"You had something you meant to ask?"
It was early, yet; none of the other digimon had awoken in the village, and only the kids, their partners, Piximon, and Lopmon sat around the fire (which, again, Piximon had been so kind as to light). A low fog hung overhead, blanketing the entire area in a cool grey and sending a chill throughout; the fire was welcomed, at that.
"Yeah!" Egakumon piped up, nodding vigorously.
"We were wondering if you'd seen any other humans in the past couple days," Toby said, idly placing his hand on Lammon's head.
Lopmon looked up, now, and blinked a couple times. He looked at Piximon, as though unsure what to say; after a moment, and only a tiny nod from the pink digimon, he looked at the kids again. "Actually..." he seemed clearly uncomfortable, but he sighed and continued. "We have. It was a few days ago."
The kids and digimon alike sprung to attentiveness.
"Where did he go!?"
"What did he look like!?"
"Was there a snake with him!?"
Piximon looked mildly unimpressed. "One at a time," he said, then looked thoughtful. "I don't know where he went. We barely spoke to him; he merely asked if he could stay here and rest. He seemed lost."
"An agent attacked in the night," Lopmon added, holding up one ear as though holding up one finger. "I stayed out of it-- he almost got the kid, but Piximon intervened."
"Yes, he had a snake with him," Piximon confirmed the third question, "named Sampamon." The digimon began to mutter and whisper to one another, until Piximon continued. "She digivolved after I kept the kid from being killed... I think the kid wasn't expecting that much. But they just left after that, in the middle of the night. The kid thanked me, apologized, and left. Went further inland, but that's all I know."
"So that's why you were worried about us attracting agents?" Emily asked, putting a finger to her chin in thought; Lopmon nodded once.
"But what did he look like?" Simon butted in. "If we know, we might be able to find him easier!"
There was a pause, before the brown rabbit spoke. "He was thin. Medium height. Blond hair, about chin-length. Had a jacket on, and the snake curled around him a lot. ... it's not much, but it's all I can recall."
"Thank you," Lammon said with a bow of her head.
"It's not much," Andrea said, standing up and stretching her arms out, "but it's something."
"It must have been when he first appeared," Kamomon reasoned; the others turned to look at him, and the seagull shrugged and elaborated. "A few days ago. Piximon said he seemed confused when Sampamon digivolved."
"So we don't know where he is now," Rajamon said, sounding irate, "or what's happened to him. Fantastic."
Piximon shrugged. "I'm sorry we can't be more of an assistance."
Simon sighed, and massaged his temples, and began idly tugging at his hat. "It's cool," he said, turning to look at the rest of his ragtag team. "... should we get going?"
And so they did; heading off in the vague direction in which Piximon had pointed, they figured, was a better bet than anything else. The twelve moved through another thicket of trees, and onto rolling dunes.
"What are the chances that he's anywhere near here, yeom?" Delfinimon asked, shaking a bit of stray sand off of her tailfin as they reached the valley of another set of dunes, stopping for a moment before starting up the next one.
"Considering the wind, the position of the sun, and some good old-fashioned guesswork?" Faris said, smiling. "Seven billion to one."
"Sounds about right!" Egakumon snickered.
"We'll find them," Emily said matter-of-factly, smiling cheerily. "... okay, so, probably in, like, a month, but we will!" Kamomon smiled up at his partner, and nodded.
Neither seemed to notice the sort of dismayed looks that this remark earned them from the group at large.
Any further conversation was immediately cut short.
A small dark shape leapt over the group's heads, casting a shadow. It landed; a cloud of sand rose up, and only slowly settled; they immediately were put on the defensive. A fuzzy, ill-defined shape began to move towards them from inside the cloud, and the digimon tensed.
A familiar little feline head poked out of the dust.
Indeed, it was she; she was breathing heavily, her eyes closed tight. "Thank the Sovereigns I found you," the cat said, looking as though she were about to collapse-- and then indeed, she did, belly-down on the sand.
"Are you okay?" Lammon asked, walking up closer gingerly, and gently laying one of her hoof-like hands on the cat's shoulder. Mikemon gritted her teeth and hissed.
"I'm taking that as a no,"Iguamon said, but an expression of concern passed even his face.
"What happened?!" Simon said, his brows furrowing, and a frown tugging at his mouth.
Mikemon did not respond instantly. Slowly she cracked one eye open.
"An enemy. A stronger Agent than I've ever faced."
The kids looked at eachother, and they all seemed to be thinking the same thing: Forbidramon?
Mikemon continued talking, sounding pained. "Dobermon is gone."
"You mean he got turned back into a--" Toby began, but with a sort of uncharacteristic barking tone, Mikemon cut him off.
"No! He's gone!" The tone in her voice betrayed some sort of deep anguish, as though she were on the verge of tears-- indeed, if they were to look close the first traces of droplets were forming in the corners of her closed-tight eyes.
"... what?" Julian asked after a moment of silence, blinking.
"He took his digicore," Mikemon said woefully, pushing herself to her knees. "He's gone."
"His whatnow?" Simon asked; Egakumon tugged on his shirt.
"A digicore," the rabbit said, his voice wavering a bit-- he was clearly worried, "is what makes a Digimon what it is. When we get reborn, all the excess data is stripped away from it-- it's just put back into the egg. But if you destroy a digimon's digicore... then he can't be reborn."
"It's heresy," Lammon said, shaking her head. "Deekamon said it was one of the worst things you could possibly do to a digimon-- the Sovereigns would punish you personally -- before..."
"Before Era," Julian finished, folding his arms; Lammon nodded. "That Era guy's a real charmer, isn't he?"
Mikemon nodded, hanging her head. "I... don't know what to do..." the calico cat said, looking at the group. "Have you heard of a digimon called Forbi--"
"--Dramon, Yes," Andrea said quickly, sighing deeply. "We've met him. Fantastic!" she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I was afraid of that," Mikemon said. There was a brief, uncomfortable silence, until...
"Oh, c'mon! I'm hurt!"
The group whipped around; standing on top of the dune they had just crossed over was suddenly an uncomfortably familiar figure with one large red hand.
"Miss me, kiddies?" Forbidramon asked, waving cheerfully. Reimon still sat stoically on his shoulder, watching with its big yellow eyes.
"Not particularly," Simon muttered, his mouth twitching.
"Geeze, what a bunch of killjoys," Forbidramon muttered, putting his robotic arm on his hip. "I'm just checking in on the little Rebel Brigade, that's all. I care!" The tone in his voice was the sort that made grow the desire to punch his face in.
He smiled, suddenly, looking down, and his eye caught Mikemon. "Hello again!"
Mikemon had pushed herself to her feet. Her pupils had narrowed into slits, and her arms were held out at her sides as though she were preparing to strike.
"Looks like kitty's still mad," their opponent drawled, a fake look of concern crossing his face. He began walking towards the group, slowly, deliberately.
"I'm going in," Mikemon muttered; Lammon, who was closest to her, frowned and looked at her quizically.
"Why?" she asked in a hushed whisper. "You're just going to be--"
"As though I care," the cat snapped back, and then suddenly she rushed through the group and at the approaching digimon.
"Nikukyuu Punch!" she cried, rearing her claws back as she rushed.
"Cute!" Forbidramon chuckled, and raised his red hand, waiting for her to run into it, until...
"Stoppit!" Egakumon yelped, dashing forward and smashing, side-long, into the rushing Mikemon, knocking her well off her course and away from the waiting Forbidramon. "Don't get yourself killed!" the rabbit growled, mustering all of his strength to keep the cat back-- normally a much harder feat, considering their level difference, but apparently facilitated by Mikemon's weakness. He grabbed her arms from behind, and dug his heels into the ground.
Forbidramon grinned and clapped slowly. "Very nice! Thank you for saving me the effort, Egakumon."
"Shut up," the rabbit snarled, but still distracted with keeping the struggling cat back.
"You guys are rude," Forbidramon said, huffing. "I just wanted to check up on you. Is that a crime?"
"Well, considering..." Kamomon muttered, his eyes narrowed.
"What was that?" the enemy said, sounding insincerely curious. "Please, finish your sentence. I'm curious."
Kamomon looked at Forbidramon, and said in an even voice: "Well, considering you work for Era, I'd be surprised if our existance isn't a crime."
Forbidramon grinned and chuckled heartily. "You're an astute little birdy, aren't you?" His voice simply dripped with a condescending tone.
"If you're going to fight," Andrea said, Rajamon rearing back as his partner spoke, "then do it. We don't need the peanut-gallery comments."
Yellow eyes fell on the pair. "Temper, temper!" their opponent said with a nasty, sharp-tooth-baring grin, obviously quite enjoying the reaction he was recieving. "But I'm not here to fight you. Really, it's not worth my time. You understand. None of you are even at Perfect level yet!"
"That didn't stop you from killing Dobermon!" Mikemon yelled, struggling against Egakumon anew.
Forbidramon simply looked at the dismayed cat, then... grinned and shrugged. "Well, that's life, innit? Now..." He snapped his fingers. "Wakey wakey!"
With that, Reimon, sitting silently on Forbidramon's shoulder, closed its eyes and began to glow faintly.
The ground began to shake.
"Not again," Faris groaned, struggling to keep his footing. Bursts of sand were thrown into the air, and the kids and digimon had to cover their eyes as the rumbling grew stronger and stronger, until...
A throaty roar boomed out; the group carefully peeked out from behind their hands and arms.
Erupting from the sand beneath them was a huge digimon.
First was its shell-- like a great hermit-crab's makeshift shell, dark-grey, with barnacles stuck on at places and great spikes placed at regular interrvals. Then came the rest of its body, pink and shiny, with blueish patches and matching blue eyes. Its arms ended in hands tipped with four suction-cup-like fingers; on top of its head was a mass of green... hair? It was equal parts seaweed-esque and tentacle-like, and hard to place, exactly.
Strangely, however, while the digimon was growling and looking around, the kids D-GEAR units didn't light up.
"Wha--" Emily muttered, looking at her digivice curiously.
"It's not an agent," Forbidramon mused from his place-- in fact, he had sat down on the dune, looking on with curiosity as though watching a movie-- all he was missing was a tub of popcorn. "Yet, that is. I can change that."
Forbidramon lifted his robotic arm, and shot a blast of energy into the sky; with it came a tremendous sound, like a starting-pistol but louder fifty-fold. The kids and partner digimon covered their ears; the giant digimon, meanwhile, let loose a moaning roar and looked around until it spied the source. Its eyes narrowed.
"Hello!" the dragon-like man said, spreading his arms. "My name is Forbidramon. I work for Lord Era! You, too, shall have this glorious opportunity!" He aimed his robotic hand, now, at the new digimon. In the cannon in the palm of his hand, energy began to gather. "Or else."
The digimon didn't seem to speak but it reared back in fear; it seemed to get the point.
"Good thing Shellmon are idiots, it doesn't take much..." Forbidramon muttered to Reimon, before continuing in a normal tone. "Attack them if you want to continue living."
"What a choice!" Andrea muttered, but she took a step back. Shellmon turned on them, and their digivices began their characteristic glow.
"Shellmon. Adult-level mollusk digimon. Its shell protects its soft, vulnerable body. It's not very intelligent, but it is violent; beware. It attacks with its Aqua Blaster to fire high-pressure water, or its Slamming Attack to use its bulk on an enemy.
"Move!" Andrea barked quickly as Shellmon reared back, lifting one hand-- it was too close for comfort. The group needed no second bidding; like an unruly mob, they made a mad dash behind the dune opposite Forbidramon's.
Only once they were out of the mollusk's range did Emily notice that Kamomon hadn't followed suit-- she was a mite preoccupied with not getting smushed.
"Seagull Strike!" Kamomon's voice drifted over; Emily whipped around at the sound.
There was the sound of the bird's attack hitting soft flesh, and a sort of rumbling growl in return.
Emily barely had time to run back around to see what was going on before her D-GEAR started to glow.
"Kamomon, kickstart digivolve to... Kaizokumon!"
Needless to say, it was still horrifically mismatched-- the pirate bird was only a couple heads taller than even the taller kids, and was still massively dwarfed in comparison to the giant monster.
"What are you doing!?" Emily yelled, cupping her hands over her mouth to better reach her partner. Kaizokumon leapt backwards away from the mollusk before he turned his head, and gave a dramatic bow.
"Protecting yeh!" he said simply, before he whipped his pistol off of his belt. "Flintlock Shock!" he sqawked, firing it up at Shellmon's face.
A glowing shot erupted from the gun, and hit its mark; this caused a problem of its own, however, as Shellmon retreated quickly into its shell entirely.
Quickly, the pirate seagull attempted to fire another couple shots-- to no avail, as they simply hit the strong shell and dissipated harmlessly. Kaizokumon seemed at a loss.
Until, of course, there was a cry from behind the dune:
"Lammon, kickstart digivolve to... Ariamon!"
Out rushed the two-legged, smoky Ariamon, with Toby riding on her back. First, she ran up to Emily, and as she trotted to a stop, Toby leapt off; he stumbled in the sand, falling to his knees for a second.
Emily looked at the short boy; he beamed up at her, then stood up, putting a hand on the sheep's side.
"I thought you could use some help!"
Emily beamed right back, then looked over at Kaizokumon; her partner seemed to be having trouble thinking of anything to do, and was rapidly looking between Shellmon and the passively-observing Forbidramon.
Then, an idea struck her.
"Ariamon!" she said excitedly, looking at the sheep.
"You've got that smoky attack thing," she said, speaking fast, "do you think you can choke Shellmon out, maybe?"
Ariamon looked at her for a second, before she closed her eyes and nodded. "I can try."
While they were speaking, however, Kaizokumon took his chance to leap at Shellmon. "Kaizoku Kick!" he yelled, smashing his foot into the digimon's shell-- again, to absolutely no avail, and he had to grab onto one of the spikes protruding from Shellmon's... shell, to avoid falling right in front of it.
"Kaizokumon!" Emily yelled, cupping her hands again. He looked at her, curiously, from his hanging point. "Cover Ariamon!"
Kaizokumon nodded, and whipped himeslf around to stand on Shellmon's back for a moment.
"I feel like I'm channelling Julian or something," Emily said with a smile, as Ariamon rushed forward.
The sheep ran back and forth in front of the empty hole of the mollusk's shell; as she passed, she called out: "Smokescreen!"
From the trailing end of her body, smoke poured out-- and, as predicted, drifted into the aquatic digimon's shell. Barely did she clear the space before the pink head erupted again, coughing hard and blinded by the smoke.
Kaizokumon leapt off of his enemy's back, once more smashing his foot into Shellmon: "Kaizoku Kick!"
Shellmon roared; Kaizokumon barely cleared him, returning to the pair of kids with Ariamon running after him, before another individual entered the battle.
This was not a good development.
"This has gone on long enough," Forbidramon said, pressing his robotic hand into Shellmon's forehead. "Dark Wave!"
His hand pulsed black for a split second, before it spread into Shellmon; the mollusk gave a confused, pained roar, before he went up in a flash of data. An egg was left behind-- which Forbidramon walked straight up to.
The remaining kids and digimon ran around the dune as well (with Mikemon piggybacking on Simon), as soon as they heard Forbidramon's voice... and were just in time to see him put one foot on top of Shellmon's digitama and smash it with the heel of his boot.
Mikemon's arms tightened around Simon's shoulders; they could only watch. A small, glowing, pinkish orb, the size of a baseball, was left behind among the fragments of shells. Forbidramon picked it up and turned it over in his hand, and looked at Reimon.
"Here," he said, holding it up. Reimon turned into a puff of black smoke temporarily, engulfing the object in Forbidramon's hand. When it returned to physical form, the little core was gone...
And Reimon grew in size.
"Reimon, digivolve to..." Its body enlongated to roughly the size of the other child-level digimon. It grew actual arms, its hind legs changed into a smoky tail, and a silver chained collar snapped around its neck, while chains themselves wrapepd around its limbs. The yellow spots above its eyes morphed, combining, into one third eye in the middle of its forehead.
"Ichimon," it finished in a hauntingly quiet, silky voice, floating in mid-air next to Forbidramon.
Forbidramon raised an eyebrow at the newly-digivolved digimon, smirking. "Only Child form? You're taking your sweet time, aren't you."
"Yes, Forbidramon," it said, though its mouth -- if it had one -- didn't move.
"That's..." Simon said, staring blankly ahead.
"He's out of his mind," Egakumon muttered, clenching his claws into fists.
Forbidramon looked over at the group, and smiled. "Well, I got what I wanted out of this. Didn't even have to work for it. Thanks, kiddos!"
With that, Forbidramon held his arm out to Ichimon. It crawled up onto his shoulders and curled its smoky body around them, and Forbidramon leapt away into the dunes with a flick of his tail as though to wave goodbye.
The digimon and humans alike stared-- but if the kids looked, they would see each of their six partner digimon trembling.
"He was using us to help him defeat that thing," Julian said slowly, frowning.
"As though he needed us to do that for him anyway," Iguamon pointed out, brows furrowing.
Ariamon looked over, and she seemed distressed. "He was doing it to prove he could."
"Aye," Kaizokumon said, holstering his gun and shaking his head. "He was playing with us."
"Again," Rajamon spat, his tail thrashing back and forth.
Faris frowned, picking Delfinimon up again; the dolphin looked up at her partner, and chuckled nervously. "What a charmer, huh, yeom?"
"I kind of want to punch his face in," Simon said, folding his arms and frowning. There was something about him that touched on every single one of the boy's beserk-buttons-- and honestly, most of the other kids. As far as Simon could tell, Forbidramon was rude, he was smarmy, he acted like a bratty little kid, he attacked digimon that couldn't fight back.
What a charmer, indeed.
"Are you going to be okay?" Egakumon asked, looking up at the cat piggy-backing on his partner's back. Mikemon lept off of Simon, and was shaking noticably-- she almost looked like she was going to be sick.
"I can't believe it," she said, putting her head in her be-gloved paws and shaking it. "That's--"
"Not supposed to happen," Ariamon said, shaking her head again. She paused, and walked over, gently pressing her head alongside Mikemon. It was understandable-- the poor calico had seen two digimon in one day be subjected to what seemed to be one of the most unthinkable acts possible.
"Are you going to be okay?" Toby asked, looking at Mikemon with a frown.
"I'm... going to go see Piximon," she said quietly, and began trudging off towards the village.
The kids couldn't complain-- if there was anywhere she could go...
"Stay safe, yeom," Delfinimon bid her; Mikemon tossed a single wave over her shoulder, and took off on all fours as fast as she could without stumbling in the sand or over her own feet.
The kids and digimon stood rooted to the place for a moment; the shattered remains of Shellmon's digitama still lay on the ground, and it seemed that none of the digimon wanted to look at it.
"Let's go," Andrea said after a moment, kneeling down and placing a hand on the tuft on Rajamon's head.
And so the group turned to resume walking-- and on each of the kids' minds was attempts to think of how to get stronger in order to beat Forbidramon into the dust.