Some time later, they were headed down a small tunnel-- ducking into the side of a cliff. The tunnel was rough and looked fairly new, as though it were dug by hand instead of being created naturally-- or, however natural the digital world ever got. Indeed, they were in the Wild Mountains-- for Luke and Sampamon, it was a return. Familiar ground was little comfort, but it was still better than nothing.
"This is that monkey digimon you mentioned, I guess?" Emily said to the seventh child as they followed Rafikmon. Luke nodded. Their guide was large enough that he had to hunch over even further than normal to avoid hitting his head.
"You have spoken of me?" the monkey said, casting a look over his shoulder.
"As... part of a bit of a larger story, yeah," Luke mumbled, no small amount of uncomfortable. Rafikmon nodded his head and did not press. Toby looked over at the other blond, his face sympathetic, but said nothing.
For a few minutes, they continued in quiet conversation and milling amongst themselves; before long, they walked into a slightly larger chamber-- barely large enough for the seven kids, their digimon, and the monkey to sit down comfortably. Barely is the key word-- it was still just big enough. The only light shone in from small cracks and holes in the ceiling that opened to the air, no mysterious globes of light to be seen. It was just possible to make out another tunnel running out from the side of the room.
Luke looked around, the corner of his mouth drawn back. "This place... doesn't look the same," he mumbled; Gemon squeaked her assent.
"More... run-down?" the little digimon tried, squinting in the low light.
"This is a makeshift affair," Rafikmon said, situating himself on the floor, sitting tailor-style. "We've been having... troubles."
Rajamon looked up at the monkey, lying down and folding his paws. "I assume that's something to do with the, uh, welcoming party? You know. The whole... dropping down on us, scaring us half to death thing."
"I apologize," Rafikmon said, his face even, "if I caused you any distress, but we can't afford to take risks at the moment. We are currently under efforts to prevent our Area from being overtaken, and newcomers must be treated with suspicion."
Somehow, it couldn't even come as a surprise. Era had been attacking the jungle, it made sense that...
"This has something to do with those digimon we saw, doesn't it," Luke said quietly, looking up at Rafikmon; Gemon, too, looked up with her shiny black eyes. Rafikmon paused, then nodded once.
"You are lucky that you got away." The primate sighed, and closed his eyes. "Luckily-- or, as luckily as it can be said to be -- they are not around. They merely formed the first attack front. They left almost directly after you two did."
Luke looked uncomfortable; Gemon nodded as best she could. Rafikmon continued.
"I am going to assume that Deekamon sent you through here?"
"Something like that," Julian confirmed, sitting back and breathing out. "So, because I'm going to guess that some of our number," and a pointed look was here shot at Simon and Egakumon. (Simon in particular perked up noticeably. Hero-boy mode: activated) "... are going to ask anyway... what's the situation here?"
Rafikmon looked like he might have been about to respond, when suddenly he cast a look upwards. A pebble fell down to the ground from the roof. "I would suggest moving." Before another word was spoken, Rafikmon took off down the tunnel that they hadn't come in through; judging by the fact that the roof began to audibly crack above them, the fourteen took absolutely no unneccesary time in following.
"What's going on!?" Emily yelped, being closest behind their primate guide.
"That... would be the trouble I mentioned." Almost on cue, there was the sound of the little room all but caving in with a great rumble (and a quick look over the shoulder, as those in the back would find, the sight matched up -- a massive crumbling of rock falling as the room fell to pieces), followed by running footsteps, six feet pounding the ground. Before long at all, there followed a nasty laughter, a snorting giggle.
"Fran-freakin'-tastic," Andrea mumbled as she cast a look over her shoulder-- dark shapes were closing in.
She repeated the sentiment a second late. First, the hostile digimon were plain to see -- three short little humanoid things, dressed in rather crude brown vests, shorts, and loincloths, with vibrant red mohawks on their heads and spiked clubs in their hands-- and nasty big-toothed smiles on their faces.
But what caused her to repeat herself was that Simon and Egakumon had, true to form, stopped running to turn and face them.
"Pummel Claw!" the rabbit yelled, and one of the green digimon -- at whom the attack was aimed -- leapt out of the way.
"Gobli Bomb!" it sneered back, gathering a ball of fire in its hand and throwing it right back at the rabbit, who dodged it in turn-- but only narrowly.
"Hold up!" the girl called; Rafikmon stopped, as did the rest of the group, confused. Rajamon grabbed Iguamon's tail in his mouth as Andrea grasped Julian by the upper arm and began to forcibly turn him around. Both were about to ask what was going on, until they, too, saw.
"What, an, idiot," Julian said flatly, but the two older members of the team lunged forward, their digimon following suit. Luckily, it was only a short distance to close-- partially because the hostile digimon were driving the rabbit and the boy back.
"I can't say I'm surprised, really," Rajamon grumbled, followed immediately by, "Prince Fire!" It was hard to speak further when one was firing a blast of fire from one's mouth, and so had no further commentary.
In true form, the laconic Iguamon had very little to say for himself, except for:
The blast of fire and the propelled rock joined in with a yell of "Magic Brush!" on Egakumon's part, and in order each attack impacted a green digimon-- and like Lekismon had, they suddenly burst apart into smoke.
"Again?" Egakumon mumbled, furrowing his brow and stroking his chin (or, what he had of a chin-- really, more of "stroking his lower jaw") thoughtfully.
"What on earth was that, yeom?" Delfinimon mumbled from where she stood, craning her neck to get a better look at what was going on.
"... Digimon," Julian said, after a moment. "Maybe."
"Maybe?" Simon said, raising his eyebrows high.
Julian nodded slowly. "Haven't you noticed that the D-GEARs--" (the digimon, almost as one, gave a cough that sounded suspiciously like 'D-GEAR units') "haven't gone off the past two... fights? If you can really call them that."
"I guess... they haven't," Emily chimed in slowly, blinking a couple times. She took the device from the pocket in her overalls, looking at it quizzically. "Maybe it's just... not on?"
"I don't think that's possible," Kamomon said from his partner's side, but even he gave the little plastic device a look and tilted his head. "Is it?"
Simon paused for a moment, and seemed to be thinking hard. "... I'll be right back," he said, and then suddenly took off like a shot back down the path, back down the way they came from, Egakumon hot on his heels.
"I'm starting to think this is normal for them," Luke remarked offhandedly to Rafikmon, who nodded his head once.
For about fifteen seconds, those remaining waited, the only sound being Simon's retreating footsteps -- wondering what it was that had gripped the goggle-wearing youth's attention so -- until they heard his voice echoing back.
"... what?" Toby mumbled, furrowing his brow, but Lammon was already pacing forward at a brisk pace.
"We'd best see what he, ah... 'called'," the sheep said with a look over her shoulder; with a sort of reluctant groan to life, the group on the whole followed suit. Rafikmon brought up the back, casting a look over his shoulder.
The monkey furrowed his brow.
Andrea, leading the way, very nearly crashed into Simon as he came barreling back up the way. "What's your deal today, boy-scout?" the girl said, trying hard not to show her frustration. (It wasn't working, and it bled into her voice.)
"Checkit," Egakumon said, jerking his thumb-claw over his shoulder, tilting his head for extra emphasis.
Behind the pair, the room the kids had momentarily rested in, the room that they had clearly heard and seen cave in... was clean and intact, not a pebble out of place, as though nothing had happened. Rafikmon furrowed his brow deeper-- but any thoughts the monkey may have had were quickly extinguished by Delfinimon.
"It... kinda smells like the smoke, yeom," the dolphin remarked with no small amount of confusion in her voice.
And then, a voice from above, faint and smooth: "Drowsy Smoke!"
To the astute, things would be snapping together to form some semblance of, well, sense... were it not for the fact that that sickeningly sweet smell began to grow stronger. From every opening a thick, nearly-opaque blueish smoke began to pour into the room, amplifying the scent to overwhelming levels. A sort of dull, cloudy feeling began to overwhelm the mind of each digimon and human that breathed it in-- that is to say, each digimon and human in the room.
And then it all went white.
Wherever one person began and the next ended was unclear-- it was a place of complete ambiguity. Was it even a place? A loose definition could have called it a waking dream, but none of them were awake or aware.
You could just quit here, a voice drifted in from nowhere. The words were indistinct, like a conversation falling on the ears of someone just falling asleep. The words were muddled and confused and indistinguishable, until...
The world suddenly slammed back into motion like a car screeching to a stop, its inhabitants jerked forward and snapped back by the safety belts.
They -- all of them, humans and digimon alike-- were in a room, at least five times as big as the rocky cave they had fallen asleep in. It was smoothly domed, the floor made of glassy porcelain and the walls and ceiling constructed of what seemed to be stained glass.
Eyes glazed over, bodies limp and feeling leaden, it was a surreal experience-- like none of them couldn't catch up to what was going on, that they were going in slow-motion and the world in fast-forward. And for all except one pair, they still felt as though they were half-asleep.
"What's gong on!?" Simon yelled out with a concerted effort, and as he said those words, Egakumon beside him forced himself up... and was immediately pushed down by a digimon appearing right next to the human boy and all but perching on the rabbit. It took an effort to turn his head to look, and he reared back when when did.
Simon found himself staring into what looked at first shy like six eyes. The creature itself was short (why, only about as tall as Toby), and almost human in form-- albeit with purplish skin and long pointed ears.
Around its neck was a frill of pale-blue fur that faded into sweet-smelling fire-like smoke in the back. Large, smooth lime-geen gems were embedded in its body and attached to silver bangles on its arms, waist, and legs. Two big silver claws were on each foot, and it seemed to be wearing dark steel-blue breeches.
The eyes themselves, it was quickly apparent... four of the six, lime-green sclera and red pupils, were painted on, part of a mask that covered the creature's face, half black and half blue. Two of the eyes, however, were vivid yellow with wide coal-black pupils, and were definitely real.
"Hey, kid," the digimon hissed in the same voice that had cut through the foggy abyss what felt like just minutes before. It was disconcerting to hear it speak, when what looked like a mouth was painted onto the apparatus that covered its face. "G'mornin'."
His tone was nasty and smug, and the glint in his eye...
"Th'heck's going on!?" Simon asserted again, jerking backwards and nearly toppling over. "... and get off my partner!"
"Why, you're just the first to really come-to," the digimon replied, seeming offended as he stepped off of Egakumon. "Well, I mean after the monkey, but he scampered off. Seems he wasn't too concerned with you lot, hmm?"
Egakumon stumbled his way to his feet, but he felt like his limbs were dead weight. A quick look around did indeed reveal... no Rafikmon.
It was little comfort that Simon's D-GEAR slowly chirruped to life.
Magoriamon. Perfect-level ghost digimon. Though it is physically weak, Magoriamon confuses and confounds enemies with illusions via its Fantastic Image attack, or simply slows them down with Drowsy Smoke.
"That'd be me," the strange digimon said with a sarcastic little bow. Could a bow be sarcastic? It sure seemed the part.
"Great," Egakumon grumbled, casting a look around, and slowly brought himself to his full (unimposing) height. "So it's one-on-one then!" He brandished his paintbrush, but Magoriamon only laughed.
"Call me crazy, bunnyboy," he drawled, "but shouldn't you wait until you can feel your feet before you try to challenge digimon to battles?"
"I get the feeling," Simon reasoned slowly, stumbling backwards to lean against the wall as he picked himself off the ground, "that you're the reason the last proxy cave was so... weird." As leaden as Egakumon's limbs felt, Simon's felt twice as much so-- possibly because he wasn't a digimon, like with Forbidramon's attack that split them up before... it affected him more, perhaps?)
Magoriamon giggled. "Veeery perceptive! You lot really aren't that bright..." he added the last part as a sort of afterthought. "And, why, you might even suppose that I created the past couple of digimon you created! Perish the thought."
"You sound like a digimon we used to know," Egakumon said offhandedly -- he couldn't help but compare the snide, condescending tone to...
"What..." Luke groaned from not far away, and he slowly brought a hand up to put to his forehead-- but stopped. In one arm, he still held Gemon. The little digimon was unconscious, and breathing-- but shallowly. His head heavy, Luke's eyes frantically darted around and fell on the rabbit and be-goggled boy... and the hostile.
"Oh, speaking of!" Magoriamon snickered. "Fancy that. We were just talking about-- hah!" The laugh interrupting the sentence came as a response to Egakumon (still in child form as he was) suddenly throwing himself at Magoriamon, wrapping his arms around the imp's midsection in attempts to drag him down in the tackle. This, perhaps predictably, proved almost entirely futile-- but it still shook (on a physical level) the perfect-level perhaps more than it might have been expected to, despite not causing damage.
With a clumsy gait, Simon stumbled his way over to the other boy. Despite his own lack of balance, he extended a hand to help pull Luke to his feet, which the blond boy rather apprehensively took, stumbling back, releasing Simon's hand and supporting himself on the inward-sloping wall of the dome.
"So, hey, help me out here," Simon huffed, looking over his shoulder-- where Egakumon was clumsily bouncing around to try and avoid kicks and open-palmed strikes from Magoriamon, who seemed to be rather enjoying the entire experience. "See if you can get the other guys... y'know. Awake."
"How do you suggest I do that?" Luke replied, a bit skeptical in tone. Slowly, Gemon began to lift her head (body?), her eyes just barely cracking open.
Simon may have been about to extrapolate on some theories (unlikely), when a rather pressing matter came to hand. That is to say, Magoriamon kicking Egakumon deftly into the glass-like wall with the loud sound of glass cracking. "A little help, Si!" the rabbit-like digimon yelled, groaning.
"So I'll get back to you on that," the goggle-wearing boy amended quickly, and with all the grace of a moose with a bum leg, stumbled back towards where he had woken up. He had barely taken three steps when his D-GEAR began to shine.
"Egakumon, kickstart digivolve to... Shokunimon!"
"Bigger bunny, not much of a bigger brain," Magoriamon remarked dryly, before he threw out his hands palms-out. "Fantastic Image!" Smoky, ephemeral shadows shot out of his palms, and wrapped like snakes around Shokunimon-- mostly gathering around his face, quite clearly obscuring his vision.
What happened next was like watching Shokunimon be incredibly drunk-- even though the leaden feeling was leaving his body, he started to slash out with his paintbrush in random directions, doing hops and jumps away from things the three observers couldn't see, while Magoriamon pulled on the shadows -- still attached to his hands -- as though they were marionette strings. It was almost painful to watch, as Shokunimon seemed to be quite in bit of distress.
And then the rabbit rushed right at Luke with a sort of panicked yell.
"Holy crap!" the blond blurted, stumbling backwards and indeed falling backside-first to the floor-- and his D-GEAR began to shine very brightly, which consequently shot into Luke's partner digimon. She leapt forward, out of his arms, and gave a little squeak, and perhaps that was all there was to say-- was there no name for this?
You see, Gemon... suddenly grew quite a bit. For a few seconds, her form changed to that of a small serpent, into a white shining form of Plumon. She quickly grew beyond that, the crown of feathers bursting from under the gem in her forehead, and as the light began to fade, she landed on the ground with a little thud, her body moving like liquid.
Guess there was nothing like a hallucinating teammate rushing at your drowsy, devoid-of-fine-motor-skills human partner to trigger a digivolution, and darn quick at that.
Luke said nothing, a sort of smile tugging at his lips-- as the child-form-once-again snake let loose a short little hiss, comparatively high-pitched, as she suddenly slithered forward and quite unceremoniously tripped Shokunimon. It wasn't much of a feat-- even with her body on the ground, Sampamon merely had to put herself rather quickly in the rabbit's path to bring him tumbling down.
"Impressive lightshow!" Magoriamon taunted, snickering. He pulled one hand back, and while Shokunimon didn't pull back -- as perhaps it might have seemed, from the way that the "strings" pulled, he instead began to yelp incessantly, jumping up and hopping from paw to paw like he were on hot coals.
"Why... he's acting like he's actually being hurt. But it's just an illusion, right?" Simon mumbled, but his expression was one of concern and worry.
"I think I heard once," Luke said quietly, while Sampamon quietly slithered around, trying to avoid being trodden on, "that if you believe an illusion real, you can think it's actually hurting you..."
Simon frowned deeply, quickly trying to weigh his options.
And then, with characteristic complete lack of warning, Simon threw himself at Magoriamon just as his partner had not long before, slamming his elbow into the digimon's side.
"Oh, geeze," Luke blurted out, but... it seemed to work. As soon as Simon impacted Magoriamon, the shadowy "strings" seemed to snap and fall away from the rabbit. ... and Simon, in turn, got a huge lungful of the imp's smoky mane, and stumbled away, coughing and dizzy.
"Oh!" Shokunimon said quick as he looked down and noticed what was now Sampamon; a smile crossed his face, but then he realized very quick what was going on behind him.
"Uh, I'd congratulate you, but--"
Sampamon rolled her eyes with the trace of a smile; as Shokunimon sprung back into action, leaping at Magoriamon, Sampamon looked up at Luke. "Shall we do as Simon asked?" the snake said quietly. "Wake the others up, that is."
"Don't you imagine they'd want some help?" Luke replied, frowning a bit; the snake shook her head.
"Knowing them? No."
Magoriamon was not a physical specimen, but he was as flighty as the smoke he used to attack; he leapt effortlessly out of the way of Shokunimon's attack. "I can't... hit him!" the rabbit lamented, rearing down and leaping at the smoky monster again-- again to no avail. He got no response-- Simon nearly fell down against the wall, holding himself up only through sheer power of will.
Magoriamon snickered, suddenly feinting towards Simon. Shokunimon growled, grabbing his paintbrush tight as he rushed at his enemy -- and was once ore deftly dodged. In the aftermath, Shokunimon only barely avoided smashing into Simon, kicking hard against the ground to turn around.
Despite her own words to her partner, Sampamon bowed her head down and fired off a blast of crackling black energy from the gem on her forehead, which impacted Magoriamon. It didn't do a whole great amount of damage, but...
The imp growled, and lunged for the snake. Or rather, for Luke, who stood behind her.
Aw, heck, no.
Shokunimon threw himself full-tilt at Magoriamon, his lip curled back. Simon, at the same time, pushed himself upright despite his dizziness, holding his D-GEAR up as it began to glow.
"Shokunimon, virtuous digivolve to... StarShokunimon!"
As the pieces of his armor snapped into place, the rabbit didn't waste a moment unsheathing his sword from its paintbrush scabbard. His pace picked up to catch to the smoky imp, his powerful legs and long strides leading him to catch up easily.
As Magoriamon was lifting a hand to strike out at Luke, StarShokunimon saw fit to interrupt.
The sword shining bright, he slashed out horizontally at Magoriamon, who gave an unearthly howl in return, and stopped in his tracks to face the rabbit.
"Room of Mirrors!" the hostile digimon yelled out, and suddenly... there were ten of him, surrounding StarShokunimon. Quickly, he leapt backwards to give Sampamon and Luke a wide berth.
"You ain't got much attention span, huh," StarShokunimon taunted, jumping out of the way as one of the images of Magoriamon leapt forward to strike. "One little distraction, and you change gears immediately." He struck out with his blade, striking true on one of the Magoriamon, and like the digimon he had created before, it burst apart into sweet-smelling smoke.
The remaining nine images began to laugh.
"Much the same to you, kiddos," they all sneered. StarShokunimon snarled, and behind his metal visor, he closed his eyes.
With frightening speed, then, he lunged forward and began to swipe and stab out at the images of Magoriamon that surrounded him, wielding his sword a seasoned samurai. At the end of what took maybe ten seconds, only one Magoriamon remained.
"You take out all of the images, but leave the real one. You're really bad at figuring this kind of thing out, buddy," the digimon taunted.
"I was giving you a chance to surrender. If I can defeat them," and the rabbit pointed his sword at Magoriamon threateningly. "I can defeat you."
Magoriamon's yellow eyes focused on the blade, and then he chuckled.
"How honorable. Too bad I have no such burden!"
"You were warned, buddy," the rabbit remarked, and suddenly threw himself forward, blade gripped tight.
The blade struck true, and with that one swipe of a blade, Magoriamon began to fade into data.
"Have fun," he gave one last taunt, before the data shot into the air, leaving an egg behind. With him, left also the stain-glass dome-- revealing the kids to be standing on top of a plateau in the open air. As the dome went, so did the kids' drowsiness-- almost immediately, the five kids and their digimon who hadn't been yet fullly awakened began to stir. Why, even Simon coughed a few times, visibly expelling smoke, and seemed to be much better for the wear.
StarShokunimon bowed his head, and with a flash of light, the tall black rabbit was replaced once more by the small, somewhat chubby Egakumon. "Welcome back," he said to the group at large.
"And welcome back to Sampamon, it looks like," Lammon said with a happy shake of her tail.
There was no time for much more, however-- Rafikmon, his feet and hands pounding on the rocky ground, suddenly rushed over to them.
"Thank the sovereigns you're alright," the monkey said, his voice grim.
"What's the big deal?" Andrea said, still a bit woozy as she got to her feet.
The monkey looked over each kid in time, frowning deeply-- but still, some relief showed on his face. "You've been missing for two weeks, ever since the attack in the cave. We were starting to fear that you were..."