"You've got to be kidding me," Simon muttered, looking over his shoulder. Entirely too close-by, Narakamon's rattling roar split the air, punctuated with yells of pain from the five adult digimon fighting the hopeless battle against it. A pang hit him-- the digimon had no idea that they were fighting their comrade. Oh, a horrific digivolution of their comrade, but their comrade nonetheless.
The sound of a yelp and the rustling of leaves.
A roar and a rebuttal of a horrible voice, replying "Shadow Claw!" in a low hiss.
A sound like rocks being dropped into a deep well-- laughter?
"You guys, no rush," Julian cut in, "but I'm getting the feeling that there might be a slight problem."
"Slight?" Andrea spat from where she sat, an incredulous expression on her face. She was in no mood, it seemed.
Emily tossed a look over her shoulder, and she furrowed her brow. There was absolutely no part of this that boded well. She looked through the thin trees to where their digimon held Narakamon at bay, and at the still-seated-on-the-ground Andrea. The younger girl worried her bottom lip with her teeth. "Uh... what can we...?"
"Panic?" Faris suggested; he was shut up by a sharp look from his older brother.
There was a moment's pause. Then, with a sudden commanding tone, Julian spoke up: "Marinemon, can you keep Andrea from getting herself killed?"
The blue digimon blinked, but nodded and then saluted with his weapon; Toby muttered something along the lines of 'um, please watch where you're swinging that?', but it went unnoticed. "Blue ranger, at your service!"
Marinemon knelt down, and grabbed one of Andrea's arms to drape it around his shoulders. "Can't leave a pretty lady unaided!" he quipped; the dark girl raised an eyebrow.
"I... have no idea who you are," she said bluntly. "And more than that, I'm fourteen. ... and you're a fish-lizard monster." That last bit oozed an ironic tone, but a sort of unease permeated as she spoke. She was visibly shaken, but she still had room in her for snide comments.
"Hang back or... something, stand on the sidelines," Simon continued where Julian had left off, looking at Marinemon and Andrea. "The rest of you, c'mon."
"No offense," Toby said quietly, frowning, "but uhm, what exactly can we do? That thing... I mean, Rajamon like that-- he could crush us with one of his feet."
"... make it up as we go?" Simon provided with a very half-hearted, nervous smile.
Though it didn't dissuade anyone's fears, the group -- the five kids leading the way in an unruly mob, with Marinemon and Andrea after -- carefully, so gingerly, stepped back towards the battle site.
It did not look good, to be particularly generous.
In the short time they had been away: Shokunimon had gotten himself knocked into a tree, and Ariamon was kneeling on the ground looking as though she were having trouble breathing. In front of them, with Narakamon facing them (and thus with his back to the kids), Kaizokumon, Velocimon, and Shayumon all stood their ground resiliently, breathing heavy and looking worse for the wear.
Simon clenched his hand into a fist, looking up at the back of Narakamon's head. "... is that really Rajamon's perfect level?" he muttered.
Toby looked up at him, and frowned a bit. "I... don't think it is," the small boy said. "Or, I mean to say-- I hope it isn't."
"Uplifting," Julian said, sighing and shaking his head. "So what do we do? It's five against one, and we're horribly outclassed."
There was a pause.
"Not quite," Toby said quietly; pointing. The kids (and Marinemon) followed his finger's path; what they saw was caused mixed reactions at best.
"Dark Shot!" hissed a familiar, but different voice. Pacing around in the clearing, a quadrupedial beast perhaps three times the size of the average horse; tall and bony, scarily thin, not moving like a normal creature. Bandages were wrapped around its face and forelimbs, with additional shackles on its fore- and chains around its hind-limbs. One giant yellow eye was fixed in the middle of its chest, and its tail faded into pale yellow flames near the tip. Black ichor drpped from the bandages on its face.
At the moment, it was rearing back and, despite the binding, forcing its mouth open to fire a blob of the horrid black substance at Narakamon.
"... Forbidramon's little helper," Julian (correctly) surmised as Narakamon seemed took a step backward after the digimon's attack, but seemed unharmed, even as the substance began to eat away the flesh.
"It doesn't change its attacks when it changes forms," Simon remarked, but inwardly he was trying his best to explain what on earth it was that would drive the black digimon to join the fight. He looked around. There, standing half-hidden in the trees to the side, was Forbidramon, who stood, watching impassively with arms folded, was Forbidramon.
Oh, yeah. He was still around, wasn't he?
"Okay, six against one, and one of them is evil and probably overpowered," Julian ammended, massaging his temples, "and we're still screwed."
As if to prove his point, Velocimon threw himself into a mad dash at the part of Narakamon's leg that had been struck by Forbidramon's helper (though unknown to the kids, now by the name of Nimon), putting his head down. "Fast Strike!"
"Judgment Fire!" Narakamon snarled; though Velocimon was too quick to be caught in it before he hit, Narakamon simply adjusted, taking a step back and releasing the flood of flames straight on the dinosaur's head.
Velocimon let out something remarkably akin to "ggyahah!", holding his head down and throwing his arms up as though to proect himself. Slowly, he began to glow, until--
"Wavebreak Crash!" Shayumon yelled, and threw herself into the line of fire in front of Velocimon, growling, propelled by a jet of water-- and she had projected herself to leap over her teammate, splashing him with cooling water. The glow began to fade from Velocimon, leaving his form intact, but still looking incredibly battered.
"Run!" the shark yelled to Velocimon, and in fact all of her teammates; they needed no second bidding. The two -- and followed quickly by Ariamon and Kaizokumon -- moved as fast as they could over to where the children stood. Thankfully, their enemy seemed focused on Nimon for the time being.
"I don't know what's happenin', kids," Kaizokumon said, breathing heavy. Shokunimon finally freed himself from the tree, and dropped down not far from the kids. "We cannae make a scratch on him, and that black thing is helpin' us," the pirate bird continued, rubbing his arm gingerly.
"We have to wait until he runs out of energy," Ariamon said, grunting a little bit before she began to glow, returning to Lammon in an instant; Toby took no time in rushing over and kneeling beside her.
"We can't!" Andrea yelled suddenly, shaking her head. "Who knows how long that could take?" she explained, shaking a bit. "And it -- my D-GEAR-- when he... digivolved, it said he'd fight until he fell apart. And what if that wacko Forbidramon--" Andrea paused-- she was... confused. She hadn't told them that Forbidramon had helped, but she remained suspicious of their antagonist.
"Well we can't fight him!" Emily said urgently, splaying her hands out. "We're gonna get creamed!"
"The best thing to do would be just to clear out," Julian agreed, quietly, as Velocimon degenerated to Iguamon, "before anyone else gets hurt."
There was a murmur of agreement through digimon and humans, the digimon one-by-one degenerating to their child forms-- until Simon spoke up.
"No," he said simply, adjusting his goggles.
"This is some hero-boy complex, isn't it?" Julian asked, raising his eyebrows.
Simon smiled and nodded once. "'Course it is. We're not going to leave a teammate behind!"
Andrea laughed, a little bitterly. "Can't believe I'm going to agree with you on that 'gotta help everyone' thing. ... just once."
Shokunimon smiled, pumping his paint-brush holding fist into the air. "We're Virtue Recievers! We gotta stick together and help our kin, and... stuff like that!"
The other digimon paused, but looked at the rabbit and then-- one by one -- nodded.
With that, the pair of rabbit and kid... up and ran head-first back into the clearing, side by side.
"He's kind of a fruit-loop, isn't he?" Marinemon asked, looking around; Andrea nodded.
Nimon was carefully dancing around Narakamon's attacks-- until the taur-like digimon snarled out a "Shadow Claw!" He swung his arm down into Nimon, and though it faded temporarily into shadows to avoid it, it had no effect-- the ghostly hand grabbed Nimon around the bulk of its body, and lifted it into the air. Holding Narakamon up above its head, Nimon's one giant eye stared into the unmoving bony face of its attacker as a flame began to grow in his mouth.
"Tumble Kick!" Shokunimon yelled, suddenly-- on top of Narakamon's quadrupedial back, smashing his foot into where his torso and tiger-like body connected.
Narakamon roared and thrashed, its shadowy hand vanishing; Nimon turned to shadows as soon as it was released, and reappeared on the ground, watching impassively.
Unseen to all, Forbidramon raised an eyebrow, smirking a little bit as Simon, himself, ran up in front of Narakamon, holding his arms out wide.
"Fight something your own size for once!" the boy yelled-- a cliche line, no doubt, but it caught Narakamon's attention.
Beady yellow eyes stared down at Simon, and a mighty rattling roar escaped Narkamon's skeletal mouth. The humid, putrid breath washed over the boy, and even filled with a deep nausea at the smell, he stood fast.
"I don't know what it is about the digimon we keep fighting," Simon said, loudly, seemingly speaking to his enemy despite a knowledge that his words probably went in one ear and out the other, "but every time, someone gets outmatched. Adult-levels keep picking on child-levels, and now we've got a perfect-level that can smash our partners into the dust.
Simon paused, breathing heavily... and then smiled.
"So I think it's time we start fighting fair."
Almost instantly as he said that, his D-GEAR burst into light, and it began to vibrate-- like china dishes as a train careened by -- as though the energy were too much for it to handle. A blazing insigia of the virtue of honor shone through the light, bright-red in the blinding white of the rest of the emitted light.
Shokunimon jumped off of Narakamon's back, tensing his body. The second he touched ground, the D-GEAR began to rattle harder, until it erupted. Not into a beam of light, as before, but like a giant starburst of energy surging forth from the device. Shokunimon was bathed in it, and was immediately bathed in red light. The virtue's symbol shot like a beam of light at the rabbit, and sunk into his chest, glowing bright white.
There was a small voice from Simon's D-GEAR.
Virtuous Digivolution, begin.
"Shokunimon, virtuous digivolve to..."
Through the red light, they could see Shokunimon change. His white fur tunring black, the rabbit grew in size; his body stretched until he was almost ten feet tall. His ears and tail lengthened; the long fur on his hands smoothed down. A mass of shaggy hair grew on the back of his head, tied back as if in a ponytail. Metal armor snapped into place on his chest and on his legs, with metal rings around the near-tip of his tail. The bandana around his neck was ripped to shreds, and in its place, a long flowing scarf appeared. His paintbrush, too, changed-- it grew more than proportionally. Gripped in one hand and held up straight, it was almost as tall as he was.
Finally, a metal visor snapped into place, covering his eyes; the virtue emblem shining on his chest faded away, and the red light drained away as well. He whipped his paintbrush around as though it were a sword, and all but posed with it, before he announced at last:
While it was true that he -- StarShokunimon -- was still massively dwarfed in comparison to the giant Narakamon, it was hard to deny that there seemed to be a change in the chemistry of the battle, just in the air.
Simon scrambled out of the way as fast as possible, running towards the other kids post-haste. If they were saying anything (and they were) it was totally lost on his ears-- he heard nothing but the unfolding of the scene in front of them.
"Rajamon!" StarShokunimon yelled. "You've been attacking your friends. I don't want to fight you-- but I know this isn't you!"
Narakamon let out a mighty roar, and yelled: "Judgement Fire!"
The torrent of fire spilt from his mouth, right down at StarShokunimon; in that moment, however, StarShokunimon kicked the ground hard, leaping high, high into the air. He all but soared upwards, and then, at the zenith of his leap, he yelled out an attack of his own.
His feet glowing with data, StarShokunimon fell back down feet-first, faster than he should have descended; with a mighty force, he smashed into Narakamon's skeletal head. There was a deep crunching sound-- for once, something had damaged Narakamon.
The tiger roared and bucked his head, sending StarShokunimon flying-- but as though he had planned it, StarShokunimon managed to land with moderate grace back in the dust.
"Listen to me!" the rabbit bellowed, gripping his painbrush tightly-- and then he whipped his hands apart. To the surprise of onlookers, the wooden part of the brush slid away with ease. It was a scabbard-- pulling it away revealed a long, shining-silver sword, the brush end of the weapon serving as an unconventional pommel.
He threw the case away, and he swung the sword dramatically, before he rushed at Narakamon with a little jump.
"Starlight Blade!" he yelled, and the sword began to glow as he swung it hard, slashing him across the belly of his torso.
Narakamon snarled, and as StarShokunimon backed away, he suddenly pounced forward, tackling the rabbit, pinning his former teammate down with his front paws.
"Judgment Fire!" Narakamon bellowed, and let loose the fire once more; StarShokunimon, though he struggled, was unable to wrench his way away.
While the rabbit could hardly be said to come out of the attack unscathed -- indeed, he cried out in pain until the fire subsided, he gritted his teeth and let loose a third attack.
"Screeching Howl!" he yelled, opened his mouth wide-- and began to screech. The kids and their partners whipped their hands over their ears, as the noise began to shake the branches on the trees; if they looked, they would see actual concentric circles escaping the rabbit's mouth, like cartoony sound waves. Narakamon screeched, a sound like a rusty rake on a chalkboard, and stumbled backwards, thrashing wildly.
"One last move," StarShokunimon remarked to nobody, and gripped his sword tightly.
Before he could move, however, Narakamon hissed: "Shadow Claw!" The shadowy arms materialized again from the orbs near his shoulders, and with both spectral limbs he grabbed StarShokunimon. The monster lifted the rabbit into the air, breathing heavily, each puff of air a putrid cloud of steam. The hands began to glow, and StarShokunimon began to yell in pain.
"Egakumon!" Simon yelled from the sidelines, looking up at the scene unfolding. Though his perfect-level partner's eyes were hidden by the metal visor, StarShokunimon turned his head to look at Simon, and smiled. He gripped his sword tight, even as it was trapped, like the rest, in Narakamon's shadowy hands; it began to glow.
"Starlight Blade!" he called, and jerked his entire body forward; the glowing sword sliced straight through the spectral hands, leaving them to evaporate like wisps of smoke, and he propelled himself straight into Narakamon's skull. The sword hit true-- straight in the center of the skeletal head, lengthwise. There was a loud 'clang' noise.
Narakamon roared, and collapsed onto the ground, falling onto his side.
Before anyone knew what was happening, Andrea wrenched herself free of Marinemon and ran forward. Dwarfed even by the size of her mutated partner's skull, before she could be stopped, she placed her hands on the bone, and rested her head on Narakamon's.
Though it wasn't audible, not even visible that she was speaking to the others, she whispered:
"I'm sorry, Rajamon."
Narakmon made a strange noise, and then... his body began to smoke.
A curious purple misty smoke started at his feet, and began to engulf his entire body, spiralling upwards. Narakamon reared his head back and roared as the smoke reached his torso, creeping up up to his neck; there was a flare of the fire on his head, before the smoke suddenly dissolved into purple light, and Andrea backed away only a half-step. The light pulsed, growing brighter and brighter, until at last, it turned white.
The light all but exploded-- a thousand drifting orbs of light scattered away like motes on the wind. Narakamon was no more.
In its monstrous place, on the ground, was a small furry shape in the dirt near Andrea. A little ball of red fur, smaller even than it had been when the kids first met their digimon; large rounded ears were on either side of its face, with black stripes up around its closed-tight large black eyes. It trembled. There was a plume of fluff on the top of its head, but it was otherwise nigh-featureless.
Andrea fell to her knees and scooped the little digimon up, and it cracked one eye open.
The other five kids and their digimon (and Marinemon) stood back, in silence. StarShokunimon still stood where he had ended the battle, a ways away from Andrea but still in the center of the clearing.
"You okay?" Andrea said quietly, cradling the little red digimon gently.
Her tiny charge smiled and nodded his entire body. Andrea smiled, standing up.
"That..." Faris said, after perhaps a ten-second silence, and gave a low whistle.
"Was intense, yeom," Delfinimon provided; Faris nodded in assent. It was then that StarShokunimon and the little-digimon-towing Andrea began to walk back to the group.
"Are you okay?" Lammon asked almost-immediately, looking between them.
StarShokunimon smiled and nodded, then turned his head to the older girl and her partner.
"Just great," Andrea said, and then indicated the little red digimon with her head. "... meet Sinjmon," she said a bit awkwardly.
"Been a while since we've seen him like that," Kamomon remarked, putting his hands behind his head and smiling wryly.
StarShokunimon, then, suddenly erupted into light-- and in a second's time, he was back to Egakumon. "Awww... can't remain Perfect-level for too long," he lamented, smiling. Then, however, a thought came to him.
"Waitaminute. Where did Forbidramon and whatsisguts go?"
They looked around, and, indeed-- neither the strange black digimon nor the sneering dragon were anywhere to be found.
"I think I saw him ride away on Nimon," Lammon pointed out-- and then quickly explained what she meant by 'Nimon' (the digimon, after all, had been around for its digivolution, and had heard its name even when they were having the snot beat out of them).
The group remained skeptical at best, but were in no mood to doubt it at the moment-- yet.
"... I think we deserve to actually rest for the night, now," Emily said, suddenly, looking around. It was true-- they were just about to settle down when this series of events had started. They were in as good a place as any...
"I'd love to stay," Marinemon said cheerfully, gesturing wildly with his staff weapon, "but I've best be going off, yes?"
"... oh, yeah!" Simon said, chuckling, and smiled. "Thanks for your help, man," he said, holding out a hand; the blue digimon grinned and shook it.
"Well... hey, I ain't Era's biggest fanboy either!" he said. The kids and digimon bid him goodbye, and with that, he turned tail and was gone.
"... what a fruit-loop," Andrea muttered.
The kids, milling amongst themselves, eventaully set up another makeshift camp; being enterprising, Iguamon and Julian suggested that they use some of the felled logs from the battle to use as seats around a little fire. With Rajamon currently entirely too small and non-fire-powered to do much, it had to be done manually. (This, of course, meant it took a substantial amount of time to get it going.)
Some time afterwards, they eventually settled down; in fact, most of them flopped down and seemed reluctant to move after they had seated down. They began to chatter-- the digimon asked Egakumon incessant questions about his reaching Perfect level, just for starters.
The entire time, Andrea had remained remarkably quiet. However, a while after they had settled down and began to relax, she finally spoke up.
"You guys," she said, leaning forward, even with Sinjmon on her lap. "When... well, when Rajamon first digivolved into Narakamon," she said, averting her eyes to the side, "something... kinda weird happened."
"You mean your partner turning into a giant killer skeleton-monster?" Faris suggested; Andrea gave him a glare that could kill. He quickly mouthed 'sorry', his face turning red, and motioned for her to continue.
"I mean..." she paused, and shook her head. "Forbidramon helped me out. Or at least, he distracted Narakamon to let me get away." There was a murmur throughout the group; Emily was the first to speak up. "But... he's, y'know, evil!"
"He eats digicores!" Kamomon blurted, fluffing up the feathers on his chest and looking horribly offended by the very thought-- in fact, all of the digimon did at the mention. Even Sinjmon growled a little bit.
Andrea frowned. "Like I don't know that. I don't think he was being some hero all of a sudden," she ammended quickly, but she furrowed her brow. "I'm just... wondering why."
There was a pause, as they thought. To the surprise of many, it was actually Delfinimon that spoke next.
"Maybe..." she said, tapping one fin on her chin, "it was because Narakamon's not... with Era, yeom?" the dolphin tried. Eyebrows were raised and looks were exchanged.
"He doesn't want someone that isn't part of the Era Corps doing the job?" Iguamon pitched, thinking hard. "... but that doesn't make any sense."
"I know what to do," Egakumon said, putting one claw in the air. The others looked at him, and he said definitively: "We call Deekamon!"
Little Sinjmon groaned, but even so, the kids reached for their D-GEAR units-- and realized they had no idea how to initiate a call.
Perhaps thirty seconds of aimless button-pressing later, it seemed that Simon hit the button-- all of them erupted into light, and a familiar voice crackled through.
"Hey, you finally learned how to use it! Sweet."
"Deeka!" Egakumon yelled, grinning. "I digivolved to Perfect!"
Sinjmon looked up at Andrea, and whispered: "I get the feeling that's why he wanted to talk to Deekamon."
"Excellent!" Deekamon said regardless, and they could almost see that grinning cat-hoodie-wearing weirdo spreading his arms wide. "I take it you learned to use the Virtues?"
"... not quite," Emily said, looking at Andrea and smiling a little bit. "We're... still working on that. But Simon got his to work."
"Well... you can't force them," Deekamon mused. Andrea pointedly said nothing. "I'm sure you'll all be fine, though, yes? One step closer, and all that..." And suddenly, he abruptly changed the subject. "Any luck at all on the Seventh Child front?" he asked.
Lammon, then, replied: "Not at all," she admitted, shaking her head.
"Not for lack of trying, of course!" Kamomon piped up.
It was only then that Toby said, "We actually called, becuase... we had a question."