The first thing the kids noticed was that the ocean was warm; it was like a cool glass of water, instead of the usual chill of even the warmest large bodies of water. They knew it was hardly the most bizarre thing that could -- was going to -- happen.
To individuals used to breathing air and air alone, going underwater was a difficult shift to even comprehend. Even though they believed what they were told-- that they would be able to breathe--, the kids and digimon alike seemed less than enthusiastic about inhaling water. Even Delfinimon (who was, after all, a dolphin and not a fish) was apprehensive. Eventually, however, it was Egakumon (of course) who volunteered to, well, test the water.
The rabbit walked out into the surf, took a big breath (puffing his cheeks out), and dunked his head into the water. A moment later, the rest of him followed suit. Soon, his head popped up with a splash. "Feels weird at first," he said, then coughed, "but it's just like breathin' air!"
Gingerly, the kids and other digimon followed suit, the water soaking their clothes (and in some of the digimon's cases, fur) through and weighing them down as they waded out into the ocean. One by one, they swallowed their fears and took the plunge.
The water rushed into their lungs... and breathing it in felt as natural as breathing air, once they finished their initial, instictive panic. (The fact that it felt so normal really didn't help the fact that they were panicking about it.)
"This is nuts!" Simon exclaimed; while his voice was a bit muffled, it was surprisingly clear.
"Surreal," Emily said with a grin, looking up. They had walked into the water just enough to cover their heads, feet still in the sand. "I guess the salt water not burning our eyes is part of the deal?"
"I'd guess so," Kamomon said, and habitually, tried to flap his wings. Instead of rising into the air, he rose a bit in the water, and looked surprised. "... this is going to be hard to get used to," he said, heaving a great sigh.
"Seems like digital world water doesn't quite follow the same rules as ours," Julian remarked, moving his hand through the water; while there was resistance, it was far from what it might have been in the real world. Iguamon nodded, before Julian continued. "... this makes no sense."
"A lot of stuff doesn't," Toby said with a sort of resigned shrug and half-smile. He looked over at Delfinimon, who seemed to be trying to work out the difference between her clumsiness on land and her movement here. The big tail (and lack of legs) that was a hinderance on the ground moved the little cetacean through the water with surprising grace.
It was only here that they noticed that Faris hadn't submerged yet.
Delfinimon popped her head above the water to look at her partner, and tilted her head. "Fare?" she prodded-- the boy with green-dyed strangs of hair was standing a ways back, waist-deep in the water.
"Uh," he blurted, before he shrugged. "... it's nothing," he said. Delfinimon shrugged, and ducked below the water; a moment later, Faris followed suit, swimming forward to meet the others.
"So what way do we go from here?" Andrea asked, looking around in the water. It was clear, but still murkier than it would be above the surface, and they were as lost as they usually were.
"This way," Iguamon said almost instantly, pointing out into the ocean.
"No offense, Iguamon," Simon said, blinking a couple times, "but how do you know? I mean, it looks like you're just guessing."
"Try not to doubt him, broski," Egakumon said. "Iguamon's a smart cookie."
"Well, it's straight out to this point that we were led," Rajamon reasoned, his tail swaying in the water, "and there's only one way to go, and that's out. So it's not so much intelligence as it is simple logic." With a murmur of assent and 'I guess that makes sense's, the group at large turned.
"I'll lead, yeom," Delfinimon chirrupped, swimming ahead. Faris coughed once and took off after her, almost (almost!) able to keep up with her pace.
"Figures he'd get the fish," Andrea said. Though she couldn't see him, as he was standing behind her, she could almost feel Julian about to remark, and continued. "And yes, I know dolphins are mammals, not fish."
"Slow down, you two!"
So Toby requested, voicing the thoughts of the other ten as they progressed into the ocean; it was unsure if those to whom it was adressed even heard. The dolphin and her partner were swimming far ahead of the others. Toby and Lammon came up in second, with Egakumon, Simon, Julian, and Iguamon after that; Emily and Kamomon were swimming at a leisurely pace, while Andrea and Rajamon, bringing up the back, obviously wanted to be underwater as little as possible.
"Asking Faris to slow down is like asking a dog to stop barking," Julian remarked dryly (as ironic as the phrasing on that was). "He's always been like that."
"Oh, yeah," Emily said, coming up nearer. "I forgot you two are--"
"Brothers, yes," Julian cut her off, nodding.
"You don't act like it," Simon mused; Egakumon looked over at him. "Well, me and my sister argue all the time. ... like, all the time."
"Sorta like us," the rabbit digimon filled in, grinning at Iguamon. Iguamon looked at him unreadably; Egakumon wasn't fazed. "We're like a bunch'a brothers and sisters."
"We didn't--" Julian paused, and looked away and to the side, his expression unscrutiable. "I mean, we haven't lived together since he was five. Kept in touch, but we only see eachother a couple times a year. No time to start hating eachother."
"Awkwaaard," Egakumon mumbled, and was smacked upside the back of the head by Iguamon.
A ways ahead, Delfinimon looked over at her partner. "That true?" she asked in a low voice, slowing her swim a little bit.
"Huh?" Faris said, as though he didn't hear-- though he clearly had, as he was looking a bit uncomfortable. "Oh yeah. That. No big deal!" he finished, smiling. "I mean, seriously. He's kind of, y'know, overzealous sometimes. And a serious know-it-all. Jules is cool and all, but. Yeah." Delfinimon raised an eyebrow, but after a second, she smiled and nodded.
The group pressed on; it was hard to say how far they had gone, as after the sloping beach behind them was faded away, everything looked the same. They sank lower and lower, periodically, but the ocean floor was a good ways below them yet. It was getting increasingly darker as on they swam.
In fact, it took them a good two hours before anything of real interest happened; they were getting increasingly tired as they pressed on through the water, but it was almost depressingly uneventful.
Until the realization that their D-GEAR units worked underwater hit them, whether they wanted to know it or not.
In the murky water, the screens lit up; it was easy to see. For a second, they wondered whether it would serve as a beacon to any potential attackers, until they realized it would serve to be redundant.
Whump. Blub. "AUGH!" "FARIS!"
That was the sound of a decidedly less-friendly dolphin smashing into Faris, and Delfinimon's reaction. The other kids and digimon stopped almost dead in their tracks (or, 'tracks' as it were), almost considering backpedaling.
Dolphmon. Adult-level sea animal digimon. It's incredibly intelligent-- most digimon can't comprehend its thoughts. It can swim at incredibly high speeds, and attacks with sound waves using its Pulse Blast attack.
"Oh, that's ironic," Faris groaned as he was knocked off course, catching a glimpse of what just struck him; it looked like a dolphin, much like his partner, but larger-- more tattered, perhaps. It had a broad scar across its nose, and its back was lined with torn-looking fins. It was blue on the top, and whiet under; its green eyes were narrowed. Faris began to sink, unable to tread water quite at the moment; quickly, Delfinimon darted under him and held him up, her purple eyes betraying her worry.
"Why are you here," the Dolphmon snarled, turning to look at the group, baring entirely-too-sharp teeth.
"We're here to see--" Lammon said, but Dolphmon barked over her voice and cut her short.
"Of course you are! Why else would you be!?"
"You asked, buddy," Simon grumbled. Dolphmon turned to glare.
"We don't need you here," the less-friendly dolphin growled, and what he said next was slightly surprising. "Agents of Era are not welcome!"
Kamomon was the first to speak up, spreading his wing-like arms wide. "We're not with--" Once again, the hostile dolphin leapt in before the sentence could be completed.
"You're not fooling anyone," he spat, and motioned with his head. "Now is your one chance to leave." From behind them, two small digimon -- both green, with blue stripes. Each of its four legs ended with one claw, and there was a red mohawk-like ridge on its back. It was roughly the size of any of the given partner digimon; once more, the D-GEAR units chose now to pipe up.
Betamon. Child-level amphibian personality. A shy digimon with shocking electrical powers. It has trouble distinguishing between friend and foe, especially when it attacks with a million-volt Electric Shock underwater.
Before anyone could say anything, Faris spoke up. "Fat freakin' chance," he said-- not a yell, not a challenge, but a simple statement.
"Faris, don't get yourself killed," Delfinimon piped up quietly. "Y'know you're my partner and I've waited my whole life for this, but you're kind of heavy." The boy laughed a bit despite himself, as Dolphmon and the Betamon turned on him, the two behind the group advancing by dipping under the others. He mouthed 'go' very quickly to the group.
The remainder of the group blinked a couple times; Egakumon was the first to do so, suddenly dunking himself further into the water as quietly as he could. Simon shrugged to the group and followed suit; eventually, everyone except Julian and Iguamon were slowly descending into the water.
"Trust him on this," Iguamon said quietly, tugging at Julian's hand. Faris was backing away from Dolphmon slowly, Delfinimon following. The dinosaur and the older boy followed the rest of the group; there was a bit of an overhang sticking up from the ground, and they had seemed to have chosen there to wait until whatever on earth it was that Faris was doing got done with.
"What now?" Delfinimon hissed out of the corner of her mouth, paddling backwards.
"Good queston," Faris replied simply, and suddenly turned and swam like the wind. Delfinimon gave a little 'gk!' and took off after him; there was a slight delay from behind them.
"Look for the others!" the Dolphmon commanded; the two Betamon dispersed, almost immediately heading downward, and Dolphmon then gave chase to the smaller dolphin and her partner.
There was a flurry of activity all of a sudden; from below, there were a number of yells and attack names thrown this way and that. Obviously, the Betamon had found the group.
"Crap," Faris hissed, as the Dolphmon gained on him; Delfinimon suddenly whipped around, suddenly, and smashed her tail-fin straight into Dolphmon's nose.
Dolphmon reared back and growled, flinching for just a second; in that space, Faris remarked, "and you tell me not to get myself killed."
Delfinimon then began to glow.
Kickstart digivolution, begin.
"Delfinimon, kickstart digivolve to..." Delfinimon quite suddenly grew much more large and slender. Her tail re-formed into a curved, sharp shape; her rounded head-fins sharpened, while the fin on her back grew substantially, while another smaller one sprung up below it. Her face lost much of the stop between her muzzle and her forehead; spiky fins grew from her cheeks. Her arms grew, with fins on the shoulders; clawed fingers grew on her hands, and blue-and-yellow armor snapped onto her arms. "Shayumon!"
"You're a freakin' shark!" Faris exclaimed, grinning broadly.
Shayumon smirked, seeming a bit eager to show off her new sharp teeth.
"No difference," Dolphmon grumbled, and opened his mouth.
Glowing concentric circles spilled from his mouth, growing the further they got away from him; they smashed into Shayumon, sending her tumbling tail-over-head backwards in the water.
"Wavebreak Crash!" she called back the second she was upright. A localized jet of water suddenly pushed her at Dolphmon at high speed, crashing into his body with her shoulder and arm.
Dolphmon bucked his head, thrashing his body wildly to dislodge Shayumon. She growled, using her arms to hold fast to the dolphin.
"Pulse Blast!" Dolphmon yelled again, the waves of sound colliding with Shayumon almost as soon as they left his mouth. She growled and let go of him, backing up nearer Faris.
"Just a flesh wound," she grumbled, before she swam forward at her target. She turned at the last second, turning almost 180 degrees.
The edge of her curved tail began to glow, and cut right into Dolphmon as though it were a blade.
Dolphmon seemed prepared to attack again, but the twin Betamon -- looking very much worse than they started -- swam up quickly.
"Dolphmon, dolphmon!" one cried, waving his one-clawed arms.
"Dolphmon, listen!" the other cut in, wiggling her body. The two looked at eachother suspiciously, before:
"They've got virtues!" both blurted at once. Dolphmon raised his eyebrows.
"Any Agent can say that," he said, keeping his eye on Faris and Shayumon. "Did they prove it?"
"Yeah!" One of the Betamon yelped. Dolphmon narrowed his eyes.
"What about these ones?"
One of the Betamon swam up to Faris; she grabbed the D-GEAR straight off of his belt, and looked at it carefully. She nodded quite vigorously. "Yeah, yeah!"
Dolphmon had a sudden and total change of character. His eyes lost their ferocity, and he seemed to grow quite sheepish.
"Er," he tried.
"I think y'got something to explain to all of us, yeom," Shayumon said. She looked at Faris, and pointed at her dorsal fin.
Faris looked over at her, and nodded. He swam closer, and grabbed onto the large fin. He whispered: "It's so weird seeing a giant shark do that 'yeom' thing." Shayumon grinned and rolled her eyes, but motioned to Dolphmon and the Betamon as she swam off towards where the others waited.
"You can't be too careful," Dolphmon explained, flanked by the Betamon, as the group settled on a cliff shelf, barely enough to comfortably seat the humans and five non-digivolved digimon, even with Faris choosing to stay holding on to Shayumon's back and shoulders, the giant shark effortlessly holding her place floating in the water.
"But you could try not to attack something that can't fight back," Simon grumbled.
"I'm fiiiine, yo," Faris said with a dismissive wave of his hand, even as he still felt a sharp, throbbing ache in his side. Dolphmon looked at him, and bowed his head.
"My apologies for that," the dolphin digimon said, but continued without a pause. "Wisemon is under almost-constant threat these days. We cannot risk leaving any intruders uninspected."
There was a grumbling of assent and understanding from the group at large, though not without some small amount of begrudging.
"You are... guards, then?" Kamomon asked, looking between the dolphin and the amphibians. They nodded in near-unison.
"Proud servants of Wisemon," one of the Betamon replied, wiggling his entire body.
"Or, Dolphmon under Wisemon, as it is," the other chimed in; the first glared at her, and she just smiled. Dolphmon shot them a look, and they both returned to blank expressions in a heartbeat.
That done, Dolphmon turned to look at the gathered. "You are the Virtue holders, as I understand it? You have the digivices?" he inquired, and motioned his head towards the D-GEAR units they each held (except for Faris', whose D-GEAR was still being held by one of the Betamon; as it was mentioned, the Betamon in question swam up to Faris and Shayumon and carefully handed it over).
"Apparently," Andrea said offhandedly, holding it up.
"And we're their partners, obviously," Rajamon cut in, laying down. He was obviously not having the best of times underwater, and being on any sort of solid ground again was a pleasure.
"Obviously," Dolphmon echoed, but he smiled. "If this is true, then we can let you pass."
The kids looked at eachother; well, that was a relief, at least, until Toby spoke up. "That'd be great," the short boy said, "except I don't think we know where to go, exactly." They were close, or on the right track at least; that much was obvious, if only because of the guards with which they now conversed, but...
"Oh!" Dolphmon exclaimed, and shook his head. "Yes. I... cannot leave my post. This distraction has been risky enough. Betamon, will you two lead them?"
"Sir yes sir," the male Betamon tittered.
"Whatever you say, Dolphmon, sir," the female added with a salute.
Dolphmon nodded once, and already began to move backwards. "It is not far. I wish you good luck." And with that, the dolphin took off again like a blue shot in the water.
"Funny guy," Emily remarked, rubbing the back of her head. Kamomon nodded his agreement and mirrored the head-rubbing motion, one hand on his hip.
Before they went off again, Egakumon turned to Shayumon. "So you digivolved too! 'Bout time," he drawled, grinning wide.
"Not entirely too bad," Iguamon said flatly, looking the shark up and down.
"It's only been two days, yeom," Shayumon said, smirking.
After a moment, though, Rajamon groaned. When the others looked at him, he explained: "Now it's going to be even harder to keep up with them."
Surprisingly enough, the fish and her partner only kept as far ahead as they had before-- in other words, it was only just as hard to keep up with them.
"Showoffs," Rajamon grumbled. Egakumon cast him a glance as though to say look who's talking.
"Not far now~!" the female Betamon yelled from even further ahead.
"See? There it is!" the male amphibian digimon continued, pointing down. The kids and digimon looked-- and almost unanimously gasped.
Below them, hidden in a bit of a crevice down in the dark water, was a structure made almost entirely of crystal, emitting a ethereal blue glow that paradoxically faint for how bright it glowed. While it was bright and vivid, the light did not seem to illuminate much of anything else around it. It was hidden, it seemed, down there; if the Betamon hadn't pointed it out, it was likely that they would have missed it entirely.
Tall spires stuck up, and the crystal flickered like it were lit from inside by a fire.
"Cool," Toby said in a low voice; Lammon nodded her assent.
"Well, it makes as much sense as anything," Julian remarked, fairly transparently trying not to sound too impressed (and failing).
The feeling only got stronger as the group drew closer; it was farther away than they had judged by its size. Indeed, the closer they drew, they realized that the crystal castle was far larger than they had initially judged.
"Crazy," Egakumon said, clearly impressed.
"So, how do we get in?" Lammon inquired of the Betamon, one of whom turned around.
"Simple, y'just go in," he said with a dismissive handwave, smiling.
They were a bit taken aback. "No security?" Iguamon asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Didn't say that," the other Betamon replied nonchalantly. The kids and digimon looked at each other quizzically.
They finally reached the entrance; there was only one entrance, the Betamon said. The crystal was impermiable, they said, and had been that way for thousands of years.
"There are rumors that not even Huanglongmon himself could break it," the female Betamon had noted.
The kids and partner digimon (except, again, for Faris and Shayumon) stood on the ocean floor, and looked up. The surface was far, far above their heads; the only light was the vibrant glow of the crystalline base. Outside of its halo of light, it was all dark.
"Wicked," Faris remarked, hopping off of Shayumon's back and drifting down to the ground alongside the others.
"Follow us," the Betamon said in unison, before anyone could take too good a look.
They, as a group, proceeded to follow the little amphibians; Shayumon brought up the back, while the six children and five other digimon were something of an unruly mob. The Betamon led them to a tremendous door; as they stepped up, they swung open of their own accord with a mighty lurching noise.
They were not expecting what happened next.
The second they stepped through the threshhold of the door, they were breathing air once more. The heavy feeling of breathing water was gone, and they were dripping wet. They stumbled almost invariably, except for the Betamon; it was bizarre moving horozontally from deep water into air. Shayumon, particularly, fell forward with a flump.
"You know, I was just about to ask why we didn't just get the bends and die," Julian said after a second, "but I think I'm learning to just accept it."
"That's the spirit," Iguamon said with no small level of sarcasm in his voice.
Once they were inside, they took a moment to look around them. The walls, made of crystal, seemed to be filled with stars-- or possibly some tiny bioluminescent creature, but the level of logic involved with the digital world left the kids not doubting that it could be the former. The floor was the same crystal they had seen, apparently carved into blocks and set in place; they glowed dimly. The ceiling was high, high overhead, with stalactites of the rock hanging down.
"Swanky," Simon remarked, looking around.
"Which way do we go, then?" Egakumon asked, turning to look at the Betamon-- but they weren't paying attention. They were staring out through the still-opened doors, reared up as though waiting for something-- but what? Shayumon, who had not moved from where she flopped, was the first to look, and her eyes narrowed.
On cue, the kids' D-GEAR units lit up again.
"I am seriously starting to think that the universe hates us," Faris said; to his surprise, the other kids unanimously nodded and murmured their assent.
There was a deep rumbling and a great cloud of dust and material, as though something were hitting the ocean floor. Fitting-- that was in fact the case.
Landing on the ocean floor was a monsterous giant squid. It was humongous, with metal pipe-like structures on either side of its face, with a huge grey marking on what would be its face. Its mouth (and that seemed to be the only facial feature it had) was open wide, and lined with teeth. Tentacles tipped in black claws seemed to serve as hands.
Gesomon. Adult-level mollusk digimon. The White Demon of the Depths, it does not harm digimon until they enter its territory. When they do, it strikes like a raging god. It attacks with its arms with its Coral Crusher, or its blinding ink with its Deadly Shade attack.
"No need to panic," the female Betamon said, standing her ground even as the writing squid rose from the ground and looked none too happy, "but I think you may have gone into its space when you were, uh, hiding."
"Fantastic," Rajamon drawled, growling and rearing down. Gesomon spoke in a booming voice, sounding like he was speaking half of his words around a mouthful of saliva as he drew closer to the door, still outside.
"Enemies of Era intruded on my territory," he snarled, his many tentacles writhing about in the most disconcering way. That said, he didn't waste any time. "Coral Crusher!" he roared, smashing one tectacle through the water and into the castle-- and crushed one of the Betamon.
He lifted his tentacle, and all that remained was a blur of data and a dark-green egg with blue stripes.
The male betamon let out a strangled cry, and seemed to freeze to the spot.
Emily and Toby both gasped; Andrea furrowed her brow, Julian's eye twitched a little bit. Faris stared, and Simon... well...
The be-goggled boy picked his D-GEAR off his belt as it began to glow. "I think now's as a good time as any."
Almost like a domino effect, so followed the other digivices.
"Egakumon kickstart digivolve to... Shokunimon!"
"Rajamon kickstart digivolve to... Baghamon!"
"Iguamon kickstart digivolve to... Velocimon!"
"Lammon kickstart digivolve to... Ariamon!"
"Kamomon kickstart digivolve to... Kaizokumon!"
Instantly, the now entirely-digivolve team rushed forward to join Shayumon, forming a barrier between the (frozen with shock) Betamon, the egg, and Gesomon.
"Hey, checkit," Shokunimon chuckled. "Full team. Tumble Kick!" Without a second of wait, he lunged and somersaulted at the still-extended tentacle, smashing his foot into it. As he did so, Kaizokumon lunged in as quickly as he could. With one hand, he grabbed a hold of both the egg and the remaining Betamon, holding either under each arm. He ducked backwards, placing his two loads behind the kids, before leaping back towards the group.
Velocimon motioned to Shayumon, who quickly dragged herself back into the water, darting around behind Gesomon; while she did, as a distraction, Velocimon himself ran forward, straight into the water.
"Fast Strike!" the dinosaur yelled, propelling himself straight at the squid as he ducked back into the water, and ran into his target. As he did, Shayumon picked up as Gesomon flew backwards at him.
"Tail Saw!" Once again, she swung her tail like a blade; like a ping-pong ball, Gesomon was thrown forward, and fell forward into the castle itself, with Velocimon dodging out of the way and back inside, for his own part, just in time. Shayumon followed, and as she did, the doors began to creak shut.
Gesomon didn't take it lying down, however. "Deadly Shade!" Gesomon bellowed, releasing a blast of black ink from his mouth. It struck true, straight into Shokumion, Kaizokumon, and Velocimon; it covered their faces, and the three affected stumbled backwards, unable to see.
Baghamon and Ariamon took it upon themselves to take it up from here; Ariamon was first to bat. She ran up dangerously close to the squid, waving her cloudy body. "Smokescreen!" she called, releasing a thick cloud of dark smoke, before she leapt away gracefully. Despite the fact that Gesomon had no eyes to obscure, the smoke itself seemed to settle on his body and inflict damage as though it were a skin irritant.
Not eager to run headlong into the smoke, Baghamon gathered light in the gem on his necklace; a second or two later, he leapt up closer and fired it straight through the cloud, a crackling beam of light that hit Gesomon straight in the center of the mark on its head.
The smoke began to clear. Much like the Betamon before, Gesomon's giant body was encircled by data; it began to fade, shot off into oblivion, and left only a white and grey egg in its wake.
Breathing heavily -- they were tired, after all, not just from the fight but from the journey -- the digimon looked at eachother.
Almost simultaneously, they grinned as they were encased in white light, which soon faded to leave only their child forms.
"That was so cool!" Toby exclaimed; Simon gave a cheer, Andrea pumped her fist victoriously. Faris whooped and hollared, and Emily was hopping up and down. Why, even Julian seemed to have yelled an 'awesome!', but he would inevitably deny it later.
"How on earth do you guys do that?" Emily asked, kneeling down to be on-level with Kamomon.
"Years of being stuck around eachother," the seagull reasoned, stretching out. "We know how the others tick, so to say!"
"It has its benefits," Iguamon said with a nod, looking between Julian and Faris quite pointedly. His partner gave him an inscrutiable look, but smiled a little bit despite himself.
It was only now that they looked back at Betamon; he was looking at the egg sadly, then looked to the children.
"She was my sister," he said, poking at the egg with his snout. "... thank you for retrieving it from being smashed."
"It's what we do," Lammon said with a bit of a smile. "And the least we could do to repay your help."
"Don't worry, yeom," Delfinimon said with uncharacteristic softness, no kidding in her voice, hopping up alongside the amphibian. "She'll be hatched again soon, yeah?" Betamon smiled a bit and nodded.
"I'm afraid that I don't know the rest of the way," Betamon admitted after a second. "I've never been very much past this chamber. I mean, there are little... lodging rooms, but..."
"It's more than we would have found on our own," Toby said, smiling a bit. The amphibian nodded once, and carefully began nudging the egg off towards one of the lodging rooms.
The kids and digimon looked forward; there was one great hallway stretching ahead, at the (very far away) far end of the room. Despite the grand size (and, admittedly, quite a nice look to it), the room was mostly empty.
As an unruly mob, the group moved forward.