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Several hours had passed since our departure from Linnea. During that time, there was absolutely no change in the scenery—a common occurrence in the desert, from what I have observed. I looked down at Statuedramon, who was holding an upside-down map of the Arcadia continent.
“Ok…According to this map that I…found…the quickest way to get back to Celosia Province is to cut through this small city up ahead,” Statuedramon said. I took the map from his hands and flipped it around before returning it to him. “Thanks, buddy. The city’s name is Cyclamen, and it’s about half a mile away.” I stopped walking. “What’s up, buddy? Something wrong?”
“You said the city’s name was…Cyclamen?”
“Unless the map is wrong, yeah, but I stole — er, found it in a store back in Caladium Village, so I don’t think it would be wrong.”
“…Is there any other way to quickly return to base?” I asked. “One that doesn’t involve us going through Cyclamen?”
“Well, if we go around it, either way, we’d have to go through Yew,” Statuedramon said. “We could do that, but it’d take us a lot longer, and I don’t think either of us wants to go there.”
“…Yeah…” I stared down at the map in the short Digimon’s hands. Even just reading the name of that city made me feel ill. Cyclamen…of all the places…Why’d we have to end up there?
“Are you okay, Thomas?” Zelda asked.
“We don’t have to go there if you don’t want to,” Statch said. “I’m just saying if we take any longer, that might make the boss mad…maybe…”
“…Let’s…go through Cyclamen, but we need to get out of there as soon as possible.” Statch nodded, placing the map inside the separate dimension his shield, and we continued walking.
“Is there a reason you don’t want to go there? Because we don’t have to go if you really don’t want to,” Zelda whispered to me.
“…Cyclamen City…was the city where I was born,” I said. “The people who live there…They’re evil.”
“Evil? But…you aren’t…”
“The citizens of Cyclamen aren’t bandits themselves,” I continued, staring straight down at my feet as I trudged through the sand. “They’re pretty close, though; they’re the kind of people who would turn in their parents for some paltry sum of florin. They might try to act nice, and friendly, but that’s only because they want something from you, and it’s usually money or…” I glanced at the young woman. She was looking up at me with interest. “…other services.”
“They’ll do anything, no matter how devious or how forceful, in order to get what they want. They are a rude and tactless, mock civilization of thieves and liars. That was why I decided to leave when I was only five years old — not very long after both of my parents were killed in the streets over only a little bit of money. That was when I was found by a woman named Victoria; she took me in and raised me like I was her own child, and she was the woman who taught me how to use a sword. I haven’t been to Cyclamen ever since, and I’m glad I haven’t.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t go,” Zelda said. “If they’re as bad as you say they are, then—”
“I’d rather not slow us down because of something I’d rather not do,” I said. “If anybody recognizes me, we might be kept there longer than I’d like.”
“I don’t understand…”
“You will. Unfortunately, I’m almost certain you will.”
It had taken us over an hour to reach Cyclamen City — Statuedramon had misjudged our distance from the city, having read the map upside down — and by that time, it was getting close to sundown. To my displeasure, the streets were packed with Humans and Digimon. In that regard, the city hasn’t changed. We had unfortunately found our way in a rather large crowd; not large enough for us to get lost, though just small enough for someone to notice us.
“Let’s make this quick,” I said. “The street we’re on should lead us straight out of this city.”
“Thomas, can we stop and eat?” Statuedramon asked. “We haven’t eaten all day…”
“No. We continue onwards. If we keep going, we’ll reach a small village called Primrose before midnight. We can eat there.”
“I’m kind of hungry, too,” Zelda said quietly.
“…Well…I guess if we had to…we could…find a place to eat here,” I said.
“Oh, sure! When your best friend in the whole wide world suggests it, it’s a big fat ‘no,’” Statch grumbled. “But when the cute girl mentions it, he’s all fucking over the idea…”
“I—I don’t want to be an inconvenience to you, though!” Zelda added, looking and sounding flustered. “I’ve gone for several days in a row without eating, so…so I can keep going if you don’t want to stop…”
“Days, huh?” I looked back at her. I guess that explains why she looks so…so gaunt! “…Listen, Zelda. I don’t know what kind of life you’ve had before you decided to join our guild, but when you’re working with us, you eat whenever you get hungry. Okay?” Behind me, I could hear Statuedramon repeating my every word in a mocking tone of voice, though I did my best to ignore him.
“…Thank you, Thomas. I really appreciate that,” Zelda smiled.
“How come I don’t get to eat whenever I want?!” Statch asked.
“Because if you did, the entire continent would run out of food.”
“…Yeah, you’re probably right…”
“Now, let’s keep moving before anyone here notices—”
“Well, what do we have here?” My heart sank upon hearing a new voice from behind me, and I quickly grabbed Zelda’s and Statch’s hands when I saw that a middle-aged man had approached us.
“C’mon, let’s go.”
“Yeah, I thought I recognized you!” the man said. “Yer that kid who left us ‘bout ten years ago, right? What’re you doing back here? Decided you wanted to come back to us?” I glared at the man. I recognized him instantly, and his appearance sent a chill down my spine. I could not recall his name, or if I ever knew it in the first place. Not that I cared, and I was certain I never even bothered to learn it, not after what he did. But that was not why I was surprised. His eyes were red. Not red with exhaustion, but red irises. Yes, red was a common eye color, as I’ve noticed in my travels, but his eyes…it could’ve just been my imagination, but they almost looked as though they were glowing. “Well?”
“…I do not wish to speak to you,” I replied. The memory of what he did was playing vividly over and over again in my mind. What he had done did not surprise me; it was to be expected of the people who lived in this city.
“Look, kid, if this is about what I did to yer parents all those years ago, I told you before; I’m not sorry,” the man said. “They owed me money. Money they didn’t have, clearly.”
“The fact that you murdered them means nothing to me,” I said. I heard Zelda gasp my name in surprise. “They were just like you. They only cared for themselves…not even their own child.”
“Dude…you never told me about that,” Statuedramon said quietly.
“If you ain’t pissed about yer parents gettin’ killed, then why’d you leave?” the man asked. I turned away from the man, joining my friends.
“A job? You?! What could a little puss like you do?!” the man began laughing, as did a few passersby who had happened to hear our conversation.
“Please, don’t any of you recognize him?” a woman’s voice asked, sounding somewhat annoyed and amused at the same time. I turned to see who had spoken, seeing a young woman with long, blonde hair. “Thomas Kasuto is a professional assassin; you idiots would all do well to remember that he isn’t exactly the kind of person you’d want...displeased with you.”
“Abigail,” the woman’s name instantly popped into my head. Abigail…that was her! But how could she have known about my work…wait, where did she go? I looked around the crowd, which increased in size by the minute, in search of Abigail, but she was nowhere to be seen. Abigail...I still need to apologize to you, don’t I...It's been about thirteen years since I left—
“Ooh, pardon me, Mr. Killer,” a stranger said sarcastically, laughing. “You here to kill us?”
“Nah, I’d bet he’s too much of a puss to touch a weapon,” another person said.
“So, what are you doing here? Come here for old times’ sake?”
“Why did you even leave in the first place?” the first man asked. I looked around at the other nameless individuals who had decided to join him. Like him, their eyes were red.
“Surely you know,” I said.
“No, I don’t,” the man said. “But then, I don’t care. Why did you come back?”
“They aren’t as evil as you might think them to be, my child,” said a voice from behind me.
“Father Sephyrus,” the man said.
“You lead a busy life, don’t you? Here one minute, there the next,” the man called Sephyrus said to me. His raven hair was long, falling past his shoulders, and he was dressed in black priest’s robes. He had a serene and delicate appearance, and I almost mistook him for a woman. His voice had a similar serenity and calmness to it. “If it is your wish, I could escort you to the edge of town so you can continue on your way.”
“…I would appreciate that, sir,” I said.
“Jeez, you’re so much nicer than those guys back there,” Statch said.
“And you don’t smell like beer,” Zelda whispered. Father Sephyrus laughed, and looked at me.
“Is there a problem, my child?” he asked.
“Oh…forgive me, sir, but I… I don’t recall there being a church of any kind when I was here last,” I said.
“You’ve been gone for thirteen years, Thomas; our church, run by Father MagnaAngemon, was built roughly six years ago,” Sephyrus replied. “Change is like that; it can happen in the blink of an eye…or over the course of a lifetime.”
“Why would there be a church in a town of thieves and murderers?” Statch asked.
“For precisely that reason,” Sephyrus said. “It has been the mission of Father MagnaAngemon and me to lead these poor souls away from a life of sin. To you, Thomas, they may seem worse than they did thirteen years ago, but the two of us have made a vast improvement on their personalities, not to mention their souls and state of being.”
“Wow, they must’ve been terrible before, then,” Statuedramon said.
“Yes; though the results are always worth it, it hasn’t exactly been easy working with them,” Sephyrus said, laughing. As we walked past a large and ornate building, much finer in appearance than the other run-down houses in the city, Sephyrus stopped walking, and looked up at it with a smile on his face. “But at the end of the day…there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. This church may have taken many years to complete, but it was worth it.”
“…Father Sephyrus. Is Father MagnaAngemon still here? There’s something I’d like to ask him,” I said.
“Certainly, my child. MagnaAngemon’s doors are always open, so that he may aid any in need,” Sephyrus said. The priest opened the large front doors of the church, and followed us in. The doors slammed shut with a loud, ancient creak afterwards. We were directed by him through a short hallway into the nave of the church, were dozens of rows of cushioned pews filled the room and lined the walls. “Larraine? Where are you, child?” A young girl’s head popped up from the middle of the pews. When she saw Sephyrus, her face brightened, and she ran up to him. She appeared to be no older than ten, with hair as blue as the sky running down to her shoulders. She wore a small and simple white dress, patched-together and worn out. Sephyrus knelt down before her, and placed a hand over her small shoulder. “Sweet child, could I ask you to find Father MagnaAngemon for me?” The girl nodded and ran off, smiling happily all the way.
“She’s so cute!” Zelda said.
“I’m afraid that poor child is an orphan, my dear,” Sephyrus said, standing back up. “Her father walked out on her before her mother even knew she was pregnant, and just a few months ago, her poor ailing mother passed. This church is home to many who have been placed in a similar predicament.”
“What?! Well, where the hell is her stupid father?! I’m gonna kick his stupid bitch ass!” Statuedramon yelled. His booming voice echoed through the entire room.
“…We do not know where he might be right now,” Sephyrus said. His indifference to Statch’s outburst caught my immediate attention. “You may rest here if you’d like. I will try to find Father MagnaAngemon for you.” The priest bowed politely to us, and left the nave.
“…and that’s all I have to report,” the Vilemon standing before me said. As I sat at the desk in my office, I looked up at the small Digimon. Accompanying him were three DemiDevimon.
“That’s all you have to report?!” I asked. “What good does the presence of a boy who hasn’t been here for thirteen years do for me?!”
“We’re sorry, boss; but that’s all we were able to discover,” one of the DemiDevimon said. “We thought he might have a lot of that stuff you told us about; you know, the stuff with the name that’s hard to pronounce!”
“Oh, shut up!” I drew my sword, Excalibur, and stabbed it into the middle of the DemiDevimon’s forehead, instantly killing the small Rookie. The three other Evil Digimon gave me a frightened look as I wiped their friend’s blood off my sword. “I decide who we gather it from, because I am the one in charge; not you, not Sephyrus, but ME. Got that?!” The three Digimon, though trembling with fear, nodded quickly. “Now, get out of my sight!” Vilemon and the DemiDevimon jumped when I screamed, and flew out through an open window just as I heard a small knock on my door. “Yes, who is it?” I asked, hoping I sounded calm. I opened the door and saw Larraine standing. I smiled. “Larraine…what can I do for you?”
“Mr. Sephyrus is back, and he told me that he wants to talk to you,” Larraine said.
“Does he, now? Well, I’ll go see what he wants, then. Thank you, Larraine,” I said. The child beamed at me as I left my room and walked down a hallway. Damn it, why did I design this place with so many hallways and rooms?! I can never remember where Sephyrus’s office is!
“I’m right here, MagnaAngemon.” Sephyrus’s voice came from behind me, and I turned around to see him walking out of one of the many rooms lining the hallway.
“What do you want, Sephyrus?” I asked. “I told you earlier this morning; I don’t have time to waste on these useless idiots—”
“He’s here,” Sephyrus interrupted.
“The boy we’ve been following. His name is Thomas Kasuto.”
“The boy who hasn’t been here in thirteen years?” Sephyrus nodded. “My Vilemon and DemiDevimon already told me about him; what good does his presence do for us?”
“Our lady believes he has grown quite powerful in the short time he’s been with that mercenary guild,” Sephyrus said. “If he grows any stronger, the lady fears it will be nigh impossible to defeat him and his friends.”
“So, that’s where I come in, right?” I asked. Sephyrus nodded.
“Go, now; they await your arrival in the nave,” Sephyrus said. “Go on, now; do your job.”
“All right, listen up; just because she likes you more does not mean you get to boss me around!” I shouted. “While we are in this city, I am in charge; got it?! I give the orders, not you!”
Sephyrus stared at me, neither angry nor surprised. The look in his eyes made me angrier; it was almost as if he were mocking me! “I understand,” Sephyrus said. If anything, his tone of voice was even more mocking than the look in his eyes. It was infuriating! “So, what will we do?”
“…They…requested to see me, correct?” I asked. “I will…speak with them. But not because you told me to; because our lady wishes for it to be done; got it?!” I turned away from Sephyrus and began walking toward the nave, with Sephyrus following me.
We had been waiting for several minutes inside the church in the large, vacant nave Sephyrus had left us in. Zelda and I sat next to each other on the pews, while Statch lay on his back several feet from us, looking up at the undecorated ceiling. A small breeze from an open window wafted indoors, taking the notice away from the leathery smell of old books and the scent of a freshly burnt out set of candles.
“Thomas, what made you decide to visit this church?” Statuedramon asked, breaking the silence.
“I’m not sure, really; did either of you notice something…odd about the eyes of the people here?” I asked, but both Zelda and Statch shook their heads. “Their eyes…they looked like they were shining…and deep crimson. It was probably just my imagination, but…”
“What’s wrong with that?” Statch asked. “Red is a normal eye color; hell, I’ve got red eyes — or, a red eye, at least — but I’ve never heard you complaining.”
“…I’ve heard legends of an evil Digimon, one that had once been an angel before falling to darkness. It is said that Digimon is able to completely mind control anyone who stares into his deep crimson eyes, and the eyes of his victims take on a similar glow.”
“If he’s only spoken of in legends, then he isn’t real, is he?” Statch asked.
“Not necessarily; the two of us have seen plenty of Digimon that were supposed to be only a legend,” I said. “Remember when we found that Deckerdramon in Lotisea Province?”
“So, what kind of Digimon do you think we’re dealing with?” Zelda asked.
“I think his name was—” Before I could finish, a large pair of ornately decorated doors swung open.
“Thomas, Father MagnaAngemon is here,” Sephyrus said as a tall Digimon approached the three of us. Sephyrus then left the room, closing the doors behind him.
“So, you’re the lad who left this city thirteen years ago,” MagnaAngemon said, smiling gently. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you. Is there anything I might be able to do for you?”
“Yes, actually, there is,” I said, eyeing MagnaAngemon’s right wrist. The tip of the sword equipped to his right arm was stained with fresh blood, but something else caught my eye. “Why don’t you tell us who you really are?” MagnaAngemon tilted his head slightly in confusion.
“I don’t understand what you mean; my name is MagnaAngemon, and I—”
“No, you aren’t,” I interrupted quickly. “A real MagnaAngemon…wears a Holy Ring on his right wrist.” MagnaAngemon bit his lower lip, clenching his fist in anger, but he soon began to laugh.
“I’ve been here for six years and six months, and not one person in this damned town was smart enough to notice that one simple detail; two seconds after talking to you, and you can already tell!” MagnaAngemon laughed louder and more maniacally. It reminded me of Gallantmon when he was attacking the Minotarumon.
“I’ll only ask one more time; who are you?!” I asked as I removed my sword from its scabbard.
“Thomas, calm down! So what if he doesn’t have a ring? What difference does it make?” Statuedramon asked.
“A Digimon that normally wears a Holy Ring is able to do so because they themselves are holy,” I said. “A Digimon that has lost its ring has — more often than not — fallen from grace and descended into darkness.”
“Yes, that’s a fairly accurate explanation of what happened to me!” MagnaAngemon said as he became enveloped in shadows. “Well, since you know my secret, Thomas, I can’t allow you to leave this city alive, but at least allow me to show you something interesting before I kill you! MagnaAngemon, Slide Evolution, Devimon!”
“That…That’s him!” I said. “Devimon is the Digimon I was telling you about!”
“What’s Slide Evolution? I’ve never heard of that!” Statuedramon exclaimed.
“Oh, you won’t need to worry about the details of it,” Devimon said, towering over all of us, being much taller than he was when he was MagnaAngemon. “I’ll be sending you all to a much nicer place than this city! You should really be thanking me for that!”
“So, you’re the reason everyone in this city has glowing red eyes; as I’ve said, those who stare into the eyes of a Devimon are mind-controlled and completely dominated by them,” I said. Devimon grinned, baring his sharp fangs. “But why are you here? What purpose does mind-controlling the people in this city serve for you? Certainly, there are cities with more…tolerable people.”
“You don’t need to know; after all, soon, you shall all be—” as he was talking, Devimon failed to notice me as I ran up to him and pierced his shoulder with my blade. Devimon screamed in pain as he tried, in vain, to shake me off.
“Tell me what I want to know,” I said calmly, twisting the blade inside the gristle of his shoulder. “Tell me, and the pain ends.”
“I—I’m only working for someone,” Devimon said quickly, struggling to breathe as he attempted to pull my sword out of his bleeding shoulder. “I…I don’t even know her name…she just told me to find something called ‘quintessence’ from strong Humans and Digimon for her! I just took control of all the Humans and Digimon here to help me search for some of that quintessence stuff! I don’t know anything about it!” After a moment, I quickly pulled my sword from Devimon’s shoulder and neatly wiped the blood off. Devimon tightly gripped his shoulder as he looked around the room, hoping to find something to stop the bleeding.
“Come on, Statch; let’s go,” I said.
“Where are we going?” Statuedramon asked as he and Zelda ran after me.
“Back to Celosia Province; there’s no point in staying here anymore.” I slid my sword back into its scabbard.
“Is that a good idea? What about—”
“Let’s go. The boss is waiting.”
“Damn that…bastard…” My breathing was starting to grow more and more labored, and my head was getting dizzy from all the blood I had lost, so I sat down to rest on one of the pews. “I can’t…die here…” With a tremendous effort, I forced myself to stand back up. “Need to…finish the job…”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” a woman’s voice came from a far corner of the room I was in, though the owner of the voice was hidden amongst the shadows.
“Who are…you?” I asked.
“I’m just here to let you know that the Lady doesn’t have any more use for you,” she said.
“WHAT?! How can…that be? I’ve been here for…six years…for…”
“Yes, yes, six years, six months, and six days; I’m well aware of that,” the woman’s voice grew more impatient. I staggered over to the shadow where the voice came from to see if I could tell who was talking, but the shadow was too dark for me to see through.
“Who are you?!” I asked again.
“To use your words; you don’t need to know the details. I’ll be sending you to a much nicer place than this city. You should really be thanking me!”
“Shut up! Nobody tells me what to do!” As I thrust my claw towards the shadow, a long black spear emerged from the darkness and stabbed me in the chest. Then all went dark around me.
“All those who are useless to the Lady…they will share your fate.”
Her voice was the last thing I heard.
“Thomas…what should we do about Devimon?” Zelda asked. “Is it really okay that we left him alone like that? What if he does something?”
“…I don’t know what quintessence is,” I said. “I need to ask my superior officer about it before I decide what to do. If I learn it’s something…dangerous, I will return.”
“We should get to sleep,” Statuedramon said. “Our base of operations is about ten hours away from where we are now, so by the time we get there, it’ll be close to sundown if we leave here in the morning.”