"How long do we have, sir?" Javermon asked, standing by his lord's side, barely flicking his eyes to look at Era.
"Does it matter?" the human replied, quietly. "It won't be long enough unless you get working."
"This would be so much easier if you'd just let us kill them, si--" and in the middle of his word, Javermon let out a harsh bark, being suddenly thrown on his back by an invisible force.
Era curled his lip; a faint glow faded from the hand he had waved to incur the action. "Don't even entertain the thought. If they die, everything I've worked for is undermined-- do you want that on your head, you snivelling moron?"
As if to punctuate his point, from the tips of Javermon's toes and the tips of his fingers, he began to glow like a defeated digimon. The canine let out something between a snarl and a whimper, shaking his head.
Era's eyes narrowed behind his glasses, and the glow faded from the dog's body. "I gave you useless packets of data the power you have. I can take it, and if I have to take it back, then I promise you you will wish for something so painless as deletion." Every word was a hiss, spat out through grit teeth with no attempt to hide the contempt in his voice.
The man took a moment to take a deep breath, and once more re-gained his composure. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Take however many Agents you need. Work together with the other two. It will be more difficult if the channel isn't open like it was with the dragon. Do whatever you have to. Have fun."
Javermon only nodded his head, grinning a toothy grin. "Sir, yes, sir."
With a twirl of his cape, Javermon excused himself from Era's throne-room; the man didn't even bother to watch him leave. Once the canine was gone, with a wave of Era's hand, the dark empty room flooded with holographic monitors and keyboards, a flurry of numbers and symbols and outputs and inputs.
A flick of his wrist and he had a shining orb in his hand, the same orb that his Reapers had produced from Azulongmon.
"What are we supposed to do!?" Mismon had completely lost his cool. He was bouncing up and down, flailing his little wings around like the little feathered puffball he was. He was nudging Emily (who, like the other children, was still unconscious) with his beak when he wasn't freaking out.
"Panicking won't do us any good," Fuwamon said gently, nudging the tiny bird with her nose in turn. Even so, she turned her attentions onto Toby, frowning.
"It doesn't look like we're..." Paleomon frowned as well, looking around, "... entirely here. That vehicle didn't seem to touch us at all."
"And I don't think the real world is supposed to be this dark, yeom," Finmon added.
She was right; everything around them was covered by a dense fog, making the outlines of even giant buildings not a stone's throw away seem fuzzy and unclear. Everything felt odd, like they weren't quite on the dimensional level, so to speak... even aside from the fact that they were seven tiny digimon with seven unconscious human partners, with no way to move the latter, in the middle of a street. In danger or not, it was uncomfortable to be in the line of oncoming cars.
"Wake up, Si," Efudemon whined, tapping his human partner on the forehead with his big claws.
"Here," Cindemon said, hopping away from Andrea and over to Efudemon and Simon. Efudemon blinked a couple times, but Cindemon circled up to near the boy's head, and casually closed his mouth on a bit of Simon's hat.
The little tiger-puff yanked.
Though he didn't awaken entirely, Simon groaned and lifted his arms up to grab a hold of his hat before Cindemon could pull it off his head.
"You've gotta be kidding me," Paleomon murmured, incredulous.
It might have just been coincidental, however; almost at the exact same time as Simon reacted to the near-theft of his hat, similar half-awake groans escaped the other seven children. Just like that, the other six digimon immediately darted to their respective partner's sides, if they weren't there already.
"I am really getting tired of this passing out and waking up in a new place thing," Andrea remarked, looking up into the foggy grey above all of their heads. She began to sit up, closing her eyes and not looking around herself yet. The others did much the same, sitting up tiredly and trying to gain their physical bearings before looking at their surroundings.
"Where are we?" Toby murmured, rubbing at his eyes and looking around -- it was all but totally foreign to him, but Simon let out a:
The sentiment was quickly shared by Andrea and Faris, blurting expressions of surprise; Emily, Toby, and Julian all let out, in return, noises of confusion.
"No way," murmured Luke, quieter than the others, looking around while Plumon slithered onto his lap, before he lifted her to her usual position on his shoulders.
"If someone could explain what's going on..." Toby said meekly, rubbing the back of his head, watching as Simon scrambled to his feet, "that would be great." The small boy picked the even smaller-than-normal sheep into his arms, frowning a bit with concern at the reduced level of their partners.
"You've gotta be kidding," Faris said, a sort of lopsided grin falling onto his face. "I'd know it anywhere."
"An explanation, please!" Emily said, raising her voice as Mismon fluttered into her arms.
There was more murmuring, but it was Andrea who actually gave the answer first. "We're... home."
"This is ridiculous," Epidemon sneered, pulling his coat closer around himself. "We're supposed to be the elite of Era's army. The elite don't travel by foot." It was cold, it was dark, and the wind was whipping around them-- if one could bring oneself to feel sorry for the leaders of Era's army, the plague doctor's discomfort would almost be understandable. Almost.
"Will you shut up for ten seconds?" Javermon spat back, curling his lip back. "Lord Era -- and I'd advise you use his proper name -- already explained this. We're on watch. The Sovereigns are getting scared," he continued; his voice was nothing short of dripping with delight at that statement. "We have to at least pretend to be stealthy if we want to get anywhere. It's not even that far."
"Say what you want, Cujo," Epidemon replied, looking down the length of his beak at the canine. "I just think he's too busy playing Yggdrasil to lend his loyal servants a ha--"
With a snarl, Javermon slashed out at the bird-man, who only had just enough time to leap backwards, skidding across the half-frozen ground until he dug his heels into the permafrost. He would have retaliated, but the small form of PicoDaemon dropped between them, looking blankly between the two. "We're wasting time," the small digimon said plainly, matter-of-factly, before he pulled his claws out of the ground and pushed back into the air, the batting of his wings almost lost to the howl of the wind.
Javermon snorted, but continued walking, pulling his cape closer around himself; Epidemon sneered, but fell silent as well, and after a moment, he continued after the dog, ice crystals crunching under claw and boot.
"Welcome to downtown Capital City!" Simon exclaimed after the stunned silence that followed, even as Efudemon pulled himself up by clawing at the boy's shorts and up the back of his hoodie.
"Is it always this dark?" Simon's partner asked -- as soon as he pulled himself up onto the boy's shoulder -- looking around.
"Something definitely seems off," Andrea admitted, kneeling down to pick up Cindemon. She stood up straight, cradling the tiger-puff under one arm, and reached for her D-GEAR with her free hand.
"This is where you said you're from, right?" Fuwamon said from Toby's arms, peeking up.
"Some of us, yeah," Faris replied, indicating Simon, Andrea, and himself, smiling back. "I moved here with our dad after Jules' and I's parents split up-- so Julian's been here at least a bit, he's visited. And..." he looked to Toby and Emily. "You two have at least been here, didn't you say?" That conversation back on the beach seemed so far away now.
"I gotta admit I've never been to this part of it," Emily said, shrugging and smiling faintly. "My cousins and aunts and uncles don't live around here."
"And I've only been through a few times-- I live further up the state," Toby added.
Luke spoke up, hands in his pockets. "I used to live around here, too," he said, looking around. "A while ago."
Faris grinned. "Those of us in the area oughta meet up some time, once we're all done with this digital world stuff," he said.
"... Uh, guys? Check your D-GEARs."
It was almost reflexive that, in a chorus, the seven digimon corrected, "D-GEAR units," but it sort of trailed off when the kids were... less than calm. The screens of the little gizmos had gone completely white, and they were shaking just lightly-- not nearly as hard as they did for a Virtue evolution, more like a phone set to vibrate going off.
Simon frowned slightly as he tapped at the buttons on his D-GEAR. Instead of the usual screens and menus it brought up, it was bringing up staticky holographs, like three-dimensional TV static. The other human children around him seemed to be having the same experience; notably, when Julian tried to bring up the map, it flickered rapidly, twisting in shapes that were decidedly... not-spherical. It seemed like it couldn't make up its mind.
All at once, all seven little devices let out a shrill beep, their screens going pure-white again, and their glitched holograms disappearing.
"Oh, that's a good sign, yeom," Finmon remarked, bopping her nose at Faris' feet, and he knelt to scoop her up. With the push of a button from their owners, each of the D-GEAR units powered down, the beep cutting out just as quickly as it had started.
"So what... are we supposed to do?" Efudemon said, peering over Simon's shoulder still.
There was a moment of quiet consideration. "... first, I'm gonna suggest we move out of the road," Emily provided. "We may not get hurt but I still don't like the fact that cars keep coming at us, y'know?"
It was a good enough suggestion, and the group shuffled their way over to an alleyway, lined with grafitti.
"So-- question still stands. What are we going to do?" Luke said, putting his hands in his pockets again. "I guess we could try to split up and look around, but..."
"But how would we find eachother again?" finished Mismon from Emily's arms, and Luke nodded. Without their D-GEARs to function as maps and locators, they were kind of out of luck.
Andrea put her hand to her face, stroking her chin in thought. "We meet back here." She looked up -- even through the dense fog, there was a shining disc of light visible beyond it-- the sun. It was mid-afternoon, judging by its vague positioning. "At sundown. That's a few hours. We'll go in groups. A couple can stay back here and inspect around here. One group goes up the street, one down it. Look for anything that looks like it might be a hint towards... whatever's going on."
As though awaiting his decision, the spirited girl looked to Julian with a well? expression; eventually, he shrugged.
"As good a plan as we ever have."
That was, by all accounts, a ringing endorsement. "So who goes where, and with whom?" Fuwamon asked, peering around.
"Plumon and I will stay here," Luke volunteered immediately, and just about jumped out of his skin when Simon flung an arm around him.
"And... not-quite-bunny-boy and I'll play watch-dog, too."
Julian raised an eyebrow, but nodded, then turned and said, "Faris, Toby, you go with Andrea. Emily, you're with me."
Odd break-ups as they were, nobody argued; making sure their digimon were soundly in their arms, the two leaving groups got together. They bid each other good luck, and they went off their own directions, leaving Simon, Luke, and their respective partners standing in the alleyway.
Almost immediately after the two "mobile" teams had gone their ways, Simon ducked further into the alleyway, purposed and intentional; Efudemon had to dig his claws into the boy's hoodie to keep from flying off. Luke blinked a couple times, before scurrying after him. "What are you doing?" the blond boy murmured, more to himself than to Simon.
The be-hatted boy stopped a ways in, underneath a fire escape; here in the alley, the fog was less pronounced, and things looked clearer, though the colour was still washed out.
"What's this, Si?" Efudemon asked, as Simon reached out and placed a hand on a grafitti tag, unable to keep himself from smiling.
"It's still here!"
Luke caught up then, blinking a couple times and definitely confused as he looked at the spray-painted image on the brick wall.
It was a very simplified, stylized white rabbit with eyes closed, standing over a zig-zag spray of red paint; one ear flopped down while the other stood up before it drooped. Red bracelets adorned its wrists, with a fluffy red tail behind, while it threw both of its four-fingered mitts up into 'rock hands', a big red tongue sticking out of its smiling mouth. Next to it, in big letters that faded from red to yellow, was the insignia 'RapBit' (or possibly 'Rap8it', it was hard to tell)
"Dare I ask why you just bolted down an alleyway to look at a piece of grafitti?" Luke asked, rubbing the back of his head. Simon only grinned.
"This means I was right about where we are, for certain!" the boy in goggles said, picking Efudemon off his shoulders and into his arms, pulling his hand away from the wall.
Luke raised an eyebrow. "What, about it being Capital City? I... I mean, would have guessed we were here regardless of if you had said it or not, no offense..."
"It clearly means something more," Plumon provided, though she was far from sure as to what. As far as she or her partner were concerned, Simon was living a half a world away, for the moment.
"This is my tag," Simon said, entirely giddy. "I mean-- I made this. This is mine. This means we're near where I live."
"Aww yeah, rabbits represent," Efudemon said, holding up a claw for a high-five. ... high-two. Whatever. Simon reciprocated, shifting his partner into one arm to hold Efudemon with one hand and high-five (whatever) him with the other.
"Come on," Simon said then, beckoning for Luke to follow him back out of the alleyway the way they had come.
"Why do I have the feeling this is not going to involve waiting around for the others to get back," Luke murmured, slowly walking after the very energetic leader of the group. He was even more-so than usual; something had clearly gotten him jazzed up, or something.
"Because fate works in mysterious ways?" Plumon provided, but the tone in her voice implied that had she shoulders, she would be shrugging them.
"The chances are," Andrea said, almost immediately, once they were out of earshot of the others, "that Simon is going to get distracted by something, and Julian has some sort of agenda, from the way he's been talking. So! My bet is that we're going to be the only ones actually looking for a way back to the Digital World."
Faris and Toby exchanged sort-of-surprised looks, but didn't argue.
"So, uh, what's the plan? If we're gonna be doing this whole recon thing, yeom," Finmon asked.
"Please don't tell me we're going to split up further," Toby mumbled, rubbing the back of his head. The trio stopped walking, and Andrea turned to look at them. For a moment Fuwamon could almost swear her face softened for a second. ... only a second.
"No," she said after a moment, shrugging. "We just need to cover as much ground as we can."
"Aye-aye, madame capitaine," Faris said with a mock-salute and a big grin; both Toby and Andrea rolled their eyes in response.
Cindemon fixed both boys with sort of scrutinizing expressions, before he nodded his head-body, turning his eyes up to Andrea. "Let's go, yeah?"
The trio began their search, looking up alleyways and up and down any street they could; it was a bit frustrating to be making as little progress as they were, but at least they had Faris' (constant) (bad) wisecracking to groan at all the while. It wasn't entirely fruitless, however; once they had poked their way up and down a few streets and city blocks to no avail, it was Fuwamon that piped up in her little, meek voice.
"Look!" she said, peering over Toby's arms, in which she was wrapped. It caught the attention of only Toby, but he almost yelped with surprise. Darting through the alleyway, mixed among the fuzzy shapes and unclear outlines, a nearly-transparent -- barely there -- image of a digimon -- a bipedal hawk, from the quick glimpse they got -- fleeing from something; it was gone by the time Faris and Andrea made their way over, reacting to the younger boy's noise of surprise.
"What happened, yeom?" Finmon asked, blinking a couple times.
"A... digimon. I think," Toby muttered, tilting his head. He wasn't entirely sure he had actually seen it. "Let's... move on?" he tried, shaking his head; Fuwamon, in his arms, nodded her head.
Andrea shrugged and nodded as well.
"So what was up with the group divisions, anyway?" Emily said, holding Mismon close to her chest.
Julian raised an eyebrow and turned; he, like Andrea was holding Cindemon, held Paleomon under one arm like a soccer ball. "We're searching for any clues to help us get back out to the Digital World," he said, shrugging one shoulder.
Emily rolled her eyes, smiling a bit. "Like, I don't think you'd do anything if you didn't have a plan for it? You seemed to have an idea or... something like that."
The pair walked for a while, down the sidewalk; Julian spoke after a few moments of silence, still walking forward. "You and I are the ones who live farthest away from here. I want to figure out why it is we were all chosen to go on this wild goose chase of a mission, since nobody else is going to tell me." He stopped, looking over his shoulder at the girl.
"I'm sure we can catch up with Andrea and her group and trade you off, if you don't want to be stuck with me."
Emily raised her eyebrows, but she shook her head. "It makes sense! ... I think... hmm." She paused to think. "We're the two who have been to the fewest parts of the city, yeah? ... so, like, the chances are... we've been somewhere? If it really does have to do with the city... do you know what I mean?"
Julian nodded. It was, after all, his idea. They had been the fewest places; therefore, they had fewer places to look, to see if there could possibly be any connection. If there was a certain place that was key, there could only be so few places that two outsiders would have been at any point in time.
"I don't think we can use any of the public transport," Mismon said, stating the obvious. "It might take a while to get anywhere on foot..."
"I do advise we hurry," Paleomon said quietly.
"Easy for you to say-- we're carrying you guys," Emily replied.
It was a truly amazing feat, as far as Javermon was concerned, that Epidemon hadn't whined even once more since their trek out of Era's stronghold in the Barren Lands-- it helped that they had entered (returned to, in PicoDaemon's case) a far more... temperate... area. In fact, it was almost uncomfortable for the dog, the humidity of the damp, sticky swamp becoming oppressive to the furriest of the trio the further they went. It was, of course, not a problem for them to pass-- rebels were rare, or at least any who would do anything about them.
Needless to say, very few digimon stopped them, but they had to be careful regardless, the closer they drew to the temple.
PicoDaemon dropped from the sky, flying much more on-level with his coworkers, but all three of the trio had little to say until a tremendous tree came into view -- into its trunk, Ebonwumon's temple was carved. Like in the Floating Ruins, a long "main street" ran up the length to the temple, lined with digimon's homes and structures-- though it was less "street" and more "damp but generally clear broad pathway". Unlike the Floating Ruins, most of the digimon were in hiding, and they could see eyes peering out to see the three Reaper-class digimon.
The temple was not yet open to them, and this time there were no Chosen Children -- trusted individuals -- to cause the connection to weaken.
They'd have to force the door open themselves.
"This should be fun," Epidemon remarked, his voice bearing the smirk his immobile mask could not display. His eyes flicked to the side, looking to the canine.
Javermon's lips were curled back into a nasty, sharp-toothed grin as his body began to change form, becoming feral and... significantly larger. His face lengthened into a more canine form, his mask dissolving away as a heavy collar with a length of chain fell into place around his neck. Black bands snapped around his arms as his forearms became longer, more like clawed tree-trunks. His legs grew, become more digitigrade and dog-like; soon, the only clothing that remained on his body, aside from the black bands and the collar, was a tattered red loincloth that bore a striking resemblance to his cape. His hair extended into a ridge of mane-like fur that ran from the back of his head down between his shoulders.
He let out a feral howl, abandoning subtlety to the wind, as acid-green spit began to drip out of his mouth. Around one hand he wrapped the length of slack chain.
The now much more... animalistic... Javermon turned his head to look at Epidemon and PicoDaemon, and said nothing. He only growled and nodded his head.
"Fantastic," Epidemon chuckled, and the three surged forward.
It was a bit of a walk, admittedly, but they weren't entirely too far from where they had woken up when Simon finally came to a stop. Luke was in no hurry, but was on the other boy's heels. They had been on the edge of the actual downtown area, and so it wasn't too much to ask for them to find their way into the suburbs. They walked up in front of a house, the same as any other-- it was totally nondescript. The fog was a constant, but they could make details out enough. Two cars in the driveway, a bike haphazardly propped up against the garage door, a smaller version of the Rapbit grafitti scrawled on the fence between the front and back yards.
"This where you live?" Luke asked, though it was obvious, to look at the expression on Simon's face; the red-haired boy couldn't keep the smile off his face, and even Efudemon was wiggling a bit with spillover excitement.
"Born and raised," Simon confirmed, nodding his head; he turned to Luke and smiled apologetically. "Sorry, I just really kinda wanted to see it again."
Luke nodded his head; he could understand the desire. It had been a long series of weeks in the Digital World-- he couldn't blame the other boy for getting a bit homesick.
"It's... been a while..." Simon murmured, and the smile started falling from his face, replaced with a contemplative look; he looked next to one of the cars, where luggage was sitting, like someone had just gotten home from a trip. "... Come on," he said, motioning for Luke to follow him again as he approached the house; Luke sighed a bit over-dramatically before he did so.
"Can't deny he's a strong personality," Plumon remarked, tilting her head.
The pair of humans and their digimon crept up to the window, even though they knew they were all but ghosts to the world around them for whatever reason-- it was more of habit than any fear of getting caught, most likely.
Though the sounds were muffled and fuzzy, through the window they could hear the sound of two adults speaking, almost frantically, while a teenage girl's voice intercut at various points. They could make out words, snippets of what was being said.
"... you were supposed to be keeping track of--"
"I told you, mom, I don't know! He was here one second and then he... wasn't!"
"... how long do you think we've been gone?" Simon said, suddenly, furrowing his brows and casting his eyes to the ground.
It was Plumon that spoke up now, curled around Luke's shoulders. "Era had said... he'd spent a hundred years, but he was only ten years older than he was when he came into our world," the little snake said, straining to remember. "You've been in the Digital World for..."
"Weeks, now," Efudemon provided, ever-so-helpfully.
"... so if it's... ten to one," Simon said, and he was trying to tally up the days. ... he eventually gave up, and just said, "... we've been gone for days. At least." He frowned even deeper. "I... think my parents just got home. They were out of town for a few days when this whole thing started. It can't have been as long as we've been in the Digital World, or they wouldn't be reading Sarah the riot act right now..."
Simon was conflicted-- for a moment, he wished not to return to the Digital World, but that he could be seen by his family, or contact them. He might not have the greatest opinion of his older sister, but... the worry in both his parents' and his sister's voice was disconcerting to say the least. He could hear that they were crying.
And if that wasn't a nice pit in your stomach, what was?
Luke blinked a few times-- the thought of the passage of time, of him and the other kids being missing, had totally failed to strike him until now-- he was a bit taken aback, to say the least. "I..." and again the thought of what he knew that Era was doing hit him in the chest. He shuddered deeply, but... he couldn't bring himself to interrupt Simon's moment.
"Uh, yeah, sorry I had to derail us," Simon said suddenly, sighing deep.
"I understand," Luke said, quiet and nodding his head. He cringed a bit. "I-- don't mean to interrupt, or rush us, but... we have to get back to the Digital World. As soon as we possibly can."
Time was passing them by-- ten to one, right? That meant that... they had already been here for nearly an hour, just walking, and who knows how long they had been out? Hours? Days? That meant that Era had time to...
Simon looked at him, and tilted his head. "I... heck, I'd think you'd want to go check up on your own fam, not rush back."
It was Luke's turn to have a pit in his stomach, and before he could control himself he shook his head. "Nah. Let's just... go." Simon looked at him scrutinizingly; way too much of a dodged question, the blond boy realized after a minute, and he groaned internally.
... but to Luke's great relief, Simon didn't remark further. "Let's get going, then!"
Luke breathed out, and found himself remarkably thankful that the de facto leader of the motley crew of humans and digimon was a bit of a blockhead as they began to walk back towards the alleyway. He paused and looked over his shoulder-- he could have sworn he saw something, an image of something, but...
He shook his head and followed after Simon.
The more they went on, the more that it turned out that... Toby and Fuwamon had definitely not been imagining it. Andrea and Faris both, looking around for anything to give them a clue as to what was going on, and instead... phantom images of digimon, fading out as quickly as they appeared, hidden in alleyways and nooks and crannies, up on fire escapes and on top of awnings. Just like the kids, they seemed to have no physical effect on their surroundings-- even less than the kids, as a matter of fact; they seemed completely apart from their environment, leaping through solid objects and tripping over air. They looked to mostly be Baby II and Child-level digimon, with the stray Adult-level in the mix here and there.
"They look like they're running from something," Andrea remarked; the images of digimon all seemed to be running in the direction from which the little group had come. Always a good plan, going in the direction from which everything was fleeing.
"Do you think it's possible," Toby said, speaking slow, as though he were thinking it through as he said it, "that... we're kind of on the line between the Digital and Real worlds?"
"Makes as much sense as anything," Faris replied, shrugging one shoulder nonchalantly.
"No, it makes sense," Andrea said, once more stroking her chin in thought. "It's why we haven't been hit by any of the cars. And why everything looks all..." she looked around, and rolled her eyes. "Like the entire world needs to get its glasses adjusted."
"Yeah, I didn't really think stuff was supposed to be non-solid and blurry in the real world, yeom," Finmon added, smiling as usual. "'Least not the way you guys talked about it."
"And it's probably why we keep seeing glimpses of the Digital World?" Fuwamon said, and the others nodded in affirmation.
"But that doesn't explain," Cindemon cut in, "why we're here at all." There was a pause, before the little furball continued. "That said, I'm more concerned with what's going on." He turned his eyes ahead, where the image of a white cat digimon falling onto its face and dissolving into light caused him to cringe.
"Come on, then," Andrea said, decisively, motioning for the two boys to follow. "If nothing else, it's worth it to check this out. We've got the time."
The trio, with their digimon in-hand, took off down the street, flashes of digimon surging past them -- even through them, about which Faris expressed his intense displeasure. The further they went, the more frequently the phantom digimon appeared, and the longer their images persisted before vanishing. It wasn't long before they stumbled upon the apparent source of the illusory digimon's panic.
"Well, crap," Andrea said, deadpan, even as her pupils constricted.
Even though it was transluscent and flickered like a faulty TV signal, the digimon before them showed no signs of fading away like the others. It was large, and made one-hundred percent of metal-- it looked like a dragon or dinosaur cobbled out of robotic leftovers, with two large cannons mounted on its back and hollow black eyes.
"A MachineDramon!" Cindemon exclaimed, his eyes going wide as the giant metal monstrosity stepped a heavy foot forward-- though it made no sound, made no impact in the concrete, they could almost see the street cracking under its weight and force, hear the thud of its foot hitting ground.
Even though it was clearly not of the world they currently inhabited, the trio couldn't help but feel a surge of fear the closer it lurched. Toby buried his face in his over-large hood as Fuwamon snuggled down into his sleeves; Andrea rooted herself to the ground, clenching her fists, as Cindemon tried to growl, as though to intimidate; Faris just groaned while Finmon threw her fins over her eyes.
"I, uh," Andrea murmured after a moment, "think we've seen enough."
"Word," Faris said, turning on his heel and walking away very quickly -- the other two humans were quick to follow. As they walked, Toby frowned, going through his memories; he looked at the two older children as they turned a corner, the phantom MachineDramon drifting out of sight.
"Didn't Wisemon say something about Era wanting to mobilize digimon into the real world?" the small boy said suddenly.
The other two froze in their tracks; their time way back in that underwater castle had obviously fallen out of their minds.
"Oh that's just skippy," drawled Faris.
Andrea put her fingers to the bridge of her nose, and breathed out. "We're... heck. Just that thing alone could..." she shook her head, trailing off. "Fear's not gonna get us anywhere. Let's keep looking."
Julian and Emily indeed did take a while to get much of anywhere on foot, but they were making progress indeed-- even if not entirely towards the goal they had in mind. Talking and trying to find a common locale had led them towards a particular location-- a plaza, in the heart of the downtown. It took them a while to reach it-- while Simon and Luke were well on their way back to the alley, the team of Julian and Emily were just then reaching the plaza. (To those keeping score at home, this equates to about an hour and a half.)
"So you think this is the only place we have in common, unless we're counting the entire city?" Emily asked, looking around. In the heart of the plaza was a grand fountain, and the shady shapes of people and cars bustled around them, totally oblivious to the kids and the talking heads they held in their arms.
"Seems the only answer. And if we've both been here, it'd make sense that the others had," Julian reasoned, looking at his D-GEAR -- still totally functionless, and beeping shrilly when turned on. He sighed and pocketed it, before looking to Paleomon under his arm. The little dino-blob was wrinkling where his nose might have been.
"Set me down," Paleomon said, thoughtfully; his partner directly did so, and immediately the little digimon began to bounce his way over near the fountain proper; Mismon squirmed in Emily's arms until she let him go, and like Paleomon, Mismon flapped his way over to the fountain.
Julian and Emily exchanged looks; the former's eyebrows were raised, while the latter's were furrowed. "Something up?" Emily asked, looking over at the two little digimon, putting her hands on her hips.
"It feels weird!" squawked the little bird-puff, turning around in the air. Emily tilted her head, folding her arms.
"Like how?" As she said that, both she and Julian began to walk forward towards the two digimon, who were inspecting the fountain; a thought crept into the back of Julian's mind, but he pushed it down, shaking his head. It was childish.
"It feels like there's..." Paleomon frowned, peering at the fountain carefully. "Something odd about it. Do you feel anything, Julian?" he asked, looking up at his partner.
"Not particularly," the boy admitted, shrugging his shoulders and brushing his hair out of his eyes; he looked to Emily, and she shook her head with a confused expression. "Might have something to do with your being digimon and our not." Regardless, he knelt down next to his partner, looking over the rim of the fountain's basin pool. The mist from the water sprayed in his face, and he put a hand in the shallow water. He could feel, but couldn't seem to pick up, the litany of coins thrown in.
"I made a wish here, once, when I was visiting with my cousins," Emily admitted, kneeling down as well. "My cousins said it was childish, and almost left me here 'cos of it, but I wanted to do it anyway." She trailed off, looking into the reflection of the water. There was a momentary pause, before Julian spoke again.
"I did, too. Long time ago. First time I was visiting Faris after he and our dad moved out here-- I think my dad was driving my mom crazy, or the other way around, so she brought me out here for a little while." He let his hand drift to the top of the water, then, out of habit, pulled out his D-GEAR.
It was working, and his eyes went wide. "Check your digivice, Emily," he said quickly, and she pulled her own out-- and just like his, it was in functional order once more.
"That's it!" Mismon exclaimed, flapping his wings a little harder and almost throwing himself into the fountain spray. "It feels like Digital World energy!"
"I think we found the way back," Emily remarked, smiling.
"... among other things," Julian mumbled, his mind already slotting things together. He had a few questions for the others.
"Run run run run run!" Epidemon yelped, the ground shaking violently underneath them. Javermon, still in his bestial form, gripped a brilliantly glowing orb in his jaws, running on all fours. His teammates were perched on his back -- a position he would normally never let them take, but desperate times, desperate measures.
The damp ground beneath them was beginning to dry out and crumble, and digimon around them were panicking and running for their lives. Javermon, of course, did not heed them-- indeed, he ran some over, beams of light shooting into the sky from under his massive paws as the land began to break apart beneath them.
PicoDaemon perched on the back of the dog-like digimon, his wings folded around him; he said nothing.
It had almost ten days, by Digital time, that the kids and their partners had been missing; the little digimon presumed that they had been laid out for hours by their own time. This job was far easier when the children weren't around.
Two Sovereigns down.
Three to go.
It was a couple hours later, yet, when the team finally reached the fountain all as one; the walk back and forth ate up more precious time, even though the group took it at a less-than-leisurely pace. (By this, it is meant that Julian and Emily practically sprinted back to the alley; when Andrea's team returned, each of the three explained what they had found. They had immediately taken off towards the fountain plaza at a brisk jog, at the urging of Emily and Julian, to discuss finer details on the way.)
"Phantom digimon. Joy."
"I... hadn't even thought about my family..."
"I remember that fountain, yo! Used to go there all the time..."
The sun was sunken past the barrier of the buildings around them, and its final rays were still poking over the concrete and brick when the group arrived at the fountain. As if on cue, the kids' D-GEARs began to beep frantically -- not a sustained, shrill note like before, but an ever-quickening beat of beeps.
"Either this is a good sign, or a terrible one," Faris remarked.
It was, however, a good one -- even if the kids couldn't quite tell immediately. The screens of their digivices lit up, as the water of the fountain began to shine at the same time.
Just like it had when they were first summoned to the digital world, the light from their devices began to swallow them (and this time, their digimon -- of course) in a brilliant white glare.
As they faded out of the pseudo-real world, however, something was... decidedly different.
As soon as the real world around them faded out, something hit the kids and their digimon hard from one side, throwing them completely out of alignment-- and away from one another.