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


Alphamon walked down the second floor corridor in silence. There was a silent intensity in his gait.

RhodoKnightmon quietly walked behind the foremost Royal Knight. His stare was fixed onto Alphamon’s caped back.

To his surprise, Alphamon passed by the staircase at the corner of the corridors. RhodoKnightmon expected Alphamon to bring him up to his office. However, Alphamon turned the corner and began heading down the wing with the Royal Knights’ living quarters.

The pink armoured knight tentatively followed Alphamon down the length of the long hallway. They passed by RhodoKnightmon’s bedroom without instance. They travelled to the very end of the hallway before Alphamon stopped in front of his own room. The Knight of the Empty Seat opened the door to his bedroom.

“Come in,” Alphamon told him, gesturing to his large room with a four-post bed inside.

In other circumstances, RhodoKnightmon may have made a suggestive quip, but he was smart enough to know not to with the seriousness of the situation. The thought didn’t even cross his mind this time. “Very well,” RhodoKnightmon agreed, walking inside Alphamon’s bedroom.

On the left side of the room was a balcony that was attached to the exterior wall. Nearby was a desk full of messy papers and an open journal. The black, gold-lined blanket that was draped over the king-sized bed was cleanly made, although with creases. The room smelled of a faint hint of coffee. RhodoKnightmon briefly wondered if Alphamon would subject him to his coffee as a punishment.

Alphamon stopped in the middle of the room and turned around. RhodoKnightmon closed the door behind them with a push of his ribbon. The rose knight stood a few meters away from Alphamon, staring at him cagily.

“We are not doing this in your office?” RhodoKnightmon questioned as he placed a hand on his slender hip. “I suppose I must really be in for it, mustn’t, I?”

The dark paladin leered at him with stolid eyes. “This is not any sort of formal proceeding or castigation, Rhodo. This is simply a chat between friends…”

RhodoKnightmon frowned and raised his other hand to trace his finger along one of the ribbons leading from his breastplate. “Yes, alright…” he murmured. He glanced up at Alphamon. “…I am sorry about all of that… I truly didn’t mean for you and OuRyuumon to hear that…”

“So, it would have been okay if we hadn’t heard it?” Alphamon methodically countered. “Talking behind others’ backs is rather juvenile and cowardly. The problem isn’t that we overheard it; it is that it was being said at all…”

RhodoKnightmon rubbed his neck sheepishly and looked away. “Yes, I suppose so… However, it wasn’t done maliciously.”

Alphamon sighed. “I know that…” he conceded. “All the same, I can’t say I’m happy about it. OuRyuumon is very sensitive. My relationship with him or Omegamon is really nobody’s business but our own. The issues are ours to sort out, without any outside pressure. I ask that you would keep it that way in the future, RhodoKnightmon.”

“Very well… My apologies, Alphamon…” RhodoKnightmon calmly responded.

Alphamon could very well have left it there. However… He refused to be soft when he felt that there was more that he needed to say. He stalled for a moment before speaking up again.

“…I just wish that you wouldn’t do that so much, Rhodo,” he said, although his words were cautious, as if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue.

“Do what?” RhodoKnightmon wondered, cocking his head to the side.

“…The things that you do, Rhodo,” Alphamon quietly explained, although he didn’t shy away from staring into RhodoKnightmon’s eyes. “I wish you wouldn’t flirt with the other Royal Knights and make advances on them. And I wish you wouldn’t vocalize your desire for relationships between the Royal Knights or whoever else you think would make a cute couple. It makes some of them uncomfortable...”

RhodoKnightmon was quiet. Although his exterior was composed and somewhat rigid, he couldn’t help but feel inwardly offended. “…Oh, I see,” RhodoKnightmon calmly spoke, with a faintly sarcastic edge to his voice. “Uncomfortable because I am homosexual, you mean. Is that it, Alphamon?”

Alphamon’s golden eyes hardened somewhat, covering the guilty wince that lay behind his features. He felt a faint stab at the underlying meaning of RhodoKnightmon’s own words. “…No, that isn’t what I meant, RhodoKnightmon,” he insisted. “For Digimon like Duftmon or Omegamon, the gender is irrelevant. They are shy Digimon, and they feel uncomfortable when you make suggestive comments at them. It isn’t only them… I don’t think anybody enjoys feeling uncomfortable in their own home.”

RhodoKnightmon folded his arms. “I have been this way since I joined the Order. Has somebody complained or something?”

“No, but they shouldn’t have to. They put up with it because you are our friend and comrade,” Alphamon explained.

“’Put up with it’…” RhodoKnightmon looked down and frowned thoughtfully. “…I don’t mean any harm by it, Alphamon. When I make those jokes, it is not as though I am trying to force my desires onto them or anything malicious like that. It is simply my sense of humour… Comedy sometimes involves pushing past peoples’ comfort zones and watching them squirm a little bit.”

Alphamon gently folded his arms as well. “Perhaps, Rhodo... However, sometimes you take it too far, both with the flirting and the pairing off. I know you aren’t deliberately trying to hurt anybody, but you need to try to take other peoples’ boundaries into consideration. Some people don’t know how to react to your sense of humour, and sometimes your desired pairings run contrary to what is reality,” he explained.

“I do understand that, Alphamon. However, we are all adults here, and we face actual trauma and danger on a daily basis. I have always assumed that the Royal Knights knew me well enough and were mature enough to take it. If somebody is offended by something I say or do, I generally expect them to tell me and I will gladly respect their wishes.”

“Yes, but it isn’t always easy…” Alphamon stated with a soft frown. “There are sometimes circumstances that keep somebody from speaking up and telling you so. For example, whenever you would jokingly say that you thought that Omegamon and I would make a cute couple, OuRyuumon and I were unable to say that we were already together because I hadn’t confessed to anybody my sexuality. It made things quite uncomfortable. And I can only imagine how Omegamon must have felt… We both know that he tends to keep his true feelings to himself in order to please others. Or, perhaps, others feel that too vehement of a denial would only reinforce the truth in the joke that you are making.”

At this, RhodoKnightmon looked down, unable to help but feel guilty as he mulled over Alphamon’s explanation. “…I suppose I haven’t thought about it like that,” he admitted, twisting the flat ends of his semi-metal sash between his fingertips. He looked back up at Alphamon. “…I’m sorry, Alphamon. You’re right. I will be more mindful of others in the future.”

Alphamon scratched his cheek sheepishly. “…I’m not trying to police you, Rhodo. And I’m not trying to suggest that all of the Royal Knights and our subordinates have porcelain skin and don’t know how to take a joke. However, I hope you can see that there are situations where your sense of humour can be damaging, even if it is all in good fun,” he explained. “It isn’t just because I heard you speak about me and Omegamon. As the head of the Order, it is down to me to ensure that team morale and trust is as high as it can be. It’s especially important in times of crisis such as now… We both know how important team morale can be. And small fissures have a habit of turning into massive chasms when the right amount of pressure is applied. It is because of misunderstandings and bad feelings between friends that we nearly lost everything to DarkKnightmon.”

“Yes, I suppose I can see where you are coming from, Alphamon… However, I want you to see where I am coming from as well.” He looked at him directly. “I know that I make Digimon uncomfortable sometimes… I know that I am very different from the masculine hero that one might expect from a Royal Knight. I can see the subtle signs of discomfort that some Digimon have around me. So, sometimes, I make other people uncomfortable on purpose, simply to get a reaction out of them. Other times, it is just because of who I am. It is my natural state of being, I suppose. I have always been ‘different’. As such, I enjoy trying to make other Digimon embrace things that go against their conservative sensibilities and their kneejerk state of comfort.”

Alphamon couldn’t help but smile. “Yes, that’s true… The very first time that we met, you insisted on making me eat a strange dish that I have never heard of, from far reaches of Colossus. It turned out to be quite delicious… Ever since then, you have always been a Digimon who has opened up the horizons of others. Whether it is simple culinary treats, or something as grand as a whole new way of thinking… It’s thanks to you that we founding Royal Knights were able to move on from the tragedy that was DarkKnightmon’s first rebellion. It wasn’t a comfortable transition either. You forced us to confront the dark shadow that hung over us with your humour and your shameless prodding. It wasn’t easy, and, sometimes, it wasn’t pleasant, but we really did need that.”

The rose knight smiled slightly behind his pink mask. “Thank you. I appreciate that, Alphamon…” His stance relaxed and he allowed his hands to rest casually against his hips. “…I promise that I will do my best to respect other Digimons’ boundaries and privacy in the future, and I will try not to put them in uncomfortable positions. …However, what I will not do is change who I am in order to suit other people.”

Alphamon smiled wider. “I would never ask you to, RhodoKnightmon.”

“Why, I am quite glad to hear that,” RhodoKnightmon responded, his usual sprightly intonation and debonair demeanour returning.

However, as RhodoKnightmon’s mirth returned, Alphamon’s hidden smile faded. Guiltily, he glanced down, pausing as he mulled over his impending words.

“…You must think very lowly of me,” he spoke, looking at RhodoKnightmon with soft eyes. His words weren’t accusatory, but tinged with shame.

RhodoKnightmon was surprised by this. He stared at Alphamon curiously, tilting his head. “Pardon? What do you mean, Alphamon?”

Alphamon sighed but managed a wistful smile at the slender, pink knight. “You and I are very different Digimon, aren’t we?”

“Why, yes, I suppose we are, Alphamon. However, I am at a bit of a loss as to what you mean…”

“You may have noticed this, but… I care what Digimon think about me,” Alphamon explained, staring at the pink knight. “I always have. As the leader of the Order, it is my job to think about how the Royal Knights act and how we appear to others.”

“That is true. You have always had a good head for public relations…” RhodoKnightmon supposed.

Alphamon nodded. “Yes… However, I have always cared about my image on a personal level too. I wouldn’t say that I’m vain, but I have always been concerned about what others thought of me. As Alphamon… I am an exception. A one-of-a-kind Digimon. People have always had opinions about me, especially after… certain events,” he explained sparsely. “It shaped how I act. It made it hard for me to be open about my bisexuality…”

RhodoKnightmon nodded, now realising what Alphamon meant. “Oh, I see…”

Alphamon smiled at him a little. “You have always seemed so comfortable with yourself. As for me…” He closed his eyes meditatively. “Ever since I was a teenager, I always knew I was interested in female Digimon. I have had youthful crushes here and there… However, I also found myself having those same sorts of feelings towards male Digimon. I remember feeling attraction, both physically and emotionally, towards my own gender as well as the opposite one… I was confused at first. I wondered if there was something wrong with me.”

“Oh?” RhodoKnightmon wondered. “I thought that New Terminal was quite cosmopolitan and permissive when it came to that sort of thing. Is that a mistaken perception on my part?”

“Well, no… I remember having seen a number of same-gender partners around the Republic of Node, and especially in New Terminal,” Alphamon explained. “However, I also knew that most formal unions were between Digimon of the opposite gender, for the purposes of reproduction - continuing the family line and inheritance. I knew that same-gender couples, while permitted, were generally the exception rather than the rule. I travelled a lot in my teenage years. I learned that, depending on where I was in the world, those sorts of relationships could be looked down upon or even maltreated. I had heard the slander and the jokes in taverns. I learned what some people thought of people like me. Not everywhere was as accepting as New Terminal was…”

“Yes, it is a pity that there are still close-minded Digimon, isn’t it?” RhodoKnightmon calmly agreed, although he didn’t seem all that bothered.

Alphamon frowned gently. “Indeed… I suppose I was a bit of a coward. Despite the feelings that I had towards men, I think I subconsciously tried to ignore those feelings and just focus on what was most universally socially acceptable. I, by no means, had an active romantic life, but I chose to focus my attention solely on female Digimon. I opted to go with the most comfortable route… Of course I have had feelings for men since then, but it wasn’t until OuRyuumon confessed his feelings to me that I felt strongly enough to pursue a relationship. And, even then, I was cautious about it. I didn’t feel that I could tell my closest friends, and I was worried that we would be found out.”

A gentle sigh escaped Alphamon’s lips. “Looking back, I’m ashamed of how I acted. I put enormous pressures on not just myself, but also OuRyuumon, and I didn’t trust my closest friends because I thought that they would hate me. I was insecure, and I didn’t have faith in all of you. It wasn’t the truth that drove wedges between us, but concealing the truth. When I look at you, who has been completely honest with your sexuality from the start and your clear comfort with yourself, I can only imagine what you must think of me.”

RhodoKnightmon smiled sweetly and walked up to Alphamon. He placed a hand on Alphamon’s cheek for a moment, gazing into his eyes. “My dear Alphamon…” he kindly spoke, sliding his hand from the black, metal surface. “Our experiences are very different. I would never judge you for being hesitant about coming out… It may have been easy for me, but I am not so self-righteous to assume that it isn’t difficult for other people. It is a massive moment. You had your reasons for being cautious, and they were very understandable ones. You mustn’t be hard on yourself. It is just who you are, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.”

Alphamon smiled graciously at RhodoKnightmon. “…Thank you, Rhodo. It means a lot to hear you say that. I always worried that I may have offended you. That my unwillingness to confess was implying that it was somehow wrong or shameful to be gay. I never once thought that. The simple fact is that, after all of those years of hiding it, the pressure continued to mount due to the simple fact that I wasn’t honest to begin with. I worried I would hurt people, and I think I terribly internalized everything.”

RhodoKnightmon nodded. “Well, everything is out in the open now. How do you feel about it now?”

“I am at peace with everything. I feel… free. I am quite comfortable with who I am now,” Alphamon explained, his words soft and unburdened. “And it’s thanks to all of you.”

“You are more responsible than we are,” RhodoKnightmon declared, waggling his index finger.

Alphamon chuckled. “It was a difficult path, but, yes, I suppose I had to grow as a Digimon as well…” he contemplated. He stared at RhodoKnightmon thoughtfully. “Although, I have always wondered… Were you always so at ease with yourself, Rhodo?”

RhodoKnightmon placed his hands on his hips. “Well… I don’t wish to diminish your personal struggle, but… yes. I would say I have.”

Alphamon smiled, not minding his honesty at all. “Really? I’d like to hear more,” he inquired.

RhodoKnightmon nodded confidently. “Well… as you know, my father was the Duke of Summerglade, back before the Kingdom of Arcania was incorporated into the Republic. As such, I lived on an aristocratic estate, with servants and tutors and the lot. My parents always wanted me to be normal… They wanted me to follow after them in court politics. I needed to have a respectable education, good etiquette, desirable skills and what have you,” he explained. “However, I remember overhearing my parents talking once, and they said that I was always a bit different.”

Alphamon nodded quietly and allowed him to continue.

“I suppose that’s true. I always was different,” RhodoKnightmon said matter-of-factly. “At a young age, I was always interested in non-traditional things… I loved cooking, swordplay, and fashion. Not quite the interests of a courtier. I was a bit lackadaisical; I never liked to push myself too hard, except for those fields that I was extremely passionate about.”

RhodoKnightmon smiled and placed his hands on his hips. “I also knew from a young age that I had a keen interest in other men… In fact, my first ever crush was on my swordsmanship tutor,” he recounted fondly. “When I attended a private academy, I was always a bit different there too. I was among other rich students, but I was always more flamboyant, with my clothing, my actions, everything really. I pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable… I had a couple friends there, but a lot of students called me a dandy. A rumour also spread around that I liked men.”

Alphamon frowned at this. “I’m sorry, Rhodo. Was that hard for you?” he asked compassionately.

“Not particularly,” RhodoKnightmon answered with a shrug. “You see, I was actually just confused when I heard it. I had always just assumed that it was natural to like men, and that all the others felt like I did too. I always thought that marriages were simply social and political contracts that were made between important families to shore up power and have children. I suppose it was naïve of me, but I had just assumed that people naturally preferred people of their own gender, and that was why girls mainly had female friends and boys mainly had male friends. It was a surprise when I learned that this wasn’t the case. I suppose it was because I spent my childhood a bit isolated.”

“I see…” Alphamon spoke, mulling over RhodoKnightmon’s words.

“I admit, I was sometimes hurt by their words, but I never felt ashamed of liking men or being who I was,” RhodoKnightmon continued. “I was simply living my life how I wished to. Even when I heard my parents or my teachers or the other students say that I should try to be more normal… I always thought, ‘Why should I be normal? What is ‘normal’? Isn’t ‘normality’ something that a lot of unimaginative people tacitly agree upon because they are afraid of change and things that are different from what they are comfortable with?’”

RhodoKnightmon folded his arms and raised his head proudly. “I challenge the idea of ‘normal’. I just want to stay true to who I am, whatever eccentricities and flaws that I may have. I may be different, but I am who I am. I shouldn’t try to hide that, and I refuse to be ashamed of myself. I would much rather have fun with it and live my life how I want, rather than live it how other people think I should live it. I suppose that is why I like to challenge other Digimon and their boundaries. I want to show them that is it okay to be different. You can be a Royal Knight and still be somebody like me.”

Alphamon smiled warmly. “I think that’s a great message to send, Rhodo… You and I really are different,” he mused. He brought his hand to his own chin and stroked it pensively with his index finger. “I really admire your courage, RhodoKnightmon, and your ability to be comfortable with who you are. It seems to come so naturally to you…”

“Why thank you, Alphamon,” RhodoKnightmon chimed.

The Aloof Hermit smiled a bit guiltily. “Admittedly… I’ve always been a bit jealous of you, Rhodo,” he gently explained. “I envied that about you in the past… Your confidence, I mean. There I was, worrying about how everybody would react to my bisexuality, while you were there, putting yourself out there for all to see…”

“Oh… I’m sorry,” RhodoKnightmon apologised, rubbing his neck.

“No… I’m not blaming you,” Alphamon assured him peacefully. “I just wish that I could have had that courage to be who I was regardless of what others thought.”

RhodoKnightmon smiled and placed a hand on Alphamon’s shoulder. “You did have that courage, ultimately. You confessed to us, after all, and I know what a big deal for you that was. You have nothing to feel guilty of. In fact… I am quite proud to call you our leader. Nobody else could do a better job.”

Alphamon smiled appreciatively. “Thank you, RhodoKnightmon… That means a lot.”

“I am simply being honest,” RhodoKnightmon explained.

Alphamon nodded. “I’m glad that you and I could have this chat…”

“Mhm, so am I. Even if it did start with my good self being told off,” RhodoKnightmon concurred with a wry tilt of the head.

Alphamon chuckled. “Heh… Well, that still stands.”

“Oh, I know… And I will apologise to OuRyuumon properly tomorrow morning,” RhodoKnightmon explained. “I will even cook him his favourite meal.”

“That would definitely smooth the path,” Alphamon agreed with a grin. The dark crusader turned, his disposition relaxed and at ease. “Now, drawing a line under all that… what do you say that we relax?”

“That would be nice. What do you suggest?” RhodoKnightmon wondered.

“Well… There is this recipe that I have been working on… I would love to hear your professional, culinary opinion,” Alphamon suggested. Although his face was innocent, a sudden sense of foreboding swept over the room.

The words send the cold chill of death down RhodoKnightmon’s back and he felt his stomach twist into knots. The words ‘recipe’, ‘opinion’, and ‘working on’ set off immediate alarm bells. He knew there could be only one thing that Alphamon was referring to… Alphamon’s tea and coffee creations, if they could be called that. The vile, unholy brews that went against all of RhodoKnightmon’s culinary sensibilities. He often wondered if there was something wrong with the knight’s taste buds to be able to enjoy those dreadful concoctions of miscellaneous ingredients. Did Alphamon want to punish him after all?

“Err… It is almost midnight, Alphamon…” RhodoKnightmon hesitated. “Isn’t it a bit too late for caffeine?” he desperately appealed in an attempt to save himself.

“Oh, not to worry. I have been working on this coffee for awhile now. I have added ingredients with high amounts of melatonin and tryptophan, such as tart cherries, roasted soybeans, and sesame seeds. This should offset the effects of the caffeine and give you a sound sleep,” Alphamon explained with restrained excitement in his voice. “I also find that the specific taste and texture works magnificently with the natto.”

RhodoKnightmon’s face turned a pale blue. “N-Natto…?” he stammered. “I… I am not sure about this, Alphamon…”

“Come now… You are always getting others to try new things. What did you say about pushing past boundaries, Rhodo?” Alphamon asked him with a sly grin. He gave RhodoKnightmon a knowing wink. “As AncientGreymon would say, ‘Who dares, wins’.”

RhodoKnightmon felt an insurmountable sense of dread as Alphamon boxed him into a logical corner. The conniving villain, he thought. “…W-Well… Perhaps just one sip,” he choked out as the blood drained from his face.

Alphamon smiled enthusiastically, completely oblivious to RhodoKnightmon’s terror. “Wonderful. I’ll get started. I’d like your honest opinion too. I want the flavour to be perfect. I think this could really help to relieve the stress of the other Royal Knights,” he said as he walked to the door of his bedroom, prompting the rose knight to follow.

RhodoKnightmon swallowed as he was led out of the room. He promised Yggdrasil that if he made it through the night, he wouldn’t gossip wantonly again. Things had been going so well, too…


On the second floor of the castle, Omegamon stepped out of one of the washrooms. After having finished his nightly routine, he now planned on going to bed. It was getting late and he needed some rest for tomorrow. It was only a matter of time before they had to set out on campaign against the Demon Lords, so they all needed as much rest as they could get.

Carrying his pieces of armour under one arm, Omegamon stepped out into the living quarters’ corridor. He wore a pair of white pyjamas which hung loosely around his slender body. The night-time attire was adorned with a pattern of suns and moons across the soft, white fabric.

Omegamon quietly walked down the corridor. His steps were light and soft. His feet barely touched the floor as he moved, so as to not wake any of the Royal Knights who were already asleep. His room was near the end of the hallway, sitting between Alphamon’s room at the very end, and Dukemon’s room on its left.

The alabaster-hued paladin bridged the length of the hallway and stopped in front of his room. He reached for the door handle. Omegamon paused for a moment when his white hand touched the knob. He turned his helmeted head and cast his cyan eyes towards Alphamon’s door thoughtfully.

The sound of a door opening in the opposite direction caught his attention. Omegamon turned his head around to look up the corridor that he just came from. The nearest door over to his opened and a familiar form appeared.

Dukemon stepped partway out of his room and looked at Omegamon. He was wearing a white, tight-fitting, muscle top with the Zero Unit symbol emblazoned across the chest. He also wore a pair of loose-fitting, crimson shorts, a few shades darker than his actual scale colour. Dukemon smiled upon setting his eyes on Omegamon.

“Hey, Omegamon!” he greeted cheerfully. He grinned playfully and looked Omegamon up and down. “Wearing those pyjamas that Alphamon got you for the Winter Festival? Nice. They’re very cute,” he teased in his usual playful way.

Omegamon blushed and looked away sheepishly. “Dukemon…” he greeted, although not addressing the jocose comment. He wasn’t sure if Dukemon was being innocuous or if he was aiming for that reaction. “You’re up late.”

“Yeah, I was planning on going to bed soon. I’m just waiting for Grani,” Dukemon explained. “What about you?”

“I was about to do the same,” Omegamon responded, looking up at the scarlet dragon man.

“Do you have a few minutes?” Dukemon asked him. “It’d be nice if we could catch up.”

Omegamon quietly thought about for a few moments. He supposed he could spare another ten minutes or so… “Hm… Alright, Dukemon,” he agreed. “Just let me hang my armour up.”

“Sure thing,” Dukemon replied, smiling and walking back inside his room. He left the door open for Omegamon to follow.

Omegamon placed his pieces of armour on the wooden rack in his room, though he left the black body suit on underneath his pyjamas. He walked out of his room and stepped inside Dukemon’s, closing the door behind him. Once inside, he saw Dukemon sitting on the side of his spacious bed.

“Come sit. Take the weight off,” Dukemon suggested, patting the place on the bed next to him.

The white Royal Knight walked over and sat down beside him with some space between them. As he felt himself sink slightly into the soft mattress, he looked at Dukemon inquisitively.

“Was there something particular that you wanted to talk about, Dukemon?” Omegamon questioned.

“Not really. I just wanted to chat,” Dukemon replied. “You’re not usually up this late. Did you have a nightmare or something?”

“No, I was working late,” the fused warrior explained. “And then I got talking…”

“Oh, yeah?” the dragon knight inquired. “With who?”

Omegamon folded his hands on his lap. “Alphamon, actually…” he answered, a touch embarrassed. He tentatively made eye contact with Dukemon. “I… apologised to him.”

Dukemon couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. “Oh… What about? Do you mean… the stuff that happened when you were Zwart?” he cautiously ventured.

“No, not that…” He exhaled.

“Oh… Sorry,” Dukemon sheepishly replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “I shouldn’t have brought that up.”

Omegamon shook his head lightly. “It’s fine. While I still hate what I did, talking about it doesn’t cause me the same pain that it used to.” He looked at Dukemon with appreciation in his bright, blue eyes. “That’s thanks to you.”

Dukemon grinned. “Hey, I’m glad to be able to help,” he answered.

“I don’t worry that I’m going to lose myself to the darkness of Zwart anymore. Even if I did, I know that all of you would be there to stop me.”

“Good,” the dragon paladin declared. He smiled optimistically at Omegamon. “Then you’ve already won.” He leaned forwards with his arms on his knees. “So, what did you apologise to Alphamon about? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Well… It was about how I acted when I first found out that he and OuRyuumon were lovers. I acted selfishly and immaturely, and I wanted to finally apologise to him for that,” Omegamon explained. “I played a big factor in the reason why our friendship became strained.”

Dukemon frowned and thought about it. “Was it when you three went to Auguria to investigate that prophecy?” he questioned. “I thought that you two were acting weird afterwards.”

“Yes… I overheard them, and, well… I was hurt when I really had no right to be,” Omegamon shamefully admitted.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s only natural to instinctively be a bit hurt when your close friend keeps something from you,” Dukemon reasoned. “As long as you don’t end up blaming him and being bitter about it. Alphamon obviously had his reasons for it.”

“I know he did… but, at the time, I could only think about myself. I felt he couldn’t trust me. This was on top of feeling that Imperialdramon had abandoned us…” Omegamon sighed. “It was my own selfishness that led me to becoming Omegamon Zwart. That’s why I wanted to apologise to Alphamon.”

“I see… And how’d he take it?” Dukemon wondered.

Omegamon smiled warmly. “How you would expect. He accepted it immediately, without question. He distributed the blame evenly. He listened, and he was reasonable.”

“So, very Alphamon-y,” Dukemon said with a chuckle. “That’s good, isn’t it?”

Omegamon nodded softly. “Yes… I’m glad that we were finally able to clear the air. Admittedly, things had been a little… awkward since what happened. We haven’t really spoken that much outside of work,” he explained. “I think we really needed to have that conversation. I feel as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.”

Dukemon nodded. “I can understand what you mean. It feels good to finally unburden yourself from something you’ve been sitting on for a long time…” he mentioned, looking at Omegamon.

“Yes, it did…” Omegamon smiled slightly. “…I feel as though my and Alphamon’s friendship is starting to go back to how it used to be. I’m really glad that he and I can talk together again…”

The crimson knight stared at Omegamon, his features warm and tender as he wore a knowing smile. “…Hey, Omegamon… Can I ask you something?”

Omegamon turned his head and observed Dukemon curiously. “Of course, Dukemon. Anything.”

“Do you have feelings for Alphamon?”

Omegamon nearly choked. Within seconds, blood coursed into his face flooded his cheeks with tingling warmth. His cyan eyes widened momentarily and he could only look away from Dukemon to hide his embarrassment.

“I-I don’t see how that’s any of your business, Dukemon,” he defensively replied.

Dukemon scratched his cheek with his index finger. He had a feeling he may have pressed a bit too far. “Sorry. You don’t have to answer. I’ve just always wondered…” he said, backing off just slightly. “We’re friends though. I won’t judge you or tell anybody. But if you say that you don’t, I’ll believe you.”

Omegamon grimaced, starting to think past the burning in his cheeks and the nervous churning in his stomach. He felt a bit guilty about putting Dukemon off. He supposed it wouldn’t be so bad if he explained it to make him understand…

“I…” Omegamon stammered, pausing as he tried to think of the right words to use for this delicate situation. “It’s… complicated, Dukemon…”

Dukemon shot Omegamon a warm and reassuring smile. “It’s fine. You’re right. It’s none of my business if you have feelings for Alphamon or not,” he promised him. “Forget I asked.”

A soft wince graced Omegamon’s eyes. He was having trouble finding the right words. “I… Alphamon and I are very close friends…” he responded.

Dukemon smiled and nodded. “Okay, then,” he replied, making it clear that he believed Omegamon and would leave it at that.

Omegamon hesitated. He could just leave the conversation there. Dukemon was giving him the chance to end it. However… he didn’t feel right about doing so. He drew a centering breath.

“…I don’t believe that the bond between lovers automatically supersedes the bond between friends,” Omegamon stated.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Dukemon asked.

“There is a perception among some people that it isn’t enough to simply be friends with somebody,” Omegamon explained, although his face was still warm and tingling as he spoke. “That, for the relationship to be meaningful or important, the logical progression is to go from friends to being lovers. Romance is treated as a step higher than friendship, which is seen merely as a stepping stone in two peoples’ relationship. I don’t view it that way.”

“Oh…” Dukemon replied, thinking about Omegamon’s words. “I see what you mean. I think.”

Omegamon looked at Dukemon with a bit of shyness. “My lower forms – WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon… They had a deep love for each other, but they were the best of friends. They weren’t romantic in the sense that you might think of, but they did love each other. They were comfortable in one another’s company. They were able pour their souls to each other and keep one another warm at night without feeling uncomfortable. If they didn’t have that love and friendship, I wouldn’t exist right now,” Omegamon explained. “To me, love is something that you feel, not necessarily something that you do…”

“Okay… I understand what you’re getting at,” Dukemon considered as he thought about it. “I do think there can be a difference, though… With somebody you’re romantic with, you can kiss them and have a physical relationship. You might not necessarily want to cross that boundary with somebody that you consider a friend, because your dynamic with them is different.”

“I suppose so… but that is a matter of the body, not a matter of the heart. I could still have feelings towards somebody without that,” Omegamon answered, his voice a bit reticent and his face still rather red. “At least, for me…”

Dukemon chuckled and nodded. “Okay. I see what you mean…” he responded.

Omegamon took a deep breath, summoning the courage that he embodied. He did what needed to be done despite his fear. He looked Dukemon in the eyes. “…I do have intense feelings for Alphamon.”

A knowing smile formed on Dukemon’s lips. “I always had a feeling…”

“I feel that we have an unshakeable bond between us… or, at least, we did,” Omegamon explained. “I care about him deeply… That’s why it was so hard when things became strained between us.”

“Still, you said you had a good conversation with him tonight, right? You said that things are good between you again,” Dukemon pointed out.

“I suppose…”

Dukemon gazed at Omegamon. “…I think you should tell Alphamon how you feel…”

Omegamon’s brows furrowed behind his helmet uncertainly. “…To what end? So that he and I can form a romantic relationship?” he questioned.

“Well, yeah,” Dukemon answered bluntly. “Wouldn’t you like that?”

“…I don’t know…” Omegamon guardedly deliberated. “It isn’t that simple, Dukemon…” The white knight sighed. “I don’t want to hurt OuRyuumon. I’m sure that he still loves Alphamon.”

“Sure… and I feel bad for OuRyuumon, but things like this happen,” Dukemon suggested. “It’s also about what you want, Omega. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider his feelings, but you shouldn’t ignore your own either.”

“It isn’t just that,” Omegamon insisted. “I… I don’t want to put Alphamon in an awkward position. If I forced the issue, it could cause him a lot of problems. Perhaps he doesn’t feel the same way that I do. He might struggle to know how to respond to such a suggestion from one of his closest friends…” Omegamon looked down. “…We just got our relationship back on track… I don’t want to jeopardize that and risk losing Alphamon’s friendship due to my own greed and selfishness.”

“It isn’t like that, Omegamon. It’s not greedy to have feelings for somebody,” Dukemon assured him. He stared at him directly, clearly transmitting his strong feelings. “You shouldn’t punish yourself for what happened.”

Omegamon softly shook his head. “Alphamon likely isn’t interested, regardless. He has had OuRyuumon for all this time. No matter what happened between them, that is likely where Alphamon’s heart still resides,” he said with peaceful resignation.

“You keep saying ‘likely’. You’re just making assumptions without actually knowing,” Dukemon explained critically. “Why don’t you ask him?”

“Because I don’t want to watch him stumble over himself as he tries to salvage our relationship while letting me down gently,” Omegamon bluntly countered.

Dukemon frowned. “…You know… I spoke to Alphamon after his argument with OuRyuumon. He told me what happened between you three after your encounter with DarkKnightmon. He tried to kiss you…”

Omegamon grimaced and turned his gaze away from the dragon knight. “He did. But he didn’t mean it… I knew he didn’t. That’s why it hurt…”

Dukemon continued staring at the white paladin. “Rebound kiss or not, he tried to kiss you. He wouldn’t have tried to kiss you for no reason. I’m sure he wouldn’t have done that with any of the other Royal Knights. He must have some feelings for you in order to do that…”

Omegamon smiled a little, with a fragment of pain in his eyes. “It’s fine, Dukemon. I’m more than happy to keep my and Alphamon’s relationship like it has always been. If we can be friends like we used to be, that is all that I need. I cherish Alphamon as a friend too much to risk putting that in jeopardy…”

Dukemon’s golden-yellow eyes softened. “Omegamon… You’re the least selfish person that I know, but a lot of the time, it’s at the detriment of your own happiness.

Omegamon turned his smile, wistful but honest, towards Dukemon. “I am happy now… Although it hurt sometimes, Alphamon’s friendship is more than enough for me. Now that I know what it’s like to be without it, to spend time together like we did tonight, just the two of us, is more than I could ever ask for.” Omegamon looked up and closed his eyes, releasing a satisfied breath. “…I am content with the way things are.” He opened his light blue eyes and smiled sincerely at Dukemon.

The crimson Royal Knight stared into Omegamon’s eyes. He seemed to be telling the truth… “…Okay, then,” Dukemon said with a grin. “If you’re happy, then so am I.”

Omegamon turned and looked at Dukemon. “…Thank you, Dukemon. For listening… and caring,” he told him.

“It’s no big deal. You would do the same,” Dukemon dismissed as he flashed him his usual smirk.

“…Spending time with you is just as important to me, Dukemon,” Omegamon felt compelled to add. “Your constant support, the ease with which we can speak… You have always been there, by my side, from the very beginning. You have always been there to listen to all of us and give advice. Your friendship and generosity is more than I could ever hope for.”

Dukemon sheepishly scratched his cheek with his finger. “Hey, I’m glad to help…” he responded with embarrassment. His voice became less playful and more sincere and heartfelt. “…You’re important to me too, Omegamon.”

Omegamon’s eyes locked with Dukemon’s. “I really do cherish you…”

Dukemon gazed back at him, his soft golds becoming lost in Omegamon’s warm, cyan stare.

Their gazes held, and they shared a breathless moment. Dukemon found that his hand had drifted on top of Omegamon’s knee. Dukemon’s stare pierced into Omegamon’s eyes, his own never straying.

Omegamon felt his heart skip as Dukemon inched near. He drew a sharp breath.

The metallic sound of a latch opening pierced the tense air. The bedroom door clicked and began to open, followed by a familiar voice.

“Dukemon?” Grani asked, peering inside from the widening gap between the door and frame.

Without missing a beat, Dukemon smoothly swerved his head and stood to his feet. He turned away from Omegamon and faced the door. “Hey, Grani. What’s up?” Dukemon casually asked with such ease that Omegamon questioned his own interpretation of what was happening.

Omegamon stood to his feet as well. Was Dukemon about to do what he thought he was about to do or…? Omegamon shook his head and composed himself as he would in battle. He tugged at the collar of his shirt and frowned as he thought about it.

Surely it wasn’t what he thought it was. Omegamon inwardly shook his head and dismissed the absurd notion. Dukemon was always the touchy feely kind of Digimon and he wasn’t afraid of invading another Digimon’s personal space. Despite the brief, intimate silence, there was nothing to suggest that Dukemon was being anything other than his usual self. Omegamon had been feeling emotional after talking to Dukemon about him and Alphamon, so he must have been reading things the wrong way. He thought better of it and decided the matter wasn’t worth pressing.

Grani drifted into the doorway. “I just returned from patrol and saw that you were still up. Shouldn’t you—“ Grani blinked and noticed Omegamon beside him. “Omegamon? Hello.”

“Hello, Grani,” Omegamon calmly greeted. He smiled amiably at Dukemon and began to walk towards the door. “I should actually be getting to bed. Goodnight, Dukemon. I appreciate our chat.”

Dukemon rubbed the back of his neck and watched as Omegamon began to take his leave. “Okay. Goodnight, Omegamon. See you tomorrow.”

Omegamon nodded and walked through the doorway as Grani moved into the room and out of the way. “Goodnight, Grani. Make sure he doesn’t find another excuse not to go to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow.”

“Very well, Omegamon. Have a good rest,” Grani responded. He watched as Omegamon closed the door and walked down the corridor to his bedroom. Alone with Dukemon, the Zero ARMS turned and stared at him a scrutinizing leer. “…Did I interrupt something?”

“Not really,” Dukemon said with a tiny smile.

Grani continued staring at him. “Dukemon?”

Dukemon grinned at him and walked back to his bed. “I just had a good chat with a friend. Nothing more,” he insisted nonchalantly. He swept open the sheets of his bed and sat on top of it. “Are you going to bed?”

“Yes, I am entering rest mode shortly,” Grani responded, floating over to the base of the giant bed.

“Goodnight, Grani,” Dukemon said, lying down and pulling the covers up to his shoulders.

“Goodnight, Dukemon…”

Dukemon closed his eyes and exhaled. It was better this way… He knew his friend still had feelings for Alphamon, despite his words. There was still a chance for his two friends…


No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Chapter 39: Contract with the Devil (Part I)

Examon placed his clawed hand against a weathered, wooden surface. He tucked his wings back and listened to the soft chatter coming from the other side.

The dragon Royal Knight was standing outside of The Radiant Shield tavern in Knights’ Cross. With the midday sun shining down on his metal-covered back, Examon could only wonder why anybody would want to spend a beautiful day inside of a pub. However, he had a fairly good guess that at least one Digimon he knew might want to…

Examon pushed the door open and walked inside the bar. He was greeted with the usual pungency of ale, with the added aromas of various lunch-time meals. The crimson wyrm looked around and saw about a dozen Digimon inside. A few were Digimon from the Order who managed to escape here on their breaks for some lunch. The others were mostly local Digimon or passers-through. However, the Digimon that Examon was looking for was unmistakeable.

The large, crimson form of Dorbickmon was sitting at the bar, laughing boisterously with a couple Order soldiers and what looked like a few mercenaries.

Examon stared at him flatly.

Without wasting any time, Examon walked over to the group. He approached from behind, his tall stature causing him to loom over them, and he calmly tapped Dorbickmon on his spiked shoulder.

“Nah, I don’t need a refill yet,” Dorbickmon responded between laughs, shrugging off the presence.

Examon tapped him again, this time, catching the attention of the two Order soldiers, a Cyberdramon and a Peckmon.

“Sir Examon,” the Cyberdramon spoke, straightening up and formally saluting, along with the Peckmon.

“Huh?” Dorbickmon shrugged, turning and looking at the person who was pestering him. He looked up and saw Examon towering over him with folded arms and an unamused stare.

“Oh. Great.”

The Peckmon looked at the Cyberdramon. “We should really be getting back to headquarters for our shifts, huh?” he asked, suddenly very self-conscious about their presence in the bar while a Royal Knight was around.

“Yeah… See you later, Dorbickmon,” the Cyberdramon said, making a hasty exit with the Peckmon after paying.

The group of three mercenaries, also sensing that Examon wasn’t happy with Dorbickmon, made their excuses and walked back to their table.

Dorbickmon stared up at Examon with bland annoyance. “…Something you want, Sir Killjoy?” he sarcastically asked.

“What are you doing here at this time of day?” Examon asked him.

“I’m gathering information. You know, looking for jobs,” Dorbickmon defensively responded, grinning cheekily.

Examon looked past the spike-laden dragon and saw a half-finished pint of beer beside an empty one, the froth bubbles still slowly popping. “…You’re drinking,” he judgmentally pointed out.

“So? It’s not a crime, is it? Can’t arrest me for having a good time,” Dorbickmon challenged. He raised the beer up brazenly. “…Want one?”

“You know I don’t drink. Not only is it unhealthy, but alcohol impairs judgment and neurocognitive functions which would make me disadvantaged in any combat scenario. What if I took a sip of alcohol and then enemies ambushed me unawares? I need to be able to concentrate in order to aim and cognizant enough to form counter-tactics on the spot. If my reflexes are hindered even by a few seconds, me and my subordinates could be put in a perilous situation,” Examon methodically and professionally explained.

Dorbickmon rolled his eyes. “Ugh… It’s not like other Royal Knights don’t come in here to drink, but if you want to be a tight-ass, whatever,” he replied. “Did you just come here to nag me?”

“I came to see how your job search was going,” Examon answered. “I thought you were heading to Dragon’s Peak.”

“It was going good, until you got here,” Dorbickmon informed him. “That was the plan, but my buddy over there hooked me up with a client. He got a job offer, but he already has a job on, so he referred me instead.”

Examon looked over at the table of mercenaries that Dorbickmon nodded towards. “I hope they aren’t the kind of mercenaries you associated with when you were working with DarkKnightmon,” he murmured.

“Relax and take your lance outta your ass. They’re White Claws. Huanglongmon forbid that you might know somebody that associates with Grey Claws,” Dorbickmon sarcastically replied. “I thought we had a talk about how you weren’t gonna be so judgy.”

Examon sighed and sheepishly rubbed his spike shoulder. “I’m just in an awkward position. I can’t be seen to look the other way whenever you do something that bends the rules,” he informed him. “I can’t have one rule for you and one rule for everybody else. I have to be fair.”

“Then if I do, I won’t tell you about it,” Dorbickmon teased him, smirking and folding his arms. “Problem solved.”

The Royal Knight stared at him dryly. However, his gaze broke when he heard the tavern door open.

A long, gold serpent Digimon walked inside and made a direct path for the bar counter.

Examon blinked when he noticed the tall, slender dragon march up the bar without even looking at them.

“…OuRyuumon?” he spoke. It seemed incredibly odd to see him here at this time of day. Examon was going to guess that he was just here for lunch.

OuRyuumon walked up to the counter and hailed the bartender. “Large pint of golden ale spiked with Dragon Fire Nectar. I want it to kick!” he ordered, a sour expression on his face.

The crimson dragon frowned. He wondered if something was bothering him. Examon remembered what OuRyuumon overheard the other night. He thought that the situation would have been sorted by now, though.

Dorbickmon looked over and grinned. “Hey! Snake!” he called over brusquely.

OuRyuumon sat down on a stool, his tail drooping over the other side of it. He glanced over at them out of the corner of his eye. “Oh, great. Just what I need. Exadork and Dorbickdick…” he muttered deflatedly.

Examon raised a brow and walked over. “…Drinking on the job?” he asked.

“I’m on my lunch break. Is that okay?” OuRyuumon sassily countered. “Who made you the fun police? I thought that was the cat’s job.”

“See, Examon?” Dorbickmon smugly gestured.

Ignoring Dorbickmon, Examon’s gaze furrowed and he studied the gold and brown dragon carefully. “Is… something wrong?” he tentatively questioned. “You seem upset.”

OuRyuumon rolled his violet eyes emphatically. “Gee, you think?” the Captain sarcastically asked.

Dorbickmon grinned with flat exasperation at Examon. “No ****, Sir Obvious…” he muttered.

“Why don’t you and your boyfriend just—ugh.” OuRyuumon winced at his own words and slumped forwards on his folded arms atop the bar counter. He watched with defeated eyes as the large mug appeared in front of his snout. The goldenrod ale contained a blossoming drop of potent, crimson syrup that expanded and spread in the center of the liquid as it set. “Forget it…”

Dorbickmon cocked an eyebrow and walked over. He took a seat nearby, and Examon sat down in between them. “What’s up, wormie?” he questioned. The earth dragon leaned forward on the bar counter so that he could look over at OuRyuumon.

“Everything’s wrong…” OuRyuumon murmured. He raised his head just enough that he could pick up his pint and tip the liquid into his mouth. “My relationship is dead in the water…”

Examon pensively stared at him. “You’re still upset over what RhodoKnightmon said…” he guessed. “I thought he apologised to you yesterday. He seemed pretty sincere and he made you your favourite meals… I thought you accepted his apology.”

“It’s not that,” OuRyuumon said with a sigh, his hot breath fogging up the interior of his beer glass. “I mean, yeah, what Pinkie said pissed me off majorly, but he didn’t say anything that I wasn’t already thinking myself… That’s why it hurt.”

“What am I missing here?” Dorbickmon asked.

“RhodoKnightmon was talking about how he saw Alphamon and Omegamon looking intimate the other night. OuRyuumon walked in and overheard,” Examon informed him.

“Oh, gotcha…” Dorbickmon mused. He looked and pointed at OuRyuumon casually. “And you and Alphamon used to be an item up until you blew it, right?”

“**** off…” OuRyuumon growled, scowling as he took a long drink, although there was confirmation in his words.

“So, what happened?” Dorbickmon pressed, although not hiding his amused grin.

“It’s all your and DarkKnightmon’s fault!” OuRyuumon accused, shooting him an irate glare. However, his ire soon turned inwards. He winced and plopped his chin on the counter, putting his claws on his head. “Ugh… It’s my own damn fault…” He sighed and glanced over at the pair of red dragons miserably. “I did something stupid and terrible. I overheard DarkKnightmon planning his coup, so I tried to kill him.”

“Oh, you mean when you dropped him off a tower,” Dorbickmon remembered breezily. “Yeah, he mentioned that. You shoulda finished the job. You should know that it takes more than that to kill an Ultimate-level Digimon."

“Gee, thanks for the advice. I’ll remember that next time.” He took a strong drink from his glass. “…Anyway, I hid that from Alphamon because I didn’t want him finding out about what I did. But when DarkKnightmon came back from the Dark Area, he told Alphamon all about it. Then we argued and split up over it. Then all the stuff with DarkKnightmon, and then the Metal Empire, and now the Demon Lords happened,” OuRyuumon explained dourly. “Whenever I tried to ask Alphamon about getting back together, there was always something in the way. At the first, it was, ‘we shouldn’t rush into it.’ Now it’s ‘now is not the right time. We should wait until after this crisis ends.’ …Yeah, until the next one happens.” He sighed.

“Oh…” Examon responded. He rubbed his neck. Examon wasn’t really good at relationship advice. He didn’t know the first thing about relationships, really. He still struggled with complex social interactions sometimes. He wanted to give OuRyuumon his support, but he didn’t quite know where to start. “…That’s too bad?”

Dorbickmon rolled his eyes at his friend’s ineptitude. “So, you think he’s putting you off.”

“We’ve been best friends since we were kids,” OuRyuumon explained. “I think I screwed up so much that he fell out of love with me, but he doesn’t want to hurt me so he’s putting off telling me. He’s scared of losing a friend again. …Ever since a long time before we got together, I always thought that he and Omegamon had chemistry. They were close and I always worried it was just a matter of time… I felt threatened by Omegamon, and others too… Ugh, I was so insecure and screwed up. I dunno how Alphamon put up with me for so long.”

OuRyuumon’s scaly face sunk and he released a sombre sigh. “I think I just have to face the facts. Me and Alphamon are probably over…”

Dorbickmon frowned as he stared at OuRyuumon. “…Tch. That’s loser talk. You’re just gonna lie down and take it like a wet noodle?” he asked. “I had you down for a lot of things, Snaky… Loud-mouthed, ugly, smart-assed, bad-breathed, ill-tempered, asshole… but a quitter wasn’t one of them.”

“All of those things could be applied to you too, asshole!” OuRyuumon fired back, regaining a bit of his usual choleric spirit. He sat up, straightening his coiled back more. “What the hell am I supposed to do?! Ask him to get back together with me until he gives in and says yes? Guilt him into it? Make him choose me, even if he doesn’t want to?” OuRyuumon’s gaze softened and he stared down into his reddish drink. “I don’t want that… I’m not that selfish…”

“No,” Examon spoke up, staring at Dorbickmon. “Just keep being there for him. As his friend, if nothing else. Alphamon will be ready when he’s ready… That’s what I did when trying to repair things with Dorbickmon. I nearly killed him, and he wanted revenge on me, but look at us now.”

“That’s not the same thing! Don’t compare the two!” Dorbickmon spoke up frantically. “You and I aren’t boyfriends, idiot! Yggdrasil…” Dorbickmon folded his arms and looked away, grunting with exasperated annoyance. However, he glanced back at OuRyuumon. “…The moron’s got a point though. Sure, don’t force it, but don’t give up either. It’s like combat. Wait for your moment and strike when your opponent lets his guard down and opens himself up to you.”

“Hmm, yeah. That’s a good way to think about it, Dorbickmon,” Examon agreed, suddenly interested in the combat analogy. “It’s like aiming down the sights of a rifle. You have a high calibre, armour-piercing round loaded in the chamber and you’re aiming against the wind. You need to correct your aim and account for the fact that the rifle is a breech-loading, smooth-bore design. Your cover has been blown and you are exposed for the opponents to see, but you need to remain calm and be patient while not compromising the integrity of your shot. If you wait for a lull in the breeze, you won’t have to alter the trajectory of your aim.” He folded his arms and nodded knowingly.

OuRyuumon stared blankly at Examon, and briefly looked at Dorbickmon for a translation. “…What? What the hell is he talking about?!”

Dorbickmon rubbed the bridged of his horned snout. “**** if I know… I’m sure that makes sense in his one-track mind, but I give up…” he flatly murmured. “Look, the point is, give it time. Don’t throw in the towel.”

Examon scratched his cheek and nodded. He thought his metaphor was fairly straightforward. “Er, yes. And I’m sure we both know that Alphamon wouldn’t lead you on. Give him more credit…”

Dorbickmon nodded and grinned. “Give him the time he needs and then ask him again. He may be a pretentious do-gooder, but he’s always been honest with me. I doubt he’s the namby-pamby, bleeding heart type to avoid telling you if he isn’t interested.”

OuRyuumon smiled a bit. “Yeah, I guess so…” he conceded.

Dorbickmon reached past Examon’s shoulders and smacked OuRyuumon on the back. “What have you got to lose, worm?!” he challenged with a contentious smirk. “Apart from your dignity.”

OuRyuumon smirked back at Dorbickmon and whipped his back with his tail. “I’m pouring my guts out to you two weirdoes; I can’t sink any lower!”

Examon grinned a little bit. “…So, are you nearly done? We should head back to the castle for afternoon training,” he reminded him.

“Yeah… Just let me finish this drink and eat lunch,” OuRyuumon replied, his voice a bit more perky, or, at least, less dour than before. “You might as well eat while you’re here.”

“I guess so…” Examon agreed. “Do they have anything vitamin-rich?”

“You enjoy your healthy food,” Dorbickmon said, standing to his feet. “I’ve gotta go meet the client in Gold Keep.”

“Be careful on your job,” Examon told him.

“Yeah, yeah. I usually am,” Dorbickmon said with a wave. He glanced at OuRyuumon. “See ya, snaky.”

“Later, sulphur breath,” OuRyuumon responded, eyeing him.

Examon nodded at Dorbickmon and watched as he left the tavern. He didn’t say anything about it, but he was proud of Dorbickmon for helping OuRyuumon, albeit in his own, acerbic way. Maybe he really was making progress... Or was he always like that?

OuRyuumon sat up straight in his seat and looked at Examon with a toothy grin. They were of a comparable size when sitting down, with OuRyuumon a bit taller due to the length of his back. “…You sure there’s nothing between you and him?” OuRyuumon teased.

“It’s not like that,” Examon insisted plainly, looking back at OuRyuumon.

“Whatever you say, Exadork” OuRyuumon said with a slight chuckle. He stared down at the golden-red drink in his claws.

He felt a bit better after having spoken with Examon and Dorbickmon, though he would never admit it outright. Although he still had some uncertainty, he just had to believe in their words. He wanted to believe in Alphamon too.

“…I guess I just have to trust them, huh?” OuRyuumon thought to himself as he took a gentle sip. “…Even if nothing comes of it… I just want him in my life.

With those thoughts, the pair of dragon Digimon ate their meals and proceeded to head back to the castle. They both had lots that they had to do.


It was a cloudy day over the northern border of the Republic of Node.

This particular border was a small river that divided the Republic of Node from the Neutral Zone to the north. The Republic of Node didn’t extend its territory beyond the river, as they, like most Digimon, had respect for the Neutral Zone’s sacred territory. The Neutral Zone was a place of peace, serenity, and independence. It was the unwritten law of the land that its boundaries were to be unmolested. The only Digimon that were allowed to pass freely were those who wanted safe passage and those who were on pilgrimage to the World Tree.

However, those unspoken laws were currently being violated.

The air was filled with the thunderous resonance of marching. The arrhythmic, discordant tempo sounded from the constant beating of footsteps against the grasslands. The breathy wing beats of aerial Digimon served as a counterpoint to the countless steps below.

An army of a couple thousand demon Digimon cut across the southwestern edge of the Neutral Zone, down from the Autonomous Expanse and to the northeast of the Republic of Node. The thousands of demon Digimon peppered the grassy expanse and the sky above it. The amount of demons caused the landscape to be cluttered with black, red, and grey. The army was full of Adult and Perfect-level demon Digimon, complimented by about two dozen or so Ultimate levels. Although there were mixed levels of discipline, there was a hunger in the way that they marched. The thirst of the revenge that they had been waiting for all this time was beginning to set in.

They were the Nightmare Soldiers.

Leading the unholy army were the Demon Lords. They were at the front of the army, but behind the commanders and scouts. Five of the Demon Lords were travelling in a pair of floating black carriages, each one drawn by a single Devidramon a few meters off of the ground. The gothic, funereal coaches creaked as the wheels spun through the air. The box-shaped carriages had doors on the right side, as well as a couple small windows for the occupants to peer out of. The interior of the coaches consisted of soft, leather cushions and dainty curtains that were drawn shut across the exterior windows. Both the seating and curtains were a rich, sanguine red that contrasted with the drab, black exterior of the stagecoaches.

In the foremost carriage were Lucemon and Bagramon. The pair of Digimon sat across from one another in relative silence, apart from when they needed to discuss their plans. The second carriage straggled behind a few paces, and lively arguing could frequently be heard coming from inside of it. Lilithmon and Barbamon resided in that carriage, and putting them together in close quarters for long periods of time was just asking for them to bicker.

Demon flew at the head at the army. He didn’t like sitting around in a hot, stuffy carriage for days; he wanted to be active and directing things. More than that, he wanted to make sure that the army was moving according to plan. He frequently barked orders at his new junior commanders in order to direct scouting patrols and keep the demon Digimon from straggling.

Beelzebumon also decided to forgo what he called ‘the old lady-mobiles’. Instead, the restless demon man decided to ride ahead on the Behemoth motorcycle. He tore up the grass about a hundred meters ahead of the army, but he didn’t go too far ahead.

Meanwhile, Leviamon wandered along the right side of the army, obviously too big for his body to fit in one of the carriages. He sat upstream and used his body and control over water to block the path of the river. This allowed the demonic army to cross the stream without needing a bridge, allowing them to pass from the Neutral Zone into Republic territory with ease.

It was decided that Belphemon: Sleep Mode was to remain back in hiding in the Gloaming Fields. The Demon Lords agreed that they were not ready to awaken Belphemon yet, and he would only slow them down otherwise. He stayed hidden within the mansion grounds, with a dozen demon Digimon guarding him and making sure he was concealed.

The two Devidramon-drawn carriages passed over the temporarily redirected river, not having to get their wheels wet in the soggy grass. The army continued alongside them, making their way across the stream and into the Republic of Node’s territory.

In one of the two carriages, Bagramon sat across from Lucemon. His eyebrow was furrowed and his mouth was curved down just slightly. He turned his dichotomous red eyes up and glanced at the fallen angel across from him.

Lucemon was reclined in his seat. He stared boredly out of a small crack between the drawn curtains and the window frame, getting a quick look of how their demonic army was progressing.

“Are you sure about this, Lucemon?” Bagramon finally spoke up, his voice summoning the attention of Lucemon’s cold, blue eyes. “This is an incredibly risky operation for such an early stage in our plans. There is no guarantee that we will succeed.”

“Do you doubt Barbamon’s strategies, Bagramon?” Lucemon asked the fellow Demon Lord Digimon with casual ease. “He may be an incorrigible old miser who failed to win us the Heavenly War… However, I have seen his strategies first hand in the Dark Area. He is a force to be reckoned with, on par with the best strategists of the Digital World. I believe that with our combined skills, we will achieve victory.”

“Strategies are important, yes, but so are numbers. Numbers and strength were the reason why we failed in our rebellion. The Warrior Ten and the Royal Knights showed up to turn the tide of battle against us. That could happen again here, before we have a chance to gain a foothold.”

“I understand your concern, Bagramon, but that is why this will be a surprise attack,” Lucemon explained, not at all concerned. “We will take New Terminal before either the Royal Knights or the Warrior Ten realise what is going on. Then we shall hold the city before they can mobilise.” Lucemon smiled slightly. “In the best case scenario, we shall win and establish an unparalleled base of power. In the absolute worst case scenario, we can simply retreat and cut our losses. From there, we can proceed as originally planned.”

Bagramon sighed but nodded. “I suppose so. If anybody can pull it off, I suppose it would be Barbamon,” he conceded. He knew that at this stage, it was already too late to change anybody’s minds anyways, so he had might as well make the best of their gambit.

Lucemon folded his hands on his lap, nodding with a confident grin on his lips. “Have faith, Bagramon… We shall succeed. Our rebellion will not fail when it has only just begun.”

Bagramon closed his eye. “Very well…” he concurred, allowing himself to go along with their plan. He had to, to ensure that their rebellion would succeed in the long run.

He readjusted himself to get comfortable on the soft, red upholstery. Bagramon was about to attempt to sleep when he heard the familiar revving of a motorcycle’s engine. It was the trademark snarl of Beelzebumon’s Behemoth. Bagramon was somewhat surprised that Beelzebumon was circling back already. He opened the carriage curtain to look out the window.

He saw Beelzebumon driving back towards the army with more haste than usual. Beelzebumon drove towards their carriage and circled around behind it. He decreased his velocity and matched his speed with the stagecoach, pulling up beside the door.

Beelzebumon drove with one hand on the handles, and used the other to knock forcefully on the door of the ebony coach. “Hey, Lucy! Baggy!” he called to Lucemon and Bagramon inside. “We got a bit of a situation!”

Lucemon frowned and opened the curtains with an irritable gaze. “What situation, Beelzebumon?” he asked.

Beelzebumon tilted his head and nodded ahead of them. Curious, Bagramon used his Invisible Snake Eyes to see what the biker demon meant. His eye socket glimmered with a ruby twinkle and suddenly an image flashed into his mind. Bagramon saw a group of two dozen, mainly Perfect level Digimon, fully armed with their weapons and armour. They all wore the same emblem, a sword with wings, somewhere visible on their bodies. They were a detachment of provincial soldiers from the Republic’s military. Obviously, they had either spotted or heard about the advancing demon army and have come to warn them off.

“A contingent of ‘pubby soldiers, by the looks of it,” Beelzebumon explained. “One of ‘em told me to turn the army around and go back the way we came. He said if we don’t, they’ll consider it an act of war or some ****.”

“I do not see the problem,” Lucemon breezily replied. He turned his head, brushed a lock of hair aside from his eyes, and stared at Beelzebumon. “…Kill them, Beelzebumon.”

“Me?” Beelzebumon complained. “Forget it. They look so weak! Why should I waste my ammo on small fry?”

“Then have our army kill them. If they escape and return to New Terminal with news that we are on the way, it will hardly be a surprise attack, will it?” Lucemon matter-of-factly explained, his voice as cool and uninterested as ice.

Beelzebumon rolled his eyes. “Oh, fine,” he agreed, driving ahead of the comparatively slow carriage. He rode ahead of the bulk of the army and drove up to where Demon was. The slender demon man waved his long arm to hail the infernal commander. “Hey, Demon!” he called out.

Demon was flying in the air, looking far ahead of him towards the distant silhouettes. His indigo eyes were hard and narrow as they slowly shifted down to the motorcycle-riding Demon Lord below. “What’s going on up ahead?” he asked directly. “Who are those Digimon?”

“Target practice,” Beelzebumon responded with a smirk. “Lucy doesn’t want them spoiling our grand entrance. He wants us to wipe ‘em out. I’m not really in the mood, so why don’t you get some of the Nightmare Soldiers to do it?”

“Fine, but you are going ahead to support them, Beelzebumon. I refuse to lose soldiers because you are not ‘in the mood’,” Demon ordered decisively. “You will have your fun in a few days.”

Beelzebumon rolled his eyes. “Fine, whatever. I guess it’s something to do,” the Demon Lord of Gluttony complied. He slammed his foot on the gas and the Behemoth took off. Beelzebumon drove ahead of the army once again.

Demon swung around, his broad wings sweeping out dominatingly from his cloaked body. “Marquis Phelesmon!” his voice resonated. His eyes landed on a slender, crimson devil that was clad in ornate, black fabric. “Move up with four platoons of Seventh Legion and annihilate that scouting party. Leave none alive.”

The demon straightened up under Demon’s stern gaze. “Yes, Lord Demon,” he obeyed, bowing flamboyantly. The demon noble stood up and turned on his heel, to face the crowd of demon soldiers behind him. With a swift hand gesture to his subordinates, he relayed the orders. “You heard him! Form up and advance!”

Several dozen Demon Digimon began speeding up, breaking away from the rest of the slow moving army. They increased their wing beats and began marching double time, forming up in a V formation.

Beelzebumon ripped over the soggy grass and mud, which was drenched from the redirected flow of the blocked river. Water and mud spluttered up behind him, smattering his boots and wheels as he drove. He gripped the vehicle’s handles tightly as he tore ahead.

About a kilometer ahead of him was a couple dozen soldiers from the Republic’s military. They stood with their weapons drawn, positioned in a defensive formation. At the front of the group was a tall, slender, lion Digimon. The GrappLeomon, obviously the leader of the force, inspected the spinning turbine on his right forearm. He glanced up as soon as he noticed Beelzebumon riding back towards them.

“Be ready, soldiers. I doubt they’ll do as we say,” the GrappLeomon warned his troops, also spying the few dozen demons following behind the Demon Lord. “Prepare to fire and retreat. We can probably outrun them if we need to. Our priority is warning the central military.”

Beelzebumon, hunched over the Behemoth, watched above his red-tinted windshield as the formation of soldiers angled their weapons at him. He noted that they didn’t fire yet. They were likely waiting for him to return with his response. Nevertheless, Beelzebumon felt threatened enough to take his left hand off his steering wheel and keep it within range of his shotgun. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that the Seventh Legion wasn’t too far behind. It would probably take them a minute or two to catch up with him.

He closed in on the team of soldiers and hit the brakes hard. He angled the bike to the side, skidding to a stop and sending a wave of grass and mud flowing up in front of him. The shards of grass and dirt splashed before the feet of the lined up soldiers, who were hunched down and aiming at the Demon Lord.

The GrappLeomon’s feline eyes narrowed at the Demon Lord before him, ever-aware of his reinforcements. “I’ll tell you again, the territory south of that river belongs to the Republic of Node. Turn your army around now. Go into the Autonomous Expanse for all we care. I don’t know what you’re doing with that army of demons, but to bring it into the Republic of Node’s territory will be construed as an act of war,” he warned Beelzebumon.

Beelzebumon frowned, raising his hand and stroking his chin. He seemed to be thinking long and hard about the GrappLeomon’s words. “Oh, ****! An act of war, huh…? Shucks,” he mused. A large smirk suddenly flashed on his face as he dropped the façade. “Funny, cuz that’s exactly what it is!”

Before any of them could reply, Beelzebumon quick-drew his shotgun from his ankle holster and pulled the trigger. A pair of bullets burst from the Berenjena and sailed towards the GrappLeomon. The steel slugs pounded into the Perfect-level Leomon and tore his chest armour apart. The GrappLeomon shouted out with pain as the metal shards and splintered off of his body and he fell backwards into his soldiers.

“A-Attack!” the GrappLeomon ordered breathily, his eyes wide and severe. “Fire!”

A flurry of attacks erupted from the formation of Republic soldiers, surging towards Beelzebumon. Beams of light and colour swelled towards him as they fused together and combined into a torrent of power.

Beelzebumon laughed and put his pedal to the metal. He swerved to the left and began speeding back towards the demon reinforcements, hoping to put some distance between himself and the attacks nipping at his heels. As soon as there was enough room to manoeuvre, he twisted the motorcycle and circled around, letting the flood of attacks wash by him and tear up the grass. As he veered around the soldiers’ right flank, Beelzebumon fired another salvo from his shotgun into the ranks of the formation, chewing up metal and flesh.

“Okay, guys! Attack!” he called over his shoulder, seeing the four platoons led by Marquis Phelesmon closing the distance.

“Yes, Lord Beelzebumon!” the Phelesmon responded. “Bombard them and then close the distance!” he ordered, pointing his long, red pitchfork down at the soldiers.

“Fire and retreat!” GrappLeomon shouted, his arm turbine spinning at maximum velocity. “Shishi Juuhazan!”

As he threw his fist forwards in a punch, a powerful blast of air burst out of the turbines. The space around it rippled and the concussion tore through the air with enough centripetal force to pull rocks off of the ground towards the gust. The immense pressure surged forwards and slammed into a landing Devimon, ripping him apart.

Other blasts of energy began shooting out from the soldiers, who began to take steps back in response to the nearing demons. However, beams of darkness and fire began raining down on their ranks too. In order to escape the Republic soldiers began to break into a run. As they started to run, they fired their attacks behind them to try to keep the outnumbering demons from closing in on them.

However, as they began to break into a retreat, Beelzebumon circled around in front of them to cut them off. “Not so fast! Aren’t you supposed to throw us a welcoming party?!” he said with a humorous smirk as he stared down the barrel of his gun. “At least give us a bit of fun before we get to the main event!”

As the demons of the Seventh Legion began to encircle the Republic soldiers from the back and the sides, Beelzebumon grinned and watched the fireworks. “Double Impact!”


(Continued in the next post)


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


Thunder reverberated in the near distance.

GrandisKuwagamon flew through the drab, smoky sky, looking around alertly. He felt the cool wind breathe against his wings as he floated along at a high altitude. The pain that had previously wracked his body was mostly gone. He could move his limbs with ease.

For the past day, he had been travelling. He left Dark Point with directions of where to go to meet the Demon Lords. He realised that it wasn’t necessarily a straightforward task. The Murmuxmon he met in Dark Point had told him to head northwest, with the vague promise that GrandisKuwagamon would eventually run into them. When he pressed for details, the demon refused to tell him more. GrandisKuwagamon knew that they didn’t trust him not to be a spy, so that was the best lead that he could hope for.

However, GrandisKuwagamon was able to deduce from the Murmuxmon’s words that the Demon Lords were mobile. That could potentially make things more difficult for him. He wasn’t too concerned, as he trusted in his own information gathering abilities, but it could still take more time than he wanted. He just hoped that, when he did find them, Bagramon would also be there. He didn’t have any clout with the Demon Lords. He needed to speak to Bagramon.

The mercenary declined in altitude slightly. He knew he had reached the northwest of the Republic of Node by now. He wasn’t even sure if he was headed in the right direction. He knew that if he kept going, he would reach the Neutral Zone. Where was he supposed to go from there? Shroud? Were they still in the Gloaming Fields?

The thunder resonated again from the same direction. The beetle turned his eye upwards to inspect the clouds. It was odd; the clouds were still a milky grey colour. They weren’t particularly stormy, and GrandisKuwagamon didn’t sense any rain coming. He couldn’t see any flashes of lightning either. He shouldn’t have been hearing thunder.

GrandisKuwagamon looked ahead, his gaze stretching far into the distance. He squinted and placed a hand over his brow. He could see flashes coming from specks on the ground. The insect Digimon descended and accelerated his speed. His eye locked onto the flickers of light as he tried to get a better look.

He kept a safe altitude and continued speeding forwards. He began to see that there were numerous Digimon ahead of him. There was a small bunch out in front, with a whole host more a short distance behind them. The closer he got, the clearer it became to him what the scene he was looking at was. The flashes became explosions and the strings of light became attacks. He realised that he was heading towards a fight.

“****,” he whispered under his breath. Against his better judgment, he continued flying forwards. He slowed his speed but pressed onwards. He didn’t exactly want to get himself involved in the fighting, but the closer he got, the more one of the two sides began to look like a bunch of demon Digimon.

He tentatively descended and neared the battleground with only a kilometer between him and the fight. From this distance, he could easily see the situation. About a dozen Republic of Node soldiers were surrounded. They were being mercilessly destroyed by about forty demon Digimon. In the distance, GrandisKuwagamon saw a daunting array of a several thousand-strong demon army advancing towards them.

Moving just a bit closer, GrandisKuwagamon clenched his fists and stared down at the battle in front of him. He watched a demon Digimon on a motorcycle mowed down two of the Republic soldiers with a pair of shotgun blasts. At the other side, a SkullSatamon unleashed a powerful beam from his staff into the counterattacking soldiers, tearing two of them to fragments in the resulting explosion. Nearby, a NeoDevimon stabbed his claws into the belly of a Garudamon, spilling crimson blood across the emerald grass.

“****, ****, ****. What are you doing, Grandis? Just go back to Dark Point and look for freelance jobs. You don’t need to do this. Is it worth the risk?” a voice in his head asked himself.

GrandisKuwagamon grit his teeth together and ignored his doubts. He told himself that this was the best option. The only option. He didn’t have any other alternatives. And, hey, if it meant sticking it to the Royal Knights, even better.

The remaining soldiers were being picked off one-by-one, their cries drowned out by the roar of an engine and the wail of explosions. The last soldier, the GrappLeomon, crumpled to the ground and clutched his chest. His body burst into data.

All that was left were the dozens of demon Digimon standing around, cooling down after the fight. They looked around zealously, determined to make sure that none of the soldiers had escaped.

GrandisKuwagamon stopped in the air before he could get any closer. He knew that it was a bad idea to approach a bunch of adrenaline-fueled demons. He figured that he’d stay hidden and then approach the army from the side.

As these thoughts ran through his mind, the Phelesmon who was hovering in the air some distance away turned his head towards GrandisKuwagamon. The demon’s eyes landed on the mercenary. GrandisKuwagamon’s eye locked with the demon marquis. All he could do was swear under his breath. “****.”

“There’s one left! Kill him! Don’t let him escape!” the Phelesmon ordered, summoning the demons’ attention. He pointed his pitchfork towards GrandisKuwagamon emphatically.

GrandisKuwagamon hissed and backed up in the air. He looked down and saw three dozen pairs of eyes all turn up to him. He swore again and clenched his fists, raising his Gran Killer-clad arms defensively. “Wait!” he shouted.

“Kill him!” the Phelesmon spoke again, his words reinvigorating the adrenaline in the hungry demons’ blood. Without another word, about a dozen demons jumped into the sky and surged towards the lone bug.

Beelzebumon circled around on the Behemoth and looked up to see what all the commotion was about. He gazed into the sky and was surprised to see a GrandisKuwagamon that hadn’t been there before. He cocked an eyebrow curiously. It was strange to him… The GrappLeomon had been the leader of the group of soldiers. Had the Ultimate level GrandisKuwagamon been there, he probably would have been the one in charge. It made him think that maybe the Ultimate level possibly wasn’t with them.

A smirk formed on Beelzebumon’s face. He was intrigued though. An Ultimate level… He stopped the Behemoth and watched the GrandisKuwagamon with interest. If this new Digimon was any good as a fighter, then he decided he might have to try him out for himself…

GrandisKuwagamon glowered and watched as a pack of demons ascended towards him, their thirst for blood clear in their red eyes. “Damn it! I’m not one of the soldiers!” he shouted out.

The group of demon Digimon either didn’t believe him or didn’t listen. They just kept charging towards him.

“Didn’t you idiots hear me?! I said I’m not with—“

Before he could even finish, the demons were already assailing him. The NeoDevimon led the attack, and savagely plunged the jagged claws of his long arms towards GrandisKuwagamon’s neck. “Guilty Claw!” he rasped.

Acting on his finely honed combat instincts, GrandisKuwagamon bashed the reaching arm aside and surged forwards, closing the distance with the NeoDevimon. In a seamless motion, he thrust his right arm forwards and sunk his Gran Killers deep into the NeoDevimon’s chest.

As blood exploded from the demon’s back, GrandisKuwagamon swept his arm out and threw the disintegrating demon off of his claws. He didn’t even have a second to breathe before the next demon, a Devidramon was upon him. He swiped his left arm and cleaved his other Gran Killer through the dark dragon’s body. He followed up by racing forwards and impaling a Mephismon on his blades.

Suddenly, a pair of white, squid-like tentacles wrapped around GrandisKuwagamon’s arm and neck, squeezing him tightly. The dark insect whirled around and saw a MarineDevimon situated behind him. The aquatic demon was building up venomous ink in his mouth that he was planning to spit onto the mercenary. GrandisKuwagamon acted quickly and snapped his razor pincers shut, chopping the tentacles off. As the appendages fell from his body and the MarineDevimon cried out in pain, GrandisKuwagamon swerved around behind him. He swiftly drove his Gran Killers into the demon’s back and then kicked him off so that the blades exited. He turned around just in time to dodge the descending beam scythe of a skeletal MetalPhantomon.

The Phelesmon’s eye twitched with frustration as he watched GrandisKuwagamon kill six of his soldiers one after another. “What are you fools doing?! Surround and kill him! Enough of you should be enough to take down a single Ultimate!” he barked.

The excited smile on Beelzebumon’s lips grew as he watched the fluid, seamless movements of GrandisKuwagamon. His parries and evasions were refined and skilled. The mercenary’s attacks were precise and dextrous, but also brutal and merciless. Beelzebumon detected GrandisKuwagamon’s skills immediately; even though the mercenary was only fighting Adult and Perfect levels, Beelzebumon recognised the deftness of his movements. “Not bad… Not bad at all…” Beelzebumon murmured, grinning ear to ear and licking his lips excitedly.

Beelzebumon planted his foot on the accelerator and drove towards the solo Digimon. He smirked and looked over his shoulder, waving his arm. “Hey! Phelesmon! Call them off! You’re just throwing good money after bad!” he told the frustrated Marquis. “I’ll take care of ol’ Bugsy!”

“Y-Yes, Lord Beelzebumon!” the Phelesmon obeyed. “Seventh Legion, regroup on me!”

“I’m not here for a fight, you idiots!” GrandisKuwagamon insisted with fiery intensity, dodging the downwards swing of the beam scythe and taking the opportunity to drive his Gran Killers into the MetalPhantomon’s skull.

As the MetalPhantomon plummeted, he was relieved to see the rest of the demons back off and begin to retreat. He took the chance to breathe in a few breaths of exertion. “Finally! You do know how to listen!” he shouted with frustration. “I want to see the Demon Lords!”

“Lucky you! Cuz you’re seein’ one!” a voice called out from below him.

He looked down just in time to see Beelzebumon surfing towards him on his motorcycle. The lithe, shotgun wielding Demon Lord lunged off the back of the Behemoth and sailed through the air towards him. Beelzebumon raised a shotgun and pumped a pair of shotgun shells out towards GrandisKuwagamon.

GrandisKuwagamon hissed and crossed the Gran Killers in front of his chest defensively. The shells impacted the sturdy metal and ricocheted off in a flurry of sparks. As Beelzebumon closed the distance, GrandisKuwagamon prepared to retaliate.

“Darkness Claw!” Beelzebumon shouted, his eyes wild and excited as he drove his darkness-imbued talons towards GrandisKuwagamon’s face.

As the obsidian claws stabbed towards him, GrandisKuwagamon quickly swerved to the side at the last moment. While evading the set of talons that swept past his face, the mercenary swerved to flank Beelzebumon from the side. “Grandis Scissors!” he growled, snapping his pincers shut around Beelzebumon’s head.

Beelzebumon saw the mandibles snapping shut like a guillotine. Acting quickly, he ducked below the shutting forceps, losing a few strands of blond hair in the process. Beelzebumon tucked his left leg into his chest and then extended it sideways, delivering a strong kick to GrandisKuwagamon’s carapace-covered abdomen. As the insect was pushed away, he had room to extend his left arm and fire a blast from his Berenjena at the recoiling bug.

GrandisKuwagamon swiftly raised his Gran Killer again to deflect the bullet, although shards of metal cut along his bicep and collar. “I’m not here to fight, you idiot!” GrandisKuwagamon snapped. “I just came to talk!”

“Too ****ing bad!” Beelzebumon responded with a casual laugh as he dropped to the ground. “You’re the first real challenge I’ve had in awhile!”

“I’m flattered, but you’ve got bigger challenges than me! Idiocy, for one. Your fashion sense, for another – I mean, do you really think you can pull off those leather pants? And don’t get me started on that ugly face…” GrandisKuwagamon taunted, glaring across that Beelzebumon.

“Ugly face? Look who’s ****ing talking, scissor lips! I’m gonna give you a pass because you’ve only got one bug eye, so you prob’ly have vision problems,” Beelzebumon countered with just as much sass. “I sure as hell ain’t gonna go easy on you though.”

“You can’t afford to, three eyes,” GrandisKuwagamon warned him. “I didn’t come here for a fight, but if you’re gonna insist, don’t blame me when I give you some more holes.”

Beelzebumon smirked competitively. “Try it, Bugsy!” he incited.

Beelzebumon bent his knees and propelled himself back into the air with remarkable agility and acrobatics. He ascended towards GrandisKuwagamon and raised the shotgun in his left hand towards the bug Digimon. GrandisKuwagamon raised his Gran Killers to deflect the impending blast, but instead of firing, it was a feint by Beelzebumon. The Demon Lords somersaulted forwards and brought his steel-tipped heel down on GrandisKuwagamon’s head, axe-kicking him towards the ground.

“Damn it!” GrandisKuwagamon swore angrily, beating his wings with increased intensity in order to catch himself. He looked up and saw Beelzebumon descending on him.

“Double Impact!” Beelzebumon shouted. He fired another pair of bursts from the sawed-off shotgun in his hand. Birdshot rained down on GrandisKuwagamon, peppering his left arm. Before the next blast could hit him, GrandisKuwagamon swiftly veered to the side so that the second shot missed him. As Beelzebumon dropped towards him, GrandisKuwagamon used his superior aerial manoeuvrability to fly behind the falling demon.

“Gran Killer!” GrandisKuwagamon shouted, slashing his Gran Killers towards Beelzebumon’s back. The tips of the Gran Killers caused the space that they swiped across to ripple unevenly.

However, Beelzebumon’s reflexes were fast enough to allow him to react. He flipped over and grabbed GrandisKuwagamon’s wrists with his claws before the bladed gauntlets could hit him. As the pair fell to the ground, Beelzebumon grinned up at GrandisKuwagamon with an intense, yet thoroughly entertained look in his red eyes. GrandisKuwagamon glared back at him with the same amount of intensity. The corner of his mouth twitched for a moment before he pulled his head back and slammed his ridged forehead painfully into Beelzebumon’s helmet.

The Demon Lord released the mercenary moments before the pair impacted the ground. The both tumbled for a few inglorious moments before they somersaulted smoothly into a stand, both pulling their guards up once again.

This time, GrandisKuwagamon was the aggressor. He wasted no time in surging forwards, his arm-length claws licking at the blades of grass as he charged. In mere seconds, he set upon Beelzebumon, slashing his left Gran Killer down on him.

Beelzebumon, on a knee and in the midst of standing, looked up to see the assailing bug already on him. He swore and performed a risky backwards somersault in order to put distance between himself and the bug. He rolled back just in time for the tips of the Gran Killer to brush along his back, just barely enough to scuff the leather surface.

As soon as Beelzebumon righted himself on a kneeling position, he raised the Berenjena to fire at GrandisKuwagamon at nearly point blank range. Anticipating this, GrandisKuwagamon moved swiftly. He lashed out with his left arm, using his reach with the long claws of the Gran Killers. He swiped outwards and knocked the shotgun out of Beelzebumon’s claws, sending it flying over to the grass. Beelzebumon hissed with annoyance as the gun was pulled from his grasp. He stood to his feet and prepared his demonic talons.

“You made a big mistake, trying to fight me in close range,” GrandisKuwagamon taunted, continuing his aggressive assault with a ferocious stab. “Dumbass.”

Beelzebumon dodged the stab and took a step back. GrandisKuwagamon stabbed at him once again, and then again, and then again with swift, rapid-fire punches. Beelzebumon ducked and weaved to avoid the vicious blows, constantly having to back up to keep from getting hit. “You made a big mistake – period!” Beelzebumon countered, starting to respond with stabs of his own.

GrandisKuwagamon grunted and tilted his head to avoid the deathly claws that threatened to skewer his head. He deftly manoeuvred his body to evade a second stab to his midsection. However, GrandisKuwagamon was undeterred. He knew that the only way he could hope to defeat a Digimon as aggressive as this Demon Lord was to match his aggressiveness with his own. He kept up his vicious assault while also using the forearm guards of his Gran Killers to block Beelzebumon’s blows.

The dark scarab snapped his pincers shut and Beelzebumon leaned his head back just in time to avoid having his throat cut open. Finally, GrandisKuwagamon let up on his assault. He ducked, right as Beelzebumon reached over his shoulder to swiftly grab the second Berenjena from his back. Beelzebumon aimed and fired, but GrandisKuwagamon hunched down quickly enough so that the bullet passed harmlessly over him.

GrandisKuwagamon placed his palm against the ground and used it as a focal point. He lashed his foot out in a sweeping kick, using his lowered position to his advantage. Beelzebumon saw the quick movement and jumped into the air, bringing both of his feet of the ground and his knees to his chest. As the striking leg swept beneath him, Beelzebumon’s own foot ejected forwards. He drive the sole of his boot hard into GrandisKuwagamon’s face.

Despite the stinging pain that suddenly throbbed in his mouth and nose, GrandisKuwagamon retaliated. He clamped his pincers shut around Beelzebumon’s ankle, and as he staggered backwards from the blow, he was able to jerk his head sideways to that he could slam Beelzebumon into the ground as well. The Demon Lord of Gluttony impacted the grass with a thud, and he kicked the mercenary in the gut hard enough to force GrandisKuwagamon to release his foot.

Both of the savage fighters were quick to right themselves. They both refused to let the other get the upper hand. They both scrambled to their feet. With bleeding lips, the two fighters turned to each other once again and charged with adrenaline-fueled growls.

They closed the distance. GrandisKuwagamon opened his forceps and coiled back his Gran Killers. Beelzebumon pulled back his clawed fist and aimed his Berenjena. The two dark Digimon descended on one another, each throwing their weapons forwards with the intent to kill.

“ENOUGH!” a voice boomed.

The sharp and sudden voice drew both of the Digimon out of their adrenaline-fueled frenzy. Beelzebumon slowed his movements right as his body impacted his foe. GrandisKuwagamon cut his attack short right at the last minute. The two attackers stopped themselves with incredible dexterity and professionalism. They became like statues as they ceased their attacks before they became fatal.

As the dust and mist around them faded, they became aware of the dangerous positions they were in.

Their slender, black chests were pressed up against one another. Beelzebumon’s left claws were pressed against GrandisKuwagamon’s jugular, the longest claws tempted to dig deeper. The Berenjena was shoved upwards, the muzzles pushing up against GrandisKuwagamon’s chin, his finger on the trigger.

Meanwhile, GrandisKuwagamon’s left arm was raised over his head, his Gran Killer poised and angled down at Beelzebumon’s face. The Gran Killer’s trio of blades were centimeters away from Beelzebumon’s eyes. Likewise, GrandisKuwagamon’s pincers surrounded Beelzebumon’s neck, trembling slightly as they were taut like an elastic band, ready to snap shut and take the demon’s head off. The Gran Killer of his left hand was pressed against Beelzebumon’s abdomen and crotch.

Both of the black Digimon glared at each other, their crimson eyes locked in a stare off. The tension and intensity of battle was thick, and neither wanted to concede. Out of the corners of their eyes, they saw Bagramon fly towards them and touch down in the grass. The fallen angel Digimon began to stride over to them.

“Enough of this fighting, Beelzebumon. You too, GrandisKuwagamon,” Bagramon ordered firmly. He looked at Beelzebumon specifically. “This Digimon is with me. He’s not an enemy.”

The fugitive mercenary and the Demon Lord both looked back at one another, continuing their uncompromising stare off. The only sounds between them were the heavy breaths that they drew through their nostrils. A tiny drop of blood traced both of their lips.

After a few more seconds, both Digimon began to tentatively lower their weapons, both still slightly distrustful of the other. When they saw the other reciprocate, they both took the next conciliatory step and retracted their weapons and arms. GrandisKuwagamon and Beelzebumon looked at one another, a mutual smirk flashing on both of their faces. They each took a pace backwards and relaxed slightly.

“You ain’t too bad, bug,” Beelzebumon exclaimed, smirking as he raised his gun-wielding hand to wipe the blood from his mouth. “You actually made me work up a sweat.”

“I did more than that. I was one second away from goring you, demon,” GrandisKuwagamon insisted with a rivalrous chuckle. He readjusted the Gran Killers on his wrists and took a cursory glance around just to double check that he wouldn’t be attacked by the other demons around.

“Yeah, right. Don’t flatter yourself, Bugsy. I was one finger-twitch away from blowing your brains out,” Beelzebumon maintained, although still grinning. “A decent warm up though.” He turned and looked at Bagramon. “So, who the **** is this guy?”

Bagramon stepped up to the pair and looked at GrandisKuwagamon. “GrandisKuwagamon, what are you doing here? I thought you had been captured,” he remarked, raising his eyebrow as he beheld the insect mercenary. “…More than that… How did you know…? I assume that is why you are here…”

“How did I know about you?” GrandisKuwagamon asked, looking at Bagramon. “Long story short, the Royal Knights found out who you were and what you’re doing. After I escaped from the Royal Knights, I used that information to my advantage. With a little detective work, I found out how to get into contact with you,” he explained, intentionally leaving out the part about him helping the Royal Knights find out who Bagramon was in the first place.

“What…?” Bagramon asked, his eye narrowing bitterly at this revelation. He gently closed his massive, skeletal fist, causing the dried wood to creak. “I see… So they found out it was me already… Apparently I haven’t given Alphamon and the Royal Knights enough credit…”

“He’s wilier than he looks,” GrandisKuwagamon admitted, having also made the mistake of underestimating Alphamon during his captivity. He shook his head and extended his hand towards Bagramon. “Anyways… This is my first time meeting you. You’re the guy who hired Black Pincer Company for all those jobs, right?”

Bagramon looked at GrandisKuwagamon and stared down at the extended, black hand. He raised his massive hand and gently took it with a soft, measured squeeze. “Yes… I apologise for the subterfuge, but, as I am sure you can understand, I was in a very precarious position…” Bagramon explained.

“Out of all my guesses, I never expected I was working for some religious fanatic of a fallen angel,” GrandisKuwagamon said with an ironic smirk. “I’ll be blunt. I don’t like religion and I don’t trust idealistic zealots.” GrandisKuwagamon angled his head and looked away. “But… I don’t have a lot of options right now, and I could really use the cash.”

Bagramon smiled softly, both amused by and understanding of GrandisKuwagamon’s cynicism. It was familiar to him by now. A part of him was almost reminded of his younger brother… “It is fine… I do not expect everybody who works to me to share the same ideals that I do.” Bagramon retracted his hand and let the weighty limb rest against the grass. The smile still gracing his lips, he looked at GrandisKuwagamon inquisitively. “It’s funny… Blitzmon said more or less the same thing that you did when I met him…”

“Tch…” GrandisKuwagamon scoffed, his eye narrowing. “Yeah…” He pulled his gaze back to meet Bagramon’s. “So, what do you say? You’re gonna need someone like me; I’m street smart, and I have a lot of contacts in the underworld. Whatever you’re doing with this army of demons, you’re gonna need support from more than just a bunch of exiles. You’re going to have to know how to navigate the underworld.”

“Way ahead of you, Bugsy. I was in the smuggling trade back in the Sky Colonies,” Beelzebumon dismissed as he pushed his shotguns into their holsters. “Got it covered.”

GrandisKuwagamon scoffed. “Yeah. How much Dark Area-to-surface smuggling did you do while you were locked down there, exactly?” he answered with just as much flippancy, his mouth a crooked smirk. “A lot of stuff has changed since your rebellion. The players change. Dynamics change. All sorts of stuff is different now that you don’t know about. Luckily, it’s my job to be in the know.”

“GrandisKuwagamon does have a point…” Bagramon mused, although his mind was still on the fact that his identity had been revealed. He turned his head to GrandisKuwagamon and opened his mouth to speak, but before the words could escape his mouth, another voice resounded from nearby.

“Bagramon!” a gruff, laconic snarl echoed. It was Demon, flying ahead of the army to inspect what was going on, the rest of the army not far from his heels. Demon landed nearby, staring at the fallen angel in question. “What is going on here? Who is this Digimon?” Demon’s lavender gaze slowly shifted to GrandisKuwagamon, staring at him suspiciously.

“He is an associate of mine,” Bagramon explained evenly. “GrandisKuwagamon, along with Blitzmon and Bolgmon, helped me to set the stage necessary to free you.”

“That wretch just killed six of our soldiers!” the Phelesmon protested, landing nearby and levelling an acidic glare at the mercenary.

“Hm…” Demon rumbled, staring at GrandisKuwagamon with frigid, arcane eyes. “Is that so…?”

“In self defence. I tried to warn them,” GrandisKuwagamon added with a bit of humour in his voice, defiantly staring down the demon Marquis. “You did sic them on me. That’s on you.”

The Phelesmon snarled and gripped his pitchfork. “Why you…!”

“Enough,” Demon spoke, holding his arm out and shutting the demon down. “He is correct. You should have noticed that he was not wearing the band and insignia of the Republic’s military, nor does he act like military. He is also an Ultimate level, so you should have exercised caution before engaging him. Don’t blame him for you and your subordinates’ incompetence,” he strictly chastised Phelesmon.

“Y-Yes, My Lord…” the Phelesmon buckled, his grudging agreement but a mumble.

GrandisKuwagamon smirked victoriously and turned back to Bagramon. “So…? You know I’m a good mercenary. I’m reliable, professional, I get the job done. That’s why you picked us before,” he advertised.

“That is true…” Bagramon conceded. “Although we have moved onto a larger stage and we are developing our army, I still have a use for small, elite teams such as yourself.” Bagramon raised his hand to stroke his scruffy, black beard with contemplation. “Yes… I believe it would be in our mutual interests to continue our working relationship.”

“Great…” GrandisKuwagamon replied, his voice mostly that of relief. He locked his red eye with Bagramon’s own. “There is one condition…”

Bagramon cocked his eyebrow, but decided to hear him out. “Which is…?” he tentatively wondered.

“That I work on my own. I’m not working with Blitzmon and Bolgmon again,” GrandisKuwagamon stipulated firmly.

“I was wondering about your relationship with them…” Bagramon admitted, gazing studiously GrandisKuwagamon. “Why is that? Why turn your back on your team?”

The features of GrandisKuwagamon’s already ebony face darkened further. He scoffed and glanced away from the demon’s inquiring gaze. “It wasn’t me who turned my back…” he tellingly replied. “I didn’t just get defeated by the Royal Knights… I was sold out to them. Bolgmon set me up for a fall and Blitzmon went along with it. They used me as a scapegoat so that they could escape. “ He turned back to Bagramon, the crimson of his eye blazing with dark intensity. “I won’t work with Digimon I can’t trust. I trusted them once, but I’m not so stupid to give them another chance to stab me in the back.”

“I see… Your concerns are understandable…” Bagramon replied. “Once a bond of trust is broken, it is hard to repair those relationships…” He exhaled meditatively and nodded. “Very well. You may work for me as a solo mercenary. I will still have work for you.”

“Do the terms of the contract still apply?” GrandisKuwagamon asked him plainly.

“More or less, although there will have to be adjustments to the payment, as you are no longer working with Black Pincer Company,” Bagramon responded. “We can discuss the details en route to New Terminal.”

“Yeah, okay…” GrandisKuwagamon looked around at the army that was beginning to catch up with them. “I guess we know what’s gonna happen at New Terminal.”

“That should be fairly obvious,” Demon responded brusquely.

Leviamon lumbered up along the right side of the army, side-eyeing Bagramon, Demon and Beelzebumon as he walked. “What’s the hold up? We should keep moving,” he determined in his deep, baritone snarl.

Bagramon nodded and looked to see the pair of carriages pull up alongside them. Lucemon opened the door of the cart and stared out at him from inside. “Have you finished speaking with your subordinate, Bagramon?” he asked him, gesturing at the black insect next to him.

“Yes. GrandisKuwagamon shall be accompanying us. I have work for him…” Bagramon replied, glancing at GrandisKuwagamon.

“Yeah… Only, I’m not a soldier,” GrandisKuwagamon insisted. “I don’t do full scale battles.”

“You will do what you are paid to do, mercenary,” Lucemon said to him, narrowing his eyes gently as he stared out of the window.

“It would be a mistake to waste his talents as a grunt. I have other plans,” Bagramon insisted, giving GrandisKuwagamon a look of reassurance.

“Fine. I’ll tag along, if it means I’m getting work,” GrandisKuwagamon agreed, although not before shooting a contentious look towards Lucemon.

“Do what ya want, Bugsy,” Beelzebumon said, flashing a playful grin at the beetle. “If you’re comin’ – fine. You’re joining just in time to watch the fun. Hey, maybe I can finish kicking your ass on the way.”

“Who was kicking whose ass?” GrandisKuwagamon countered, accepting his challenge with a half-grin. He turned back to Bagramon. “Mind if I fly ahead? I don’t want to get in the way of your formations and ****. I’m not into military stuff.”

“Yes, that’s fine,” Bagramon responded.

Demon stared at GrandisKuwagamon suspiciously. “Just know that if you warn anybody of our movements, I will personally hunt you down, rip off your exoskeleton and roast your flayed flesh in the flames of Hell,” he warned the mercenary, making no illusions about what the consequences of treachery would be.

“Good to know,” GrandisKuwagamon sarcastically said before he met his cold gaze. “How stupid do you think I am? I’m a professional and this is my job. I never betray my clients,” he insisted.

He turned his winged back to the Demon Lords and walked forwards. He hunched down and began beating his insect wings. As his body lifted off of the ground, he glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be a few kilometers ahead.”

With those words, GrandisKuwagamon took off. He flew into the air and put distance between himself and the Demon Lords’ army. As soon as he felt isolated, he released a soft breath. He ignored the pain in his face and tried to focus on what was in front of him.

“There’s no looking back now, Grandis. This is the only path forwards for you. You don’t have to trust them, just trust in yourself. You need the money. You can stop whenever you need to,” the fugitive mercenary told himself.

He clenched his bloody fists and stared ahead of him, into the darkening, grey horizon.

“You’re in control here.”