Episode 36: Never Turn Around

The group's plans for resting at the foot of the mountain were abandoned, unsurprisingly, the second Simon's presence there was made clear. This was only accellerated once Simon revealed his knowledge that the trio led by Javermon were beyond even the slightest shadow of doubt headed up into them, and thus to wherever it was that lay beyond the proxy area.

Very shortly after the group was once more fully-formed, then, they began the trek up the craggy path between the peaks. The further they went ahead and up, the lighter it got, despite the relatively shallow incline of the path.
To be quite frank, it took some adjusting-- and a bit of pain, as their pupils had expanded so drastically from spending those several days at night-time levels of illumination.

"It buuuurns!" wailed Efudemon (who had woken up some time ago -- roughly around the time that Simon jumped off of the rock shelf and accidentally dropped him), clapping his claws over his face.

"Stealing my line, yeom," Delfinimon remarked cheekily, rubbing at her own eyes as the entire group did much the same. "I was gonna say that."

"Way too many amateur comedians around, I guess," Lammon said quietly, smiling faintly.

The further they walked, the steeper and more winding the path got-- and before long, the tingling sensation of a data reformat set in. As ever, it went barely noticed by the digimon, but was a faint pressure on the skulls of the kids.
Except for Simon, who only realized the absence once Andrea grumbled and rubbed at her head.

Simon had yet to explain the events of the battle to the others; he couldn't seem to find the words to make it sound real-- perhaps it was even seeming a little unreal in hindsight. Uncharacteristically (for him, at least), he said nothing.

By the time they reached the apex of the path, the sun was setting to their right; it cast a warm orange light over the scenery before them, below them.
A ways down the slope -- gentler than the one they had just scaled -- on this side of the mountains, it evened out. All around them was a ring of mountains, surrounding what they could only guess the entire area, as it was indeed a quite vast area laid before them.

The valley nestled between the mountain darker was than its, surroundings thanks to the lip of peaks blocking the light from the setting sun in the west. The rock was dark, tinted with a strange sort of purple, though spots here and there shone brightly, like beacons in the night. Similarly, more small peaks were nestled within the valley, some of them streaked with--

"It's not a valley," Julian said suddenly, raising his eyebrows. "It's a giant volcanic crater."

And indeed, it was-- though somehow there were more, smaller volcanoes within it, it looked to be the crater of a truly tremendously-sized volcano.

"I'm guessing that the data reformat is going to prevent us from, oh, say, bursting into flames, should that become a concern," Andrea remarked; Rajamon smirked.

"I don't see how that's an issue." The tiger was kidding, judging by the tone in his voice.

"The rest of us are not built to combust as a combat mechanism," Delfinimon remarked, sticking her tongue out. "So shush, yeom."

They looked out further, trying to see what they could; it was getting too dark to make out anything terribly small, but silhouettes still stood. The expanse of land below them had what looked to be expanses of rocky planes, interspersed with intermittent clusters of city and town, and, oddly enough, a decent amount of low-lying vegetation; how it was surviving when lava was oozing around it was going to go unquestioned, explained away by Digital World.

In the heart of the crater, a large volcano (within a volcano) reached for the sky, the tallest thing by far in the area; glowing molten rock flowed slowly down its sides, erupting gently but consistently.

This was all visible to them, however, as they were still well above it all. The trek down would likely be a sizable time investment of its own, and not one they were particularly looking forward to doing in the dark.

Iguamon was quick to find them a level area a short jaunt down the crater side of the mountain; it was a level area underneath an overcropping of rock; it was shadowed well, and moreover there were a number of boulders providing a low wall across the front side. It was dry and relatively hidden, and looked safer than not.
This was all they could ask, really.

It was (perhaps unsurprisingly) quite warm -- not overly so; in fact it was quite pleasant, allowing those with extra layers of clothing to remove them to provide some form of cushioning on the hard ground. (To be precise: Simon and Toby had their hoodies, Andrea had her cropped jacket, Julian had his vest, and Luke had his full-length jacket.)

"So I think we've got a lot to talk about," Kamomon said after they had settled down, sitting as comfortably as they could, sitting in some rough approximation of a circle.

Andrea wasted no time; she looked over at Luke. "What's up with the fact that none of those reaper guys seem willing to kill us?" She spoke with her usual level of tact (that is, "very low"), which gained her a sideways glance from Sampamon, but no remark.

Luke raised his eyebrows, and for a moment had no words.

"I actually had the same question," Julian added before Luke had much of a chance to explain anything. "That PicoDaemon one. He killed the digimon that attacked us because his attacking us 'jeopardized' their goals."

Luke sat back, leaning on his hands; he could feel all eyes on him. Sampamon tightened a bit around his shoulders as a comforting gesture.
Time to be the dispenser of all knowledge Era-related. Joy of freaking joys.

"I... I'd love to say I know all the details. But I really don't. I know that... it has something to do with the Virtues." Luke rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't know why, exactly. He said, repeatedly, that none of his minions were allowed to-- well. It's why I--" he choked on the word, shaking his head. "Forbidramon, protected..." he faltered here, looking at Andrea. "From-- Narakamon."

Andrea paused, but shook her head as though dispelling a thought; she nodded soon after.

Sampamon considered this, then nodded. "I wish we knew more," the snake said slowly, closing her eyes. "All we know is this: he has the Virtue. He's..." she took a deep breath. "The Reapers are killing the Sovereigns."
The digimon were stunned into a silence, quite visibly taken aback; Efudemon let out an indignant yelp, Delfinimon gave a squeak of surprise. The kids merely blinked slowly; even if they did not have as much of a reverence for the Sovereigns as the digimon...
Their time in the digital world was more than enough to make them appreciate the weight of the situation.

"I don't think we can know if he's gotten any more of them since we saw Azulongmon fall," Luke said, frowning as he pulled his knees closer to his chest.

The digimon were still shocked mute, and the kids were listening intently, so the seventh child took the chance to continue.
"They're taking cores. That was what they had before the ruins fell-- what they took out of the temple," he said. "My best guess is that he's trying to make something with the Sovereign's cores and the virtue. I can't be sure, but... that's all I know." Luke looked up, frowning; all around him were looks of deep thought, of fear, of surprise, of indignity, and he couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt run through him.

Toby spoke up, speaking slow and choosing his words carefully. "... so... he's trying to create something--"

"Probably a digimon," Lammon added; Toby nodded slowly.

"Something, probably a digimon... with part of Yggdrasil, and with the cores of the Sovereigns. Basically, parts of gods."

There was a short silence.

"... wellp, it's official! We are hosed. Was good knowing you guys," Faris said, voice positively dripping with sarcasm.

"Try to be a bit more optimistic," Emily chided, pulling her knees to her chest.

Efudemon was lost in thought; he tapped his claws on the rock. "We saw them take Azulongmon. I think Ebonwumon lived in the Overgrown Swamp -- my best bet's that they got him, too."

"If we're heading towards Zhuqiaomon, and Simon said that Javermon said they were," Kamomon continued, looking out over the crater they were still perched above, "then we must have been sent quite a ways across the world when we came back."

"So after this, they'll go for Baihumon. He's in the Metal City, to the west," Iguamon said, blunt and matter-of-fact. The kids could only listen and nod along, having no way to contribute; this was something about which the digimon had sole ownership of the knowledge.

"Then that gives us a plan of attack," Rajamon concluded. "We try to find the Reapers here once we wake up. Hold them off. Hopefully kick their faces in."

"And if we don't find them, yeom?" Delfinimon said, though she knew the answer already.

"Then we run," Luke said bluntly, sitting back.

"And try to head them off at the Metal City," Sampamon added, perhaps in attempts to make it a bit less bleak.
Whether or not that attempt worked was up in the air.


"You're kidding, right?" Epidemon sneered, reclining against the side of a building; Javermon turned on him, growling. They were having a bit of slow going across the surface of the crater; Zhuqiaiomon had sent out every last one of his defenses, predicting the trio's arrival. This was one of the most emphatically anti-Era places remaining, much helped due to Zhuqiaomon's active defenses (and remarkably bad temper).
They were currently hiding in a dead-end alleyway, preparing to settle down -- even Mega digimon need sleep, and Epidemon's whining had become insufferable.

Only moments prior had Javermon revealed that the first of the brats and their digimon had reached Mega.

"It is no matter," PicoDaemon said, wings wrapped around himself and eyes closed. "We only need to move faster, and it will be of no concern to us."

"Thank you, for that brilliant observation," Javermon replied sarcastically. "I could never have thought of it myself. It won't be a problem."

Epidemon snorted. "The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can smash them into the dust. I'm looking forward to that."

"We should reach Zhuqiaomon's temple by tomorrow night at this rate, though I'd be willing to bet he will be fighting back even more the closer we get," PicoDaemon said, unconcerned with what his comrades were saying.

"So who's gonna sit up first and cover our tails while we sleep?" Epidemon asked, his beady glowing eyes looking pointedly at Javermon.

The canine had no problem with sitting up to fight off any comers while the other two slept-- wasted time. He had a few frustrations he was glad to work out on digimon he could actually feel free to kill.
Epidemon and PicoDaemon slipped into the building the former was leaning against, while Javermon stepped back out into the street.


To the surprise of the entire group, and the displeasure of none of them, nothing bad happened while they were sleeping. They were nestled in their little alcove, and nothing tried to murder them in the night.
It was a comfortable departure from the norm.

They awoke fairly early, as they had in fact gone to sleep relatively early, tired out from the trek up the mountainside. As such, the first rays of the sun were just peeking over the crest of mountains to the east, casting the first fingers of light over the crater valley.
Much of the rock was still tinted with a grey-purple; there were no streaks of lava that were visible from their vantage point, instead hardened black lines spiderwebbing across the peaks that had been erupting.

And some distance away, a periodic burst of light and rush of data into the sky from out of the far end of the city at the foot of the mountains.

"No prizes for guessing what's going on," Luke mumbled, folding his arms as the group peered down, standing outside of the alcove where they had rested.

"Well, looks like we know where we need to go," Rajamon couldn't help but remark. He was about to begin moving forward down the hill, but was unsurprisingly plowed past by Simon.

"Last one there's a rotten digitama," Efudemon called, crawling up onto his partner's shoulders to look backwards at the others, grinning cheekily.

Faris was quick to take the challenge, throwing himself down the rocky face after the be-hatted boy and his currently-diminutive partner. Delfinimon squeaked in defiance, only able to throw herself so quickly on her fins; she was laughing, however, as she followed.
Julian, Emily, and Andrea did not hesitate, following at a normal (though somewhat brisk) pace. Julian put his hands in his pockets, as did Andrea; Emily's hands found their way behind her head, fingers laced.

"They certainly do a lot of running," Lammon remarked, looking up at Toby before over at Luke and Sampamon. She had yet to make a move towards... moving; the other three to whom she looked were much the same, still stationary.

"Personally, I'm just not eager to try and face down with the Reapers," Luke replied, shrugging one shoulder, but began to descend after the others, Toby quick to follow.

Andrea frowned, able to overhear the conversation behind her. She hadn't yet asked the real question on her mind, and she got the feeling that Julian was leaving things of his own unsaid.


Running downhill, and with not as much (geographical) relief as there was coming up, the group made much better time catapulting themselves down the slope, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. True, Simon and Faris -- still running -- were significantly further ahead, even as they had to slow down to avoid tripping and falling on their faces, but they were all within sight of eachother at the least.

Luke was, again, straggling in the back; this was fairly characteristic of him, and so none would think it terribly odd. What might be seen as odd, however, was how after a time, Andrea and Rajamon slowed their pace to fall in step with Luke.

"Hey," she said; Luke nearly jumped out of his skin, clearly not expecting to be addressed. Sampamon nodded her acknowledgement to the girl and to Rajamon, but said nothing.

"... hi," Luke said after a moment, blinking.

"I've got a question," Andrea said, putting her hands on her hips; she wasn't looking at the boy, but ahead, and so she didn't notice the sort of quizzical look she was getting. However, she turned suddenly; once again, Luke nearly leapt a foot. The girl cocked an eyebrow. "I'm not going to leap down your throat or whatever."

Luke rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. "Well-- I just don't think you--" he was going to finish it with like me that much, but he cut himself off; saying as such would serve no purpose. "What's up? I mean-- the question."

"Epidemon -- the bird faced one -- said if we wanted answers, we should ask the traitor," Andrea said, looking ahead again. "I don't suppose you have any idea?"

Luke furrowed his brow. "I-- unless he meant me, and if he actually used the word 'traitor', then I don't think he did. He'd use a much more colorful name if he did," he muttered, but shook his head. "Sorry. Off-topic. No, I don't know. More than one digimon defected, but I don't know how many of them... really lasted."

Andrea looked at the boy and the snake around his shoulders with a scrutinizing look, as though searching for any signs of deceit or hiding anything. She found none, and nodded slowly.

"Fine," she said, putting her hands in her pocket. "Thanks anyway. C'mon, Rajamon." She beckoned for the cat to follow her; he nodded his head and followed promptly as Andrea once more picked up her pace, breaking away.

"Is it just me, or do you feel like we're spending half our time chasing our tails?" Rajamon said after a moment, looking up at his partner. He spoke quietly enough to not be overheard.

Andrea nodded her head once. "You're telling me."


Before it took entirely too long, the ground began to even out, the slope becoming gentler and gentler until they were once again on relatively level ground. It was around mid-late morning by this point; the sun itself was creeping ever higher in the sky, peeking over the ridge and into sight, bathing the crater valley in light.

They were at the at the outskirts of the city. Small, somewhat shoddily-built houses were placed intermittently and with little regard for organized layout. Digimon walked about, going about their business and-- surprisingly enough -- mostly seeming indifferent to the ragtag bunch of digimon and humans that just skidded down the hill.

"So... do we just run forward and hope it all works out?" Emily said, putting her hands behind her head again.

"If anyone suggests we split up, I will injure them bodily," Andrea said. Knowing her, that was not an idle threat.

"We could ask for directions," Kamomon said, gesturing with one wing-hand. "See if anyone has seen--"

"A emaciated bird-faced creep, a demonic puffball, and a puppy with serious anger management issues, yeom." One guess whose comment that was.

"Something like that," Kamomon said, nodding. "Unless any of you object to asking?"

"We haven't had anyone leap out to try and attack us yet, so... I'm betting it's safe," Emily added, smiling faintly.

"Good enough for me," Simon said cheerfully, shifting Efudemon into one arm so he could give a thumbs-up with his newly freed hand.
That was good enough for the rest of the group, too-- if anyone had any complaints, they knew well enough that trying to reason with Simon was like trying to teach a squid to sing.

Which, truth be told, was a distinct possibility in the Digital World, but that was entirely not the point.

They took off, then, following their goggle-headed leader's lead through the buildings. Digimon looked up from what they were doing to peek at the group, as subtly as they could (some less so than others). Eyes peered out of windows and doors.

It was nice to once again be somewhere that was both populated and not out for their blood, though it was... odd (at the very least) to all of them, the sort of reverence with which digimon looked upon them.

"Are you who I believe you are?" a voice came from behind the group; when they turned to look, they saw a small black dinosaur, very much like an undersized T. rex. He was perhaps three feet tall; he had big green eyes and three claws on each hand and foot. His tail was stubby, while his head and snout together rivaled the size of the rest of his body.

Rajamon stepped forward (... backwards, whatever), but said nothing, because he knew they would get their introduction in the form of...

"Virtue Warriors at your service!" Efudemon said happily from Simon's arms. From the smile that broke out on the black dino's face, this was good news.

"You are?" Rajamon said, blue eyes looking the newcomer up from head to toe.

The ebony saurian bowed his head and brought one broad hand in front of himself. "My name is BlackAgumon," he said, straightening himself up. "Loyal servant to the Sovereign. You are searching for something, I assume?"

"More like someone. Or... someones? ... I donno, grammar's not my strong suit," Faris said with a nod, putting his hands on his hips.

"Your point is conveyed," BlackAgumon said, nodding once. "The digimon you seek are that way," he said, pointing one large claw in a direction that was diagonal to the group's current location.

"Rad!" Simon said, giving a thumbs-up yet again; by the time he had done that, however, Andrea and Rajamon had already begun walking; the others (Simon included) were quick to follow.
The BlackAgumon, meanwhile, paused and blinked as it dawned on him that he was being left behind.

His composure was dropped like a hot potato as he all but squawked, waving his arms as he trotted after the group of children and their partners. "H-hey! Wait!"
(They didn't, but the little black dinosaur caught up in due time.)

The further they went, the more urbanized their surroundings became; rough volcanic-rock ground became smoother and smoother until it seemed paved; buildings grew more and more frequent, until they were running through alleyways and weaving around their corners to maneuver their way through the city.
(Perhaps needless to say, Faris had scooped Delfinimon up into his arms quite a while ago.)

They did not realize that not only were they heading towards the threat -- the Reapers --, but also that another threat was in hot pursuit of them.


"So," Rajamon said, looking to BlackAgumon (who had by this time caught up to the front of the pack and was almost leading the way). "The Reapers have already taken Ebonwumon, haven't they?"

BlackAgumon nodded, almost tripping over his own feet-- he was trying so very hard to keep his composure. "They have. The swamp is nothing but a chasm, now," he said sadly, shaking his head.

"So if a Sovereign falls, its Area does too?" the tiger mumbled, more to himself than anything.

"That's what Deekamon said a long time ago, Rajamon," Efudemon said from where he clung to Simon's forearm. "You totally should have listened more. He had lots of answers."

"So it's true that Deekamon took you under his wing, then?" BlackAgumon said, sounding a bit in awe.

"Of course!" Kamomon chimed in, nodding. "He prepared us for when our partners would arrive-- he taught us a lot."

BlackAgumon nodded slowly, looking over his shoulder to look at the seagull, looking as though he intended to say something. However, his pupils constricted when he looked past the bird -- and past the other members of the shuffling assembly.
Behind the group, following relatively-slowly but steadily, was a digimon-- one that didn't, mind, look particularly amicable. "Sirs and madams, I believe we may have a problem."
With that, BlackAgumon did trip over his own feet, falling flat in the middle of the street; this was enough to cause the others to skid to a stop, if only to avoid tripping on the black dino sprawled on the ground in front of them.

"What?" Andrea mumbled, narrowing her eyes as she turned on her heel-- as did the others.

The digimon was tall and humanoid, and mostly dark in colouration-- save for the shiny silver of his face and his hands. He dragged said hands through the cement and brick walls of the buildings, digging his fingers into the material. Red accents on top of black armor decorated his pectoral area and shoulders; under the armor he wore dark clothing that almost melded in with the protective attire. A tremendous gold belt, like a professional wrestler's championship belt, was settled around his waist, and a very long cream-coloured scarf around his neck.

His heavy boots cracked the pavement as he made heavy steps towards the group. Digimon around were stopping to stare or fleeing as quietly as they could, so as not to draw attention. There were wicked spike-like drills on the digimon's head and shoulder-pads, but perhaps more interesting were the small volcanoes nestled on the back of both of his shoulderblades, spewing out embers and smoke. He lifted his head, glowing eyes focused on the kids and their digimon.

Cue the D-GEAR shpiel.

PileVolcamon. Mega-level android digimon. A curious digimon that fights using pro wrestling moves as well as the volcanoes on its back in a constant state of eruption. Its Diamond Fist attack needs no explanation, but should be avoided at all costs.

"You shall not impede the Reapers," PileVolcamon rumbled, his voice low.

Faris spoke what was on everyone's minds.

"Well, crap."

Andrea's eyes narrowed, as she dug her heels into the ground, standing steadfast; to her side, Simon did the same, even as he held his puffball partner in his arms.

"Please don't tell us you're going to," Julian said after a moment, though with the tone of resignation in his voice. Of course they were.

"We got this," Rajamon snickered, even though he very much did not have it.

"Go!" Andrea snapped, looking over her shoulder at the group as PileVolcamon drew ever closer. "Keep going. Go find the Reapers. We'll catch up." She turned her attentions back to the approaching threat.

"Word up," Simon said, smiling.

"You've gotta be kidding!" Emily said, frowning and shaking her head. "We'll stand and--"

"And let the Reapers get away totally unimpeded," Andrea said, putting a hand on her hip and not looking back at the group. "Go. Come on, it's me and boy scout. We got this." (Simon mouthed 'boy scout?' at Andrea, but he was grinning.)

Julian shot the goggle-head and the girl a look, but he slowly nodded, looking to the other four children and their digimon. "You heard them, didn't you?"

"Sir yes sir," Faris said with a salute, which Delfinimon imitated.

Toby nodded, and looked at Simon and Andrea. "Uhm... good luck," he said, and that was the last thing said before those not standing their ground took off again, led by Julian and with BlackAgumon keeping up behind.

"So, 'boy scout'?" Simon said, smirking; he set Efudemon down on the ground, flexing his arms. One flash of light later, and where the little bouncing head was a minute before, the rabbit-of-sorts stood, wielding his paintbrush like a sword.

"Well, it's an accurate nickname. I could call you Dudley Do-Right, if you prefer," Andrea replied with a smirk, flipping her hair to make the point.

"Two of you do not run," PileVolcamon rumbled, now standing a mere ten feet away from the pair and their partners. "No matter. Your partners will be made short work of." He spoke without much emotion in his voice, flat of tone, and for that it was actually quite intimidating.

"Bring it." Those two words were spoken by both Egakumon and Rajamon in near-perfect synchronization, who briefly looked at eachother in surprise before re-focusing their attentions ahead.

"Rajamon, kickstart digivolve to... Baghamon!"

Baghamon rumbled low in his throat, tail thrashing as he reared low to the ground. Unlike the cat, however, Egakumon did not begin to digivolve-- yet.

"You up for this again?" Simon said, looking at his partner; the rabbit grinned, giving a thumbs-up without looking back.

"You know it, bro."

Andrea and Baghamon both looked upon the other human and digimon (respectively), but they were taken aback quite suddenly when Egakumon began to glow-- as did Simon.

"Egakumon, genesis digivolve to... Kisekimon!"

Once more, the orb of light formed and was cut through by twin blades, leaving PileVolcamon to harumph low in his throat-- and Andrea to let loose a loud, brash,


Baghamon's jaw, meanwhile, just about hit the pavement.

They could almost see the smirk on the newly-formed Mega's face, but he did not respond as he brandished one blade and rushed forward, the metal shining bright.
"Nova Blade!"

Not about to let himself be felled by the first strike, PileVolcamon began to laugh, low and rumbling. "Diamond Fist!"
The volcanic digimon reared his fist back as it began to glow-- beneath the glow, his knuckles were actually solidifying into diamonds, it would seem. Though PileVolcamon was pushed back by the sword colliding with his body, Kisekimon took the hit a lot less well, no doubt thanks to his relatively slim (at least in comparison) figure.

"Okay, what the crap," Andrea repeated as the rabbit samurai was knocked back towards her and her partner, who had been frozen to the ground. "An explanation would be great."

"It is how we reach-- I, how at least have reached -- Mega," Kisekimon responded, looking (or at least turning his face, as his eyes were covered by the metal visor) to Andrea.

"Where the heck is boy scout?" Baghamon asked, bristling a bit at the sight of his teammate's mega. In return, Kisekimon touched a hand to his own chest.

"Within. Now, if you will excuse me," the rabbit samurai said, standing up straight and dashing towards PileVolcamon, smashing into him before feinting back. "Rush Hit!"

All Andrea could think of -- he had done this before and neglected to tell them? It wasn't like Simon in the least not to brag, let alone for the rabbit not to be jumping halfway to the moon with ecstacy... And moreover, this was hardly the Egakumon they knew, personality wise.

Another Diamond Fist from PileVolcamon crashed into Kisekimon's abdomen, sending him reeling backwards.

"I'm okay," Kisekimon hissed, getting to his feet and brandishing his sword once more, standing guard between the enemy and the human and her child-level partner.

Well... crap. A Mega -- one of their own -- and his attacks seemed pretty thoroughly outclassed. PileVolcamon took another step forward, heavy and loud. "You can run," the hostile digimon said, almost taunting. He flexed his fingers in and out of fists, and glowered down at the girl and the tiger.
Andrea said nothing; Baghamon growled before suddenly, and without warning, throwing himself towards PileVolcamon.

"Tiger Gem!" the tiger cried, gathering light in the jewel on his necklace and firing it -- entirely fruitlessly -- at PileVolcamon's feet. "Tiger Gem! Tiger Gem!"

PileVolcamon smirked, and suddenly reared down, the drills on his body beginning to spin and whir. "Volcanic Piledriver!" he called, smashing his body into the cat-- and effortlessly sending him flying, crashing into a building, where the cat instantly began to glow. Within seconds, he had reverted to Rajamon. Andrea, of course, ran immediately to his aide, while Kisekimon took advantage of the moment while PileVolcamon straightened up.

"Double Blader!" the once-rabbit called, crossing his blades into an X as they began to glow, smashing them into his target's torso and slashing down and outwards.
Valiant an effort though it was, and it did push PileVolcamon backwards with a few stumbling steps, Kisekimon was once more greeted with an attack for his troubles.

"Diamond Fist!"

Kisekimon grunted, clutching his swords tight-- he dug his heels in and avoided skidding back too far, and did not fall off of his feet, but instead was met by PileVolcamon grabbing him by the neck and pulling him in.
"I wonder what happens when you destroy a digimon with a core like yours," PileVolcamon mused-- if his voice had any tone to it at all it might have been breezy and nonchalant. He followed it with a chuckle, monotone and infinitely creepy.

Of course, he meant a human core-- or as it was, a partially-human core. Regardless.

Andrea snapped her head up, looking away from her partner after making sure he was okay (he had grinned up at her rogueishly and replied "as if I wouldn't be" when she aksed). Her mind was drawing a total blank; she couldn't think of a word, a thing to do.

"Andrea?" Rajamon asked (a bit croakily), looking up at his human partner. "We gonna do this or what?"

"Andrea!" Kisekimon's voice broke through the haze in her mind. "Gimme a hand h--ck!" The samurai was cut off by PileVolcamon lifting him up higher, rearing his free hand back with knuckles glowing. "H-help!" he choked out.

Immediately, Rajamon leapt forward, and began spitting out blasts of fire. "Prince Fire! Prince Fire! Prince Fire!"

All other thoughts were thrown out of Andrea's head at that-- and she was overwhelmed with a painful thought. They were unable to help. As long as she couldn't trigger Rajamon's next digivolution, they were as good as useless-- and one of their teammates was paying for it. She watched the flames her partner spat, dissipating totally harmlessly against PileVolcamon's body.
Not just him-- but everyone. Who knew what could happen to them-- not to be arrogant about her own battle prowess, but it was always either Rajamon or Egakumon that was the first to leap up to protect. With both of them here...

"Rajamon?" Andrea said, clenching her hands tightly into fists as she looked straight at the ground.

"Yeah?" the tiger said, looking up at her as he stopped attacking.

"Let's trash this jerk."

Rajamon began to glow white, tinted slightly with orange that made it look like fire, flames licking away as they engulfed the tiger paws-first; Andrea's own fingers and feet began to do the same, the light crawling up her arms and legs.

True warrior of the Virtue of Bravery; this is your genesis.

When Andrea looked up again, her eyes -- sclera and all -- blazed orange, Rajamon's eyes going up in the same brilliant light. The light slid smoothly until their bodies were covered by it before it expanded to surround them. Its edges danced like fire, faint images flitting across the surface, distorted by flame.

"Rajamon, genesis digivolve to..."

If it felt warm when Simon and Egakumon melded together to form their Mega, it was searing hot when Andrea and Rajamon combined, but the heat was completely ignorable; it was warm, the heat registered, but not the pain of burn.

As one, their form became -- like Kisekimon -- tall and humanoid. Unlike their comrade, however, the new body was not slender and slight, but packed tight (and abundantly) with muscle. (This is a more dignified way of saying that this new body was buff.)

The new body remained quite animal-like even as it took on human form, face still that of a cat and body still wholly covered in fur -- vivid red on all except muzzle, chest, and belly. A deep scar, shaped like a curved, upside-down V, marred his pectoral area. Around the head, a mane grew, shaggy and long as it settled around his neck. Two dark stripes ran on his forehead, in between two short black horns that grew there; another two sharp horns sprouted from through the fur of his mane.

He once again sprouted a second tail as the other grew long, but the second settled around his waist to hold a loincloth-like garment in place; it was blue, edged in yellow, with the emblem of their Virtue in white. Black bands lashed around his upper legs, three per leg.
This was not the only part of his body that was duplicated; from his shoulderblades, two new arms formed painlessly, as well-muscled as the extant arms. Around all four arms, grey gauntlets surrounded the forearms, fastened at the elbows by golden rings. Similar golden rings snapped into place higher up on the upper arms; black boots with yellow accents were fastened by similar metal bands. Two sharp golden claws extended from the fronts of the boots.
In all four hands, a golden blade handle materialized; fittingly, what followed was a silvery blade, curved to the point where the blade was almost a half-circle.

Wielding the quartet of blades in perfect sync, even with four arms, the tiger's final form slashed through the light, the swirling orb exploding into embers as he did. He stepped forward, and blowed out a puff of fire from his mouth before he announced himself.


"Oh god what the crap, I never thought I'd feel what it's like to be a dude," Andrea rambled from within; ImperialBaghamon himself chuckled, both in reaction to his partner and as a way to set the tone, so to speak.

Together, Andrea, we are a warrior, his voice rumbled in her ears-- only in her ears.

"Were I you, I would set the rabbit down," however, was what he said out loud, folding the frontmost of his two pairs of arms, while the rear two remained raised. All four hands gripped their weapons, their blades pointed towards the ground.

PileVolcamon looked at the newly-formed lion-like digimon, and his glowing eyes narrowed. He did not, however, drop Kisekimon; the rabbit-samurai made a sort of choked noise that would be hard to mistake for a real world. PileVolcamon's free hand remained glowing and poised to attack, almost like a dare.

A few more seconds passed in silence, before ImperialBaghamon smiled slow. "You've made your choice, then. So be it. Imperial Saber!"
One of his blades -- the one in his 'first' right arm -- was engulfed in flame and he lunged forward, slashing it right across PileVolcamon's chest, narrowly avoiding hitting Kisekimon. It succeeded, however; PileVolamon cringed, dropping his captured digimon.

"Be a bit more careful next time, if you please," Kisekimon mumbled, but nodded his thanks.

"We got this," Andrea mused from the inside. "Bunnyboy should go ahead and try to catch up to the others.

"Go," the lion said after a short nod, looking to Kisekimon. They could almost see his brow furrow behind his visor. "The others need your help. We will take care of matters here." ImperialBaghamon looked pointedly at PileVolcamon, who glared in return.

"And leave an ally in battle?" The smirk on Kisekimon's face was almost audible.

"We don't need your help!" ImperialBaghamon snapped, snarling, but quickly calmed down when the samurai was plainly taken aback and hurt, shaking his head. "... my apologies. I simply mean thatI've already had to bail your tail out once, and if the others run into the Reapers they're going to need you a great deal more than we will. Protect them should they need it."

Kisekimon paused, before he slowly nodded. "Your point is made." He sheathed his twin swords before he turned, taking off as soon as he was facing the correct direction, running with body tilted forward and close to the ground.
The tiger darn well couldn't have given the reason that Andrea's heart -- soul, being, core, whatever it was -- was speaking to him. The girl seemed relieved that he hadn't.

Andrea couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the feeling of what was going on-- first of all, the oddness of feeling a tail on her (their) body, and extra pair of (incredibly buff) arms attached to her (their) shoulderblades-- but also the warmth. Like Simon before, she felt the pulse of power surging deep within, crackling like a warm flame and spreading its heat through every inch of her (their) body.

PileVolcamon glared at the tiger for a moment, before... he, too, turned away, and took off with quite startling speed for how slowly he had come on the approach. A cloud of ash spewed from the volcanoes on his shoulders helped to obscure his getaway.

ImperialBaghamon growled low, a lip curled back, before he threw himself forward in pursuit. His feet thumped against the ground, claws digging up small bits of the pavement.

"Of course he runs," Andrea remarked, flat of affect.

I don't particularly expect much less of Era's troops, ImperialBaghamon replied to his partner, eyes narrowed.

"Diamond Fist!" a voice cried from behind them, smashing straight into the center of ImperialBaghamon's back. He roared, stumbling forward and whipping around; there, indeed, was PileVolcamon.
Every pound of force behind the attack racked through their body; something in Andrea's mind went off, saying that were she in fully human form, in her own body, the attack probably would have been fatal on a good day.

Where his rabbit-eared comrade might have made a remark, ImperialBaghamon did no such thing; he merely growled, and temporarily, his blades faded away into light, allowing him to clench his hands into fists, and all four of his hands were thrust forward. "God Fists!" he roared, and his hands began to crackle with fire. A glowing aura, sparking like fire, was formed from these flames, and charged forward at PileVolcamon, taking the form of a roaring lion for a split second before it smashed into its target. When he relaxed his hands, his four curved blades returned to him.

PileVolcamon glowered at the cat, before suddenly he curled close within himself, hurling his entire body at ImperialBaghamon as the drills scattered across his body began to whir.
"Volcanic Piledriver!"

"Fire Wave!" ImperialBaghamon countered, leaping backwards as he opened his mouth. He let loose a rumbling, earth-shattering roar, and along with the sound out spilled a river of fire, flowing like water and engulfing the charging digimon.

This was not enough to stop the oncoming attack, and even through the fire PileVolcamon charged on until he smashed into ImperialBaghamon. However, when he brought himself to full posture once more, he looked quite more visibly exhausted-- or at least, hurt.

"I was going to be so offended if that didn't work," Andrea remarked from within her partner's core.

Breathing fire is a staple of any good fire elemental's repetoire, after all, her partner replied.
Despite his jovial tone as he 'spoke' with his partner, ImperialBaghamon stood still for a moment. After a short delay, he lowered his arms, shaking his head.

There's no point to this. It's a distraction-- another one. A way to waste our time. We should just go find the others, his voice said to Andrea.

After a moment, Andrea nodded (or, she would, had she a physical presense, but the intent came across regardless). "Let's. They're probably gonna get hurt or something." She sounded half-sarcastic, half-sincerely concerned.

As the lion turned, PileVolcamon reared his hand back. "Diamond F--!"
Blindingly fast, ImperialBaghamon turned, gripping PileVolcamon's wrist with crushing force with one hand.

"Don't," he said, his voice terrifyingly cold considering his fiery calling. He held his three free hands aloft, their blades beginning to crackle with fire. "I will grant you the privelege of leaving and living."

Before he got a response, the earth below their ground began to shake, a deafening rumble reaching their ears. ImperialBaghamon's pupils constricted.
No. This wasn't possible. They couldn't have reached it this fast, if they had only gotten this far to start with today...

"Explain!" ImperialBaghamon roared at PileVolcamon, his muscles tensing.

PileVolcamon's eyes crinkled with mirth, and he shook his head. "It's too late," he rumbled. "Volcanic Piledriver!"
With that, he wrenched his wrist out of the feline's grip, and folded in close into himself again. His drills began to spin, and before his target had the chance to get out of the way, he smashed into ImperialBaghamon.

The cat let loose a roaring snarl of pain as he was knocked backwards and to the ground. He quickly returned to his feet, his eyes narrowed.
"You've made your choice. God Fists!"

Once more his blades disappeared, and his hands glowed bright. Punching forward, the lion-shaped aura burst forth, smashing into PileVolcamon. As the flame dispersed, PileVolcamon let loose a moaning roar, rearing his head back as he went up in a burst of data, leaving only an egg to fall to the ground.

ImperialBaghamon picked the digitama up into one of his massive hands, frowning.

"We have to catch up with the others," Andrea said quickly, and at her bidding the lion-like digimon turned his head in the direction they had been heading.

Agreed, her partner said, nodding his head. "I have a bad feeling." He set the egg back down, shaking his head. Without another moment of delay, he moved to begin running-- but before he had even ducked into the alley, however, the sky suddenly dimmed; it wasn't as dark as, say, it had been in the previous Area, but it was like the last limbs of a sunset-- even though the sun was still visible hanging in the sky above.

A blaze of fire went up in the sky, a pillar shooting towards the sky. In it, a shape -- dark only in comparison to the incandescent flame around it -- rose, spread its wings wide, and keened, the ground rumbling beneath them as the tremendous volcano at the heart of the Area began to erupt.

"Zhuqiaomon," ImperialBaghamon spoke aloud, even though he barely breathed. His pupils constricted, his body frozen. But... it didn't seem that the Area was crumbling. It wasn't shaking like the Floating Ruins had, it was merely rumbling like an earthquake-- or a volcanic eruption. Go figure.

"What on earth is going on?" Andrea inquired.

I don't know, ImperialBaghamon replied, shaking his head. But... he was lying. He had to be. This isn't what would happen if... ... let's find them.

The humanoid cat took off again, even though it was harder to keep his footing solid on shaking ground; before long, Kisekimon dropped alongside him from off a building, before he had rejoined with the group.

"Why didn't you catch up with the others?" ImperialBaghamon said, cocking an eyebrow; neither stopped running, but his tone was almost casual.

"You helped me-- us. Only fair to be ready to return the favor, you know?"

"Idiot," the cat rumbled, but side-by-side the two Megas ran.

Even as they ran, Andrea's voice spoke up inside of her partner's head. "Why the heck did throwing ourselves into danger this time work?"


"Unlike... Narakamon. It feels like it should have done the same thing. Throwing ourselves against an outmatched opponent."

There was a moment of silence, as ImperialBaghamon thought it over. We weren't seeking out trouble this time. We were protecting someone else. That's what makes it different.

Andrea would have frowned thoughtfully, had she a face with which to make the expression.
"So... this worked because I had to cover the butts of Bugs Bunny and the Boyscout. Great."

Do not downplay yourself. We needed to be strong enough to protect our allies-- our friends. You always have been. We just needed the chance to prove that we could.

"But that doesn't mean anything. I can just rush into crap to save people's butts, but I can't actually do anything to--"

ImperialBaghamon interrupted her, but even so, his voice grew quiet, sincere. Your heart is just as much of a lion's as mine is, Andrea. I can feel it, as you feel mine. Do not dismiss yourself.

She had nothing to say.


It didn't take long for them to catch up, as their friends had similarly frozen, in various states of confusion and worry; BlackAgumon, for his part, was panicking his little head off.

Julian was the first to step forward, eyes narrowed as he looked at the two new-to-them digimon. "What do you want?"

"Calm it, bub," ImperialBaghamon said, smirking. "We're friends. Allies. The good guys."

"And then some," Kisekimon added, pulling his swords out and twirling them dramatically.

Kamomon suddenly let loose a squawk of surprise, something dawning on him. "It's you-- them-- you!" He cawed, flapping his wings wildly and lifting a few inches off the ground, entirely by this haphazard, half-panicked, and thoroughly undginified motion.

Iguamon shot a sidelong glance at his avian teammate, but narrowed his eyes in scrutiny at the two Megas standing before them, before his pupils constricted visibly and he was physically taken aback, struck silent.

"Wha...?" Toby mumbled while the sheep digimon beside him let out a small gasp of surprise.

"It's-- Egakumon and Rajamon," Lammon said, looking up at her partner and unable to wipe the impressed, reverent look off of her face.

The humans paused and stared; it was Emily who spoke up first, though she had to cup her hands over her mouth to be heard over the commotion.
"So where are your partners?"

Both Kisekimon and ImperialBaghamon touched one hand to their chest to indicate; Sampamon bowed her head while Delfinimon murmured:
"That's deep, yeom." The dolphin looked up, then, her face now sincere. "You're serious?"

"As a heart attack," Kisekimon replied, nodding his head.

"... of all the things I want an explanation for, and do believe me when I say there are a lot of said things," Julian said, slowly and completely deadpan, "this is now number one."

"We'll try to explain."

"We will hold you to that," Julian said, but he couldn't help but smirk a tiny bit.

Right now, though?

They could likely be forgiven if they were mostly preoccupied, what with the volcano going off in the distance, causing the earth to tremor below their feet, and the tremendous bird in the sky dancing amongst the flames.

[Chapter 36: End]