"Where did they go?"
"I don't know."
"Yes, you do. I know you saw them come through. You're a terrible liar."
"Even if I knew, I wouldn't--"
"You really ought to come with more original lines. I'm almost insulted that you think I haven't heard this a hundred times."
"You're not going to w--"
"Let me guess, 'win'? They're going to defeat me, and Lord Era, and so on? I doubt it. Really, are you just taking your lines from the Nameless Foot Soldier's Guide to Resistance?"
"Hmn. ... Reimon, take care of the digitama, will you? Send it back to Lord Era. No use in letting it go to waste."
The kids and digimon pressed on into Wisemon's castle; even though it was straightforward (as best they could tell), it was still disconcerting at best. The crystalline surfaces played tricks with the light and made their vision start to blur and their eyes to ache.
What is there to be said about it? Though they occasionally ran into walls or took the wrong way in a fork, leading to an immediate dead end, there seemed to be little to the palace-- except for its incredible size. Even the smallest hallways were vast in all directions, a several-minute jog from one door to the next.
Delfinimon was just beginning to complain of the length when they beheld before them a tremendous door, even larger than the one that had served as the entrance to the castle itself. What stood out the most, however, was not the door itself-- but rather, that the wall and the door that was ahead of them changed from the shimmering blue crystal to what almost looked like obisidian. (Surely, it was more resilient than glass, but the resemblance was striking). It still seemed to emit a curious glow, but the light looked almost like the visible light emitted from a blacklight, if the purplish tone thereof were a good ten shades darker.
"I, uh, think we found it, guys," Simon said as he looked up at the almost-inconceivably huge doors.
"He's a bit fond of theatrics, inne?" Andrea commented, putting her hands on her hips, putting most of her weight on one leg, so as to jut one hip out.
Rajamon smirked. "Just be glad he didn't give Deekamon any interior design tips." The others gave a series of thin smiles at that, but turned their attention quickly.
With a deep breath, they stepped forward. With a lurch, the big black doors began to grind open, forward.
It was a slow and gradual thing. It took perhaps thirty seconds before they had opened wide enough to let the kids and their partners through, even in single file, without uncomfortable squeezing themselves through. They went in, one at a time, each human followed directly by their digimon. Simon first, followed by Andrea; Emily was right behind, with Toby after. Faris trailed Toby, and Julian (well, Iguamon, actually) brought up the back.
As soon as Iguamon's tail dragged into the room, the door smashed shut with startling speed, and the room was completely dark.
"What's going on?" Toby cried out, jumping no small bit. This statement led the other humans to make similar exclamations. The digimon, too, seemed less than confident; they tensed, prepared to attack if anything happened. It could well have been a trap, they realized; Era could have taken over, and--
"There is no need to be afraid," a new voice said, echoing. It was hard to place, sounding distant and close, a number of different tones of voice at once.
Strangely enough, they didn't seem to relax much at all.
From dead ahead, glow much like from that outside began to pulse. It was like a single lantern-- that grew brighter by the second. It was shining like a star, beore one more appeared to either side of it. They, in turn, lit up more crystals beside them, like dominos falling to turn on the lights, until the room-- much smaller than any of the rooms before it, which explained why the doors opened outwards -- was lit up by a circle of brightly-shining rocks.
"Whoa," Faris said under his breath. There were crystalline structures all around-- some were blank pedestals, some were massive, formless crystals. That wasn't what caught the attention of the guests.
Positioned at regular intervals around the room were seven carved figures. The figures in rock were familiar-- they were glowing carved renditions of the digimon. Clockwise from the door was a sequence; carved likenesses of Lammon, Delfinimon, and Rajamon were placed along the curved wall to the left. At the far end of the room, a figure of Egakumon shone; the right wall, in its turn, was lined with statues of Kamomon, Iguamon, and... what appeared to be a snake. The snake was curled around itself, with a feather-like tuft on the end of its tail. A jewel was inset on its forehead, with a number of plumes springing therefrom.
Each had a symbol engraved into the pedestal on which it stood; were the kids to take the Virtues out of their D-GEAR units, they'd notice a striking resemblance to the one on their respective partner's statue.
"Is that the seventh?" Simon asked, looking at Egakumon as he pointed at the statue of the snake.
The rabbit nodded. "If Deekamon's little... light-thing reached her," Egakumon said. "Then yeah. That's her. If not, then..." he trailed off.
The kids were so distracted that they initially failed to notice the sudden phasing into existance of a digimon in the center of the room.
First to appear was a tremendous book, which fell open. From pages inscribed with red, unreadable text, a form appeared. It was tall, and human-like; it was covered almost entirely in a burgundy-red robe, with dark-skinned hands and boot-like feet. A cream-coloured hood and expanse of extra fabric draped around its shoulders, and two yellow eyes were the only features visible on an otherwise-shadowed face. Above its outstretched hands, there floated a red orb in its right, and a yellow in its left.
"Wisemon!" Egakumon exclaimed, clenching his paintbrush tight before he suddenly bowed deeply. The other digimon followed suit; even Rajamon sunk to the knees of his forelegs, and Delfinimon bowed her head. It took a moment, but the humans followed suit and bowed.
"There is no need," the strange voice echoed again, and the digimon in the center of the room bowed his head.
"You are... Wisemon?" Julian asked in an even tone; the mysterious digimon stood completely still for a moment, and then, slowly, nodded only once.
"And you are the Virtue Holders," Wisemon said as he lifted his head again and looking specifically at the children.
"Yep. Or at least, that's what people keep calling us," Faris spoke up, smiling.
Wisemon's eyes seemed to squint as though he were smiling. "Then you," and he looked this time speciically at the digimon, "are the Virtue Recievers. ... six of them, at least. I assume you have no idea where the seventh is?"
The kids and digimon alike shook their heads. "No, sir," Kamomon said, bowing again. "And we've not seen neither hide nor hair of Plu--" the seagull paused, and corrected himself, looking over at the statue of the snake. "Sampamon, since she disappeared." Wisemon nodded again, but said nothing.
"Deekamon told us that you could explain things more," Rajamon said carefully, tilting his head.
"And we've got a heck of a lot more questions than we had when we started," Andrea said, rubbing the back of her head.
Wisemon looked over the children and their partners, and nodded his head. He motioned beyond the statue of Egakumon with one hand, where a much smaller door -- one that, perhaps, an actual human would use -- seemed to suddenly appear. "Follow me," he said, and he (book and all) began to drift towards it. He paused, and beckoned for them to follow before he floated off and into said room.
"This is safe, then?" Emily asked of nobody in particular, looking around.
"As anything," said Kamomon, with a shrug of his shoulders.
They followed Wisemon into the second room; it was just about the size of the last. The floor was still made solidly of the rock, but the walls were lined with shelves packed to the brim with books, and where they weren't, they had pieces of parchment with scrawled writing and sketches as a makeshift wallpaper. Opened tomes and scraps of paper were strewn across the floor. There was even a small bookcase, off in the corner, with a handful of digitama in leiu of books on its shelves.
"Mind the mess, as they say," Wisemon said, waving his hand. "I do not have time to clean it."
"Looks like home," Simon remarked with a smirk. "Just needs a few more dirty clothes strewn around!" Andrea gave him a disapproving look.
"Take a seat," Wisemon said; carefully, so as not to disturb anything, the digimon sat down on the floor and the kids, most sitting tailor-style, followed suit.
As they did, the robed digimon nodded solemnly. "Thank you. Now, I understand you were sent here for knowledge?"
"Something like that," Faris said with a shrug; Wisemon nodded again.
"One hundred years ago, the digital world was invaded by an intruder. He hailed from a unique universe. One the likes of which not even Yggdrasil and the Sovereigns can know. I cannot claim to explain it. That universe was... eversed by something. Turned inside-out, and one thing was expelled. It is my belief that the other universe explicitly decided to discard it -- to prevent it from causing damage to theirs -- but it got sent to us, here. That bit of debris was Era.
"I do not know what universe it was that Era was sent from. His power is unknowable. Rumors range from his being able to warp reality to simply being able to corrupt a digimon's data. I do not know what the truth is. All I know is that he has turned much of the digital world against itself. He has taken over areas, created cities, turned digimon to his side. That is what worries me-- he turns digimon to his side of their own volition.
"So many of my allies have turned to Era's side over that hundred years. I have seen strong and wise digimon turn to his side, begin to fight for him. So few of us still hold out. There are many of us, don't get me wrong... but we are outnumbered, three to one. You," and Wisemon pointed to the six digimon and six children, "are Yggdrasil's last line of defense against Era. Virtue Warriors-- the partnership of a Virtue Holder and a Reciever.
"You have been chosen to help us figh. I do not know what the Sovereigns based their choices on, but there is something... special." Wisemon paused, here, and pointed to each of the children in turn. "Honor." Simon. "Bravery." Andrea. "Adaptability." Julian. "Humor." Faris. "Dedication." Emily. "And Trust." Toby. "Those are your virtues."
"So, why do we have to--" Andrea began, but Wisemon held up a hand.
"A digimon cannot activate them," he said, as though he knew what she was going to say. "Yggdrasil is the only thing that can bring things between universes, with the rare exception of Era himself. If a digimon could utilize a Virtue alone, then it could very well fall into the wrong hands."
Wisemon took a deep breath. "And then there are the digimon," he continued, and looked now at them. "You were not born by accident or chance. Only very rarely does Yggdrasil decide to create new digitama. Did Deekamon ever explain this to you?" The digimon looked at eachother, and shrugged.
"Not really," Lammon admitted.
"Understandable... he wouldn't want to push it upon you yet," Wisemon said, nodding. "Then listen to me now. You were created when the children were chosen. Seven digitama were created five of our years ago-- mere months to you, children. You, Virtue Recievers, are unique. You are the only digimon in this world that can evolve with the Virtues-- you, specifically. Another of any of your species may exist, but only you six and your missing comrade can use the Virtues. You are chosen by Yggdrasil.
"Both parts of this partnership are irreplacable. Digimon, your partners need you to protect them. Humans, your partners need you to grow stronger to fight Era. You need eachother to stand a chance against Era."
Wisemon took a deep breath and bowed his head. "Both of our worlds depend on your success."
"Wait, wait wait. How?" Julian said suddenly.
Iguamon nodded. "This threatens the Digital World, but I don't see why it threatens theirs."
Wisemon looked at the dinosaur, and sighed deeply. "What Era is planning to do... is to reach Yggdrasil and overtake the Sovereigns. If he reaches Yggdrasil, Era could enter any world he wishes to enter... and I am of the belief that he wants to enter yours."
The kids were struck speechless.
"He will mobilize the digimon into your world to take it over. Imagine what would happen, then. Imagine what would have happened if you didn't have your partners when you first arrived, and then imagine the most powerful digimon in the world attacking yours. I do not know what he wants with it, but..."
The room fell silent. The silence was deafening, punctuated only by the breath of the occupants of the room.
Toby spoke first, the quiet growing uncomfortable quickly. "So what do we even... do?"
"Yeah," Emily said, blinking. "We can't just... I dunno, run out and go fighting. We don't know where this Era dude is."
Simon took up, next, adjusting his goggles. "Seriously. I mean... do we just start walking and hope we picked the right direction?"
"Open your D-GEAR units' maps, please," Wisemon said evenly, probably having expected this very line of questions. Dilligently, the kids did as they were told, six little holographic spherical maps shining over the devices. Once they were there, he nodded and continued. "You see where you are now, in the Great Ocean.
Indeed, the little blinking points indicated their current location.
"Era may be powerful, but he still exists in space," Wisemon said. "He is far away, but far away, in the Barren Lands..." he lifted a hand, and all as one, the kids' D-GEAR unit maps all suddenly swivelled to show... what was essentially as far away from their current position as it was possible to get. "There is where you'll find him. It will not be easy, by any stretch of the imagination."
"Great name for a place, yeom," Delfinimon groaned, shaking her head.
Wisemon seemed to smile, a bit sarcastically, and nodded. "He chose a place that is well-protected, and surrounds himself with powerful digimon... You will need the seventh child to stand a chance. If even one part of the equation is missing, it falls apart. Your mission is to find him and his partner, first."
Egakumon raised a hand, frowning. When the robed digimon turned to look at him, he spoke: "How are you so sure this kid's in the Digital World at all?"
Wisemon chuckled. "Deekamon gave you a light when you fought your first battle with your partners, yes?" The digimon nodded.
"And he threw one more out into the sky," Kamomon pointed out.
"Those are what allow you to use the virtues. They were... a backup. They are unique, and if you had not survived until your partners had arrived..." Wisemon trailed off; the digimon were clearly uncomfortable. "They only activated when the children entered the digital world. If it flew to Sampamon, she and her partner arrived. If they were defeated, we would know. Era would be celebrating."
The digimon and the humans all sighed, and nodded.
"Is there anything else I can explain?" Wisemon inquired.
"I think we're as good as we're going to get," Andrea replied, looking around as she clipped her D-GEAR back into place. The others nodded and did the same.
Wisemon bowed his head. "Shall I help you out, then? You'd best begin this search as soon as you can... I advise returning to the coast, and following any leads you can find from there."
Despite that vague advice, the group at large smiled and thanked Wisemon. The book-riding digimon led them out of the room, back across the room with the statues, and out the grand black doors. They followed him, taking the time to look at the decor around them. As he proceeded down the long hallways, they followed, a mixture of dread and excitement building up inside of them.
Out they went, working their way back out through the crystalline halls. Closer and closer they drew to the entrance hall, until they finally poured forth into it, Wisemon hanging back.
Their D-GEAR units began to glow. They snapped their attention to dead ahead, and the cause of the glow was apparent.
In front of them, there was a digimon. It looked nothing like any other digimon they had seen thus far. Clearly male, he was humanoid in form, standing well over seven feet tall; his humanity was stripped away by a sort of pale purple skin. A long tail and long, pointed ears only helped to reduce his humanity. A dark blue-grey mask with horn- and spike-like protrusions and lighter grey accents covered the top half of his face, with only yellow eyes visible under it. Most striking, however, was that his right arm was robotic below the elbow; his left, meanwhile, below the elbow, was large, and monstrous, and vivid red, with a yellow eye insignia on the back.
He wore a tattered black shirt, with a belt strapped around at an angle akin to Egakumon's, and dark grey-blue pants. There was a spiked pad on his right shoulder; there were belts, straps, and bandages wrapped around various parts of his body, and tall boots to complete the look.
Sitting on his shoulder, perhaps the size of his monstrous hand, was another digimon-- this one looked much like the digimon their partners had been when they first met, little more than a head. Huge yellow eyes, little horn-like ears, four stubbly legs. A yellow marking above each eye, and a tail that reminded one of the stereotypical "devil" tail, thin and ended in a pointed spade.
Forbidramon. Perfect-level Demon Man digimon. Data not found.
Reimon. Baby II-level Lesser digimon. Data not found.
Reimon. Baby II-level Lesser digimon. Data not found.
"Oh, that's a wonderful sign," Faris remarked. Beore he had even finished speaking, the tall digimon -- Forbidramon -- took a step forward, smiling.
"Hello," he said in a smooth voice, spreading his mismatched arms wide, as though welcoming them. His tail thrashed back and forth.
"Be on guard," Rajamon growled, as though the other digimon needed the command; each one was tensed and prepared to fight.
"Oh, come on now, I haven't even attacked you yet," Forbidramon said, and then clasped his hands over his chest. "Why, I'm hurt."
"I have the feeling we're gonna hate this guy," Andrea said, narrowing her eyes, Rajamon rearing down.
"C'mon, now," Forbidramon said, standing in place. "I'll even give you a chance. Digivolve."
They took that chance, almost immediately. Instantly, the six digimon were bathed in light.
"Egakumon kickstart digivolve to Shokunimon!"
"Rajamon kickstart digivolve to Baghamon!"
"Iguamon kickstart digivolve to Velocimon!"
"Delfinimon kickstart digivolve to Shayumon!"
"Kamomon kickstart digivolve to Kaizokumon!"
"Lammon kickstart digivolve to Ariamon!"
The strange digimon began to clap slowly, smirking. "Very nice," he drawled, seeming to look not at them but through them. "Adult form, yes? Impressive. You've only been with your Virtue Holders for, what, two days? Three?"
"Three," Baghamon snarled, seeming to be waiting for the chance to strike.
"Reimon," Forbidramon said suddenly, turning to the digimon on his shoulder, as though struck by an idea. "Do six Adults stand a chance against one Perfect?"
"No," it said, quietly but simply.
"I didn't think so!"
Forbidramon suddenly rushed at the group... or so it seemed. As he drew closer to them (particularly, Kaizokumon), he suddenly bounded off the ground and vaulted over their heads and into the hall they had just come out of.
"Claw Crusher!" the new enemy yelled, reaching his red hand out at Wisemon. Before the book-owning digimon could move out of the way, he found himself gripped right around where his neck could be presumed to be. The red hand of Forbidramon began to glow, and...
"Tumble Kick!" Shokunimon yelled, having whipped around, rushed, and was now smashing one glowing foot into one of Forbidramon's legs.
Forbidramon did not seem hurt, but did indeed stumble, down to one knee-- and lost his grip on Wisemon. Wisemon nodded, and then one of the orbs in his hands began to glow-- and like that, he vanished with a little vwip noise, book and all.
"Oh, come on," Forbidramon said in a sickly-sweet tone, smiling. That alone unnerved the rabbit, and he leapt back towards the group.
The newcomer stood up, as though the entire thing had been an act. "I think you need an education in what we call 'evolution levels'." At this, he held up his robotic arm. "Dark Wave!"
The digimon had only a second to leap in front of their human partners before it hit; a blast, a concentrated wave, of what looked like solidified darkness, wispy and incorporeal... and enough to throw the adult-level digimon, guarding their human partners, backwards, quite instantly de-digivolving (thankfully, before they hit their partners).
"We're too tired," groaned Delfinimon. "We need to rest, and eat, and..."
"And he's a Perfect level," Iguamon interrupted, flinching as he tried to push himself up. Julian helped him to, as Forbidramon took a step forward.
"Really, there's not even any challenge in this. I could take your D-GEAR units now. Or just obliterate the lot of you. But honestly... you're not even a threat yet. No fun!" he pouted.
"And no Wisemon," Reimon said from its perch on Forbidramon's shoulder.
The tall digimon paused, and nodded. "And we didn't even accomplish what we came here for. I don't want to chase him across, eheh, 'space and time', or whatever crap he says it is, anyway."
He turned to the humans and their partners.
"I'll see you again. Try to be at least a little more amusing next time?"
And all of a sudden, he took off towards the doors like a shot, Reimon clinging effortlessly, even as he leapt into the water and swam out of sight in an instant.
"Crap, man, are you okay!?" Simon said as soon as the enemy was out of sight, turning his attention to the rabbit. He was kneeling, with his digimon partner's head sitting on his lap.
"Dandy," Egakumon replied, but rubbed his head. "I feel like I got blindsided by a truck."
"You did well to protect Wisemon, though," Lammon pointed out, lying down on the ground and breathing heavily.
"Who knows what could have happened, otherwise," Kamomon said, his voice wavering a bit.
Just like that, Wisemon appeared again, with another vwip, and his eyes were stern. "Thank you," he said to Egakumon, first, though, bowing his head. "Are you all okay?"
"Fine," Iguamon muttered.
"Don't be stupid," Julian said to the dinosaur. "You guys look a mess."
It was no question about it-- they had had an incredibly long day. The mess with the Ankylomon, the city, the journey down, and now... this.
"I don't think he was actually... giving up," Toby said, looking out at the door. The others looked at him, and he shrugged. "It felt like he was... I don't know, playing with us?"
That seemed to make sense-- whether they wished it did or not.
"He was just coming to show us what he could do," Andrea muttered, eyes narrowed again.
Wisemon sighed, and turned back into the hall. "I fear that may be the case... but at any rate. Follow me. You need to rest."
Feeling like their bodies were made of lead, so followed the digimon and their human partners-- even if the humans had to all but carry each of their digimon.