Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.


Chapter: 49/ Setting the Stage

Beelzemon gasped as pain flowed through every inch off his body. All around him lay the shattered remains of his weapons—his sword, berenjena shotguns, and Deathslinger cannon. Black feathers floated down from the air, coming to rest on him and the battered street that he lay upon. Drawing his claws together, he tried to push himself off the ground, ignoring the pain that tore through his back before a metallic foot slammed down on his sternum, pushing him back down. Beelzemon coughed and grabbed the foot, trying to force it off his chest, but to no avail. His strength was all but gone now.

"Congratulations," spoke up the owner of the foot. All three of Beelzemon's now-blue eyes looked up at a dragon-like creature with shining, metallic armor. Razor sharp wings flexed behind it as it raised its claws. Two, black feathered wings, torn and sparkling as data flowed from their torn ends, hung limply in their grasp. The creature hefted them slightly before tossing them to the side. "You held out for quite a while, even when taking into consideration the injuries I inflicted upon you. You have my respect."

"Save your respect and get the hell offa me," Beelzemon growled, one claw twitching as he dropped his hands to the ground. "This isn't over yet."

The dragon creature chuckled softly, applying pressure to the former Demon Lord. "Don't be ridiculous. This battle is over. You are not Gallantmon."

"Gallantmon?" Beelzemon furrowed his brow. "You mean Pineapple Head? What's he got to do with this? Since when do you know him?"

As he spoke, slowly, so slowly, his hand began to creep towards one of his Berenjena shotguns. He kept his eyes fixated on his attacker, so as to not give himself away.

"We just have past history," chuckled the creature. "And if you insist on continuing this fight, you will never get the chance to ask him about it."

Faster than his eyes could see, the creature's tail blade whipped out and stabbed through Beelzemon's. Beelzemon screamed as his hand jerked reflexively.

"Aaargh! You…bastard!" Beelzemon shouted, bringing his free hand to bear on the creature. New strength filled him as he pulled his claws tightly together. Orange light flared into existence around his fist, quickly taking the shape of a lion's face.

"Fist…of the Be—!"
A human hand fell upon Beelzemon's fist, and suddenly the light winked out of existence. Blinking in surprise at the strength that had suddenly left him, Beelzemon glanced over at its owner, surprised to find that its owner was equally as human with loose, brown hair flowing down his neck. His eyes contained a glimmer of amusement and…something else as well? For some reason, the way he was looking at him made him think of Jeri's kind eyes.

Somehow, that thought felt not only wrong to him, but offensive as well.

There's something different about this guy, he thought to himself. Something's…not right about him at all. He's not human.

Beelzemon shuddered as the human released his fist. His vision suddenly became blurry.

"Uh… Wha…what did you…do to…?"

"It'll pass," assured the human as he got to his feet. He turned up towards the dragon creature. "Did you have to beat him this badly, Maelstrom?"

"He is a ferocious fighter," explained Maelstrom, flexing his claws carefully. "I had to…persuade him to see my way of thinking."

"That does not include nearly killing our targets," said the human, glowering at Maelstrom. "You have your own goals and are free to carry them out—after we have finished our business. Not before."

Maelstrom pulled his tail free from Beelzemon's hand, and he grunted in response to it exiting his flesh. His vision continued to grow worse.

I feel…so…so tired all of a sudden…

"Anyway," the human continued, rubbing the back of his head, "the testing portion of our plan is done. Wherever Suzie goes from here is up to her now. We're moving onto our next target."

"I see." Maelstrom turned towards Beelzemon. "What about him? Do we take him with us?"

"Norn has already taken Lumemon. Another one missing will only cause complications. He stays here. However, I'm going to need to do something about his memory—and leave a little something behind for when we need him."

Kneeling down next to Beelzemon, the human placed a hand on the Demon Lord's face and he glowed softly.

"After all, if the digital world and human world are going to be saved, we need all of the Seven whole and in one piece."

Wha…? began Beelzemon mentally before the world blanked out around him.

Prometheus stood up and turned to face Maelstrom.

"All right," he said, raising one hand. Air warped next to him and took on a blue glow tinged with green, grid-like lines. The glowing blue aura began to rotate until a hole tore in the air. "I'll see you later. Try to stay out of trouble while I'm gone."

Maelstrom snorted, but nodded. Seeing this, Prometheus passed through the portal and disappeared, the portal quickly closing up behind him. Maelstrom turned towards the unconscious Beelzemon just in time to witness the Demon Lord's body glow and shrink, devolving into his Rookie form of Impmon. Maelstrom glared at Impmon for a moment before turning and stalking down the ruined streets. As he moved, his form began to change and alter, becoming more humanoid in appearance. Pushing his hands into pockets that were now forming as clothes appeared around him, Itsuya Takahashi gazed up at the sky with a contemplative look on his face.

His mouth and spoke.

"Well now… The next move falls to me."

He stood there for a moment longer, scowling up at the sky. After a moment, he shook his head and turned down into an alley, where he disappeared into the night's darkness, leaving only the sound of sirens and fighter craft to fill the city.

To be continued in Tamers Requiem, Book Five: Return of Shadows…

A/N: While the ending to this book may come off as abrupt, especially with so many unanswered questions, but I wanted to divide up the story a bit. First to give myself a bit of a reprieve in between arcs so that I can properly plan out the next one, and second to avoid another fic the length of 'Less than Human', which had been exhausting to write on its own. The opening chapters of 'Return of Shadows' will return to the second Takato and Marcus, delving into their adventures and some of the changes that have been brought about as a result of the latest upheaval, first from the X-Evolution events, and the events that have so far only been hinted at in this story. We'll also see the aftermath of this story with the Tamers as some old friends return to find things in a bit of a mess.

Until then. See you all next story. :P