Lilithmon was gone. Thomas and Zelda left. Flamedramon was nowhere to be seen. Everything was peaceful and silent in Mandala, save for the occasional slow surge of water that could be hear every now and again.
“…Are they gone?” I heard Michalis ask.
“So…the two of you were faking, as well?” I asked.
“Well, not the entire time; I admit I was unconscious for a few minutes, there,” Adrian said.
“Me, too,” I admitted, laughing slightly. “I don’t think any of them noticed…but you did, didn’t you?” Michalis and Adrian looked at me, slightly confused. “You can come out, Irene; we aren’t going to hurt you.” The small girl walked out from behind a marble column.
“No need to apologize, my dear; you were confused and frightened, and you simply didn’t want to get in the middle of that fight,” I said. “Having felt only a small amount of Dynasmon’s power, I can say for sure; none of you would want to experience that…”
“So…what should we do?” Michalis asked. “Now that mother’s dead…what should we do?”
“What do you mean, Michalis? What else is there to do?” Adrian asked. “We’re…just going to have to disband…”
“Disband?! But, I…I don’t have anywhere to go…”
“Unless you’ve got a better idea, that’s pretty much our only option.”
“Adrian is correct; we have but one option,” I said. “However, it is not the one he says. The only option we truly have…is to gather quintessence in Lilithmon’s stead.”
“Oh…that stuff, again?” Adrian asked.
“Are you displeased with my suggestion?”
“Well, it’s just that…I’m not sure if that stuff is really worth looking for anymore, with Lilithmon dead and all…”
“Of course it is! Have you forgotten everything it is capable of, Adrian? Don’t you want an eternal life?” I asked.
“Apollomon! By Goddess Arcadia, are you okay?!” I asked. The large Mega Digimon was laying down, eyes closed, across a couch in the villa’s living room. Blood-stained bandages were wrapped around his torso.
“He’ll be fine,” Dianamon said. “…Thomas…Saias and Lector are both dead.”
“…Oh…Well, I knew that Saias was a Bio Hybrid,” I said. “He and Apollomon must’ve fought…”
“Nobody ever tells me anything!” Statch pouted.
“So, why is Lector dead?” I asked.
“Because I killed him,” Dianamon said in a surprisingly casual voice. “He was the one who stabbed Apollomon…I can only surmise that he learned that Apollomon killed Saias, based on what Lector did to him…Lector died with a smile on his face.”
“…Why do these things have to happen?” Zelda whispered. I gave her small and dainty hand a reassuring squeeze.
“…Thomas…you’ve seen Irene recently, haven’t you?” Dianamon asked.
“Yes…she went with me to Mandala,” I said. “When we started fighting against Lilithmon, and against the other Bio Hybrids…I guess that’s when she just ran off…I don’t know where she went…”
“What about Flamedramon? He disappeared, too,” Zelda said.
“He really saved us down there,” I said. “If he hadn’t found Dynasmon’s Talisman…or, if he weren’t there to help us fight against BioArbormon and BioBeelzemon…”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it; everyone did a good job but me,” Statch grumbled.
“The important thing is not how well you did. You were there with them…you fought alongside them — brief though it may have been — and you never gave up. At least, not intentionally,” Apollomon said.
“Oh, Apollomon, you’re awake!” Dianamon said. “You should get some more rest, sir.”
“What’s important is that you made the effort to help out your friends. As long as you can remember that, and not the actual results of how well you did, then you really have done a good job,” Apollomon said.
“Oh, really? Well, if that’s the case, then I guess I did better than you two!” Statch laughed.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Dianamon said. “Oh, and before I forget, when I was dragging Apollomon back here, I found this note on the door addressed to you, Thomas.” I took the paper from the Mega Digimon and began reading it.
If you are reading this, then I am dead. And if I am dead, then that means either you or one of your friends must have killed me. Either way, I give to you both my congratulations and my sincerest apologies. The things I have done as of late…may not have justified what I was attempting to accomplish, but just know that, in spite of what I may have done, I fought my hardest on behalf of my beliefs. I only wished to create a better world for the Marked…and the only person who could have helped me with that was Lilithmon. Just know that I never would have wished anything that may have happened (if anything did happen) on any of you. Even now, as a Bio Hybrid, I consider you all to be my good friends, and while I know I do not deserve any forgiveness, I have only this to say; my friends, I am deeply sorry. As a token gesture, I will allow you to continue living in my villa for as long as you like or need.
“All right! I fucking love this place!” Statuedramon exclaimed.
“Well…if that is what he wishes, then it would be remiss of us to refuse, wouldn’t it?” Apollomon asked, a sad smile appearing on his face.
“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going to go get something to eat!” Statuedramon exclaimed, running to the kitchen.
“…Thomas…is there anything wrong?” Apollomon asked.
“…I recently learned who it was that murdered Victoria,” I said. “It was Michalis. Her very own son killed her…and her unborn child…”
“Is he still alive?” Dianamon asked.
“Yes; so are Adrian and Sephyrus,” I said. “I just…I couldn’t bring myself to kill him, or any of them for that matter. I didn’t want become…someone like him. Victoria taught me that blood leads only to blood, and violence begets violence. Nothing more. Revenge is simply another name for murder, and there is no forgiveness for wanton murder. Any good man must always condemn it. But still, you must abide it. You must sever the chain of hatred for once and for all, because if we allow hatred and fear to prevail, the world will be swallowed by them. If ultimate understanding can be reached, then we may still have a chance to be saved from ourselves.”
“Looks like you learned more than swordplay from her after all,” Apollomon said.
“Of course; it was because of her that I discovered there actually are good people in the world, and not…just thieves and murderers.”
Apollomon smiled. “You were lucky to have met her.”
“I’m not sure if it was luck,” I said. “She had lost a son…I had lost a mother, negligent and uncaring though she may have been…It seems as though we were destined to meet.”
“Well now, I suppose if you put it that way…”
“Apollomon…I have another question for you,” I said. “Do you know…what a Horcrux is?”
“…Why do you want to know?” I pulled up the necklace that still hung around my neck.
“Lilithmon said that this necklace was a Horcrux. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that it saved me from dying.”
“From dying? How is that possible?” Dianamon asked. “It’s just a…small pendant!”
“I was stabbed in the chest by a shape-shifter who had turned into Omnimon. This necklace lit up, and the stab wound disappeared.”
“…Horcrux…another word I never thought I would hear,” Apollomon said. “I will…tell you what they are later. I’m not sure when…but right now, I must rest…”
“We should probably rest too, Thomas,” Zelda said.
“Yes; everything we all went through would tire out anyone,” I said. The two of us left Dianamon and Apollomon and started going upstairs.
“…Um…is it…is it alright if I tell you something else?” she asked as the two of us arrived upstairs. “I said it in Mandala….but I’d like to say it again properly…if it’s okay with you…”
“Of course.” She looked at me nervously, so I smiled at her, hoping to put her mind at ease.
“I…I…I love you.” The last two words just barely came out of her mouth. “I’ve…had a crush on you…since I’ve joined…You’ve just always been so kind to me…you’re so brave, and strong, and…my goodness, you’re just so handsome…I…I’m starting to feel a bit faint…” I placed a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s okay,” I whispered. I felt the same. The nervousness was making me feel dizzy…and happy.
“Oh, Thomas, I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean—”
I placed my arms around her. “Zelda, you know I love you, too. I’d have told you sooner…but…I was afraid…afraid that you’d say no…” Zelda looked up at me, teary-eyed and smiling.
“…I never thought…I would find someone who cares about me…like you,” she whispered. “I feel…so much less alone now…Thomas…”
“I’m sorry I took so long,” I said. “I promise…I’ll do everything in my power to keep you from feeling alone, or sad…ever again.” The two of us headed for our bedrooms, and as we did, Zelda gave me a quick kiss on the lips that made my heart soar.
I smiled to myself as I flew into a hidden cave in the Black Rose Mountains. It’s been a while since I’ve been back here…always great to get back home again. I looked around the dimly lit, musty cave and sighed happily; everything was encased in ice…as it should be.
“Welcome back, my lord,” a voice from the entrance of the cave echoed.
“Asuramon…it’s good to see you again,” I said as the Ultimate Digimon approached me. “How have you been?”
“Things have been going rather slowly since you’ve left,” Asuramon said. “Parrotmon and I have been required to do everything by ourselves ever since you were nearly killed, and Luna left us.”
“So…were you able to discover anything?”
“No, sir; we were unable to find the locations of any of the Horcruxes.”
“Is that so…well, don’t worry about it; Lilithmon isn’t an idiot. She wouldn’t have hid the other Horcruxes in a place where they could be easily found. For now, let’s just wait for Parrotmon to return, and we can figure out what to do from there.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Also…have you heard anything from Zudomon?”
“Not for a while, my lord. We’ve heard rumors of a Horcrux up in Nymphaea Province; when Zudomon heard the rumor a few months ago, he set off for the province immediately. I expect he’s searching hard for the Horcrux.”
“Yes…he’s always been a diligent one,” I murmured. “I suppose he should be arriving back any day now…”
“I should hope so, my lord. Even for a Digimon like him who’s accustomed to the cold, a place like Nymphaea can be lethal.”