Part 1: The Five Generals

Chapter 9: Descent into the Twilight

Night descended, dark and ominous. The trees gave away little light from the waxen moon hanging aloft, so that all was shadow and stillness. Nothing moved in that eerie atmosphere, and all was quiet.

In the centre of that space lay the human girl and her Digimon partner, both sleeping soundly. They had been that way for a couple of hours, ever since Akari had fallen asleep, her head nestled securely atop Dorulumon's fur. He had taken longer to close his eyes, wanting to keep watch for potential threats, but his exhaustion soon overwhelmed him.

Amano Nene was perched a short distance away, overlooking the resting duo. Nearly all her preparations were complete. Her task would soon begin.

"Nene-sama," came the voice of her Monitamon, "we have prepared the area. There will be no chance of escape." The voice was filled with misgiving, but Monitamon would serve his mistress faithfully. This was what he had sworn.

"Excellent," she smiled darkly. Turning her attention back to Akari, her smile deepened. "The time has come."

Dorulumon stirred in his sleep. His dreams were filled with threats, veiled but ever-present. With a sharp jolt, his eyes opened, wide and alert. He peered into the omnipresent darkness but failed to notice anything. His heavily beating heart alerted him to the fact that something was not quite right. His fur bristled in reaction to an unknown presence. He slowly pawed to his feet, inadvertently awakening Akari.

"Dorulumon...what's going on?" she asked weakly, rubbing her fists against her eyes.

"Stay calm," he commanded, scouring the area for a sign of the enemy, "but there is somebody here." Akari stiffened instantly, her eyes wide and fearful. "We are going to move slowly away." If he were on his own, he wouldn't hesitate to find and challenge the enemy, but with Akari to think about as well, his only logical choice was to retreat, as much as that decision irked him. "Stay in front of me and don't make a sound."

"Okay," she whispered as she clambered to her feet, her head turning rapidly out of anxiety. She stood stock still, her fear overriding her good sense. Dorulumon nudged her back with his nose to keep her focused. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry," he advised, his own eyes darting to and fro. "Just stay alert. No matter what happens, we must stay together. If we get separated, there will be nothing I can do to help you, so whatever you do, do not leave my sight, alright?" His words sounded harsher than they were meant.

"I won't," she promised, fisting a handful of fur just so he knew she was there, an action they were both grateful for.

With deliberate slowness, they began to back away from their makeshift camp, their eyes flitting in every direction. Step after tentative step, they traversed the unfamiliar terrain, their feet sliding rather than stepping over the foreign ground. Akari yelped as she stumbled over something in her path. "What is that?" she questioned before a roaring sound drowned out her thoughts.

An enormous burst of flame grew into being, streaking towards them. The heat was immense, and Akari screamed in fear, freezing on the spot. Dorulumon grabbed a mouthful of her clothing and dragged her to the side of the fireball. It streamed by, charring the ground and trees alike.

Akari breathed heavily, her chest heaving from her spot on the floor, crumpled into a ball. Dorulumon did not like to see her like that. He knew from experience that fear could be crippling, and Akari was, unfortunately, a victim of that feeling.

"Akari, we have to keep moving," he urged, nudging her unresponsive body with his nose a couple of times. She looked at him with glassy, unseeing eyes. His heart clenched at the sight. "Who's there?" he demanded, his voice loud and strong, carrying on the slightest of breezes.

The only thing to greet his words was the faint call of a voice, then a whistling sound. Dorulumon cried out in pain as he felt something puncture his body. With no conscious thought, Dorulumon leapt over Akari, protecting her body from the ranged assault. "...Dorulumon..." she whispered, feeling something warm trickle onto her hands and face. Although she could not see, judging by the rasping quality to Dorulumon's breathing, she could guess what it was. "Dorulumon!"

He started to tug out the foreign objects, his mouth getting pierced by the pronged edges of the weapons. He was pierced several times by what felt like four-pronged stars. In the human world, they would be known as shuriken. His teeth rattled as he ripped the blades from himself, leaving ragged gashes that bled, rivulets of crimson running down his body, matting his fur.

His labours ended, his knees buckled beneath him and he fell into a muddled heap. Akari was with him in a heartbeat, wrapping her arms around his heaving chest. "Dorulumon..." she ghosted, her eyes pricked with tears.

"I didn't think you'd fall for my little traps quite so easily. Truly, you're very disappointing." Akari turned to face the harsh female voice that was approaching from her back. Standing before them was a young girl, a small Digimon clutched in her arms, an evil grin adorning her otherwise pretty face.

"Another human!" Akari glowed at the sight, not noticing the nasty way her mouth curled. "I thought that Taiki and I were the only humans here." She made to go to the girl but was stopped short when the ground near her feet exploded, showering her with dirt. "What in the–"

Akari looked to the spot and saw a crater had appeared. Near that crater was a small being with a television set for a head. It looked at Akari with a mournful expression before moving to the mysterious girls side. "Thank you, Monitamon," said the girl.

Akari moved back to Dorulumon's side, fisting his fur. "Who are you?" queried Akari, her hands on Dorulumon, feeling his heart beating underneath her palms.

"Who, me?" The girl seemed genuinely surprised. Her eyes narrowed as she stared down Akari, who impulsively felt the urge to run. There was something...wrong about this girl, something inherently...evil. It was clear for her to see now. "My name is Amano Nene. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Hinomoto Akari-san." Her smile widened as she announced herself.

"How do you know my name?"

"There aren't many humans here in the Digital World. Once it was discovered that two more humans were here, I made it my business to find out everything I could about both you and Kudou Taiki-kun. For an example, I happen to know that you possess a Xros Loader." Nene pointed at Akari as she said this.

Akari instinctively flinched as she realised that this girl knew what she was speaking about.

Nene smiled. "I also know that your Digimon is wounded." This time she pointed at Dorulumon's injured form.

Akari wrapped her arms around Dorulumon protectively.

"Akari," said Dorulumon slowly, attempting to get to his feet. "Stay behind me."

"No!" Akari cried, tightening her grip.

"I said, let me go."

"I refuse!"

"Damn it, Akari. We don't have time for this." He looked at Akari who was on the verge of tears. "This is my fight." He glanced out at Nene. "You, human girl. I may not like fighting those weaker than myself, but if you try to hurt those I care about, I will show you no mercy."

Nene's smile deepened at Dorulumon's declaration. "Your words are truly impressive, Dorulumon, but you are no match for me."

"Is that so?"

In response, she reached into the pocket of her jacket and removed something familiar. "A Xros Loader!" breathed Akari.

"So it is," said Nene, holding it before herself. "Reload, Sparrowmon." A green flash alerted Akari and Dorulumon to the arrival of a new enemy. Hovering above Nene's head was a mechanical looking bird with large wings and what looked like pistols in two hands before its head.

"Nene, do I destroy them?" it said, the anticipation in its voice very evident to Akari. Her Xros Loader began to glow just like Taiki's. She glanced down to read what it said.

"Sparrowmon. Adult Level. Mechanical Bird Type. Attacks are Crash Boom, Wing Edge and Random Laser." She looked fearfully to Dorulumon. "Can you defeat him?"

"Of course," declared Dorulumon strongly. It didn't matter that he was injured. Akari was in danger and that was all that he cared about. He would fight, he would defend her and he would be victorious. These were solemn oaths he placed upon himself.

"I wouldn't be so sure," gloated Nene as she stepped to the side. She knew just how devastating Sparrowmon could be. She didn't want to be in his way once the slaughter began. "Sparrowmon?"

"I'm ready," was all Sparrowmon said before he took off at high speed, circling and darting, dodging trees with ease despite the low visibility.

"Stay back, Akari. I'll stop him." Dorulumon sped off as well, his speed impressive despite his fatigue and the pain coursing through his body from the earlier shuriken strike. He bounded, his eyes scanning the area for a sign of his opponent.

A cracking sound echoed through the forest, followed by a low groan and creaking, and Dorulumon was forced to leap out of the path of a falling tree. Smoke trailed from the base of the trunk and Dorulumon had to guess it had been felled by Sparrowmon.

"Do try to keep up," goaded Sparrowmon, his voice carrying. "Try to make this interesting for me at the very least."

"Dorulu Tornado!" called Dorulumon, his tail blade swirling to create a rippling current of air which struck at a shadow or an afterimage of Sparrowmon. "Damn it..."

"You'll have to do better than that!" Haunting laughter filled the forest.

oOo

"Why are you doing this?" Akari was terrified for Dorulumon's safety. "What did we ever do to you?"

"Nothing," answered Nene calmly.

"Then why?"

"I hardly think it matters–" Nene was stunned into silence as an irate Akari slapped her as hard as she could across her cheek. Nene brought a shaking hand to cradle her face. "What in the–"

"Stop this...please..." Akari's anger was gone, replaced by a broken pleading. She didn't want to see Dorulumon die. She didn't want to see Sparrowmon die. She didn't want anyone to die. Call it naïve, but that was what she wanted. "Stop...before things get too far out of hand..."

Nene was rocked as a memory, long concealed in her subconscious was brought forcibly to the forefront of her mind: a memory of a time long past when she and someone so special to her were butterfly hunting. "Yuu..." Nene breathed. Her eyes fluttered before she refocused. "...What am I doing...? Sparrowmon! Stop fighting!" she screamed as loudly as she possibly could.

"This won't do, Nene," said a cold, deep, dark, calculating voice.

"That voice..."

"I see that I will have to take matters into my own hands..."

"No! You mustn't!" She desperately tried to reason with the owner of the voice, but to no avail as her Xros Loader glowed green once more and a new Digimon was revealed. Wearing a cape and heavy looking armour, the new figure spoke coldly.

"I will destroy the interloper myself." With that declaration, he was off at a pace.

oOo

"Sparrowmon! Stop fighting!" Nene's voice echoed through the forest to where Sparrowmon was toying with Dorulumon. Honestly, he could have ended the fight a long time prior, but he felt it more fun to play with his new toy before he ripped it to shreds.

"Nene..." he whispered, staying his bloodlust. He turned to head back to Nene. She would need him near her. After all, there was an unwelcome addition to her party that he did not like...

"Got you!" called Dorulumon as he pounced atop Sparrowmon who had been distracted by his thoughts. He wheezed as the breath was forcibly expelled from his lungs. He winced as Dorulumon's claws pierced his flesh. "I kept up," he grinned as he forced the claws deeper into Sparrowmon's being. Sparrowmon's cries were loud and long.

"Pitiable." Dorulumon looked up from his prey to see a knight, cloaked in darkness, writhing in shadow, appear.

"Who are you?" demanded Dorulumon, his guard up, his fur bristling. He knew, instinctively, that this foe was beyond any he had faced before.

"I am DarkKnightmon," was all he said before he moved faster than Dorulumon could react. Dorulumon was punched so hard, he flew ten feet away and smashed into a tree. As Dorulumon's claws left his body, Sparrowmon gave a final gasp of pain followed by blessed relief. The cutting sensation had been truly devastating. Now, however, he had to deal with DarkKnightmon.

"Why are you here?" he demanded hotly. "I was in control."

"You can lie to yourself if you wish, but to my eyes, you were about to be destroyed. Imagine what would happen to Nene if you were no longer around to protect her," sneered DarkKnightmon.

"Leave Nene alone!"

DarkKnightmon gave a snort of derision before refocusing on his fallen prey. Dorulumon was phasing in and out of existence, the data comprising his being flickering in and out of static. He had guessed that his opponent was strong. He just severely underestimated by how much. He had to be at the Perfect Level at the very least. There was no way he could compete against such a being, even if he were at full health.

"Your battle is at an end. You have tried your best and I commend you for your bravery, but such an attempt was foolhardy at best. You must learn your place in this world. It falls upon me to judge you."

Dorulumon forced his eyes open. "Judge me?"

"I judge you inferior and unworthy. As such, your life is forfeit. Farewell."

Dorulumon would not close his eyes. He would not give his murderer the satisfaction of him showing fear. Rather, he would face his death with courage and honour and dignity. He looked DarkKnightmon in the eyes as the latter prepared his attack.

"Wait!" The voice was clear and strong, albeit tainted by tears and sorrow. Dorulumon forced himself to look. He knew that voice. Akari stood there, panting from the run she had just performed. "Please, wait."

"Oh? You wish to look upon his death as well? Forgive me my haste."

"Please, spare Dorulumon." Dorulumon's weary eyes flew open at her words, and his heart clenched at what he saw. Akari was on her knees, begging for his life.

"No, Akari. Don't..."

"I won't lose you..." she whispered and Dorulumon's eyes watered. She turned her focus back to DarkKnightmon. "Please..."

DarkKnightmon seemed to consider her words for a moment. "While your request is a noble one, change cannot be achieved without sacrifice." With that, he thrust forwards, his lance ready to end Dorulumon.

"Akari! Stop!" cried Dorulumon as he watched her leap through the air, attempting to shield him with her body. He could tell that the lance was on a collision course with her and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

The lance struck.

A piercing shriek filled the forest.

Silence.

oOo

"Nene, it is time to make your decision," called DarkKnightmon from his place inside Nene's Xros Loader.

"I understand," replied Nene, her eyes once more devoid of life, the evil grin once more set upon her face. With a twirl, she turned her back on the battle, the bloodshed...she turned her back on the end of Hinomoto Akari and her Digimon partner Dorulumon.

To Be Continued...

oOo

A/N: Is this the end for Akari and Dorulumon? What of the powerful DarkKnightmon? What is his purpose in the Digital World? With Akari gone, how will Taiki react? Answers in upcoming chapters.