Episode 5: A Walking
Shadow

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When it came to leaving the Biyomon village the following morning, the natives bustled around the team busily, getting things ready for them. Unbeknownst to the group, the Digimon had been gathering up spare food for them, placing it in small packs made of leaves that were bound together by twine. According to the Biyomon, there was enough food in each pack to last them each for three days, including food for Hitokamon, who had joined their party.

The Yokomon and Biyomon hurried around Anzumon, bidding him a final goodbye, and even followed their guests a little way out of the village, waving them off until the village and the occupants were only a shadow in the distance.

As it had been the day before, the weather was amiable and calm with barely any wind, and warm temperatures.

Following their run-in with Shadramon, they had returned to the village with Hitokamon, and been tended to by the Biyomon and Yokomon.

With the knowledge from Hitokamon that the Empress and Emperor were going to be looking for the vials too, they each decided they could not wait around another day in the village, nor just leave without a plan. They had the map, which was an advantage, and they also knew what the strange square markings meant, also giving them an edge.

Blaire had mapped their course so far, and had made the locations of the vials more obvious on the old pieces of paper by circling them with chalk. From their location, the closest vial had been the one they had found on Behemon, which now belonged to Katrina. Aside from that, there appeared to be two more within traveling distance: one to the east and another to the north, located by a long river.

Hitokamon had reminded them the locations on the map may have been outdated, due to the fact the Colossus had once been mobile creatures. His warnings though fell on deaf ears as votes were taken for which direction they should go in.

It was eventually decided they would travel north to find the vial near the river, then south-east to obtain the other, which was nearer to the sea. From there, if the map was accurate, they hoped they could find or make some form of transportation to the other landmass, which was also where the Circle was located.

They set off early in the morning to get the most light, the packs of food the Biyomon had given them piled on Ryan's back. Hitokamon was still wary, and would constantly glance around as if expecting another Shadramon to leap out of the grass at any moment. They opted for a triangular formation, keeping Hitokamon in the middle of them so he felt safer.

The chameleon's wariness was grating on the nerves of Blaire the most. His constant whimpering and his fearful nature annoyed her, but they had agreed to protect him if he led them to the Circle. They could not turn back on their agreement now.

When they had been walking for not even two hours, Ryan's D-Ex began to chirp and flash on the waistband of his pants. They had walked into a valley littered with purple, pink, blue, and orange flowers, and still had to make the ascension up the other side of it. Anzumon was enjoying flying through the flowers, watching the petals rise up in the air in his wake. And the butterflies that hovered around Muertomon hopped from flower to flower, feeding.

Ryan stopped walking and slipped the packs onto the ground as he fished the D-Ex off the back of his trousers. He tapped the buttons in an attempt to discover why it was making the noise. Blaire and Katrina stopped with him. Both the girls stretched.

"Why is it beeping?" Ryan wondered aloud, not expecting an answer from anyone.

Hitokamon was nearly completely obscured by the flowers and the grass, but he stood beside Ryan, wringing his hands together worriedly.

Ryan shook his D-Ex. "Stop it."

"Don't shake it," Katrina grumbled. "Hand it over."

Blaire rubbed her fingers across her brow. "Don't tell me you've broken your D-Ex. What did you do, lie on it?"

"It is not broken," Ryan replied, handing the small device to Katrina, who began to inspect it quietly.  Pleased they had stopped for a moment, Grindymon descended to ground level and began picking wildflowers. Muertomon slumped on the ground and immediately disappeared into the sea of color, much to Blaire's amusement.

Ryan waited while Katrina examined his D-Ex. It continued to chime steadily, the sound coming at the same time as the yellow flashes of light. The noise wasn't loud, so he was not worried about attracting attention. But it was high-pitched and regular enough to already be annoying, like a car alarm that was not being turned off.

"Whereabouts are we?" He turned to Blaire, sure that Katrina would take her time to examine the small item.

Blaire looked at him and unfolded the map in front of her. Ryan peered over her shoulder as Blaire brought up the D-Ex map as well to compare locations.

"Well, the Biyomon village is here…" She pointed to a small white spot with a feather above it that she had drawn to mark the village. "We've travelled north for a few hours… so… I guess… we're here?" She made a vague circle with her finger in a large area. The valley they had found was not marked on the map itself, but on the D-Ex the location was marked with uneven lines opposite one another.

"That's clear," Ryan said sarcastically. "How far have we got to travel?"

"Pretty far," Blaire replied curtly, folding up the map.

Ryan sighed a little. "I wish we didn't have to walk all the time. I miss my bike."

Blaire raised her eyebrows. "I knew you had a motorbike." She smiled. "You have that kind of look of someone who would own one."

An eyebrow cocked on Ryan's face and he rubbed his stubble. "Actually…," he paused, "it's a bicycle." He saw Blaire's smile disappear and hurried to cover himself. "I'm saving up for a motorbike."

"A bicycle?" Blaire's voice fell flat. "And for one brief second you were almost my kind of guy. What a disappointment." She shook her head.

Hitokamon looked up from the ground. "Shouldn't we keep moving? We've been stationary for some time."

"We will," Ryan assured him, "once Katrina knows what's wrong with my D-Ex."

"Can't she examine it and walk?" Hitokamon suggested nervously.

"If you want me to fall flat on my face," Katrina replied, not looking up from the device.

Anzumon was overhead suddenly, flapping his wings, covering the group in flower petals. He laughed loudly as Muertomon sat up, two flower heads in place of his eyes.

"This place is great!" Anzumon announced, twirling in the air, rolling his wings into his body. "Let's just stay here! Who needs the vials?"

"What if the next one we find is for you and me?" Ryan asked the griffin. "Don’t you want to evolve like Muertomon?"

"On my own terms," Anzumon replied, his tone sharp as he replied to Ryan. "I don't want anything to do with you." He turned and was flying back through the air quickly, kicking up more flowers as he went.

Ryan's face fell a little; he was still not getting through to the winged creature. No bond had formed and it seemed as though Anzumon was only dedicated to avoiding him. Ryan found himself a little jealous. Bonds had formed between Katrina, Grindymon, Blaire, and Muertomon almost instantly. He was beginning to wonder if Anzumon would ever really take a liking to him.

Just then, Katrina released a frustrated growl and looked as if she was about to throw Ryan's D-Ex on the ground.

"Can't figure it out?" Ryan asked, approaching her, ready to try and catch it if she threw.

"No!" she raged and thrust the black and yellow device at him. "All I can tell you is that my D-Ex did the same thing when we found the other vial, and when we found Behemon."

Ryan slipped his D-Ex into his pocket, hoping the added fabric would at least muffle the sound a little. Hitokamon practically clung to Blaire's leg at the mention of the Behemon, while she and Ryan looked around them. Muertomon too was up on his feet, examining their surroundings.

"I… don't think there's a Behemon here," Blaire admitted slowly.

"How can you know? The first one we came across was hidden in the ground," Ryan said. "It was like a small hill, almost undetectable."

"We didn't know what we were looking for then," Blaire answered shortly. "We do now, and tell me, can you see any odd looking formations of rock? Or out of place shapes?"

He examined the area around them, and all he could see was the flowers and grasses of the valley floor. The valley sides were steep, littered with more flora and the occasional tree, but nothing really stood out to him as out of place. It all looked natural, and he couldn't make out any strange shapes or unusual-looking structures.

"No," he said finally, after having a thorough gaze around the sides of the valley around them. He turned to Katrina. "I think maybe it's just malfunctioning," he admitted.

She raised her eyebrows but kept her words to herself, lightly folding her arms. "Okay. If you're sure," Katrina said and shrugged her shoulders.

Ryan picked up the packs of food from the ground and called to Anzumon that they were carrying on. No one seemed more thankful for that than Hitokamon, who raced on ahead until he realized what he had done, and then raced back to the safety of their small group.

Katrina brought up the rear, unable to shake an uneasy feeling that they were walking into another potential danger. She kept her thoughts to herself, however, knowing that she would only be ignored by the two larger personalities in their troupe.

"Come on, Grindymon," she called the aquatic Digimon, realizing she was not in her usual place at her shoulder.

The teal creature appeared with a self-made floral wreath around her head, and held in her fins a second one, which she settled on Katrina's head, smiling.

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

"We've been walking for hours!" Muertomon complained. "Can't we sit down and rest for a while?" He dawdled at the back of the group, walking with the smallest steps, increasing the distance between himself and the others.

"No," Blaire told him, looking over her shoulder, "we need to cover as much ground as possible while it’s light. We'll stop when the sun starts going down."

Muertomon released a grumble. "But that won't be for hours yet!"

"Stop whining," Anzumon said, flying back and hovering over the skeleton.

Muertomon seemed to pout. "Easy for you to say. You and Grindymon can both fly. What about me? I have to walk."

"So do we," Ryan called to him.

"I have blisters on my blisters," Muertomon huffed, finally falling back onto the grass and pulling his feet towards him with a pained expression on his face.

Ryan looked at Blaire with a small smile, while the turquoise-haired woman shook her head a little. She turned around and walked back to Muertomon. Ryan stopped the group for the moment and began working the kinks out of his muscles.

In his pocket, his D-Ex was still making the same high-pitched chiming noise, as it had been for the past several hours, but Ryan had managed to muffle it by shoving it into his pocket. The noise was still audible, and it set Ryan's teeth on edge, but it being quiet was better than it being right in everyone's ears.

"You can't get blisters," Blaire explained to Muertomon as she pulled him to his feet. "You don't have skin on your feet to form blisters."

Muertomon looked dejectedly down at his feet on the short grass and then back at Blaire. "My joints hurt!"

She sighed. "If I give you a piggy-back, will you stop complaining?"

Immediately the Digimon's expression brightened, which Blaire took as a positive sign. She turned her back towards him and squatted, fastening her arms beneath Muertomon's legs as he clung to her shoulders.

Jogging back to the others, she hoisted her partner further up her back. "Let's get moving then," she ordered and started walking.

They continued walking in silence for a while. Anzumon would fly on ahead and then fly back, never allowing the on-foot group to go too far into the distance. Grindymon had latched onto Katrina's shoulders with her fins and was dozing quietly on the redhead's hair. Hitokamon remained close to Ryan and Blaire, his eyes always moving, spying things around them that weren't there.

When they had left the valley of flowers, they found themselves once again in flatlands covered in short grasses, with small clusters of trees dotted about. They had come across the occasional Digimon, but most had been curious from a distance, rather than threatening. And those that weren't curious quickly fled as the group approached them. Their journey was punctuated with small hills and the occasional steep incline, which led to further flat ground.

Blaire had commented more than once on how the landscape made very little sense, but no one had added anything more to her words.

They were all silently concentrating on reaching their destination before nightfall, silently walking along, trying their best to block out the muffled beeping from Ryan's pocket. They would stop every now and again to check their location on the D-Ex and the map. Even in a few hours they had covered significant ground, and the vial location was getting closer, though slowly.

Anzumon had stopped flying, now content to walk with the group for a little while as they trudged along a flat hilltop, which was where the silence finally became too much for Muertomon and he broke it.

"Talk! Please," he crowed from Blaire's back, waving his arms.

She adjusted him. "Hold on or I'm going to drop you."

Ryan quirked his mouth. "Do you want to swap? You take the meals, I take Muertomon?"

Blaire looked at him. "Why? You think I'm too weak and fragile to carry him?"

"Uhm… no," Ryan replied, surprised by her abrupt and aggressive response, though he wasn't sure why he was so shocked. That was Blaire all over. "You've been carrying him for hours, I figured you might want a break?"

"Oh," Blaire paused. She looked over her shoulder at Muertomon. "Would that be okay with you?"

The skeleton gave her a thoughtful look, and then glanced at Ryan. He shifted in Blaire's arms and slid down to the ground. "I can walk fine now," he said, and started doing just that.

"Thanks for the heads up!" Blaire said, groaning as she stretched and rubbed her lower back.

Ryan sniffed. "Obviously I seem to repel Digimon." Anzumon gave him a hard look from the ground with his sharp yellow eyes and then took off, flying a few feet in front of the group. "I give up…"

Katrina laughed quietly. "Maybe you're trying too hard to bond with Anzumon?" she suggested. "He's obviously stubborn. Try letting him come to you."

"I guess," Ryan shrugged. "It kind of sucks though. You and Blaire are really close to Grindymon and Muertomon. Anzumon can barely stand to be within a few feet of me."

"Maybe you smell," Muertomon proffered, smiling widely.

"That's not it!" Anzumon called back, listening to their conversation. "I just don't need a human partner. I'm fine all on my own." He flew higher away from the group.

"That sure told me," Ryan grumbled and stuffed his hands into his pockets. Doing so dislodged his D-Ex, and the beeping was louder again.

"Is there truly no way you can turn that wretched thing off?" Hitokamon asked desperately. He had been quiet so long they had all practically forgotten he was travelling in the middle of them, despite his bright colors. "It is not only the most obnoxious sound, but it will attract unwanted attention, I am certain of it!"

Ryan took it out of his pocket. "I can't turn it off. There is no off switch."

"Then bury it!" Hitokamon growled and tried to grab it from Ryan's hand. He snatched it back at the last second. Blaire grabbed the back of Hitokamon's bandanna, lifting the chameleon off the ground roughly.

"Okay, Mr. Hyde, that's enough!" she said fiercely. Hitokamon wriggled, trying to break free from the purple fabric. "I said we'd protect you. But that does not mean you can boss us around or get all angry because something is making noise. It's annoying all of us, but our D-Exes are important."

"But we'll get attacked!" Hitokamon replied hoarsely, his eyes flitting around wildly. "Scouts! Scouts are everywhere! In the sky, in the earth! They'll find us! Find me!"

"Hitokamon," Katrina's voice was flat as she spoke, "we have hardly seen any Digimon the whole time we've been walking. I think you're a little paranoid."

Hitokamon shook his head. "You'll see! You'll see!"

"Argh!" Blaire tossed the Digimon unceremoniously to the ground. Ryan looked uncomfortable, and on the earth Hitokamon began to sniffle pathetically. "I am done with your hysterics. Either come along with us and deal with the noise, or leave and good luck protecting yourself." She carried on walking with the others, though both Ryan and Katrina cast the red and orange lizard uneasy looks.

They walked quietly for a few minutes. "Don't you think that was a bit harsh?"

"No," Blaire replied tersely. "Call it tough love."

"Toughest love may be more appropriate," added Katrina.

"You think pandering to his histrionics would be better? Feeding into some weird paranoia?" Blaire demanded, rounding on Katrina, stopping the redhead from walking. Blaire's raised voice roused Grindymon from her slumber and she peered over Katrina's shoulder warily.

"I just think you could be a little more gentle," Katrina reasoned, giving Blaire a level stare. "Besides, you're the one who is so desperate to get to the Circle. Do you really think shouting at and threatening the only guide we've come across is really a smart move?"

"I–"

"You didn't think about that," Katrina said swiftly. "I'm noticing that. You never seem to think. It's all instinct. That is going to get us in to trouble."

"You're just as bad. You're always thinking, never talking. And who was it who wandered off into the night?!" Blaire replied, raising her voice.

"Okay, that's enough," Ryan stated, stepping between the two women. "Calm down, both of you. Shouting at one another isn't going to help." The looks Katrina and Blaire gave him were bordering on murderous, but he continued unabated. "Anyway, Hitokamon has caught up."

Standing a few feet away was the red and orange chameleon, tugging uneasily at his purple bandana and staring at the ground.

"What?" Blaire snapped.

The lizard Digimon flinched to her tone and retreated a few steps.

Katrina squatted. "What is it, Hitokamon?" Her tone was calm and soft, trying to coax the obviously agitated creature.

"I'm sorry for causing you to argue," Hitokamon explained, speaking so quietly that Katrina had to strain her hearing to listen. He began to rub his hands across his face frantically. "It–it's just… I am frightened."

"We know," Ryan said, trying to be sympathetic.

"No, no, no! You don't!" Hitokamon beat his hands against his head. "You don't know! Don't know! Never can know!"

Grindymon floated over Katrina's shoulder and approached the desperate creature. Gently she took his hands in her fins and lowered them from his head. "Hitokamon…," she said softly, "speak to us."

Hitokamon stared at her with fearful eyes, they darted back and forth from Grindymon to Muertomon, who stood close by. Anzumon had approached as well, after he had realized he was close to losing the group. Katrina, Blaire, and Ryan stood behind them. Hitokamon sniffled and rubbed his eyes.

"The Emperor and Empress. They do terrible things to me. Trying to find out if I knew anything when I was their captive. They never believed I knew nothing," he sighed shakily. "I am scared to go back. If their scouts find me, I will have no escape."

"We'll protect you," Grindymon assured him lightly.

"Not from everything," Hitokamon sighed shakily. "It's not possible."

"Try us," replied Grindymon with a small smile. "You've seen what we're capable of."

"I can hear them all coming for me!" Hitokamon whimpered and covered his head with his hands. "Their voices. All talking over one another, shouting in my head!"

Blaire sighed softly. She saw Ryan scratch the back of his head and she caught his eye. He gave her an uneasy look as Katrina stood up straight. The redhead slipped her hands into her back pockets and moved back towards the others, her expression a little unnerved.

"No one is coming for you," said Grindymon. "I promise. And even if someone was, we would stop them."

"No…," Hitokamon sighed.

"I have an idea," Muertomon announced, his voice louder than both Grindymon and Hitokamon. The chameleon cringed from the noise. "While we're walking, why don't we talk?" he suggested. "Hitokamon can ask us all questions."

"That…," Ryan tilted his head, "might not be a bad idea. It'll keep your brain focused, Hitokamon, and maybe it'll make the time go faster too." He smiled at the lizard as he looked at him from beneath his arms.

Grindymon nodded and took Hitokamon's hand. "I think it's an excellent idea. Come on."

With few words everyone began walking again. Ryan took the lead with Blaire and Anzumon, and Muertomon flanked them. Katrina brought up the rear and Grindymon travelled with Hitokamon in the middle of them all.

At first they walked in uneasy silence, no one entirely sure if they should just begin speaking or if Hitokamon would ask a question. They could hear him sniffling now and then, breathing slowly to get some of his emotions back under control. The sun was still high, indicating it must have been shortly after midday. They still had plenty of light to move by, but a lot of ground to cover. And they had lost time.

Walking in tandem, Ryan was able to keep Blaire from hurrying ahead.

Slowly, Hitokamon calmed. "…Perhaps…," he started, his voice barely audible. Both Blaire and Ryan looked back at him, and he shied away. Grindymon gave him a gentle nudge and a supportive smile to persuade him to continue. "Perhaps you could…tell me…about your home? …Your lives?" he asked tentatively.

"Our lives, huh?" Ryan smiled. "That shouldn't be too hard. Where would you like us to begin?"

Hitokamon shrugged weakly. "It's up to you."

"Mhm…" Ryan raised his free arm above his head, stretching a little. "Well… we all come from the same place. A city, which is like a built-up area full of buildings and people."

"We have them here," Hitokamon told him. "On our way to the Circle we should travel through the Clockwork City."

"Oh." Ryan nodded. "Our city is obviously populated more by humans than Digimon. We don't really have anything like that there."

"Have you all always lived in the same place?" inquired Hitokamon. Anzumon, Muertomon, and Grindymon were listening with great interest to the details about their humans companions’ home world.

Ryan answered first. "I haven't. I lived in place called Canada before my family and I moved into the city about three years ago. Me, my sister, brother, and our parents."

Hitokamon nodded slowly. The questions and talking seemed to be doing the trick. As every minute passed, the chameleon was looking more and more relaxed. He was no longer holding Grindymon's fin, though the floating aquatic creature stayed close to him at ground level.

"I don't live with my family anymore. Moved out about two years ago, I guess," Ryan continued, pushing his hands into his pockets and clasping one around his D-Ex, further attempting to muffle the incessant beeping sound. "Now I live with two housemates, Adrian and Rick. My girlfriend Heather stays round sometimes too."

"What's a girlfriend?" inquired Anzumon, twisting his head to look back at the taller man.

Ryan laughed a little. "A girlfriend is… a woman who you're in a romantic relationship with."

"Oh." Anzumon nodded. "What's a… romantic relationship?"

"Uhm…," Ryan faltered a little, "it's like a friendship but you do… other stuff."

Blaire chuckled to herself, twirling her hair through her fingers with a playful smile. "You're hopeless."

"You could always help," Ryan replied.

"Oh no. Watching you struggle is much more fun!" Blaire teased.

Ryan glanced behind him. "Katrina?"

"Count me out," she said with a smirk. "I'm interested to hear how you describe it."

"You were saying?" prompted Hitokamon.

Ryan sighed. "Yeah. So. Right. A romantic relationship is kind of like having a really, really close friendship with someone. And you're so close that you do things with each other you wouldn't normally do with your other friends."

"Would you mind elaborating on what those things are?" taunted Blaire playfully, poking her tongue out in response to Ryan's withering look.

"Things like," he paused and rubbed his hand over his face, brushing over his nose, mouth and chin. "Like holding hands. Uh… having intimate discussions… Being intimate…" His cheeks flushed and he avoided looking at the Digimon or Blaire by staring at the blue sky above him.

"Gee," Katrina chimed in from behind him, "maybe the Digimon would like to know what 'being intimate' means."

Blaire almost cackled and grinned at the other girl over her shoulder. Ryan blanched.

"Nope! Someone else's go!" He flailed an arm and pointed at Blaire. "I'm sure Blaire or Katrina have interesting stories."

"Is being intimate a bad thing?" asked Grindymon innocently.

Muertomon tilted his head. "If a girlfriend is a girl who is your friend, then does that mean that Blaire and Katrina are your girlfriends too?"

"No!" Ryan's expression was verging on outrage and his entire face had a red tint to it. Blaire and Katrina were both giggling to themselves, only continuing to confuse the Digimon further.

Anzumon flapped his wings and rose up to Ryan's face, giving him a beady stare. "Your face is all red."

"I know!" Ryan grumbled. "Ask someone else some questions!" He rubbed his hands across his skin. "Please!"

Katrina breathed in through her nose, stifling her amusement at Ryan's expense. "Alright, alright. We'll give you a break." She ran her fingers back through her hair and lightly fiddled with the long chain of her earring. Grindymon floated up to her and hung on to her shoulders. "I doubt my life will be as entertaining as Ryan's."

"Ha ha."

"I'm one of those people who have lived in the same city all their lives," she explained. "Nothing very exciting. I moved out when I was eighteen though, and living on my own has probably been the best thing I've ever done for myself."

When she had been silent for a few seconds, Blaire looked at her over her shoulder. "Is that it?"

"Well… yeah."

"What about your family? That kind of stuff," Blaire said. "Come on, we've been here for like… three days, and Ryan and I know next to nothing about you."

Katrina shifted uneasily, and began fidgeting with her earring more insistently. "There really isn't a lot to tell."

"There must be," Grindymon murmured. "You must have come from somewhere."

"Yeah…"

"You don't get on with your folks, or something?" Ryan queried.

"Well…" Katrina rolled her head uncomfortably. "My mom and I get on really well… she's great. I can count on her for anything. Talk to her about anything. She's the one person in my whole life I can rely on without a doubt."

Blaire had slowed a little and now walked closer to Katrina than to Ryan. "But… your dad?"

Slipping her hands into her jean pockets, Katrina avoided her eyes, just as she avoided the eyes of the Digimon who looked at her. "My dad and I don't get on. Like… at all. We always used to argue when I was growing up. We would butt heads and have two, three hour long shouting matches about the stupidest stuff. Sometimes we wouldn't talk for days at all. He never took much interest in me, and we have never had much in common. On my eighteenth birthday, we had our biggest fight yet. A lot of things were said and I walked out. Crashed on a friend’s sofa for a couple of weeks while I found myself a place." She shrugged.

"What did you fight about?" asked Muertomon, his expression inquisitive.

"Just… y'know, stuff," sighed Katrina.

"…Like…?" prompted Anzumon.

A small, embittered smile slipped across Katrina's lips. "He always wanted a boy." She nodded to herself. "Instead he wound up with me. Just… me." Blaire frowned a little and reached out tentatively to Katrina, rubbing the other woman's arm in an uncharacteristically gentle manner. Katrina looked at her a little surprised, but returned her smile none-the-less. "That's why I got a little uncomfortable and angry when you two were teasing me about being an only child the other day."

Ryan looked down and kicked at the ground, recalling the conversation. "Sorry, about that. It was pretty crappy of us."

"You weren't to know." Katrina shrugged nonchalantly. Clearing her throat, she stood up straight and nudged Blaire. "Your turn."

"Yey!" Muertomon raised his arms enthusiastically. "Blaire's turn!"

She began immediately. "I'm the same as Katrina. Been living in the same city all my life. And practically in the same house the whole time. I think I mentioned I'm the youngest? Yeah, I have one older brother, Reyez. And four older sisters; Alicia, Nicole, Leya and Tanya. My house has always been a madhouse."

"Four sisters?" Ryan repeated. "Wow, I can just about manage one."

"Yeah." Blaire raised her eyebrows. "My mom, she really had her work cut out for her. My dad pretty much took off shortly after I was born, so my closest male role models were my brother and my uncle. Reyez is pretty cool though. He's an indifferent prick sometimes, but he's someone who tends to come through for you. Plus his place is pretty much my second home as I stay there just as much as I live at home."

"What are your sisters like?" asked Katrina.

Blaire crushed her fingers through the end of her hair as she spoke. "The same as most sisters… they're practically carbon copies of each other. I like them. We get on really well, but Reyez and I have always been two peas in a pod."

Katrina smiled wistfully. "Must be nice."

Blaire shoved her lightly, dislodging Grindymon from her place a little. "Go us! Estranged and assholes for fathers!"

Katrina gave her an odd look. "Is that really something to celebrate?"

Blaire gave a small shrug. "I doubt it. But why mope about it, right?"

"I… suppose…," Katrina said slowly.

Ryan cleared his throat. "Okay, let's talk about something more cheerful! What do you guys do for fun?"

"Hold on…," Anzumon's voice was grave and broke through their conversation. He stood in front of the group with his wings vibrating against his back. His eyes were narrowed as if trying to see something in the distance.

As Muertomon joined him in front of the group, and Grindymon was alert, looking behind Katrina for any incoming danger, the humans all unconsciously moved closer together, surrounding Hitokamon who was trembling with fright.

"What is it…?" asked Katrina softly. The Digimon's behavior was the same as when they had sensed the Gazimon coming. It put them all on edge to see them so tense once more.

"Something…," Muertomon spoke severely. "Something… different."

"Where's the sun gone?" asked Ryan, looking skyward. Where there had been bright blue sky and warm sunshine only moments ago, there was now dark navy, almost black smog covering the sky, obscuring all light. The same vapor was spreading across the ground, around their feet, leaving them all enveloped in darkness.

They clung to one another tightly, scared to lose each other in the black world they suddenly found themselves in.

Grindymon's antenna was their only light as she floated to the middle of the group to keep them illuminated.

They crowded around her.

"What’s happening?" Ryan asked into the gloom.

"Hitokamon, are you alright?" Grindymon inquired softly, trying to see the chameleon on the ground.

A deep, throaty laugh echoed from the darkness. "It is yourselves whom you should be worried about…," it said, sounding as if it came from all around them.

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

A figure seemed to manifest itself out of the darkness, shrouded in black with no discernible features visible on its face or body. It stood above them all, hooded and tall. Two hands with long, thin fingers protruded from billowing sleeves of what appeared to be a cloak, and the left held a large gold pocket watch, which swung back and forth. The air around it had a chill, and struck the humans and Digimon alike to the bone with its cold. Their breath hung in the air in small clouds.

"Who are you?!" Anzumon demanded, stepping ahead of the group. "What have you done to us?"

"I…," the figure spoke, unmoving, "have done nothing." Its voice identified it as male; the tone of it was heavy, authoritative with a hushed timbre to it and an edge of careful and quiet threat.

"Who are you?!" Anzumon repeated bitingly. When the figure only breathed out, he flapped his wings and rose off the ground. "ANSWER ME!"

The pocket watch swung back and forth rhythmically, and it seemed like the sound of its tick-tock was bouncing around them. The tall creature moved his head a little to look at Anzumon, though no eyes could be seen from beneath its veil.

"You…," he spoke slowly, leaving Anzumon's question unanswered. He turned his head back to face the small clustered group. "Are running out of time…"

"Running out of time?" Blaire repeated, confused. "How are we running out of time? That's not vague at all…"

The figure vanished into the darkness, but the wind around them picked up. Before anyone could react, the cloaked figure stood before them, normal-sized with his pocket watch still swinging before him. "You do not belong here…" He was more straightforward, but his voice still hushed. "This is not a world in which you should be. Your purpose is not one of this time."

"Stop talking in riddles!" demanded Ryan. "Who are you?! What do you want?!" He shivered, and tried to convince himself it was against the chill and not the sense of fear sneaking up his back.

The figure was silent, only the sound of his heavy, raspy breathing filled the air. The quiet only served to make the Digimon and humans even more anxious. Muertomon's butterflies swarmed wildly around him, seeking heat.

The figure released a light chuckle, deep, but it sent a tremble down their spines. "My identity is of no importance to you."

"It is when you cover us in darkness with no explanation!" snapped Blaire.

"This world is not for you, you see," said the figure ignoring Blaire. He moved his free hand underneath the swinging pocket watch, bringing it to a stop. "You are merely dreamers…"

"Dreamers?" Ryan repeated, now more confused than ever.

"You should not be here. These Digimon should not exist. How you arrived… is a conundrum to me…"

Blaire and Katrina exchanged worried looks. Ryan gritted his teeth. His skin was covered in goose bumps, and he tried to shake off the feeling of the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.

"Enough of the cryptic words," he said, sounding braver than he felt.

"Those who came before you… are sleeping… an eternal sleep…," he spoke, his voice almost wistful. "So perfect. Safe… and untouchable."

The figure in black swayed from side to side, gently, as if being brushed back and forth like a blade of grass in a breeze. "They are… destroyed…"

Blaire's eyes widened as she took a step forward. "Destroyed? What do you mean, destroyed?" She made to move towards him, her fists clenched, only stopping when Katrina and Ryan grabbed her lower arms to hold her in place.

"The Gods of old are unnecessary. But they sleep, protected and untouchable…"

Anzumon bristled. "I am getting sick of you!"

"What should I do… I wonder…," he spoke, turning his attention on them squarely. "Your being here… it vexes me… it was not part of the plan at all…"

"I am warning you…," Muertomon grumbled. His arms were beneath his poncho.

The figure ignored him, his focus on Ryan, Katrina, and Blaire only. "Perhaps you will prove to be entertaining… I have not had a good game for as long as I can remember…" He paused for a few seconds, and waved his hand over the still pocket watch. The tick-tock noise around them ceased and the clock face had suddenly cracked, stopping the second hand in its place. "Your time is short…"

"Are you threatening us?" snarled Anzumon.

Muertomon advanced a step. "You're the one whose time is running short," he grunted.

The figure chuckled once more. "Indeed, I shall see how this… develops…"

"That is it!" roared Muertomon, withdrawing his flamethrower from beneath his poncho. "Soul Launcher!"

"Spark Javelin!"

The two attacks intertwined, the flaming butterflies becoming charged with Anzumon's thunder. As they impacted against the form in front of them, he disappeared as suddenly as he had shown himself. The darkness that engulfed them melted away like ice, revealing their location.

It appeared that as they had spoken to the mysterious form they had been moving without realizing it. The day they had been walking in had turned to deep night, with the moon hanging above them, partly obscured by dark clouds. They were standing precariously on the edge of a cliff overlooking a quickly running river over a hundred feet below them.

"What the fuck was that?!" Blaire demanded, backing away from the edge. She placed her foot on loose earth and it crumbled beneath her. Muertomon grabbed her leg and pulled her back a little. Grindymon was holding onto the back of Katrina's shirt, pulling her away from the dangerous edge, and even Anzumon had his nose against Ryan's chest, pushing against him to keep him from toppling into the water below.

Ryan's D-Ex suddenly bleeped louder in his pocket than it had all day, and the noise it made now was a singular constant tone, matched with the bright yellow light on the screen of his D-Ex. The ground rumbled beneath them.

"Oh shiiiittt!" Blaire cried, tumbling to her knees and digging her hands into the ground. Hitokamon followed her example, while Anzumon and Grindymon hovered above the ground, alert. Muertomon stood fast, thrusting his feet into the soft earth at awkward angles to try and steady himself, while Ryan clung onto a large curved stone above the ground.

Beneath them, a stone shape was rising from the ground, dislodging the soil and dirt around it, sending it tumbling fast down into the rushing waters. It was not big enough to hold them all: Katrina, Blaire, Muertomon, and Hitokamon went rolling to the grass below them. Ryan continued clinging to his rock tightly, the stone revealing itself to be part of the stone creature. Anzumon remained in the air, following the form as it continued to rise, and Grindymon kept close to Ryan.

It was not as big as the Behemon they had met previously, but it was still big by comparison to the group. It was in the shape of a woman, sitting neatly on a crescent-shaped seat which had sharp points at either end. In its hands it held a small, dark steel sword, and on its head was a square-shaped hat, with a steel crescent moon placed on it. Ryan was holding on to one of the curves of that smaller moon. In the middle of the hat's moon was a glowing orange orb. Littered across the stone body were more glowing orange markings: crosses on the end of the sword, on the thighs, feet, and shoulders of the female body. At its knees and elbows were more glowing spheres, as if they were the joints, and in the middle of its chest was a glowing symbol which resembled a horseshoe with a single orange circle in its centre.

"Ryan! Let go!"

"Are you crazy!?" Ryan yelled back to Katrina. "I don't want to die!" Had he not been as high, he might have done so. But he was now over thirty feet in the air, as the stone golem had risen above the ground where it had been resting.

"Let go! I'll catch you!" Grindymon told him, floating towards him.

"Thanks, but no thaaa–!" Ryan yelled. He lost his grip on the smooth material of the crescent moon and slipped down the side of the creature's surface. Katrina and Blaire both screamed. He slid down, digging his fingers and toes into the stone, hoping to find a foot or hand hold. He came to an abrupt stop at its elbow, grabbing onto the curve of its arm and dangling there with his arms and legs crossed over it to hang on.

"Are you okay?!" Katrina screamed.

"JUST DANDY!" Ryan yelled back.

"HOLD ON!"

"I'm not going anywhere!!" Ryan shouted. He saw Grindymon come towards him, her face a picture of concern and worry. Anzumon was flying close by, circling the stone creature.

Hitokamon was terrified, trembling away from Blaire and Katrina, watching the huge creature rise above them and turn slowly, moving its head to examine them. As it moved, rubble and debris fell to the ground, creating dents in the earth where it landed.

"Danger…," Hitokamon muttered. "Dangerous… we must leave!" He grabbed Katrina's hand. "We must go! It's too dangerous!"

"And leave Ryan?!" Katrina grabbed her hand back. "Are you nuts?! Just keep out of the way!" Blaire was bringing up the details about the creature on her D-Ex, at least she was trying to. But as with Behemon-SHD, the information was unclear and all she could make out was a name.

"Behemon-WND," Blaire called to Katrina. "That's all it says!"

"We should leave! Leave him to his fate!!" Hitokamon cried, beginning to panic.

Katrina shoved him away from her roughly. "Not now!"

The chameleon tumbled backwards onto his tail. He whimpered, watching as the small Rookie Digimon advanced and tried to get an understanding of the situation in front of them. Hitokamon backed away, scurrying across the grass on his back until he turned over, rose to his feet, and fled from them, disappearing into the night.

"Hitokamon!!" Blaire cried, spotting the chameleon as he ran off. "Hitokamon, get back here!!" She turned away from the stone Colossus, but had already lost sight of their lizard companion. "He's gone!!"

"Blaire," Katrina shouted back to her, retreating a few steps, "I hate to be a realist but we have bigger problems right now than Hitokamon's cowardice!"

Muertomon glanced back at the two women and smiled confidently. "Leave it to me!" He ran forward, Blaire's D-Ex erupted in light, and Muertomon vanished from their sight.

"Muertomon, Plasma Evolve to… Pelmamon!"

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

The hive was buzzing with activity, insects swarming and scurrying all over one another in vain attempts to avoid the wraths of the Emperor and Empress beneath them. A mixture of Butterflymon, Flymon, and Honeybeemon were all trying to escape out of the same small hexagonal exit hatch.

"YOU HAVE ALL FAILED ME!" screamed the Empress, turning her face up to the ceiling. "How have none of you located our escaped prisoner!? I WANT HIM BACK BEFORE DAYBREAK!"

"My love…," The Emperor spoke, trying to calm his angry queen. She rounded on him, her eyes shining with anger as she clenched her delicate hand around her staff. "Screaming and shouting is far beneath you… Would you allow me to handle this?"

"Yes…," she spoke slowly, breathing in. "Yes, my dearest. I would enjoy seeing you handle our offspring with an iron fist."

The Emperor bowed graciously to her. "It is your wish, my love."

The Empress retreated to their throne and sat daintily. The Emperor opened his wings wide and beat them, flying up to the ceiling. As he approached, the noise of the insect Digimon grew in panic, and their frantic attempts to escape only became more desperate.

"You…," spoke the Emperor, his voice barely louder than his usual speaking voice, "are all great disappointments to myself and your beloved queen… Do you have anything to say for yourselves?!" His voice rose a little, his well-disguised anger breaking through his stoic facade for a brief moment.

Around him, the noise died from the other Digimon. Their buzzing and fizzing was almost silenced by those words, and he drew his mouth into a tight line.

"How… disappointing," he whispered. "No attempt to apologize. No groveling at the feet of your most illustrious queen?!"

As he knew some would, two Honeybeemon and a Flymon left their ceiling places and began to descend to the ground, wanting to be the first to apologize and plead at the feet of the Empress. The Emperor whirled round and shot a three quick blasts from his staff, which caused all three Digimon to disappear in flashes of light and fall to the ground as data, where the Empress breathed them in.

Slowly, and with a cruel smile on his face, the Emperor turned and backed away from the silent subjects. "If you fail to bring us the treacherous chameleon we need, none of you will be free from my wrath…" He paused, letting the hive fill with silence. "Do not disappoint me."

In a hubbub of panic and frenzy, the insect Digimon were rushing, escaping from the small ceiling hatch, pushing one another aside to get out and out through other doors in the throne room, which would lead through the maze-like hive to the outside.

In barely ten seconds the throne room was empty, aside from the Empress and the Emperor.

She clapped enthusiastically on the throne and laughed girlishly, rising to her feet as the Emperor came to land on the ground. "Magnificent, my love. Truly inspirational." She whirled him around. "Why, I will be surprised if we do not have that terrible little creature within the hour!"

The Emperor bowed his head. "Anything you wish, my sweet, is my command. I am here only to please you, always."

The Empress smiled sweetly and spun, twirling gracefully back towards the throne. As she sat, she opened a small hidden compartment between the two seats and gently picked up the glowing pink vial. She rolled it around in her hands and stared at the pretty pink insides.

"I feel very good about this, my love," the Empress said, speaking softly. "Confident. Once that creature is back with us, we will be one step closer to obtaining all of these powerful little containers. We shall be unstoppable."

"Do not get too far ahead of yourself, dearest," the Emperor replied, sitting in his own throne. He plucked the container from her fingers. "The true nature of such small things is not yet fully realized to us."

The Empress gave him a coquettish look. "I know, darling one. But imagine the power they must hold! We will have them all within days, and then we shall have enough power to rule all!" She spread her wings wide. "I can just taste it, our victory is so close!"

"Are you not forgetting something?" the Emperor asked, gently placing the glowing pink vial back in the armrest compartment.

The Empress looked at him with a puzzled expression and tilted her head. "I do not think I am."

"It will not be just you and myself ruling. We will have a third," the Emperor's voice lowered as he spoke, and he seemed to shrink down into himself, as if afraid of being heard.

The Empress smiled. "Oh! Of course. How foolish of me to forget." She leaned back in her throne. "It seems fair. After all the help we have received."

"Hmm…" The Emperor's mouth hardened into a thin line. Beside him the Empress laughed softly.

"What bothers you so, my pet?" she asked, brushing her fingers over his gloved hand.

"I do not trust the promise we have been given. Something does not sit right with me, and I find it unsettling," the Emperor explained. "You do not think it strange yourself? This arrangement?"

"Oh, my love…" The Empress rose gracefully from the seat and kneeled before her King, taking his hands in her own. "Are you certain your doubts are not simply you being frightened of 'him'?"

"Certainly not!" The Emperor lashed out, but the queen was up in the air before he could strike her. She laughed softly above him. The Emperor opened his wings, ready to try and catch her, when they were disturbed suddenly by a Flymon rushing in through the hexagonal ceiling hatch.

The scout flew to the ground and kneeled before the two thrones. The Empress returned to the ground and her previous smiles had disappeared, replaced by a stern but regal expression. "Your business? I hope you have good word for us."

"I do, my Queen," said the scout, keeping its head bowed.

"Speak then," ordered the Emperor, "but do so quickly."

"I bring you news," said Flymon, briefly raising his head. "The Colossus at the rushing river has activated."

"Activated, you say?" the Emperor repeated. "How do you know this?"

The scout answered. "I saw, with my own eyes. It rose out of the earth like a terrible monster. The humans were there, those with the Digimon who destroyed the Gazimon."

"Is that so…," murmured the Empress. She waved her hand and Flymon flew to the exit hurriedly. She turned to the Emperor, whose face was pensive. "I think we should see this for ourselves, love."

He nodded slowly. "I agree."

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

Behemon was stationary but for her turning, following the three Digimon that surrounded it. Pelmamon was on the ground, scurrying this way and that, avoiding the long stone blade that it swung while trying to reach him. Anzumon and Grindymon kept to the air: Anzumon attempting to distract the stone creature, while Grindymon stayed with Ryan.

Blaire and Katrina kept their distance, the reach of Behemon was not long, but one of its attacks caused great cracks and fissures to appear in the ground.

"Venom Cannon!" From Pelmamon's abdomen, a length of dark pink silk fired at Behemon, clinging to its left arm. Digging his claws into the ground, Pelmamon anchored himself, pulling hard to bring the creature down to the earth.

"Volt Blitz!" Anzumon cantered through the air, his head low, and smacked his antlers against the rock, sending lightning fizzing over the goliath’s body.

Behemon released a deep rumbling growl. The orange markings across its body were suddenly alight and it began to spin quickly. Pelmamon was wretched from his place and went flying into a large tree trunk. Flapping his wings wildly, Anzumon rose above the spinning vortex, away from its reach. Both Grindymon and Ryan were clinging onto the creature as it spun, Ryan's legs dangling precariously beneath him, his arms wrapped around Behemon's elbow to keep him secure.

"RYAN!!" Blaire yelled. "TRY AND GET THE VIAL!"

"EASY FOR YOU TO SAY!!" Ryan shouted back. He didn't want to move from his place, he felt like if he did, he would just lose his grip and fall to his death.

"THE ORB ON THE HAT! THATS ITS WEAK SPOT!!""

"Come on Ryan!" Anzumon was at his side. "It may be the only option to stop it! We're getting destroyed!"

"I'll help you," Grindymon touched his arm lightly, her smile was weak and she looked as terrified as he was despite her ability to float.

"Primal Executioner!" Pelmamon leaped from beneath the ground and grabbed on to the feet of the floating structure.

Groaning loudly, Behemon swirled in a wide arc and lashed out with its sword, throwing Pelmamon back to the ground. Plunging the blade into the ground, another split in the earth opened and there was a sudden gale of wind that kicked up, lifting the spider Digimon from the earth and flinging him back further.

"Pelmamon!" Blaire ran across the ground to her partner, who rocked back and forth on his back to try and right himself.

"Spark Javelin!" Anzumon shouted, the white lighting erupting from between his antlers, striking Behemon between the eyes.

It released a thunderous growl, the markings alighting again. Ryan had clambered up as far as its shoulder.

"It's going to start spinning again!" Grindymon warned him. "Hold on tight!" He did as she said, and clutched with his fingers and knees, clenching his eyes tight to keep from getting dizzy.

The wind whipped up around the stone golem, and this time Anzumon was not fast enough to get away from the gust. It pulled him into the vortex, and as Behemon came to a sudden stop, Anzumon was spat out, and landed hard on the ground.

"This is getting very frustrating," Pelmamon rumbled, helping the griffin up.  "I cannot get a tight enough grip with my web."

"We're down one while Grindymon helps Ryan. We have to try again!" Anzumon replied firmly, and took off into the air, ignoring the twinges of pain from the wing he had landed on.

Pelmamon agreed silently and rushed across the ground, avoiding the cracks and splits in the earth as if they weren't there. "Venom Cannon!" This time a blast of purple essence fired from his fangs.

"Spark Javelin!" Anzumon's attack mixed with the one from the spider, white lightning crackling all over the ball of misty pink-purple venom. The attack crashed against Behemon's face, obscuring its view for the moment.

"Anzumon!!" Pelmamon shouted, grabbing the griffin's attention. "Venom Cannon!"

The flying creature understood and grabbed the line before it latched onto Behemon, who continued to spin slowly, unable to clear its view. He flew, up and up, until he was level with the rock creature's head and neck and circled it, wrapping the silk tight around its neck.

Pelmamon sunk his claws into the earth and began digging, burying himself under the ground. He grunted with effort, trying to bring Behemon to the ground by sheer will and force. Anzumon flew round to where Ryan and Grindymon were. Ryan was trying to navigate the smooth stone of Behemon's carved hair, where it was harder to find good hand and foot holds. Grindymon kept the rock illuminated.

"Hold on tight!" Anzumon told them, watching as Behemon began to sink towards the ground.

Releasing an almost feral growl, Behemon lifted its blade high, and then plunged it down into the ground, cutting through Pelmamon's silk and opening a fissure around where the spider was digging. Again it thrust the sword into the soil, aiming for Pelmamon, who was able to scurry away from the blow at the last moment.

Angrily, and with increasing fury, the sword sunk into the earth again and again, Behemon following Pelmamon as he rushed to escape the huge stone blade.

"Spark Javelin!" Anzumon's lightning was doing little. Behemon barely seemed to register the electricity flickering across its body. Anzumon was beginning to slow, feeling the effects of his decreasing energy.

Ryan was standing on Behemon's shoulder now, trying to edge along and reach the orange orb at the front of the stone hat.

"Grindymon!" Anzumon called. "We could do with some help!" He flapped his wings quickly, avoiding the incoming purple ball of energy fired from Pelmamon below. It exploded against Behemon's chest, and sent the stone creature back a little from the impact.

Almost instantly, though, it was back on the attack, driving the blade of its weapon down at the spider, growling as Pelmamon escaped.

Grindymon looked between Ryan, Pelmamon, and Anzumon.

"Go," Ryan told her. "I'll be fine."

"Are you su–"

"Go!" he ordered. "They need you more than I do right now."

"O-okay…" Grindymon almost quivered, but flew briskly through the air, and her fins and tail were engulfed with black water.

"Nether Splash!" She wasted no time in attacking, raining down punches and slaps of her tail against Behemon's face.

The stone goliath roared angrily, filling the air with its deafening sound. On the ground, Blaire and Katrina both covered their ears, and Ryan clenched his teeth, unable to move his hands to protect himself from the noise.

Anzumon hovered near her, taking a few seconds to replenish his energy. He followed Ryan with his eyes, watching him trying to clamber onto the top of Behemon's hat, where it was the most flat.

"Venom Cannon!" Another attack of poison shot up from below, crashing into Behemon's shoulder.

"Volt Blitz!" Anzumon crashed his antlers into Behemon's forehead and released a loud crackle of thunder. Behemon screeched and reeled back a little. Ryan yelled, and clung with his fingertips onto the rim of the stone hat.

The griffin's antlers had made a small crack in the orange oval, diminishing its glow a little.

"The orb! Attack the orb!" Katrina cried from the ground.

Pelmamon moved backwards on the ground, arching himself up on his back four legs and generating another attack between his fangs.

"Venom Cannon!" It flew forward, shooting past Grindymon and smashing into the orange gem. Another screech echoed up from Behemon. Anzumon butted against it with his antlers, and then Grindymon rushed towards it with her fins above her head.

"Nether Splash!" The impact of all three of the attacks only chipped away a few tiny segments of the glowing stone.

"They'll run out of energy before they get that thing broken…," Blaire reasoned, exchanging worried looks with Katrina.

Pelmamon skittered forward, rushing towards the underside of Behemon.

"Look out! It's starting to attack again!"

"Ryan, hold on!!"

In a fury, Behemon dug its blade into the ground, once, twice, and a third time, catching one of Pelmamon's legs on the hard, rough surface. As it withdrew the blade the last time, it began spinning, and Ryan held on tight. Before, it had worked itself from a slow turn into faster rotations, but now it was turning madly, faster and faster, bringing wind and water from the river below around it in some kind of suction-whirlpool.

Anzumon was pulled in, and his light feathers were visible through the fast movements. Grindymon was nowhere to be seen, until Behemon's blade broke through its own attack and Grindymon went flying, struck by the rock-hard blade.

Katrina saw her light was completely extinguished and watched as the small, aquatic creature was flung down to the water below.

"Grindymon!!" Katrina cried and started running towards the cliff edge. Blaire grabbed her by the arms. "Let me go!" She pulled.

"Hell no!" Blaire argued and held fast. "If you run towards that thing, you're going to get killed!"

"What about Grindymon!?" Katrina shouted back. "I can't just–"

In her pocket, her D-Ex squealed, and Katrina snatched it out to see it glowing brightly, a turquoise color with a darker, sludgy green running through it. Beyond the cliff, a shape of the same glowing colors arose, shining intensely.

"Grindymon, Plasma Evolve to…."

The fish Digimon’s small shape began to lengthen in all ways. Her tail grew, and from where the fan segments were, spread a larger, singular fin of a deep red color. Its scales darkened all along its length, ending at her waist, while red-membrane fins sprouted from her hips. Her skin lightened in color, and her arm-fins extended, becoming more like human limbs, webbed hands forming where Grindymon's fins had been. Around her forearms were large silver holy rings, each one engraved in different symbols. Her head changed shape, becoming more angular, and her antenna lengthened to dangle in front of her face. The tentacle-like hair on Grindymon's head extended and rose upwards in a wild, untamed mess, curving and floating around her ears, which extended out from her head.

"Melusimon!"

Katrina stepped back a little, watching as the light diminished. Blaire released her arms and stared.

Melusimon floated in the air gracefully, and surveyed the situation with a blank expression. Behemon was still spinning above her. Ryan was yelling incoherently, the speed Behemon was turning at creating an incredible draft. Pelmamon's claws were digging into the ground, and the spider seemed to strain, trying to keep securely planted in the earth.

The somewhat wild-looking creature flew upwards, charging through the air, seemingly unaffected by Behemon's spinning, the draft, and the water that flew around the stone goliath.

Dark water had manifested in her hands and around her tail. Melusimon hovered for a moment before drawing all three limbs back and jerking them forward, sending a jet of black water into the fray. "Deadly Tempest!!"

Behemon stopped whirling around almost instantly, filling the air with a screech. As it stopped, Anzumon was flung from the storm and crashed to the ground in a heap. Melusimon's attack had carved clean through Behemon's shoulder, leaving a gaping hole the size of a football where it had impacted.

Ryan continued to cling onto the rim of Behemon's hat, looking uncomfortable, and as though he was about to be sick.

Lifting its blade, Behemon crushed it into the ground, stretching to aim for Melusimon. She darted out of the way, leaving a trail of darkness in her wake. Turning back towards her foe, Melusimon joined her hands together before her.

"Shadow Blast!" A shock of pure, dark energy erupted from between her hands and smashed against Behemon's forehead. The chips and cracks in the orange stone began to spread, and another horrific cry ripped from the stone creature's throat.

It began to spin, but below it, Pelmamon was at the ready.

"Venom Cannon!" Webbing latched on to the underside of Behemon, and in moments, Pelmamon was digging into the ground furiously, using the fissures and cracks Behemon had made to his advantage. He dragged the stone giant with him, forcing it to the ground and holding it firmly in place so it was unable to spin.

"Spark Javelin!" Anzumon's attack rumbled across Behemon's face where the electricity hit, and it yowled terribly.

"Deadly Tempest!" Another attack from Melusimon, this time slicing through Behemon's hands. The stone blade tumbled from its place as Behemon screamed. It hit the ground and the earth beneath it – weakened by the initial rise of Behemon – collapsed, setting the blade tumbling down to the river below.

"Volt Blitz!" Anzumon's antlers whacked hard against the rock, and a weak spread of lightning wracked across Behemon's body.

Melusimon kept her distance, her hands drawn before her. "Shadow Blast!" Her attack fired down upon Behemon's face; the stone creature's wail was pitiful and weak.

"Almost got the vial!" Ryan yelled, leaning over the rim of the hat and elbowing the orange stone to try and break the shell surrounding the precious container. "Anzumon! Help me!" The griffin flew past him, and began to butt his head against the orb, smashing his antlers and chipping away slowly at the glass.

Behemon continued to cry out, continued to try and move and spin, but was held firmly in place by Pelmamon's web. It could raise its arms and tried to swipe at the attacking Digimon, to no avail. Its aim was poor and its movements sluggish and deliberate. Anzumon was quick enough to dodge if ever one of the limbs came near him, and Melusimon kept at a far enough distance to avoid it altogether.

"I can't break it!" Anzumon complained, rubbing his head with one of his claws. "My antlers aren't strong enough!"

"Just a little more, then I can reach inside!" Ryan urged, his expression desperate. He was sick of being so high. He wanted to be down on the ground again.

"Allow me," Melusimon practically whispered, and ushered Anzumon away from her target. "Watch out," she added softly, and Ryan covered his face with one of his arms.

"Deadly Tempest!" Melusimon's attack shattered the remaining orb, leaving the vial embedded within unharmed. Ryan reached in, clasped his hand around the cylinder and pulled.

It came loose easily. Far easier than the one they had found previously. He held tight to the vial in his hand, as Behemon released a quiet growl, a grumble of despair. The orange markings that had previously been glowing were now the same drab grey color as its stone body. It was falling to the ground, unable to stay up now that the vial had been removed.

Ryan braced himself. He saw Pelmamon digging out of the ground, guarding Blaire and Katrina. Anzumon had flown to safety. He judged the distance, waiting. Waiting until the ground was closer. He heard the stone structure groaning under its own weight, took a breath and leaped, just as Behemon crashed to the ground.

He landed with a groan on his feet, before he toppled and hit the ground. Firm, solid earth had never felt so good under his hands. Ryan checked the vial in his hand, ensuring it was still undamaged, and stood up slowly, regaining his balance.

"Nice job!" Blaire told him, nudging him with her fist. "For a minute there I thought you were a goner."

"Me too," Ryan told her. He looked around him, counting up their group. Melusimon approached, but kept a distance between herself and the others. "Where's… Hitokamon?"

"He bolted," Katrina explained. "Got frightened and ran."

Ryan rubbed his head. "Great." He felt like he had a headache, but put it down to spinning so much.

Katrina approached Melusimon. "You gave me a fright when you went flying over the edge of the cliff."

"Mhm…," Melusimon murmured. "I shouldn't have. I can fly."

"I know," Katrina replied, "but logic goes out the window sometimes."

"I see," said Melusimon.

The red-head tugged at her earring chain. "Don't say much?"

"Not a huge amount to say…"

She nodded. "Well, you came through. That's what counts!"

A small smile tugged at Melusimon's mouth. She erupted in a glow and shrank back down to Grindymon, whom Katrina took into her arms, the aquatic creature exhausted and nearly asleep. Standing beside Blaire, Pelmamon did the same, and Muertomon flopped onto his behind, grinning up at Blaire cheerfully.

"How… impressive."

The male voice shocked the six of them, and they turned in unison. Blaire, who had been standing a little away from the others, backed up towards them. Two figures were approaching through the gloom, both tall and long-limbed, and both carrying what could have been staffs or spears.

"Who are you?!" Blaire called, Muertomon was at her leg. She was on edge immediately; if this was another enemy, there was no way they could fight. The Digimon were all too worn out, Muertomon and Anzumon could barely stand.

"Your undoing." A female voice joined the first as the owners came into view, illuminated by the silver light of the moon, as the clouds had now cleared.


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