Intermission:
Trouble in Paradise

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“So,” Frankie began, shifting her weight and turning to Ryudamon, who sat behind her enjoying the sea spray on his face. “Explain it to me one more time, why did our clothes change when we neared the sea? I’m having a little trouble understanding this whole concept.”

Ryudamon cracked an eye open, surveying her for a few moments before opening the other eye and leveling her with a patient gaze. He smiled a little, unsurprised by the need for further clarification. He in fact, didn’t understand it all entirely himself, and all he had explained to them was purely conjecture, though he was almost entirely certain he was correct in his assumptions.

“I believe that through the fact this is the Digital World you are in fact digital too, to a point. The Digital World is programmed to respond to certain changes in climates, atmosphere, and situation, and somehow recognized that you would be going near water and would therefore require different attire,” explained Ryudamon slowly, thinking through his own rational thinking as he worded it.

Frankie twisted a strand of hair around a finger, satisfied with the answer now that she thought about it a little more and it made some sense. About as much sense as anything made in the Digital World, if she was totally honest.

Her reason for asking had been because upon arriving at the coastline of the narrow sea they had to cross to reach the exact location of the lightning field, according to the co-ordinates Logan had sent to Eric, her clothes, and the clothes of everyone had been replaced with different forms of beach wear.

The boys had all suddenly found their clothing pixillating away, and left in its place were long beach shorts and Hawaiian shirts, or just plain t-shirts. Similarly for herself, Eva, Rose, and Piper; their clothing had been replaced by swimsuits and bikinis which, while preferable to their heavier Autumnal clothing in the warm weather that graced their sea journey, offered little protection against the cold winds and sea spray.

Understandably they had all been rather confused and a little outraged to begin with; Eva at one point had demanded her clothes back by yelling at the sky. However, once Ryudamon gave his reasonable explanation and reassured them that their normal clothes would be back once they reached dry land again, they all calmed down.

Their next issue had been how to cross the narrow sea. The first option had been Vespasmon making several trips across, carrying sets of passengers with each crossing because, despite his size, not even Vespasmon could carry all ten people, plus Digimon.

Thankfully, their travel difficulties had not been such for long, as Rubimon had spotted a group of Plesiomon on their annual migration from the Northern Digital World to the Southern. She had requested passage on the back of one of them on the Gods’ behalf, and one female Plesiomon had been more than happy to oblige, as the trip would not take her far out of her way. She had heard the stories of the Gods returning from other Digimon, who were celebrating their return as well.

Ryudamon had estimated the trip across the water would take no more than a day or two, provided the weather remained with them and there were no major setbacks, and the time they made by riding on the back of Plesiomon was better than even Ryudamon could have believed. So when Poemon had spotted a crescent-shaped island not far from their course while she had been flying above Plesiomon, the vote had been unanimous for them to stop, rest, and enjoy the beach for a few hours before they got going again and continued on their journey across the water.

Ryudamon rejected the idea. They needed to get to the lightning field sooner rather than later, and there was no time for relaxing or having fun when there was no telling what Mukademon was up to back in the real world. But despite his valid argument, Ryudamon found himself met only with cheerful shouts, jeers and splashes as the human either jumped willingly or were shoved into the sea from Plesiomon’s back.

Plesiomon had been gracious enough to do a circuit around the island to find out if there was any imminent danger, and she reported back that she had only seen a small flock of Toucanmon on the island and shoals of fish in the water. With that news, Ryudamon considered that having a rest might not be such a bad idea if they didn’t stay for too long, it also meant Plesiomon had some time to regenerate some energy and hunt before she carried them the rest of the way.

“Irbimon, be careful!” Poemon called from above, watching as Irbimon balanced precariously on Caesarmon’s back, as the otter sped through the waves like a torpedo.

“Caesarmon surfing!” exclaimed Piper, clapping her hands exuberantly. “It should be an Olympic sport!”

Corneliamon came up alongside Caesarmon, Siberimon in a similar stance to that of this brother. Immediately tactics were in play as Irbimon leaned across to try and shove his brother from the back of the white otter. Siberimon was able to dodge Irbimon’s jabs and swings while Caesarmon and Corneliamon struggled to keep the two feline Digimon balanced on top of them.

“First to the shoreline wins!” Irbimon cheered, landing a playful shove on Siberimon.

Siberimon smirked. “Come on Corneliamon! Put in some speed!”

The female otter obliged and was quickly a few feet ahead.

Irbimon stamped on Caesarmon’s back. “You’re not going to let that female beat you, are you?!” Urged on, Caesarmon put in a burst of speed so the two otters were neck and neck again, with a wider gap between them so the brothers couldn’t hit each other.

Ailurmon was watching the display from the shore with Odocomon and Rubimon. “Tsk tsk. So childish.” She leaned back on her elbows, absorbing the warm sunlight on her fur. Odocomon smiled, amused by the antics, while Rubimon kept an impassive expression, not being a big fan of water, as it put out her flames.

Hatimon and Skollmon weren’t so bothered, and gamboled in the surf, chasing and splashing water at one another as they each tried to pin the other or knock them down in the shallows. Skollmon’s flame was evidently unaffected, and would reignite once water stopped dripping from his tail.

Frankie was sunbathing with Rose and Eleanor, the three of them taking advantage of the moment’s respite they had from traveling and running for their lives at every turn. Since Frankie was still in part recovering from her near death experience, she had been taking it easy and slowly regaining her strength. Ryudamon made special allowances for her to use Hurakamon to travel as she rebuilt her strength, and when she was walking the group went at a slower pace so she didn’t wear herself out.

James sat nearby with Reyez, the both of them absorbed in their D-Touches. Reyez had headphones in and was listening to music, while James seemed engrossed in one of the games he had downloaded. He sat in the shade, avoiding the direct sunlight. Eric sat close to Eleanor, poring over the messages on his phone from Logan, despite Eleanor’s requests for him to relax.

Tom, Eva, Hunter, and Piper had spent the best part of an hour in the water, at first just paddling around, Piper had taken to diving under the water and grabbing Eva’s leg to frighten her. Eventually, Eva had declared a game of “chicken fight” on the blonde and Tom had hoisted Eva onto his shoulders while Hunter had done the same to Piper. The two girls had been entangled in more than one tussle which had led to them all being submerged at one point or another. For now though the four of them were having a rest sitting in the shallows, allowing the top half of their bodies to dry off.

The weather here was perfect: blue skies with the occasional fluffy white cloud, clear turquoise waters, white sands, and a breeze to keep the worst of the heat at bay. The beach was bordered by long, fine grass and taller trees in the middle, which grew lush and thick like a jungle. With the island practically uninhabited, it was like a private paradise, enough to help them forget their worries for the moment at least.

When Caesarmon and Corneliamon washed up on the beach, Siberimon and Irbimon followed them, all soaked through and breathing heavily, with wide smiles. The two feline Digimon immediately ran to their partners to shake their fur out, both met with flailing arms and squeals.

“COLD!” Frankie complained as she sat up, droplets of water covering her skin. Siberimon beamed at her as he darted away, finding a patch of fine grass to roll around in and clean his fur. Irbimon followed him, shoving his brother to one side to allow them both space in the grassland. Rubbing the droplets off her arms, and shoving her hair back, Frankie laid a hand on her stomach as it burbled noisily.

Odocomon looked at her with a quirked eyebrow and an amused expression, while it seemed no one else had heard it.

“Anyone hungry?” Frankie said, raising her voice so those sitting further away could hear her.

“Definitely,” Ailurmon agreed, sitting up and stretching. “What have we got?”

Eleanor was up on her feet before anyone else and crossed to where she had placed their dwindling supplies out of the sun. Rubimon followed her. “We have some water and dry bread…” she explained. “Supplies are running a little low. I didn’t expect us to take so long to get to the lightning field.”

“Well, that’s not really good enough,” Rose commented, opening one eye as she remained flat on her back absorbing the sun. “Your only job is to provide for us.”

“Rose,” Hatimon snapped, chiding her partner as she approached, dripping wet with her brother at her side. Rose’s gaze turned to the wolf Digimon and she shrugged a shoulder. Hatimon turned her attention to Eleanor. “There’s no need to worry. I’m certain there’s food on the island we can forage for.”

“And we can hunt,” Corneliamon added helpfully, nudging Caesarmon.

“Fish, again?” Ailurmon complained.

Caesarmon squinted at her. “If you don’t like fish, find your own food.”

Getting to her feet, Ailurmon dusted the sand off her fur. “Not a problem.”

Eleanor set to organizing the humans, getting them to tidy an area of the beach where they could make a fire, and to gather things they could eat off of. She also made a request of Poemon to see if she could find a fresh water source, they had no way to distill the seawater that surrounded them and make it drinkable.

Ailurmon disappeared alone into the underbrush, wading through the low fern leaves and stepping over the large roots of the closely packed trees. The trees of the forest were so closely packed together that the leaves from above practically blocked out all the sunlight, allowing only small shafts of it to hit the ground and illuminate a path. Several times, the small panda found herself tripping up on stones and roots she couldn’t see. The air was close in the forest, and the smell of the ocean was quickly overpowered by the smell of the earth and the rotting leaves that covered the ground.

Despite the lack of sunlight here there were things growing. Ailurmon found several bushes covered with blue berries, which had a sweet taste to them. She took a few from the bush to take back to the others, and some to eat on the way as she searched. Plenty of the trees seemed to provide nuts and others forms of food, which Ailurmon deduced she’d need help to get down. She decided to go back, to get Reyez or someone tall to help her retrieve the nuts from the branches of the trees she couldn’t reach. As she did, a flash of white and black rolled into her, knocking her flat onto her back and the handful of berries she had been carrying and eating as she foraged littered the ground, many of them bursting.

“IRBIMON!” Ailurmon snapped at the snow leopard Digimon, who grinned at her inanely as he righted himself from his upside down position.

“We thought you could use some help!” he explained, grinning. “Ryudamon said we shouldn’t wander off on our own.”

Ailurmon arched an eyebrow. “But Plesiomon said the island was filled with harmless Digimon.” She planted her hands on her hips. “I bet you just couldn’t find anything yourself and had to follow me, a far superior forager.” She sniffed, smirking broadly.

Irbimon said nothing, just gave the panda a withering look.

“That’s about the long and short of it,” Siberimon’s voice came through the air, followed by his body pushing through some fern leaves. Walking a few paces behind him was Hatimon, sniffing the ground, her vaporous tail now ablaze after it had become extinguished in the water.

“And what are you two doing here?” Ailurmon asked the tiger pointedly.

“Keeping an eye on Irbimon,” answered Siberimon. “No telling what trouble he’ll get in to.”

Irbimon rolled his eyes at his brother’s comment.

“And I’m just trying to get some scents, see if there’s anything around here we can eat,” Hatimon explained, lifting her nose from the ground.

Ailurmon shifted. “There’s plenty. Nuts up in the trees.” She pointed. “And I found a couple of bushes covered in berries. Not that far from here. I did have a handful to bring back, but someone knocked in to me and I dropped them.” She gave Irbimon an irritated look while the snow leopard grinned back cheerfully.

“I’m sure there are plenty, we can just get some more to take back and get Hunter to come help take the nuts down,” Siberimon said, breaking up any potential fights. “Good find, Ailurmon.”

“I know.” She smiled. “Follow me, the berries are back this way.”

She found the bushes not far from where Irbimon had knocked her over and immediately began to pick them, one going into her paw, another into her mouth, and so on. Irbimon joined in on the picking and eating, though found himself doing more eating than picking while both Hatimon and Siberimon examined the fruits carefully.

“They don’t smell right,” Hatimon said slowly, sniffing at the bush. “The smell, it’s sweet… but too sweet.”


“How can something be too sweet?” Irbimon asked around a mouthful as berry juice oozed down his chin. “They’re really tasty! Try some!” He shoved a handful into Hatimon’s mouth as she tried to protest. She had no choice but to bite down and chew, despite the grimace on her face. Siberimon waited for Hatimon’s decision on them.

The wolf Digimon smacked her maw together and shook her head a few times, rubbing her muzzle with a paw. “Wolves don’t eat berries,” she complained, slacking her tongue. “But they don’t taste poisonous.”

Satisfied with that, Siberimon snatched a handful from the bushes and ate them, before taking up a few more handfuls and piling them in his arms to take back to the others.

They made their way back to the beach where the others were all waiting, preparing the fish Caesarmon and Corneliamon had caught and keeping a small fire burning with the help of Skollmon.

James noticed them first.

“We were worried you’d gotten lost,” he commented. “What have you got there?”

“Berries,” Irbimon told him, as the four Digimon walked to where food was piling up. It appeared others had found a good amount to eat too. Big, round pink fruits and other berries, red and black in color, were laid out on large waxy leaves to protect them from the sand. “Ailurmon found some trees that bear nuts but we need someone tall to help us get them down.”

“I’ll go.” Hunter stood up from where he poked at the fire.

Ailurmon dropped her armful of berries beside the pink fruits. “This way.”

As she turned, a cacophony of noise went up from the trees, loud caws that sounded like laughing and chattering. Following the noise were the flaps of wings, and then the sight of five or more large birds with curved blue bills rising from the trees on small stubby wings, which only kept them airborne long enough for them to crash land on the beach in a pile.

The Digimon were immediately on guard, these were the Toucanmon that Plesiomon had mentioned. Though their numbers were few, and they were known to be more stupid than cunning, the Digimon would not leave anything to chance. While the Rookies surrounded their partners protectively, Rubimon and Ryudamon moved away from the group to greet the fallen birds.

One of them hopped onto his feet, righting himself from the crash. Large green eyes took in the image of the humans and Digimon around them and then the food. More interested in the meal set out than anything else, one of the Toucanmon moved towards the spread, nudging the fish and the fruits with his beak, tutting to itself.

“That’s our lunch,” Tom said, folding his arms. So far none of the Toucanmon had spoken, the others were all following what the first had been doing, nosing through the berries, eating a few of them and stamping on more.

“Can we help you?” Rubimon asked impatiently, staring at the bizarrely colored birds.

The Toucanmon all began to caw and crow loudly, flapping their small wings and making noises like a strangled laugh. One, the first that had approached them, moved away from the main group. “A pitiful layout. Pitiful food. Pitiful. Pitiful,” he spoke, though his words were more like a squawk than actual words. “Not enough to feed all of you I think.”

“It’ll do,” Rubimon snapped.

“Can we help you?” Ryudamon repeated Rubimon’s initial question. While the other five Toucanmon began crowing again, the first Toucanmon’s beady eyes turned to Ryudamon, giving him an unsure judgmental look as if trying to make heads and tails of the group before them.

“Came to investigate. Yes, yes, yes,” he clucked. “Making sure you are not going to interfere with the Princess’ feast tonight. Nope, nope.”

“Princess?” Rose repeated, her interest piqued. “What… Princess?”

“Princess! Princess!” the other Toucanmon cawed.

“Our Princess,” answered the first Toucanmon. “She is having a celebration,” he paused. “You should come. Yes, yes!” Toucanmon began grabbing up the raw and cooked fish, throwing them this way and that, so they became coated in sand and not fit for eating. “Center of the island, a great celebration! Great feast! Food! Wine!”

“Hey--!” Eva began to protest, but the other Toucanmon were joining in with their leader, ripping up the leaves with their claws, and eating or kicking the berries and fruits until all that was left was a mess and a softly crackling fire.

“Come! Come!” the Toucanmon cried. “Feast! Feast! Princess! Princess!”

“We get it! We get it!” Hunter mimicked them, tugging his hair.

The Toucanmon continued to grow and caw as they waddled away, crossing the sand and disappearing into the forest. Their noise was still audible long after the Toucanmon had disappeared.

Caesarmon went and examined one of the fish, turning his nose up at it. “Well, that was a waste of time.”

“Am I the only one who thought that was really weird?” Tom asked, watching the faces of the others.

“No, you’re not,” Frankie agreed.

Ryudamon rubbed his face. “Toucanmon are known to be a little… eccentric.”

“More like batshit crazy,” Reyez corrected. “Though, now they’ve destroyed our food, maybe we should go in on their offer.”

“I don’t know if that’s wise,” Odocomon said.

“You never think anything is wise,” Skollmon said. “They destroyed the food we collected. I think we should go for the feast. I’m hungry!”

“And it is free food,” Eva added. “Plesiomon said the island wasn’t inhabited by anything really terrible, surely there can’t be any harm.”

James pursed his lips. “This is the Digital World though, just because danger can’t be seen doesn’t mean it’s not there. Anthemon and her underground lair, anyone? And the underground fighting ring?”

“That’s a good point,” agreed Frankie. “What’s to stop us collecting more fish and fruit?”

Corneliamon stepped forward. “Caesarmon and I are quite tired after hunting that lot… we don’t really have the energy.” She looked apologetic and shrank beneath the gaze of the others, so Caesarmon came up beside her and nuzzled her head.

“Besides,” he turned his gaze on the others, “it’ll be nice for us to be fed for a change, rather than doing the hunting and gathering ourselves. Maybe there’ll be leftovers enough for us to take until we get home.”

“I say we go. What’s the harm?” Hunter folded his arms. “Besides who can say no to free food?”

Ryudamon rubbed the space between his eyes as if he had an oncoming headache. He felt the idea was a foolish one. Toucanmon, however dimwitted they could be, were also numerous, which worried him. If there were six, how many more were there in the flock? Despite his worries, he did also want to know who this… Princess they spoke of was. And though he tried to ignore it, his stomach turned angrily at the thought of filling it.

“Alright… we’ll go. But,” he continued quickly before any happiness could be shared, “we will be careful as we approach. There’s no telling if this is a trap or not. Remember, Mukademon has followers who may not fit your normal assumptions.”

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

With Hatimon and Skollmon leading, following the scents left by the Toucanmon as they had traveled on foot, it was no difficult feat to find the location of their feast and celebration. Doing as Ryudamon said, the group kept together and remained hidden in the trees and bushes to avoid detection in case the whole plot from the Toucanmon was a trap.

The feast had been laid out in a clearing in the very center of the island. A large fire in a pit blazed in one area, surrounded by intricately decorated tiki torches, which burned with green flames. A spit was suspended over the flames with fish and what looked like a wild pig supported on it, cooking in the naked flames. Near to that was a log that had been split in two and made flat by some means, creating a two tables that were reachable from the ground. Laid out on the table were cups carved out of smooth stone, and makeshift plates made out of the same stone, only perfectly flat. Around both tables Toucanmon bustled busily, cawing at each other and occasionally bumping into one another.

Caring for the roasting fish and meet were monkey-like Digimon, Sepikmon, who wore brightly colored masks to hide their faces, and carried with them equally bright boomerangs. And fluttering around in the air bringing pieces of fruit from the forest were bat-like Pipismon with scythes for hands and feet, and mouths wide enough to fit a head in.

Though most of the Toucanmon busied themselves with getting things ready for the feast, two or three went back and forth between a large pile of fresh fruit and two thrones. At the edge of either throne stood a Sepikmon holding a handful of palm leaves, shading those sitting in the large stone chairs with their delicate carvings.

“I assume that is the Princess they’re talking about.” Ryudamon motioned to one of the throne’s occupants. To the group’s surprise it was a girl, around their own age, with dark tanned skin but startling blue eyes framed by dark hair, except for one braid that was turquoise. She leaned back in the seat, eating grapes off a bunch the Toucanmon had given her, a stone goblet in one hand, which another Toucanmon filled with what the group could only assume was a Digimon version of wine.

On the second throne was a Digimon, one they assumed to be her partner. It was a deer, much like Odocomon, with a tawny brown coat and spots like she had, and a white chest – but that was about as far as the similarities went. The spots on this deer Digimon’s back were a teal color, and that same color was on the markings on its front legs and around its blue eyes. Out of its head stuck two small, dark green antlers, and a tuft of hair. While around its neck was an ornate gold neck piece.

A Sepikmon sat combing through the Digimon’s tuft of hair with a comb fashioned from a sea shell.

“Seriously,” Reyez murmured, “I would never have thought Digimon would treat a human like a Princess…”

Ryudamon frowned, without realizing it, Reyez had commented on something that confused the old lizard. As humans had not come to the Digital World for the over thousand years, it was strange that these Digimon even knew what one looked like – let alone why they would treat one in such a way.

“It looks harmless enough…” Eleanor said softly. “Maybe we should make ourselves known.”

“I’d prefer to observe for a little longer,” Skollmon argued, “something doesn’t smell right.”

“My tummy hurts,” Irbimon complained, rubbing his belly as it rumbled. “Eva~”

“Shh,” she hushed him.

“The sun’s in my eyes! Move the shade,” the girl ordered suddenly, her voice tinged with an accent.

The Sepikmon beside her throne moved the fan. “Yes, Princess Ruby.” Immediately her face was in the shade and she smiled, lounging back in the seat. “Anything else to make you more comfortable, Princess Ruby?”

“More cushions! These thrones are too hard!” She waved her hand, one of the Pipismon dropped the fruit it had been carrying into the bushes and flew down to behind the thrones, picking up a large makeshift cushion, which appeared to be filled with fallen feathers of the Toucanmon wrapped up in leaves. Ruby leaned forward and waited expectantly for the cushion to be placed behind her.

One of the Toucanmon obliged before returning back to its post, holding a decanter between the two thrones.

“Not so hard, you imbécil!” complained the deer Digimon as Sepikmon’s comb snagged on a knot in his tuft of hair. “My hair is very delicate! You will ruin it and then I will not be appeased!”

“Ciermon,” Ruby chided the Digimon weakly, enjoying another grape from the bunch in her hand, “be nice to the servants.”

“Why should I be nice to them? They are here to serve me, yes?” Ciermon argued with her, shoving the Sepikmon away with a hoof. “They should be doing the things they are told correctly, hm.” He nodded and returned to his place on the throne.

Ruby stared at her Digimon lazily. “They have been kind to us. You should at least try to be patient with them. They do not know your habits like I do.”

Ciermon snorted, seeming to agree with the dark skinned girl, though begrudgingly. He turned to Sepikmon who stood beside his throne patiently. “You must continue to comb my tuft, but I will not be as forgiving if you do it incorrectly again.”

“Yes, Lord Ciermon.” Sepikmon took up the sea shell comb again and began to gently brush through the already shining tuft of hair on Ciermon’s head.

Frankie pursed her lips. “Well… they certainly seem to be filling in their roles as Princess and… whatever you call a Digimon Prince.” She folded her arms. “But still – something bugs me.”

“Only one thing?” Rose quipped.

“Why are the Digimon treating them like royalty?” Frankie turned to Ryudamon. “Aren’t the Gods the only royalty this place has?”

“Yes,” Ryudamon answered. “Considering that, and that Ciermon is a deer Digimon, I am wondering that maybe they have taken to believing he is the Lady of Light reincarnate.”

“That’s foolish,” Odocomon stated. “The clue is in the name. Lady of Light.” She sounded insulted by the slight and stomped her hooves softly on the ground until James lay a placating hand on her head between her horns.

“We’ll just correct them,” he said. “Shouldn’t be that hard. If they’re having a festival dedicated to Ceryneiamon, then surely it would make sense for her to be there.”

Rubimon raised a clawed hand. “I really think we should be careful before we run into anything stupid. This may look like a nice celebration but… I don’t know.”

“Psst.” Poemon’s low whisper alerted the members of the group who had been discussing. They had not noticed that almost everyone else had crept through the trees and bushes and were now low to the ground surrounding Poemon.

Odocomon approached, James following with Ryudamon and Rubimon.

“What?”

Poemon waved a feathered arm. “Listen.”

Through the trees and leaves they could see two Toucanmon and a Sepikmon talking, set away from the preparations for the celebrations and from Ruby and Ciermon. It seemed odd for them to be distancing themselves from the busy goings-on not so far away.

“Ciermon is working on my last nerve,” Sepikmon explained harshly. “If he tells me or one of my brothers to comb his stupid tuft of hair one more time, I’ll cut it off.”

“Shh,” one Toucanmon chided, keeping his voice low. “Not so loud, you want them to hear you?”

The other ruffled her feathers. “I’ll be glad when this is done and dusted and we can go back to normal. It’s exhausting following their orders. Yes, Princess Ruby. No, Princess Ruby,” she huffed. “And her voice, it’s enough to make your head bleed.”

The male Toucanmon chuckled. “It’s good she’s drinking. It’ll make everything easier when the time comes.”

“Is everything being prepared as Ornismon ordered?” Sepikmon asked, his voice lowering even more so those listening in the bushes had to strain to hear.

“The powder is being laid out as we speak, luckily it blends with the sand so it won’t be obvious when we get them in the sacrificial circle,” Toucanmon explained.

“Sacrificial circle?” Eva repeated, bringing her hands to her face. “They’re going to sacrifice them?!”

“Shh,” Ryudamon snapped.

“It’s an ostentatious plan,” the female Toucanmon explained, “but Ornismon says it should go off without a hitch provided the girl and Ciermon are placated enough.”

“Shouldn’t be difficult,” Sepikmon interjected.

Toucanmon continued, “I am bothered a little though, as I thought Ceryneiamon was female. According to the stories.”

“You heard what Ciermon said – that to protect herself she regenerated as a male, and in his final form he becomes female,” Sepikmon explained. “I see no reason to doubt the explanation. It seems plausible, and even Ornismon agrees that it’s her. Uh… him.”

“If Ornismon agrees…” the male Toucanmon sighed. “I just hope it’s right. I wouldn’t like to be Ornismon if he gets it wrong and Lord Mukademon comes after him.”

“Hmph.” Sepikmon folded his arms. “Maybe if Ornismon came out of his roost and did some of the work himself he could be even more sure.” He sighed. “But no, it’s down to us to scrape and bow and to bend to the whims of these cretins.”

“Shush,” Toucanmon flapped her wings. “You don’t know if he’s listening!”

“Who’s Ornismon?” Poemon inquired, making the question to no one in particular.

“No one you’ll have a chance to meet!”

Practically as one, the group turned to find themselves at the mercy of a group of ten or more Sepikmon, all armed with long spears with glistening blades at the end. Their stance was in that of attack and they were fanned out, surrounding the group so they were stuck between the sharp blades and the trees. Either way was not a comforting option, one would result in bloodshed, and the other required navigating through the bushes and trees and out into the open, where they would most likely get attacked by more Digimon which would still lead to bloodshed.

“What are you doing here!?” one Sepikmon demanded, jabbing the end of his spear into Siberimon’s face.

Siberimon blanched, looking as though he was about to be sick, so Frankie grabbed him up in her arms, leaving the blade facing Skollmon.

“We were invited,” Skollmon barked, “by a group of Toucanmon.”

Sepikmon snorted. “Likely story.” He made a motion with a hand, drawing his companions around him, moving the group of Digimon and humans into a cluster as they were surrounded by the blades. “We’ll give you to the Princess to decide what to do with! If you’re lucky, maybe she’ll be merciful!”

The Sepikmon began to shout and yowl, howling primitively in the excitement of their capture, as they shoved and ushered the group from the safety of the wooded area and out into the clearing.

“Watch the spear!” Tom batted one away with his hand as it nicked the skin of his rib cage.

In return the Sepikmon’s howling became more like a shriek, wild and feral as they all began to jab with their spears, jeering and releasing high pitched screams each time they jabbed and poked.

Out in the clearing, Ruby and Ciermon were curious about the noise, Ruby standing up and Ciermon upright in his throne. The Toucanmon, Pipismon, and other Sepikmon had joined in the noise, causing it to echo up and out until it was swallowed up by the leaves on the trees of the forest.

Ruby threw a cup of wine in the fire that was roasting the food for the evening, causing a sudden burst of flame which silenced the group of wild Digimon enough for her to be heard.

“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!” she demanded, planting her hands on her hips. “This rowdiness is disturbing my peaceful afternoon, I am displeased!”


“We found these intruders, Princess Ruby,” a Sepikmon informed her. “We would shed their blood in your honor, and the honor of Lord Ciermon, as they have disturbed you and caused insult.”

“They plan on killing you!” Piper yelled. “Ow – hey!”

“What?” Ruby’s face dropped a little. Ciermon stepped down from his throne.

“LIES!” Sepikmon yelled. “They are the ones here to kill you. Jealous of your glory and right!”

“That makes sense,” Ciermon nodded, tilting his head to one side.

Odocomon stomped her hooves. “You pompous windbag, are you hearing yourself?!”

“SILENCE!”

“What would you have us do, Princess Ruby? Lord Ciermon?” one Sepikmon asked.

“Shed their blood by pelting them with stones?”

“Roast them over a fire?”

“Tie them to rocks and force them to wade into the sea?!” The glee in the Sepikmon’s voices was unnerving, and their blades were waving wildly, causing small scratches and cuts on the limbs of their captors. “Name your punishment, and it shall be done!”

“None of them!” Ruby ordered, raising her voice to be heard over the elevated cries and cheers.

“But Ruby…” Ciermon murmured beside her.

“Princess Ruby!” Complaints went up from the Sepikmon.

Ruby rose her voice again. “I do not wish for this celebration to be tainted with blood. I decree to keep them alive until the morning. They will serve as entertainment for tonight’s feast, and Ciermon and I will decide what to do with them at daybreak!”

Ciermon joined in, his voice taking a commanding tone. “Take them to the prison, make sure they are well guarded. We will wish to speak with them before the festivities begin.”

Beyond the clearing, and further out away from the preparations for the feast, was a small copse of trees and bushes, with a selection of small and medium-sized cages build from sticks and vines, all set a few feet apart with hinged doors open wide and lockable latches. The cages sat in the very centre, without shade and no other protection from the elements. Luckily it was past the heat of the day as the Sepikmon escorted the group to the prison with Ruby and Ciermon following, but the heat was still high and would be unbearable for a long period of time without shade.

As one Sepikmon closed the final gate, he stepped away and handed Ruby the key to each cage, made of stone, which she stored in the pocket of her shorts. “Leave us for a moment, I wish to speak to the prisoners alone.”

“Are you sure that’s wise, Princess?”

“Do not question Princess Ruby, or myself,” Ciermon rumbled, jutting with his horns at the Sepikmon as an indication for it to leave.

Once it had, and the area was clear of any Toucanmon, Pipismon, and Sepikmon, Ruby stepped towards the cages, careful to keep her distance.

“So… having fun playing Princess?” Reyez spoke first, breaking the silence where Ruby and Ciermon stared at them all.

“I didn’t give you permission to speak,” Ruby snapped.

“Who are you talking to like that?” Reyez glared. “I don’t need permission.”

“We’re ruling here,” Ciermon pointed out. “You will follow our rules.”

Odocomon cleared her throat. “As a matter of fact, you’ve usurped my position. They believe you are me.”

Ciermon plastered a grin on his face. “Well, that is easily done. We are both handsome to look at, yes?”

Giving him a withering look, Odocomon turned her gaze up to James without a reply.

“Why did you say they intend to kill me?” Ruby asked, looking at Piper.

“Because we heard them,” Piper explained. “A Sepikmon, and two Toucanmon, apparently they intend to get you completely drunk and set fire to you. Their leader is another Digimon called Ornismon who’s been keeping out of sight. He’s one of Mukademon’s followers.”

“Mukademon?” Ruby repeated. “What is Mukademon?”

“The Parasite…?” Tom said slowly. When recognition didn’t show on Ruby’s face, he ran his hand back across his neck. “You don’t know anything, do you?”

Ruby folded her arms. “All I know is that I was transported here with Ciermon suddenly. When we arrived, we were hurt and hungry. The villagers here have been nothing but gracious since we’ve been in their midst.”

“Right.” Hunter leaned on the bars. “Let me give you a short recap.”

“Ohhh...!” Ruby stepped towards him giving a flirtatious smile. “In private?”

“Back off,” Piper snapped.

A look of surprise crossed Ruby’s face. “Your girlfriend?”

“Yeah.” Hunter nodded. Piper had her eyes narrowed at Ruby, and her body was stiff.

“You wouldn’t prefer a Princess to a commoner?” Ruby commented. “She’s very plain.”

“Come here and say that,” Piper said, stepping towards the bars. “I freakin’ dare you.”

“Snappy little thing aren’t you?” mocked Ruby, standing to her full height, which was several inches above Piper.

Rose sighed loudly from the back of the cage. “If she’s this stupid, then I say she deserves to be burned alive or whatever they plan to do with her.”

“Rose,” Eva whined, “that’s not helpful.”

“I’m not trying to be helpful,” Rose retorted. “I’m being serious.”

“I do love being talked about when I’m standing right there,” Ruby quipped. “You guys aren’t doing much to convince me that what the Sepikmon and Toucanmon are saying isn’t true.”

Ryudamon stepped towards the bars. “Don’t you think it a little strange, Ruby, that as soon as you are brought here to the Digital World you are lavished with fine foods and gifts? When, as far as you know, there is nothing exactly… spectacular about you or Ciermon?”

“I am human, they said they haven’t seen humans here for a very long time,” Ruby said.

“And I convinced them that I was this… Ceryneiamon they spoke about so wildly,” Ciermon explained.

James tutted. “We heard. You told them that you chose to be male to hide your true self. They’re obviously idiots if they believed that pile of crap.”

“It kept me and Ruby safe, that is my job,” Ciermon bit back.

“It’s rude to impersonate someone, you know,” Odocomon huffed.

Ciermon smiled again. “Well, I would not have done it if I knew I would be impersonating such a beauty as you.” Odocomon grimaced.

“In any case,” Ruby waved her hands, trying to bring the conversation back to a point, “because I am human and they believed that Ciermon was this God they were meant to be worshiping, they took to waiting on us. I am not about to throw all that away unless you can produce some proof of their plot to kill us.”

“Unfortunately I left my Dictaphone at home,” Reyez said slowly, “but maybe if you could, ya'know, take your head out of your ass and believe the people who have been here for way longer than you and know that most Digimon are two faced.”

“How dare you speak to me-?”

“Dude, shut up.” Reyez rolled his eyes, cutting Ruby off mid-sentence. “You won’t listen to reason, so insulting you seems to be the only way to get through that airhead of yours.”

“I don’t think you’re winning us any points…” Eleanor said softly.

Reyez shrugged. “Alright, I'm done trying to get you to listen to us. You are going to listen, otherwise you’ll end up char grilled.”

Ruby frowned. “I refuse to believe you.”

Reyez pinched the space between his eyebrows.

Eva decided to have a go. “Ruby, listen. We’re not trying to make you angry; we’re trying to protect you. You don’t know the Digital World very well and-”

“I will hear no more of your lies!” Ruby decided, rising her voice. “I will allow you to remain here and partake of the feast, if only so you can see that the Toucanmon, Sepikmon and others are kind to me. Then, come the morning you are to leave this place at dawn, exiled and banished, never to return to my kingdom.”

Piper released a high pitched whistle. “Some kingdom, you delusional idiot.”

Ruby span on her heel, ignoring Piper and pointing at Hunter. “You will sit beside me during the feast. As a Princess I deserve to have the best man at my side.”

With that, and a quick kick of the sand with his back hooves, Ruby and Ciermon stormed away, back towards the main area where the thrones and Digimon were situated.

A lone Sepikmon stood outside of the cages to guard them, spear in hand.

Rubbing her hands through her hair, Eva exhaled deeply. “That could have gone much better.”

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

The evening’s festivities began at sun down.

More tiki torches were set up around the clearing and they each spread a warm orange or green glow from above, giving plenty of light to the area as the sun slowly descended.

Ruby and Ciermon summoned their prisoners just before everything began. They had ordered a special area be set out for them the whole evening, somewhere where they could be watched and guarded at all times. The only one exempt from this order was Hunter, whom Ruby grabbed from the group and had sit by her.

Which he did, awkwardly. Only too aware of Piper sitting not far away and probably grinding her teeth to pieces every time Ruby touched him or even looked at him.

Before the food was even served, it was clear Ruby was completely drunk. Her speech was slurred, and she kept falling into Spanish, mixing Spanish words into her sentences as she spoke and celebrated with Ciermon on her other side. Regardless, whenever her cup emptied – either due to drinking its contents, or slopping it onto the table – a Toucanmon was always on hand to give her a refill.

Even Ciermon was tipsy, having also been drinking the wine, though not as liberally as Ruby had been, he kept getting up from his seat to go and talk to Odocomon, who continued to ignore him or just get up and walk away whenever he neared her.

Ciermon kept commenting it was a fond chase, and one that he would win.

The food was served by the Pipismon, dropped easily into plates from above: slow roasted pork dripping with honey, and fish flavored with herbs and spices. The fruit served alongside the meat and fish were perfect compliments to it, and there was more than enough to go around for those Digimon who didn’t eat meat.

The group ate, carrying on somewhat of a less stressed conversation amongst each other but all the while trying to figure out to what to do about Ruby and Ciermon, who looked happy enough gorging themselves, still completely unwilling to believe the danger they were in, despite Hunter trying to talk some sense into the increasingly more drunk girl.

Piper stabbed her meat with the knives provided to cut the food and ate more roughly than normal, keeping her eyes glued on Ruby and Hunter, narrowed and glaring.

Despite the circumstances, Frankie found Piper’s new found jealousy entertaining and found poking her about it a good way to ease tension.

“I've never seen you soooo... defensive,” Frankie spoke in a teasing voice towards Piper, who only glanced her way with a slight huff. “Relax a second, you can trust Hunter.”

“It’s not Hunter I’m concerned about,” Piper explained, beginning to cut a slice of pork. Her knife screeched along the stone plate, causing those around her to grimace at the sound. Piper was getting to her feet. “She has one more time to touch him before--”

Tom grabbed the blonde’s wrist. “Easy there.” He pulled Piper back into her seat.

Reyez released a bark of laughter. “Look at her, her face is all scrunched up. Piper's about to turn into the Hulk. Piper, smash!” he teased, prompting James to release an obnoxious laugh and almost choke on his food.

“Oh, shut up!” Piper snapped, throwing a handful of fruit at Reyez which he blocked by raising his hands.

“Calm down Piper, I'm sure Hunter is just as uncomfortable as you...” Eva tried to defuse the tension. Piper was practically trembling with suffused rage.

Eva was right about that. Hunter looked as if he was ready to spring out of his seat at any given moment, and in fact seemed to be looking for a reason to do so.

It wasn’t that Hunter found Ruby unattractive, it was more how drunk she was, and the imminent danger they were all in that made him uncomfortable. Any other time he would have flirted back, more than anything to tease Piper because he knew how it riled her up, and Hunter enjoyed riling Piper, especially the calming down part.

But in these circumstances, he just wanted to get out of this position he was in and sit with the others. Luckily he had Skollmon sitting at his feet, Ruby had allowed him that at least, and the warmth emitted from his fiery partner was quite comforting to have so close.

“You know,” Ruby slurred, “you kind of look like that guy from that movie with your nice hair alllllll slicked back!” Ruby smiled leaning towards Hunter who leaned away.  “You should dye it black! Then you’d be a perfect look-a-like with the height and the green eyes.”

“...T-Thank you?” answered Hunter, shifting back in his seat as one of Ruby’s hands clasped his knee and seemed to be moving towards his inner thigh. He hoped he was imagining that.

He knew people lost their inhibitions when they had been drinking, but this was extreme.

“What was his nammmeee….” Ruby tapped her lower lip thoughtfully for a moment. “Lookie... Lowkey... Luke... Lucy... Luki... Loki…”

“Loki!” Ciermon confirmed. “That guy from The Avengers.”

“Yes! You look like Loki... Oh! I know, say a line from the movie,” Ruby implored Hunter as her finger traced up his bare arm.

“I'd rather not,” Hunter explained, lifting her fingers from his arm and patting the top of her hand as he placed it on the table top. “You're too drunk to enjoy it properly. I'd like for you to be sober for that...” Hunter tried to talk his way out, laying on the charm thick. Skollmon chuckled beneath the table, gnawing on a pork bone.

“Oh c'monnnnn,” Ruby lurched in her throne and Hunter found himself practically straddled by the girl.

“BITCH!” Piper’s voice carried over the noise of the celebrations, and he saw Reyez and Frankie trying to hold the blonde back. Ruby remained none-the-wiser, slipping her hands on top of Hunter’s shoulders.

“Just say one line. Say it and make it HOT!”

“I'd really rather not,” Hunter protested, lifting Ruby’s hands from his shoulders. “You wouldn’t get the full effect in your current… state.”

“I’m the Princess. I command you,” Ruby’s voice took on a playful, almost sing-song lilt. She leaned closer, and Hunter retreated – well aware that if he leaned away any more he would fall off his seat and onto the sand, probably with Ruby on top of him. His continued silence, Ruby took as a no, so she tried once again. “Just one-- hey!”

One Toucanmon grabbed Ruby by the arm, while another ushered a very wobbly Ciermon along behind her.

“Time to dance! Time to dance, Princess! Princess! We wish to see the Lord and Princess dance!” they cawed, while the Sepikmon and other Toucanmon and Pipismon joined in around them, leaving the group unguarded and able to escape.

“Let’s leave now,” suggested Hunter, slipping his hand into Piper’s.

Eva hissed at him. “If we leave they’re going to kill her. Do you really want that on your conscience?”

“We offered her our help and told her the truth,” Piper retorted.


“We’re talking about someone’s life here, Piper,” Tom said softly. “I get you’re mad and don’t like her because she’s been flirting with Hunter all evening, but leaving her to die is a little extreme.”

Piper’s reply was to fold her arms.

“I’m really with Piper on this one,” Rose commented. “This isn’t much to do with us.”

“You’re being pretty heartless,” Frankie pointed out.

“I’m not feeling so good,” Ailurmon groaned from the ground, rubbing her stomach in slow circles.

Reyez looked at her. “Do you think something was in the food?”

“Not sure—”

A sudden ‘whoosh’ went up from where the fire pit had been created. A circle of flame was surrounding Ruby and Ciermon, who were dancing to a beat made by the stamping of the Sepikmon’s feet. The two hadn’t seemed to have noticed the flames just yet, but the others did, staring at the growing heat as it continued to move closer to those in the middle of the circle.

“We can’t just let her burn to death!” Eleanor exclaimed practically screaming.

“Ow hey!” Ruby’s voice came from the center of the fire, she seemed to have noticed the heat. It was so close it was suffocating. “Someone put the flames out!”

“No, no! Keep dancing Princess!” Toucanmon crowed.

Ciermon rose onto his hind legs, stomping down on the ground with his hooves. “Put out this flame at once!!” he ordered.

“We don’t take orders from pitiful Gods!” Sepikmon sneered. “Lord Mukademon will be so happy to hear of your destruction!”

“Mukademon?!” Ruby yelled. “Who is that- ow!!”

“I’m not a God! I lied!” Ciermon cried.

Ruby’s voice was strangled. “Help!! HELP!!!”

“They’re under parasitic influence!” exclaimed Tom.

Ryudamon’s eyes widened. “That explains their behavior!”

“Irbimon! Help her! Put the flames out!” Eva urged.

Irbimon laid flat on his back, with Siberimon, Ailurmon and Hatimon. “I don’t think I can move… Eva, I feel really sick.”

“The berries,” Hatimon murmured weakly. “Those stupid berries…”

“I can help.” Caesarmon bolted forward, engulfed in bright yellow light. “Caesarmon Reboot Evolve to… Gaiusmon!”

“And me!” Poemon, Skollmon and Odocomon followed, each engulfed in their own color, their Mega forms appearing in bright flashes.

“Poemon, Reboot Evolve to… Morrigamon!”

“Skollmon, Reboot Evolve to…. Heliomon!”

“Odocomon, Reboot Evolve to… Ceryneiamon!”

“Put the fire out!” Piper shouted.

“NO!” The Sepikmon, Toucanmon and Pipismon were upon the Megas in moments, groups of them, outnumbering the Megas vastly. More seemed to appear from nowhere, hidden by the trees and the lack of light.

“Vengeance Crunch!” Gaiusmon leapt at two of the Sepikmon who stood closest to the flames, grasping both their heads in his hands, and squeezing until the two dispersed into data. With the other Megas behind him dealing with the other villagers, Gaiusmon began to summon a ball of water in his hands, sweeping it over the flames ready to engulf Ruby and Ciermon.

“Shooting Star!” Ceryneiamon’s arrow raced towards a Toucanmon who was sparring with Morrigamon. The arrow pierced through the large bird, then another and a third, impaling two Pipismon who had been reading themselves to attack.

Morrigamon whirled her spear around, spinning and inhaling deeply. “Banshee Keen!” She let out a high pitched wail. Several Toucanmon who had been fleeing fell to the ground screeching in agony, as more of Ceryneiamon’s arrows picked them off and Heliomon raced through the falling Digimon, brandishing his flame whip.

“Solar Lashing!!” Bringing the whip around his head, it sent into flames any Digimon it came into contact with, until there were three or four racing around trying to put out the flames on them.

A few of the Sepikmon chose to flee rather than fight, and were making a mad dash to the jungle around them. Gaiusmon swiftly created a dagger in his palm and flung it towards the sky. “Deadly Circle!” The dagger spun wildly, energy-laced water splashing out all around it. The liquid spattered the ground on the outskirts of the clearing, exploding the moment the fleeing Sepikmon stepped over it.

The Pipismon that had been watching from the trees screeched wildly and took wing. “Crazy Sonic!” they shouted in unison, their high-pitched voices disorienting the other Digimon.

Ceryneiamon staggered but regained her composure quicker than the others. She nocked three arrows into her bow and fired instantly. “Crystal Nebula,” she muttered, finding little sense in making her voice heard over the screeching. The arrows splintered into crystalline shards, each one hitting home in the chest of a Pipismon. In one fell swoop the aerial opposition was taken out, their energy used to heal the Lady of Light.

The last group of Sepikmon decided to try ganging up on one of the Megas, and were now swarming over Morrigamon, weighing down her wings and beating her with their Spirit Boomerangs. She struggled to concentrate on summoning her spear back to her, and the moment it materialized in her hand, she whacked the monkeys off of her wings. “Witch Spear!” The weapon spun in her hands as she spun on her heels, sending the Digimon sprawling with deep gashes where they were hit. The last Sepikmon that leaped off and tried to run was struck down with the flung spear.

Only a small group of Toucanmon remained now, and as a last ditch effort they dive-bombed down towards the unguarded Rookies, each shouting “Beat Cutter!”

“Torch Strike!” Heliomon took them out rapidly, shooting fireballs from his fingers in quick succession. The relaxed, almost bored expression on his face belied the effort it took to shoot so quickly, and he exhaled deeply as the bird Digimon disintegrated.

As the last of the data from the fallen villagers began to be absorbed into the D-Touches, Ruby stood up and dusted herself off. The water Gaiusmon had used to put of the flames had soaked her and Ciermon through, though she was too awestruck to care at this moment. Ciermon followed his partner, dripping wet, his tuft of hair plastered to his face, while at the same time keeping his head low.

“You…” Ruby swallowed, standing a few feet away from the others. The alcohol seemed to have worn off now, she had sobered considerably. “You saved me.”

Eva, who was holding Irbimon in her arms while the snow leopard whined pathetically, smiled at her. “It’s kind of what we do. We have to stick together, those of us with partners.”

“But I was so horrible to you,” Ruby protested. “You didn’t have to…”

“It crossed our minds not to,” Rose murmured.

“But,” Tom interjected, “it’s not exactly your fault. Digimon can seem friendly, and I’m pretty sure the Toucanmon and Sepikmon were as such before the parasite got to them.”

“Why were you so willing to trust them in the first place, anyway?” Frankie asked. “Do you always walk into things so… willingly?”

Ruby rubbed her lower arm. “No… not usually,” she sighed. “We had arrived in the Digital World without knowing how or why. Ciermon and I had been travelling for so long, and managed to hitch a lift across the water on Whamon – but we were attacked and this island was the closest dry land we could find. When we got here… they were so hospitable, kept going on about Gods, so Ciermon claimed to be the deer god they talked about.”

“That would be me,” Ceryneiamon said, smiling gently.

Ciermon lowered his head. “You have my deepest apologies for my impersonating you.”

“The circumstances were dire,” Ceryneiamon replied. “I understand.”

“Maybe next time you should be more wary of Digimon so happy to help you,” Reyez told her firmly. “You never know what’s going on inside their head.”

“Yes,” Ruby nodded. “Thank you for your rescue… what do you suggest we do now?”

“Wait until daylight and-”

“SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME WHERE ALL MY SERVANTS HAVE GONE?!” A voice boomed from behind the two stone thrones, the words being swallowed up by the trees and leaves as the sound resonated.

“Now what?” Morrigamon murmured.

“Ornismon,” Heliomon stated, lashing his whip back and forth, ready for a second bout.

Wind swept up around them, though there had been little breeze, and there was the sound of huge wings flapping, something taking to the air from somewhere unseen. A shadow was barely visible above them, circling for a moment, blotting out stars as it moved, until the shadow landed on a stone outcrop just beyond the thrones Ruby and Ciermon had been sitting on earlier.

Ornismon moved into the light, the flames illuminating a huge prehistoric looking bird-and-lizard like Digimon with a bright pink beak and a mixture of purple scales and turquoise and pink feathers decorating his body. A long tail lashed behind him, knocking bushes flat with one solid movement. There were markings covering Ornismon’s face and body, dark navy that stood out against the bright colors of his scales and plumage.

“He’s infected too,” Ryudamon pointed out. “Like the others. More so.”

“You destroyed my servants,” Ornismon pointed out.

Ceryneiamon had her bow poised and ready to fire, while Morrigamon and the others were each crouched and ready to attack, standing protectively in front of their partners and Ruby and Ciermon.

“They attacked us,” Heliomon explained. “I guess at your order. But then, I guess you were only following orders too.”

Ornismon snarled a little. “Talkative. Aren’t we?”

“I like a little banter before a fight,” Heliomon explained, grinning. “Gives me something to look forward to.”

“Hm.” Ornismon tilted his head to one side. “An interesting thought… let’s not waste any time and get to the main event then.” In three flaps of his great wings, Ornismon took to the sky.

Heliomon wasted no time. “Torch Strike!” Again he charged up bullets of flame, shooting a dozen of them at the massive bird. The fireballs glanced off his feathers, barely leaving char marks.

“Shooting Star!”

“Will o’ Wisp!”

The blindingly bright arrow and the shadowy fireballs twisted and turned around each other as they flew, leaving a mixed trail in their wake. They struck Ornismon in the soft area at his shoulder, instantly making him withdraw his wing into himself. Before he could recover, he lost height and just barely skimmed the ground as he rose up again, kicking up dust with his powerful wing strokes.

Gaiusmon was ready. “Monsoon Rhapsody!” A broadsword appeared in his hands at the precise moment that Ornismon’s chest passed over him. The blade struck the giant bird, energy rippling over his feathers. With a great indignant screech Ornismon crumpled and crashed, sliding along the ground. The Rookies and their partners scrambled to get out of the way, lest they be crushed by the immense bulk.

The four Megas regrouped, standing together and watching the dust clear. Shakily, but surely, Ornismon began to rise from his grounded position. His one visible eye glimmered an angry red, and his body gave an unnatural shudder, as if something were thrashing under his skin. He opened his beak wide and roared, thick black saliva dripping from his maw.

“Infidels! You were fools to reveal your true selves to me!” Ornismon cackled, stomping his talons on the sand as he turned to face his adversaries. “Oh but you’ve made this so, so much easier. Who knows when I would have had my next opportunity to satisfy Lord Mukademon, on this isolated island? And you’ve saved me his wrath, sparing the wasted ceremony on this farce.” He accentuated his last work with an exaggerated snap in Ruby and Ciermon’s direction. They took a leap back, but didn’t run.

Morrigamon wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Your breath reeks of Parasite. Even your skin crawls with his corruption. Here, let us put you out of your misery. Witch Spear!” She flung the silver weapon at Ornismon, who reared up and with one powerful stroke of his wings, sent the weapon scattering away across the sand.
“The infection makes him stronger,” Gaiusmon growled. “It helped others to evolve to Mega, but if he started out with such strength…”

“A shame.” Ceryneiamon shook her head sadly, nocking another set of arrows. “In the past he would have been the Ruler of the Skies. How easily he was lost to us. Shooting-!”

A sphere of sickly flickering light had formed in Ornismon’s throat as Ceryneiamon spoke. The beam that shot forth interrupted any attacks that were aimed his way. “Cosmic Ray!!”

Taken unaware, all four of the Gods were sent sprawling, their clothes and hair smoking and burns all over their bodies. Proudly, Ornismon strutted forth, kicking their bodies aside with his talons and tail and laughing maniacally. The adrenaline of combat had awakened his infection, speeding up its mental takeover and swiftly shutting down his sanity.

One by one the Megas stood, wincing, but preparing their counterattacks nonetheless.

Ruby couldn’t take her eyes off the fight; how the Gods, despite Ornismon’s greater size and strength, refused to give up, and how they fought with everything.

She felt a pang of guilt. If she had listened to them all in the first place then none of this would have happened, and none of the Digimon would be fighting and suffering against Ornismon constant attacks.

“This is all my fault,” Ruby admitted softly to herself.

Ciermon heard her. “No! No, Ruby. It is not. We were not to know.”

“I should have listened to them in the first place,” Ruby told him. “Taken their advice and left.”

“We were tricked, Ruby. We were not to know!”

“I hate being tricked. Or lied to,” Ruby growled softly, her hands balling into fists at her side. “Someone should pay… Ornismon is behind it all. I say we help them.” She turned to Ciermon. “What do you say?”

“Just say the word, mi amigo.” Ciermon nodded his agreement.

“Ruby!” Frankie shouted, spotting the other girl coming out of her hiding place. “Ruby! What are you doing?!”

Ruby ignored her, running alongside Ciermon into the midst of the battle. Ciermon’s body took on a pale green color as he glowed, and Ruby too became the same color, feeling a familiar warmth spread through her body as the two joined, her soul to Ciermon’s.

“Ciermon, BioMerge to…” the small male deer’s voice took on a more feminine tone, as his body began to shift and change. His two back legs lengthened to become human, covered in long boots, while his forelegs became long, lithe arms. His body became human, taking on female traits with narrow shoulders and a curvaceous figure. Her chest was covered with protective armor, and while large antlers grew from her head behind a pair of deer ears, soft, pale green hair spilled out around her shoulders. “Artemimon!”

The battlefield seemed to come to a standstill as Artemimon’s form took shape and the glowing illuminated the field. Ryudamon’s mouth had dropped open somewhat, an expression mimicked by those around him.

“They…” Eric started, and swallowed what else he intended to say.

“Is that… possible?” Rubimon asked. “For a human and Digimon to combine like that?”

Ryudamon shook his head dumbly. “I hadn’t thought…”

Time sped up again, and the battle recommenced, Artemimon leaping into action snatching her crescent moon from her back.

“Crescent Boomerang!” She flung the silver weapon forward, and it sliced through the air in a direct path towards Ornismon. Caught unaware, the giant bird was hit in the wing. Feathers flew everywhere as a large gash was sliced through the infected flesh, and a spray of black liquid hit the sand. In the same smooth motion, the boomerang returned to Artemimon’s hand.

Ornismon glared directly at the newcomer, his beak splitting into a cruel grin. “Well, well, well. The little stag wasn’t lying. He truly was a doe.” He coughed hard, wincing as his injured wing twitched with the action. “That will make devouring you all the sweeter!” With a spray of sand he charged, talons running clumsily over the dunes.

 “Hold it right there,” Heliomon’s voice sounded from behind the bird. “Solar Lashing!” A slither of flame wrapped itself around Ornismon’s ankle, tripping him and sending him careering into the edge of the jungle.
Artemimon deftly leaped backwards, her feet barely stirring the sand as she touched down. She stepped over Ornismon’s falling form and landed beside the other Megas.

“You…” Ceryneiamon’s eyes were wide with shock, but they softened as she managed a small smile. “So I see you truly were a Lady of Light, in a sense. But Ruby as well…?”

Artemimon smiled. “Yes. But I won’t explain now, Ornismon is stirring. Stay still.” She spread her arms wide and a bright circle formed and illuminated the ground beneath the group. “Moonlight Shower!” Tiny crescents of light sparkled within the area, and each Mega felt their strength rapidly returning. They stood stronger and flexed their no longer aching limbs, the light having healed them fully.


“Thank you,” Morrigamon bowed lightly, flames already beginning to lick up her clawed gauntlets.

“Don’t thank me yet. It was the least I could do for not trusting you, after you were nothing but honest. Crescent Boomerang!” For a split second they were confused that Artemimon shouted her attack in their faces, but as the silver crescent arced around and behind her, Ornismon’s cry of agony clarified the situation.

Gaiusmon took the opportunity to take action. “Monsoon Rhapsody!” The broadsword in his hands left splashes of water in its wake, as he hacked and slashed at Ornismon’s massive body. The bird screeched and clawed, but Gaiusmon was too swift and his limbs too awkward to get at him.

“Will o’ Wisp!” Black flames streaked towards Ornismon, catching his feathers. The black, infected blood acted like a tar, and his open wounds were further seared by the explosive force of Morrigamon’s fireballs.

“ENOUGH!” Ornismon bellowed, his feathers now almost completely black from char and infection, and his mind ignorant to the pain of his wounds. “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU! The sooner you fall the sooner Lord Mukademon may rise! And the sooner the world shall writhe! TEMPEST!” A violent, energy-laced wind suddenly blasted to life around him. The gale shot outwards in all directions, slicing and shoving the Megas back. The humans and Rookies were spared, having backed off to find shelter just as Ruby and Ciermon had evolved.

One by one the Megas toppled, their legs unable to withstand the force of Ornismon’s Tempest. Heliomon’s body burst into flame, the fire barely able to stay lit as the wind blew it back. “Scorching… Rush!!” With an immense effort, he pushed against the storm, finding a slipstream through which he could leap. The force of his impact with Ornismon’s chin halted the wind immediately, and he even got off a few fiery kicks and punches before the massive beak slammed him back to earth.

“Starlight Nova!” Ceryneiamon was the first to recover after that, sending a rain of light spheres down on the giant bird, their energy exploding on contact.

Artemimon stood straight, her eyes set on the crumpling Ornismon. “You tricked us, lied to us. Used our confusion of a new world against us just so you could please your false Lord. No more.” She pulled out her silver crescent once more, its shape glimmering and reforming into a bow. A single arrow was nocked into the string. “Lunar Arrow Stampede!!”

As the single arrow flew it split into a whole shower. Each one shone brighter, the lights taking on the shapes of deer. A great herd of illuminated stags swept across the sand at the speed of a flying arrow.

Ornismon’s eyes cracked open, only to see a wall of razor-sharp antlers charging towards him. “Fools…” he muttered, as one by one the spectral stags slammed into his already ruined form. Each impact shot straight through him, tearing him full of holes and beams of light that broke apart his blackened body. Dark blobs of liquid rained down, staining the white sand. The other Digimon stayed well clear of them, knowing the potency of the infection.

With one last strangled cry, the hollow Ornismon burst into fragments of data, and the night was dark and quiet once more.

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

With the coming of morning, it was time for everyone to say goodbye.

Plesiomon had returned and waited for Ryudamon and the others to assemble their things and climb onto her back. While most already had, Ryudamon remained on the shore with Ruby, Ciermon, James, and Eva.

“Why don’t you come with us?” Eva asked. “It’ll be safer.”

“Thank you for the kind offer, but I do not think we would work well together,” Ruby explained with a slow smile.

“If you mean Piper, she’ll be fine if you just don’t hit on Hunter,” James grinned.

Ruby flushed. “That was the wine. Please apologize to her again for me.”

“We will.” Eva smiled.

“What will you do?” Ryudamon asked.

Ciermon and Ruby glanced at each other. “We discussed late last night,” Ciermon said. “Thought that we would perhaps travel the Digital World try to cleanse any towns or Digimon of this parasite infection, until you have taken care of the source of the problem at home.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Eva nodded.

Ruby agreed. “After all, someone needs to protect here while you fight the worst of it at home.”

“It’ll be nice to know there’s someone here to keep order while we’re fighting when we get back,” James nodded.

“And-”

“Ryudamon,” Plesiomon’s voice interrupted softly, “I hate to cut your goodbye short, but if we don’t hurry we shall miss the tide.”

The old lizard released a resigned sigh. “Of course.” He turned to Ruby and Ciermon. “It was very good to meet the two of you.”

“And you too, Ryudamon.” Ruby shook his clawed hand. “Eva. James.”

Ryudamon climbed onto Plesiomon slowly, followed by James and Eva. Ruby and Ciermon waited on the shore to see them off as Plesiomon turned in the water, ready to begin moving off again.

“Oh! Before I forget!” Ryudamon said suddenly, running to the back of Plesiomon so he could be heard. “There’s another here, Hannah and Auramon! Perhaps you should seek them out!”

“Oh! Okay, cool! We will!” Ruby and Ciermon called back, Ruby waving.

They watched until Plesiomon and her cargo were mere shadows in the sunrise.

 








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