Disclaimer: Digimon does not belong to me. That is a good thing.


RUINS OF BABYLON

Chapter 02

The Monster Who Walks in the Shadow of that Boy – City of Controversy


Where he was did not matter.

What he was doing? It did not matter either.

His presence was of such immensity that he could be anywhere in the Digital World. To him, it did not matter.

He only wandered. He had to wander.

It was necessary of him to wander, away from all other Digimon, for his presence was of a magnitude that lesser digital monsters could not hope to handle it. When you gaze upon the pinnacle of power he had achieved, good or evil make no different to the powerless; they are all terrifying monsters capable of obliterating everything.

He was different. He was unique. He was the greatest; both an impossible miracle and the most fearsome of weapons. How a world derived from the wishes and creations of humanity could give birth to an entity like him was a question without answer; an Arcanum better left undisturbed.

While he was not the God of the Digital World, he was also intimately connected with the world that gave birth to him. While his body was well-defined in Minkowskian space-time, his existence permeated an expanse far greater than the boundaries of his physical form. It existed and propagated in all directions of time and space, not merely past and future but into alternate dimensions and alternate timelines. While his eyes and ears were restricted to a certain position and moment in Minkowskian space-time, his senses could perceive things and events far beyond his actual spatial-temporal location. They projected and recalled information both certain and probable and processed it equally.

Thus, this magnificent, monstrous entity could feel the turmoil shaking, not only the Digital World, but those realms adjacent to it. He could detect the disturbance of the boundary between the Dark Area and the material realm of humans. He could perceive the fluctuations of power as a massive cluster of data transferred itself from one realm to the other. He could even detect the reactionary movement of his fellows in the center of the Digital World and the opposing force that restrained them from pursuing retaliatory actions.

Did the Crests come into being at the same time Yggdrasil assumed command of the Digital World, or do they predate even God? It was a question not worth pursuing, no matter how interesting it may be. In any case, the Crests were not Yggdrasil's creations.

The Crest of Dreams.

It was the nexus that connected everything.

If the spare data and processing budget spared by the human's digital networks were the foundation of the Digital World, then the dreams and emotions of humans were the primordial soup that allowed for the beginning of digital life. Yggdrasil was the great administrator, but it was not the principle.

Yggdrasil can be God because the Crest of Dreams exists. Without the Crest of Dreams, the Digital World would be frozen in eternal stillness.

The Crest of Dreams was well known and documented by Yggdrasil, the Akashic Records and the Royal Knights. While it generally allowed Yggdrasil to direct the Digital World as it found proper, it was also capable of independent action.

It created the Crests of Virtue and Sin, thus allowing for the existence of both Chosen Children and Demon Lords.

It pulled the 'Digi-Enthelechy' data created by Shibumi into the primitive Digital World, allowing for the miracle of evolution.

Its agenda, if it had any, was beyond anybody's comprehension, as its actions often ended up causing only trouble for Yggdrasil and its servants. Dreams permeated the Digital World, acting upon it and its inhabitants seemingly at its whim, granting power and taking it away from Digimon both righteous and vile. It obeyed no law and bowed to no authority. It simply was, and acted as it wished.

And then, it created Lucemon.

While the reason it created the absurdly powerful Child Digimon was obvious in retrospective, it was hard to swallow considering the evils Lucemon unleashed upon the fledging Digital World so long ago. But how could anybody complain or put up a resistance before the very lifeblood of their world, the very power that allowed them all to exist and grow?

No amount of prayer will make the sun shine brighter or become dim. Such was the unreachable, unfathomable nature of the Crest of Dreams.

And then, Dreams picked a Chosen Child.

Were Yggdrasil capable of portraying emotions, it would have face-palmed.

The Biggest Dreamer, Matsuda Takato.

Suddenly, a mere human held within himself the absolute creative power. Truly, he had become like a god. It was tolerable at the beginning, when the boy had no awareness of the power he wielded and thus could not use it, but then Lucemon found him.

"I want to be special."

The Devil listened to the boy's wish, and offered a vile contract. When the boy resisted, the Devil took away that which was most precious to the boy. If greed would not sway the child, then hatred and pride would.

The grieving boy took the seat of the Player and seized the power of Dreams.

And the Digital World trembled when the primordial Crest shone at its brightest.

Should he have put an end to things back then?

Maybe, but there was little point in dwelling on past choices. He had given Matsuda Takato the benefit of the doubt not once, but twice; the second being less than two years ago, when knight and Dreamer met for the first time.

He remembered; that boy's appearance. That child, he was terrified, broken and defeated; even as his allies succeeded in relieving the world from the unexpected threat of Reichmon, he had succumbed to the might of the second among the Royal Knights. Upon exposure to his immensity for the first time, the pitiful human's mind had almost shattered.

But, even as his body trembled and surrendered before his power, his eyes glowed with the unbreakable will of one who opposes the greatest of evils. His were the eyes of one who wished to live more than anything else. And the golden radiance of the Crest of Dreams flared defiantly, protecting his chosen avatar.

That day, he allowed Matsuda Takato to leave with his life. People complained, but his word is never challenged.

The circumstances had changed, though. Lucemon was free in the world of humans. That was simply unacceptable, and it had to be corrected as soon as possible.

However, he believed in diplomacy. Out of respect for the Chosen of Dreams, he would examine the evidence before imparting judgment.

He was the ultimate deterrent; the owner of the Siege Perilous that should never be roused. He was judge, jury and executioner, and the invincible last bastion of the Digital World against calamity.

"It appears…that a second meeting has become necessary, Matsuda Takato."

Where he was did not matter.

What he was doing? It did not matter either.

Alphamon turned back and began the long road back to Yggdrasil and his companions.

Of course, to one such as he, distance is only relative.


It was then that Lucemon noted he in fact had an audience. The Digital Field had been swallowed by the pillar of power, and thus he was now fully manifested for everybody to see. Those people already in the vicinity when he Realized were now staring in awe, marvel and fear at his pristine, winged form.

"Hmph," Lucemon murmured even as he preened at the attention. He made his many wings tremble slightly, and diminutive motes of light poured out of them like gold dust. It was a parlor trick, but he delighted in the 'oooh's' and 'aaah's' of the children present.

Pitiful humans. He thought. Your life has lost whatever worthless meaning it had, now that you have witnessed Perfection.

Humble, Lucemon is not.

This was a lively city, beautiful in its decadence, he thought. The insistence of Yggdrasil to separate the 'good' from the 'bad' like a moral sieve, and striving for only the 'good' to exist…there was no way he could agree with that. In that way, he rather liked the Crest of Dreams for its utter disinterest for either good or evil. It simply created. In the same way, he rather liked humans, filthy primates that they were, for their existence of permanently swaying between good and evil.

"You create rules and then you violate them ceaselessly," he spoke to the confused, yet captivated, audience before him. "You commit unforgivable sins every day, yet you carry on in a relatively stable society. It's admirable in its wickedness."

But he was not there to preach to humans, was he?

"Ah, Takato, Takato…" the angel spoke with affectionate amusement. "I wonder, will this become a debt I can cash in later?"

He knew the location of Lilithmon and the Tamers, or, at least, the general direction and distance.

His thoughts—for it is the prerogative of ancient beings to let their minds wander—went to UlforceV-Dramon of the Royal Knights. That blue knight…he was so proud of his speed…

Lucemon chuckled as he remembered that primordial war. It had been too amusing, to break that proud knight without even needing to evolve from his Child Form.

The Crest of Pride works on events and feats Lucemon could perform without its assistance, decreasing the time necessary to achieve them to the absolute minimum.

Moving from Point A to Point B is most definitely something within the scope of Lucemon's natural capabilities.

LEVEL: 666 SYSTEM: LUCIFER CODE: PRIDE

CAUTION! PURGATORY LEVEL 1

The Crest of the prideful flared a deep, bloody red, and then he was in front of the hospital, standing in front of a stunned Kuroyama Takako. With his back turned to Takako and the Tamers, Lucemon allowed them to bask in his radiance and the pristine beauty of his immaculate wings.

At Hypnos, the technicians were going insane after Lucemon's feat of teleportation. Jenrya and Ryo had said "screw it" and left Hypnos to assist Ruki. Juri stared down at her Digimon partner. Shakkomon was trembling; perturbed from its seemingly eternal lethargy by something that should not be called a memory. It was an imprint; a natural, reactionary, survival mechanism embedded in his code.

Lucemon turned sideways, the glance out of the corner of his eye roaming down and up Takako's form. Offhandedly, he made a shooing gesture with his left hand. The Crest of Pride flared on the concrete under his feet and the crystal Digimon fakes disappeared without a trace.

"Hmm…you have truly taken a lovely form, Lilithmon."

"Ah?" Takako actually found herself blushing at the praise. "Mi-Milord, I have no words."

The fallen angel chuckled. "Then do not say anything."

Takako's lips trembled as she struggled to find words.

"Lord Lucemon…you…you are really here."

"Yes," Lucemon confirmed. "Takato has done the impossible yet again." His cheeks glowed with childish joy. "You cannot conceive how proud I am of him." A pause. "I'm still smacking his head for his recklessness next time I see him, though."

Finally, his gaze turned to the Tamers. More specifically, on Sakuyamon.

Ruki, she was also frozen in midair by the sudden appearance of the beautiful angel. She remembered him most clearly—was that a vision? A dream? With everything she had learned she did not know anymore.

She remembered meeting him. She remembered the card. She remembered everything Juri had explained to them.

The 'Game Master'.

Takato's 'opponent'.

The one who stands in the center of Takato's nightmarish world.

The 'Final Boss' was standing before them without a care in the world.

"Ruki…" Renamon spoke inside the kernel, as if awaiting instructions.

She wanted to move. She wanted to act, to fight, to defeat that angelic monster and bring back those peaceful days.

But she could not, for she could feel it.

Takato…Takato is supposed to beat this thing…?

This…magnitude, this immensity, it had not been there when they met in that strange garden. Now that they met in a physical realm, Makino Ruki was for the first time exposed to the greatness that is Lucemon.

"Rejoice, Tamers!" Lucemon saluted them with outstretched arms. "At the behest of our beloved Takato, today I have come to assist you."

Before anybody could ask, he turned his attention to the gigantic crystal tomb that covered the hospital.

"You were having trouble with this thing, I believe."

"Ah," Takako cringed. "I'm terribly sorry, milord, but it would regenerate faster than—"

"I am not scolding you, Lilithmon," Lucemon clarified. "Destructive power has never been your forte. Besides…"

The Child Digimon gestured vaguely towards the crystal megalith, commanding the Crest of Pride to eliminate it. His capability to destroy the crystal with enough applications of Grand Cross was acknowledged, and the glowing violet formation was annihilated; not even lingering data was left.

"Umu," Lucemon uttered as he nodded with satisfaction. "So, shall we go check inside—"

A glowing orange blade fell upon Lucemon in a mighty swing.

The attack was stopped effortlessly, easily caught by Lucemon's right hand. A thin leg moved in a flash, striking the owner of that energy sword right in the middle of his torso. For a moment, the Cyborg Digimon was frozen on the spot, the concentric circles of the Crest of Pride radiantly turning around him for that lingering moment until he was blown away like a baseball. He flew at barely subsonic speed until he 'just so happened' to crash into SaintGalgomon two blocks away, who 'just so happened' to have his barrels open and ready to fire. The impact made SaintGalgomon fall on his back, and dozens of rockets were thus fired aimlessly and recklessly.

"Akiyama Ryo. So that's the one who has Millenniumon as partner?" Lucemon snorted. "What a rude, reckless child."

He chuckled in amusement as the incomplete barrage SaintGalgomon unleashed wreaked havoc in the vicinity.

"Ah, ah, look at the mess you've done." He shook his head and made clicking sounds with his tongue. "How you guys make it without Takato is beyond me."

Ruki finally broke through the spell that was Lucemon's very presence when he took the first step towards the hospital.

Lucemon raised an eyebrow when Sakuyamon landed in front of him, standing defiantly with her staff held low and ready to strike.

"What now?"

"What…" Ruki shook her head. Her voice had come out awfully weak.

She was afraid.

This Digimon terrified her. She could only wonder how Hirokazu and Shiuchon were faring. And, of course, it had to be the goddamn Ryo who could attack without being affected.

"What…what are you doing here!?"

Lucemon glanced up at the sky for a second before looking back at Sakuyamon.

"There is not a short answer to that. But, really, you Tamers need a better grasp on your priorities."

He pointed at the hospital behind her.

"That place," he pointed out. "For all you know, everybody in there is already dead."

Ruki felt her heart being gripped and squeezed by an invisible hand. As annoying as it was, he had a point: what properties did that crystal have? In what ways did it affected those trapped within? Furthermore, asphyxiation was a frightening possibility.

But…

Katou Juri's voice suddenly filled the Tamers' ears.

"Shao-chan, please stay with Ruki! Everyone else, please check on everybody in the hospital! Ryo-san, please go straight to Takato-kun's room!"

Ruki sighed in relief. Thank you, Katou.

"Ye-Yes!" As if pulled out of a dream, the Tamers were released from the haze Lucemon's very presence had swallowed them into, Jenrya and Terriermon ending their combination. When they moved to act upon Juri's commands, the angel smiled in something that could be called approval.

"Hmm. Smart children."

With the Tamers gone, Lucemon and Takako were pinned between Sakuyamon and Cherubimon.

"Now, talk."

Lucemon chuckled at Ruki's rude speech.

"Aren't you a bold little one, little Alraune? It is rather endearing, how you expect me to take you seriously."

He turned his back to Ruki to stare at the distant towers of the Metropolitan Government Building.

"I do not like repeating myself, so, if you truly want to discuss matters, gather your companions and meet me at that place you call Hypnos. It's where you always have your meetings, is it not?"

As if readying them for flight, Lucemon made his wings sway a little.

"Wha—!" Ruki exclaimed when she realized Lucemon intended to leave. "What do you—you're not getting away—!"

Her attempt at grabbing Lucemon was interrupted by the fallen angel's intense glare. Once more, she was paralyzed by his immense presence, this time laced with more than a tinge of dark, harmful intent.

"You do not want to do that, Doll of the Dreamer."

Ruki could feel her innards being churned by a painful gripping hand. Her legs, Sakuyamon's legs, trembled uncontrollably and threatened to give out.

"To think you are worthy of laying hands on me…your shamelessness knows no boundary, pitiful fake."

Again, he turned his back to the paralyzed girl. Lopmon's and Shaochung's Ultimate form did not even register in his awareness.

"Wha…fake…?" Ruki muttered and a phrase long forgotten, the rambling of a madwoman, returned to itch in her mind like the prodding of a naughty little wasp.

"You are not Makino Ruki."

"I have no reason to explain things to a pathetic mongrel, not even worthy of touching my Takato's shadow."

But this was still Makino Ruki, former Digimon Queen, ice cold Tamer. In all her fear, his words still fueled a powerful flame that was her own personal pride.

"What…did you say…?"

Lucemon…he laughed. It was not laughter suitable for his lovely child-like appearance. It was something ugly and wicked, the mocking howl of a naughty devil. Cherubimon took a few steps backs, looking like it wanted to be anywhere but there. Takako also put some distance between herself and her lord, but that was because she wanted a better view of this most rare of shows.

"Do you not know why Takato never mentioned me to you? Why he kept the Game to himself, hiding his burden even from the one he called 'his best friend'?"

Those words, 'best friend', were like a needle stinging Ruki's heart.

No, no, she did not want to hear this from him…!

"It's because you are worthless, girl. You and the whole lot of you. Your role ended when D-Reaper was stopped. Against our might, the might of the Great Demon Lords, your feeble powers are meaningless. You pitiful pawns are no longer of use."

"No…"

"He brought your partners back as a last gift for you! He wished for you to move on with your lives, happily immersed in your peaceful delusions! He meant to discard you all along, to fight the battle on his own! He does not need you anymore!"

"Shut up!" Ruki barked back. "Takato's not—"

"Not like that, you say?" A mockingly grinning Lucemon interrupted, staring at Ruki as if she had said something utterly stupid. "So you think you know Takato?"

A flicker of red, and Lucemon was suddenly not in front, but standing right next to her, glancing dismissively at her profile.

"Pitiful girl, humans wear masks all the time. You constantly adjust your behavior to match the social situation, always thinking of your personal benefit."

A second flicker and he had moved to the opposite side, his mocking smirk unfaltering.

"Whether it is to fit in a certain clique, to apply for a certain position, or to attract a member of the opposite gender; you craft the appropriate mask and wear it over your true selves as a means to maximize the profit out of the social experience. You are no exception, Alraune-chan."

He was suddenly standing behind her, his back facing her own.

"You can barely stand Shiota and Kitagawa, but you will not act against them anymore. Now that you have become part of 'the team', you desperately cling to it. You no longer wish to go back to being that cold-hearted bitch from before, do you?"

"It's…it's not like that…"

Lucemon grinned in merry enjoyment, Even with her face partially covered by that golden helmet, her reactions were so clear and refreshing…! The way her body shook in response to her words, it was so amusing!

"And you're trying so hard, oh you pitiful girl! You're trying so hard, to cling to your belief that the Takato you've known is the real Takato! Even if you already know, that was just the mask he masterfully crafted to deal with you!"

The flame regained intensity in Ruki's heart. Sakuyamon quickly turned around to glare at the angelic Digimon.

"Don't…! Don't speak of Takato like that!"

"No, YOU don't speak of Takato like that, insect!" Lucemon roared in response, paralyzing Ruki and Cherubimon with the intensity of his anger. "Saying his name so familiarly! So preposterously! A worthless cur like you should just disappear!"

Glaring intensely at her half-covered face, Lucemon took a step forward. Sakuyamon immediately took a step back. Lucemon was much shorter, but Sakuyamon felt she was being stared down nonetheless.

"You think a doll like you can speak of 'friendship'? You think you can actually craft 'bonds' with other people!? With Takato? Are you really so deluded as to believe you two were truly friends!?"

Ruki gritted her teeth. His presence terrified her, but…but…she just could not let him speak to her like that!

"Takato is…my…best…"

"Your best nothing!" Lucemon roared. In the distance, the Tamers that had hurried to the hospital rushed back outside, alarmed by the sudden loudness of Sakuyamon's and Lucemon's exchange.

"It was never about friendship! You only wished to believe you had a bond with him, and he only cared about the peace of mind he gained by being with you! It was merely pathetic selfishness that drew you to each other! Nothing but licking each other's wounds!"

"We're not…!" Like that…

The Crest of Pride flared brilliantly, and Ruki gasped when she felt an alien force pulling inside her body.

"Wha…what is this…!?" She cried out as the invisible force became gradually painful…

"Tch!" Lucemon spat when the crimson of his Crest was suddenly consumed by golden radiance.

Three concentric circles had appeared under Ruki's feet, the three surrounding by two more circles with the invocation "APO PANTOS KAKODAIMONOS" written in letters of light between them. A sound like glass breaking marked the dispelling of Lucemon's Crest and the fadeout of the strange power that tried to bring harm to Makino Ruki.

Sakuyamon felt on her hands and knees, panting heavily as she was released from that terrible power.

"Wha…ugh…eh?"

The interrogation came upon glancing up at Lucemon, for he wore, by far, the most child-like expression he had shown since his appearance. He was still glaring at her, but he was also biting his lower lip, and his eyes glimmered with something resembling…disappointment? Scorn? Betrayal? Jealousy?

Then he spoke. Very quietly, and only Sakuyamon managed to catch it.

"…stupid Takato."

Ruki had no time to ponder the sheer cuteness—because 'cute' was the only way she could call that tone of voice—when Lucemon's hands seized her head and gripped it so that she would fix her gaze on his furious eyes.

"Let me make this clear, Makino."

"You know nothing. You are nothing. And Takato does not care about you; he has never done so."

His face drew closer. Justimon and HiAndromon saw this as a terrible threat and moved to separate them, but a new activation of the Crest of Pride blew them both away as if they had been struck in their chests by a powerful fist.

"He only cares about the Game now."

He moved even closer, entirely filling Sakuyamon's field of view. He licked his lips in a way that made Ruki shudder for some reason.

"He only cares about me now."

His face further inched towards hers until their noses were but a millimeter apart. She could not see his wicked, somewhat salacious grin, but she could most definitely feel it.

"Takato. Is. MINE."

A halo of red surrounded Lucemon; the light of his Crest activated one last time, and Sakuyamon then found herself released from the terrible vice-like grip.

Lucemon was gone.


From the height of his throne in the crystalline depths of his realm, GranDracmon looked down at the human figure encased in a violet prism.

The one he had caught two weeks ago was merely a projection; a digital extension of an inert body. Takato had easily reproduced what Shibumi had done in the past. GranDracmon found him snooping around in the outer edges of his territory. It had been obvious that it was exactly what Takato wanted, but the Vampire Lord was not one to throw away such chances.

An avatar was worthless to him. To lure Lucemon, he needed the real thing. The two weeks he needed to reproduce Lucemon's Gate of Deadly Sins.

He could not dominate Matsuda Takato. His mind was a mental fortress; the Crest of Dreams an invincible guardian. Even if his body was at its weakest, Takato's brain remained active and extremely focused.

This boy had plans, and GranDracmon had no way to get them out of him.

Torture?

His body would break down right away, and then he would have nothing.

He could only lock him in a prison of crystal. Even now, that the avatar had been replaced by the real thing, the boy's encased form that should be harmless felt like a wordless challenge in the very center of his throne room.

What should have been a crystalline souvenir felt like a sword of Damocles.

Lucemon already knew what happened. It was just a matter of waiting for his arrival. Preparations had to be made, though.

Meanwhile, the boy remained in his beautiful prison, undaunted and unperturbed. He, too, waited. And while he waited, he worked hard.

The Alternate Path that he had made possible also carried the possibility for an indisputable victory.


In Yamaki's words, Lucemon had appeared instantaneously. That was what he told the Tamers. The angel Digimon had emerged unannounced in the middle of the Hypnos Control Room, placidly and almost boringly examining his surroundings. Why should human machinery impress the greatest of Angel Digimon?

The humans in the room had been rendered utterly frozen; stunned into silence by the sudden presence of that magnificent, terrifying being.

"This place is worthless to me," he had declared after several seconds of silence. "I cannot even feel his presence here."

Lucemon had walked away this time instead of relying on his apparent teleportation powers. The security cameras revealed that he had made his way to the meeting room where Yamaki and the Tamers often gathered. They found him there, his hand stroking the synthetic leather-like surface of one of the chairs with admittedly odd interest. He had obviously noticed their approach; once the first of them, Ruki, walked into the room, the angelic Digimon chuckled and claimed the seat he had been studying.

Everybody would realize this in the course of the afternoon, but Jenrya was the first to figure out that it was the same seat Takato had used on that meeting after the first attack on the first day of school.

Lucemon quietly wondered if the others had even noticed Kuroyama Takako had followed them all the way there.

Makino Ruki would not wait for Yamaki or their unofficial leader, Katou Juri, to initiate the proceedings.

"Alright, let's make this clear once and for all," she barked out. "What do you want from Takato?"

The angel had assumed they would ask about the crystal, or the fact Takato had disappeared.

"Interesting priorities, Alraune. You are truly an admirably loyal little doll, are you not?"

Ruki released something resembling a groan.

"Just…answer."

The Child Digimon rested his left elbow on the office chair's arm rest, his merry eyes dancing from Tamer to Tamer and from partner to partner. His left cheek fell to rest on his closed left fist; he perfectly looked the role of a bored child-king.

"I have no reason to explain things to pitiful pawns…but I guess I will indulge you this time. Be grateful, children, and never assume Lucemon is anything but generous and magnanimous."

They understood. They understood clearly. Juri had explained the Game to them, after all.

They knew they were Takato's 'pieces', and it was obvious the reference to their status as 'pawns' made them uncomfortable.

Of course, Katou Juri does not know of Hegemon's Sovereignty and The Black Covenant.

Lucemon chuckled at the sight of a quietly furious Makino Ruki seated across the table.

"Very well," the angel continued. "What I want from Takato, you ask?" A pause. "I will put it this way."

His smirk became so naughty Jenrya considered covering his sister's eyes.

"If I were a woman, I would bestow upon him a bounty of copulation feats that would rival the gods, and let him lay his head upon my bosom of such impressive majesty—because I would be a woman so hot, no other woman would compare and he would LOVE ME—, and we would talk the world away of his immortal adventures between my copulation feats, and greatly feast in his honor."

An eloquent pause to let those words sink in.

"And the harem of willing second-tier women who would have sworn to assist in spreading his seed to the four corners of the Earth would be his protection and comfort as I went forth and spread the word of Matsuda Takato to the masses."

Silence.

The sight his eyes captured, Lucemon knew, would be engraved in his DigiCore as a precious memory that would live through the ages. He would have to share this memory with Takato one of these days.

The sound of a lighter slipping off Yamaki's fingers and falling to the floor.

Katou Juri had sunken her body in her chair, her legs fidgeting and her face dropped and hidden behind her long hair. Lucemon wondered just what was in her mind.

"Lilithmon, it appears I have broken the Tamers," he suggested, her eyes never leaving the fish-out-of-water looks on the young humans' faces.

"They merely cannot appreciate your unique brand of humor, milord," Takako replied. "More importantly, milord: would I be one of those second-tier women allowed to carry onii-sama's seed?"

"Of course, dear."

"Yay!"

The two great lords of the Dark Area calmly waited for the pitiful humans to regain their bearings. Takako even had the time to pull out a nail file from…somewhere, and began to manicure herself. At the sight of the young girl fixing her nails, Lucemon took a good look at his own. Naturally, his were perfect and needed no retouching.

Of all the people he expected to speak first, Lucemon had to admit he never considered Terriermon. It made a lot of sense in retrospective, though.

"…that's so going into the blog."

"Oh, it should," Lucemon replied, offering an amiable smile to Jenrya's partner. "Lilithmon here and I have plenty of those."

The gleam in Terriermon's beady eyes was a cue Lucemon did not really need. With a glance to his fellow Demon Lord, he commanded Takako to put her file away and contribute to the important discussion.

The little girl cleared her throat and spoke while wearing an angelic face.

"Matsuda Takato does not need Twitter. He's already following you."

Lucemon nodded as if approving of the demoness' performance. His turn.

"Matsuda Takato can make female breasts grow by massaging them."

Makino Ruki twitched.

She twitched some more when she noticed Katou Juri glancing down at her chest with something resembling melancholy on her face. Anyone would believe Katou Juri's breasts are large enough for her age, really.

"Chuck Norris can light ants on fire with a magnifying glass, at night. Matsuda Takato can light a magnifying glass on fire with an ant, from outer space."

"Ooh, technical!" Terriermon giddily commented while he took notes…somehow.

"When Matsuda Takato looked in the mirror, the mirror shattered, for no one gets between Matsuda Takato and Matsuda Takato."

An eager Takako offered a new fact not even a second after Lucemon was done with his.

"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is an obscure reference to Matsuda Takato's four limbs."

Lucemon's turn.

"If you add Matsuda Takato to your friends list in any social network, all your other friends will instantly disappear. You don't need them anymore."

Takako giggled.

"Practice doesn't make perfect. Matsuda Takato does."

Terriermon chuckled giddily, and Lucemon nodded in approval once more. Makino Ruki looked like she intended to rip her hairs out, which was always a plus in his book. When she spoke, it was in an ominous voice that clearly belied her exasperation.

"Will…you…knock it of alrea—!?"

"Quiet, doll," Lucemon declared without even bothering to look at her. "Now come the Digimon-themed facts. Lilithmon?"

"Umm…ah!" Takako cutely let her right fist fall on her left palm. "It is said that nobody can escape from Alphamon's attack. Alphamon has yet to escape from Matsuda Takato."

"Hmm," Lucemon uttered. "Might be hard to top that one. How about…Matsuda Takato and Alphamon once made a bet. The loser had to become a Royal Knight."

"Pzzt!" Takako made a sound like a buzzer going off. "Not good enough, Lucemon-sama!" Smirking with confidence, she continued her word assault. "When you play the Matsuda Takato card, you win every game within a 144-kilometer radius. Even if it's not the Digimon Card Game."

"Hmm…pretentious little one. Very well," Lucemon retorted, before easing back on his seat and switching the way he crossed his legs. "The reason three Royal Knights still remain unknown is because they're afraid Matsuda Takato will beat them again."

"Oooh, that's a smart one!" Lilithmon squealed, revealing in the sudden competition. "The Royal Knights would all dress as Matsuda Takato for Halloween, but they reserve that honor for Alphamon. Then Takato beats him for his insolence."

"Matsuda Takato can whistle in Digi-Code."

"Ahaha, that doesn't even make sense~" Lilithmon laughed. "It is believed the Seven Great Demon Lords are imprisoned due to the Royal Knights. That's true if by 'Royal Knights', you mean 'Matsuda Takato's stern gaze'."

Lucemon recoiled as if physically hurt.

"Ooh, you want to play that game, girl? As you wish." Lucemon's wings wagged behind his back. "'Alphamon' and 'Omegamon' are just petnames for Matsuda Takato's left and right testicles."

"Pffft!" Not only Terriermon, but Hirokazu, Kenta and—much to everyone's shock—Juri as well, burst into unbridled giggling. Ootori Reika joined in upon catching a glance of Yamaki face-palming by the door. Of course Hypnos had been aware of Terriermon's ridiculous blog.

Before Takako could have her turn, however, Lucemon continued his merciless offensive, for no one but Lucemon is allowed to have the last laugh.

"The reason Examon attacks from orbit is because he believes Matsuda Takato cannot reach him all the way up there. He is obviously a delusional fool."

"When Omegamon fights Matsuda Takato, the only future he sees is pain."

"Chrome Digizoid is made of Matsuda Takato's discarded skin cells."

"The 'Warrior Ten' is just a fancy name for Matsuda Takato's fingers."

"Yggdrasil is the 'God' of the Digital World. Matsuda Takato is Yggdrasil's God."

"Matsuda Takato once took a picture of what's inside his pants. Thus was born Leviamon."

"The reason Matsuda Takato never wins at the Digimon Card Game is because Matsuda Takato does not play games."

Lucemon paused, his eyes drifting to Akiyama Ryo for a moment.

"Matsuda Takato once defeated Akiyama Ryo at the Digimon Card Game. His winning move involved a Joker, a 'Get out of Jail Free' Monopoly card, the Yu-Gi-Oh! Card 'Dark Bribe' and a green #4 card from the game UNO."

Lucemon then looked at the ceiling.

"The reason Matsuda Takato allows the Seven Great Demon Lords to escape from the Dark Area is so he can beat them back in there."

Finally, his smirking gaze fell on the poor Tamers, conflicted between screaming in outrage and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

"…the last fact was killed by Matsuda Takato."

All eyes followed the flight path of the large conference table after it was flipped by Makino Ruki.

Her frustrated scream made the windows of the Metropolitan Government Building vibrate ominously.


"That was quite amazing, Alraune," Lucemon said with an appreciative voice while Yamaki and the male Tamers finished placing the table back in its proper place and position. "Have you considered a career in standup comedy?"

"Be quiet, angel," Ruki spat back, no longer bothering for manners. She was rarely rude in this particular way, but this Digimon was nothing short of infuriating. "I asked a question."

"Right, right…'what I want from Takato', I believe it was."

The nails of his left hand made an annoying drumming noise on the chair's armrest.

"You…seem to be under the assumption that I want 'something' from Takato." He chuckled and shook his head, in a way that clear said that he was looking down on them all. "What could I possibly want from him?"

A snort.

"Children. Everything Matsuda Takato is, was and will ever be already belongs to me."

"Bullshit." Surprisingly, it was Ryo of all people who uttered that word. Maybe because Lucemon gave him some awkwardly familiar vibes.

"Ahaha, am I perhaps triggering bad memories, Akiyama?" The angel merrily suggested, and he only received a bitter glare in response. "But anyway."

His head resting on his loosely clenched right fist, Lucemon clarified things for the Tamers.

"The Game will continue, with or without you. Takato cannot abandon the Game…no, he would not abandon the Game, even if he could. The Game is the only path, both for him as well as for me. We cannot not play the Game."

He closed his eyes, yet his face still reflected a strange fondness, as if he were remembering something precious.

"We…there is simply no longer a choice for us. We are far past the point where we could reach an agreement. Our hands cannot reach Heaven together."

His eyelids separated once more; intense blue eyes meeting Ruki's serious stare,

"Takato is mine, children. This is an absolute truth. This Game…is basically formalization; just like the placing of the first stone or the cutting of the red band when raising a new building. A chance for Takato to put up one last bout of resistance before I properly claim him…and a chance for him to grow in power."

He nodded, more to himself than to the audience around him.

"I want…no, I need Takato to be powerful. Matsuda Takato, not the 'Chosen of Dreams'."

The Child Digimon concluded his monologue with a fanfare-like drumming of the seat's armrest.

"Well then, we are wasting our time with this discussion. Shall we move on to what really matters right now?"

"Takato's current location," the Avatar of Lust stated, just in case none of the humans in the room could figure it out.

Lucemon did not waste time releasing the facts.

"Takato is currently in the grasp of the Vampire Lord Digimon, GranDracmon." A pause. "Well, that makes it sound like he was kidnapped or something, but it is more likely that Takato went to him of his own volition to stay out of my reach for a while."

"Explain," Mitsuo Yamaki demanded in a firm tone before any of the young Tamers could voice their feelings more recklessly. It was hard not to feel the latent anger in that room; those children…they had many things they wanted to say to this condescending angel Digimon, but that would be pointless in the current circumstances. If Lucemon was willing to clarify things for them at this point, the best option was to gain as much information from him as possible.

"GranDracmon. Ultimate Digimon. Former ruler of the Dark Area before I was locked in there, but he's never been much of a territorial being. He did not seem to particularly care when I took over most of his realm, which makes sense as his abilities work better in a reduced territory."

The Crest of Pride flared to life briefly, just enough for Lucemon to craft a reconstruction of GranDracmon's signature violet crystal. Making it twirl in his left hand, he allowed the artificial lights in the meeting room to be scattered and tinted purple before bathing the audience.

"Crystal Avalon. Basically, the power of 'dominion'. Within the perimeter of what he appoints as his 'territory', GranDracmon gains tremendous power. However, the extent of that power decreases in an inverse square relation to distance. Within his throne room, GranDracmon is basically God; his powers roughly comparable to Takato's Crest of Dreams. As for his 'attack' today, I can only guess he has reverse-engineered my Gate of Deadly Sins and temporarily extended his 'territory' to cover the 'land beyond the Gate'."

He handed the crystal to Takako, who disinterestedly examined it before handing it over to Juri to her left. The Tamers would futilely try to find something odd about it, but it was in the end just a purple crystal.

"But that main strength of Crystal Avalon is also its weakness. GranDracmon does not often leave his throne room precisely because it is the center of his territory. He cannot just, let us say, invade Shinjuku and declare it the center of his territory to gain a power boost, at least without relinquishing his dominion over his pretty little corner of the Dark Area. For reasons I will not go into, GranDracmon will absolutely not do that. The Death-X phenomenon is as much a problem to him as it is to everybody else, but, really, let's not go there. Aside from that, questions so far?"

The sudden cue caught most people there by surprise. It was hard to deal with such an…amiable enemy. Was that even the right word, amiable?

"Why…" Jenrya took the role of the voice of reason among the young ones, as usual. "…why do you claim Takato went to this Digimon of his own volition?"

Lucemon nodded as if acknowledging Jenrya's cool head.

"Takato's one and only priority is the Game. Everything he does has to be examined within the context of 'a move against Lucemon'. By bringing me here and pitting GranDracmon against me, he is obviously aiming for time: Takato plans to do something and, whatever it is, he cannot do it where I can see him."

"You don't seem much bothered by that," Yamaki commented, and Lucemon's smile became all the more charming.

"Why would I? How can I be anything but proud of my precious Takato taking our competition seriously?" Resting both elbows on the armrests, Lucemon clasped his hands together under his chin. "It brings me great joy to know this is as important to him as it is to me." Separating his hands, Lucemon graced them with a somewhat condescending shrug. "Besides, if the Game got boring I would just put an end to it and claim him right away. It is well within my current power."

The angel's hands finally rested on the table as he leaned forward on his chair.

"Even if it is what GranDracmon wants, I refuse to let him keep Takato a second longer than absolutely necessary. I will return to the Dark Area and get Takato back, with or without your cooperation, Digimon Tamers."

Pushing the seat backwards, Lucemon stood up.

"But before that, I will take advantage of the fact I'm here to visit a few places. So, if you will excuse me…"

"Wait, what," Ruki cut off the angel's words as she abruptly jumped off her chair and back on her feet. "Where are you going?"

"Sightseeing, doll. I'm going 'sightseeing'," Lucemon stated in a voice that made clear he thought it was a retarded question he had been asked. "It would be stupid of me to suddenly start a rampage in this world."

"The Royal Knights," Renamon pointed out, and the other Digimon outwardly reacted at her meaningful statement.

Lucemon nodded, acknowledging the vulpine Digimon's insight.

"Indeed. It is already strange enough that they did not react to Leviamon's partial manifestation three months ago. Even if 'God's' awareness does not reach as far as this world, it is fundamentally impossible for it to not have noticed my emergence. I must admit I am confused by the fact they are not beating me yet, but I am not one to ignore such an unexpected blessing." His sky blue eyes danced around the meeting room for an instant. "And now it seems your human friends here have questions for you, Renamon. Best of luck with that~"

But he was to be interrupted one more time before departing.

"Lucemon."

He could have just teleported himself away with the Crest of Pride, but the identity of this interloper convinced him to stop.

"Katou Juri."

It was she who had taken over Takato's duties in his absence. She was playing a 'Game' against Lilithmon. Even if it could not be compared to Takato's five years of misery and wordless agony, her very willingness to stand before a Demon Lord in the Game Room was worthy of, if anything, his acknowledgement.

She was not looking at him, though. Her head was kept down, eyes hidden behind her long brown hair, for once not held in a ponytail for whatever reason. Her thin, trembling arms squeezed the unmoving pink shell of her rather inconspicuous partner.

"…we'll defeat you, Lucemon."

The angel made a great effort not to laugh.

"No, you will not. This is not one of those shounen manga where 'the power of friendship' can defeat any opponent and overcome any obstacle. I am superior to you in every possible way, even in this Child level."

He walked around the table until he was watching the skyline of metropolitan Tokyo from the large windows of the meeting room, his back turned to the Tamers, Digimon, Yamaki and Reika.

"The only one who could defeat me is Takato. But you, children?"

He shook his head in utter contempt and dismissal.

"You are nothing."

And he was gone.


The warm water in the bathtub that evening felt particularly soporiferous to Makino Ruki. The evening bath was always a time to settle down and relax one's body before bedtime, but this time she was almost afraid she would fall asleep and drown in there. It would be a rather embarrassing way to die.

It merely showed just how tired she was. She did not envy Yamaki and everybody else at Hypnos: they would be working overnight dealing with the consequences of that day's attack. It would be a difficult next days for them all. It would be difficult for them as long as innocent people kept dying.

Seven.

That was the number of casualties that day. Seven people, all of them aged, ailing patients of the same hospital where Takato had rested for the past months. They had died in their beds; according to Kuroyama Takako's explanation, the crystal had sapped their vitality. How many more would have died had Lucemon not obliterated the gargantuan crystal prison with his Crest of Pride?

Ruki did not want to think about it, but it was hard not to. It was like Takato had said in that ominous speech: the public needed someone to blame and hate for this. However, giving them the name 'GranDracmon' would not ease anyone. To the average citizen, Digimon are distant, alien beings. Nobody can truly understand how they could have come out of computer networks. Furthermore, they are powerful and dangerous, far more so than any ordinary human. Digimon are entities against which the common man cannot retaliate. They might as well blame the kami for all these tragedies.

Ruki stepped out of the bath before she truly fell asleep. Clad in only a bathrobe, the young redhead dried her head with a towel while making her way to the dining room where she expected to find her grandmother. Makino Ruki never failed to say good night to her family before retiring to the privacy of her bedroom.

It would not be that simple that evening. They had a guest.

"Good evening, Alraune," Lucemon amicably greeted the girl the moment she stepped into the room. "I invited myself in; I apologize for bothering you at this late hour."

The girl's eyes glowed with cold fury. She swallowed the saliva in her mouth, and it felt like a lump of iron down her throat. Her blood boiled, and Makino Ruki realized just how much she hated this…monster.

It was no Digimon. Her Renamon was a Digimon. Takato's creation, that bread-munching dinosaur of his, was a Digimon. This angelic figure before her was no Digimon. It was a harbinger of misery; its presence, its pristine appearance and its relaxed poise were the embodiment of everything that was wrong in her life. As long as Lucemon existed, Makino Ruki would never find happiness or even satisfaction in life. This she now clearly understood. He had yet to hurt her or even do anything to her, but she knew. Her soul knew.

This creature is evil. Nothing he says or does will ever change that.

She glanced at her family. Both her mother and her grandmother stood in a corner of the room, watching her with uncertainty and a hint of wariness in their eyes. It was kind of silly how all of a sudden they expected her to take the reins of the situation despite being the youngest one, but it was also perfectly understandable. Ruki had shared many details with them, and they knew the name of the enemy this time. They knew this was Lucemon, Takato's enemy and the one responsible for making his life miserable for five whole years already. After the experience with Astamon, Ruki's family was fully aware of just how wicked the most intelligent Digimon can be. And furthermore…

Lucemon's very presence, it was unmistakable. This handsome angel exuded power and charm. His was a fearsome presence—he made their legs tremble, but at the same time many would give their souls to him if he just asked kindly. His beauty could not mask his cruelty; his purity of body could not conceal the tainted soul within. He was the most beautiful and the ugliest as well.

He was truly the greatest angel and the worst of all demons.

And the Makino family understood what it feels to be in the presence of the devil itself.

"Why are you here?"

"Did I not say it earlier, silly girl?" Lucemon placidly responded. "I am sightseeing. This is naturally one of the most important spots in my list."

Ruki frowned, not really getting it until Renamon made things clear for her.

"Ruki, you have to keep in mind: Lucemon's only interest is Matsuda Takato."

The angel nodded in agreement before taking a sip of the green tea Hata Seiko had awkwardly prepared for him. Of course, Lucemon would not bother with things like museums or other tourist attractions.

"Yes, yes, it is as the fox says," he admitted. "I already visited Takato's schools, all of them. Also some of the most memorable places from earlier Game Rounds." His wings trembled somewhat cutely, in tandem with his childish giggles. "So many good memories. I have seen all those places through Takato, but visiting them in person…" A shrug. "It's a nice feeling. It's like I'm even closer to him now."

Ruki seemed disgusted by the Child Digimon's choice of words.

"So," Lucemon said, placing the now empty cup on the table and nodding in thanks at the quite distressed Seiko. "Care to give me the grand tour?"

The 'grand tour' was not grand in the slightest. While large, the Makino residence was rather sparse and plain. Only Rumiko had a vast collection of souvenirs and wardrobe making for a rather colorful bedroom, but Lucemon had little interest in trinkets and clothes. The room that caught the angel's attention the most was, of course, the guest room.

"Ah, yes, yes, here…" He stood in the middle of the room, spreading his arms and wings as if to feel the 'atmosphere' of the small room. The soles of his bare feet gently caressed the tatami mats underneath. "I can feel his presence here. His heart…his soul is in this place."

He spun in the middle of the room to grin at the girl and Digimon standing by the sliding door. At Ruki's behest, her mother and grandmother had left the Tamer-Digimon duo alone with the dangerous guest. They watched from a considerable distance, and they had already contacted Hypnos—a good decision, for the agency's systems proved incapable of tracking Lucemon's wanderings throughout Tokyo.

"You should rejoice, little doll. This place…was definitely precious to that boy."

It was stressful. Ruki would not feel at ease, no matter the situation: if he left her home, he would still be a threat no matter where he went. This feeling of distress; of being in the presence of the final boss yet unable to do anything about it, was utterly uncomfortable and humiliating. Instead of leaving at the end of the tour, however, Lucemon sat down just outside the guest room and gazed at the starless Tokyo sky.

"Girl, I do not intend to inflict physical harm on you or anybody else in this house tonight." The angel patted the wood next to him. "I am in a good mood; please join me for a while."

Hesitatingly, Ruki did so, followed by Renamon. The girl never took her intensely hateful eyes from Lucemon as she did so.

"Oh, scary, scary," the angel placidly commented on the look on Ruki's face. "Boys won't like you with a face like that."

If somebody else said such words to her, she would probably reply with a scathing 'boys don't like me, period', or something like that.

"None of your business."

"…I guess not. Then again, the idea of the likes of you having a…sentimental, partner is hilarious. For so many reasons."

"…why are you here?"

Lucemon sighed.

"Did I not explain this before? I am here because Takato brought me here."

"How?"

The angel released a gasp of exasperation.

"You…are particularly slow today, doll."

"Just answer me," Ruki hissed in a most unfriendly manner.

"The Crest of Dreams, of course. You see, the whole point of imprisoning me in the Dark Area is that I cannot leave it on my own. That was true before and remains true to this day. If I could travel to this world at will, do you not think I would have done the moment I was thrown into the Dark Area, so long ago?"

He shrugged.

"Only a power greater than the power that imprisoned me could release me, and there is no power in the Digital World greater than the Crest of Dreams Takato owns."

Ruki looked down at her hands, as if she could read an answer in the lines of her open palms.

"…why? Why would Takato bring you here?"

"It is a playmove, of course. Takato wished to go to the Dark Area, but he knew I would go after him the moment he set foot in there, so he moved me someplace else. He counts on the fact that I will not try anything even if I am free."

"You won't try anything," Ruki repeated, as if finding such words extremely hard to believe.

"Believe it or not, doll, this current form of mine is annoyingly weak. Nothing stops the ones who imprisoned me in the Dark Area from coming over and reduce me to elementary particles."

"The Royal Knights."

"Hmm…so you did follow that trail after all," Lucemon commented with a mild chuckle. "So tell me, doll: what do you know of these Royal Knights?"

Ruki's eyes inevitably fell on Renamon, even if her mind instead drifted away, to the recent past. After Lucemon disappeared to begin his 'sightseeing tour', the Tamers and Yamaki discussed what to make of this development.

It turned out to be a most eye-opening of discussions…


A heavy silence followed Lucemon's departure. The children looked at each other around the table, as if expecting someone, anyone, to take the lead by saying anything. In a corner of the meeting room, Yamaki was hissing orders through his smartphone.

Thus, it was up to the Digimon to set things back on course.

"…what do you think, Terriermon?"

Everybody looked at Renamon with a modicum of surprise, especially the one being addressed.

"Eh? You're asking me?"

"Yes," Renamon said, her tone clearly expressing how little she liked answering obvious questions. "I am asking for your opinion."

"…hnn." For once, the small Child Digimon took things seriously. "Well, from what little I know of Lucemon, he's the kind of mon that would lie just to annoy us, even if he gets nothing out of it other than the enjoyment of messing with us."

"That's a way to put it," Ryo muttered.

"But…I get the feeling he's not lying this time," Terriermon continued. "I have absolutely no way to prove it; it's just a feeling. But there's something else that's bothering me, ya know?"

"I take it you mean the lack of response from the Digital World," Renamon proposed, and the rabbit-dog nodded.

"Yup," Terriermon agreed, easing his back on his Tamer's torso. "From what I learned in our time in the Digital World, there are countermeasures in case something like this happens. Hell, Lucemon even mentioned them."

"Royal Knights," Lopmon said.

"Yes, that name was brought up several times," Ryo commented. "Who are the Royal Knights?"

"Hoo…"

All eyes went to the 'head' of the table, where Kuroyama Takako smirked at the oldest of the Tamers.

"I expected you of all people to know them, really. I'm almost disappointed this is all the 'Legendary Tamer' amounts to."

"…you're still here," Ruki noted, and Takako smiled innocently.

"Uhh…Lopmon and Renamon have lived in the Digital world longer, so I think I'll defer to them on this one."

"Hmph," Renamon uttered, somehow sounding disapproving with that simple gesture. Lopmon looked up at his rather confused Tamer and smiled comfortingly before taking the lead of the discussion.

"The Royal Knights," he began. "I never met them while I was a Deva. They are supposed to be the last and strongest line of defense for the Digital World. While all other Digimon were spread throughout the different territories fighting D-Reaper, they were supposedly guarding the core, the center were 'God' resides."

"Wait, wait here," Hirokazu unexpectedly intervened. "God? As in, 'the God' God? Like, the Christian God? I mean, Sakuyamon is supposedly a 'God Man' Digimon, but…"

Takako chuckled to herself.

"Ah, yes," Lopmon answered. "The Central Host Unit of the Digital World, Yggdrasil. If there is an existence that could be called 'God' in the Digital World, that would be it."

"I thought the Four Holy Beasts were the biggest names in the Digital World," Ruki wondered, and Lopmon nodded.

"That is…because Yggdrasil no longer communicates with the Four Holy Beasts," Lopmon admitted. "I heard there was a time in which they acted in concert, but I do not really know the details…"

"It was the Second Lucemon War, children," Kuroyama Takako explained in a bored tone. "A ridiculously long time ago, there was a fifth Holy Beast: Huanglongmon, the Dragon of the Center, and he ruled the Digital World as the enforcer of Yggdrasil's will. The other Four Holy Beasts answered to him, and through him they received Yggdrasil's instructions. But he's not around anymore, so the Holy Beasts have no means to reach Yggdrasil."

"What happened to him?" Jenrya inquired.

"Lord Lucemon happened to him."

There was no reply to that most eloquent of answers.

"Yes," Renamon thus continued. "While there are all sorts of rumors in the Digital World about Yggdrasil and the Royal Knights, very few Digimon can actually claim to have seen them. I…did not put much thought into such rumors, until…"

The humans present showed some confusion when the Digimon began to look at each other with uncertain glances, as if uncomfortable about something.

Renamon eventually sighed.

"I will apologize to Matsuda Takato afterwards."

"Eh?" Ruki uttered as her Digimon partner walked to the forefront of the room opposite to the large polarized glass windows. She stood behind Takako's seat, where she could look at all the present except for the Avatar of Lust.

"Matsuda Takato made us promise we would not share any of this with you," the vulpine Digimon explained. "I never understood his reasons until now, and furthermore I can no longer agree with his request for secrecy. I believe it has become important that you all know this."

The other Digimon present nodded their agreement.

"This is…about what happened when Takato went to the Digital World to bring you back, right?" Jenrya sharply remarked, and Ruki's partner nodded.

"Then I believe this is your cue to leave, Takako-san."

Of all the things that could be thought in response to Juri's sentence, it might be surprising that the most prominent one among the Tamers was "when did she switch to first name basis with Takato's sister?"

The smallish girl laughed merrily.

"Aaah, I was wondering, really. Kudos to you, Kato—no, let's make it 'Juri' from now on." Unbothered by the dismissal, the girl stood up and made her merry way to the room's exit. "Take care, Tamers. Hard times wait ahead."

Waving goodbye with her back turned to the group, the girl who was also Lilithmon gave one last word of advice.

"We are on the same side as long as onii-sama remains in GranDracmon's grasp. You should take advantage of that while you can."

"…we'll decide on how to deal with this 'GranDracmon' issue after we learn everything we can about the situation," Yamaki decided; his voice dispelling the heavy silence that permeated the room after Takako's departure. "Even with Katou's input, there is much we do not know about what is happening in the Digital World or about this 'Dark Area'. Matsuda has kept too much to himself."

Lucemon would have laughed most merrily at that last sentence.

"I…honestly do not know how this might be of help in the context of Lucemon's 'Game'," Renamon admitted. "But I think…"

Noting Renamon was having problems articulating what it was she had in her mind, Lopmon offered his own thoughts.

"I believe we need to…reconcile; yes, that is the right word," he said. "We need to reconcile the Matsuda Takato we all knew from the Matsuda Takato we saw in the Digital World. The Matsuda Takato who fought a war."

"A war?" Juri said worriedly. "Against those Royal Knights?"

Terriermon chuckled.

"Juri, you don't 'make war' with the Royal Knights." A pause. "Just, just let Renamon tell the story. She was the first who met Takato, so…"

All eyes thus moved in the direction of Ruki's partner, who nodded in response to the attention.

"I will ask you to listen attentively; you might see things I have not been able to realize with my limited…perception," Renamon said somewhat humbly. Noting Juri's encouraging smile and Ruki's most attentive and intense stare, the Child Digimon ascertained that she was most definitely doing the right thing, even if it involved breaking a promise.

They need to know this. We need to understand, Matsuda Takato.

She began her narration.


CHAPTER 02 – END