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"Oh!" said Liander, as Impmon grabbed her by the elbow and tugged forward to run faster. They had made it into another wide chamber, this one with columns and several levels of balconies running the walls but no doors or stairs to access them. Kurata stood and ran his long fingers over a huge chain that trailed around one of the columns, and stepped back.
"I remember this place-" he breathed. Merin took his cold hand and found a strategic refuge behind a column.
"No avoiding a confrontation now," sighed Wizardmon, also hiding. "Get out of sight," he directed at Liander and Richard. "Here we go."
Above them a shadow stirred on one of the higher balconies but they were staring too intently at the tunnel they'd emerged from to notice. SaberLeomon took his time approaching, knowing he had his prey cornered.
"Finally; to exterminate you humans as you do us," SaberLeomon snarled, pacing to the center of the room. The humans edged around their respective columns to stay out of the line of fire.
"What are you doing in our castle, SaberLeomon?" Wizardmon asked loftily, stepping forward. Compared to the beast he was small indeed. Merin leaned around and stepped to back him up, eyes wide.
SaberLeomon bared his already impressive fangs. "I don't have to answer to a fallen Demon Lord such as yourself. Where is your strength now? Groveling at human feet to retain a vestige of your old power?"
Wizardmon smirked. "Vamdemon been feeding you lines, SaberLeomon?" he asked mockingly. "I know you could never articulate yourself half so smoothly."
SaberLeomon leaned forward dangerously and roared in fury. "Die with your humans, then!" and he let out another snarl, fur standing on end. "Infinity Arrow!"
Needles shot from SaberLeomon's fur in a barrage, sharpened tips glinting. Wizardmon raised his staff defensively, jumping to protect Merin, but some of the attack penetrated, tearing his cloak, ripping through his hat and jumpsuit. Merin screamed in pain and collapsed to her knees, a long needle running through her arm and several narrowly missing her and tearing her labcoat.
Kurata raced out into the open and to Merin's side as her entire sleeve became drenched in blood. Liander and Richard followed.
"Ah, lured you out!" SaberLeomon made a slow circle around them and pounced.
"Thunder Blaster!" cried Wizardmon, and SaberLeomon's wrath was averted momentarily.
"Wizardmon!" said Merin hoarsely, as Kurata tore her ruined labcoat to strips and tied a tourniquet around her arm. "Watch out!"
"Double Destroyer!" growled SaberLeomon, releasing a fireball from his mouth and straight at Wizardmon, who barely managed to dodge and left the floor scorched behind him.
"Eucaly Claw!" shouted Phascomon, but SaberLeomon swatted him aside like a fly. He hit the floor hard.
"I'll getcha! Badda-Boom!" Impmon propelled a small fireball from his gloved hands, but SaberLeomon raised his claw and swept it out of existence.
"Now watch your humans die!" SaberLeomon trained himself, ready to spring. Kurata's trembling fingers, stained with Merin's blood, began to glow faintly blue.
"You're all talk and no game!" cried Phascomon. "Come on, Prof!"
Kurata rose, taking in the rapidly paling Merin and SaberLeomon's threatening stance and his own partner. He pushed up his glasses deftly and, whipping out his digivice, ran his glowing hand over it.
"I won't be hounded by you any longer," he said coldly, and a burst of cerulean blue light enveloped Phascomon.
"Porcupamon!" the newly-digivolved Phascomon proclaimed his name.
"Oh, it's a teddy bear!" exclaimed Richard.
Porcupamon engaged SaberLeomon, but it was clear the latter was still much stronger. Even with Wizardmon and Impmon's combined efforts, SaberLeomon was wearing away at their defenses. Porcupamon stumbled back from a particularly vicious blow and Wizardmon raised his staff in preparation for an attack, only to have SaberLeomon's claw come down on him, cracking the golden sun-tipped staff in half and battering Wizardmon against a column. He landed motionless.
"Wizardmon!" Merin struggled to her feet and half-ran to her fallen partner, trailing blood. Tears were running down her cheeks, and she was grasping her digivice fiercely. "No! Digivolve! Digivolve! Now!"
Wizardmon wasn't stirring. Merin raised her eyes to SaberLeomon and then took her left hand and raised it to where the thick needle protruded from her right arm.
"No-!" cried Kurata, raising his arms.
But it was too late. She jerked viciously and the needle came loose and left her arm, which splattered Wizardmon with blood. "Wake up!" Merin yelled, voice rough. "Wake up!" And then her hand was enveloped in a dark glow.
"Oh, crap," said Impmon. The darkness spread from Merin's hand, leached around her and Wizardmon, and she ran her hand over her digivice, which glowed deep purple and then suddenly pulsed to black.
Wizardmon opened his eyes inside the black cloud, but they had turned scarlet.
"Yes!" hissed Merin, raising her arms, and Wizardmon began to grow. Wings sprouted from his cloak, and a mask covered his face. He was as large as Vamdemon now, black and crimson with gold-rimmed dark boots and gloves. His staff had turned into a trident.
"Phelesmon!" snarled the new Digimon, bursting from the dark shell of energy.
"This is all wrong!" shouted Porcupamon. "Wizardmon!"
Impmon took several steps back himself, shoving Liander further behind the column.
"What happened?" asked Liander. Merin's digivice was still pulsating dark light from beneath the congealing blood, although she was leaning against a column and Kurata had run up to her and forcefully rebound her arm. She seemed to be staring through him, eyes glazing.
"That's not Wizardmon's natural evolution," Impmon explained as Phelesmon stalked to SaberLeomon with a predatory look in his eyes. "Oi-cover your ears!"
"Demon's shout!" screeched Phelesmon, and his voice amplified until it filled the entire room, rattling the ceiling and sending dust and small pebbles cascading down. The humans covered their ears but it felt as though their eardrums were bursting. SaberLeomon roared in pain.
"Phelesmon, stop!" yelled Merin over the ringing in everyone's ears. Phelesmon turned around and gazed at her without recognition, then turned back to pummeling SaberLeomon, who matched him blow for blow. The castle shook around them.
"What's going to happen?" asked Liander, biting her lip hard. "Impmon?"
"Let's hope they wear themselves out," said Porcupamon grimly. It looked like a true enough statement. Both Phelesmon and SaberLeomon were landing enough blows to sufficiently weaken the other. Quite suddenly Phelesmon took wing, soaring around the balconies, senselessly destroying anything in his path. SaberLeomon followed him with his eyes, then deemed him no longer a threat.
"What are you doing? Phelesmon!" But he didn't respond and continued to send the stonework into disrepair around them.
"Enough!" called a new voice, and then, "Crimson Lightning!"
Phelesmon was thrown into the ground, toppling a heavy column along the way. He rose slowly, hate filling his unseeing red eyes.
Vamdemon jumped down from a higher balcony where he'd been observing the battle.
"SaberLeomon," he greeted. "You are not living up to your end of the deal."
SaberLeomon roared in frustration and swung himself back at Porcupamon, who couldn't dodge in time and slammed hard into a wall, shrinking back into Phascomon. "I want no more deals with you, Vamdemon! I want the humans dead!"
He rounded on Richard and Liander. Richard had been gaping at the proceedings and attempting to record the battle on his cell phone's camera, while Impmon stood protectively before Liander. Kurata was holding up Merin, who looked like she was far away, eyes still glazed in horror at what Wizardmon had become. None of the humans had the chance to move.
"Howling Crusher!" growled SaberLeomon, springing at them. Above them Phelesmon send his own attack down and, whether purposefully or not, smashed SaberLeomon aside. Together with Vamdemon, SaberLeomon rounded on Phelesmon and unleashed their attacks in rhythm.
Phelesmon was struck head-on and began to dissipate, layers of dark data melting from him until he'd shrunk into a tiny ball of black fluff and blue eyes.
Impmon jumped lithely into the air and caught him. "Botamon," he muttered. "Damn, that was a close one. You're lucky you're not a digiegg."
Botamon seemed more inclined to sleep than conversation.
"Run!" gasped Kurata, and Impmon grabbed Liander's elbow in his other hand, and she dragged Richard back toward the exit. They paused in the doorway, and froze.
Kurata was attempting to drag Merin, but she was not in any state to run.
"Is Wizardmon alright?" she asked weakly. Kurata gestured impatiently but then Merin swayed against him and he was forced to grab her shoulders for support. SaberLeomon, meanwhile, had raised his claw high above them, and was bringing it down. Phascomon stirred from the floor, but never made it in time. The claw descended with every intention of ripping the scientists to shreds…
And then a dark blur interceded before them, taking the brunt of the attack with a rough cry.
"You traitor!" exclaimed SaberLeomon, eyes flashing. "I should have known!"
Vamdemon straightened in front of Kurata and Merin, examining the frayed hem of his cloak where SaberLeomon's attack had fallen.
"You were not paid to attack the humans," Vamdemon said simply, eyes narrow behind his mask. "You were only supposed to trigger the danger response and help the Demon Lords digivolve. I did not hire you to dispose of potentially useful allies!"
SaberLeomon grimaced. "Humans as allies? You have debased yourself, Vamdemon. I shall leave you now, but rest assured when I encounter these humans again they will not live to tell the tale!"
And with that the beast walked off, gnashing his teeth threateningly at Liander and Richard as he walked past them.
"That's right, run you little pussycat!" Impmon yelled at his retreating back.
Vamdemon turned to survey the destruction of the castle and the pathetic state of the humans and Digimon that remained. A legion of Phantomon and Bakemon emerged from the upper balconies and floated down to surround the humans.
Kurata stepped back hastily, despite the fact that Vamdemon had just saved him. Vamdemon's blue eyes fell on Merin, who met his gaze with her own absent grey eyes and then swooned into Kurata's arms.
"Tsk, tsk," said Vamdemon softly, tearing his gaze from Merin's blood-soaked sleeve. "I suppose I should offer my guests some hospitality. Tea, perhaps. Will blood orange do?"
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A/N: Finally we get to the enjoyable plot twists. Soon, all will be explained. Well, actually, not very soon. Explanations come in part VII. So hang in there, for about four chapters. They're short, though, if that's any consolation.
Please review! If you're reading I'd like to know - any advice, what you'd like to see, etc, would be brilliant, since I can probably still incorporate it.