Chapter 17: A Covert Undertaking

"Does your partner know about this?" Piedmon asked calmly, carefully eyeing the figure reflected in the mirror. "No." IceDevimon replied, his voice tinged with contempt at the question.

"Very well…but I was under the impression that Nicole was the only one I was supposed to take orders from. Or have I been mistaken, Master?"

"It seems my partner is the one who is mistaken, Piedmon. I never released you from my service, so yes, you do still take orders from me." the Champion Digimon replied, his tone now positively frosty. Bowing slightly, Piedmon let the issue drop and straightened up. "Then what I can do for you, Master?"

"I want you to collect five more DigiEggs. And they won't be random ones either; I have five particular DigiEggs I want you to hunt down and send to me." Piedmon bit back a frown, annoyed that he was yet again being sent on such a trivial assignment. Wasn't one DigiEgg enough?

Hiding his irritation, the Mega toyed idly with one of the blue ribbons that flowed from the back of his jacket, enjoying the sensation of smooth silk sliding between his fingers. "May I ask why you want them?" he asked quietly after a moment.

"You may, but I will not tell you the answer." came the sneered response. Nodding, Piedmon let the ribbon fall from his hand and asked another question. "Then what are the five DigiEggs you want me to locate, Master?"

The clown Digimon then listened closely to each description that was given, mentally noting which Digimon reverted to that type of egg upon being deleted. When IceDevimon finished, Piedmon bowed low and murmured, "I will most certainly be able to obtain those DigiEggs, Master."

"I'm confident that you shall. But, that is only half of what I want from you." Curious and surprised, Piedmon clasped his gloved hands behind his back and waited, watching the reflection in the mirror intently. Seeing his expression, the other Digimon chuckled softly. "Good, I have your full attention. Do you know what DigiCores are?"

"Of course!" Piedmon snorted at the relatively simple question, then explained, "They are the most basic part of a Digimon. DigiCores contain all of the data that determines how a Digimon will behave, what it likes and dislikes, even what it will look like and Digivolve into."

"Yes, those are the better-known characteristics of DigiCores." IceDevimon agreed, shifting his ragged wings slightly. "But what else do you know about them?"

"I know that when a Digimon is deleted, it is the DigiCore that swirls away into the sky, searching for a suitable spot where it can re-collect and form into a new DigiEgg. A DigiCore is impossible to delete fully; some data will remain even after it is infected and deleted by a virus. Some say that Virus Digimon were created from the remains of infected DigiCores that slowly mutated over time."

"Very good. Are there any mentions of DigiCores in the tales relating to the War of Darkness?" At this Piedmon paused, uncertain about the answer. He was silent for several minutes, all the while reviewing all the stories he had heard and read about the ancient conflict. Finally, he was forced to shake his head and admit the obvious: "I can recall nothing being said about them."

"But Valdurmon scattered six data packets around the Digimon World, did he not?"

"Yes…but data packets are-" Piedmon stopped in mid-sentence, realization dawning in his mind. "Data packets are what less-informed Digimon call DigiCores! I remember learning about them when I was just an In-Training!" Glancing at IceDevimon, he continued. "So Valdurmon hid the DigiCores of the remaining six Seven Great Demon Lords after the battle? Impressive, considering that none of them have been discovered in four thousand years."

"Yes, well, that was the general idea of hiding them in places where no Digimon would even venture." IceDevimon said disdainfully, causing the Mega to frown in mild anger. "All that aside, I think I have discovered the location of several of the DigiCores. Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm that they are where I believe them to be, which is where you come in.

"Piedmon, I order you to follow my directions and investigate the areas where the DigiCores might be. I want this to be done in complete secrecy; not even your most loyal minions must know about this. While you do this, I'm sure you will gather the required DigiEggs. Am I right?"

Eyes wide, Piedmon nodded slowly, still processing everything that had been said. After a moment, he smiled and bowed, feeling exhilarated at the opportunity to discover the remains of some of the most powerful Digimon in history. "I…I would be honoured to do this for you, Master." he said, bowing again in gratitude.

"Excellent. Oh…if you fulfill both requirements for completing this task, I will reward you with more power than you have ever imagined having." Surprised that IceDevimon would offer such a thing before any action had been taken, the Mega Digimon simply listened as his master listed where he thought the DigiCores were, nodding occasionally as he realized that the locations were perfect hiding spots. This would certainly be an interesting mission, with great rewards at the end.

Smiling grimly, Piedmon turned and floated out of the room, eager to get his new mission underway. That unimaginable power would indeed be his, even if he had to delete the Four Holy Beasts to get it.

- - -

Several hours later, Piedmon stood at the outer limits of Root Jungle, scanning the northern horizon. The sun was obscured by a light layer of clouds, and the forest behind him was silent. Closing his eyes, he reached deep within himself and accessed his DigiCore, feeling a surge of power throughout his body as contact was made. The Mega had learned long ago that his DigiCore was the root of all his power, and this power could be tapped into and used in various ways. Taking a deep breath, he formed an image in his mind and muttered two words. "Clown Trick."

Immediately, Piedmon felt his body start to change, keeping his focus on the picture in his head. He could heard his bones grinding together as they grew, lengthened, or vanished altogether. His skin itched as thick fur sprouted and grew, quickly covering his body. A second later, he dropped to all fours, his body still changing dramatically. Finally, the transformation stopped, and Piedmon opened his eyes and twisted his head around to examine his new form.

His body now resembled that of a large wolf, with a coal-black pelt covered with jagged light grey stripes. On his shoulders, tuffs of fur stuck up to form 'wings' of a sort, their ends pointed and razor-sharp. Four well-muscled legs now supported him, each tipped with four dark purple and deadly claws. Piedmon knew from past transformations that a fur ruff protected the back of his head and neck, with amber eyes now gazing out at the world. In total, he now resembled a Virus Garurumon.

Sniffing the air, he smelled nothing of interest and set off at a steady lope towards the north-west, determined to cover as much ground as he could before nightfall. He had chosen this form because of the speed it provided; plus he was much less conspicuous traveling as a Garurumon than as Piedmon. Even though he now looked like a Champion Digimon, he still has the strength of his Mega level, something that would be very useful for this mission.

A day earlier, he had sent his minions out to spread false rumours of his journey to the North-West region of the Digital World. While he was indeed heading to the area, he had suspected that he might have to enter into places where his troops had not yet reached, if only to have a look around at what he would have to deal with once his army advanced further north. Now, with the revelation that IceDevimon was entrusting him with a special assignment, Piedmon was pleased that he had had the foresight to spread false information. It now provided him with a cover as to why he was leaving Root Jungle, and those annoying DigiDestined would probably not risk attacking him if he was with his army.

- - -

"This is my turf! Leave!" Piedmon snorted with amusement, eyeing the Digimon that stood before him. Off to his right, the sun was setting in a bank of clouds, painting the sky pale pink and orange as it left. But the beauty of the scene was being ignored, his attention focused solely on the short figure that was blocking his way.

"You have some nerve crossing me, Rookie." he growled, baring his fangs at the Goblimon. The Virus Digimon responded by taking a step forward and raising her club menacingly before answering. "As I said before, I control this area. And you're not allowed to cross it!"

"Oh really?" Piedmon chuckled, flicking his tail as he took a deep breath. "Howling Blaster!" A ball of blue fire exploded from between his jaws, aimed directly at the Goblimon. The Rookie didn't even have a chance to defend herself as the fireball engulfed her, the hot flames quickly deleting her data.

Closing his eyes, Piedmon concentrated and murmured, "Clown Trick." A golden ring materialized above the spot where the Digimon had formerly stood, glowing as the deleted data spiralled up into it and suddenly stopped, trapped by an invisible force from passing out the other side. The Mega watched as the golden ring descended towards the ground, then flashed once before vanishing. The captured data coalesced into a ball the size of a baseball before glowing white and transforming into a grey DigiEgg with small green dots.

"Perfect." Piedmon said, padding over to it and nudging it with the tip of his nose. The DigiEgg shook for a moment, then faded away, having been teleported back to the base in Root Jungle. The Mega had set up the system before he left; anything he touched could be instantly sent back to his lair with a mere thought, preventing him from having to carry a bunch of items around the Digital World.

After scanning the horizon for a moment, Piedmon set off at a steady pace, heading in the same north-westerly course he had been following since noon. The Garurumon's body was built for long-distance travel, so he didn't feel winded or fatigued at all. As evening slipped into night and the twin moons rose in the east, Piedmon allowed his mind to drift.

The encounter with the Goblimon had brought back memories of his time as a Rookie, so he decided to indulge in a bit of reflection as he traveled. After all, he didn't have anything else to fill the long night ahead of him.

* * *

His single eye opened slowly, blinking rapidly as his sight adjusted to the dim light of the cave. Around him were hundreds of pale purple eggs, with small creatures sitting in the spaces between some of them. Curious, he watched as one of the eggs shook, then cracked open and dissolved, revealing another small creature where the egg had sat.

Blurry images flashed through his head, but nothing was clear enough to make out. Still, he suddenly found his mind filled with new information. Those were DigiEggs around him…and he was a Digimon. A Kuramon, the same as all the other Kuramon who had already hatch and would soon hatch from the eggs. Blinking slowly, Kuramon found that he was suddenly tired. Closing his eye, he figured that he would explore when he awoke, or perhaps the time after that. Until then, all he wanted was sleep.

- - -

Tsumemon hopped along the ground, eager to get to today's lesson. Around him, other In-Training Digimon chatted excitedly about the visiting Gatomon, but he ignored their talk. They weren't really interested in what was going to be taught - no, they just wanted class to be over so they could go play. He was different from them; different even from the Tsumemon who were his brothers and sisters. He wanted to know everything there was to know about the Digital World, even if the other Digimon made fun of him for it. Information was important, and the more information one had, the more power they could get.

It was Tsumemon's dream to become the most powerful Digimon he could be, and he figured that he might as well get an early start by attending the classes Angemon hosted for In-Training Digimon. Ever since he had hatched, he had felt the need to stand out. This may have been due to the fact that he had been one of hundreds of other Kuramon, all of them clamouring for attention and competing with one another for the food that was provided.

As soon as he had Digivolved to In-Training, he had left. Several of his siblings had followed him, but the rest had stayed behind in the cave where they had been born. What happened to them, he did not know. Tsumemon had led the small group on a long journey, out of the wasteland where their birth cave was and over a huge expanse of grassland. Eventually, they had stumbled across Angemon's refuge, and had accepted the offer to stay. Since then, he had attended every class that was being held, soaking up all the information he could.

Eventually, he would Digivolve to Rookie, and then the real work of achieving his dream would begin. It was only a matter of time…

- - -

"You know that I don't allow fighting in my classroom." Angemon said sternly, his helmet concealing the eyes that Dracmon knew were widened in shock.

"Then Floramon shouldn't have opened her big mouth!" the Rookie shot back, still furious that he was being punished for a such a minor thing. Really, he hadn't even hurt his plant-like classmate, just given her a little scare. She had been telling her friends about how odd Dracmon looked, mimicking his gestures and speaking in a squeaky voice. Of course, the Virus-type Rookie hadn't liked being teased one bit, but had ignored the low laughter coming from Floramon's audience as best her could.

Then Floramon had done something he just couldn't let slide. Dracmon had once told her that he would become the most powerful Digimon in the world; hoping to impress the popular Rookie. At the time, Floramon had simply smiled and nodded, so he hadn't brought it up again. He thought she had forgotten about it. So he had been stunned to hear his own words come out of her mouth, spoken in that hateful, mocking way that only girls could do.

In response, Dracmon had charged at the group of Rookies, knocking Floramon down and pinning her arms to the ground. Enraged, he had been about to imply that nasty things would happen if he even caught her saying that again, but Angemon had intervened at this point.

Now he was standing in front of the angelic Digimon, being embarrassed in front of everyone just because one Digimon couldn't keep things to herself. Glowering at the ground, he waited for a response.

"That may be true, but I still can't let you off for attacking a fellow classmate, even if no harm was done. I must ask you to leave this class, and to not return until you've thought up an apology for Floramon." Angemon decided, waving his staff in the direction of the door. "But…but…" Dracmon stuttered, crushed by the punishment. This class was his life, and he never missed a lesson. To be asked to leave, because of what another Digimon did? It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. At that moment, Dracmon decided he had had enough. He didn't need Angemon to teach him anything else; he would go learn it on his own. And one day, when he was stronger, he would return and show the angel just how wrong he was.

Marching to the door, he turned and pointed a finger at his former teacher. "I won't forget this, Angemon! I'll be back, and then you'll know the meaning of the word fair!" With this vow, he turned and strode out of the room, not hearing the giggles that Floramon or her friends burst into at his parting words. He would show them! He would show everyone that they were wrong and he was right!

- - -

"Grrrr…" he let out a deep, rumbling growl, head lowered and fangs bared. Directly in front of him, a Virus Garurumon was doing much the same, fur ruff bristling in anticipation of battle. The pair were standing on the outskirts of a patch of dead trees, the Garurumon having appeared several minutes earlier and demanded that Sangloupmon leave.

As Dracmon, he had wandered all over the place, picking fights were he could and gaining strength from the defeat of those weaker than him. Since becoming a Champion, he had worked even harder to gain power, and his new, wolf-like form was an immense help. His light purple fur covered most of his well-muscled body, except for a large grey ruff that covered his neck and chest. Large crimson patches were evident on his ribs, thighs and tail, a clear warning to other Digimon that he was dangerous. Finely crafted armour plates covered both shoulders and wrapped around the sides of his head, extending into sharp points. Although the plates acted like a pair of blinders that prevented him from seeing to either side and obscured his red eyes, Sangloupmon found that he didn't need clear vision to be lethal. But that wasn't the most striking part of him.

All four of Sangloupmon's lower legs and feet were covered in blades. His front paws were tipped with sharp knives rather than claws, and large double-edges axes were attached to each side of the foot for added brutality. Finally, a large, slightly curved blade extended from between the second and third claws on each front paw, intended to inflict even more damage onto whoever made to foolish decision to attack him. Sangloupmon's back feet also had knives replacing the usual claws, but circular saw blades extended from the ankle up to the joint that connected the two major leg bones. In total, he was not something most Digimon would choose to mess with. But that's exactly what Garurumon was doing.

For several months, Sangloupmon had considered this tiny portion of the Digital World to be his territory, and he wasn't about to let another Digimon come in and claim it without a fight. Shifting into a crouch, Sangloupmon glared at the intruder, daring him to attack first.

"Howling Blaster!" The Garurumon sent a mass of blue flames at him, which the Champion avoided by leaping to the side. "Black Mind!" He quickly countered by releasing a shadowy orb from between his own jaws, which hit the other Digimon on the shoulder, making him stumble. Regaining his footing, the black wolf lunged forward, his sharp fangs suddenly resembling icicles.

"Subzero Ice Fang!" Turning into the attack, Sangloupmon partially blocked the icy teeth with his shoulder armour, but still felt some of the freezing fangs sink into his upper leg. Pivoting on one paw, he shook the Garurumon off, then attacked himself. "Sticker Blade!" Leaping onto the wolf's back, he started to hack and slash at the muscle and bone that was beneath the thick fur. Although the numerous blades on his front legs inflicted the most damage, the rotating saws on his hind legs helped to insure that the other Champion wasn't going to be escaping without help.

"Aaaawwwwoolll!" Garurumon howled in pain once Sangloupmon finally rolled off of him, his body nearly ripped apart by the vicious attack. Regarding the flayed skin and fur that once had been the wolf's back, the victor bared his teeth in pleasure. "Not so confident now, are we?" he sneered, walking over to gaze gloatingly down at his beaten opponent.

"Gah…just de-delete me." Garurumon gasped, barely able to talk. Panting heavily, he scrabbled desperately at the dirt with his front paws, but was unable to lift himself to his feet.

"Oh, I will. But I want something from you first." Sangloupmon told him, tail twitching as he bent his head to nose at a large hole in the Garurumon's chest. The other Digimon just looked at him, amber eyes clouded with pain. Letting out a short bark of laughter, Sangloupmon thrust his muzzle into the wound, ignoring the resulting howl of pain from the injured Digimon.

After a minute of searching, he found what he was looking for and set about enlarging the hole and exposing the glittering orb that resided deep within the Garurumon's body. Once he could easily open his mouth, Sangloupmon thrust his jaws into the DigiCore, feeling a rush of energy as the other Digimon's power flooded into him. He continued to tear away at it, finally stopping when only the outer husk remained. Removing his muzzle from the ruined DigiCore, Sangloupmon found that the Garurumon's body had vanished, seemingly having been deleted once the data inside the DigiCore was absorbed.

Shaking his head to remove any lingering traces of the meal from his snout, the Champion Digimon sniffed the air and decided that he deserved a nap. Wandering into the clump of dead trees, he entered his den and curled up, his mind already plotting how to defeat the next Digimon that was foolish enough to challenge him.

* * *

Piedmon was torn from his reflections by a new scent on the air. Slowing to a halt, he sniffed the pre-dawn breeze and realized that he was smelling his own troops. As ordered, they were marching due north from Root Jungle, heading towards the city of New Aldor. He estimated that the army was about half a day's march ahead of him, and resolved not to come in contact with them.

Adjusting his course so that he was heading in a more westerly direction that before, the disguised Mega set off at a fast trot, keeping alert for the specific Digimon that he had been told to delete.

- - -

Author's Notes: I apologize deeply for the long delay in getting this up. End-of-term school projects, final exams, and a major case of writer's block prevented me from making much progress on this chapter. But I do have some good news to share.

I recently created a blog where I will post extra background information on each chapter. You don't have to read it, but I though it would be nice for anyone who is interested in learning a little bit more about this story. The link to the site is on my profile page.