The sun was rising steadily higher in the sky, illuminating the dense forest bit by bit. With the full light hitting the leaves the group could see the full splendour of the crystal trees, as they glistened with iridescent colours. The sky was a light blue, and it would have looked like a nice day back home on Earth, if it hadn't been for the faint etchings of circuits and grids criss-crossing the blue.
The group had been lucky and had not run into any more trouble, and as they trekked onwards they noticed the forest beginning to clear. Dense woodland gave way to open grassland, and before long they left the forest altogether. Before them was a remarkable sight (one which Eloise added to her steadily growing list of remarkable sights from the last 24 hours).
The grassland stretched before them like a huge football pitch, a huge sea of vibrant green with scarcely a patch of mud to be seen, aside from a beaten path that wound its way through the green. Here and there were clumps of bushes and the odd tree, although a different kind entirely from the crystal forest, with huge, drooping leaves and tall, thin trunks.
There were Digimon everywhere, although none of them paid any heed to the new group that had entered their home. A group of Monochromon grazed nonchalantly while a lone Brachiomon plodded about in the distance. Dozens of in-training Digimon hopped and crawled about in the grass, playing in their own little world. The group heard a chorus of cries from up above as a flock of Biyomon flew overhead, being pursued from a distance by a lone Yatagaramon, which lazily flapped its wings and wheeled away to intercept them at a later point.
The humans gaped. "I don't believe it," said Jack, "It looks so different."
He looked back at the forest behind him. It looked like another world, and seemed to ripple in the sunlight.
Colchimon hovered just above Kai's shoulder. "You'll get used to that."
"What do you mean?"
"Moving between areas. Since the Digital World is constantly changing, different areas get bunched together, so you can end up travelling between two completely different areas."
"So does the data change, or do whole blocks just shift about?" Kent queried.
Trilomon stepped up. "They can do either. To be honest nobody knows exactly how data works here."
Eloise looked at Kent with a puzzled expression. What was his problem? He seemed a curious and scientific person, why was he being so negative?
Aaron broke into her thoughts, "Velocimon says we should head towards the mountain range. If we carry on at a steady pace we should be there mid-afternoon."
The group agreed and made their way through the grassland. It felt strange, being out in the open. An attack from a Fire Digimon could come from anywhere at any moment, yet in this peaceful place it didn't seem possible for any sort of conflict. At least that's how it seemed at first, but a strangled cry from one of the Biyomon flock as it was caught by the Yatagaramon was enough to remind the group to stay on their guard.
The morning wore on. As the sun rose higher the journey began to get uncomfortable. Aaron and Velocimon led, with Eloise, Jack and Grace close behind, Vulpimon trotting at their feet. Kent kept pace behind them, saying little and looking ill at ease, with Trilomon walking just a few steps behind him. Kai walked slowly at the back; being careful not to get left too far back. Perimon and Ladomon hovered above the group, while a tired Colchimon was draped over Kai's shoulders. He wasn't a fan of sunlight.
"I wish we could get attacked again. That was fun!"
Grace gave her brother a sharp look, her ponytail bouncing around. "That wasn't 'fun'. I don't want you running off into danger."
"But I'm not running anywhere...?"
Grace buried her head in her hands, the combination of the heat and her brother giving her a headache. Eloise sidled up to Jack. "This isn't just a game you know. We don't want anybody to get hurt here. Fighting might seem fun, but it's more trouble than it's worth."
Jack harrumphed. "I'm not a little kid any more, I know it's dangerous. I just want to see Perimon evolve."
Perimon swooped in. "I promise you, kid. When I evolve, it's going to be spectacular. Just you wait."
Grace looked up. "Don't encourage him, he's already excited enough."
Jack looked at his partner and rolled his eyes. Perimon shrugged, "Sisters."
A voice came from down by Grace's feet, "I can hear you, Perimon. Don't make me come up there." Vulpimon let off a little cloud of cold air as a warning, the breeze much to the relief of the people around her.
Aaron paused, having been listening. He looked at Velocimon, "How does that evolution thing work anyway?"
His partner looked him in the eye. "I told you before, it was your emotions that gave me power."
"Yes I know, but how did you get bigger, and where did all the armour and stuff come from?"
Velocimon frowned. "I guess from absorbing the data around me. I take it in, convert it into a different form, and then release it again when I no longer need it."
Aaron felt confused, and was about to ask another question, when Eloise butted in, "Aaron, look! Your leg, it's gotten better!"
Aaron looked down, the group following his gaze. Eloise was right; the red-raw burn marks from Cephalomon's attack last night were now just dark markings, as if they had miraculously healed. Aaron rubbed them, and found the pain was gone as well. Even the holes in his shorts where the napalm had burned through were now fixed.
Aaron looked at Trilomon. "How the heck did that happen?"
Trilomon scuttled up. "You're made of data now. You must be unconsciously absorbing data in order to return to your original template from when you entered this world."
Aaron looked down again. "Woah."
Kent had his head down, his hair drooping down in front of his face. Trilomon cocked his head as he looked at the markings on Aaron's leg. "I wouldn't get too confident though, it'll probably only work for minor wounds."
"Shut up Trilomon."
"If you lost a limb or something and absorbed too much data, you might end up becoming something completely different and –"
"I said shut UP!"
Trilomon flinched, as if he had been struck. Shaking, he looked round at his partner, who was trembling himself, although more with anger than fear, his eyes pointed at the ground. The sudden noise had disturbed a group of Tanemon nearby, who ran off into the grass.
Without lifting his gaze, Kent spoke. "I don't want to hear about it."
None of the others, human or Digimon, said a word. Trilomon backed away into the grass, slowly, never taking his eyes off of his partner.
Kai stepped up to the group. "It's hot. I think our tempers are getting up somewhat. Perhaps we need to find some shade or something."
Grace pointed. "There's a watering hole just over there, with trees around it for shade, if that's what you meant."
Aaron swallowed, looking at Kent, not wanting to speak. Eventually he did. "Okay, let's stop and rest for a bit."
"Out of the way, I'm going in!"
Perimon's cry rang out across the grassland as he cannoned into the water, sending up a spray towards the surrounding members of the group. Vulpimon, resting as she was underneath one of the nearby trees, was not impressed at getting her fur wet.
Eloise had taken off her jacket and was lying on her back in the shade, with Ladomon and Colchimon resting in the tree above her, talking amongst themselves. She was comfortable enough, and they had yet to be shooed away by the other visitors to the watering hole. She sighed. To be honest, she kind of enjoyed it here. The weather was certainly nicer than back home.
Home. She lifted her head, watching Grace and Jack paddling in the shallow water in front of her. It had only been a day since they had been taken, and yet the once familiar town now seemed to be so far away. She twisted around onto her front, and her eyes fell upon Kent, who was sat on his own, back resting against a tree, with his laptop out in front of him.
She turned around again, her long hair falling down her face. She brushed it aside and saw Aaron standing above her, "What do you want?"
"We haven't eaten in a while. I was just going to go and explore. You don't have to come, I just thought I'd let you know this time."
Eloise gave him a warning look. "You probably shouldn't go on your own."
"Velocimon's coming with me. But if you're really that worried..."
Aaron turned around and whistled. Kai looked up from his D-Nexus. Eloise noticed he was even further away than Kent was. She huffed, annoyed with the number of antisocial people surrounding her.
Aaron called to Kai. "Did you fancy coming for a look around with me?"
"I wasn't planning on it."
"Come on, it'll be fun." He nodded in a somewhat peculiar fashion.
Kai raised his eyebrows for a second. Then he shrugged, pocketed his D-Nexus and walked over. "Alright."
Colchimon, having been listening in, flew down and twisted himself once again around his partner's shoulders. "Onwards to adventure! And hopefully dinner!"
Aaron turned again. "We'll be back soon. Don't worry too much about us."
Eloise gave a little smile. "You are getting used to this leader thing, aren't you."
Aaron smiled back, and the two teenagers with their two partners walked away into the grassland.
Eloise leant back once again. It was all very well for them to pretend that everything was okay, but, as the outburst earlier had shown, the stress was beginning to get to some people. Her eyes drifted upwards to Kent again. He seemed calm enough now, but it was obvious that something had been getting to him. Eloise noted the dull concentration in his eyes as they drifted across his computer screen.
What's more, Trilomon was hiding away as well. The little insect was crouched down in the long grass, out of sight from his partner. They hadn't shared a single word since the outburst.
Ladomon glided down towards Eloise, floating just above her head.
"What do I do, Ladomon? I don't want to just sit here and let them vent off at one another, but I don't know what to say."
"Just do what you think is right," said Ladomon. "Maybe all Kent needs right now is someone to talk to."
She hovered back up to the tree to catch some more sunlight. Eloise sat up, blinking as the sun's rays hit her once again. Over by the water Grace and Jack had come back onto land and were now sat down next to each other. Perimon was still in the water, being a nuisance to the lone Monochromon who had come for refreshment.
Eloise stood up and walked over to the older boy, leaning up against the tree trunk and peering over his shoulder at his laptop. He seemed to be looking at some sort of code or program, which kept shifting and fluctuating across the screen.
"What are you doing there?"
Kent turned his head, just slightly. "I'm scanning the local area. Since the world's made out of data I can bring it up on here."
Eloise looked rather taken aback. "Um, how exactly are you 'scanning the area'?"
Kent didn't look up, instead picking something up. Eloise raised her eyebrows; Kent had somehow managed to wire his D-Nexus up to his laptop, and was using the device's map function to dig deep into the workings of the world.
"Did you come over here for a reason?"
Kent's voice was monotone; he was too focused on the screen before him to pay any attention to Eloise. His hands hovered over the keyboard for a few moments, waiting for her to walk away. Instead she sat down next to him, bringing her knees up and clasping her hands around them.
"It all looks very impressive, you know. Do you do Computing at college?"
"I did. But that wasn't what I asked. What did you come over here for?"
Eloise bit her lip. Obviously Kent didn't really get casual conversation.
"Look, you're upset. It's been a tough night; you're allowed to be upset. But you won't solve anything by just sitting here looking up code. Talk to one of us."
There was an awkward silence. Kent turned to face her, his deep black eyes burrowing into her sea-green ones. His face was virtually expressionless.
Suddenly he flicked the power switch and closed the laptop lid.
"Where are we, Eloise? What have we become?"
Aaron looked back once they had gotten far enough away from the group. It had felt kind of awkward leaving Eloise alone with Kent and the younger kids, but he was sure she could manage. Anyway, if anything went wrong they had their Digimon there to protect them.
Kai walked casually alongside him, completely at ease. Aaron hadn't been lying when he said they needed to find food, after all, none of them had eaten since they'd arrived in the Digital World. But he had another reason for the two of them to come out here alone. Since they'd arrived, Kai had barely spoken to the rest of the group, except to make a sarcastic comment or give an opinion. He wasn't under stress like Kent (at least not as far as Aaron could see) but there was something more to this mysterious boy.
Kai flicked his head sideways, having noticed Aaron eyeing him. Aaron coughed and looked away, sheepishly.
It was Colchimon who had asked the question. Aaron turned back to see them both staring at him. He couldn't decide which stare he found more unsettling.
Kai spoke. "You had another reason for bringing me out here, didn't you?"
Aaron breathed in. Velocimon said nothing, simply listening to the conversation beside him as he walked on.
"You don't talk much to us. I wasn't sure whether you were uncomfortable around us or not."
Kai continued to stare at him. His skin looked almost white in the bright sunlight.
"You don't need to worry about me. I don't tend to socialise very well. It's just how I am."
"Yes, but it's more than that. You're never bothered or surprised by anything that goes on around us. Even when we were fighting Cephalomon you stayed completely cool, even trying to talk to him. When we first talked with our partners, you were the first one to volunteer to stay. You seem to look at the Digital World in a completely different way."
Aaron paused. He was sure Kai knew what he was going to ask.
"Kai, have you been to the Digital World before?"
Kai stopped. He didn't flinch, gasp or even raise his eyebrows. He just stared ahead. Colchimon twisted round and looked at his partner. He did seem shocked at the question, and was as interested in the answer as Aaron and Velocimon were.
Kai shook his head, his spiky hair swaying from side to side.
"No. I don't know whether you want to believe me or not, but I've never been to this place before."
Aaron relented. "I see. Sorry."
"Not an issue."
The four carried on. Aaron and Kai were talking amongst themselves, so Colchimon slipped off Kai's shoulders and hovered near to Velocimon. "Do you think he could have come here before?" he whispered.
Velocimon shrugged. "I don't know. I know that humans have done so, but whether he was one of them I have no idea."
"Maybe I should get him to talk to the others?"
Velocimon shook his head. "What goes on between the humans is their business, not ours. If he wants your help, don't be afraid to give advice, but you may have to work that out between yourselves."
Colchimon sighed, his long neck drooping. "I barely know anything about him. We talk, but he never brings up his family or his friends or anything. I’m kind of worried about him."
Velocimon slyly looked back, and saw Aaron and Kai chatting to each other a fair way away. He turned to face the dragon.
"I've already said that you'll have to work out your own deal with Kai. But remember, the humans are here to help us. We have to protect them, no matter the cost."
He nodded towards the boy in the raincoat. "Whatever happens to Kai you must be there for him. Promise me that."
Without hesitation, Colchimon nodded. "I promise."
"I'm not sure how much longer I can take this, Eloise."
Kent had his head rested against the tree trunk, his laptop gently slipping off his lap.
"Everyone seems to be completely okay with the fact we're not human any more. We're just computer programs now. Everything about us has changed. We're now subject to the laws of this world."
Eloise shook her head. "You're wrong, Kent. They told us when we first got here; we're still exactly the same people we were."
"It's all very easy for you to say that. You don't understand." Kent picked up a twig from beside him, and fingered one of the ends. "I study Computing and Biology at my college. I see the world around me as it is. Bound by logic and sense. But now that doesn't work anymore."
Eloise rubbed the back of her head. His words were pretty blunt, but he was right. She didn't understand what he was going through. She didn't see the world as he did.
"It doesn't work like that. You can't judge everything by logic and sense."
Kent cried out as his hand slipped, and he impaled one of his fingers with the twig.
"Are you okay?"
Kent pulled the twig out and eyed the tiny wound. For a moment nothing happened, then slowly his finger was covered by a tiny digital field. The skin around the cut grew, stretched, and reattached itself. It only took a couple of seconds. Kent felt where the scratch had been. There was no pain, no irregularity, no indication that the scratch had been there at all. He dropped the twig.
"You see what I mean? For now it's okay, but what happens when someone does get seriously injured. We could become something completely different to what we were. Our memories or our behaviours could be changed. We have no control over who we are here, we just change. It just happens."
"You are who you are, Kent. There's no changing that. But remember, we're here to help you if you need us. Trilomon is too. You can't just keep pushing him away."
Kent looked blankly before him. A breeze blew up and made the surface of the water ripple.
"Remember when I agreed to stay here?"
Eloise remembered everything about that night. "You said you weren't staying to help the Digimon, right?"
"That's right. I felt I had to stay to make sure we were safe. Us humans, I mean. I'm the oldest one here. It's my job to get everyone home."
"But the Digimon belong here. They're different to us, they're a part of this world. I can't risk my life to help something so different. I don't even know if they're alive. Hell, I don't even know if I'm alive anymore."
"But Trilomon swore to protect you. They're there to help us Kent, and in return we support them and help them save their world. They're our partners now."
Kent shook his head. "I'm sorry, Eloise. I don't think I can ever be his partner."
He stood up.
"I'm going for a walk. I need to clear my thoughts. Thank you for coming to talk with me."
He turned to go. Eloise raised her hand, "Wait!"
He stopped, twisting his head slightly to listen.
Eloise spoke. "I don't know how to help you understand. But look around you. Look at us, and our partners. Look at Grace and Vulpimon, or Jack and Perimon. Or look at me."
Ladomon listened to her partner from her little nest in the tree above.
"Trilomon would risk his life for you. Please be there for him."
Kent waited for a moment, then carried on walking. Eloise watched him go.
In the long grass beside the lake, a small armoured head turned as Kent left the clearing.
"I need you, partner."
Kai, Aaron and their partners had been walking around for a couple of hours, but they'd seen no sign of any kind of food here. Aside from the grass, which, while it might have been okay for the Monochromon, didn't seem like a viable option for six growing humans.
Still, it had kept them occupied, and they hadn't run across anything dangerous. They decided to head back the way they'd come, sticking to the path which led back to the watering hole.
Aaron was checking out his D-Nexus again, trying to get more information about the evolution.
"So, how strong can you actually get with this thing?"
Velocimon walked casually beside his partner, with Kai and Colchimon just behind.
"It's complicated. The stage of a Digimon is divided into levels. After we hatch from eggs, the first two levels, Fresh and In-Training, are growth and recovery stages that require very little energy. Then we reach the Rookie level, which is the default level for energy and combat power. After that the stages become more and more powerful; there's Champion, Ultimate, Mega and very occasionally a Super-Ultimate Level."
Kai was listening in. "So Cephalomon was a Mega wasn't he?"
"Then why were you able to battle him off? And why did you seem to have more trouble with Mandrimon, if he should have been weaker?"
Velocimon rubbed his eyes. "I told you it was complicated. There are lots of factors that contribute to the power of a Digimon. We were able to beat Cephalomon because we had a terrain advantage, surprise, the elements powering us up, and an awful lot of luck. But no battle is ever the same."
Colchimon came in. "It gets even more complex when we're partnered with a human. You can give us the energy we need to reach new heights of power, and to be honest I have no idea how it works. Not even Trilomon knows, and he's usually the expert of this sort of thing. But I'm sure we'll find out soon enough."
Kai stopped, interrupting.
"Are you sure we're going the right way?"
The other two partners stopped and looked around them. To be honest, it was impossible for them to tell where they were, with nothing but grass on all sides.
"Did we take a wrong turning? How many times did the path split off?"
Kai counted in his head. "Maybe two or three. I wasn't really counting."
Velocimon sighed. "That was helpful."
Colchimon raised his head, irritated. "Hey, you should have said something!"
"I would have thought it was obvious."
"Yeah, but you can't expect everyone else to think the way you do all the time."
"It's just common sense."
Colchimon unwrapped himself and flew up to Velocimon's face. It was the first time Kai had seen him legitimately annoyed.
"You know what, sometimes you can be a real pri-"
The dragon stopped and looked to where Aaron was pointing. So did Kai and Velocimon, and they jumped. Where beforehand there had been only grass there was now a bright red hillock. It was huge, about the size of a bungalow, and there were black stripes across it and a trail of green spines running over it. And it was shifting and beginning to make ominous sounds.
Aaron whispered. "I think you woke it up."
Velocimon nudged his partner, "Shush. Maybe it will go back to sleep."
But it didn't. To the horror of the watching humans and Digimon, the hill began to unfold. Huge arms and legs ending in wicked-looking claws unwrapped themselves and dug into the ground, hauling up the huge red body. A stumpy red tail appeared, and the creature's head raised up to reveal a white underbelly. The beast yawned, showing a row of conical teeth, and it rose to its full height, revealing itself to be some sort of dinosaur.
It opened its eyes, and the onlooking partners saw two blue discs, distorted and maddened by a fiery haze. It had been affected by the Fire influence.
The dinosaur turned its head and looked straight towards the small group. It opened its mouth and roared; a pained digital roar that shook across the grassland. Then, without warning, it began to walk away.
Velocimon was stunned. "What's it doing? Why didn't it attack us?"
"Maybe it's friendly?" said Aaron, but Kai disagreed,
"No, it looks mad enough to attack anything that looks at it funny, let alone wakes it up."
He brought out his D-Nexus and scanned the retreating dinosaur.
"Tyrannomon. Champion Level, Data Attribute. Attacks: Blaze Blast, Slash Claw"
"A usually gentle giant, Tyrannomon is both strong and intelligent. When it enters battle it can use its mighty power to crush and incinerate its enemies."
Aaron brought his hand up to his forehead, "Oh no!"
Aaron explained. "It's been sleeping here for goodness knows how long, with plenty of food around, but no water."
Kai frowned, "So it's going to get a drink?" Then it hit him, "The watering hole!"
Aaron set off, the others in quick pursuit. "We need to stop it before it reaches the others!"
Velocimon scooted forwards, firing sparks at the mighty dinosaur, who simply flinched them off.
"Aaron, I need to evolve now!"
"I know, just hang on..."
Aaron was shaking as he tapped buttons on the D-Nexus, but the Energy Transfer meter was barely moving. He shook it, but nothing happened.
"Aaron, any time now!"
"It's not working!"
"What do you mean?"
Distracted, Velocimon found himself running into the back of Tyrannomon's leg. Before he could jump out the way, Tyrannomon's tail swooped across and knocked him off his feet, sending him spinning into the long grass.
Aaron and Kai ran over to him. He was dazed but still ready to fight.
Kai pointed. "Colchimon, stop him!"
Colchimon flew up behind the dinosaur, and formed a small sphere between his wings.
The sphere flew into Tyrannomon's back. This time the dinosaur stopped, temporarily frozen in place. The others tried to catch him up, but before they could do anything Tyrannomon, with a tremble and a roar, broke free.
Colchimon flinched. "Sorry, it doesn't work so well in bright light."
Angered, Tyrannomon whirled round and stared down the four. With a gargling cry, he formed a great ball of fire in his ferocious maw.
The fireball slammed into the ground, the group only just jumping out of the way. Kai stood up first, seeing Tyrannomon's great mass slowly retreating behind the blazing mass of grass.
He beckoned to the others. "We can't follow him now. We need to get away from here before the fire cuts us off."
Colchimon and Velocimon were doing their best to extinguish the flames, but the powers of Electricity and Darkness weren't really cut out for the job. Velocimon looked up. "We'll just have to leave it. Let's find another way round."
Aaron stared into the distance. "I hope we can make it in time."
Over by the lake, the group had heard the roar of the new danger long before they finally saw it. Grace and her brother retreated back to where Eloise was hidden, as their Digimon stood watching, waiting for the creature to appear.
The ground began to shake with the beast's footsteps, and the lone Monochromon took off into the long grass with a panicked grunt. Time seemed to slow down as the three children waited. The footsteps got louder and more intense.
With a roar, Tyrannomon came into view. His eyes fell upon the watering hole and it powered through the grass, his claws digging into the hard, cracked earth. He stopped, bent his head and drank, taking up great gulps of water. After about a minute, he lifted his head once again. The water droplets around its mouth evaporated, and he let off a satisfied humph. Then his eyes swivelled once again, and fell upon the humans and Digimon beneath the tree. His eyes flashed, possibly with malice, or possibly with hunger.
Without warning it turned on the spot, charging up a fireball in its mouth and releasing it;
The group scattered and the fireball impacted on the tree trunk, splintering it and sending it crashing to the ground. The monster walked towards them, its lips pulled back in a hideous grimace.
Vulpimon ran forward, her hackles up and her fur glistening with ice crystals.
The cold blast coated Tyrannomon's leg in a layer of ice, making the beast stumble. She ran out of the way as the ice shattered, and Tyrannomon swiped. His massive claws caught Vulpimon's back legs and she skidded, rolling over in the dust.
Grace cried out, "Vulpimon, careful!"
Calling out a battle cry of his own, Perimon flew high up into the sky, before diving down towards Tyrannomon, leaving a trail behind him. He cannoned into Tyrannomon's bony skull and ricocheted off, curving back round for another blow. Jack was pumping his fists in the air, "Go Perimon! Take him down!"
Ladomon had also joined the battle, slithering through the air with ease. Basking in the sun had filled her with energy, and her tail was glowing brightly. She thrust it forward, calling out "Sun Spear!", as she let off beam after beam of concentrated light.
The three Digimon bombarded Tyrannomon again and again with their attacks, but they were having little effect against the behemoth. He swivelled his head and saw Perimon swooping towards him yet again. With a savage growl he swung his forearm round, sending Perimon spiralling down to earth. Then he turned to face the oncoming Ladomon. She had been making her way behind him, hoping to get in a critical blow, but when she came face to face with his maddened eyes, she hesitated, frozen with fear. Tyrannomon opened his mouth.
"Ladomon, watch out!"
Perimon, quickly recovered, zoomed up in front of Ladomon, the fireball heading straight towards him.
The vortex of spiralling air hit the fireball and it burst, flames spiralling away. The blast of heat sent both Rookies flying back. Tyrannomon took a step, intending to finish them off, but something grabbed hold of him. He looked down and saw a cloud of white fog accumulated around his foot, where Vulpimon was digging her teeth into his tough skin. Angrily, he stomped down, trying to dislodge her.
Eloise was panicking. The Rookies were taking a beating, and there was no sign of Aaron or Kai. Kent had disappeared as well, leaving just her and the two youngest children. She knelt down beside Ladomon, who was struggling to stay upright.
"Are you okay? Try to stay focused, we need you to hold out a bit longer."
Ladomon shook her head. "I'm sorry Eloise. I can't hold him off without Colchimon here."
"What do you mean?"
"We've always fought together. I'm too weak without him."
"You're not weak." Eloise stood up to her full height, holding her D-Nexus firmly. "I'm here for you Ladomon. You can do this!"
Ladomon flew up, her confidence rising. Eloise looked towards Grace and Jack.
"Stay with me. We can still hold out."
Grace shook her head. "How? The Digimon aren't strong enough, not on their own."
"Just have faith in them."
"But look at Perimon..."
Perimon was staggering around, his vision blurring. Jack was crouched down next to him.
"You need to rest. You can't keep fighting this hard."
Perimon gritted his beak, a determined expression on his face. "I'm gonna fight until the end. Nothing's gonna stop me."
Jack held his D-Nexus so tightly his knuckles were turning white. He looked at the screen and frantically pressed the keys. The Energy Transfer meter was empty.
"Why can't I make you evolve?"
Perimon looked at his partner. He saw the fear and adrenaline on the young boy's face, but he also saw something else. Disappointment.
Perimon spread his wings, his determination turned to anger.
"That's it, I'm taking this thing down by myself if I have to."
He took off, Jack calling after him, "Perimon, wait!"
Perimon wasn't listening. His heart was thumping as he wheeled round and prepared to strike a major blow to Tyrannomon. Tyrannomon was still pursuing Vulpimon, having managed to shake her off his foot. Her exhausted body was stretched out next to the lake.
With a victory cry, Perimon shot forwards, spinning in a lethal helix towards his opponent.
Tyrannomon saw him. The dinosaur brought his arm back and swiped at Perimon. Surprised, Perimon wheeled away as best he could, but he ended up flying straight towards Tyrannomon's other arm. Tyrannomon's left claw closed around Perimon's body, trapping the bird in a vice-like grip.
Tyrannomon began to squeeze as Perimon gasped for air, his vision blurring.
Kent had been walking on his own, well aware of the danger around him. He didn't care though; he needed to clear his head.
He looked at his hand once again, where he had impaled himself with the twig. How could he come to terms with this world? Frankly, he missed the plain boring world he had been pulled away from. He'd often wondered over the past twenty-four hours why he had run towards the vortex to begin with. He hadn't known anyone there, yet he had run over and tried to save them, ending up getting pulled through himself.
Tyrannomon's roar reached his ears, and he looked back towards the lake. He hadn't realised just how far he'd walked. He could tell there was trouble by the clouds of smoke rising up. For a moment he hesitated, unsure what to do. Sure, the others were there, but perhaps Aaron and Kai were too. He certainly couldn't help fight whatever was the cause of the trouble, what with his own partner missing. Galvamon probably could though, and perhaps one of the others would be able to evolve their partner.
Kent took a step back, but couldn't go any further. This was ridiculous. He barely knew anyone. There was no way he could ever understand them. Why were they risking their lives to save the Digimon, who they'd only just met?
Kent brought his foot forward, and took a step. Then another. And another. He kept telling himself they were fine, that there was no reason for him to go back. Except there was. He had promised to protect the other Digidestined. He couldn't just walk away and leave them when they needed his help. He broke into a run, sprinting towards the flames and the chaos by the watering hole.
Kent burst into the clearing. Eloise, Grace and Jack were grouped together next to the burning remains of a tree, their Digimon fighting a huge dinosaur-like Digimon. There was no sign of Aaron, Kai or their partners.
Kent was about to call out when he noticed something. Something was shining in the dinosaur's left claw. Kent gasped. Perimon!
Jack was screaming for his partner, tears running down his cheeks. Tyrannomon closed its claw tighter and Perimon let out a cry of pain.
"Where were you?"
Raindrops thrashed against the shop window, before running down the windowsill and into the gutter below.
"I needed you. Why didn't you help me?"
"I didn't know..."
"No, of course not. You never know."
The light from the street lamp above flickered and dimmed slightly.
"You never cared about anyone. We were just too different, weren't we."
"It's not your fault. As you said, you didn't know. You were only focused on yourself. Nothing need interfere with your life."
Water splashed up from the other's footsteps as he turned.
"The rest of us are only human. Maybe one day you'll drop us a visit."
The footsteps died down as the other walked back down the darkened alleyway...
Something stirred within Kent.
Without thinking he ran forward, his feet kicking up mud from the cracked earth. He heard Eloise shout something, saw Grace pointing out the corner of his eye. He didn't slow down, determined on helping Perimon. He brought his shoulder forward and, with all his strength, cannoned into Tyrannomon's lower leg.
Tyrannomon stumbled, waving his arms about to steady himself. His left claw shifted slightly and Perimon slipped out, crashing to the ground and laying still. Kent hit the ground too, knocking his arm against the hard earth. He gritted his teeth in pain, and looking up he saw Tyrannomon turn to face him, a fury in his eyes.
Kent tried to right himself, but his arm flared in pain and he slipped, unable to stop the great foot that was about to come crashing down on him. He closed his eyes.
The blow never came. Tyrannomon stumbled again, the ground beneath his other foot crumbling, sending him staggering into the lake. Kent looked at where the ground had broken and saw a familiar shape. With dust coating his armour and a fierce glow in his eyes, Trilomon leapt towards Tyrannomon, tucking his body into a tiny bladed sphere.
Trilomon hit Tyrannomon on the arm and began to climb up, but Tyrannomon was too quick for him. He swung his free arm and batted Trilomon away, sending him with a splash into the shallow water. He righted himself, slipping a little as his armour shifted and dislodged. He looked around and saw Kent, who was sat up looking in wonder at the brave little insect.
Tyrannomon roared and charged a fireball, when all of a sudden a familiar voice rang out from the surrounding grassland.
With a growl of his own Galvamon leapt into the clearing, firing off his twin beams of lightning. Aaron, Kai and Colchimon followed, with Colchimon flying straight towards Ladomon.
Tyrannomon batted Galvamon's attack away and swiped at him, with a feral shout of "Slash Claw!"
Galvamon jumped out of the way and began landing punches and kicks on the mighty dinosaur. But Tyrannomon was strong and surprisingly fast, and was able to counter most of them, occasionally sending Galvamon flying away into the water. Aaron stood on the bank, willing his partner on.
Kent walked over to Trilomon and bent down, looking over the insect. Tyrannomon's blow had done more damage than it had first seemed; there were cracks all over his armour, as well as one running down his back-left claw. Trilomon looked into Kent's eyes.
"You came back."
"So did you."
"I was following you. I didn't want to leave you, so I followed you into the grassland. That's why I was so late getting back here."
He hung his head, looking almost ashamed. Kent put his fingers underneath Trilomon's chin (?) and lifted it back up to his level.
"I'm back now. I came back to protect you."
He glanced around. Eloise looked at him with a smile on her face. Kai had a knowing look in his eye. Grace stared in wonder, and Jack, having run over to Perimon as soon as it was safe, had his thumb in the air in a gesture of encouragement.
"All of you. Especially you, Trilomon."
He stood up, facing the leviathan before him, who was still tussling with Galvamon, knocking him down over and over. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his D-Nexus, which felt cool, and almost comforting.
"It doesn't matter whether you're data or not. You're my partner, Trilomon, and I won't abandon you again."
Galvamon stood up, charging up his attacks, but something was wrong. He felt the energy within him seeping away, and realised he was standing up to his chest in water. His power was discharging, and he couldn't fire his attacks.
All of a sudden, Tyrannomon's right claw came round and smashed into Galvamon's chest. Galvamon flew backwards, his form disintegrating. Before Aaron could reach him he had become Velocimon again, floating gently on the water. He smiled apologetically, then fell unconscious.
Tyrannomon turned around, breathing heavily. Before him stood Trilomon, stretched out to his full height and with a new glimmer of determination in his eyes. Behind him stood Kent, his D-Nexus in his right hand. He looked at the screen, and saw the Energy Transfer meter gradually rising. He smiled.
"Let's see what this thing can really do!"
He swung his arm wide, feeling the energy rush through him. His arm curved back round, pointing straight towards his partner, and with a subtle flick he pressed the top button on the right. The elemental seal of Earth appeared on his chest, energy storming along his arm and into the D-Nexus. Green energy flooded out of the device, trailing along the ground towards Trilomon. The insect's body began to glow, just as Velocimon's had, and strange crystals sprouted from around his claws.
Trilomon grew rapidly, his armour splitting and shifting into new shapes. His thorax grew in length and breadth, and two armoured arms sprouted, flexing as they developed. His claws expanded and his tail lengthened, sections coming out of the end, until it culminated in a wicked-looking spear. A split formed down the middle of his mask, and horns grew out the side of his head. His whole body glowed brightly, then darkened to a deep brown, with sections of a terracotta colour and the same emerald green eyes from before.
The new Digimon flung its new arms to the side, sprouting strange blades from underneath his wrists. They extended and twisted, and as the Digimon brought his arms together, a segmented shaft appeared between them, forming a staff. The Digimon twirled his new weapon and brought it down, forming a new crack in the earth as the heavy weapon landed.
Tyrannomon's expression darkened, and he fired again; a huge ball of fire that headed straight towards Kent and Seismon. The insect didn't even flinch, instead he spun his spear again and stabbed it, at an angle, into the cracked earth. In a mesmerising manoeuvre, he flicked a slab of earth into the air and sent it flying towards the oncoming fireball. The fireball collided with the shard and burst, sending heatwaves every which way.
Angered, Tyrannomon stomped towards the pair. Seismon cocked his head slightly.
"You'd better get back, Kent. I'll handle this."
Kent backed away from the oncoming dinosaur, but Seismon stood firm, holding his spear in a firm grip. In a second Tyrannomon was on him. He reared up onto his back claws and struck out at Tyrannomon, slashing him at leg level.
Tyrannomon slashed and clawed at Seismon, but the insect matched him blow for blow, using his spear and his heavy armour to dodge and deflect the attacks. All the while he said nothing, but remaind completely calm, completely focused on the battle. Tyrannomon was already tired from his bout with Galvamon, and the exhaustion soon began to get to him.
Tyrannomon paused, catching his breath. Seismon relaxed as well, shifting his grip on his weapon.
"Well now, I guess it's my turn."
With a sudden movement Seismon slid between Tyrannomon's legs, out of sight of the dinosaur. He jumped, slamming his legs into Tyrannomon's body with a mighty impact and sending him sprawling. Seismon landed perfectly, and held his spear completely horizontal. Shards of earth sprang up all around him, some sharp, some blunt, all deadly.
With a few quick twists Seismon sent the projectiles flying into Tyrannomon's hide, making him roar with pain. The insect didn't let up; he began to attack in earnest, landing blow after blow of his own. Tyrannomon managed to stand and swiped down, just missing. His claw embedded in the dry earth and made more cracks, but Seismon merely kicked it out of the way. Kent watched as his partner slashed and flung more lethal shards at the dinosaur, never tiring or slowing down.
Tyrannomon swiped again, his strength all but gone, but Seismon blocked the blow with little effort. Suddenly, unexpectedly, he broke his spear and retracted it back into his body.
He raised his right arm, holding his left underneath to steady it. A green glow could be seen enveloping his hand, which almost seemed to reflect everything around it. Seismon lowered his head. He had a point-blank shot at Tyrannomon's abdomen.
The missile fired; a green, crystalline bullet, and it collided with Tyrannomon's massive body. There was a boom, a crack and a shockwave that sent ripples across the lake and made the long grass rustle. The humans flinched at the power of the blow, but Tyrannomon took the full force. He was catapulted back into the lake by the full force of the bullet, as if he had been hit with a wrecking ball. He collapsed, barely holding himself up with his long, strong arms. Many of his bones were broken, his insides had been ruptured, and his data particles were slowly beginning to ebb away. He let out one more roar as the excruciating pain built, blocking out all other instincts he had.
Seismon watched him from the shore. "Poor creature. It didn't choose to become this. This is just what the Fire Kingdom has done."
Kent watched his partner raise his arm again, the glow returning.
"At least I can end it quickly."
Seismon fired once again, the bullet striking Tyrannomon's skull, shattering it instantly. Tyrannomon dispersed. His data particles rained down, floating on top of the lake like glitter. Seismon merely watched as they began to fade.
Velocimon, hobbling slightly, walked over. "Aren't you going to absorb it?"
Seismon didn't move. He simply stared out at the lake as the data began to fade.
"I must respect Tyrannomon's memory. That data was once alive. Maybe one day it will live again."
The last of the data faded as Seismon shrank, becoming Trilomon once more. Velocimon shrugged and limped back to Aaron. "It's your choice, mate."
The relentless heat from the sun had cooled down by the afternoon, and the group was getting ready to move again. The local Digimon had gradually returned to the watering hole, and yet again they completely ignored the presence of the humans.
The encounter with Tyrannomon had left its marks. The smell of burning was still present, both around here and at the place where Aaron and Kai had first found the beast. But no-one had been seriously harmed, and by the next day their wounds should have mostly healed.
Kent sat down next to Trilomon, who was looking a lot happier than before.
"I'm sorry for the way I treated you. I was being stupid and ignorant."
Trilomon shook his head, the sunlight glinting off his emerald-green eyes.
"It doesn't matter. You're here now, and we managed to work pretty well back there."
"To be honest, you did most of the work."
"Maybe." The insect stretched in the heat, his armour plates clicking together. "But I think you won your own battle there too."
Kent smiled, and stroked behind his partner's head.
"You're a lot smarter than you first seem, Trilomon."
Aaron was shielding his eyes from the sun as he stared ahead, "If we head off now we can probably reach the mountains by early evening. Maybe then we'll set up a base camp."
Jack had his head in his hands. "More walking? Do we have to walk everywhere?"
Aaron smirked. "You'll probably have to get used to it. Besides, it'll keep you fit!"
Jack groaned again.
"Just try not to slow us down too much, okay?"
"Hey!" Grace looked miffed. Aaron backed off, "I'm kidding, I'm kidding."
They set off once again. Jack kept on talking, despite Grace gently nudging him.
"But are you sure there aren't any cars or anything round here?"
Eloise looked at Aaron in a knowing fashion, but Velocimon stroked his chin, contemplating the question.
"I don't think we have cars. We have trains though."
Jack perked right up. "Trains? WHERE?"
"In the Spokes, I think. On the other side of the continent."
Jack seemed to deflate again. He looked at Perimon, who was walking along beside him.
"I wish you could evolve into a massive bird and carry us all to the Fire Kingdom."
"Ow!" Grace nudged him hard. He looked and saw she was shaking her head, a serious expression on her face. Jack looked down. Perimon hadn't answered, he simply carried on walking. Jack, feeling guilty, decided to shut up.
Kai was walking behind the main group once again, keeping quiet as usual. Colchimon gently unwrapped himself from his shoulders and slithered up to Perimon, keeping pace alongside him. Perimon looked at him, and Colchimon smiled. Perimon looked surprised.
Colchimon bent over and whispered, "You're not done yet. Keep at it, you'll get there."
Perimon looked nervous, but he smiled sheepishly back at Colchimon. Colchimon returned to Kai's shoulder, where his partner eyed him with interest.
"What was that about?"
"Nothing in particular."
Colchimon found a comfortable position and lowered his head, trying to stay as much out of the sun as he could.
"Wherever you're in trouble, we'll be there for you. That's what we promised. That's what we'll do."
Colchimon gently dozed off, his wings folded over his head. Kai watched his partner for a few minutes, before focusing on the mountains ahead of him.
With an anxious feeling in his stomach, he trudged on after the rest of the group.