I'm going to die.
The same phrase flashed again and again through Aeolumon's mind as he tumbled downwards, unable to do anything to stop his descent. His vision was a blurry mixture of black and white, and the still air rushed past his head, leaving a roaring in his ears. He couldn't see the bottom of the pit but he could almost feel it coming, ready to smash him to pieces the moment he reached it. He tried to scream, but his voice was caught in his throat.
There was a flash of red and pink among the black, and the boy-turned-Digimon felt strong claws grip his arm and leg. His rescuer gave a great flap of his wings, letting out ear-rending caws of pain as they tried to get airborne again. The blurring slowed. The wind died down. The world stopped spinning.
Then the impact came, and both Aeolumon and Mistramon were sent sprawling across the ground. Aeolumon yelled out as he felt a spasm of pain, then another, then more as he kept rolling, the ground slowing his movement in the most painful way imaginable.
Gradually, he came to a stop, his body in agony. He lay facing up, unable to move, but just able to see the light above, and the thin black bridge on which his sister was trapped. He raised an arm, gritting his teeth, but the bridge was obscured by black. His arm fell, and his head turned to one side as the darkness enveloped his mind.
There's one major problem when a group of rogues are left to their own devices (aside from the obvious one that a group of rogues have been left to their own devices in the first place), and that is that they tend to bicker. A lot.
Having managed to navigate their way out of the secret passageway, the former captives were trying to decide on the next course of action. With the exception of Daigambilastmon, who'd scarpered the moment they'd reached the surface, all the while muttering something about being "his own free agent". A few others were beginning to wish they'd followed his example.
"Beg me all y'want, witch, but I ain't becomin' yer slave."
Latroditmon folded her arms. "That's not what I said, Chieftriaskismon. I'm just suggesting that until we find a way out of this city it would be in our best interests to work together."
The leopard shark growled. "By which y'mean I work under you? That's not how I do things and y'know that well."
Latroditmon sighed, and ran a couple of fingers through her hair. Her eyes darted sideways at Neomon, who was currently darting back and forth, looking with great curiosity at the streets just out of his reach, like a child trying to decide which Christmas present to open first. The naga sighed, and asked in an uncaring manner. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to help, Neomon dearest?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Neomon turned back, the single eye on his face glowing red. "Why why leave? Lots of fun fun found here here." He grinned, and held up a clawed hand to his mouth, the edges of the lethal fingers glittering. "Others make fun. Lots lots of fun. Funny."
Chieftriaskismon raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure they do."
"Hush, Chief." Latroditmon sighed, and looked down at the waiting ball of lights before her. "Will you help me or not?"
The clown cocked his head to one side, staring intently at the two figures before him. His face was utterly straight, and it was impossible to tell what was going on behind that stitched-on face of his. Then, without warning, he turned and scampered off down an alleyway, light trailing behind him, leaving just the leopard and the siren loitering in the alleyway. Chieftriaskismon shivered, and folded his arms. "Good riddance. That thing has no ambition." He sighed. "Say what y'like about the newbie, but at least she had somethin' to aim for."
"I never thought I'd hear you defend someone."
"Oh, I ain't defendin' her. She's a spoilt brat with too big a head." Chieftriaskismon grinned, his tail swishing from side to side. "Still, I admire her guts. If she's plannin' on takin' out the big man, I should be doin' the same. It's only right."
"Who's the big man? The Fire Kingdom?"
"They have a lot comin' to them."
Latroditmon chuckled. "Oh, you are funny."
"I weren't jokin, witch."
"I know. That's why you're hilarious." Latroditmon brushed her hair from her eyes in an unimpressed fashion. "Give it up. You have neither the strength or the gall to go through with something so ridiculous."
"You dare insult me?" Chieftriaskismon growled again, gripping his spear tightly as he pointed it at his serpentine companion. She swayed before him, arms outstretched.
"Oh really? You think you can take me on, right here? I'd like to see you try."
Chieftriaskismon growled, but he forced himself to calm, lowering his weapon. He smiled up. "I don't need to prove m'self to you. I'll always be the better mon."
He wandered towards the streets, the siren raising a hand. "Where do you think you're going? They'll see you!"
The leopard shark grinned. "That's another thing, witch. I can be inconspicuous." He waved. "Good luck on yer l'il escape plan. Maybe y'can gather a gang and open a beauty shop in the Infernal Fortress."
As Chieftriaskismon left the scene, Latroditmon spluttered, "Beauty shop? I'll split your gizzard, you...you overgrown catfish!"
Said overgrown catfish showed no signs of coming back, so she merely huffed and went on her way. Typical. All she wanted to do was build up a posse again, and yet she had to be stuck with the most stubborn group in the Digital World. She frowned, peering out over the busy streets from her hiding place. She could, she supposed, attempt to blend in with the crowds, but, looking down at her chimerical form, she had to admit she didn't quite have the 'social etiquette' required. It would be very tiresome to get caught again, and she didn't particularly want to take the risk.
Still, there was always the other way around. All she needed was to get the people to come to her. She stared out, trying to single out the best candidates for her to work on...
Latroditmon jumped, and spun her torso around, coming face to face with Neomon. "You're still here? I thought you'd already gone."
"You need help help? Brought present."
The clown grinned all the wider, before convulsing, his lights obscured by a shadowy substance billowing out from the many mouths on his body. Latroditmon stepped back, looking distinctly disgusted, as the clown ejected something from within his body; a Digimon, by the looks of it, still wriggling and wrapped in glowing green threads.
Slowly, Latroditmon's expression returned to one of mild amusement. She nodded at the clown, who had stepped back into the shadows. "Thank you kindly. It's nice to know someone's willing to be loyal."
Neomon gave a snicker as Latroditmon slithered around the little creature, examining every inch of it. It was a sad little thing, to be sure. Small and dumpy, and covered in a scuffed, scarred black and white fabric, with a tattered red scarf around its neck. Its eyes were fixed on her, one red and scornful, the other yellowed and diseased. He looked like he'd gone through a rough time. Good. They were always the easiest.
Taking care to angle herself correctly, Latroditmon held out a finger and gently cut the Pandamon's bindings, smiling gently as she did so. The Pandamon quickly rushed to his feet, looking around panicked, but the naga's twisted body blocked off any chance of exit. Latroditmon pouted. "I couldn't help notice you looking a little down."
"Ya kidnapped me!" Pandamon heard the snickering clown and quailed, falling back to his knees. "Not him! Sweet Digital god, not him."
"He's nice really. He's with me. We only want to help you." Latroditmon reached forward and gently tickled the bear under the chin, whispering softly. "You've been waiting for a miracle, haven't you?"
"Miracle..." the bear muttered, before he stepped back, aware of something large sneaking up behind him. "Ya...no..."
Slowly, Latrodimon coiled her body around him as he mumbled incoherently. Gently she leaned forward, and stroked his cheek. "Hey now...it's not so bad. Come on. Look at me. Look into my eyes..."
Pandamon looked up, as lights began to dance in front of him. Latroditmon smiled sweetly, her voice sweet as honey.
"My other eyes, darling. Turn around..."
The bear's eyes were wide with terror as, unable to stop his own movements, he did so, coming face to face with Latriditmon's bloated spider body, as the five eyes began to shimmer hypnotically.
Pandamon's eyes were fixed on the blinking pattern of eyes in front of him, lighting up the grotesque spider body beyond. His arms fell limp, and his mouth hung open. With every flash, he could see himself. His past. His losses. His anger. The siren pulled back a little, resting her hands on his shoulders as Neomon watched, highly amused by the whole affair.
"They won't listen to you. You're just a nobody."
"Even your so-called leaders abandoned you. You've been thrown to the side and left to rot, like everyone else in this city." She stuck out her bottom lip. "That's awful. I feel truly terrible for you."
Pandamon said nothing, but his paws tightened up, shaking slightly.
"Something must be done. This city is a failure. It's time for a new ruler to rise up and take control. For the citizens to feel safe. To feel protected."
Latroditmon pulled forward, staring intently into his eyes. "I need you to pass on a few words. Gather your friends together. Bring them to me. The revolution is afoot."
Pandamon grinned. "The revolution..."
"Go, my friend. It's time for change."
Slowly, she stepped back into the shadows, leaving the stuffed toy standing with a strange, dazed smile on his face. He turned round and waddled out, rejoining the crowds. Latroditmon grinned. All those citizens, soon to be at her beck and call. Neomon jumped down beside her.
"Drama queen. You're mean."
"Thank you for your help, little man. I should be able to take it from here."
"Still need more. I can fetch fetch. Bring you all all." The clown paused. "Most most..."
Latroditmon raised her eyebrows, but made no comment. "As you wish. Maybe there is some benefit to staying here after all. We could truly hold this city in the palms of our hands."
"We will..." The clown chuckled, smiling in an overly friendly manner as he bowed his head. "We I we will..."
The siren leant back and placed her arms behind her head.
"I do like my job."
Had Daigambilastmon had his way, he would have been leaping across buildings doing all sorts of acrobatics. However, given the present situation, with all kinds of Digimon rushing left, right and centre in the middle of the streets, he thought it best to lay low for now.
Not that it was particularly difficult. At a glance he seemed just as regular as any other citizen here, and he could easily hide by just leaving his body somewhere convenient and stretching his plasmic body out a little way, like he was doing right now.
He sighed, and retracted himself, leaning against a wall in a back alley. The city sure had changed a while since he'd got out; he'd have to get used to the new streets and buildings everywhere. If he was going to stay, that was.
He shifted his lower jaw, and shot a few puffs of plasma up into the air and letting them fall down to the ground, where they were absorbed back into his feet. Of course he'd be better off doing his own thing, but with the Fire Kingdom still at large it was definitely getting more difficult. Sure, he may have evolved since back then, but he didn't want to take any chances.
Of course, he could always rely on the newbie. She certainly had the ambition, and if she really was going after the Fire Kingdom as she said she was, well, it might just provide a little fun. Still, better to keep an eye on people for now, rather than get directly involved. It would be no good to enter the game too early.
"Figuring out your moves?"
The warrior's eyes darted to the side, where a slender, shadowy figure stood alone, conspicuous against the afternoon sun. The armoured demon raised a hand in greeting. "Howdy, Cerebrumon. It's been a long tahme."
"Far too long, you might say." Cerebrumon materialised nearby and held out a hand in greeting. "Or not long enough, depending on your perspective."
"Well, y'would always faff-around with yer fancy words." Daigambilastmon tilted his head. "Where were ya? I scouted up an' down that darned prison yet saw neither wisp nor puff of ya?"
"I got an early release." Cerebrumon chuckled. "Although they may not have given me permission."
"Ah see." Daigambilastmon frowned. "Yet ya didn't see fit t'come an' give us a visit?"
"Tough times, old friend." The illusionist backed away slightly, his smile fading. "I assume the others are out as well?"
"Runnin' free, friend. 'Thanks t'the newbie; that Teslamon sure has her wild ideas."
Daigambilastmon sighed. "What's with th'straight face, shadowman? Yer actin' as if ya got somethin' to hide." His eyes narrowed, and he raised a cautious finger. "I know yer game. Yer the kind t'wind between sides more th'n a sidewinder. Where are y'standin' now, it leaves me wonderin'?
Cerebrumon smiled. "Luckily, not in any position to threaten you." He bowed, his shadows crawling up the wall slightly. "Yet. But I would advise that you watch your step, old friend. There's something big brewing and this city's about to become a battleground."
He stepped back again, caressing the smooth, reflective surface of the wall behind him. "At least, I would advise that. But knowing you, you'll only ignore me completely."
"Right with that!" Daigambilastmon laughed, his jaw clacking back and forth, before he raised a pulsating hand. "Ya'd better run, shadowman…"
Cerebrumon obliged, stepping back into the wall and shimmering out of sight. Daigambilastmon raised his helmet slightly, before firing anyway; a scattered shot of shadow that splintered the metal in a dozen places. The mineral devil blew the wafting smoke away from his barrel-like fingers, before trudging off down the alleyway.
So Cerebrumon was around as well? This was getting interesting, and all the while Daigambilastmon was getting more intrigued by Teslamon's grand plan. Perhaps it was worth staying after all? There certainly seemed to be plenty to look forward to.
Grace swayed as the abyss swam before her, forming great pools of darkness in her vision. She couldn't quite comprehend what had just happened. One moment, her brother had been there, about to fly down with his newfound power. The next…
He was gone. She couldn't see him, no matter how much she looked.
It was just like before.
She heard the sound of laughter, and turned to see Teslamon clutching her stomach. "Oh, that's just incredible. Such a magnificent failure. Seriously girl, give your brother my regards." The shark-woman put a finger to her lips in mock surprise. "Oh wait!"
Grace turned away, fumbling with her D-Nexus. With trembling hands, she held it to her mouth. "Jack…Jack, it's…can you hear me. Please say something…"
"Jaaack, Jaaack!" Teslamon kept laughing as she mocked the little girl's words, holding her balance perfectly on the swinging beam. Grace stumbled again, grabbing onto the metal as the bridge knocked against the side wall. With a look that could have pierced flesh she glared back at Teslamon.
"Tell me something, you maniac, what are you trying to gain from this?"
"That's a little harsh." Teslamon shrugged. "Power. Fame. Respect. I dunno, just some way to make my mark. But mostly payback." She grinned, her triangular teeth grinding together.
"That's worth innocent lives?"
"So long as they're not mine." Teslamon walked forward deliberately, cracking her knuckles one by one. Grace became aware that she was trapped on the edge, with nothing preventing her from falling into the abyss as well.
The shark-woman didn't seem to be in much of a hurry though. "The thing is, a long time ago, I got screwed over big time. I take offense to that, so I believe it's my job to screw over the guys who did that tenfold. If I wanna do that, I'm gonna have to change the world. And I will. And no pathetic little human child is gonna get in my way."
Grace glared up as Teslamon loomed over her, razor-like teeth glinting in the dim light. There was the sound of cold breath, and the shark-lady suddenly found herself being hoisted from her platform by two muscular arms. Tupilamon's breath rang in her ears, the monster's strength coming from her - and her partner's - pure and utter rage.
"You will pay for what you've done to my friends."
With a roar, Tupilamon thrust her arms forward, intending to throw Teslamon off the bridge, but her quick-witted opponent grabbed a magnetised hold of Tupilamon's bangles, sending them both spinning towards the edge. Tupilamon growled and snapped, causing Teslamon to jump backwards, raising her hands.
"Would it help if I said I didn't see you back there?"
Tupilamon opened her mouth wide and fired a maelstrom of ice and fury, aiming it at the shark-woman who held on for dear life. "Alright, alright, no need to shout."
"You have brought chaos upon this city and upon all of us. You have no place here. All you know is destruction."
Teslamon skipped out the way. "Maybe so, but I do look damn sexy while doing it." She grinned, before thrusting her arms up. "Perilous Field!"
Tupilamon looked up too late as chains and wires flew in her direction, holding her back as she writhed and struggled against them. The shark-woman braced herself, before running up and landing a flying kick in the monster's midriff.
Tupilamon howled in pain, dropping to her knees, as Teslamon stood above her, holding one fist in the other. With lightning speed she struck again, slamming her clawed hand into the side of Tupilamon's face, then again the other way.
"You can use big words all you like, but don't pick a fight that you have no chance of winning."
Another blow, sending Tupilamon sprawling back, shedding blood from the claw-wound over her stomach. From her precarious position on the edge, Grace held out a hand. "Tupilamon, no!"
Teslamon's eyes darted up for a second, grinning maliciously at the girl. It was all Tupilamon needed, and she lunged forward, sinking her fangs into the rough flesh on Teslamon's arm.
"AAARGH!" The shark-lady roared in pain and twisted away, bringing both feet square up into Tupilamon's neck, taking her down once again. Teslamon backed away, clutching her wounded arm as lightning danced around her.
"What was that about no chance of winning?" Tupilamon coughed, still on her knees but glaring furiously at her opponent. "You can knock me down all you want but I will not go down easily."
"I can see that." Teslamon straightened up, raising her fists once again as Tupilamon rushed towards her, icy claws bared.
But Teslamon made no move to attack; instead she placed a hand down and disappeared beneath the bridge. Tupilamon stopped as she realised she was about to run her partner off the platform, and Grace stepped back with a scream. Her scream only continued as she found herself moving higher, and past her partner, all while held in the grip of a maniacal Digimon.
Tupilamon whirled round as she caught sight of Teslamon, waving coyly, with Grace held firmly in her grasp.
"What are you doing?"
Teslamon raised an eyebrow.
"What does it looking like I'm doing? I'm cheating."
That horribly familiar feeling coursed through his body yet again. He hovered in the middle of an endless void, his corporeal body drifting without direction. He tried to speak, but his words merely bounced back down his own throat.
Agonisingly slowly, he began to tip. Now he was no longer floating. He was sitting on a windowledge, the ground stretching out below him as, agonisingly slowly, he began to tip backwards. His sister was in front of him, holding out her arms. He thrashed, trying to grab at them, but he missed. He always missed. There was nothing to do as he hit the roof, rolled down, flew into empty space and-
With a scream he sat up, before letting out a wince of pain and lying back down again. The pain was something – it showed he was alive at least. Even so, he could barely see anything, so dark were his surroundings. The only light came from far above, where the bridge still swung.
He raised his arm, before noticing the armour. Evidently he hadn't devolved for some reason; he was still Aeolumon. If so, why couldn't he move? Surely his newfound power should enable him to move better than ever before.
He tried sitting up again, but again the spasms of pain racked his body, from his shoulder to his back down to both his knees. The best he could do was manage a slight roll sideways. Oh how heroic.
He gritted his teeth and tried one more time, bracing himself against the pain and pushing himself up onto his knees. He felt sick, his head spinning, and the light from above danced in front of his eyes, leaving plasmic patches in his field of vision. He looked around blindly. "Mistramon?"
There was no answer, but slowly, a shape began to pick itself out from the darkness. Large, still, but reflecting the tiniest bit of light from up above. His partner wasn't moving.
Jack made to stand up, ready to run over and help, but the pain struck again, sending a bolt of agony straight into his bad knee. As he took a step, it buckled under his weight, despite the plate armour, and the boy-turned-Digimon was sent crashing back down to earth again.
On his hands and knees, Aeolumon…Jack…looked down at himself. He was a joke. Dressed like a warrior, yet still the same. Useless. Pathetic. The armour felt restrictive, as if it were threatening to curl up and lock him away. He looked down his back for any signs of his wings, but they had long since hidden themselves away. He was just a boy in a minature prison, and there was nothing he could do.
"WHY?" With a yell of frustration Jack thrust his fist down on the ground, tears streaming down his face, half from the pain and half from the damning reality. He hit the floor again and again, every impact sending fresh pain through his useless form.
"Why, why, why, WHY can't I JUST do something RIGHT? JUST ONCE! PLEASE!" He collapsed fully to the ground, the rage having taken a lot out of him. There he lay, still shaking and still sobbing. Here he was again. Still the same pathetic little boy.
There was a rustling nearby and a surprisingly tender voice rang in Jack's ears. He sniffed, and forced himself to look up at the great downed bird before him. Mistramon smiled, his eyes open. He was unmoving, but at least he was alive.
"What are you giving up for, sport? You've still got a battle to win."
Working together, the great beasts pressed against the great metal plate with all their might, trying in vain to budge it further. Galvamon stood atop the metal casing while Luminemon pushed from above. Down on the ground Tectonamon strained against the weight, while Kuaramon, coils wrapped tightly around the plate, pulled with as much force as he dared. Kent and Eloise, unable to help in their present forms, kept an eye out for any sort of movement.
Kuaramon closed his eyes as he pulled harder. He wished Fornaxmon were still here, but he'd had to leave. A fall had caused damage to his arms, and while he'd been desperate to keep going, Babamon had come in and ushered him away.
The afternoon was now wearing on and a crowd had gathered, watching as the Digimon tried their hardest to reach their friends.
Tectonamon twisted his head. "I…I think…it's moving…"
Kuaramon narrowed his eyes, taking another step back. "Just a little further!" He felt the strain on his muscles and the ever-worrying presence of the energy inside him, threatening to consume him if he went too far. "Tectonamon, can you help?"
"Eon Tremor!" The great insect raised a claw and slammed it down, just where the plate touched the ground. There was an almighty bang and the great disc shifted, ever so slowly tipping to one side.
Eloise called out, "Luminemon, Galvamon, get out of there!"
The dragon and the lizard did so, narrowly missing the semi-circular slab as it swung round, gravity taking hold. Like an oversized domino it crashed to the ground, sending up clouds of dust and sand and leaving the mechanism clear. Everyone stumbled back from the impact.
Aaron fell back on his hands, devolving from Kuaramon, as Galvamon leapt down to inspect it. The boy breathed loudly, and gave a hearty laugh. "Yes. That's…that's how you do it!"
"I wouldn't celebrate yet." Luminemon hopped down, staring at the dented metal along with the others. "This has taken a hit. The hole's been closed up."
"Well we just open it out again then." Aaron looked round, "Tectonamon?"
Kent shook his head, Trilomon practically passed out at his feet. "Sorry Aaron. He's exhausted; we've got nothing more left to give."
"That's ridiculous!" Eloise stormed over, placing her hands where the gap should have been and trying to pry it apart. "We've come this far, we can't just give up on them now."
"It's not a case of giving up on them, Eloise. We've been working all day. We don't have the energy."
The girl whirled round. "Is everything a quantity with you? These are our friends we're talking about. We need to help them as soon as humanly possible."
Kent raised his hands. "Well, if you're so desperate, why don't you evolve?"
"That…" Eloise faltered as Luminemon looked uncertainly in her direction. "…that wouldn't help. Ljosamon doesn't have the strength the others do."
"Well, I'd say it's a heck of a sight more useful than standing on the sidelines. Weren't you the one saying it's up to you to bring everyone home safely? Good job with that."
Kent folded his arms, but caught Eloise's hurt expression in the corner of his eye. He lowered his head. "I'm sorry. That was harsh."
Eloise leaned back, shading her eyes from the sun. "No, you've got a point. I've…I just…I've got no excuse."
She reached for her D-Nexus, her shaking hand hovering over it, but Aaron grasped it. "Don't force yourself, Eloise. That'll never end well."
He looked up and around as the sun began to kiss the top of the wall. "Look at us. We came here to train and improve, and yet we're still stuck when it comes to getting anything right."
Eloise pulled out her D-Nexus and held it up to her mouth. "Grace? Jack? Can you hear me?"
There was nothing, only the faint sound of static. She let her arm fall and put her head in her hand. "God…how the hell are we going to get out of this."
All the others looked around solemnly, unsure what to do. Aaron clenched his fist. "We have to trust that they're okay."
"Are we still going?"
The group looked up to see Fornaxmon and Babamon strolling towards them. The great golem flexed his hands, looking around at them. "I'm willing to give it another go if you need me."
"Good luck with that. We haven't been able to get anywhere." Aaron nodded at the great metal man's hands. "You seem better. How did you fix them that fast? Did you have spares?"
Fornaxmon turned his head, before waving his hands and chuckling. "Nothing so smart. Miss Babamon's just a very good nurse."
"Oh, stop it, you."
The two old friends laughed, sharing a moment of merriment despite the dire situation. Off to the side, Galvamon narrowed his eyes, but said nothing.
Eloise nudged Aaron. "We should keep going. Grace and Jack are in trouble."
Babamon stopped laughing, and looked up worriedly. "It's nearly evenin'. The city will lower soon, and then they'll be in deep trouble."
"They can do it." Aaron looked down, as if he could see through the sandy ground. "None of us have failed yet. We're all still alive. The least we can do is have faith in them, and be here when they come back."
Grace struggled in the monster's arms, but Teslamon's grip held her tightly as the three figures swung back and forth on the end of the great beam. Tupilamon growled at the woman, claws bared and covered in jagged ice.
"Let go of my partner. She is nothing to you."
"Au contraire, my dear fuzzy friend," said Teslamon as she dragged the girl backwards towards the edge, "I believe the girl is the one who woke me, picked a fight with me and is constantly coming after me. I think the girl can speak for herself."
Grace wriggled. "My name is Grace!"
"Whatever!" Teslamon spun her round, glaring into her eyes. "I don't care what-"
She stopped, frowning, as her eyes gingerly moved downwards. Grace's anger became mixed with confusion. "What are you looking at?"
Teslamon grinned, and twisted Grace around again like some macabre tango. "Girlie, you're more surprising than I thought." She leant in, whispering. "There's something round your neck."
"What are you talking about? I don't have the flash drive any more!"
"Screw the flash drive." Teslamon bared her fangs, and placed a pointed finger on Grace's sternum. Grace felt the jagged nail digging into her as Teslamon dragged it up, until it reached the neck. Grace swallowed, feeling the point of the claw threatening to pierce her skin.
And something else as well.
Something not quite there.
"NO!" Grace struggled and kicked back, striking the shark-woman's shin. It didn't have much effect, but it did cause Teslamon to twist her around again. "That was rather silly of you."
The girl responded by slamming her fist into Teslamon's muscular midriff; the pain shot up her arm, but the impact was enough to send Teslamon tottering back, her grip loosening. Grace pulled away and backed up, passing her partner as the ice spirit rushed forward, claws ablaze with cold aura.
Teslamon intercepted Tupilamon's attack and the two grappled, the smaller shark-lady easily holding back the ice-spirit's massive bulk. She grinned, and held up a glowing hand, her magnet releasing sparks. "Perilous Field!"
She brought her palm onto Tupilamon's chest and the great creature spun wildly, her metal adornments attempting to fly away from each other all at the same time. Teslamon shot past her, making for Grace, but the ice monster was not going to let it happen again.
Teslamon felt her ankle freeze in place mid-step. "Ah, crap." With her foot acting as the pivot she tipped ninety-degrees, crashing into the metal beam and causing it to lurch again. Grace was sent sprawling, and the shark-woman found herself nearly dangling off the edge. She heard movement behind her and twisted, her metal clawed feet slicing through the fragile ice and spinning upwards in a whirlwind kick. Tupilamon braked before she ran straight into the flurry of claws and metal, but Teslamon anticipated it; launching herself up and hoisting herself over Tupilamon's head.
"Mind if I grab a piggy-back?"
Teslamon grabbed hold of two of Tupilamon's icy spines, only to have them immediately burn her hands from the cold. She scrambled up the monster's pelt, grabbing hold of her antlers instead. Tupilamon bucked and attempted to fling her assailant off, but Teslamon held on as she was shook about like a rag-doll.
Without warning, she raised a glowing hand. "Molecular Obscenity!"
She brought it down on Tupilamon's skull mask and immediately there was the sound of cracking and a roar of pain. Tupilamon stumbled, toppling towards the edge as Teslamon hung off of her with a smug expression. Grace, safely away from the main brawl, nonetheless moved forward. "Tupilamon! Let it out!"
She immediately ducked, expecting the worst as Tupilamon inhaled, her markings glowing brilliant white.
Teslamon's eyes widened as she was flung back again, directly in the flow of ice shards as she scrabbled underneath the beam for cover. Tupilamon stopped, saving her energy, but it was clear she was in trouble. One of her antlers was hanging loose and there was a horrific crack and black burn mark on her mask, and on the face below. She turned, weary but furious, as Teslamon popped her head up from below.
"You know you're only prolonging the inevitable now. Time's a'wasting." She tapped her wrist. "It's almost nightfall."
"Then I'll just have to freeze you solid before then. We are not leaving here without Jack, and we're not leaving while you're still causing carnage."
Teslamon rolled her eyes. "You are morons, you know that? Your brother is gone. You're trapped and you have no way of reaching the surface. You won't last much longer, so why don't you just give up already?"
"Because that's not who we are."
Teslamon turned, seeing Grace glaring at her. She was unsteady, and her appearance wasn't that much better than her partner's, but her eyes burned with rage, and something else as well. She stood tall, and spoke right to her assailant's face.
"You're wrong. My brother isn't dead. This isn't hopeless, and you are not invincible. You're just the same as everyone else."
The girl was shaking, but she didn't try to hide it. Instead, she just kept talking, her voice getting louder and louder. "Time after time, we've faced monsters and soldiers and been hopelessly outmatched. Sometimes we lost. Every time I've been utterly terrified. But we've kept going, and not just out of personal grudge, or pride. That was my mistake."
Grace closed her eyes, steadying herself as the beam rocked again. "We've kept going because we have a responsibility; to save this world, and save each other. We may make mistakes, but we learn and we keep going. No matter how many times one of us falls, someone else will always be there to catch them. You think you've killed my brother but he's there. He's alive. And if you want to get to him, you'll have to go through us."
To strengthen her partner's words, Tupilamon lowered her head, blue aura forming in her mouth. Teslamon closed her eyes, cracking her knuckles together.
"Very well, I think I will."
She ran forward, arms outstretched as Tupilamon readied herself for the onslaught.
The two attacks collided and exploded, sending shards of metal and ice out in every direction. Grace was launched back into a sitting position, shivering uncontrollably as the cold wave hit her. Teslamon hissed as her forearms were sealed in constricting ice, but Tupilamon came off worse. Grace watched in horror as the titan fell to her knees, half of her adornments wrenched away. Her lights were beginning to flicker; she was losing power rapidly.
Teslamon smiled, and gave her arms a shake, shattering the icy covering as she marched towards the girl. "You naive little creature. You really think your brother's still alive?"
Grace said nothing, but held her D-Nexus tightly, bringing it up to her mouth. Teslamon chuckled, but suddenly frowned as she felt something cold encase her arm. Beside her, Tupilamon pulled herself up, giving the shark-woman a frosty yellow glare.
"I'm not finished with you yet."
Mistramon smiled as he struggled to right himself, his great armoured body swaying left and right, displaying several injuries, including his bent wing. He stared down at the curled up figure before him, and nodded upwards.
"You've got to get back up there, Jack. You've got to help them."
"It's too late."
"It's not too late as long as you're still standing."
The little soldier shook his head. "I can't. I can't fly, Mistramon. I can't fight, I can't move, I can't even devolve. I'm stuck. All the time, whatever I try to do, it fails. Ever since I tried to get that stupid toy that day."
"Jack, you've come this far, don't-"
"I NEVER WENT ANYWHERE!" Aeolumon sat up, yelling at his partner. "I only came this far because you carried me!"
He stopped, breathing heavily, as Mistramon took a step back, eyes wide. The boy-turned-Digimon swallowed, and carried on. "Back with the Pipismon. In the temple with the Shadramon. And last night; I try to rescue my sister and end up getting caught. I try to do it again and I fall down a hole. I can't do it, Perimon. I've tried to be a warrior but I just can't; it's all been you."
The great bird of prey gritted his beak, his voice cracking slightly. "Jack, you saved my life so many times. Don't you dare say it was all for nothing."
"It was." Aeolumon stood up, and turned around, his body stiff and robotic. "I've been carried everywhere for most of my life. I don't know why. What's the point? I only slow people down." He raised an arm, shoulders shaking. "Just go. Find some way back up there. Leave me alone."
"It's over." Within his armoured shell, Jack hung his head. "I lost."
There was silence. Mistramon looked up, but he knew realistically that he couldn't fly up there. At least, not without shedding his Champion form, and then what good would he be?
"Jack, remember back in the labyrinth? We made a promise. You're all I've got left, and you promised that you wouldn't die on me. And you're just going to stand here and fade away? That's not the Jack I work with and I refuse to believe it."
Aeolumon flinched, turning slightly from his partner's words. He tried to think of a retort, but his mind was empty. Nothing he could say, or do. He was tired. Tired of it all. He fell down to his knees as he felt himself slipping back into his shell, as Mistramon ran up beside him.
"JACK, PLEASE, LISTEN TO ME! YOU CAN'T JUST GIVE UP ON ME!"
"Sorry, Perimon." Jack's voice was quieter than a whisper as he bunched up tighter, the darkness pressing in. His armour began to lock up and his blue eyes lost their glow. Even his partner's cries began to fade away into background noise.
He was floating. Or perhaps he was falling. It was hard to tell; everything was moving so slowly. He was swimming in ethereal energy; perhaps he was ethereal himself. All around him the voices continued, mocking him and jeering at him. He couldn't even make out what they were saying. No point. He already knew.
Then, out of the blue, he heard another voice.
He ignored it at first, but the word rung around his head and he realised he knew the voice. It was his sister.
"Jack, I hope you can hear me…I don't know if this'll work…please, we need your help. I need your help."
Far above, Grace's hand shook as she spoke into the little device, Teslamon and Tupilamon still brawling in front of her. She clutched onto the beam as she sat down, her voice low but just barely audible in Jack's head.
"Jack, I've always tried to hold you back. Telling you what you couldn't do, that something was dangerous, that you shouldn't be doing it. I was only ever thinking of you. Ever since I let you fall back then. I had to take it upon myself to look after you. But I was wrong to do that."
Jack sat up as the voice got louder in his ears. Mistramon looked with concern at him, wincing from his own pain but staying strong.
"Jack, you've kept up through our whole journey. You kept going, you kept trying, you kept finding new ways to ignore me, always with a cheeky grin on your face. I realise now I shouldn't have left you alone."
"But it wasn't your-"
"I don't mean left you alone back then. All this time, I constantly tried to protect you, but I never really got to know you. I never listened to the young man you'd become, through all those years of falling down and getting back up. I know who you are now. I know why you wanted to stay. I know why you've kept going. And I know, no matter how much gets thrown your way, and no matter how impossible it seems, you will never give up."
Aeolumon stood, looking up at the dim light above. Slowly, his gloved hands began to clench, and he felt tears run down his face.
"I'm so proud of you, Jack. I love you so much. I hope you can forgive me for everything I've done to you."
Jack let out a yell, and raised his hands up high. "GRACE! I'M COMING!"
Then he turned to his partner, who seemed to breath a sigh of relief. "Mate, don't scare me like that. Ever."
Aeolumon grinned, his expression turning to a wince as he stumbled yet again. "I've got to find a way up there."
"Leave that to me." said Mistramon, as he closed his eyes and began to glow, his extremities dissolving. Jack held out his hands and felt the energy coursing through him as his partner reverted to Perimon. The bird nodded. "It's all I have, but it's yours. Go get 'em, I'll be right with you."
Aeolumon let out a breath as the red energy coursed around him, being absorbed. Inside the shell, Jack felt strangely buoyant, his corporeal body feeling looser. Freer. With a grunt, Aeolumon bent his knees and prepared to jump, the pain in the back of his mind.
"I'm not finished yet, and I was an idiot to let that woman get to me. I'm on my way!"
With a yell, he jumped, his legs launching him into the air. As his ascent slowed, he breathed out yet again. Memories flooded through his head; fear, pain, regret, loneliness, uselessness. Yet all the time, the same person beside him. Smiling. Comforting. Always there. Never giving up on him.
"Grace, you idiot, you never left me. And I'm not gonna leave you."
He could never have been a superhero. He would always have his limits. But by allowing someone to support him, he could finally accept them.
And maybe, just maybe, he could even begin to surpass them.
With a snap that sent a jolt through his body, his wings erupted out of their sockets and spread wide, the cape-like wings billowing between them. Aeolumon gritted his teeth, braced himself, and flapped. And, like something out of a dream, he rose. He rose at an incredible speed, the wind blowing past him as the bridge above got ever closer. Through the corner of his eye he saw Perimon, rising up with him and grinning inanely.
Then, the bridge passed, and he re-angled his wings and immediately slowed, the scene playing out before him over the course of a split second. The bridge was still swinging, holding Tupilamon and Teslamon on the end in the middle of a grapple. Both looked up with amazement at the flying soldier above. And there, at the innermost hinge, was his sister. Despite the dim light he could see her face, clear as day. She was smiling.
"I knew you could do it."
Teslamon whistled as she swung a leg round, taking the exhausted Tupilamon's legs out. "Well, would ya look at that? We have company yet again."
Aeolumon stayed back slightly. "You know, Grace always told me I wasn't supposed to hit girls."
Grace's mouth fell open. "I-Ignore what I said!" She spluttered. "Just do me a favour and knock her block off!"
"Allow me!" came a cheeky voice from nearby, as Perimon shot towards the shark-woman. She clapped her glowing hands in an attempt to catch him, but he saw through her move and swerved at the last minute. "Wind Tunnel!" he cried as he shot a column of wind from his beak, buffeting his opponent but doing little more. She reached out suddenly and grabbed him by the back leg, causing him to let out a squawk.
"Aren't we a little small to be playing the hit-and-fly card?"
"You let him go!" Aeolumon shot down, clawing his hands as balls of spinning wind formed. He swooped down next to Teslamon's face, causing her to look up in surprise.
Aeolumon brought his hands together, causing the spheres to collide. There was an almighty crack and everyone in the vicinity suddenly found themselves flying backwards from the supersonic shockwave. Even Aeolumon himself was sent spinning, but he quickly recovered, looking around slightly dizzy.
"Where…where…why is the room spinning?"
Tupilamon looked up in an annoyed fashion, having iced herself to the beam before she'd been thrown off by the shockwave. "I appreciate the help, but do be careful, won't you?"
Aeolumon looked a little sheepish. "Whoops."
Tupilamon and Aeolumon both turned to see Teslamon holding onto a ledge on the central column, shaking a fist up at the flying soldier. "Watch where you're firing that thing!"
Aeolumon gave a smug look. "Did I do that? I'm sorry." He folded his arms in mock triumph and stuck his tongue out. Behind him, Grace groaned. It was possible this might not have been the most sensible option.
Teslamon said nothing. Instead she gave a sinister smile, and pointed straight up. Grace, noticing something was off, put her hand down on the beam on which she sat. A deep vibration confirmed her fears, and, standing up, she yelled out at the two in front of her.
"The city's about to fall!"
Tupilamon looked round, shocked. "Already? That was too fast."
"Oh ho ho, looks like you weren't expecting that, were you?" Teslamon grinned, her eyes looking more manic than ever, with yellow bolts coursing through them. "Your choice, really. Stay and get squashed, or run away like the wusses you are." She raised a hand and twirled her fingers. "Well, I guess I'll be seeing you."
Grace felt the beam tremble again and called out to the warriors. "We've got to get out of here. We got what we came here for, so just ignore her."
Tupilamon nodded, but Aeolumon was conflicted. If that woman had caused all this chaos in one night, what damage could she cause if she was left alone?
"Jack, come on!"
Reluctantly, Jack made his way to follow her, but a comment from Teslamon stopped him in his tracks.
"Course, if you are gonna just up and leave, then I'm taking the bird."
The shark-woman held up her other hand, revealing a dangling, struggling Perimon. "Just for insurance, y'know. Nothing personal."
Grace gritted her teeth. "You really are sick, aren't you?"
Perimon looked up from his precarious position, trying to get eye contact with his partner. "Just go! I'll be fine, just get out of here!"
Aeolumon looked back at his sister, who shook her head. "We're not leaving him. Do what you have to; just get him away from her and get out."
"Oh, you want your partner?" Teslamon lowered her gaze, glaring at the flying soldier from her lower vantage point. "Come and get him."
Aeolumon did so, swerving as Teslamon ripped debris from the inner wall and fired it at him in quick succession. As he got closer, she scampered up, causing him to bank sharply and give her the opportunity she needed. As before, she leapt, landing on the boy's back and grabbing onto his armoured form. Aeolumon yelled, feeling himself drop as Teslamon laughed maniacally.
"Let's see how skilled you are with a pilot, hey?"
As he began to spiral downwards, Jack forced himself to stop panicking and instead to think. Instead of trying to brake himself, instead he forced his wind powers in one direction, bracing himself as he shot towards a wall. Teslamon yelped as they crashed into the solid metal and she was sent flailing off to one side. ""Oi! Watch where you're going! What are you trying to-Hey!"
She screeched again as Perimon, freed from her grasp, suddenly attached himself to her face, clawing and pecking as she thrashed wildly. In between pecks, Perimon gave instructions to his partner. "Focus on stopping the fall!"
"Will do." Aeolumon summoned his wind spheres again and waited for the right moment, feeling the ground rushing towards him.
"Now!" He cried and slammed the spheres together. Another bang, and all three were flung away. Aeolumon let out a surprised grunt as the g-force hit him, but his armour kept him safe from the effects, as well as cushioning his fall a little. With a twist and a little cheeky showing off, he was up on his feet again and saw Perimon hovering above him.
"We're done here. Let's go."
Both made to launch themselves up, but suddenly Aeolumon felt something on his lower leg, yanking him downwards. Perimon was still going when he realised his partner wasn't with him, and looked down to see Teslamon holding him back.
"You're not going anywhere, boy. Not while I still need your help."
Aeolumon called up. "Go, now! Get to my sister and Vulpimon."
"I can manage. I'll be up in a minute." He swerved as he dragged the shark-woman behind him, feeling her claws digging into him. "I promise."
There was an ominous bang as the city prepared to fall for the night. Aeolumon pointed again, and Perimon shot up. Teslamon turned on Aeolumon, hair wild and expression one of murderous rage. "You're very good at ruining things, you know that?"
Aeolumon smirked. "I'm good at that. Looks like it's just you and me."
Teslamon roared and swung the boy down, slamming him into the dusty earth beneath the city. She swung her arm down and the Aeolumon blocked it; her metal claw connecting with the warrior's shield as he hopped back, blocking and dodging her blows. All the while he was grinning and joking. "So, do you still enjoy living under a giant squishing machine."
Teslamon shrugged. "It has its moments."
She raised her leg and stamped down, but Aeolumon rolled out the way and delivered a spinning kick, catching his opponent on the side of the head. Seeing an opportunity he spun up, but Teslamon grabbed him again, hauling him down and thrusting him to one side.
"Molecular Obscenity!" Teslamon lunged forward, hands glowing savage yellow, but Aeolumon spiralled out the way and up into the air. Teslamon's hands found contact with the floor, dissolving the rock like wire through butter.
Aeolumon stared down at her. "Okay, seriously, you realise that you'll be trapped under here as well, don't you?"
"I don't plan on staying. And by the looks of it, neither do you. So either you're coming with me, or we both get mashed." Teslamon grinned wickedly, her shark's teeth glinting. "How long do you plan on playing this game?" Aeolumon stretched out his arms and legs as spirals of glowing red wind wrapped around them, forming tight-fitting sheathes as he assumed a combat stance.
With a yell, he fell forward, landing a massive blow downwards that Teslamon was only just able to dodge. Still Aeolumon swung out with a leg and took her legs out, the wind enhancing his strength and impact power. The two kept attacking, twisting and writhing every which way. A tail swipe countered by an arm block. A headbutt avoided with quick feet and a backhanded claw. And all the while, within Aeolumon's powerful form, Jack was aware that he was being slowly beaten down by the Ultimate level.
He had to get away before it was too late.
Far above the duo's deadly dance, Perimon reached Grace and Vulpimon, who had devolved and scampered back to her partner. The two desperately climbed back up as the beam they were on folded upwards, the free end swinging uselessly. Grace gave Perimon a panicked look.
"He'll be up. He promised. But we need to get higher."
Grace shook her head but an ominous rumble from above made her think twice and clamber up onto the ledge. She looked up, aghast, as the great cylinder began to descend. Quickly racking her head she tried to remember how long it took. She never really counted, but it was never that long. One minute? Maybe more? Less?
Vulpimon shoved her partner down as an outcrop of metal threatened to catch her; one of the massive rack gear teeth that was obviously used to lower the city. In awe as she was, Grace fumbled with her D-Nexus and began to shout into it. "What do you think you're doing mister? Get up here now!"
"You don't have one minute!"
"Thirty seconds then."
He cut off, and Grace stepped back, looking for any sign of the armoured soldier.
Down below, Teslamon and Aeolumon were well aware how much schtook they were in. Teslamon yelled as she grabbed Aeolumon's arm and sent him spinning away. She tried to run and grab him, but was promptly greeted by his shield in her face, and she found herself being backed up again towards the centre. "Are you trying to kill me?"
"Not really. That's not my style."
"Your style mainly consists of falling down."
"Save it, magnet-head, I'm not done yet."
Teslamon cursed under her breath. She wish she still had the chain or something from beforehand that she could use to tie him up, but there was nothing down here. Nothing had been down here for ages. Now it was just her and the little armoured brat.
She knocked herself on the head. "Duh, of course!" Without warning she held out her hands as yellow energy swirled around her fingers. "Perilous Field!"
There was a rush of yellow energy and Jack felt himself spin out of control, gravitating towards his opponent's outstretched hands. He clenched his fists, preparing himself as his plates locked onto he palms with a snap.
Up above, the cylinder was dangerously close as Jack felt himself being wrestled into a convenient abducting position. Teslamon grinned."Right, shall we leave?"
Aeolumon stared up at her. "I was wondering when you'd figure that out."
"Well, better late than never."
The boy smiled. "Works for me."
In a quick but deliberate movement, he brought his hands up, filled as they were with wind spheres. Before Teslamon could react he thrust them backwards into her face and midriff.
The two were separated in a flash, the shockwave ripping through Teslamon's magnetic hold, and Aeolumon, in a last bout of strength, found himself rising up, his wings carrying him away. He turned back, laughing, but his laugh was cut short as he hit his head on the descending city as it threatened to grind him into the ground. Disorientated, he fell several metres, before seeing the outer wall in front of him. There was a gap there; just big enough to save him from his impending fate. He made a break for it, but something grabbed his ankle and he slowed, Teslamon trying desperately to hold onto him as the great city came down.
"You're staying here, flyboy!"
Aeolumon let out a yell, and kicked out randomly, the cylinder now having reached his head and forcing him down. He felt Teslamon being forced to her knees behind him as well. With one hand she held onto him, with the other she pressed against the metal, hand burning into the metal as she tried desperately to hold it up.
Jack twisted, and glared back at her. "I made a promise!"
Closing his eyes, he thrust forward, feeling the shark-woman's grip slip from around his foot. Feeling the ground below him he shot out, as Teslamon put all her energy into stopping the city, her hands melting the metal beneath. "Not...enough...power..."
There was a final judder, a rising of dust and a lone voice.
Aeolumon fell to the ground, letting out hysterical, breathless laughs as he twisted round, facing the massive inner wall of the city before him. There was no sign of Teslamon. He grimaced, trying not to think about what had happened to her. Still, the adrenaline rush made him give a slight whoop of victory, only to immediately wince from the multitude of bruises he'd received during that battle. Ah well. Better than being pancaked. He braced himself, and jumped, slowly making his way up the inner wall.
Grace, Vulpimon and Perimon heard him before they saw him, so Grace had pretty much dropped her sheer worry and had switched straight to anger. "What the hell were you doing down there? You could've been killed!"
"Well I wasn't." Aeolumon grinned. "And weren't you the one who said you believed in me?"
"That doesn't mean you go around fighting under heavy machinery! That's just common sense!"
Vulpimon and Perimon chuckled, and Grace relented; she couldn't be that angry. "It's good to have you back."
Vulpimon scratched the back of her head. "Er, how exactly do we get out of here?"
"Same way we came in." Perimon gave the others a smug look. "Although it might be nice to make a grand entrance…"
Above ground, the other tamers and Digimon were catching their breath when they heard the sound of shuffling in the mechanism. Aaron heard it first and raised a hand, moving slightly closer as he tried to make out voices.
Eloise and Ladomon wandered closer. "Is that…?"
"I think…they're whispering something…"
Aaron's eyes widened and he threw himself down, out of the way of the inevitable charging falcon, but Perimon never appeared. Instead there was a massive bang and the metal plate shifted slightly, followed by a pained "Oooowwww!"
The older children blinked as the sounds became more audible, before another voice sounded.
There was an incredible bang, then another, then one final one as the mechanism blew open, releasing Aeolumon as he held his sister in his arms like Superman, flying as high as he could and letting out a hearty laugh. Eloise pumped her fist and Aaron breathed a sigh of relief, while Kent seemed more interested in the other two figures emerging; a red falcon with what appeared to be an incredibly sore head, and an arctic fox currently laughing her head off, saying in between tears, "I told you it was too thick! Just like you, really."
Up above, Grace held tightly onto her brother as the two looked around the city of blinking lights. Grace whistled. "It's beautiful, isn't it. A wonder of the Digital World."
Aeolumon shrugged. "Aren't we all?"
"Probably." Grace looked down to where the others were waving at them. "Could you bring me down, please? This is slightly embarrassing."
Aeolumon sniggered. "Yes, my princess."
Aeolumon landed cleanly, holding a very red Grace, and all the others gathered around. "What happened? Where's Teslamon? How…how did you manage to evolve?"
The winged soldier folded his arms and looked unbelievably smug. "Teslamon's feeling the pressure right now. As for me, I saved everyone. Just a normal day."
Grace gave a sinister half-smile, and decided to play along. "Yes, he was wonderful! I never thought I'd ever be saved so masterfully by a boy in a skirt."
Now it was Aeolumon's turn to turn a shade of red similar to his partner's feathers, as Eloise and Vulpimon fell about laughing. He stamped his foot, struggling to find words. "Th-th-this is not a skirt! It's a...a…it's obviously a…"
Kent suppressed a laugh. "I believe it's called a tunic?"
"Yeah, what he said!" Aeolumon turned on his sister, wearing a pouty expression most unbecoming of his fearsome appearance. "You're mean. I saved your life. You should be being nice to me."
Grace responded by sticking her tongue out, and Aeolumon grinned in response. A passing breeze caught him, blowing away his armour in particles, until only Jack was left standing there once again. He suddenly winced and stumbled a bit, Aaron rushing forward to catch him. "Woah, you okay?"
"Yeah, my knee's gone again." Jack pulled up his short leg, revealing the swollen purple area beneath the medical sleeve. "I'd forgotten."
Aaron sat Jack down, and Grace brought Vulpimon over to add ice to the swelling. Aaron, hands on his hips, looked down at the two kids. "You did good. Both of you. You should be very proud."
Grace looked away, not wanting to make eye contact. "I'm sorry. This whole thing was my fault. I should have-"
Aaron raised a hand. "What's done is done. The important thing is that everything's alright now, with no small thanks to you."
He turned, and wandered off into the night, calling back as he did so. "I expect you'll need some rest. See you in the morning."
Babamon stood some way away, watching as the children and Digimon reunited. She let out a sigh of relief, holding onto her broom. This was becoming a very tiring week.
"They've really come on a long way, haven't they."
She turned, hobbling back over to Fornaxmon, who held out his bent, twisted hand. She frowned. "You've done too much. You told me yourself you should hold back on the heroics."
"I can't help it. They bring out a side in me that I haven't experienced in ages." The great golem nodded as Babamon ran her hands over his, making the metal smooth and dark once again. "Especially Aaron. That boy has the makings of a general."
The old woman tilted her head. "Perhaps you should tell them. Better between friends than between enemies, right?"
Babamon stepped back and the golem stood up, placing a small capsule back within his body. "Thanks very much, my lady."
"Please. It's all I can do. You're one of us." Babamon smiled, dimples forming in her cheeks. "Whatever you may think, you will always be one of us."
One by one, the others left, while Grace stayed with Jack until he was able to walk again. He leaned his head against her shoulder and looked into the distance. She smiled, and stroked the back of his head.
Vulpimon and Perimon stood nearby, relieved to see their partners at peace. Perimon winked. "You kept your promise after all."
"Thanks to you. And Grace." The boy looked up, looking very sleepy all of a sudden. "Thank you for believing in me."
"I'll never stop believing in you. Never ever."
Jack looked up, holding out a hand. "Is that a promise?"
Grace nodded, and held out her own hand. Perimon and Vulpimon joined in as well, and together they made their new pact.