As they came back to the celebration, Masaru was a bit surprised to see BanchouLeomon talking to his mother and Chika. Minervamon was off playing with the other Digimon as they ran around the reception room.

" Mom...?" he inquired as he approached. Franz and Tohma came up with him.

" Oh, Masaru. BanchouLeomon and I were just talking about you. He was telling me all about your adventures in the Digital World."

Masaru blinked. Then again, he knew his mother had a weak spot for listening to outrageous, out-of-the-world stories. His father used to make special storytelling nights with the three of them, and still even after Chika was born. Surely hearing ones about her own son would catch her interest, but she had never asked him directly to tell her what he had gone through. But how much did BanchouLeomon know about HIS adventures?

" BanchouLeomon..." Tohma started. The banchou looked at him, but neither continued speaking.

" Oh my God, look at that cake!" one of the girls' voices rang throughout the room.

The butler came strolling in with a giant cake on the flatbed stroller he was pushing. The said cake was pure white, save for the fruit decorations covering each of the 5 layers that towered over even the butler himself. With how soft and fluffy the white yogurt frosting was, just about everyone in the room felt their mouths water at the sight.

" This thing is HUGE," Yoshino said brutally. " Can we really finish this?"

" Well, it's got the Digimon's portions in there too," Lalamon reminded her. " I'm sure Agumon could eat a whole layer by himself."

" CAN I?!" Agumon piped excitedly.

" Err..."

They went to eat up the cake, and sure enough, by the time everyone had their first passes, they knew they had plenty left in their stomachs to finish it off. Not a lick remained. Agumon assured that.

Masaru, who had been distracted for a while by the cake, spotted Tohma outside, on the balcony, talking to Gaomon. After a while, the blond leaned up against the balcony rail and gazed up at the evening sky. It seemed like they'd finished their conversation, peaking Masaru's curiosity.

There was a clear, glass wall separating the reception room and the balcony. As Masaru went through the glass door and closed it behind him, the sound of the party inside quickly became muted.

The two who were already there noticed him. Gaomon made a short bow to his master and went on inside, not even bothering with a greeting for Masaru. The brunet gave him an odd look.

" What was that about?"

" We were just talking about things..." Tohma said calmly, turning back around to gaze at the sky again.

Masaru went to join him on leaning over the railing. " Such as..."

" My father... I wasn't expecting him to show up today. He came on such short notice again..."

" Again?"

" That time when we came back to the real world with ElDoradimon... he showed up back then as well."

Masaru fell silent.

" No, he's not the reason why I pretended to be on Kurata's side if that's what you're thinking."

" I wasn't. I was just thinking... you really are a nobleman."

Tohma raised an eyebrow. " ...And you just found out?"

" Shut up," Masaru muttered quickly. " I mean, that's after meeting him and all... What about your mom? She's Japanese?"

Tohma froze momentarily, just barely enough for Masaru to notice.

Masaru was purposely not asking more about her. He wanted to know what Tohma would say...

" Yeah."

But that was all he said before he went back to staring at the sky.

Tch. He really wasn't going to talk about it on his own.


Dangling his arms over the rail, Masaru gave a fake yawn. " Ahh~ It was nice of your father to come for the party. I wish mine could be here too."

" It's been ten years, right? Since you've last seen him..."

" Yeah."

" Tomorrow... How are you feeling about going up against the Demon Lords again?"

" I'm as ready as I'll ever be!" Masaru replied without hesitation. " Couldn't be more excited."

" I still find it hard to believe..." Tohma said as he looked down at Masaru's legs. " Those injuries would take most people YEARS to fully recover, yet you did it in the span of less than three months..."

There was some mysterious forlorn expression on the blond's face, readily marked by his furrowed eyebrows.

Masaru in turn raised his own eyebrows. What was he getting so sad about now? Wasn't it his birthday?

Suddenly, the words of the operator girls floated in Masaru's mind. Give him some glory, they said...

Not like he had a birthday present prepared... he had an idea for making one though.

" Wanna see how well I recovered?"

" Hm?"

Before Tohma could finish turning around, Masaru had socked a fist into his cheek. The blond staggered back, but kept his balance as he stared back at Masaru.

" Masaru, what...?!"

He'd held back on that punch quite a bit just to stun the birthday boy, and now he had both of his fists up to size up his opponent.

" See if you can land one on me NOW, genius," he challenged. He started hopping around the ground on his feet, ready to spring at any moment.

" But you just recovered, I'm not going to..."

" Excuses, excuses, I think you've just been out of practice too long and you've forgotten how to fight."

" Huh?! I should be saying that to you!"

" Oh, I'm never out of practice. I was born with it!"

" What do you mean 'born with it?!'"

" I was born a man among men! Unlike a certain Tonma H. Norstein snob aristocrat!!"

" What did you just call me?!"

" Tonma H Norstein, snob aristocrat! Need to hear it again?"

" I can't believe after all this time, you're still calling me that!"

" You're just jealous that your ability to recover isn't as strong as mine!"

" Why, you absolute...!!!"

He didn't notice if people inside the glass wall were staring at them as they chased each other around the balcony for those few minutes, fists flying.

Eventually, neither of them got the best of each other (although there were a few sockings here and there) and they both had to lean on the railing to catch their breath.

" See...? I recovered... pretty well, didn't I?"

Tohma let out a puff from his vocal chords. " Why do I end up fighting with you over stupid things like this..."

Masaru exhaled and inhaled a long breath, calming down. " Thank you, Tohma."

" ...?"

" A whole lot of this is thanks to you, man. I wouldn't be here standing next to you otherwise."

" ......"

" You're coming through with our pact. All that's left is to pummel those Demon Lords to their oblivion!"

Masaru struck a manly pose with his arms, glorifying the moment.

Tohma finally smiled, and Masaru had to admit, he was really wanting to see that smile... although he didn't admit that out loud.

" What about afterwards?" Tohma said. " We've managed to get better 'privacy' from the media, so things will probably be back to normal for REAL after this."

" Hmm, that'd be nice for once. What are you going to do?"

" Continue my research for my sister, of course... Now that I've gotten so many clues from the Digital Code, I can really narrow down on it... What about you?"

Masaru paused. " Well, I was doing some thinking in the hospital and these past few weeks about that... I want to find my dad. Even if it means I'll have to be in the Digital World for a long time."

He waited for Tohma's reaction, but to his surprise, there was almost none that he could decipher.

It was true. He really was thinking about making an extended stay in the Digital World to search for his father after everything with the Demon Lords was over. The thing was... he couldn't leave his mother and Chika behind for too long, and Tohma...

...was smiling again. But this time, it was that "in his own world of thoughts" sort of mouth lift.

" What? That smile of yours is kind of making me uncomfortable, Tohma," he said as he raised his eyebrows again.

Tohma gave him a clearer glance and shook his head slightly. " Sorry, I just..."

Well, he wouldn't stay away from home for too long. His family still needed a man in the house as far as he was concerned. He just wanted to see Tohma's reaction if HE were the one to go missing for a while...

" It'd be completely possible. The Digital Dive equipment isn't nearly as unreliable as it was in the past. As long as you arrive at a certain point within a certain timeframe, you could freely come in and out of the Digital World now. You could spend your days searching there and then come back home at the end of the day easily."

Masaru hadn't expected such an analytical response. " Eh?"

" You've got family to look over here too. You wouldn't leave them for too long."

Oh... now that he understood. Tohma... was a step ahead of him already.

" Heh, you're right."

They went back to staring up at the sky in silence.

Though the party sounds were muffled, he could hear Agumon arguing with Minervamon behind him, something along the lines of Agumon not knowing what "romance" was and pissing off the older Digimon.

" Masaru."

Suddenly, Tohma had moved closer and was facing him again.

" There's something I think you should know. I'll tell you after the battle tomorrow."

Masaru held his breath for a moment. Was Tohma... planning to confess to him? No, no, nonono, no way, he couldn't be. This was something else... It had to be. Something else... " Eh? Why not tell me now?"

" If I told you now, you'd be distracted in the battle tomorrow."

" Well, I'm going to be distracted anyway since you're leaving me in suspense like that."

" ...Sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up."

" Hey, hey, I'm kidding." Masaru pat the blond's shoulder, grinning. " Seriously, it'll give me something more to look forward to. What crazy thing Tohma H. Norstein is going to tell me tomorrow... If you're making so much of a point out of it, it's gotta be something big."

" Masaru..."

Just moments ago, he was using Tohma's name as an insult, yet when things came down to it, he knew he actually trusted Tohma a whole lot. And surely, Tohma knew too... right?

Tohma's hand went up and rested on Masaru's hair. The brunet jerked in slight surprise, but then stood still. Hey, what was the big idea of putting his hand on him all of a sudden?

Tohma's light-toned fingers brushed aside some of Masaru's bangs to reveal the faint scar on his forehead. He shuffled closer.

" Hmph, I can barely see it. It might even disappear altogether in a few more years."

Ah, he'd tried that before, back when Masaru would still flinch at his touch. But things weren't like that anymore.

There was so much trust between them now, so why was it so difficult...

As soon as they defeated the demon lords tomorrow, he was sure he'd start getting answers at least. Even if Tohma wasn't intending to confess, he was still going to get answers of some sort. Maybe it was something about Tohma's family, since he was still curious...

" Don't forget to tell me, okay?" Masaru finished as he casually took Tohma's hand off and started heading back inside the building.

" I won't."

And right when they walked back in, the girls started up the karaoke box. A panel on one side of the walls opened up to reveal a flat, wide-screen TV, and before everyone else knew it, they started singing the pop songs of the time and the room got very noisy... to say the least. Sayuri wasn't much for the atmosphere of the karaoke, and Chika was getting sleepy, so BanchouLeomon volunteered to escort them back. Apparently, the average person wouldn't bother him if he were to wander the open streets anyway.

" Masaru, you might as well head back too," Tohma suggested.

" Eh? But the night's just started."

Tohma gave him a relaxed grin. " We won't be up that late either. We all have to leave at daybreak, after all. Spend some time with your family and get some good rest tonight, all right? I'll see you tomorrow."

Family... The word struck out to Masaru.

" Right..." Almost as if hypnotized by the words, Masaru left with the rest of his family, Agumon and BanchouLeomon. Franz had been standing next to Tohma when they waved their farewells.

" BanchouLeomon, you don't have to escort us. I'll be with them," Masaru said as the banchou walked in front of them.

BanchouLeomon faced him to reply. " No need to mind me. I felt like taking a walk anyway."

It was a brisk evening outside, and the clicking sounds of cicadae fading away into the night filled their ears as they walked back to the Daimon residence in peace.

" It certainly is a good evening for a walk," Sayuri said.

" I would've liked to hear the tsukutsukuboushi, but it seems too early for them still this year," BanchouLeomon commented.

" Darn right," Chika said a little sleepily. " I haven't even STARTED my summer break yet, I can't have them telling me that summer's going to end already!"

Despite her sour response, she was rubbing her eyes and groaning to stay awake. BanchouLeomon smiled at her.

" BanchouLeomon, you like the sound of the tsukutsukuboushi?" Sayuri asked curiously, eyes widening.

" Yes, that beautiful songbird-like clicking... We have something like them in the Digital World, but it's not quite the same. And not filled with nearly as much history, of course."

Masaru's mother stared at the lion man, as if entranced by his words.

What was this... Masaru thought that some of the things that happened today were surreal enough, now his own mother was blanking out too?


Tohma's mother...

Tohma had his own share of family issues too. His mother had died... almost ten years ago? Almost ten years was just about when Masaru's own father had disappeared. Tohma had... grown up without a mother. And from what he had heard from the first parts he heard of their conversation, he hadn't been on good terms with his father until then either.

But something big had happened at the end of the conversation between Tohma and his father tonight. They had come to some kind of reconciliation, likely for the first time in all their lives. Something else must've happened to lead up to the event, something that Masaru had missed out on. While he was curious about it, Masaru's mind didn't dwell on that specifically. It was another revelation...

Masaru had his mother, and although his father was missing, he had full reason to believe he too was alive, somewhere out there. He still had his father to look up to, even if he wasn't physically around. Tohma, on the other hand...

He never knew. So this was why Tohma was so dense when it came to certain interactions. He'd grown up most of his life without knowing the love of his parents.

No, no. Masaru shook his head. That sounded too much like the typical son-of-royalty situation. It was the love of his FATHER that Tohma hadn't known. But Tohma's mother... She'd given her love to Tohma, right? What had happened to her?

There were too many clues, yet still too many things Masaru didn't know clearly.

" Masaru, the fight tomorrow..." BanchouLeomon said, interrupting his thoughts. "...is not going to be easy despite our outnumbering the Demon Lords. They're near their full power, and they have the advantage in the Asgard partition. Don't let them get the better of you no matter what happens. Got it?"

Reassuringly, Masaru threw a fist in front of him. " A man won't go back on his words. I said I was going to take down the last Demon Lord, and I will! So don't worry about me."

They gave each other glares, fully intending to fire each other up, and they couldn't help but grin at each other in the end.

" Hmph. That's what I wanted to hear," BanchouLeomon said, crossing his arms as they continued down the street.

That's right. Tomorrow was going to be a fateful day...

He'd been waiting for it. Fighting alongside the others he had become so familiar with, those he trusted with all his manliness on the line. They would all be there for him tomorrow, fighting for the same goal...


The next day, Satsuma gathered everyone and regurgitated the plans to make sure everyone fully understood what was going to happen.

Yoshino and Ikuto were to go against Beelzebumon. BanchouLeomon and Minervamon would take on Lilithmon, leaving Masaru and Tohma to Leviamon. They had gathered all the information they could find on the three Demon Lords, which was not very much, but at least they would have some preparations beforehand and some idea of exactly who they were up against.

Yoshino and Ikuto knew that Beelzebumon was primarily a gun-user, had deadly claws and rode a motorcycle "from hell." ...which Yoshino shrugged off, saying it'd just be like chasing a speeding motorcyclist then, nothing she was too unfamiliar with.

Tohma showed Masaru the information on Leviamon they currently had on file. With words like "Devil's Beast" and "has the ability to engulf the entire Digital World if so desired" and "root of all evil" and "physically strongest Digimon in existence," it only excited Masaru all the more.

" Strongest Digimon in existence? We'll see about that after he goes through ME."

" But Aniki, you're not a Digimon."

" So what's that got to do with it?"

BanchouLeomon and Minervamon didn't say anything about their opponent, but the others could readily tell that they knew what they were doing.

They were all set. Kurosaki, Shirakawa, and the PawnChessmon were at their stations preparing the Digital Gate opening.

" Remember, you're going against DEMON LORDS here," Satsuma said as his last words to them. " At this point of time, they'll all be as strong as Belphemon, if not stronger with their advantage in Asgard. Keep your guards up. This is a major step in protecting the peace in both worlds, so don't take it lightly!"

The young DATS fighters brought their feet together and nodded back with firm salutes.

The Daimons, the Noguchis, and Franz Norstein all stood by to wish the best for their children as they departed into the Digital World. Right before the Ultimate Digimon visitors stepped into the Dive portal, Sayuri touched BanchouLeomon's arm.

" BanchouLeomon... please, whatever happens, protect Masaru... Make sure he doesn't overdo things and get injured again..."

The rest of the headquarters watched them as BanchouLeomon paused, then slowly turned around to face her. " He'll come back safe and sound, Sayuri. You have my word."

Masaru's mother looked like she wanted to say something more, but no later BanchouLeomon turned back around and walked onto the Diving platform, where the flash of the transport device had already begun glowing.

" Digital Gate... Open!"

The view of the headquarters where the parents, the Captain and the others had been standing changed to that of digital 0's and 1's streaming horizontally, chasing them down as they Dived into the Digital World.

They landed in an open area of plains, where Tohma immediately set to opening his DigiWindow and entering in various data. As far as Masaru understood, he was inputting some kind of algorithm that would transfer them to the vicinity of the Demon Lords in the Asgard partition, in an area where they would have no time to escape until one group defeated the other. It was the epitome of the "point of no return," as if they were approaching the final dungeon of some typical role-playing game.

" Everyone have their Digivices ready? We're charging up as soon as we finish transferring. They might even be on the run as soon as they see us," Tohma informed the others. They nodded back in confirmation. " Here we go!"

The group bid farewell to the quick glimpse of the Digital World they'd gotten and greeted the darkness that soon loomed over them.

" Geez, would it kill them to get some digital sunlight in this partition?!" Minervamon said sarcastically.

" Yes, it probably would kill them," BanchouLeomon replied with a grin.

" What, are they vampires?"

The other DATS members aside from Masaru had already evolved their Digimon to their Ultimate Burst forms, and they were on the lookout for the Demon Lords. None of them were in sight.

" Did they expect us and run away?" Masaru said as he put his hands on his DATS uniform belt. Nothing to his left, nothing to his right.

" That can't be. This is technically supposed to be an ambush..." Tohma said.

" Wait, what's that sound?"

Once they quieted down, they could hear the faint growling of some kind of engine.

Yoshino grinned. " Sounds like our ride's here at least. You ready, Ikuto?"

" Yeah!"

The two ran off in the direction of the engine noise with their Digimon flying behind, and darkness quickly engulfed them.

" Whoa," Masaru said as he saw the duo disappear before his eyes. " They only walked a few feet away. How did..."

" That's how this place works, Asgard," Tohma told him. " Supposedly, you're only able to see what you're fated to see here. The same with hearing. It's some relation to the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil motto. Just in this case, you just don't see, hear or speak whatever's not in your fate. Since it's the Digital World, you could say it's sort of like... running Windows in Safe Mode. No, hopefully something more efficient than that. It's more like having hidden files... the PC owner could view those hidden files without a problem, but anyone else on the network would need special permission, otherwise they wouldn't be able to view it."

" Hmm~" came the bemused response from the ponytail fighter. Although he didn't get the explanation anyway. He stopped paying attention halfway.

In the silence that followed, Minervamon picked off the hairpins from her forelocks and expanded them back into her giant sword and shield. BanchouLeomon kept his arms crossed, while Masaru kept circling his view in hopes of finding his opponent lurking in the shadows.

As if following a certain cue, the pitch black ground beneath them trembled ominously.

A rumbling voice shook through them, long and deep. " Cauda," the voice uttered slowly.

From overhead, a couple massive lengths of scales came hurling in their general vicinity.

" Above! Take cover!" Tohma shouted, already making a run for it.

" Master!" By sheer habit, MirageGaogamon, with the fluorescent blades of his Burst Mode glaring in perfect view, lowered a hand for his Tamer to jump onto.

" Aniki!" Likewise, Masaru and Agumon tumbled away from the incoming objects.

BanchouLeomon and Minervamon leaped out just in time for the gigantic mass of scales to impact the ground. Masaru caught a glimpse of aqua blue frills on what looked like tails, until a torrent of water shot up from the surface it impacted.

MirageGaogamon, with Tohma on his shoulder, scooped up the other two to save them from the rushing water. " It's Leviamon's tails!"

" Seriously? One of those tails by itself is like ten times bigger than you! Can we really defeat that thing?" Masaru groaned to Tohma's Digimon. " And look, there's water coming out of the ground!"

" Not good, he's going to flood the area," Tohma said as he observed the water building up beneath them. " BanchouLeomon! Minervamon!"

" Lilithmon's here! We'll be fine on our own! Concentrate on Leviamon!" BanchouLeomon barked back some distance away. Already, Masaru and Tohma couldn't see the two lone Ultimates of their group.

The torrents of water, which had been blocking their view of Leviamon, had already flooded their area up to MirageGaogamon's waist. He waded his way out of the water and jetted himself into the empty air. They heard another rumbling sound and the torrents cleared out, revealing Leviamon's tails rising far above them once again.

" Well, we'll never know unless we try... I'm going!" Before anyone could stop him, Masaru jumped off MirageGaogamon to take a whack at the tails.

Just like old times, he managed to get onto one of the tails safely and punch it to activate his Digisoul. MirageGaogamon simply picked him back up as he flipped back in full confidence that someone would catch him.

Masaru charged his Digivice, and soon Agumon was in action as ShineGreymon, Burst Mode.

" ShineGreymon! Fire those tails into oblivion!" Masaru roared from ShineGreymon's shoulder, a little embarrassed that the tails were all they could see.

" Glorious Burst!" ShineGreymon fired gigantic balls of energy at the tails, but they were easily extinguished as soon as they hit, as if they had no effect.

" ......"

" I thought so," Tohma observed. " This one won't have any weak spots on the outside. His skin's too tough."

" Whaa? Then what are we supposed to do?"

Tohma gave him a rather pathetic look. " You might not like it very much, but you'll see when we get the chance."

" Huh?"

" Rostrum!"

The deep voice cut into Masaru's exclamation, and more rumbling ensued. Another attack was headed their way...

" Above again! It's his head!" Tohma warned. " Follow me!"

Another long length of scales, even bigger than the tails, came looming upon them.

CRASH! ShineGreymon had followed MirageGaogamon to an area to dodge the head attack, which had also sent the water flood up in tidal waves over them. When the wave settled back down, the growling of the Demon Lord shook through the atmosphere as blood-shot eyes stared at the DATS members.

ShineGreymon sent another Glorious Burst at his face as soon as he had his opportunity. Again, the attack just fizzled away as it hit the Demon Lord's skin.

" You humans... aren't even big enough to be bite-sized snacks for me." He only bared his teeth as he spoke, words slipping through the cracks between them.

Gigantic silver plates covered the rim of his long, alligator snout, further indicating how impenetrable his skin was. Masaru frowned. Rather than being the physically strongest Digimon, Masaru saw him as more as the most-troublesome-to-beat-up type of Digimon. All they could see in their range of view was his head now, and it was already more than what looked physically manageable.

Tohma stepped onto ShineGreymon to whisper into Masaru's ear. " Masaru, we need to provoke him into opening his mouth long enough for us to get inside."

" Inside...?"

" It's the only way to defeat him. Catch my drift?"

Masaru shuddered. " So that's what you meant... Well, too bad I can't argue with you there..."

After nodding in confirmation, Tohma jumped back onto MirageGaogamon.

" Hey, Leviamon! I heard your mom likes cheap fruit cakes!"

And then he nearly fell off.

" M...Masaru, that's not what I meant by..."

" And that she hasn't polished her snout in over 100 years! It's probably rusted off by now! And under it all is all this rotted moldy mildew!"

" WHAT?! Who's my mom?!" came the irritated response. But Leviamon's mouth remained shut.

" ......"

" Masaru, the Digimon don't normally know the concept of parents, remember?"

" Oh right. Well, it looks like YOU haven't polished your snout in 100 years too! What's with that icky color? Blugh!"

" ......" Tohma gave him a look that made it seem like he was regretting his suggestion, and that Masaru should just stick to punching things. Yeah, Masaru knew it himself too.

But to their surprise, Leviamon's eyes flared up and he started waving his head around, forcing the other two Ultimates to drift back in order to dodge his movements.

" Don't you DARE insult my snout!"

" Ohh, are you sensitive about your snout, Levi-chan~?" Masaru continued as he hung onto ShineGreymon while they moved. " It's so big and ugly that I bet all of the other Demon Lords talk about how big and ugly it is behind your back!"

" They wouldn't dare!!" Leviamon roared. His eyes flared up even more, and huge puffs of air started coming out of his nostrils...

" Whoa, I can't believe this is actually working," Masaru said, wondering if he actually made an accomplishment or not.

Tohma's gaze widened at the Demon Lord's behavior. " Rainbow smoke..."

Indeed, the puffs of air coming out of Leviamon's nostrils were rainbow colored.

" There's enough room... MirageGaogamon, ShineGreymon, go in through the nostrils, and don't stop until I say it's clear... NOW!"

" Yes, Master!"

" Eh?!"

No sooner had Tohma given the command when MirageGaogamon dived in without hesitation. ShineGreymon had no choice but to follow.

Tohma had timed it just so that Leviamon had finished the exhale that was needed to produce the rainbow puffs of air. As they glided through the long tunnel of Leviamon's nostril, the light of the Burst Modes guiding their way, a force started pulling them in...

Leviamon was inhaling. Even if he had seen the Digimon enter, he had no choice but to since he used up all his air supply in the exhale. The force of his inhale sent the Ultimates tumbling in, and soon they saw other tunnels ahead of them, leading out of the nostril into other parts of the body. However, as soon as they saw the tunnels, Leviamon started trying to puff them out. Humongous puffs of air pressured against them, trying to send them tumbling out again. ShineGreymon and MirageGaogamon clung onto the bumpy surface of the nostril walls, as uncomfortable as they were.

Masaru saw that one of the tunnels had a flap that kept flipping around as Leviamon sniffed.

" Take the path without the enclosing flap!" Tohma shouted, as if recognizing what Masaru was thinking.

They timed their leaps into the tunnel with Leviamon's futile attempts to force them out. With that, they no longer had to worry about Leviamon's respiratory system trying to defy them, and they headed down towards the digestive system.

And then things started getting really slimy. And Masaru didn't want to go into all of the gory details.

If there was one thing that wasn't so bad, it was combining ShineGreymon Burst Mode and MirageGaogamon Burst Mode's attacks in Leviamon's insides and literally finding the light back to the surface, although that surface was still covered in water. But coordinating that single attack felt so nostalgic to him, he truly felt he'd gone through so much in the past few months just for that blissful moment of glory. It had been possibly the most awkward fight he'd ever gone through, but the satisfaction he had gotten out of it was still the same--in fact, even better. He was cheering in joy as they made their way out.

Leviamon's Digiegg hovered in MirageGaogamon's direction as they continued to stay above the water. After securing it, Tohma pulled out his DigiWindow and activated a program that seemed to cause no physical effect on the Digiegg.

" Huh? I thought none of us were supposed to be able to see it after this Digital Code thing was activated," Masaru noted.

" I've only suspended its hatching function. After we secure all of the Digieggs, I'll apply the final part of the Digital Code," Tohma explained.

" Oh. Sounds like a plan."

" It is."

Masaru crossed his arms as he renewed his stance on ShineGreymon's shoulder.

" Masaru."

" Hm?"

" ...Good to have you back."

Masaru looked at the blond, dumbfounded. Come to think of it, Tohma was the only one who hadn't given him a direct "welcome back" like most of the others had. Sure, Tohma hosted the party to celebrate it (or was that really for him....), but while Masaru had heard it from the others, this was the first he'd heard from his closest teammate.

But this felt more natural somehow. He didn't feel like he was truly "back" until he'd gotten some action, after all. And Tohma knew that...

" Thanks, it's good to BE back," he said after a pause. " Hmph, you're pretty late to come out with it too. It's about time."

Despite the sarcasm he threw at the end, he was smiling almost uncontrollably on the inside. Live the moment while you can.

They exchanged some smirks with each other, and then mutually, they gazed out into the water, waiting for a sign from the others.

" Is this water going to clear out on its own?" Masaru wondered idly.

" I'd assume it would sink back into the ground eventually."

Just staring at it reminded Masaru of his hydrotherapy sessions. Of course, now that he had fully recovered, he was tingling to see if he could outswim Tohma, but he knew it wasn't really the appropriate situation for it.

Even so, Tohma was soon pulling on his arm for some reason.

" You've got... grime all over you. At least take a dive to wash it off. The water here should be all right."

He hadn't noticed, but now that he looked at himself, it did look pretty disgusting. Leviamon's insides weren't exactly what he'd call clean... He jumped off ShineGreymon's shoulder, with Tohma soon following behind him.

The feeling of the water enveloping him and washing away the grime was much welcome. The area flooding had created such a mass of water that he thought he was snorkeling in the deep ocean without snorkeling gear, or without any of the sea creatures or sandy bottom one would expect to see. The bottom he was seeing was still pitch black. The surroundings were pitch black as well, and with only the illumination from the exhaust of their Digimon above them, reflecting off the water's surface, Masaru almost felt like he was lost underwater. He kicked around, enjoying the open space, but remaining uneasy with the darkness. With such limited lighting, he could hardly see anything around him except darkness.

He heard the motions of someone swimming nearby. Tohma. The exhaust lights reflecting off him made him stand out among the rest of the darkness, just like the moonlight had on that night of their sleepover...

Masaru was tempted to dive into him, catch him by surprise from behind, just to see the blond's reaction.

It really was good to be back. With Tohma...

He didn't actually get time to make that dive, however. The next moment, a brusque sound disturbed the peace and Masaru and Tohma found themselves getting carried out of the water by their Digimon. Masaru was about to shout out in protest, but he soon saw that the huge mass of water beneath them was rapidly dissipating into the distance...

" What's going on?"

Just as the last drop of water disappeared, Minervamon was thrown out of the darkness into Masaru and Tohma's view. She looked fairly beaten down, collapsed over the floor, but her will to fight was at full power. Immediately, they could tell things weren't looking so great for them.

" Minervamon!" Tohma called out.

" Damn you, Lilithmon..." she said between gritted teeth.

ShineGreymon and MirageGaogamon landed themselves on the now-dry surface next to Minervamon, allowing their partners to help bring her back to her feet.

" She's using all the dirty, worst tricks in the book. At this rate, BanchouLeomon's going to..."

Masaru breath got caught in his throat.

She didn't need to say any more. The image of Lilithmon towering over a fallen BanchouLeomon had appeared before them.

" BanchouLeomon!"

He started running towards them, frantic to make sure the banchou was okay. What was that about being fine on their own?!

BanchouLeomon staggered to push himself up with his arms. He looked even more battered and bruised than Minervamon, and something about him...

" Masaru, stay back!" BanchouLeomon barked, struggling to stay up.

" Indeed, you don't want to be around when this next one hits," Lilithmon said with a sinister giggle at the end. She held something small and liquid-like in her deformed hand... " Because this one's going to end whoever it hits. You made your mistake when you started bringing yourselves into Asgard."

Masaru's eyes widened. " Haa?"

Minervamon staggered up right next to the ponytail man at that moment, and then it seemed like the world had frozen for a moment except for Lilithmon. The object from her deformed hand spewed a single, almost invisible thread, as quick as lightning, through BanchouLeomon's chest...

" Nazar Nail Darkness Pain."

And when the world stopped freezing, the great lion man cried out in pain.


Author blab
I assume all of their digital equipment is waterproof since they get tossed around in the water in the show sometimes and nothing happens to their devices. xD

Lilithmon's attack was a combination of her usual attacks, in various ways. Long attack name is long and not official.

I'm sure Leviamon wasn't so troublesome in the PS2 game either. Agh I want a modded PS2.~