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A blue sky turned dark over their heads as the trees obscured their view of the sky. The tree house village was far behind them as a dirt road led them to the next town. Towering trees offered a sense of safety as Michael knew a digimon like the Garurumon before could come at any minute. They emerged from the forest as Emma said with wonderment,” Wow!”

It was a great, green open field. Tiny white flowers dotted the landscape as a gentle breeze blew tiny spores against their faces. Giant white clouds the size of building soared over them, creating the illusion the sun was flickering. The shadows created great, dark spots on the grass as they started running across it’s calming flora.

“Tag!” Emma cried, whacking Tommy to the ground,” You’re it!”

“Yeah right!” he yelled, hitting Takuya as they all ran across the grass like ants.

“So childish,” Mei said, until somebody yelled,” You’re it Koji!”

“Gotcha Mei!” he said, hitting her lightly on the shoulder.

“We’ll see who’s it,” she said angrily, chasing everyone down. Sarah kept running until she collapsed on the ground laughing. She stared up at the sky, watching the pieces of grey pass by. Everyone else fell beside her, taking deep breaths as the grass scratched their skin.

“I bet you could fit a building in that cloud,” she said, pointing to one perfectly shaped cloud on the horizon.

“I remember that movie,” Koichi said, putting his hands behind his head as Beth put on her Mp3.

Emma looked on the horizon, squinting as she noticed,” Hey guys, is that a village?”

They got up, peeking with her as Michael said,” I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s right where it should be.”

They watched closer as Zoe got up and said,” We should find a place to stay. I don’t really wanna sleep in the tent again.”

As Michael helped Christine up, everybody strolled calmly as the town erupted in flames. Innocent digimon scurried out of the village as a strange, black figure came from the devastation. He wielded a strange scythe, black wings, and scratched armor from unknown battles. Michael’s eyes widened as he said,” How? How did he find us already?”

“C’mon guys!” Takuya yelled,” We’ll show him who he’s messing with.”

“Right behind you!” Beth said as Michael stopped her, along with the other girls. As she watched the fear in his eyes, Christine asked,” Michael, what’s wrong?”

“It’s him.”

“You’re sure?” she asked, gasping as she watched the others go off.

“Positive, and the others were foolish enough to go in without any plan.”

BurningGreymon landed with everyone else, all in their beast spirits as he demanded,” Who are you?”

“Michael, who is he?” Beth asked as the mysterious figure and himself answered simultaneously,” The dark lord, Terminus.”

He was a clone of Michael, yet the exact opposite. They were the same height, their features were mirrored, even their build was perfectly replicated. But this wasn’t Michael. His hair was black like pure darkness, his red eyes sending chills through your heart. This Terminus carried a giant scythe under his black wings, laughing in a deep voice as they said,” You can’t just burn a village like this.”

“I can do whatever I please idiots.”

“We’ll show you idiots!” Koji said, revving up as Terminus laughed and said,” You really don’t know who your dealing with, do you?”

Takuya started firing at him, but Terminus blocked every shot. Zoe launched a tornado that he merely split in half. Tommy hurled the Avalanche Axes only to have him easily catch them with his bare hands and throw them back with ease. Koji went on to tacked Terminus, but he back flipped, using his back as a pedestal. He ran into a building as J.P. fired two bursts of electricity. Terminus absorbed them into the scythe, charging it with dark lightning as he slashed them all away. Koichi was their last hope, surrounding him with darkness and turning the flames black. Terminus reached his hand into the flames, absorbing them and creating a strange, purple crystal.

“Tommy!” Emma screamed, breaking free from Michael and sprinting down the hill. Everyone else followed her as he tried to keep them away in safety. Christine passed him, pleading as her friends fought,” Michael, they need us.”

“I know,” he said, taking her hand and following to the village. Terminus was even more terrifying up close. The fire bowed down to him as he walked by, floating cinders swirling around his being. The girls stopped in fear at the sight of him, except for Michael, who stood his ground to save Christine.

“Michael,” Terminus said, smiling cruelly as they cowered,” I thought I felt you nearby.”

“Why do you keep following me?!”

“Yeah, leave Michel alone!” Dorumon yelled, only to melt the smile away as Terminus said,” Get your mutt of a digimon away from me.”

“Answer me!”

He rested the scythe on his shoulder, the wings folding into his back as he said,” You’re trying to stop my master Epsilon. And I won’t allow it!”

"You’re a demon lord?” Christine asked in astonishment while spreading confusion among them.

“This your lady?”

“Keep your filthy hands away from Christine.”

“Ooh, a name to go with the face,”

“What do you mean ‘master Epsilon’?” Sarah demanded.

“Smart girl, picked up my little hint. Sorry, but if you’re so intersted, how about asking Michael about how he’s been skimping out on the rest of you. See, I’m just here to warn you. Go back to your regular lives and we just might spare you a heavy dose of regret.”

“You can’t tell us what to do!” Mei yelled, contrary as usual.

“A tuff girl, eh?” Terminus said arrogantly,” You’re right, I can’t tell you what to do.”

He rushed to Takuya, smacking his hands away as he stood on his chest. BurningGreymon fell back, breaking what was left of a schoolhouse as Terminus loomed over him, yelling,” But I can scare you into staying away.”

Terminus pushed the crystal into Takuya, paralyzing him with fear. He felt somehow different as it seeped inside like a virus. Michael’s enemy smiled a twisted grin, proclaiming,” It feels strange, doesn’t it? You feel no pain, no heartbeat, it’s almost like something’s missing? That’s because you’re going to be my little test subject.”

He jumped away, spreading his wings as he prepared to fly off. Sarah ran to Takuya as Emma ran for Tommy, watching as Terminus floated, proclaiming,” I just sucked the humanity out of this poor ‘hero’. Leave this world or Epsilon and the Demon Lords will do much, much worse.”

His black body disappeared into the clouds as the smoke kept billowing around them. A strong wind blew the ash into their eyes as Michael kept watching the ground, his head sunken with regret. Christine walked over to comfort him, asking,” Michael, are you okay?”

“It’s my fault. I should’ve told you about him, and now this place is destroyed and Takuya’s stuck like this.”

“He could’ve been bluffing,” Zoe tried to tell him, but it didn’t work and he lashed out, yelling,” He doesn’t give out bluffs! Terminus is a cold monster who does whatever Epsilon tells him with no remorse!”

Koji walked up to him, demanding,” Michael, who was that kid.”

“And no lies or secrets,” J.P. added as he answered,” He is my other, Terminus. You see, one day I was bored, so I started entering random numbers and letters into the computer. One of them was the code to open a gate to the digital world. I soon became addicted to this place, allowing my grades to drop and leaving my friends behind.”

“What does that have to do with Terminus?”

“It was a stormy day, and I didn’t wanna miss going to the digital world. I knew a blackout was inevitable, but I did it anyway. Of course, the power went out and I was trapped between worlds. It split me in two, the real me made from light, Michael, and another kid made from my darkness, Terminus. I was later saved by Lucemon, but Terminus was saved by Epsilon.”

“Lucemon?!” Koji said, afraid Lucemon was up to his old tricks again.

“Don’t worry,” he assured them,” You purified Lucemon, remember? Now he looks after the digital world, trying to protect it.”

Later, they walked around the village, working to rebuild it and help the digimon. As Koji glared at Mei, who merely relaxed on the soft grass, Sarah couldn’t help but watch Takuya. It’d been almost an hour and he was still trying to turn back to his old self. She walked over, handing the pieces of burnt wood she carried to Beth as she heard her complaining in the background.

“Are you okay?” she asked shyly, trying to figure out what to say.

“Maybe if I try one more time.”

“Takuya,” she said, lightly touching the cold armor over his leg as she suggested,” Maybe you could help us? Some work might help get your mind off things.”

He sighed, watching how small Sarah seemed now. She took his talons, running him over to a pile of wood as she said cheerfully, trying to lighten the mood,” Here’s your supplies, here’s a box of nails. We need a new schoolhouse.”

She walked away as he asked,” Wait, aren’t you going to help?”

“Sure I will,” she said, winking with a smile as she went on,” But only work fit for a lady. Once you finish, I’ll paint it.”

“We’re not gonna paint it.”

“Then you can handle this yourself!” she yelled, running off to find more wood.

As everyone else worked, Elizabeth threw the last of the usable wood in front of Koichi. She gasped for air, falling back as she whined,” I’m beat!”

“We haven’t even done that much yet,” he told her, helping her up as he assured her,” You’ll feel much better once you see the good work you did.”

She glared at him suspiciously, asking him as they stood,” Promise?”

“I promise.”

As Michael hammered nails into a rebuild home, Christine watched Takuya, sighing as the wind tried to comfort her. Emma chased Tommy, both of whom were having a contest to see who could make the biggest pile in time. They brushed past Christine who accidentally tripped Emma.

“Oh no,” she said as Michael came down, just finishing the roof,” Are you okay Emma. I‘m really sorry.”

“I’m fine. I just tripped.”

“No, it was all me. I’m not very good around other people. Sorry.”

“Quit apologizing,” Tommy said,” We were running too fast to tell you about this cool thing we found.”

“Cool thing?” Michael asked with intrigue.

“Yeah, it’s like a whole bunch of ruins! Come see!” he said, leading Christine across the thick grass. The bristles of the wheat drifted past her sleeves as giant monoliths came into view. There were ten of the stone tablets placed in a circle around slabs of cobblestone. It lay between two hills, which was probably why they didn’t see it before. The clods above dispersed, letting the sunshine rain down to reveal the Seals of the Ten Elements.

Christine stood in awe, teary eyes as she stared at each pillar. As Michael felt the rough, eroded surface, he explained to them,” It’s probably a remnant of the world before the war.”

“Incredible,” Renamon said, agreeing with Christine as she offered,” This would be a great place for a picnic.”

“Probably not,” he said, taking away the bulk of her joy and leaving only tiny pieces behind,” We’ll be leaving once the town’s fixed up.”

She sighed, crawling back into her shell as she replied,” You’re right, it was a stupid idea.”

He walked over, lifting her chin to tell her,” No, I’m sorry. If you want a picnic here we can get everyone to take a break.”

“Okay,” she said, but still spoke in her weak voice.

“Stop doubting yourself, Christine. We’re a team now, and that means we listen to each other.”

“Alright, sorry,” she said more cheerfully.

They went back into town together, watching the great job they’d done. It wasn’t as nice as before, but it was just as livable. Takuya finished the schoolhouse as Sarah and the others finished rebuilding the homes. The new inn was half finished as they’d cleaned up most of the ash, returning the dirt color of the street.

“Wow, the town looks great,” Christine complimented, admiring the fresh new buildings as Beth took in gulps of water.

“Thanks,” they said, still working to make it look great.

“Hey, I was thinking,” she said shyly,” how about we take a break? Emma found this nice spot over the hills and I thought we could have lunch there.”

“Are you kidding?” Beth said with exhaustion, brushing her moist hair back intro place,” I definitely need a break.”

“Surprise surprise,” Koichi said, but she laughed with him, aware it was just a joke.

“I think we could all use a break,” Koji said, putting his tools down to walk over to her.

“Great,” she said happily as her face lit up,” I’ll get some blankets. Michael’s got the food. Meet us over those two hills in fifteen minutes.”

“Perfecto.” Zoe said, trying to finish her work to help even more.

Sarah lay by the monoliths, her hair flowing in the breeze as she petted Kudamon on her shoulder. She watched Michael spread the blankets as Christine placed large rocks to keep them steady. Kudamon tugged on her hair, silently trying to get her to help. Although she was still upset and trying to figure out a way to make Takuya feel better, she decided to take her own advice and use charity to help herself.

“Want some help Michael?” she asked as he took things like rice-balls and sandwiches out of his backpack.

“Sure,” he said kindly,” Could you go tell everyone we’re ready.”

“Can do,” she said, running off as the sky began to lighten up. As she ran over the hill, she stopped to admire the view. She saw the forest, the distant mountains, and the welcoming blue sky. But as she took in a deep breath of fresh air, it was forced out. A sharp pain arose from her temple as everything became black. The sky spun in circles as Kudamon’s garbled voice called out to her.

“It’s been an awful long time,” Christine said, unsteady by fear for Sarah,” I mean, how long does it take to reach a town over the hill?”

“You’re right,” he said, popping open a soda as he said,” Let’s go.”

She diligently followed him as Renamon followed behind her. He tugged her arm as she tried to keep up. Soon they found themselves running, but it was fun. Each was laughing as the rush accelerated their heartbeat. It was the happiest Christine remembered ever being. They tumbled into the square, laughing until their lungs exploded.

“Hey guys,” he asked, still laughing a bit,” did Sarah come back?”

“No,” Liollmon mumbled as he held a can of paint in his jaw.

“But we sent her here to-.”

“Looking for someone!?” Terminus yelled from the top of one of their buildings. Sarah was unconscious, tied to his scythe. How he was able to carry her was a mystery, although she was rather light. But that was beside the point. The original six charged their D-Tectors, all but Takuya, as he said,” Don’t bother. We all know who’ll win in a fight.”

“What do you want?” J.P. demanded as he answered,” I warned you to go home. It would appear you didn’t get the message.”

“We’re not afraid of you!” Takuya told him bravely, waking Sarah. She began struggling, trying to break free.

“Takuya, stay away from him. I can get free myself.”

“Yes Takuya,” Terminus said shrewdly,” Don’t any of you try anything or I use the girl as a shield.

"She struggled, straining and grunting as Takuya said,” Sarah, stay very still.”

“What?” she asked as he charged the guns strapped to his forearms. Everyone immediately knew he was going to try burning the rope off her. Terminus put her in front of himself, ready to test his aim.

“I promise Sarah, I won’t miss.”

“Why doesn’t that make me feel better?”

“Sarah!” he said, staring into her fearful eyes,” trust me.”

The fear melted into a smile as she braced to hit the ground. He unleashed a tiny Pyro Barrage, so accurate it touched the very middle of her bindings. Terminus gasped as she fell, watching his hostage escape due to his arrogance. Takuya caught her in a barrel roll, holding her like a newborn. Sarah stood triumphantly as Terminus glared with suspicion.

“Now that I’m free, give Takuya back his body!”

He looked in disbelief as he said,” That crystal no longer emits darkness.”

Terminus reached out his hand as the crystal shot into it. He crushed it beneath his fingers as he glared, telling them,” It would appear a form of love destroyed this device.”

He stared at Sarah, who was holding Takuya tightly. A small chuckle burst into hysterical laughter. Terminus clenched his stomach and forehead, laughing to the world as he couldn’t take a single breath.

“You…You love the Indian girl, don’t you?! And she loves you too?! That’s hilarious!”

“I'll make you can it!” she yelled as her D-Tector began to glow like Emma’s before,” Takuya, thanks for protecting me. It’s time I repaid the favor.”

Terminus took in a last gasp for air, still smiling as he said,” Good. Let’s see what you’re made of.”

He jumped forward as she scanned her Fractal Code. Blue light surrounded Kudamon as her heart energy gave him new power.

“Execute Evolution! Kudamon digivolve to Reppamon!”

He was now a giant, fox like digimon. Reppamon was tan, with a silver mask and blade to replace his tail. His paws were brown and a red and white rope was wrapped around his mane. Blue lightning shot from his jaws as he began to ram Terminus. He planted his feet in the dirt as the new digimon watched him confidently. The wind blew between them as Reppamon lunged forward. Terminus was ready and grappled his mane, tossing him into the dust. Takuya came from behind, but Terminus knocked away his hands, leaving his mid-section exposed. He kicked him, mid-air, into the dust as Sarah glared at him.

“Exactly when do I can it again?” he asked presumptuously.

“I hate you. I hate you so much.”

He opened his mouth to say something, but suddenly paused and instead asked,” Why am I going to leave without slaying any of you?”

“How should we know?” Michael said angrily, only to have Terminus answer,” I’m letting you go, because you’re not worth my time.”

He brushed himself off, watching Emma with curiosity as he said,” Nice necklace.”

Terminus disappeared into a passage of darkness as Takuya turned back to his original self. They were angry and confused as a sea of negative emotions filled their hearts. Crashing waves of fury broke as crests of despair overtook what little joy was left in their day.

“Man, who does he think he is?” Koji said angrily.

“Are we really gonna have to deal with him this whole journey?” Zoe asked sadly.

Christine sighed, suddenly smiling again as she said,” Let’s not think about this now. We’ve still got the picnic, so let’s try enjoying the rest of the day.”

Michael was still upset, but he chuckled, smiling as he said,” Alright. Let’s give it a shot.”

Everyone had a great time together, playing and joking as the grass became their sanctuary. Emma picked flowers as Mei protected her food from the digimon. Christine’s sandwiches were the first to go as they all fought for the last pieces of sushi. Takuya was actually kicking Lunamon away to keep his food safe. Sarah started giggling at him, her laughter spreading like a disease. They all started laughing for no reason as Sarah asked,” Takuya, would you come with me for a second?”

“Uh, sure,” he said as she helped him up. She took him under a tree, overlooking the distance. It overlooked the town, the valleys, and the plains on their way to the coast. Although scared and shy, Sarah was somehow able to say,” That was so crazy, what Terminus said I mean.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I mean, I don’t LOVE you. Maybe a good friend but nothing more.”

“I…I couldn’t agree more.”

By this time they couldn’t look each other in the eye. Both were stuttering and sweating and nervous. Sarah was even blushing as she stared off into the distance, playing with her curly hair. But it was a good sort of nervous. She definitely didn’t wanna let go of it, but then in the distance, Beth shouted,” Sarah, get over here! Lunamon’s trying to steal my lunch!”

“C‘mon, they need us down there.”

“Right behind you,” he said, running past her as she turned back just one more time to watch the giant, new world placed before her. As they called her one last time, she ran off, sprinting to her friends and their comfort.

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