“Leomon Digivolve to, SaberLeomon!” Leomon stood, once as tall as Flamedramon; now, he had grown to be even larger than Vajramon. “I understand that she is a friend of yours,” he growled, looking at BioAquarimon.
“Yes…please…don’t hurt her,” I said.
“I understand; I will do what I can,” SaberLeomon said.
“While he’s fighting BioAquarimon, we should get going,” Flamedramon said. “You don’t want to get caught up in a fight like this.”
“Yes; this could get pretty ugly,” SaberLeomon said. “Wouldn’t want you to get mixed up in the crossfire.”
“…Good luck, SaberLeomon,” I said. Flamedramon began leading me away from the two Mega Digimon.
“He’ll be fine,” Flamedramon said. “You saw how big he was; there’s no way she could hurt him. Besides, he’s a Spirit; he won’t be dying.”
“…It’s not him losing I’m afraid of,” I said. As we came to the edge of the desert city, Flamedramon stopped and turned me around so that I was directly facing him.
“Zelda. Listen to me very carefully,” he said gently. “With the way things are going…It will be required of you to act in order to protect those you care about. Those Bio Hybrids are not going to stop fighting until they’re completely destroyed. This means that you will have to stand against them and fight back in order to protect your friends. You will have to hurt them…and you might even have to kill them…in order to protect your friends. Do you understand?”
“I know you aren’t a fighter yourself, but just the same, it will be good for you to realize that you will have to see others in pain. You will have to tell your Spirits to hurt your enemies, or your enemies will hurt you and your friends.”
“…I know…” Flamedramon smiled kindly at me. It startled me at first, but then I remembered that he and I are the same. Carefully, he picked me up and placed me atop his shoulder, and after making sure I was secure and comfortable, he began running through the desert sand at an unimaginable speed. I quickly looked back at Cyclamen as it began vanishing from sight. Irene…why wouldn’t you let me help you? I don’t want to see you get hurt…
“It all started a little over twenty years ago, when I was about seventeen years old,” Clive said. “I was with…the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her name…was Angewomon.”
“Angewomon? Like, the Digimon Angewomon?!” Statuedramon asked.
“Yes…The two of us were madly in love with each other…One night, when we were together, she…Angewomon was murdered…”
“Murdered?! Who would want to murder a Digimon like her? She’s supposed to be one of the most gentle Digimon in existence,” Statch said.
“One night, while we were kissing, a few drunkards from behind…they…took her…they raped her right in front of me. They pinned me to the ground, and forced me to watch the entire thing…And after they finished with her…they…murdered her…I…I just about died with grief. I’ve tried to move on, but I could just never be with another woman since that. Nothing turned out the way I wanted, because all I could think about was Angewomon…I suppose that’s probably why I became a rapist...who knows.” Clive looked up at Michalis. “Victoria…your mother…their teacher and surrogate mother…she just happened to be one of my victims. It was nothing personal.”
“…You raped her. That’s pretty personal, idiot,” Statuedramon said. I could not take my eyes off of Clive; the entire time he was speaking, I glared at him, wishing I could strangle the bastard with my bare hands.
“Yes, I suppose…So, am I free to go?” Clive asked, looking up at Michalis. The boy’s face had been completely emotionless through Clive’s story. “Well? Will you let me—” Clive was interrupted when Michalis shoved the blade of his knife in Clive’s chest, near his shoulder, tearing it across Clive’s chest before forcefully yanking it out. Clive collapsed to the ground, tightly gripping his bloody wound.
“A person like you deserves no freedom,” Michalis said.
Wait, Michalis!” I ran after the boy. “What happened to Victoria in the forest?”
“By who?! Who stabbed her?!” Statch asked. “WHO MURDERED OUR MOTHER, DAMN IT?!”
“…I…cannot say. I do not know who the person was…”
“Michalis, why don’t you come with us back to Saias’s villa? You’ll be safe there,” I suggested. I glanced down at Clive’s still body. I kept myself from smiling as I saw the blood pour out of his neck.
“No. I will not go back. You would not want someone like me there. I bid you both good day.” Michalis walked away from us, and was soon out of sight.
“…Well, what should we do now, Thomas?” Statuedramon asked. I looked down at Clive. He had gone completely still. I turned my head to the spot where Hannah had died. The shattered ice that held her body had melted away…
“…We’re going to have to go back to the villa,” I said. “We’re just going to have to trust that Flamedramon was able to get her back without any problems.”
“Are you sure it was okay to leave her alone with a Digimon like that?”
“They are both Marked, are they not? It didn’t seem like he held any contempt for her, or even Hannah.”
“Speaking of…should we tell Zelda? About what happened to Hannah?”
“…We have to. This isn’t something we can just keep as a secret.” I sighed. “I don’t…want to see her cry again…”
“Well, let’s tell Apollomon, and he can tell her, then!” Statch suggested.
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea, Statch. I’ll tell her...by myself…”
“Statuedramon…this is by far the last time I ever let you lead me anywhere!” I shouted.
“What?! This isn’t so bad; at least we’ve finally made our way to Yew after wandering aimlessly in the desert!” he retorted.
“We’ve been in Yew for almost five hours! We don’t even know which direction North is!”
“Just look up at the sun; if it’s to our right, then north is…wait, or is it—”
“That only applies when the sun is out, and it’s raining!”
“…Oh. So it is…Well, look on the bright side; all the sand is getting washed off of us, at least!” Statch grinned.
“I believe…north is that way.” A Digimon sitting slumped against a tree to our side pointed directly in front of himself. He was covered in blue and silver armor, with ten golden wings. I had no idea who the Digimon was, or if he was even a Digimon…
“Oh…Thank you, sir,” I said. “…Might I…ask your name, sir?” Rain was dripping down his silver armor and onto the grass he sat on.
“My name…it is Seraphimon. Meeting you two was an enjoyable experience; I do hope we meet again…” Seraphimon’s arm fell to his side. “You also need not worry about your friend…she has been safely taken to where you are going.”
“What? You mean Zelda, right? You’ve seen her?” Statch asked. Seraphimon did not reply. “Was…Flamedramon still with her? She didn’t look like she was injured, did she? Was she okay? Talk, damn you!” Seraphimon remained silent.
“…Are you okay, sir?” I asked.
“I am quite fine. You should hurry along…Apollomon must be getting worried about the two of you.”
Apollomon? How does he know about Apollomon?
“C’mon, Thomas; let’s go,” Statch pulled on my arm. “Hurry up before I forget which way he pointed!”
“…All right. Thank you for your help, Seraphimon.” The Digimon’s head nodded slightly as Statch and I walked off.
“So, how long has it been since we’ve been back?” Statch asked as the two of us walked up to the villa. The rain had not let up, and my clothes and Statch’s armor, both of which had been made dirty by the sands of Cyprus Desert, had been rinsed clean of every grain of sand.
“It’s probably been less than a week,” I said.
“Really? It feels like it’s been months…” As Statuedramon placed his hand around the doorknob of the villa’s front door, it opened, smacking the Rookie in the face.
“Oh…you two are back,” Apollomon said. Smiling nervously, he motioned for the two of us to hurry inside.
“Are you okay, Apollomon?” I asked.
“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “Zelda made it back a few hours ago…accompanied by…by Flamedramon, of all people…glad he left.” Apollomon sighed. “So, what took you guys so long?” Apollomon led us to the villa’s living room, where Dianamon, Pheragas, BlackGaomon, Chrysania, Luna, and Zelda all sat. Apollomon sat down on a couch next to Dianamon, Statch sat down on the floor, and I sat down next to Zelda, who was sitting comfortably on an arm of a couch. “What happened while the three of you were gone? Why were you gone for so long? Where are Victoria and Michalis?” Statuedramon and I looked at each other.
“Well, Victoria was murdered shortly after she broke Michalis out of prison,” Statch said. A dead silence fell over the room. “I still don’t know who did it…but whoever did will die as painfully as Thomas and I know how to make it.”
“…Sorry to hear that,” Apollomon said quietly. He was looking away from the two of us. “…While we were breaking Michalis out, we had to fight one of those Bio Hybrids,” Statuedramon said. “He was just about to tell us what he and the other Hybrids were up to when Lector arrived and killed him…
“Was he able to tell you anything before Lector killed him?” Dianamon asked.
“As he was dying…he tried to whisper something to me,” I said. “He only said one word, though; ‘eternal.’”
“Anyway, the Bio Hybrid that Lector killed had broken a rapist out of prison and had him take Zelda to Cyclamen City. That’s why we were gone for so long,” Statch finished.
“Oh! Irene! I found Irene while I was in Cyclamen City!” Zelda exclaimed.
“Irene?! Is she okay?!” Luna asked.
“What about SlashAngemon?! Was he with her?!” BlackGaomon asked.
“…SlashAngemon is dead. He was…murdered…by Irene.” The news Zelda had just given us filled me, and undoubtedly the others, with a disquieting unease. The room lay silent for a few moments.
“No way! Irene would never do anything like that!” Dianamon protested.
“She wouldn’t harm a Flymon!” BlackGaomon spat.
“That is beside the point; Irene wouldn’t be…physically capable of killing a Mega Digimon like SlashAngemon,” Apollomon said sadly, almost desperately. “Someone that small…that fragile…”
“She is capable,” Zelda continued. “She’s capable because she is a Mega level Bio Hybrid.” Once again, silence filled the room.
“Ooh…didn’t see that coming…” Statch said.
“So…you’re saying Irene can turn into a Digimon…like how Garret was able to?” Luna asked.
“Dat vould explain her extended absence,” Pheragas said.
“How did you find out? Did she tell you or something?” BlackGaomon asked.
“Yes; she also told me that she had been ordered to murder Thomas and me,” Zelda said. “I left one of my Digimon Spirits fighting and distracting her long enough for Flamedramon to escort me back here. It was thanks to another Digimon that we were able to find our way back, though.”
“Maybe…did you maybe…misunderstand her?” Apollomon asked. “I know you aren’t a liar, but…maybe you just misunderstood her.” Zelda shook her head.
“…She pointed her bow and arrow right at my chest, Apollomon. She really seemed as though she would’ve killed me. Knowing her, that is definitely saying something. She was…crying…the entire time I was speaking with her, and her eyes…she looked as though she had been crying for days…”
“Well…if you’re that sure about it, then I believe you,” Apollomon said.
“There’s also…something else I need to tell you,” Zelda said. Slowly, she reached over and pulled off the glove on her right hand. I held on to her left hand as she held up her right to show everyone the Mark.
“So…you do have it,” Apollomon said thoughtfully. He looked at the Mark without surprise or hatred.
“You knew?” Zelda asked with a worried look on her face. Apollomon nodded.
“A few of us have had a previous encounter with one of the Marked, about twenty years ago; he was killed because we weren’t able to protect him well enough,” BlackGaomon said.
“We were all quite…perturbed by his presence at first, but we all learned to look past it,” Dianamon said. “He was a good kid, that John…”
“What are you talking about?” Luna asked.
“Yes, vut ah dese ‘Mocked’ you speak of?” Pheragas asked.
“I have…All of the Marked have…Digimon blood runs through my veins,” Zelda said.
“Digimon blood?!” BlackGaomon exclaimed.
“So, that’s why we all felt uneasy,” Apollomon said. “We Digimon are able to instinctively sense if a being is Human or Digimon. You have the blood of both races flowing through you, so we were unable to tell what exactly you were…Interesting…”
“…In the village I was born…Those who carry the mark like my sister and me are treated very poorly, like we’re some crime against the Goddess Arcadia. Every day, we received threats and abuse, both physical and verbal…”
“Why didn’t you tell us this sooner, sweetie?” Luna asked.
“…I was…too afraid to tell you what I was…I was scared that you would all hate me…” “Chrissy doesn’t hate you!” Chrysania exclaimed. She jumped up from the couch where she sat beside Luna and ran up to Zelda and threw her arms around her. “Chrissy could never hate you! Zelda’s so kind and pretty! Chrissy loves you! You're like a big sister to her! It’s not right that you weren’t treated nicely!”
“The same goes for me,” Luna said. “I don’t know anything about the Marked, but if the Goddess considers someone like you to be a crime against her, then obviously, there’s something seriously wrong with that crazy broad.”
“It matters not oo’s blood you have; all dat matters is oo you ah as a person,” Pheragas said. BlackGaomon nodded in agreement.
“Now if only the rest of the world thought that way,” Dianamon sighed.
“You have nothing to fear,” Apollomon said. “The fact that you are one of the Marked changes nothing. You are still our friend and our comrade. Nothing will ever change that.”
“Everyone…thank you…thank you so much,” Zelda said. Tears had begun to well in her eyes, but at the same time, she was smiling brighter than I had ever seen.
“You’ve been gone so long…Chrysania’s really missed the three of you,” Luna said. I stood with my back slumped against the front door of the villa, looking up the stairs that led to our bedrooms. “I have too, of course.”
“…Yeah…Sorry about that…” Luna smiled. She leaned back against the same door as I, and stood next to me.
“You don’t need to apologize. I, uh…I…I’m sorry about Victoria, Thomas,” Luna whispered. I gave no reply. “…She reminded me of myself. She took you in, just as I did for Chrysania…”
“…How did you come to work here at Lachesis, Luna?” I asked. The witch placed a finger over my lips.
“That, I’m afraid, is a story for another time, handsome.”
“…Fine…” I closed my eyes and sighed.
“Well, you certainly look exhausted,” Luna said.
“Nearly ten hours of walking nonstop through the desert followed by over an hour of cooking will do that to you,” I sighed.
“Oh, yes, I had almost forgotten that you could cook,” the witch said. “It’s been a long time since you’ve cooked for us. You’ll have to start cooking again for us sometime…But if you make me fat, I will have to hex you.”
“So, why did you make all that food, anyway? Was Statuedramon bothering you?”
“I heard that!” Statch yelled from the living room.
“No…I promised Zelda I would when we returned home…”
“All of that was for that tiny little girl?! Surely, some of it was for Statch!”
“It started out that way, but I decided to let her have my share after all that she’s been through,” Statch replied.
“Why, Statuedramon…that was uncharacteristically kind of you,” Luna giggled.
“Well, screw you too!” Statch replied. Luna laughed harder.
“But seriously; how do you expect her to eat all that you made?! You must’ve made over ten pounds of food!”
“Thirteen and a half, to be exact. And remember; Zelda’s one of the Marked, so she has Human and Digimon characteristics. According to her, that means she has a Digimon’s longevity and appetite. Apparently, there are a few others, but she didn’t tell me…”
“So, where is she now?” Luna asked.
“Up in her room.”
“Did you tell her yet?” Statuedramon asked.
“…No. I just…I couldn’t bring myself to do it when she looked so happy…”
“Go tell her,” Statch said. “Now.”
“…I know.” After a long sigh, I pulled myself away from the door, and slowly walked upstairs. I looked up at Zelda’s bedroom door. It was closed. I sighed again, both from exhaustion and anxiety. My legs were shaking. I’m going to have to tell her; this isn’t something I can keep a secret from her… At least we’ll be alone…Well, here goes nothing. I walked into Zelda’s bedroom, where I found her lying on her back on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. “Zelda…how are you doing?” I asked. As soon as she heard my voice, she turned her head to look at me and smiled widely.
“Thomas…thank you so much…for that meal!” Zelda exclaimed. As I slowly and nervously walked up to her, she tugged on my arm and pulled me into a hug. . My cheek rested against hers, and though I blushed quite intensely, she didn’t seem to notice. “…I almost forgot about…it until I saw you making it…but it was so good!” Almost immediately, she let go, and I stood back up. Still smiling, she said, “You are such an amazing cook…I could eat your food all day long…”
“…I had originally made about half of it for Statuedramon, but he changed his mind about it, so I left it all out for you,” I said. “Did you eat enough? I figured since you told me you could eat as much as a Digimon, that I made you enough, but I can make you more if you’d like.”
“Oh, please…don’t tempt me…like that…I’m so stuffed…” The young Summoner gave her slightly rounded and bloated stomach a few gentle, satisfied pats before beginning to slowly massage it. “As I said back in Cyclamen…I had to spend so long pretending to be a Human that I was rarely able to truly satiate my hunger. When I saw all that food you made for me…I kind of lost control of myself. I just kept eating and eating until there was nothing left…It felt good to just pig out, and eat as much as I wanted, without worrying about anyone figuring out what I am…And now, I’m so full, my tummy hurts. It even hurts to even move…But compared to when I was starving, it feels…so…good to not be hungry anymore…you know what I mean?” she asked as I sat down on her bed next to her. “And you’re even still willing to hang out with a big, fat pig like me…”
“I wouldn’t say that; I think it’s kind of endearing that you’re able to eat so much,” I said quietly, helping her massage her stuffed belly. “You’re still a beautiful young woman, Zelda, both on the inside and on the outside, and even with this temporary bloat. It doesn’t matter to me if your belly remains round or not, or gets even bigger…You will still be beautiful.” Though I was lost in thought, I heard a quiet, shy, and happy word of thanks. I can’t…tell her what happened when she’s this happy…can I? It just seems so cruel…I cast a nervous glance down at her. Her eyes were glimmering, and she had a dreamy, almost half-asleep smile on her face.
“…Thomas…you’re so good at everything you do,” Zelda said. “You can cook…you can fight…you can strategize…you can even put up with a filthy half-breed like me…Is there anything you can’t do?” she giggled.
“…Half-breed? Zelda…I don’t ever want to hear you call yourself that again.” Doing my best to speak in a calm and gentle manner, I said, “You are not a…a half-breed; you are our friend. Whose blood you have in you doesn’t matter to anyone here. You’re…you’re you…and you’re free, Zelda; free to do things the way you want to. You’re allowed to smile, and be happy… You don’t ever have to go back to the way things were before you came here. Here, you have friends…and here…you are loved for who you are.”
“…Thomas…thank you…so much…” A single tear began to slowly slide down her smiling face.
…I can’t delay this any longer…I have to tell her what happened to Hannah. She…wouldn’t ever forgive me if she found out I kept this from her. Damn it…I shouldn’t have made her so happy…ARGH! What the fuck is wrong with me?! Shaking my head, I looked into her endlessly blue eyes. “Zelda…I need to tell you something,” I said. She’s going to cry again…Well, at least I’m here for her, this time… “I hate to tell you this after you’ve started to feel…so happy, but this isn’t something that should be kept secret.”
“Don’t worry about it; you can tell me,” Zelda said. She looked up at me, still smiling; her beautiful, blue doe eyes were shining with anticipation.
“…Hannah is…is…she’s dead.”
“…What?!” The Summoner sat straight up; all the color seemed to drain from her face.
“She died…trying to protect Statuedramon and me from Clive…It’s…my fault that she—”
“…No. It’s not your fault…don’t…apologize…”
“If we…if we had been more aware, or stronger, then she…she’d still be alive...”
“No…it’s okay. I…I was prepared for this…Hannah has been a warrior all her life…I knew that, one day, she might leave me forever…”
“…Zelda…” I placed her small, trembling hand inside my own.
“I’m okay…really, I am…I’m not…that…weak…”
“Zelda…you don’t have to hold back in front of me.”
“Thomas…oh, Thomas, I…why…why did she…have to…”
“Don’t worry. I’ll always be here for you.” Unable to contain herself, she let herself fall into my arms and cried. I sat with her and held on to her until she fell asleep. As I was leaving, I found myself giving her a kiss her on the forehead. I turned off the light, and quietly closed the bedroom door behind my before slowly making my way down the long, winding staircase and into the villa’s living room, flopping down on a couch next to Statuedramon. Luna was the only other person in the room with us.
“So…did you tell her?” Statuedramon asked. I nodded. I’d have spoken, but my face had sunken into a soft, vinyl cushion. “How’d she take it?” I rolled over and sat up, giving the Rookie Digimon a saddened look.
“…I made her cry again…” I said quietly, sadly.
“I thought you said you didn’t want to see her cry anymore,” Statch said.
“I don’t; I want her to smile the rest of her life,” I said. “But…I couldn’t keep her sister’s death a secret…and I did promise I’d always be there for her when she does cry, and that’s a promise I intend to keep.”
“Why, Thomas, I always knew you were a gentleman, but if I knew you were this much of a gentleman, I’d have confessed all of my secrets to you long ago,” Luna said. “Especially the dark, naughty ones,” she added, whispering seductively directly into my ear.
“…Good to know…” Luna laughed a little, and then sighed.
“You love her, don’t you?” she asked. Immediately, I felt my face began to heat up.
“What?! I…I…” I looked up at the sorceress. “…How did—”
“How did I know? It’s kind of obvious by now,” Luna went on to say. “At least to me, it is.”
“You’ve got to give her some credit, Tom; she is the smartest person here,” Statch said.
“She’s someone you want to protect, right?” Luna sat down next to me.
“…Yes, of course. More than anything.”
“She’s somebody you want to keep safe from all the evils and dangers of the world…right?”
“…Yeah…” Luna giggled again.
“Aww, you’re so adorable when you’re embarrassed!” Luna said, pinching my cheek.
“Leave the poor lad alone, Luna,” Dianamon said, walking into the room. “Thomas, I found a note addressed to you taped to the front door.” I looked up and took the note from the Mega Digimon.
“What’s it say?” Statuedramon asked. As I read what was in the note, I had to bite my tongue to keep from gasping.
“…Nothing. It’s nothing important.”
“Dinner’s on!” Apollomon shouted from the kitchen.
“Fuck yeah!” Statuedramon leapt off the couch and into the kitchen. I looked toward the front door, and after making sure there was nobody watching, I walked over to it and left the villa with the note clutched in my hand.