The forest was still and serene as the Red Beast padded along, the leaves gently crunching under his armoured paws. The air was fragrant with the smell of pine and leaf litter, and sunbeams gently filtered in through the canopy above. Personally, the Red Beast hated it; being much more of a magma and brimstone fan himself. If he had the liberty to do what he wanted, he would have burnt this place to the ground long ago.
Unfortunately for him, this forest had to be kept alive, at least for now. While most others had been ravaged by the rampaging armies long ago, this one had to remain as it was, for the children to find it. He couldn’t afford to be annoyed at the idea; tt had been his own decision after all. Give the humans a nice place to run around in, and perhaps they would reveal some of their...weaker points. After all, if he wasn't allowed to kill them yet, he could at least be prepared.
The beast stopped in a clearing. Stretching out in front of him was a large forest pool, which seemed very out of place somewhere so far away from the sea. He gently reached out his front paw and dipped it into the crystalline water, watching as the ripples spread out into the dark centre.
The waters calmed again. The beast waited, and waited. Suddenly, the surface shook a little, before the ripples started up again. Like the emergence of something from the depths of hell, the monstrous tentacled head of Cephalomon broke the surface, stopping just below the beak of his mask. He looked around and glared at the Red Beast, who calmly sat down on his haunches, gently licking his lips.
"They were heading down the mountain last I saw of them. They should've pretty much reached the forest by now."
Cephalomon's eyes narrowed. "Anything you're not telling me?"
The Red Beast yawned, before answering nonchalantly, "Well, they got into a scuffle with a flock of Pipismon. By the looks of it four of them have managed to evolve already."
Cephalomon let off a displeased string of bubbles. "They're only getting stronger as we wait. We're wasting time."
"Well then, maybe you shouldn't be sending cannon-fodder for them to beat up now."
"You remember that little force of Tankmon you put together? 'Just to flush them out of hiding' or something?"
The Red Beast smirked, "I think they're still stuck at the bottom of a cliff, waving their little treads in the air helplessly. That is if they haven't overheated yet and blown up."
Cephalomon got very angry very quickly, and the water around him began to bubble and foam. His colleague waited, and Cephalomon gradually calmed down, the water stilling again.
"Fine. What do you suggest we do with them?"
"Surtremon said not to kill them. Not yet." The Red Beast smiled as his partner's huge, glowing eyes looked on. "He said nothing about leaving them alone though."
"So we do send our soldiers after them?"
"So as they don't get too comfortable. And if, perchance, one or two of them are accidentally injured, well then, it was our subordinates being clumsy.”
"And if they don't die? What if they keep getting stronger?"
"Then we keep watching and find their weak points. Think of it as an ongoing project. Trial and error. Finding what works."
Cephalomon thought about it, the watery wheels turning in his oversized head. He looked at his partner, "You're a sneaky bugger, aren't you?"
His partner swung his head proudly, his mane briefly fanning out. "Someone needs to have the brains around here."
The octopus-monster rolled his eyes at the blatant insult. "Fine, so long as I get to meet them again sometime. I have a little...unfinished business."
The Red Beast stood up. "Fair enough. I'll keep you posted if I find anything new."
"Don't fanny about for too long, will you? It's boring just floating around with nothing interesting to do."
"Be patient. Not everyone lives life by your constant squash-and-burn standards. Some of us are a little more collected.”
Cephalomon rolled his eyes again. "Whatever. Just do your trial-and-error stuff and call me when I'm allowed to do my squash-and-burn stuff."
The Red Beast smiled sarcastically, "I'll keep it in mind."
He watched as Cephalomon sank once again beneath the dark waters of the pool, and the ripples calmed down to reveal the still, mirror-like surface.
Perhaps there was another good thing about keeping this area alive after all. The beautiful and serene atmosphere was a perfect mask for the sinister horrors lurking within. The Red Beast shrugged, and wandered off once again to find the children.
"You down okay?"
"Hang on a minute..." Jack hopped over the last few rocks before he landed on solid ground, finally joining the rest of the group. "Okay, I'm down." He grinned.
"Awesome." Aaron brushed his hands off, the near-constant mountain climbing having rubbed away at them rather a lot. "Right, so where are we going now?"
Everybody looked ahead at the forest in front of them. It was very different to the crystalline groves they had seen when they'd arrived. This forest was lighter, almost airier, and there was a cool breeze running through. The trees were tall and looked almost like fir trees, with thin, blade-like leaves.
Velocimon scratched his chin. "Well, that's a pleasant change."
"Maybe you think so." Perimon had settled down next to Jack, looking a little annoyed. "I can't fly around easily in here; the trees get in the way."
"I don’t see the problem. It shuts you up about your flying skills.”
Perimon looked around, enraged. "Who was that?"
Kai looked around innocently. Colchimon shook his head, "No-one said anything. We promise!"
Aaron rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Let's just get going."
The group set off once again, thankful for the much easier walk. Kai, as usual, was dragging his feet at the back of the group; avoiding getting left behind, but not exactly mingling with them.
Ladomon shuffled back a little and beckoned Colchimon to come and talk to her.
"Come on, it's sad seeing you two all by yourselves back there."
Colchimon looked at his partner with a quizzical eye. Kai shrugged, "You don't need to ask me. You can fly ahead with the others if you want."
Slowly, almost reluctantly, Colchimon unwrapped himself from his familiar location around Kai's shoulders and flew forward to join Ladomon. Kai gave a slight smile, and shrugged his shoulders a couple of times, relieved to be free of the Colchimon scarf (although admittedly, the dragon didn't weigh all that much).
A few steps ahead, Ladomon glanced around worriedly, before whispering to her partner. "Are you sure it's good for you to stay all on your own with him?"
Colchimon looked at Ladomon, who bunched up a little, not wanting to carry on.
"How do you mean? He is my partner, you know."
"I know, I know, but..." Ladomon glanced back. "Don't take this personally, but there's been something a little weird about him from the start."
Colchimon opened his mouth to protest, thought a little, then spoke. "Okay, I see where you're coming from. But I don't believe he's a bad person of any sort. He's just..." He thought again. "...independent?"
Ladomon looked deep in thought herself. Colchimon nudged her a little. "I trust him, is what I'm saying. He knows what he's doing."
The two dragons were out of earshot from Eloise, who was trudging along gently on her own, slowly falling behind the main group at the front as her eyes darted around. The forest may have been beautiful, but the near-constant danger they had been in beforehand kept her wary. Besides, she had lots on her mind.
"You okay there? You look a little lost."
Eloise spun round to face Kai, blushing a little, "Sorry, I guess I'm just nervous."
Kai half-smiled, brushing a clump of hair away from his eyes as he did so.
Eloise breathed and tried to relax. She had to admit it felt like they were finally in a safe place. The atmosphere was calming, almost making her drowsy. But she supposed it could be another trick, or trap. This place was good at those.
"I guess I'm never going to relax in this world. Even in nice places, it feels like something's going to jump out any minute."
Kai smirked. "What do you mean? It's not like we get attacked every six hours now, is it?"
"Don't, you'll jinx it!"
"I'm sure it'll be fine." Kai looked around. "If anything happened in here, we'd surely smell it or hear it before it got anywhere near."
Eloise looked into Kai's hauntingly blue eyes. "I guess you're right. I'm just being nervous, as usual."
"Nothing wrong with being nervous."
The two walked on, not saying anything for a few minutes, merely watching the path ahead of them, with the four other humans and their Digimon bickering amongst themselves.
Kai cocked his head to one side, "Something on your mind? Don't you usually walk with them?"
"Yeah..." Eloise sighed. "It's not that I don't like you, I do. I'm just usually a bit more talkative, and you're not exactly chatty. No offense."
"None taken. In fact I'll take that as a compliment."
"It's just...since I've got here, I wondered what I stayed for. I mean, I know I said I wanted to help the Digimon, but...stuff like the Element of Light and beating the Fire Kingdom and...it just gets a little confusing."
Kai thought this over. "You know what I think? Why you stayed?"
"You want to help people. It's how you are." Kai went on. "Think about it. You were the first to step in and talk to Kent, or Grace, or whoever needed it. You want to make sure everyone's okay."
Eloise raised her eyebrow. "Are you saying I'm too nice?"
"Of course not. The group needs someone like you."
Kai waved his hand. "Look at everyone. Who do you see? Everyone has their own place in this little group. Everyone works with each other. You saw the Pipismon fight, that's how strong they've become already."
Eloise nodded. "What about me then? Where do I fit in?"
"Well...you're the nice sensible one who everyone should be listening to but nobody does for some reason."
Eloise let out a giggle. "Oh come on, Aaron's not that bad. And you're pretty reliable yourself."
Kai smiled, but his eyes looked almost sad for a moment. He sighed, "Trust me, Eloise, I'm not a good role model. I was the first one to volunteer for this, remember?"
"You're still a part of the group." Eloise nudged him slightly. "Don't bring yourself down."
Kai humphed. Eloise pouted a little, but remained by his side. He could be a little stand-offish sometimes, but there was something almost welcoming about Kai. He seemed like a nice guy, the little she knew of him. Maybe that would be all he needed, just someone to talk to now and again.
Something cracked. Eloise jumped, but Kai calmed her down, "Just a twig. Nothing to worry about."
"I know. It shouldn't be a big deal anyway, should it? I mean four of our Digimon can evolve now. It can't be too long before Ladomon and Colchimon do too."
Kai let out a laugh, but it sounded hollow, almost bitter. "If it's all the same to you I'd rather not go looking for fights."
Eloise shrugged. "It'll happen sooner or later. I'm sure it'll turn out well, I mean it can only get better if we get stronger, right?"
"Maybe. But maybe you don't want me getting involved." Kai smiled, "I'm sure five of you with your Champions could take on a Digimon just fine."
Eloise laughed, "Surely you wouldn’t just leave us alone like that!"
She waited for his response. “Right?”
Eloise stopped laughing after seeing his expression. Kai was looking away from her, his face dead straight. There wasn't a flicker of anguish or humour anywhere, his face was an impassive stone wall.
"Why's it such a problem? Are you scared of fighting? You seemed okay earlier?"
Kai said nothing for a few seconds. Then he looked round at her and smiled, his face still betraying nothing.
"Yeah. Let's just say I'm scared."
Eloise was about to ask more when a remark from Kent stopped everyone in their tracks.
"Guys, what's that over there...?"
The group gathered around Kent and slowly followed his gaze. Part shaded by the canopy was some sort of settlement. A group of odd tent-like things (in various states of falling apart) stood around a central area, complete with an old fire pit and some sort of large wooden spire. The tents appeared to be made from sticks and covered with fur and pelts, probably from other Digimon. A couple of the tents were missing, with large black tell-tale scorch marks where they had obviously once stood.
The group gingerly walked forward into the settlement. Kent bent down and felt the earth, "There was an attack here. There's carbon left behind."
Grace shivered. The cool breeze suddenly felt very cold. "How many Digimon do you think lived here?"
Kent stood up. "It's hard to say. Could've been anything from ten to fifty."
Aaron and Kai were wandering around, trying to find any sort of clue or sign of life. Velocimon lifted one of the tent flaps. "Looks like nobody's home anymore."
Grace gulped. "Were they...all killed?"
Velocimon looked solemn. "Probably. The Fire Kingdom doesn't mess around."
"I'm not so sure..."
Everyone looked at Kai, who shrugged, "Well think about it. If there had been a major attack here, surely there wouldn't be anything left. I mean yeah, there's a couple of scorch marks, but this place is mostly untouched."
Aaron frowned. "So...what? Did the Fire Kingdom just chase them out or something?"
Velocimon shook his head. "That's not how they work. But you're right, there doesn't seem to be the sign of a struggle anywhere around here."
He looked up as Perimon landed from having a quick scout. The bird shrugged. "No trail or anything. Looks like whoever lived here just upped and left."
"So...if no-one lives here, does that mean that it's up for grabs?"
Aaron's thoughts elicited a mumbling from the rest of the group. Kent bit his lower lip. "I'm not sure that's such a good idea."
Velocimon nodded. "He's right. Something's wrong about this place, I can feel it."
Aaron looked at the rest of the group. They were all understandably wary, but they were all also exhausted. They'd been moving and battling for the best part of two days now with very little chance to stop.
"I know it might not be the best place, but really we just need somewhere to recuperate for a couple of days. Just get our bearings before we head onto the Fire Kingdom. This might be the only place we'll find in a while."
Kent thought for a minute. "Well, it would give me a chance to find out a couple of things..."
Grace nodded. "That would help Jack as well. It would give him a chance for his knee to recover a bit."
"Hey, it's not that bad." Jack wiggled his leg a little, feeling the now dull ache from the slightly-swollen kneecap. "Although, maybe it is a little tired."
"We're all tired." Eloise stepped forward. "I think we should stay."
Most of the Digimon nodded in agreement. "Sounds fair." Velocimon looked displeased, but decided to go along with the group decision.
Kai was still some way away. Perhaps they did all just need a break from stuff. But still, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was up with this place, the forest in general.
"Kai, look at this."
Colchimon beckoned his partner over to the base of the strange wooden tower. Kai brushed away the weeds and saw something shining.
"What do you suppose that is?"
Colchimon shook his head; he had no idea. Kai gingerly reached out and touched the object, before grasping it and pulling. The tower swayed a bit but held, and out from the base slipped a sword. It was ornate and a strange golden colour, the blade slightly longer than Kai's forearm. At least, it would have been, but the blade had somehow been twisted into a near perfect helix. Kai noticed another flash at the base of the tower and pulled out another sword, practically identical to the first one, right down to the spiralling blade.
At a loss, he looked at his partner "Whose do you suppose these were?"
"What've you got there?"
Kai spun round (being careful not to swing the swords out behind him as he did so) and saw Eloise looking in curiously. She noticed the swords, and frowned, "I take it they were from the previous tenant?"
"Possibly. They were just stuck in the ground below the tower. Maybe as a hiding place or something."
"There's something else there as well..." Eloise reached her arm in and grabbed hold of something. She pulled it out, and held it out for Kai (and the rest of the now-assembling group) to see. It was a black mask, or perhaps a helmet, very like a raven's beak, with a golden ornament planted in the top. It was well-worn and had chips and cracks all over it.
Eloise turned it over, and noticed some markings on the underside, written in a strange language.
"Hey, Trilomon, you’re smart. Can you read these?"
She lowered it down and the insect Digimon spun it round to have a look. He mumbled to himself for a minute, before looking up, "It's very archaic, whatever it is. I can get the basic gist of it though. I...think..." He didn't sound sure.
Ladomon peered over Eloise's shoulder. "What do you think it says?"
There was silence for a few seconds. Jack looked up at Kent, "What does that mean?"
"I don't know." Kent folded his arms. "Whatever it means, I don't think it's good news for us."
"Look," Aaron stepped forward, acknowledging the group as a whole, "You're right; this probably doesn't mean anything good. But whatever it is, we’ll just have to deal with it as it comes.”
Velocimon nodded, "You're right. We can deal with anything Cephalomon can send against us."
"Awesome. So what do you say we stay here a couple of days and build our strength up? We’re already growing stronger by the minute; before long we’ll be able to fight off anything. We just need to stick together and we’ll be well away."
Everyone seemed to be in agreement. Except for one person. Kai put his hands in his coat pockets, "Please don't say that we're actually looking for fights."
Aaron turned to the older boy. "We can't exactly avoid them, you know. As I've said, we all need to fight together."
Kai looked away. "As you've said, the group's already stronger than we were when we started. I'd only get in the way."
Colchimon hovered above his partner, "What are you talking about? Besides, you let me battle the Pipismon earlier, so why are you so anti-fighting all of a sudden?"
Kai tried to think of a response. He wasn't sure he knew himself. But, back when they were fighting the Pipismon, something had felt very wrong. Something that he couldn't pin down.
Eloise turned to face him, still holding the mask. "What is your issue with fighting with us all of a sudden? Why is it suddenly okay for you to leave it all to us?" She put her hands on her hips, “As far as I remember, it was your idea to stay and help save this world to begin with.”
"I'm not just leaving it to you. It's just..." Kai trailed off. His face stayed completely straight, but it was clear he was struggling to think of an answer. Everyone gathered round him was waiting expectantly.
Eloise tapped her foot. "What's wrong, Kai?"
Kai exhaled. "Nothing. It's not your problem."
He walked forward, heading towards the forest. Kent sighed. "Well, that's mature."
"Glad you think so."
Eloise joined Aaron, "Kai, where are you going? We need to stick together."
Kai turned round, his arms held wide. "I'm not going far. I'm just going to clear my head."
"Kai, don't be like this."
Kai ignored her and walked on, heading into the forest. Colchimon flew after him, "Kai!"
"Leave him alone." Aaron put his hands in his pockets and let out a sigh. "He's just being difficult."
Eloise huffed. "I really don't get him. At all."
"He'll sort himself out. Hell, everyone else seems to."
Aaron looked around. "Well, if we're going to stay here we should probably try and sort this place out a little."
Elsewhere in the forest, a monster was coming. Called partly by its insatiable thirst for violence, and partly by a strange subconscious voice, it gently shuffled towards its target, surprisingly gently for something its size. It brushed aside trees and forged a path with only the slightest rustling, its great bony body relatively light and agile.
Behind it stood the Red Beast, a smile playing over his jaws. The perfect test, he thought. Maybe that motley group of freedom fighters could take out a flock of Pipismon, but how effective would their firepower be against something more...brutal. He let out a short growl of anticipation, before heading back into the undergrowth, hoping to beat the monster. Perhaps he might have seemed to be guiding his one-mon army to its destination. Truth be told, he wanted a good spectator seat.
The day was wearing on. The group had spent a couple of hours setting up the camp, but most were now just laying back a little, trying to grab a few hours rest. Eloise lay underneath one of the canopies, facing upwards and looking at the odd symbols adorning the material. So much more that she didn't get. She sighed, and shuffled a little.
She jumped and sat up, feeling the sharp pain in her thigh. She patted the leafy floor and found the mask, which she had brought in with her. She must have spiked herself on the sharp end. She checked her leg, but there didn't seem to be a mark or anything.
Sighing, she crossed her legs and took another look at the back of the mask, trying to find any other markings on it, as if it could somehow let her understand this whole mess even more.
Why her? Why had she been brought here to the Digital World anyway? It had seemed like just coincidence at the time, but the longer Eloise had been here, the more she felt like there was something more, like she had a connection with Ladomon (aside from the elemental link between them). Why did she get Light anyway?
Eloise exhaled, and buried her head in her hands. There was a rustling at the entrance, and a serpentine face poked its way through, "Hi, is this a bad time?"
Eloise looked up. "No, it's okay Colchimon. I'm just thinking."
Colchimon and Ladomon wormed their way inside. Colchimon looked ill-at-ease, "My partner's still AWOL. I'm kinda worried about him."
"He has been gone a while." Eloise frowned, "Mind you, he's probably just moping somewhere."
"Still...what if something's happened to him?"
Eloise looked into the shadow-dragon's eyes. "You're right. I'm sorry, I was just a little annoyed with him for walking off. But, he is part of the team."
"You'll come with us?"
"Sure." Eloise crawled out of the tent and stretched her arms, "It can't be that difficult to find him."
"Famous last words."
Eloise turned and saw Aaron, poking a dwindling fire next to Velocimon.
"I take it you're heading out to find Kai?"
"Yup." Eloise got out her D-Nexus, "We'll be careful. If you're worried, someone else can come too."
Aaron leant back. "We haven't seen a single Digimon in this forest since we've got here." He turned to face her, "Please just bring him back okay."
"I will." At that, Eloise and her two serpentine companions walked (or hovered) away into the forest, on the lookout for their missing comrade.
"So...which way is north again?"
Eloise was trying to decipher the smaller map on her D-Nexus, in order to find Kai. She thought it would be straightforward, but she quickly discovered that navigation was not her strongest suite. Ladomon hovered beside her, offering helpful hints.
"Have you tried turning it the other way round?"
"Yes. Twice. It hasn't helped, I still can't read it."
"Well...if the white dot is us, then..." Ladomon trailed off, completely stumped.
Eloise sighed, and shook the device rigorously. "Shouldn't it, I don't know, find him automatically or something? Who makes these things anyway?"
"I'm not sure anybody actually makes them. Yours kind of...appeared, didn't it?"
Eloise was about to reply when she noticed something new on the screen. A dark blue dot on the left edge of the screen. Another D-Nexus.
"Yes, he's close!" Eloise walked forward, then turned left, then right, then let out a scream of frustration. "I don't get it! What's wrong with this bloody map?"
"Over here, Eloise." Colchimon poked his head out from the undergrowth to the left. "I've found him."
Eloise and Ladomon followed the darkness dragon. Sure enough, leaning against a tree, was the missing member of the team. He must have heard her come, as he turned his head towards her, "Hi there."
"Hi there?" Eloise was more than a little exasperated. "You walk off on your own and then we don't see you for hours. What the hell are you playing at? We were worried about you!"
Kai brushed a couple of hair spikes away from his eyes, and straightened up a bit. "You're right. Sorry, I've been a bit of an idiot, haven't I?"
Eloise stopped talking. She shuffled, unsure how to take this. "Um...yes? I mean, maybe a little, no offense..."
"Don't worry yourself. It's my fault." Kai replied bluntly. He shrugged. "Should we head back?"
Eloise shook her head. "Not yet." Ladomon and Colchimon looked at each other as Eloise positioned herself next to Kai against the tree.
Kai raised his eyebrows, "Something you wanted to ask me?
"I don't know." Eloise looked up at the yellow sky. "It's like you said, I just want to help. But I'm looking at you and I have no idea what you're thinking."
Kai looked almost surprised. "Since when did you care so much about me?"
"Since you said you didn't want to fight, but you wouldn't tell us why." Eloise looked the taller boy in the eye.
Kai said nothing for what felt like a few minutes. Colchimon nudged his partner, but Kai had his eyes closed and his head down, as if he was meditating. Eloise waited patiently for his answer.
Without warning, Kai got out his D-Nexus. "Can you feel your element, Eloise?"
Eloise started. "What do you mean?"
"Well, your element's Light isn't it?" He held up his D-Nexus, "Can you feel the element within you? Within this?"
Eloise wasn't quite sure where he was coming from, but she held up her own D-Nexus. Apart from the faint hum it gave off, she couldn't feel anything out of the ordinary.
Kai saw the confusion on her face, so he carried on. "When we bonded with our partners, we shared the elements between us and them. The elements are in us, giving us and our Digimon power when we need them. But they might also influence our actions and our thoughts."
Eloise looked at him. "Is that what you're worried about? Your element?"
Kai looked down at his D-Nexus. "Darkness." A cold breeze blew through the forest, making Eloise shiver. Kai looked at her. "It doesn't exactly instill confidence, does it?"
Eloise looked down at her own device once again. Maybe the elements did have some other effects aside from just allowing their partners to evolve. She hadn't really thought about it, but now she did, she wasn't sure how she felt. What would wielding the element of Light mean she would become?
"The others have been fine so far? What makes you think it'll be any different for us?"
"As far as I can tell, Darkness is a bad sign here. I'm worried I'll be putting everyone else in danger if I fight alongside them. Especially you, with the element of Light."
"I don't see that that's a problem."
The two teenagers turned to Colchimon, who had spoken. He and Ladomon were hovering just in front of them.
Colchimon turned to his partner. "Darkness may be a powerful element, and I've heard it's been unstable before, but it's still only an element. How you use it is all down to you. And there's nothing stopping Light and Darkness from fighting together."
Kai tilted his head slightly. "How does that work? They're practically opposite, aren't they?"
"Look at us." Ladomon spread her wings slightly. "Colchimon and I have been together for as long as we can remember. Probably since we hatched from our eggs. We may wield opposing elements, but we've always fought at our strongest when we've been together. It's just who we are, not what powers we have."
Kai looked down. "I don't know..."
"I'm sure you can." Eloise put a hand on his shoulder. "Come on; let's head back to the camp."
Before they could even take a step, out of nowhere came a huge, unearthly roar. Eloise flinched, and the dragons instinctively bristled, tensing themselves. "What the heck was that?"
Colchimon growled. "I don't know, but I have a horrible feeling I know where it is..."
Eloise looked at the others. "We need to get back."
"We have to. We have to help the others-"
Eloise had turned to Kai, but she saw something was wrong. Kai was visibly trembling, his hands unable to stop shaking.
All of a sudden he broke into a run, further into the forest. "KAI!" Eloise tried to stop him, but he had already disappeared from view. "DAMNIT!"
Another roar came from the settlement. Eloise tried to think, to clear her head, but the situation was beginning to panic her. She turned to Colchimon, "Go and find him. I don't know what's wrong, but we need his help. Please."
Colchimon looked at Ladomon, reluctant to leave her. She nodded, "Whatever it is, we'll be able to handle it for the moment. Go, bring him back."
Colchimon nodded. "Okay." He sped off into the undergrowth after his partner. Ladomon turned to her partner, "What on earth was that about?"
"No time to think about it." Eloise beckoned her partner, and the two of them ran back towards the settlement.
Kent had been the first to notice the creature making its way towards the settlement. He had been sitting down with his laptop, trying to delve a little more into the surrounding code. Trilomon was settled down beside him, looking over at what he was doing, when suddenly Kent looked up from the lines of code and glanced around.
His partner noticed him. "What is it?"
Kent closed the computer, "Something's coming."
Trilomon crouched down, holding his head down next to the ground, trying to pick up vibrations. He almost jumped a mile, "You're right. It's huge as well!"
Kent stood up and got out his D-Nexus, looking for any sign of oncoming danger. He didn't have to look for long, as he noticed the treetops behind the settlement shaking and rustling. Gaze of human and partner looked down, and both of them noticed the large, bony feet, making their way through the undergrowth before them.
"We've got trouble!"
Aaron looked over to see the older boy running haphazardly towards him, his partner scuttling along behind him. Velocimon ran over to get a look himself.
Kent was breathing heavily when he reached Aaron. "Do you know where Kai is?"
Aaron flustered. "Er...Eloise went off to find him." Behind him Jack and Grace came running, having been disturbed by the commotion.
"That's not good."
"Well, surely we can deal with whatever it is? I mean, all our Digimon can fight..." He trailed off as he saw the creature enter the settlement itself, leaves and branches cascading off of it.
The Digimon was a huge, dinosaur-like creature that seemed to be made almost entirely out of bones. It stood taller than the (now-rather flattened) treeline all around the clearing, with a head almost the size of a car. Its arms moved around like they were being operated by a bad puppeteer, and they ended on huge claws, each one as long as Jack was tall. The creature's lower jaw extended way beyond its upper one, and a horn rose from the middle of its forehead. Just underneath its jaw, behind its massive ribcage, the group could see the creature's massive heart beating (although it didn't seem to be connected to any blood vessels), and on its back was strapped a huge, missile-shaped organic mass, like some kind of giant orange shark.
It's normally emerald-green eyes had turned a savage fiery-red, and they darted around the clearing, the creature almost blinded by its madness to see them. Almost. The Red Beast, watching as he was from deep within the undergrowth, had picked this particular soldier very carefully.
Aaron had his D-Nexus out and was scanning the creature before them.
"SkullGreymon. Ultimate Level, Virus Attribute. Attacks: Dark Shot, Curse Breath"
Aaron barely heard the words, so stunned he was at the monster before him. It maybe wasn't as big as Cephalomon had been, but at least Cephalomon had had a certain tentacle-y grace about him. This thing was simply monstrous.
The creature's simple mind clicked. It threw back its head and let out a long, terrifying roar.
Velocimon stood in front of the creature, cracking his claws and ready to fight. He looked back at the rest of the Digimon, "Are you ready for this?"
Jack looked at Aaron, "What about Eloise and Kai?"
"We're going to have to deal without them for the moment." Aaron had his D-Nexus out as he felt his energy rising. "Hopefully they heard the roar."
Without warning, SkullGreymon swung it's huge, skeletal right arm and slammed it into the ground where Velocimon was. Or at least, where he would have been if he hadn't jumped out of the way a millisecond beforehand. The dinosaur glanced back at his partner. "Now, by any chance?" he yelled sarcastically.
The four humans swung their D-Nexus's out in front of them, their energy at a maximum.
The energy swirled in all its Technicolor glory around their partners, as their forms began to shift and reshape into their champion ones. Within seconds, the transformations were complete.
The four barely touched their feet on the ground before they leapt out of the way once again as the giant claw swung round, knocking over the fragile tents like they were matchstick models. Seismon assembled his staff and struck the ground, "Seismic Shards!"
Rock shards struck bone claw, but its arc didn't even slow. Seismon braced himself as the massive hand crashed into him, sending him rolling away across the clearing. Dented and dazed, he supported himself on his staff as he righted himself.
"This is going to be tricky."
"He's an Ultimate level. A powerful one at that." Galvamon dodged SkullGreymon's attack and fired off three bolts of electricity. "I thought all the SkullGreymon had torn each other apart before the army was even put together."
"Pressure Wave!" Mistramon shot a blast of air into the SkullGreymon's face before wheeling away, "Yeah, now might not be the best time to be talking about stuff. We've got Zombiesaurus on our hands in case you haven't noticed."
As attacks flew in every direction, the human partners were kept on their toes, avoiding the debris coming towards them from every which way.
Aaron was beginning to get worried. While their partners were holding out well, they didn't seem to be able to even make a dent on the mighty dinosaur. It hadn't been that long since their last battle, and their lack of energy seemed to be showing. Aaron gritted his teeth, "Where the hell are the other two?"
"Look!" Grace pointed behind them as Eloise staggered out, Ladomon just behind them. She blinked at the scene before her, before she fully took in the monstrous skeletal creature.
"Eloise, you're okay!" Aaron looked around, "Um, where's Kai?"
"He ran away."
"WHAT?" Aaron felt his gut twist as the depth of the situation hit him. "What the hell is he doing?"
"He's terrified, Aaron. I don't know what of, but there's something seriously wrong and I can't deal with it. I sent Colchimon to try and bring him back."
Kent looked behind the girl into the dark undergrowth. "Way to be here when we need him."
Jack looked at Ladomon, "Can't you still help?"
Eloise got out her D-Nexus, but felt a wave of dismay as the Energy Transfer meter stayed firmly empty. She banged the device, "What the hell is WRONG with this thing?"
"I don't think I can evolve, Eloise..."
Ladomon hovered in front of her partner, her wings hunched with shame. "It's evening, so my powers are weak. I can't do a thing without Colchimon here." She floated down to the ground, coiling up tightly as she felt tears in her eyes.
The rest of the group flinched as Alopemon was thrown towards them, arcing round and rejoining the battle. Eloise crouched down next to her partner and put her arms around her. "You're not weak. I know you're not. I believe in you."
The two stayed there for a couple of seconds, before Ladomon answered. "You're right. I can't give up here." The serpentine dragon uncoiled herself and, tail giving off a dim glow, flew off into the battle. Against the skeletal behemoth and the four tired warriors she looked incredibly small. She looked back into the undergrowth.
"Please Kai. Please come back. We need you..."
Kai barely even registered Colchimon's words as he powered on through the undergrowth. All he noticed was his heart beating so hard it felt like it was about to break out of his chest. Panicking, he felt twigs and branches brush past him.
Behind him, Colchimon was weaving through Kai's path with little difficulty. He tried to call his partner again, but Kai wasn't listening. Colchimon swallowed, "I'm sorry about this." He charged up energy for about a second.
Before Kai could react, he felt a cold pressure in his lower back. All of a sudden he felt his energy vanish, and his legs suddenly ceased to work. He crashed to the ground, wincing at the impact. He rolled over onto his back as Colchimon flew up towards him.
"I'm sorry. I had no choice." Colchimon looked genuinely ashamed of what he'd done.
Kai tried to shuffle back, but he couldn't summon the energy. Colchimon landed beside his partner, "Kai, please! Stop running away. Everyone's in danger right now, you can't just abandon them like this."
"You don't understand." Kai's monotone had broken, and Colchimon heard the fear behind his partner's voice. "I can't fight with the others. Not properly. I can't explain it. I just can't join the fight. I'm not a part of the team."
"And what about me?" Colchimon was getting angry now. "Ladomon is back there right now, someone I've helped and been helped by ever since we hatched. She and Eloise are back there with everyone else, trying to protect themselves from whatever the Fire Kingdom's thrown at us this time."
Colchimon spread his wings. "We're as much a part of the team as anyone else, Kai. We're gonna have doubts, we're gonna have times when we're in danger, but we can't deal with it unless everyone works together. You've got to trust me." The dragon shrank back slightly. "You can't just leave them..."
Colchimon looked at his partner as Kai lay on the ground, his energy still low. Kai felt adamant. He couldn't get involved. His mind kept telling him to run, out of fear of...something? Someone? One thing he knew; he couldn't put the others at risk.
Yet, no matter how he tried to ignore them, he couldn't get their faces out of his head. Aaron, trying to stay strong for the group. Kent, always the logical thinker and planner. Grace, brave and determined as she was, and Jack, always keeping everyone's spirits up. Eloise, kind to everyone and helping where she could.
Colchimon was right. They had all looked to him as part of the team. He'd entered the Digital World with them, hadn't he? Hell, they'd all followed him into this mess. But deep down, he still had the gut feeling that this was a bad idea.
Very slowly, almost agonisingly so, Kai sat up, then got to his knees, then stood up, wobbling a little as he regained his energy. He looked at his partner, who was waiting for his choice.
Kai reached deep within his coat pocket and pulled out his D-Nexus. He felt the energy within it; cold and mysterious, almost as if he held a vessel of empty space.
Right now, he held one of the remaining elements, the only chance they had against the Fire Kingdom. He had to face his doubts and join the battle.
He gripped the device so tightly that his knuckles turned white beneath his gloves. "I'm sorry, Colchimon. I'm sorry for what I've done." His ice-blue eyes looked determinedly towards the growing plumes of smoke, and he began to run, his partner flying alongside him.
"I'm coming, everyone. Hang in there..."
The battle wasn't going well. The settlement had practically been destroyed as Champions and Ultimate tussled. SkullGreymon roared as he broke out of Alopemon's icy grip yet again. With fire in his eyes he spewed a grey mass of smoke and red-hot ash from its mouth, which burnt into the ground beneath Alopemon's feet, only just missing her. She let out a yelp as the hot mixture on the ground scalded her icy claws.
"Now that's just not fair!"
"You're right." Either side of the great skull beast, Seismon and Galvamon lifted their arms and charged their attacks, aiming for the great beating heart.
SkullGreymon shifted, and the attacks simply bounced off his hard ribcage. The joint impact sent him stumbling back for a second, but he simply brushed it off.
"Seismon! Try knocking him onto his back!" Kent was trying to shout out a strategy to his partner as he dodged the attacks still flying everywhere, but it was clear to all the humans present that their attacks weren't even making an impact. Despite having slowed the beast down a little, their own Digimon were much worse off than he was. Galvamon was limping, blood welling from a gash in his right leg. Alopemon had scorch marks over her body, and she had broken two of her power bracelets. Mistramon was scorched as well, his feathers blackened by the relentless attacks. Seismon had taken the biggest beating, with his armour chipped and cracked all over his body, a huge spit down his helmet-mask, and his spear lying in pieces a few feet away.
But at least they were still standing.
Eloise flinched as she saw her own partner get thrown into the undergrowth by the force of the titan. She shifted, trying to right herself, not giving up no matter how many times she was knocked down. Eloise could feel her D-Nexus going haywire as Ladomon's health dropped ever lower.
"Please stop! You'll get yourself killed!" Eloise was desperate. No matter what they tried, it was futile.
"I'm not giving up until I've been completely deleted." Ladomon gritted her teeth and flew straight towards the SkullGreymon, her tail glowing with as much energy as she could muster.
"That's what Colchimon would do for me! Sun Spear!"
The laser flew straight and true into SkullGreymon's left eye. It didn't do much damage, but it was enough to make the dinosaur roar with the sudden pain. Acting on instinct, he swung his left arm out in a massive arc, his left claw covered in a fiery aura.
Ladomon, exhausted and badly beaten as she was, noticed the giant claw coming too late.
Eloise cried out, breaking the group and running towards the battlefield herself. "Eloise, stop!" cried Aaron, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
The claw connected. Eloise saw her partner's body fly towards her, gently spiralling through the air. Ladomon crashed into the ground in front of Eloise, her body unmoving.
Eloise felt the device in her hand stop vibrating. The health meter fell lower. And lower. Until it had all but reached the end.
All of a sudden, Colchimon burst out from behind the group, Kai only just behind him. With rage and desperation in his voice, Colchimon yelled out as he rocketed towards his fallen comrade.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..." Kai ran past the rest of the group and straight towards Eloise, who was looking over Ladomon's broken form, tears running down her face. He stopped, completely lost for words. Colchimon hovered beside him, whispering "No..."
"Watch out!" Grace yelled out to the four as the rest of the group ran towards them. Eloise and Kai looked up as SkullGreymon marched towards them, murder in its eyes. "No you friggin' DON'T!" Mistramon flew straight into SkullGreymon's face, grabbing his skull with his talons and flying away from the waiting humans with all of his strength. SkullGreymon gnashed its teeth at the bird, but soon found itself pinned in place by the three other warriors, all counting on their last reserves of strength to halt the killing blow.
Ladomon held the tiny, limp form of her partner in her arms, Kai looking on helplessly. Eloise buried her head in Ladomon's soft wings, trying to find any signs of life.
"I wish I could fight with you. I may not know anything about Light, or the elements, or anything in this stupid world. I just know how much you mean to me. Ever since I've got here, you've been there for me." Eloise gripped harder, "You can't die like this. Not now. Please, Ladomon! I need you!"
Something within Kai snapped. His calm and calculated demeanour shattered, he stood in front of the dinosaur, his D-Nexus held tightly in his trembling hand. With a cold eye he gazed up at the writhing SkullGreymon.
"You know, maybe I was scared. Maybe I just didn't want to put myself in danger. But I wasn't thinking, I was just pushing on with my own beliefs and conclusions because that's what my instinct was telling me."
Skullgreymon let out growl and shuffled forward a couple of paces. Kai had no idea whether or not the creature could understand him, but he carried on regardless.
"Because it isn't just about me. It's about all of us." He looked behind him, at the rest of the group listening intently. "All the remaining elements, gathered together to fight against this tyranny." Behind him, Eloise lowered her partner to the ground, looking up at the Scottish boy as he stood against the behemoth.
Kai stepped forward, suddenly unwavering. "I don't care if I'm not powerful enough. As long as I'm holding this element and I have my friends to back me up, I will do my damnedest to bring this tyranny to an end."
Kai felt a hand in his. He looked beside him and saw Eloise, her own D-Nexus in her hand. Her eyes were moist, but had the same determination on them as Kai felt inside him. Slowly, the rest of the group gathered around the two, holding firm against the leviathan before them. Mistramon lost his grip on the creature's skull, flailing as the massive teeth grazed his wing.
"We can't hold him anymore! You've got to get out of here!"
Aaron shook his head. "We're not backing down."
"As long as we're together, we still have the power."
"And even if we're not strong enough, we will fight to the end."
Kai looked into Eloise's jade-green eyes. She smiled, "Even if we're the last ones left in this world."
With a terrifying roar, SkullGreymon threw the Champion-levels off of him, sending them sprawling. He swung his arms back, preparing to strike down the row of humans in front of him. The Red Beast watched silently from the undergrowth. It all depended on this.
Eloise and Kai moved their arms as one, the energy within them growing, expanding. Eloise felt a sharp, pure feeling, like a feeling of new life. By contrast, Kai felt the cold, almost ethereal energy within him expanding.
As SkullGreymon lunged, they held out their D-Nexuses like a final shield.
Twin bursts of energy flew from the two devices, sending SkullGreymon staggering back. Eloise felt her device begin to vibrate, as very slowly, Ladomon's health meter replenished itself from the depths of oblivion. Behind the group, Colchimon felt himself being enveloped in a light that seemed to glow black, giving him an energy unlike anything he had ever felt. Looking at Ladomon, he saw her form overcome as well, by a brilliant white energy that spiralled around her.
Slowly, the two orbs floated in between warriors and monster, with sparks of white and black energy spiralling through the air all around them. From within her orb, Ladomon felt Colchimon's presence, and Colchimon hers. They may have held separate elements, but throughout everything they had been through, they were prepared to go forward together.
The orbs expanded, more brilliantly than anything any of the children had ever seen. The two very similar forms grew into two very different ones.
Ladomon extended and her body bulked out, her wings expanding greatly. Below her wings grew two muscular legs, with talons similar to those of Mistramon. The golden bands covering her body shone brilliantly as they expanded to cover her head, shoulders and the edges of her wings in beautiful, ornate armour. The blade at the end of her tail retracted, and in its place formed a golden halberd, with spikes running through it like rays of light from the sun. The blue gem in the middle of her forehead glowed as her face became more draconic, and blue gems embedded themselves over her body in glorious symmetry.
Colchimon didn't grow as bulky as his comrade, but his wings expanded far beyond hers and his tail extended far longer. The skin of his wings retracted, leaving thin, almost skeletal sails in their place. Two arms extended from just below his wings, ending in long, grasping fingers and wicked silver talons. His bladed tail rotated to form a spiked scythe, similar to a crescent moon, and his dark markings gained a shine, very like that of obsidian. His frill morphed into a bird-like helmet, with purple hair beneath it growing up in spikes, and purple rhombi sprouted over his body, shining like polished amethyst.
As the black and white began to disperse, the dragons were revealed; a white wyvern and a black wyrm hovering in place in front of SkullGreymon. They opened their eyes simultaneously, and prepared themselves for the attack.
SkullGreymon lunged at the two, but they flew up into the air, smoothly and gracefully. As Luminemon turned, the holes in her wings and over her armour began to glow.
Tendrils of light shot from her body, wrapping around the mighty dinosaur. SkullGreymon tried to resist, but the tendrils burned and cut into his bone, holding him tightly. He snapped at Luminemon as she flew over his head, before slowly beginning to pull apart the noose. Luminemon gritted her teeth as she tried to keep the leviathan in place.
"Achromon, I could use a little help."
Achromon hovered down in front of the dinosaur, his own wings covered in a dark aura, "What say we turn up the heat a little more."
He threw back his wings with a cry of "Darkfire Pulse!" Blades of dark energy slashed into SkullGreymon's body, smothering him even more. Being mostly bone, SkullGreymon felt no pain, but the attacks slamming into him was beginning to drain his energy. Achromon, perhaps overconfidently, flew up to the dinosaur's face and swung his bladed tail, embedding it in his forehead. The serpent-dragon looked deep into the monster's great green eye.
"Not even you can hold out forever."
SkullGreymon responded with a blast of molten slag from his mouth, which caught Achromon by surprise. He managed to evade it, but a bit caught the edge of his left wing, beginning to burn the flesh. Achromon winced and flicked it off, giving the dinosaur a death-glare.
In the undergrowth, the Red Beast looked on with curiosity.
"Well, you have learnt quickly, haven't you..." He mused to himself. "But can you take it all the way?"
A silent order passed between Commander and monster. All of a sudden SkullGreymon stopped struggling against the bindings that held him, and instead crouched low to the ground. He tilted his body forward, revealing the great organic mass on his back. From somewhere, deep within his bony body, a rumbling started up.
Eloise looked to Kai. "Um...if that thing fires, how much trouble are we in?"
Kai had his head down, staring darkly at the monster. "I don't particularly want to find out."
Kent yelled out. "Everyone, you need to stop him firing that missile!"
SkullGreymon had the weapon pointed at the ground. He didn't seem to be aiming at anyone in particular; perhaps he was confident in the weapon's power. His jaw pulled back in a strange grimace as he prepared to fire. From deep within his throat, a vague, gargling sound could be heard, the vestiges of a long-lost intelligence.
"No!" From seemingly out of nowhere, Galvamon leapt straight onto SkullGreymon's head. The giant was distracted and he began to shake his head back and forth, before a glowing green missile impacted directly with his sternum, exploding with enough force to crack his ribcage.
Galvamon twisted round and gave Seismon a glare. "Will you watch where you're firing that thing?"
Seismon merely gave a small bow in response, before falling back to the ground, his energy virtually gone. Alopemon and Mistramon were still willing to fight though, and five Champion level Digimon surrounded the Ultimate level once again. Galvamon, holding onto SkullGreymon's head with his feet, charged up his claws before sticking it straight down the back of his neck.
The intense beam shocked SkullGreymon to his core, making him sway. Galvamon leapt off, before he heard a strange sound. Mistramon looked worriedly at the giant missile on SkullGreymon's back, which had begun to vibrate and let off an eerie wailing.
"Maybe you shouldn't have done that, genius."
Alopemon was on the case immediately, "Icicle Barrage!" The missiles of ice impacted all over the missile, sealing it in a thick ice layer and cooling it down. She landed next to Grace, who smiled at her. "Nice one."
Kent raised his eyebrow. "Will that have worked?"
Nobody needed to answer, since the missile exploded in SkullGreymon's back. Cushioned as it was by the ice and bone surrounding it, no major damage was caused, however the shockwave was still enough to knock back everyone in the surrounding area. SkullGreymon on the other hand was ripped apart from the inside, his bones splintering and flying off in every direction, disintegrating into data as they landed.
Free from the burden of the missile, the now very broken but still savage and dangerous Digimon bared his claws, roaring at the group. Luminemon yelled, "I don't think so!" as she cannoned into his chest, the impact breaking his sternum fully, revealing the beating heart beneath. SkullGreymon tried to retaliate, but the two dragons kept slashing and swiping at him, edging him back inch by inch. Suddenly, they turned as one, facing him directly.
"Photon Cannon!" shouted Luminemon, as triple beams of light shot from her eyes and forehead gem, spiralling and twisting into a powerful blast.
"Abyssal Beam!" yelled Achromon, as he opened his mouth and let out a jet-black blast of pure shadow.
The twin attacks hit SkullGreymon dead in the chest, and the great creature threw its head back and roared in pain for the first time in its life. The group watched on, rooting for their partners, but horrified at the same time. All except for one of them. Kai clenched his fist, "Finish him. Finish him now."
SkullGreymon gently swayed, like a building about to collapse. Achromon looked back at his partner, who merely nodded, his teeth gritted and his eyes seeming to glow with a strange light. The dragon charged forward and rammed the dinosaur in the chest, causing him to fall over backwards like a pile of sticks. Achromon hovered gently above the broken body as Luminemon joined him.
"Do you think it knew what it was doing?"
Achromon looked almost solemn. "I don't know. The Fire Kingdom will have their sick ways."
Luminemon turned away. “You do it. I can’t, not even for something as wretched as this.”
Achromon nodded in understanding. Then he raised his arm, his claw prepared to strike. SkullGreymon's one remaining eye watched them intently.
"At least I can end it quickly."
Achromon brought his claw down, impaling SkullGreymon in the heart. The heart shattered into data bits, with the rest of SkullGreymon following quickly, disintegrating from the inside out. Achromon looked at his claw, SkullGreymon's reddish-purple blood dripping off it. He clenched his fist, absorbing the last bits of data.
Within the undergrowth, the Red Beast licked his lips. That had certainly been...interesting. He turned tail and walked away, the beads of his rosary circling his body like miniature planets. Sure, he may have lost one of the Fire Kingdom's most feared Digimon. There were always other means to an end. And this time he'd gotten a good look at how the group worked, and where they fell down.
He'd noticed a couple of things. A couple of things which, cunning as he was, he might just be able to work to his advantage. The Red Beast smiled, his teeth showing in an animal grin.
He knew it wasn't professional to think this way, but...this was going to be fun...
One by one, the six Champion level Digimon got up and brushed themselves down, finally able to relax. Achromon and Luminemon floated down to where Eloise and Kai still stood, trying to catch their breath after the hectic battle. Eloise threw her arms around her partner, "I'm so happy you're okay."
Luminemon chuckled, and wrapped her own wing around her partner. "I told you, didn't I? I'm not giving up." The two embraced tightly. "I could never give up on you. Just like you didn't give up on me."
Kai looked down at his feet. He couldn't help but blush, remembering how Eloise had grabbed his hand back there. So many emotions were going round his head that he wasn't sure quite what to think. Achromon patted him on the shoulder, "Cheer up, mate. We won, didn't we?"
Kai looked up, and saw his partner before him. Achromon smiled beneath his helmet, looking almost amiable for such a fearsome creature. He was right. Despite everything, everyone had won through the day.
The corners of Kai's mouth began to curve up a little. Then a little more. Suddenly, Kai was grinning like a Cheshire cat, genuinely happy for the first time since they'd got here. Eloise let go of her partner as she heard Achromon burst into laughter.
Jack gave Kai an odd look. "You look really weird when you grin like that."
Jack's comment just made Kai smile even more. Eloise walked over to him. "I don't know. I think it suits you." She leaned in a little closer. "You should do it more often."
Kai's grin shrank away as his face grew ever more scarlet. "I...I...I mean...I don't mean to be..." Realising the hopeless situation, Kai gave up trying to form sentences, and simply tried to regain his cool composure.
Kent and Aaron chuckled to themselves. Suddenly, Galvamon nudged Aaron, "Um, this may be a bad time, but don't we have a problem about staying here?"
Aaron looked around at the destroyed settlement. The structures had been ravaged, great holes had been gouged out of the ground and there were great scorch marks everywhere.
Galvamon carried on. "It's not exactly safe here anymore. Not if the Fire Kingdom know where we are now."
Aaron sighed. "It's not exactly safe anywhere anymore, is it? I expect we'll be in deep shtook wherever we decide to set up."
Kent looked at the younger boy. "What do you think? We'll work with you no matter what."
The sun began to set over the horizon, casting shadows over the clearing and bathing everything in a beautiful orange light. Aaron looked around at the rest of the group. "I just want to keep everyone safe."
"I'd say you're doing a good job." Seismon hobbled over to them, using half of his spear to support his weight (he was still very battered from before). "Don't forget though, it's our duty to protect you all as well."
"That's right." Mistramon swept his head to the side, his head feathers swinging out dramatically. "Personally I think WE'RE doing a very good job."
"Way to be modest." said Luminemon under her breath.
Aaron thought about it. "You know what? We can make this work." He turned to his partner, who had his arms folded. "Sorry Galvamon. We'll stay here for the time being."
Galvamon humphed. "Suit yourself."
"Oh, lighten up a little." Achromon punched the semi-humanoid lizard in the arm, causing Galvamon to glare at him. Achromon raised his hands in defense, "Sorry."
He carried on, "But seriously, look at us two nights ago. Six kids who entered a world out to kill them, and the six of us Digimon who were in hiding from the Commanders. Now look at us. Look how far we've come already."
Galvamon did have to admit, all six of them as Champions did look pretty cool.
Grace and Jack nodded optimistically. "We can deal with whatever comes at us."
Galvamon unfolded his arms. "Well...maybe things are starting to go our way after all."
Kai looked at Eloise beside him. She smiled, and he smiled back. Looking up into the deep orange sky, he whispered to himself.
"Perhaps they are..."