(Author's Notes: Here's Chapter 42. Things are about to get real. Hang onto your stuff.)

Chapter 42: Point of No Return

The night set in over New Terminal.

Dusk this evening was dark and tenebrous. The moonlight was blotted out by the thick blanket of clouds that seemed to suffocate the sky. A gentle chill crept through the cool and moist evening air. The city air was choked with the pungent scent of smoke and ash. These miasmic fumes were carried downwind from the smoldering ruins of Hope's Crest. The dying flames of the distant town could just barely be seen from New Terminal. It was a grim warning to those still in the city.

The only light that shone in New Terminal were the oil lanterns that lined the vacant streets of the city, and the fiery beacons that lined the city walls of New Terminal. Small bonfires were lit beyond the northern walls of the city at intervals of a hundred meters, used for both distance markers and as a means of illuminating the Demon Lords' legions as they grew nearer.

Indeed, the Demon Lords had arrived. The thousands of demon Digimon waited just outside of the final perimeter of signal fires, a mere five hundred meters away from the walls of the city.

The Republic of Node's defences were heavily fortified. The city walls were fully garrisoned with humanoid Digimon who had ranged abilities. The larger, heavier Digimon occupied the main square and other strategic choke points throughout the city. Aerial troops filled the skies and patrolled the whole of the city and its perimeter to make sure that there weren't any feints or flanking manoeuvres.

War had come to New Terminal's doorstep.

Lucemon smirked darkly as he beheld the fortified city before him. The Demon Lord of Pride stood beside one of the bonfires on the outermost perimeter of the city, just out of range of the defenders. It was as if he was taunting them by standing in full view. The orange glow of flames cast across his body and the glowing cinders drifted past his smug and composed face. He drew a smooth and confident breath, inhaling the smoky air.

"It seems that they will not make this easy for us." Lucemon mused without concern, curling one of his blond locks around his finger. "No matter… This was to be expected."

The broad, cloaked body of Demon stepped out of the darkness of the night. The Demon Lord of Wrath's dark body glowed against the flickering, infernal orange of the nearby flames, illuminating the crimson vestments that veiled his bestial form. "We came expecting a fight," he muttered hoarsely. "With the Royal Knights here, there is no way that they would surrender. The fools of this city are likely placing their faith in those heathen tin cans."

"That may be so," a female voice spoke up. Lilithmon sauntered over and placed her golden, clawed gauntlet on her hip as she stared distastefully at the city. "But how many Royal Knights are in there? All twelve could pose quite the problem. As strong as we are, there is a realistic chance that we could lose against all of them."

Barbamon walked over, his gnarled, bony hand gripping his long stave as he approached the three. "My guess is that there are only a few of them," he suggested in his high, craggy voice. "If all twelve of the Royal Knights were here, they wouldn't be hiding in the city, waiting for us to attack. They are acting defensively, which suggests they don't think that they can win on their own. We needn't worry about them too much."

"I agree with Barbamon," Bagramon spoke, remaining in the shadows several meters behind the Demon Lords. The fallen angel Digimon's hollow eye burned with crimson energy, which seemed to leak from his glowing socket. "Invisible Snake-Eyes," he whispered, concentrating as he scryed the Royal Knights within the city. "…Alphamon, Gankoomon, UlforceVeedramon, and Examon. It is only those four, so far as I can see. Reinforcements are likely on the way."

"Which means we need to attack before they get here, yeah?" Beelzebumon offhandedly mentioned. The slender, leather-clad Demon Lord lazed on top of his Behemoth motorcycle with his hands behind his head. He glanced over. "In other words, what's the damn hold up? Can't we attack already?"

"Not yet," Barbamon snapped. "Not until Leviamon is in position. He should be ready soon."

Lucemon turned his gaze away from the city gates and shifted it towards the darkness that Bagramon occupied. "…Can we rely on your mercenary to open the gates?"

Bagramon didn't look up. The empty socket of his eye continued to glow with a ruby, otherworldly gleam. "…Yes. GrandisKuwagamon is following through on his word," he responded. "He is capable enough to succeed."

"Then I suppose all we can do is wait…" Lilithmon surmised in her usual blasé tone. She turned to Lucemon and Bagramon. "You two will be commanding from the rear, then?"

"For the moment, yes," Lucemon answered. "If everything goes as it should, I shouldn't need to step in."

"I would rather not step into the fray just yet, if it isn't necessary," Bagramon agreed. "Now is not the right time for me to confront Alphamon. I will continue to provide intelligence and support from the rear."

Beelzebumon smirked. "I guess you're not ready to show your hand, huh?" he snickered, gesturing to Bagramon's arm of gnarled wood. "Pun intended."

Lilithmon rolled her eyes. "Full scale battles are not really my druthers either… However, I may just slip in during the commotion and do a bit of damage here and there…" she suggested with a dark smirk. "Just to get the blood racing…"

"Yes, you do that," Barbamon allowed. "Keep the higher echelons off-guard. We will crush the rest."

Lucemon smiled and stared towards the city. He could see a black figure high in the sky. The only way he could make out the Digimon against the darkness was from the slight glint of light against its armoured body and its flowing cape. Knowing who it was immediately, Lucemon smirked and stared defiantly at the figure. Without a word, he boldly challenged the Royal Knight.

"Indeed… Be ready, generals," Lucemon spoke to the row of high-ranking demons behind them. "As soon as Leviamon gives the signal, we attack at full speed."

"And then we will crush the fools into dust."

Meanwhile, Paildramon raced down the corridors of Terminal Hall. Her scaled feet moved quickly across the cold, glossy, marble tiles. As she dashed through the building, she looked down every hallway, into every room that she passed. The guns that hung at her hips rattled against her legs as she ran.

The calmness and composure that usually manifested Paildramon's actions were absent. Her patience was running out. Time was running out. She was getting desperate.

Paildramon had searched for ExVeemon all afternoon. She had checked his usual haunts, the homes of all of his friends, his girlfriend's, the academy, her home again, and even some of her friends and colleagues at the military base… There was absolutely no sign of her brother.

The Demon Lords were preparing their attack. There wasn't much time left before they would attack. If ExVeemon got caught up in this full scale battle… She began to feel sick with worry. She could feel the pressure mounting. It felt as if the walls of Terminal Hall were closing in on her. Her heart was racing and she only cared about finding ExVeemon before it was too late. At this point, she didn't care what she had to do to find him.

Paildramon's crimson eyes were hard and tight. Her claws were balled into crushing fists. She strode down the corridor with a stubbornness and determination that couldn't be matched nor stopped. She was a woman on a mission.

She scoured Terminal Hall for her father. Something about her previous conversation with him didn't sit right with her. There was something that he wasn't telling her. The more she thought about it, the more she was certain that Imperialdramon knew where ExVeemon was. She didn't care if she had to force the issue. She was past caring about respect. Paildramon needed to know.

Upon finding his office empty, Paildramon turned around and ran back down the spacious corridor. If the Council of Seven were in meeting in the council hall, she even considered interrupting it. It could be a matter of minutes until the Demon Lords launched their attack. If that's what she had to do, she told herself she would do it.

The tenacious dragon turned the corner and marched towards the council hall single-mindedly.

As she spanned the hallway, the massive pair of doors suddenly opened. She saw Councillors Butenmon and MegaSeadramon exiting the council hall at a hurried pace. Paildramon moved to the side and briefly saluted them. She was about to ask them if her father was also inside, but her question was answered when she saw the ample form of an Imperialdramon follow the pair of councillors out.

Upon seeing Councillor Imperialdramon, Paildramon forwent any formalities and strode past Butenmon and MegaSeadramon, who were in too much of a hurry to acknowledge her anyways. Instead, she stepped around them and walked directly into her father's path.

"Father!" she called out forcefully, drawing his attention.

Imperialdramon stopped when he saw her daughter suddenly appear in the middle of the ornate hall. He frowned when he saw her face. There was a look of determination on her face, accented with an air of anger and desperation. Her usually-calm face was so passionately expressive that he was taken aback.

"Paildramon…?" he asked, taken off guard by her sudden appearance. "I am sorry, but now is really not a good time. Gaioumon and DORUgoramon have sent word; the attack will begin very shortly. We need to—"

"Where is he?" Paildramon demanded. Her words were as steady as stone and as sharp as a blade.

Imperialdramon blinked and frowned with confusion. "What are you-?"

"ExVeemon. Your son. Where is he?" Paildramon interrupted again. She wouldn't let him waste time with any empty words, and she wouldn't take no for an answer.

"I don't have time for this, Paildramon!" Imperialdramon fired back with a vocal growl. He was quickly growing frustrated by her interruptions and her forceful questioning.

"No, you don't. But then again, you never did, did you?" she retorted, her words as pointed as the tip of a knife.

"What? What in the blazes is that supposed to mean?!" the Councillor snapped.

Paildramon shook her head and took a deep breath, attempting to quell the fire inside of her. "Father… Where is ExVeemon? I'm not going anywhere until you tell me," she informed him. Her voice was calm again, tempering the frustration and desperation that she felt, but she was resolute.

However, so was Imperialdramon. "I told you earlier. I know as much as you do…" he gruffly answered. Although his words sounded convincing, his demeanour wasn't. His stature was uncomfortable and agitated, and he didn't look her in the eyes for very long.

"Then why don't I believe you?" Paildramon interrogated. "Tyrannomon said that you looked like you were up all night. How couldn't you have heard ExVeemon leaving in the night?"

Imperialdramon growled and glared at his daughter. "What is this, Paildramon? An inquisition? What are you trying to say here?!" he demanded.

"I think you know where ExVeemon is," Paildramon bluntly stated, gauging her father's face for his reaction. "I think you're trying to keep it from me."

Imperialdramon winced but gnashed his teeth together. "When did you become so impertinent? Where is your respect? How dare you accuse your own father…"

Paildramon's ruby eyes only hardened. "That wasn't a denial, Father…"

Imperialdramon's anger increased for a moment, but his face fractured. His righteous indignation gave way to a bitter grimace, and all he could do was look away. "I… I saw him at the break of dawn. After getting a few hours of sleep, I came downstairs to prepare for everything that was to come. That was when I saw him attempting to sneak out."

"What…? So you did see him today? Where is he…?" Paildramon asked, attempting to remain calm. However a sense of dread was beginning to permeate her heart.

"…He said that he was going out to join an impromptu militia. There are some bands of civilians gathering to help defend the city. He said he wanted to help defend the city…" Imperialdramon responded. There was a guilty grimace in his eyes.

Paildramon's insides froze. Fear stabbed through her heart and settled in her stomach like a weight. It was exactly like she feared. The shock and horror of the revelation struck her for a few moments. However, the disbelief and anxiety began to manifest in a different emotion: anger.

"No…" she whispered. Her eyes hardened like knives, and her claws curled up into rigid fists. She looked up at the large dragon, directing her ire towards her father. "You didn't try to stop him?!"

"I did attempt to stop him!" Imperialdramon fired back with an annoyed growl.

The features on Paildramon's crimson, helmeted face darkened with restrained rage. She kept her anger in like a dammed river, allowing just a steady stream to pass through.

"I doubt you tried very hard," Paildramon coldly answered. "No… You finally got what you wanted, didn't you, Father?"

Imperialdramon's eye twitched and the affronted councillor took a step forwards assertively. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"

Paildramon looked up at him, unfazed. There was only pained contempt in her eyes. "It was never enough for you that I was here, was it, Father?" she spoke. "Even when I was here… even when I was willing, it always had to be ExVeemon who you expected things from. You always forced him, even when he didn't want to. You could never accept that I wanted to be in the military but he didn't. You never cared about what we wanted… You just wanted a male to bring glory to our family name. A female would never be good enough, in your eyes…" She grimaced and clenched her fists tighter for a moment, glancing down. However, her vigor returned and she looked up at his stunned, enraged face. "You only care about protecting your legacy. How do I know that you didn't pressure ExVeemon into joining a militia? This was your chance, wasn't it…?"

Imperialdramon balked. Never before had he seen Paildramon show such disrespect towards him. They had had arguments about her military career in the past, but never had she been so cold and cutting. "What…?" he spoke in a hoarse growl. His eye continued to twitch, and his surprise was replaced with rage. "How dare you talk to me like that?! I am your father! Who do you think you are, accusing me of such damn, baseless things! You will apologise at once!" he snapped furiously.

Icily, Paildramon continued to stare at him. "I will apologise if you prove me wrong…"

A gruff snarl rumbled in Imperialdramon's throat. "I tried to stop him, but he was determined!" he insisted. "He would have gone no matter what I said! You know how he is!"

"I know that he has no interest in fighting. The only way that he would do this is if he felt pressured," Paildramon replied, beginning to turn away from her father.

"And if the city was at stake?!" Imperialdramon demanded.

Paildramon froze. For a moment, she turned her head back towards him. There was a baleful glare in her eyes.

"…Is that what you told him to make him fight?" she coldly asked.

"What? No! Those were his words!" Imperialdramon insisted with a desperate grimace.

Paildramon didn't say another word. She turned around and began walking away from Councillor Imperialdramon.

With his head low and his teeth gnashed together, Imperialdramon called after her. "Don't you walk away from me! Paildramon!"

Without turning around, Paildramon spoke as she walked down the hall. "If anything happens to him, I won't forgive you."

With those words, Paildramon strode down length of the council corridor. She couldn't waste anymore time. She had to find ExVeemon before it was too late.

At least she knew where to look now…

No more than a minute after speaking to her father, Paildramon rushed out of the grounds of Terminal Hall. She jogged from the garden entrance and passed the heavily guarded barricade that surrounded the gates. The azure dragon ran out onto the street and looked around hurriedly. The darkness of the night was taking over. The sun had set, so it was hard to see long distances. She could only make out the length of the boulevard by the oil lanterns that ran along it.

As Paildramon looked around, she could see a company of Republic soldiers marching double time towards the main square. The main square wasn't far from where Terminal Hall was, as they were both located in the downtown district of New Terminal. They were probably coming from the military base on the south side of the river and hurrying to get into position further north. She knew that the Demon Lords would be attacking very soon. That's why she had to hurry. She had to find her little brother before all hell broke loose, literally.

Paildramon flapped her dual pairs of white and blue wings and soared down the road. She made a direct route for the soldiers. As a soldier, she knew that they would know about the troop movements of other groups and companies in order to coordinate tactics effectively. Maybe they knew where ExVeemon was.

She touched down beside the cavalcade of about fifty well-armed Digimon as they marched down the arterial road that led towards the north gates of the city. Paildramon approached the troop and walked alongside them. "Excuse me," she said firmly enough to be heard.

Some of the soldiers looked over, a few recognising her. "Paildramon?" a female AeroVeedramon asked, seeing the familiar dragon. "What are you doing here? I thought you were on loan with the Order."

"I'm here with the Royal Knights," she tersely answered, not wanting to get bogged down with trivialities. "More importantly, I'm looking for someone. Have any of you seen my brother? He's an ExVeemon."

"I'm sorry, but no. I haven't," the AeroVeedramon replied, shaking her head. "Maybe he evacuated?"

Paildramon frowned and shook her head. "No, he wouldn't have. He joined one of the volunteer militias."

"I haven't seen him either," the Ankylomon walking beside the AeroVeedramon chimed in. "We haven't heard anything about volunteer militias. We've been manning the south garrison until this morning. Our orders are to reinforce the north now, since that seems like that's where the brunt of the attack is going to be."

"You should ask Thirteenth Group back there, Paildramon," the Vikemon lieutenant spoke up. He turned and pointed to the large group of soldiers that were marching about fifty meters behind them. "They've been one of the units helping the constabulary with the lingering civilians and militia."

Paildramon nodded and, without wasting even a moment, turned away from the company and jogged towards the other group of professional looking soldiers. As she ran, her insides felt like they were twisting into knots. She hoped desperately that one of them had seen her brother somewhere.

It took her about a minute before she reached them. As she approached, she started to gather attention from the troop. The soldiers looked up curiously at the lone dragon soldier that was running up to them.

Not wanting to get in their way, she ran up to their flank. "Excuse me. Thirteenth Group was one of the units that was helping civilians get to safety, right? I'm looking for an ExVeemon. He's a civilian. Have you seen him? He's about this high. He's a teenager," she spouted, her voice hurried and urgent.

"Sorry, no," the Strikedramon in front of her said, shaking his reptilian head.

Paildramon grimaced and clenched her fists. "Any of you? He was trying to join one of the civilian militias."

She looked around the crowd of passing shoulder. The only response that she saw were several negatory shakes of their heads.

"I think I might have seen him," a voice finally said.

Paildramon's heart jumped, although the serious expression on her face remained. She looked towards the owner of the voice: a Löwemon. As warrior in black, leonine armour shuffled through the crowd of soldiers to the edge of the group, she quickly approached him. "You saw him?"

"Think so. We were breaking up the militia that he was part of and trying to get the civilians to evacuate. Untrained kids like that were no good to us, even if it meant more numbers. Told them that if they had to help, they should volunteer as stretcher bearers or at the hospital," the ebony-clad spearman explained. "Anyways, I saw an ExVeemon there… He had a claw necklace?"

Paildramon's eyes widened. "That's him. That's my brother," she exclaimed triumphantly. "Where is he now? What happened to him?"

The Löwemon winced and stalled. Paildramon wasn't sure why he seemed uneasy, but the lack of an immediate answer caused the tendrils of dread to creep back inside of her.

"…I… don't know," he admitted.

"What? What do you mean?" Paildramon demanded.

"As we were rounding up the group of civilians, he and a few others slipped away. It was a bit chaotic. The militia were determined to help fight, so we had to insist that they leave under guard. There was a commotion. During the fuss, ExVeemon and about six others must have used the distraction to run off, because I saw them following Tenth Group towards the northern gate…" the Löwemon replied with a pained grimace. "I would have gone after them, but we had our hands full, and I assumed that one of the other units would round them up…"

Paildramon blinked with shock at his revelation. "…Tenth Group…?" she asked. "You… You don't mean…"

"The group that volunteered to go to Hope's Crest," the Löwemon responded in a regretful voice. "We haven't heard from them since they left, but they knew that it was as good as suicide going out there. There've been reports that Hope's Crest has been completely destroyed, and if the Demon Lords are just outside our walls now, then that means Tenth Group is…"

Paildramon stared at Löwemon with stunned eyes as she took in his words. Her body froze and her muscles tensed. "No…" she whispered.

Sinking… She felt as though that she was sinking. It was like the ground had opened up beneath her and she was slowly falling into an abyss, unable to grab hold of anything or fly herself back out. She felt as though she was being dragged deeper by the tendrils of something stronger than she was.

"…I'm sorry," the leonine warrior of darkness spoke. "I… don't know if he and the others ended up going with them. I hope not. I doubt Tenth Group would have allowed them to come, but it's possible that they followed them from a distance or… I just don't know. I can't tell you anything more than that. I'm sorry…"

Silently, Paildramon turned away. She simply wandered away from the group. She didn't walk in any particular direction as the soldiers passed by her. She just walked aimlessly down the road.

She felt sick. She had heard about Tenth Group… They had sacrificed themselves to protect Hope's Crest. If ExVeemon went with them… If he really followed them or tagged along…

Paildramon swallowed painfully. Her mouth was dry. Her heart raced with fear and worry. Her stomach felt tight, like it was imploding in on itself. Her mind felt like it was going numb.

Her worst fears were coming true. Her little brother… If he was in danger… If he had gone to fight… There was no way he could have survived.

With every step, Paildramon felt as though she was sinking deeper and deeper… She wandered over to a street lamp on the side of the road. She placed her gauntlet-clad hand on the surface of the black metal and curled her claws around it. Her grip slowly tightened… It continued to tighten until it became crushing. Her jagged claws began to sink into the metal and screech against the surface until her fingers were indented into the lamp post.

She slowly raised her vacant, pain-addled face and stared down the road. At first, it didn't register, but she soon realised that SaviorHackmon was standing at the corner of the street with Sistermons Noir and Blanc beside him. He looked tired and haggard, and he had bandages wrapped around his chest and arm.

SaviorHackmon… She had heard that he had gone off to Hope's Crest too. If he had seen Tenth Group, perhaps he knew where ExVeemon was.

The flicker of hope and determination lit up inside Paildramon, piercing through the darkness and hopelessness that had begun to envelop her. Maybe… just maybe… he could put her mind at rest.

Paildramon took off towards him.

SaviorHackmon stood at the corner of the busy thoroughfare and watched as the remains of the Republic army quickly hurried to their positions in the north of New Terminal. Bandages were wrapped around his waist, and his arm rested in a sling. His weariness was clear on his face, but it didn't dampen his determination.

Sistermon Blanc tentatively walked up behind him and placed her hand on his spiked shoulder, gently drawing his attention. "Um, S-SaviorHackmon-kun?" she asked him uncertainly. "You really should be resting… You were badly hurt…"

"How can I, Blanc-chan…?" he asked heavily. "I can't sit in a hospital at a time like this… The Demon Lords are going to attack any minute. We need all the help we can get."

"Y-Yes, but, your injuries… You'll get hurt again…" Sistermon Blanc reminded him.

"Hackie's got a point though," Sistermon Noir spoke up, resting one of her pistols against her shoulder. "When the Demon Lords attack, he's no safer in some hospital than he is here. If we can't stop them in their tracks, then the whole city is royally screwed anyways. Get the doctors out fighting too, I say."

SaviorHackmon smiled weakly at Sistermon Blanc. "Don't worry, Blanc. I'll be safe. I'm not going to bite off more than I can chew this time…" He looked up at the cloudy sky, his eyes shimmering with determination. "…But I can't just stand by and let more innocent people die…"

Sistermon Blanc frowned uncertainly, but she ultimately nodded. "Then…" she said, gripping her trident tighter. "W-We're going to fight with you too…"

"You said it, Sis," Noir chimed casually. As she was eyeing her gun, she noticed movement to the side. She turned her head and saw Paildramon walking towards them. "Oh, hey—"

Paildramon strode straight past her and walked right up to SaviorHackmon. "SaviorHackmon."

SaviorHackmon straightened up and saluted her on instinct, wincing slightly as he did. This was the first time he had seen her since before he went to Hope's Crest. He fully expected her to chew him out for running off without her permission, especially with her piercing eyes and cold voice. "O-Over-sergeant," he greeted formally.

"You went to Hope's Crest," she bluntly stated.

SaviorHackmon's stance became even more rigid as he expected the worst. "…Yes," he could only confirm.

"…Did you see an ExVeemon while you were there?" she asked him. "He would be about your age. Maybe younger. I…" Her cold features broke slightly and she grimaced. "I know that you were there until the end…"

SaviorHackmon blinked with surprise. That wasn't the response that he was expecting, but it was then that a grim realisation began to overtake him. "I… I didn't see any ExVeemon there…" he responded.

Paildramon looked at him insistently. "Are you sure? You must have. He tagged along with Tenth Group as part of the civilian militia."

SaviorHackmon grimaced bitterly. "I'm… I'm sorry. I didn't arrive until midway through the attack. By the time I arrived, all of Tenth Group was gone apart from three soldiers who managed to retreat into the village. It was just us and a civilian militia there… I didn't see him. I don't know if he was there or not, but if he was…"

The flickering hope inside of Paildramon vanished, snuffed out like a candle flame. The breath felt like it had been taken out of her. "Are… are you positive…? Maybe he escaped?"

SaviorHackmon stared at her sadly. "I didn't see any ExVeemon among the defenders… None of Tenth Group made it… Apart from me and a couple others… there were no survivors. Everyone is gone… I'm sorry…" he explained, his voice still pained and quavering when he thought about it.

"No… No…" Paildramon whispered. She turned away from them and began walking up the road.

Sistermon Blanc looked at her with concerned, but meek eyes. "Um…"

"Paildramon… Paildramon, wait," SaviorHackmon weakly called after her. He made to follow her, but Sistermon Noir put a hand on his chest.

"Leave her, SaviorHackmon," she told him, the levity gone from her voice. There was a stern look in Sistermon Noir's eyes as she stared at him. "Worry about yourself right now."

SaviorHackmon grimaced and looked down. "Damn it…"

Paildramon didn't respond. She walked unevenly up the street, barely able to walk in a straight line. She stared blankly ahead of her, completely unfocused on anything but her own dark thoughts.

It couldn't be true… There must be some mistake. He couldn't have gone there… He couldn't be…

As much as she didn't want to believe it, her rational mind began to accept the reality of the situation.

ExVeemon was dead. Her little brother was dead.

These thoughts overtook her mind. It was like a sledgehammer to her ribcage. Her heart ached with the pain of a thousand knives and her stomach became twisted into knots.

"No… Please no…" she whispered to herself. She closed her stinging eyes and pictured the smiling face of her little brother in her mind. As she realised that she would never see his face again, her grief and sorrow washed over her.

Paildramon collapsed to her hands and knees on the street. "No… NO!" she shouted violently.

Her claws dug into the stone road, screeching with a discordant whine. Her arms and legs trembled, her heart throbbed with agony, and her mind burned. Her throat was choked and she felt as though she was suffocating.

The grieving dragon released a shaky, uneven breath before sucking in oxygen to breathe. A tear leaked out of her tightly shut eyes and dripped down her helmet.

The pain and suffering that she felt was unlike anything she had ever experienced. The sense of loss and loneliness consumed her. It took over her very body. She became enveloped in the utter grief that she felt. The sensation of sinking returned, but this time, she had no desire to pull herself out.

As her tears trickled down her cheeks, she slowly opened her eyes. However, rather than sorrow and vulnerability, there was only one emotion in her eyes.


As great as the sorrow that consumed her was, it began to morph into something else. The anguish begot rage. It was a simmering, all-consuming hatred and bitterness. She felt all reason slipping away, only to be replaced with utter wrath. It was like a creeping shadow over her heart…

As a final tear dripped off of her chin, Paildramon slowly stood to her feet, wobbling slightly. However, the expression on her face remained unchanged. Her watery eyes were tight with a piercing, blood red glower that stared ahead of her with barely restrained loathing.

"The Demon Lords killed my brother…" she thought, her mind burning like a white flame. "All he wanted to do was to protect his home… his friends… his family… Yet they… those mindless, heartless monsters… slaughtered him where he stood… He must have been so scared…"

She tightened her claws into a crushing grip, hard enough that their jagged tips scraped against her metal palm. She took an uneasy step forwards, and then another, and another. She began to slowly amble up the road, towards the city's northern defences.

"Those merciless bastards… How many lives do they plan to end…? For what purpose…? For revenge…? For their own entertainment?" she wondered. As she walked through the darkness, passing under a dim street light, there was a flicker of grey around her form. "However much pain they caused ExVeemon… I will return it tenfold. I will punish them for what they did to him. For all the people that they killed and maimed. I will make them suffer…"

As Paildramon continued walking, her stride became more forceful and determined. Her tear-stained face was dark. She glared ahead, into the abyss of the night. "Why…? Why did he have to die? He didn't deserve any of this… He never wanted to fight. He never wanted to cause pain… He hated fighting… And yet…" Paildramon released a scathing breath that fogged up the interior of her crimson helmet. Her trembling fists were clenched with utter fury. As she stewed in blame and hatred, she extended the long, metal spikes from their ports on her wrists.

"It's all because of him… Father… That damn, selfish, old man… He just kept pushing him and pushing him… All for his precious family glory and his ancient ideals… I was never enough for him. He thinks me a feeble woman who can only be of use behind a desk. He never wanted me to have a military career. He never believed in me from the start. He never wanted me to get to where I am today, because he hates to be proven wrong. Father just had to keep pushing ExVeemon. He had to live vicariously through him. And now he's dead. It was the Demon Lords who killed him, but, Father, you pushed him there. You have just as much blood on your hands…"

Paildramon narrowed her eyes into baleful slits. Her features darkened and she began running up the stygian road.

"I wasn't there to protect him… I wasn't strong enough… I'm… I'm his big sister. I was supposed to protect him. I wasn't there. He needed me, but I wasn't there…" Paildramon bitterly lamented, tears still lacing the edges of her eyes. "If I had been there… if I had been stronger… I could have saved him. But no… it wasn't enough. I wasn't enough… I never have been… I keep coming up short. I failed with GrandisKuwagamon… I always fell short of Father's expectations… If I had more power… I could have protected him. I could protect everyone… With more power, I can take revenge for him… That's the only way…"

There was a flicker of dark grey within her eyes. She looked up and stared at the cloudy, abyssal, night sky. With an unshakeable determination, Paildramon raced towards the impending battle… the coming storm.

"I'll make them pay…"

The flicker of cloudy grey that traced her form darkened into black. She dashed forwards into the abyss, and her body disappeared within the night…

The darkness of the night was thick. The Digital World's moons were hidden behind the impenetrable veil of clouds. Only the street lamps around the city and the signal fires that lined the city walls and outer perimeters provided illumination against the stygian night.

The Republic of Node's army was ready to defend their city. Well, as ready as they would ever be. The city wall was heavily fortified with ranged troops, who were mainly positioned at the various D-shaped, open towers along the lengths and corners of the wall. The rest of the military were positioned in strategic locations throughout the city, with reinforcements and rear guards located deeper inside New Terminal.

Alphamon hovered in the air, high above the city walls. With a calm but serious expression, he gazed down upon the Demon Lords' army, who waited just beyond the final row of fires. He caught sight of Lucemon, who he could have sworn was staring at him. Undeterred, Alphamon's eyes fixed upon the demon and he returned the hostile gaze. He wondered if Bagramon was there too. If he was, he wasn't able to see him.

With his dark armour almost blending into the evening sky, Alphamon slowly descended and touched down on the castle wall. He wondered what the Demon Lords were waiting for.

The black Royal Knight glanced around briefly. Examon was positioned high in the sky, hidden in the smoky clouds, ready to snipe from an altitude. UlforceVeedramon waited impatiently at the eastern-most tower, over on the right flank. Gankoomon and OuRyuumon were located down in the northern courtyard behind the main gate with the vanguard contingent of the Republic's army. As instructed by Gaioumon, the Greymon Five were positioned with a unit further down the main road, about halfway between the vanguard and the rear guard. However, Alphamon didn't know where Paildramon was. He hadn't seen her since that morning. He trusted that she was responsible enough to hook up with one of the other units.

As Alphamon mulled over the tactical situation, he felt a presence land beside him. He turned his head and saw the silver and violet form of DORUgoramon touch down on the rampart next to him.

The draconic Councillor spread his resplendent wings and glanced over at Alphamon with a curt nod. "Alphamon."

The black knight looked at DORUgoramon with surprise. "DORUgoramon? What are you doing here? The attack could begin at any minute," he wondered.

DORUgoramon narrowed his eyes slightly and scoffed. "Tch. Don't look down on me, Royal Knight. Just because I'm a politician, that doesn't mean I can't fight. I was a warrior long before I was a Councillor, remember? We fought side by side and I even bested you on more than one occasion," he defended.

Alphamon smiled slightly and nodded. "I know that. I'm not questioning your capabilities, but the Republic of Node will need your leadership after this is done. You don't need to put yourself in danger."

DORUgoramon turned to face Alphamon completely. He fixed him a resolute stare, making his intentions completely clear. "This is my city, Alphamon. How could I ever lead my people if I didn't step up to defend my own home? I will not allow you to be the hero who gets to save the day again, Royal Knight. This is my duty, as a leader of this fine Republic. I will be the one who stands at this army's head."

Alphamon stared back at DORUgoramon, seeing the unquestioning determination in his citrine eyes. "…Very well then. It will be good seeing you in action again, old friend," the Royal Knight responded diplomatically. Despite the direness of the situation, Alphamon allowed a bit of mischief to enter his eyes. "I hope your skills haven't gotten rusty."

"Tch, don't make me laugh," DORUgoramon responded tilting his snout upwards indignantly. "I wager I could still give you a run for your money."

Alphamon smiled. "I hope so… Do be careful."

"You just worry about yourself, Alphamon."

Nodding, the Royal Knight turned his attention back to the enemy army before him. The ease and humour vanished from his face, and the seriousness of the challenge they faced returned. "I wonder what they're waiting for."

"Who cares? The longer they wait, the better it is for us, isn't it? You did say the rest of the Order is on the way, correct?" DORUgoramon spoke.

"Yes, they are. However, I'm sure the Demon Lords suspect as much too. They must know that they need to start the battle soon," Alphamon contemplated. "I wonder if they are plotting something…" He frowned and tried to peer into the distant night, but couldn't see far beyond the final perimeter of flames. "I don't see Leviamon among them."

"Perhaps they made him their rear guard?" DORUgoramon suggested. "Who wants a giant, lumbering target on the front of an attack?"

"Perhaps, but if he wanted to, he could cause serious damage to the walls… He is a walking siege machine. The fact that I don't see him is concerning."

DORUgoramon nodded, although only slightly. "I will have the scouts keep a look out," the Councillor spoke, turning away. "I need to return to the troops."

Alphamon turned and gazed at him as he walked towards the inner edge of the ramparts. "Very well… Good luck, DORUgoramon."

DORUgoramon stopped as he reached the edge of the wall. After a moment, he bowed his head and nodded slightly. "You too, Alphamon."

As DORUgoramon spread his wings and glided down to the courtyard, Alphamon turned back and stared at the Demon Lords' assembled army.

His gaze hardened with resolve and he quietly awaited the storm that was to come.

The soldiers were busy at work. They made their preparations, readied their weapons, and built up their attacks. They waited with bated breath for the attack to sound and the legion of demon Digimon to come charging towards the city. The tension hung heavy over the whole city.

They were so focused on the army in front of them, that they weren't paying attention to what was happening behind them.

Lurking in the darkness, an integral cog in the Demon Lords' war machine was getting ready to play his part.

GrandisKuwagamon hid in a dark alleyway, his ebony body melding into the shadows. Only the faint shimmer of his ruby eye was visible as he raised his head above a metal waste bin.

He checked the position of the moons. He was only barely able to make them out through the thick clouds. He spotted them by the soft glow of moonlight that traced the wispy edges of the clouds. It was about midnight, he guessed from the moons' relative positions. It was time for him to make his move.

Like a shadow, GrandisKuwagamon quietly slid out from his hiding place. He moved along the shadows of the opposite wall, making his way down to the end of the alleyway. As he neared the exit, he cautiously gazed out into the street.

It was the same street as before, the one that ran parallel to the northern wall. To the left, the boulevard proceeded through the intersecting courtyard where the city gate was located. That same courtyard was loaded with soldiers who had taken up fortified defensive positions to protect the gate. The city wall was also lined with soldiers ready to rain havoc down on the Demon Lords once they attacked. Needless to say, the area was teeming with soldiers and guards.

GrandisKuwagamon pressed his winged back against the wall and internally swore. This would be way more difficult than he thought. However, he knew that if he didn't open the gates like he was supposed to, the Demon Lords would mark him for dead.

He looked up and down the street for patrols. The covert insect couldn't see any, but he was able to see Gankoomon down in the courtyard with a bunch of other soldiers. GrandisKuwagamon grimaced at the sight of the Royal Knight.

"What the hell are the Royal Knights doing here? As if I need any more problems. Damn it… if they see me, I'm screwed," he thought to himself. He shook his head. It didn't matter. All that mattered was completing his job. He couldn't think about the bigger picture. He couldn't…

Instead, he focused on what was in front of him. He stared across the street to the fortified, city wall. He could see a staircase diagonally across the road from him. It led up to the main ramparts of the wall. The section of the wall that was across from him led directly into the gatehouse that over looked the city gates. He knew that he needed to get in there to complete his mission. He looked at the opposition that stood between him and the gatehouse. Although there were countless soldiers around the nearby courtyard, he felt confident that he could bypass them easily enough. Once he got to the wall, however…

He spotted three soldiers on the ramparts between the top of the staircase and the door to the gatehouse. One of them seemed to be moving back and forth, but two were guards positioned outside the door, protecting the gatehouse. They could cause a problem if they saw him and called for help.

GrandisKuwagamon didn't have time to waste planning. He knew that the Demon Lords' signal – whatever that was – would happen soon. He couldn't screw up the timing.

The scarab mercenary gave a final glance around his surroundings. Once satisfied that his crossing was clear, GrandisKuwagamon stepped out of the alley quietly. He ducked down and moved softly but swiftly. His foot falls were as quiet as a feather as he dashed across the street. As he moved, he weaved away from the glow of the street lamps.

He darted to the other side of the street and pressed up against the base of the thirty foot wall, defilading himself from the view of the soldiers above. He crept down the length of the stone fortification and ducked into the base of the rock steps, using the outcropping staircase to hide himself from the soldiers in the courtyard. GrandisKuwagamon looked up the staircase and saw that it was fortunately empty.

As he began to ascend the staircase, his heartbeat increased, but he remained completely focused and calm. He breathed only the minimum amount required, and he entered a nearly meditative state. His mind focused on his short term objective and allowed his body to react with his finely-honed instincts. On these missions, he became like a well-oiled machine.

The obsidian scarab moved up the length of the stone stairs, his shoulder close to, but not touching the stone wall beside him. Barely visible as he moved, GrandisKuwagamon reached the apex of the stairs, where they turned and levelled off with the ramparts of the wall. He stopped at the top, ducking down to remain hidden, and bowing his head down covertly. Slowly, he looked around the corner and spied the sentry that was on patrol.

The fellow insect, a JewelBeemon, was walking away from the gatehouse, where the other two guards were standing watch. As GrandisKuwagamon looked, the spear-wielding, humanoid insect passed by the mouth of the stairs. He remained still. The JewelBeemon passed by him, unaware of the scarab lying in wait.

The two guards flanking the eastern door of the gatehouse – a WereGarurumon and a Galgomon – were both busy looking over the wall towards the Demon Lords' army. They didn't notice as the JewelBeemon suddenly disappeared from sight, pulled abruptly down the stairs and into the arms of the waiting predator.

The WereGarurumon looked up from his position on the inner edge of the ramparts. "Did you hear something?" he asked his Galgomon companion.

The Galgomon shrugged and looked over. "No? It was probably just JewelBeemon."

The light blue-furred werewolf grunted and folded his arms. "Guess I'm just on edge. Wish they'd hurry up and attack already."

A shadow moved along the interior of the wall, and the soft flutter of wing beats neared the entrance of the gatehouse.

The WereGarurumon's ear twitched and curved in response to the noise. He could hear the gentle fluttering behind him. "JewelBeemon?" he asked, beginning to turn around.

Suddenly, a pair of pincers latched around his arms, locking them in place. A pair of black hands reached up and muzzled the WereGarurumon's snout shut as he pulled him over the edge of the wall. There was a muffled yell followed by a sharp thwack. GrandisKuwagamon dropped down and tucked the unconscious body of the WereGarurumon into a thick, road-side shrub along with the JewelBeemon.

"Huh?" the Galgomon asked, standing up straight from his position leaning forwards on the outer parapet. His ear twitched and he looked over his shoulder to see what was going on with WereGarurumon.

Instead of WereGarurumon, he saw a dark face with a cold, crimson eye staring at him. The Galgomon's heart sunk and he began to cry out. Before he could, GrandisKuwagamon pushed his palm against the Galgomon's mouth, muffling him as he drove a knee into the rabbit Digimon's pudgy gut. GrandisKuwagamon spun around behind the Galgomon and wrapped his arm around the guard's neck. Keeping him muffled, he put him into a sleeper hold, jerking him and resisting his struggle until the Galgomon fell unconscious in his arms.

GrandisKuwagamon kept hold of the rabbit Digimon as he went slack in his arms. He couldn't leave the unconscious guard lying around the wall or else he'd be discovered, but he didn't have time to hide him with the others. GrandisKuwagamon had another idea.

The beetle wrapped his forceps under the Galgomon's armpits, using his pincers to hold the unconscious Digimon up in order to free up his hands. GrandisKuwagamon held the rabbit Digimon in place as he walked towards the gatehouse door. As he lugged the guard's deadweight, the Galgomon looked as though he was standing – albeit limply, and his legs weren't moving to simulate walking.

Using the Galgomon both as concealment and a shield, GrandisKuwagamon reached for the gatehouse door and pushed it open. As the wooden door creaked open, the occupant turned towards the noise.

Inside the gatehouse was the form of a metallic android, an Andromon. The Andromon gatekeeper stood in front of a control board with several buttons and a few knobs on it. The gatehouse consisted of a large, stone room with two windows on either side, one looking over the courtyard and the other overlooking the outer entrance to the city. On the other sides of the room were a series of chains, cogs, and pulleys, all of which seemed to connect to one massive axel overhead that was powered by some kind of engine.

The Andromon gatekeeper turned around and saw Galgomon, unaware of the lithe Digimon hiding behind him. "Galgomon…?" he tentatively asked, though it took mere seconds of observing the Galgomon's limp demeanour for him to realise that something wasn't right.

The unconscious Galgomon raised his arm and waved woodenly. Frowning, Andromon began to activate his IFF sensors, but it was too late.

GrandisKuwagamon sprung into action. He released the Galgomon from his pincers and kicked the rabbit's unconscious body towards the Andromon. The Andromon tensed up and caught the heavy Galgomon on reflex.

GrandisKuwagamon used the distraction to rush forwards, blitzing the cyborg before he could properly respond. He arm-barred the Andromon's face, sending him staggering backwards into the stone wall. The Andromon crashed against the wall and slid down, but his durable, metal body absorbed much of the blow. As he fell, he already began to activate the cyber blade of his right arm.

As the whirring of the spinning drill filled the room, the mercenary stabbed his Gran Killers through the Andromon's arm circuits to disable the blade. He swiftly followed up by driving his foot into the Andromon's face.

GrandisKuwagamon wasted no time in neutralizing the Andromon. He lifted the Andromon off of his feet and threw him to the ground so his chest screeched against the stone. GrandisKuwagamon forced his knee down on the Andromon's back, pinning him down, while he crossed the Andromon's arms behind him to restrain him.

The mercenary reached over and took off the Galgomon's belt, using it to bind the Andromon's wrists, if only temporarily. He then ripped part of the Galgomon's denim leggings and stuffed the fabric in the Andromon's mouth to keep him from calling for help. GrandisKuwagamon did this for expediency, as he didn't have time to go through the arduous process of knocking out a durable cyborg Digimon.

At the back of his mind, he wondered why he didn't just kill the gatekeeper. He wouldn't have hesitated in the past. Why not now? However, he ignored these trifling thoughts.

The black scarab stood up from the restrained Andromon and walked over to the control panel. He briefly scanned the buttons and saw one of them that was labelled "Activate". He supposed that was all that he needed to know. Now he just needed to wait for the signal, whatever that was. He guessed he would need to look out one of the windows to see it.

GrandisKuwagamon walked over to the Andromon and crouched down in front of him. He raised his Gran Killer menacingly. "If you try to escape or call for help, I'll kill him," GrandisKuwagamon warned him, gesturing to the unconscious Galgomon nearby. "So stay nice and quiet."

The Andromon stared at GrandisKuwagamon bitterly, but made no response one way or another.

GrandisKuwagamon stood up and walked towards the back window, briefly glancing out of it. "It's nothing personal. Just doing my job," he added, peering out and into the courtyard.

He could see a regiment of Republic soldiers positioned in the spacious, branching courtyard. They were hidden behind defensive barriers, while the artillery troops were lining up their bombardment angles.

GrandisKuwagamon looked beyond the courtyard, down the long, arterial road that crossed through to the southern edge of the city. He had a pretty good vantage point from here. He could see down most of the major roads. He spotted the downtown district at the end of the main boulevards. At the end of the central road, he could see the river, which flowed south from the Argent Mountains before curving left and cutting through the middle of New Terminal as it flowed east…

GrandisKuwagamon frowned. The river… There was an eerie glimmer in the Fountain River. The water was beginning to rise and the waves were crashing against the Fountain's banks. It was strange; GrandisKuwagamon had lived in New Terminal for much of his life, so he knew that the water didn't typically flow like that…

That was when a massive geyser of water exploded out of the Fountain River. It wasn't just a geyser, but a massive explosion of water. The dark, dungy liquid burst nearly a hundred meters into the air before it began to fall. The seismic burst let loose a watery roar.

GrandisKuwagamon was stunned. What caused it? An explosion? But then he saw something. Within the massive cascade were crimson scales, followed by a large, baleful, reptilian eye. A titanic snout connected to a colossal body was bursting out of the water, rising like a breaching Whamon. It was no Whamon, though. It was much bigger.

"Leviamon," he whispered.

Leviamon ascended within the fluvial explosion until his massive weight began to set in. His body began to fall back towards the river. It didn't just fall anywhere, but with a specific target in mind: the bridge spanning the Fountain River.

The demon leviathan's body crashed down on top of the stone bridge. His sheer mass was enough to break the bridge in two underneath his thick scales and study muscles. As the bridge gave way, Leviamon fell back into the river, splitting the water and causing massive waves to sweep up onto the riverbanks and flood the roads immediately around it. As the bridge that made up the central, arterial road was destroyed, the northern side of the city became cut off from the southern side.

GrandisKuwagamon's eye widened. This was signal. This was the surprise. While the Demon Lords amassed their army on the northern side of the city, Leviamon had slipped in through the Fountain River, using the waterway to slip past their defences and launch a surprise attack in the middle of the city.

The mercenary watched as the amassed soldiers and commanders spun around in the courtyard below and began shouting. They wheeled around and warned each other of the giant leviathan emerging far behind them.

It was beginning.

GrandisKuwagamon suddenly remembered that it was his turn. He had to complete his mission and fast.

The mercenary ran across the gatehouse room, hopping over the bound Andromon, in order to get to the control panel. Ignoring the Andromon's muffled protests, he quickly pressed the "Activate" button.

There was a fleeting sense of relief as the button activated the gear and pulley system. The engine activated and the giant axel on the ceiling began to gyrate. However, the sense of tension and unease began to return to GrandisKuwagamon's insides. He stepped away from the panel and listened with a sinking feeling as the massive gates beneath him began to slowly open inwards.

It was hard to hear over the massive ticking and clamouring of the cogs and chains, but he could start to hear more frenzied shouts from the soldiers outside. He knew he couldn't wait around for long.

GrandisKuwagamon began to turn and make his exit. As soon as he pivoted on his heel, something happened. The door opposite to the one he came through burst open. A large black figure emerged in the door frame, his armour clattering as he moved.

"What's going on?!" Alphamon demanded, nearly pulling the door off its hinges as he demanded to know why the gates were being opened. "Close that at—"

Alphamon stopped mid-sentence as he saw the unconscious Galgomon and restrained Andromon on the floor. He turned his head to the remaining figure in the room, and set his widening scarlet eyes on GrandisKuwagamon.

GrandisKuwagamon's heart sunk and his eye became like a crimson moon as Alphamon suddenly appeared before him. The Royal Knight's stature was no longer that of a diplomat, but as a bringer of almighty wrath. He watched as it dawned on Alphamon just who was responsible for this.


Acting quickly, GrandisKuwagamon turned and stabbed his Gran Killers into the gate controls on pure instinct. The control panel started whirring and hemorrhaging sparks. The chains and pulleys stuttered erratically before stalling, the gates now open 80% of the way. This ensured that the gates could not be closed mechanically again.

Alphamon's eyes widened and furrowed with fury. "GrandisKuwagamon!" he shouted, reaching into a glowing, magical circle before him and drawing the Seiken Grad Alpha.

Within GrandisKuwagamon's compound eye reflected the light of the holy sword. As Alphamon began to charge at him, GrandisKuwagamon quickly reached down and hauled up the restrained Andromon, holding him in front of him as a shield. "Don't move!" he warned the Royal Knight.

Alphamon sneered and stopped his charge, although he didn't lower the Seiken Grad Alpha for a second. As angry as he was, he couldn't risk hurting Andromon.

"Easy…" GrandisKuwagamon said, staying behind the Andromon as he inched towards the eastern door.

"GrandisKuwagamon… Do you have any idea what you have done?" Alphamon asked him with tempered rage.

"Yeah… I did my job…" GrandisKuwagamon coldly responded.

"You just doomed this entire city!" Alphamon boomed furiously. "Why?!"

GrandisKuwagamon's eye narrowed, glancing down slightly as he moved with his back against the wall towards the gatehouse door. For a moment, it seemed as though he had to think about it. He didn't have an answer ready. However, he turned his gaze back up towards Alphamon and hardened his eye.

"…To show you what happens when you mess with me."


As GrandisKuwagamon felt his back meet the corner of the wall and the doorframe, he suddenly let go of the Andromon and shoved him towards Alphamon. Alphamon had to throw his arm out and dispel his sword of light to avoid hurting the Andromon as he caught him.

Throwing away his meat shield, GrandisKuwagamon turned around and dashed out the door that he entered through. As he ran out onto the parapets, he saw a dozen soldiers rushing down the wall and up the stairs towards him.

Seeing the flood of soldiers teeming towards him, he hissed and rushed forwards, driving his foot into the gut of a Strikedramon, the first soldier to reach him. As the Strikedramon doubled over in pain, GrandisKuwagamon jumped up and placed his boot on the lizard's back, using him as a footstool. He then leapt off of him and planted his foot on the head of the Guardromon behind him. He used the bronze robot's added height as a springboard to propel himself off the wall.

GrandisKuwagamon grunted and felt his footing falter, so he pushed off and lunged into the air, which happened to be towards New Terminal. He beat his wings as hard and as fast as he possibly could. He shot into the night sky and zipped towards the rooftops.

"Don't let him get away!" one of the soldiers shouted. "Ice Archery!"

A jagged icicle grazed by the scarab's head. GrandisKuwagamon swerved and weaved erratically as a barrage of attacks began licking at his heels. He winced as he felt a DeathMeramon's flames start to singe at his legs, but he hastily kicked the flames out.

He tore towards the nearest building and swooped down after he cleared the roof. He started flying low to the ground and began ducking and weaving between the buildings to try and lose his attackers.

"After him!" the Crescemon shouted, preparing to leap off the wall.

"Cease fire! Leave him!" Alphamon ordered, quickly walking out onto the city walls. "We have bigger priorities right now. Leave GrandisKuwagamon for one of the teams further in. The Demon Lords will attack at any moment. Return to your positions."

"Yes, Sir!"

Alphamon turned towards the soldiers. "Strikedramon, go and tell the officers to spread the word that if they encounter a GrandisKuwagamon without a military sigil during combat, he is to be considered hostile. Also, make sure that Gaioumon is aware that Leviamon has flanked us from behind and cut the city in two."

"Y-Yes, Sir!" the Strikedramon responded, catching his breath and leaping towards the courtyard.

Alphamon looked over the battlements and saw the demon army beginning to advance. "Here they come…" he murmured. "Prepare yourselves, everyone! Form an orderly line of defence!"

Alphamon's commands were but a distant echo in GrandisKuwagamon's ears as he zipped down a dark alleyway.

The mercenary looked over his shoulder to see if he was still being followed. It looked like he had lost his attackers, but he couldn't be too careful. As GrandisKuwagamon readjusted the Gran Killer on his arm, he noticed that his hand was trembling.

"There's no turning back now. Now that Alphamon's seen me, it's too late. This… This is my only way forward." As he flew amidst the darkness of the embattled city, his eye shone with resolve.

"So be it."

Outside of the city walls, the Demon Lords' army stood at the ready. Lucemon stood beside Demon, Barbamon, and Beelzebumon. Bagramon stood further behind, out of view, while Lilithmon had slipped off in the darkness.

The whole army waited, itching with anticipation. The adrenaline and malice was palpable. The wrath, the greed, the hunger, the superiority. It spurred the demon Digimon on.

"Remember the plan," Barbamon curtly reminded them. His bony fingers, covered with jewel-encrusted rings, curled around the Death Lure staff. A smirk crawled onto his face as he eyed the city rapaciously.

"And remember to load their data," Demon spoke cruelly. He strode forwards to the front of the army with an air of malicious confidence, his clawed fists tightening into balls. He took off his vestments and handed them over to a pair of PicoDevimon attendants. The pair of familiars carried his clothing off to Demon's siege tent.

"As if I need reminding," Beelzebumon said with a crooked smirk. He spun one of his Berenjena shotguns around his clawed finger and pointed it at the city. His trigger finger was itchy, and his body was electric with anticipation.

With a confident smile, Lucemon watched as the gates began to slowly open. The opening doors beckoned to him, promising prestige and riches that waited just beyond the walls. This would be his announcement to the Digital World - his declaration that he was back.

"It seems we were right to trust your mercenary, hm, Bagramon?" Lucemon said, smiling over his shoulder.

Bagramon stood in the shadow of the dark carriage. He didn't respond. He just quietly watched as the gates to New Terminal opened for the Demon Lords. Any misgivings that he had gave way to a quiet resolve. "I have removed my hand from the piece," he whispered philosophically. He was reconciled to his actions. There was no turning back.

Lucemon looked forwards and a conniving smile formed on his face. He turned around to address his subordinates, and he extended his arm towards the awaiting city. As he did, the orange of the nearby fire reflected in his cold, blue eyes.

"This is the moment that we have been waiting for," he spoke, waving his arm and offering the city to his army. "First, New Terminal. And next, the Sky Colonies."

He turned to the throngs of demons behind him and smirked.