Episode 11: Sermons in Stone

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Their arrival in the Digital World was definitely less painful than it had been in previous visits, with everyone arriving in the same positions they had left Ryan and Adrian's house in, unharmed and upright, their Rookie-level Digimon in a central position with Rubimon.

The partners reunited once the effects of the travel hard worn off. They had some minor dizziness and light-headedness, which was quickly rectified with some deep breathing and heads being hung between knees.

"Way better than hitting the ground," Blaire remarked, kicking a pebble with her shoes. "Would not have been cool on this terrain anyway."

Rubimon's glyph had brought them to an area totally unfamiliar to them. The ground here was hard, probably just dried up earth and mud, with large rocks and flints sticking out of the dirt. Flat for as far as they could see, with only a few sparse bushes and trees dotted around with little greenery on their branches.

Certainly not a hugely welcoming sight, but at the same time they had be to thankful for small mercies, and that it was cloudy and cool in temperature. In this kind of environment with the harsh sun beating down on them... they probably wouldn't have lasted five minutes.

"So where are we?" asked Anzumon, coming to hover beside Ryan after stretching his wings a little and flying in small circles above them.

"Hard to say," Rubimon admitted, turning in a small circle to see if there were any discerning landmarks. In all directions the ground was flat and wide. Nothing towered in the distance, there was nothing remarkable about the landscape, no indication for which way they should travel to actually reach a destination.

"Well," Katrina spoke up, holding her D-Ex in her hand, "we haven't been in this area before. There's no area on the D-Ex map that's been uncovered."

"Promising..." Ryan ran his hand through his hair. "So we're in a whole new location with no idea where to go to find a vial?"

"Looks that way!" Karumon said, the only one who seemed cheerful.

Adrian rubbed the cub’s ears. "Nothin' to worry 'bout." He shrugged his shoulders. "We'll just pick a direction and start movin'!"

Katrina patted his shoulder, a laughed a little. "The first time we did that it took us about an hour, and eventually Muertomon made up a game to stop tweedle-dumb and tweedle-dumber arguing about it."

"Oh?"

"Yeah." Muertomon nodded. "It was the only way to get them to shut up."

"I thought we'd be near the Circle," Blaire pointed out, folding her arms. "That's where we ended up yesterday."

Rubimon scratched her head. "More than likely that was a fluke. Something that occurred but shouldn't have. Fortuitous circumstance."

Ryan snorted a little. "Didn’t feel all that fortuitous when we were being encased in glass coffins..."

"Blaire," Grindymon spoke up, peeking over Katrina's head. "Don't you have the map?"

Releasing the ponytail on top of her head, Blaire slipped her bag off her back and placed it on the ground, undoing the clasps and zips to get inside. Removing a couple of items which she passed to Muertomon, she located the old pieces of paper folded neatly together and held them out for someone to take.

Karumon grabbed them with his mouth and brought them to Adrian with a broad smile.

"Careful not to slobber on those," Anzumon crowed. "Way more important than you are."

"Is that true, Adrian?" asked Karumon, padding after his partner who went to Rubimon, unfolding the delicate pages.

"Nah," Adrian advised him with a small chuckle, "we all important."

Rubimon took the map in her claws and cocked her head to one side. She examined the pages, one by one, sniffing them and looking at the penmanship, the writing on the pages that none of the humans or Rookies understood.

"Where...," she spoke after a few silent minutes, "did you find this?"

"Some Gazimon had it," Grindymon explained. "We...uh...relieved them of it, on the same day we all met."

"Was it in one piece? Like now?" she asked.

Blaire pointed at the vine threads. "Nope, Ryan and I worked out the order and I sewed them together when we stayed with some Biyomon. We've been trying to figure out our whereabouts, marking it down with chalk but...," she shrugged, "not exactly been easy."

"Why?" added Muertomon.

"Oh," Rubimon blinked owlishly, "I just... I know this map. It's all in the right order and the last time I saw it was in the home of my old mentor... Ryudamon," she explained. "He made it, drew it and... I thought it had gone up in flames when his house burnt down. It... It’s nice to have a piece of him here. Figuratively speaking."

She smiled a little to herself, clutching the pages in her claws tightly for a moment before she recovered and laid the map on the ground in front of her to examine it with the others.

Silently, Rubimon traced her claws across the pages, only murmuring softly to herself once in a while when she recognized a symbol or came across something. Around her, Adrian and the others waited quietly for their guide to find their bearings and reveal to them their next course of action.

Anzumon had settled a little way away and rolled around in the dust, now he preened his feathers with Karumon sitting close by, watching. Muertomon stuck to Blaire, and Grindymon to Katrina. Occasionally someone would catch the eye of someone else, and they would ask silent questions, met only with awkward smiles or shrugs.

As Rubimon was the new addition to the group, and really had yet to tell them anything or make an impression, no one had any idea if they could talk to her, or communicate easily. Her attitude, her personality, was a complete mystery and it caused some bother to everyone.

"Here we are," Rubimon said after a while. The Rookies and humans approached, peering at the map from above. "This is the Circle, here." She pointed to a spot on the central top page, towards the bottom, a location that was isolated and set away from larger masses of land. "And you correctly noted where you landed originally." She indicated to Blaire's chalk marking.

"That's great," sighed Blaire. "Where are we now?"

Rubimon pointed to the bottom right page, an expansive area of land with a few rivers indicated here and there. "We're here. These were known as the Darklands during the time of Mukademon and the Parasite. It was here that a lot of his forces first appeared, and the first battles were fought between his followers and the followers of the Gods."

"Sounds positive...," murmured Ryan.

"Considering how desolate it is now, I doubt we'll come across any real threats here," Rubimon explained. "But if we do... you can all evolve, correct?" She looked at the Rookies.

"Yep!" Anzumon confirmed, spreading his wings. "Though some of us are definitely more impressive than others."

"Knock it off," Ryan chided him good naturedly, tweaking one of his horns. "We know you're awesome. You'll give the others a complex." Anzumon grinned.

Chuckling a little, Rubimon stood up. "If the map is accurate, there should be a town about a day’s walk from here to the South. It'll move us nearer the sea and from there we might be able to get some assistance from passing Whamon who'll be able to take us where we need to be."

"No vials, though?" Katrina questioned, leaning on one hip. "That's... disappointing."

"Well, according to the writing, this marking here could mean a vial," Rubimon added. She was pointing to a faded piece of script, barely visible in the light; beside it a slightly more obvious square had been drawn. "It's badly faded, probably from water damage, but if Ryudamon was right, the village should house a vial. Or have housed one. Either way, it's our first stop."

"Question," Katrina remarked, "how would Ryudamon have known where the vials were?"

"An excellent question," said Rubimon, "one I'm afraid I don't have an answer to. Ryudamon had a mentor too, like he was to me. Maybe he was the one who told Ryudamon the locations?"

"But ultimately, we'll probably never know," said Blaire. "Right?"

Rubimon nodded. "More than likely." She cleared her throat. "Best get ready... it’s going to be a long journey I think."

"And, we have to walk it?" Muertomon complained.

"It won't be that bad." Blaire patted his head.

"Can't I just evolve to Pelmamon and travel that way?"

Blaire smiled. "Not a good idea, boo. If we get attacked you and the others will need to be at full strength. Tell you what, if you say you're getting blisters on your bones again I'll carry you, alright?"

Muertomon beamed up at her jovially, the butterflies around him fluttering quickly to display his cheerful mood.

It took no more than a few minutes for everyone to gather themselves for the long walk ahead of them. Organizing backpacks and making sure the water they had brought with them was within easy reach.

"Can you evolve?" Adrian asked Rubimon as they started moving.

Rubimon carried the map in her claws and led the way, letting the others make their own pace behind and around her.

"Not alone," she replied. "I need help."

"So do we," said Karumon. "That's why Adrian has a D-Ex and a vial. It helps me evolve."

Rubimon smiled weakly. "What I mean is... I can only evolve with help from the power of the Gods. I've only managed it once."

"You can't reach a higher stage with Eric's help?" Grindymon clarified, floating above the scarlet dragon.

"Well, no." She glanced upwards. "Eric isn't a Chosen, like you are. His Digivice is man-made, something created from the blueprints of the D-Touch so that he can carry me around more easily. It doesn't possess the same abilities as D-Touches and D-Exes."

"How'd he managed to replicate a D-Touch?" asked Blaire, slipping her hands into her back pockets. "They seem pretty intricate from what I saw of Reyez's."

"They are intricate. Very complicated and advanced pieces of technology," Rubimon agreed. "Rose and her brother, Logan, who runs the Atlas Corp operations in Germany, managed to work out some details. Not enough to make a device with full capabilities, but it does enough."

"Wouldn't you like to evolve?" Anzumon walked beside Ryan for a change, keeping pace with everyone else.

Rubimon thought for a moment. "Evolving is... perhaps not as glamorous as you may think at the moment," she explained slowly. "I've... witnessed things, and while evolution is useful, it can cause terrible things too."

"Mukademon," Blaire commented simply.

"Precisely," agreed Rubimon.

"I saw him, I think," murmured Katrina. "On my computer when I broke into the city security systems when the whole place was in lockdown four years ago. What did he evolve from?"

"Mukademon wasn't a real Digimon. He never was," explained Rubimon. "He was a manifestation of greed, of malice and hunger for power. He should never have come into existence."

Adrian adjusted his glasses "How did he? Come to be, I mean?"

Rubimon inhaled silently.

She hadn't realized they would ask so many questions, that she would be required to answer so much about the history of the situation they were now a part of.

What else should she have expected though?

None of them knew the backstory to what had happened, to why they were now required to be in the Digital World and trawl its lands and seas, looking for vials to release the Gods from their Circle prison.

"People came here," she explained vaguely. "People who should never have found their way. They corrupted the Digital World with their greed and lust for power. That is all you need to know."

"Sounds like a sensitive subject," Blaire pointed out.

"My mentor, my dearest friend, gave up his life to defeat that creature," Rubimon snapped suddenly, amber eyes narrowing sharply though she did not look or direct her words toward Blaire. "It is indeed what you would call a sensitive subject."

Awkward silence fell over the group, and slowly the humans and Digimon fell back a little from their dragon guide to walk together or alone, as Katrina and Grindymon did.

Rubimon had not meant to snap. No one had meant any harm, their questions were innocent and they were seeking answers to questions they all must have had since everything had started.

It had been four years, but it was still a subject she found hard to talk about, to recall and open up about. Only Eric, Eleanor, and Corneliamon knew the genuine pain she had endured after that final battle. Saying goodbye to Ryudamon had been harder for Rubimon than anyone else, as far as she was concerned. Harder even than it had been for Eric to say goodbye to the old dragon.

How could these new, inexperienced Chosen understand at all what it meant to lose someone like that? Someone who had spent their time molding and teaching for countless years. Where Ryudamon and Rubimon had been one another's only companions and company. Family, practically.

For now, it seemed to Rubimon they treated this as a chore, and in some ways a game to them.

They didn't take it as seriously as they should. It was all a fuss, taking them away from their lives.

Maybe she was expecting too much, after all, four years ago those who had been involved had understood the seriousness of the situation when she had first met them, but that had been during their quest.

What about before that? She had no idea. Ryudamon had not talked about them much to her, and she had no idea what any of them had been like before she knew them. Had they treated their part in all things as burden? Or a game?

She liked to hope not, but maybe that was unfair. They had been just children, no matter their actual ages, at the time of Mukademon they had been young and impressionable with no idea the vastness of what lay before them when everything had first started. Ryudamon had molded them with his words, and knowledge and wisdom. Rubimon knew that much about their time together before she came along.

She had witnessed Ryudamon's unending patience, his tolerance for their questions and their mistakes. His faith and belief in them had been unerring, as had been his trust, but he and Rubimon were different in that respect.

Wasn't this what he had mentored her for? That she could take the beacon and lead then next generation of Chosen, if she needed to? That she would be fully ready and prepared, confident in herself that she could help them and manage.

Ryudamon had possessed the patience of a saint, something Rubimon would have to learn.

"I'm sorry," Rubimon said eventually, sighing. "I don't mean to snap."

"It's okay," Ryan replied quickly. "We can probably be annoying."

"No, it isn't that," explained Rubimon. "I've just... never been a guide before. This is a learning curve for me....as much it is for you. You'll have to be patient with me."

Grindymon came to float by Rubimon's side. "Then we'll just have to teach and learn from each other. Won't we?" She smiled brightly.

Slowly, Rubimon returned the smile.

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

As the day rolled on into night, and the sun faded beyond the horizon giving way to an orange-tinted full moon, Ryan's D-Ex released a single chirping sound, once, flashing brightly and then falling silent, continuing to flash yellow every few seconds.

The walking had been easy and a good pace. Rubimon had kept the group on a straight path, and they all rested occasionally. The area they walked in remained unchanged, the ground stayed flat, the trees and bushes sparse and mostly dead on closer inspection. The flat plains stretched out in front of them, seemingly without end.

Yet spirits remained high.

The four humans and five Digimon talked easily amongst themselves, making games where they could to distract themselves, and making up their own conversation to pass the time. Complaints about the walking and the distance were few and far between, and it had only been when the evening had started to fall that talks of stopping for the night were made.

That was all before Ryan's D-Ex alerted the group to the prospect of a vial being nearby.

That one noise brought them all to a standstill, Ryan grasping his D-Ex in hand while everyone peered into the growing darkness for signs of a Behemon or a vial.

"Why is it reacting?" Blaire asked, twisting her hair around a finger. "I swear... there's like nothing for miles."

"Maybe it's underground?" Katrina suggested, looking down at the earth under her feet. She kicked at the soil with the heel of her boot and shrugged. Adrian, Karumon, and Rubimon all looked a little bit lost, and it occurred to Katrina that there had been minimal explanation about the Behemon they had come across, and how to locate the vials.

They had only been imparted to the explanation they had given to Eric and Eleanor in the ice cream café.

After all, Adrian's main purpose was to get the vial from the Emperor and Empress, he had never seen a Behemon or had to fight one.

"Anzumon," Ryan nudged his partner, "can you fly ahead? See if you spot anything?"

"Sure thing," nodded the griffin.

"Don't go too far!" said Ryan, watching the four-legged creature canter off and then rise gracefully into the air on outstretched wings.

"Your D-Ex didn't go off, Adrian," Karumon mumbled, sitting beside his partner.

"I know," replied Adrian. "Maybe it was because ours was already in da' hands of someone else?"

Katrina tapped her lip. "Maybe the D-Exes respond to the Behemon... not the vials themselves?"

Rubimon peered up at her. "The Behemon?"

"Yeah," Katrina said. "You were listening in Eric's pocket right? We explained, the Behemon are these huge stone Digimon we've come across before, the ones we've found each held a vial of some kind."

"The first one we came across held a vial which allowed me to evolve to Melusimon," said Grindymon gently, "and the second Behemon, Behemon-WND had a vial that allowed Anzumon to evolve to Kotenmon."

"Okay...," Rubimon murmured slowly. "And... yours are the only two D-Exes that had responded like that? With the beeps?"

"Yup." Blaire stretched her arms above her head. "I was given my first vial. There was no Behemon to take it from. And with Adrian, Vazkamon and Mesilamon had that, so again, no Behemon to deal with."

"Hence why I think the D-Exes respond to the Behemon, not the vials," said Katrina. "It makes more sense, if you think about it."

"If that's the case," Ryan looked at his D-Ex where the screen flashed regularly, bright yellow like a heartbeat, "where is this Behemon?"

"Could be anywhere," remarked Muertomon. "That first one that your D-Ex reacted to... it was miles away!"

"True," Ryan sighed. He looked to the sky for a moment to see if Anzumon had returned. The silhouette of the Digimon was nowhere to be seen, so he looked at his D-Ex and shook it. "I wonder if my D-Ex is broken or something."

"Doubt it," Katrina hummed. "It might just be more sensitive? Besides, mine reacted when I was walking. Not when I was right on top of it... so it could possibly be distance related."

"Ain't exactly helpful...," Adrian mused, smoothing his fingers across his moustache. "Which direction do we go in?"

"We could split up," said Muertomon. "Each travel and see who comes across the vial."

"That's a bad idea," replied Rubimon. "A really bad idea."

"Just a thought." Muertomon shrugged. He slumped on the ground and began to draw patterns in the soil with his fingers. "I hoped we'd be at this village by now."

"You said that's where there's meant to be a vial," Murmured Grindymon, hovering about level with Rubimon. "It may also be where the Behemon is too."

"Which would mean, hopefully, if this thing reacts on distance," Ryan shook his D-Ex again, "that we're pretty close to the town?"

"Don't you think we'd see something?" quipped Blaire. "It’s not like there are any obstructions."

"Point," Rubimon said.

"Maybe da' town's destroyed?" suggested Adrian, holding his arms behind his head and stretching back a little. "And dis... Behemon...is the only thing left, no?"

Rubimon looked at him for a short while, she hated to admit it, but there was a possibility he was right. After all, she wasn't sure how much time had passed here since she had left after placing the new Core in its home in the Circle. It had been years, that much she knew, but how many was a mystery. Not to mention Ryudamon's map had been created when the world was a very different place. Thousands of things could have changed in that time.

"Anzumon!" Ryan had his hands cupped around his mouth so his voice carried a little further.

The griffin was visible, the light from the moon shining off his wings and horns as he flew towards them. He swooped overhead, turning mid-air to come back towards the group and hover above Ryan.

"There's a Behemon," he said, a little out of breath.

"So there's a vial!" Ryan grinned.

"Don't get too excited," Anzumon told him. "I saw... a town? I think. It was... weird. I didn't get a good feeling."

"That sounds...," Katrina's lips tugged to one side, "not great."

"How far is it?" asked Rubimon.

"Not far. About a half mile," replied Anzumon. "We're heading in the right direction."

"If it's so close when why can't we see it?" demanded Blaire. "Don't tell me it’s like some invisible city. Like from that Mummy movie where the city can only be seen when the sun is rising." Anzumon stared at her, as did the other Digimon, all rather confused and curious about her words. Aware of them staring, Blaire rolled her eyes and released her ponytail. "Let's just go."

The reason they had not been able to see the town became clear as soon as they reached it, or at least the edge of it.

A huge area had been dug into the earth from the top soil down, much like a canyon.

From looking across the expansive plains there was no indication of a settlement, until they literally stumbled upon it while following Anzumon.

Buildings and pathways had been built and dug into the ground. Small homes with arching doorways, paths that were flat and steep and some small steps. There was no real light to see by, no fire. The only light offered, aside from the orb at the end of Grindymon's antenna and the moon, was an eerie purple glow emitting from a series of stones down in the center of the underground town.

In the settlement they could see the occupants, a group of different Digimon species: black-furred Bearmon, their forepaws lined with blue leather belts, and golden-coated Liollmon, each one with different-sized shocks of orange fur on the tops of their heads. They milled around alone or in pairs; some of the Liollmon just lay on their bellies, settling down for the night.

The canyon town was built around a central figure, from where the purple glows seemed to emanate. A statue stained with earth and covered in overgrown moss and leaves. From above all they could make out were a set of beautifully crafted stone wings, open and extended as if the figure had been able to take flight. A staff was held aloft in one hand, and the other was raised with two fingers extended in a holy symbol.

"That's a Behemon?" Karumon asked slowly, swallowing as he peered over the edge of the city.

"Behemon-DWN," Katrina said. "To be exact."

"You weren't jokin' about da' size, were you cher?" Adrian laughed weakly.

"No..." Blaire stood back away from the edge of the town. "We should probably try and get a better look, see exactly what we're dealing with."

"Good idea," agreed Rubimon.

Ryan's D-Ex chimed regularly now, in time with the flashes of light it emitted. "No doubt about it," he said, looking at the device in hand, "we need to get down there to get the vial that's in that Behemon."

"Let’s hope the natives are friendly...," Muertomon remarked.

With a little difficulty they were able to find their way down from the edge of the city and onto one of the first pathways. They were obviously built only for Digimon in mind, and Digimon of the size and shape of the villagers. The paths were narrow with little to grip to. The dirt crumbled from either side of the paths when each person walked across them one-by-one, not wanting to overload the treacherous pathways with too much weight.

The further and further down they travelled, the more they were able to see of the this particular Behemon.

It was a humanoid shape, and huge. It was not even fully revealed; some of its lower half was still encased and buried in the dirt. The face of the creature was obscured with a mask, covering its eyes. Purple stones glowed across its body, placed in its helmet, and across its chest. Bands of color were around its wrists and elbows.

"How much further underground do you think it goes?" Blaire wondered aloud.

"I don't want to think...," Ryan replied, running his hand through his hair. So far the villagers had only watched them enter their home and descend towards the bottommost level, with oddly expressionless faces and dull eyes. None of them dared come towards them, or spoke to one another or to their visitors.

"Do ya' think dis' town was here before da' Behemon? Or that these guys built da' town around it?" Adrian asked, easing across one of the narrow bridges, leaning on the wall.

"Maybe we should ask them," Grindymon replied, floating beside Katrina and helping her down a set of steep steps.

"I am not looking forward to the trip up out of here...," Muertomon remarked, looking upwards at the opening above them. They had travelled at least thirty feet down. The bottom of the town was in sight, and from their location they could see a collection of Bearmon and Liollmon all crowded around the base of Behemon, moving in regulated motions as if bowing to the statue.

"Less talking, more concentrating on getting down in one piece," Rubimon told them, leading the way along a flat path.

"Why?" Blaire shrugged. "Not like we can get hurt. We're not really here," she said with a smirk. "I could just jump down and it wouldn't do anything."

Rubimon stopped to look at her for a long few moments, catching everyone by surprise as they were unable to pass the scarlet dragon.

Becoming aware of the Digimon's eyes on her, Blaire returned the stare. "What?"

"Is that what you think?" she asked.

Blaire arched an eyebrow. "Well..." She crossed her arms. "Yeah. We've fallen off cliffs and stuff and survived."

Rubimon ran her claws across her face. "Now is not the time to explain, but I can assure you that were you to leap from here to the ground, you would hurt yourself. You would hurt yourself badly."

"But–"

"I'll explain later," Rubimon interjected, carrying on along the path. "Now there are more important things to focus on."

They reached the bottom of the town without further comment or incident, everyone was glad to be off the dangerous pathways and the narrow steps, safe on the solid ground. As with other villagers, the ones located around the base of Behemon paid them no mind, only continued to murmur and hum to themselves, bowing and scraping at the foot of this huge beast.

"So...," Adrian folded his arms, "we take da' vial now, no?"

"No." Rubimon shook her head. "Something seems... off."

"You're kidding!" Katrina replied sarcastically. Ignoring the withering look from Rubimon, Katrina turned to face the Behemon, staring up its body. "That's got to be forty feet or more," she said slowly.

"It looks..." Ryan tilted his head back. "Is it just me or is the way it has its hand... like a priest? Y'know, when they give out blessings at church."

"I wouldn't know." Katrina shrugged. "I don't go to church."

"What's church?" inquired Karumon.

"A place of worship," Adrian explained briefly to the bear cub. "Which... looks kind of like what these boys are doing, no?" he drawled, indicating to the Liollmon and Bearmon. "Da' bowing, and humming... is like chanting, no?"

"Maybe..." Blaire tapped her lower lip. She squatted as she neared one of the Liollmon. It did nothing despite her closeness, but Muertomon stuck to her side tightly just in case. Tentatively, Blaire ran a hand across Liollmon's mane and the Digimon did nothing. Its eyes were barely open, but from what little she could see of its iris, she knew something wasn't right. "Purple."

"What?" said Anzumon.

"Its eyes. They're purple. And glowing." Blaire explained, backing away from Liollmon. Where she had held its head to look closer, it seemed not to matter. Immediately Liollmon fell into the same motions as those around it.

"This is...," Grindymon frowned, "so very strange..."

Anzumon snorted. "What does it matter? It means we can get the vial and leave. They don't seem to care," he said impatiently, scratching his claws across the ground.

"Easy, eh?" Ryan rubbed the head of his partner. "Let’s... be logical about this."

"I'm all up for logic," Katrina announced. Ryan grinned at her, which she returned. "What's your suggestion?"

"I'm going on gut instinct here, so bare with," Ryan breathed. Blaire snorted softly, and began to examine her fingernails. "I think... these Digimon, the Liollmon and like, are under some kind of influence."

"Influence?" repeated Karumon. "What's an influence?"

Adrian drew his fingers across his moustache. "It's like... having a hold over someone. Bein' somethin' dat' they think about when making decisions... it’s kind of hard to explain."

"But why?"

"Shh...," Adrian told the cub gently. "I'll explain it all later" Karumon frowned a little, but turned his attention to Ryan none-the-less.

"The purple eyes matching the glowing stones on Behemon. The lack of reaction. It's like a trance or something," Ryan explained. "Y'know?"

"I... guess that makes sense," Rubimon said slowly. "If this Behemon had been here for some time and a settlement was made on top... there's no telling how long the villagers were subjected to its power and essence. I can't see any other reason they would have dug down unless it was to find the source."

"So," Blaire leaned on one hip, "what does it matter? We get the vial, the spell breaks, everyone is happy. Right?"

"If you're in the mood for mass slaughter," Katrina replied. "There are countless innocents, you want to activate a Behemon while they're here and defenseless?"

"Ehhh..." Blaire struggled a little. "No, not exactly. But there's not really another option considering how non-responsive they are."

"Grindymon and I have an idea!" Anzumon announced, looking away from the floating aquatic Digimon who had been at his side. His words drew the attention of everyone around them. "What if we touch the Behemon? It won't have the same effect, and I doubt the Liollmon and Bearmon would like an outsider getting close. It might snap some of them out of their... uhm..."

"Trance," Grindymon prompted, hiding slightly behind Anzumon's boisterousness.

"Then what?" asked Adrian.

"Then... uh..." Grindymon exchanged looks with Anzumon, who shook his head.

"We hadn't thought that far."

"We can ask them if we can have the vial," Muertomon said. "If we tell them what's going on I'm sure they'll understand!"

"Sure," Blaire sighed. "Okay. Let's see."

Rubimon frowned a little, "It's a rather risky strategy... but the only one we have so far. There's no telling what will happen when you touch it, but hopefully it will only activate if one of you touches it." She looked at Ryan specifically. "And I would prefer to avoid as much shedding of innocent blood as possible."

"So we're agreed then?" Anzumon asked, puffing up his feathers proudly that his idea had been accepted.

"Guess so." Ryan nodded. "Be careful. Only touch say... a couple of the purple stones."

"Alright, alright...," Anzumon sighed, taking off into the air with Grindymon.

They neared the waist of Behemon where the first purple stone was located, softly glowing a pale mauve light, almost welcoming. As soon as Anzumon went towards it, a flash of yellow zoomed across the stony surface, knocking Anzumon to the ground. Grindymon released a startled scream and fled down to the ground, grabbing Katrina's shoulders to hide, almost knocking her to her feet.

"STAY AWAY!" roared the Liollmon, pinning Anzumon by his wings and front legs. He snapped his jaws together, the glow in his eyes intensifying.

"HEY!" Ryan ran through the group of other Digimon and shoved Liollmon with his foot, allowing Anzumon to rise back into the air. "What the Hell?!"

Liollmon snarled. "You don't belong here!! LEAVE!"

"No!" Ryan shouted back. "We need something that Behemon has!" He pointed.

"Behemon?" Liollmon repeated. "What is this you speak of? HAH! This is our God. Our most lustrous and benevolent. Not this Behemon you claim it to be."

"We've dropped right in crazy town, haven't we?" Blaire asked no one in particular.

Adrian nodded at her side. "I would say so, cher." He grinned cheerfully and shrugged.

"That is Behemon! And we need the vial it holds," Ryan argued. "And you need to get yourself and all the other villagers out of here before we awaken it, or you'll be killed."

Liollmon roared. "Is that a threat?!"

"No!" Ryan bellowed back, losing his patience. "It's a promise."

Liollmon yowled, and it seemed the noise brought several other of his kin from their stupors, until they were surrounded by snarling and drooling Liollmon, each one with fiercely glowing purple eyes.

"May I?" Rubimon nudged Ryan, seeing his shouting was only making matters worse for them all. Ryan breathed deep through his nose and snorted a little. "Surely you know this is not a God," she spoke to Liollmon. "The true Gods, Vayumon, Ymirmon... they are those you should worship. Not some false idol."

"Vayumon? Ymirmon?" Several of the Liollmon repeated the names.

"These names are not known to us!" the first Liollmon told her. "Only that name of our great and powerful."

"Who is called what?" prompted Rubimon.

"A name that you are not worthy enough to know!" snapped Liollmon.

"Convenient," Katrina murmured.

"Hush," Rubimon hissed. "You want to vial, don't you?"

"Yeah..." Ryan rubbed his hand across his neck.

"You're prepared to fight Behemon?" Rubimon asked.

"Of course," Anzumon said briskly. "We knew it would come to a fight."

"Alright then...," Rubimon breathed. "Ryan, as it's your D-Ex going off, I need you and Anzumon to do what I say... I think I can get us the vial." She turned to the first Liollmon, who was staring at her with impatience. "I declare a challenge."

Liollmon's tail flickered. "A challenge?!"

"Your God's power against that of the Old Gods," Rubimon told Liollmon, standing up to her full height. "To see which is stronger, the faith of the old or the faith of the new."

Liollmon snarled and hissed. He paced back and forth a few moments, taking looks from his fellow kind, and also several of the Bearmon who had come to see what was happening and what all the noise was for.

"A challenge?" repeated Liollmon. "A challenge of what kind?"

"What other is there?" Rubimon replied haughtily. "Combat. The powers of the Old Gods against the power of your new. Whomever wins will reign supreme."

"You sure dis' a good idea–?"

"Quiet," growled Rubimon, silencing Adrian's words instantly.

She was staring intently at the Liollmon who seemed to be the one in charge, or at least the most coherent. He continued to pace, as if mulling over her request and weighing up the pros and cons of accepting such a challenge.

"Accept my challenge," goaded Rubimon. "Unless you are afraid your all-powerful God does not hold enough strength to win."

"SILENCE," rumbled Liollmon, rounding on Rubimon. "Your challenge is accepted."

"Good." Rubimon narrowed her eyes. "Now evacuate your town."

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

With some forcefulness on Rubimon's part, Liollmon ordered the inhabitants of the canyon town to leave it, marching up the winding pathways and stairwells until all of them were sitting out on the flat plains in the cold night air. A wind had picked up in the time they had been bunkered down in the well-dug city, causing the humans and Digimon alike to huddle together for warmth.

Rubimon, Ryan, and Anzumon were the only ones who remained in the vicinity of the town and close to Behemon, who slumbered on, oblivious and blind to what was happening. Rubimon had remained to ensure that all the townsfolk were gone, and Ryan because he was the one who needed to activate Behemon to obtain the vial.

After some false starts, Katrina had been able to figure out the location of the vial with Anzumon and Grindymon's help, as they described each different glowing stone on Behemon's body. The location of the vial was around the belt of Behemon. A single stone, larger than the others but not by much, was where the Digimon had described a difference in feeling, as if more power ebbed from that location than any other on the body of Behemon.

With a location noted of where he needed to touch, Ryan readied himself, along with Anzumon who stood with him.

"As soon as Behemon begins to stir, rise to the surface. Get out of its way as quickly as you can," Rubimon said, stepping back a little to give Ryan and Anzumon room.

Ryan breathed deeply and looked at Anzumon, who was staring at the towering stone giant. "You ready, bud?"

Anzumon nodded firmly. "Let's kick some stone Behemon butt." He grinned widely, beginning to glow a bright yellow as Ryan's D-Ex ignited in the same color.

"Anzumon, Plasma Evolve to..." His wings drew into his body as his back legs extended, and his forelegs reached forward like arms. His torso squirmed as it took new shape, elongated to become somewhat more humanoid. The horns on Anzumon's head stretched back a little, and the helmet drew over his face. The orbs of yellow formed around his chest, nestling neatly against him as the blast of blue fur shook around his neck creating his mane. "Kotenmon!"

Ryan pocketed his D-Ex and approached his partner.

Above them, he could see all the faces of the Bearmon and Liollmon staring over to see what was happening, some of them shoving one another to get a better view. He could just about see Adrian and Blaire looking over with their Digimon too.

Kotenmon hoisted Ryan onto his shoulder, and then lifted Rubimon to sit in Ryan's lap.

"Hold tight," Kotenmon rumbled. His muscles bunched beneath him, and in one swift movement they were airborne. Kotenmon easily grabbed onto the rocking surface of Behemon to get further up its body to reach the orb they needed. The belt on Behemon was at least twenty feet off the ground, and had rivets around it where Kotenmon was able to dig in his claws to keep a firm grip.

Ryan reached across Kotenmon's head and touched the orb where the vial was located with his fingers. Within moments it had blasted a bright purple light, not just from the orb on its belt, but from all the other orbs on its body, and released a low sound like a groan.

It shook and trembled. Rocks from the buildings built around it began to crumble to the ground, smacking against Behemon's body and turning to dust on impact as Behemon slowly awoke.

"Up! Hurry," Rubimon ordered Kotenmon urgently.

Kotenmon flew up to the mouth of the town, leaping high above the Liollmon and Bearmon to land easily a few feet away, where he could leave Ryan and Rubimon in safety.

Beneath them the ground shook terribly. It sounded as if the earth was cracking from the movement of Behemon, creating a giant fissure as it extracted itself from the earth.

The Liollmon and Bearmon were all in awe, their mouths wide open and their eyes just as much. They all moved, backing away from the mouth of the canyon as Behemon rose above them, floating easily as if it weighed nothing.

The part of it that had still been underground was easily noted by the amount of dirt and soil left on the solid stone. Altogether the creature was massive, long and tall. At least fifty feet, if not more, towering over them like some gargantuan doom to be wrought upon them.

Behemon turned to face those staring at it from below. Though there were no eyes to see, it was easy to tell by the movements of its head that it was searching, seeking out something or someone. It viewed the Liollmon and the Bearmon first, moving over them easily, then its gaze shifted, passing over Rubimon, over Adrian, Katrina and Blaire, their Digimon ignored until it became fixated on Ryan and Kotenmon.

"Whoa," Adrian said, peering over the top of his glasses.

"Yeah...," Ryan replied slowly. "You said it."

Without warning, Behemon swung down with its staff, swiping at the ground. The impact created a huge ditch in the top soil where it had drawn the staff across the earth in an attempt to hit Ryan, Kotenmon, or anyone else.

They had all dodged to one side of the swing, except for Kotenmon, who was far enough out of the way and remained steady and standing.

"Keep out of harm’s way," he growled to Ryan before taking off into the air with a graceful leap. He drew his arms into his body, beginning to spin madly. "Storm Cyclone!" he roared, the wind and lightning forming around him, powering his physical punches and kicks into the stone body of Behemon.

Crying out angrily, Behemon rounded with its staff, knocking Kotenmon back. The orb at the end of the stave glowed brightly and a burst of light energy fired from it, sending Kotenmon back as he charged for another attack.

Righting himself almost instantly, Kotenmon returned onto the offensive. "Static Claw!" Lightning covered his huge hands, and the punches came in quick, perfect strikes across Behemon's chest and face. Behemon writhed and snatched blindly at the other Digimon as he moved quickly.

Withdrawing away, out of arms reach, Kotenmon formed the lightning between his hands and sent the ball of electric energy straight into Behemon's face, forcing the stone goliath to tumble back from the impact.

Kotenmon landed easily on the ground, waiting for the dust to clear.

Above him, Behemon drew its wings in around it, each different orb across its body glowing, drawing in light from the full moon. The largest stone at its belt glowed the brightest, and as Behemon opened its wings in one swift, fluid motion, a terrible bright blast of light flew off the stone, aimed down at Kotenmon.

Briskly he countered, dodging the attack by flipping out of the way. He was airborne, static clinging to his hands and rushing across his feathers as he moved through the air, turning himself into a spinning dervish.

"Storm Cyclone!" He raged against Behemon, unleashing a flurry of punches and kicks along its back and shoulders.

Behemon roared, whirling around. Smashing its stone wings against Kotenmon and sending him towards the ground at speed.

Shocked by the sudden attack, it took a moment for Kotenmon to right himself and recover. In that moment Behemon took the advantage and swung across with its staff, wiping Kotenmon out of the way as a light-created blade slammed across his chest.

Kotenmon hit the ground in a heap, his body shaking from the impact.

Liollmon smirked triumphantly. "You have failed! The Old Gods’ power is nothing in comparison to ours!"

"Do not be so sure," Rubimon returned. She looked at the other Digimon and humans, all standing stationary as if unsure what to do now that Kotenmon was out for the count. "Don't just rely on Kotenmon!" Rubimon shouted. "There are three more of you!"

Her words seemed to jolt them back into the now, breaking their reverie from the shock of seeing Kotenmon so hurt.

"Hey boo," Blaire nudged her partner with her foot.

"Si!" Muertomon grinned and rushed forward, swallowed by the bright pink light that shone from Blaire's D-Ex.

"Wait for me, we can work together!" Karumon charged into the fray with a yowl of a battle cry.

"Be careful," Katrina added, more quietly, watching Grindymon join her companions awash with the bright blue light.

"Muertomon, Plasma Evolve to..."

"Karumon, Plasma Evolve to..."

"Grindymon, Plasma Evolve to..."

In unison their forms changed. Muertomon's body elongating to the familiar thorax and abdomen of Pelmamon. The skull decoration on his body shining eerily through the pink light. Karumon's lower legs grew longer and stronger, supporting his muscular humanoid torso and the huge ice arms. Grindymon's tail lengthened, her fins grew to human arms with long sinewy fingers, the hair on her head growing wild and untamable in the shadow of the bright blue glow.

"Pelmamon!"

"Berserkermon!"

"Melusimon!"

Behemon turned towards the light of the opposing Champions as they rushed towards it. Releasing a rumbling groan, it again drew its wings in towards its body, the different stones across it beginning to shine as they drew power from the moon's light.

Pelmamon skittered and disappeared under the ground without so much as a moment's notice. Melusimon flew to Kotenmon, helping him back to his feet while Berserkermon skidded to a stop, his ice gauntlets shining.

"Freezing Sweep!" he bellowed, a huge blade of ice firing from his impressive claws, smashing into the folded wings of Behemon. One of the orbs popped, the light diminishing from it as it was broken by the powerful attack.

Recovered, Kotenmon was in the air again, electricity thrumming across his body and feathers. Melusimon hovered the opposite side to him.

"Storm Cyclone!" A flurry of punches and kicks railed across Behemon, punctuated from the swirling attack of Kotenmon.

"Deadly Tempest!" The black vapors around Melusimon's arms and tail combined as they reached Behemon, cracking and splitting another two glowing stones.

Behemon roared, releasing its attack. A bright cannon blast from the center stone at its belt. It spun swiftly as the attack raged, targeting the three Champion Digimon it could easily see. Kotenmon grabbed onto Behemon's head to avoid the attack, while both Melusimon and Berserkermon dodged it, Berserkermon rolling out of the way and Melusimon rising upwards above Behemon's head.

"Primal Executioner!" Pelmamon launched from the canyon. The large spider latched onto the Behemon, scurrying himself up and around the stone behemoth in record speed before sprawling across its helmet. He snatched Behemon's face with his long legs, the claws on the end of each one digging into the stone, piercing through the surface so Pelmamon had ample grip.

"Attack!" Ryan shouted from where he stood with the others.

The three Champions readied themselves.

"Static Claw!" Kotenmon dove in first, heavily smacking punches and powerful kicks across Behemon's body, breaking several more of the glowing orbs and pulling pain-filled cries from the stone giant.

"Shadow Blast!" Melusimon's attack joined that of Kotenmon's. Focused on the chest of Behemon, the black waves of dark energy were relentless, pounding against the rough stone surface of her target.

Using his huge claws, Berserkermon was able to clamber up Behemon's body, using his legs to grip and keep him steady. "Wild Flurry!" His fists coated with freezing cold frost, Berserkermon railed attacks wildly and fast, drawing further cries of anguish from Behemon's throat.

Through the attacks though, Behemon's rage grew, and it was able to draw on some reserves of strength. The remaining stones that adorned its body burned brightly, the purple light cracking, creating cracks and fissures in the goliath's body from the energy it was using.

The light burned, but the attacking Digimon continued regardless.

With one massive movement, Behemon swung, both its body and staff, its huge wings knocking Kotenmon and Melusimon back, while Berserkermon was sent flying with Behemon's staff smashing into him.

Berserkermon’s incoming bulk forced the group to quickly scatter, as the ice warrior attempted to right himself in the air and grappled for the ground with his claws to stop. Adrian barely dodged, watching as his own Digimon slid past him.

Rising to his feet, Adrian ran towards his Champion partner, concerned for the stationary form of the Digimon. A few moments passed where Berserkermon remained still, until he grumbled and growled, moving to hold his head.

"Alright?" Adrian asked, watching Berserkermon rise to his feet.

He stood there a few more seconds. "Fine." He charged once more into the fray.

The speed of Behemon's spin forced Pelmamon to release the stone goliath and he fell to the ground on his back, where his legs wriggled in the air while he struggled to right himself.

“I have a theory.” Katrina coughed through the dust that had risen when Berserkermon had crash landed. She rubbed dirt away from her hair and clothes. The others turned their attention to her, away from the fight briefly. "I'm pretty sure that Behemon is drawing power from the moon through the orbs on its body. The orbs are made of glass. Its arms and wrists are connected with the orbs–”

“If they break da' orbs den' they can disable da' Behemon,” Adrian interrupted, dusting himself off.

“...Yeah," Katrina sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"It's as good a plan as any," Rubimon agreed.

"And the only one we have," quipped Blaire.

Rubimon turned towards the battling Champions, flames spewed from her mouth as she drew in breath. "Attack the gems! Focus on the elbows and wrists!" she bellowed, scarlet fire projecting her cry further.

Having managed to right himself, Pelmamon skittered rapidly towards the fight, ready to attack now that he and his companions had been given a clear target.

From the depths of the dirt village, Berserkermon and Kotenmon launched themselves off the walls, bounding up higher until they were level with Behemon and able to use its own stone body for leverage.

Overhead, Melusimon raised her arms above her head, both hands and her tail enveloped in dark watery vapor, poised, ready to attack.

The skull on Pelmamon's abdomen ignited in a bright pink glow as he scurried towards the stone monster. His hissed loudly as he launched himself up towards Behemon.

Each Champion's attack took out a piece of the Behemon's arm. Melusimon's black water shattered the elbow of the right arm, with Berserkermon splintering the orbs of the right wrist. Pelmamon's cannon attack blasted the left elbow gem away, and Kotenmon finished off the left wrist, slamming his whole body down into the gem, crushing it with sheer force.

As the stone pieces fell to the ground and smashed, Behemon was left groaning and disabled, lacking its staff that had kept the attacking Champion Digimon at bay.

"It's not defenseless," Ryan said, his voice reaching only his companions on the ground. "They can't relax." He couldn't tear his eyes away from their Digimon and the floating golem. The other fights with previous Behemon had seemed like child's play in comparison to this one.

Behemon's wings began to fold in, preparing another attack.

"What are they waiting for?" Blaire demanded, noticing how their Digimon seemed to be waiting for something.

Katrina screamed. “DON'T GIVE IT TIME TO POWER UP!”

Her voice seemed to be enough to shake the Digimon from their momentary stupor of recovery.

Within seconds they were on the attack, ruthlessly dislodging the remaining stones that weren't protected by the giant wings, before the Behemon could release its attack. Every few moments there was a sound of one of them shattering, or crunching under the attack of the Digimon.

Kotenmon, floating in front of the Behemon, began to swirl, surrounding himself in wind and lightning.

“Storm Cyclone!!"

The tornado launched towards Behemon, hitting him in the central orb where the Vial was located.

The feathered warrior broke through the other side of Behemon, leaving a gaping hole in his wake. He landed on the ground with a graceful flip and stood back, watching the aftermath. His allies all retreated several feet.

Behemon's wings opened but no attack was released. The light of the purple orbs suddenly diminished, showing signs that the last remaining life in Behemon's stone body had left it. The remaining orbs of the Behemon slid off as if there was no magnetic hold to them any longer, hitting the ground and shattering on the flat ground around the canyon town.

The humans on the ground all shielded themselves as Behemon tumbled to the ground. Their partners joined them quickly, creating an additional barrier of protection as stones and debris scattered and rose up from the ground.

As Behemon's body disintegrated, the humans and Digimon deemed it safe enough to approach apprehensively, with Rubimon in tow. Not far away the Bearmon and Liollmon stared wide-eyed and awestruck.

"Get the vial, Ryan," Blaire insisted, looking at the man a few feet away from her.

Ryan started at her voice. "Yeah... yeah sure." He began to sift through the rubble, looking for where the vial should have been, on the belt of the creature that now lay in pieces before him.

He felt a little overwhelmed. While he had seen his Digimon and those of his friends fight before, he had never seen them fight together so well, to mould their powers like that, like a machine, working together. The outcome had been devastating. Behemon hadn't stood at a chance, not really. He wondered if at first the Digimon had only been toying with the creature.

"You need some help?" Kotenmon asked beside him.

Ryan noticed suddenly that both Kotenmon and Berserkermon were lifting larger pieces of stone looking for the vial.

"Sure." Ryan swallowed and followed Kotenmon as he pulled up stone slab after slab until they had found the one they needed.

The orb on the belt had been smashed in the fall, but the vial remained well protected inside. It was undamaged and like others they had seen, it shone prettily with its own power.

Reaching into the hole as Kotenmon held the stone up, Ryan's hand clasped around the cool item and he pulled gently. It came away easily in his hand and once he had it near his body, Kotenmon dropped the stone to the ground.

He shone yellow, and Anzumon appeared in his place, shortly followed by his comrades. After turning their specific colors their Rookie levels appeared where their Champion forms had been.

"I'm glad that's over," Katrina said, her mouth twisting to one side.

"You all did well," Rubimon remarked. "I'm surprised. Having never seen you fight before I would have expected a more... haphazard battle. But you handled it well."

Muertomon grinned, and Anzumon puffed up his feathers proudly. "Well, we have fought a few times together, you know," the griffin reminded their scarlet dragon guide with a superior tone.

"Indeed." She judged him with her amber eyes but said nothing. She noticed how Grindymon and Karumon snuggled up to Adrian and Katrina respectively. Turning towards the underground town she noted the Bearmon and Liollmon all looking lost, and somewhat bewildered.

The purple glow from their eyes had gone, leaving their natural white sclera and differently-colored irises.

Rubimon walked towards them. "How do you feel?" she asked one Liollmon, the one she had conversed with the most.

"Dizzy...," Liollmon replied, shaking on his paws. "And... like I don't know what... how did I get here?"

"The confusion will wear off," Rubimon said, gently placing a claw on Liollmon's shoulder. "You and your kin were under the influence of Behemon, and the power that did reside within."

"Behemon?" Liollmon queried. "What's Behemon?"

Rubimon moved to one side and indicated to the crumbled mass of rock and stone behind her. The other Liollmon and Bearmon were now paying attention, while the humans and their Rookies approached slowly. "From what I can tell you and yours were under the influence for some time, digging a town out around it while under the influence of its power."

"So they were possessed," Adrian folded his arms in a casual manner. "We can confirm, no?"

"Of course," Rubimon said breezily. "I've seen it before. A different kind of influence, but the symptoms were almost exactly the same."

"And you...," Liollmon swallowed, "defeated it?"

"They did." Rubimon waved her claw in the direction of the four humans and their Digimon. "Utilizing the power of the Old Gods, they were able to defeat it and free you from its influence."

"Thank you." Liollmon bowed his head. "Thank you. It's still... all quite confusing, but if we can help you, please let us."

Rubimon nodded. "You could offer us a place to stay. We've been travelling since the early morn and could certainly do with shelter for the night."

"And food!" Karumon added. "If you have any."

"Of course!" Liollmon nodded vigorously. The other Liollmon and Bearmon had been slowly filing back down into their partially-destroyed home, all murmuring and wondering what had happened to the statue that had used to stand in the center.

Liollmon led the group down the different pathways and steps easily, and showed them to one area where they could stay for the night. After they had settled, Liollmon confirmed they would be fed shortly, and disappeared.

The humans and Rookies settled quickly. Everyone fished around their backpacks for blankets and anything to make the ground softer for them to sit and sleep on.

Adrian yawned widely and leaned back against the wall, his eyes beginning to slowly droop closed as he could feel the sweet pull of sleep upon him.

"Hey," Katrina said slowly, "Adrian, you're bleeding."

Adrian's eyes opened slowly, and he saw her pointing to an open cut on his forearm. Nothing deep or that would kill him, but it bled and until now he hadn't noticed it.

"Thanks, cher." He smiled.

"Here." Katrina handed him a green first aid kit. "There should be some sterilizing agent and bandages in there."

Adrian nodded his head gratefully. "Obliged."

Karumon sniffed at the wound worriedly, and to placate him, Adrian rubbed the cub’s head gently while rifling through the green box.

"That... is weird," Blaire remarked, curling up on the floor, using her bag as a pillow, and with a blanket decorated with pink skulls on a black background, covering herself and Muertomon. "How come you're hurt? We haven't been hurt before."

"That's true," Ryan said. He had his arms folded, his eyes closed, and leaned against the wall of the room. He had a thin blanket covering his legs and Anzumon had burrowed beneath it. "Even when we fell of the cliff, none of us got hurt."

"You fell off a cliff?" Adrian repeated.

"Long story," Ryan replied with a small grin.

"There's a reason for that," Rubimon commented. "Before, you were here... but it was more... a subconscious you. Your bodies remained at home in the real world. If you hurt yourselves before, it never really had an effect because your subconscious can't be hurt. Not really." She paused. Despite Ryan's eyes being closed and everyone slowly settling down for the night, she got the sense they were listening to her intently and carried on. "This time you've come here, you've come here physically. Not just your subconscious, but your bodies too."

"Why?" asked Grindymon, yawning a little. "Why have their bodies come this time too?"

"Because I brought you here," Rubimon explained. "Before, you've come of your own accord, if you like, with fluke instances. Only enough power to bring one side of you, which is why previous times you woke up in the real world as if you had been asleep, or fainted. This time, using my own power, I was able to bring both sides of you here, physical and mental."

"Meaning...?" prompted Blaire.

"That as you have a physical self here, you can be hurt now," concluded Rubimon. "You'll need to be more careful, if you've been reckless in the past."

"Well," Ryan stretched, "that is not a very comforting thought...," he trailed, his head drooping forward.

Soon enough, with Rubimon's words still hanging in the air, everyone succumbed to sleep.

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

The rubble of the Behemon was yet to be moved. A few groups of Liollmon and Bearmon had started to move the largest boulders and stones, trying to clear the debris, but it was slow work, and their attention was so taken by their task that none of them noticed a small four-legged shadow moving close to it and sniffing around cautiously.

“...Oh...,” it spoke, a small, soft voice only airing due to the scent it had picked up. “They're close," it said to itself urgently. "I need to find them.”

Before the four-legged figure could begin to run, a deep rumbling laugh was heard, catching its attention.

“They have returned I see,” Baphomon murmured, stepping out from the shadows created by the pile of rubble. He examined the debris closely, the hood of his cloak obscuring his face. He inhaled deeply, taking in the smells and the essence of the battle that had taken place.

"And they're not alone this time. Clever little humans... they have a guide." He spoke softly as he turned to the smaller creature opposite of him.

“They're so very close. Only one more left," he said, eyes turned to the small creature, narrowed and threatening.

The small creature stood defensively, as if ready to strike and attack if need be. Despite being much smaller than Baphomon as he stood to his full height.

Grabbing the edges of his hood, Baphomon pulled it back, his gaze never leaving the Digimon opposite him. A small thing, barely taller than three feet. The expression of readiness to fight looked out of place on its small, sweet face. The metallic horn on its head shone in the moon and starlight, just like the white mane and tail. Small, short wings were poised to take flight, matching the same light blue color of the Digimon's coat, offset by a darker blue chest and belly.

From beneath his cloak, Baphomon withdrew a large pocket watch, and let it swing in front of him. “You're running out of time...,” he told the small winged Digimon, his mouth drawing back unpleasantly. "You had best hurry."

The unicorn Digimon narrowed its pink eyes, snorted and then turned tail, cantering towards the village, spurred on by its fluttering wings.

Baphomon exhaled and turned the clock face towards him. Pulling his hood back up to cover his face, he stepped back into the shadows.


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