I'm going to kill him.

The boy bit his lip, desperately trying to clear his mind, as the black ash began to swirl around him. The air was heavy and humid, yet icy cold from the shadows swirling on the ground, and the frost that glittered on the leaf litter. The figure sat, cross-legged and arms on his knees, as the darkness coursed over him in waves. Each wave turned him into a monster, than back into a human. Monster. Human. One after the other, in a steady beat.

Wooden rail.

He flinched, causing the shadows to leap out in spikes around him. All the while his eyes were closed, trying to shut out everything from the world around him. Monster. Human. Keep the beat.

Broken glass.

It wasn't working. He hunched his shoulders, desperately trying to think of something else. His friends; they were still out there, weren't they? They were still waiting for him. He couldn't let them down. He began breathing in a slow, regular pattern, and the swirling gently died down again. But it still wouldn't leave his head.

A blue bird striking down a yellow one mid-flight.

No. He shook his head, the shadows rising again. Tendrils began to whip out, embedding themselves in charred stumps nearby and flailing like serpents. His body turned all black as he put a hand to his face, his features morphing into that of the dark elf once again. He hissed, the cold pain surging through his body like a tsunami. The shadows were deadly now; uncoiling around and shearing through the surrounding wood, and cutting great gorges into the earth.

It's all his fault. He made me into a monster.

Desperately he tried to stand up, clutching the sides of his head, but his vision was blurred, as if through frosted glass. He felt the cold metal of his crown beneath his fingers, and brought his hands up in front of him, brandishing the silver claws he'd seen in his nightmares so many times now.

Never forgive. A freak. I'm going to kill-


With those same claws, the figure dug into his chest, desperately scrabbling at it in an attempt to rip the shadows from his body. He collapsed to his knees, the pain intensifying. Eventually, even his knees were too much, and he fell onto his side, clutching his body tightly and shaking hysterically.

He lay there for a long time, making no other movements, until eventually the waves subsided. His vision focused and unfocused, before finally returning to normal. The cold dissipated again, as it always did. Kai remained on his side, feeling his heartrate slowly returning to normal. He held out a hand in front of him. It was human. Still shaking, but human.

Slowly, as if trying to avoid a brain rush, Kai got to his feet, and brushed the ash from his coat. He felt his finger yank at something and looked down. Great, another tear. He'd only had this thing a year and it was already hanging in tatters. He could see his pale flesh below it as well, sporting another set of red streaks.

He heard a disturbance next to him and turned to see Colchimon hovering a little way away from him. The dragon was looking a little pale, but he raised his wings in defense. "I did as you asked. I didn't interfere."


Colchimon huffed. "Don't thank me. It's yourself you're hurting."

Kai ignored him, trudging through the undergrowth towards his dropped D-Nexus as the dragon hovered close to his ear. The boy looked up, and smiled. "What's my score this time?"

The dragon looked thoughtful for a moment, coiling himself around his partner's neck and planting his chin on one wingtip. "I'd say about five minutes shifting forms before you lost it."

"How long did I lose it for?"

Colchimon looked uneasy. "About an hour?"

"Seriously?" Kai sighed, and trudged away through the burnt undergrowth. "And here I was thinking I was making progress."

He sat down on one of his freshly cut tree stumps, and hunched over, staring into the unseen distance. Colchimon nudged him slightly. "Come on you, you know it isn't that bad. You're just a slow learner."

"No, I'm just a stubborn prick with sociopathic tendencies." Kai absentmindedly scratching his partner's chin – a gesture that Colchimon greatly appreciated. "Let's face it, I can't control this thing. I bet the others have all got their evolutions all working perfectly by now."

"Oh, for crying out loud!" Colchimon swivelled himself round and gently butted his partner's face, looking directly into his eyes. "Will you stop beating yourself up about this? You're doing fine; just avoid ripping yours or my heart out and we'll get there, okay? I know this is what you want. You just need to be patient. It's all to do with the element of Darkness; it's just about control."

"It's easy for you to say, Colchimon. You were born with it, and you had Ladomon the whole way to help you."

Colchimon nodded. "And now you have me to help you, and all the time you need to learn. So stop whining." He stuck his tongue out, and Kai stifled a laugh. With a grunt, he got to his feet, and the two walked away down the beaten path.

Kai stretched, the rays of the morning sun. "Well, at least you can't say I'm being lazy about it."

Colchimon rolled his eyes. "Well, you did run away from, you know, saving the Digital World and that..." An icy glare from his partner cut him short, and he opened his wings in defense, "Okay, I'll shut up. Each to their own."

Kai harrumphed, and the two disappeared into the ashen woods.

After the Fire Forces had all but desolated the forest, they had nowhere else to go. In a matter of a few days, they'd all turned on each other or had simply burnt out, leaving only the trail of destruction in their wake. All the while Achromon had been waiting, staying out of site with his unconscious partner after the final battle with Cephalomon.

It had been a long and a lonely wait, even after his partner had come to. When they were sure there was no danger left, they'd finally left the safety of the wastegrounds. Colchimon had wanted to find the others, but he knew in his heart that would never happen. Kai just couldn't bring himself to face them, not after what he'd nearly done. So, instead, they simply kept moving. As they stood now, it was all they could do.

Colchimon huffed as he began to slip again, and readjusted himself around his partner's neck. "Can't you slow down a little?"

Kai looked back. "If you're so bothered with my method of transport, why don't you get off and fly?"

Colchimon said nothing. Kai let out a small laugh. "I figured as much."

"It's hot! I don't do sun!"

Kai looked up, puzzled. "It's not hot! There's ice on the ground."

The dragon narrowed his eyes. "The sun's still out. As I said, I don't do sun. It drains my energy and leaves me helpless." He stretched himself out further, adding to the drama with a few small coughs. "Do you not see how helpless I am?"

Kai chuckled. "In that case, a bit of sun and fresh air will be good for you."

"Says you, Dracula." Colchimon switched shoulders, and looked down at his partner. "Although in all honesty, you are looking better."

Kai stopped, and looked down at himself, removing his gloves to get a better look at his hands. His partner was right; before he'd been looking half-dead, but now there was some colour beginning to return to his skin, and he seemed to be filling out a little more. He frowned. "I wonder why that is? Is it all the walking, do you think?"

The shadow dragon shook his head, humming in consideration. "Somehow I don't think it's that simple. Maybe you are getting better at controlling your Soul form after all."

"It's possible."

The sun beat down on the both of them as Colchimon began to sway suggestively. "Well, if that is the case…don't you think it might be a good idea to find the others? Or at least let them know?"



The dragon slumped, obviously disappointed. Kai noticed the movement, and gently tickled under his partner's chin. "It's not forever. We'll see them again. I'm just not ready yet."

"Well, when will you be ready? I know you have trouble with your emotions but you're gonna have to take the risk someday."

Kai looked decidedly uneasy. "I know." He looked on guiltily as his partner's head drooped all the lower. "I'm really sorry. I know you miss Ladomon. But look what happened last time I went back. I nearly put a sword through the girl who was trying to help me."

"She didn't blame you. None of them did. They wanted you back as well, you know."

The boy raised his hands, "I know, I know. I'm just saying they don't need me freaking out every half an hour if I do go back. They've probably got enough on their plate without me there."

He was met with silence, so he looked up to see his partner staring deep into his eyes. He twisted his head slightly. "What?"

"You have a problem, you know that? It's like somewhere through your life you decided to break off all human contact."

"I am better off alone." Kai swallowed. "No offense to you. You're fantastic, and I love having you around. I love being round the others as well. I'm just dangerous. I have dangerous issues and a dangerous power and a dangerous…past. When people are around me, they get hurt. I don't mean to. I just don't want it to go too far."

Colchimon was listening intently. Rare was the occasion when his partner would open up much, if at all, towards him. The shadow dragon simply lay back and listened.

"That must have been why I thought it was a good idea to come here. I needed some time alone, away from it all, to try and fix myself." He smirked. "Of course, I didn't know the others would be brought here as well. I didn't want to just leave them. But…you know…"

He trailed off, but he didn't need to finish. His eyes gazed sadly at the ground. His partner slowly unwrapped himself and nudged his partner's heavy head.

"You're not a broken person, Kai. You don't need 'fixing', like a dead truck or something. You just need someone to look after you."

"And that would be you?"

Colchimon puffed out his chest. "It's my duty as a hero and as your friend and partner to stay with you until the end of time."

"Hero?" Kai closed his eyes, smiling to himself. "There's a novel thought."

Colchimon tilted his head. "What's so novel about it? That's what we're all here for, isn't it? Why we all came here?"


The two smiled at one another. A breeze spiralled through the desolate woods, sending ash and frost every which way. It appeared they'd been going rather far north, and it was beginning to show with the thin ice now coating the ground. Kai shivered, before frowning, looking around them. "Is it me or are we looking a little boxed in?"

The two looked around them; without realising it they'd seemed to have gone rather close to the mountain range, but that wasn't all. Poking out from above the burnt treetops was another long grey range, stretching in an entirely different angle. Except, on a closer look, it didn't seem like mountains. More like a single strip of metal laid out across the horizon.

Colchimon flicked the end of his tail. "I know where we are. That's the east wall of the Spokes."

Kai blinked. "The what? Is it a bike shop or something?"

"I…it…no, it isn't a bike shop, you doofus." Kai stuck his tongue out as the serpent explained all. "It's a huge structure made of various districts, all contained by great grey walls like that one. They all meet at one point at the centre of the continent; that's Silicon City. It's all connected."

Kai was impressed. "That must have taken a lot of work to build."

Colchimon waved a wing dismissively. "Nobody really knows who it was. Some old Digimon with a lot of time on his hands or something like that. Anyway, it's not as impressive as my ancestral home."

"Your home? Where would that be?"

Colchimon frowned. "I told you before; I was born in Silicon City. My ancestral home is on the other side of the world; the Chaos Temples, one of Light and one of Darkness. It's really a wonder they got built at all."

"Very interesting, partner." Kai yawned, "Although I am much more interested in where we go from here."

Colchimon pouted with indignation. "Well pardon me for answering your question."

"What question?"

"Where I came from!"

Kai raised an eyebrow. "I didn't ask you."

The dragon lightly batted his head. "Don't play dumb; you just did!"

"Ow!" Kai squared off against his partner. "You must be hearing things."

"Would those things include me?"

Both boy and dragon yelled and jumped back a mile, staring around them. "Who is that? Who's there?"

There was no answer but the whispering wind as ash spiralled around the two in little wisps. They gently circled each other, back to back, but could see nothing out of the ordinary. The charred undergrowth cracked beneath Kai's feet as he slowly walked towards a slightly more intact tree, before leaping over to the other side. "Got you!"

There was nothing there. Kai straightened up, before turning around and leaning back against the petrified trunk. "I have a feeling we're being toyed with."

Colchimon was about to answer when something dropped down in front of the boy, causing the dragon's jaw to drop. The something, presumably a Digimon, was held suspended by two long, furry tails, which gripped the branch above of their own accord. The whole creature was covered in dark shaggy fur, and its arms and legs were held crossed beneath it, giving it the appearance of an oversized monkey. Its face was very alien; looking almost like that of a goat, but with two asymmetric twisting horns, four tufted ears and the bizarre combination of a lime green Mohawk and goatee. Its eyes were purple with two horizontal pupils, and as Kai watched in subtle horror, a third one opened in the centre of its forehead. The creature grinned, before holding out a long, bony arm.

"Boo. As in how do you do."It said, as it flicked Kai in the face, before it hoisted itself up again and disappeared, just as instantly as it had arrived.

Colchimon yelled, his tail blade glowing angry black as he darted towards his partner. "What the hell was that?"

The two looked up, but the figure had disappeared again. They heard a slight rustling from behind them and they whirled round, as the Digimon stepped out on a branch and leant against the trunk. "I have a name, you know. You know, a name I call myself, and other people call me to make it easier."

Colchimon growled, but Kai put out a hand, gingerly stepping towards the creature. "Who are you?"

The monkey-goat snickered, and slid down, appearing quite magically behind another black stump. Now that it was on the ground, the boy and dragon could see the creature was actually quite short; less than five feet tall. Its legs were splayed and it held his gangly arms behind its back.

"My, my, we are trusting, aren't we, are we not? You don't know, I could be not good, or shall we say, not bad. You have no idea. That's what makes you so much fun to watch. You're fun to watch."

The Digimon's voice was as alien as its appearence; neither distinctly male or female, it was sometimes deep and growling, sometimes light and gentle, and sometimes a combination of the two, like the sound of a choir tuning up. It kept walking as it spoke, walking directly past the confused partners. The two partners turned in unison, but he…she…they were gone again. Kai looked up, and there it was, standing upside down on a branch. It frowned. "Something's not right. Definitely not right, as if the world's gone topsy-turvy."

Kai raised an eyebrow. "Do you have to do that while you're talking to us?"

"Ssh!" Colchimon nudged his partner and whispered in his ear, "We still don't know if this guy's a threat."

Kai whispered back. "I think if he was, he'd have done something by now other than try to confuse us."

A third figure joined the huddle. "What are we whispering about?"

Kai jumped back, and Colchimon trained his blade on the Digimon, who let out a squeak. "Okay, I will be still. No moving. No tricksing. Maybe a little moving."

"Calm down, Colchimon." Kai looked at the squat little goat demon before him, and knelt down. "What's your name."


Kai blinked. "Excuse me?"

The Digimon swayed back and forth, quite innocently. "Phoukamon. That's my name. I was born with it. Well…maybe not." They raised a hand to their chin, scratching it in thought. "Now why am I called that?"

"Just…focus, please." Kai sighed, and stood up straight. "You said you'd been watching us."

Phoukamon raised a hand and gave a quick salute, accompanied by a mischievous grin. "That's right. Watching you. And you. And you again."

Kai turned, but the spirit was already there, balancing on their two tails, legs crossed and fingers clasped below the chin, tapping in turn. "Watching you a lot, in fact. You're fun to watch. All the time. Everywhere."

They leaned in closer to Kai, their grin widening. "You're an interesting one."

"Please stop that."

"Bite me. I love you! I'm sorry." Phoukamon's face twitched slightly, before they bounced up high, grasping the tree branch above them with their prehensile tails. Kai looked at his partner, who merely shrugged his wings, utterly lost. Phoukamon cleared their throat. "I'm sorry. There are many of us; it gets crowded sometimes. It's your fault. I'm sorry, so sorry about this." The demon slapped their face, before shaking their head violently. They grinned sheepishly. "Sorry?"

Colchimon rolled his eyes, giving his partner a definite look of 'let's leave this weirdo'. Kai, however, remained. "What are you doing here?"

"Ooh, more questions!" Phoukamon jumped down, landing on all fours. "Well, you see, I live here. It's my home. And my work. I don't really have a job. Or a home. But it's where I am most of the time."

"Was that a yes?" Kai looked around. "What's so special about this place?"

Phoukamon laughed for an uncomfortable period of time. "You don't know? Of course not, why would you know? Although you should know!"

Here they pointed at Colchimon, who flinched. "What, me? Why me?"

Kai raised his hands. "Look, you don't seem to understand. Or maybe you do, and you're just playing with us, but listen. I don't know you, or this place."

"But I do. And we've spoken before."

Kai shook his head. "No we haven't! It's just been me, Colchimon and the others."

Phoukamon cocked their head. "The others?"

"Other Digimon, and humans like me. We kinda got stuck here when we fell through a portal." He ruffled his hair, blushing slightly. "Well, to be honest that was my fault."

Phoukamon giggled. "You must've been a very naughty boy then."

Colchimon flew in, his eyes dark. "Leave him alone. What we're doing here has nothing to do with you."

The goat spirit said nothing; instead they simply rocked back and forth, rolling their tongue around their mouth in contemplation. Colchimon waited for a reply, before sighing and flying back over to his partner. "Come on, Kai. There's not point hanging around here."

Kai rolled his eyes and turned, walking away from the now humming spirit. He hadn't gone a few hundred metres before Phoukamon walked out from behind another tree.

"Well, if it isn't the two brave heroes. How can I help you this fine day?"

Kai blinked. "If you're looking for the role of 'loveable sidekick', I'm afraid it's already been taken. Just leave us alone, okay?"

He started off again but Phoukamon ran after him, waving their arms frantically. "Wait! You must save the Digital World! It is why you came here! You cannot run away, brave heroes! Foolish heroes! Cowardly heroes!"

Colchimon was up in the demon's face in an instant, avian eyes gazing into Phoukamon's three. "Look, Shifty, we've told you multiple times that we don't want you coming along. And don't you dare call my partner a coward."

"I didn't. I called him a hero."

"You know what you said."

"You're a hero too, y'know."

"Shut up." Colchimon made a swipe at the goat-demon, but his blade went through the furry body like smoke. Phoukamon appeared just above them, swinging from a branch and whistling. "You're a hero, you're both heroes, so where did you come from?"

Both boy and dragon had their mouths open. "Huh?"

Phoukamon swung down, standing before them once again. They gave Colchimon a long, withering look. "Have you told him? About where you came from? You know he brought the humans here, but what about you? Who brought you together? This isn't just about him, you know."

Colchimon stammered. "I-I-I-I never really thought about telling him."

Beside him, his partner raised a hand. "In fairness, I never really asked."

Phoukamon clapped their hands together. "Well then, what would you like to know? There's a great place to start nearby."

All of a sudden Colchimon frowned. He coiled his body slightly, looking uneasy. "You said I should know this place. Is it where I think...it...is...?"

He looked up, and Kai followed his gaze, as they realised where they were standing. Before them was the full glory of the Spokes wall. Or at least, it would have been had it not been long overrun with vines and moss, also charred from the onslaught. Still, the structure was impressive, etched with engravings and shining in the thin sunlight. Kai walked forward and brushed off some of the dead foliage, and his eye caught something of interest.

"Hey, why's the metal slightly different here?"

Colchimon slowly hovered forward, taking a look at what he was already sure about. Embedded in the metal was a perfect circle of a metal completely different, almost like a shield. Colchimon gulped.

"All this time, I never knew...where he went...I guess..."

He turned to see his partner looking at him with morbid curiosity in his eyes. Colchimon sighed. "I guess you should know. Our side of the story. The full truth."

Phoukamon clapped their hands. "Ooh, goody. Would you like to see more? I can take you to the centre."

Before Kai and Colchimon could utter a breath, Phoukamon had already hobbled forward and grabbed hold of both of them. They winked at Colchimon, who looked away, hiding his guilt.

"Shadow Switch!"

Nobody spoke to the lone dinosaur as it wandered through the remains of the camp. Gusts of wind blew past the abandoned towers, sending sparks flying out as they buffeted the generators within. A ragged flag hung on a bent metal pole, the fabric blackened and the once proud logo rendered unreadable. The Hellfire Desolation had hit hard, and the few resistance members remaining were sombre; eyes at the floor, not talking. They wouldn't be here for long anyway. Sooner or later they would have to move on, or risk being discovered by the Fire Kingdom. Or worse, a rogue Fire Tyrant. A soldier spat at the new arrival, before walking away, clutching a charred red cloak that didn't belong to her anyway. The dinosaur sighed, and walked on. There were some Digimon he needed to find.

The dinosaur was quite large and rather bulky for a Rookie, with grey-purple skin, covered with blue-grey metal plates. His armour was secured by shiny bands and hundreds of tiny rivets, and the end of his tail sported a heavy iron ball. His mouth was a stumpy beak, and his maroon eyes were swimming in their sockets, betraying an anxiety that he was trying very hard to keep hidden.

He spotted something moving a little way away and made his way over to where four Digimon were lounging about before him. One was a yellow-green dinosaur with green gauntlets and a sullen expression. One was a two-legged armoured fish, eyes closed and spiky tail coiled up beneath her. Lounging around on top of one of the ruined buildings was a bipedal rat-like creature, absentmindedly spinning the barrel on his oversized handgun. The other Digimon was a red falcon with bronze wings, pacing up and down across the courtyard.

The bird saw the new arrival first, and let out a harsh laugh. "If you're here for the battle you're too bloody late."

Beside him, the fish slowly uncoiled herself and got to her feet. "Just leave it, Perimon. It's not worth it."

Perimon spat, and looked the other way. "Maybe it would have been if our glorious leader hadn't led us into a massacre back there." He glared at the lizard, who merely opened his eyes, too weary to respond. Perimon had no such reservations. "I saw what you were doing back there. Was Cephalomon's arm really worth it? What the hell did we manage to do back there? Give the Fire Kingdom a shooting range as a present?"

Pikamon holstered his gun and leapt off the roof. "Well, looks like someone's gotten their feathers in a knot. Maybe if they'd stayed in line instead of rushing ahead, they could have done something to help." He smiled, tapping his foot. "But of course, that's just my opinion."

Perimon snarled, and began to stride towards the rodent, but Placomon whipped her head round, "Not now, Pikamon." Then she turned back to Perimon, promptly backhanding him and sending him sprawling. "You need to calm the hell down. It's happened. It's done. There's nothing more we can do."

The new arrival coughed, and all four warriors turned to looked at him. He shuffled. "You know, there might just be a way…"

Velocimon stood up, and walked over to the other dinosaur. "Thanks for your optimism." He blinked, and the ceratopsian noted by his lack of a smile that he probably didn't mean it.

Velocimon folded his arms. "It's not worth thinking up anything elaborate right now. We can't stand up to another onslaught like that."

The other dinosaur shrugged, "You may not need to. There may be another way. Another p-plan." He smiled innocently. "I bring a message. You're required, as am I, and a few others. Somebody has a plan to save the Digital world."

The four warriors began to gather in close; intrigued, yet also suspicious. Pikamon narrowed his eyes. "We've never seen you before. How do we know you're not a Fire Kingdom agent?"

The ceratopsian looked up innocently. "I suppose you'll just have to trust me. There's a way you can come back from this; it won't be easy, and you won't be enough on your own, but together we may just stand a chance."

He stopped, waiting expectantly for a response. Perimon scoffed and looked the other way, only to be nudged back by Placomon. Velocimon bent down, and stared into the dinosaur's eyes. "What's your name?"


The warriors spread out as the fireballs rained down around them. The Southern Daggers were ablaze and the Fire Kingdom knew they were there. Velocimon and Pikamon ducked into a cavern, Pikamon only just avoiding getting his fur singed. He grinned, and re-cocked his gun. "It seems to me, beloved comrade, that we are located in a bit of a situation."

The cave rocked around them as projectiles hit it directly. Velocimon rolled his eyes. "You think?"


Pikamon and Velocimon nodded at one another, and they both left the cave at the same time, just as a barrage of fireballs flew into the entrance. The two soldiers moved as equals and opposites; skirting round the deadly rock formations until they found the cave that Perimon was busy circling around. He dived down and joined them as Chromon and Placomon stood inside.

Pikamon strode in, cocky as always. "So where's our little catch, then?"

Chromon turned and shushed him, as Placomon gently waddled forwarding the corner of the cavern was a shaking little ball of bone, with two wide emerald eyes that sparkled in the firelight from outside. Placomon balanced herself on her tail and held out a webbed hand. "Come on, it's okay. We're not here to hurt you."

Velocimon checked outside, before ducking back in again. "We need to be going. They'll find us any minute."

Placomon gritted her teeth and ignored him, instead gently beckoning out the little ball of bones. It unrolled itself and revealed it to be a large brown insect, cowering before the group in front of him. Placomon smiled "Can you speak?"

The bug didn't respond; instead it just ran into her waiting arm. She held him close, before whispering something to him.

"How'd you like to save the world?"

The hustle and bustle of Silicon City extended even to its edges, as the ragtag group of Digimon scoured the streets, looking for the right place. Perimon stood atop Chromon's back; unable to fly for very long due to a mysterious force keeping pulling him down. Velocimon seemed incredulous of the idea. "I think you're just being lazy."

Perimon pouted. "Hey! I found Trilomon for you, didn't I? Ow!"

He rubbed his wing from where Placomon had gently punched him, as she grinned back at the insect, who was following behind, still not willing to talk. "He's not a thing to be found. He's adorable!"

"Must you keep hitting me?"

Placomon winked. "I only do it out of love, featherbrain."

Perimon's beak fell open, and he nearly stumbled off of Chromon's back. The dinosaur huffed, and rolled his eyes. "Just my luck; I'm stuck carrying a lazy lovebird."

Pikamon giggled next to him. "Hehe, good one. Wait…"

The rodent suddenly stopped, and sniffed the air, as the others turned to look at him. "What is it?"

Pikamon turned, and walked up to a door. "I think this may be it. They may be here."

Velocimon walked up next to him, and gave the door a sharp knock. They waited for a few minutes, before the lizard shrugged. "I guess not."

Pikamon reached out and grabbed the dinosaur by the shoulder, shaking him back and forth. "Come on, since when has a wooden door ever stopped you?"

Velocimon looked decidedly uneasy as Pikamon whipped out his gun and pointed it at the lock. "You're not going to do that, are you? That's private property."

The rodent raised his eyebrows. "The whole of the Digital World at stake and you're worried about a little petty vandalism?"

He smirked, and promptly blasted the lock off the door. It swung open, and Pikamon sauntered in backwards, sticking his tongue out at the group, who simply stood, agape. The rodent heard something shuffling; whirling around, he saw the white serpent-dragon just as she saw him. She recoiled back with a squeak, before yelling out. "Colchimon!"

Another serpent flew in and in a matter of seconds Pikamon was greeted by a pulsating black blade in front of his nose. He raised a hand, but the dragon wouldn't let him speak. "Get out."

From behind, Perimon poked his head round the door. "Way to go, bucky."

Ladomon's eyes widened as she saw the gaggle outside. "Who are you? What are you all doing here?"

Pikamon raised a finger again. "Actually, we came to ask a favour-ow." He took a step back as Colchimon poked him harshly. The dragon's eyes were narrow, obscured in darkness as he was.

"This is our home. You have no right to come barging in. I said get out!"

"But we need your help."

"We're not joining your army!" Colchimon yelled, Ladomon huddling close behind him. "We saw what happened. We're not going to be a part of it."

"This is different." Pikamon raised his hand again and gently pushed the dragon's blade out of his face. "We're not soldiers this time. This is something a lot bigger…"

The great doors opened as the eight motley warriors gingerly stepped across the frozen courtyard. Perimon was complaining about the cold yet again, but Placomon nudged him, and he fell silent, blushing slightly. Sitting before them was the matriarch of this Northern Tribe; her gown exquisite and her canine features betraying no emotion. Either side of her sat her husband and her daughter, who sniffed rather rudely as the warriors bowed.

Velocimon stood up first. "Matriarch, we've come to ask you a request-"

He was silence as she raised a hand. "It's okay. We received the word from your metallic companion." Chromon shuffled awkwardly as he felt the ruler staring down on him. "We know you need our help."

She gestured towards her daughter, who looked at her mother with pain in her eyes. "We have decided. Actually, she requested to go." Then to her daughter. "This is your fight now. Be brave, my child."

Pikamon frowned. "I don't think it's going to work if we have an Ultimate wandering around with us." He looked at Chromon. "Isn't that right?"

Chromon nodded, looking up at the princess. "I'm afraid you'll have to give up the power you've held for most of your life. I understand this'll be hard for you, but in order for this to work, we need to be our most basic selves. We need to start again, as children."

The princess shook her head. "I understand. If I must, I must." She stood up, and walked over to her mother and embraced her. Then she walked over to the warriors, shedding her beautiful garments and her humanoid form as she did so. When she reached them, she was a mere fox, with a red pelt and an icy blue stone around her neck.

The warriors smiled as she stood among them, but she huffed and stuck her nose up in the air. "I don't need your sympathy. I'm doing this for my family."

Pikamon leaned over to Perimon. "Yowch. Cold reception or what?"

Vulpimon whirled round. "Make that joke again and I'll have you executed!"

Both Perimon and Pikamon stood up straight, and immediately bowed low. "Sorry ma'am!"

Chromon bowed his head. "I thank you, matriarch. With this, our group is complete. We can take back the D-Digital world from the evil that threatens it."

He trembled slightly as he spoke, but the matriarch raised a hand. "Go in peace. I will wait for my daughter's return. Do what you must, and save this world."

Vulpimon looked back sadly as the group left the great hall, before the gates closed behind them.

Hidden away from the outside world in the deepest, most guarded chamber at the northern-most point of the Spokes, the nine Digimon waited for something to happen. The chamber was dimly lit, with sunlight filtering in through the gauze comprising the roof, as well as vents in the walls.

The room was a mess. There'd obviously been a skirmish here at somepoint, and nobody had bothered to clean it up. There were bits of paper everywhere, showing visions of fire and death and strange, grinning monsters. Lying around was also the odd bit of armour; perhaps once it had been something illustrious, but now it just lay here gathering dust and rust.

Velocimon had his arms folded, tapping his foot impatiently. There was a rumble from outside, and he raised his head, listening out for any sign of a break-in. Beside him, Vulpimon looked at him worriedly. He returned a dark look. "They know we're here."

The fox looked nervous for a brief moment, before she coughed, flicking her head away again. "There's nothing to worry about. I can take them."

Placomon chuckled, flicking her tail back and forth. "Listen, darling, I say that all the time, but honestly...you're better staying out of their way. We all are."

Vulpimon didn't react, with the exception of the slight hunch of her shoulders. There was another bang, and a covering of dust fell from the ceiling. Trilomon flinched, and backed away into the corner. "Are you sure we'll be okay here?"

Beside him, Chromon nudged him awkwardly. "It's fine. Have faith; I'm sure it won't be long now."

"Before what?" scoffed Perimon, perching on top of the alter in the centre of the room. "For being the last hope of the Digital World', your master's sure taking their sweet-arse time."

Pikamon giggled, but Chromon simply looked away. "I'm as much in the dark about this as you are. I got a summons to come here. I don't know why."

Perimon blinked. "Seems to me like we're expected to hide away here until it all blows over. Doesn't really strike me as the most glorious plan ever conceived."

The others began to mutter amongst themselves; in truth, nobody was at all sure why they were here. Ladomon whispered to her partner, "Should we be here?"

Colchimon looked down. "I don't know. But something doesn't feel right."

There was another crash, louder than before. Trilomon yelled and curled up, while Velocimon and Pikamon got to their feet, brandishing their weapons. "They're in. We'll have to move; we can't wait any longer."

"No, wait!" Chromon pointed, and the attention of everyone present was drawn to the altar in the centre, where a ring of light had suddenly appeared. Everyone drew closer, holding their breath, as the ring grew bigger, flashing with various colours as symbols began to etch themselves into the altar.

Surprisingly, it was Trilomon who broke the silence. "The elemental seals..."

Placomon reached out a hand, but pulled it back, hesitant to touch the relic. "I've heard of the elements. The original ones, in their purest form. They're gone though, aren't they? Dispersed through the Digital World."

From all around them, a voice rang out as the ring began to spin, whirring with an ear-piercing whistle.

"Together once, then separate. Now together again, only to be separated once more. Each to be unlocked. Each to be unleashed. Each to be awakened, and to rebuild this broken world. The elemental nexus...awakens!"

With an explosion, the ring shot outwards, blasts of energy piercing everyone present straight through their chests. They fell back, clutching their bodies as they felt the energy of a thousand suns coursing through their veins. The sensation was different for each warrior. Velocimon felt a sense of elation. Perimon felt adrenaline. Trilomon, calm. Pikamon, vigour. Placomon, relief. Vulpimon, fear. Ladomon, dread. Colchimon, comfort. Chromon closed his eyes. He felt peace.

The light dimmed once again, until it had reached its original size once again. All around, the digital warriors righted themselves, and checked their bodies. Pikamon was the first to discover the change as he planted a hand to his chest, and promptly reached right in, the flesh rippling like water. He frowned, and pulled out a small mysterious orb, glowing with a green light.

"Well, this is an unexpected turn of events."

Everyone gaped, before retrieving their own orbs; each one a different colour. Velocimon scratched his chin as he fingered the relic in his hands. "These must be the elements after all..."

The voice sounded out once again, seeming to be made from multiple voices, all speaking at once.

"That is correct. The elements form this world, and I have entrusted them to you. They are now a part of you. You, quite literally, are the future of the Digital World."

The warriors began to mumble again, as Colchimon looked up, teeth gritted. "So what now? Can we use these to fight back against the Fire Kingdom."

There was a shimmer above the altar, as something twisted in the shadows. "Yes, but not quite. They are not weapons; they are not mere tools. To use an element as such would be to throw its power to waste. You cannot wield them on your own. You will need help."

Perimon yelled out. "You could have told us beforehand! You know, give us a little warning before shoving these things on us! Who are we supposed to get help from; we could have brought them here to begin with!"

Placomon nudged him and he shut up, but Vulpimon had her head lowered in thought. "You don't mean...the other world?"

The voice chuckled. "One to hold the element. One to hold the soul. Both to gain the power, and understand it all."

There was a pause, before it spoke a single word. "Humans."

This raised even more of a commotion. Vulpimon put her foot down, "We can't do that. We have no idea how to open the portal, and besides, we can't just bring human children into a war they know nothing about."

Velocimon put his hand on her shoulder. "My lady, I don't think we have a choice."

Vulpimon sagged as the voice continued. "They are already waiting. They must simply pass through; that is down to you. You must find the fracture; from there you can open the door. It awaits you in the Painted Woods. The young one knows the place."

Here everyone looked at Trilomon, who cowered. "It's just a hobby. I like ancient lore..."

Pikamon sniggered. "Don't apologise. Just think of it as an exam."

The voice sighed, before speaking up for one last time. "It's down to you. I can no longer help you. Reclaim our world from the evil that threatens to take it. The elemental nexus must not be broken. Now go..."

There was an almighty boom as one wall blew open, letting in the flames from outside. Ladomon and Colchimon yelled, flying to safety, as two lone figures entered the room. One was a grinning two-legged snake holding a serrated crescent blade; the other was a lion with a scorpion tail and a glowing, spinning rosary. Rinkhalmon and Martyaxmon. The warriors had been found.

The light disappeared as Rinkhalmon let out a manic laugh. "Didn't I tell you, Marty? They've been trying to start a party and we weren't even invited. That can't be right."

Beside him, Martyaxmon grimaced. "It doesn't matter. They're not going anywhere now."

In a flash, Placomon waddled forward, storing energy in her mouth. She looked up at the ceiling, judging her options. It was probably a bad idea, but she knew she had the power now. The element within her was being most generous.

"Depth Charge!"

Several pulses of water shot from her mouth, crashing against the ceiling. Chunks of rock flew away, before the entire thing fractured and began to cave. Placomon turned, and immediately started towards the back wall, running towards it with all the speed he could muster.

"Armour Twister!"

Body spinning like a piledriver, she slammed against the wall and broke through, leading to the chamber beyond. She stopped spinning, before beckoning the others.

"Come on, we've got to run!"

Everyone did so; fleeing from the chamber as the roof caved in. Placomon stood for a brief moment, swaying from the spinning and the impact, but Pikamon grabbed her dragged her down the tunnel. Behind them, Rinkhalmon made a lunge for the nearest warrior, but Ladomon flicked her tail away just in time. Martyaxmon made a move, but Chromon, last through Placomon's makeshift doorway, was already on it, his metallic frill shimmering.

"Shield Reflect!"

A force field erupted from his head, immediately plugging the opening just as Martyaxmon swung his rosary into it. The building shook, and Velocimon beckoned the others. "That won't hold them for long. Come on!"

Vulpimon flustered, "Which way?"

Pikamon answered by grabbing her and thrusting her forward, after the others.

"Any way away from here, m'lady."

As the commotion behind them indicated that they were being pursued, the nine warriors tore through the dilapidated corridors and rusted chambers of the Spokes. They followed the twists and turns, but no matter how fast they went, they could still hear the rumbling of the oncoming army, along with Rinkhalmon's maniacal laughter. And not everyone could keep up the pace for very long.

Out of breath, Placomon turned to the insect as he scuttled along beside her. "So, how far are we going?"

Trilomon looked away, but Velocimon turned back as they turned another corner. "We don't have time for nerves. Where is it?"

"The Painted Woods, like they said. The other side of the continent. Just north of the Southern Daggers and just west of the Stone Halo."

"What? That's hundreds of miles away!" Placomon stumbled, righting herself just in time as she still attempted to overcome the dizziness from her earlier attack. "Who thought that up? That's a stupid idea!"

Chromon coughed. "Actually, it might just help us out. If it was anywhere nearby, the Fire Kingdom could easily overrun it and set an ambush. As it is, we know where we're going and they d-d-don't." He swallowed, his fearful stuttering slipping out just a little.

Everyone nodded, with the exception of the armoured fish, who growled. "That may well be, but not all of us are best suited to running, you know."

Vulpimon caught up with Velocimon, turning to face him. "She's right. We all have different power levels; there's no way we can all keep up and still hope to outrun the Fire King-"

With a crash, something burst through the wall beside her and grabbed her roughly. She screamed as she was twisted around, coming face to face with the ferocious jaws of a blue dragon-man in fiery red armour. The Flamedramon snarled, flecks of spit raining down as it raised its claw to strike.

"Spark Shooter!"

An electric barrage slammed into the monster's face as Vulpimon made a move. "White Cloak!" Her body twisted, releasing a fine white mist as she released herself from the Flamedramon's grip. The monster looked around, but it was temporarily blinded by the sudden fog. So much so that it didn't notice the oncoming shadow until it collided with its chest.

"Shadow Blade!"

The Flamedramon disintegrated as Colchimon hovered, fire in his eyes. Behind him, Ladomon peered out gently. The black dragon looked down, "Are you okay?"

She nodded, but ahead of them Pikamon was waving, only just visible through the mist. "Come on! His friends'll be here soon."

The dragons sped forward to catch up, while Pikamon rushed ahead till he was running next to his comrade. "Vulpimon's right. We're too slow like this; we'll be chargrilled snacks before we even get to the forest. We need another way."

Velocimon gritted his teeth. "First we need to get out of here. I can't concentrate in this goddamn maze."

From behind him, Chromon yelled out. "That's it! Ahead of us, that's the w-w-way out."

The lizard didn't question him; he made a sprint towards the polygon of light as it grew wider and wider. With a breath he leapt outside, Pikamon and Vulpimon following him rapidly. The others followed suit, but there was the sound of frenzied scratching and gnashing teeth from behind them as their fiery pursuers drew near.

Vulpimon, Chromon and Pikamon stepped up in an instant.

"Snow Blast!"

"Thorn Tendrils!"

"Shield Reflect!"

Within seconds, the entrance was sealed with metal, vines and ice, and the Fire Forces had no chance of getting through. Pikamon grinned, and tapped his handgun affectionately. "I could get used to power like this."

"Don't." Chromon gave him a sideways glance, before addressing the others. "Remember; the elements are l-l-limited, and the Spokes have more than one way out."

Pikamon pouted. "Buzzkill."

"No time for quips." Velocimon immediately started pointing at members of the posse. "You, Vulpimon, how well do you know the Northern region?"

The fox blinked. "I know it well enough that going that way is the wrong way. Why?"

"We're splitting up. Three groups of three." Vulpimon opened her mouth to protest but Velocimon silenced her, causing her to seethe quietly to herself.

"If we stay together, we'll get caught, and we'll lose all the elements just like that. We need to get them all to the rift; we'll each take a different path. Vulpimon and Perimon, you take Placomon to the coast and then head round to the Southern Daggers; it's long, but you're all the fastest."

Vulpimon looked offended, but Placomon pumped her fists together in anticipation. "Awesome. Been a while since I've had a good swim. What do ya say, Perimon? Fancy a dip?"

Perimon blushed, but Velocimon raised his hand again. "Just watch out for Cephalomon." Then he turned to the dragons. "You follow the Stone Halo until you reach the rift. Chromon, go with them. You seem to know where you're going."

Chromon nodded humbly, while Velocimon addressed the remaining two warriors. "You two come with me through the forest. Trilomon, you said you knew where it was, right?"

The bug nodded. "I can point us in the right direction."

Velocimon nodded. "Good. And everyone..." He paused, biting his lip. "Be careful. Please try and make it there safely. Remember, we're the only hope. Now let's go."

Without another word, he immediately broke into a run, disappearing into the forest. Trilomon scurried after him, digging into the soft ground, while Pikamon turned back and gave a quick salute. "He loves you really. No pressure guys!"

The group nodded, and each went their separate ways. Vulpimon beckoned an out-of-breath Placomon onto her back as they ran the opposite direction, towards the much colder north, Perimon flying above them. The other three pointed themselves towards the mountain range, and began to run again.

With an earth-shattering roar, Martyaxmon exploded out from the ruined Spokes, swarms of Fire soldiers coming out after him and immediately setting on the forest around them. The manticore looked round, then padded over to a hole in front of him, giving it a smell. He grinned. They'd gone through the forest. Perfect.

Turning to the forces, he bellowed out an order. "Search the forest. If you see them, destroy them. You." Here he stopped a Salamandermon, who stood to attention, his eyes slightly more focused than the savage beasts around him. Martyaxmon bent low. "Send a message to the fortress. Tell them to release the remaining Tyrant. We need all the help we can get."

The amphibian nodded. "Yes sir." Then he disappeared underground, leaving a telltale scorch mark in the soil. Martyaxmon spun his rosary in front of him, forming a screen of light, and a hazy image gently flickered into view. The manticore soon found himself looking into a giant rubbery face behind a wicked, beaked mask, steam billowing out from behind it.

Cephalomon let out a gurgling breath. "Did you find them?"

"We lost them. But they can't get far. Get out on patrol, and if you see them, you know what to do."

Cephalomon shook his head, his tentacles flapping. "You land dwellers are utterly useless. Still, I'll do what I can." He winked. "Happy hunting."

Martyaxmon closed the channel. "You too." He smiled. Now there was just one thing left to do. He frowned, looking around him.

Where the hell was Rinkhalmon?

Chromon looked back nervously as the Spokes lay burning below him. His home, desecrated and turning to rubble, thanks to those heathens. Ahead of him, Ladomon and Colchimon spiralled ahead, helping each other through the thin air and tough terrain. Ladomon looked back at the struggling dinosaur. "Do you need a hand?"

The ceratopsian smiled weakly. "Can y-y-you offer one?"

Ladomon giggled, but Colchimon glared at the dinosaur. "We don't have time to joke around. Come on; we need to get to the rift. You're slowing us down."

He pushed ahead, but Ladomon held back, and the two dragons twisted round, staring at the dinosaur who'd suddenly pulled to a stop. Colchimon moved his head. "I said come on!"

"I...I can't do this."

"What did I tell you about joking?"

Chromon looked up. "No, seriously, I can't do this. I can't go through with it. I'm...I'm s-s-scared."

Colchimon growled, but Ladomon held up a wing. "Please, Colchimon." Then she hovered over to Chromon, who stood there, shaking. Ladomon gently wrapped around him, embracing him with her gossamer wings. "We're all scared. But we have to carry on. You must know that; you summoned us all to begin with."

"I told you, I don't know what's going on!" Tears rolled down Chromon's face as Ladomon gripped tighter, trying her best to comfort him. "Everyone expects me to be the r-r-reliable one, but I can't. I can't bring m-m-myself to go through with this. It's...it's too hard...I'm s-s-sorry...I'm pathetic..."

The dinosaur's cries rang out through the mountain range as Ladomon and Colchimon hung there, unsure what to say. From behind them, there was a crunch of gravel as a figure stepped out from behind a rock, blade held high above his head.

Chromon looked up first, and his eyes widened. "Duck!"

Rinkhalmon grinned. "Surprise! Venom Arc!"

He swung his blade in vicious swipes as the dragons circled around him, desperately avoiding his blows. He was laughing all the way, effortlessly traversing the rocky terrain. "You're so predictable, all of you. It's always 'Let's split up'. Mistakes like that will one day lead to your death." Without warning, he jumped, his blade spinning below him.

"Why wait? You can all die together!"

His attack grazed Ladomon by a hair's breadth, taking out a couple of her feathers. She screamed, before catching sight of the Commander's wild eyes. She tried to speak, but fear locked her muscles and left her frozen.

"Paralysis Pulse!"

Rinkhalmon grunted as the dark sphere hit him, immobilising him. Ladomon snapped out of her stupor as the paralysed Commander threatened to fall on top of her. "Blinding Stare!"

There was a flash of light, and the Commander cursed. Colchimon grabbed his companion and made a dash for it, while behind them, the snake man began to wriggle his way loose of the dark suppression. "It's no use, you know. You can try all you want, but I always get my way-"

Colchimon whispered as Rinkhalmon flailed around, still blinded. "Let's go. Try and outrun him."

Ladomon pulled back. "Wait! What about Chromon?"

The shadow dragon's eyes widened, and he turned back, just in time to see Chromon frozen on the edge of the cliff, staring down the manically moving Commander. The dinosaur opened his mouth, pellets glowing inside, while both serpent-dragons mouthed cries of no.

"B-B-Bolt Blaster!"

The pellets hit the snake-man on the cheek, ripping open the skin. He stopped, and turned, the dinosaur just showing up in his field of vision.

For one brief moment, Chromon gave Ladomon and Colchimon a look. His eyes were damp, full of guilt. He mouthed one word.


Then, he jumped backwards down the slippery slope, and Rinkhalmon jumped after him, as the dragons cried out in anguish.

Muscles burning and vision blurring, Chromon ran faster than he'd ever run before. He could feel the heat around him and the commotion from the Fire Kingdom attack, but he blocked it out. He needed to get back. He just needed to. Ahead of him the great metal wall drew nearer and nearer, until it towered over him, and he had to run along it to find an opening.

He found one, and immediately dashed inside, twisting around as he did so. With a cry of "Shield Reflect!", the opening was sealed, and he stepped backwards, breathing a sigh of relief.

Something tapped him on the back, and he turned, knowing who it was even before he did so. Rinkhalmon stood above him, a rare disgusted look on his face.

"That was stupid. That was completely, monumentally stupid."

Chromon gritted his teeth, but the snake-man grabbed him by the tail and threw him down the corridor, where he bounced roughly against the walls and floor. He struggled to get up, while the Commander gently walked towards him.

"You're the last hope for the Digital world? How disappointing."

Rinkhalmon raised his blade, acid dripping from the end, and raised it above Chromon's body. The dinosaur closed his eyes, and Rinkhalmon licked his lips.

"You lose..."

As Kai's eyes adjusted themselves to the darkness, he began to make out details around him. Light, filtering into the chamber from the skylights above, bouncing off the dust and ash hanging in the air. Sculptures of twisted metal. Burnt metal. Lost armour. The remnants of a battle.

Beside him, Colchimon was barely moving. He hovered low, trying not to catch the eye of anything. He'd even refused to take a closer look at any of the surrounding debris. Kai couldn't know why this place was making the dragon so uncomfortable, but he felt something about it as well. A definite familiarity.

There was a titter from above, and Phoukamon lowered themself down, gently swinging from the ceiling. "You like it? It's been a while. A few months, maybe. How time flies."

Colchimon looked up. "Really? Only a few months? It feels like years since I was last here."

Phoukamon shrugged. "You've been busy. It's understandable, if not excusable. You're wrong."

The dragon ignored the jabbering creature above, instead turning to his bemused looking partner. "This is where it began, Kai. This is where we first made contact with you."

Kai knelt down, and brushed away the ash from the central altar; greatly deformed, but surprisingly still standing. There were intricate engravings all over it; designs and symbols that Kai couldn't even begin to recognise, save for ten, equidistant around the centre. The elemental seals. Swallowing, he held his chest.

Phoukamon dropped down beside him, surveying the scene. "Wow. Such power in your hands. Very much your story. You will be the saviours of the world."

"Shut up!"

The noise made both boy and spirit flinch as Colchimon snapped, wings outstretched, making him look big. He addressed Phoukamon, who smiled nonchalantly.

"You keep talking about some great plan and great power; it doesn't work like that. We shouldn't even have been able to bring the humans here. Three of us died before we even got to the rift. You're pretending to be cryptic and all-knowing but you have no control over this!"

Phoukamon raised their hands. "I never said I had it. I'm not the controlling type."

Colchimon narrowed his eyes. "Tough if you were. I see your game; you're trying to guilt-trip me and Kai into going back to the others. Do you have any idea why we left to begin with?"

Kai raised a hand. "Colchimon, please, calm down. I told you we're going back-"

"When?" Colchimon sighed. "You need to control your emotions before you can get near them again. That's what you told me."

"I know…"

"And that's fine." The dragon was beginning to writhe, hairlike trails of shadow twisting away from his body, yet his voice remained eerily calm. "Even in a war, you need time to prepare. Time to get stronger. But there are always mistakes." He pointed his blade at Phoukamon, who'd shifted to a sitting position.

"You keep telling us how we will master the elements. We're supposed to be the saviours of the Digital World. We're no saviours. We're not even soldiers. We're just normal people, human and Digimon, who are doing our best. It's been like that since the beginning. We might have a chance. We probably don't. But there is no grand plan at work here. It's all down to us."

Phoukamon smiled. "You feel bitter against your element? They are all part of the same body. You are all of you connected, whether you wish it or not."

"Yeah? Then where's the warrior of Wood? Water? Metal?" Colchimon growled, hovering higher. "Come to think of it, where's the warrior of Fire? I don't know what the whole idea was, but it was monumentally stupid. Seperating the elements? That's just asking for trouble." He lowered his head, staring darkly at the rusted floor. "Some of them...some of us paid the price."

Phoukamon thought for a minute, before they raised a finger. "The end result is unclear. But as you said, it is down to you. But you can be heroes, whether you believe it or not."

Colchimon breathed out, and shook his head. "That day, trying to reach the rift, I saw Chromon trembling in fear. He ran. He couldn't face the challenge. I don't hold any resentment over him, or superiority that I've gotten further than him. I wish there'd been something I could've done to stop him." He looked at his partner, who was watching in morbid interest. "I'm sorry. We're not heroes. Not even close. Heroes find ways to win; the one solution which fixes everything. All we've found are numerous ways to remain alive."

Phoukamon grinned. "Then by remaining so, are you not still in the game?"

"It's only a game until the deaths begin. Then it becomes a war."

Kai stepped forward, and held out a hand. "I think we've seen enough. There's nothing for us here." He turned to the odd little creature, who sat on the edge of the altar, swinging their feet back and forth. "Thank you for showing us. Believe me, we'll try. But right now, we just need time."

Dragon around his neck, Kai began to walk away, Colchimon nodding directions at him. Phoukamon stood up, and called gently after them.

"We all need time. Some of us can have it. Some of us can't. But it is less important. At the end of the day, we all need to survive. Even if that means that we change. Everything can change in an instant."

Kai stopped, the words puzzling him. He turned, but the creature was gone. Disappeared into the shadows once again.

The sun entered through cracks in the ceiling and illuminated the way for Kai and Colchimon as they moved through the Spokes, although it did little to quell the chill in the air. Kai walked along, deep in thought, and trying to find the exit. Colchimon hovered just behind him.

"What are we going to do?"

Colchimon posed the question, and Kai simply shook his head.

"I don't know any more."

Colchimon moved in slightly closer, nudging his partner's shoulder. "We don't have to go back. Not yet. You know what's best."

Kai smiled, and raised a hand to his partner's head, but Colchimon pulled away sharply before the boy could give his head a stroke.

"I don't know what's best. I thought I did, but maybe staying away from everyone's causing more harm than good. I have no way of knowing, and as you said earlier, nobody seems to. It's up to me, and I just don't know anymore."

He closed his eyes, waiting for his partner's response, but he got none. Kai frowned, stopping mid-step as a million things ran through his mind. Could he really be a hero?

Something heavy collided against his head, and he grunted, swaying forwards. He tried to call Colchimon's name, but he suddenly realised that the dragon was no longer with him. He fell onto his knees, before collapsing, as he felt something large step over him; heavy, bejewelled feet tapping against the metal floor. He tried to roll, to get a sign of who his attacker was, but his vision was obscured by another blow. He slumped, the shadows claiming his mind.

Martyaxmon bent down, slowly and calmly, and hoisted the unconscious boy up and over his feline form. He turned and padded back the way he'd come; along the long, straight road to Silicon City. The boy was light enough. He could make good time.

He frowned. Everything was going wrong. If his plans…the Fire Kingdom's plans… were to survive, he was going to need all the help he could get.

Whether it was willing or not.

As the beast padded away, a figure moved, obscured by the shadows. Colchimon limply raised a wing, his slight form having been swatted away as if it was nothing. He tried to call out, but his voice wouldn't work, and he felt his consciousness slipping. He heard the footsteps fade away into nothing as everything slowly faded to black.