Episode 39:
The Digibowl XXVIII!

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“Bullshit.” Hunter crossed his arms and continued to walk.

“You mad?” Reyez taunted from behind the group. He smirked widely, Ailurmon at his side rolled her eyes.

“No, because you’re wrong.” Hunter sucked his teeth.

Reyez chuckled as he kicked a rock. “You’re mad.” He looked up, a smirk of triumph written on his face. 

Hunter and Reyez had been bickering back and forth for the past hour and a half, over sports athletes and which of them were better. Their conversation had started with American football, moved to baseball, down to MMA and boxing. Reyez had seemed to be winning the arguments as Hunter resorted to childish behavior whenever he was losing, which was often. Reyez seemed to be a font of knowledge on all things sport related, while Hunter just knew the basics, and only about his personal favorite players and teams.

James and Tom kept to themselves mostly, throwing into the debates every now and then but overall laughing at the entire thing, and most often at Hunter’s expense. Before the sports arguments, they were discussing comics; an argument that James had won hands down. The debates had moved on once the others had realized that James was practically a Bible of all things comic-related, with Odocomon joining in every now and again. Everything they had tried to argue, he countered easily.

Hunter and Skollmon had walked ahead of the group with James and Odocomon - Tom and Poemon staying the center. Reyez and Ailurmon were bringing up the rear. There were at least a few feet in between each of them, not really walking close but not too far apart either. It had been a day or so since they had left the Floramon village, all fed, rested, and in Hunter’s case, patched up with Floramon herbal healing and bandages. It hadn’t even been a few hours before they started walking again. No one had seemed to really be in much of a hurry, only to get out of their current area. Despite being in a ‘Digital’ world, the service on their D-Touches wasn’t amazing. For a while, Tom had become frustrated not being able to talk to Eva, and James hadn’t heard from Frankie in a couple of hours; the last he had spoke with her, she mentioned being in a village of some sort, and a female Caesarmon. He was satisfied that at least she was safe.

Overall, the walking had been pleasant for everyone. The air between Reyez and James had calmed considerably and the two boys bantered back and forth with the other two. There had been no vocal fights, and no Digimon fights either. Aside from some mild backache from sleeping on the ground, everyone was in high spirits.

Hunter huffed. “I have to pee.” He had stopped walking, turning to the others, who all stopped as well.

“Right here?” Tom asked, puzzled, his face contorted with mild confusion.

“No. I mean, I’m just letting you know,” Hunter clarified.

“Well…” Tom paused, glancing back at Reyez, “thanks for telling us?” He raised an eyebrow, still confused. Was Hunter expecting them to follow him into the bushes for a collective pee break?

Hunter grumbled. “Nooo, I mean-”

“We are not walking with you to take a piss,” Reyez blurted out. “And damn sure not holding your hand.”

“What!? NO! I mean- forget it, I’ll be back in a second. Don’t go leaving without me!” Hunter huffed, walking off into a deep section of trees. Skollmon followed, smirking a little at his Tamer’s expense.

“He’s being such a prima-donna today…” James commented, chuckling. His arms folded casually as he glanced at Odocomon, who was wandering off a few feet inspecting an interesting pink and yellow flower.

“He’s been weird ever since we got here,” Tom agreed. “High strung… ish.”

Before Reyez could make a remark, a rustle from the bushes startled him. Ailurmon whirled round, tense to the sound. There was a yelp from Skollmon, then the rustling stopped and everything grew quiet.

“The fuck?” The noise had been random, considering the area they were in had thus far relinquished very few random noises they couldn’t put down to birds or the wind. Reyez was a little weirded out.

James sighed. “Is he trying to scare us or something?”

“Haha, very funny Hunter,” Tom added, cupping his hands around his mouth to let his voice carry.

“Wait,” Odocomon rose her voice in concern and her ears twitched nervously, “I don’t sense Skollmon any longer.”

“Me neit--…hey where did Tom and Poemon go?” Ailurmon pointed out.

James and Reyez looked at each other, then around the area. Staying perfectly still and not moving from their spot. Ailurmon and Odocomon were on high alert, all senses open and trying to pick up the tiniest sound. James turned a little, thinking he had heard rustling in the bushes close by.

Reyez breathed out slowly, grumbling. “This is like some freaky horror movie shit…”

“Totally, I think we need to sti--” James turned around to notice Reyez and Ailurmon both gone. They had made no noise, just disappeared. Panic rising in James’s throat, he turned. “Odocomon-”

She was gone too. Again, with silence and without any noise. The ground had not been disturbed; there had been nothing to indicate what had taken her, and now James felt rather vulnerable and exceptionally creeped out.

His eyes glanced around him, looking into the tree branches above, and then below, trying to peer into the bushes. Maybe they were all just hiding from him – trying to frighten him. Some kind of prank for being such a nerd about comic books. But he couldn’t see anything, everything was as it had been, and when they had disappeared there had been no sounds, not even a small sound of struggle from any of them.

“Oh crap…” James breathed out and then back in deeply. He pinched the gap between his eyebrows trying to think. He had read about what to do if you found yourself alone in a foreign place – and how much more foreign could you get than the Digital World? But he couldn’t remember for the life of him what half of those instructions were. Were you supposed to carry on walking? Or stay in the same place? Call for help? Yell for your friends?

His brain felt it was on something of an overload. He could call for help. Call the others. But reception wasn’t great here, as had been proven by Tom’s attempts to call Eva, to no avail. Plus the others were scattered, there was no telling when they would get here, even if he did get through to them. For all he knew, there could have been a huge canyon separating them all from each other.

“Okay, okay,” James muttered to himself, beginning to pace back and forth on the spot. “Calm down, calm down. They can’t have gone far.”

Something behind him cracked and he rounded, expecting to see one of them back, laughing at his expense. He was faced with nothing, just empty space. He frowned. He could have sworn he had heard something… Rubbing his hands over his face and then into his hair, James swallowed thickly, leaning back and staring at the sky for a moment.

He had to think clearly; freaking out wouldn’t help. He wondered how long it would take him to run back to the Floramon village, to see if they could help at all. But that idea was quickly extinguished from his mind as he remembered they had walked quite far from them, and in a short time. The village was a long way behind them, and on their travels, they hadn’t come across any more occupied settlements – just a few abandoned ones, and several in ruin.  Small towns on clay and mud houses.

“What are my options?” he asked himself aloud, beginning to pace again. “Go back to the Floramon village – out of the question. Too far.” He fished around in his pocket, grasping his D-Touch and checking the signal: it was weak and he took a chance to dial Frankie. It rang several times, before cutting off and James cursed loudly. “Why can’t women ever pick up their fucking phones!?”

Out of annoyance, he threw his D-Touch on the ground as his shout was swallowed up by the leaves around him. Quickly realizing how stupid it would be to lose his D-Touch now, he scooped it up and checked it over for any damage. He could still see Odocomon’s visage on the main screen, a constant color, which meant she was alive and fine, as far as he could tell. He scrolled through the screens, checking the map to see if it could give any clue to where the others were.

The map confused him.

He saw his purple blip, flashing merrily, and then their own colors all flashing on top of his. They were still in the same vicinity. But he couldn’t see them. More frustration caused James to grind his teeth. He covered his face with his hands again, swore into them, and then peered through his fingers expecting, as if by magic, his friends and Digimon to have been returned to him.

He saw nothing, but kept his hands to his face, glaring through his fingers. He felt the limited vision somehow gave him some new perspective and he started looking around. He noticed something he had not before: the flower Odocomon had been inspecting was no longer in the bush it had been in. It had disappeared. He didn’t know where, but he knew enough that flowers didn’t just up and move… not ones attached to bushes, anyway. He was beginning to wonder if the flower had even been an actual flower. It was the most logical explanation. Floramon was a flower Digimon, so who was to say there weren’t other Digimon who were more like flowers than even the Floramon? He began to look again, scanning the ground for signs of the petals. The ground was simply grass, and some of it had been crushed underfoot where James had paced.

Hunter had disappeared first, so James went closer to the trees and bushes he and Skollmon had disappeared behind to see if there was anything there. It was a long shot, but probably the best place for him to start. The bushes were empty and didn’t have flowers, just dark olive-colored leaves. He peered up into the tree branches, shielding his eyes from the sunlight that dappled through the leaves above.

Squinting, James took a few steps back. Staring down at him from a branch about ten feet above him were a pair of watery black eyes. Had he not been looking for something, he wouldn’t have seen what he was seeing now. A green creature stood on the branch, it had a humanoid shape – if not for being green and with roots for feet, which kept it secured to the branch above. Its hands were covered in the same kind of vines seen on a leaf; and its ‘fingers’ were long and purple. On its head was a flower – the same flower Odocomon had investigated.

James’ D-Touch advised some information, just that the Digimon was one named Palmon.

“Poison Ivy!” The ‘fingers’ were vines that shot out from the Digimon’s hands. James stepped back, misjudged his footing, and fell onto his backside.

“Holy crap!” He rolled out of the way, just as the vines would have reached him. They grasped nothing and flew back into Palmon’s hands. James scrabbled on the ground for something: a rock, a stick, a branch – anything, but found only handfuls of grass. “Aw, crap!”

“Poison Ivy!” Three vines came again, and James raised an arm in time to guard himself. He yanked at them as he shoved himself to his feet. Palmon was steadfast on the branch. James didn’t see the second hand of vines shoot towards him until they were in his face and had wrapped around his head and mouth.

He felt the poison immediately, seeping into his skin though his pores. It wasn’t wholly unpleasant, it was like becoming drunk, very, very quickly. He could see the world around him collapsing away. His legs gave up beneath him. He was on his knees and then quickly on his chest on the ground, eye level with the grass. His eyes remained open, but he couldn’t move anything; his arms and legs refused to respond to his attempts to command them. He breathed heavily, using what little control he had over his body to concentrate on that. The last thing he wanted to do was to suffocate.

He heard noises as the vines around his face disappeared. Palmon came down to the ground, pushing through the leaves of the bushes, its feet brushing the grass. There were other footfalls too, similar to that of Palmon, so James groggily though it was not alone.

“You let him see you!” A voice above him was scolding, female. It reminded him vaguely of Odocomon when she was in one of her moods. That thought made him smile goofily.

“At least he’s down.” Palmon retorted, crossing her arms. “This is the last one, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” the second voice replied, “finally enough contestants for the tournament.” James felt something slither over his body though his clothes and constrict him tightly. It was like having a snake wrap itself around him.

He found himself repeating the word tournament in his head, and wondering what was going on. He was being carried, and not very gently he realized as he hit his head on a rock – he was very low to the ground. He tried to make some form of speech but all that came out of his mouth was a garbled gibberish. Eventually, the trees and grasses all merged together into a blackness.

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“James~…” The voice above him was practically heavenly. James could hear it breaking through the fogginess of his mind as he cracked his eyes open. Once open, he closed them again quickly, then opened them again, only able to make out vague shapes and fuzzy outlines.

Wherever he was, it was badly lit. The sunlight of the day had disappeared. He could smell a dampness, and dirt. He was willing to bet money on being in a cave, or at least underground. His mind was hazy as he came to. He remembered things, he remembered seeing Palmon, and being attacked, voices, and then blacking out. So he commended himself on that.

“Oh good,” the female voice again, “he’s waking up!” She seemed to say that to someone else. He made out a shape above him: a face, with large ears, and green eyes full of concern.

“Odocomon…?”

She smiled, obviously relieved. “Yes… Move slowly. Slowly now, the poison will wear off shortly…” James struggled to find his limbs, to make them move. He could see them moving, but didn’t feel like he had any real control of them. It was like waking up with a dead arm after lying on it all night. Only it was all of his limbs. Even his legs felt heavy and foreign.

James blinked slowly, his eyes adjusting to the poor lighting. Odocomon had moved to one side, but she was still in view. He blindly flailed, trying to find her, until she put her neck beneath his hand and he stroked a comforting gesture. “Wha’ happened?” His mouth felt dry – like he hadn’t had a drink in days.

“Ambushed.” He heard Reyez’s voice through the fog of his mind. Disgruntled and quietly outraged. “Poisoned by some lame-ass plant Digimon. We’ve been brought underground.”

“Anyone… hurt?” James inquired. Feeling was returning to his arms and legs, like thousands of tiny pinpricks – it hurt like hell and made James wince to feel it, but it was better than not being able to feel anything at all.

“Just our pride,” Ailurmon this time. She sounded just as angry as Reyez.

“That’s about all we know,” Tom spoke, he sounded closer than Reyez did. James would inspect the room when he was fully functional again, which he anticipated would be soon as he was getting more and more feeling back with every passing second. “The Palmon were just waiting for unsuspecting travelers, and we happened to pass by.”

“No one has stopped by to explain why we’re here though,” Hunter added. He was closest to James.

He felt ready to move, and slowly pushed himself up off the ground, with a little help from Odocomon, who supported him under his arm as he struggled a little. He sat up slowly; now that his eyes were fully in focus, he could see where he was, and suddenly wished he was still out of it - anything was more acceptable than the situation he found himself in right now.

He was in a cage, with Odocomon, barely big enough for James to sit up straight in without his head brushing the very top of it. It was made of wooden bars, with barely enough space between them to put his hand through. The wood was lashed together with vines and was obviously sturdy. He saw Hunter to his left, hunched over, with Skollmon in his lap. Tom was to his right, trying to placate Poemon, who was preening her feathers out of sheer anxiety. Reyez was opposite them both in a cage with Ailurmon, his back facing them all as he leaned on the door of his cage. There were other cages too, at least ten, most empty and one or two with occupants so hidden by the shadows that James couldn’t make them out.

The room they were in was large enough to fit the cages, and have gaps wide enough between each one to walk through. It was lit by candles dotted around, which flickered very slightly to the tiny gusts of wind that passed through the room.

“How long have we been down here?” James asked.

“Probably an hour or two,” Poemon replied, stopping the pulling of her feathers for a moment. Tom took the opportunity to grab her and pull her towards him, holding her wings out so she couldn’t pull at them anymore. She squawked in protest, kicking her feet weakly.

“The Palmon have come through once or twice, mainly to check if we were awake or not,” Skollmon said solemnly.

“And before you ask,” Hunter prompted, “he has tried burning the cage to get out. It’s fire proof.”

“Fire proof?” James repeated. “How?!”

“Beats me,” Skollmon replied sadly. Hunter patted his head.

There was silence, and James rubbed the back of his head, feeling it throb where he had hit the back of it on a stone as the Palmon had dragged him. It wasn’t bleeding, so that was something he was thankful for. Odocomon curled up beside him, laying her chin on his legs, looking at him for a moment before staring out of the cell. James’ head still felt dizzy as the last of the poison wore off. He guessed the Palmon’s vines were laced with some kind of paralyzing venom, and considered it a lucky thing that it was only temporary.

Somewhere across the room, a door opened and footsteps were heard. Reyez turned around from where he sat, and Ailurmon was alert too as the footsteps went towards their cell first. Tom and Hunter were both on high alert too, and Odocomon lifted her head.

“Hey! HEY!” Ailurmon shouted, holding onto the bars as she clambered over Reyez and snarled out at the passing Digimon, another Palmon armed with a long cane-like stick.

“Get back,” ordered Palmon, snapping the cane at the bars, lashing Ailurmon’s paws. She recoiled, and snarled out at the plant Digimon.

“I will tear you apart!” Ailurmon threatened.


“We’ll see,” Palmon mocked, smirking and carrying on past the cage. It looked into Tom and Poemon’s, snapping the cane against the bars to frighten Poemon further. “Pitiful,” sneered Palmon, carrying on past their cage and stopping in front of James’. “Oh, you’re awake now, are you?”

“What do you want?” James demanded.

Palmon shrugged. “You’ll find out soon enough. Still, the Master will be pleased to know you’re awake and coherent.” It carried on walking after glancing into Hunter and Skollmon’s cage, only to be met by looks of pure hatred. “It means the games can begin.”

“What games?!” Ailurmon barked. “Who’s your master?! ANSWER ME DAMMIT!”

“It’s gone, Ailurmon,” Hunter told her, irritated. “We’re all pissed off.”

Ailurmon mumbled an angry reply as Reyez checked over her paws.

“You want to know what you’re in for?” A voice spoke out from the gloom, one of the stationary forms in one of the other cages moved, coming a little further into the light, still quite shadowed. It was possible to make out a pair of large feet, strong legs and an upright body that was more hunched over in the small confines than Hunter was. There were two arms, with large metal gauntlets for paws, and then a face, so scarred it was impossible to make out certain features. Though for certain there was a large scar going diagonally across the Digimon’s face, which had cut through one of its eyes.

“Who’re you?” Tom asked, moving in his own cell, to get a better view of the Digimon. Reyez was closest and had the best view of its features – even he was a little disturbed. It wasn’t just the face that was scarred, but the whole body. Patches of fur were missing. There were scars from claw and bite marks, a toe was missing from one of the Digimon’s large feet. Even chunks of skin were missing, leaving incredible grooves and dents in its body.

“Prairiemon.” The Digimon answered. Poemon hopped around in the cage with Tom, pressing herself up against the bars to get a better look. Hunter and Skollmon had shifted too, curious to hear what the Digimon had to say, while Odocomon and James had a standard view from where they sat.

Ailurmon asked the obvious question. “What happened to you?”

Prairiemon almost smiled. “I fought. And won,” he said simply. “Want to know why you are here?”

“Y-yes...” Poemon said softly.

“To fight,” Prairiemon told her. “You have been brought here to battle. To the death, in a gladiator tournament for the master of this underground realm.”

“And who is that?” Hunter inquired.

“I have not seen his face. Only his servants. The eventual winner gets that privilege.” Prairiemon told him. “And the privilege of walking back into the sunlight alive.”

“Doesn’t sound like much of a prize,” Reyez grunted.

Prairiemon’s eyes darted to him. “Considering what you are forced to go through, living is the most precious prize. More precious than gems, notoriety, or even a place at the Master’s right hand.”

“How long has this tournament been going on?” Odocomon asked. “Your wounds… look old.”

Regarding himself and then Odocomon, Prairiemon said, “I have been his most prized fighter for…” he paused, as if trying to recall a time. He failed and sighed. “A very long time. I have won countless tournaments, but my prowess is to good for me to go free. Every new tournament I am told to fight. Every tournament I win, and yet I have yet to see the Master’s face, or feel the daylight.”

“So… we’ll have to fight?” Tom asked.

“Yes,” Prairiemon told him.

“You?”

“Possibly… more likely each other. And others. Across the arena there are more cages.”

“No!” Poemon yelped.

“We couldn’t possibly!” Odocomon added.

Ailurmon and Skollmon stayed silent.

“You won’t have a choice in the matter. It’s a fight to the-” he stopped suddenly. The door opened again, and this time two small Digimon that looked like chess pieces entered. They moved right past Reyez’s cage and Prairiemon’s, going to the cage behind his. There was a Digimon there none of them had even registered, bigger than a human, and all white, like a snowman. The door to the cell was unlocked, and the PawnChessmon grabbed the Digimon roughly, dragging it through the other cages.

“I won’t fight! I won’t! YOU CANNOT FORCE ME!” The Digimon was screaming, kicking its legs wildly as the PawnChessmon dragged it easily towards the door. “HELP ME!”

Prairiemon was quivering with fear evident on his face. Ailurmon stared after the screaming Digimon and the PawnChessmon, while Poemon huddled into Tom, covering her ears from the cries. Odocomon and Skollmon followed the view they had, and all the humans did the same. The doors closed and even from behind them it was possible to hear a loud cheer erupt from a crowd of some sort.

Without anyone saying anything, they all unanimously stayed silent, straining their hearing to pick up sounds of the fighting outside. Over the sounds of the cheering, there were muffled cries of attacks. Sounds of crashes, and cries of agony audible above anything else. Every time there was a thud or a shout of pain, more cheers echoed up from the watching crowd.

Prairiemon had become almost statue-like as he too listened to the battle raging just beyond the flimsy door. Were it not for his quivering, it could have appeared he had died standing up. Fear was evident on the Digimon’s face, his breathing quickened and as the cries of the crowd died down, he backed up towards the very back of his cage, hands covering his head. “Not again. Not again. Not again,” he chanted, rocking backwards and forwards.

“What’s the matter?” Odocomon asked.

Poemon looked at him sympathetically. “You don’t want to fight?”

“Not again,” Prairiemon repeated, though whether it was a reply or him still chanting, neither Digimon was sure.

“I’m sure it won’t come to that,” Poemon tried to ease him, but it was difficult being so far away, and with what Prairiemon had explained, how could it not come to that?

Ailurmon was up on her feet. “We won’t let it come to that,” she said fiercely.

Before anything could be said, the PawnChessmon had entered once again with the Palmon.

“It's time for the next opponent!” Palmon said proudly, as if this was some kind of honor.

Ailurmon stumbled, lost her footing, and hit the dirt of the area. She stood up, looking around at the crowds of Digimon circling around her. It was just like in those gladiator movies and shows that Reyez loved to watch so much, she concluded to herself. She was in an area about half the size of a football pitch. There were high stone walls, so no one could climb over, and gates at either end of the area. Seats went surprisingly high into the walls of the cave, and each one had something sitting in it. At the end furthest away from Ailurmon, there was an elevated seat – no doubt where the Master sat. Despite trying to make out a shape, Ailurmon couldn’t see anything, just a shadow.

The Digimon circled around, chanting and cheering for amusement and entertainment.

Ailurmon looked ahead, the giant gate catching her attention as it creaked open. The shadow of a bigger Digimon took shape and then stepped out, revealing a Togemon.

Ailurmon stepped back as the Togemon moved forward. Much like Prariemon and many of the other Digimon she had seen, this Togemon seemed to had been battling for some time. Its surface – which was a mottled brownish-green, rather than a healthy color - was scarred deeply all over, and there were rusty chains around both its wrists. 

Another sound caught Ailurmon’s attention.

Under where she could only assume the 'Master' was sitting, was a small platform rising from the ground. Reyez was being chained to a wooden beam, with his wrist shackled above him, trying his best to break free. Reyez attempted to pull, but to no avail.

“REYEZ!” Ailurmon cried out, running towards the platform.

Before she could make it, Togemon stepped in her way.

Ailurmon leaped back, barely avoiding being squashed by Togemon's feet.

“I don't want to hurt you! Move the FUCK out of my WAY!” Ailurmon screamed.

Togemon simply growled. “Needle Spray!”

The small panda found herself quickly dodging the attacks. Running away from Togemon as quickly as possible.

Reyez stopped struggling momentarily. “Just kill the damn thing!” he shouted.

Ailurmon’s face was painted with hesitation.

“Just do it! Shit, it's not like they don't want to die!” He continued to try and unhinge himself once more.

In a bright blue light, Bambusmon had taken in place of Ailurmon.

“Now that’s what I like to see.” Reyez heard the voice of the Master above him, but even from his vantage point couldn’t make out a body or a face.

Bambusmon vaulted into the air, bouncing off the walls and using them to gain momentum to keep moving. She was quick, lithe, and agile – moving too quickly for Togemon to keep up.

“Great Cannon!” Bambusmon cried, releasing a jet of energy from her hand, which hit Togemon in the back of the head. Togemon whirled round, snatching at Bambusmon. Grasping one of her legs, Bambusmon yelped as she was slammed into the ground.

“Needle Spray!” Togemon roared, releasing thousands of pins at its opponent on the ground. The impact was intense, and Bambusmon protected herself, rolling slightly into a ball to let her leaves take the worst of the damage.

“GET UP AND FIGHT!!” Reyez yelled. Bambusmon glanced at him. He had stopped struggling for a moment and had a look of concern on his face. Just like the one he had worn at the Floramon village.

The needles stopped and Bambusmon rolled over, just in time to see Togemon’s fists about to rain down on her. She rolled swiftly to one side, and the fists impacted the ground, sending up a massive spray of dust and sand into Togemon’s face. Bambusmon took the distraction to her benefit as Togemon was disorientated, trying to brush the dirt from its eyes.

Getting to her feet, Bambusmon leapt onto Togemon’s flailing limbs and up, spinning in midair. “Foliage Domination!!” Vines lashed from her hand, wrapping around Togemon’s wide body. Bambusmon yanked back on her hand sharply, and send Togemon tumbling to the ground in a flailing mess, despite its large size and bulk.

The vines retracted, and Bambusmon charged up her clawed hand, facing straight down to see Togemon, who just lay on the spot waiting for its fate. “Great Cannon.” Bambusmon barely uttered the command, looking away from her opponent as it impacted and Togemon exploded in a shower of data around her.

The crowd erupted into cheers, Bambusmon had almost forgotten there were Digimon watching. She felt dirty following her win, and glared at the darkened side of the stand as she reached the ground. Reyez was still trying to free himself.

Everyone distracted, Bambusmon bolted, running straight for the elevated area of the arena where the Master would be sitting. Her clawed hand was charged. She timed her leap and took it, her muscles bunching in her legs to give her an extra lift. She saw Reyez a few feet away.

“GREAT CANNON!!” She practically screamed, the attack shot out of her hand and flew through the air. It impacted, but not on the Master as she had hoped. Where it impacted, it bounced off like a ball from a wall, straight back. Bambusmon dodged her own attack in time, but was going too fast to stop. She hit against a force field and was shot back violently.

Ailurmon landed on the ground – singed, outraged, but too shocked by the force field to stand. Two PawnChessmon grabbed her up from the ground under her arms and took her away to where the cages were. Ailurmon could see Reyez disappearing under the platform before she blacked out.

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“Ailurmon!” Odocomon sounded horrified as the two PawnChessmon threw her into the cage she had occupied with Reyez. However, Reyez hadn't returned and no on hadn’t seen him since he was taken with Ailurmon, and their questions as to where he was taken were met with cane snaps or silence.

“What happened?” Hunter demanded, despite being able to see Ailurmon was in no fit state to talk.

She managed to mumble something incoherent in response, before she fell silent and floppy like a doll.

“You’re next.” PawnChessmon yanked open the cage door of Tom and Poemon, and grabbed Poemon by the feet as she attempted to scurry away.

“No! I don’t want to! No!” Poemon tried to flap and kick her legs to get them to release her but the PawnChessmon had her tight and changed their grip to her wings once she was far enough out of the cage. They slammed the door before Tom could move. “Tom!!”

“Don’t hurt her!” Tom yelled. His voice was lost in the echo of the door slamming behind them.

Poemon quivered, terrified of the noise and the jeering around her as she looking fearfully around the arena, all the faces of the Digimon were lost, merging with one another, and Poemon arranged her feathers anxiously where they had been ruffled by the manhandling from the PawnChessmon.

She hoped Tom was okay. That he was safe and unharmed. She didn’t want to fight, but knew she would have to, if what Prairiemon had said was true – and he didn’t seem like a Digimon who would lie about something like this – then the only way she or the others would be getting out would be if they fought their way out.

At the opposite end of the arena, she could see Tom chained to a board. He had his eyes fixed on her. He looked as terrified as she felt.

But she couldn’t afford to be scared now. She had to fight and win, if she wanted to get out of here with the others. Ailurmon had fought and won, so Poemon knew she could do it too.

Breathing in deeply, Poemon steeled herself as the gates below to elevated platform opened. “Time to be brave,” Poemon told herself, watching as her opponent, a flaming red Birdramon, swooped out. It was in a similar condition to Prairiemon, all battered and scarred in places. Many of its feathers had been plucked out, leaving patches of bare skin.

It took all of a few seconds for Birdramon to spot Poemon, it circled for a moment, and then drew back, its wings closing in around it. “Meteor Wing!” Balls of flame descended and Poemon flapped her little wings, hurrying out of the way. The meteors kept falling and Poemon narrowly missed one, taking a quick dive to avoid it.

“Nevermore!” She disappeared in a sudden puff of smoke, appearing behind Birdramon and slashed it with her claws. Birdramon cawed loudly, billowing its wings and causing Poemon to lose her balance.

“POEMON!” Tom yelled.

The ground was close, but before Poemon impacted, Valramon appeared in her stead in a flash of brilliant green light.

Ignoring the battle, Valramon swooped up from the ground, flapped her wings, and sped towards the end of the arena were Tom was. Her body was engulfed and she was intent on attacking the figure she couldn’t see. Tom clenched his eyes shut to ready himself for the impact.

“Meteor Wing!!” Birdramon cried above Valramon.

Valramon screeched, the flames hitting her wings and her back, she faltered in midair, as more meteors fell. The bat-winged crow flew upwards, taking the battle airborne, her vaporous tail trailing behind in a train of blackness.

“Meteor Wing!”

“Duskbane!” Valramon countered, releasing a murder of ravens from her wings. The flaming meteors burned each little raven, leaving the way clear for Valramon as she ascended.

Birdramon began to dive, gaining speed to meet Valramon head on.

“WATCH OUT!”  Tom’s voice was practically lost to Valramon. Her eyes narrowed as she timed the moment, just as the two Champion Digimon would have collided in mid-air, Valramon drew her wings in and rolled out of the way, like prey avoiding a hunter. Birdramon careered passed her, nose diving into the ground. Valramon turned swiftly in midair, and followed the dive.

“Night Strike!” She was engulfed in the same black mist that covered her tail, protecting her from the blast as she crashed into Birdramon, who struggled to right itself.

The aftermath sent up a wave of dirt from the explosion, Tom’s heart had practically stopped as he waited to see who came out of the gloom, he was being lowered down beneath the platform on a noisy mechanism, but was able to glimpse Poemon’s body appearing as the dust settled.

“Tom?” Poemon’s voice was small and worried when she saw he had disappeared. Tears welled up in her eyes – she didn’t struggle against the PawnChessmon this time as they took her from the Arena and threw her back into her cage. She was sobbing, and despite questions from Odocomon and Ailurmon – who was now awake and groggy – could not find her voice to answer.

Next, Skollmon was taken from his cage, snapping his jaws together at the PawnChessmon, snarling, growling and foaming at the mouth.

“Whatever is out there – kick its ass!” Hunter told him, before the door to the arena was slammed closed.

Skollmon was thrown into the arena by the PawnChessmon, rather than dragged. They were terrified of losing their limbs to his fangs, and there was an uproar of laughter as Skollmon hit the ground mouth first and whimpered like an injured puppy to the insult.

There was no preamble this time. The door opposite him opened as Hunter was raised up on the higher platform. Skollmon didn’t know where to look: at Hunter, chained and struggling against his binds, or at the door and his adversary, who thundered through with steps that made the ground shake.

Deciding he would probably never see Hunter again if he lost, Skollmon looked to whom he was to fight. A Greymon towered above him, missing a horn from its helmet, with wounds that looked recent, still healing on its body and with chains dragging on the ground from its feet and tail.

Skollmon growled, and Greymon charged, head lowered, the falls of its feet rumbling through the air. Turning tail, Skollmon bolted, avoiding Greymon’s larger feet before they landed on him. Greymon’s head crashed into one of the walls, creating two large holes where the horns on his helmet were. Snarling, it turned and pursued Skollmon around the arena.

Laughter was filling the arena at the sight of a giant dinosaur pursuing a small orange wolf, even Hunter found it mildly amusing – he would have found it more amusing if it had not been Skollmon. He hoped Skollmon had a plan, as there was little Hunter could do for him in his current place.

“Nova Blast!” Greymon bellowed, releasing a ball of flame directly into Skollmon’s path, forcing him to stop, turn and run the opposite way. “Nova Blast!” Greymon did the same again, blocking Skollmon’s way with flames, causing the small canine Digimon to glance back and forth. He had flames on either side of him, a Greymon in front, and a wall behind blocking him from escape.

Flames licked around Greymon’s giant teeth as it readied its attack again. Skollmon stood his ground, his eyes fierce and defiant.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Hunter yelled. “RUN!”

Greymon stepped forward.

Skollmon’s eyes flickered for a moment. “Heat Wave,” he murmured softly, his voice inaudible over the cries of the crowd, who jeered and shouted for blood.

Another step. Greymon was sent flying with a tremendous roar by a blast of flames erupting from the faintly glowing runes that circled Skollmon. A flash of white light engulfed Skollmon, leaving Romulumon in his place.

In moments, the agile were-Digimon was on Greymon, moving swiftly, raining down powerful kicks and punches onto the dinosaur, who struggled to react with its own slower movements. Greymon’s arms moved wildly, trying to fend off the faster Digimon with lazy and misjudged slashes with its claws and arms.

Indignant roars echoed from its throat, drowned out when Romulumon punched it square in the neck, causing the Greymon to make a struggling choking sound. Greymon released a deep growl that resounded around the arena as Romulumon landed neatly on the dirt ground, staring at the dinosaur Digimon with cocky confidence.
“Nova Blast!”

“Incinerate!” Romulumon’s chest puffed out and he howled, blasting out a scorching wall of fire into which Greymon’s attack disappeared, burning up in the heat. “Searing Claws!” Romulumon charged through his own wall of flame, his claws ignited and leapt, swiping his claws in the form of punches, each movement releasing a tiny, dangerous inferno onto Greymon’s head and face.

Yowling in pain, Greymon swiped his arms back and forth in an attempt to protect himself. Romulumon landed on the dinosaur Digimon’s head, planting his flaming paws on either side. He glanced quickly at Hunter, before plunging both claws through Greymon’s helmet and further in. With a final failing roar, Greymon tumbled to the ground, and was data before he hit it, Romulumon landing easily where Greymon’s head would have been.

More cheers went up from the watching crowd.

Romulumon was replaced by Skollmon, and Hunter disappeared beneath the platform. Odocomon was dragged out by Palmon, as Skollmon was marched back to his cage by the PawnChessmon.

Odocomon could barely get her bearings before the other set of gates were opened and a withered but fearsome Garurumon ran out of them, heading straight towards her, his eyes burning with rage and a hint of terror.

“Howling Blaster!”

A stream of blue fire went straight for Odocomon, she scrabbled for a moment, before managing to dodge the attack and gallop out of the way. Garurumon’s jaws snapped at her as she passed it, only making her run faster.

She could see James now, suspended on a board like Ailurmon had explained once she could make speech, and chained to it, beside a figure cloaked in shadows.

“Keep moving!” James yelled.

Odocomon did not need his instruction, she could sense Garurumon behind her, moving quickly, he didn’t need to run as fast to catch up with her as Odocomon had to run to get away.

“Howling Blaster!” Another shot of blue fire that sailed past Odocomon, crashing into the walls of the arena. She turned her head, quickly glancing over her shoulder.

“Borealis Stream!” Dozens of tiny lilac darts of energy fired from her mouth, landing dead center on Garurumon’s face. The old gnarled Digimon snarled, leaping at her, jaws open. Odocomon stopped her running, letting the large Digimon sail overhead and land on the ground with a mouthful of dirt.

Rusdramon appeared in her place in a flash of purple light, just in time, as Garurumon was back on its feet and lunged at her with its maw wide and teeth dripping with saliva. She lowered her head, jamming her antlers up, forcing the Digimon’s mouth to close around those and not her neck. Garurumon whimpered against the antlers as they impaled the roof of its mouth, blood dripping to the ground and onto Rusdramon’s face.

Garurumon pulled back, whimpering from the pain the antler’s caused. It snarled still, blood mixing with the foaming around its mouth. Rusdramon uneasily pawed the ground with her hooves. She remained perfectly still as Garurumon circled her like prey. In the natural order of things, she would have been prey. She watched warily, taking note of its movements and how it looked at her hungrily with one eye wide open and the other half-hooded.

In a blink, Garurumon was in the air, leaping at her and blue flames visible in its mouth, its attack ready to be fired.

Rusdramon reacted. “Amethyst Chains!” she bellowed. The chains flew forward, wrapping around Garurumon’s front paws and neck. Garurumon howled as the light burned its skin, as Rusdramon reared onto her hind legs, pulling the wolf-Digimon to the ground in a heap. Struggling, the wolf Digimon fought to get to its feet. Rusdramon’s chains tightened around it as she continued to pull back against Garurumon's own strength.


The burning was intense, releasing a horrendous smell of burning flesh into the air, enough to make Rusdramon’s stomach turn. She pulled again on the chains, planting her hooves into the ground.

Garurumon released a strangled bark, with a choking noise, before its body fell limply to the ground and began to disintegrate. The chains flew back into the orbs on Rusdramon’s antlers and Odocomon was left in her place, panting. With wide, terror-filled eyes.

The PawnChessmon ushered her away.

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

The cage door slammed behind Odocomon, and she shook against the noise and from the adrenaline rushing around her body. The other Rookies were in cages now closer to her own, but there was no sign of their partners.

“How’re you holding up?” Skollmon asked, peering through the bars at Odocomon as she trembled.

“Fine. Fine,” she replied shortly, “I’m fine.” She started pacing back and forth in the small space.

Poemon looked at her with worry but said nothing.

“This is barbaric,” Odocomon stated suddenly. “It’s disgusting. How long have some of these Digimon been down here?!” She demanded, staring across at the cage Prairiemon was in.

The other Digimon regarded her patiently. “It’s impossible to say. Years? The promise of freedom is never given. If the master likes a fighter, or the way fighters battle, he keeps them and keeps them fighting… there’s no other choice. It’s either fight. Or die.”

“We can’t stay here and battle for the rest of our lives!” Odocomon retorted angrily.

Prairiemon’s mouth opened, but he shut it promptly as the door swung open and clanged noisily against the wall. The two Palmon walked in, and while one closed the door, the other walked towards the cages, snapping its cane against the bars.

“Where’s Tom?!” Poemon demanded, getting right up to the bars.

“Where are our partners?!” added Skollmon with a snarl.

Palmon’s cane whipped against the bars of Ailurmon’s cage, as the panda Digimon stared at it nonchalantly. “We like our little cane, don’t we?” she mocked, standing upright. “We like to whip it on the cage to intimidate the prisoners.”

Palmon looked at her with disinterest.

“Let me guess, a little bit of power went to your head?”

Again the cane snapped against the cage and Ailurmon narrowed her eyes. “I am going to kill you,” she stated darkly, “make no mistake.”

Ignoring her, the Palmon spoke. “If you have any desire to see your partners again, then you have to do the Master’s bidding.”

“Like Hell we do!” Skollmon barked.

“Oh, you do,” Palmon replied with a sickening smile. “You will all fight. To the death.”

“If we won’t?” Asked Odocomon.

“Then you will watch your partners die, and then spend the rest of your miserable lives fighting for your lives, for the amusement of the Master,” Palmon explained.

“Where are they?” Ailurmon inquired.

“Safe,” Palmon told her. “They’re being held in another part of the arena. But they’re safe and unharmed, for now.”

“You call being chained to a board safe and unharmed?” Skollmon yelled. “I’d hate to see what treatment you give to willing participants.” The cane whipped again, and Skollmon fell silent.

“The next round of fights is going to start soon. I suggest you hold on to the strength you still have to see you through.” Without answering any of the other questions the Digimon yelled at them, the Palmon disappeared through the door, leaving their queries echoing off the walls.

“This sucks,” Ailurmon declared, punching the bars of her cage. It hurt more than it made her feel better, but she didn’t say anything to declare as such.

“There’s got to be a way out,” Poemon said hopefully. “If we could evolve to our Mega stages we could probably take on all the Digimon here.”

“But we need Reyez and the others to do that,” Ailurmon explained. “Besides, I don’t think it would be that easy. We can get to our Champion levels, and that’s about it I think. I tried to use energy to get to Mistresmon, but there was no use. I couldn’t do it.”

Skollmon cleared his throat. “I think we should fight.”

“What?”

“Hear me out,” Skollmon said, glancing at Odocomon. “I say we fight. Winning isn’t going to be that hard, considering all the Digimon we’re fighting are old and are pretty much exhausted.”

“Where are you going with this?” Ailurmon demanded impatiently.

“I figure at some point, all four of us will be out on the field. At that point, once we’ve taken out our own opponents, we attack the Master. If we destroy him, the other watching Digimon will scatter, we find the guys, and go!” Skollmon explained, pleased with himself and his ingenuity.

“It’s a plan,” Poemon murmured, “and the only one we have.”

“It won’t work,” Ailurmon said.

Skollmon frowned. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“No. I mean,” Ailurmon sighed, “it’s a good plan. But there’s a force field or something that’s protecting the Master. I got totally knocked out by it. Unless we can figure out a way to get rid of the protective field, we’ll have to think of another way.”

Skollmon dropped to the floor, disheartened, and both Poemon and Odocomon went silent, the notion their only plan was useless and not going to work spoiling the likelihood of any hope they hand.

Prairiemon shuffled in his cage, edging towards the bars. Ailurmon looked at him, an eyebrow tilted. He glanced at the main door, to be certain no one was coming. “I may have a plan that could work,” he said.

The Rookies were immediately attentive to him, listening as he explained his idea.

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

The next round of fights began moments after Prairiemon and the Rookies had finalized their plans.

Ailurmon was first out, as before, and she wasted no time in evolving to Bambusmon to save time in the battle.

Her first instinct was to find Reyez, and she saw him, still safe and still chained to the board now above and behind the shadowed figure, with the best viewpoint of the fights. The others were with him, all equally as unhurt.

Her opponent for this round was a giant flying insect Digimon, Kabuterimon, who hovered around her with quick movements, firing balls of electric energy at her from a great height. Despite taking some damage and losing her temper during the battle, Bambusmon was able to pull the flying Digimon to the ground with her vines. In a fit of rage, she ripped its wings off, forcing it to fight on the ground. Her destruction of Kabuterimon was merciless, and she left the arena without a second look at Reyez or the others.

Poemon was next, and was Valramon after only seconds of fighting. She had gained some confidence from the first fight and took the air, being the more dominant in her bout with another flying Digimon, Aquilamon. Several times the two clashed in midair. Valramon disorientated by Aquilamon’s Blast Rings attack, and Aquilamon by the murders of ravens that flocked around his head whispering terrible things. The battle was finally ended in the same way as Poemon’s previous fight, with her nose-dive and impacting Aquilamon as he lay shaking and trembling on the ground, both wings too injured to allow flight.

Skollmon had a harder fight on his paws this time, as he was given a well armored Ankylomon to fight against. Romulumon’s mini-infernos bounced right off the shelled Digimon, and he was no match for the powerful tail swings that knocked him flying several times. More than once, Romulumon only narrowly avoided being crushed by Ankylomon’s bulk. It took some quick thinking to defeat the dinosaur Digimon, and quick reflexes as Romulumon finally defeated Ankylomon when the larger Digimon tried to jump on top of him, and was met with a barrage of flames on its softer and more vulnerable underside.

In the final bout, Rusdramon struggled against Ikkakumon, and the missiles that were shot from its horn, each missile dividing into up to six at a time. It wasn’t just the attacks either, as Ikkakumon was also much larger and heavier than Rusdramon, which meant it was almost impossible for her Amethyst Chains attack to be of any use. Eventually she won by sheer determination, throwing attack after attack at the other Digimon, who was too slow to react or defend itself.

After each battle, the Digimon were taken back to their cages, and could only wait to hear if their companions had also won.

Watching from their viewpoint, Tom and the others saw everything. The fights were worse to watch because they were powerless to do anything, and despite still having their D-Touches, they couldn't help their Digimon evolve further than their Champion levels.

They had all asked the servant Digimon questions, about the Master, the battles, their Digimon, and their questions had been met with insults and injuries in the forms of whip cracks that just cut into their hands and arms. None of them had been able to get a good look at the ring master of this circus. In the shadows, the figure they had all seen barely moved and only occasionally made a sound, comments about the fights or demanding more food.

“This is probably the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed,” Tom stated, looking down at the current battle between Meramon and Wizardmon. He hesitated to continue. “But at the same time I think it’s kind of cool.”

“And me,” Hunter agreed. James arched an eyebrow. “Well, think about it! We’re watching battles to the death here! Like the games they had back in the Roman coliseum. When it’s not our Digimon fighting, it’s actually pretty exciting.”

“Yeah,” Tom nodded his head.

James sighed loudly. “When it’s not our Digimon – sure,” he said finally, “but when it is I just want to go down there and do something. I hate being up here and so fucking helpless.”

“There’s not much we can do, unless you’ve suddenly discovered you can manipulate metal with your mind,” Hunter commented, relating back to their earlier conversation about the comic books. James looked at him unamused, while Tom, trying to make the most of their situation, smirked a little. “I mean look at Reyez.”

The three turned their heads in unison, Reyez had been concentrating on getting out of the shackles since the first battle. The fingers on his right hand were cut up from getting caught on sharp and jagged pieces of metal, and consequently the metal was slippery from the blood. He was no closer to getting loose, and the more he moved against the binds, the more they cut into his skin.

“I don’t need a fucking audience,” Reyez snapped. “So unless you have something useful to add that might help me get loose, fuck off.”

Tom quirked an eyebrow but said nothing. Hunter was mildly amused, while James understood Reyez’s frustration. He wanted to get loose as much as Reyez did, but trying was proving futile for Reyez, and all the binds and shackles were the same. Large iron cuffs over their wrists and ankles, with chains going between each limb. They were fastened with locks that were old-fashioned but resilient, pegs through holes of a certain shape and then locked into place.

The fight between Meramon and Wizardmon was over, with Meramon the victor. The fiery Digimon was led off the field by the PawnChessmon, as Palmon centered the center of the arena, arms raised, silencing the crowd. Around Palmon, other Rookie Digimon ran quickly, smoothing out the dirt ground for the next battle.

Once the crowd was silent, Palmon began speaking. “We now have four combatants in our main event for the day!” it shouted, voice resonating around the arena. At either end of the field, the doors were opening. “Who will win in this exciting tournament is anyone’s guess! Get ready for the next round!!”

Palmon disappeared from the field in a quick run, just as Rusdramon appeared from one end of the arena, and Romulumon the other.

“WHAT?!”

“NO!!”

James and Hunter’s faces were aghast and their yells were enough to get Reyez’s attention from his escape attempt.

“They can’t fight each other!” Hunter yelled. “They can’t kill each other!” He was beginning to struggle wildly against his binds, and they immediately cut into his skin, sending blood streaming down his arm.

Below, Romulumon already had Rusdramon by the antlers as the two pushed against each other, comparing strength. Rusdramon wrenched away from the were-Digimon, rearing onto her hind legs and kicking out with her forelegs. Romulumon’s arms went up to guard against the flailing limbs and he snarled at her behind them.

“Stop fighting!” James yelled. “Rusdramon!”

“They must be drugged or something, they wouldn’t fight each other willingly if they weren’t,” Hunter tried to rationalize, panic rising in his voice. James was struggling against the iron cuffs, there was pain but he could barely feel it.

Romulumon charged at Rusdramon, his fists engulfed in flame. She turned at the last moment, kicking her back legs out and landing them squarely into Romulumon’s jaw, knocking him back several feet.

The crowd cheered.

“How can they be cheering!?” James raised his voice over the noise. “These are our Digimon!”

“This is their entertainment,” Reyez replied with a serious tone to his voice.

The chains of light Rusdramon had around Romulumon’s neck and left arm were broken suddenly by a wall of flame being blown from his mouth. Rusdramon reared onto her back legs to get out of the way of the flame, lost her balance and tumbled into the dirt.

“Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up!” James yelled.

Hunter narrowed his eyes. “He’s not going to hurt her. If he does, I swear it’s not him!”

Rusdramon was on the retreat, back on her feet, kicking her hooves out whenever Romulumon made a lunge. He timed it just right, leaping and narrowly avoiding Rusdramon’s limbs as his paws grabbed her neck and threw her to the ground. He threw flames down onto Rusdramon’s body. She flashed purple, leaving Odocomon in her stead.

Palmon declared the fight won by Romulumon, and both Digimon were ushered off the field.

“She’s not dead,” James breathed out in a rush of air, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of him. “He didn’t kill her.”

Hunter frowned. “I don’t get it,” he said slowly. “In all the other battles, they weren’t won until the Digimon were dead. Why is this different?”

“What does it matter?” Tom asked, anxious because he knew the next fight would be Valramon and Bambusmon. “If it means our Digimon survive the fight.”

“Maybe they changed the rules,” Reyez reasoned.

The doors opened at either end of the arena. Bambusmon ran out, while Valramon swooped, taking to the air immediately. After only a moment of sizing one-another up, the two attacked. Vines lashing out from Bambusmon’s claw, catching onto Valramon’s feet and pulling her down towards the ground. Valramon released a murder of ravens which swooped around Bambusmon’s head as she tried to swat them away.

Unlike James and Hunter, Tom and Reyez remained eerily quiet as their Digimon fought below. Tom’s mouth as drawn into a straight tense line, his eyebrows furrowed as he leaned forward as much as he was able to against his chains and watched the fighting. Reyez was much the same, but he kept his eyes on Bambusmon, watching her face more than anything.

“Great Cannon!” Bambusmon fired upwards, Valramon had escaped the grip of her vines and was now above her, covered in black vapor like her tail. Valramon dodged to one side and the blow glanced her, exploding in on the ceiling. Valramon descended in a quick dive, and missed Bambusmon, who jumped easily out of the way, using Valramon as a stepping stone to get airborne.

Reyez’s mouth curved into a satisfied smirk. “They’re faking.”

“What?” Tom looked at him, James and Hunter did the same, trying to peer around each other.

“They’re not actually fighting,” Reyez explained. “Blows will land, no doubt, but their attacks aren’t as powerful as before. They’re fucking with everyone.”

“How can you tell?” Hunter inquired.

“Bambusmon’s face. She’s smirking and laughing behind her attacks. There's no way she would have missed Valramon with her cannon, Valramon’s dodge was barely a dodge. They’re doing it on purpose and the crowd is eating it up. It looks like they’re hurting each other and doing a lot of damage, but they’re not.”

Tom felt relieved. “Thank God.”

“Duskbane!” Valramon was plummeting to the ground, aiming directly for Bambusmon, whose claw was out stretched. Bambusmon didn’t move an inch, vines lashed out of her claw, wrapping around Valramon, pulling her towards the ground at accelerated speed. At a moment’s notice, Bambusmon swung back, practically throwing Valramon into the air as the vines released her.

“Great Cannon!” The charge of energy followed Valramon swiftly, catching her tail and then her body. Valramon cawed at the pain, and then falling in her place as the light from the energy had dispersed was Poemon.

“Poe-!” Tom yelled. He remembered was Reyez had said, but it was still hard to see his Digimon fighting and injured the way she was now.

Poemon hit the ground with a thump, and Tom was forced to close his eyes to miss the landing. A PawnChessmon heaved her over its shoulder, while Bambusmon stood waiting, recovering from her fight with Valramon. Tom stared at Poemon intently, and she glanced at him through half-open eyes to give the illusion she was knocked out. He saw a small smile and relaxed the tiniest bit as Poemon disappeared through the doors.

As Poemon disappeared with PawnChessmon, Romulumon dashed out.

Without a moment’s hesitation, he lunged at Bambusmon who side-stepped quickly, dodging the attack. She turned on Romulumon, the vines from the claw hand extending and wrapping around Romulumon’s neck, yanking him to the ground.

With a roar, Romulumon whirled round, ripping through the vines with his paws surrounded by flame. He stalked towards Bambusmon, inhaling deeply and releasing a deafening howl, creating a fiery wall that advanced towards Bambusmon.

In return, she ran quickly, gaining momentum and leaping off the ground. Her claw charged with energy, she shot a blast down at Romulumon as he followed her with a shadowy glare. The charge impacted, and Romulumon faltered back a little. Bambusmon hit the ground gracefully, and turned in time to see Romulumon coming at her from above with his paws covered in flame. She raised her arms to guard.

Hunter stared at the battle, at Reyez, and the battle, and then back at Reyez. “Are you sure they’re… play-fighting? For lack of a better word.”

Reyez seemed to hesitate. “Yes.” He was sure. But this battle was making him second guess himself. The previous fight he could see Bambusmon ‘toying’ with Valramon, and now he thought about the fight between Romulumon and Rusdramon he could see where they had toyed with each other too.

But this fight seemed different.

There was an essence of no-holds-barred as the two Digimon clashed, exchanging blow-for-blow without mercy. Parts of Bambusmon’s leaves were aflame, or singed where Romulumon’s fire had caught. And Romulumon had a wound on his back that made his right arm almost useless to use.

“They’re not fighting for real…” Reyez murmured to himself.

Bambusmon dug her claws into Romulumon’s back, causing his current wound to grow larger where she added pressure. He roared, spun and grabbed Bambusmon by the leg, pulling her off him with a scream from her throat. He threw her on the ground once, twice, the third time he threw her against the wall of the arena, and Bambusmon hit the ground groaning.


Again, the were-Digimon stalked towards her as Bambusmon recovered from the impact. She moaned, holding her head, only aware of Romulumon when he was literally above her and his paws were inches away from her head.

“Move!!” She heard Reyez.

There was no time to react, and Romulumon held off attacking her as a fanfare echoed over the arena, startling them both.

One of the Palmon, standing up on the elevated platform where each human had been displayed earlier cleared its throat. “To add some unfairness to this match,” it said loudly, “our Master has decided to add our reigning champion to the fight!”

Cheers went up from the crowds, roars and yells of excitement. The door beneath the Master opened, and Prairiemon walked slowly out into the noise.

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

Confused looks passed between Bambusmon and Romulumon at the change. This was not how the plan was meant to go. Extinguishing the flames on his paws, Romulumon helped Bambusmon to her feet, murmuring a small apology for the damage he had done.

“I’ll just get you back later,” Bambusmon said, flipping her hair and placing her hands on her hips. Prairiemon was moving towards them slowly, while Romulumon and Bambusmon remained still. They circled one another, using Prairiemon’s movements as an indication of what they were supposed to do.

“Prairiemon,” Bambusmon said in a soft, angry voice, “this was not the way the plan was supposed to go.”

“What are you doing?” Romulumon added, equally as annoyed.

“Not to worry my friends,” Prairiemon replied, “it’s all going according to plan. Perfectly. Just perfectly.” Without a moment’s notice he charged at Romulumon, arms extended, slashing with the red claws at the end of his gauntlets. Romulumon raised his arms in time to block the attack, but was sent flying.

Bambusmon had leapt out of the way and now turned in mid-air, charging her claw. “Great Cannon!” The impact caused Prairiemon to round on her, and dash across the ground towards her. He was quick, quicker than anything Bambusmon had seen before, and he landed a punch square in Bambusmon’s chest when she hit the ground, which caused her to reel back, winded.

“Sonic Ear!” Prairiemon yelled, drawing back his claws before thrusting them forward with an injection of high powered energy. Bambusmon yelped, holding her hands up to her ears as the attack hit her and she was surrounded by high pitched frequency noises and squeaks.

“Incinerate!” Romulumon came from behind, blowing the wall of flame at Prairiemon. Too distracted by Bambusmon, he turned when he felt the heat, and shielded himself from the flames.

Bambusmon regained her composure, and ran at Romulumon who vaulted her into the air. She spun back around, facing Romulumon’s back. “Foliage Domination!” Vines sprouted from her claw and reached towards Prairiemon. He darted away at the last second, and the vines grabbed onto Romulumon instead.

“Sonic Ear!” Prairiemon had ran around the back of the two Champions, and had his attack aimed at Romulumon. It sent the lumbering were-Digimon to his knees, whining like an injured puppy as the noise caused him more pain than the hit of the energy.

Her vines unwrapped from Romulumon, and again Bambusmon charged up her cannon. She aimed at Prairiemon. He darted and Bambusmon followed, aiming a few meters in front of him. “Great Cannon!” Her attack impacted on the space she had aimed, just as Prairiemon reached it. He was enveloped by the energy, and screeched in pain.

No longer tormented by the noise, Romulumon charged over the dirt, his paws ignited. “Searing Claws!!” he bellowed, reaching Prairiemon and lifting him into the air with an almighty throw. Bambusmon sent him back with a heel kick, and Romulumon punched small fire balls upward, keeping Prairiemon airborne for a few seconds before grabbing him from the air and throwing him into the ground.

“This isn’t part of the plan!” Bambusmon insisted, reaching the ground as Prairiemon struggled to right himself.

Romulumon exchanged uneasy looks with the Amazonian Digimon. “We’re fighting ourselves when we should be fighting the Master,” he added gruffly.

Up on his feet, Prairiemon launched himself at Romulumon and punched. It was weak and badly timed, Romulumon had no trouble catching his paw and shoving him back a few feet. Despite this, Prairiemon did the same again, and once more at Bambusmon who side stepped him, letting the exhausted Digimon sailed passed her.

“I don’t want to fight anymore…” Prairiemon murmured into the ground, struggling to his feet. Bambusmon relaxed her stance a little, sensing Prairiemon was no longer a threat, Romulumon did the same.

“Prairiemon…” she soothed, her voice unusually kind and soft.

“I’m tired of fighting. I don’t want to fight any longer… Can’t I just die? Why am I still alive? I want to see the sun again. I want the breathe clean air and feel the grass…” He was speaking to himself, seemingly unaware of Bambusmon or Romulumon only a few feet away from him. “Why can’t anyone help me…?”

Tears rolled down the rodent Digimon’s scarred and battered cheeks, falling and staining the ground darker. Prairiemon sniveled and sobbed quietly, repeating to himself the same thing. “I don’t want to fight anymore…”

Romulumon nudged Bambusmon on the shoulder softly, and gave her a questioning look, his ears quirked at odd angles. They had ventured away from their original plan already, what would it matter if they threw the whole thing out of the window. Bambusmon gave a small nod in return. They agreed.

They would kill Prairiemon. For his own sake.

Before they could ready themselves though, a slow sound of applause drowned out all the jeering and shouts from the spectators. Bambusmon and Romulumon found the source of the applause quickly and were immediately back on their guard.

The Master of events had ventured down from the elevated platform, down a small set of stairs. It was a Digimon made entirely of gold, at least that’s what the skin appeared to be, erect in the shape of an oversized monkey. Its feet were covered in blue boots with fur trim, and around its neck hung a red cape with a similar white fur trim. There was a bulbous red crown on the Master’s head, making him almost funny to look at, and his eyes were obscured by a silver and orange visor.

“Presenting,” Palmon yelled, running a few steps ahead, “KingEtemon!”

KingEtemon shoved the plant Digimon with his foot and walked straight past Prairiemon without a look. His gaze was fixed on Romulumon and Bambusmon.

“I wanted to congratulate you on defeating my prized champion,” KingEtemon informed them with a smile that made Bambusmon’s skin crawl. “You’re the first. And he’s been a reigning champion for many years.”

“Years…” Prairiemon echoed softly.

“It’s a waste of a Digimon, so much promise,” KingEtemon said grinning, “but now I have two new champions to fight for me.”

“Years,” Prairiemon said again, edging to his feet.

“Honey, we have no desire to fight for you,” Bambusmon said haughtily, checking over her nails. “I advise that you release us and our friends this instant.”

“Or what?” KingEtemon mocked.

“We’ll destroy you,” Romulumon said with a heavy voice.

“YEARS?!” Prairiemon sprung from his place, reaching out with his paws and his face contorted in rage and anguish. “YEARS?!!!” he screamed again.

KingEtemon lashed out a hand to his left, catching Prairiemon in the head. The blow was hard and enough to send the Digimon flying across the arena, where he landed with a heavy thud against the force field that had been protecting KingEtemon.

Glancing over his shoulder at the badly injured Prairiemon, KingEtemon sneered and then looked back at Bambusmon and Romulumon. “How rude,” he said, sniffing. “Now, where were we?”

Romulumon’s paws burst into flame. “We were about to kill you.”

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

“Fuck, yes!” Reyez released a breath. He had given up trying to fiddle with the odd locks on the iron cuffs keeping he and the others in place and instead gone for another tactic during Romulumon and Bambusmon fight. He had begun to wriggle his arm and wrist, using the blood caused by the wriggle as a lubricant to allow his hand through the cuff. It had been agony. His right wrist was now raw, and it was hard to tell where the bleeding stopped and started, but he had one arm free and could now unlock the other binds on himself.

Seeing the pegs made it easier. They had to be turned on each latch to allow them through. He made quick work on the one on his left wrist and quicker work of the ones on his ankle.

Tom, Hunter, and James had stayed quiet so as not to alert the Digimon guarding them. A single Palmon faced away from them, guarding the only exit. Reyez released Tom quickly, who helped Hunter, while Reyez released James.

By then, KingEtemon had come down from his throne.

“What now?”

“We find our Digimon,” Tom said, with a confirming nod from James.

“I’ll deal with the guard,” Hunter stated, sauntering towards the lone plant Digimon. He took a little too much glee as he kicked the child sized Digimon in the back, sending it careening into the opposing wall, leaving it stunned on the floor. “Let’s go.” He grinned.

“Now,” Reyez said firmly. Bambusmon and Romulumon had just entered a fight against KingEtemon. They needed all the help they could get.

The arena was like a maze of tunnels, each one leading to a dead end or another tunnel. Each of them recalled different parts of the journey being brought up to the stand behind KingEtemon’s throne, but it was still difficult to find the right way as the light was minimal and there were other guards to contend with – each one someone was happy to kick or punch out of the way to allow them through.

“It’s this way,” Reyez said confidently, looking down one tunnel.

Hunter shook his head. “No this way,” he argued.

Tom and James stood in the middle. They were below the arena now and could hear the battle raging above them. There was a cry from Bambusmon as she hit the ground.

“One of you make up your mind!” Tom snapped.

“Rock, paper, scissors?” Hunter proffered. Reyez gave him an unimpressed look and went running down the tunnel he stood at. James and Tom followed after him. Hunter sighed. “Guess we’re going this way then,” he muttered, running to catch up.

Reyez’s memory for directions was far better than Hunter’s it seemed. They wound up in the room they had all woken up in, and found their Digimon in the cages.

“James!”

“Tom!” Poemon and Odocomon were both overjoyed to see their partners, who each rushed to their cages, checking their Digimon over in the dim light and then yanking the gates open forcefully.

“What’s going on?” Odocomon asked.

“The Master is a Digimon named KingEtemon. Romulumon and Bambusmon are fighting him right now,” Hunter explained, “but he’s a Mega, they don’t stand a chance.”

“We can’t evolve any further than our Champion forms.” Odocomon informed them. “We’ve all tried.”

“But there’s one of him and four of us,” Poemon said hopefully. “We can take him.”

“Without a doubt.” All heads turned suddenly. One of the PawnChessmon was standing several feet away. It was terrified and nonthreatening.

“What do you mean?” Reyez asked.

“KingEtemon has spent so much time watching battles rather than fighting them himself, he has grown slow and weak. He may be a Mega level Digimon, but his powers are pathetic for that title. He’s barely stronger than an average Ultimate level Digimon.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Poemon asked.

PawnChessmon struggled a little. “I may not fight, but I long to get out of here as much as you all do. Now go! You can win!”

Odocomon looked doubtful, but cantered out of the gates with Poemon flying beside her, as Reyez and Hunter shoved them open for them. Both Rookies exploded in light of purple and green, before reappearing as Valramon and Rusdramon, their partners watching from the gates. Tom and James released the other captive Digimon, all running out into the arena. All hell had broken loose on the stands with Digimon running and yelping, disappearing. The captive Digimon, mentally unstable and tortured, had taken to the stands, attacking Digimon in the stands. Data was flying everywhere from the carnage going around.

“Great Cannon!”

“Searing Claws!”

Bambusmon and Romulumon’s attacks combined in midair, and exploded against KingEtemon, who drew his cape around him as a protective shield. The attack engulfed him, and KingEtemon was on his knees once the dust had cleared.

Bambusmon and Romulumon panted. They were bruised and injured in some places. KingEtemon was a Mega but he was slow and not very bright. There were no tactics to his moves, and so far he had spent much of his time focused on Romulumon, who he viewed as the strong Digimon, and completely forgotten about Bambusmon who was able to attack openly while KingEtemon was distracted.

“Saru Shibai!” KingEtemon curled his hands around an odd ball of orange and blue energy, firing it outward at Bambusmon. It hit her in the back, and she reeled from the hit, hitting the ground with a thud.

Romulumon dashed across the ground towards KingEtemon, who was up on his feet, with his attention on the fallen Bambusmon.

“Saru Shibai!” KingEtemon shouted again, and another hit of energy, this time knocking Romulumon back several meters through the air. He reached Bambusmon, who was getting to her feet, and grabbed her hair roughly, yanking her up. His grip changed to her throat and she was suddenly dangling above the ground in his hand, trying to scratch at his arms as he choked her.

“Duskbane!” Valramon’s ravens flew across the field and surrounded KingEtemon’s head in a swirl of blackness. The whispers of the birds were audible and he dropped Bambusmon as he fought to send the flock away.

His vision was cleared in time to see Rusdramon galloping towards him, her head lowered. She hit him square in the gut with her antlers, sending the large monkey Digimon reeling back, winded and clutching his stomach.

“Just in time,” Bambusmon managed, getting to her feet.

“We thought we’d let you two have some fun first,” Valramon spoke, a few feet above them all. “Keep alert, he’s getting back up.” She swooped upwards.

“Saru Shibai!”

“Incinerate!” The wall of flames went up, guarding Romulumon, Rusdramon, and Bambusmon from KingEtemon’s attack. Still expelling the flames, Romulumon ran towards KingEtemon, giving both Bambusmon and Rusdramon a chance to attack while the Mega Digimon defended himself from the flames.

“Grand Cross!”

“Great Cannon!!”

Both attacks came at KingEtemon from either side, throwing him one way and then the other.

“Duskbane!” Ravens flew around KingEtemon’s head and while he swatted them, Romulumon dashed the short distance, paws in flames.

“Searing Claws!” Short punches of flame attacked the golden monkey who wheezed and groaned with every hit.

“Amethyst Chains!”

“Foliage Domination!”

The chains and vines lashed around KingEtemon’s arms, he struggled against both Champion Digimon, who held fast. Bambusmon was digging her feet into the ground, while Rusdramon was rearing back onto her hind legs.

Above, Valramon circled once. “Night Strike!” She was a mist of blackness that dove down at intense speed, with a deadly aim that sent dirt and sand flying everywhere, and brought KingEtemon to his knees.

It was an attack that had him weakened to the point of almost being dead. But Valramon had left him alive on purpose. Rusdramon and Bambusmon held fast to KingEtemon, who struggled weakly against them both. Romulumon helped Prairiemon to his feet and assisted the weak Digimon to be directly in front of KingEtemon. Prairiemon looked puzzled, confused, as he looked between the Champion Digimon and KingEtemon.

“The last attack,” Bambusmon spoke gently, “is yours. Take your retribution.”

Understanding, Prairiemon nodded. KingEtemon uttered a weak plea, but was quickly silenced as Rusdramon smacked the side of his head with her hoof.

Pooling energy, Prairiemon drew his paws back with some help from Romulumon, and then projected the attack. “Sonic Ear!” KingEtemon yelled; the attack was unrelenting as long as Prairiemon held out his arms, which he did for some time. The high pitched noises were audible, but as the attack was only aimed at KingEtemon, it did no damage and caused no pain to the others.

KingEtemon was practically screaming into the attack when Prairiemon finally let up. Rusdramon’s chains and Bambusmon’s vines unwound from KingEtemon and he hit the floor, data slowly beginning to disintegrate from his body.

Prairiemon exhaled deeply, and with no strength left to hold himself up, fell face-first to the ground.

Valramon landed softly nearby as Romulumon held Prairiemon up. Tom and the others were approaching now that the most imminent danger had passed. There was hardly any of the spectator Digimon left - if they hadn't run from the fight, terrified of the fighting between the champion Digimon and the KingEtemon, they were destroyed by the captive Digimon. The arena was practically empty.

“I’m free…” Prairiemon murmured softly, smiling to himself. “I can be at peace.”

“Yes,” Rusdramon nodded, “at peace and happy, finally.”

“Never to fight another battle,” Bambusmon added.

“I’m free… I can be at peace,” Prairiemon said again, seeming to forget the others were even there.


“He deserves something peaceful,” Tom said.

Reyez agreed. “He’s seen enough violence for one life time.”

“Allow me.” Rusdramon stepped forward, lowering her head and closing her eyes in concentration. She moved her head in a small cross symbol, creating its usual alighted shape. Instead of crashing into Prairiemon, the light wrapped around his body in a sphere which emitted warmth and pulsated, humming gently.

Prairiemon’s eyes opened and he looked at everyone around him. He smiled again. “Thank you.”

The sphere lifted above them, and with that, it dispersed in a shower of light, taking Prairiemon with it.

Romulumon stood up, looking up towards the ceiling. “Strange.”

Hunter followed his gaze. “Are ceilings meant to do that?”

Everyone else followed their eyes, seeing that the ceiling which had been rock and earth, was now giving way to daylight. There were little snippets of it appearing from all sides, bathing the dark and dingy arena in warm sunlight. The ceiling disappeared, then the walls and stands. All the dirt was replaced by thick green grass.

It had disappeared, leaving the eight of them apparently miles from where they had originally been taken.

James shoved his hands in his pockets and whistled. “I am never going to understand this place.”

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