Episode 28: Those Chosen by the Sovereign

"Oh, wow," Simon let slip.

When the kids reached what their D-GEARs proclaimed to be the proxy area, they were expecting another cave.
What they were not expecting was a sheer drop into a cloudy abyss, followed by an ear-splitting keening sound. With a great commotion, there rose a digimon, tremendous in size. It was humanoid in form, but its wings spread out behind it, its hands at feet like talons and its body decorated with tribal markings. From under a painted mask that covered a beaked face, its blond hair drifted in the wind except where it was tied into braids.

Dwarfing the size of every child and digimon present, it was decidedly for the better that he did not land, but flapped he great wings and looked down at the group. "I am Garudamon. Are you friend or foe to the Sovereign?" he boomed in a deep voice, eyes focused on the group, his gaze seeming to burrow straight into them.

Egakumon was the first, naturally, to speak, and the rabbit said decisively: "Friend!"
This was followed by a deep rumble, but no movement on Garudamon's part.

"Of course-- anyone could say as such, be they honest or... well, be they Epidemon or Era.

Kamomon, then, being a bird, suddenly kicked into the air, flapping his wings madly to keep at the right height. What he said was unclear to the observers on the ground, but Garudamon seemed to take heed of the smaller avian. The great bird-man nodded his head to look down, and indeed-- the kids, who were still using their D-GEAR units for navigation purposes, had the devices in plain sight. The seagull almost fell back to the ground, and indeed he sort of flumped into Emily's arms.

"Hard to talk and 'tread air' at the same time," Kamomon chuckled a bit dizzily.

Garudamon then bowed his head and cupped his hands, lowering them to the level of the ground the group stood on. While admittedly it wasn't exactly the mode of transport any of them -- not even the digimon -- would ever imagine themselves utilizing... A few moments later, it was a reality.

Riding in the hands of a giant bird monster was a surprisingly relatively smooth way to travel. It seemed that a few of the number -- particularly Egakumon, but Toby was in close second -- seemed like they'd much rather be keeping their feet on solid ground.

"Someone tell me when we get to... wherever we're going," Egakumon groaned, covering his eyes with his hands.

"Didn't know you were afraid of heights. The great rabbit warrior," ribbed Delfinimon, her tailfin flopping happily as she peered over Garudamon's claws. She then blinked a couple times, and chuckled nervously. "Though I wouldn't mind setting foot--"

"You don't have feet," reminded Faris almost automatically.

"... on solid ground again, yeom."

As time worse on, they were almost unimaginably high, the ground they had left behind a faint blur through the thin clouds. The tingling that always accompanied an area change washed over them -- presumably to allow them to breathe in the ever-thinning air. The higher they went, the more surreal it felt.

"Almost feels like we're just flying on our own," Emily mumbled, reclining. "I always wanted to fly."

"It's not all it's cracked up to be," Kamomon said, but smiled. "What with the air pressure and the arm-exertion."

"Ah, can it," the bird's partner replied with a smile, looking out into the distance-- and then raising her eyebrows. "Oh, wow."
That was really the operative phrase of the day-- and it was as good a phrase as any. As human and digimon alike turned to see what had elicited the remark, it was echoed (with some level of variation) throughout the group.

If any of the kids had been asked, prior to their being whisked away to the Digital World, to imagine a kind of phantasmagorical world, the sight before them would slot right in.

Floating in the air, seemingly completely unsupported, was an almost unimaginably vast city of ruins and relics. At various parts, it definitely evoked images of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, while at others it brought Mesoamerican structures to mind-- and other things almost impossible to pin down. All of it was supported by a layer of ground,as though a huge chunk of the earth had simply been ripped out and hung in the air-- and on its underside, a huge portion bottom of the gargantuan structure was covered by a blue crystalline pyramid, glowing bright and impossible to see into-- in fact, it broguht to mind distinct images of Wisemon's castle below the ocean.

"Wow," Toby mumbled, the three-letter word accurately summing up how his fellows and teammates felt.

In Garudamon's hands they rose higher before lowering down on the very edge-- it felt like they were on a roller coaster, having spent so very much time rising up and then suddenly descending, even a bit.


"Not a lot of time."

"I'm not particularly worried."



It took a few minutes before the kids and their partners were at level with the ground, Garudamon beating his gigantic wings as though it were nothing to keep in place. He put his hands to the floating land, allowing his passengers to file off-- a bit woozily, not exactly in an orderly fashion, but in good enough time.

"We thank you for your, ah, assistance!" Lammon called up to the bird, who merely nodded his head once in acknowledgement, looking down at the little sheep.

"It is the duty of a servant of the Sovereign," he rumbled. The giant bird-man wavered in the air, bobbing up and down for a moment, before suddenly he spread his wings and began to fly away. The gathered group suddenly appreciated a lot more how fast they had been moving -- and for how far -- when, before too long, Garudamon was fading away into the clouds, barely visible.

"The question is," Delfinimon remarked, as they began to walk carefully down the road, "what we're supposed to do when we wanna leave, yeom."

"Jump and hope for the best?" Faris replied, casting a look at Kamomon. He chuckled. "Uh, doesn't count for you. That'd be cheating."

They took a look around them, soaking in all they could see-- for the first time, it felt like they were in... a real city of sorts. True, there had been the lovely locale back near the Great Ocean but that had seemed more like a ghost-town-- both for how lively it seemed (... while they were ducking through alleyways with a dog and a cat), and for how many digimon were around.
The buildings were old and made of stone and growing over with vines and mosses, but for the first time, it felt like they were in the Digimon equivilent of a real-world city-- with no trace of Era influence.

"For, like, the fifth time, it feels like we've stepped into another world within another world," Emily said, chipper as ever.

"It's definitely different," Andrea (still holding fast to Rafikmon's digitama, mind) mumbled, looking around herself. Digimon were stopping to look and stare, whispering amongst themselves, and it was making her more than a mite uncomfortable. Her brow twitched imperceptibly.

They were near at the end of what could have been a great main-street-- it was a huge, wide path, buildings lining either side, but with enough room down the middle of the path for the group of fourteen to pass relatively comfortably. It was Egakumon who spoke next, and immediately broke any and all of the little team out of their reveries.
"Who votes we find food?"

It was with a sort of unpleasant pang that they realized how long it had actually been since they had last eaten-- not even counting the melarky involving time dilation.
The answer was "too long".




Food had never been quite so glorious a thing.

It was actually -- for a change -- considerably varied in what, food-wise, was available to them. Stalls and carts and stands, oh my-- the group in general dedicated themselves to staying within the general area of one another, though their D-GEAR units (as Toby and Luke both pointed out) did have the tracking feature to keep them all in order. Simon and Faris together began a "real sandwiches, hallelujah" chant that was audible even over the noise of the crowd, and no matter what the kids themselves were partaking in, they couldn't help but echo the sentiment.
The Digimon themselves were almost lost-- in a world full of fantastic imagery, the only thing that struck them dumb was the food. As it had turned out, the digimon had never really eaten much outside of terrafruit-- when Iguamon were introduced to real meat, Egakumon swore never to forget the uncharacteristic level of surprise and happiness on the dinosaur's face.

All around them as they ate, digimon stopped and pointed and whispered-- it wasn't hard to imagine what they were talking about in hushed tones. It was even less surprising when a small digimon, small and orange and fuzzy, with a big blade on its head (wasn't that the same thing as they saw back in Piximon's village-- Tsunomon?) began bouncing up and down and yelping about "oh dear Sovereign, it's them!"

"Looks like we're getting to be a bit celebrity," Lammon remarked modestly, smiling gently at the small digimon.

"Of course you are," Sampamon replied to the sheep, and a similar expression was on her face. This was only furthered by the insistence of the digimon running the eating establishments that their bills were completely waived-- just as well, since nobody in the party had any means of payment (though Faris suggested a rousing song and dance routine in the event that they had to pay-- an idea that got summarily shot down before he even got the thought out).

It was in the middle of their rather unceremonious stuffing of their gobs that a most curious thing chose to occur.

That is to say: each of the seven D-GEAR units' screens lit up, and the units themselves began to shake violently. The non-partner digimon patrons of the restauraunts and stalls at which the kids and their partners were scattered stopped to look on in awe, some taking steps backwards away as the kids grabbed at the plastic devices to inspect them.

It was suddenly very easy to determine where each of them was, the light shining like a beacon through the crowds.

It felt as though the little plastic devices were set to explode.

"The heck is going on!?"

"Aw, man, why you gotta be interrupting the one time we actually get to eat, yeom..."

"What's with the freaky light show?!"

With a scramble and a shuffle, the group stumbled towards eachother, convening right smack-dab in the middle of the street; their digivices were showing no signs of letting up, and in fact only seemed to grow more intense with time. It reached a peak, and then... there was a voice. It seemed to come from nowhere, but rang in the ears of the children and their partners... and seemingly no-one else. It was deep, the kind of voice that shook the earth, the kind of voice that demanded respect.

I see you've made it, children.

Toby opened his mouth-- perhaps he was going to say something, ask what was going on, but the noise would not come out. It died before it left his throat, some otherworldly force holding the sound back.

It would be unwise to speak-- simply heed my words. I must be brief-- as must you. You will be given a signal-- only those that have been chosen will be able to see it. Follow it. It will lead you to me.

And then... just as suddenly as it had come, the voice was gone, petered away into the air as the light began to fade away from the D-GEAR units. Or rather, more accurately, the light seeped out of the D-GEAR units, into the air in shining tendrils. They began to coalesce, until a white shape -- nondescript, almost alien, featureless -- roughly the size of the child-level digimon, was standing in front of them.

The humans were confused.

The digimon were in awe.

"What on earth is going on?" Andrea said, no small amount of irritation seeping into her voice; however, even Rajamon stayed silence, staring at the white being. Other digimon, milling around the street, walked straight through it as though it were not there.
The shape turned and began to run away, as swift as the wind. Without a second of hesitation, those digimon on the ground began to run after it-- Sampamon, around Luke's shoulders, slid to the ground like a liquid and went to follow her companions.

"An explanation'd be nice!" Simon yelled, as he and the other humans took off after their partners with some trepidation. Egakumon turned, and was actually running backwards as he said, almost breathlessly:

"The Sovereign!"

As the group chased the shining white figure, digimon walking in the street had to duck out of the way lest they be bulldozed by the ragtag band of fourteen misfits and would-be heroes. It was hard to keep pace with their own digimon, let alone the white thing -- whatever it was -- that ran effortlessly, not touching the ground, moving like it didn't belong to any world the children were familiar with. That said? Even the digimon were starting to get stitches in their sides by the time the thing stopped, having led them almost all the way down the main-street. It stood at the base of a structure, looking expectantly at those trying to follow it.

"Didn't know digimon architects took design cues from South American temples," Julian remarked dryly, but he was right-- it looked to be a dead-ringer for something ambiguously Mesoamerican, layers upon layers of stone laid to create a vast pyramid. Huge carved figures stuck out, with art carved into the stone, all of a stylized dragon-like image. An entirely-too-long, entirely-too-steep series of steps led up the side; the white figure indicated it with its head for the children to go up.

"Gimme a second or two, here," Rajamon huffed, almost bowing his head into the dirt to try and catch his breath.

"Maybe, someday, we'll actually be able to run like this without doubling over," Emily mused, almost -- in fact -- doubled over, her hands on her knees. To absolutely nobody's surprise, the only people that were raring to go were Simon and Egakumon-- in fact, it seemed as though the little bunny might burst if they didn't get a move on.

"Come on, guys!" Egakumon yelped, waving his arms as though to indicate... something. It wasn't clear.

"Uhm, you're gonna have to give us a minute?" Toby said meekly, pulling at the gathered hood of his sweatshirt like he was pulling at a shirt-collar, in order to let some of the heat out.

And so Egakumon might just have to burst. Two against twelve were lopsided odds, and the majority pointedly wanted to stay put for the time being.. The white figure sat down, waiting patiently.

"Ugh, fine. Geeze, lazy, much. Give me a recap, here," Simon said, resigning himself to having to kill time-- he was adamantly denying that he was even the slightest bit worn out, standing tall and upright. "What are these... Sovereign things?"

Iguamon, predictably, was the one to respond. "Something like deities. They protect the Digital World. It's through their will that Yggdrasil act, and from Yggdrasil that they draw their power." He sounded as though he were reciting by rote.

"They're the ones who chose you, and created us," Lammon piped up, nudging her head against Toby's side.

A question was silently brewing in Andrea's mind, but she chose not to voice it; instead, she turned to the others. "So are we going to get a move on it?" She jerked her head towards the stairs, and a sort of mutual groan rippled through the group. Nobody (sans Simon and Egakumon) was particularly excited to begin climbing.

It looked as though they had no choice, though, as as soon as the word was given, the white figure began its ascent up the stairs. They'd have to make do with what little rest they had gotten, and followed.

The Sovereign.
Contacting the kids.

This... was probably on the important side. Even so, the expanse of stairs? Not fun to try and climb up quickly. The amount of tripping and falling flat on faces will go unsaid, for the dignity of all involved, but it didn't expedite the process any.
When the group (most of them stumbling, breathing-heavy messes) reached the top, they were standing at what seemed to be... a small stone hut, only perhaps ten feet in each direction, dark inside.

"We came up here for this?" Rajamon couldn't stop himself from remarking, a bit incredulous. He reared his head back, lip pulled back. As though in answer, the white figure walked through the door-- and dissolved into light as it crossed the threshold. A film of sorts formed over the space in the door, shimmering and almost impossibly thin, reflecting light in every colour. Though it seemed to be transparent, a careful look would reveal that, behind the shimmering shifting light moving across the surface, the interior... was suddenly much darker than it was before. A strange feeling of weight and importance seemed to seep into the air.

"... something tells me we've got some magic mojo going on here," Faris said with a wiggle of his fingers in the direction of the door.

"The sovereigns must have several layers of protection," Sampamon provided, though she tilted her head at the barrier, and looked up at Luke as though for a comment. "It's kind of like...?"

"Can't imagine it was fun to slither up stairs," Luke said simply, picking the snake up; she promptly slithered onto his shoulders. Then, and only then, he looked to the others in the group-- and noted that they had followed his partner's gaze, and were looking at him.

He sighed. "It's... Era uses the same kind of thing. Or, I assume it's the same kind of thing. You can't just get in. Something has to trigger it to... send you to the right place." Brief pause. "I'm kind of not eager to be the Era authority, here."

"You know more than any of us," Andrea said, nonchalant and matter-of-fact.

"It's a valuable asset!" Simon said, grinning-- Luke gave him a flat look in return, his eyebrows raised. Simon was undeterred, and turned to look at the door. "So. Last one in, yadda yadda?" He looked at Egakumon, who gave him a thumbs-up, and that was enough for them. Rabbit and boy stepped through the film of light; the film-like substance warped around them to accommodate, and then they were lost to view. But not to ear.

"Oh, dude!" both yelled in near-tandem, their voices having no small amount of awe lacing the words.

"Guess that's as good a sign as any," Kamomon said, a bit apprehensively, fluffing his feathers up a little bit. He indicated with one wing-hand, looking up at his partner. "After you, Emily?" As he said so, Andrea and Rajamon went through the door-- he gave an indignant little squawk; Emily giggled her amusement at this, and they followed suit.

One or two at a time, the children and their digimon crossed through the door, and almost every one at least gasped (the exceptions of course being Julian and Iguamon-- but their eyes still widened momentarily).

On the other side, they appeared to be standing on nothing, afloat in a vast sea of empty void, blue and indigo swirling together like smoke against a backdrop that was black as pitch. Any form of portal back outside was nowhere to be found-- the only thing they could be sure of was themselves, and possibly the invisible something they were standing on. Lammon was gingerly scratching a hoof at the not-quite-ground while Rajamon reared up onto his hind legs and fell back onto his forepaws, looking down skeptically.

It was painfully quiet, only the distant roar of what sounded like more water than existed, rushing furiously far away. The digimon were dumb-stricken all; even Rajamon's ears were flipped down in a sort of submissive gesture. Fourteen pairs of eyes looked around in the silence; it seemed like speaking would break some unstated rule; even breathing seemed to be too loud.

Even to the humans, it felt like there was an unimaginable amount of power.

It began slow, but shot to full force with no time wasted.
It felt as though the entire world was shaking, falling apart around them. Digimon and children alike threw up their hands to cover their heads, just in case-- even Sampamon curled herself to cover her head with the tip and plume of her tail. It seemed to last forever, the rushing sound growing louder to the point where it was almost deafening.

The kids weren't watching, their hands thrown up and their eyes closed. Suddenly, the rushing sound snapped to a stop, like someone had hit the mute button; the only sound was the sound once again far away in the distance, and seven digimon voices whispering in near-tandem.

"Oh, my god."

Their voices were soaked with reverence, awe-- respect.

When the kids looked, it took a lot of effort for some of them (all of them) to not blurt something out without thinking. For a moment, the digimon in front of them was so huge that it was hard to register that it was a digimon at all. It was tremendous on a level that dwarfed everything they had seen thus far, and likely most things they would see. It didn't seem possible that more digimon of this calibre could exist.

It was difficult to tell, then, much about its appearance-- but an attempt could be made. A blue mask comprised its face, decorated with electricity designs in bright yellow; four red eyes peered out from under the mask. A long white beard and mustache affixed to the front, and a jagged, almost crystalline horn protruded from the middle of its face. The rest of its body was like a Chinese dragon comprised only of semi-transparent blue energy, crackling like lightning, with four clawed legs and numerous (superficially feathered) wings forming from the electricity-like substance. An expanse of chain was coiled around its body, and around each "wrist" of its legs, a total of twelve (three per limb) tremendous blue orbs -- digicores the likes of which the group had never seen -- floated.

If it felt like there was a powerful presence before, it paled in comparison to now.

The voice in their minds came back, booming and powerful and loud-- Faris and Delfinimon instinctively snapped their hands to their ears (what? Dolphins have ears). It did nothing to quiet the sound, loud and commanding, speaking slow and clear.

I appear to you only as a projection. For creatures such as you to approach a Sovereign, it would risk your integrity, and would leave our position around the Great Tree compromisable-- and neither I nor the other Sovereign feel that these are risks worth taking at this time.

What was there to say to that? There was a brief, weighty pause, and the giant creature moved its four-eyed gaze between each of the pairs of partners. The digimon were all but frozen to their spots-- Sampamon curled a bit tighter around Luke's neck, and Lammon shuffled closer to Toby, and all seven digimon wore expressions of awe-- and they were mirrored in various degrees on their partners' faces. Simon and Egakumon were both nearly slack-jawed; Andrea set her jaw and Rajamon was trying to appear more confident than he was (with little success). Why, even Andrea held the egg that was once Rafikmon a little bit closer, just out of reflex.

I am Azulongmon, the Protector and Sovereign of the East, it boomed, likely for the benefit of the children (Egakumon mouthed along to 'Sovereign of the East'). You are welcomed to this temple, children and digimon of Virtue. His eyes flicked to the side, before he continued. I can only imagine you are wondering why you have been summoned.

It was just as well that the tremendous dragon-like digimon seemed to know what was on the children's minds -- though that question was obvious enough -- as it felt as though anything they could possibly say would die in their throats well before it was articulated. Luke managed to nod once, and that was about the extent of it; it was enough.

You, children, have been chosen by the Sovereign, procured through the Core Tree Yggdrasil, to protect our world. And you, digimon, have been created by the same, for the same. If it has come to this, your wellbeing and the wellbeing of this world are interwoven. The man who calls himself Era is putting his final plans into motion; the threat to you, to us, to this world, is beyond what you can imagine, what you have ever known.

There was a weighty pause.

We fear that we may have acted too late. Our connection with the Tree is being compromised-- a direct link being forced open. Data is being stolen from the Tree faster than it is returning. Luke and Sampamon, almost in sync, averted their eyes and looked pointedly at Luke's feet, until Azulongmon continued: We do not blame any of your number. As things are now, it should not pose a problem provided you act with haste. However, the very real possibility of what shall happen should you not move quickly enough has forced us to take more drastic measures; this is why you have been summoned to me here.

"Come to think, you still haven't let me in on the plan, either, Azuzu," said a voice from behind them suddenly, familiar and friendly and--

"Deekamon!?" A chorus of more than fully half of the kids and digimon (to wit: everyone that wasn't Simon, Egakumon, Luke, or Sampamon) blurted, and Egakumon only because he was somehow struck even dumber than he was. Indeed, having materialized -- somehow -- about five behind the backmost member of the group (Julian and his dinosaur partner, for the records), the purple cat hoodie and big cheshire-cat grin were unmistakable.
He was standing there like this was normal, folding his arms and looking up at the giant dragon, yellow eyes unblinking. Momentarily, he looked at the group.

"Heyo, kiddos! Told you we'd meet again."

As subtle an entrance as is your wont. Hold up, did he actually sound kind of amused? But it is, I would suppose, for the best that you're present. Chosen, and all seven children, all seven digimon, could feel the red eyes boring into them, In the event that it becomes necessary...

"May we ask what it, uh, entails?" Toby piped up uncertainly-- to those who registered it, it was a shock, as he was the first to speak (not counting the blurt of 'deekamon') out of the group since Azulongmon's appearance.

A roundabout way for you, Digimon, to reach your greatest strength, should you become unable to the way that the other Sovereigns and I have set forth in your code. That was... cryptic.

"Plan B, huh," Deekamon murmured from behind-- he sounded pensive, thoughtful.

"Like... what would necessitate that?" Iguamon said, quietly, trying to read Azulongmon's inscrutable face.

You will know. Pray that it does not come to it.

Which meant it would. If it were a big enough concern that they were doing something about it preemptively...
Any more thought was cut short by an ear-splitting roar, Azulongmon actually opening his mouth and loosing the noise. It hurt, even with hands clamped over ears, and suddenly things (namely, Azulongmon-- he was technically a thing, right?) got very bright.
They were getting used to things going up in lights and then breaking apart to be absorbed into things, and this was no exception-- when the light reached painful levels, the light erupted from Azulongmon's body and collided straight into the kids and their digimon-- perhaps it was aiming for their D-GEAR units, but the pillars of light were entirely overkill, able to completely engulf the group. Deekamon leapt back, drifting back down to the ground, watching carefully.

There was a pause as the light began to dissipate, and then:

"Tingly." An apt appraisal on Faris' part.

"This should turn out interesting," Deekamon mused from behind-- it wasn't comforting, but he had the same lilt in his voice as ever.

Fates willing, it won't come to it, Azulongmon reiterated evenly, but for that to be feasible, you Chosen must make haste. From here, travel to the one known as Era's base in the Barren Lands, as you were told before. One of you knows the way.

"I really don't want to be the Era consultant if it can be helped," Luke mumbled, almost imperceptible to his teammates but not going unnoticed by the dragon; however, the Sovereign did not comment.

You are dismissed. It is a goodly distance from here, and I cannot help you reach it faster. If you would stay, Deekamon?

Almost like that, the world around them began to ripple and shake and fall apart. Deekamon, stepping towards Azulongmon, tossed a grin (as though he could make any other visible expression-- but it felt as though underneath the fabric grin that stretched across the bottom of his hood, he was smiling beneath. "Wait for me. This'll only take a tick."

And with a rushing noise, the kids and their partners were standing in the small figure atop the temple, no longer in the otherworldly void-- it was as though they had simply walked through the door, no magic, no portal.

Almost as soon as they got their bearings, there was a loud noise from outside-- like something breaking. Simon and Emily were the first to the door, and so peered out-- far below them, down on the street, was a tremendous dark shape; it was hard to make out, but what was clear was that just about everything in its path was getting decimated.

"You know, I'm starting to think we should stop having conversations with digimon who know more than us, yeom," Delfinimon pointed out. "Every time we do, something gets broken in the meantime."

"Hm," Andrea mumbled, but stretched one arm above her head (the other still holding Rafikmon's digitama close). "Well, I've been looking for something to relieve a little stress on. C'mon, Rajamon," she said, casually as anything, and just like that, tiger and girl took off down the stairs.

"Y'know, I'm actually on-board with this idea," Faris said suddenly, after a moment of silence, and with that he picked Delfinimon up into his arms (she gave a little dolphin-squeak) and took off down, surprisingly sure-footed even throwing himself down the stairs.
Before there was even a moment to spare, Julian silently followed after, calmly, not rushing at all, with Iguamon close behind; he was quickly overtaken by Simon and Egakumon, hurtling down the stairs like cannonballs.

"I'm not even surprised," Emily said cheerfully, looking over her shoulder. Toby, Sampamon, Lammon were still looking over their shoulders into the little structure; Luke was doing the same, shifting a bit on his feet.

"I'm sure Deekamon will find us, he always manages to," Kamomon offered, "if that's what's holding you up."

"Hmm? Oh, yeah," Toby said, shaking his head out of thought. "I just--"

"We're not ones to run right into battle, you could say," Lammon offered, smiling faintly. "You can go ahead."

Emily put her hands on her hips, but smiled and nodded. "See you guys at the bottom." And with that, the next pair began their descent from on high (such as it were).

There was a moment of silence.

"It always seems like something's bothering you," Toby said after a moment, and it took Luke a moment to register that he was being spoken to. The older of the two lifted a hand to gently stroke the gem on his digimon partner's head before--

He smiled faintly, but said nothing, and moved toward the stairs.

There was a brief moment of silence, before Lammon looked up at Toby, who wore a frown on his face. "It will come with time."
Momentary pause, as the little sheep began to walk towards the stairs.

"Even if we have to force it into his head with blunt force, it will come," she said, in her calm, quiet, usual tone of voice, and Toby couldn't suppress the laugh that came out.

[Chapter 28: End]