This is the last chapter. Thank you for reading. (And before I get asked, yes I have sequel(s) in planning stages.)
Chapter 12: Ready for Small Breaks
They lost a whole day sleeping in, catching up, and briefing the general, and various lieutenants that yes, Mortimer was Alphamon's equal and Partner. The meeting had lasted five minutes – Doruguremon worked fast on spreading word Lord Seraphimon himself had confirmed Lord Alphamon and Mortimer were Partners. The rest of the hour long meeting had been Mortimer trying to bang into their heads he was not to be called lord anything. Alphamon had sat back and chuckled at his futile attempts.
A surprising amount of things could be done in one day. Getting in contact with the local mayor had been a relative easy task: The Vanguards commander had been meeting with the man when Alphamon and Mortimer came by.
Mortimer explained in no uncertain terms that yes, Alphamon had been an idiot to ignore the human town as he had. Yes, Alphamon wanted to stop being an idiot. Yes, Alphamon was not the one talking right now because it would be too easy for him to be an idiot. Still. Could they please work out something like a liaison program so Alphamon could quit being an idiot? Oh – and so the town, a pleasantly named place of Peace Valley, could get back on its feet as quickly as possible.
The Vanguards commander called around to his fellows stationed nine towns closest to Royal Knights' keeps. For verification if such an offer was legit.
His counterpart in Gypsum laughed at him, "Dukemon X said we'd get calls like this. Yeah, they're on the level."
One of the members of the squad that had come to Peace Valley with them came back with a passenger. A sweet little thing, not much older than Kaminari, who had lost her mother and her right eye in the attack. Apparently she hadn't said a word since, going from a shy quiet to a scarred quiet. Dorugamon – a minor lieutenant – had been drawn to her like iron filings to a magnet. At first, Dorugamon had no idea why. Maybe he felt sympathetic with one so wounded – the right side of her head was covered in bandages as the local doctor had no eye-patch, and there had been no time to spare to order a glass eye. Maybe he wanted to talk to a local, and she was the only one not hiding.
It didn't matter what justification he used. It only mattered that when she rested her head against his side, he knew. There had been no prompting: The girl had begun to cry as soon as she touched him, knowing Dorugamon was safety. She told her Partner her name was A'lia. A'lia and her mother had come to Peace Valley a month ago. A'lia had come from a country in Human World torn by war; mother had moved here when papa died a pointless death. Then the shadows had come – and now A'lia had nothing.
Dorugamon had been spot promoted to liaison. Mortimer might not have finished his second year of premed, but he had been certified in first aid. It wasn't much, but between him and the keep physician, Sorcerymon, they could safely treat A'lia's wounds. An appointment was booked with Doc in Gypsum that same day. There was also the matter of ordering a bed for A'lia and rearranging Dorugamon's quarters...
Mortimer silently thanked whatever genius had come up with the binding Cross-World law that, in times of extreme circumstances a child became the ward of their Partner presuming their Partner was Adult-level at a minimum. In short: Dorugamon had instantly adopted A'lia once the Vanguards confirmed the two were Partners. Now Alphamon's keep had Mortimer to deal with – and a traumatized seven year old.
Oh, but it got better, in a way. When their offer of allowing refugees to move from tent camps to the keep (on a temporary basis) was accepted, more Digimon found their Partners. Good news in that they had strengthened ties with the town now. Bad news in that the – ah – redeployment was shaking the nerves of everyone from single (or now single) parents to the general to Doruguremon. The logistical nightmare...!
Reports – rumors, really – started coming in around mid day. Alphamon's keep was not the only one being pushed in to logistical "nightmares".
Omegamon X's keep had deployed a liaison squad. Actually, two squads, formed of volunteers co-lead by lieutenants WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon formed of six MetalGreymon and six WereGarurumon. It turned out one of the Digimon towns not bound to tithe to Omegaon X's keep was harassing the human town. The fight had been short and brutal – but the raiders left off.
And every member of the squads from the lieutenants down had found their Partners. The town sheriff, rumor had it, was in something of a pickle: He'd never worked with Digimon before; now three of his deputies had Partners. The local general store manager had no idea how MetalGreymon was going to fit in to daily operations, much less the store... Ten parents with children ranging in ages from infant to thirteen years of age found themselves flabbergasted when their children's Partners made appearances. Humorously, WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon's Partners were identical twin boys... who were six months old. The overworked single mother who had fled an abusive relationship now had well trained, if a bit confused, and willing help. Help she could trust.
Similar reports came from every keep, save Dukemon X's and Examon's. The latter's keep had no human town near it save Gypsum; what troops had Partners there had all ready found them. The former's keep had such strong ties with Gypsum every member of the keep had gone to Gypsum at one point or another. Those who had Partners had found them.
There was a surprising few adults who found Partners. A researcher could have had a field day researching why that was. At the time, nobody really cared.
The ten long-standing regents and their newest member, Wingdramon, called an emergency meeting over secured communication channels. Jewelbeemon's brain was metaphorically picked clean on how he dealt with soldiers and aids being "redeployed" to the towns their Partners lived in. (Also, from Doruguremon, a request for details on how to deal with having human children under foot.)
The keep physicians also called their own private meeting. Sadly, A'lia was not the only child (nor was she, in a heartbreaking realization, the youngest) whose parents had been lost in the attack. Nor was A'lia alone in having been wounded: Reports ranged from things as sever as missing limbs and psychological trauma, to minor things such as blade and claw wounds. Doc found he was going to need to do a lecture on human medicine stat.
Some legal finagling that same day produced an agreement between Doc and his Alma mater, Princeton Medical, had landed Mortimer with an apprenticeship. Doc needed the help; Mortimer wanted to learn.
Dukemon X sent word aid – as much aid as he could spare, in the form of manpower – was on its way. When it came to things like this, Dukemon X's troops were the most experienced.
Mortimer managed to get to bed by one in the morning. By five minutes after one, he was awake and sweating bullets.
"Aw cheerios," he cursed fervently. "Tomorrow's Saturday...!"
On the other side of the fireplace, Alphamon cursed. They had to deal with Mortimer's parents tomorrow.
The meeting was awkward for all of an hour. Then Mr. Pendragon proved that having a villa with a winery attached was not such a bad idea...
Six months. Half a year.
It took that long for things to settle in to a kind of normalcy. The keeps adjusted to what children were staying with them; a few birthdays had crept in and been duly celebrated. The towns were rebuilt. Digimon settlements tithing to the keeps visited their human neighbors, mostly out of curiosity. Being Digimon, what could kill a human had been a critical but non life threatening injury to them. They had had no idea how much trouble the human towns were in.
Training was ongoing for Examon, Mortimer – in the use of a short sword –, and Kaminari – in the use of enchanted armor. The training itself was starting to fall in to a routine: Daily work, homework (or rotation at Doc's), training, eat, sleep, repeat.
Looking at Gypsum spread out below, Examon sighed, content. His keep was sound – Wingdramon was a master planner in his own right. Those who decided to form tithing towns were established. The first tithe was going to be small, but the future looked bright. He and Drake had settled in to a routine now that school was back up and running.
Examon made a precision landing in front of Gypsum's one school. It had been rebuilt from the ground up due to structural issues. The town had figured, what the hay, might as well add a side building for the big students to get their learning at. It beat having to split up Partners just because their Digimon half wasn't human sized.
That was the best part about this school. They made an effort to educate anyone who wanted an education. Drake and Examon had a fast circle of friends who didn't care that Examon was a Royal Knight. Kaminari's dad was a Royal Knight and he was all right. Why should Examon be any different?
Mom and Lillymon had gotten involved with the PTA and found a job at the local garden shop. Better yet, she was becoming good friends with RhodoKnightmon and Dukemon X. Soon they'd have their own mini gardening club going. Ha! That's right... RhodoKnightmon did have a gardening club going with the ladies (and rare male) from the Digimon towns and Rosella, the human town closest to her keep.
A familiar fleck of dark purple wings blinked in his peripheral vision. Deliberately, Examon did not react, instead allowing Drake to jump off without issue.
"Oi." WarGreymon X stalked over to him. "You owe me a sparing round."
"Here?" Mic, his Partner, blinked.
"Now?" Drake also blinked.
"Why not?" Examon grinned.
WarGreymon X lunged at the larger dragon. At once, Mic and Drake got clear. Rumbles in front of the school between Digimon were common; everyone wanted to be sharp for when – not if – the Dark Ocean made another move.
"Gangster wannabe, by the ice cream shop," WarGreymon X hissed. "He and his Partner have been casing the school for four days now. His Partner applied to be a substitute teacher. Credentials fell through."
"Not so surprising," Examon replied, also hissing. A forty foot wingspan made for great cover some times. Throw enough dirt around, and it just looked like the two were sparing.
"Yeah. You guys have stricter hieing practices the then last school Drake and I went to. DEA fortified credentials or not, dad's not getting in that back door."
WarGreymon X's eyes bugged. Had Examon just said...?
A quirk of eyebrow saying, "Cover me?" WarGreymon X obliged when Calefwlch dropped low by miming a punch to Examon's jaw. Examon went "flying" back –
The gangster wannabe with purple wings must have been low on sleep, as he never saw it coming. Examon had the humanoid wrapped in a length of his tail faster than Astamon could blink.
"Hi Astamon," Examon chuckled, dangling the tail wrapped Perfect at muzzle level. Despite his speed, Examon had been cautious: Astamon's machine gun lay harmless on the ground, and his throwing knife was pinned tight in its sheathe.
Astamon growled, readying to rip Examon's tail to pieces to get free – only to stop. As parents had connection to their children, so too did Digimon have connection to their Partner's children's Partner.
Examon rolled his eyes. "I haven't been Petitmon since you and dad went on assignment. I'm Examon. Is dad doing something stupid?"
"But... But you're a Royal Knight! Tim got word... You kidnapped Drake, Kristy, and Lillymon?"
Examon took that as a yes, dad was doing something stupid. Better call mom...
Fifteen minutes later, Tim Author was being escorted from the building by his wife. "Escorted" was the polite way to put it: His ear was being twisted, literally, as his shorter wife pulled him out of the building by it. Lillymon was reading Astamon the riot act to the amusement of WarGreymon X, Mic, the principle, Fridgemon, and Drake.
"You two," Kristy growled, "have been on bloody assignment way, way too long! I am calling your bosses and demanding you be retired this instant!"
"But pudding! What was I supposed to think? Those photos, the news reports...!" Tim went silent with a squeak as Kristy twisted his other ear.
"You, of all people, should know the news doesn't always tell the truth!" Stopping next to Astamon, Kristy released her husband. "Do you think Lillymon and I can't take care of ourselves?" she demanded the both of them.
"No," Astamon grumbled, Tim answering with, "Of course you can!"
"Good. " Kristy nodded, determined. "Now, because you came very close to breaking the law, I am going to introduce you to the sheriff." Those who knew Sheriff Miranda exchanged evil grins. "Then, Lillymon and I are going to walk over to Doc's general store, and you are going to buy us two bottles of his best wine. And then," she interrupted before Tim or Astamon could protest, "we are going up to Sir Dukemon X's keep, and we're calling your bosses."
"...Honey?" Tim squeaked. For a man who had worked undercover at the DEA since Drake was four, he seemed quite frightened.
"There's a reason I want two bottles of wine," Kristy explained. Abruptly, she turned to Examon and her son. "You two!" she barked. "Class! Get to it!"
Examon and Drake quickly saluted – "Yes ma'am!" – before taking off with comical speed.
Just another day as a Royal Knight.