"When are we stopping?"
Jack's question broke the steady marching of footsteps that had been the only sound for a few minutes. The group of twelve was headed deeper into the dense, crystal forest. As they pushed further, the glowing leaves on the trees were getting smaller, emitting less light than in the open areas.
The Digimon seemed confident that they knew where they were going, but the unfamiliar woods were making some of the humans nervous. Every snap of a twig or glimmer of a leaf made somebody jump.
Aaron was far from nervous; in fact he was enthralled by the mysterious, beautiful world that surrounded him. Occasionally he would pose a question to Velocimon, who kept pace beside him, happy to answer. In fact most of the Digimon seemed in a good mood, and Perimon had even done a couple of air maneouvres when Jack had asked, although Velocimon had quickly told him to pipe down.
"We'll stop at the next clearing we come across. Promise."
"Well, why couldn't we stop at the one we passed earlier? Or the one before that?"
Velocimon shook his head. "They were too open. We need to stay hidden away from any Fire forces that might come this way."
Ladomon flew down to his level. "Come on, Velocimon, they're tired. Can't we just find a tree to sleep under or something?"
Velocimon stopped and looked back at the group. "It shouldn't be too much longer. Trust me; I know where I'm going here."
Kent, out of breath, caught up with the rest of the group. Trilomon surfaced beside him, having gone underground when he realised Kent wasn't speaking to him. Kent wasn't exactly happy, "Why are we following you anyway? Who put you in charge here?"
Velocimon sighed. "I told you, I know where I'm going, and I'd like to see you navigate around here when it's dark."
Kai let out a little huff of laughter. "What do you mean navigate around here? There's nothing but forest for miles each way." He folded his arms. "It would be easier to simply stop here, rather than trying to find a 'suitable clearing'."
Velocimon folded his arms and gave a snort of irritation. "It's not that simple. There are tactical advantages to finding a good sleeping spot."
Perimon swooped down and gently landed on Jacks shoulder. "Here we go, soldier boy's giving us a team talk again."
Velocimon ignored him. "Look, if the Fire forces attack, we need a space open enough so that we won't get cornered or surrounded by flames, yet it must be closed in enough that we can run into the woods if need be."
Colchimon rubbed his beak-like snout with his wing. "Velocimon, do you really think if the Fire forces attack that we're going to be any safer out in the open? At least we're less likely to get spotted within the actual forest. Someone's gonna have to keep watch anyway."
"None of you are listening to me. Honestly I don't know why I bother explaining anything to you guys."
"Maybe you should stop explaining and listen to us for once." Perimon hopped down to Velocimon's level, clearly exasperated. "We've been fighting all evening and walking all night. We need somewhere to rest."
"We're finding a sleeping spot, not building a flippin' fort!"
"Maybe we should. Perhaps you could actually put a little effort in this time."
"Velocimon, I headbutted Cephalomon in the face today. I think I'm putting a fair amount of effort in!"
"Yeah, look how well that turned out!"
"That's not the point…"
The rest of the group watched the two Rookies squabble, with looks of amusement on the faces of the humans and embarrassment on the faces of the Digimon.
Grace whispered to Vulpimon. "Are they usually like this?"
Vulpimon sighed. "Pretty much all the time."
"Great," said Eloise, "I can see this is going to be a productive conversation."
Aaron rubbed his face with his hand. "Look guys, can't we just make a decision already? It's past midnight."
The two Rookies didn't hear, so Ladomon and Colchimon had to fly in and physically drag them away from each other. Perimon flew back up to Jack's shoulder, where he gave Velocimon a mean look. "Just 'cause you were a soldier doesn't mean you can boss us all around."
Velocimon growled. "Well, someone has to make the decisions around here."
"Why don't we get one of the humans to decide?"
Velocimon harrumphed. "Fine." He turned to Aaron. "What do you think we should do?"
Aaron started. All of a sudden the rest of the group was looking at him, expectantly. "Wait, why me?"
Kai smirked. "Well, you are his partner. We figured you might have an opinion."
"Wait, what? I mean, no. I mean…"
Aaron felt his face flush, "Yes, well I, um…"
Still silence. Velocimon was looking up at him, his expression completely unreadable.
"Okay fine! We'll stop here. We may as well get some rest while we can."
Perimon threw his wings back in relief. "Thank you, someone around here listens to reason!"
Velocimon looked more than a bit narked at Perimon's comment, but he said nothing. Everybody else found somewhere to sit or lie down, and to catch their breath. Aaron was left standing awkwardly in the middle of everyone, until Velocimon beckoned him to sit down.
The minutes passed by. One by one, the group dropped off to sleep, until only Velocimon was left awake, staring up at the treetops.
A few metres away, two large red eyes were watching the group as they settled down. The owner stifled a giggle, trying to keep his excitement under control. His lips parted, revealing crooked yellow teeth, and he quietly slid back into the canopy, deciding to bide his time. It was more fun to wait until the right moment.
Aaron opened his eyes. He had been lying down underneath one of the trees, trying to get some rest, but the events of the day had kept playing around in his mind. He sat up, leaning up against the tree trunk. He couldn't help but feel he had made a mistake. The world was alien wherever he looked. The crystalline trees, the three moons, the strange creatures stretched out, having a much better time sleeping than he was. Even the tree trunk felt wrong; oddly metallic instead of rough and wooden.
He looked around at the rest of the group. Eloise was curled up next to a small bush, its faint glow keeping her warm, whereas Ladomon and Colchimon were coiled up and hung in the tree above her. Aaron saw the sleeves of Kai's heavy coat some way away from the group. The boy certainly seemed to keep his distance.
Grace had Jack's head resting on her lap, and both were in a deep sleep, having been more exhausted than the others. Perimon had roosted himself above them, and Vulpimon was curled up nearby. Kent was leaned up against a tree, breathing lightly. Trilomon was curled up in a small armoured sphere some way away. It was clear Kent still had issues with him.
Aaron leaned his head back. This was ridiculous. The six of them were trapped in a strange world, containing strange and dangerous creatures, some of which had already tried to kill them. For some reason they'd agreed to help some of the other creatures to save this world. It was all a bit much.
He felt a lump in his pocket as he shifted. Reaching in, he pulled out the device he had received earlier. It was no longer glowing, but it felt warm in his hand, and he felt a strange aura emanating from it, similar to pins and needles.
He pressed a few of the buttons, hoping to get more accustomed to it. By pressing the centre button he could bring up the main menu, which hovered a few millimetres above the screen, due to some sort of hologram. By pressing left and right, he could find the other features: an interactive 3D map of the world; a database of all the Digimon he had seen (at this point only the six partners were recorded); some sort of stats screen for Velocimon, containing health, power level and a strange meter labelled "Energy Transfer"; and a simpler map of the area with radar blips, showing the positions of the other devices.
Normally Aaron would have jumped, but he was too tired and too used to the strange stuff to react. He looked around and saw Velocimon looking over his shoulder, watching his antics with the device.
"Sorry. I don't mean to be a pain, but I don't have a hope of sleeping after today."
Velocimon shrugged. "Fine by me. It gives me someone to talk to."
Aaron shifted himself round until he was sitting next to Velocimon. The dinosaur seemed completely alert, not tired at all. Aaron asked, "Don't you sleep?"
"Rarely. Certainly not recently. I like to know what's going on around me."
Velocimon leaned over. "So how are you getting on with that thing?"
"I was hoping you could tell me a little more about it. You seem to know what you're talking about."
Velocimon shook his head. "You pretty much sussed it there. The only thing I can tell you is that all the D-Nexus's are connected. The better you work together as a team, the more effectively they work."
"Well, that made no sense. So what about these buttons here?" Aaron fingered the two buttons on the right hand side, but nothing happened.
He let out a long breath and rested his arm on his knee and his head on his arm. Velocimon tilted his head. "Is everything okay? You seem, I don't know, under pressure."
Aaron gave the dinosaur a look out of the corner of his eye.
Velocimon raised his claws in defense. "Okay, that's understandable. It must have been a bit of a shock for you."
Aaron shook his head. "It's not you." He nodded to the sleeping humans around him. "Look at them all. They didn't ask to come here, none of us did. But now that we're all here, somebody has to keep them safe. Everyone seems to be looking to you and me."
He leaned back, looking up to the night sky. "I'm not a leader. I don't organise big battles or get people to follow me wherever I go. I can't even make snap decisions properly."
Velocimon was listening in, his face illuminated with the moonlight. "No-one's asking you to do this all by yourself, Aaron. We're all in this together."
"Yes, but I have no idea how to help you guys." Aaron held up his D-Nexus. "All I know is that I'm supposed to use this to give you power or something. You're depending on me, the rest of the group is depending on me, and I don't know where to start. It's just too much."
Velocimon swivelled round onto his knees. "Aaron, nobody expects you to be a perfect leader straight away."
Aaron rolled onto his side and looked Velocimon in the eye, "But why did you decide for me to be the leader anyway?"
"Because we thought you were the best choice."
"How did you come to that conclusion?"
Velocimon gave his partner a serious look. "You care about them. You want to make sure everyone gets through this, human and Digimon alike. You made the choice to protect them. Like your plan to distract Cephalomon."
"But that didn't work."
"We all survived, didn't we? You need to make the choices you feel are right for the group. Even if you don't know the right choice, you have to make the decision. That's what a leader does."
Aaron slumped. "You seem to understand this far better than I do. Why don't you lead us?"
"Because I've done my share. It didn't end so well. And I can see you'll be a better leader than I ever was."
Aaron looked particularly disheartened, so Velocimon patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry, you'll get there."
Aaron looked up at the sky again. All he said was "Maybe."
The boy and his dinosaur sat in silence for a few minutes, merely looking around for possible danger. A couple of the other humans shifted in their sleep, but nobody woke up. Time seemed to be in Limbo, with nothing moving. The crystalline leaves on the trees were rigid and unmoving. There was no wind, no rain and thankfully no rustling of leaves indicating any danger.
"Velocimon, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, go ahead."
"It's a little personal."
"Just ask. I don't mind."
"Before you called us here, what did you do? Where were you when this war started?"
Velocimon looked at his partner, who looked at him with serious eyes, prepared to listen.
"I told you I've done my share of leadership. It started at the very beginning…"
Naturally, when the first Fire Digimon were turning, they began attacking the neighbouring regions. I was already an experienced warrior when they came, having been training for years. I managed to hold the armies away from my home for a while, but it wasn't long before the Fire Digimon began to make ground. They made settlements and burned the world around them. I did what I could, as did many others, but it was clear our lone efforts weren't enough.
After two years of holding out, the Generals and Leaders of our regions decided to band together. I was forced to leave my home and join the growing army. Any Digimon who could fight was called in to help, and our numbers reached the thousands.
It was there I first met Pikamon, who became my closest comrade. We worked together on the front line and were able to evict many Fire Digimon from their settlements.
As Pikamon and I grew in experience and skill, we became leaders. We conducted our battles with skill and rarely ever failed. I met many other Digimon along the way, including Perimon. All over the world the Digimon were resisting, following our example. It looked like we were beginning to turn the tide.
Then our Generals decided to make one last push, to try and end the war as soon as possible. We were all sent to the battlefield. I still remember it now, standing firm opposite the seething mass of feral Digimon. In truth I have never been so terrified in my whole life.
We fought, driving the Fire Digimon back towards the Southern Coast. Our army greatly outnumbered theirs, but each one of their soldiers was both powerful and savage. To top it off, the Commanders had entered the battle themselves. I remember squaring off against Cephalomon for the first time, two Mega-levels against each other. It was a tough battle, but that was when I first took his arm. I don't think he'll ever get over that.
We battled long and hard, for many days, until we were on the verge of victory. Then, all of a sudden, Surtremon released his ultimate weapons.
The Hellfire Desolation, it was called. In one sweep, our entire army was decimated. Hundreds of savage, uncontrollable Mega-levels, the Fire Tyrants, released in one go. There were WarGreymon, Megidramon, ShineGreymon, Examon; the very strongest of the Fire forces. First they burned through our forces with waves of fire and energy; only the very strongest of us were able to survive. Then they began to fall on the survivors, easily overpowering them. In the space of an hour, our entire army was all but destroyed.
I managed to retreat unharmed, along with Pikamon and a few dozen more. We were pursued through the forest as the Fire forces marched on. Many of the Tyrants died soon after the attack; the power within them was too great and it burned them up. But a couple managed to survive, and one by one the rest of us were picked off.
It was then that Pikamon and I got the message, along with seven other Digimon around the world. We made our way towards the shrine at the centre, where we received the elements and were given the task to call you. The last hope for the Digital World.
Aaron had been engrossed for the entire story. When Velocimon finished, he breathed hard. "Woah."
"Indeed. War is an unpredictable thing."
Aaron found the elastic band in his pocket and began to fidget with it, wrapping it around his left hand. "So I take it Pikamon…um…"
"Unfortunately he died before we could call you. He sacrificed himself to destroy the last of the Fire Tyrants."
"Not your fault. It's happened now. All we can do is move on."
Aaron didn't know what to say. This war was so much bigger than he could have even imagined. Entire regions overrun, armies wiped out. Did this one small group stand any chance at all against the Fire forces?
"Is there something on your mind?"
Aaron turned to his partner, "I'm sorry, what?"
Velocimon whipped his head round. "I didn't say anything…"
The two stood up, looking at the thick forest around them. There was no sound at all.
Velocimon looked up at Aaron. "Maybe you were hearing things?"
"Maybe he wasn't."
Aaron and Velocimon looked at each other. "Quickly, follow me!" said Velocimon as he ran further into the forest towards the voice.
Towards almost certain danger.
Aaron gulped, but followed his partner, breaking into a run to catch up with the rapidly moving little dinosaur.
From seemingly all around him, the same sultry tone reverberated through his head.
"That's it. Follow the sound of my voice. I'll stay still. I promise…"
Velocimon's gauntlets were glowing with energy, so Aaron could follow his partner with little difficulty, simple following the glowing yellow dots in front of him. Velocimon was listening out for the voice, but whoever it belonged to kept moving, switching locations, circling around the pair.
All of a sudden, Velocimon stopped. He held out his arms, the dim glow doing little against the dark undergrowth of the forest. The voice kept on laughing and taunting, constantly changing location. Aaron stood beside his partner. In his hand he was gripping his D-Nexus; he was completely unsure what to do with it, but it was some comfort.
The voice spoke up. "Have we run out of places to run?"
Velocimon nudged Aaron. "Don't listen to what he's saying; he's trying to freak us out. Keep your eyes and ears open."
Aaron looked round. The forest around him pressed in, making him feel incredibly alone, despite being beside his partner. He suddenly thought of the others, still asleep with nobody watching over them.
"I wouldn't worry about them. I'm having too much fun with you."
Aaron whirled round. "It's reading my mind!"
Aaron looked frantically round, watching for a sign of their elusive tormentor. It kept on, the voice never letting up for a moment.
Something caught Aaron's eye. Between the branches he could see something. It was like an orb, glowing with a purple light, and it pulsated in time with their pursuer's speech. Aaron pointed, and Velocimon followed his gaze.
The orb vanished, but reappeared in the corner of Aaron's vision.
"Now you see me, now you don't."
The orb skipped around before finally coming to rest, high above the two. Before Aaron could do a thing, Velocimon pointed both of his arms at the orb.
A flurry of sparks shot from Velocimon's guns, ripping into the orb and the canopy around it. The orb fizzled, before it popped in a small blue flash.
The two whirled round to see another orb, practically identical to the first one, hovering around behind them. Two more orbs appeared, then three, then another two, until Aaron and Velocimon were surrounded with the sinister glowing objects.
"You've had your go. Now it's my turn."
The orbs formed a circle and began to spin, forming a ring of blue light around the boy and his Digimon.
The ring suddenly contracted, the energy catching Aaron off guard and throwing him off his feet. He yelped in pain, running his hand over his shins. There was a tender band where the energy had burned him. He quickly got back to his feet. Velocimon had seen the energy coming and had jumped towards a nearby tree, grabbing onto the trunk.
The ring of energy slowed for a brief moment, before whirling round and spinning towards Velocimon. He jumped again, the ring of blue energy slicing into the tree bark. Metallic shards flew everywhere, and there was a splintering as the tree crashed to the ground, separating Aaron and Velocimon.
"This has been fun, but I say we get rid of the dinosaur."
Velocimon heard this and made a run to vault the tree. Suddenly, before Aaron could move he felt a force that threw him to the ground, as if something had jumped on him. There was a rustling in the trees behind him, before the voice shouted again.
A purple-white bullet flew over Aaron's head, catching Velocimon by surprise. It caught him in the middle of the abdomen, sending him spinning back.
"That's one point to me. You get a timeout."
Aaron scrambled to his feet, before he felt something wrap itself round his arm. It was lightly furred and flexible, like a tail, but it yanked him with such force that he flew back into the undergrowth.
Aaron landed; the leaves and branches cushioning the impact slightly. His arm hurt from the sudden pull, and he could no longer see his partner. He stood up, but he heard the voice laughing nearby.
"You may want to look up."
Aaron did so. For a brief moment he saw a silhouette against the dim light of the three moons; a silhouette like that of a huge monkey. Then it disappeared, and the voice spoke up again. "That's all you're gonna get. Better run along now."
Aaron, gripping his D-Nexus, stood firm. "No. I'm not running."
Another white-hot missile shot from the trees, exploding close to Aaron's feet. He jumped back, before turning and running as more projectiles rained on him from above. He could feel his heart beating fast, seemingly in time with the beast's maniacal laughter. He could barely see in front of him, but he didn't stop, aware of his fate if he did. All the while all he could think of was Velocimon. He had no clue whether his partner was even alive, but no matter how he wanted to he couldn't turn back now. Velocimon, the others, he had failed them all.
The barrage abruptly stopped. Aaron threw himself against a tree and tried to compose himself. His mind was buzzing. Could he go back and try to save Velocimon? Would he be able to with the beast still out there? What about the others? He closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe calmly.
"Something on your mind?"
Aaron knew this was coming. He inhaled and gripped his D-Nexus tightly. "How did you guess?" he asked, sarcastically.
"Your mind, Aaron. It betrays your true feelings. I can read your thoughts, your emotions."
"Yeah, that's wonderful."
"You're afraid, aren't you?"
Aaron could feel the voice slowly getting closer. He forced himself not to turn around and look, instead keeping completely still. He had quietened his breathing down as far as he could. He focused.
"You're afraid of me."
Aaron waited. He listened out for the slightest hint of a noise.
"You're afraid of this world."
Aaron wasn't listening. The voice echoed out into silence.
"You're afraid of failure."
Aaron kept his eyes closed. Tentatively he spoke.
"What do you mean?"
"You cannot lead these people into battle. The war is no place for you. You're too afraid of making a mistake."
Aaron waited. The beast padded closer, until he was only a metre away from Aaron.
The beast stopped, intrigued by Aaron's answer.
Aaron carried on, "One mistake. That's all it could take for someone to lose their life. But Velocimon knows that."
The beast grinned. "Who cares about Velocimon? He is no longer here."
Aaron ignored him. "A leader must make the choice that he feels is right. No matter what, he must protect the others. When he doesn't know the answer, he must make the move anyway."
"And what is the answer?"
Aaron could hear the beast's breath behind him. He felt the heat from the little orbs as they flitted around him, still burning away.
"I don't know."
All of a sudden Aaron spun round and held out his D-Nexus, the light illuminating the beast's face. It was only for a second, but it was enough. The beast screeched in pain and covered its eyes from the bright light. Within seconds, the D-Nexus recorded the creature's data, scanning its entire make-up. Aaron ran as fast as he could, back through the forest towards his partner.
He held up the device before him as it revealed the information, along with a holographic image. His pursuer was some kind of large black monkey, with bands around its arms, legs and tail. Its face was akin to a mask, with a bright blue nose and deep red markings. It had two yellowed canines protruding from its bottom jaw, and a mess of blue-black hair running down its neck. The small purple orbs floated around its arms and just above its head.
"Mandrimon. Champion Level, Virus Attribute. Attacks: Argon Fireball, Gyro Flare"
"Mandrimon craves the fear and uncertainty of its victims before it deletes them. A majority of its hunt simply consists of it taunting and frightening its enemies, which makes its soul-fire orbs burn with more energy."
Aaron smiled. Finally, he had some ammunition.
Aaron's legs were burning from the running he'd already done, but he forced himself to keep going. Behind him he heard a furious screeching as Mandrimon powered through the canopy, angry at having been revealed. Aaron kept a straight course, hoping it would lead him back to one of the others. He stumbled a little, but kept his footing.
Above him he could hear branches breaking as Mandrimon chased him. The monkey yelled, trying to get Aaron to slow down, just enough to catch him. "You can't run from your own fear!"
"Yeah, but without my fear, you don't have any power, am I right?"
The cracking above Aaron settled, but he could still hear the monkey breathing. All of a sudden, his voice came from in front of Aaron.
"Don't push your luck."
Mandrimon flew out of the undergrowth and barrelled into Aaron, sending him careering into a tree trunk. The monkey landed safely, giving Aaron a look of disgust.
"You may have figured out my power, but I'm still stronger and faster than you." Mandrimon leaned in, swiping at Aaron as he tried to get out the way. "Besides, you can't kill the fear entirely. There's no way you can overpower me."
The orbs around Mandrimon's arms and atop his head suddenly pulsed, as if to prove his point. Mandrimon swiped again, his hand embedding in the tree trunk just above Aaron's head.
"Okay Mandrimon, I get it. You're stronger than me. To be honest, I really don't care!"
Aaron sprung to his feet and brought his fist forward, smashing the monkey in the face. Mandrimon screeched in shock, and Aaron used the opportunity to leap away from him and run further into the undergrowth.
"You'll pay for that, you pathetic human!"
It didn't take long for Mandrimon to catch up to Aaron again. He was so angered and insulted by this boy's actions that he didn't make a single attempt to scare him. Instead he leapt high, drawing on all the energy he could muster.
Burning blue bullets rained down on the forest, hammering into tree trunks, logs and the ground alike. Aaron covered his head as the superheated projectiles bounced off of his head and back, leaving small scorch marks on his clothes.
Aaron ground to a halt as the disc of energy ripped through the forest in front of him, like some huge circular saw. In a moment Mandrimon was on him, eyes wild and mouth frothing. Aaron tried to defend himself, but the monkey swiped and scratched, easily overpowering him.
"Get away from him NOW!"
A small yellow-green blur cannoned into Mandrimon, throwing him off of Aaron. Velocimon leapt to the ground and opened fire, firing dozens of sparks at Mandrimon. The monkey hissed and leapt up into the trees.
"Velocimon, you're alive!"
"You can't get rid of me that easily. I'm glad you're okay."
Just as Velocimon was talking, Mandrimon's tail swooped down and knocked him aside. Velocimon fired upwards again, but Mandrimon was too fast and too elusive. He kept dropping down and hitting the two partners, before springing back up into the treetops before they could hit back. The constant harrowing blows were beginning to wear both Aaron and Velocimon down.
Aaron felt the D-Nexus begin to vibrate gently. The stats screen was being displayed, and Aaron could see Velocimon's energy getting low. The tough little dinosaur wasn't showing any signs of slowing, but it was obvious he couldn't hold on indefinitely.
Suddenly the bushes next to them burst open. "Aaron, oh my god, are you alright?"
Aaron felt a wave of relief as he saw Eloise and all the other humans and partners in the bushes, apparently having been looking for them.
"Having a little trouble at the moment," said Velocimon, before he was knocked aside once again. This time as he got up, he slipped, his right arm injured. He was cut and bruised all over his body, and he was unable to fire any sparks, his energy too low.
Despite himself, Mandrimon let out a giggle. "You know you're not going to last for much longer."
The others strained to get a clear look at Mandrimon, but he was far too fast. He leapt down and barrelled into Aaron, knocking him to his knees. Kent was able to quickly scan the monkey before he disappeared again, but everybody else was concentrated on their leader.
Aaron looked up. "That's it; I'm not taking this anymore."
Aaron stood up, with a new determination, a new confidence. Velocimon seemed to feel it as well, looking at his partner with awe.
Aaron looked at his D-Nexus. Velocimon's image was beginning to glow, and the mysterious Energy Transfer meter was slowly filling. He felt the energy within him build up. Looking down at himself he saw a circle of light over his chest; the same symbol that had appeared earlier, when he had first partnered with Velocimon.
Velocimon got to his feet as well. A newfound energy within him, Aaron held out his arm and saw yellow energy travel along it, from the elemental seal to the D-Nexus. It tingled, feeling warm and cold at the same time, yet strangely comforting.
The Energy Transfer meter reached one-hundred percent, and the screen emitted a brilliant white glow. Mandrimon leapt out of the way as trails of energy and electricity shot from the D-Nexus, heading straight towards Velocimon. They surrounded him, and the small dinosaur's body began to glow. He blinked, his eyes letting off little bolts of energy. The yellow light was enveloping him in rapid pulses, lighting up the forest around him as it spread over his body.
Velocimon's body grew in size, and his proportions became more like those of a human. The metallic bands around his body morphed into straps that spanned his chest and shoulders. His arms, legs and tail lengthened, the tail dagger extending into a glowing blue blade. His knuckle-guns shifted, before they sprouted more wicked-looking blades. Wires traced their way up his arms, culminating under newly formed shoulder-pads. His crest morphed into a helmet, and his skin colour morphed from yellow-green to a golden colour.
The whole process only took a couple of seconds from start to finish. The glow faded, and the rest of the group stared in wonder at the new creature before them.
"You did it!"
Perimon's remark led a volley of cheering from the watching Digimon, as Kent got out his D-Nexus, pointing it at what used to be Velocimon.
"Galvamon. Champion Level, Data Attribute. Attacks: Strike Thunder, Charge Bolt"
"I think we might just have gained an advantage here," said the older boy.
Aaron felt dizzy, stumbling over onto his knees. He had felt the energy somehow leaving him and entering his partner, and it had left him drained. Suddenly, Mandrimon shot out of the treetops towards him. "You can't win!" he screamed, balling energy in his hands.
Aaron covered his face, but the monkey abruptly looped round, having had his tail grabbed by Galvamon. Mandrimon crashed into a tree behind him, before he scurried up into the treetops again.
"You can't bring me down that easily. Gyro Flare!"
The ring of energy sliced down once again, but Galvamon dodged it effortlessly. He raised his hands, the wires glowing with white-hot energy.
Galvamon fired two intense electric beams into the canopy, leaving a burning smell and a static aura. The group heard Mandrimon scream, and more fireballs hurtled towards the dinosaur.
Aaron got to his feet. "He's still too fast. You'll be really lucky to get a direct hit on him."
Galvamon smiled, showing small needle-like teeth. "I haven't finished with him yet."
Galvamon's blades retracted and he brought his hands together, interlocking his claws and charging up energy.
The group ducked to the ground as bolts of electricity crackled around Galvamon's fists, reaching up into the canopy. They shot erratically in all directions, and it wouldn't be long before they found their target.
Another scream from Mandrimon was all Galvamon needed. All of the bolts converged in one particular place, and they followed the quivering body as it dropped down and landed in an unceremonious heap. Galvamon released his grip and made a move towards Mandrimon, who was getting to his feet, snarling savagely.
Galvamon swung round, delivering a kick to Mandrimon's head. Mandrimon retaliated with a swipe, but Galvamon caught his arm and wrenched it, before hoisting the monkey over his shoulder and driving him to the ground.
As Mandrimon struggled to get to his feet, Galvamon downed him again with another kick and a slash from his tail. The orbs around Mandrimon's head and arms were flickering dimly, and his skin was blackened from the earlier assault.
Severely weakened, he rolled onto his side. "You won't stand a chance against the Commanders."
Mandrimon let out a laugh, before launching himself at Galvamon with the last of his strength. Galvamon flung him into another tree, which shook violently from the impact. Galvamon raised his arms once again, pointing straight towards his adversary.
"We're about to turn the tide of this war. There's no place for you now."
Mandrimon spat with contempt.
The two bolts impaled Mandrimon through the chest. He screeched one last time, his cries fading into static as his body disintegrated into data bits. They floated towards Galvamon, who simply stood and received them, absorbing their power. Then it was over.
Aaron walked towards his newly improved partner. "Thanks. Really, I can't thank you enough."
Galvamon smiled. "I should be thanking you. You gave me the strength I needed."
"Your emotion, Aaron. That moment, when you stood up against Mandrimon, for my sake and the sake of the others, that was when your energy gave me the power to evolve."
He grinned. "See, I told you it would all work out in the end!"
Aaron dropped his head. "Well, it's only just begun. You heard what he said, the Commanders are still out there, as well as countless Fire Digimon. How many times will we have to do this?"
In front of him, Galvamon began to glow once again. He dispersed into lights that returned to Aaron's D-Nexus, leaving Velocimon standing there.
"We'll get through it."
Jack leaned his head out from the group. "That was awesome!"
Aaron and Velocimon finally rejoined with the group, where an irritated Eloise began to berate him. "Why would you run off into an obviously dangerous forest in the middle of the night?"
"Yeah, Mandrimon was kind of chasing us then."
Eloise rolled her eyes. "Whatever, it's too early to start putting people in danger."
"I don't think we have a choice."
"You know what I mean!"
Jack interjected. "So when do the rest of us get awesome fighting monsters?"
Grace shushed him, but Perimon flew over indignantly. "What do you mean? I'm perfectly awesome enough!"
Jack looked a little embarrassed, but Velocimon simply smirked. "Looks like you'll never be as cool as me."
"You would have had your ass kicked if Aaron wasn't around."
Velocimon looked bored. "Perimon please, there are children present. Anyway it's not like you would have been any help."
The two began bickering once again, although Aaron suspected that his partner was just leading Perimon on. A frustrated Vulpimon had her head in her paws. "Do you guys ever stop?"
Grace knelt down and stroked her partner's fur. "I think it's a boy thing. They like to show off."
She stood up again, looking up into the sky. "Everyone, I think it's morning."
She was right. The sun was beginning to rise above the treeline, revealing the forest in all its glory. Ladomon spiralled up into the sunbeams, her wings spread wide. "Oh, that feels so good!"
Kai walked over to Aaron, Colchimon coiled around his shoulders. "So, where are we headed?"
"Inland. We need to get out of this forest." Aaron strained to look above the treeline, but couldn't see. Ladomon climbed a bit higher, looking out in all directions. "Over there the forest thins a bit, and then there's a mountain range."
Aaron smiled at Kai. "Excellent, we have directions."
He walked back over to where his and Jack's partner were still spouting off at one another.
"Okay, this is amusing but we ought to make a move. I don't want to be attacked by any more psychotic monkeys for at least another three hours."
Reluctantly Perimon pulled away, stopping to make a face at Velocimon before flying up once again.
Aaron and his partner proudly walked side by side as they led the motley group away out of the forest. It was the beginning of a brand new day, and for once, all was well.