegis.

The lithe demon grunted and landed on the ground. Without missing a beat, Beelzebumon drew the Berejena and spun around to shoot Dukemon. He saw Dukemon’s crimson cape fluttering in the breeze as Beelzebumon faced the Royal Knight’s back. He fired from both shotguns repeatedly, riddling the red fabric with bullets.

The victorious smirk on Beelzebumon’s face faded when the crimson cape crumpled to the ground, Dukemon nowhere to be seen.

His third eye darted to the left, seeing a glimmer out of his peripheral vision. Beelzebumon turned his head to see Dukemon standing off to his side, sending an arrow-shaped beam of light towards him. Beelzebumon’s eyes enlarged and he brought up his arms to brace for the impact, unable to dodge it. The beam impacted his body, burning against him as it exploded in the middle of the street. Beelzebumon released an unrestrained yell of pain as he was violently tossed through the air. His back slammed against a building and he fell to the ground on his hands and knees.

Smoke wafted up from his body and blood trickled down from his side. Beelzebumon panted and slowly turned his three eyes up towards Dukemon, who grabbed his cape and tossed it back over his shoulders before turning his attention back towards Beelzebumon. As blood trickled from the corner of his mouth, Beelzebumon managed an impressed smile.

He stood to his face on shaky legs and wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. Beelzebumon let out a breathy chuckle. “Not bad, Royal Knight…” he declared, spying Dukemon with amused eyes. “You got some skills. I’ll give ya that… In fact, I’m starting to like you.” Beelzebumon laughed weakly and aimed one of his shotguns at Dukemon. “Finally, a Digimon who I can feel good about killing… Don’t have to waste my time fighting those weak bastards around here who don’t put up a fight…”

Dukemon raised his shield in front of his body and pointed the Gram at Beelzebumon. “I’m more than a match for you, Beelzebumon,” he said to him. “We’re going to stop you demons before you cause any more carnage.”

Beelzebumon smirked, although he was aware that he was at a disadvantage. “Try it…” he challenged, digging his heels in.

“You asked for it…” With those words, Dukemon rushed Beelzebumon with the full intention of taking him down.

-

Barbamon scowled. He watched from a raised platform as the forces of the demons were crushed in the streets of the Golden City. Gripping his staff tightly, he turned his head and watched as the demons and angels fought over the Second Sphere. The demon rebels were fighting hard and savagely, but they were beginning to lose thanks to the timely intervention of the Royal Knights.

He watched as the Demon Lords fought in the thick of the combat. They were up against Warrior Ten and the Royal Knights, as well as the loyal forces of the Three Great Angels. The Demon Lords were strong individually and even stronger together, but they were being worn down by the powerful opponents. They were losing forces and ceding ground, and they started to become outmanoeuvred strategically. Barbamon saw which way the wind of battle was blowing, and he became angry and desperate.

“Curses…” he muttered under his breath.

The Demon Lord of Greed could see the unmistakeable red mass of scales in the distance. Leviamon was on the Third Sphere, crushing buildings and Digimon beneath him as he rolled over with his gargantuan weight. His body was riddled with cuts, burns, and bruises. He tried snapping his giant maw shut on UlforceVeedramon, but the blue knight was too fast and agile to get caught by it. He was rewarded by a V-shaped laser to his face. The giant crocodile also contended with Cherubimon, who rained lightning down on his body, and AncientMegatheriummon, who charged down a shattered road and rammed into Leviamon’s side with his giant antlers and powerful, furry body. Leviamon roared with pain and anger and responded with a devastating torrent of water from his maw that flooded the streets for blocks and gushed over the edges of the Sky Colony like a waterfall.

In the night sky, he could barely make out the form of Demon clashing with Omegamon and AncientIrismon in the sky. The duel was marked by streaks of glowing, red flames, shimmering, blue orbs, multicoloured rays, and ripples of wind. He could see Demon’s ferocity being beaten back and curbed.

Likewise, he watched as AncientGreymon and Dynasmon slammed into the roaring Belphemon. Dynasmon’s glowing aura dragon slammed into Belphemon in a massive detonation, throwing the large Demon Lord into the air violently. AncientGreymon, whose body was wreathed in flames, followed up by descending on Belphemon like a meteor and spiking him into the ground in a full body tackle.

On the opposite end of the Second Sphere, Barbamon watched as Lilithmon fought against Seraphimon, AncientGarurumon, and AncientBeatmon. She created a dark magical circle in front of her and, from its center, fired a beam of dark energy at them. The three were fast enough to avoid the devastating beam. The torrent of darkness instead passed between them and tore through a marble building. They then regrouped and unleashed their attacks onto her, pummeling her with light and lightning, lighting up the dark sky phosphorescently.

Barbamon hissed and turned forwards to see Lucemon: Falldown Mode contending with RhodoKnightmon and Ophanimon. He, too, was showing signs of wear and tear, although it was hard to tell by looking at him. His clothes were tarnished and torn, and there was a bleeding cut down the side of his face. Despite this, he held himself with dignity and confidence as he fought his enemies, regarding them with merely condescending annoyance. Lucemon spun around and delivered a powerful roundhouse kick to RhodoKnightmon, who managed to gracefully dodge it before unleashing a savage assault with his blade ribbons. Lucemon deftly evaded the strikes of the blades, with only two grazing his clothes, before he was forced to jump away. As he did, he was pelted with burning gems, fired at him by Ophanimon.

Lucemon sneered for a moment as the gems exploded around him. He performed a back flip and retreated momentarily, close to Barbamon’s vantage point.

Barbamon watched angrily as their combined demon forces were being beaten down. He glanced to the side, peering into the distance. The Demon Lord stared at Sky Colony: Empyrea, the only part of the Sky Colonies that the Demon Lords still controlled completely. Mostly all of the angel Digimon there had been massacred by the demons as they secured the lesser Sky Colony. Barbamon could see demon Digimon flying around the edges of Empyrea, surreptitiously working on the cloud data that it rested on.

He turned and raised his staff, the Death Lure, and caused the orb on the head of the staff to shine brightly. Using the flaring stave, he signalled one of their subordinate demons. “Black Legion, move up and cut them off; don’t let them outflank us!” Barbamon irately demanded. “I don’t care how many Digimon die, just hold that position! Concentrate your—BAH!”

Before Barbamon could finish barking out orders, a storm of golden missiles descended on him and exploded. The floating platform that he was standing on shattered and Barbamon was thrown inelegantly to the marble street below.

He groaned and sneered, trying to shake off the burning pain that wracked his body. He looked up to see Magnamon flying high above him with smoke steaming from the ports on his golden armour. Barbamon got to his feet and pointed his staff towards Magnamon. “Kill that Royal Knight!” he ordered. “Jigoku no Kaen!”

A magical circle appeared before his staff and he unleashed a torrent of flames towards Magnamon. Magnamon was agile enough to dodge the infernal stream, but he soon found himself swarmed by demon Digimon.

“Damn…” Magnamon murmured under his breath as seven demon flew up and began launching attacks at him from all sides. He nimbly dodged blasts of darkness but he soon felt claws scratch along the back of his golden armour. He kicked a NeoDevimon away and flew upwards, his golden, chrome digizoid starting to glow with energy.

“Miracle Glitter!” Magnamon shouted, taking on a dominant action pose. He unleashed golden rays of light from the surface of his armour, sending them shooting out around him in all directions. The burning rays seared through the bodies of the assaulting demons and reduced them to ashen data.

“Damn those Royal Knights!” Barbamon spat irately. He turned to Lucemon, who stood some distance in front of him, but close enough to be in ear shot. “Lucemon! We are losing this battle!”

Lucemon grunted and turned towards him, his eyes narrow and piercing at the unwanted news. “So do something about it!” he told him sharply. “You are our strategist, Barbamon.”

Barbamon growled and looked down, thinking to himself. He gripped his staff tightly and looked over at Sky Colony: Empyrea. He turned back to Lucemon. “We cannot withstand the combined attacks of our enemies. The others are already being beaten as we speak. We have only one viable option, and even then, it won’t ensure that we will win at this rate.”

Lucemon met his gaze. “The contingency plan that you created?” he asked him, arching an eyebrow.

Barbamon nodded. “The Final Judgment Plan. The legions stationed on Empyrea are ready to destroy the remaining cloud data on our command. If we drop that Sky Colony, we could hypothetically force the Royal Knights and Warrior Ten to divide their attention to try to stop it… Although, with the way things are going, that may not be realistic,” Barbamon explained. “At the very least, it is a gamble worth taking. Even if we lose here, that Sky Colony will fall, and we will be able to cause a devastating blow to both the Three Great Angels and those simpletons of the Digital World…”

Lucemon nodded. “Indeed… That seems to be our best option…” he coldly agreed. Lucemon stared across the embattled Sky Colonies. “If we lose here, I will not be defeated without shaking the Digital World to its core. If I cannot take control of this pathetic world, I would rather watch the surface of the world burn asunder in my final moments. Maybe then, the imperfect Digital World can be cleansed of its ridiculous superstition and fallacies.”

“So, I have your permission to initiate the plan?” Barbamon asked him.

“Do it,” Lucemon told him, turning away. He raised his hand and wiped the blood from his face with his fingers. He aloofly gazed down at his blood before clenching his fist. “Those who stand in our way deserve to be killed.”

Barbamon nodded and turned around raised the Death Lure, signalling for a small imp Digimon. “Evilmon! Tell Leviamon and the Empyrea Legion to start the Final Judgment Plan! Hurry!” he ordered.

“Yes, Sir!” the Evilmon obeyed, flying off towards Sky Colony: Empyrea rapidly.

“Hmm, I had better send another messenger in case that one dies on the way…” Barbamon mumbled to himself once the familiar was out of hearing range.

The Demon Lord glanced over at the smaller Sky Colony drifting on the outskirts of the Third Sphere, thinking to himself as Lucemon stormed towards RhodoKnightmon, Ophanimon, and AncientSphinxmon.

“I will take any means necessary if it means achieving my ends,” Barbamon muttered. The sound of whistling above him drew Barbamon out of his thoughts. He looked up to see another volley of Magnamon’s missiles descending onto him. “Damn him!” he yelled furiously as the missiles started exploding around him.

-

(Continued in the next post)
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
(Continued from the previous post)

-

Meanwhile, Bagramon clashed with Alphamon in the night sky. Their forms were dancing silhouettes against the backdrop of the dark, flickering clouds, set alight by the fire of battle.

Bagramon swept his holy blade down on Alphamon, who blocked the slash by holding the Seiken Gradalpha horizontally over his head. The rebelling angel Digimon growled and tried to push his sword down as he glared at the Royal Knight opposite to him.

“What are you doing here, Alphamon?! This war doesn’t concern you or the Royal Knights!” Bagramon shouted at him furiously.

Alphamon’s golden eyes burned red as he matched Bagramon’s ferocity, pushing back against him with his own brand of reserved intensity. “It concerns us when you slaughter hundreds of innocent Digimon, Bagramon…!” Alphamon protested, the light of their clashing blades illuminating their bodies like stars in the sky.

“This is a war, Alphamon! We have only slaughtered enemy soldiers who are trying to kill us,” Bagramon insisted before recoiling his blade. He grunted and sliced his sword sideways, only for Alphamon to parry his blade. “Ngh… This war is not so black and white.”

“However grey it may have started, it has certainly become black and white,” Alphamon argued. “What of the slaughtered angel Digimon of Sky Colony: Empyrea? What of all the others that the Demon Lords have come across?”

Bagramon narrowed his eyes and raised his hand towards Alphamon. “I don’t know what you mean!” he passionately rejected, firing a beam of light into Alphamon.

The Royal Knight was struck in the chest by the beam and was pushed back by a meter. Although pain throbbed in his chest, he matched Bagramon’s leer and raised his own hand. Emerald energy gathered in the gem on his palm. “I have heard the reports, Bagramon. They were what prompted us to join this battle,” Alphamon explained, his ruby eyes tight and angry. “Don’t play innocent.”

Bagramon gripped the hilt of his sword tightly, growing frustrated at his words. “I know nothing of what is going on in Empyrea. I have been commanding the forces here on the Second Sphere,” he protested, feeling the need to justify himself.

“Even so, innocent Digimon are dying as a result of this rebellion,” Alphamon explained, the emerald light in his hand intensifying. “I will not go easy on you just because DarkKnightmon…” The black knight trailed off, his words becoming caught on the Digimon’s name. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and his eyes tightened.

Bagramon’s sneer temporarily turned into a faint, amused grin. “Just because DarkKnightmon is my brother…” he echoed ironically. “And where is my dear younger brother exactly…?”

Alphamon winced and nearly lowered his guard.

“So is the rumour true? Did DarkKnightmon rebel against you?” the angel challenged, flapping his haggard wings strongly.

“He is no longer a member of the Order,” Alphamon answered grimly. It was all he could say.

Bagramon chuckled and shook his head sadly. It wasn’t long before his smile faded bitterly. “…Then he really is a fool…” he murmured, more to himself than to Alphamon. The angel looked up at the black Royal Knight. “And so are you…” He raised his hand and took advantage of the reprieve, firing a beam of holy light at Alphamon.

Alphamon sneered behind his helmet and acted quickly, firing the emerald laser that he had been building in his palm. The beam slammed together and melded before bursting outwards in a firework of white and green. The two Digimon were thrown away from each other, but they were both already circling around and charging one another.

They met each other in the sky and clashed swords. They rebounded off of each other and attacked again, with each dodging the other. Alphamon thrust his holy sword of light towards Bagramon’s chest. When the angel Digimon swerved to avoid the stab, Alphamon pointed his palm at him and unleashed a powerful beam that pounded into Bagramon’s armoured body.

Bagramon let out a cry of pain as the crushing beam consumed his chest, sending cracks through his armour and feathers flying off of his wings. He fell towards the ground but he gathered his senses and managed to catch himself, spreading his wings and breathing heavily. He raised his hand and a ray of holy light pulsed from his palm. The concentrated pillar streamed upwards and slammed into Alphamon’s bicep. The Royal Knight was knocked backwards and pain shot up his left arm, but he angled his shoulder armour forwards so that the ray reflected off it and parted around his side.

Alphamon was about to swoop down after him, but a voice called out to the dark paladin.

“Sir Alphamon!” a voice called out to him.

Alphamon turned and saw s white, draconic, gargoyle Digimon flying over to him, his body wrapped with glowing, silver belts. “What is it?” Alphamon asked the Gargomon hurriedly.

“An urgent report!” the Gargomon informed him pressingly, his voice uneasy. “Four of the rebel demon leaders have been defeated, however…”

The Aloof Hermit frowned deeply, sensing the gravity of the message that the angel beast carried. “Go on…” he urged him, although keeping Bagramon in his sight as he listened.

“…The demons are doing something to Sky Colony: Empyrea as we speak! They’re altering the cloud data and the whole Sky Colony is sinking!” the Gargomon urgently exclaimed, turning and pointing over at the distant Sky Colony.

Alphamon turned and stared at the far edge of the embattled Third Sphere. Through the smoke, he could see the Sky Colony of Empyrea slowly dipping beneath its usual level. The clouds beneath it were dispersing and the massive platform containing thousands of buildings began to descend below the main platform of Lambent that the Golden City was built on. The only thing keeping it up was the sturdy, gold and crystalline bridge connecting Empyrea to Lambent.

Bagramon turned towards the Sky Colony as well. “What…?” he demanded. His eyes widened with disbelief at the sight of the smaller Sky Colony trying to break away from Lambent.

The angel of death stared, incredulous and taken aback at what he saw. He watched as Leviamon lurched down a destroyed road on the Third Sphere, heading towards the demon-controlled bridge. His body was bloodied, burnt and bruised from the beating he received. Despite the ice lacing his scales and the lightning striking around him, Leviamon dragged himself up to the bridge with every bit of power he could muster.

As he reached the bridge, the massive demon opened his abyssal maw wide. “Rostrum!” he shouted, his deep voice rumbling with bitter defiance. With his last ounce of strength, he snapped his jaws shut across the bridge. The crystalline link shattered under the immense pressure of Leviamon’s jaws. The bridge snapped and crumbled, the stone, marble, and crystal fracturing apart. With the connection to Lambent cut, Empyrea began to drop faster, sinking further below the Third Sphere.

“Finish it, Leviamon!” Barbamon shouted hoarsely before he was overtaken by a series of explosions that drowned him out in flames.

Lucemon kneeled nearby, his form bloodied and torn. He looked over his shoulder at the defeated Barbamon with a scowl. “Damn it… You nuisances…” he muttered to the Digimon before him.

Lucemon watched with utter loathing in his eyes as AncientGreymon and AncientGarurumon stalked towards him, preparing to finish the job. “You pathetic insects… You interloping nothings… I will kill you for foiling my righteous rebellion…” he hissed, glaring at the Warriors of Fire and Light with contempt. Lucemon rose to his feet to attack them, pointing his hands out in front of him. “Die! Dead or Alive!” He began to unleash his most powerful attack, but before he could, he found himself consumed by a combined torrent of flames and light. As the white hot inferno washed over him, his body burned and he fell.

Meanwhile, Leviamon made his final push. He glowered, bearing his jagged teeth, his jaws beginning to spread apart as he opened his monstrous snout. “If I can’t win… I’ll make sure you can’t enjoy your victory…” he weakly snarled as dark energy gathered inside of his mouth. “Anima!”

A dark tornado swept out of his oral cavity and tore through the sparse cloud data still remained beneath Empyrea. The devastating attack completely eroded the remaining clouds still supporting the several districts that resided on top of the giant platform. The caliginous maelstrom hit hard enough to tear up some of the streets and send tremors through the buildings.

Dark mist leaked from Leviamon’s mouth as the attack died down. He weakly grinned at his fleeting victory. “Hah… I’ve done my job… Hah…!” he murmured, before being completely engulfed by a devastating surge of lightning bolts, summoned forth by Cherubimon’s Heaven’s Judgment.

Bagramon squinted from the intense blast of energy that fried Leviamon’s body in the dark night, but he didn’t take his eyes off of the falling Sky Colony.

“No…” he spoke, his eyes growing, mortified at the Demon Lords’ plan. “I wasn’t told about this… What are they thinking?! That’s going too far… The Digital World will…”

Alphamon’s eyes widened with horror as he watched the Sky Colony begin to drop. “They’re dropping the Sky Colony…” he whispered. “If that hits the Digital World…”

Bagramon growled and flapped his wings, racing towards Alphamon with his sword in hand. “It’s too late now. It doesn’t matter!” he passionately said. “If Empyrea has to fall for us to bring justice to the world, so be it!”

Alphamon’s head snapped towards Bagramon upon hearing his words and seeing his actions. His wide eyes shrank and hardened with fury. They suddenly burned an intense crimson in the dark night as he fixed his gaze onto Bagramon. “And what about all the Digimon who will die when that Sky Colony crashes…?” Alphamon slowly asked. His calm voice brimmed with restrained rage and fury.

Bagramon clenched his fists and surged towards Alphamon. “If you want to blame anybody, you can curse God for that!” he shouted in retort.

Alphamon began racing towards Bagramon, meeting his charge. “I don’t have time for you, Bagramon…” he spoke with finality.

Bagramon raised his sword to swipe it down on Alphamon. With a mighty swing, he brought the holy blade down onto the Royal Knight.

However, before the metal could hit Alphamon, the Royal Knight suddenly disappeared from sight. Bagramon stopped and stared at the empty space in front of him incredulously. He was sure that he had been about to cleave Alphamon’s head in. Before he could even question it, he felt searing pain slicing up his winged back. Right as Bagramon arched his back in pain, he felt another cut appear along the backs of his arms, causing him to drop his sword. He didn’t even see what caused it. Not even a black blur.

Before he could move, Bagramon felt a green explosion against his chest, throwing him violently towards the street below. An invisible force slammed into his face and pounded his midsection. Something hard impacted Bagramon’s spine and a burning cut was slashed down his armoured chest, searing through the metal armour and cutting through his tan skin.

The relentless, immediate attack ended with a final burst of green energy against Bagramon’s chest. The angel hardly had the time to shout before he slammed into the street below. His bloodied, winged back impacted the cracked marble hard enough to send chunks of rock shooting up around him.

Bloodied and beaten, Bagramon stared up at the night sky with half-lidded, blurry vision. Above him, he watched as Alphamon suddenly reappeared out of nowhere. It was as if time resumed after having stopped. He could see Alphamon panting from exhaustion the moment that he emerged from his state of temporal transcendence. The Alpha inForce sapped most of Alphamon’s energy from him, but he had accomplished his immediate objective. Alphamon gazed down at Bagramon to make sure that the angel wouldn’t get back up.

Bagramon wouldn’t get back up. He felt pain all over his body from the dominating series of attacks. He felt his vision darken and his consciousness slip away.

As the light dimmed from his sight, Bagramon watched as Alphamon turned and flew off towards the imperiled Sky Colony. Before he lost consciousness, Bagramon gazed up at the dark clouds, which began to break apart in the night sky.

God…” he thought, staring up at the breach in the swelling clouds. As they parted, he saw a single star flickering in the dark expanse. “I have zero regrets… except for…

Before Bagramon could finish that thought, his mind darkened and unconsciousness overtook him. He fell slack against the ground, defeated…

-

One-by-one, the Demon Lords had fallen, crushed under the might and teamwork of the Royal Knights, Warrior Ten, and Three Great Angels.

The leaders of the fallen angels were defeated and the rebellion was put down.

This victory was short-lived. Sky Colony: Empyrea was in the process of falling towards the Digital World. There was nothing to stop its descent. If something of that sized crashed into the Digital World, then the consequences would be nothing short of devastating. Entire cities would be levelled, there would be earthquakes and tidal waves, and the loss of Digimon life would be astronomical.

The Royal Knights, Warrior Ten, and Three Great Angels stood at the edge of the Third Sphere, where the broken bridge drooped ruinously over the edge of Lambent. They stared over the precipice as the lesser Sky Colony continued to plummet towards the ground.

“What the hell did you think would happen?!” Dukemon passionately demanded, glaring at the Three Great Angels. “Building cities in the clouds… Disasters like this are just waiting to happen!”

“We took every precaution when we planned the Exodus…” Seraphimon insisted with an echo of dread. He didn’t pull his gaze away from the falling Sky Colony; he was almost entranced by the impending disaster. “We were certain this would never happen…”

“Not every precaution, apparently…” Dukemon responded bitterly.

Alphamon stepped forwards and placed a hand on Dukemon’s shoulder. “This isn’t the time to argue about who is to blame,” he told him, his red eyes begging. “What we need now is to work together to stop it.”

“I agree,” Ophanimon said, frowning deeply with concern. “We can’t allow Empyrea to hit the Digital World. All of those poor Digimon down there…”

“What are we waiting for?!” AncientGreymon demanded, charging towards the edge of the platform. He spread his wings and prepared to jump off and dive down. “We’re wasting precious time jabbering!”

“Wait, dragon,” AncientGarurumon said. He went and grabbed AncientGreymon’s large tail, holding it firmly to stop him before he could jump. “We need a plan.”

“The longer we wait, the closer that that thing gets to the Digital World!” AncientGreymon protested, wiggling his tail to push AncientGarurumon off. “We need every minute we can spared to stop it!”

“I agree that time is of the essence, but we do need to decide how the best way to stop it is…” Alphamon suggested.

“If a city the size of Empyrea crashed into the Digital World, it would cause widespread damage,” RhodoKnightmon explained. “And it is too large for us to physically stop.”

“There is no way that we would be able to create more cloud data in time,” Seraphimon remorsefully explained.

“There has to be something!” AncientGreymon protested. The large dragon turned towards Shurimon, who was deep in thought and lingering at the back of the group. “Shurimon, you’re our strategist. What do you think?”

Shurimon’s face turned bright red when all of the eyes landed on him expectantly. “U-U-Um, w-w-well,” he stammered nervously, stepping behind AncientBeatmon’s large body slightly. “The only t-t-t-tangible solution would be to break the Sky Colony up into s-smaller, more manageable p-p-pieces…”

“Ah, naturally!” AncientWisemon exclaimed animatedly. “By reducing the mass of the object by means of separating it into many smaller components of miniscule mass, we would be minimizing the destruction that would occur if it impacted the Digital World!” For emphasis, AncientWisemon pulled out a piece of chalk from nowhere and began scribbling physics equations on the street.

“But it’s so big…” Magnamon said, looking down at the falling Sky Colony.

“We would need to break it apart piece by piece,” Shurimon explained tentatively. The Warrior of Wood grimaced with worry and regret. “Unfortunately, there… there is only so much that we can do…”

“Tell us what to do, Shuri,” AncientGreymon said to him reassuringly, looking at his fellow Warrior with pleading eyes.

Shurimon nodded. “We… We need those of you with the most destructive attacks to make a concentrated attack on the center and break through the c-core of the Sky Colony,” he explained.

“Allow me, Shurimon,” AncientVolcamon suggested, stepping forwards and dusting himself off. “I can make the initial blast.”

AncientGreymon nodded. “Then I’ll follow up with my strongest Omega Burst,” he explained. He frowned as a thought came to him. “But… are there any Digimon still on Empyrea?”

“All of our brothers and sisters on Empyrea have been deleted,” Seraphimon explained grimly. “Another atrocity committed by the heretics… Do what you must to stop Empyrea.”

Dynasmon grunted. “I’m with you, AncientGreymon,” he told his friend. “Wyvern will punch through that city.”

Alphamon nodded and looked at Shurimon. “And then we focus on breaking up the smaller pieces, correct?” he asked the Warrior of Wood.

“As much as possible, yes…” Shurimon explained affirmatively.

“For as long as possible…” Dukemon added with nervous determination.

Cherubimon nodded. “Then we should begin.”

“We shall summon every angel Digimon who still carries wind beneath their wings,” Seraphimon assured them.

AncientGreymon stepped up to the edge of the Sky Colony and looked down. “Right… Then let’s go. The sooner we start, the better…” he said with a soft growl that revealed his uncertainty.

Alphamon stepped up beside him and looked up at the large Warrior of Flame. “I agree… Let’s begin.”

With that, the twenty Digimon all got to work. As AncientGreymon leapt off the edge, AncientVolcamon jumped onto his back and rode him down towards the Sky Colony. Dynasmon and Alphamon took off behind them.

As they descended onto the falling city, AncientGreymon launched AncientVolcamon right into its center. Right before striking the surface of the sky colony with his rocky body, AncientVolcamon used Supernova, which released the gathering antimatter stored in his body. Upon hitting the ground, he detonated in a miniature Big Bang that tore through the middle of the city and imprinted a massive crater through the heart of Empyrea.

AncientGreymon caught the Warrior of Earth as he flew back through the air. He then prepared his own attack, using the nadir of the Sky Colony as a target. His cannons and maw swelled with super-concentrated flames. When they reached their most intense, he unleashed them in the form of a condensed blast that streaked towards the Sky Colony like a meteor. A white-hot fireball of compressed, explosive fire fell through the dark sky.

The Omega Burst slammed into the bottom of the crater and exploded in a massive detonation of fire, rivalling AncientVolcamon’s explosion before it. The purging fire swept across Empyrea for kilometers, and fire tore out of the bottom of the Sky Colony, sending fissures forming throughout the platform.

Alphamon and Dynasmon followed up on the concentrated attack. Alphamon used his variation of Digitalize of Soul to summon a spirit dragon from another dimension, while Dynasmon drew Wyvern from his body with his Breath of Wyvern attack. Together, the two dragons descended on the plummeting city and slammed into it. They exacerbated the fissures running through the city before finally pushing hard enough to break right through it.

It was this final push that split the Sky Colony into two. About a third of the city broke off with a massive quake that caused buildings to crumble and streets to crack.

From there, the Digimon worked on breaking up the two chunks into several smaller pieces. They destroyed what they could to ensure that the damage to the Digital World would be as limited as possible. They worked quickly, breaking up the thick, stone and marble platforms. The two chunks became four, and then eight. They knew they only had a couple hours before the pieces would crash onto the Digital World. They knew that they wouldn’t be able to get all of the pieces. They just did as much as they could to protect the Digimon below.

As they worked, their attacks lit up the sky. The Royal Knights and the Warrior Ten worked together well. The Heavenly Choir sent as many Digimon as they could to aid them. Together, the Royal Knights, the Warrior Ten, and the Heavenly Choir did their best to break up the remaining pieces of the Sky Colony.

It wouldn’t be enough.

Although it could have been much worse, large chunks of Empyrea still plummeted to the Digital World.

The pieces of the Sky Colony split apart and burned in the atmosphere like shooting stars. From the surface of the ground, it was a sight that was beautiful, yet terrifying to behold. The sky was full of burning red meteors, surrounded by the flashing of multi-coloured lights. Any sense of awe was soon replaced by fear as the fragments fell to the ground.

The massive chunks of rock slammed into the land and ocean, crushing whatever they struck. Explosions erupted throughout the night as the pieces of the Sky Colony impacted the world below. The chunks hit the ground in massive shockwaves that sent tremors reverberating through the earth.

One massive piece of Empyrea – section of the city a few kilometers in size – refused to break apart no matter how much they tried. Despite the united teams’ best efforts, it slipped through their grasp and fell to the Digital World. It slammed into the north of Eniac, creating a giant explosion that sent a shockwave of destruction out from the point of impact. The devastating collision tore up the ground around it for kilometers as the city slammed deep into the ground.

Throughout the Digital World, smaller pieces of Empyrea caused devastation of their own. Some fragments impacted cities, while others destroyed entire villages… Swaths of Digimon were deleted in an instant. Buildings collapsed, earthquakes and tidal waves wreaked havoc, and kilometers of land were crushed and decimated.

The anger, sorrow, and terror felt that night would be etched in the minds of all the Digimon who witnessed it.

That night, the stars fell from the sky.

-

Dawn rose the next morning.

White clouds drifted in the sky, with rays of sunlight woven between their soft contours. They spiralled gently above the Sky Colonies, in stark contrast to the dark tempest that swelled overhead for the past week.

Sky Colony: Lambent had been devastated by the week of fighting. Buildings were ruined, streets were in shambles, and smoke drifted across the three Spheres.

The Rebellion was over, and the Night of Falling Stars had been a long, painful night of bloodshed. All that was left was cleaning up and dealing with the aftermath.

At the edge of the Third Sphere, Bagramon kneeled before the Three Great Angels. Behind him was the precipice of the Golden City of Lambent, at the sky docks. He glanced over his shoulder bitterly. From the vantage point, he could see the Digital World below. He saw the many pillars of smoke rising up from the continent below. He could only imagine the damage.

Bagramon looked away from the sight with bitter remorse and quietly cursed God for allowing yet another disaster to take place.

He opened his red eyes and gazed at the Three Great Angels standing in front of him. Off to the side, he could see Alphamon and Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode watching. The others were off helping with the cleanup effort.

Bagramon’s body was beaten, bloodied and bruised from the previous night. He kneeled, awaiting his judgment. He found it bitterly ironic; he was usually in the opposite position in this situation. He was the one who would deliver God’s justice; now he was the one who was awaiting it.

Their rebellion failed. He knew what came next for him. He had seen it. Bagramon had watched as, one-by-one, the Seven Great Demon Lords were struck down, their bodies cast to the Dark Area for eternity. He expected a similar fate.

Bagramon gazed up at the three archangels stubbornly. “…I would offer to perform my usual execution duties, but I think that it might be rather difficult under the circumstances…” he dryly spoke up.

Seraphimon stared down at him bitterly. “I am not in the mood for jokes, Bagramon…” he responded. There was no malice or anger in his tone. His usually strong and animated voice was deflated. He bowed his concealed head slightly. “…Why? Why, Bagramon?”

“…I have already told you my reasons…” Bagramon responded. There was guilt in his voice, but he gave no sign of backing down from his cause. “God is cruel and unjust… Last night has shown that more than anything.”

“You felt so affronted by God that you felt the need to turn your backs on your friends and follow Lucemon and his supporters?” Ophanimon asked him sadly. “Why couldn’t you have just spoken to us about your grievances?”

“We were supposed to be your friends…” Seraphimon echoed her sentiments. “Was it all a ruse?”

“If I did, would any of you have listened?” Bagramon closed his eyes and bowed his head. “…I tried to ignore my doubts. For so long, I cast them aside and did my duty like I was supposed to. That is what we have been conditioned to do here in the Sky Colonies, isn’t it? …My doubts simply bubbled to the surface during Lucemon’s trial…” Bagramon explained matter-of-factly. He turned towards Ophanimon emphatically. “And I did not follow Lucemon. I acted on my own. I chose to rebel on my own. All of my actions are my own and nobody else’s…” Bagramon narrowed his eyes and stared at the ground in front of him. “I knew nothing of their plan to drop the Sky Colony.” There was a hint of regret in his voice this time.

“Even so, you were the one who released them from prison. You are indirectly responsible, Bagramon. That cannot be overlooked,” Seraphimon explained to him bitterly. “And you had a direct hand in killing our brothers and sisters. You cannot deflect responsibility…”

“I fought for what I believed in. For what I still believe in,” Bagramon argued. “I will not serve an unjust god.” He raised his head and stared directly at Seraphimon’s armoured face, his eyes determined yet full of emotion. “I have seen so much death, Seraphimon… So much death and sadness and pain… How can the Being of Goodness justify it all...?”

“God is moral, Bagramon. You must have faith in that,” Cherubimon contended, his demeanour sad yet composed as he calmly spoke.

“Yet here I kneel, awaiting his judgment… Judgment for wanting something better for the Digimon of the Digital World…” Bagramon ironically responded. “…I have seen more punishment from God than I have salvation… What say that about him?”

Ophanimon softly shook her head. “It is because you have good heart that God is willing to show you mercy…” she explained. “Repent before God, Bagramon… We will show you mercy…”

Seraphimon nodded gently. “It is because of our friendship that I am willing to give you this chance as well, Bagramon…” He stared at the kneeling angel beseechingly. “Come back to us… so that we may mend the distortion between us.”

“Please… admit your mistakes and embrace us again,” Cherubimon urged him with pleading eyes.

Bagramon closed his eyes gently. “I… cannot,” he replied bitterly. “I will not serve God any longer… I will not be a servant to his injustice, and I do not regret the things that I have done. I will not be a hypocrite.”

Off to the side, Alphamon stood beside Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode. They quietly awaited the rebel’s judgment. The black knight winced as he watched Bagramon’s stubbornness. He was sorely reminded of DarkKnightmon’s obstinance. He knew the implications of his words.

Seraphimon stiffened for a moment. As calmly as he could, he turned around, pivoting his winged back towards Bagramon. “…So be it…” he spoke, his voice deep, echoing, and stiffly neutral.

Ophanimon frowned remorsefully. “You know you will be punished…” she explained to him.

“I am well aware…” Bagramon whispered.

As he spoke, he could hear thunder rolling in the sky. He opened his eyes and gazed defiantly at the clouds. He stubbornly refused to back down. Wordlessly, he challenged God.

“Then prepare for your punishment…” Seraphimon spoke. He glanced over at Imperialdramon and Alphamon, shaking his head to tell them that access to the Dark Area would not be necessary. He looked forward again, unable to turn around and gaze at Bagramon. “You were my friend once… My brother. That is why this pains me so much.”

“Some things transcend even brotherhood…” Bagramon somberly mused.

“…You will receive a reduced punishment compared to the seven Rebel Leaders. You will suffer God’s wrath and be exiled from the Sky Colonies forever. …However, you will not be sent to the Dark Area…” Seraphimon explained, although not without notes of sadness that he tried to repress.

“I expect it will hurt,” the black-haired angel dryly suggested with as much courage as he could muster.

“Most likely…” Seraphimon answered, still not looking at him.

Bagramon nodded gently. “…I am ready,” he said softly.

His eyes turned up to the funnel of clouds overhead. He stared upwards defiantly, his eyes both resigned and resolute. Holding himself with dignity, he quietly challenged the Being of Goodness to do his worst.

Then the sky flashed.

A pillar of holy lightning came piercing down from the sky. The bolts descended on Bagramon and he met his grisly punishment. A strand of lightning tore through his right eye, annihilating it completely. Then the lightning consumed the right half of his body. His right arm and leg were obliterated and the purging lightning burned through the right side of Bagramon’s chest, down to his ribs and pelvis. Bagramon howled in agony, the scream ripping deep from his vocal cords.

As the lightning hit him, his white feathers were struck black, and his ebony hair turned a stark white. Red horns suddenly protruded from his forehead and the sides of his skull.

The lightning bolt faded, Bagramon collapsed onto the ground, his body mangled and convulsing in unparalleled, excruciating pain.

Ophanimon and Cherubimon had to look away at the sight. Seraphimon glanced over his shoulder and eyed at Bagramon with guilt and regret.

The seraph Digimon turned forwards and looked at a HolyAngemon. “…Take what’s left of him down to the Digital World. He should survive… hopefully…” he murmured with as much dispassion as he could.

“Yes, sir,” the HolyAngemon dutifully responded, going to collect Bagramon’s severed body with a small team of angel Digimon. The punished angel fell unconscious from the pain before they reached him.

Alphamon watched with regretful eyes as Bagramon mutilated body was carried off, to be taken down to the Digital World and left to his fate. The Royal Knight walked across the pier, over to the Three Great Angels. Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode walked with him.

“It isn’t my place to say, but that seemed heavy-handed…” Alphamon said, walking up to them.

“Unfortunately it had to be. He was one of the leaders of this bloody rebellion,” Seraphimon answered stoically, turning to him. “At least it was better than the alternative…”

Alphamon frowned. “And the other rebel soldiers?” he asked.

“We will deal with them…” Ophanimon explained, her voice not forthcoming.

Alphamon looked at the three of them with both concern and warning. “I hope you won’t be as heavy-handed with all of them… I know that security is an issue, but don’t forget that this isn’t all due to them…” Alphamon reminded them. “This rebellion happened for a reason. There were divisions in your society. Rather than exacerbate the problems, you should recognise them and try to mend them.”

“We will, Alphamon,” Cherubimon assured him.

“And we will be fair in our punishments, but those who aided the demons in their conspiracy and rebellion will still need to be punished,” Seraphimon explained. “After this, we need to ensure that the Sky Colonies can survive and rebuild…”

“Thank you for your help, Alphamon, but leave the rest to us,” Ophanimon told him with a smile.

Alphamon nodded after a moment. “Very well… but I don’t want the Royal Knights to have to come back here once again…” he warned them ominously. There was a flicker of red in his eyes as he stared at the Three Great Angels. “We will… if we must.”

“AncientGreymon gave us a similar warning…” Seraphimon murmured, turning away.

“Just as long as you know,” Alphamon responded. “The Royal Knights do not pick sides when we see injustice.”

“We will treat the situation as sensitively as we can…” Cherubimon reassured the Royal Knight. “We will be fair and just. I promise…”

Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode stepped forwards and shouldered his sword. “So, you won’t need us anymore.”

“No…” Seraphimon responded. “The only ones left who were dangerous enough to require imprisonment in the Dark Area were the Seven Demon Lords.”

Imperialdramon turned to Alphamon. “Then I guess we should get going. I’d like to double check that the Dark Area is secure. And there’s also the damage to the Digital World that we need to see to… They will need leaders for the relief effort.”

“We will send whatever relief we are able to,” Seraphimon assured them. “We may be short-handed with supplies dealing with the damage here, but we will do whatever we can.”

Alphamon sighed and nodded. “Yes, thank you… We will leave you to it. We will all be very busy…” the Royal Knight spoke heavily. “Let’s go collect the others…”

“Thank you again for the help, Alphamon,” Cherubimon said to him graciously. “Things could have gone much worse if you hadn’t come to our aid.”

“You’re welcome…” Alphamon said, looking at them before walking away with Imperialdramon. He glanced over the side of the Third Sphere to behold the devastation on the Digital World below.

“Although I’m not sure how much worse things could have gotten…”

-

Two days passed since that fateful night.

Punishment had been delivered for the crimes that had been committed. Despite that, anger, sorrow, and suspicion still burned in Digimons’ hearts. Not just those in the Sky Colonies, but the Digimon affected by the Night of Falling Stars on the Digital World’s surface. However, all that the Sky Colonies and Digital World could do now was rebuild. The Digimon themselves had to restore their shattered and affected lives.

Some Digimon had more to repair than others.

Deep in the forest in the Neutral Zone, one Digimon struggled to cling onto survival.

It was the dead of the night. Rays of moonlight shone down through the branches, creating intermittent wisps of soft, white light. The forest was silent except for the sounds of the single Digimon.

Bagramon dragged his mutilated body across the forest floor. He heaved, sucking in strained, exhausted breaths before exhaling shakily. With every movement, he growled, his voice haggard and gravelly from the unbearable pain. The fallen angel clawed his way over the ground with his left arm. He helped himself along by pulling his remaining left leg up to his chest and then extending it to push his body forwards. His fingers dug into the earth of the forest floor with every arduous pull.

He was in immeasurable agony, but he stubbornly dragged what was left of his body forwards. His right eye was a dark, bloody, empty socket. His right arm and leg were completely gone; not even stubs remained the limbs. His right side was badly burnt and bleeding intermittently. He was a shadow of his former self, but he refused to lie down and die. Bagramon refused to let himself be reformatted. After what had been done to him… a fire had been ignited inside of him. It was a spark of livid determination that blazed into a wildfire.

His crimson left eye was wide and bloodshot. He glared furiously ahead of him. The demon lord Digimon gnashed his teeth to repress a groan of pain that bubbled up from his throat.

Ahead of him, he could see the moonlight growing brighter and more intense. There seemed to be a clearing ahead of him. Bagramon continued pulling himself stubbornly towards it, hoping to get out of the forest. His senses were so overwhelmed by his pain and emotions that he had no sense of direction. He just kept pushing himself forwards until he found something.

Bagramon dug his fingers into the grass and pulled himself out into the open clearing. Panting heavily, Bagramon came to a temporary stop at what he saw in the center of the glade.

A massive tree, thicker and taller than any other, reached up from the center of the expansive clearing. Its trunk was a few hundred meters in diameter, and it reached kilometers into the sky.

There was a flicker of shock in Bagramon’s widened eye. It was the World Tree.

He couldn’t help but release a hoarse - nearly demonic - chuckle of irony. “The World Tree. …Is this your tree, God…?” Bagramon croaked in question, a pained smile forming on his face. “Are you and Yggdrasil the same…? What is this, God? Do you give me a small mercy after your heartless punishment…? Or is this merely coincidence…? Or fate…?”

Bagramon didn’t wait for an answer. He kept dragging his devastated body across the lengthy clearing. Despite the expansive grassland surrounding the massive tree, he didn’t stop for a moment.

It took him half an hour, but Bagramon finally reached the base of the giant tree. Bagramon clawed his way up to the trunk. Once there, he stopped and panted with exhaustion and pain, resting his forehead against the bark of the tree.

Bagramon flipped his body over and leaned his back against the massive trunk. He looked down at his half-destroyed body. “I need… to repair my body…” he breathed.

The fallen angel Digimon slowly turned his eye towards the World Tree, an idea forming in his mind. “Or create a new one…

A pained yet defiant smirk grew on Bagramon’s face. He closed his remaining eye and released a deep laugh, fueled half by adrenaline and half by anger.

He looked into the distance, where he could see smoke still drifting up from the Digital World, towards the starry sky. His smile faded and his gaze hardened into one of bitter anger and determination. He gazed up through the boughs of the holy World Tree, towards the sky where he once lived.

I will never accept you, God… I will never forget your unreasonable cruelty and injustice…” Bagramon thought to himself, almost as if trying to communicate to the Being of Goodness. Despite his brutalized body, his purpose and defiance only grew. “No matter how long it takes… no matter how much time I must bide… no matter what I have to do… I will personally see to it that you are removed from this wretched world.

As Bagramon closed his eye, his empty right eye still stared blankly towards the sky. He gently placed his hand on the World Tree behind him, rubbing its bark. He managed a soft grin on his agonised face.

I was once an angel of death, but now I am a demon of justice… As such, I shall replace the senseless death in this world with true and absolute justice…

Bagramon raised his right hand up to the sky and closed his fist tightly. His red eye gleamed with unparalleled resolve.

I will destroy God with my own hands…
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Chapter 32: First Encounters​

At long last, the sun re-emerged over Splendour’s Reach. The warm rays shone down across the verdant, grassy landscape, ridding the emerald blades of the rainwater. All that remained were the tiny dew drops that rested on the surfaces of the plants and leaves, shimmering beautifully in the morning sunlight. The slightly wet sheen gave the fields the faint resemblance of a tranquil, green sea.

It made for ideal training weather for the new recruits of the Strike Forces. The air was warm and the ground was no longer slippery. The majority of the veteran Strike Forces was off doing field exercises in the territory surrounding the castle. Meanwhile, the recruits were gathered in the training grounds of Castle Albion. They were in the middle of morning combat drills.

With perfect synchronicity, the recruits stood in two lines that faced opposite to each other. Each Digimon was spaced far apart from the Digimon next to them so there was plenty of room. They each faced a partner opposite to them. The recruits were practicing sparring. For safety, each Digimon had the training program installed in their weapons in order to make them non-lethal and release only a mild electric shock upon impact.

SaviorHackmon stood in a prepared stance. His legs were bent, his posture was hunched, and his arms were crossed in front of his body. His golden eyes were alert and his wrist blades were at the ready. He was like a predator eyeing his prey, ready to pounce as soon as his target let his guard down. The soft breeze didn’t stir him as it blew across the training grounds. It only caused his red cape to ripple gently against his back.

He stood opposite to a fellow new recruit of the Strike Forces. He faced a tall, slender, yellow and black hornet man. TigerVespamon gazed at him calmly. Unlike SaviorHackmon, his stance was straight and relaxed. His posture was impeccable - level enough to draw on his back. He held in his hands his shining, twin, beam swords, the Royal Meisters, which he crossed in front of him. The two ends of his red scarf also blew in the soft, intermittent breeze. He gazed at SaviorHackmon calmly, his breaths no more than soft whispers. He stood ready to accept the dragon’s attack.

They waited as Leftenant HippoGriffomon walked over to them. The Leftenant’s leg now mostly recovered from the injury he sustained in battle against the Metal Empire. Walking with only a slight limp, the white gryphon stopped some distance behind TigerVespamon and turned his eagle-like head towards the two recruits. “Ready, group five?” he asked the pair. Upon hearing no protest, he gave the order. “…Commence.”

Like an elastic band that was stretched to its limits and then released with a snap, SaviorHackmon was the first to move. He dug his bladed foot into the ground and pushed off, propelling himself towards TigerVespamon like a raging meteor. He glided across the ground, arching his arms backwards as he poised them to strike.

TigerVespamon didn’t meet his charge. He took a step back and patiently awaited his opponent’s assault. He was as calm and composed as the clearest lake, not faltering for a moment in the face of SaviorHackmon’s aggressive charge.

SaviorHackmon surged towards him. He closed in on the bug before stopping abruptly in front of him. He plunged his two wrist blades in between the hilts of TigerVespamon’s swords and then swiped his arms outwards sharply, pulling the crossed blades apart. With his foe’s guard broken, SaviorHackmon took the opportunity to slash his blade down on TigerVespamon.

Moving swiftly, TigerVespamon angled his left arm behind him and turned his body to the left, narrowly avoiding the slash as it swept by him. SaviorHackmon grunted and slashed his left arm down diagonally. TigerVespamon anticipated this and took another step backwards to increase the space between them, dodging the follow up attack too. It was close enough that he could feel the unsettled wind caused by SaviorHackmon’s passing blade.

SaviorHackmon narrowed his eyes in frustration and raised his bladed tail. He then stabbed it over his shoulder, like a scorpion, towards TigerVespamon’s neck. Calmly, TigerVespamon tilted his head to the side, allowing the blade to pass by his jaw harmlessly. He still didn’t raise his swords to retaliate.

Starting to become frustrated by the fact that he couldn’t land a hit, SaviorHackmon growled and followed up with another vicious attack. He stabbed his right blade forwards, only for TigerVespamon to dodge. This time, SaviorHackmon adapted. Using the momentum of the thrust, SaviorHackmon ducked and spun around, using his right foot as the focal point. With his crimson cape fluttering upwards disruptively in front of TigerVespamon, the concealed SaviorHuckmon delivered a roundhouse back kick. At the same time as he spun, he swung his bladed tail around with his left leg, unleashing a double slash onto TigerVespamon.

TigerVespamon flexibly bent his body backwards, nearly at a ninety degree angle, and buzzed his insect wings to keep himself from falling. The dual blades narrowly passed over him, with the foot blade barely brushing against his hard, protrusive, chest carapace. SaviorHackmon sneered and placed his foot down once the revolution was complete, using the added momentum to bring his right blade down in a slash.

Once again, TigerVespamon evaded. SaviorHackmon unleashed a storm of swipes and stabs onto TigerVespamon, but none of them were able to hit. The insect warrior dodged them seamlessly. His body was calm, relaxed, and fluid in its subtle motions. He moved like a gentle stream, completely in control of his movements - precise yet flexible in every action. TigerVespamon managed to evade SaviorHackmon’s attacks with the least amount of movement required.

SaviorHackmon gritted his teeth and surged forwards, throwing a heavy spike-tipped punch at the evasive insect Digimon. With airy, graceful movements and weightless footsteps, TigerVespamon ducked under the punch and breezed past SaviorHackmon. Once he was beside him, TigerVespamon struck with surgical precision. He grabbed SaviorHackmon’s arm and pulled it over his shoulder, flipping the armoured dragon man over his slender body, using SaviorHackmon’s own momentum against him.

SaviorHackmon let out a winded gasp as his back impacted the ground. He felt choked for a moment as he tried to catch his breath. The dragon groaned and heard a soft droning hum above him. He opened his tightened eyes and looked up to see one of TigerVespamon’s beam swords pointed at his neck. SaviorHackmon grimaced, realising that he had been defeated. “Damn it…” he whispered with frustration.

HippoGriffomon nodded and looked at TigerVespamon. “…Good, TigerVespamon,” he said to the recruit. He turned his gaze to the dragon man. “SaviorHackmon, I know we are the Strike Forces, but if you focus only on offence, you will open up vulnerabilities in your own defences that your enemies can capitalise on. A strong defence is important. TigerVespamon used your attacks against you and waited for the perfect opportunity to strike.”

“Yes, Sir…” SaviorHackmon said, breathing heavily and masking his disappointment in himself.

TigerVespamon placed his swords down in the grass and presented his hand to SaviorHackmon. “Please, allow me,” he offered politely, his tenor voice tranquil, refined, and echoing like a soft breeze.

“Thanks…” SaviorHackmon responded, deciding to be a good sport and take his hand. TigerVespamon pulled him and helped SaviorHackmon to his feet. As soon as he was standing, SaviorHackmon looked at the hornet man with impressed eyes. “How did you keep dodging me?”

“Ah… I simply harmonised my spirit with my body, relaxed my muscles, and carefully observed your movements,” TigerVespamon explained humbly as he bent down to pick up his swords. “Then I responded to your powerful attacks with redirection rather than force. That is the standard practice for the defensive martial art that I was taught in.”

HippoGriffomon nodded and looked at the Ultimate level insect Digimon closely. “Yes, I did notice that… That wrist-throw looked familiar,” he mused. “Taijitsu from the D-Brigade?”

“I am afraid not, Sir,” TigerVespamon explained. “There may be some overlap in the general method, but the form is a hybrid martial art that I was trained in at the monastery where I grew up. It is derivative of the martial art that the Powers soldiers of the Heavenly Choir are trained in: the Way of the Feather. There is the philosophical side, which focuses on inner serenity and enlightenment, as well as the martial side, which incorporates redirection, joint locks, throws, and nerve strikes to subdue hostile opponents in a non-aggressive manner.”

“Ah, yes, I should have guessed from the amount of evasion… It is a very pacifistic form of martial art,” the leftenant observed. He looked at TigerVespamon with piercing eagle eyes. “You’re joining the Strike Forces, TigerVespamon, so I assume that you know that fighting will be inevitable. You don’t have to be bloodthirsty, but we don’t have any room for pacifists in the Strike Forces. It will only get in the way. Is that going to be a problem?”

“Not at all, Leftenant,” TigerVespamon assured him, standing up straight and holding his beam blades at his sides. “I have my morals, but I know what is expected of me… I am perfectly prepared to use force for the good of the Digital World. “

“Are you sure? I know that you’re helping out High Physician Duskmon with your medical skills. Maybe you’d rather work under him officially, rather than have to compromise your way of life,” HippoGriffomon suggested. “You did work under monks, after all.”

“I have considered that option, but I believe that my skills would be best served in combat,” TigerVespamon calmly explained. “My spirit will not falter. Not with the kind of enemy that we face. The demon Digimon have caused unspeakable tragedies in the past and they must be stopped. It is my duty to see that they are.”

“Very well…” HippoGriffomon responded. He looked between TigerVespamon and SaviorHackmon. “You two switch partners. Run through the basic movements like you were taught,” he said as he walked off to check the next pair.

“Understood, Sir,” TigerVespamon replied.

“Okay, Leftenant,” SaviorHackmon complied, saluting the griffon Digimon. He then turned to TigerVespamon and bowed formally. “That was a good match. You have amazing skills, TigerVespamon-san.”

“Thank you very much. As do you, SaviorHackmon,” TigerVespamon responded with a calm nod. “You had me on the back foot for much of that spar.” The former acolyte looked at SaviorHackmon curiously. “However… I hope you do not take offence, but you seemed distracted. Is there anything on your mind?”

“Oh…” SaviorHackmon murmured, his eyes drifting to the side. “I guess so…”

“Would you like to unburden yourself onto me? I am a willing listener,” TigerVespamon offered.

SaviorHackmon smiled sheepishly and raised his hand to readjust the collar of his cape. “It’s not a big deal, really…” he admitted. “I just kind of wish I was able to go with Paildramon’s team.”

“I see…” TigerVespamon thoughtfully replied. “May I ask why?”

“GrandisKuwagamon… The guy that the Royal Knights captured recently. I heard that he’s working with the Order now. I wanted to talk to him to see why he changed his mind…” SaviorHackmon admitted, frowning softly. He had many questions to ask the mercenary. When he had tried before, it was like talking to a brick wall. GrandisKuwagamon’s replies were either dismissive or barbed and sarcastic. But now… things were different somehow. Grandis had been so adamant about his opinion on the Royal Knights. He didn’t understand why he was working with them now. He wanted to know. He had hope for GrandisKuwagamon..

TigerVespamon stared at SaviorHackmon silently. “…May I give you some advice, SaviorHackmon?” he asked him, his composure and discipline reining in any and all emotion. His expression was unreadable and his voice was level. However, the warmth that TigerVespamon previously displayed seemed to cool.

“Sure, TigerVespamon-san,” the dragon man responded, looking at the cyborg hornet Digimon.

TigerVespamon’s crimson, compound eyes flickered coldly as he gazed at SaviorHackmon. “…Please, I advise that you have nothing to do with GrandisKuwagamon. He is violent criminal who has done unforgivable things in his past,” he warned him calmly, despite the obvious distaste that was reflected in his choice of words. “It would be better for you to stay away from such an immoral Digimon.”

SaviorHackmon blinked and frowned in response to the friendly Digimon’s uncharacteristically harsh words. “What…? But… Digimon can change, TigerVespamon,” SaviorHackmon countered, a bit defensively.

TigerVespamon turned his head and looked out into the distance. He released a calm, meditative sigh, attempting to settle his internal emotions. He regained his peace. “I agree completely, SaviorHackmon… However, a Digimon can only change if they truly wish to change… Anything short of that and they will simply fall back into their old ways…” He turned back to SaviorHackmon, gazing at him without malice. Instead, he emitted an aura of consideration and sincerity. “I do not believe that GrandisKuwagamon has any such intentions to change.”

The caped dragon man folded his arms as he stared back at TigerVespamon. His gaze was both stubborn and curious as to how TigerVespamon felt so confident that he could make such assertions. “How can you say that unless you actually know GrandisKuwagamon? Do you have a history with him or something?” he inquired.

TigerVespamon looked away, a flicker of bitterness in his insectoid face; a single ripple on a tranquil pond. “It was…”

Before he could finish, a pair of Digimon walked over. TigerVespamon clammed up and turned to see a ShineGreymon and a WarGreymon walking over to them.

The ShineGreymon had a slender, athletic build and he was about a head taller than the WarGreymon. The dragon man was largely humanoid apart from his clawed toes, his expansive wings, and his draconic tail. His upper body was clad in shimmering, crimson breastplate that reflected the sunlight. His legs and reptilian tail were covered in pristine white armour, lined with red. Lastly, his ankles, wrists, and horned helmet were protected by splendorous gold. Extending proudly from his back were ShineGreymon’s majestic, red, armoured wings. Each wing had six ‘feathers’; long, red appendages that extended from the main wing in a layered folding pattern. Each appendage ended with a small but brilliant blue crystal. These sky blue crystals matched the larger orbs on the ‘shoulders’ of his wings, as well as the spherical crystal embedded above his abdomen. They all emitted a shining, sparkling, blue light ostentatiously. Similar in appearance to these resplendent crystals were ShineGreymon’s bright, blue eyes that twinkled in the sunlight. They complemented a winning smile that he wore confidently and charmingly on his face. He had a relaxed, friendly demeanour that radiated self-confidence and audacity.

This demeanour contrasted with the WarGreymon beside him. The WarGreymon was a dragon man with a reptilian, humanoid body. His scales were light orange like the base of flames. The armour that we wore over his broad, muscular body was a shimmering silver hue and a bright yellow colour. The armour was fastened with thick, orange cords, which connected the thick, spiked shoulder guards to his breastplate. Two long, flat plates covered his back, absorbing the morning sun against them. They had the appearance of wings, and, when combined, they fitted together to form the Crest of Courage. These two segments could be removed to form a sturdy shield. Lower on his body, WarGreymon also wore protective black armour over his hips and groin, which had long faulds that protected his outer thighs and what was between his legs. He also had a pair of spiked, silver and red shin guards strapped over his reptilian legs. Placed over his forearms was a pair of heavy, dangerous-looking gauntlets. They were big, yellow gauntlets that were armoured on the outside and open on the inside, designed to cover his arms up to his elbows. The Dramon Killers, as they were called, were three, long, jagged claws that were several feet in length and were distinctly anti-Dramon weaponry. He had a chiselled draconic face with black metal covering from his jaw to his collar, and a horned, silver helmet that covered his head from his snout to the back of his head. Underneath the helmet was fiery red hair, which contrasted with his sharp, green eyes that stared intimidatingly at the two Digimon. He wore a soft, indignant sneer on his lips and he strode over roughly and intimidatingly.

“Yo,” the ShineGreymon greeted with a wink and an informal salute. “We’ll be your new sparring partners.”

“I guess…” the WarGreymon muttered in a deep, rough voice that was like mountain gravel.

“You probably recognise me as one of the Greymon Five,” ShineGreymon suggested to TigerVespamon with a confident grin. “…Maybe not so much WarGreymon here, but he’s in the team too. You know, for fairness.”

“What was that, Sparkles?” WarGreymon growled, glaring at him.

“The Greymon Five…?” TigerVespamon inquired curiously, trawling his brain to try to figure out what he meant. “I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I do not know it… Having grown up in a rural monastery, I am not the most well-travelled Digimon.”

SaviorHackmon nodded, having spent time with them on a few occasions already. “They’re a specialized, elite team that was part of the Republic of Node’s military, right?” He looked at ShineGreymon and WarGreymon for confirmation.

“Yeah, that’s right,” ShineGreymon exclaimed, walking up to TigerVespamon with a chuckle. “Yeah, it’s us two and three others: VictoryGreymon, BlackWarGreymon, and KaiserGreymon. The five of us all come from the same town: Greyheimr. We’ve been best buddies since we were Child-levels.”

“For some reason…” WarGreymon grunted. He thumbed over at ShineGreymon distastefully. “You don’t know how annoying he is. Don’t know why I put up with him…”

ShineGreymon stopped in front of TigerVespamon and looked at him with an infectious smile. “Name’s ShineGreymon, by the way. Awesome to meet you, dude. We’ll be partners,” he said to TigerVespamon.

“Alright. My name is TigerVespamon. It is a pleasure to meet you,” TigerVespamon responded kindly.

“Same!” ShineGreymon agreed, grinning winningly. For emphasis, he raised his hand up towards TigerVespamon and closed it into a fist. He smiled at TigerVespamon and waited for him to reciprocate the fist bump.

TigerVespamon looked at ShineGreymon and stared down at his extended fist blankly. “Um…” he said uncertainly, struggling to understand what was expected of him.

“Come on, man, don’t leave me hanging,” ShineGreymon said with a friendly chuckle, shaking his fist temptingly.

“Oh, um…” TigerVespamon nodded and awkwardly reached forwards. He took his best guess and clasped ShineGreymon’s closed fist in both of his palms like he was picking up a grapefruit. “I hope that we can work harmoniously together, ShineGreymon,” the insect Digimon said obliviously.

A bead of sweat trickled down ShineGreymon’s head and he grinned with a mixture of amusement and incredulity. “…Good try,” he said with a laugh, patting TigerVespamon’s shoulder. “Apparently I have a lot to teach you.”

“My apologies. I shall be your willing student,” TigerVespamon answered, retracting his hand.

“Awesome,” ShineGreymon responded positively, looking at the humanoid hornet. “So, you’re a pretty new recruit, huh? Like, you joined in the past week or so?”

TigerVespamon nodded affirmatively. “I was fortunate enough to arrive just in time for the enlistment process before the testing window closed. I was even more fortunate to have been chosen and accepted into the Order from the most recent batch of recruits, along with the others who qualified. I did not expect to be allowed in; both due to my faith and my lack of formal combat experience, but apparently those were not issues after all.”

“It’s a military-religious order, yeah, but the religious side isn’t super-strict,” ShineGreymon explained, obviously knowing quite a lot about it. “Sir UlforceVeedramon and Sir Examon both follow the Golden Faith and Huanglongmon, so it’s not a huge deal. The Royal Knights care more about your morals and skills, rather than what god you believe created the universe.”

“That is reassuring to hear… I am extremely gracious to have been selected. It is quite humbling, as there were undoubtedly many other deserving candidates. I simply wish to do my best for the Royal Knights and try my hardest not to hold everyone back,” TigerVespamon explained.

SaviorHackmon smiled a bit at the prospect. He could certainly relate to him though… “That’s a good attitude to take. I don’t think you have to worry about holding anybody back, though; you just beat me pretty soundly,” he admitted to his fellow recruit, as much as he hated to. SaviorHackmon walked over to WarGreymon and looked around. “So, the Greymon Five… Are your three other friends are here too?” he asked them.

ShineGreymon nodded and thumbed over to the pair of Digimon about ten meters away. One was a black-scaled version of a WarGreymon. He was clad in silver and black armour, and he had sharp, yellow eyes that matched his dirty blond hair. His Brave Shield was pitch black and lacked the Crest of Courage of WarGreymon’s. He moved with precision and silent focus.

Standing across from the BlackWarGreymon was a KaiserGreymon that was clad in his species’ standard, red, plate armour. This KaiserGreymon was different from the KaiserGreymon of the Warrior Ten – he didn’t have pair of goggles, and he was just a bit less muscular, although still more brawny than the BlackWarGreymon. His movements were sleek, professional, and refined despite the large sword that he wielded. The two Greymon were in the middle of sparring with each other. BlackWarGreymon’s claws clashed against KaiserGreymon’s sword.

ShineGreymon placed his hands on his hips. “That’s BlackWarGreymon and KaiserGreymon over there. KaiserGreymon’s the leader of our little group, I’m the cool one, BlackWarGreymon’s the quiet, mysterious one, VictoryGreymon’s the cute one, and WarGreymon’s… also there,” he joked, casting a grin over at his friend.

“You’re the obnoxious one who gets drinks thrown over you by the women you try to chat up,” WarGreymon growled in correction.

SaviorHackmon chuckled a bit. “So, where’s VictoryGreymon?” he wondered, looking around for the missing member of the Greymon Five. VictoryGreymon was the one he knew best, since he overheard him chatting about the Royal Knights and ended up getting into a few big discussions about their heroes. “He should be here, shouldn’t he? He didn’t get hurt again, did he?”

“V’s off on a special mission with Over-sergeant Paildramon,” ShineGreymon casually explained. “The mission with that shady-looking bug guy, I mean.”

TigerVespamon grew quiet at his mention. He decided it was better not to speak up. He didn’t exactly relish the thought of answering the question that SaviorHackmon posed to him before he was interrupted.

“Lucky for him,” WarGreymon bitterly muttered. “It sounds more fun than doing combat drills that we’ve already done a million times in basic training.”

SaviorHackmon frowned at this news. He was quietly envious that he didn’t get to go in VictoryGreymon’s place. “He is?”

“For some reason,” WarGreymon complained with a roll of his eyes. “VictoryGreymon’s as dumb as a plank and he trips over his own shadow. Why does he get to go? I wish Paildramon picked me to go instead,”

“You’re too reckless. At least VictoryGreymon follows orders to a tee,” ShineGreymon casually informed him.

I’m too reckless? That’s the pot calling the kettle black, Shine,” WarGreymon retorted gruffly, a sour sneer on his face.

ShineGreymon snickered. “Uh huh. You’re just mad because you have a crush on Paildramon,” the solar light-based dragon man teased him.

WarGreymon growled and angrily shoved his friend at the suggestion. “I do not!” he protested vehemently. “She’s just a friend! We’ve all known her since our days in the Republic’s military!”

“Ooh, friend-zoned. Too bad, War,” ShineGreymon joked, knowing it would annoy him more.

The red-haired dragon man in question snarled and decided it was best to just ignore him. “Why do we even have to do this recruit training?” WarGreymon complained. “We’re the Greymon Five. We’ve been through all the training for the Republic’s military already. Plus, we’ve proved ourselves enough to get promoted to our own elite unit!”

“Well, we’ve got to get used to the Order’s way of doing things. They have their own strategies and formations,” SaviorHackmon suggested.

“Yeah, exactly. Plus, the Royal Knights hold a higher standard! Training here is much more vigorous than it was in the Republic. The Order only accepts the best,” ShineGreymon smugly explained. “And you call yourself a Royal Knight fan, WarGreymon. Any fan would know that.”

“Tch,” WarGreymon grunted. He folded his arms and closed his eyes. “Higher standard, huh…?”

“Yup. I mean, I won’t have any trouble matching up to their standards, but you should probably step up your game, War,” the winged dragon man boasted with a charming but cocky grin.

“I want to make sure that I match up to their standards too,” SaviorHackmon agreed passionately. “I’m going to join them someday.”

ShineGreymon looked at SaviorHackmon with amused interest. “Hey, you’re ambitious. I like it. But, not if I join them first,” he said with light-hearted competitiveness.

TigerVespamon stepped forwards tentatively. “Um, pardon me, but I do not think that any of us will make it that far if we do not return to our training. The Leftenant is currently glaring at us out of the corner of his eye, so perhaps it would be appropriate for us to continue our sparring,” he suggested.

SaviorHackmon tensed up and stood up straight. “Right! Come on, WarGreymon! Let’s get into position and work on those hand-to-hand drills!” he suggested with determination, not wanting to slack off.

WarGreymon sighed but nodded. “Okay, but I’m not going to go easy on you,” he warned him.

Meanwhile, ShineGreymon grinned and casually slung his arm over TigerVespamon’s shoulders. “Come on, Vespa,” he urged him, ushering him back to their places.

TigerVespamon allowed himself to be walked along, although his shoulders were stiff at ShineGreymon’s close contact. He was unused to the nonchalant invasion of his personal space, and his new, chummy nickname that dropped both his prefix and suffix. “Err, very well…” he politely replied, allowing it despite his discomfort.

As SaviorHackmon got into his place opposite to WarGreymon, he looked across at the Ultimate level dragon man. “So… How long is Over-sergeant Paildramon’s group gone for?” he asked curiously.

“No more than a week, I think,” WarGreymon said, removing his Dramon Killers and tossing them aside so he could work with his bare hands.

SaviorHackmon frowned. “Okay…” He took a centering breath and thought to himself. “I won’t get distracted by GrandisKuwagamon. I need to focus on my training. That’s the only way I’ll be of any help to the Order… I’ll have the chance to learn more about GrandisKuwagamon when he comes back. So, until then, I only need to focus on one thing.

WarGreymon smirked with competitive confidence and cracked his knuckles. “You ready?” he challenged.

SaviorHackmon narrowed his eyes and prepared for the sparring match with an ambitious grin. “Alright!”

-

“Attention, all passengers: this is Locomon, the conductor of the Northern Express Coastal Line of Locomon Rail. We are currently three quarters of the way to our destination of Ocean Cove,” a deep, calm voice reverberated through the passenger carriages of the long, train Digimon. “We shall be arriving in a couple of hours. Ocean Cove’s weather will likely be just barely above freezing temperatures. It will be a bit nippy, so dress warmly. There will likely be residual snow from the winter to give the city that beautiful, powdery white look that Ocean Cove is so well known for.”

Omegamon, Dukemon, Sleipmon, and UlforceVeedramon all sat in a comfortable passenger car that was near the back of the Locomon. The carriage was completely empty apart from the four of them. They had purchased tickets for a private car to themselves. The reason for this was mostly for privacy; they were free to comfortably discuss the mission that they were currently on without having to worry about leaking sensitive information.

The Locomon’s deep voice awoke Omegamon from his slumber. He stirred, sleeping upright, and felt something - a great warmth - against his right side as he was aroused from his sleep. His blue eyes flashed open from the shadowy eye ports in his helmet. He found that his head was resting against a smooth, rounded, crimson piece of metal. As he raised his head to take in his surroundings, he saw that he had been using a familiar spaulder as a shield. He looked above the slab of shoulder armour and saw Dukemon’s amused face staring down at him. There was a look of levity in his gold eyes.

As his senses returned, he realised that he had fallen asleep against Dukemon.

“I was wondering how long you would sleep for,” Dukemon teased him, grinning behind his visor. “I didn’t think I was that comfortable…”

Omegamon’s ivory face burned red as he calmly sat up straight with as much dignity as he could muster. “A-Ah… I apologise, Dukemon. I must have… shifted in my sleep,” he explained sheepishly, looking down at his lap.

Dukemon chuckled. “It’s fine. I was asleep for most of the trip anyways. I was using your head for a pillow up until one of your spikes poked me in the eye,” he admitted good-humouredly.

“Don’t worry, guys. I got a picture,” UlforceVeedramon made sure to let them know, holding up a small, black rectangular device with a touch screen.

The device was a prototype that MetallifeKuwagamon had created, known as the LRAVC – Long Range Audio-Video Communicator. It was pieced together from the LRAC as its base, and built upon with Metal Empire technology and that of independent inventors. It was similar in function to the high-end device created in the Mamemon Kingdom known as the Eye-pod, named in reference to the Mamemons’ bean-like shape; however, that device was a luxury model and it wasn’t suited to military operations. Not only could the LRAVC communicate over long-ranges like the LRAC, but it could also take pictures and store it in its internal storage. Due to its size and complexity, it wasn’t practical for combat operations, but its main function would be for reconnaissance operations.

It was clear from UlforceVeedramon’s smirk that he would be using that picture for devious reasons, such as tempting RhodoKnightmon and teasing his fellow Royal Knights.

“We will be deleting that,” Omegamon promised him, still blushing as he shot daggers at UlforceVeedramon. “We’re brought the LRAVC for field testing purposes…”

UlforceVeedramon chuckled and rubbed his neck. “Yeah, I know…” he half-heartedly complied.

Omegamon and Dukemon sat side-by-side as they didn’t take up much room individually. Sitting across from them was UlforceVeedramon, who had the seat to himself to allow for his large wingspan. On the other side of the aisle, Sleipmon sat horizontally on the soft, green seat, with his six legs tucked against his sides. It was a bit cramped for Sleipmon, but he was generally comfortable. It helped that he was in a good mood. He smiled to himself and quietly enjoyed the smooth ride.

The Locomon conductor spoke up again. “As for the weather outside, the temperature is about six degrees Celsius. That temperature is likely to rise as we continue into the first spring month under the Sign of Qinglongmon. With the Month of Mihiramon in full swing, we are starting to shake off that cooler weather up here in the north,” Locomon continued, amiably informing the passengers. “Outside, you will be able to see a few variable clouds…”

Regaining his composure, Omegamon glanced out the window to survey the skies overhead. He could see several patches of grey clouds blanketing the cyan sky. The porous sheets of gaseous vapour flickered with ‘x’s and ‘0’s.

Dukemon raised his wrist, on which there was a device that looked similar to a digital watch. He pressed a button on the side and brought up a small, three-dimensional hologram that was about the size of a laptop screen. It took the form of a small topographical map made of fine vectors. It was a miniaturised version of the table in the War Room. It was simplified, so that it had less features but could fit in a smaller area.

“Let’s see…” Dukemon murmured to himself as he input the coordinates into the watch. “Upsilon five… Gamma three…”

“Don’t break that, Duke-kun. It’s a prototype,” UlforceVeedramon teased with a wry grin, looking across at the crimson knight. “It took Metallife a long time to make that, you know.”

“I won’t break it,” Dukemon responded defensively. “And this is coming from the guy who was using the LRAVC to take weird photos of us.”

A tiny glimmer of levity appeared in Omegamon’s eyes. “You don’t exactly have the best history with technology, Dukemon…” he pointed out.

“Shush you,” Dukemon said to him, hiding a smirk. After a few moments, he successfully brought up a map of Cathode Tundra, complete with a single point glowing in the middle of it. Dukemon stared at the map uncertainly. “Are we sure these maps are good? I mean, I know that these maps are based off of Atlur’s Atlas, but did AtlurKabuterimon really map out the Cathode Tundra correctly? I don’t mean any offence to him, but there’s a snowstorm raging at least a quarter of the time. It’s easy to get lost.”

“It should be accurate,” Omegamon assured him. “He has an eidetic memory and he says that he travelled when it wasn’t snowing.”

“Well, okay then,” Dukemon complied. He looked over at Sleipmon. “Do you think you can lead us there then?”

“Of course. I’ll lead the way,” Sleipmon answered with a smile.

UlforceVeedramon stared at Sleipmon quizzically, his reddish-gold eyes amused. “You sure are in a good mood for somebody who’s about to go fight a Demon Lord, Sleip-chan,” he pointed out with a playful tenor to his voice.

Sleipmon smiled and sheepishly ran his hand through his violet hair. “I’m excited to show you guys my hometown. It really is beautiful, despite the temperature,” he explained enthusiastically. “With the Metal Empire campaign, I missed the Winter Festival this year, but I’m glad that we still get to visit, if only for a little.”

“I’m honoured to see it, but we won’t have time to sightsee, Sleipmon,” Omegamon responded, his tone slow and apologetic. “As soon as we get off the train, we have to head straight to the northwest in order to reach the Cathode Tundra.”

Sleipmon chuckled sheepishly and nodded. “I know. Maybe on the way back. If we aren’t too busy, that is,” he suggested, although he was still happy just to be seeing his city again.

“Belphemon may be in Sleep Mode, but it would be a mistake to assume that this will be an easy victory, Sleipmon,” Omegamon soberly reminded him.

Sleipmon’s smile faded and the seriousness of the situation began to sink in. He nodded professionally. “Of course, Omegamon…” he responded seriously, masking his disappointment with his sense of duty.

“Still, four Royal Knights should be enough to take down a giant, sleeping, demon-teddy,” UlforceVeedramon figured, leaning back in his seat as he weighed their odds.

“That’s the hope,” Omegamon responded, frowning and looking across at the cobalt dragon knight. “I’m just saying that we cannot become complacent and overconfident.”

“Yeah, okay, Omega-chan,” UlforceVeedramon answered with a reassuring smile.

Omegamon flushed at the nickname and glanced out the window again. “Just ’Omegamon’, UlforceVeedramon,” he insisted.

Dukemon smirked and playfully nudged the white knight. “I think Ulforce is onto something. It’s a cute nickname, isn’t it, Omega-chan?” he teased him, following up his words with a sly, emphatic wink.

Omegamon continued staring out the window. “…I’ll be forced to throw you out of the Locomon, Dukemon,” he warned him, concealing his face.

The knight in question released a pleasant but slightly nervous laugh and slung his arm over Omegamon’s shoulders. “I’m just kidding!” he chimed.

The Royal Knight tensed a bit at the motion and Dukemon’s casual invasion of his personal space. “So… This operation,” he suggested, wanting to get back to the topic that they faced. “How would you all like to proceed once we reach Belphemon?”

“Well, Belphemon is still in Sleep Mode, right?” UlforceVeedramon asked. “If so, then we should all unleash a concentrated attack to wipe him out at once. We don’t want him to wake up and go ballistic, so we shouldn’t even give him the chance.”

“Yes, that makes sense,” Omegamon reasoned. He turned his head to the left and looked at Dukemon and Sleipmon. “What do you two think?”

“Sounds good to me,” Dukemon replied, nodding seriously.

“That does sound like the best strategy for this situation…” Sleipmon pondered thoughtfully. His eyebrows lowered gently behind his red helmet. “I don’t feel good about attacking a sleeping Digimon, but if there is no other alternative…”

“Trust me, Sleipmon. You don’t want to see this guy when he’s awake,” Dukemon explained, removing his arm from Omegamon’s shoulders and looking across the aisle at the six-legged horse knight.

Omegamon nodded in agreement. “This is the safest move, not only for us, but for other Digimon,” he explained to Sleipmon.

“With a Digimon that dangerous, we can’t afford to take chances,” Dukemon agreed. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat, resisting the urge to habitually move a hand to his chest. He opened his bright golds and looked at Sleipmon with a reassuring smile. “Don’t falter when taking the shot, Sleipmon.”

Sleipmon offered a smile in return and he nodded affirmatively. “I won’t. I know how important this is,” he assured them.

“Good,” Dukemon said as he settled into his seat. “Then all that’s left is getting there. That should be the easy part...”

-

(Continued in the next post)
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
(Continued from the previous post)

-

Two hours later, the Locomon arrived at its destination in Ocean Cove. From the northern port city, the four Royal Knights took off immediately to the northwest, following a beaten road towards the Cathode Tundra. The Cathode Tundra contrasted starkly with the sweltering Anode Desert to its west. At the height of winter, its temperatures would reach frigid levels. Even now, at the beginning of spring, its temperatures were sub-zero.

It took the Royal Knights another few hours to make it from Ocean Cove to Cathode Tundra. They found that the journey through the snow-capped landscape wasn’t as easy as they had hoped.

They started off on foot through the snowy fields, but they soon found that the snow reached up to their knees at points. The four Royal Knights then proceeded to continue by air. They flew through the sky, but drifted close to the ground so that they would be able to see where they were going. There were grey clouds overhead which precipitated light flurries. It wasn’t a heavy storm, but it obscured their long distance vision, so they had to rely on their immediate surroundings as a guide.

On top of that, it was freezing. The cold air stung their skin and sent shivers up their forms. Their armour was cool to the touch and it pressed numbly against their bodies. The descending crystals of snow began to build up on their shoulders and backs as they flew, lending their silhouettes a white outline. Despite the pain and discomfort, the Royal Knights persevered and pressed on with their mission. The soft numbness was nothing compared to the other obstacles that they had faced in the past or the ones that they would face in the future.

Sleipmon led the way through the sky, galloping gently on the air. He was followed by Dukemon, Omegamon, and UlforceVeedramon, who soared through the snow at reduced speeds to keep pace. The horseman Digimon looked around the area keenly as they continued flying forwards. His lavender eyes were sharp and alert. He was used to seeing through snowfall, and he was quite familiar with the Cathode Tundra. He served as their scout. Sleipmon carefully looked around for landmarks and the large body of Belphemon.

UlforceVeedramon flew behind the red digizoid covered Royal Knight. He held his arms close to his chest, trying to conserve body heat. He tried his best to keep his teeth from chattering. “How do you live in these temperatures?” UlforceVeedramon asked incredulously, looking ahead at the equine Royal Knight.

“Hmm? I don’t mind all that much,” Sleipmon responded, not taking his attention off of his task. “I suppose I’m used to it.”

“I think having a thick coat of fur helps,” Dukemon added with a wry grin, although he held his cape so that it was half furled around his body for warmth.

Omegamon blinked intermittently as snowflakes fell in his eyes. He increased his speed slightly and gazed at Sleipmon. “Do you see anything? Are we close?” he questioned.

Sleipmon nodded. “Yes. I recognize those trees and that frozen river over there,” he said, pointing with the crossbow on his left arm.

Omegamon gazed over to the left and saw a small grove of coniferous trees. They stood about ten meters high and their sharp needles were blanketed with snow. The six or so trees grew out of the edge of a river. The long, broad river was embedded in the snowy ground. It was about a hundred meters wide, and it reached far into the distance, continuing long enough to empty out into the northern coastline. However, the surface of the river was frozen solid with centimeters of ice. Frigid, icy water continued to flow beneath the frozen surface, giving the ice a cloudy hue.

“The coordinates should be about a kilometer down this river,” Sleipmon told the others. “That’s where we will find Belphemon.”

Omegamon nodded. “Then let’s continue,” he said, flying alongside Sleipmon. “Be careful, everyone. Remember, as soon as we see him, fan out.”

“Affirmative,” UlforceVeedramon agreed. He sped up slightly, now that they had a clear idea of where to go. Itching to speed up and reach their destination, he flew ahead of the three. However, he didn’t go too far ahead of them as it would be poor strategy to stretch himself too thin.

They continued flying through the snow for awhile longer. The snow wasn’t so thick that they couldn’t see in front of them. It was only a few minutes before they saw a gigantic shadow a few hundred meters in front of them. They spotted a colossal, dark silhouette floating above the powder-dusted ground. The sable titan’s body stood out strikingly against the white, snowy backdrop.

“It’s him,” Omegamon spoke up, looking around at the others. “Royal Knights, fan out!”

“Let’s go!” Dukemon agreed, shooting off to the far right as they approached.

“Alright!” UlforceVeedramon exclaimed eagerly, darting over to the far left in response.

Sleipmon nodded at Omegamon. Omegamon returned the gesture and the pair flew forwards, taking the middle.

The four Royal Knights stopped at a safe distance from Belphemon, surrounding him in a trapezoidal formation. The Demon Lord floated in place about fifty meters in front of them. The Royal Knights took the opportunity to size up their foe now that he was in clear view.

Belphemon was in a deep slumber. Stuck in his Sleep Mode, all he did was breathe heavily. His eyes were closed and his furry head was covered in a thick layer of melting snow. The only thing that could be seen of his pudgy head was his cute, slumbering face. His actual body was untouched by snow, as the black flames that rose up from his chains melted the powder on him and surrounding his body. Belphemon: Sleep Mode’s ears twitched slightly and his lips wiggled cutely.

“…That’s a Demon Lord? He’s so cute, though,” Sleipmon professed, resisting the urge to smile.

“Don’t let your guard down, Sleipmon,” Dukemon warned him. “You’ve looked at his info; you know what he turns into and how dangerous he is.”

Sleipmon frowned and nodded. “Yeah… Right,” he responded, reminding himself that he couldn’t be fooled by his appearance.

The group of four watched Belphemon carefully. He made no extraordinary movements or even any sign that he was aware of the Royal Knights’ presence. The Demon Lord of Sloth was fast asleep, dreaming contently.

After a few moments of tension and anticipation, UlforceVeedramon turned to the other three Royal Knights. “He doesn’t seem to notice us. I guess he really is asleep, huh?” he observed.

“They don’t call it Sleep Mode for nothing, Ulforce,” Dukemon noted, although not letting his guard down for a moment.

“Lucky for us. So, how do we want to do this?” UlforceVeedramon asked the others as he activated the Ulforce Sabres on his V-Bracelets.

“Maybe I can use Odin’s Breath to freeze him in place and then we can all follow up as planned with a combination attack?” Sleipmon offered, raising the Niflheimr shield.

“Let’s try that,” Omegamon agreed. “Everybody be ready. Prepare to fire your attacks the moment that Sleipmon ends the storm.”

“Alright,” Dukemon said in agreement. He shook the snow off of the face of the Aegis and landed on the snowy ground, his boots sinking only slightly. He dug his feet into the ground and bent his knees, preparing for the back blast of his strongest attack. The Aegis shield began to glow and any snowflakes that even fell near the outward face of the shield melted immediately. Meanwhile, the triangular sigils circling the Zero Unit symbol began to slowly light up in a clockwise motion.

UlforceVeedramon raised himself into the air, puffed his chest out and extended his wings outwards broadly. The golden v-shaped crest on his armour began to shimmer brightly. The aurous ‘V’ glowed like a radiant beacon as UlforceVeedramon’s energy began to concentrate within the piece of armour.

Likewise, Omegamon swung his right arm outwards, ejecting the Grey Sword from the dragon-shaped gauntlet in a sharp expulsion of smoke. Flames began to dance along the surface of the blade. Next, the Garuru Cannon burst from the lupine gauntlet of his left hand. He raised his arm and pointed the cannon straight at Belphemon. Shining white energy frothed from the muzzle of the Garuru Cannon, building up within the confines of the metal as he charged his attack.

“Everybody ready?” Sleipmon asked. He loaded a shining crossbow bolt into the Muspellsheimr while also pointing the Niflheimr shield at Belphemon.

“Ready. Concentrate your attacks on the center of his chest,” Omegamon told the others.

UlforceVeedramon subtly angled his body in the air as his sapphire and pink wings kept his body aloft. His body was illuminated by the crest of his armour, glowing resplendently with holy light. As he prepared to activate one of his Ulforce Sabres in the case that they needed to follow up the attack, he suddenly stopped and turned his head. Alerted by something, UlforceVeedramon frowned and looked around suspiciously, his muscles tensing up firmly.

In the distance was a faint buzzing. It initially sounded like the rapid beating of insect wings. However, the sound was too uneven. It was a harsh, irregular, crescendo that pitched up steadily before randomly dropping.

“Wait a second… Do you guys hear that…?” UlforceVeedramon asked, attempting to gaze through the snow. The white precipitation obscured the source of the noise from his view.

Omegamon’s bright, greenish-blue eyes narrowed and he gave a tertiary back-and-forth scan of the area. “Yes…” he responded, a foreboding sensation aggregating in his stomach.

“It’s coming towards us,” Dukemon explained, glaring over his shoulder.

The four Royal Knights listened carefully. As the noise grew closer, they began to be able to make it out more clearly. Rather than a buzzing noise, it became obvious that it was actually coarse, mechanical, and artificial. It grew louder and it was clear that it was the revving of an engine or some kind of machine. The puttering of exhaust and the snarling of an engine began to oscillate around the group of four. They could hear the noise transition from one ear to the other as it passed around behind them and then to the front. It was circling them.

Dukemon looked towards the sound. Although the distant entity was obscured from vision by the falling snow, he was able to make out a blur. He spotted a swift-moving, black figure circling behind Belphemon and coming back towards them along the riverbank in a counter-clockwise direction. Dukemon grunted and sneered, turning to the white knight opposite to him. “Omegamon!” he warned.

Omegamon’s cyan eyes narrowed. “Ngh… Sleipmon, attack! We’re seeing this through!” he called out hurriedly.

Sleipmon nodded and the Niflheimr shield began to surge with sub-zero frost. “Odin’s Breath!” he shouted. The temperature of air in front of the shield and around Belphemon suddenly dropped and became frigid. The water particles in the air froze into ice.

Belphemon’s soaked fur began to clot and thicken as ice formed and accumulated on his body. Ice began to coat his furry form, crawling up his massive stature. The flames of the chains initially began to melt the ice, but the subzero temperatures and Sleipmon’s strength persevered; ice began to coat the chains and contend with the unholy flames for dominance, starting to snuff them out as the ice thickened on Belphemon’s body.

“Prepare to fire!” Omegamon shouted, aiming his Garuru Cannon.

Dukemon dug his metal boots into the snow-swept ground and he prepared for the heavy recoil of his attack. “Ready! Final Elysion—“

The engine that circled them suddenly howled. The snarl of the engine intensified as it closed in on Dukemon.

“Dukemon, look out!” UlforceVeedramon called out to the knight opposite to him. He saw the black figure come into focus and speed towards Dukemon from behind.

Dukemon swung around and his eyes widened with shock and anger. He saw Beelzebumon closing in on him on his motorcycle.

The Demon Lord tore up the ground, sending snow and dirt into the air behind him. He raced towards the Royal Knight at full speed. Beelzebumon wore a giant, excited, demonic smile on his face as he stared at Dukemon. As he ripped towards the pivoting Royal Knight, he raised one of the Berenjena shotguns, levelled it with his eye, and pointed it at Dukemon. “Yo! Long time, no see, Pineapple Head!” he called out with a ****-eating grin as he stared down the sight his shotgun. “Double Impact!”

In a flurry of smoke and sparks, two bullets exploded from the sawed-off muzzles of the double-barreled shotguns. They soared towards Dukemon and slammed into his shoulder and breastplate on the right side of his body that wasn’t protected by his shining shield. The slugs pounded painfully against the thick armour with enough strength to morph the metal of the bullets and send sparks and shrapnel shooting off his body.

Dukemon grunted with pain as he felt his shoulder bruise and strain against its socket from the velocity of the shots. His body was turned and he raised his shield towards Beelzebumon, firing the pent up laser at him on impulse. The pillar of holy light surged from the face of the shield and coursed towards Beelzebumon like a rushing river. The beam poured out of the shield powerfully - strong enough to send Dukemon skidding back a few centimeters - as it closed in on the motorcycle-riding Demon Lord.

Beelzebumon pivoted the Behemoth’s handles sharply. He skidded in the snow for a few meters before stabilizing and veering off to the right. Nipping at his back wheel, the beam swept by the demon Digimon, narrowly missing him and continuing along the ground past him. A powerful explosion detonated in the distance behind Beelzebumon, creating a powerful shockwave that sent tremors through the ground. A long trench of melted snow was left in the wake of the laser’s path.

“Demon Lords…!” Omegamon exclaimed, looking around.

“Damn it. It’s Beelzebumon…” Dukemon muttered, his glaring, gold eyes locked on Beelzebumon’s swift movements.

“****, what kinda half-assed greeting is that?! This is the first time we’ve seen each other since I was banished to that hellscape of a prison, babe! Is that the best you can do?!” Beelzebumon tauntingly teased Dukemon. His hellish grin widened as he gazed over at the armoured, holy knight. There was an excited, wild, competitive look in his three red eyes. “You owe me one huge, ****ing rematch, big guy! You got lucky back in Lambent, but I’m gonna pay you back! Oh, the things that I’m gonna do to you…”

Omegamon scowled at Beelzebumon’s ominous words and he turned towards the Demon Lord. “What?!” he angrily demanded.

“Forget it! I’ll handle him!” Dukemon called out to the others, his shield still steaming from the aftermath of his attack. He took off into a run to intercept Beelzebumon, aiming the Gran towards him. “Focus on deleting Belphemon!”

Sleipmon narrowed his eyes and continued to take aim at the half-frozen Belphemon, whose mouth wiggled and eyes tensed in response to all the cold and commotion. The glowing bolt was ready in his crossbow groove. He prepared to fire.

“Don’t think so, horsie! We need the furball!” Beelzebumon exclaimed, standing up on the back of the Behemoth, which passed by Dukemon in a feint and headed towards Sleipmon. The agile Demon Lord lunged off of the running motorcycle and soared high into the air. At the apex of his ascent he managed a forwards flip and dove towards Sleipmon, his dual shotguns ready.

Aware of the Demon Lord above him, Sleipmon was forced to turn his attention away from Belphemon to deal with the immediate threat. He looked up and aimed his crossbow at Beelzebumon. “Bifröst!”

“Double Impact!” Beelzebumon shouted, firing from all cylinders as he descended on Sleipmon. He fired two shells from his guns, followed by a second salvo immediately after.

Sleipmon fired an incandescent arrow at the same time that he was struck by the first shot. The shells burst open and rained down scattershot onto his body, peppering his body with sparks and metal. Sleipmon staggered slightly as the bolt was released from the Muspellsheimr. The arrow fired through the air and whizzed Beelzebumon’s head, just narrowly grazing his cheek. As Beelzebumon fired the second pair of shots, Sleipmon raised his shield to protect himself. The bullets slammed against the Niflheimr but they weren’t able to put a dent in the red digizoid alloy.

Beelzebumon took advantage of Sleipmon’s defensive stance and used the opportunity to land on the Royal Knight’s back. He holstered one shotgun, turned around on his heel and sat down, saddling Sleipmon like a horse. The demon man smirked and grabbed the base of Sleipmon’s long, lavender hair. He then yanked Sleipmon’s thick mane hard, jerking his head back violently. He placed the barrels of the Berenjena against the side of Sleipmon’s head and leered down at Sleipmon’s wincing eyes with a victorious grin. “Adios, horsie.”

Despite the stinging pain in his head and the compromising position, Sleipmon acted swiftly. He bent his body forwards sharply and threw his hindquarters high into the air. He bucked Beelzebumon off of his back and sent him careening through the air right as the demon fired. The shot missed Sleipmon entirely and pounded into the ground.

The Behemoth wheeled around and drove towards Beelzebumon to catch him. Beelzebumon landed on the seat and took control of the Behemoth again. He grunted and circled around to attack the Royal Knights from a different angle.

Sleipmon rumbled and took off in a full gallop, running after Beelzebumon with his superior speed to keep him from moving freely.

UlforceVeedramon grunted, turning away from the distraction and back towards Belphemon. He cast his eyes over to Omegamon for a moment. “Omegamon! Let’s do it!” he called out.

Omegamon nodded and aimed his cannon. “Garuru Cannon!” he shouted, firing a highly concentrated blast of trembling white energy from the brimming muzzle.

The burst of energy slammed into Belphemon’s ample chest and exploded mightily. The blast fractured the ice on Belphemon’s stomach and sent powerful tremors through his giant form before the freezing energy coated his body with ice once again.

Belphemon: Sleep Mode grunted sleepily from the disruptive impact. His eyelids flickered sleepily, briefly revealing a soft crimson glow underneath. He stifled a yawn and relaxed, remaining asleep.

UlforceVeedramon was ready to follow up Omegamon’s attack, aiming to attack him in the same place to hopefully blast through him. The V-crest on his breastplate shimmered with radiant energy, ready to release its contents. “Shining V-Fo--!?”

The azure dragon man was interrupted by a sudden crashing sound to his left. It was like thunder rumbling in the sky and the ground splitting apart all at the same time. He spun around and looked towards the frozen river to see a massive, crimson body bursting through the ice.

Leviamon’s gigantic body emerged from beneath the ice, shattering the thick layer of frozen water. Frigid river water cascaded around his rising body and chunks of ice were sent flying every which way. He had silently swum up the length of the deep river from the northern sea, swimming underneath the floating layer of ice and only announcing his presence by causing water to flow up slightly at the edges. Leviamon surfaced with a titanic splash. He roared and lashed his twin tails out towards UlforceVeedramon, his nearest target.

UlforceVeedramon flew to the side swiftly, avoiding the whipping tails. He then saw Leviamon jerk his head to the side and turn his massive snout towards UlforceVeedramon, which was long enough to reach the Royal Knight. Leviamon opened his maw and snapped his shut. UlforceVeedramon disappeared in a cobalt blur, shooting away from the snapping mouth and narrowly avoiding getting his wing torn off.

“Damn it! Another one!” UlforceVeedramon exclaimed, appearing at a different point in the air away from Leviamon’s range. “Shining V-Force!” he shouted, firing his V-shaped laser at Leviamon instead.

Leviamon scoffed and saw the angular beam of holy light streak towards him from the sky. The crocodile demon swiftly dove underwater, swimming up the river and evading the powerful laser. The attack slammed into the surface of the icy river and exploded in a massive burst of blossoming water, ice, and steam.

Omegamon narrowed his eyes. He wondered how many more there were. With the others distracted with the other Demon Lords, Omegamon at least wanted to finish what they started before turning his attention to Beelzebumon and Leviamon.

The white Royal Knight raised his Grey Sword and pointed it at Belphemon. Without a word, he began flying soaring towards the vulnerable Demon Lord at full speed. He drew the giant Grey Sword back and prepared to plunge it into Belphemon’s head as he closed in on him. With cold, blue eyes, he prepared his finishing stroke and pushed the blade forwards.

“Chaos Flare!” a deep voice shouted.

A swirling vortex of the blackest flames of hell suddenly crossed in front of Omegamon like a horizontal funnel, blocking his path to Belphemon.

Omegamon grunted and came to an abrupt stop before he accidentally flew into the infernal flames himself. The Royal Knight flew backwards and turned to his right. Flying in the air opposite to him was a cloaked, winged figure. He sneered bitterly, recognising the garbed Demon Lord as none other than Demon.

Demon’s violet eyes narrowed slightly as they beheld Omegamon from their shadowed position behind his hood.

“You will not be destroying Belphemon, Royal Knight,” Demon warned him, his voice calm but bristling. “We need him.”

Omegamon frowned and spun around, pointing his Garuru Cannon at Demon threateningly. “You need him for what?” he demanded.

“As if I would tell the likes of you,” Demon answered scornfully. He raised his hands in front of his body and the black flames of hell flickered within his open palms. His baleful, blue eyes glared at Omegamon for a moment.

“Flame Inferno!” he shouted, his hands exploding with fire. He unleashed a powerful stream of flames towards Omegamon, billowing through the falling snow and melting any of the nearby data.

Omegamon glared and filled his cannon with energy. “Garuru Cannon!” he called out, pumping out three powerful blasts of cold energy, straight into the river of flames.

The two elemental forces of freezing light and burning darkness crashed into each other and exploded outwards. Streaks of flames ripped outwards and lashed the frozen ground. The energy orbs dissipated upon entering the thick of the flames, but they were enough to nullify the inferno’s momentum. Neither attack overpowered the other.

Demon’s eyes narrowed and he observed Omegamon hatefully. “Do not interfere with our rebellion, Omegamon… We are revealing the folly and falsehood of God. Somebody who follows the orders of a false god should not concern himself with our affairs,” he bitterly ordered.

“The Royal Knights will concern themselves in the affairs of whoever threatens Net Security and the safety of innocent Digimon, Demon,” Omegamon calmly fired back.

“Then the Royal Knights shall perish,” Demon answered spartanly, his eyes flashing. His hands became wreathed in flames and he swept his wings out to rise further into the air, the flames illuminating his cloaked body with a hellish glow. He pushed his claws forwards and cast a torrent of sweeping fire towards Omegamon. “Algol’s Flame!”

-

“Double Impact!” Beelzebumon shouted over the din of gunfire.

Dukemon raised the Aegis to deflect a high caliber bullet that tore against the face of the shield in a burst of sparks and shattering metal. He watched as Beelzebumon passed in front of him on his motorcycle, looping around behind him. Dukemon didn’t take his eyes off the speeding Demon Lord for a moment.

Beelzebumon circled around Dukemon in a continuous loop, like a predator stalking its prey. Whenever he got into Dukemon’s blind spot, he fired a blast from his Berenjena. The bullets pounded against Dukemon’s armour, but he was quick to use his shield to his advantage by blocking most of the shots.

Dukemon looked back and forth alertly, always making sure that Beelzebumon was in his line of sight. He swiftly covered the right side of his body with the Aegis as another shot whizzed towards him. No more than a second later, another shot ran out from behind him, prompting Dukemon to spin around and block another shotgun slug from hitting his back. He sneered and turned his head towards Beelzebumon, who smirked and wheeled around Dukemon faster.

The silver and red Royal Knight ventured a glance towards Omegamon, who he saw dodge one of Demon’s attacks. “Omegamon!” he called out.

Omegamon flew to the side to avoid the swath of flames. “Be on your guard!” he warned Dukemon, his sword and cannon at the ready. He fired a blast towards Demon, but the Demon Lord was fast enough to avoid the shot.

“We’ll handle Leviamon!” Sleipmon told the other two as he dashed across the snowy ground, towards the semi-frozen river.

Leviamon rose up from the water, sending giant water spouts up around his body. He gave a toothy smirk as he observed the Royal Knights through the cascading water. “Like hell you will…” he sassily retaliated. He opened his maw and prepared to attack the horse knight.

“What do we do if the other three are here?!” UlforceVeedramon asked, speeding in the opposite direction of Sleipmon in order to circle Leviamon. He swerved sharply to the side as a watery geyser erupted in front of him.

After getting showered by freezing water, UlforceVeedramon sneered and sped towards Leviamon in the form of a blue zigzag. He sped across Leviamon’s back, dragging his Ulforce Sabre along his scales. However, Leviamon’s hide was thick and durable, so the slash only caused a shallow cut across his massive back.

Leviamon snarled and whipped his twin tails around, lashing them brutally at UlforceVeedramon. “Cauda!” he boomed, bringing his tails down on UlforceVeedramon.

UlforceVeedramon deftly evaded with milliseconds to spare as the tree trunk-sized appendages came crashing down. The azure dragon man grunted and flew backwards, out of Leviamon’s range. The tails impacted the ground hard enough to send snow and frozen earth shooting upwards. UlforceVeedramon’s attack distracted the Demon Lord long enough for Sleipmon to launch an arrow at the colossal crocodile.

“Rostrum!” Leviamon snarled, spinning around with surprising speed and climbing onto the riverbank. He opened his jaws wide and tried snapping them shut around the large horse knight.

Sleipmon bent his legs and leapt high into the air, above Leviamon’s crushing jaws and sword-like teeth. He felt the warmth of the crocodile’s strong breath beneath his hooves. He quickly descended and began galloping away from Leviamon, circling around to get out of range.

Out of the corners of his bright, greenish-blue eyes, Omegamon saw the other Royal Knights doing battle with the Demon Lords. He didn’t entirely know what they would do if the other Demon Lords showed up. He thought that seven would be too much for them to handle, but he didn’t want to give ground. “Do you see any others?!” he shouted out to the other three.

“No, but the snowstorm is getting worse!” Sleipmon replied. “It’s getting harder to see very far!”

Indeed, there was more and more snow falling from the cloudy skies. The snowstorm was starting to intensify, so visibility was reduced by the amount of white snowflakes drifting down. Belphemon was getting covered by even more snow, and his large, dark figure was obstructed by the heavy flurries.

Dukemon watched as Beelzebumon raced towards him, emerging through the veil of snow. Beelzebumon cackled and fired another pair of shots. One bullet whizzed by Dukemon’s face, grazing the metal of his helmet, while the other showered his shield with scattershot.

“Haha! What’s wrong, Dukemon?!” Beelzebumon called out to him with an energized smile. “Not man enough to fight me?! Afraid you’ll get your *** handed to you?! I didn’t have you down as such a wimp; you’re disappointing me after all this time! I’ve gotten stronger fighting for myself in the Dark Area, but you’ve gotten weaker!”

“Tch…” Dukemon muttered, attempting not to rise to Beelzebumon’s baiting. However, he did know that he had to go on the offensive. He couldn’t keep defending against Beelzebumon’s vicious and continuous assault forever. Dukemon suddenly lowered his shield and dashed forwards. Cutting through the snow, Dukemon raised the Gram and aimed it. Energy spiraled around the shaft of the Gram and aggregated at the tip. “Royal Sabre!” He thrust the Gram forwards and launched a incandescent beam towards Beelzebumon.

The burning strand of light poured towards Beelzebumon, meeting the Demon Lord of Gluttony head on. Beelzebumon’s grin faded and he scowled as he sharply turned the handles of the Behemoth. The motorcycle drifted across the snow and he pressed his foot onto the accelerator. The wheels ripped against the snow and Beelzebumon steered out of the path of the beam. The laser slammed into the ground right beside Beelzebumon, erupting in a violent explosion. Snow, earth, and light cascaded outwards as shockwaves ripped through the ground.

Beelzebumon and the Behemoth were lifted off the ground by the heavy blast. The Demon Lord scowled and winced at the energy nipping at his body. However, he managed to land his motorcycle safely on the ground and continue driving. Beelzebumon grunted and wheeled around to look at Dukemon. “You’ve still got some moves, Dukemon. Good… I’m not wasting my time after all…” Beelzebumon muttered, his red eyes leering at Dukemon darkly.

Dukemon watched as Beelzebumon began speeding towards him. The Demon Lord holstered the Berenjena and raised his long, knife-like claws, smirking. Dukemon readied the Gram and Aegis, preparing himself as Beelzebumon charged him head on. “You really want to joust with me…?” Dukemon warned the demon Digimon. “Me of all Digimon?”

“Always, Dukey!” Beelzebumon laughed, only accelerating faster with brazen courage.

Dukemon glowered and met Beelzebumon’s charge. He supposed that this was a good opportunity for the Royal Knights, since at least four of the Demon Lords were all in one place. If they could take at least one down, that would be good for them in the long run. He dashed across the ground before the speeding motorcycle. The two quickly closed the gap.

Knowing that he had greater reach, the Royal Knight stabbed the lance towards Beelzebumon’s place on the Behemoth. Beelzebumon acted quickly and leapt off his bike right as the spear closed in. With impressive agility, he performed a somersault over the lance.

As the bike passed by Dukemon, Beelzebumon grabbed the Royal Knight’s long, red cape in his claws in mid air. The demon then landed back on the Behemoth and took hold of the handles, jerking Dukemon off his feet.

Dukemon grunted as he was violently pulled down and dragged along the ground behind the Behemoth. “D-Damnit,” he snarled, feeling his armoured body get pulled across the cold ground.

Beelzebumon looked over his shoulder and smirked down at Dukemon, enjoying the sight of the Royal Knight getting dragged behind him at his mercy. He pulled one of his shotguns off of his back and pointed it behind him at the struggling Royal Knight.

Dukemon acted quickly. He lashed his arm out with the Gram, the tip cutting through the end of the cape that Beelzebumon held in his grasp. Freed from the Demon Lord, the shotgun blast perforated the ground in front of him, and Dukemon rolled to a stop in the snow.

As Dukemon sneered defiantly, he placed his lance and shield against the ground to help him stand. He looked forwards to see where Beelzebumon had gotten to, but he could only see a shadow obscured by the snow. Dukemon looked around to try to see the other Royal Knights. He could just barely make out UlforceVeedramon’s and Sleipmon’s blue and red bodies moving swiftly over around the riverbank. They faced the clearly visible, bright red form of Leviamon, who lashed out with his massive jaws, indomitable tails, and crushing water spouts. Dukemon turned his head. He couldn’t see Omegamon against the white backdrop, but he could see blasts of fire and ice shooting through the snowy sky, trading blows with Demon’s black and red attacks.

Dukemon looked around the area. He tried to track Beelzebumon, but the fast Demon Lord was hard to spot in the thick snowstorm. He could only rely on the sounds of the engine. They seemed to be coming from towards the giant, sleeping mound that was Belphemon.

Demon snarled as he barely avoided one of Omegamon’s shots. As the Royal Knight closed the distance in an attempt to stab him, Demon fended him off with a funnel of infernal flames created in his hands. The Demon Lord of Wrath spun around, his eyes stern and narrow. “Beelzebumon! Stop fooling around! It’s time to get moving!” he commanded him.

“I’m workin’ on it! Get off my *** already! Yeesh!” Beelzebumon called back. Beelzebumon stopped his motorcycle right behind the giant, slumbering Demon Lord. He hopped off the back of the Behemoth and opened up a large, metal box that rested behind the seat. “Alright, furball. You better not be dead weight.”

Beelzebumon took out a long, chrome digizoid chain with hooked latches on each end. He then hooked one of latches to one of the chains that was wrapped around Belphemon’s body. He tugged at it to make sure of its security. Once satisfied, Beelzebumon hooked the other end of the chain to the back of the Behemoth.

Beelzebumon hopped onto the Behemoth and looked through the heavy snowfall towards Demon. “I’m ready!” he called out.

“Then go!” Demon ordered brusquely, unleashing a surge of darkness from his hands towards Omegamon. “Leviamon! Cover him!”

Leviamon growled and rolled into the river to avoid a Shining V-Force attack fired by UlforceVeedramon. After a mighty splash that sent water and chunks of ice flowing up the banks, Leviamon resurfaced. “Duo Cauda!” he rumbled, sending his massive tails rushing through the river water. The pair of long, serpentine tails caused the river to erupt. Four pillars of water surged into the air and came crashing down across the tundra. Massive waves of water gushed across the snow, drenching the icy particles and sweeping across the ground.

“Damn it!” Dukemon shouted was water began pouring up to his boots. He had to leap into the air to escape the sweeping waves that followed.

Sleipmon and UlforceVeedramon likewise flew up from the ground to avoid the rushing waves, but they still had to contend with the surging water spouts and the erratic movements of Leviamon’s tails. Fortunately, Leviamon didn’t have enough water to work with than if he was in an ocean, but there was still enough to be dangerous.

“Dukemon!” UlforceVeedramon called out between dodging a pillar of water and a striking tail. “What’s going on over there?!”

Beelzebumon slammed his foot on the accelerator as soon as the chain was taut. “We’ll continue this later, Dukey!” Beelzebumon shouted behind him. “Wait for me! Hahaha!”

The Demon Lord began driving through the snow at full speed, towing Belphemon behind him. Luckily for him, Belphemon’s levitation and lack of resistance made him easier to tow, but his sheer weight slowed Beelzebumon down to half his regular speed. He continued driving through the intensifying snowstorm, hauling his fellow Demon Lord behind him.

Dukemon sneered. “He’s escaping with Belphemon!” he exclaimed, flying after them.

“I don’t think so, Dukemon…” Leviamon said with a smirk. He opened up his massive maw and built up blue, aquatic energy within it. “Rostrum!” he shouted.

A sapphire beam ripped from his giant maw, wavering unevenly like a rushing river as it swept through the sky. It was nearly as big as Leviamon’s throat. The massive swell of water energy surged between Sleipmon and UlforceVeedramon, and continued in front of Dukemon’s path.

Dukemon growled and stopped just in time to avoid getting consumed by the crushing blast. The wall of azure energy howled as it passed in front of him, blocking Dukemon from giving chase to Beelzebumon and Belphemon.

Omegamon turned around and saw the quickly disappearing form of Belphemon. He could only make out small specks of brown as the storms raged and concealed their retreating forms from view. Omegamon turned around and began flying after them, not wanting to let the Demon Lords get Belphemon.

Seeing Omegamon turn his back to him, Demon took his opportunity. He rushed forwards after Omegamon and his hands became surrounded by a dark purple aura. “Double Dust!” he shouted, bringing his magic-imbued fists down on Omegamon’s back.

The impact exploded with magical energy and created enough force to send Omegamon crashing into the snowy ground below. After observing the downed knight with cruel eyes, Demon shifted his gaze towards Leviamon. “Leviamon! Cover our retreat.”

“Fine…” Leviamon grumbled, sweeping his tails along the icy surface of the river. “Duo Cauda!” he thundered, sending more pillars of frozen water down on Sleipmon and UlforceVeedramon.

“Damn it,” UlforceVeedramon grunted, dipping and weaving in the sky to avoid getting hit by the torrents of water. After swerving past an aquatic pillar, he saw an opening. UlforceVeedramon began to speed away to try and give chase to Beelzebumon and Belphemon.

“Chaos Flare!” Demon spoke, summoning a massive tornado of blood red flames and dark energy right in the Royal Knights’ paths. The tempest of unholy demon magic tore up the ground and threatened to suck UlforceVeedramon in if he didn’t pull back.

“Can’t get through!” UlforceVeedramon growled, summoning the Tense Great Shield from his other V-Bracelet as tendrils of flames and darkness lashed at his form. A heavy torrent of water crashed down on him and the omni-directional barrier. It was unable to get through, but Leviamon had enough force to send him down onto the ground, keeping him suppressed by the continual stream of water.

After creating the tornado, Demon cast a final stream of infernal flames from his hands towards Omegamon and Dukemon. As the fire swept in front of them, Demon flapped his wings and calmly flew off, following after Belphemon and Beelzebumon.

Dukemon jumped back from the wall of fire and used the Aegis to protect himself. “Sleipmon! Can you follow them?” he asked, wincing and looking over to his left to where Sleipmon and UlforceVeedramon were fighting Leviamon.

“I can’t!” Sleipmon called back. He jumped out of the way just in time for one of Leviamon’s tails to come crashing down and crush the frozen ground underneath.

“Anima!” Leviamon shouted, unleashing a devastating, black tornado from his mouth. The horizontal whirlwind ripped up the ground and slammed into Sleipmon.

Sleipmon grunted with pain and held the Niflheimr shield in front of him in order to protect himself from the majority of the attack. His hair and tail blustered in the heavy gust. His six hooves dug into the ground and his arm trembled as it held the shield in place due to the immense pressure of the attack. His eyes hardened and he managed to weather the abyssal storm.

Leviamon took the opportunity to make his move. He turned around in the river and began to submerge under the watery surface and broken chunks of ice. “So long, Royal Knights,” he taunted, only the top of his snout visible as he sank. Leviamon’s gold, reptilian eye lingered on Dukemon for a few moments before he dove deep under water.

Despite his massive body, he was able to swim quickly downstream, after the retreating Demon Lords.

The dark tornado subsided and Sleipmon lowered the Niflheimr shield, panting. “They’re escaping…” he said, turning his head towards Omegamon and Dukemon.

Omegamon swept his Grey Sword outwards and extinguished Demon’s lingering flames in a moment of frustration. “…I know…” he bitterly responded, composing himself.

UlforceVeedramon flew over to them, his fists clenched and his gaze stubborn. “I’ll fly ahead! I can catch up with them!” he suggested resolutely.

“No, UlforceVeedramon… That isn’t a good move,” Omegamon regretfully explained. “If you do that, you’ll be out on your own. You’ll be outnumbered and the Demon Lords may not let the opportunity slip.”

“Maybe if we all go now, we can still catch them,” Dukemon said, also reluctant to give up.

“The storm is getting worse. There’s barely any visibility,” Sleipmon explained, frowning. “Beelzebumon already has a large head start on us. Even with Belphemon’s size, I don’t think we’ll be able to find them like this. I can’t be our pathfinder in a storm that’s this bad.”

“So we just let them go?” UlforceVeedramon asked in obvious frustration, the words sticking distastefully in his mouth.

“We may not have any choice…” Omegamon said with a sigh. “I don’t like the idea, but we’re in a disadvantageous position now. There is always a risk in chasing down a fleeing enemy; we don’t know if the other three are with them as reinforcements. They could have set up an ambush. I don’t want to risk our lives to continue a battle that we aren’t necessarily going to win.”

“Ugh… But this is the first time that we’ve had them in our grasps,” Dukemon complained.

“Don’t let an opportunity blind you to the risks, Dukemon…” Omegamon advised him. “There will be other opportunities. Better ones.”

Although reluctant, Dukemon nodded and sighed. “Yeah… Fine,” he conceded, although he wasn’t entirely happy with it.

After deactivating the Ulforce Sabres, UlforceVeedramon rubbed his face with agitation. “Ngh… Alright,” he agreed. “We’ll leave them. This isn’t good weather for fighting…” He raised his hands and looked at his blue, fingerless gloves and his pale, white fingers. “My fingers are numb anyways.” He grimaced and looked in the direction that the Demon Lords escaped. “I just hate that we’re leaving empty-handed…”

“We’ve confirmed that they’re hostile and we’ve assessed their combat strength,” Sleipmon offered optimistically. “We also know that they’re planning something, considering that they wanted Belphemon.”

“I guess…” UlforceVeedramon agreed half-heartedly.

“So, this means that at least four of the Demon Lords are gathered…” Omegamon figured. “I wonder if the other three are as well.”

“We should assume that they are…” Dukemon replied, folding his arms and starting to shiver now that the heat and adrenaline of battle were wearing off.

“What do we do now?” Sleipmon asked them. As he spoke, he removed a loaded crossbow bolt from the Muspellsheimr’s breech and placed it back inside of his shield.

“First of all, let’s get out of this storm…” UlforceVeedramon suggested, rubbing his arms and pressing his wings against his shoulders for warmth. “We’ll be buried in snow at this rate.”

Omegamon nodded. “We should head back to Ocean Cove and wait for the next Locomon running south,” he explained. “We need to report to the others as soon as possible.”

UlforceVeedramon took out the LRAVC from his tights. The rectangular device was drenched in water and it was unresponsive. “Metallife’s gonna kill me…” he murmured sheepishly, futilely attempting to turn it on.

“Yeah, he is,” Dukemon agreed with a slight grin. He turned to Omegamon. “Once we get there, it will probably be several hours before another Locomon is ready to go,” he guessed, readjusting the frigid armour on his body.

At this, Omegamon turned and levelled a tired but warm and sweet smile at Sleipmon. “…Enough time for you to show us around the city a bit, it sounds like,” he suggested.

Sleipmon suddenly smiled broadly. “Well… Maybe if we have time,” he reasoned diplomatically.

Dukemon nodded lightly. “I could do with something to help relax me…” he noted. Dukemon turned and walked over to Sleipmon.

“I could do with a towel,” UlforceVeedramon muttered, shivering at his ice water-drenched armour and tights.

Dukemon smiled. “Come on, guys. Let’s get moving.”

Sleipmon began making his way through the slush-snow mixture, heading south to exit the Cathode Tundra the way they came. UlforceVeedramon and Dukemon slowly followed him, letting him lead the way.

Before following them, Omegamon cast an uncertain glance over his shoulder. He left a lingering gaze through the heavy snowstorm in the northern direction that the Demon Lords escaped towards. Putting aside his regrets, Omegamon closed his eyes and began walking after his friends.

He hoped he made the right decision.
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
Omegamon's reaction to Beelezebubmon's cryptic comment about Dukemon left me in stitches! We don't get a rise out of Omegamon like that extremely often.
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Omegamon's reaction to Beelezebubmon's cryptic comment about Dukemon left me in stitches! We don't get a rise out of Omegamon like that extremely often.

Haha, thanks! You're right, he is usually really calm and professional. I'm glad you noticed that little moment. Beelzebumon should be worried.
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Chapter 33: Evening Light (Part I)​

The setting sun cast an amber glow across the grassy expanse. The orange orb of solar energy rested at a low angle in the sky as it declined, steadily dipping towards the far-off horizon. A gentle breeze drifted across the landscape, carried over the ocean from the western coast of the distant continent of Colossus.

A group of four Digimon made their way up a gentle slope. They stayed on course via a stone road that crested the hill at its flattest point. Leading the way up the path was Paildramon. She strode up the trail with tireless resolve. As she approached the apex of the hill, she was greeted with orange sunlight across her face. As the light spread across her crimson helmet, Paildramon squinted momentarily and turned around to look at the other Digimon behind her.

Dorbickmon strode after her, making his way up the stone path. He walked up the hill stubbornly, his body not showing any signs of tiring. Wandering behind him was VictoryGreymon, who was in as high spirits as ever. He trundled along with a meek but affable smile on his draconic face, even as he lugged the weighty Dramon Breaker against his shoulder. Bringing up the rear was GrandisKuwagamon, who lagged behind at a casual pace.

“Don’t dawdle, GrandisKuwagamon,” Paildramon advised him, looking down from the crest. “You’ll get out of range.”

“Yeah, yeah,” was the bug’s flippant response.

VictoryGreymon turned and looked at GrandisKuwagamon with concern. “Are you getting tired?” he wondered. “I could ca—“

“Don’t even finish that thought, lizard,” GrandisKuwagamon interrupted, speeding up his stride and moving past the dinosaur man to emphatically dismiss the notion.

“Oh, okay. Just thought I’d ask,” VictoryGreymon responded, smiling sheepishly. He turned his draconic head forwards and looked up at Paildramon and Dorbickmon. “How close are we to Dark Point?”

“We’re about at the western-most reaches of the Republic’s territory now,” Paildramon guessed. “Since Dark Point is on the western coast, I would say that we’re about two-thirds of the way there.” She turned around and looked up at the higher mound of the hill that they were traipsing up. “I’m going to go to the top of the hill and see what the area ahead looks like.”

“We’ll come too,” Dorbickmon agreed. He lugged a small bag over his spiked back as he followed Paildramon off the road and further up to the highest point of the hill.

The group continued climbing the mound until the grassy incline levelled off at the top. At the hill’s crest, they stopped and used the vantage point to observe the land to the west.

With the amber sun providing a backlight, they gazed upon a beautiful vista. In the far distance, over to their left, were a chain of small mountains that were like a series of claws reaching up from within the Digital World. Immediately ahead of them were rolling fields and smaller hills that glowed with goldenrod radiance. The road that they were following weaved around the hills seamlessly before straightening out upon reaching the grassy plains beyond.

Further down the road was a small, diffused forest called Analog Forest that was distinct by its abundance of radios and televisions. They couldn’t yet see it, but far beyond the hills and forest was the Delta Ocean. Seeing the sparkling waves of the ocean in the distance would have completed the picturesque view.

“Can’t see Dark Point from here,” GrandisKuwagamon explained to them, raising a hand above his compound eye to shield it from the strong sunlight. “We’re still about ten kilometers away. It’ll be another few hours.”

“Then we should probably stop soon. We shouldn’t travel in the dark,” Paildramon suggested. “Why don’t we travel up to Analog Forest and then set up camp there for the night? We can continue at first light tomorrow.”

“Sounds good to me,” Dorbickmon agreed, folding his arms and gazing towards the forest. “It’s a pretty safe forest, as far as they go.”

“I like that idea too. My feet are starting to get tired,” VictoryGreymon added with a nod.

“Whatever you say, leader,” GrandisKuwagamon replied flippantly, shrugging and beginning to walk back down the hill. “Not like my opinion counts for anything.”

Paildramon turned and looked at the bug Digimon as he made his way down the slope towards the road. “Do you actually have a different opinion? Or are you just being awkward on purpose?” she inquired matter-of-factly. “If it’s the former, I’m willing to consider what you have to say.”

“I’ll leave it up to you to decide!” GrandisKuwagamon called back, dismissively waving his hand over his shoulder without bothering to turn. “It’s your job to make decisions for me, right?”

“He’s just being an ***…” Dorbickmon explained with a soft growl to his words. After a moment, the glower faded and a mischievous smirk crawled onto Dorbickmon’s draconic face. He casually tapped his foot on the ground.

Suddenly a large clump of dirt rose from the ground right in front of GrandisKuwagamon’s next step. He caught his clawed foot on the raised outcropping and lost his balance on the slope. GrandisKuwagamon tripped forwards and fell before he could stop himself. In a flurry of limbs and pincers, he tumbled down the face of the hill before settling into an ignominious roll. He grabbed hold of the hill, digging his black fingers into the soil, and managed to stop himself before he reached the bottom of the hill.

Resting on his back, GrandisKuwagamon glared up the hill at Dorbickmon. His mandibles twitched irritably and his compound eye narrowed ever so slightly. “Damn it! I know that was you, lizard! You’re not getting away with that!” he irately promised.

Dorbickmon snickered audibly. “Dunno what you’re talking about, bug!” he called back in mock innocence. “Not my fault you have two left feet!”

“You’ll have no left feet if you’re not careful,” the mercenary fired back.

“I-It’s okay, Grandis!” VictoryGreymon called down to him in an attempt to make him feel better. “That happens to me all the time!”

Paildramon sighed and turned her head to blandly gaze at Dorbickmon. “…Try to restrain yourself, Dorbickmon,” she implored him. “Pressing his buttons won’t make this any easier for any of us.”

Dorbickmon smirked. “He had it coming,” he insisted. He rolled his eyes. “But fine. I’ll try.”

“I appreciate it,” Paildramon said, beginning to make her way down the hill towards GrandisKuwagamon, who was picking himself up and brushing his armour and exoskeleton off. “Let’s keep moving before the sun sets entirely.”

“Okay. We’re coming, Grandis!” VictoryGreymon called out, animatedly jogging down the hill. “Just- Gah!” Unsurprisingly, VictoryGreymon ended up tripping on the exact same clump of dirt that GrandisKuwagamon had tripped on and fell face-first down the hill.

Paildramon watched with a wince as the hapless dragon skidded past her and slid all the way to the bottom in an inglorious heap. She was just relieved that he didn’t fall on his sword.

Dorbickmon laughed and pedalled down the hill after him. “Don’t feel too bad, Grandis; you’ve got VictoryGreymon falling head-over-heels for you!” he joked, making his way down to them.

“Hilarious,” GrandisKuwagamon flatly responded, tossing a clump of dirt at Dorbickmon. “Can we go now?”

“Ow…” VictoryGreymon moaned from the bottom of the hill, slowly getting on his hands and knees to pick himself up. “Y-Yeah. I’m okay…”

Paildramon glided down the rest of the way and landed beside them. “We can probably get there within the hour,” she mused, offering her hand to VictoryGreymon to help the dragon man stand to his feet.

VictoryGreymon stood up and thanked her sheepishly. The group then proceeded back into the road and began following it across the verdant terrain.

As she walked, Paildramon inwardly noted that this was a very unorthodox team that she was a part of. Two of them were volatile mercenaries while the other was the clumsy but well-meaning VictoryGreymon. She felt it would be an interesting challenge for her to manage these different personalities. She hoped that they would be able to pull together once they reached Dark Point and the mission physically began.

-

As the hours passed, the umber shadows of darkness crept over the landscape. The mild spring night set in as the sun disappeared below the horizon. The pale light of the twin moons illuminated the canopy of Analog Forest, casting slender rays of moonlight between the leaves and onto the forest floor.

Analog Forest was an unusual and somewhat ominous woodland. Televisions grew out of the trunks of trees, and radio antennae protruded from the branches and shrubs. Most of the television screens were either dark, hissed with static, or had the rainbow spectrum of a TV colour bar. Very few of the televisions actually showed anything, and even then, the picture was usually distorted due to bad reception. The larger of the trees has flat screen TVs built into them. The absolute largest trees around had sixty inch monitors and surround sounds system embedded in the trunk, with auxiliary speakers on surrounding trees. These electronics created an eerie glow that illuminated the dark throughout the forest. If one listened closely, they would know that the gentle whirr of fans and the whisper of static were ever-present.

The covert team of four set up a makeshift camp at the edge of Analog Forest. Four sleeping bags lay in a circle on the ground. Dorbickmon bent over and breathed embers from his mouth into a fire pit, igniting the gathered sticks, twigs and flammable brush that was carefully arranged in the shallow hole. Paildramon crouched down across from him, feeding the fire sticks with one hand and using a broad leaf to fan the flames with the other. As Paildramon kept the fire healthy and going, VictoryGreymon walked over with a large bundle of sticks gathered precariously between his muscular arms.

GrandisKuwagamon, however, merely leaned against the tree and watched the three set up camp. He wasn’t particularly inclined to help. In fact, he seemed lost in thought.

The last ember fluttered out on Dorbickmon’s breath and smoke drifted up from his draconic maw. He fixed his eyes on the idle insect Digimon and glared with annoyance. “Hey, bug!” he called out.

GrandisKuwagamon either didn’t hear him at first or he ignored him. Instead of responding, he kept staring at the campfire pensively. The reflection of the flames glimmered within his crimson, compound eye.

“I said, ‘hey, bug!’” Dorbickmon said louder and more emphatically. “Why don’t you move your *** and help us?”

The bug Digimon slowly pulled his gaze away from the flames and stared at Dorbickmon aloofly. “You guys look like you’ve got it under control,” he apathetically replied.

Paildramon continued fanning the embers until the fire became stable, at which point she put thicker branches on top of the flames to keep it going. When done, she stood up and turned to look at GrandisKuwagamon. “This mission would go much more smoothly if we all cooperated with each other. We are supposed to avoid combat, but it will still be dangerous regardless. We should try to act like a team.”

GrandisKuwagamon leaned back against a tree and rolled his eye. “Whatever you say, P,” he dismissively replied.

Dorbickmon cast a sideways leer at him, the yellow sclera of his eyes burned like the flames that flickered in front of him. “Tch…” he scoffed with annoyance. “Were you this much of a team player in Black Pincer Company too? No wonder your two bug cronies left you out to dry.”

At these barbed words, the midnight insect stood up from the tree and glared coolly across their campsite at Dorbickmon. “What was that…?” he questioned, his voice as sharp and cold as an icicle. “Want to repeat that, salamander?”

The corners of Dorbickmon’s lips curved upwards as a contentious grin crept onto his draconic snout. He took a brazen step forwards to make it clear that he wasn’t moved by GrandisKuwagamon’s veiled threat. “If your hearing’s that bad, sure,” he offered, pitting his violet irises against the scarab man’s blood red leer.

VictoryGreymon stood up, looking between the two mercenaries with uncertainty and worry in his big, green eyes. Beads of sweat began to form on his face and he tentatively opened his draconic mouth to try to deescalate the situation, but he hesitated in the face of the two daunting personalities.

“Uh…” he managed, putting on a nervous smile as the tension between the two mercenaries grew. “Why don’t we – um…” VictoryGreymon stalled and rubbed his muscular neck, uncomfortable as he tried to think of the best words to say in this situation. He knew he had to say something, but he was at a loss, so he tried to think of what Alphamon would say in this situation.

“…C-Coffee! Why don’t we have some coffee?!” VictoryGreymon stammered out hopelessly.

Paildramon sighed. “Settle down, you two,” the Perfect level dragon Digimon told them calmly but firmly. She took a few steps and put herself in between the pair before they could make a move towards one another. Upon acting as a barrier, she turned towards the red dragon. “Dorbickmon, please… Enough.”

Dorbickmon grinned and scoffed, shrugging lackadaisically. “He’s the one with an attitude problem,” he responded, nodding curtly at GrandisKuwagamon.

“You don’t need to make it worse,” Paildramon responded sternly. She turned around to look at GrandisKuwagamon. “And GrandisKuwagamon—“

“Yeah, got it. Fine, whatever,” he briskly uttered in response. He turned around and began walking into the dark forest. “I’m gonna take a leak.”

VictoryGreymon took a few steps after him. “Want me to—“

“No!” GrandisKuwagamon irately responded, cutting him off before he could finish the thought.

Paildramon gazed at him evenly. “Don’t go too far,” she advised him.

“Yeah, I know. I won’t…” GrandisKuwagamon murmured. He stepped out of the moonlight and as soon as the last strand of pale light left the dim sheen of his wings, he immediately melded into the darkness of the forest.

Dorbickmon snorted out a flame from his nostrils. “What’s his problem? He should be thankful that he’s getting a chance to reduce his sentence,” he gnarled. “Instead, he just keeps giving attitude.”

Paildramon went and sat down, cross-legged, on top of her sleeping bag. She sat close enough to the fire to feel its warmth. “If I were to guess, I don’t think he likes being in a dependent situation. I think he’s used to being in control of himself and his actions; now, he’s forced to obey our instructions. I can understand that being frustrating for him,” Paildramon suggested as she picked up a stick and prodded the tinder in the fire.

As she tended the fire, the female dragon looked over at Dorbickmon emphatically. “You mercenaries don’t have a structured life like we soldiers do. There’s no chain of command, duties, or obligations. We’re used to following orders to the letter. It must be a difficult transition, suddenly having authority and limitations imposed over you when you’re used to a free and unstructured way of life. I think it bothers somebody like GrandisKuwagamon in particular. I’ve only known him for a few days, but I can tell that he doesn’t like authority or limitations. He seems like an ardent individualist.”

VictoryGreymon frowned sympathetically and sat down on his own sleeping bag, bending his knees and arching his legs so that he could lean forward on them. “Gee, that’s pretty insightful, Paildramon…” he murmured, impressed by her analysis of their teammate. “I never thought of it like that.”

Paildramon sighed, wondering if she was speculating on behalf of GrandisKuwagamon too much. “I’m not sure. I shouldn’t speak for him, especially since all I’ve ever known was structure and authority. That’s just my opinion of why he acts so standoffish,” she amended.

Dorbickmon grunted and sat down across from them with a frown. He shrugged and stared through the smoke of the campfire at the pair. “Actually, I think you’re onto something, Paildramon. There’s a reason why I didn’t join the Order, even when they asked me. It’s too rigid for me. I’ve always walked my own path. I don’t like the idea of giving that up,” he explained.

VictoryGreymon folded his arms across his propped up knees, and then rested his chin on top of them, looking deep in thought. “So, Grandis wants freedom bad enough that he’s willing to put himself through this… I kinda feel bad for him,” he mused.

The red dragon looked over at him. “What’s his alternative? Go to jail where he has even less freedom? Of course he’s gonna jump at this chance,” he cynically pointed out. “It’s not like it’s a principled thing he’s doing, helping us.”

“Well… I guess that’s true…” VictoryGreymon supposed. “Still, I don’t know if I’d like having a shock collar in me, even if it was the Royal Knights who installed it. I feel like I’d forget about it a lot.”

“It’s the only way that we can ensure his loyalty, unfortunately,” Paildramon explained to VictoryGreymon.

“Yeah. I know the Royal Knights have a good reason,” VictoryGreymon answered understandingly. He turned his head and looked over at Dorbickmon, a smile growing on his snout. “So… Is it true that you’re best friends with Sir Examon?”

Dorbickmon cocked an eyebrow and glanced back at VictoryGreymon, taken somewhat off guard. He began rubbing his claws along his spiked jaw line. “Uh… I wouldn’t say we’re best friends… It’s… complicated, okay?”

“It is? You two seem pretty close though,” VictoryGreymon mused.

“Haven’t you heard the rumours floating around?” Dorbickmon inquired. “I was one of the ones who fought alongside DarkKnightmon during the crisis.”

“Well, yeah, but you switched sides and fought against DarkKnightmon at the end, right? You don’t seem that bad to me,” VictoryGreymon assured him with a friendly grin.

“It’s not that simple… There’s a lot of history with me and Examon,” Dorbickmon responded, glancing away sheepishly.

Paildramon withdrew her stick from the fire and placed it down. “Do you feel comfortable talking about it? I’ve heard rumours, but I’d rather hear the truth from you,” she said, looking at Dorbickmon with interest.

“Yeah, me too,” VictoryGreymon readily agreed, smiling with curiosity and excitement. “I’d love to know more about you and Examon.”

Dorbickmon sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, grinning with resignation. “Jeez… How can I say no? Okay, fine…” he conceded. “We used to be best friends during childhood. We did everything together, pretty much. Neither of us really had traditional families, so we ended up spending a lot of time together.”

As he spoke, GrandisKuwagamon re-emerged from the forest. Although not hiding his presence, he didn’t make himself known and he lingered in the shadows just outside of the campsite. The humanoid beetle folded his arms, leaned against a tree and listened in as they talked.

“One day, when we were Adult levels, we were roughhousing on the way home. It was all fun and games, but when I had Coredramon – Examon - in a headlock, he suddenly went nuts on me. He pushed me away and started firing off these really powerful beams from his mouth. Before I knew it, Coredramon blew up a bunch of buildings. I didn’t know what was goin’ on, but I tried to stop him and get him to settle down. But then he turned on me. I grabbed him but then he scratched me away and fired at me too,” Dorbickmon explained, his eyes narrow as he recounted the events of that day.

Dorbickmon lifted up his crimson breastplate and removed his abdominal armour to reveal the ruby scales underneath. As the metal was stripped away, Paildramon and VictoryGreymon both saw a massive, jagged scar running up his scales. The scarring was thick and pink compared to the surrounding crimson scales. It went from his left hip all the way up to his collar and left shoulder. VictoryGreymon’s jaw dropped at the sight.

“Nice, right?” Dorbickmon proposed with an ironic grin. He pointed his index claw to the middle of his chest and abdomen. There was a set of three vertical, evenly spaced scars that were shaped like diamonds. “It goes well with the ones MirageGaogamon gave me last year, don’t you think?”

“That must have been terrible…” VictoryGreymon mused, his eyes wide with shock.

“I nearly died that day. …For the longest time, I could still smell the smoke and blood. And the last thing I remember before passing out was Coredramon staring down at me,” Dorbickmon responded, his gaze intense and his voice heavy. He made himself break the intensity by giving a nonchalant shrug. “Anyway, luckily the doctors of Wyrm’s Edge managed to stabilize me and I eventually recovered, despite coming close to dying. When I woke up, I asked what happened to Coredramon. They told me he was gone. Just ‘gone’… Ran off after the attack and never returned. He didn’t even wait around to see if I was alive,” he explained, trying to cover the discomfort in his words. “That showed me just how far friendship went…”

VictoryGreymon’s gaze furrowed deeply at this, although he tried his best to hide his uneasiness at the story. “He… Examon really did that?” he questioned him, almost unable to believe it. “But… That doesn’t seem like him at all… He’s so nice!”

Dorbickmon grunted and leaned back on his hands. “Look, we’ve had long talks about it. He apologised – a lot. After we patched things up during the aftermath of DarkKnightmon’s attacks, he wanted to explain his side. Apparently I hit his gekerin – his reverse scale or whatever. Whenever it’s touched, it apparently makes him go ballistic and he doesn’t have any control over it. That’s why he went berserk…” Dorbickmon explained, gazing up at the starry sky as he spoke. “Afterwards, when he got control of himself again, he said he saw me on the ground – saw what he had done to me - and just broke. He couldn’t handle the guilt and shame, so his first instinct was to run off. Apparently secluded himself in the Dragon Mountains for years. Didn’t even have contact with his parents.”

VictoryGreymon’s emerald eyes were wide like sad moons. “That’s… so sad… He must have felt so terrible…” the dragon man empathetically said.

Paildramon frowned pensively as she listened. “I can understand the guilt he felt, but he really should have at least called for some help. …I guess that’s easier for me to say in hindsight; he can’t have been thinking rationally in such an emotional situation,” she debated. “I know that when I first evolved to Imperialdramon, it was extremely difficult to control the power.”

“Yeah, well…” Dorbickmon murmured. “I only had my own point of view. It looked to me like he just attacked me for no reason and left me for dead, and that he was too much of a coward to ever face me again. It left a mark of me and that anger built up over the years. And once I found out that Examon got into the Royal Knights… to see him rewarded after he did something like that… I wanted to do something about it. That’s why I freed DarkKnightmon from the Dark Area. I heard that he hated the Royal Knights, so I used him as a way for me to get back at Examon.”

“I see… But it’s forgiven and forgotten now, isn’t it?” Paildramon asked him.

“Yeah… There’s still a bit of tension here and there - even had an argument with him recently… – but we’re good now…” Dorbickmon explained. He thought about the most recent bout of tension that he had with Examon. “Mostly.”

“That’s a relief to hear…” VictoryGreymon tenderly replied. He smiled at Dorbickmon. “So, you were a mercenary for all that time?”

“Yeah. Started off my career with a few years in the Wandering Dragons. They’re Dramon-only merc group and I joined as a junior member. That was okay. I learned the ropes, built relationships, got my foot into the trade. Then I decided to freelance by myself. I didn’t want to be tied down to a single group,” Dorbickmon explained. “I’ve done pretty good for myself, up until the bug outed me as a Royal Knight informant, at least.”

Paildramon nodded and listened intently to his story. “What type of jobs did you take?” she inquired.

Dorbickmon grinned. “Mostly whatever paid well. Couldn’t afford to be too picky. I tried to get into bounty hunting, but that’s a really competitive specialization, especially among freelancers, so I decided to diversify into other areas instead,” he explained. “Granted, I do have some standards. There are some jobs that I won’t touch; you know, murder, assassination, dark stuff like that. Partly for moral reasons, but once you start taking jobs like that, it starts to affect your brand. You start to be painted as someone on the wrong end of the law who’ll happily take those jobs. We call those black claw mercs. A good example would be our buggy friend over there. Black Pincer Company would take any job as long as it paid. They’ve got a notorious reputation because of it: ruthless, flouting the law, and only care about their bottom line. I’ve heard the rumours about the sort of jobs they take.”

As GrandisKuwagamon listened to this, his eye narrowed. However, he didn’t speak up to correct him or defend himself. He merely continued lingering in the shadows of the forest and listening in on them.

VictoryGreymon frowned at this. “They are, huh…? I always wanted to know, why are they called ‘black claws’?” he wondered.

“It’s because blood and dirt doesn’t show up as easily on black claws, so they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, isn’t it?” Paildramon answered, looking at Dorbickmon for confirmation. “And white claws are mercenaries who only take lawful, moral jobs – their claws are pure because they don’t have any blood on them.”

“What she said,” Dorbickmon responded. “I’m a grey claw – a little bit dirty, but I polish them every now and then. We’re kind of in the middle. But I guess I’m leaning more towards white now that I’m working with the Royal Knights. Gotta play nice and all that crap. To be honest, I don’t care for the convenient labels, but it’s useful for branding yourself to clients and employers so that they know what they’re getting when they hire you. It’s short-hand, basically. After all, most clients want to keep their hands clean in the eyes of the law, so they won’t hire some mercenaries who will bend the laws for their goals and potentially get them into trouble. And some clients won’t hire mercenaries who they think will have moral issues with carrying out a dirtier job.”

“That makes sense,” Paildramon agreed. “So, you’ve been skirting the bounds of the law, but never really breaking it.”

“Ehh… It depends. I’ve broken the law sometimes out of necessity, but it’s not like I’m this horrible villain,” Dorbickmon responded, skirting around the issue. “I know I busted DarkKnightmon out and kinda, sorta, indirectly caused this **** with the demons, but…” he shrugged and looked away, becoming a bit defensive and irritated.

“I’m not judging…” Paildramon assured him. “Tell us more about yourself outside of your job. Do you have any family?”

“Not really…” Dorbickmon replied, glancing back at the pair of dragon soldiers. “I don’t have parents. I’m a reformatted Digimon. The Digimon before me died and I was born from a Digi-egg in the Village of Beginnings. As usual for Digimon like us, I don’t remember anything about the Digimon who came before me, so I made this life my own. I’m my own Digimon, after all…” He leaned back on his clawed hands, enjoying the heat of the fire radiating on his chest. “The caretakers knew my egg was draconic, so I got adopted by an orphanage in Wyrm’s Edge, and that’s where I grew up. After recovering from the incident with Examon, I didn’t want to stick around there anymore. I left to travel around Eniac. Started off taking odd jobs in whatever town I came across. Then I decided to become a mercenary,” he said with a dismissive shrug.

A toothy grin then flashed onto Dorbickmon’s face. “That’s pretty much it. I could talk about all my mercenary stories, but I’m sick of talking about myself. I want to hear about you two for a change,” he responded. He looked at VictoryGreymon, shifting the focus onto the surprised dragon knight. “What about you, Vic? What’s your story?”

VictoryGreymon blinked and pointed at himself. “Me?” he asked. His cheek tinted a bit, he smiled goofily, and he rubbed the back of his head with sheepishness. “Oh, um… Well, let’s see… Where to start…?” he wondered aloud as he tried to think.

“Why not start with your childhood?” Paildramon suggested, to give him a specific point to work off of.

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea,” VictoryGreymon continued, crossing his legs and letting his arms rest between his spread thighs. “Well… You might not have heard of it, but I was born in Greyheimr – a small dragon village, way near the northern border of the Republic of Node,” he said with a small, nostalgic smile. “I was raised and went to school there. In fact, so did my best friends. ShineGreymon, WarGreymon, KaiserGreymon, and BlackWarGreymon. We were best friends from a young age, and we eventually became the Greymon Five.”

“It shows. All five of you seem especially close,” Paildramon recounted from her various experiences with them in the Republic’s military.

“Any family?” Dorbickmon asked him.

VictoryGreymon’s sheepish smile returned to his warm, welcoming face. “Well, uh… You might know of my dad, actually…” he tentatively put forward, not wanting to sound like he was bragging. “Um… believe it or not, but my dad is actually the founder of that beer and ale brand – ‘WarGreymon’s Finest’. He’s that WarGreymon…” VictoryGreymon said, blushing a bit.

“What? Seriously?” Dorbickmon asked, his eyes widening as he recognised the brand name.

“Yeah… He started making his own beer just before I was born. He worked for the local tavern in Greyheimr. I remember when I was a Koromon, he’d take me there sometimes,” VictoryGreymon recalled. “His beer always sold pretty well, so he started selling to nearby villages and even some of the taverns in Scalar City. It was a few years later that it really took off though…”

The dinosaur man’s face started to brighten up. “One day, the original Royal Knights came by our village and stayed in the inn. I couldn’t believe it. I was an Agumon at the first time, but they were already my heroes. I wanted to be just like them when I grew up!” he exclaimed, his deep, uncertain voice suddenly becoming animated. “It was so cool! The Royal Knights were actually in my tiny little town! And they stayed at the inn where my dad was working! Alphamon, Omegamon, Dukemon, Dynasmon, Magnamon, and even DarkKnightmon!”

DarkKnightmon, huh?” Dorbickmon thought to himself, briefly thinking about his time with his comrade-turned-enemy. He somehow doubted that DarkKnightmon drank anything alcoholic.

Paildramon smiled. “That must have been something…” she admitted, unable to help but be affected by VictoryGreymon’s sheer enthusiasm and emotion.

VictoryGreymon beamed at the memory and nodded. “It was… Oh! But I’m getting off track! So, they were staying at the inn, and they decided to try the house beer that was on tap. They loved it, apparently! Dynasmon was blown away!” VictoryGreymon chuckled, rubbing his neck and looking beet red with embarrassment. “They liked it so much that they gave Dad an endorsement, and even asked to have some bottled and shipped to Castle Albion. Word got around from the Royal Knights’ endorsement and things really took off after that. There was a lot of demand for Dad’s beer, so he eventually started up his own brewery chain and started distributing his beer all over Eniac. There’s always a steady supply headed to the Royal Knights’ local tavern,” VictoryGreymon said with a sincere smile. “Dad lives in New Terminal right now. That’s where the main brewery is.”

“Damn, that’s pretty cool,” Dorbickmon exclaimed, leaning an arm on his propped up leg while leaning back on his other hand.

“Dad’s really great,” VictoryGreymon agreed. VictoryGreymon pulled his tail around and began thoughtlessly fiddling with the end of it. To the trained eye, his smile faded slightly. “It means he’s always been really busy though. He works really hard all the time. But… it’s what he loves, so… I’m really happy,” he insisted, smiling wider again.

“What about your mom?” Dorbickmon asked him innocently.

As soon as it bounced back, VictoryGreymon’s smile disappeared. The corners of his brows dipped behind his helmet. “Oh, uh… My mom passed away from an illness when I was a Botamon. I never really knew her... I know how much Dad misses her though... He never remarried or courted again, and he says he’s too busy with the breweries anyways, so…“ he explained, his voice becoming soft and wistful.

Paildramon placed her hand on VictoryGreymon’s shoulder to comfort him if he needed it. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Dorbickmon winced, realizing that he put his foot in his mouth. “Uh… yeah… Sorry, Vic. I didn’t realise,” he awkwardly replied.

VictoryGreymon blinked as the mood soured. He immediately put a large, nervous smile on his face and raised his hands in front of him dissuadingly. “Oh, uh, it’s fine, really!” he insisted, still smiling as he didn’t want the others to feel bad because of him. He certainly didn’t want to be the cause of discomfort or team morale dropping. “Don’t worry about it. It was a long time ago, and I’ve got my dad and my friends, so that’s all I need! Thanks, though…”

“Okay… So, how’d you end up in the military?” Dorbickmon asked him, wanting to change the subject.

“Well… It was really because of that visit I mentioned…” VictoryGreymon replied. “I was an Agumon at the time and I was a huge fan of the Royal Knights. Me and my friends would play around, pretending to be them and fight off bad Digimon. They were my idols, really… So seeing them up close was… incredible. I remember… Alphamon signed my action figure and, when he did, I told him that I wanted to be just like them when I was older. Alphamon put his hand on my shoulder and smiled. He told me that he saw potential in me… that with enough training and with a good heart, I could even come work for the Order…” As he fondly remembered the memory, VictoryGreymon’s smile became sincere and tender; it was warm enough to light up the campsite more than any fire could.

“So, that’s why you joined the army?” Paildramon questioned.

VictoryGreymon nodded. “Me and my friends all felt the same way. We registered for the Republic’s military as soon as we were old enough. I was a Greymon at the time,” he remembered, looking up quizzically as he thought back. “We were recruited into a regional battalion, so we all got to stay together.”

“What’s a regional battalion?” Dorbickmon asked.

Paildramon looked at Dorbickmon and leaned forwards on her knees. “It’s a military unit in the Republic’s Node where Digimon who are from the same region, town, or city are placed together in a single unit. It’s partially for the practical reasons, since Digimon of the same species often live together in the same area, so it makes sense to have a standardized, cohesive unit, but it’s also supposed to encourage Digimon to fight harder and more cooperatively because the Digimon that they’re fighting with are their friends and acquaintances with shared experiences,” Paildramon explained.

“Yeah, thanks for explaining that. It was way better than I could,” VictoryGreymon said with a soft laugh. “Anyways… We went through basic training and then advanced training. We saw some combat, mainly putting down bandit raids in the north east of the Republic of Node. There were a lot of barbarian and brigand raids coming out of the, uh, the Antagonist Expense, so we went in to capture them for good.”

Dorbickmon stared at VictoryGreymon flatly. “You mean the ‘Autonomous Expanse’?” the dragon mercenary corrected.

VictoryGreymon smiled innocently. “Yeah, that,” he replied a bit vapidly. “So, anyways, eventually, me and my friends got put into our own specialized squad. We became the Greymon Five!” he said proudly. “All of my friends are really amazing in their own ways. KaiserGreymon’s a natural leader, WarGreymon’s an amazing fighter, ShineGreymon always looks so cool when he fights, and BlackWarGreymon always has a cool head. All I can do is help them out the best that I can,” he said, smiling a bit and rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m not especially smart or talented. I just… really like to help people…”

Paildramon gave him a calm but warm smile. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, VictoryGreymon,” she insisted. “I chose you to come on this mission because of your qualities.”

The dinosaur man blushed and smiled wider. “Gee, thanks, Paildramon. That means a lot…” he responded. The corner of his mouth twitched downwards a bit as he smiled. He turned to her and gazed with his bright, questioning, green eyes. “So, what about you, Paildramon?” he asked.

Dorbickmon grinned at her. “Yeah. Your turn,” he agreed with a touch of levity in his voice.

Paildramon scratched her cheek uncomfortably with one of her long, metal claws. “Well… I guess it’s only fair,” she conceded. “VictoryGreymon, you already know this, but my father is Councillor Imperialdramon of the Council of Seven,” she explained.

At this, GrandisKuwagamon glanced over with mild interest. She had omitted that fact when they had briefly talked.

Dorbickmon whistled, impressed. “Damn, not bad... You must be well-off,” he exclaimed, musing that one of the seven leaders of the Republic of Node must be really wealthy.

“I suppose I am,” she admitted, although she hated touting the fact, especially in front of her fellow soldiers. “I certainly can’t complain about the wealth, but being part of a prominent family isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.”

“Yeah? I definitely wouldn’t know,” Dorbickmon said with a shrug. He grinned at her. “For that much money, I’d make the trade. It sure beats pinching bits in the dry spells between jobs.”

Paildramon cast her crimson eyes towards the mercenary. “It’s easy to say, but I’m not sure that you would… Because I am my father’s daughter, there have always been expectations, limits, ambitions that weren’t my own placed on me. When I was young, I’d have envied the life that you lead, Dorbickmon,” she explained to him.

“What’s your father – um, I mean Councillor Imperialdramon - like?” VictoryGreymon asked her quizzically.

“He is stern, stubborn, set in his ways, and a traditionalist through-and-through…” she responded, a few sour notes gracing her words. “He has always had a clear idea of where I belonged and what my destination would be. If it were up to him, I would be in a position in politics and be in an arranged engagement with a charming, wealthy fiancé, and with children a few years down the line. …And my younger brother would be an up-and-coming officer in the military – a rising star, making a name for himself on behalf of our family.”

“Damn,” Dorbickmon remarked. “You dad sounds a bit stuck up. No offence.”

“None taken,” she calmly replied, not seeimg at all offended by the criticism. “As for my mother… well, she is about the exact opposite to my father. To be honest… she is a bit flighty, frivolous… completely untraditional,” she explained with a slight sigh. “Completely different from my father. She loved the high brow parties and galas that came with my father being a Councillor. She even got involved with the New Terminal fashion scene as a buyer. My mother always had her fancies; she was not what you would call… erm… maternal.” Paildramon frowned. “Not that I’m blaming her. Some people are just programmed differently. I can understand that completely, to be honest.”

“You’ve got an interesting family set up, that’s for damn sure,” Dorbickmon noted with a grin. “Your parents must get along interestingly. It sounds like it could be a comedy routine.”

“Actually, they are divorced now. They split up when I was young. My brother and I stayed with our father. My mother moved to Scalar City, but she still occasionally makes trips to New Terminal since that’s where her job is. Their divorce wasn’t entirely unexpected, when you think about it carefully,” Paildramon explained matter-of-factly. “I’m sure my mother’s independence, capriciousness, and untraditional lifestyle irritated my father, and my father’s overbearing, rigid, conservative personality undoubtedly rubbed my mother the wrong way.”

VictoryGreymon’s gaze softened sympathetically. “I’m sorry, Paildramon…” he said to her sadly.

Paildramon smiled at him. “Don’t be. My parents are who they are, and there is no point in wishing otherwise. Besides, I still care for them, despite their eccentricities,” she explained, sounding at peace with her situation.

“And your brother? ExVeemon, right?” the orange dragon man asked her.

Paildramon nodded and smiled fondly. “He’s the same as ever: a confident, fun-loving teenager who is disobeying Father much more. He is going to a private academy, but he’s taking every opportunity to flirt with girls, I’m guessing,” she said with a slight chuckle.

“Heh,” Dorbickmon laughed as he lay down on his back. “So, how’d you end up in the military if your father was so against it?”

“Training, stubbornness, and determination,” Paildramon plainly explained. “At a young age, I decided I wanted to carve my own path, not have one dictated to me. I didn’t want to be held back by my gender and status. I was inspired by reading about some of the great female commanders and warriors of the past and present. That was what I wanted to do, my father’s opinion be damned,” she said with a wry smile. “I kept telling him that I wanted to join the military instead of ExVeemon. Not just for selfish reasons, by my brother told me privately several times that he didn’t want to join the army. Father was incredibly inflexible for years, but I kept training in private. However, in my mid teens, I think, through a combination of me wearing him down and his realisation that ExVeemon had no interest in a military career, he finally relented and allowed me to enlist in the Republic’s military. I think it was better for him to have one child in the military than none at all; the military is a great career path for politics, after all. Anyways, I was able to prove my capabilities in several military operations and I was fortunate enough to rise a few ranks.”

“That’s great, Paildramon,” VictoryGreymon said with a warm smile. “I think it was definitely the right choice. You’re a great soldier!”

“Good for you, P. Not everyone has that kinda determination to go against their parents’ wishes,” Dorbickmon added with a smirk.

“It’s nothing really. After all, it’s nothing compared to the determination of going against the Order of the Royal Knights and the various laws of the land.” Paildramon stared across the campsite and into the darkness, where GrandisKuwagamon was leaning against a shadowed tree. “Isn’t that right, GrandisKuwagamon?”

GrandisKuwagamon scoffed and stood up from the trunk, walking out of the darkness and into the campsite, where his black body was illuminated by the flickering, orange light of the campfire.

VictoryGreymon looked over with a welcoming smile. “I was starting to worry that you got lost.”

Dorbickmon smirked and glanced over his shoulder. “We were wondering when you were gonna come out, bug,” he mentioned with an adversarial smirk. “Having fun eavesdropping?”

“I wasn’t hiding. I just wanted to be out of range in case VictoryGreymon started sobbing his guts out,” he aloofly responded, walking over to the vacant sleeping bag and sitting down on it in a meditative, cross-legged position. “Why would I want to eavesdrop on you three pouring your hearts out to each other?”

“It wasn’t quite that dramatic,” Paildramon flatly responded. “Getting to know each other is important for teambuilding.”

“Yeah! Besides, it’s nice to get to know other Digimon on a personal level!” VictoryGreymon said optimistically. His smile grew broader at the black insect. “What about you, Grandis? What was your childhood like? How’d you end up living the life you do?” he innocently questioned.

GrandisKuwagamon slowly turned towards VictoryGreymon, the nearby blaze reflected in his intensely cold eye. “Maybe mind your own business,” he curtly responded.

VictoryGreymon blinked and shrunk back. He twiddled his fingers and looked down apologetically. “Uh, sorry. I didn’t mean to be nosy.”

Dorbickmon glared at the black mercenary. “He was just being friendly. We’ve all shared stories here. Why not stop being a pain in the *** for a change and actually try being part of the team?” he chastised.

GrandisKuwagamon rolled his eye. He had a feeling that they weren’t going to leave him alone unless he gave them something. It wasn’t like he had to go into details. He figured a few quick responses would be worth shutting them up. “…Fine, whatever. You’ve got three questions. That’s all,” he responded with irritation.

The muscular, orange, dragon man nodded in agreement. “Why did you become a mercenary?” VictoryGreymon asked. After a moment of reflection, he suddenly became insecure and began twiddling his fingers. “Um… Wait. Do you guys mind me using that word? ‘Mercenary’, I mean. I can use something else if you’d prefer. Should I use ‘soldiers of fortune’? ‘Adventurers’? ‘Unaffiliated combatants’? ‘Non-aligned, combat-oriented odd-jobbers’?”

GrandisKuwagamon rubbed his forehead with exasperation. “Holy ****… I have to put up with this for a week?” he deadpanned. “That counts as two questions, by the way.”

The insect mercenary placed his hands behind his head and dropped down onto his winged back. “I became a mercenary because it was the best job for the skills that I had and I didn’t want to starve to death,” he responded spartanly, indifferently staring up at the night sky. “And use whatever word you want. I don’t give two shits about political correctness.”

“What about your family?” Paildramon asked, looking at him studiously. She figured he would try to brush them off with superficial responses. She wanted to use their last question get a bit of insight into GrandisKuwagamon himself before he shut them down again.

GrandisKuwagamon stalled for a moment. “…Died when I was young,” he said as nonchalantly as he could, not looking up at the other three.

VictoryGreymon’s green eyes softened. “I’m sorry, Grandis…”

“I don’t want pity, VictoryGreymon,” he answered brusquely, his rough voice making it clear that he didn’t want the soft-hearted dragon man looking at him the way he was. He didn’t even have to look up to know that VictoryGreymon was giving him his big dragon eyes.

Dorbickmon frowned and glanced at the rival mercenary with interest. “How did they die?” he asked him bluntly, deciding to test his luck with the bug.

“I said only three questions,” GrandisKuwagamon aloofly responded. His voice was casual, but his words contained a frosty edge. He made it obvious that he wasn’t going to entertain any more questions about the subject.

Paildramon nodded. Although she also wanted to know more, she respected GrandisKuwagamon’s privacy. It sounded like he had a rough history that he wasn’t prepared to divulge. “Alright. Let’s leave it at that,” she diplomatically suggested.

“Fine with me,” Dorbickmon said with an apathetic shrug.

Although nodding, VictoryGreymon’s eyes lingered on GrandisKuwagamon. His strong emotions and empathy towards the insect Digimon made it difficult for him to turn away.

Paildramon raised her bag. “I have some rations that we can heat up so that we won’t have to forage in the dark,” she explained. “Why don’t we eat and then go to bed so that we can wake up early tomorrow?”

“Okay, Paildramon,” VictoryGreymon concurred agreeably.

“Who’s on watch duty?” Dorbickmon wondered.

“Why don’t you, VictoryGreymon, and I take it in shifts?” Paildramon offered.

GrandisKuwagamon grinned and crossed one leg over the other as he continued lying down. “Can’t help but noticed I’m not included there,” he dryly observed.

“Yeah, we’re gonna let you be the only one awake where you can murder us in our sleep,” Dorbickmon sarcastically retorted, rolling his eyes. “Not likely. …And, anyways, first, you don’t help us at all around camp, and now you’re complaining about not having to go on watch duty? You should just be happy that you get to have a full sleep.”

“That hurts my feelings, Dorbickmon,” GrandisKuwagamon mockingly replied, feigning offence. “That’s not very good teambuilding, you know.”

“Aw, I’m sure he didn’t mean it, GrandisKuwagamon,” VictoryGreymon tried to comfort him, not realising the mercenary’s sarcasm.

The beetle warrior sighed. “Sarcasm, V,” he clarified.

“Whatever,” Dorbickmon said, pulling his sleeping bag open. “I want to get some shut eye. Anybody mind if I take the last shift?”

“Go ahead,” Paildramon offered. She looked over at VictoryGreymon. “Which shift do you want?”

“I don’t mind taking the middle one,” he explained, smiling at Paildramon.

She nodded. “Okay. I’ll wake you up in about three hours, then,” she told him.

“Thanks, Pail,” VictoryGreymon responded sleepily. The large dragon man fumbled his way inside of his sleeping bag and then settled inside of it comfortably, tucking himself in with the folds of the fabric.

-

(Continued in the next post)
 
Last edited:

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
(Continued from the previous post)

-

It didn’t take long for the two dragons who weren’t on watch duty to fall asleep - mere minutes, in fact. They had a long, tiresome day of travel, so it was easy for them to fall asleep, even in the electronic forest.

This left only two Digimon still awake.

Paildramon quietly tended the campfire, making sure the flames stayed under control.

GrandisKuwagamon, meanwhile, just sat cross-legged on his sleeping bag. He turned his head and his red eye settled on Paildramon. His mandibles twitched slightly as he gazed at her.

Paildramon stopped what she was doing, sensing that she was being watched. She glanced over her shoulder at him. “Yes, GrandisKuwagamon?” she asked him directly.

“Nothing,” he responded, glancing away.

“You’re free to go to sleep, you know,” she reminded him.

“Good to know, but I’ll go to sleep when I’m ready,” he answered bluntly. GrandisKuwagamon smirked and uncrossed his legs, spreading one out and leaning back on his elbow as he gazed over at Paildramon. “But, you know, there’s enough room in this sleeping bag for two… That’d be one way for you to keep a close eye on your prisoner…”

Paildramon turned around fully and gave him the flattest, most unamused stare. This gave him her unequivocal answer. She didn’t even really take the request seriously. “You try too hard, GrandisKuwagamon,” she calmly told him.

“Try too hard to what? Be sexy? Sorry, babe, but that’s all natural,” he casually boasted.

Paildramon stood up from the fire and gazed at him seriously. “You try too hard to be caustic, difficult, and antagonistic. I know you’re projecting this image of a lawless, vicious, unlikeable mercenary, but I don’t buy it. I sometimes wonder if your aloof demeanour is all an act,” she wondered pointedly.

At this accusation, GrandisKuwagamon’s smirk slowly vanished and a soft sneer formed on his insectoid face. “’All an act’? Tch… The hell do you know? You might be my keeper, Paildramon, but don’t talk like you know anything about me…” he warned her bitterly. He stood to his feet and folded his arms, leering across at her standoffishly. “In fact, that’s pretty damn rich, coming from you.”

Paildramon frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she inquired.

“Like you don’t know. You try to be the perfect soldier just so that you can prove to your dad that you can, don’t you? You just want to be able to stick it to him and show him that you can do whatever a male Paildramon can do and better,” he accused her. He smirked. “Right?”

Paildramon’s ruby eyes narrowed softly. “That’s an oversimplification. I’m not defined by what my father thinks, and I’m not that petty,” she insisted. She was inwardly annoyed at herself that he was able to get under her scales with his pointed comments. He was an expert at getting a rise out of people. “…Now who’s assuming?”

“Doesn’t feel too good, does it? Assuming things about people, I mean. It looks like I struck a nerve,” he observed with a smug grin. “I guess you having daddy issues isn’t too far off the mark?”

Paildramon glanced away, but refused to rise to his goading this time. She knew that he was just trying to get a reaction out of him. “See what I mean? You needle people and try to dissect them. You like to provoke them. Yet, you don’t let people in, yourself. Is it psychological warfare? Or do you just try to get people to hate you? Or is it both? Maybe that’s how you try to take charge of a situation.”

GrandisKuwagamon scoffed. “You’re not so different. Don’t try to act so high and mighty. I figure out what makes people tick; you’re trying to find out what makes me tick right now,” he responded coolly. “You want to be able to anticipate how I act and why I do the things that I do. It’s a way of controlling people. If you know how somebody ticks, you can control their reactions… You like to be in control just as much as I do – I can tell. You’re so measured in your words and actions, always thinking about the next move while staying as cool as a cucumber. I get it, P.”

Paildramon folded his arms. “…Is that so?” she responded, not confirming or denying his words. She knew that their conversation was turning into a game of psychological warfare, and she didn’t want to give him too much ammunition to work with.

GrandisKuwagamon shrugged. “What I don’t get is why you kept your father being a Councillor a secret from me,” he asked, his sharp, accusatory words fading. “You played things pretty close to the vest when I asked about your family. Did you think I’d try to take you hostage for ransom or something?”

Paildramon raised an eyebrow behind her crimson helmet with amusement. “You’re welcome to try,” she warned him with a touch of levity to her voice. She shook her head. “I just don’t like announcing the fact that my father is a member of the Council of Seven. The only reason I said so earlier was because VictoryGreymon already knew.”

“You don’t like to put yourself above your fellow soldiers, huh?” he deduced.

“I don’t think of myself as any better than them just because of my background. It shouldn’t matter who my father is – only that my skills are on par,” Paildramon admitted.

GrandisKuwagamon grinned and walked so that he could lean against the tree that was behind him. “I can respect that. Your abilities should be the only thing that defines you. Everything else is window dressing,” he agreed.

Paildramon looked at GrandisKuwagamon curiously. She had expected a cutting remark or a sarcastic comment. “You place a lot of value on a Digimon’s abilities?” she asked.

“I guess so. As long as they’re capable, smart, and not delusional, I can work with them. You’ve gotta be able to size Digimon up in my line of work, and you gotta know what kind of Digimon will cause problems for you. It’s usually the idealistic idiots, the religious fanatics, and arrogant assholes who are the most annoying,” he explained with a nonchalant shrug. “You don’t seem to have those problems.”

Paildramon grinned a bit. “Was that a compliment?” she teased him, half-relishing in the chance since she knew it would annoy him.

The beetle mercenary rolled his eye. “A statement,” he dismissed. He glanced at the female dragon curiously. “So… You got a brother?” he couldn’t help but ask.

Paildramon frowned, a bit sceptical as to why he wanted to know. “Yes… A younger one,” she answered.

“What’s he like?” he questioned.

“Easygoing, confident, sociable, but he also has a sensitive side. He’s currently going to the Digimon Academy in New Terminal,” she recounted, smiling a bit. However, she was uncertain about his intentions, so she put her defences up. “…Why do you want to know?”

GrandisKuwagamon caught himself. He realised that he lowered his guard and had began to feel at ease. He narrowed his eye and looked away uncomfortably. “I don’t,” he responded, bristling defensively. “I was just making conversation.”

Paildramon gazed at him thoughtfully. “I see…” she responded, as if realising something.

“…What?” he coolly asked, a bit annoyed by the knowing tone in her voice.

“Nothing… You just don’t seem like that bad of a Digimon when you aren’t trying to convince me that you are,” she pointed out. “It’s nice to see how you act when you aren’t putting up a front.”

GrandisKuwagamon suddenly scowled and stood up from the tree. He felt as though his back was still pressed up against it. The ebony insect began walking towards Paildramon, replacing his glare with a hostile grin. “You know, I noticed something too…” he pointed out to her, his words suddenly as sharp and menacing as daggers. “Something about this restraint program you guys got installed into me, limiting my every move.”

Paildramon frowned, feeling a bit uneasy at his rapid change in demeanour. “What’s that?” she asked him.

“I know that this restraint virus isn’t tied to the whole group,” he informed her with a dark smirk. “It’s tied to you, and you alone.”

The dragon woman’s eyes widened slightly at his perceptively accurate guess, but she wouldn’t confirm it to him. “That’s inaccurate. Why would you guess that?” she questioned.

“It’s just common sense,” he replied, closing the distance between them. He raised his hand and thumbed towards the back of his neck. “I got this virus installed in me. It can’t be tied to a whole group, and it wouldn’t make sense if all three of you got the same procedure. It’d be impractical for a mission like this, especially if we need to split up…” He grinned and neared her. “No, it’s gotta be tied to just one Digimon. They wouldn’t give that responsibility to somebody as naïve as VictoryGreymon, and they wouldn’t trust a hotheaded, non-Order soldier like Dorbickmon with me… You’re professional, responsible, level-headed. You’d be the perfect person to have the base of the restraint system installed in…”

Paildramon narrowed her eyes, feeling vaguely threatened as he stopped directly in front of her. She didn’t reply.

GrandisKuwagamon levelled a dark, intimidating grin at her. “You know… I may not have the ability to use my abilities or my Gran Killers, but I still like my chances against you in a fist fight…” he pointed out with hostile confidence. “I could always just… grab you by the throat and break your neck before you can even fire a shot off… Then I could run off and be on my merry way…” he threatened lowly, his dangerous grin not leaving his face and his pincers twitching just slightly.

Paildramon sneered behind her helmet and slowly tensed her legs and shoulders to prepare for a fight. She took a step back as he stopped a pace away from her. Not making any sudden movements, she gradually raised her hip cannons, subtly lowering her claws to grab them at a moment’s notice. She stared at him, watching like a hawk.

After a few tense seconds of staring each other down, GrandisKuwagamon burst into laughter. “Haha! ****, look at your face…” he mocked, suddenly finding her and the situation really amusing. He quickly backed off, his muscles relaxing and his demeanour changing back to its casual, roguish, resting state “Relax, P. I’m kidding. I’m not gonna do anything. Do I look that stupid?”

“…What?” she answered, leering at him uncertainly. She wasn’t quite ready to let her guard down.

“It wouldn’t be smart, would it? Going back to being a fugitive wouldn’t be great for me in the long term, even if it is tempting,” he explained, shrugging casually. “I’m sure you guys would try to track me down and throw me back in prison. Why waste the chance that Alphamon gave me? I may be an untrustworthy mercenary, but I’m good to my word, especially when it benefits me,” he explained to her. “Besides, where would I go?” he muttered, his voice lowering.

Sighing, Paildramon lowered her guard and stood upright, her form now at ease. She supposed she had to endure his goading sense of humour. “Just as long as you remember that,” she told him. She turned and glanced at him with a sideways leer. “Besides, I’m not that easy to kill,” she warned him.

GrandisKuwagamon chuckled a bit and turned around, making his way over to his sleeping bag. “Yeah. You don’t seem like you would be…” he admitted as he walked. “Well. Guess I’ll go to bed. I’m sure you don’t want me bugging you for the rest of your shift.”

Paildramon nodded, still a bit sceptical of him. She didn’t know what to make of his behavior. He had seemed genuinely annoyed earlier, and the next moment, he seemed relaxed enough to tease her. Was one side a front? Or were they both truthful emotions that he was contending with? He certainly didn’t make it easy for her to get a good read on him, but she supposed that was his intention all along…

“Goodnight, then…” she said to the mercenary, deciding to leave him in peace.

GrandisKuwagamon stopped in front of his sleeping bag. “Oh… One more thing…”

Paildramon raised a brow and looked over at the insect mercenary.

He turned his head and glanced over his shoulder at her. “There’s another reason why I won’t turn on you,” the prisoner said. GrandisKuwagamon grinned at her playfully. “As far as soldiers with sticks up their asses go… you’re alright.”

Paildramon gazed at him with surprise.

“Night, P,” he casually said to her before climbing into his sleeping bag. He rolled on his side with his back facing both her and the fire. He settled into the grassy floor and pulled the fabric up to his chin.

As GrandisKuwagamon fell asleep, Paildramon sat back down in front of the fire. With only her own company, she thought quietly to herself.

You’re a hard one to figure out, I’ll give you that…” she contemplated, mulling over his shifts in demeanour.

Paildramon continued her guard shift and watched the forest for threats until it was her turn to sleep.
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
Nice to see the gang together again with the inclusion of Dorbickmon. Out of curiosity, any particular reason you went without individual names or were you just going with the classical approach of using specie's name only?
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Yeah, it was really fun writing them together again! As for your question about going with species-only names, I'd say the reasoning was:

85% - I just wanted to go with the classic approach of using species only names like they do in all other mediums
14% - I felt like using personal names might be alienating to some readers who might not be used to that.
1% - Coming up with names is really hard, haha.

There are a few downsides though. I can agree that, logically, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to call other people by their species name, but maybe that's just a Digimon norm. The other is the problem of having two Digimon of the same species, which I generally try to avoid, but I have had a couple different Imperialdramons, KaiserGreymons, and Anubismons, which I worry could be confusing, but then again, I guess there are shows where there's people with the same personal name, so hopefully context removes any confusion.

Thanks for the reply!
 

Solsabre

The Reforged Soul
I could understand how regular digimon readers could be thrown of by the use of personal names. Which kinda makes me wonder how my original digimon story that I'm developing will be recieved since I'm using personal names.

Usually, when I have several characters that need names, I'll make a list of names from a random name generator of ones I like and then I pair the name with the digimon that fits best. For Example, my Royal Knights (first name only) list

Alphamon: Fawkes
Gallantmon: Averitt
Examon: Kaldar
Dynasmon: Merek
Crusadermon (female) : Braya
Sleipmon (female): Ryia
Craniamon: Rothais
Duftmon (female): Ermina/Eremia
Magnamon: Rainier
UlforceVeedramon: Ligier
Gankoomon: Othos
Omegamon: Asher/Diego (Wargreymon/Metalgarurumon)
Jesmon: Titus (gee this name looks familiar)
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
I could understand how regular digimon readers could be thrown of by the use of personal names. Which kinda makes me wonder how my original digimon story that I'm developing will be recieved since I'm using personal names.

Usually, when I have several characters that need names, I'll make a list of names from a random name generator of ones I like and then I pair the name with the digimon that fits best. For Example, my Royal Knights (first name only) list

Alphamon: Fawkes
Gallantmon: Averitt
Examon: Kaldar
Dynasmon: Merek
Crusadermon (female) : Braya
Sleipmon (female): Ryia
Craniamon: Rothais
Duftmon (female): Ermina/Eremia
Magnamon: Rainier
UlforceVeedramon: Ligier
Gankoomon: Othos
Omegamon: Asher/Diego (Wargreymon/Metalgarurumon)
Jesmon: Titus (gee this name looks familiar)

For all I know, it might not make a difference in terms of readership at all, haha. Just thought I should cover my bases.

Hmm, where have I heard Titus before? Those are some pretty cool names though. Good fantasy names. I find myself getting stuck on naming sites way longer than I should. I get over-meticulous when trying to choose character names and then I can't decide. It's one of the hardest parts of creating a new character for me, haha. It makes it easier in some ways just having species names.

New chapter will be posted soon, by the way. Just as soon as I work up the determination to have to deal with Serebii's character limits. ;P
 

Griff4815

No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Chapter 33: Black Claw (Part II)

After a long, interruptive night in Analog Forest, the morning came.

The group of four continued their trek as soon as dawn broke. Rested, refreshed, and greeted with enough dawn light to safely trek through the rest of the forest, they made their way westwards to Dark Point. It took them another three or four hours of travel, but by late morning, they finally arrived at their destination.

Dark Point stood before them, a shadowy bastion against the Delta Ocean. It was a medium-sized coastal city that ran along a small, outreaching peninsula and along the inland of a bay. The bay provided a large, natural harbour from which ships and marine Digimon could dock and surface respectively. The jutting, arc-shaped peninsula ran along the right side of the bay, dividing it from the Delta Ocean. At the top of the peninsula was a tall, blazing lighthouse that could be seen for dozens of kilometers. It overlooked the mouth of the harbour that provided entrance from the ocean into the bay.

Dark Point was a well-populated city with tens of thousands of buildings, both along the peninsula and further inland. It had a sophisticated harbour with primitive cranes for moving cargo to and from ships and transport Digimon. Due to Dark Point being an independent city in the Western Reaches, it had its own lax import laws. City officials were corrupt and the smuggling of traditionally banned goods was permitted in Dark Point as long as the city received a cut. Dark Point was known for being a shady city which provided a safe harbour for criminals, not unlike its rival city of Shroud. It made advantageous territory for somebody like GrandisKuwagamon.

However, Dark Point was a shady city in a completely different way, as well. Despite the fact that it was mid-morning, when the group of four Digimon looked ahead at the city, the landscape was completely dark. It was as if it was night time. The sun was absent and only the starry night sky could be seen. This was due to a digital distortion that hung over the city, refracting the sunlight from entering the city and the ten kilometers around it. The only time that sunlight entered Dark Point was at dawn when the sun was first rising over the horizon, and at sunset, when the sun was sinking below it. This caused it to be night in Dark Point for all but five hours during the day. These long periods of darkness made the city an ideal haven for criminals and spies, as it was easy to slip into the night, away from pursuers. There was law enforcement in the city, but, like Shroud, it was often corrupt and it typically only dealt with crimes that threatened the security of the city, so petty crime was often overlooked.

The ‘night’ that loomed over Dark Point caused the city to be constantly lit by street lamps and the lights of buildings. It was also necessary that the multiple lighthouses that lined the coastline of the harbour were illuminated with inextinguishable beacons of light. This ensured the safety of ship and marine Digimon traffic. It caused the city to look both beautiful and enigmatic at a distance, especially when there were traces of sunlight in the far horizon, beyond the distortion.

Paildramon, GrandisKuwagamon, Dorbickmon, and VictoryGreymon headed west as they followed the main road toward the city. As they approached the outskirts of the city, they saw that the nearest building to them was a city guard station in which guards would size up the Digimon entering the city. They usually didn’t stop many Digimon, but they did often inspect cargo and shipments.

After passing the guardhouse, the four Digimon walked inside the city without a problem. The city was as dark as the night. The streets were lit with lanterns and the various buildings had their windows tinted orange, illuminated from the inside. The inbound road that led into Dark Point went right into a busy commercial center. The group travelled down it and they saw that there were inns, shops and various services all around them. The commercial road continued on for about two kilometers. It eventually sloped downwards as a direct route to the harbour of Dark Point, allowing easy access for cargo coming inland from the harbour and vice versa. There was also a northern and southern entrance to the city, both connected by a single, large, thoroughfare road that continued up the west coast.

“Here we are,” VictoryGreymon mused, looking around the foreign location curiously as they entered the commercial street. As he walked, he rested the massive Dramon Breaker behind his head, across his shoulder blades. “Wow, it’s so cool that it’s night here when it’s actually day.”

GrandisKuwagamon spun around and began walking backwards so that he could face VictoryGreymon while walking. “Okay, first of all… you can stop that,” he ordered VictoryGreymon bluntly. He levelled a flat stare at the tall dragon Digimon and extended his index finger. “You’re already an easy mark as it is without announcing to all of Dark Point that you’re a tourist that has no idea how Dark Point works.”

“Huh? I am?” VictoryGreymon asked, blinking and looking at GrandisKuwagamon with surprised innocence. He frowned a bit. “Sorry. What should I do?”

“Don’t look around so much, but keep your wits about you. Look straight ahead and don’t make eye contact with people. And don’t wear that big, doofus grin so much,” GrandisKuwagamon advised him, spinning around to walk forwards again. “And keep your hands on your bag at all times.”

“Got it, got it, and got it!” VictoryGreymon replied, still very much wearing a big, infectious grin on his face as he spoke.

GrandisKuwagamon scanned the busy street with subtle glances. He was adept at looking around an area without drawing attention to himself. Since it was nearly noon, there were plenty of Digimon out and about, going about their daily business. He spotted Digimon coming in and out of stores, chatting with each other, a Gesomon complaining to a fishmonger about his prices… Nothing unusual.

Dorbickmon turned and looked at Paildramon. “What about you? Ever been here before?” he asked her.

“Only twice,” she admitted, walking in a calm, confident stride that didn’t give off the vibe that she actually wasn’t a frequent visitor. “Not enough to know my way around.”

“Gotcha. Between the bug and I, we’ve been here enough to know the city like the backs of our hands, I’m guessing,” Dorbickmon responded. “Let’s go to an inn or bar and get ourselves situated. Y’know, a strategy meeting.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Paildramon concurred. “Where would be a good place for that? Somewhere quiet, preferably.”

“The Hook and Eel,” GrandisKuwagamon said, immediately thinking of his favourite Dark Point pub.

“You want us to get mugged?” Dorbickmon asked him, leering sideways at the insect mercenary. “We’re not going to your seedy, local bar. We’re going to the Horn and Dragon. It should be quiet there at this time.”

“Yeah, because dragons are so good at keeping away from beer and hearty food at lunch,” GrandisKuwagamon said with a roll of his eye. “The Eel is way quieter. There’s a reason why it’s my local. Small crowds, remote, good for information trading…”

“Does the Horn and Dragon have bigger portions?” VictoryGreymon couldn’t help but wonder with a hungry smile. “I’m so hungry that I’m ravenesque.”

Paildramon glanced at him. “I think you mean ‘ravenous’, VictoryGreymon,” she corrected him. She turned her head and looked over her shoulder at Dorbickmon and GrandisKuwagamon. “You two can decide between yourselves which inn we should go to. You know them better than we do.”

Dorbickmon fixed a rivalrous stare at GrandisKuwagamon. “We’re trying to,” he responded. “Once the bug realises that we’re trying to blend in while we’re here.”

You just want to blend in because don’t want to be spotted by bounty hunters searching for your ***,” GrandisKuwagamon retorted. “The Hook and Eel has way less clients than your crowded dragon bar. We can all keep a low profile there. Besides, I know the owner. He’s cool.”

Paildramon kept looking at the pair as she walked, not paying attention to what was in front of her. “Are there any other optio—“

Before she could finish, she sensed a presence in front of her, but reacted too late to avoid a collision. She felt herself walk straight into a warm, firm wall of scales and fabric. “Ngh,” she grunted, quickly recoiling to see what she had hit.

She looked up to see the tall, bulky form of a emerald-scaled triceratops that was walking on his hind legs. Over the Triceramon’s green arms and white underbelly was a long, brown trench coat that concealed most of his muscular body. Over his grey frill was a large, matching fedora that rested on his head plate, between his forehead horns.

The Triceramon looked down at Paildramon. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there. Are you alright?” he asked her, bending down towards her level.

“It’s my fault. I should have been watching where I was going,” she responded, keeping a firm hold on her bag. She glanced up at the tall dinosaur sceptically, wondering if this was a ploy to steal something from them. Paildramon kept a close eye on his hands.

To her surprise, he leaned down, putting his snout in her personal space, and whispered in her ear. “Meet me in the Drunken Phoenix in thirty minutes. The Silver Crow of Yakumo smiles at you,” he whispered to her cryptically. He then stood up straight and spoke in his regular gruff voice. “Sorry again. I don’t want any trouble,” he spoke, walking straight past them.

“Watch where you’re going, weirdo,” Dorbickmon growled at the Triceramon threateningly as he passed.

“Sorry…” he murmured, passing them without further incident, his thick tail curling behind him from under the long trench coat.

GrandisKuwagamon walked up beside Paildramon. “What was that about?” he asked her. “Did he steal anything? …Did he try to cop a feel?”

Paildramon frowned pensively in response to what he whispered to her. She knew that ‘Silver Crow’ was the rank that Karatenmon once held when he was a ninja in his hometown of Yakumo. The Triceramon must be one of his spies.

“He said that he’d buy us drinks in the Drunken Phoenix…” she told the three. “We should go there.”

“That’s awfully nice of him,” VictoryGreymon mused.

“What? Are you saying he asked you out?” GrandisKuwagamon questioned, gazing at Paildramon with a sceptical red eye.

Paildramon levelled a meaningful gaze at the three. “Trust me…” she said calculatedly. “He wants to make it up to me. It doesn’t seem like a bad offer.”

After a few moments, GrandisKuwagamon and Dorbickmon exchanged looks, picking up on Paildramon’s underlying meaning. VictoryGreymon, never one for detecting subtlety, was still in the dark, but was happy to go along with it.

“Yeah, fine,” GrandisKuwagamon agreed. “The Drunken Phoenix isn’t a bad place for us to stay.”

“Sounds good to me,” Dorbickmon concurred, walking ahead. “I’ll lead the way.”

Paildramon followed him, flanked by GrandisKuwagamon and VictoryGreymon.

GrandisKuwagamon leaned over. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked her.

“He’s trustworthy,” she assured him lowly. “He mentioned the Silver Crow.”

“Okay…” GrandisKuwagamon acquiesced. He glanced over at VictoryGreymon, whose stomach was audibly snarling now. “Come on, V. The faster you go, the sooner we can shut your stomach up.”

VictoryGreymon laughed heartily and awkwardly rubbed the back of his head. “Haha, sorry… I’ve got a big appetite.”

The sarcastic mercenary stared ahead of him with a deadpan expression. “You don’t say…”

-

“This is it?”

VictoryGreymon stared up at a large wooden sign hanging above a set of metal doors. The sign had a large painting of a majestic phoenix with its wings outstretched and wreathed in flames. The six dots around its neck made it clear that the bird was supposed to be reminiscent of Zhuqiaomon. The digi-letters below read ‘The Drunken Phoenix’. It was said to be Zhuqiaomon’s favourite tavern in Dark Point.

VictoryGreymon, Paildramon, and the two mercenaries stood outside of the tavern. A pair of fiery torches rested on bronze, avian sconces outside of the entrance, lighting the way in the dark night of the city. The windows were stained glass with autumnal colours of yellow and red. They noticed that the building’s architecture had an Eastern design, complete with curved, golden roof tiles and red, exterior walls.

“Yeah. Let’s go in already,” GrandisKuwagamon said, walking up to the reinforced doors and pulling them open. Without waiting for the others, he walked inside the homey bar.

Dorbickmon looked at Paildramon and shrugged. He opened the door and the trio followed GrandisKuwagamon inside.

The interior was warm and rustic. It was a middle-end establishment with a relatively pleasant atmosphere and generally well-behaved clientele. Along the walls were auspicious wall scrolls and Eastern style art of the Four Holy Beasts. As they entered, they spotted the bar counter, which led along the right side of the building. They could see a door leading to the kitchen behind the counter, from which the clatter of metal and alluring aromas originated. The rest of the room consisted of tables and booths, with a large table across from the bar counter for gambling games. Each booth was divided by the same kind of stained glass that the exterior windows were made of.

The team of four looked around the bar for the Digimon they were supposed to meet. They spotted the unmistakably large, hunched-over form of a Triceramon sitting in one of the corner booths. He seemed to be drawing as little attention to himself as possible, but with such a large body, doing so just made him look comical to GrandisKuwagamon. The Triceramon was still clad in a trench coat, but he had removed his hat so that he could easily look over his shoulder, towards the entrance. Spotting the group, he nodded them over.

“There he is. Let’s find out what he wants,” Paildramon said, striding over to the table.

“Good idea,” VictoryGreymon agreed, walking over with Dorbickmon and GrandisKuwagamon as well.

As the group gathered around the booth, Triceramon scooted down the leather seat to make room. “Squeeze in,” he said them, curling his large tail around to the side that was adjacent to the wall.

“Thanks!” VictoryGreymon exclaimed, sitting down and squeezing in, next to the Triceramon. “It was nice of you to invite us.”

The Triceramon tilted his head and looked across the wooden table at Paildramon as she, GrandisKuwagamon, and Dorbickmon sat across from him and VictoryGreymon. “You did tell him I work for the Silver Crow, right?” he asked her.

At this title, VictoryGreymon perked up and looked at the Triceramon excitedly. “You work for Kara—mmm!” He was interrupted when Triceramon placed his hand over VictoryGreymon’s snout.

“Don’t say his name. You never know who’s listening around this city,” Triceramon told VictoryGreymon, emphatically staring into his surprised, green eyes.

VictoryGreymon nodded sheepishly and gently lowered the hand from his mouth. “Sorry about that. Guess I wouldn’t be a very good spy,” he said with an embarrassed smile and a laugh.

“Major understatement,” GrandisKuwagamon quipped as he looked at Triceramon. “So, what do you want?”

“Ignore his rudeness,” Paildramon interceded. “Do you have a message for us?”

Triceramon shook his head and raised a patient finger. A Ranamon waitress walked over to take their orders, and he ordered them four beers. The waitress walked off and promptly returned with their drinks and a tray of assorted nuts and seeds. The five glasses of light brown liquid were parcelled out to each person.

“Thank you,” Paildramon said to the Ranamon. “How much will that be?”

The Ranamon looked over at VictoryGreymon and smiled flirtatiously. “Oh, it’s on the house,” she said to them.

“Really? Thank you!” VictoryGreymon replied with a big smile.

“No problem, big guy. We have a policy of not letting handsome Greymons pay for their first drinks,” she playfully mentioned, sending him a wink.

“Huh, really? I’ve never heard of that policy, but I should tell my friends about it! Maybe other taverns have it too,” VictoryGreymon obliviously remarked, still grinning.

GrandisKuwagamon whispered to Dorbickmon. “He really is as dumb as a plank.”

“I wonder how much he gets flirted with without realising,” Dorbickmon replied with a grin.

As soon as the waitress was gone, Triceramon glanced around his immediate vicinity. “I have information,” he explained cagily. “I was told to inform you of the goings-on in Dark Point and any other useful info once you arrived.”

“You know our mission?” Dorbickmon asked him, relaxing in his seat and taking a long, appreciative swig of the amber-tinted ale in his claws.

“Yup. I’ve been told about what you’re doing here,” Triceramon affirmed, placing his hat back on his frill. “I don’t want to linger too long, so let’s get down to business.”

“Okay,” GrandisKuwagamon agreed, looking at Triceramon curiously. “What’s been going on in Dark Point? I haven’t been here since I first got the request for the Facture job,” GrandisKuwagamon mused, thinking all the way back to before this mess started. He tried not to think too hard about it. It seemed like much simpler times back then…

“A lot, as it happens,” Triceramon explained, glancing at them seriously from under the shade of his fedora. “There’s been a big shift in the local underworld politics lately.”

GrandisKuwagamon frowned at this. He raised his glass of mead and took a slow sip before placing his mug down. “What kind of shift?” he asked curiously. He didn’t like being out of the loop.

Dorbickmon folded his arms and studiously stared at Karatenmon’s agent. He shared GrandisKuwagamon’s sentiment. “Yeah, what is it?”

“The Talons are at war,” Triceramon explained, leaning back in his seat and taking a gentle sip of the alcohol. “All of a sudden, about two weeks ago, about a hundred or two hundred demon Digimon suddenly showed up in the city like out of thin air. They set up in the loading district, started taking shipments hostage unless they got paid. Now they’re muscling in on the Talons’ territory. There’ve been fights, a few killings… It’s getting ugly.”

“Demons… Two weeks ago, huh?” Paildramon mused, looking around at the others. That was right around the time that they were showing down with the Metal Empire outside of Saversburg. “They must be from the Dark Area.”

VictoryGreymon frowned and nodded slowly. It took him a moment, but he suddenly blinked and raised a finger. “…Hey, that was when all those dark rifts were popping up during the battle, wasn’t it?”

“I guess the Demon Lords weren’t the only ones that escaped, huh?” Dorbickmon muttered, sneering distastefully at the news.

“So, looks like the power balance is pretty screwed up right now,” GrandisKuwagamon deliberated. “How unstable are things?”

“The city’s still got it under control. Dark Point isn’t about to collapse into anarchy. There’s just some more violence. It’s only a turf war,” Triceramon explained, waving one of his clawed hands. “Nothing you need to worry about.”

Paildramon nodded and raised her red helmet to take a sip from her beer. When she placed the glass down, she looked at the spy. “Is there anything we do need to worry about?” she asked him.

“Two things,” the Triceramon murmured, glancing over to his right. “One… We’re being eyed up right now.”

The team of four all glanced over out of the corners of their eyes to see what he was referring to.

They saw a pair of Digimon sitting at the bar counter. One was the tall, mantis-like form of a Snimon while the other was a white mammal clad in Viking armour – a Vikemon. They were staring over their shoulders at the group with scowls on their toothy mouths. The pair seemed to be whispering animatedly with each other.

GrandisKuwagamon leered at them without needing to noticeable turn. He quietly sized up them and their unsubtle movements. He was able to get a good read of them just by the way they moved and held themselves. “They’re mercs, not spies; they’re being too obvious about it to be spying on us,” he perceptively deduced.

“Do you know them?” VictoryGreymon wondered, keeping a hand close to the Dramon Breaker that rested beside him, just in case.

“I know the Vikemon from somewhere, but I can’t place where,” Dorbickmon explained, leering over at the pair suspiciously.

“They can’t hear us, so we can continue,” the Triceramon explained, although keeping a careful eye on the two mercenaries. “The second thing you should know…” His eyes rested on GrandisKuwagamon.

GrandisKuwagamon stared at him blandly, wishing that he’d just say it already. “What? Spare the dramatics and out with it already,” he said impatiently.

“…Blitzmon and Bolgmon – your former teammates – are in Dark Point right now,” Triceramon finished.

GrandisKuwagamon’s eye widened ever-so-slightly and his grip tightened around the handle of his beer mug. Without realising, he squeezed it like a steel vice.

“…What?” he asked, his voice as low as it could go. His tone was cold and restrained, but his timbre was like a seething hiss that cut through the warm pub air. His crimson eye gleamed dully as he stared across the table at the Triceramon. “Blitzmon and Bolgmon are here…?”

Paildramon frowned and looked at GrandisKuwagamon with concern. “GrandisKuwagamon… Don’t do anything rash,” she said to him, trying to calm his anger. She initially had doubts about his loyalty regarding Black Pincer Company, but now she could see the sheer anger in his eye. However, this wasn’t particularly good for them either – it would be bad if they came into contact with them and ended up fighting.

GrandisKuwagamon hissed with frustration. “As if I could, with this damn virus in me,” he fired back.

VictoryGreymon looked at GrandisKuwagamon sympathetically. He couldn’t imagine how much it must hurt for GrandisKuwagamon’s best friends to have betrayed him. He couldn’t imagine any of his friends ever doing that, but he imagined it must have been like a sword through the heart. The mercenary didn’t show it, but VictoryGreymon was sure he must feel pain after that. The dragon warrior couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

“I can understand your anger, but remember that we’re here for the mission,” Paildramon reminded him. “We’re supposed to find out who they’re working for.”

GrandisKuwagamon sighed irritably, but he focused and put his feelings into perspective. He was doing this mission so that he could get freedom. He couldn’t let himself get blinded by revenge for now. “Yeah, I know…”

“Maybe we could capture one of them and make him tell us,” Dorbickmon suggested. “Beat it out of him if necessary.”

“Um… I don’t know…” VictoryGreymon meekly protested, not liking the idea of interrogating somebody. It didn’t feel like the right thing to do. “We’re representing the Order… and stuff.”

Paildramon nodded. “I would rather that we avoid a fight. Our mission is one of stealth. We aren’t well equipped to deal with a fight, with GrandisKuwagamon unarmed and us being in a crowded city,” she explained.

“So, what is our plan?” VictoryGreymon questioned. He looked around the table and poked his untouched beer glass.

“We infiltrate Black Pincer Company’s office,” Paildramon answered with straightforward direction.

Dorbickmon turned nudged the black beetle beside him. “Where’s your office, exactly? Is it even still there?” he asked him, cocking an eyebrow.

“Should be. Blitzmon had the good idea of paying our next month’s rent in advance since we’d be gone for awhile,” GrandisKuwagamon replied, cooling down.

The crimson dragon folded his arms and leaned on his elbows.“So, we sneak into their office and then what?” Dorbickmon pondered, idly thumbing his spiked forearms as he thought.

GrandisKuwagamon tapped his index finger on the side of his beer mug. “If Blitzmon and Bolgmon are in the city, they probably went to the office. Blitzmon’s anal about keeping our books and ledgers straight. Maybe if they know who our client is now, they’ve written his name and address down.”

“So, there might be a paper trail for us to follow,” Paildramon said, looking at GrandisKuwagamon for confirmation.

“Maybe,” the insect Digimon agreed. “But—“

“Hey! You!” a loud, boisterous voice called out from across the bar. The group heard a pair of loud, thumping footsteps setting a tempo to the raucous voice.

They looked over and saw the Vikemon and Snimon marching over to them, each with threatening scowls on their faces. As soon as Dorbickmon saw the Vikemon’s face from the front, he scowled and looked away. “****…” he muttered apprehensively.

The Vikemon strode right up to their booth and slammed a hand down on the table, causing their drinks to rattle and spill a bit of liquid. He glared across at Dorbickmon, bearing his teeth as he sneered. The Snimon lingered behind the wide-bodied Vikemon, menacing Dorbickmon as well.

“Is there a problem?” Paildramon calmly asked, gazing up at the two Digimon.

“W-We don’t want any trouble…” VictoryGreymon insisted, wincing as he tried to ignore the fact that the entire pint of beer that he had slowly been nursing had spilled onto his lap.

“Oh, there’s a problem,” the Snimon spoke up, pointing his scythe over at Dorbickmon. “He’s the problem.”

“He’s a damn Royal Knight spy!” the Vikemon exclaimed angrily. At this accusation, the Triceramon tensed up subtly, but he didn’t make any sudden movements. Vikemon drew a heavy, spiked mace from his back and pointed it across the table at Dorbickmon. “He sells out mercenaries to the Order!”

Dorbickmon snarled and placed his claws on the ground to stand up, but Paildramon’s hand on his shoulder stopped him. Instead, he cast a furious glare at the Vikemon. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he insisted vehemently. “I’m not a damn informant!”

“Yeah, you would say that!” the Vikemon fired back.

“Do you have any proof? Or is this just a baseless rumour?” Paildramon questioned, figuring that it was obvious that none of them appeared that they were working for the Order.

“Of course I have proof!” the Vikemon mercenary insisted, scowling. “I was there in the bar when he was outed as an informant.” He pushed his mace inches away from Dorbickmon’s face. “You punched me in the face, you piece of ****!”

Dorbickmon released a low, rolling snarl. Flames flickered in his throat as his yellow and violet eyes narrowed at the mercenaries. “You attacked me first. I’m not a damn rat,” he defensively insisted, placing his hand on the spiked head of the mace.

“You got the wrong idea, buddy,” GrandisKuwagamon insisted, placing his hand on Vikemon’s muscular arm and gently lowering it, forcing the weapon down.

“Oh, yeah?” the Vikemon asked, turning his annoyed glare towards GrandisKuwagamon. After a moment, the white, furry mammal’s brows plunged and he squinted at GrandisKuwagamon charily. “Hey, wait a second… Aren’t you GrandisKuwagamon from Black Pincer Company?”

“That’s me, in the carapace,” GrandisKuwagamon responded, casually thumbing at himself.

“What the hell? Blitzmon and Bolgmon have been saying that you got captured by the Royal Knights!” the Snimon spoke up. The mantis stepped up beside his Vikemon friend and stared at the ebony beetle.

“Yeah? Well, they’re ****ing liars,” GrandisKuwagamon nonchalantly replied, trying to shift the narrative to their advantage. “They used me as a scapegoat and left me for dead when the Royal Knobs were chasing us in Saversburg. I was lucky enough to escape. They’re just covering their asses so it didn’t seem like they turned tail and ran like cowards.”

“Whatever. I don’t care about that,” the Vikemon insisted, leering down at GrandisKuwagamon with incredulity and scepticism. “You were the one who stood up in the bar and told everyone that Dorbickmon was an informant! Now you’re having a drink with him?! What the hell’s going on?!”

VictoryGreymon exchanged glances with Paildramon. This could potentially be bad.

However, GrandisKuwagamon merely chuckled. His laugh was casual yet carried the cynicism of black comedy. “Oh, that… Just a bit of fun at Dorkdickmon’s expense,” he responded, playing it off completely. “It was hilarious the way all of you mugs bought it hook, line and sinker. The look on the lizard’s face too…”

“What?!” the Vikemon demanded, feeling affronted. “You mean that was all just a prank?!”

“More like payback,” the insect mercenary explained, not exactly lying. “He screwed me over on a job awhile back. Thought that if I was gonna get even with him, I might as well have some fun doing it.”

“I chipped a good tooth because of that!” the Vikemon protested, glaring at Dorbickmon.

Snimon tilted his head as he looked between Dorbickmon and GrandisKuwagamon. “If you both screwed each other over, then why are you two together now?” the oversized mantis asked them.

“Practicality,” GrandisKuwagamon answered plainly. “Black Pincer Company screwed me over and pushed me out, so I need a new team to get myself back on my feet. That’s why I’m working with these three idiots.” He gestured around the table. “As for Dorbickmon, my little joke ended up getting blown outta proportion by you guys, which meant he got ostracised by the mercenary community. He needs a job and this is my way of paying him back. I owe him that, and a drink.”

Vikemon frowned, nodding somewhat. He turned and looked back at Dorbickmon cagily. “So… You’re really not a Royal Knight informant?”

“Of course not!” Dorbickmon fired back defensively, putting on his best act. “I was working with DarkKnightmon against them! They nearly killed me at the Battle of the World Tree! Who the hell do you think I am? As if I’d want to work for those damn do-gooder, bucket heads!”

“Would I be working with him if he was?” GrandisKuwagamon rhetorically added. “I hate those damn tin cans. Hero-wannabe bastards nearly ruined me.”

“Okay, okay, sorry…” the Vikemon muttered, retracting his mace and placing it on his back once again.

“Tch,” Dorbickmon grunted, folding his arms indignantly. “I’ve got enough problems without mercs like you thinking I’m an informant and causing me problems. I’ve got to work with the damn bug because of that.”

“Fine. Look, I’ll spread the word around. Call it even for what happened in the Severed Arms,” Vikemon said to him with reluctant contrition.

“I’d appreciate that,” Dorbickmon said moodily, glancing at the pair with sour eyes.

“Yeah… Anyway, later,” the Vikemon said, turning around and heading back to his table. “Come on, Sni.”

As the Snimon followed after the Vikemon, the table inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. VictoryGreymon tugged at the collar of his armour and relaxed. “That was tense…” he said, taking a long, calming breath.

The Triceramon spy stood up and made his way past VictoryGreymon out of the booth. “I’m gonna leave now,” he told the group. “When you’re going to the office, avoid the main streets because you might get seen, and avoid the dark alleys because you might get ambushed or something.”

“We’ll do that. Thank you for your help,” Paildramon said to him.

“I’ll also help spread that story around to try and clear Dorbickmon’s name,” the Triceramon added, putting his large claws in his oversized trench coat pockets. “See ya.” With a slight nod, the bulky triceratops Digimon went to go pay and began making his way to the exit of the bar, leaving the group of four.

Once he was gone, VictoryGreymon looked at GrandisKuwagamon with an appreciative smile. “Good work, Grandis!” he complimented. “You really smoothed things over there.”

Paildramon nodded. “That was good of you,” she agreed. She gave a glance over at Dorbickmon. “Right?”

Dorbickmon grunted and folded his arms, looking away indignantly. “Tch… Yeah, I guess…” he half-heartedly agreed, unwilling to concede that Grandis helped him. However, he realised that he probably should, given the situation. He sighed and murmured in a low, baritone hiss. “…Thanks.”

Although initially annoyed by the compliments, GrandisKuwagamon smirked as soon as Dorbickmon spoke. He cupped a hand to his ear and leaned towards the tall dragon. “Sorry, didn’t quite hear that. What was that again?” he goaded him.

“Don’t push it, bug!” he snarled irritably. “It’s your fault I’m in this situation to begin with!”

GrandisKuwagamon chuckled and took a big swig of mead, taking pleasure out of teasing him.

“So, why did you do that?” Dorbickmon followed up, wondering why the insect mercenary uncharacteristically helped him.

“It’s because Grandis is a good guy,” VictoryGreymon suggested with an optimistic grin.

“Muzzle it, V,” GrandisKuwagamon replied with succinct and decisive immediacy. He turned to Dorbickmon. “I didn’t do it for you. I did it for me. You getting us hounded by mercenaries is bad for our mission.”

“Plus, if people think that Dorbickmon is associated with the Royal Knights, and they see you two working together, they might assume that we’re all working for the Royal Knights,” Paildramon added. “And that would be particularly bad for GrandisKuwagamon.”

Dorbickmon smirked. “So, it’s in our best interests to keep each other above suspicion…” he pointed out.

“Something like that…” GrandisKuwagamon murmured.

VictoryGreymon nodded. “…So… when do we want to try to check out Grandis’ office?” he broached the topic.

“Let’s say before Evening Light,” the ebony mercenary suggested, referring to the bright, sunset period in Dark Point, where the sun was visible before it set. “We shouldn’t hang around too long.”

“Yeah, especially with your friends around,” Dorbickmon agreed. He made his way out of the booth and stood to his feet. “Come on, Vic,” he said to the orange dragon man. “Let’s go get some rooms for us so we have somewhere to strategise in private. There’s an inn down the road.”

“Sure thing, Dorbickmon,” VictoryGreymon eagerly complied, standing up and grabbing his Dramon Breaker. He was still dripping a bit from the spilled beer on his lap.

Paildramon nodded. “We’ll catch up to you,” she replied.

“It’s close enough that it should be in Grandis’ leash range,” Dorbickmon made sure to add. “But it might be easier if you both come along.”

GrandisKuwagamon rolled his eye. He didn’t bother telling Dorbickmon and VictoryGreymon that the jig was up and that he had guessed that the restraint system was tied only to Paildramon. He figured it would be a hassle since that meant they would want to keep a closer eye on him, and it would be more fun to watch them make fools of themselves by keeping up the act.

“I’ve got something I want to talk to Paildramon about,” the beetle Digimon explained.

“I’ll keep an eye on him. We won’t be long,” Paildramon reassured them, feeling more confident than before that GrandisKuwagamon wouldn’t try anything.

Dorbickmon was a bit unsure, but he nodded. He gave GrandisKuwagamon a look for warning. “Behave, bug,” he told him.

“Look after the salamander, V,” GrandisKuwagamon retorted, grinning at VictoryGreymon.

“I will,” he assured him. The Ultimate level Greymon put a hand on Dorbickmon’s back and began walking out with him.

Paildramon finished her mug of beer and placed the empty glass down. She turned and gazed at GrandisKuwagamon curiously. “What did you want to talk about?”

“Strategy,” he said plainly, forgoing any of his usual banter and getting straight to the point. He ran a finger around the rim of his empty beer mug and looked at Paildramon. “We keep our office locked, obviously.”

“I see. That makes sense…” she agreed, looking back at him.

“I’d rather not have to kick the door open,” he continued, looking across the table at her. “That’d arouse suspicion.”

Paildramon frowned questioningly. “You don’t have a key?”

GrandisKuwagamon shook his head. “I do…” he tentatively replied. He stared at Paildramon meaningfully. “I keep it in void space for safekeeping… You know how I can distort and fly through space? My Dimension Scissors and Zone Black Hole abilities? Void space is the negative space that I pass through when I do that.”

Paildramon closed her eyes pensively. “…And you can’t use those powers to get the office key with that power inhibitor inside you,” she concluded.

“Exactly. If we had that key, we could get in there without drawing attention to ourselves,” GrandisKuwagamon explained. “All you need to do is remove the power inhibitor…”

“That would be naïve of me to consider,” she explained to him. “I think you know that.”

“It’s not like I’m gonna make a break for it as soon as it’s disabled. I don’t exactly want to be a fugitive on the run from the Royal Knights forever,” GrandisKuwagamon informed her. “Besides, aren’t the two viruses separate? If you disable the power inhibitor, then the restraint system is still in place. It’s just so that we can get into the office.”

Paildramon sighed and looked forwards. “I can’t do that,” she said apologetically. “It gives you too much power. I have my orders.”

“Orders that are getting in the way of our ability to do this mission effectively,” he argued. His gaze softened as he stared at Paildramon. “I promise I won’t try anything… I know my priorities.”

“I’m sorry, GrandisKuwagamon,” she replied.

GrandisKuwagamon sighed and rubbed his head. “Look, P…” he said, glancing at her beseechingly. “If this ‘team’ thing is going to work, then you guys are gonna need to actually start trusting me. Yeah, I was a bit of a dick at first, but I know how to be a team player. I’ll be a team player from now on, but I need you guys to trust me too,” he explained, his voice serious and sincere.

Paildramon sighed and looked back at him. “I know…” she answered apologetically. “And I’m starting to… But even if I wanted to, the vaccine that removes the virus is back at Castle Albion; I don’t have it with me.”

“Well, ****…” he muttered, folding his arms. He sighed and shrugged. “…Guess we’ve got no choice. I can try to pick the lock, but it won’t be easy. It’ll take longer but it’ll be less conspicuous than breaking the door in.”

“We’ll figure it out,” Paildramon assured him. “Should we go after the others now?”

GrandisKuwagamon nodded and stood to his feet. “Yeah. Wouldn’t mind getting some food before we go either,” he added.

“We’ll get something,” she agreed, following him out of the booth. The dragon looked at him as she stepped up beside him. “And, thank you for what you did for Dorbickmon.”

“Like I said, it was just self-interest,” he casually responded, walking ahead. “Come on already. Don’t make me get zapped by the damn virus.”

Paildramon smiled a bit and followed after him. They had several hours before sun set. There was plenty of time to plan their infiltration.

-

It was an hour before Evening Light. Dark Point was still as dim and shadowy as if it was midnight. The stars flickered overhead, and the Digital World’s moons emerged in the eastern sky. To the west, traces of deep, amber light began to encroach on the city as the sun started to set over the Delta Ocean.

The covert team moved quickly. They wanted to finish their work at the office complex by night time. They definitely wanted to be done before the office complex closed for the night, and preferably before sunset.

GrandisKuwagamon had told them which floor and room number the office was in. The group had entered the building through conventional means, simply using the front entrance. They didn’t attract much attention, since GrandisKuwagamon frequently visited his office in the past. They reached the fifth floor, which contained a hallway that was shaped like an ‘H’. Black Pincer Company’s office was at the center of the middling, perpendicular hallway.

Dorbickmon and VictoryGreymon were on guard duty. Dorbickmon waited at the right end of the hallway, guarding the stairs and watching for anybody who might be coming up. VictoryGreymon was positioned on the opposite end of the hallway, covering the left side. Meanwhile, Paildramon and GrandisKuwagamon were to enter the office and search for clues. Currently, GrandisKuwagamon was kneeling in front of the office door, slowly trying to pick the lock. He had been at it for about fifteen minutes now. Thankfully for them, nobody had come up.

“You know, this would be so much easier if we had the key…” he dryly hinted as he used a thin half-diamond pick to slowly raise the tumblers of the lock.

“Just focus, GrandisKuwagamon,” Paildramon said from beside him.

“I am focusing,” he insisted. After a few moments, a tiny click could be heard. “I’ve just about got it…” he said, keeping the torsion wrench firm in his hand.

As Paildramon waited for him to finish, she looked down the hall at Dorbickmon. “Everything okay over there?” she asked him.

“Yeah. No noises or movement,” Dorbickmon responded. “I’ll give you the signal if anything changes.”

“Everything’s all good here too,” VictoryGreymon exclaimed from behind her, waving down the hallway at them.

“Hah!” GrandisKuwagamon announced triumphantly. He turned the torsion wrench sharply and the lock opened successfully. He smirked and turned the doorknob, letting the door open inwards with a smug grin.

Dorbickmon folded his arms and leaned against the wall, glancing over at him. “Don’t look so happy with yourself. How humiliating is it that you have to sneak into your own office?” he taunted with a wry grin.

GrandisKuwagamon smirked. “Least I know how to pick a lock. Now shut up. Guards shouldn’t talk,” he retaliated.

“Neither should prisoners!” Dorbickmon fired back.

VictoryGreymon smiled nervously and rubbed the back of his head. “Uh, you guys go in. We’ll make sure things are safe out here…” he offered, trying to interrupt their argument.

The dark mercenary rolled his eye and looked at Paildramon. “Well? Shall we?” he asked her.

“After you,” she offered, gesturing with her hand to the awaiting threshold.

GrandisKuwagamon opened the door fully and stepped inside. His footsteps were soundless, like a ninja stepping on feathers.

The room was impenetrably dark since it was night out and there were no lights illuminating the area from the inside, but GrandisKuwagamon had excellent night vision to compensate. The office looked exactly the same as the last time he set foot inside its cool, stuffy confines. There was a large closet on the right hand wall for storing jackets, armour, and various other bulky items. Opposite to it, on the left hand wall, was a long, well-used couch that looked like it had seen some wear and tear over the years. On the far wall of the small room, across from the entrance, was a large desk with three chairs behind it, directly in front of a large window. In the left corner, behind the desk, were a couple, metal, file cabinets for storing financial records. Covering the surface of the desk itself was a clutter of papers, scattered haphazardly without much further thought.

GrandisKuwagamon flicked on the office light and walked inside. “Come on,” he said to Paildramon, leading the way into the office. “Close the door behind you.”

Paildramon followed him in and shut the office door. She took the opportunity to look around the office, quickly sizing up the area. She wasn’t especially awed by the state of the room. “Is it always this messy?” she judgmentally asked, noting the clear disorganization and clutter.

“Blitzmon usually keeps things organised, but we left for our Facture job in a hurry. We had a deadline to meet,” GrandisKuwagamon explained, nonchalant at the criticism.

Paildramon nodded and walked up to the desk, placing her clawed hand on it. “…You had no idea who gave you that job?” she probed him.

“Nope,” he said with a shrug as he walked around behind the desk. “He used an intermediary to contact us. It’s not that unusual. A lot of clients want to remain anonymous when they use our services. Since we’re black claws, they worry about our actions leading a trail back to them.”

“I’m sure it’s bad for one’s public image, using the services of such a notorious mercenary gang,” Paildramon suggested with a critical edge to her voice, glancing at the black insect.

“Yup,” GrandisKuwagamon answered matter-of-factly. He briefly shuffled through the papers on the top of the desk. They were mostly invoices and files about their job from before the Facture job.

“It’s a miracle that this place wasn’t broken into while you were gone,” Paildramon mused, walking over to the closet and opening it up.

“You’d think, but people know better than to mess with Black Pincer Company,” GrandisKuwagamon responded, reaching the bottom of the pile of papers. He made sure to leave the papers in their exact positions from when they came in.

Paildramon searched through the closet. It was about one square meter in area. Inside was a pair of black, leather jackets hanging on a closet rail. There were also a few personal effects, like boots, gloves, scarves, and equipment like wrenches, screwdrivers, a bundle of rope, a pair of pliers. The more she thought about it, the less she wanted to know if these items were used for things other than their conventional purposes. More importantly to her, there didn’t seem to be anything of value to finding out their client.

“Let me guess,” Paildramon spoke up, looking over her shoulder at GrandisKuwagamon. “The leather jacket’s yours?” she deduced.

GrandisKuwagamon released a half-exhale, half-laugh. “Good guess. You’ve been checking me out enough to be able to guess my measurements?” he asked with a teasing grin.

Paildramon smiled and rolled her eyes. “No, I somehow just had a feeling...” she responded. “You seem like the type.”

“Hey, don’t knock it. Not every Digimon can pull off looking this good in leather,” he answered as he opened the lower drawer of the desk. After sorting through the papers and letters inside the drawer, he lifted up a false bottom to reveal a few small, glass jugs of runny, amber honey. “Hey, my honey stash is okay…” he mused, more to himself than to Paildramon.

Paildramon turned around from the closet. “Please tell me that that isn’t your term for pornography…” she dryly said.

GrandisKuwagamon grinned and took out a one of the jars, placing it down on the desk emphatically. “No. This is grade-A stuff, all the way from the Golden Swarm. Importing quality **** like this from the Royal Hive… it cost a hell of a lot; Blitzmon nearly had a heart attack when I bought it,” he explained with a laugh.

Paildramon couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow, and she tried her best not to find it amusing that a rough, tough Digimon like GrandisKuwagamon liked something so sweet. “You like honey that much…?”

GrandisKuwagamon’s cheeks tinted a bit and he turned away, marching over to the file cabinet. “…Yeah, well, I’m a bug!” he exclaimed, trying not to sound defensive. “It tastes good.”

Paildramon grinned a bit but decided not to tease him. “Anywhere I should be looking?” she asked him, focusing back on their mission.

“You can try the desk again, but if it’s not in this file cabinet, it might not be looking good,” he answered, opening the top drawer of the file cabinet and going through the chronologically-sorted folders inside.

-

(Continued in the next post)
 
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