Disclaimer: Digimon is the intellectual property of Bandai. I intend no copyright infringement with this work. This is merely a product of my enjoyment in Digimon.

Edit (7.25.2013): Dear FanFiction, I forgot you have the annoying habit of editing out my file's linebreaks after uploading. Sincerely, Shaveza.
Dear Readers, I apologize for the Giant Glob of Text of the initial publishing of WHSR. Sincerely, Shaveza

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With Hands Stained Red
Chapter 1
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March 03, 2003, Monday – New York, 19:35:00
March 04, 2003, Tuesday – Tokyo, 09:35:00

Mimi blinked as her laptop turned on. She had turned it off just a few minutes ago and it wasn't supposed to work on its own. She wasn't computer savvy and she'd had Koushirou help her pick out this laptop because it was easy to use. If it was turning on by itself….

"One minute, Papa!" Mimi called. She took the half-step back into her room and shifted towards the computer.

It might be Palmon, but it also might mean trouble, which wouldn't be fair at all considering it had been barely two months since Daisuke, Ken, and the others had defeated Belial-Vamdemon – he should have died when Taichi and Yamato's partners had killed him, not taken over some poor man like a leech – on New Year's Eve. But they never seemed to have any measure of peace for long.

Devimon, Etemon, Nanomon, Vamdemon, Venom-Vamdemon, the Dark Masters, Apocalymon…. All those enemies within the span of three days – and more – and then in December 1999, they'd been so useless against Millenniumon. A boy with no partner had saved them all. Then March of 2000 with Diablomon and the Millenniumon had been a threat in the span of weeks – poor Ryo – damn Taichi and Yamato.

Things had been peaceful after that, sure, but not being able to see Palmon regularly had taken some of the value out of it. She wanted to enjoy peace with her partner every day of her life. She hated that peace meant separation and that the only way they seemed to be able to be together was during war and she hated fighting even more.

Some days, the struggles felt so worthless.

"Mimi!" her father's voice floated up, jarring her from the tumble of thoughts. "We need to go!"

"Sorry!" she called back. "I'll be right down!"

Maybe…

She reached for her Digivice, which always sat next to the laptop, and gave a scream when the laptop's screen flashed and a bright, familiar green light burst free of it. She lifted her arms reflexively and the light struck her hand, which closed automatically on the light.

"Mimi?" Her father's footsteps were pounding up the steps.

Mimi didn't answer, too stunned by the flat crystal trapezoid in her hand, the same green as the light. Within the inner rectangle was a darker outline of a tear drop with a circle in the hollow of the bottom part.

"Mimi! What's wrong?" her father had tossed her door open and Mimi didn't even mind that it crashed against the wall. "Why didn't you answer me, Mimi?"

It wasn't until his hands settled on her shoulders that she looked up at him, jumping a little in surprise.

"Sorry, Papa…it's my Crest and I…I gave this up nearly three years ago…so why is it here?" Her father wouldn't be able to answer the question, but Mimi had to voice it.

Keisuke squeezed his daughter's shoulders. As much as he and his wife thought Palmon had a sweet personality, they didn't like the Digital World or Digimon in general. Why was their Mimi chosen? It had made her so strong…and yet….

Well, his daughter had cracks.

"You can email Koushirou about it later," Keisuke said. "C'mon now, or we'll be late for the dinner party."

"Sorry," she said again, going to her jewelry box where she'd hid her empty Tag in long ago. She pushed the Crest of Purity into the slot and it clicked into place, glimmering briefly. Impulsively, she exchanged the Tag and Crest for the opal necklace she'd been wearing with the dark amaranth evening gown she was wearing, glancing up at her father.

Keisuke smiled; trying to keep the sadness he felt out of it, "You look beautiful, sweetheart."

Mimi gave him a brilliant smile and looped her arm through his.

Hikari was not the least bit used to being sent to the headmaster's office. That was Daisuke's department…and sometimes Takeru's – who happened to be with her trying to explain they couldn't have controlled the flashes of light that had disturbed several different classes, though most notably their own and an underclassmen's class using the labs.

"We don't know why the Crests appeared," Takeru insisted. "I'm sure our friend, Koushirou, will have answers for us after school today." Koushirou was probably in own school's headmaster's office with Taichi, Sora, and Yamato as a matter of fact. He didn't want think of the sort of situation Jou was in! It would be evening for Mimi at least.

"I believe you! We've got eggs and the baby monsters popping out every now and again and if we could control that, we would," the headmaster said. "You're not in trouble, Takaishi-san, Yagami-san. Don't look so worried. I was just hoping you could have an explanation for when the parents inevitably call after hearing about the lights."

"I'm worried for the kids that thought they might have been getting Digimon," Hikari admitted. Never mind that the purpose of the Crests would probably make people nervous.

"What are these Crests, anyways?" the headmaster asked.

"They represent defining traits of our personalities," Hikari said. "They're tools for us…but we gave up their power years ago. It doesn't make much sense we'd have then now. We'll figure out what's going on soon. We can come back and tell you once we do."

"That would be appreciated," the headmaster said, relaxing a little. "You're dismissed to return to class. If anyone asks any questions, you don't have to answer."


Hikari and Takeru bowed to their principal as they left the office. The Child of Hope pulled the door shut and Hikari heaved a sigh of relief.

"My mom's going to flip," the girl said. "I've never been sent to the headmaster before!"

"You think that Gennai would've mentioned something beforehand if we were going to get our Crests back," Takeru said.

"What if something's coming and they couldn't give warning?" the Child of Light asked. "Surely, Gennai would've had better timing if they were giving us our Crests just because."

Takeru nodded. "But things will be alright, Hikari. We've always come through in the end."

'But never without sacrifices,' she knew. She didn't give voice to it, because the tightness in her friend's jaw told her he was thinking the same thing she was.

"What happened, Koushirou?" Taichi demanded, lips pressed into a thinned line. A little red trapezoid crystal was clenched tightly between his fingers.

"I don't know!" the younger boy shot his leader an annoyed looked. He waved his own purple Crest in the air, "This doesn't mean I'm omniscient, Taichi. I've sent Gennai an email, but he won't be able to respond until after school."

Taichi let out a rush of air, "You've got to have an idea. You know the Holy Beasts wouldn't disengage our Crests from the Digital World's protections."

"Easy, Taichi," Yamato said. "Breathe a little. It's not the end of the world. There's probably a reasonable explanation."

"Like maybe Oikawa's sacrifice," Sora stepped in. "Maybe he took over the protections entirely and sent them to us? Or his sacrifice gradually pushed them out or something. It could be that there's another evil growing…again."

The Child of Knowledge shrugged, "That's as good a guess as any, Taichi. I don't understand the code behind the Digital World's protections and since Oikawa himself became part of them and I doubt pure, hard code could possibly detail what he did."

Taichi sucked in a deep breath, held it a moment, and let it out. He pulled out his D-Terminal and began typing a message to his sister, Takeru, and Mimi. They'd likely received their Crests as well. "And we were going to have Ken add his Crest to the protections in a couple of weeks…."

Koushirou held in a sigh. He'd already given his opinion; he didn't think it was fair of them to ask a sacrifice of Ken in March and suggested they wait until May, when they had given up their own Crests. Gennai had said they'd already waited longer than they should have and couldn't wait any longer.

Sometimes, being a Chosen Child wasn't at all what they cracked it up to be. Koushirou hoped there would be no more war in store for them or any of the millions of children newly paired with their Digimon.


March 05, 2003; Wednesday

Jun had always been a little jealous of her brother for being a hero. Well…maybe a bit more than just a little. Daisuke gained the ability to fight the monsters that had kidnapped their family from their home in 1999 that August. Being so defenseless – seeing her parents unable to do anything – had been the worst experience of her life.

Then the attack at The Teenage Wolves' 2002 Christmas Eve concert and her crush had run to protect another girl, leaving her helplessness compounded with a shattered wish. The following day hadn't helped her mood, what with the news reports on creepy black obelisks and monsters appearing all over the world.

Three months later, however, it was her turn to be the hero.

It really…really wasn't what she'd thought it was going to be. Daisuke must have glossed over the more terrifying moments when he told her and their parents about his adventures as a Chosen Child…or maybe he was just a lot braver than she was.

Rust-Tyranomon's cannon charged and fired. The sickly yellow-orange energy burst collided against the red-bellied, black-scaled, serpentine Beast Dragon with gold accents that was firing energy beams of orange and green light from the orbs it held in its fore-claws.

The cry ripped out from Jun's throat, "Hisharyuumon!" She clutched at her Tag where the Crest of Tenacity: defined by what Shuu thought to be a caricature of Atlas. Her D-3, normally white-bodied with a purple grip but now gold-bodied with red-violet grips, vibrated and whined as she fought an internal battle to keep her partner at her Perfect level.

Rust-Tyranomon was an Ultimate.

Shuu's poor Groundramon had regressed to Dracomon, Chizuru's Crescemon to Moonmon, and Momoe's Knightmon to Kotemon. The other three had gathered their partners and taken shelter behind the debris. With Hisharyuumon sprawled out on the ground, Jun was the last one standing.

"Get up, please!" Jun screamed, voice cracking. She could feel her energy wavering. Her partner would regress soon. And then Rust-Tyranomon.

"Jun," Hisharyuumon hefted her head up, struggling to rise. "This war…it's…terrible."

"I know," the elder Motomiya child sobbed. "I hate it too."

"I have just enough strength…to last…a little longer," Hisharyuumon sighed as she pushed herself into the air. "Shuu, Momoe, Chizuru…take Jun…and run."

Jun panicked, "No!" Shuu jumped up from his spot, handing Dracomon to Momoe and grabbed Jun's arms. She fought, struggling against him as he pulled on her.

"No! No, no, no! Noooo!" Jun's traction gave when Chizuru leant her strength to Shuu's and began forcing her away.

"The Village of Beginnings," Hisharyuumon said, "…Let's meet there, Jun. SEIRYUUJIN!"

Hisharyuumon's body transformed into a massive black-bladed sword with a gold hilt bearing an orange gem in the guard, a green gem in the pommel, as well a red wrap around the hilt. Rust-Tyranomon laughed gratingly. 'Rust' was in its name for a reason. Its cannon began charging once again.

"NO!" Jun screamed.

"PLASMA SHOOT!" a mixed salvo of missiles and beams of golden light flashed past the small band of humans and Baby II Digimon, neatly avoiding Hisharyuumon's altered shape to collide against Rust-Tyranomon's body, blowing the Digimon back and cancelling the charge.

Jun sagged in relief and her partner collapsed, transforming into her true shape.

The group turned and saw a thin boy running up to them. He was maybe twelve years of age, dressed in drab green cargo pants, worn gloves, a faded purple shirt that had the sleeves rolled down, and dirty white shoes. An orange over-the-shoulder bag was slung across his back. Behind him appeared to be a small battalion of Digimon – incredibly powerful-looking Digimon.

"Momoe! Chizuru!" a regal white warrior Digimon with a bird theme ran up to them, "It's me, Hawkmon and Tailmon. This is our Jogress form's evolution, Valkyrimon. Are you alright?"

"Hawkmon?" the Inoue girls echoed.

Chizuru gasped, "Is Miyako here?"

"No – well, she was, but we ran into Ryo," Valkyrimon said, gesturing to the human who'd come to a halt and was staring. "And Hikari and Miyako loaned us to him."

"We can't stay long," the boy said brusquely. Up close, they could see the bags under his too severe, blue eyes. He was exhausted. His clothing was in a terrible state. "Millenniumon's palace isn't far now. We'll finish this…and you can go home. I'm sorry. I'm the only one who should be involved in this…."

"Jun!" A blue, golden-armored Digimon landed. "Are you alright? Daisuke's been panicking since you came here…uhm, just don't tell him I said so."

"V-mon?" Jun's voice cracked as she turned to look, now recognizing the more mature-sounding voice of her brother's Digimon.

"Magnamon," Daisuke's partner corrected gently. "Daisuke had to go home…since he loaned me to Ryo."

Rust-Tyranomon roared, picking himself back up. The boy – Ryo lurched forwards, taking a look at Jun's Crest.

"Tenacity," he muttered, glancing over to Hisharyuumon who was raising herself back up at well. He pulled out what was obviously a Digivice, but it was nothing like the D-3s that Jun, Shuu, Momoe, and Chizuru carried or the older model she'd seen Daisuke's older friends carry. It had a thick top and narrow bottom, was white-bodied and had a red ring around the screen, over the buttons. There was a strap at the top, with a belt loop hook.

"Eh?" Jun blinked.

This was Akiyama Ryo, the four realized.

They'd heard about him. He was supposed to be the only one that could defeat the Wicked God that was trying to take over the Digital World. He was the reason why they were fighting so hard now, preparing the way for this previously faceless name to make a final charge to break open the doors.

He was the only hope they had.

It made them feel powerless. They could do nothing against the evil at the heart of the matter. Only this boy standing before them now could. Other the other hand: Jun, Shuu, Momoe, and Chizuru made up one unit of several hundred others that were the first and last lines of defense keeping Zeed-Millenniumon's forces from finishing his takeover of the Digital World and laying it to ruin. They were hardly powerless, but it was still exasperating and hard to believe that they were reliant on this one boy for ultimate victory.

And given his exhausted state, Ryo wasn't the most impressive person at the moment.

"Here," the boy said, tapping the buttons in sequence rapidly. The screen glowed and a Digimental, a rough brown egg-shaped artifact with gold patterns and the Crest of Tenacity on it in red-violet. "Evolve Hisharyuumon with this. Quickly! Also…if you know Magnamon…do you know Ichijouji Ken?"

Jun grabbed the Digimental, flinching at the severity in the boy's tone. This war had aged them all too quickly. How on earth did Daisuke remain so well-adjusted? "Y-yes! He's my brother's best friend…"

"Our sister has a crush on him," Momoe said.

Ryo shot her a frown. "Okay…. Well, never mind it for now…." The boy repeated the same button tapping he'd done and this time, a pink rose bearing a Crest none of them were familiar with. "It's the Digimental of Kindness. Please make sure he gets it."

Shuu nodded, taking the Digimental and tucking it into his backpack.

"I swear I'll end this," Ryo murmured, stepping back. "Justimon!"

The Digimon that flickered into appearance next to Ryo reminded Jun of a Kamen Rider character.

"I'm here, Ryo," the Digimon said, kneeling and offering his hand to the small human on whose shoulders the hopes of millions rode.

Shuu thought the words to be strange, but from the distant gratitude on Ryo's face, they meant the world to him. The boy used the Digimon's hand to hop onto the Ultimate's right shoulder. Justimon folded his arm protectively over the boy's legs to help hold him in place.

"Good luck," Ryo offered them. He gestured to his army and they started off.

"We have to go," Magnamon said quickly, moving to rejoin the ranks of the Digimon following Ryo. "Stay safe or Daisuke will strangle me!"

"Tell Miyako and Hikari I'll see them soon," Valkyrimon added, also flying after the hoard.

Rust-Tyranomon was clearly puzzled and was looking between the Digimon going to fight its master and the group it was trying to destroy.

Jun felt her ire rise as she, at last, registered the object in her hand and its import.

"Over here you bucket of rust!" she screamed, thrusting the Digimental of Tenacity out in front of her. "Digimental Up!"

"Hisharyuumon Armor-kyuukyoku shinka!" the dragon roared, bathed in red-violet light as the Digimental opened. "Ouryuumon!"

Ouryuumon was a brown, gold-bellied serpent dragon thrice her previous size. Her wings were weapons and she bore two black swords with golden edges in her more humanoid forearms. The end of her tail was a spear-point. Purple hair came out from underneath the gold crown gracing her head. Cloudy wisps rose and curled around her body, emitting lower charges of electricity.

The Beast Dragon roared, drawing Rust-Tyranomon's attention fully.

"EISEIRYUUOUJIN!" Ouryuumon cried, hurling her left-hand sword Gairyuu Sadaijin and the right-hand sword Gairyuu Udaijin. Rust-Tyranomon tried to dodge, but it was large and lumbering and even though it dodged the Gairyuu Udaijin, it couldn't avoid Gairyuu Sadaijin as well and the blade pierced its belly. The creature toppled backwards.

Ouryuumon surged forwards, begin a tight horizontal spin and making the blue electricity swirl and roil. "OUGAI!" The horizontal spin gained a vertical motion and she began twisting in herself.

The Beast Dragon surged forwards, appearing as if a river of blue and gold and brown. Its wings "Gaiba Daimeijin" were raised up and the spin turned the dragon into a deadly earthflow.

Rust-Tyranomon tried to struggle up, but it was pinned by the sword and Ouryuumon slammed into it, plowing through the Digimon and destroying it. The Beast Dragon stilled her motion and reclaimed her blades.

Jun sagged to the ground, staring up at her partner with a semi-vacant expression. Momoe broke down and started crying, which set her Kotemon off into tears as well. Chizuru was gaping in amazement at Ouryuumon. Shuu was shedding tears himself.

"I wanna evolve to Ultimate!" Dracomon whined, squirming free of Momoe's arms and scrambling over to Shuu. "I want to be as cool as Ouryuumon!"

The sole human male in the group gave a short, dry laugh.

"I hope I'm as elegant," Moonmon sighed dreamily.

"Of course! You'll be gorgeous," Chizuru replied on automatic, even as she meant the words wholeheartedly. That's what a Chosen Child did, after all. They assured and comforted and encouraged their Digimon and made sure they never doubted themselves.

Shuu scooped up his excitable partner. The Dragon probably shouldn't be moving so much after the beating he'd received. "Maybe if we found Digimentals matching our Crests…. We're probably insanely lucky Ryo even had a Digimental to match Jun's…."

"Where do you think he got it?" Chizuru wondered.

"I cannot profess to care," Ouryuumon spoke, voice echoing quietly. "It has spared you from suffering…. I'm sorry, Jun, but my death is acceptable. I would be reborn. You cannot return to life if yours is lost, so your death is unacceptable."

"No," Jun hiccupped, reaching up to wrap her arms around one of the spikes along her partner's lower jaw. "I understand. I do. I just…! Being without you for even seconds would be awful."

The dragoness rumbled, knowing that she wouldn't last a second without Jun. Jun's life was the extent of her own life. It was something every Digimon knew, but never spoke of. Humans were over-sensitive concerning the subject of death. They didn't understand that it was a relief for their Digimon to not have to face life without them someday.

"Can we go home now?" Momoe asked. Her tears made her voice shake. "We've done everything we needed to do. Akiyama-san is on his way to Zeed-Millenniumon's castle. I'm really tired of fighting. I don't know how Miyako managed all this time! She makes it look so easy."

"Ouryuumon and I should look for others that might need help," Jun said. She used the spike on her partner's jaw and clambered up the flared crown and into the purple hair for a grip. Much as she wanted to go home, there was little point until Ryo had won. Their roles in this war might equate to little more than 'cannon fodder', but Jun and her partner weren't out yet.

"I'm not leaving you guys here alone. The way to the nearest gate for us is too dangerous and Ouryuumon's energies are better spent elsewhere," Jun said. "Get on, guys."

Momoe looked put out, but she obeyed, handing Kotemon up to Shuu once he got on with Dracomon; then reached down for Moonmon so Chizuru could use both her hands to climb. They settled around Jun.

Ouryuumon pushed off gently and flew into the skies, accelerating at a cautious pace so neither her partner nor their teammates fell off during the flight.


Daisuke paced in a tight circle with a swollen lip from biting it, his thoughts on his sister. His parents would be furious if they knew he was back in the real world. He'd managed to shoo them off to work. They think he'd abandoned her, when he'd loaned out his Digimon to the one person who was really capable of enabling Jun, Miyako's sisters, and Jou's brother to come home.

…To enable several hundred children from around the world to come home.

Daisuke glanced over at Hikari, Miyako, and Jou's eldest brother, Shin. They were all chatting with each other and an American who was some sort of whiz accountant for a medical company that supplied the hospital Jou's dad worked at. He had a little sister in the Digital World too.

Hikari and Miyako had tried to draw him into their conversation, but he was too distracted to be good company.

Like quite a few others who were aware their children or friends or family were off in another world, the American had come to Tokyo Big Sight. Not too long ago, Daisuke and his friends and predecessors had held a convention for kids with new Digimon (and Digimon with new kids) and the families of those newly partnered.

More and more people were getting Digimon daily. Something that showed the public proper interactions with Digimon had become necessary. The government themselves – well, a politician acquainted with the Hida family really – had approached them with the idea, but they never could've pulled it off without the help of all their families as well.

It was going to become a regular event. The 'Digimon 101', as it was called, was booked clear for the next three years. Koushirou was dizzy from trying to keep track of ticket sales to ensure that the maximum number of unique attenders was attained.

Right now, however, they were all waiting for news now. The murmur of voices was just that, a murmur.

"You're making me dizzy."

The auburnet stopped moving as Takeru's arm came slinging around his shoulder. Like Daisuke, he too had loaned his partner to Ryo. The Heir of Courage and Friendship took in a deep breath and smiled weakly at the Child of Hope. "My parents are frantic. We only just managed to beat Armagemon last night….

"And I'm worried about Ken too. I would've thought Ryo would've appeared to him by now…. I could hear Ken flipping over the D-Terminal when I emailed him about loaning V-mon," he said. Daisuke had sensed his Jogress partner's agitation even though they'd been miles away from each other at the time. "Where's Iori?"

"He went to call his family," Takeru cast a cautious look around them and then pulled Daisuke away from the center of activity to a relatively seclude corner where he could see anyone approaching. "I was surprised when I saw Ryo myself. He looks the same as when he disappeared. He should be as old as Jou."

"Uh…why come over here?" the be-goggled Chosen asked.

"Ryo's kind of a sensitive topic," Takeru admitted. He pulled his Tag and Crest out from underneath his shirt and fiddled with it.

"Why?"

"I don't know, but Yamato and the others never want to talk about him," the blond shrugged. "Except Hikari, but we don't talk much about him either since the others don't. But…how does Ken know Ryo?"

"How do you and the others not know Ken?" Daisuke asked in turn. "Ken was with Ryo the second time he had to go against Millenniumon."

Takeru frowned, "Ken wasn't at the D-1 Tournament."

"Ken was sick during that, but he said it was that was the third time Ryo went against Millenniumon," Daisuke said. "He has a hard time recalling things from back then, but he's been remembering more and more lately."

The two boys stared at each other.

"I swear I didn't know Ken before he showed up as the Kaiser," Takeru promised.

"What about V-mon?" the auburnet asked.

"Huh?" Takeru blinked.

"V-mon. The blue and white Small Dragon I call my partner?" Daisuke growled.

"I know Ryo teamed up with a V-mon," the Chosen of Hope said. "But if it was your V-mon, he wouldn't have needed introduction to anyone of the older group, human or Digimon, and Patamon said he didn't know anyone."

Daisuke sighed, rubbing his forehead, "Well…V-mon doesn't seem to have the best of recollections. He just seemed to recall the fact that he once stood by Ryo against Millenniumon. He knew Ryo on sight. He felt that he was supposed to know him…."

"I…don't know what to make of this, Daisuke," Takeru said. His expression became apologetic and pained. "In non-partnered Digimon, I know that death and rebirth can sometimes damage their memories – usually the oldest. If your V-mon was the one Ryo was teamed up with then…he should still remember it; clearly and…

"Daisuke, the V-mon with Ryo probably died that day," Takeru said. "We thought Ryo was dead too. Taichi and Yamato's Omegamon was there and he was barely able to escape as it was. I'm not sure any of the other Digimon in Ryo's party, with the exception of Omegamon, escaped that day, but I can't say for certain."

Daisuke blanched, eyes widening.

Thomp!

Takeru reached out to steady his friend when he collapsed against the wall, gripping Daisuke's upper arm tightly to ground him.

"So…the only ones that know for sure would be Agumon and Gabumon," Daisuke said.

"I don't think they'll talk about it," Takeru said. "They were extremely upset when they got back. Agumon didn't speak for days after they gave their account and Gabumon would snap at Yamato, even. They were certain that the V-mon had been badly injured and Ryo refused to leave him behind."

"And they couldn't get them out?" Daisuke snapped.

"They were cut off by debris falling in and couldn't get around it," Takeru said, being patient. He understood the shock Daisuke was feeling. He'd be sensitive about anything related to Ken as well, doubly so since Wormmon had once died. "Ryo only just managed to give back the Digivice he was borrowing at the time."

"Something's not right and I'm not just saying that because of the shock," Daisuke said. "You say there's only two times that Ryo fought Millenniumon before our current war, which should be the fourth time they've clashed according to Ken. Something is not right."

Takeru nodded and gave a small frown, "I really don't think my brother will talk about it…or any of the others."

"Ken will have questions," the Heir of Courage and Friendship said. "I'll let him do the talking at first, but if none of the others are willing to talk, we're going to have to figure some other way to figure out what was going on."

Takeru withdrew his hand.

"If you're too uncomfortable going against Yamato, I'll understand if you stop," Daisuke said.

The blond frowned and snorted, "Go against…? It's not going to come to something like that. You're being dramatic!"

"Probably," Daisuke agreed. It relieved Takeru to know his hot-headed friend could be rational. "But Ken is my best friend and Ryo was the first friend he ever had."

The disappearance of Akiyama Ryo had torn Ken to shreds. Though Ryo had vanished April 2nd, Ken associated that event with March because Ryo had spent most of that month in the Digital World. Compounded with his brother's death March 14th the following year and March became Ken's worst month of the year. Only Miyako and Daisuke knew that the Chosen of Kindness was sleeping poorly and that Wormmon was scared of losing his partner again because there were days when the depression dragged him to new lows.

Daisuke locked gazes with Takeru, "I'm going to help Ken find out the truth. No 'ifs', 'ands', or 'buts' about it."


"HURRICANE GALE BLADE!" Qilinmon charged forwards, wings beating to pick up speed. Head down, it rammed its red dagger-like horn into Skull-Baluchimon's leg. The massive, winged, undead quadruped Digimon didn't make a sound despite the crack that appeared from the attack.

"DARK NAIL," the monster intoned, kicking forwards with a rear leg.

The green-armored, winged unicorn tried to dodge, but was sent into an upwards corkscrew spin away. He managed to right himself mid-air, but the landing was still harsh and he collapsed as his right rear and foreleg gave out.

"Ah! Qilinmon!" a brown-haired, amber-eyed girl reached towards her partners.

She lurched forwards a step, but Ken held her back, "No, Wendy, you can't get close!"

"I'm alright, Wendy!" Qilinmon was quick to assure. "Do not worry for me! I will rise."

"SHOT CLAW!" Ken's Digimon, evolved to his Perfect form of Jewelbeemon began firing orbs of yellow energy from the golden sacks its forearm- guards. The attacks collided with Skull-Baluchimon's head and back.

The undead beast reared in reaction to the attack, opening its mouth and stretching out its wings.

"ASIPATRAVANA!"

"HOMING MISSILE!"

Wallace watched as his twin Digimon attacked. Rapidmon Perfect fired off a salvo of missiles along Skull-Baluchimon's back. Antiramon went for the rear legs in a tornado spin, hands transformed into blades, which threw off blades of black energy, rather than pink.

The unknown virus that had once possessed the Holy Beast had left a permanent mark on the chocolate-colored rabbit. Though his attribute registered as Data now, he'd retained his Virus' appearance and Lopmon's Champion form was the Virus-attribute Wendimon, rather than the more natural Data-attribute Turuiemon.

"Are the undead always so tough?" Rapidmon complained.

"THUNDER JAVELIN!" Electrical streams crashed into Skull-Baluchimon's skull while the skeleton tried to rediscover balance with chipped hind-ankles and a damaged spine and foreleg. The beast slid back a few feet from the force of Mega-Seadramon's attack. Its skeletal wings beat at the air.

"This is getting ridiculous!" shouted Michael. "Four-on-one – we should've wasted it by now!"

"So why haven't we?" Wendy Kuhl demanded.

Ken noticed her olive-green glow of her Crest flickering. Her trait was 'serenity'. If she lost her cool, Qilinmon would regress.

"Easy, Wendy," he said. "Deep breaths."

Wendy obeyed the command, closing her eyes. The glow of her Crest stabilized.

Qilinmon pushed himself to his feet, pawing at the ground with a hoof, "We need to finish this!"

"DEADLY FEAR," Skull-Baluchimon said, spreading its wings. The black flesh with electric yellow wiring that was between its phalanges along the radius began omitting a dark red glow that spread down to the ends of the bones. The glow then began to spread to the rest of the body and the already present shadowy aura surrounding its body flared without warning.

Mega-Seadramon submerged into the large lake, taking Michael down with him. Underneath the back part of his helmet, the Perfect could trap enough air for a single person for a couple of hours. Qilinmon and Jewelbeemon both dove for Ken and Wendy, even as Ken wrapped his arms around Wendy to further shield the girl.

Rapidmon flickered in and out of view, retrieving Wallace and trying to get out of rage of the attack.

Except for a stiff breeze that went past, there was no physical trauma. Rather, the trauma was strictly mental. Deadly Fear was a hallucinogenic. Anyone who breathed it in began imagining their worst nightmares come too long.

Wendy screamed, the light of her Crest flickering and dying out. Qilinmon regressed to Kudamon, who lay paralyzed at the illusion of Wendy's breaking apart like data. Wendy could only see Kudamon disintegrating in turn.

"Kudamon!" she reached out for him.

Kudamon struggled to rise up and go to her, "Wendy! Wendy, no! I cannot live with you, no!"

"No, no, not again!" Ken screamed, clutching his Crest, which glowed still, "Jewelbeemon! Ryo! V-mon! Daisuke! NO! Not all of you too – you can't go like my brother! I can't! I'll never…! Why, Millenniumon! Why would kill even Ryo? I know…!"

His gaze landed on Skull-Baluchimon's form.

"Ken! No, please don't give in again, don't give in, Ken! Not even if I were to be deleted forever," Jewelbeemon pleaded with Ken. He swore he felt himself dissolving. He glanced around, trying to figure out how Ryo, Daisuke, and V-mon had all ended up around him, dead or dying. He swore he could see that cruel smirk cross Ken's lips once again.

Antiramon simply looked around wildly. He was there again – that horrid dimension that had taken him from Wallace and Gummymon and caused them so much pain. No, no, no! He should be free of this! The corruption had marked him, true, but he was supposed to be free! Antiramon began screaming and wailing in despair.

Above, Rapidmon and Wallace watched in horror as their teammates fell rapidly into hallucinations. They flickered over to Mega-Seadramon when he came up. Wallace grimaced as the speeds made him feel light-headed.

"What's happening to them?" Michael demanded eyes wide.

"They're seeing illusions," Wallace groaned. "If we get anywhere near that fog we'll end up the same."

"What should we do?" Rapidmon asked in a subdued tone.

"And what's Ken talking about? Why wouldn't Zeed-Millenniumon kill the only person who's able to stop him?" Mega-Seadramon asked. The Japanese boy seemed to be highly confused and bewildered.

"It's not important right now," Michael said, gesturing wildly. "We need to figure out –"

"EISEIRYUUOUJIN!" an unfamiliar voice called from above. Two gold and black blurs spun down from the heavens and sliced through Skull-Baluchimon's wings.

The undead beast looked side to side. It didn't seem to feel pain, another reason they were having trouble taking it down. However, its fog-like aura began to shrink back down to its original size. The second it had fallen past their friends' forms, they collapsed where they were.

Mega-Seadramon and Michael looked upwards to the dragon over them in the sky coming into a steep dive. Wallace and Rapidmon went for Antiramon, who was shaking and looking around wildly.

"Antiramon," Wallace said, reaching out for his partner's head from Rapidmon's arm.

"We're here, brother, it's alright," Rapidmon said.

"I…I thought I was…there, in that place," Antiramon said, moaning.

"It wasn't real, Antiramon," Wallace assured. "It was an illusion created by Skull-Baluchimon's attack. It wasn't real. You're with us."

Michael let Mega-Seadramon drop him off on the beach and ran for Ken, Wendy, Kudamon, and Jewelbeemon. Ken was picking himself up sluggishly and he was connecting the dots pretty fast but he was too shell-shocked to say anything to Wendy, who sobbed uncontrollably as she held Kudamon close.

"It was an illusion," Michael said, falling to his knees and hugging Wendy. She was just a kid. They were all just kids. "It wasn't real. It was all a projection of your fears."

"MAELSTROM!" Mega-Seadramon roared, releasing a winter's wind from his mouth at Skull-Baluchimon.

The dragon that had saved them reached the undead Digimon, "OUGAI!" It became a raging tornado of earth and blue electricity. Skull-Baluchimon reared to attack, but was blown to pieces by the Dragon Beast.

He was not deleted. Skull-Baluchimon's bones now lay scattered on the ground.

"I…I saw Kudamon dying," Wendy said, hiccupping.

Kudamon curled himself around Wendy's neck, his long, ghostly tail clutching the gold Holy Cartridge he carried close to his partner's chest. "I, too, saw you dying…."

"It was an illusion, just a trick," Michael repeated. He glanced over at Ken, "Ken?"

Ken shuddered and picked himself up to go to Jewelbeemon, who was trembling as well.

"Ken!"

"Hey, Ken!"

"Are you okay, Ken?"

"What are we?" Michael protested in Japanese to the four humans and three Digimon running up to them. "Chopped liver?"

"We know Ken," the three girls said.

"Is everyone okay?" the sole male in the group asked. He looked worriedly down at the girl, who hadn't seemed to notice anyone around her, but she looked American too. She might not be able to understand Japanese, so that was understandable.

"Skull-Baluchimon gave everyone hallucinations," Michael replied, "Mega-Seadramon and I escaped underwater and Wallace and Rapidmon were able to get out of range though.

"Wallace?" the auburnette girl blinked. "Wallace…Sandell?"

"You know Wallace?" Wendy hiccupped, looking up at the sound of her friend's name.

She received an uncertain look in reply, "Jun's English bad. Say more please?"

"She asked if you know Wallace," Michael translated.

"Oh!" Jun said. She nodded to Wendy and pantomimed writing a message, "Jun's brother and Wallace, pen pals."

"You're Daisuke's sister," Michael realized. "I should've known from the hair."

Jun pouted, "Hey…."

"I'm going to see – Wallace, was it? And his partners," the single male in the group said. "I think we've got Skull-Baluchimon beat…"

"Wait, Shuu! Wait, wait!" Dracomon grabbed his partner's pants. "Didn't that Akiyama guy say to give the Digimental to someone named Ken?"

"Right!" Shuu grabbed for his bag.

"Ryo?" At the sound of the name, Ken pulled free of Jewelbeemon's embrace, his eyes a little wild. "You saw Ryo too?"

"Y-yeah, and he gave us something for you," the girl holding the Moonmon said.

"Here," Shuu said, offering the Digimental. "Jun got a Digimental that matched her Crest. Her Digimon evolved to Ultimate because of it. I'm going to see to the other three." He ran off to Wallace and his two Digimon.

"Ultimate?" Wendy picked up the word and pointed to the dragon watching the bones critically. "That Digimon is an Ultimate?"

"How does that work?" Michael wondered.

"I don't know," Jun said. "I don't really care either. Ouryuumon nearly…."

No one needed Jun to finish her sentence. Wendy didn't understand what was being said, but she picked up on the fear and the Digimon name and understood anyways. She hugged Jun around the waist.

"Where did Ryo go?" Ken asked, having been staring at the Digimental in his hands.

"He's on his way to Zeed-Millenniumon's castle," the girl with the Kotemon said. "For the final confrontation, I guess."

Ken sucked in a deep breath. "Why hasn't he come to see me…?"

"Never mind that now," Wallace said, glancing apologetically at Ken. He now held a worn out Chocomon in his arms. "Skull-Baluchimon could pull himself back together any second now. " He switched to English, "Wendy, Kudamon, do you think evolve to Perfect again?"

Wendy sniffed and rubbed at her eyes. "Kudamon? How do you feel?"

"I am not too injured," Kudamon said.

"I think I could…," Wendy said shakily. She took several deep breaths, rubbing at her eyes again. While she was trying to calm down, Skull-Baluchimon's bones began ratting and shifting towards themselves.

"Momoe and I are out," Shuu said quickly. "Dracomon and Kotemon are too beat up."

"Moonmon too," Chizuru sighed, watching the bones reform themselves.

"Ouryuumon! Get high!" Jun ordered. "Be ready!"

Having already reclaimed her swords, Ouryuumon flew up into the sky. The wings had been the source of the Deadly Fear attack, so they needed to be taken care of first thing.

Kudamon uncoiled himself from Wendy, floating out ahead with obvious reluctance. Wendy reached out and let her hand brush against her partner, equally reluctant, but her Crest glowed and Kudamon evolved rapidly into Leppamon and then into Qilinmon once again.

"You should use the Digimental, Ken," Jun said.

"I just don't understand why Ryo hasn't managed to see me," Ken murmured.

"Well, if we hurry up here, maybe we can catch him!" Jun encouraged.

Shuu hummed, "I don't think he's avoiding you, if that's what you're thinking. He is the only person who can defeat Zeed-Millenniumon after all, so he's probably just really busy. He looked like he hadn't slept in days when we saw him."

"Do you think so?" Ken asked.

Shuu nodded, "I'm sure there's a reason for everything, Ken. He seemed very tired and worn down. There should be plenty of time to talk once this is all over."

Ken took a deep breath. "You're right."

"EISEIRYUUOUJIN!" Ouryuumon's blades were sent flying down as Skull-Baluchimon finished assembling with himself. The blades cut through the base of the wing bones yet again and the undead Digimon glanced at its fallen appendages with disinterest.

"I'm learning Japanese from my brother," Wendy declared. She looked up at the older kids around her. "I can't understand anything of what's being said!"

"Sorry, Wendy," Michael ruffled the little girl's hair. "We're talking about Ryo Akiyama. He sent Ken a gift because they're friends."

"Oh," Wendy's eyes lit up. She looked at the Digimental in Ken's hands. "What kind of gift?"

"I'll show you," Ken said, turning towards Jewelbeemon. "Digimental Up!"

The flower burst apart and Jewelbeemon began to glow.

"Jewelbeemon Armor-kyuukyoku shinka…Grandis-Kuwagumon!"

Grandis-Kuwagumon was a bipedal, black-armored insect with four chipped blades for wings which hummed with yellow-orange energy. Clawed gauntlets shielded the Ultimate's fists. A mask with a single red eyes and pincers covered his face.

"So cool," Dracomon sighed longingly.

"So, how do we do this?" Grandis-Kuwagumon asked.

"Smash its bones," Ken said. "It might be able to assemble and reassemble its parts, but it can't fix the damage to them."

"Sumasshu?" Jun blinked.

"Kudaku," Ken clarified to Jun, "Smash the bones."

"Ah," Jun said. She called up the order to her partner.

Qilinmon began racing to the left of Skull-Baluchimon, "KNOWLEDGE OF THE SWIFT!" The Holy Beast accelerated at such speeds that he left afterimages of himself behind – fake duplicates. "WAVE OF REFORM!" A golden glow surrounded Qilinmon and he charged the left wing bones, focusing the golden glow into his hooves as he trampled them, breaking them to pieces.

"GRAN KILLER!" Grandis-Kuwagumon charged for the damaged foreleg, cutting through the bone and making Skull-Baluchimon lose balance.

"LASER EDGE!" A fine electrical beam lanced off of Mega-Seadramon's blade horn and left deep gashes along Skull-Baluchimon's rear legs.

"RAPID FIRE!" Rapidmon fired energy blasts out of his arm cannons, targeting the right wing bones. He followed up with a second round of shots, enacting a sort of carpet bombing to be sure its attacks hit.

"OUGAI!" Ouryuumon came down as an earthflow, crashing through the undead Perfect's spine.

There was a wet 'crack!' as Ouryuumon drive through something within the Digimon's chest.

And just like that, Skull-Baluchimon burst into data fragments.

Ouryuumon came out of her violent spinning and blinked rapidly. Everyone just took a moment to stop and stare where their opponent had been. It was a shock, especially to Ken and the American Chosen Children.

"Ew," Chizuru wrinkled her nose. "I think Ouryuumon just went through its heart."

"Awesome!" Dracomon breathed. Shuu sighed. His partner's love of violent things was so odd sometimes. And his Crest embodied empathy….

"Gross!" Momoe squealed.

Wendy looked up at Michael. "What was that sound?"

"Ouryuumon went through Skull-Baluchimon's guts," Michael said.

"Ick," Wendy stuck out her tongue. Qilinmon came trotting up to the group. The girl ran up to her partner, tossing her arms around one of his forelegs.

"No more standing around!" Jun declared. "Those of us still able to fight need to keep pressing on!"

"Did you see any large bodies of waters in the direction of Zeed-Millenniumon's castle when you were flying up there?" Michael asked.

"Uhm," Jun frowned.

"No, there aren't," Shuu said.

"Well, then, I'm out by virtue of inappropriate landscape," Michael sighed.

"Do you know where a Digital Gate is?" Momoe said. She was eager to go home if she could. She'd had enough of fighting.

"Yeah," Michael nodded. "It doesn't make sense for us to stay here if the end game is coming up when can't contribute to the fighting. We'd just be in the way."

"Awww, we're going to miss out on all the excitement though!" Dracomon complained.

"We've had plenty of our own excitement!" Shuu argued. "I am ready to go home."

"I want to meet the rest of your family, Chizuru," Moonmon said.

"Me too!" Kotemon said excitedly.

"Then we'll take everyone to the Gate," Michael said. He gestured to his partner. "All aboard! It's just across the lake and a bit of a walk."

"Thank you, Michael," Shuu said.

"Take care, Wendy, mind Ken and Wallace, okay?" Michael gave the girl a hug.

"I will. Get home safe," Wendy said.

More goodbyes passed between the eight Chosen. She watched as her teammate took Jun's away with a longing expression no one missed.

"You could go home if you wanted," Wallace said. "No one would think badly of you, Wendy."

"I'd think badly of me," Wendy said. She clasped her Crest, thinking of her dad. "I realize now…. You can't just wish away everything violent and expect there to be peace. Sometimes, you have to fight for it, even when it seems backwards to do so."


Magnamon unleashed a flurry of Mangum Kicks and Magnum Punches at the Crossmon he was battling, keeping it distracted and focused on him. The small fry had all been felled by Medieval-Dukemon's Rage of Wyvern, who lay unconscious behind him and badly injured from Crossmon's Mystic Break. Probably, the only thing that had kept him from being incinerated was that he was almost entirely made from Chrome Digizoid.

Chrome Digizoid was why Ryo had chosen them to fight this last barrier to Zeed-Millenniumon's inner chambers. As all their other allies had been left behind in groups of two or three depending on the situation, it meant Ryo would only have Justimon with him.

"KAISER PHOENIX!" Crossmon became a blur of motion.

"LIGHT AURA BARRIER!" His armor flashed and he was tossed back when Crossmon rammed his barrier, but he was unharmed. Magnamon didn't like his position. Medieval-Dukemon was right behind him now.

"MYSTIC BREAK!" The red gems along the collar of its breast plate glowed and bright yellow-white energy formed in its beak.

Magnamon kept his defense maneuver strong, crossing his arms and planting himself on the ground to brace for Crossmon's attack. So he was completely unprepared for the flat of double-headed axe throwing him aside from behind.

He rolled to a stop and looked up at his risen teammate, "Medieval-Dukemon! What are…?"

"FINAL CREST!" The ornamentation over his armor and the coat of arms on his chest began to glow with red light. His armor cracked further under the strain of releasing more energy than he had left.

No matter how strong Ryo could make him, Medieval-Dukemon knew it wasn't anywhere near as powerful as his cherished Takato could enable him to be. The form he had now…it was not his truest form, but that was alright, because that form was for the both of them and not something he would access without his partner.

The energies Crossmon and Medieval-Dukemon released collided and Magnamon was again hurled away, hitting a wall. The two energies twisted and argued until both seemed to slip past each other. Mystic Break sliced across Medieval-Dukemon's breastplate, low to the left and down towards his right hip. It snapped the Dynas in half and tore through his right arm. Final Crest exploded violently against Crossmon, knocking the eagle-like Ultimate to the ground.

Magnamon pushed off the ground, "PLASMA SHOOT!" His armor opened up and released a mixed salvo of energy beams and missiles, which streamed to Crossmon as the bird tried to rise. Final Crest had delivered a shattering blow to Crossmon's Chrome Digizoid armor. Plasma Shoot took advantage of that damage and consigned Crossmon to oblivion.

"Fool!" Magnamon snarled, flickering out of view and then back into it next to his friend's side. "Look at you!"

"Don't be sad, Magnamon," Medieval-Dukemon said. "Remember, I come from a momentary existence within time. When Ryo defeats Zeed-Millenniumon, I will be with Takato once again as if this death had never happened. Not even death will keep me from my partner as Takato is my…."

"Your what?" Magnamon pressed, his eyes flickering to his friend's leaking data.

"Who is Daisuke to you?" the Warrior asked.

"Huh?"

"Who is your partner to you?"

"Daisuke is my closest friend, a brother in arms, my strength," Magnamon replied. "He is the other half of me and I was made to be the other half of him."

Medieval-Dukemon's eyes closed, "By who?"

"I…I suppose ENIAC…or perhaps Atanasoff now that I know they exist," Magnamon said. "I don't know for certain, perhaps it was the Holy Beasts and Gennai who chose me to be Daisuke's partner."

"Do you feel…loyalty to ENIAC or Atanasoff?" the Warrior asked. "The 'gods' of the Digital World?"

Magnamon pondered the question, "I suppose I do. It's only because of them that I can be with Daisuke at all."

"They don't have a major impact in this modern era, however," the Warrior remarked. "The Holy Beasts are the present 'gods' of the Digital World…do you feel loyalty to Qinglongmon, Zhuqiaomon, Baihumon, and Xuanwumon?"

Magnamon wondered where all these questions were coming from. However, he still gave it thought.

"No…not really. I…I feel I have reason to distrust them, in fact. I would say my first memories are of meeting Daisuke…yet; I am not that young an existence. I knew what to tell Daisuke to activate the Digimental of Courage. When I saw Ryo, I knew I was supposed to know him, but I cannot remember actual details of meeting him."

"Hn…my first conscious memory was…a yearning," Medieval-Dukemon sighed. "I yearned…for his presence."

"Who's?"

"The presence of my Creator," the dying Digimon said. "Takato…he was the first person I laid eyes on. I have said before, Takato is my world – the beginning and the end of my existence. I am loyal only to Takato. Data I might be, but Takato is 'god' to me in the way that ENIAC and Atanasoff are 'gods' to you."

The Holy Knight stared, "…Your partner created you?"

"Although…now I think about it, humans created Atanasoff and ENIAC…so perhaps Zhuqiaomon was right to address humans as 'gods of Digimon'," but the Warrior seemed to be muttering more to himself than talking to Magnamon.

"Yes, my partner created me," Medieval-Dukemon went on. "His dreams brought me into existence. True, elements that took a digital manifestation empowered his wish, but those elements are not native to the Digital World and thus, are not under the dominion of the Holy Beasts, Atanasoff, or ENIAC."

His lower extremities were gone. All that was left of him was his shoulders, head, cloak, and the double-axe Dynas.

"I hope we'll be able to meet again, Medieval-Dukemon, even if you won't be able to remember me," Magnamon said.

"That would be nice," Medieval-Dukemon said with a sigh. "Takato would enjoy meeting people from other realities than his own. Hopefully, it will be a peaceful meeting…. Go to Ryo now, Magnamon. I fear that boy will break by the end of this. I sense something…untold about the ties that force Ryo to clash against Millenniumon again and again. It does not feel…right that such a thing…is used against…them…."

The gold-clad Holy Knight's eyes narrowed slightly, "What do you mean?"

With one last sigh, the last of the Warrior dissolved. Oddly, his cloak and Dynas remained. Magnamon stared at the broken weapon and the torn cloak, disturbed by his friend's dying words.

Was it just the philosophical musings of a dying mon or was there actual meaning to the words? He hadn't really expected it of Medieval-Dukemon even if a Digimon's thought processes were more mature at higher evolutionary levels. Guilmon had seemed intrinsically simple…but perhaps he was more unassuming? Yet even as an Ultimate: Takato, Takato's friends, Takato's family, and the bread from Takato's family shop…Takato this, Takato that…. Almost everything the Virus had ever talked about revolved around his partner in some thread of thought or another.

Magnamon shook his head, gathered the halves of Dynas and wrapped them up in what remained of the cloak. He wasn't sure what to do with them, really, but leaving them there – even if the Warrior would be alive again after Zeed-Millenniumon was defeated and restored time to its normal path – seemed disrespectful.

The Holy Knight's image flickered as he began to race to Zeed-Millenniumon's inner chamber, taking stock of his condition as he flew. He was hurt, but his armor hadn't suffered critical structural damage.

He could still fight.

Magnamon reached the end of the corridor. Two massive doors, engraved with some sort of sigil that he felt he should recognize, waited there. One was slightly ajar and Magnamon couldn't hear anything.

The lack of sound frightened him.

Magnamon barreled into the door, throwing it open with such violence that despite its size and the weight of the stone, it bounced back at him and he just barely avoided being clipped by the door when it slammed shut.

Ryo knelt next to a beaten Monodramon.

"Bah," a dual-tone, oddly echoed voice. "The second replacement has come."

Magnamon's eyes darted towards Zeed-Millenniumon and shuddered. The thing before him defied all logic and proper reason – even for the Digital World's abnormal sense of 'normal'.

It didn't even have a body. The closest description he could think off were two long tongues of flame twisted together, one faded rust red like dried blood and the other a grayish violet-blue. Each had a single fiery arm and the 'eye sockets' glimmered dark red with yellow points of light emanating from within. The red head had a horn a spiky 'protrusion's of fire that flared upwards. The violet-blue head had a smooth snout and any 'spikes' went backwards. Four rings of venomous green Digital Code encircled the…thing, like they were the chains that kept its form grounded in reality.

"And I thought you couldn't possibly get any uglier," Magnamon said. "Of course…I suppose Moon=Millenniumon could sort of count as pretty, you know, being a giant crystal prison and –"

"Your mockery of us is amusing, but a waste of time," Zeed-Millenniumon interrupted, "as would any attempt to fight us. We cannot be defeated. You cannot destroy us in battle and no matter how many times you might stifle our revenge – revenge is our existence – we will return again, the flames stoked to new strengths."

"Even still," Monodramon said with a voice filled with pain as he stood, "you are a fool to believe we'll let you win whether or not you can be destroyed!"

Ryo supported the little dragon, not saying anything. Frankly, when Ryo had spoken to Jun, Shuu, and Miyako's sisters, it'd been the most concentrated flow of words Magnamon had heard from Ryo in months.

Monodramon had said Ryo's quasi-muteness seemed to be a result of trauma from previous battles. Ryo also had amnesia and while he seemed to be able to recall a few details his recollection was as sketchy as Magnamon's.

"Perhaps I might yet still be defeated, Small Dragon, if my desire for revenge were to disappear," Zeed-Millenniumon conceded. "Yet, it will never happen."

"Why that's…," Monodramon broke out into laughter. "Bullshit."

"Monodramon?" Ryo stared in surprise.

Magnamon was impressed too. Monodramon hadn't even stuttered.

"I may not be Ryo's true partner," Monodramon said, "but I am his friend and that's enough to stand by him against you again and again. I won't leave him! There's no other human I would desire to have as my partner!"

Zeed-Millenniumon sighed, "Such a shame most others would not be as loyal."

"Hey!" Magnamon protested.

"You do not qualify as 'most others', to our disappointment," the Wicked God said. Magnamon was confused by the weight of the bitterness and jealousy in the evil Digimon's voice. Why would Zeed-Millenniumon be upset by a lack of perceived loyalty for Ryo? Why be jealous of Magnamon and Monodramon's loyalty to Ryo?

The Wicked God's heads turned towards Ryo, "We could have been the best of partners...but that has been denied us…."

Ryo's gaze snapped up to the Digimon that had haunted him for what may as well have been years. "What…?"

Magnamon settled on the floor in shock. "You can't be…."

"I sense something…untold about the ties that force Ryo to clash against Millenniumon again and again. It does not feel…right that such a thing…is used against…them…."

How had that goofy, simple, bread-loving, cheerful red dinosaur figured it out?

The Holy Knight sagged against the doors in shock, clutching at the shattered weapon in his hands. He saw Ryo go pale – death-pale – and if his lips had not been moving, Magnamon would've worried the boy had fainted.

"What?" Ryo asked again. "We're…what?"

Monodramon began to laugh again, "Your thirst for revenge has long been slacked, Zeed-Millenniumon, has it not?"

As if the trigger, Monodramon and Zeed-Millenniumon began to glow with a bright light. The Wicked God flinched and studied his nebulous claws in uncertainty.

"Ryo! This is the only way we can become your partner," Monodramon leaned against Ryo. The boy, as shattered as Medieval-Dukemon had feared, hugged the Small Dragon tightly. "We will Jogress…."

"Th-this is a trick!" Zeed-Millenniumon roared. "A Jogress with you, replacement, is impossible!"

"It's our only chance!" Monodramon retorted. "Our only chance to be with Ryo is to Jogress! Your terrible power will be sealed…and I…."

"This is a trick!" Zeed-Millenniumon protested even as the light of the coming Jogress evolution grew brighter and brighter. "This is impossible!"

"Ryo…even if I am no longer myself…I will go," Monodramon said. The light from the two Digimon, so drastically different but with the same desire at their core, grew to be its brightest, forcing Ryo and Magnamon to shield their eyes.

Power rippled out as the force of the Jogress filled the room and then the light died out.

Magnamon lowered his arm and stared at the red-and-purple banded Digitama resting at a midpoint between Zeed-Millenniumon's throne and where Monodramon had stood next to Ryo.

"Ryo…," he murmured, watching as the boy walked to the egg with hunched shoulders and bowed back.

"I was…killing…my….," the boy choked. Ryo kneeled with his legs on either side of the Digitama, placed his arms around it and his forehead against it.

A most agonized scream filled the room and the Holy Knight could only bear silent witness as the truth crashed down and wrecked Ryo. Medieval-Dukemon had been right…but there was nothing anyone could've done to stop the breaking from happening.

Ka-rash!

Magnamon was thrown when something collided with the doors with a large amount of force. He looked up at the intruders in reproach. "Hey! Watch it!"

"Magnamon?"

The gold-armored Digimon did a double take of the black-armored insect when he recognized the voice, "Wormmon?"

"Ryo!" Ken's voice echoed in the room and a dark-haired figure bolted out from the line of four Digimon behind the doors to the throne room.

Magnamon lunged forwards and grabbed at Ken, preventing him from going to the shattered boy in the center of the room. "Ken, wait. Ryo's…."

Ryo gave no sign of having heard a thing.

The Holy Knight trailed off as a bright light suddenly engulfed the broken soldier and the Digitama that held the joined souls of a brave-hearted Small Dragon and a jealousy-driven Wicked God.

"No, Ryo!" Ken screamed, reaching for his disappearing friend.

"What's going on?" Jun's voice demanded, stepping past the line of Digimon herself.

"It's over," Magnamon stated. "The war is over and…and Ryo…he's twelve. A day hadn't even gone by for him since the last time he and Millenniumon fought…and it's only been a few months since this war began for him and it spanned years on the other end of the timeline. He's not supposed to be here as he is, so…the ENIAC's probably called him back to the past. There's no reason he won't be back soon…though it might be years from his perspective."

"He…do you think he'll be home?" Ken asked, stopping his struggle against Magnamon. Tears streaked down his cheeks. "When we get home, I mean."

"I don't know, Ken, but the important thing is that now he can come home…even if it takes a while," Magnamon said. He hoped he wasn't giving Ken an unreasonable or false hope. "I don't know when he'll be back…. He's been through a lot of crap. He may need time to sort them out and that could keep him away for longer. He wouldn't want you to see him at his worst, Ken. I…I can't remember properly, but I know Ryo always tried to be strong for you."

Ken jerked in surprise.

"Wait…you were that V-mon?" the Ultimate that was Wormmon stepped forwards.

"I seem to be," Magnamon let Ken go and stood up to recollect Dynas. "I seem to know things…but without the actual memories of those things. It's strange. I know I should have memories, but instead I…only know. It's like all I have is a checklist of events, but it's incomplete."

"I was told…I was told Millenniumon had killed you and that Wormmon was barely saved," Ken informed him.

Magnamon paused, "Huh…Millenniumon killed me…? No…that doesn't sound quite right…well, never mind. I miss Daisuke. I want to go home." He looked pointed at Jun when he said this.

There was a shout of some sort of protest from a young girl hanging out with – surprise – Wallace. Since she was speaking English – presumably – Magnamon didn't know what was being said.

"Wallace! You're looking good!" Magnamon laughed, earning a faint smile from the American before he began speaking to the girl. "And Rapidmon! You're looking…well…green."

"Apparently, the Digimental of Fate isn't very creative," Rapidmon said dryly. "Oh, well!"

"Where's the rest of your group, Jun?" Magnamon asked.

"They were out of energy, so they decided to go home with Michael and Mega-Seadramon," Jun said. "No more water for them…."

"Let's walk and talk," the Digimon who was Jun's partner said. "Or…fly…in some of our cases."

Magnamon hefted his burden into a more secure grip and nodded, glancing down at Ken. "I don't think I'll be able to sustain this form for much longer. What connection I had to Ryo is gone now and I don't want to leave this behind."

"I can carry it," Jun's partner said. The dragon slithered forwards in the air to take it the bundle.

"Thanks," Magnamon said. He shone a bright light and regressed to Chibimon. He'd been hoping he'd get to be V-mon…but at least he wasn't without arms or legs. The Digimental of Miracles rested on the ground beside him.

Ken scooped him and the Digimental of Miracles up and carried him over to Jun, then went to his own partner. He looked dejected and upset, but hopeful.

Chibimon really hoped he didn't turn out to be a liar.


Daisuke nearly expired from joy to have Chibimon back. He was also startled to get the Digimental of Miracles, but he wasn't complaining! Oh no, he wasn't complaining at all. Back during the fight with Belial-Vamdemon, there'd been a cost of all those multiple evolutions of their partners existing at once and that had been the Digimentals.

After all, no one could achieve a dream without any sort of effort.

He had Chibimon, one of his favorite Digimentals (all three of his own were his favorites), he had Jun, and Jun's partner – a little red-horned yellow blob of a critter named Fufumon – was definitely his favorite Digimon in the world right after his own – and hearing about the Digimental his sister had gotten from Ryo that made Ken's friend another favorite person of his in the whole wide world.

He was super jealous that Jun and Ken had attained their Digimon's personal Ultimate forms, but hey, since Taichi, Jou, Yamato, Hikari, Takeru, Koushirou, Sora, and Mimi had been returned their own Crests just the other day, hours before the entire Armagemon fiasco the night before and now Jun, Shuu, Momoe, and Chizuru plus a bunch of other kids – including Michael and Wallace – had their own Crests, Daisuke was far from being completely forlorn. It meant he had a chance too at getting a Crest that was uniquely his! The prospect was exciting. Would it be Miracles? It was the only unique Digimental he had, so maybe there was a chance, but Miracles might be more Ryo's thing, really, since he was the only person able to take out a Wicked God Digimon with dominion over time and space.

The only thing he wasn't so pleased about was the broken Digital weapon he was struggling to carry outside to Ken's dad's car. The Ichijouji couple had offered the Motomiya siblings a ride home. Their families were close, so it made sense to go to the nearest home to celebrate everyone's safe return.

Well, it would just be the Ichijouji and Motomiya families. Tonight, everyone needed alone time with their families and closest of friends. The Yagami and Ishida families would probably be with the Inoue tribe. The Takaishi family would be with the Hida family. The Kido clan would go home to each other, as would the Izumi and the Takenouchi families.

Tomorrow would be more involved celebrations and the story-telling of everyone's journey…and dealing with fallout of missing a day of school, but that was normal in the everyday life of a Chosen Child.

Such celebrations would be repeated worldwide as families and friends reunited and rejoiced in a safe return.


"Your sister got home safe, August-kun?" Shin asked.

August nodded, "Yeah. She wanted me to say 'hello' to someone named 'Motomiya Jun'? And an 'Ichijouji Ken'…."

"I know them, I'll pass it on tomorrow, Kuhl-san," Jou said, yawning widely. Pukamon hung limply from his arms. Much like Shuu and Dracomon, they'd fought until they dropped against Zeed-Millenniumon's armies.

"Thank you," August nodded to Jou. "I'm going to head home and get with my family via internet chat. Please, excuse me."

"Goodnight, August-kun," Shin said.

August said his goodbyes in reply and to Shuu and Jou, and then departed to get to the station. He's already turned down the offer for a ride since he didn't want to keep Shin's family from their reunion.

He glanced over his shoulder at the Kidos as they piled into Shin's car.

Maneuvering through a short contact list, the young man selected 'Kanbara Shinya' with a bare glance and then held his phone up to his ear.

"Hey, Shinya," August replied when his younger friend picked up. "Bright Queen is safe. She left with her family not too long ago. Things are quiet on this end."

Shinya sighed heavily, "Things are settling down here too. Dagomon put up a fight, but if things are quieting on your end…."

"They are," August replied. "Renamon, Karatenmon, and Commandramon will remain on duty, of course. Oh, Karatenmon found some Digital spirits floating around. It might be an avenue for a new recruit with the right leverage if I can get the resources. Anything else?"

"…Zeed-Millenniumon's final orders to his forces were that if he should perish, the Demon Lords were to be their next Masters."

August felt a chill crawl up his spine, "…And now…we owe him a debt."

"Let's hope Akiyama finished him for good this time," Shinya said. "I doubt it, but I don't want to know what a Digimon like that will call for in repayment."

They weren't in a position to refuse extra forces. Dagomon's forces grew exponentially it seemed. The armies of the Demon Lords incessantly dwindled.

August swallowed, "Well…he can't be worse a Master than Gran-Dracmon…can he?"

Silence was Shinya's reply.

Finally, a small sigh, "Barbamon sends his regards. I'm sure you have your own to pass on, so I'll do so. In the meantime, you're still on mission to protect Bright Queen. I'll see about your resources to restore the spirits."

"Yes, sir."

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With Hands Stained Red
Chapter 1
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Author's Notes: The hardest part of planning With Hands Stained Red has been time managing. I have an entire timeline on which all the series I'm using in this story. And I shake my fist at Millenniumon in defiant anger: needing a timeline is all his fault, the egotistical jerk. Between Adventure being semi-reliant on Japanese airing dates for a timeline and Ryo and Millenniumon skipping over to another series entirely…this was very time-consuming. The other series I'm using are far more malleable to my timelining. …Sort of….

It's also fun in a dizzying sort of way.

Well-p. I hope you've enjoyed! Do leave reviews: comments, criticisms, etcetera. I'll see you next chapter…when I see you next chapter.

Tootles!