Episode 38:
The Luminous Garden

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After hanging up with Frankie, James scrolled through the screens on his D-Touch, stopping on the map to see if what he had been told was true, and that Reyez was in close vicinity. By the distance given on the map, Reyez was barely five miles away; a distance they could both easily cover in less than a day, faster if James rode Rusdramon or Bambusmon carried Reyez. However, James was in no hurry to meet up with Reyez, nor did he want Odocomon using valuable energy for him to save walking. He knew enough, from having been to the Digital World before, that danger could appear from anywhere, and he would have been happier if Odocomon could evolve to Rusdramon if trouble started any time.

He started walking, hands in his pockets and Odocomon at his side, following the flashing blue dot on his screen, which hadn’t moved yet. He doubted Reyez would actually move from his spot, expecting James to come and find him. Do all the work. James felt irritated – why did it have to be Reyez? Couldn’t it have been anyone else? Even Rose.

Since the short adventure to seek Reyez out a few weeks ago at Frankie’s bequest, James had made it no secret to her, or to anyone for that matter, of his current chagrin towards the other man. Odocomon knew it best, as she was often the one he ranted to about his jealousy and irritation. Though he appreciated her advice on the matter – to bring up his problems with Reyez to Reyez, or Frankie – he had yet to act on it. Mainly because he hadn’t seen Reyez since the military escapade, and secondly because he still didn’t want to make Frankie choose between Reyez and himself – which is what he feared it would come down to if a resolution could not be made.

Rubbing his hands over his face and his hair, James sighed to himself, deciding to put the thoughts far from his mind for now. He would have to say something, eventually. Maybe at Ryudamon’s where it was safe and he could approach the subject calmly with both Frankie and Reyez in the room. As long as he didn’t explode like he had the last time they were all here, of which there was little chance, then there shouldn’t be a problem with them all sitting down and talking like adults.

He put it to the back of his mind for now. At the present time, there were more pressing matters. Like finding Reyez, getting to Ryudamon’s home, and figuring out why he and the others had been dragged back to the Digital World so unwillingly.

Admittedly, he and Odocomon could have found themselves in worse circumstances. Arriving in the Digital World, they had been summoned to some type of utopia. The ground they walked on was short, beautifully lush grass with odd iridescent crystals sprouting out of the ground, which hummed quietly whenever he or Odocomon neared them. Flowers, big and small, were littered around in clusters, and there were occasionally small ponds of clear, cool water, with huge flowers on them that looked like giant pond lilies, which were a peachy color and smelled delicious. The sky was more blue than James had ever seen it, gradating to a vibrant purple and pink, and painted across it was a rainbow. The trees they walked past were all tall, with thick trunks stretching up to the sunlight, and purple leaves that fell and swayed like the branches of a willow tree.

Yes, James couldn’t imagine a prettier place, and had even caught Odocomon gamboling in the grass out of the corner of his eye on occasion – happier than he’d seen her in weeks. It seemed their odd circumstances were bothering her very little, or at least she wasn’t allowing them to bother her for now, either because she was too enraptured by their location or because it was a situation out of their control. Whatever it was, he was pleased to see his Digimon looking so at ease and contented.

They walked together in easy silence, making good time in the perfect weather and the easy and gentle terrain. It seemed this area of the Digital World was sparse as far as Digimon were concerned. James had seen a few flocks of birds, and fish in the ponds he had walked past, but as far as Digimon went, he had seen very few. He thought he had seen something shaped suspiciously like an airplane flying far above them, but had put it down to his imagination.

Eventually the grass became more thickly covered with flowers of different shades and colors, until James and Odocomon practically stumbled into a grove of them. They had found themselves in an area where walls created by natural erosion were covered with blooms and ivy; purple leaves from the trees practically hid the place from view.

Odocomon stopped inside, she and James had passed through some of the hanging branches that had created something of a curtain hiding this area from anyone and everyone not looking for it, a sense of camouflage and protection. She looked around, alert, taking in her surroundings, observing for any danger, and sensing for it. James stopped a few paces behind her as they both took in the scene.

They appeared to have come across a small village or town, where there were small houses made out of sticks and wood all tightly packed together. In the middle was a large pond that was almost the size of a lake, everything was situated around it. Above the pond were several floating islands, suspended by nothing apparently, with single willow-like trees. Water fell from the topmost one, down onto each island until it hit the pond. The village was also occupied, by small, child-size green plant Digimon that James’s D-Touch disclosed as Floramon. Their hands were like mauve flower petals, and each one had a red petal collar and helmet. Many stood in small groups, socializing, while a few walking around, fulfilling daily chores and errands. It took several minutes for even one of the Floramon to notice their intruders, but as soon as one had, the news filtered back to all of them, and soon James and Odocomon were surrounded by the plant Digimon.

They murmured among themselves, congregating around James, though their focus seemed fixed on Odocomon. James noticed that despite being surrounded with no escape, he could feel no hostility coming from the villagers. The Floramon continued to speak to one another softly, until one was shoved forward, apparently nominated to speak for the village as a whole.

“Uhm...” She touched her petal hands together, showing her uneasiness.

Odocomon tilted her head to one side. “My name is Odocomon,” she introduced herself, her tone light and friendly. The image of politeness, she bowed her head a little in greeting. “And this is my partner, James. I am sorry for seemingly discovering your quaint little village, it was quite by accident and we mean you no harm, I assure you.”

The Floramon’s eyes were wide, and James could have sworn there were tears in them. “I... I know... we know, who you are,” Floramon spoke, her voice barely anything above a whisper. “You’re our Lady.”

“Pardon?”

“Our Lady of Light...” Floramon said, a little louder. “It’s unmistakable. The aura that surrounds you is so strong...”

Odocomon glanced back at James, who shrugged in response. Finding his reaction unhelpful, Odocomon looked over the surrounding Floramon, all of which looked on her with somewhat glazed expressions of awe and hope. She felt uncomfortable. “I... uh... Lady of Light?” she repeated, her tone puzzled. “Can you... explain?”

The Floramon nodded enthusiastically. “This is Her realm. Where she ruled so long ago... we – that is our ancestors – were some of her most loyal subjects, and some served her directly… and her husband. We remained loyal even through the war and the fighting... and have been awaiting your return!”

“My... return.” Odocomon’s ears quirked at odd angles. While she barely believed what she was being told, a massive part of her felt drawn towards the Floramon as if they were familiar, as if she knew them or had known them. They were obviously referring to her as she had been, the Goddess of Light Ryudamon had spoken about, but to be addressed as such had thrown Odocomon off immensely, and she had no idea how to respond. “Well... I...”

“Your return comes at a most fortuitous time!” Floramon spoke, leading Odocomon, with James following them, through the crowds of other Floramon, towards the middle of the village and the pond. “We have been plagued by a Digimon group who torment us and destroy us, trying to take over our village to turn it into a hive for themselves.”

“I see where this is going...” James murmured to himself, his hands stuffing themselves into his back pockets. He leaned back, glancing skyward.


“We were hoping, if you would use your Goddess powers to fend them off... help us be rid of them for good!” Floramon finished, her tone rising with hope.

Odocomon opened and closed her mouth several times before she closed it fully, unable to find an answer that would be suitable. On the one hand she wanted to stay, she felt a great sense of needing to stay. That these Floramon were in danger, and that some part of her felt an innate desire to protect and fight for them. On the other hand, there was the pressing matter of getting to Ryudamon’s home, meeting the others, and getting home. After all, there was no telling what Bella and the Parasite were doing in the real world while she, James, and the others were all here.

Sensing her hesitation, Floramon continued, “We would of course not expect you to fight now... but we are a peace-loving community, and cannot defend ourselves against such vicious attacks. Our number has already been diminished most terribly in the time the attacks had been going on... please, will you help us, My Lady?” Floramon’s voice dropped to little more than a plea, and Odocomon nodded before she even realized it.

“Of course,” she said firmly. Floramon beamed, obviously elated at his acceptance. “Who is it that has been attacking you?”

James sat down with Odocomon and the Floramon, as all the other villagers continued about their business. Floramon explained: the village had been under almost constant attack from a flying insectoid Digimon called TigerVespamon for almost a month now. The attacks had started at random, with TigerVespamon flying down into the village and destroying houses and trees before disappearing. In a matter of days his attacks had gone from mindless vandalism to all out murder, bringing with him minions in the form of Blimpmon, Missimon and Pteramon. In days, many of the Floramon had fled or been wiped out, and the once thriving village of more than five hundred Digimon, was now little less than hundred.

Odocomon listened with keen interest and concern. After all, it sounded as if the Floramon had been hoping she would turn up, and had put a lot of weight in the stories of their ancestors from eons ago. They had been waiting for a powerful Goddess embedded with goodness and light. Not a Digimon who still had doubts in herself and her own ability. She would help them, of course she would, she had said she would. Odocomon would do her best, and do what she could, but she couldn’t shake the feeling they expected miracles, and that she would be unable to deliver.

Nothing but a disappointment to them.

As the Floramon spoke, the others became excited and agitated again, all crowded around another hidden entrance to the village, again disguised by the hidden vines and branches of the trees. One came and fetched James, Odocomon, and the Floramon that they had been speaking to, while the intruders were prevented from entering the village.

“What the hell is this?! We’re looking for someone!” James groaned and Odocomon smiled at him weakly, overhearing the female voice. The owner of it was obscured by the Floramon, but James could see a human body, a black shirt, and a cap put on at an angle.

Reyez and Ailurmon had obviously arrived, having sought out himself and Odocomon. After they had been detained in the village, they had not even thought of carrying on their search for the other two, now overly focused with protecting this village as they had agreed to do. Odocomon noticed that James didn’t seem especially pleased to see Reyez, and the other man barely registered James or herself as the sea of Floramon parted to let them through.

Ailurmon saw them both and pointed. “Here they are!” she said, looking up at Reyez, who nodded his head once but said nothing, his eyes half closed. James had half expected him to be wearing his military gear, and honestly, was glad he was not. “Where have you guys been? We were waiting for you, for ages.”

“We got a little distracted,” Odocomon explained.

“Please don’t address Our Lady in such a crude manner,” one Floramon asked, her voice rather timid.

Ailurmon stared at the plant Digimon incredulously and then looked back at Odocomon. “Lady?” she repeated.

If Odocomon could have blushed she would have then. Instead, she anxiously rubbed the back of one of her forelegs against the front of the other, lowering her head a little. “Uh... yes. It seems this is... my realm,” Odocomon admitted. She turned to the Floramon. “These are companions of ours... they mean you no harm either.”

“Oh,” Floramon murmured, “fair enough... Please, you are welcome in that case, if your mission is that of peace.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ailurmon grumbled, striding past the smaller Digimon and up to Odocomon. “So, care to explain?”

James spoke up, “We were on our way to find you when we came here, it wasn’t marked on the map as a village, just as ground. The Floramon here recognized Odocomon from when the Gods were ruling... we’re staying to help them with a problem.”

“How noble of you,” Reyez commented, his mouth slipping into a smirk.

“What took you guys so long?” James asked, his arms folding as he looked between Reyez and Ailurmon in turn.

Ailurmon placed her hands on her hips. “Reyez fell asleep after talking to Frankie. He only woke up cause his D-Touch was ringing. We would have set off sooner, but he’s a nightmare to wake up.”

“…I’ll take your word for it,” James replied, casting Reyez an unimpressed look. “I’ll be honest, I was expecting that we’d be trudging around half the Digital World looking for you.”

Reyez shrugged. “Easier for both of us to meet halfway,” he said slowly. Reyez was casting a very indifferent attitude about him, more indifferent than usual.

Before James could respond, one of the Floramon approached Odocomon. “Uhm, pardon the interruption My Lady – we have arranged some lodgings for yourself and your company for the duration of your stay with us. If you would like to get comfortable, food is currently under preparation for you.”

“Thank you.” Odocomon smiled awkwardly, noting the look Ailurmon gave her. Floramon ran off, across the village and towards the pond. “We should take advantage of their hospitality while we can. There’s no saying how far we are from Ryudamon’s home – besides, it would be rude not to.”

“And I don’t say no to free food,” Ailurmon added, following Odocomon as she started walking.

-----------------------------

The Floramon put on an impressive spread of fruits and nuts from the surrounding area, which everyone ate their fill of, in general silence, though Odocomon and Ailurmon made conversation with each other and the Floramon. However, both Reyez and James kept quiet and said nothing. Once they had finished eating, James disappeared with the Floramon to have a guided tour around the village, and on the insistence of the Floramon, Reyez was forced to join them.

The Floramon left Odocomon and Ailurmon to their own devices, and Odocomon found a shaded place in the grass to sit and contemplate things. Like how she was supposed to defend the village if an attack happened. Her powers were not as impressive as everyone else’s. In fact, she considered herself one of the weakest in the group, and often found herself held back by her fears. At the back of her mind constantly loomed the memory of her near death, and though it had resulted in a positive outcome, the fact remained: she had almost died. She had felt the life draining from her as her data had been slowly deleted, she entered into each fight with that thought nagging in her brain, and it meant she was never quite as focused as she should had been. More of a hindrance than a help.

She now had the added help of Ailurmon if a fight did occur. A more than adequate fighter, and one far more quick witted and determined than she. There was that thought that calmed her mind somewhat, but she could not shake her hope of there not being an attack. That these series of attacks from TigerVespamon had been freak attacks and would somehow stop now for an unknown reason. That he would find another place to nest.

It was a weak hope at best, and one she knew was unlikely to be so, but it kept her going. Every time she heard a flock of birds flying overhead or a sudden noise, her ears were up and she was alert, checking the noise and for any incoming unpleasantness.

She had escaped to a secluded part of the village more for her own sanity than for anything else. Wanting to get away from the Floramon – however hospitable and attentive they were, their attentions were too much for Odocomon to handle – and also to get rid of the tension she felt. Since Reyez had arrived, Odocomon had felt an uneasy and uncomfortable vibe ebbing off of James in waves. His feelings towards Reyez had been made clear to Odocomon time and time again, that as far as the other man went, James had no real issue with him, but only with his closeness with Frankie.

It seemed the unfriendliness was reciprocated, if Reyez’s attitude towards James on their meeting and over their meal had been anything to go by. Where they had barely spoken and not even glanced at one another over the table, while she and Ailurmon had tried to lighten the mood with small talk. Even now, as Odocomon observed the two men with a group of Floramon, they stood apart. James’ body was rigid as a board and his hands in his pockets were undoubtedly clenched into fists. Even Reyez, his posture almost exactly as it usually was, seemed more on edge and controlled.

“Escaping from your lovely subjects?” Ailurmon’s voice was a teasing lilt coming from behind Odocomon, as the deer Digimon peered over her shoulder at the approaching panda. She smiled at her, her ears flickering.

“Something like that,” Odocomon answered. “They’re just kind… but it’s... a bit much.”

“I hear ya.” Ailurmon sat down next to Odocomon, stretching her legs out. “I only hear them calling you ‘My Lady’ and I want to tear my ears off.”

Odocomon smiled a little. “As I said... very kind.”

The two sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, letting the breeze waft over them, bringing with it tantalizing scents from the flowers that surrounded the village. Warm, familiar scents that made Odocomon’s spine tingle with a forgotten memory. Strange as it was, this place did seem familiar to her, though she could not remember it as it had been, the realm she had ruled over and lived in. But she remembered things about it in a hazy way. More the smells and the sounds of the humming crystals and how the wind felt, gentler here than anywhere else in the Digital World.

“You an’ me are kind of friends, right?” Ailurmon broke Odocomon’s revere with her odd question, which caught the other Digimon by surprise. The panda wasn’t looking at her, but straight ahead, apparently watching the Floramon in their daily errands.

“Yes... I would say we are,” Odocomon answered. She shifted her position, turning towards her companion.

Ailurmon looked at the bracelet on her wrist. “So... if we’re friends, I can tell you something, right?”

“Mhm-hm.”

“Reyez pisses me off,” Ailurmon said suddenly, her voice quite gruff, though she didn’t sound angry despite her words. “I mean... like... I’m kind of pissed at the fact he doesn’t appreciate me. I do all this stuff for him, like I evolved and I fight and I protect him, and I don’t get so much as a pat on the back or a job well done.”

Odocomon went to add something, but sensed Ailurmon was ranting, and needed no interjections until she was finished, so she schooled herself and allowed the other Digimon to continue.

“I know it’s not about getting rewarded. I’m not a performing seal, I don’t need a snack to tell me I’ve done a good job, but I don’t think I’m out of line for asking or... expecting some kind of ‘Oh, hey! Good going to defeating that bad guy! Now, let’s go get a milkshake!’” Ailurmon paused, tossing her head and making her earrings jangle. “It feels like our bond isn’t as strong as everyone else’s. You almost sacrificed yourself for James. Even after he’d been a douche towards you. I would do the same for Reyez, but I don’t think he’d even care. When James got all emotional over you… and you see Eva and Irbimon, after he became SkullSkadimon, yeah their bond was weakened, but now it’s stronger than ever. It makes me so mad, at myself and at Reyez. I shouldn’t get this way about it, but you know the stupidest part?”

Odocomon shook her head.

“I act the way I do, all brash and rude, so that Rey will respond to me. Feel like he actually needs me around. He could probably fight off half the Digimon we’ve faced together alone, but I act all tough and superior because it makes it seem to him like I know what I’m doing and that I should, therefore, be kept around. It’s so damn stupid!” Ailurmon huffed loudly, appearing to have finished her rant for the moment. Her arms were folded and her blue eyes were narrowed, staring into the group of Floramon that Reyez was with, more staring at Reyez than the Floramon.

“Have you... tried to speak to Reyez about how you feel?” Odocomon queried. She felt she probably already knew the answer, but felt it prudent to ask any way.

Ailurmon nodded. “Yeah. Well – tried to. You can’t have a meaningful conversation with Reyez unless he’s high, drunk, or both… and even then he won’t remember the conversation afterwards, so there’s no point.”

“And when he’s sober?”

“Why do you think him and Frankie didn‘t work?” Ailurmon looked to Odocomon with her eyes half open, Odocomon blinked, a bit surprised by the blunt, rhetorical answer. Ailurmon sighed. “I miss when he was younger, y’know? He needed me way more then, than he does now.”

“I think you’re being hard on yourself,” Odocomon explained. “You’re more valuable to Reyez than either of you realize, I think. You’ve been with him through thick and thin from a young age. Through any and all changes in his life, you’ve been this one constant that he’s had to rely on. That’s an incredibly strong bond. I think... if he didn’t need you, he would say something. Obviously I don’t know Reyez well, but I think he’s that kind of person, who tells it how it is.”

Ailurmon sat back, silently thoughtful, while Odocomon laid her head down on the ground, her body curled up as if she were going to try and sleep. She kept her eyes and ears open, watching Ailurmon for a response, and listening to the sounds, always alert, trying to hear any changes.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m jealous of you,” Odocomon murmured, tilted her head, getting a better view of Ailurmon. “I’d give anything to be as strong as you are. It’s terrible to admit it, but every time we fight, whether as a team or alone... I am terrified. Always, looming in my mind is the thought that one of us might not make it, or one of our partners will get injured... it holds me back, doesn’t allow me to fight as well as I wish I could… and consequently... I feel weak.”

“Weak?” Ailurmon repeated, like the word was foreign to her.

“Mhm-hm,” Odocomon replied. “I know how Poemon seems to be the weakest of us, but she’s not. She would do anything for Tom, as I would do for James and you for Reyez… but my feelings... my apprehensiveness to fight makes me weak. I don’t concentrate.” She paused, breathing out slowly, lifting her head and glancing across the area, making sure she couldn’t see James anywhere nearby. “The fact of the matter is, I miss the way things used to be. Before anything ever happened, before we all got dragged into this mess. Admittedly, life wasn’t a picnic, it was hard for James, but I was happier then than I am now.”

“And how does James feel?” Ailurmon asked, sitting back, leaning on her hands behind her.

Odocomon laughed softly, shaking her head. “I daren’t tell him. He believes I am happy, and if that is what he thinks, then I don’t want to correct him. James is happier in himself than I have seen him in years. To tell him the truth would be selfish of me. I wouldn’t want to complain, to ruin the way his life is now for my own needs.”

“But if you’re unhappy, then there’s no point hiding it – it’ll all come out eventually.”


“Just like your feelings towards Reyez?” Odocomon inquired, casting the panda Digimon a sly look.

Ailurmon opened her mouth to respond, but found herself at a loss. “Point taken,” she said finally. She grinned, feeling a little lighter in herself, having spoken to someone about what had been on her mind.  The two continued speaking softly, moving their topics on from the seriousness to more jovial subjects, Ailurmon continuing to make fun of the Floramon.

James had overheard the whole thing. He had been shown the village from top-to-bottom by the Floramon, and had come to find Odocomon and Ailurmon. He had come from behind, intending to sneak up on his Digimon, but had stopped when he’d heard them talking. He’d ducked behind one of the small huts, listening intently. Straining his hearing to hear every word, and now he wished he hadn’t.

He hated the idea of Odocomon being unhappy. She had been miserable in the past, when they had teamed up together with Rose, and the thought of it made his stomach tighten, and the horrible feeling that he would lose her again was ripe in his mind. He couldn’t face that. It had been too close last time. He hadn’t realized how sad she had been. To him, she had seemed contented – especially recently. Now everything with his family had sorted itself out, and his relationship was back on track, Odocomon had seemed content with everything. He had never considered she was hiding the truth deep inside, under a mask.

Lying to him.

Blind panic rumbled through James’ mind and veins; he ran his hands back through his hair, pacing away from the two Digimon and contemplating what to do. He couldn’t confront her, not now! How could he explain he’d been eavesdropping? But he also knew he couldn’t leave something like that out in the open for long, or it would get worse and fester. He needed to do something, to think for the moment, though his brain was awash with mangled thoughts and insecurities.

He walked, needing to get somewhere and think. He bumped into a Floramon, apologized as he righted her, stopping her from hitting the ground. Suddenly there was a scream erupting from the Floramon scattered around the village as they all started running for cover. Noise, like that of a bee hive, echoed above James, the sound reverberating around the village. He looked up, stunned to see above them what could have been a small army.

There were three small platoons, at least twenty strong, of small Digimon with pointed arrow-shaped heads and wiry arms: Missimon. Flanking these, two larger Digimon in the shape of a Zeppelin: Blimpmon. Further back from those on either side, two aircraft-life Digimon, with wings similar to that of an airplane, large back feet and their heads covered in a strong, triangular helmet: Pteramon. Leading the small army was the Digimon James could only assume was TigerVespamon. A cyborg creature with metal casing decorated like a wasp or hornet in black and yellow stripes; large wings that beat fiercely kept it airborne, and in each hand it carried a blade which glowed with intense blue energy.

A few moments passed where the air Digimon all surveyed the village, catching sight of the group of four that had congregated. James held his D-Touch in his hand so tightly it hurt. The moment over, the airborne Digimon descended at blistering speed.

-----------------------------

Flashes of purple and blue light exploded close by, leaving Bambusmon and Rusdramon in the places of their Rookie forms. They appeared just in time, as two of the Missimon troupes descended at blistering speed, followed by the two Pteramon.

“Take cover!” Bambusmon ordered, though many of the Floramon had already done that. She couldn’t see Reyez anywhere, and had to assume he had done the same. James ducked, avoiding the small missile Digimon that moved with intense speed, and quickly hid himself behind one of the Floramon huts.

The Missimon continued to drop dive and ram into the Floramon huts, attacking in droves, forcing many of the Floramon to relocate to another hiding spot. The Pteramon followed, seemingly ignoring Bambusmon and Rusdramon for the time being.

“They’re airborne, so they have an advantage,” Rusdramon said. “We’ll have to be clever fighting them.”

Bambusmon smirked. “There’s that worry in you. No need to be smart, just be precise!” She leaped into the air, opening her clawed hand and charging her attack. “Great Cannon!” she yelled, shooting down a beam of energy at one of the groups of Missimon. Those that were unhurt turned on her immediately, shooting up into the sky where Bambusmon had leapt.

In unison, the small machine Digimon cried, “Missile Crash!” as they impacted against Bambusmon.

“Missile Storm!” From higher above, the Pteramon attacked, firing down a rain of missiles onto the village, aimed at Bambusmon, who was overwhelmed by the smaller Digimon.

“Look out!” Rusdramon called, Bambusmon turned in midair, raising an arm to defend herself from several of the missiles just in time. “Amethyst Chains!” Rusdramon bellowed, chains reaching into the sky and clutching around one of the Pteramon. Immediately the Missimon turned on her, attacking from both sides as she wretched the Pteramon out of the sky, forcing it down into the ground with her strength as she bucked and kicked her legs wildly, fending off the smaller Digimon.

“Great Cannon!” Bambusmon shot the energy from her hand again, this time directed at the downed Pteramon, who disintegrated on impact. She turned her attention to the other, which swooped down low, firing rounds of missiles at the ground as it passed. “Foliage Domination!” A vine whip extended from Bambusmon’s hand, catching the back feet of the passing Digimon, which she yanked towards her. Before it could crash into her, Bambusmon jumped on its back, causing it to nose dive straight towards the ground.

“Grand Cross!” Rusdramon’s attack impacted on the Missimon that surrounded her, causing several of them to disintegrate immediately. Moments later, she charged across the ground, her antlers lowered, and impacted them into the Pteramon that Bambusmon had brought down. Her antlers impaled on its armored shell, causing it to disappear before her.

The two Champions exchanged looks, staring upwards to where TigerVespamon and the Blimpmon remained. Thus far, TigerVespamon had not moved, and just hovered in place appearing to watch the massacre of his followers and also watch them as they fought. He motioned with one arm, bringing the Blimpmon forward. Despite their size, they moved with surprising speed.

“Zeppelin Explosion!” The Blimpmon spoke in unison, and together dropped a myriad of bombs from themselves, that exploded as they hit anything. Bambusmon and Rusdramon dove and dodged to avoid the attacks, though it seemed the Blimpmon had unending supplies of explosives that kept reloading, as more bombs fell. Flames were erupting from the small Floramon huts, many of them had their ceilings caved in, and from all directions Floramon were appearing, running in blind panic.

Both female Digimon were awash with bright light.

“Rusdramon, proxy evolve to... Oisinmon!”

“Bambusmon, proxy evolve to... Mistresmon!”

The Ultimate Digimon wasted no time in fending off the incoming attacks. Oisinmon unsheathed her arrows, creating her bow and firing directly upwards. “New Moon Serenade!”

The flower on Mistresmon’s back charged with energy as she turned in midair, firing upwards a perfect aim into one of the Blimpmon. “Beautiful Bouquet!”

Oisinmon’s arrows cut through the Blimpmon’s armor as one of them, badly injured and losing air to keep it aloft, began to descend. A silent agreement passed between the female Digimon, as Mistresmon floated upwards, and Oisinmon rushed towards the falling Blimpmon, her hands awash with purple energy, which she projected towards the enemy. “Twilight Wave!”

“Discipline!” Mistresmon’s whips impacted the second Blimpmon, slapping against its side and armor, trying to find a chink.

The Blimpmon turned towards her. “Helium Explosion!” It expelled a sharp shot of air, forcing Mistresmon backwards with the weight of the attack. She righted herself with a back-flip, charging forward, and slammed her heel into the Blimpmon’s face. She leaped off as the Blimpmon railed backwards, levitating into position below it.

“Beautiful Bouquet!” Mistresmon cried, a giant spike made of thorny vines shot from the center of the flower, underneath the Blimpmon. The impact was enormous, with an explosion as Blimpmon fired off into the air, narrowly missing TigerVespamon, who only moved a little to avoid being hit by his minion.

Mistresmon returned to the ground, levitating a few inches off the grass, writhing uncomfortably. Oisinmon looked up, her eyes fixed on TigerVespamon, who seemed to be surveying the damage inflicted by his army.

“You’ve lost. You have no army to fight for you.” Oisinmon drew an arrow from her quiver and poised it skywards in her bow, ready to fire. “I suggest you leave this place and never return, so you can spare your own life. Take this as my only warning.”

To her surprise, TigerVespamon dropped a little lower from the sky, and seemed to be smirking down at both her and Mistresmon. His eyes moved across the area, taking into account that James and now Reyez were out in the open surveying their combined enemy. “They were expendable... I only required them for the time to instill fear into these quaint and weak Floramon. I knew they would be no match for you.”

Oisinmon grit her teeth, drawing the arrow back further. Her spine tingled uncomfortably and she wished Reyez and James would go back into hiding, but she couldn’t risk taking her eyes off the large cyborg before them.

“I am what you should be frightened of, sent by my Master to destroy you... and all that remains of your kind in the Digital World. Once you Gods are gone, the true master will reign supreme.” TigerVespamon’s voice was unerringly calm, which put Oisinmon on edge. Even Mistresmon was responding to it with unease as she shifted and moaned. “Everyone in the Digital World knows of your return, they know of Lord Mukademon’s awakening, and returning to his full power... even now, there are those faithful to him seeking out and destroying any and all who oppose him, and who are still foolishly faithful to you and the others. Destroying anything that remains of the time you were here!”

“There will always be those faithful to us!” Oisinmon bit out fiercely. “Now come and face us, stop hovering away like a coward!”

TigerVespamon seemed to consider this for a moment before diving down towards Oisinmon and Mistresmon at speed.

Oisinmon released the arrow she had been holding, which sailed past TigerVespamon by a few feet.

“-the fuck was that!?” Reyez yelled from across the pond. From where he was standing, TigerVespamon wasn’t as big or clear as he appeared flying down to eye level.

Mistresmon dodged, taking to the air as TigerVespamon brought his blades down to where she had been standing. Oisinmon reared up onto her hind legs, igniting purple blazes in her hands.

“Twilight Wave!” She brought her hands down, sending out the pulsating energy, but TigerVespamon had already moved off. He was back up in the air and readying another attack.

“Discipline!” Mistresmon’s vines shot out, one wrapping around TigerVespamon’s left leg as the other slapped against his right arm. With his free arm, TigerVespamon yanked the other Digimon towards him, jerking her this way and that, like a doll on a string.

“Lunar Barrage!” Arrows fired upward from below, impacting against TigerVespamon’s armor and cutting through the whip vines, releasing Mistresmon from the Mega Digimon’s clutches. She immediately spun around, her back flower glowing and building energy.

“Beautiful Bouquet!”

“New Moon Serenade!” The two attacks entwined, drawing energy from each other and firing at the cyborg Digimon who mocked them from above. The attacks impacted, throwing TigerVespamon upon one of the walls that surrounded the village, leaving the flowers and vines smoldering in their wake.

“What the fuck?” James commented, staring at where the attack had landed, and where there was no TigerVespamon.

His laugh echoed from high above, he had dodged with moments to spare, and his face was plastered with a grim smile.

“It hardly seems fair to kill two of you on my own,” he sneered. “Perhaps the legends of old were just that – legends.” He took off, moving with intense speed. “Royal Meister!” Drawing his twin blades back, he sliced one as he dashed past Mistresmon, and the other as he charged towards Oisinmon and returned to the air.

Both Digimon were impacted seconds after the blade had moved, an explosion of sorts knocking them both several feet from where they had been initially; a delayed reaction attack, one done so that TigerVespamon could see the damage as it was done.

“He’s fast,” Oisinmon commented, getting to her feet.

“Be faster,” James said.

“Lunar Barrage!” One arrow shot up but dozens fell, aimed in the area that TigerVespamon floated.

“Discipline!” Mistresmon’s whips launched from the grass below, wrapping around TigerVespamon and keeping him in place. The incoming arrows hit, several impacted on the cyborg, leaving small dents in his armor, but TigerVespamon remained in one place, unfazed. He grit his teeth, flexing as he ripped the vines from his body. He drew his swords back, launching towards Mistresmon.

“Gear Stinger!” Swiping both blades together towards Mistresmon, he released a pointed shape of energy aimed directly at her. Mistresmon twisted, contorting around the attack in the air as it narrowly missed her and careered into the wall, creating a hole where it had impacted. Letting out a short bark of laughter, TigerVespamon charged towards Mistresmon, who responded with a quick and powerful kick with her right leg, followed by a heel drop and bringing her knee up into TigerVespamon’s chest. Each physical blow impacted with armor, creating a deft ‘thunk’ sound, but doing no damage to the Mega level Digimon. Mistresmon rounded again, one leg extended, intending to land another kick that was unavoidable by TigerVespamon. Instead he grabbed her leg and flung her around, throwing her aside and into one of the Floramon’s huts, where it collapsed on impact.

One of Oisinmon’s arrows impaled TigerVespamon’s right arm as he surveyed the damage done to Mistresmon. He growled, checking the injury, and then turning on the centaur Digimon below.

“You didn’t forget about me, did you?” she taunted, releasing several more arrows in quick succession, each one either TigerVespamon dodged or missed completely.

“What is with your aim?!” Reyez shouted.

“Lay off her!” James yelled back.

“Gear Stinger!”

“Get out of the way!” Oisinmon yelled, cantering towards James and shoving him to one side. She took TigerVespamon’s attack head-on as it shot her back several feet into the wall of the village. Woozy and dazed, she opened her eyes slowly, seeing the dust settle and TigerVespamon sparring again with Mistresmon.

What is the matter with me? Oisinmon spoke to herself. Why can’t I concentrate...? None of our attacks are doing anything. He’s too strong, too fast.

“Beautiful Bouquet!” Oisinmon’s gaze lifted in time to see the energy building in Mistresmon’s back flower as TigerVespamon dodged and weaved and she tried in vain to follow his movements and get an accurate aim. TigerVespamon came to a stop, a few feet in front of Oisinmon, hovering in place. Immediately her hands were awash with pulsating mauve energy as she rose her hands to lay on the cyborg.

“Twilight Wave!” Oisinmon’s hands missed, TigerVespamon dashed away, and before Oisinmon could react she felt a powerful impact of rage-infused energy hit her and throw her back against the wall. It had been a trick, a distraction tactic, and Mistresmon’s attack had landed on Oisinmon instead of the enemy.

James’ fists clenched at his side, the tactic from TigerVespamon had been obvious and unfair, as far as he was concerned, Mistresmon should have seen through it and waited. He saw Oisinmon moving, struggling to get to her feet, while above Mistresmon and TigerVespamon worked at one another blow-for-blow. Reyez stood a few feet away, watching the battle. While James knew he should check on his Digimon, make sure she was unhurt, his rage bubbled up inside him and instead he charged across the ground to Reyez.

Reyez turned in time to see James’ fist impacting with his jaw, and reeled back a few steps, holding his cheek.

“What the fuck is your problem?!” James yelled. “Your Digimon is acting out because of you! She could have killed Oisinmon! We’re meant to be on the same damn team!”

Reyez took a second to reply, regaining his composure from the hit. “Not my fault,” Reyez replied, shrugging a shoulder, still holding his jaw. “…and I don’t have a problem.”

“You obviously do,” James retorted irritably. “Mistresmon is influenced by your emotions, the way she’s acting right now, all erratic and weird – I would guess you have a problem.”

Reyez’s eyes narrowed a bit before he shrugged again. He glanced upwards, watching as TigerVespamon practically threw Mistresmon backwards into one of the islands suspended above the pond. “No,” he turned back to James, “but you obviously do.”

James grit his teeth. Reyez’s ignorance and his ability to seemingly ignore everything and any seriousness around him annoyed James to no end. Made his dislike for the other man increase only further. “Damn right I have a problem with you. With your fucking apathy, the fact you don’t seem to give a crap about anyone but yourself!”

“Hm.”

“Do you realize that Ailurmon is so insecure because of you? That she acts all brash and head strong because she thinks it makes you realize you need her around?” James explained, repeating what he had heard earlier when eavesdropping on the two Rookie Digimon as they had talked. “She is so desperate for your approval that she puts on a condescending tone and gives herself an attitude problem so the two of you will have something in common!”

Reyez kept his expression impassive; though James was beginning to annoy him, and his words were getting under his skin, he wasn’t about to give the other man the knowledge of that. Truthfully, a lot of things had been bugging him as of late, and it was taking a lot of will power for him not to straight up fight with James. He could have easily punched James back, he wanted to, just to shut him up.

“Do you ever appreciate her?” James queried. “Do you even care that every fight she goes into is for you? That every blow she takes, it’s to defend you! I really don’t get it; I think you’re a waste of space. All you care about is fucking, drinking, and getting high. I can’t see why anyone would be attached to you, be it Ailurmon or Frankie.”

“Ah, and there we get to the bottom of this little tirade,” Reyez snapped, letting for a moment his own anger bubble through his normally calm facade. “Your jealousy getting the better of you?”


James smirked. “I’m not jealous of you – hell, why would I be jealous of someone so doped up to the eyeballs he can barely function? I’ll admit, I hate the fact that Frankie is so attached to you. That she cares about you still, and that you’re still a big part of her life. I can deal with that, I can ignore it. Because in the end, I’m the one who’s with her. But y’know what I can’t stand?”

“Enlighten me.”

“That you don’t care,” James said slowly. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself. Frankie was genuinely worried about you when you went ‘missing’. You could have had the courtesy to pick up the phone and call any of us, but you didn’t. You don’t care about Ailurmon, you don’t even care about this little team of ours, when we have a massive responsibility.”

“Sorry, I‘m not a caring person.” Reyez dug into his pocket, pulling out his cigarette. 

James rubbed his hands over his face. “You’re nothing but a lost cause.”

“But, you know what?” Reyez lit his cigarette, turning to James. James responded with a simple arch of his eyebrow, his irritation more than obvious. “Maybe if you’d stop letting your emotions and little issues get the better of you, you probably would be a more tolerable person to me. Since all I care about is fucking, drinking and getting high, let’s talk about the things YOU’VE done for the group? Oh. Wait. You ran and joined the people we were fighting AGAINST for your own selfish reasons. I go missing for a couple of weeks, fine, but I didn’t join the enemy just because I couldn’t handle the pressures of life.”

James opened his mouth to respond but was cut off quickly.

“Mute it. I’m talking. Did you tell Frankie that you joined up with Bella? No? That’s what I thought. Now, me, I joined the military again because McTyre asked. Why? Because the bigger picture was, the military fights the crystal Digimon, we focus on the parasite. Oh, and who the FUCK kept the group together when you left and Eva had her whole thing with Irbimon? I checked on Frankie when you weren’t there, I was the one that helped Tom try and help Eva. Who is the one that usually has a plan when it comes to taking out Digimon? So, tell me, do I still not care about anything? Just because I’m not fucking flailing around all enthusiastically and emotionally does not mean I don’t care. I keep my business to myself, I keep everyone at a safe distance, I rationalize what’s important and what’s not important and honestly some of the shit ya’ll cry about is NOT IMPORTANT. If you want to fig--”

“Are you two done fighting?” Oisinmon barked behind them, limping on her back leg. “Because it’s not helping the current situation. Now get to cover before I knock the both of you out!” she ordered, before cantering back into the fray.

Mistresmon had been taking on TigerVespamon almost single-handed while Oisinmon had recovered from the impact of her attack, and James and Reyez had verbally fought. Landing kicks and spins where possible, while futilely trying to avoid TigerVespamon’s energy blades. She wore the marks of battle, with bloodied wounds and her back flower pierced and in tatters. She was slowing down too, her attacks and movements becoming sluggish and messy, letting TigerVespamon getting in attacks without even trying.

“It’s not even a challenge anymore,” TigerVespamon hissed, holding Mistresmon by the petals that made up her hair. Without another word, he thrust one of this stinger swords forward, piercing through flesh and muscle.

Mistresmon groaned, the pain was excruciating as the blade was withdrawn and TigerVespamon released her. All control gone, Mistresmon began to fall, plummeting towards the ground at speed. Her body was engulfed in a blue light, leaving in her place a limp and badly injured Ailurmon. She saw the ground coming towards her through half-open eyes and readied herself for the impact, trying to contend with the pain wracking her small body. This would be it, she would hit the ground and there would be nothing left of her. Her strength was depleting and within moments she would no longer exist.

The feeling of hitting the ground never came, instead she felt something warm around her, catching her in midair and holding her like a child in one arm. Her eyes opened again, catching sight on antlers and silver hair before her eyes shut again.

“I have you,” Oisinmon murmured, adjusting her hold on Ailurmon in one arm, watching TigerVespamon and spinning on the spot, keeping her eyes trained on the speedy insect. She lost sight for one moment, then felt a shove from behind her, sending her forward on her hooves uneasily. She spun, generating her bow in one hand, fending off TigerVespamon’s blades above her before they could do the same damage to herself as they had done to Mistresmon.

“Your end is near,” TigerVespamon leered, adding further pressure to the blades, hearing the sound of glass cracking, as if Oisinmon’s bow was about to break.

She fought back, mustering her strength and pushing against the superior Digimon with what energy she had left. Clutching Ailurmon tighter to her body, Oisinmon reared onto her hind legs, kicking her forelegs out in front of her, repelling TigerVespamon a few feet.

He sneered and brought his blades down in front of him. “Gear Stinger!”

Oisinmon rose an arm to defend herself. It was a hopeless effort. She knew – however long the battle raged, there would be a victor and it would not be her, but she couldn’t give up, couldn’t not fight. She had to. She had to protect James, this place, Ailurmon. She couldn’t give up, even as her muscles screamed in agony as each attack from TigerVespamon’s blade pierced her skin and forced her further back, away from him. One of her hooves stumbled as she reached the edge of the pond, and she dropped Ailurmon from her arm.

TigerVespamon took advantage of her lowered defenses as she tried to catch Ailurmon again. He drew back one of the blades and charged at her, bringing it down in an almighty swing, practically cutting through Oisinmon’s body.

She screamed. Light surrounding her and leaving Odocomon shaking and panting in her place.

“Oh God...” James didn’t want to watch, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the fight. TigerVespamon continued to attack Odocomon, relentlessly, leaving Ailurmon ignored on the ground, pushing Odocomon further back into the waters of the pond as she tried to desperately fend off the attacks with her own meager ones.

“Who would have thought killing you would be so much fun!?” TigerVespamon crowed, his face a mask of insanity as he swung each sword in turn, sending out waves of energy that were practically ripping the flesh from Odocomon’s bones.

James could do nothing but stare, his eyes were fixed. He was going to lose her. It was like before, but so much worse, because he knew, there was no way Odocomon could come back from this, nor Ailurmon.

Ailurmon’s body laid on top of the water, in the center of the pond. Reyez was a stoic figure, silent and moving slowly towards her broken body. His cigarette had completely fallen out of his mouth and submerged in the pond. He hadn’t noticed that he was walking on water, and at the moment he didn’t care. Her feet had begun to pixilate, disappearing one by one into the air. She was largely ignored by TigerVespamon, who was focused on destroying Odocomon, and for that Reyez was glad. There hardly seemed enough of Ailurmon to attack anymore, at least that’s how he felt as he lifted her up in his arms; she felt lighter than he remembered.

One of her legs had completely disappeared now, the other one beginning to follow as the pixels rose higher and higher on her body. Soon there would be nothing left, he would be holding nothing. He could vaguely hear his D-Touch screeching and whirring as it complained, trying to get his attention, but he knew why it made the noise. He could see it all happening right in front of him, and he was powerless to do anything.

Reyez dropped to his knees, then sat down. “You can’t leave me... don’t… do this to me,” Reyez murmured, it seemed like the world around them stopped, going completely silent like everything had paused except him and Ailurmon. “It’s always been us two. We don’t need anyone else… don’t ever think I don’t appreciate you. I’m so proud of you... I’ve always been proud of you.”

Reyez pulled Ailurmon closer, lowering his head.

-----------------------------

Odocomon bled from everywhere, she felt pain on every single part of her body, and could barely stand anymore. Though she was on top of the pond water, where it had been clear and cool before, was now stained red and polluted. She panted, struggling to move. TigerVespamon’s attacks were unrelenting, powerful and merciless. How Odocomon was alive, she put down only to luck and the fact TigerVespamon probably enjoyed torturing her too much to get her a quick death.

James was meters away, watching with a horrified expression on his face. She wanted to shout at him to get away to run and escape to get somewhere safe, but she couldn’t find her voice. She could barely breathe.

Her eyes rose, she could see TigerVespamon drawing back his blades. This would be it, the final blow and she would be nothing, deleted. She closed her eyes, anticipating it.

She felt her mind open, flooded suddenly with thoughts and memories. This is what humans said happened right before they died, they replayed everything in their life in a manner of seconds. Her memories were focused, how she had first evolved to Rusdramon and then later to Oisinmon. How she had found... something. Something that had been missing, a strength she had needed and located inside herself. A strength she was so desperate for now.

Where had it come from? And why couldn’t she grip it now? Why couldn’t she stand up and fend off this monstrosity, protect what was most important to her? Do her duty, what she was born and created to do?

“You’re holding yourself back.” Odocomon heard a voice, echoing somewhere at the very back of her mind. Like a voice from a memory, though it was foreign she felt comforted by it and warmed. “You have everything you need deep inside yourself, you need to let go of your fears.” The words sounded familiar, as if she had been told this before, many years ago. She felt a tremble, like a gust of wind sneaking up her back and turned to look behind her. Her mind felt warm, but fuzzy, struggling to recall things that had been locked away.

She felt a sense of happiness settle inside her, like a contentment from eons ago that she had forgotten. She was remembering, recalling her memories of her previous life as if they had all happened yesterday. The village and its villagers, she remembered visiting them, and the other Gods coming to a celebration. A wedding. Her wedding.

Odocomon responded in her head. “I don’t know if I can...”

“You can.” The man’s voice again. “You have done before. To protect this place, our world. To protect me.”

“You?” Odocomon became puzzled. “Who are you?”

“You are my wife, with a power that flows inside of you that is unmatched. Find it, hold onto it and release it...” His voice paused, and Odocomon found herself holding her breath. “Now!”

Odocomon’s eyes opened, awash with glowing purple fury. TigerVespamon’s blades clanged against a spherical shield of light surrounding her and repelling his attack as it grew larger. He drew his blades again, forcing them against the shield. One blade shattered, and the other TigerVespamon nearly dropped.

Getting to her feet, Odocomon felt a power surge through her body, as she turned her gaze onto the mega Digimon. “You will do no more harm!!” she shouted. The sphere expanded entirely, sending TigerVespamon flying on impact. The light engulfed Reyez, Ailurmon, and James, protecting them and hiding them for a moment from the outside world.

James clambered to his feet, grabbing Odocomon as he reached her. “You’re okay! How?” He felt like a child clutching her, terrified of something and afraid to release her. He glanced back, Reyez had taken on the form of himself as a child, smaller, still holding Ailurmon but with his arm under her own, like a child with his teddy bear.

Ailurmon stirred, the parts of her that had been deleted had returned to full form, and her eyes blazed with a rich blue color, vibrating and pulsating much like Odocomon’s. Reyez turned around, walking a few feet towards James, while Ailurmon’s feet dragged on the ground, contending with Reyez’s lack of height.

“It’s scary, isn’t it?” James asked, looking at Reyez. “When you come close to losing them.”

“Yeah.” Reyez looked down. “I miss the way things were. Before everything… Maybe one day it will be okay again. That's all I want. I don't care what it takes. I just want to be okay again… I don’t want to have to deal with all this.”

“The fighting, the emotional turmoil. The terrifying battles where you’re not sure if your Digimon will come out of it alive,” James prompted.

“Neither do we,” Odocomon murmured.

Ailurmon nodded in agreement. “We didn’t see this happening to us, the Digital World turning, sacrificing ourselves to save this place.”

James and Reyez looked at their Digimon slowly, before turning to each other. They spoke in unison: “I wish everything could go back to the way it was...”

“It will,” Ailurmon said darkly, suddenly turning into a cluster of vines as Odocomon was engulfed by crystals. Both Digimon were swallowed by blue and purple light respectively, floating up above the ground. The protective shield had disappeared and the illusion of Reyez and James as children was over. They stood on the pond, watching.

“Ailurmon, reboot evolve to...” Shadows of Bambusmon and Mistresmon misted over Ailurmon’s floating form, providing her with their power. Ailurmon’s eyes opened, the same blue glow ebbing from them. Her earrings grew larger, heavier, dangling from black panda ears. Ailurmon’s body extended, becoming humanlike, with vines slipping and spreading all over her and beautiful blue gems embedding themselves into her tanned skin. Her hips and legs disappeared into a giant lotus flower made up of blue, lilac, and pink petals, which sprouted from twisting, thorny roots. Above her head blossomed another lotus flower, like a floating crown. “Marquismon!”

“Odocomon, reboot evolve to...” As with Ailurmon, images of Rusdramon and Oisinmon hazed over Odocomon’s body, supplying her with additional strength. Odocomon’s eyes opened, glowing a brilliant clear, soft green color. Her head and neck extended, becoming human, the head sprouting long silvery-white hair that billowed around her face and body. Antlers, formed entirely of light, exploded from the very crown of her head. Her legs extended, remaining deer-like, and across her limbs and body she was decorated with maroon and deep purple stones. Her chest, left shoulder, and forearms were decorated with silver and purple armor, and around her hips formed a tabard, with gems holding it up and around her. She clutched an ornate wooden bow in one hand. “Ceryneiamon!”

Above, TigerVespamon sneered. “Your new forms will not save you!” he yelled, indignant and furious, another blade forming in his hand where his other had broken. With speed he dashed down towards Marquismon.

“Shooting Star!” Ceryneiamon’s voice was clear as a bell, an arrow shooting from her bow and impacting the armor covering TigerVespamon. He yelped, clutching his upper arm where the arrow had pierced him, injuring him for the first time.

He snarled. “You will regret that.”

“Indeed,” Ceryneiamon taunted, stepping back onto one foot and poising her bow.

“Mach Stinger Victory!” TigerVespamon cried, racing towards the other Mega, who raised her bow in defense.

Behind him, Marquismon summoned a crystal ball between her hands, which floated quickly into the near middle of the village, illuminating with energy. “Enchanting Kiss,” Marquismon murmured gently, as the energy scattered, creating a vortex in the dead center of the massacred area. TigerVespamon was caught in the pulling, his wings flapping wildly against it. He swung both blades at Ceryneiamon, who stood just out of reach, her hands illuminating with purple and lilac light.

“Starlight Nova!”

Power streamed upwards from her hands as TigerVespamon disappeared into the crystal ball’s pull. A pause, a deep breath before the plunge, and there was a pressured explosion as he was spat out again. At the same time, Ceryneiamon’s energy exploded above, raining down small spheres of burning energy like exploding stars, which clung to where they landed, burning through TigerVespamon’s cyborg armor.

He roared, flinching again, the burning sensation and the after effects of the vortex caused him to be disorientated for a few seconds. As the lights disintegrated, he charged, both blades drawn and ready to strike towards Marquismon.

“...Really?” she commented, disappearing into the petals of the flowers that surrounded her lower half. TigerVespamon’s blades impacted on the blooms which encased his target, ricocheting off them and the impact reverberating through TigerVespamon’s arms. Marquismon’s flower planted its roots in the ground, and her voice was ghostly as she called out.

“Earthly Temptation!” Suddenly the earth rumbled and spikes shot out of the ground beneath TigerVespamon which he narrowly dodged. As he dodged one, thorn-covered vines shot out of the ground, lashing at him like tails on a whip. He moved, quickly and a little too easily, swinging his blades back and forth, cutting through the vines that plagued him, while Ceryneiamon looked on.

“Crystal Nebula!” Ceryneiamon’s arrow left her bow and formed into crystal as it departed, it shot through the air, her cry catching TigerVespamon’s attention for a moment. The moment he stopped, the perfectly-timed crystallized arrow burst through his wings, ripping them to shreds. “That should make the playing field more even.”

“BITCH!”

TigerVespamon charged towards Ceryneiamon, who stood there calmly with a single hand on her hip. He drew both of his blades, swinging them simultaneously at her form. Ceryneiamon smirked, fizzing in a sparkle of light and tapping TigerVespamon on his shoulder.

TigerVespamon quickly turned around, only to be greeted by a solid punch in the dead center of his face.

Ceryneiamon drew her crystallized arrow, shooting it towards the wasp Digimon as he slammed into a nearby tree. TigerVespamon caught himself, leaping out of the way of the arrow. She chuckled as he rolled across the ground trying to catch his balance. 

“Awe, poor baby,” Marquismon’s voiced cooed. TigerVespamon spun on the spot, expecting to see the other Mega, but she was still cocooned in her protective flower. “You didn’t forget about me, did you?”

Before he could react, a spear of earth erupted from beneath TigerVespamon, sending him skywards. He seemed to hover in midair for a few moments, forgetting his wings had been destroyed, before he fell quickly back to the ground. He was gathered up in the vines from the earth and swung around like a doll on a string.

Lashing TigerVespamon a few times with the vines, Marquismon finally released him, slamming his body into the ground, where he laid for a few moments, recovering from his beating. Marquismon reappeared in a gentle and graceful twirl, arising from the flower petals.

“Your attempts may destroy me, but Lord Mukademon rules this land now – no matter how long you fight or how hard – you will never win,” TigerVespamon spat, slowly and shakily rising to his feet. His armor was dented in places, and in others there were holes where it had been pierced. The remains of his wings dangled helplessly on his back.

As a last ditch effort, TigerVespamon powered up his blades. He used his energy to throw them both at Ceryneiamon as she walked towards him casually.

She held her hand outwards, creating a force shield that wasn't visible from far away, bending the light around her. The blades hit the shield, bouncing off one after another.

“Perhaps you are right,” Ceryneiamon spoke, her bow poised. She glanced across to Marquismon whose crystal ball was floating between her hands. “But we shall fight – and you shall never harm another living soul.”

“Enchanting Kiss!” Marquismon cried, her crystal ball floating to the middle of the battlefield once more, drawing in TigerVespamon, who gave no resistance to his inevitable fate. The ball glowed with a fearsome blue light, while Ceryneiamon drew back an arrow and aimed purposefully.

As TigerVespamon was absorbed, the arrow smoothly shot from her bow with a shout of, “Shooting Star!” Joining with the blue energy, the two attacks exploded together, covering the village in sparkling energy as it dissipated and TigerVespamon’s data twirled into the air, slowly drifting into the D-Touches Reyez and James held.

-----------------------------

TigerVespamon vanquished, the Floramon that had survived began to filter out from their hiding places, crowding around Marquismon and Ceryneiamon, cheering and chattering in high pitched and excitable voices. The reaction seemed to amuse the two Mega Digimon as they smiled at one another and then at their ‘adoring’ public.

James and Reyez stood a short distance away from the excitement, allowing their Digimon to come to them in their own time. Which they did, excusing themselves from the Floramon, who quickly went to survey the damage on their home. The two Megas moved smoothly to the two waiting men.

“This is it right, you’re not going to almost die again?” James said, as Ceryneiamon and Marquismon approached them. “Cause I’m pretty sure I had a few heart attacks back there and that can’t be healthy.”

“Just keeping you on your toes,” Ceryneiamon commented with a small smile. “I am glad that’s over though.”

She fell silent, watching as Reyez approached Marquismon, who lowered herself down to his level, the roots from her flower dug themselves easily into the scorched ground. With her elbows propping her up, she rested her chin on her laced fingers. 

Reyez patted his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. He didn't look up from the ground. “Look, about how I’ve been acting,” he said softly, “I’m...” He couldn’t get the words out like he wanted, however, he found his cigarettes.

Marquismon shrugged. “It’s fine. After all – you wouldn’t be Reyez if you weren’t emotionally stunted. However, I do feel better knowing I’m appreciated... I mean, who else will fight off the big bad thunder and lightning that frightens you so much...? Now give me a hug.” She smiled at him, drawing him in for a hug, which he returned a little awkwardly, not used to displaying his emotions so openly and while being observed.

“I do love a happy ending,” James smirked, ignoring the offensive motion given by Reyez once Marquismon released him from her embrace.

“Uh... uhm... My Ladies...?” One of the Floramon approached from behind them, her head bowed low. “I just... wanted to uhm... Thank you for saving our village.” She bowed even lower, barely daring to even glance at the two Mega Digimon.

James looked over the village, it had not fared well: many of the huts were destroyed and the ground had been burnt in many places. The pond was full of rubble and there were holes in the walls that hid the village from view. “What are you going to do?” he asked, the Floramon peered up at him.

“We’ll work and fix the village, make it a safe haven again,” she answered. “It’ll be hard work – but we Floramon aren’t afraid of that!”

“Perhaps we can help you,” Marquismon suggested. “Give you a head start.” She gave Ceryneiamon a knowing look, and she returned it. Poising her bow, Ceryneiamon shot an arrow skywards, which was quickly joined by a jolt of energy from Marquismon’s crystal ball. The combined auras split into six, spreading across the village, leaving trails of light and earth in their wake. Wherever the energy touched, even the slightest bit, new flowers bloomed, and small crystals rose up from the ground. The pond’s waters became clear again, and the platforms that floated above it righted themselves. Holes in the protective wall were repaired and the huts returned to as they had been. The energy finally exploded into a shower of petals and crystals, falling to the ground.

They had used the last of their energy, and both Digimon shrank rather quickly, leaving Tohuimon and Fallomon in their places. James quickly scooped up Fallomon, Reyez doing the same with Tohuimon, who immediately took her old place on his shoulder, clinging to his neck.

The Floramon grew excited suddenly, attracting their attention.

Hunter waved over the heads of the plant Digimon, alerting Reyez and James to his presence, and also Tom’s.

“Hey,” James greeted, once all four men had congregated. “What’re you guys doing here?”

“Followed your signal,” Hunter explained, tapping his D-Touch. “Having fun?” he asked, indicating to the Floramon that rushed around at their feet.

“If you take away the fight with TigerVespamon, tons,” James replied.

Tom quirked an eyebrow. “We miss something?”

“A lot,” Reyez commented.

“Oh, how pretty...” Poemon cooed from the ground, where she was staring at a large blue flower about to bloom. It sparkled prettily. Skollmon sniffed it just as the petals opened. Inside was a glowing blue shape, which rose up and floated in front of Reyez. He grasped it in his hands, causing the glow to stop, and found himself holding an item cool to the touch. It looked wooden, but felt more like stone, with right angles at each end.

“A lodestone,” Tohuimon pointed out, yawning. “About time you got one too.”

Reyez patted the little panda with a small smile, and pocketed the item without a word.

Hunter grinned, taking note of Reyez’s somewhat disheveled appearance. “Hey, Rey... have you been crying?” he teased, folding his arms.

Reyez smile disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. He retorted by punching Hunter in his side, walking away with an irritable expression.

Unfortunately, the punch was right where Hunter had been injured previously.

“Sweet fucking Jesus!” Hunter grabbed his side, clenching his side in slight pain as Reyez walked away. He followed behind Reyez. “Get back here so I can kick your ass!” He almost fell. “Ow ow ow!”

Tom and James looked at each other, trying not to laugh.

As Tom and Poemon walked off out of the village behind Hunter, Reyez, and their Digimon, James took a moment to himself. Clearly him and Reyez’s issues with each other weren’t solved, but he felt like they had found a mutual respect for each other. He was in no rush to be friends with the other man but maybe over time they’d get over their difference. That’s all it really took, time.

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