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The Digimon Dragons

By Shelli-Jo Pelletier

(ussfantasy@hotmail.com)

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Author’s note: The characters in this fanfic are created by myself and two other Digimon fans, who have given me permission to use their characters here. Please respect our creations and do not use these characters or the fanfic itself in any way, shape or form without our permission. You can contact the creator of Lina, Dotremon, Diratimon, Nick and Kiku at CoolestMew@aol.com. E-mail the creator of Tania, Munamon, Yazumon, Teng and Keith at trascia@hotmail.com. All other made-up Digimon and the story itself belong to me. Digimon itself, of course, is the property of Bandai, Saban and Toei Animation. Thank you for your time.

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Perojentimon bowed low before the stone throne, his long face inches from the ground. "You called, Master?" he rumbled in his deep voice.

A soft, mellow voice answered him. "Yes, I did," murmured the one upon the throne. "You may raise your head, Perojentimon."

The Digimon servant complied. His beady red eyes lit on three softly glowing blue spheres, hovering in the air between them. As he watched, his master gestured at the spheres. They began to stretch and change, becoming the images of three small Digimon. "These are the ones," the master said, spinning the images so Perojentimon could study them from all angles. "Bring them to me."

There were no other words needed. "Of course, Master." The servant rose, bowed once more from the waist, and left. His lord smiled briefly, exposing glistening fangs. Soon now. Soon he would be the most powerful Digimon in Digiworld.

* * *

"Spatial Displacement!"

Lexxy thought those words would ring in her memory forever. One moment she had been soaked to the skin, clutching the dorsal fin of Niji as the Bowmon leader plowed through the rough ocean waves. The next thing she knew those words rang out in the open air, seemingly from nowhere, and the world itself turned upside down.

Although it was only a little after noon, everything plunged into pure blackness. She could hear the high-pitched cries of the other Bowmon in the water nearby. "Cunomon?" she called out, listening with a hint of worry for her Digimon or the bright blue Bowmon with orange and pink stripes he had been riding. Suddenly she couldn’t feel Niji under her anymore. She couldn’t feel the chill of the water, or hear the waves. There was no sensation at all! The eleven-year-old girl screamed and didn’t hear a thing.

Just as abruptly, everything returned in a rush. Sounds, color, light, smells blasted her, and she felt herself falling through the air. Lexxy landed with an ungraceful thump in a patch of thick grass, banging her head against the ground. That hurt.

A deep voice laughed out loud. It was close. And the same voice she had heard before. Whipping her head around (which hurt some more), Lexxy finally spotted Cunomon, picking himself up with a shake of his head not five steps away.

Before she could gather her wits to go to him, the voice attacked.

The battle was brief, and confusing. Cunomon was everywhere at once, and maybe she had hit her head harder than she thought, because her vision was playing weird tricks on her. Sometimes it even seemed as if Cuno had wings or something!

It ended all too soon. Too soon even to digi-volve. And when the other Digimon—a huge, ugly thing that vaguely resembled a bipedal goat or ram, with the feathered wings of a bird—stood victorious over the other three (other three?) he turned and looked right at her. And he laughed.

Lexxy, her head hurting quite a bit now, fainted.

* * *

"Hey, is she okay?"

"How should I know?"

"Well is she dead?"

"I . . . don’t think so. . . ."

The voices Lexxy heard were getting louder, and clearer too. And with them came an intensely pounding headache. She winced and tried to bring a hand up to her head.

"Look, she’s waking up!"

Lexxy’s eyes felt like concrete blocks, but she forced them up. For a moment, nothing made sense to her dazed mind. Then something clicked and she realized she was lying on her back. The sun was shining in her eyes, and two girls were staring down at her. Two human girls.

"Hey, you okay?" asked the one with the baseball cap turned around backward on her head.

"Uh . . . think so." Her voice sounded kind of thick. "Hit my head."

The other one, her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, patted Lexxy’s shoulder sympathetically. She looked momentarily confused as she touched the damp fabric, but didn’t say anything. Then the two girls took her by her arms and gently pulled her to her feet.

Lexxy swayed, groaning softly. Stupid hard ground. But a realization took her mind off her pain and made her green eyes popped open wide. "You’re . . . human!" she yelped, staring in disbelief as it hit her.

Baseball cap smirked. "Last time I checked," she cracked, crossing her arms in front of her. Immediately she uncrossed them and winced, rubbing her right shoulder.

"I . . . I haven’t seen any other humans in Digiworld. You’re the first," Lexxy told them. They both looked surprised. "Are you . . . what’s the word he used . . . Digi-Destined?"

They nodded. "Are you?" the blonde wondered, cocking her head to the side.

Lexxy fished under her shirt and withdrew her Tag and Crest, then watched as they did the same. Curiously, all three Crests were blue in color. Lexxy’s was a light sky blue, both the blonde’s and Baseball cap’s were a darker blue-green. And the sight of them reminded her.

"Cunomon?" Lexxy turned from the girls, searching the area. She saw trees, flowers. They seemed to be standing in a clearing in the woods. But no Cunomon. What happened to the ocean? They had been miles from land. . . .

A hand on her shoulder made her jump. It was the blonde, her blue-green eyes worried and her lips pressed in a tight line. "They’re not here," she sighed. "That other Digimon, the goat thing. After you fainted he just vanished. Our Digimon disappeared with him." Lexxy gasped at the news.

"It must be some sort of attack," was Baseball cap’s opinion, running her fingers through her straight brown hair. "I heard the words ‘Spatial Displacement’ right before me ‘n Yaz were yanked away from Keith and Teng." The blonde girl nodded agreement.

"Same thing happened to me," Lexxy nodded too. She shivered a little as a breeze cut through her wet clothes and realized she didn’t even know these peoples’ names. "I’m Lexxy, by the way."

"Tania," said Baseball cap.

"And I’m Lina," added the blonde. "Um, could I ask why your clothes are all wet?" Tania looked surprised; she hadn’t noticed.

"Long story," she replied, shivering again. "And it’s starting to get cold. Either of you against building a fire?"

* * *

"Let me get this straight." Tania popped a few more berries into her mouth. "You are your Digimon have been riding a giant fish through the ocean for three days?" She cocked an eyebrow at the black-haired girl across the flickering flames.

Lexxy shrugged. "Not nonstop. We couldn’t take that, I don’t think. We stop at islands, to dry off and sleep sometimes. But mostly, yeah. I believe my fingers are permanently wrinkled." She grinned briefly. "Oh, and the Bowmon aren’t fish, they’re more like dolphins."

Lina poked at the flames of their campfire with a short stick, tossing it in when the end caught fire. "Your Digimon must be like Gomamon. He looks like a seal, sorta," she added.

Lexxy laughed. "Cunomon? Yeah, right! He hates water! No, Cuno’s a dragon Digimon."

"Really?" Tania asked. "So’s Yaz!"

Lina looked equally shocked. "Diratimon too!" she gasped. "And all our Crests are blue. . . . This is way too coincidental to be a . . . well, coincidence." A heavy silence filled the air, broken only by the crackling fire. The conversation had reminded them all just how much they really missed their digital companions.

Lexxy took the opportunity to study the other two girls, to really look. Lina wore a short-sleeved blue-green turtleneck, gloves, jeans, and boots, the fire turning her hair a glowing red-gold. Her eyes were sad as she thought about her Digimon. The situation made Lexxy unhappy as well. No matter how much they argued, she still loved Cunomon. She hadn’t ever been away from the whining complainer since she met him, and it caused an ache in her heart as if someone had punched her in the chest.

Tania’s brown eyes were more angry than sorrowful. With her backward hat, thin jacket over her T-shirt, long shorts complete with a chain hanging from the pocket, and sneakers, she looked like some sort of punk kid. But the worry written on her face belittled her tough appearance. From the conversation they had had while getting the fire and dinner ready, Lexxy knew they girls had never met each other before now, just as she had never met either of them.

"Well," Lexxy sighed, making Lina and Tania start. "Sorry. Anyway, I told you both about landing in this weird place, meeting Eekamon and everything. You guys wanna take a turn? Maybe we can find more coincidences."

After another pause, in which they started at each other uncertainly (they had just met, after all, and didn’t know how well they could trust one another), Tania finally snorted and shrugged. "Why not? Teng and Keith—my friends from back home—were with me when we were zapped here. We each met up with these little talking heads, and soon after that they digi-volved. Munamon became Yazumon. I call him a dragon/wolf Digimon. That’s what he looks like, anyway. Earlier today all six of us were walking in the woods when we heard someone say ‘Spatial Displacement,’ just like I told you before. Then everything went black and Yaz and I ended up here with you guys, fighting that other Digimon. He must have brought us all here, and then took our Digimon after they were worn out from fighting." Her eyes flashed with repressed fury.

Lina leaned around the fire and touched the brown-haired girl’s hand, giving her an encouraging smile. "Don’t worry Tania. We’ll get them back. As for my part, I was out in the woods alone back on Earth, like Lexxy. When I got to Digiworld I met Dotremon, who digi-volved to Diratimon when we were attacked by these slimy green things called Numemon. Then we met up with a boy named Nick and his sister Kiku. They both had Digimon too. Then we found a group of eight other Digi-Destined, and we’ve been traveling with them. I think they’ve been here for a while, because they know a lot about the Digiworld. Anyway, the same thing happened to Diratimon and me today. We heard the goat guy, everything went black, and then we were suddenly here." She shrugged.

The talking went on long after the sun set, and the fire became their only light and warmth. The trio decided to compile a list of every similarity between the three pairs that they could find, in hopes of discovering exactly why they, specifically, had been chosen by the attacking Digimon.

Through detailed descriptions, the girls found out that not only were all three of their Crests blue, and all their Digimon dragons, they were all blue dragons. The three humans were females but the Digimon were males, something that was definitely in the minority according to Lina. Cunomon and Yazumon almost looked enough alike to be twins, right down to the black markings around their eyes. While in their In-Training forms, all three Digimon had two feet. "They all have ‘mon’ at the end of their names!" Lexxy suggested brightly, trying to lighten the mood. The other two laughed appreciatively. None of them were sure what all these similarities could mean, how they were important, but it seemed too coincidental.

"There must be a reason we’re so alike!" exploded Lina with exasperation, thumping a fist on her knee. "Both Tania and I traveled in groups of three for a while. Lexxy’s got the Crest of Compassion, and mine’s Kindness. They’re practically the same!"

"Not to mention the fact that Yaz and Cuno sound so alike," Tania added. "And both our Crests are the same color, Lina. But the thing is, what’s all this mean? Why such pointless coincidences? Why us?"

Lexxy couldn’t find any answers, and she was suddenly exhausted. All the questions and worries buzzed around and around her brain until she could barely think straight. Her eyes were closing, and the harder she strained to keep them open the more insistent they got. She yawned hugely.

Lina noticed. "Hey, why don’t we pick someone to stand watch for a few hours and then get some sleep?"

Lexxy didn’t hear anything after that. Pulling her purple vest closer around her, she slid off the log she had been sitting on, dumped her uneaten berries in the big pile they had made, and curled up on the ground by the fire. She didn’t even hear which one of her new friends was standing guard before she drifted off.

* * *

"Ooooo . . . my achin’ head," moaned Cunomon as he came to. "Anyone get the number of the Monochromon that hit me?"

There was a disgusted snort from behind him, which scared the living daylights out of the Digimon who had thought he was alone. A pair of gleaming yellow eyes snapped open as the sky blue Rookie scrambled to his feet. Whipping around, he found a two-footed light blue dragon Digimon with darker splotches on his body. And wings. Sneering. Taking an instant (and perhaps prejudice) disliking to him, Cunomon rolled his eyes and snorted himself. "Great. Just what I need. Diratimon."

"Hey, chill." The voice belonged to a third Digimon lounging nearby. For a moment Cuno wondered if it was another Cunomon. But as this one raised his head off his front paws Cunomon saw he was a darker blue, shaggier, with red eyes. Yazumon. He’s never met either of them, but most Digimon were able to recognize most others on sight.

"Whatever," grumbled Diratimon, stomping by both of them to approach the bars. Bars? Cunomon blinked and looked around. They were in a cell made of solid stone, one wall nothing more than vertical metal bars, floor to ceiling. They were prisoners.

"Hey, you were the two who were fighting Perojentimon with me!" exclaimed the yellow-eyed Digimon, trying to remember what had happened. They had lost the battle, he thought, and then . . . his memories were foggy. He remembered Perojentimon standing over him, laughing . . . then nothing.

"You’re a quick one," Diratimon was saying sarcastically. He turned to scrutinize Cuno with round green eyes. "Cunomon, hmm? The Digimon they say has a personality that digi-volves backwards?" He chortled.

Cuno growled. "That’s not true! At least I have arms!"

"And I have wings," pointed out Diratimon smugly. Cunomon’s eyes blazed, and the winged Digimon knew he’d hit a sore spot.

Before they could continue their argument Yazumon leapt between them, scowling. "Cut it out!" he ordered curtly. "We’ve got company."

"Ah, but your performance was so entertaining," spoke a soft, mellow voice from the room beyond their cell. As one, the three Rookies whirled toward the bars. The only light in the room came from two torches hanging on the wall to the left and right of the cell. Their light didn’t reach very far, so although the Rookies were brightly lit, the speaker was mostly hidden in shadow. All that could be clearly seen of him were his sharp fangs and shining white eyes with strange pupils, both reflecting the torchlight. Beside him, dull white skin illuminated enough to be recognized, stood a silent Perojentimon.

"Who are you?" demanded Yazumon, baring his own fangs.

"All in good time, Rookie. I—"

"What did you do to our humans!?" yelled Cunomon.

There was a deep growl from the shadows. Whoever he was, he didn’t like being interrupted. "Darkness Spark!" he shouted, voice echoing in the vast room. A bolt of black lightning leapt from the shadows. It jumped between the bars, striking Cunomon full in the chest and sending him flying backwards with a painful cry. As he slumped to the ground in a daze Diratimon and Yazumon leapt in front of him, protecting him from further blasts.

"Electric Wind!"

"Plasma Blaster!"

The attacks shot into the darkness, hit their mark. However, there was no effect. This mystery Digimon was at least a very powerful Champion.

"Done yet?" he asked pleasantly. "You will find you are much too weak to do anything other than annoy me, Rookies. And you don’t want to annoy me. Right, Perojentimon?"

For the first time, the still figure came to life. "You are correct, Master," murmured the Digimon, bowing low.

"You gonna lick his boots too?" snapped Diratimon as Cunomon climbed to his feet with a whimper he tried to suppress. He almost fell, but Yazumon sidled over and let the injured Digimon lean against him.

Surprisingly, the mystery Digimon chuckled at the winged dragon’s remark. "You are, I’m sure, wondering why you have been brought here."

"The thought . . . had crossed . . . my mind," Cunomon muttered softly, panting. Trying to stand on his own, he flinched a little as he put weight on his left front foot.

"I have taken you for a purpose," continued the gleaming eyes and fangs from the shadows. "And as I dislike wasting my precious time, I shall come to the point. Having studied the ancient text for some time, it has become clear to me that you three are The Digimon Dragons of prophecy. This is my proposal. If you agree to serve me and help in my conquest of the Digiworld, I will make you more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

Yazumon’s red eyes narrowed. "What, you can make us warp digi-volve or something?" Cuno’s ears perked upright.

Again the shadow chuckled, a sound like dead leaves rustling. "Your Mega forms are nothing compared to what I can show you. And all I ask in return is your fealty."

"So we can become you lackeys, like him?" spat Diratimon. "Forget it!" Perojentimon’s beady eyes narrowed but he made no move. Clearly he did not act without his master’s bidding.

"We work with our humans!" declared Yazumon hotly, "and that is all." Cunomon didn’t say anything, only glared his hatred at the mysterious being.

For a moment there was a thick silence hanging in the air. The Rookies stood together uneasily, wondering if they had enraged the more powerful Digimon and what he would do to them. After a moment the shadows shifted, as if the nameless Digimon had straightened. "Very well," he said in his soft, unconcerned tone. "If the humans are what stand in your way, then they will be eliminated."

"NO!" shouted the Rookies as one, jumping forward but brought up short by the bars. Perojentimon laughed deeply as he watched. His master’s fangs seemed to grow as his lips pulled back into an evil grin. Then the torches flickered wildly in a sudden gust of wind coming from some unknown source. When the light steadied, both unfettered Digimon were gone.

Yazumon threw back his head and howled.

* * *

Tania leapt to her feet, heart in throat. What the—? She blinked once, again, and the stiffness of her right shoulder caused the memories of yesterday to flood her mind. After Lina had taken over watch last night she had been unable to sleep, occupied with thoughts of Yazumon. Eventually she had drifted off, but something in her dreams that she couldn’t quite recall had violently shaken her from sleep.

"Morning, Tania. Are you okay?" Lexxy stood from where she had been poking the embers of the fire and walked around the pit, concern in her green eyes. Tania found she was rubbing her shoulder unconsciously.

"I’m fine," the brunette replied, dropping her hand. "I just landed on it hard yesterday. It’s a little stiff. How’s your head?"

Lexxy rubbed a bump hidden by her hair. "I’ve got a nice lump, but the headache was pretty much gone last night, after I ate something. Oh, Lina—as the only one awake and uninjured—volunteered to go find us a river or lake for water."

Tania frowned. "Is that safe? I mean, we don’t have any protection now, if evil Digimon tried to attack. . . ."

The black-haired girl’s eyes widened, her mouth forming a round "o" of surprise. Obviously this hadn’t crossed her mind before now.

The two girls stared at each other for another second, then bolted into the woods.

* * *

"‘Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink,’" Lina quoted from a famous poem as she paused, hands on hips, at the edge of a large and smelly swamp. "Eww. Mr. Frost, you sure knew what you were talking about." The girl scanned the area, looking for the safest place to go around the murky water. Finally she spotted a faint path that looked somewhat solid, winding around the water’s edge. Watching where she placed her feet, she started around.

"Lina! Wait!" She turned to see her two new friends jogging into view through the trees. The latter waved her left hand in the air in an attempt to gain her attention and called again. "Wait up!"

She obediently stopped, waiting for Tania and Lexxy to catch up. "What’s wrong?" she wondered as they came within normal speaking range.

Tania’s brown eyes were wide. "What’s wrong? What’s wrong!? Hello! Just because I’m the last to wake up doesn’t mean I have to be the last to use a few brain cells!" She gave the blonde a look that clearly said, "Are you crazy?"

Lina, in turn, gave Lexxy a look that clearly said, "Huh?"

"We shouldn’t split up," the third girl clarified with an apologetic grin. "It could be dangerous without our Digimon to protect us. I guess . . . I guess we were so used to their protection that we took it for granted. And now they’re gone." A guilty look crossed her face and she bit her lip.

"Oh."

"Yeah." Lexxy looked around, then scrunched up her nose. "Uh, Lina? I was hoping for something a little more . . . clean."

She laughed, glad for something to take their minds off their loss. "Me too. That’s why I was leaving. Why don’t we go look for water together? Then we can figure out how to rescue our friends," she added with determination in her eyes. She didn’t mention the fact that they had no idea where their Digimon were, or how to find out.

"First we have to go back and make sure the fire’s dead," insisted Lexxy, ever the proper camper. "As the ones who started it, it’s our responsibility to keep it from spreading to the surrounding areas. As a matter of fact, we shouldn’t have left it unattended." This said, she turned around and began to thread her way out of the swamp.

Tania shared a look with Lina. "Yes," the baseball cap-wearing girl agreed, perfectly deadpanned. "Because only we can prevent forest fires."

Lexxy skillfully ignored their laughter all the way back to the campsite.

After that little detail had been taken care of, the trio set out in another direction, trying to avoid the swamp. Tania munched on the remainder of last night’s dinner as they walked, since Lexxy and Lina had already eaten when they woke up. They couldn’t have been traveling for more than half an hour before the rush of water could be heard above the forest noises. They followed their ears and found a small but strong river, cutting through the greenery surrounding them.

"At least we don’t have to worry about toxic waste being dumped in the water," Lexxy remarked, kneeling on the bank so she could scoop up the cold liquid in her cupped hands. She had meant to say it lightly, but it had come out bitter.

And not unnoticed. "What’s that all about?" asked Tania, sputtering a bit because she had just splashed her face with water and hadn’t anticipated how cold it would be.

Lexxy blushed, looked away. "I . . . uh, don’t like cities," she explained uncomfortably. "I was born and grew up in farmland, and my mom and I recently moved. It . . . takes some getting used to."

"Sounds harsh."

"Yeah."

Lina came to the rescue, calling their attention away from the conversation. Lexxy shot her a grateful look as she spoke up. "Hey, do you think our digi-vices could find the Digimon?"

Green and brown eyes lit up. "Great idea!" exclaimed Tania as they both dug theirs out. Sure enough, three bright blue dots were blinking, clustered together to the west of their location on all three screens. Just when they needed an answer, they were given one.

"You’re a genius, Lina!" The blonde grinned and ducked her head. "Except that we’ll have to cross this river to follow the signals. And I am so sick of getting wet."

Tania stood up from her crouch, pulling Lexxy with her. "Come on! The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we get our Digimon back." The black-haired girl sighed but nodded.

"We should hold hands, so the current doesn’t get us," tossed in Lina, which was met with another nod. Pausing only long enough for Lina and Lexxy to roll up the legs of their jeans, the trio grabbed hands and wadded into the river.

"Yikes! That’s cold!" Lexxy’s teeth chattered. The swirling water tugged at her legs, but with the three of them standing together they were able to make it across with only a little wobbling. Their shoes and socks squelched as they walked onto the opposite bank, but at least they were safely across.

"Okay, let’s go!" encouraged Tania. She glanced at her digi-vice to orient herself, then took off. Lina and Lexxy were right behind her. Finally, they would find their Digimon. No matter what it took.

* * *

Cunomon decided that yelling at a strong, mysterious Digimon much bigger than you were while trapped in a cell was a very bad idea. Half an hour later and he still hurt all over. And his knees were weak and he had trouble breathing and he wasn’t having any fun at all! About the fourth time he pointed this out was the time Diratimon told him to shut up.

Yazumon, who was tired of trying to keep them from each other’s throats, was busy examining the bars of their prison. His Plasma Blaster hadn’t had any effect. Neither had Dirati’s Electric Wind. And Cunomon had told them he was too weak to attack.

"This is hopeless," the winged Digimon sighed, watching Yazumon. "That Digimon wouldn’t have put us in here if there was any way we could get out."

"But we can’t just stand here and do nothing!" objected the yellow-eyed Digimon from where he was leaning against the wall, stubbornly refusing to sit or lie down.

"Why not? That’s all you’ve been doing!" snapped Diratimon, wheeling on him. The two dragons eyed each other and growled.

"ENOUGH!" howled Yazumon, wheeling on both of them. "I am sick and tired of listening to you! Cunomon, the only thing you’ve got against Diratimon is that he has wings and you don’t! And Diratimon, you’re annoyed because Cunomon seems like an immature whiner. Both of you need to accept yourselves and each other, and start working together to get us out of here so we can return to our humans!"

The other two dragon Digimon stared at the wolf/dragon in shock, then turned to look at each other. Finally Diratimon’s jaw snapped shut with a click and he swallowed. "Yazumon’s right," he admitted grudgingly. "We have to work together or we’re not going to be get out of here alive. Cunomon . . . I was wrong. I’m sorry."

Yellow eyes opened wide. "You are? Oh, I mean, me too. Sorry, Dirati." Yazumon nodded in satisfaction.

A slow clapping noise took the trio of Digimon dragons totally by surprise. Their captor was back, again hovering in the shadows at the other end of the room. "Well done. Oh, well done," he laughed as he applauded mockingly. "Brought a tear to my eye."

"What do you want now?" snarled Diratimon, drawing himself up to his full height. "We told you we won’t work for you! Ever!"

"Indeed, I figured as much. I sent Perojentimon to take care of you human friends anyway."

Seeing the hatred in their gazes he continued, smiling. "And I have found a way around the little setback you created with your refusal. A trick I originally learned from an old friend, as a matter of fact, although I have improved it." He gave his dry chuckle. "Too bad Etemon had to erase his memory and lock him away. We were colleagues before that battle. Ah well. No changing the past, eh? And now, for the first stage of my takeover to begin." With this the glowing eyes and fangs drifted forward, toward the cell. The three Rookies watched uneasily, clustered together. But their suspicion turned to shock as the mystery Digimon came into the torchlight and revealed . . . nothing! The Digimon was nothing but a shadow, a formless patch of blackness with eyes and fangs!

"Ackmon," hissed the dragons.

"Recognize me? I’m touched." The Digimon extended a "hand." Resting in his dark grip was a strange device. There was a round lens on the side facing them, and when Ackmon set it on the ground a brilliant beam of blue light shot forth, bathing the entire cell in light. Instantly the trio of Rookies froze.

"I . . . can’t . . . move!" gasped Cunomon, struggling just to speak. His muscles were locked tight as the blue beam shone in his eyes. He couldn’t even look away. Yaz and Diratimon uttered similar exclamations, and he knew they were trapped too.

Ackmon rubbed his nonexistent hands together with glee. "And now the fun starts," he grinned, his fangs gleaming. The device on the floor began to glow with the same blue color. Suddenly Cunomon felt very weak, as if the light was draining his energy. If his body had let him, he would have fallen to the ground. As it was, he couldn’t even close his eyes. So tired . . . so very tired. . . . Yazumon and Dirati looked just as drained. And the device was changing again. Now the blue glow extended behind it, and there was movement in the light. The sky blue and yellow dragon strained to make out what was happening, but it was hard with the light in his eyes. Still, he could just barely see three bodies starting to form behind the device.

A bolt of pure terror shot through the little Digimon, banishing his weariness as the bodies became clearer and clearer and were finally recognized. They were. . . .

"I don’t believe this," murmured Diratimon in disbelief.

Ackmon chuckled, enjoying the fear in their eyes. "Oh, but it’s true. I don’t need you anymore. You see, I now have my own copies."

A Diratimon, a Yazumon and a Cunomon were forming in the light.

* * *

"We’re almost there," panted Lina, in the lead. She glanced down at her digi-vice as she jogged along the well-used path they were using, taking the chance that they wouldn’t run into any wild Digimon along the way. It would have been safer to stay off the path and forge through the forest on their own, but it would also have taken more time and effort, and all three girls felt that they were running out of both.

I hope we’re almost there, Lexxy thought, biting her lip. She was worried for her Digimon now more than ever. Who knew what that goat thing wanted them for? What could he be doing to them? It couldn’t be anything good. They would have returned to their human partners if they could, she was positive. They wouldn’t have just let them worry like that all night.

"Hold up," Lina called back to them, stopping so short Tania almost crashed into her. She looked around the forest, scratching her head in perplexity. "Now that’s odd," she commented.

"What is it?" asked Tania.

"Look here, how the path suddenly cuts to the left so sharply." She pointed with a gloved hand, and the other two saw that it really did. The turn in the path was so obvious that it must have been made to avoid something straight ahead. Straight to where their digi-vices were telling them to go.

Tania gulped. "This . . . can’t be good."

Lexxy sighed. "Great. Just great."

Lina’s shoulders slumped, but she strode off the path and into the thick vegetation. Pushing back a leafy branch, she cast a glance over her shoulder. Tania and Lexxy were right behind her. The sight made her smile. Even though she had just met the other girls, Lina felt she could trust them. They were stuck in the same situation she was, and they strove to work together, just as she did. The light-haired girl didn’t kid herself; she was scared of what might happen in the near future, and she didn’t try to tell herself that she wasn’t. But with Lexxy and Tania she thought they just might have a chance of beating—whoa!

"I don’t believe this," Lina gasped, staring at what they had stumbled upon without warning.

Lexxy swallowed. "Anything can be real in Digiworld," she muttered. The forest had come to an abrupt end, the tree line slicing straight as if someone has chosen a spot for the woods to stop and blasted anything growing past that line. The carpet of rich green grass and ferns that had covered the ground ceased just as the trees did, and everything beyond it was bare earth, hard and lifeless. About twenty yards away a giant mound surged up out of the ground, a hump of dirt like a turtle’s shell or an overturned bowl. And there was an archway carved into the small mountain. It was the entrance to a tunnel leading down into the earth.

Lina checked the digi-vice. "That’s where they are," she affirmed.

"Then that’s where we’ll—" Tania was cut off as Lexxy clamped a hand over her mouth and dragged her backward, into the concealing foliage. Lina was right beside her, because something had appeared at the mouth of the tunnel.

The girls held still, praying the Digimon wouldn’t see them as it stepped out into the light. Strong muscles rippled under dull white skin. A long face with two horns turned to the sky, red eyes narrowed. Feathered wings spread in preparation for flight as the creature bent his knees slightly and launched himself into the air. In moments his shadow was gone from the ground.

"Now’s our chance!" hissed Tania. She edged forward, scanned the sky cautiously, and then darted across the bare area between the trees and the mound. Lexxy bit back a yelp and hastily chased after her, Lina following. They approached the entrance at the same time. It really did look like a mining tunnel. Wooden support beams, two vertical and one on top of them horizontal, surrounded the entranceway and kept the mound from caving in on itself. The support beams continued on inside and disappeared into darkness.

"Well," gulped Lexxy, peering in uncertainly. "This is certainly . . . a development."

Tania strode past her, into the gloom. Lexxy caught her breath as the girl in the baseball cap approached the wall of the tunnel, where a torch was burning. The goat guy must have put it there before he left, the black-haired girl realized. She watched as Tania lifted the torch from its metal holder, beckoning the other two to follow. Lina shrugged when Lexxy gave her a questionable look and entered the tunnel as well. The girl in the purple vest swallowed, took one last look at the bright outside world, then scooted after her two friends. The darkness swallowed all three of them as if it was a living thing, and the torch was all too soon their only light, a lone star in the blackness of the night.

* * *

The three Rookie Digimon could have been frozen for ten minutes or ten days so far, Diratimon didn’t know. There was no way to tell time in the cell, and the bright blue beam enveloping them took away all sense of reality. The little winged Digimon fought against his exhaustion with all his will power as the strength was drained out of him. He would not let Ackmon win without a fight! He had to get back to Lina!

"Free . . . us . . . Ackmon!" Yazumon was challenging. "Fight . . . like a . . . mon."

The formless Digimon was just floating there, watching their horror and misery and delighting in it. "All in good time," he promised nastily. "We shall see whether or not you can face against my new servants and survive. And when they are done playing, I shall destroy whatever remains of you, if anything."

Cunomon was busy watching the copies. They were almost complete. But something was very wrong about them, and he couldn’t tell what it was with all the blue light everywhere. It was making him very curious. As Diratimon and Yazumon continued to have words with their abductor, Cuno kept his yellow eyes locked on the copies. The last pixels coalesced, and without warning the beam holding them was gone. Unprepared, Yaz and Dirati slumped to the floor. Cunomon managed to catch himself at the last minute and stood on shaky legs, though all of his being wanted to join his companions on the floor. He didn’t think he had ever felt so tired in his life. But he remained upright, waiting for his vision to clear. He had to see what was wrong with those copies!

High giggling broke out into the silence, like a trio of hyenas laughing. The copies approached the bars that separated them from their counterparts and stared inside the cell, grinning. Yazumon and Diratimon struggled to their feet, and the six Rookies looked each other in the eyes. The new Digimon were perfect copies of the originals, but with one important difference.

They were viruses.

The new Cunomon was black in color, with white spikes traveling down his back and white markings around his eyes. His eyes were a hard gray, like stone. Yazumon’s copy was also dark, covered with shaggy black fur. His spines were still gray, and his red eyes shone with a hungry intensity. The virus Diratimon was dark gray, with lighter gray splotches covering his body. His round eyes were pure black as he sneered at the originals. And none of them looked a bit tired.

"This is bad," breathed Cunomon.

"I’ll say!" sniggered his counterpart.

"We can’t get at them," the dark Diratimon pouted, trying to poke a wing through the bars. "I wanna fight!"

Yazumon’s black brother turned to Ackmon. "Hey Boss, when do we get to rumble?"

The shadow Digimon laughed, pleased with what he had created. "Soon," he assured the black dragon. "When Perojentimon returns."

"Then you have to wait no longer," a deep voice rumbled from the far corner. Seven heads turned to watch as the winged Digimon emerged into the torchlight . . . revealing three struggling forms pinned to his bare chest with one arm. Perojentimon was so large their dangling feet only reached to his waist. "I found the three humans in the tunnels above. I thought it best to bring them to you, Master." The Digimon dropped the girls on the cold ground.

Lexxy scrambled to her feet, her eyes drawn to the cell between the hanging torches. Six pairs of eyes in a variety of colors were on her. "C-Cunomon?" she faltered, seeing the black and white Digimon standing outside the bars who looked so much like her friend. He grinned viciously, exposing a mouth full of sharp teeth.

"LEXXY!" screamed the real Cunomon, jumping forward to press himself against the bars. His voice was not a joyful greeting, but full of panic and fear. "Get away, Lexxy! Run!"

Lina stifled a gasp. "Diratimon?"

"Close, but no cigar," sneered the gray Rookie. The one behind the bars growled.

Tania had noticed the flowing shadow with eyes and fangs and had deduced that this was the headman. "What have you done to our Digimon!?" she demanded, hands clenched into fists.

Ackmon threw back his head and laughed at her audacity, his mellow voice intense. "Perojentimon, let us take this fight outside, to the light."

"Yes, Master," said the servant with a bow. "Spatial Displacement!"

The world went black.

Suspended for a moment in the nothingness without sensation, Lexxy told herself to be calm. She knew it would only last a moment. Still, it was very unsettling. She was glad when she found herself standing on the hard, packed earth, afternoon sunlight flooding the area.

Cunomon was standing beside her, leaning against her leg and blinking in surprise at his newfound freedom. Lina and Diratimon stood together on her left, and Yazumon and Tania on her right. Across from them, thirty yards away, stood the three virus Rookies. Perojentimon and Ackmon were behind them. Even in the bright sunlight he was still a formless shadow with eyes and fangs. They were on the eastern side of the mound of earth; it was off to their left with the woods behind it. To their right the bare land without life stretched on for as far as the eye could see.

"This is a test, my servants!" called the shadow Digimon triumphantly, his voice ringing out across the bare land. "Now we shall show them what the prophecy details! Prove your strength! And when these Digi-Destined are deleted, we shall move on and conquer the Digiworld!"

"Prophecy? What prophecy?" hissed Lexxy, staring down at her Digimon partner.

He looked up at her, yellow eyes shining with happiness at their reunion, even as his face related his confusion. "I don’t know, and neither do Yaz and Dirati. Ackmon called it the prophecy of The Digimon Dragons, but that’s all he mentioned."

"Grrreeeaaat," she muttered. Then she shut up, because the three black dragons were grinning at one another in a way that made her stomach churn.

"Witness the beginning of the end, Digi-Destined!" thundered Ackmon, throwing his "arms" wide. "My servants, now!"

That’s all it took. No rhyming chants, no magic spells. Just a command from their master, their creator. The viruses nodded to each other once, and a blinding white light filled the air.

"Yazumon digi-volve to. . . !"

"Cunomon digi-volve to. . . !"

"Diratimon digi-volve to. . . !"

Their voices, the same voices as the Digi-Destineds’ closest friends but with such hatred and cruelty that they were almost unrecognizable, were drowned out as an immense roar shook the very ground. The dazzling light faded.

When they could see again, Lexxy searched for the enemy Digimon. Ackmon and Perojentimon stood where they had been before the light came. Of the Digimon dragons, there was no sign.

Suddenly Lina cried out in shock, and Tania gasped. Lexxy’s head snapped back and forth and found both her friends’ heads were craned skyward. Fearing what she would find—yet unable to stop herself—she looked up . . . and up . . . and up! And the dark-haired girl found herself unable to even breathe.

The creature was . . . huge didn’t even cover it. Vast, gigantic, colossal. It could have squashed them all like bugs simply by planting one foot on the ground. Its long, sinuous body seemed to fill the sky. Jet black scales shone in the sun’s rays. Five long talons gleamed from each of its four feet. Streamers came from its body, rippled in the wind like strips of black satin. It had no wings, yet seemed to float in the air effortlessly. It was a four-footed snake . . . no, it was a dragon. A dragon of the Orient.

And it had three heads. Identical, except that the ones on either end had white markings above and below their eyes—frightening white eyes that seemed to glow from within and had no pupils at all—and the one in the center had rectangular earflaps. All three wore manes of white fur around their heads, like a lion’s, and long black mustaches that waved in the wind like the streamers coming from its body.

Lexxy’s shock faded enough to feel Cunomon pressing hard against her leg. The tremendous Digimon wasn’t doing anything, just floating in the air like a great kite. She pulled her eyes from the sight to look down at her Digimon. His eyes were as big as saucers. "Cuno?" she murmured quietly.

He scarcely seemed to hear her, but he did speak. One word. "Yacutimon," the little Digimon breathed softly.

Diratimon shook his head in denial. "Yacutimon is just a myth," the winged Rookie insisted. "Something Elecmon tells the babies so they’ll behave."

"But who else can it be?" whispered Yazumon.

The Digi-Destined shared a look of uncertainty. "Yacutimon?" Tania wondered. "You mean the whole prophecy was that you three Rookies can form together into that?"

"Apparently," replied her Digimon, his red eyes on the sky. "I’ve never heard of this happening before. I didn’t even think it was possible. Just what level is that guy?"

"‘I will make you more powerful than you can possibly imagine,’ Ackmon had said," Cunomon remembered.

"Ackmon!" Lina exclaimed, her blue-green eyes wide. Abandoning her watch of the great Digimon in the air, she sought out the evil one that they had completely forgotten about. He was still there, across the way with his servant at his side. Both of them had their heads craned backward, watching the ebony dragon. They seemed just as in awe as the humans and their Rookies.

As if her observations snapped the shadow Digimon back to reality—perhaps he had heard her—Ackmon gave a victorious shout. "At last!" he boomed. "At last I will rule! Ha ha ha! I have resurrected the legendary Yacutimon!" He stared at the girls maliciously. "And now defeat our enemies, Yacutimon! Destroy the Digi-Destined!"

The creature threw back its three heads and bellowed its earth-shaking roar, vibrating in the very bones of those below. The Digi-Destined and their Digimon pressed their hands—paws, wingtips—to their ears in pain. As it died away a deep, deep rumble filled the air, sometimes shifting slightly higher or lower in pitch. It took a moment for the ones on the ground to realize Yacutimon was speaking in a voice so intense the words could barely be understood, and coming from three throats at once.

"We are no longer your minion, Ackmon. We accept no orders from the likes of you, who are nothing more than an insect to us now. You have shone us this power, you have given us life, and for that we will spare your life. But do not cross us."

"What?" cried the rippling shadow in fury. "No! You are mine! I gave you life! I gave you power! Do as I command! Destroy the Digi-Destined, now! Perojentimon, attack!"

The Digimon spread its white wings and leapt for the sky, flying upward to the great onyx Digimon without hesitation. It was a suicide mission, but Perojentimon obeyed his master unquestionably.

The six soulless eyes of Yacutimon narrowed, its faces contorting into fearsome masks of rage. "Then so be it!" the Digimon dragon thundered. "Let the Digiworld witness the consequences of angering Yacutimon!" For the first time, the heads began to move separately. The one on the far left turned toward the approaching Perojentimon, while the center focused on Ackmon on the ground.

And the right head turned toward the Digi-Destined.

"Digi-volving time!" declared Diratimon, stepping forward so that the humans would be behind him, even though all three Rookies together could have been swallowed by one of Yacutimon’s heads in one bite. "We’re in for a fight!"

"Are you nuts!?" Cunomon cried, but he also stepped forward, abreast with the other dragon. "Even if we all warp digi-volved we couldn’t take that thing out!"

Diratimon rolled his eyes and opened his mouth, but Yazumon spoke first, also coming to stand with them. "No, Cunomon. Don’t you see? That is still a copy. We are the real Digimon Dragons."

Cunomon’s eyes grew wide as the implication sunk in. "But . . . how?" he asked.

That was the question. And judging from the way the other two Digimons’ faces fell, the way their determination gave way to doubt, he knew they had no answer.

But the humans did. "Look!" they exclaimed at the same time, and the Rookies glanced over their shoulder simultaneously.

The three Crests had come to life! Giving off a strong glow, they floated out from under their owners’ shirts, hovering in the air on the end of the strings that held their Tags. Sky blue and blue-green light pulsed outward, entwining and becoming one. The light reached outward hungrily, flowing toward the trio of Rookies.

During this time, Perojentimon and Ackmon had met their demise. Beams of harsh white energy exploded from the eyes of Yacutimon, arrows of destruction from which there was no escape. The evil Digimon had no chance to dodge or counterattack. In a split second Perojentimon and Ackmon were gone, and their plans and ideals with them. Nothing remained but one scorched pit of earth and the smell of ozone in the air.

But Yacutimon’s third head hesitated, seeing the light of the Crests of Kindness, Compassion and Justice. And that was all the edge that was needed.

"Diratimon digi-volve to. . . !"

"Cunomon digi-volve to. . . !"

"Yazumon digi-volve to. . . !"

The light returned—bright blue instead of white this time, but just as blinding—and with it came the true Digimon Dragon of prophecy.

The real Yacutimon was the deep blue of twilight, and just as large and impressive as his copy. An aura of peace and serenity seemed to flow in the air around him. His sinuous body wove through the sky like the tail of a kite caught in the wind. And although his eyes were still without pupils, they were a soft yellow color and glowed with the warmth of sunshine. His manes shone silver. He was beauty; he was peace. He was power.

The hearts of the three humans on the ground soared with their Digimon. At some point in the past they had joined hands. Their Crests continued to glow, the light forming a protective shield around them that flashed now blue-green, now sky blue.

"That copy has no kindness in it body," declared Lina.

"No compassion," Lexxy agreed.

"Justice must be met," Tania stated firmly. Together the three girls watched, and waited.

The black Yacutimon eyed his counterpart, then roared a challenge. The true Digimon did not take the bait. He merely waited, silent.

"Face me in battle, Yacutimon!" the black one dared the other, twisting through the air so frantically it was practically tying itself in knots. Savage glee lit the three ebony faces. "You are the only Digimon in the entire Digiworld who is my equal," boasted the virus. "You are my only challenge! Fight me!"

Now Yacutimon spoke. "I do battle not because you have goaded me into it, duplicate," he said, his voice ringing out like a pure gold bell, "but because I am the only one to stand in the way of the tyranny you would create. Face me now, and I shall prevent you from harming so much as one innocent!" And with that he howled his own roar of challenge and surged toward the false dragon.

The black Digimon snarled and flew forward to meet his foe. The titans clashed once, black and blue streaks of lighting, then broke apart. They wheeled and returned for another pass. Fang met fang, talon met talon. Six heads were everywhere at once, darting here and there to bite and tear at their opponent. Beams of white and yellow energy crackled from glowing eyes. Not a word was spoken, no attack said allowed. It was as if the creatures went beyond mere Digimon, were something greater. Almost godlike.

Sounds were limited to the screech of talon against scale, the hissing roars of the fighters as they battled, the sizzle of energy in the air. Three tiny humans far below stood passively. They knew in their hearts who the victor would be, because they believed in the power of themselves and their friends.

Evidence of the progress of the battle was written in blood that fell from the sky like rain. Black and blue (surprisingly, not from the Digimon one would expect, but the other), it hit the ground and hissed and burned the earth where it landed. None came close to the dome of blue energy, created by the Crests.

The pair of Yacutimon was now hurling balls of brightly-colored energy, formed between their front paws and thrown like mammoth baseballs. A globe of red struck the true Digimon on the shoulder, and fire blazed. A yellow sphere hit the copy, and electricity like thousands of lightning bolts crawled over its black body. This was immediately followed by a spring green orb, which shook the evil one like a seizure . . . or an earthquake. The Digimon were attacking each other with the vary elements themselves!

Red, yellow, green, blue, white, colorless and more. The globes flew back and forth, not always hitting their mark. When this happened they would sail across the sky and eventually vanish from sight, and Lexxy would feel a pang for any hapless Digimon who happened to be in the area when they landed.

The intensity of the battle in the air began to dwindle. Two of the viruses’ heads hung limp and useless, knocked unconscious or worse it was not known. Only the far right head of the true Yacutimon was in such a state. Both wore numerous gashes and other wounds that slowly dripped black and blue life’s blood along the length of their entire bodies. Manes of silver and white were torn out in patches. Three heads breathed heavily, steam curling from their nostrils.

"You . . . think you have . . . won!" hissed the center head of the duplicate, the only one remaining. Its voice somehow didn’t seem as intimidating coming from only one throat instead of three. "I . . . will not . . . lose!" A ball of blinding white energy began to form between its paws. But this one did not stop at the size of the previous elemental attacks. It doubled, tripled in size. The black Digimon was nothing but a dim speck in the brilliance of it.

"You wish for a final showdown, Yacutimon?" thundered the central and left heads of the true being. "I grant you it!" And a ball of warm yellow light swelled in the twilight-colored Digimon’s paws.

With the two great orbs filling the sky, it was as if nothing else existed. The three girls below could not see the ground they stood on, the Digimon in the sky, or even each other. It was nothing but two blazing balls of light, two suns in the heavens.

And the globes were thrown, and they soared toward each other. Closer and closer . . . and they connected.

The world exploded.

* * *

For a long, long time, Lexxy wondered if she was dead. Or perhaps deaf, blind and paralyzed. She could no longer feel Lina and Tania’s hands clutching her own. And she couldn’t decide if her eyes were open, and all she was seeing was never ending whiteness, or if the stark color had somehow invaded her mind and painted the inside of her head. Either way, her universe was nothing but white. A pure, cold white with no sound or sensation.

She might have slept. Or maybe not. If she was dead, she didn’t think she could sleep. But if she was dead, she sure hoped this wasn’t what awaited her for the rest of eternity. In any case, her mind was floating like a helium balloon, bobbing this way and that in the endless white and not making much sense. Her emotions were few and faint. At one point she wondered what had become of the battle, her friends, Digiworld. But there were no answers in this place, and so her thoughts moved on.

Much later—or perhaps in the next moment, there was really no way to tell—she saw a point very far ahead. A speck. A dot. Something not just whiteness. Lexxy drew closer. It was a tunnel, she realized. Then I am dead after all, she thought, remembering all the stories of near-death experiences. What a shame.

The closer she came, the more returned to her. The tunnel wasn’t white. Black. It was black. At the end was not a light, as she had been expecting, but more colors. Sounds. Smells. Lexxy named them all as they floated to her. Blue. Yellow. Someone breathing. The smell of earth. Death did not wait for her at the end of this tunnel, but life! She felt joy well inside her, along with a thousand other emotions and thoughts and questions and hopes and dreams. She was herself again! Lexxy plunged into the tunnel, leaving the world of white far behind.

The black-haired girl found herself sitting on the ground, cross-legged. The Crest of Compassion hung above her shirt. Its glow was gone. In her left hand she grasped the gloved hand of Lina, also sitting as she was. In her right was Tania’s. The three girls sat in a circle with their Crests exposed. By the wild looks in the wide blue-green and brown eyes before her, Lexxy knew the other girls had also returned from the universe of whiteness. Now she could feel the horror of the experience, and the immense relief at being back.

Tania’s dry lips parted. "What. . . ." She coughed. "What happened?"

Eyes swiveled to the sky. The west was painted red, gold and purple by the setting sun. No clouds dotted the hemisphere. And no dragons.

The terrifying thought stuck all three girls at once. The true Yacutimon had said a final showdown. Had it destroyed them both? Had he sacrificed himself to end the evil of his copy?

It seemed powerful enough. The force of the two attacks had blighted the very land itself. The dirt was now blackened, instead of the dark brown it used to be. The mound and the forest they had traveled through were gone, flattened. It was nothing but dead land as far as they could see, in all directions.

Lexxy felt her tears start as it was revealed that Yacutimon was truly gone. The black virus was as well, but it brought her little comfort. She let them fall as she released her friends’ hands to push herself to her feet. There was nothing left . . . nothing.

The other two stood as well. "There has to be something!" sobbed Lina, echoing her thoughts. "It . . . it can’t be. . . ."

"Come on," Tania urged them, starting to walk. Lexxy dreaded any amount of travel in this barren place, but followed anyway. She had lost her closest friend; she didn’t want to lose any more.

The three of them headed uphill, toward the highest point they could see. In Tania’s mind was the desperate hope that they would be able to see something from that position. She refused to believe the two Yacutimon could disappear with a trace. There had to be some evidence, something left. . . .

If Lina and Lexxy guessed what she was doing, they gave no sign. Their faces were drawn with misery and shock, wet with tears. They already accepted that their Digimon were gone. Tania wasn’t ready to go that far just yet.

They topped the rise and the Digiworld spread before them. It wasn’t a very tall hill, but it was high enough to show them how far the desolation extended. Perhaps a mile or two in all directions stretched the blackened area, like a vast black dinner plate. But after the radius of the explosion ended, the Digiworld was as they had always known it: green and full of life. The simultaneous attacks of the Yacutimon had been devastating, but not large enough to destroy the world. Again, it was small comfort.

As these thoughts and a few others drifted through Lexxy’s numb mind, Lina suddenly gave a strange, high yelp, as if something was caught in her throat. The other two girls turned from their observations and found her looking behind them, back the way they had come. Together they spun around . . . and found him.

Yacutimon, the true Yacutimon, lay sprawled across the wide flat plane. His gigantic form stretched across the land, so large it disappeared in the distance. Black blood oozed from many wounds. The six eyes were closed. The body was still.

Without even realizing it, the three girls were running, as fast as their legs would take them and with their Crests bouncing against their chests. They lost sight of the great creature for a moment as they passed through the dip in the earth they had been sitting in, then found him, much larger, as they topped another rise. He seemed a long way off, but the trio never slowed. They slowed an eternity later, as the far left head of the Digimon towered over them.

"Y-Yacutimon?" whispered Lexxy, edging closer and laying a hand on the twilight-colored cheek. But there was no reaction.

"Yacutimon!" yelled Tania, pounding both fists on the dragon Digimon’s scales. Lina came forward as well. The three of them called for their Digimon, touched him. Tears fell freely now from all three of them. Their Crests were glowing, but they didn’t notice. All their attention was fixed on the silent form before them.

"Yacutimon!"

"Yacutimon, wake up!"

"Open your eyes, please!"

"Yacutimon!" Lexxy, Lina and Tania screamed together.

Exhausted, they slumped against the smooth cheek scales of their friend and slid to the ground, weeping and shaking. They thought nothing at all. The only thing on their minds was their intense, earth-shattering grief.

Possibly only a few minutes passed like this, possibly longer. The chill of their emotions left them weak and unable to move. It was a deep, deep cold, and Lexxy began to wonder if she would ever feel anything different again.

As if in answer to her question, she felt the air growing warmer. The temperature continued to climb, and the three of them were bathed in a strong yellow glow. The girls gazed at each other, confused, uncomprehending. Then it hit them all at once and they leapt to their feet, whirling around.

The glowing eye of Yacutimon—as large as the three humans together—was open, and casting its light down on them with warmth and love. Yacutimon was alive!

The tears were of joy this time, and the girls could scarcely believe their eyes. Babbling ecstatically, they hugged and patted and called to their Digimon, wide grins on their young faces.

A long blast of air escaped the nostrils of the left head, then an even longer intake of breath. The wind kicked up by these actions was enough to cause the humans to grab hold of the Digimon and hold on tight, for fear of being blown away. And then the Digimon Dragon spoke.

"It is done," he whispered faintly, and if he had spoken in a normal tone he would have blown them away. "The duplicate is gone. Destroyed by the very power it tried to release."

"What about you?" worried Tania.

"I was protected. By the same shield that saved you. By the power of the Crests." Now they noticed that the objects were glowing and grinned happily at each other.

"What will happen now?" Lexxy asked.

"This place will heal, in time," Yacutimon murmured softly. "Soon it will be as lush and green as it was before Ackmon came to power. And as for us, we all have our own quests to continue."

This made their faces fall. "You mean we have to split up?" Lina said.

"Yes. It is our destiny. For the good of the Digiworld and your own, we must accomplish what you have been brought here to do. As Yacutimon I have knowledge that surpasses this time. We all have things that must be done."

Lina, Tania and Lexxy shared a disappointed but understanding look. "It was one heck of an adventure, anyway," pointed out the girl with the baseball cap on backward.

"Yeah," agreed the blonde. "And maybe we’ll meet again someday."

The third girl grinned. "Sure! I’ll look you guys up when I get back home . . . whenever that will be. And good luck in your, ah, quests."

"Good luck," the other two echoed, and the three of them hugged briefly. Yacutimon was slowly, slowly standing up. They backed away as the mammoth Digimon regained his feet. His left head was the only one still conscious.

"Are you ready?" the Digimon Dragon rumbled from his great height. At their nods he closed his glowing eyes. A gentle wind picked up, blowing their hair about their heads. A low rumble filled the air, and the girls realized with a start that Yacutimon was humming softly. As the wind intensified they had to shield their eyes against the black dirt flying around. Their last sight was of Yacutimon himself, standing tall and proud in the dead land and humming a strange melody. Then the blackness descended once more.

* * *

"Well well well! Welcome back, Lexxy!"

The girl blinked open green eyes, looking around in disbelief. A sleek pink shape cut through dark blue waves under her. Other streaks of bright, neon colors flashed in her peripheral vision. She couldn’t help but sigh; her clothes were soaked again.

"Niji?" she asked.

"The one and only!" the Bowmon replied, grinning in her toothy way. "We were worried for a while there, but we’re glad you’re both back!"

"Both. . . ." She trailed off, her head whipping back and forth as she sought the familiar bright blue Bowmon with orange and pink stripes. He popped up right beside her with a happy whistle. And clutching his back, hanging on for dear life. . . .

"CUNOMON!" she screamed, overjoyed. It took all her willpower to not jump off the Bowmon she was riding and try to reach him. At the speed they were going, it wasn’t a good idea. But she desperately wanted to touch him, to hold him, to assure herself that he was real.

The little sky blue and yellow dragon Digimon grinned cheekily. "Oh! Hiya Lexxy. How ya doin’?"

"Cuno. . . ." She smiled fondly. "Are you all right?"

"Of course," he insisted, nose in the air in his usual egotistical way. "It’ll take more than a stupid copy to keep me down. And I had Yaz and Dirati’s help too. A little. It was mostly me, you know."

"Of course." Lexxy bit back a chuckle. It was hard to imagine her little Cunomon was a big and powerful legend like Yacutimon. If she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes. . . . "I hope the others got back okay."

"They did." There was no doubt in Cunomon’s voice.

She nodded. "Will we ever see them again?"

"Maybe." He shrugged. "As Yacutimon I knew a lot of stuff, but it’s all gone now. I don’t remember it."

"That’s okay," she assured him. "Hey, will you ever be Yacutimon again? He was . . . amazing!"

The little dragon drew himself up proudly at the praise. "The prophecy only works if Yazumon, Diratimon and I are together. That’s why Ackmon kidnapped us. He thought he could convince us to work for him."

Lexxy shuddered. She didn’t want to think about that. Or the way Yacutimon had almost died to stop the evil that that Digimon had created. Instead she leaned over to look Niji in her bright blue eye. "I’ve starving," she announced. "And tired. Any chance there’s an island around here somewhere?"

"You’re in luck!" the Bowmon leader replied. "There’s one very close. We should get there before the sun finishes going down." She whistled to her pod and the Bowmon all picked up speed.

Lexxy settled in for the ride, her eyes on her Digimon. But her thoughts were on the new friends she had made. Even if she never met them again, she would always remember them. Lina for her caring, Tania for her strength. An adventure like that wasn’t something one just forgot.

"Lexxy! Lexxy!" She realized Cunomon had been calling her for some time.

"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking. What?"

He gave her his most miserable expression. "I hate water!"

She laughed. "Cuno?"

"What?"

"Shut up."

The Bowmon whistled their laughter. Cunomon stuck his tongue out at her.

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