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The evening was cold and dreary. A light rain had just ended, leaving a coat of droplets on the surviving plants and tiny streaks of light across the sky. For a moment, the clouds were thin enough and enough light shined through that it didn’t look like the Dark Continent. It looked like a normal, peaceful forest.
“We should get moving,” Michael said as he picked his backpack up. Dorumon leaped up energetically,” Right behind you.”
As Sarah took her bag, she looked at the horizon and wondered,” I wonder why Terminus hasn’t come yet.”
“Don’t jinx it!” Zoe yelled as J.P. responded,” The longer he stays away from us, the better.”
“I guess,” Emma said, thinking aloud,” But the longer he stays away, the better the trap he’ll spring.”
“I agree,” Koji said as they all began walking,” We are in his backyard after all.”
“That’s why we need keep guard,” Renamon said, taking the dead weight that was Christine’s backpack. Somehow, carrying it made her feel like she was still with them. It soothed her a bit.
Michael took them through the mountain pass and into a canyon. It was a high gorge, carved by water and wind. It was relatively flat and naturally devoid of residents.
They stopped after several hours. It was strange, not having Beth complain the whole time. It was even somewhat boring. But it didn’t stop them from going on. Michael put up the tent as usual as Mei and Emma found firewood. Michael put out a few sleeping bags as Zoe made dinner. It was supposed to be Sarah’s turn, but she’d been banned from cooking after they found out she still had leftover spices from Aquarius Terminal.
Emma came up to Sarah, putting down a stack of firewood as Sarah just drew in her sketchbook. She put on her cutes, innocent face and asked,” Sarah, could you help us find more wood? I’m not sure we’ve found enough.”
Sarah frowned and said,” It’s not my turn. Besides, a proper girl doesn’t go hunting at night. She should be cooking!”
“Keep your paws off my soup!” Zoe said as Michael glared at Sarah. Emma went away with a sad sigh. Sarah went back to her drawings as Takuya brought up the question,” Hey guys, I’ve been thinking, why were Christine and Emma the only two that weren’t knocked out.”
“I’ve been asking that too,” Kudamon said as Gaomon replied,” Miss Adelaide was definitely taken because-.”
He would’ve gone on, but Gaomon saw the broken look on Michael’s face and said,” -you know.”
“But what about Emma?” Lunamon asked as Michael replied,” I might know something.”
“What did you see?” Koichi asked as he said,” I was barely conscious, so I might be wrong, but I saw Emma shield an attack from one of the Demon Lords.”
“She used her body to save Christine?” Renamon asked as he shook his head and said,” No. Some sort of force stopped it.”
“That’s weird,” Dorumon said as he replied,” It’s unheard of.”
“What’s unheard of?” Emma asked as she snuck up behind Takuya. He jumped up and fell down, but she just stared naively. Mei laughed and said,” You should’ve snuck up on Koji.”
“Very funny,” he replied as Liollmon and Emma pulled Takuya up. Sarah laughed and said,” You’ve gotta watch out Takuya.”
“Whatever you say…” he said with stars in his eyes.
That night, Sarah stayed up late to finish her newest sketch. She went by the water to get a drink, tired and struggling to stay awake. As the cold refreshment streamed by, Michael came from behind and said,” Up so late?”
“Look who’s talking,” she said, cupping her hands and supping as he said,” Sarah, why wouldn’t you help Emma earlier?”
“Oh, that?” she asked with a giggle,” It wasn’t my turn. Besides, who knows what’s lurking in these shadows?”
“So you sent a defenseless little girl instead?”
“Well, when you say it that way…” she said regretfully as Michael took her shoulder and said,” I know you don’t mean it, but you were really selfish back there. It’s to be expected…given the way you grew up in India.”
She glared at him as he assured her,” Relax, I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone. But you need to clean up your act. Thinking about yourself gets you nowhere in this world.”
As he walked back, she almost snarled at him and barked,” You say that like this world’s so much different from Earth.”
Michael stopped as she continued,” You seem to know so much about who we were before we left, but what were you like, Michael?”
He just walked away and said coldly,” Goodnight, Scheherazade.”
“I prefer Sarah,” she muttered as he receded into the tent.
Michael went on that morning like nothing happened. He ate his breakfast, took everything down, and went back on the path. But Sarah was clearly distracted. She wouldn’t eat and kept staring into the distance. But she too walked with them, watching Emma and Tommy play I Spy as Beth’s tunes echoed through the canyon.
But as they walked, Michael turned a fork and saw Terminus leisurely standing on the edge of a cliff. His wings flew with the breeze as his scythe rested on his shoulder. Koji and Takuya had to hold Michael back as he struggled with every intention to kill Terminus.
“Good morning Michael,” he said with a smile as Michael yelled with every fiber of his lungs,” You’d better have a dang good reason for coming here Terminus!”
“In fact I do,” he said, lifting Michael’s head up with the scythes point as he said,” Just waiting for you would be boring. So I’ll make this a game.”
“What kind of game?” Koichi asked hesitantly. Terminus tried so hard not to laugh as he said,” If you can solve the mystery by the time you reach the Western Station, I’ll free Christine. If not, she belongs to Epsilon.”
Renamon just scoffed at him and said,” We accept! Rules?!”
“For each Daybreak, I’ll give you a riddle in an attempt to stop you along the way. Win and I spare you that day. Loose and a Demon Lord will come for you.”
“If we can’t reach Christine in time?” Gaomon demanded as he said,” Let’s just say that’s the ‘beat the clock’ portion.”
“How many Daybreaks?” Emma asked angrily as he said ominously,” Twelve. On the thirteenth, she’ll be lost.”
“And how do we know you won’t just send a Demon Lord after us even if we’re right?” Mei asked as he said,” I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m trying to fill the seventh seat of the Demon Lords. The seat of Pride. Going against my word doesn’t fit with that sin.”
He then grinned and took the scythe away as he said,” But be warned. I am half of Michael and he is half of me. Essentially, I’m an evil genius. His memories are my, as we’ll as the books he read so passionately.”
“Michael…a genius?” Dorumon asked as Terminus went on,” I’ve studied each note, each riddle and story, memorized each detail of the greatest crimes in history. You won’t find my riddles on the back of a cereal box.”
“I know,” Michael said angrily,” But I have one last question.”
A fire erupted from his eyes as he asked,” When is the first Daybreak!?”
“Now!” Terminus said as he proclaimed,” It takes three men to dig a hole! How many men does it take to dig half a hole in the same amount of time!?”
“Ugh, an odd number?” Michael asked himself.
“That’s impossible,” Koji said,” You’d need half a man.”
“My head hurts,” Lunamon said with spirals in her eyes.
“You cheat,” Mei said as he replied with a chuckle,” I hope that’s not your final answer?”
“Shut up Mei!” they yelled as Michael answered,” It takes each man doing half the work! Probably tired from the first hole.”
Terminus scoffed and said,” I never though…”
“…you could be such fools!”
Michael gasped as Terminus answered,” You can’t dig half a hole. It’d be a different sized hole.”
Everyone glared at him as a Corridor opened behind them. They watched it worriedly as Terminus said,” Have fun Lilithmon.”
She emerged, suppressing a laugh as she giggled,” You know I will.”
“Sorry, but your fun’s over before it began!” Koji yelled as they took out their D-Tectors. Every best spirit and each champion digimon, save for Kyubimon, charged at her. But Lilithmon laughed and told herself,” Let’s make it fun this time.”
She waved her hand and a burst of energy knocked them back, creating a crater in the ground and tearing through the placid stream. Takuya came at her first with a weak punch. She merely fell back and caught his fist. With a tiny smirk she tossed him into the mountain wall. But he wasn’t done yet. BurningGreymon countered the force and flew back towards her. As he rushed to her, Gaogamon and Liamon came from her sides. Instead, she used her pals to block the hounds and her wings to Stop Takuya. Her last strike was to slam Gaogamon and Liamon into Takuya.
Tommy came next, flailing the Avalanche Axes as she leaped up. Lilithmon used these as a footstool to kick Korikakumon’s face. But Tommy launched Frozen Arrowheads to counter. She fell back, but charged back at him with a sinister laugh. They collided and Tommy used more of the Arrowheads. But she caught these and threw him into one of the stones. Just before gravity took over, she kicked him over and over again until the rock itself shattered like glass.
From the rubble Koji came. He pounced on her but she fell on her back and kicked him away. But in his place Koichi came. She dodged him too, but then Reppamon came, slicing at her with his razor tail. They fought like a pack, charging at her until she submitted. Just when it looked like she was trapped, she grabbed Koichi by his tail, throwing him at Reppamon before he could strike. With the cycle broken, Koji was all that was left. The blades on KendoGarurumon’s back sliced the tips of her hair as time stood still. But with him gone, she kicked his tail, adding enough momentum to make him crash into the cliff face.
She gave a maniacal laugh as she asked,” Surely this isn’t the best you can do, hmm? I thought you were a genius Michael? Can’t you think up a plan for little old me?”
Michael glared at her as he thought,” There’s no way I could’ve formulated a strategy when the attack was so sudden. And without communication between us. Impossible!”
J.P. tried next, firing a giant stroke of lightning as she flaunted her power. With the mere pinkie of her Nazaar Nail, the electricity melted away. Before she could attack again, Zephyrmon came and started slashing at her. Lilithmon blocked each attack until she was up against the wall. She stepped on the edge, trying to crush Zoe. But Zoe dodged and tried the same. But as she slashed forward, Lilithmon sprinted backwards until she came to the next wall. When Zoe clawed her, her talons became caught in the rock. Lilithmon punched her and jumped on her face to meet J.P., who was already firing at her.
She swatted every strike like flies, throwing them into the cliffs as the only others left tried helping the best they could. When Gaogamon went for her, she just used him like a shield and blocked the shots coming. Dorugamon tried Power Metal, but she just threw it back at him. With only J.P. left, she wanted to go out with a bang. She slid past each shot, chasing him as he fell back. She’d go for a kick and he’d fire a blast, but there was no real way of defeating her. In the end, J.P. hit another large boulder and she ended it, grabbing his face as she hit her head against his. J.P. went unconscious as Michael realized the dangerous game he’d gotten himself in.
“How pathetic,” Lilithmon uttered to Michael as she said,” Some bodyguards.’
“You hustled us,” Michael said as he explained,” None of us are strong enough to defeat you, and Terminus gave you the element of surprise. It was a sneak attack. No honor.”
“Honor? I’ve cared less about honor,” she said with a grin,” We simply played a better game than you. It wasn’t honorable, but it was fair.”
“Then try my game,” Takuya shouted, still beaten and struggling to breathe,” I’ll fight you.”
“Takuya no,” Sarah whispered to herself as Lilithmon said,” This’ll be good. I’ll go out with a bang.”
“Is that a yes or a no?”
The smile vanished as she asked with a glare,” A definite yes.”
She rushed to him as he stood still. Their eyes locked as she threw the first punch. He blocked easily as she started running for him. He ran backwards, dodging and blocking each blow until he reached another large boulder. Using what he knew, he ducked as it disintegrated behind him. That’s when he used his wings to blow her away. But she wasn’t there. Instead she appeared behind him and put Takuya in a strangle hold. But he took her by the wings and threw her into the dirt. Now he had the upper hand. As Lilithmon spun back up, he punched and fired at her until she began using her Nazaar Nail to block and swing back. One minute Takuya had the upper hand then it was Lilithmon. The upper hand was switching between the two until Takuya flew back. She stood up against the wind as he shot at her from afar. Lilithmon ran up the cliff face until she reached the top. They stood for a moment, equal as before. But then, each a mirror of the other, they jumped for the final attack. Lilithmon took her fist and Takuya lit the fires. But out of nowhere something came to protect Takuya.
“What the-?” Lilithmon thought aloud as Kudamon jumped from Takuya’s back and took her attack for him. He fell to the ground as Takuya became distracted. Lilithmon punched him right in the face as he too splashed in the creek. All his energy was gone and he reverted into a human as Sarah yelled,” Kudamon! Takuya!”
She rushed to her best friends, taking them both as she said,” Takuya say something. Kudamon answer me. Why aren’t you answering me?”
The Lilithmon floated down and said,” How morbid. So dreadful and sad. The tears are a nice touch. All I need is a bucket of popcorn and this would be perfect entertainment.”
“SHUT UP!” Sarah screamed as her D-Tector started resonating,” Takuya please. If you get up I’ll never be rude again. I’ll stop acting like a proper girl and I’ll get my sari dirty and I’ll make dinner without any spices. Please, get up for me.”
Lilithmon prepared the Nazaar Nail and said,” Epsilon may need all of you, but you could do without a leg or two!”
Kudamon awoke as Sarah used the D-Tector as a shield. She scanned her Fractal Code and yelled,” I’m so tired of you thinking you can do whatever you want. I’m gonna end this now, no matter what!”
“I’m with you Sarah,” Kudamon said as she scanned the Code and yelled from the bottom of her heart,” Execute Warp Digivolution! Kudamon Warp Digivolve to Chirinmon!”
Chirinmon was like a white horse covered in green and golden armor. Two angelic wings emerged from his back as bolts of white lightning came from his mouth like whiskers. More sparks crackled on the horn upon his helmet as he skid his front leg on the dirt, like a bull ready to charge. Lilithmon watched the graceful creature and just started laughing at their strength.
“I’m not a proper girl anymore! I’m not spoiled anymore! And I’ll never doubt that again!” Sarah yelled as she walked up to Chirinmon,” Now Lilithmon, it’s time for your final curtain call!”
“How fun,” she said confidently,” Can an Ultimate like you pull the ropes and drop the curtain on a Mega digimon like me?”
“We’ll make it happen,” Chirinmon said as he charged at her.
It started with Lilithmon charging at them. But Sarah took off her sari, blinding Lilithmon as Chirinmon rammed her. She tore the cloth to shreds as Chirinmon struck her again and again. Lilithmon quickly too the horn and thought she’d won, until the lightning from his mouth stuck her. Lilithmon fell back as everyone watched carefully. Sarah waited as Lilithmon came at them again. But this time Chirinmon leaped in the air and pounded her away with his hind legs. She slid into the creek as Sarah stopped and faced her opponent. but before the splash of water could fall, Lilithmon came again. Still laughing as droplets fell on her still perfect face, Chirinmon tried finishing her with a last attack. Radiant aura gathered in his wings as Lilithmon’s laughter grew louder with each second. His strongest attack, Hyper Radiance, collided with her as the burst of light made everyone cover their eyes.
“Sarah!” Takuya yelled as he saw her sand Kudamon lying on the ground. Lilithmon loomed over them as her laughing ended. She smiled and glared at Sarah as she said,” Now about those legs.”
Sarah laughed and said,” Tear me to shreds, but you won’t get a single tear out of me.”
“Sarah…,” Kudamon thought as Lilithmon shrugged and said,” Oh well.”
“Stop it!” Emma shouted as Lilithmon raised the Nazaar Nail. Emma ran for Sarah, more than aware she was the only one able to stop her. Just as she got in front of Sarah, the Nazaar nail came down, ready to erase them. But a frightened look covered Lilithmon’s face as she screamed,” No!”
A powerful light came from Emma as Lilithmon shrieked. The valley became a sea of light, and everyone winced back at it’s luminous color. But as it faded away, the dark Lilithmon barely stood. She was covered in scratches and deep cuts, her white skin covered by bruises. Her hair was curling and her eyes wide as Emma remained unharmed. Emma gave her an angry look as she backed away. The Corridor appeared behind her as she walked away crying,” How brave of you. I’m so afraid of the insects in my backyard. What, aren’t you going to finish me off?”
“Nothing would make me happier than scanning your code,” Michael said as she continued,” So you can’t. Not strong enough. But I’ll tell you something Michael Konaka, a shield is nothing without the sword! So use this girl to save yourself when things seem bleak. But know this, more Demon Lords will come…”
She finally faded into darkness as her final words became,”…and I am not the strongest.”
As they stood and watched the mayhem they’d left in this once peaceful place, Michael wondered to himself aloud,” What kind of game am I playing?”