Even as the ground shook beneath them, the ragtag troupe of children and digimon couldn't afford to lose any ground; the group ran forward, the stampede of feet pounding a cadence against the crumbling concrete. Kisekimon and ImperialBaghamon led the charge, completely unsurprisingly, though they had to slow themselves to avoid leaving their teammates in the dust.
After a great deal of moving -- and with no sign of the Reapers -- they were reaching the other side of the city, the buildings thinning out and the street vanishing once again into crumbling ground. They had a clearer view of the great volcano, though there was still a small ridge of mountains between there and where the group was at present.
The sun was starting to hide behind the far side of the crater; the shaking had died down somewhat, but the volcano kept up its eruption, and was joined by smaller ones here and there; more than once they had to alter their course to avoid running into fresh streams of lava.
(Julian would have complained about we should be roasted alive being anywhere near this stuff, convection does not work that way, but Faris was quick to nip his brother's complaints in the bud with a bro, digital world, shut up and go with it.)
"Zhuqiaomon must be-- hold on!" BlackAgumon squawked, flailing his arms as he nearly tripped over his feet; Lammon was quick to assist him, and they continued running. "He must be trying to scare Era's soldiers away," the little black dino explained-- and in doing so, failed to notice that the group on the whole had suddenly ceased movement, causing him to crash into Toby.
It wasn't hard to see why they stopped so suddenly.
Walking along as though he were strolling down the street to go the corner market-- or, really, anything that wasn't walking through an area currently being racked by eruptions and earthquakes -- was a familiar lanky shape. His hands were folded behind his back and his yellow eyes were peering up at the erupting volcano, the firebird silhouetted in the sky, as though it were simply a mildly interesting headline on a slow news day.
... the point of the previous statements: Deekamon was weird.
"Deekamon?" Kisekimon blurted, his face (presumably) falling and his body following suit, more out of surprise than anything.
The hoodie-wearing digimon turned his head to look at the group, and the big cheshire-cat grin on his hoodie was probably very akin to his actual expression. "Heyo," he said with a lilt in his voice, nodding his head and waving one big claw-like hand as though he didn't even notice the two megas and the apparent lack of two humans-- or more likely, wasn't surprised by any of it. "Follow me."
"Crazy loon!" ImperialBaghamon groaned, clapping two of his hands to the sides of his head in a show of exasperation.
"I'm not even surprised, at this point," Luke couldn't help but remark, shaking his head.
"Well-- follow him!" BlackAgumon said, once more waving his arms as though he were trying in vain to fly.
It was hard, even for the two Megas, to keep up with the eccentric mentor; though he zig-zagged in order to cover less forward distance and thus allow the others to keep up, he moved quickly. He darted from side to side like a little purple pinball made of fabric, his loose sleeves of arms flapping freely behind him as he ran.
"What is he trying to do?" Emily mumbled, half to Kamomon and half to herself, furrowing her brow and shaking her head.
By this point, they were approaching the foots of the (considerably shorter, thankfully) hills and rounded peaks that formed a barrier between them and Zhuqiaomon's volcano. If they looked, just beyond the crest of the hills they could see occasional bursts of fire, the phoenix himself swooping around in the sky and keening loudly.
But there was something far more important at hand; suddenly, by a dark shape, Deekamon was bodily knocked backwards, his light body sent flying with ease, as he tumbled backwards into the group.
Had this been a cartoon, there would have been little Biyomon circling his head, and his yellow eyes would have turned to spirals.
The digimon still in Child level rushed to inspect their mentor and assure that he was well-- even BlackAgumon accompanied, big green eyes looking over the hoodied digimon with an expression of concern.
"I'm okay," Deekamon assured, but very much sounding like he had been punched in the face. (He had been punched in the face, after all.) "Been a while since I've seen you," he added, looking at BlackAgumon for a moment. "You were bigger last time."
These words were more or less lost on the others, as they were a bit... preoccupied. Kisekimon and ImperialBaghamon gripped their bladed weapons, eyes scanning for whatever it was that knocked Deekamon back.
"Hello," a familiar voice droned, and they could see the small dark shape to whom the voice belonged.
PicoDaemon was perched atop a boulder, his wings wrapped around him-- presumably. They could only see him once he opened his wings, as though opening them cast away a veil of shadow. "I'm simply here to inform you that you're not going to be interfering. Especially not him," the small Digimon said, looking at Deekamon critically.
Without another word, he flew away-- before anyone, Mega or not, could move to attack or apprehend the little Reaper.
"What's going on?" Julian said, immediately, in his usual blunt way. He folded his arms and looked pointedly up at the plume of fire still erupting beyond the hills. "A straightforward answer would be ideal, if possible."
Deekamon, in true form, did not answer; instead, he stood up. Impassively, casually, he merely looked up after PicoDaemon, and then to ImperialBaghamon and Kisekimon. "Aren't you going to follow him?" he said conversationally.
Kisekimon looked at the purple-hoodied digimon for a moment before he nodded. He actually grabbed ImperialBaghamon by one of his (bowling-ball-sized) biceps in order to drag his teammate along with him. Though the cat made a rather undignified squawk, he followed without much resistance, the pair darting up the hill.
As soon as the pair did so, Deekamon folded his hands behind his back, watching; he then began to walk, looking over his shoulder. "Well, come on," he said to the group, cocking an eyebrow under the shadow of his hood
Though still confused as ever, the group wasted no time in following hot on the heels of their teammates; Deekamon was walking slower than the others. BlackAgumon gave the mentor a curious look as he passed; the only reply that Deekamon gave was a smile (probably).
"That was a blatant answer dodge," Julian said, falling back to walk alongside Deekamon. Iguamon was alongside his partner, saying nothing. "More blatant than usual. What's going on?"
"Well, come on," Deekamon said, turning to look at the boy, still smiling. "Where'd the fun be if I told you everything? You're pretty good at finding it out yourself, after all."
With that, he suddenly shot forward like he was thrown out of a slingshot, bolting up past the rest of the group.
Iguamon looked up at Julian, who looked prepared to rip his hair out in frustration.
"He's crazy, but there's a method to his madness," Iguamon said quietly. "If he's not telling us something, there's usually a reason."
"He's hardly told us anything," Julian grumbled.
"He's right, though," Iguamon said, and then went remarkably silent. Julian cast him a look that was not returned; the dinosaur's eyes were fixed on the ground ahead. The boy nodded, and they ran forward to re-meet with the rabble that was the group.
"Oh, geeze," Simon remarked to Kisekimon as the two megas of the team crossed the crest, the peak of the hill; below them, there was an indented valley, and before them was the great volcano, reaching for the sky and spewing lava to the point where the indented land below it was becoming flooded with molten rock.
And they could see two dark shapes running on the still-uncovered land, darting this way and that; their silhouettes were highlighted by the glowing viscous liquid around them. (Admittedly, part of the lava was cooling into a hard black crust, but as soon as one part cooled another part was grazed over once more, engulfed in the searing-hot ooze.)
"No prizes for guessing who those are," ImperialBaghamon drawled, folding two of his arms while the other two raised, their blades clenched tightly.
The remaining five children (plus Deekamon, plus BlackAgumon) were not terribly far behind, running up alongside the pair-- just in time to see a helix of fire shoot down to the ground, smashing into the ground just ahead of one of the shapes -- Javermon.
In the air, Zhuqiaomon -- just as huge as Azulongmon, and roughly ten times as angry -- flapped his wings, sending down jets of fire. However, try as he might the three Reapers were moving fast-- fast enough and small enough to avoid the giant jets of fire.
"Let's go," Kisekimon said, pounding one fist into the other before he unsheathed his swords. ImperialBaghamon cracked his knuckles (all of them).
"Like I needed an invitation." The heat radiating off of the lava below them was downright energizing to him, and he let his lips curl back into a grin.
"Don't hurt yourselves!" Lammon said meekly as the two threw themselves bodily down the slope.
To make any progress, they had to move quickly-- hopping from cooled part to cool part of lava, feinting this way and that to stay on the solidified bits. (Those watching from the hill could actually hear Julian's jaw clench from the sheer force of how he wanted to yell, heat convection does not work that way.)
Any progress they made was slow, as more molten rock kept piling on top of that which was already there-- in addition to the fact that Zhuqiaomon was still in foul moods, flapping his wings to send down tremendous spirals of flame. The bird was thankfully fairly decent -- intentionally or not -- at not aiming them towards the two, but that was beside the point, as it was quite possible for them to fall into the line of (literal) fire regardless.
"Are we just going to sit up here and watch?" Emily said, looking at the D-GEAR in her hand
"Not a chance, yeom," Delfinimon replied, grinning. However, before she could do anything, they were interrupted.
"I've told you once," said a familiar voice again, accompanied by the flapping of wings, "you're not going to interfere. I don't like repeating myself."
PicoDaemon -- wherever he had come from -- was now right in their line of sight, flapping his wings slowly and lazily to hover in the space in front of them.
"Stay back," Deekamon mumbled. With that, the purple digimon threw himself forward, a yellow and purple aura slowly creeping up his body. "Deja Vu!" he called, throwing one hand out; the aura surged to that hand and flew out towards PicoDaemon.
The little bat-winged digimon merely snorted and spread his wings, releasing a cloud of black energy, shuffling and scattering like insects. "Dark Swarm."
The insects met the glowing aura and they canceled eachother out, dispersing into nothingness.
PicoDaemon narrowed his eyes, suddenly flying at Deekamon, blindingly fast. He grabbed into the hood with his short clawed feet, grabbing at the fabric with his arms. PicoDaemon growled, flying backwards once he got a good grip on Deekamon's face, and yanked backwards, releasing the claws holding the hoodie. Both the sweatshirt and the stockings crumpled to the ground.
What he held in his hands was a small black digimon, hardly any bigger than any of the partner digimon's Baby II forms; he was simply a little black head with yellow eyes and two ear-like protrusions atop his head. Two black hands -- each with three fingers and a thumb -- floated along with the head, as though connected by strings to the head.
"I'll be taking care of this," PicoDaemon muttered, but not before the very small body gripped in his claws began to glow.
"Extend Arm!" the little black, de-clothed Deekamon called, and even without his hoodie his hands began to glow. He smashed both fists into PicoDaemon, forcing the other digimon to drop him with a cry. The de-clothed Deekamon floated backwards, levitating in the air and glaring.
A series of flashes of light left four perfect-level digimon -- Nimbimon, MetalShayumon, Ospreymon, and HebiDramon -- standing behind Deekamon. The sheep pawed at the ground with one hoof, while the other three dug their claws into the ground.
The observant might notice that one of the team had not reached Perfect-- in fact, he hadn't even bothered to digivolve. Iguamon stood next to his human partner, arms folded, lips tight-- much like Julian himself was standing.
In fact, while his teammates fired off attacks (all of which were effortlessly dodged by the diminutive Reaper, his own mouth shut tight-- and surprisingly dealing no return attacks)...
... Julian slunk away, saying nothing. Iguamon silently followed; they were staying mostly up on the top of the crest, using the cover of the flashy attacks and clamor to slip away unnoticed.
Except by BlackAgumon, who was presently cowering behind Nimbimon, until he caught sight of the eldest child splitting away.
"What are you doing?" the little black dinosaur said to his fellow dino and to Julian, tromping over-- and likely just very happy to have an excuse to slip away, himself.
Julian cast a sideways glance at BlackAgumon, raising an eyebrow. "Standing around like that isn't going to do anything," he said bluntly, then looked to his own partner.
"Iguamon, kickstart digivolve to... Velocimon!"
The newly-formed Adult-level dinosaur shook his mane out, flexing his jaw and his claws, as Julian hoisted himself onto his partner's back.
"So I'm going to go figure it out myself," Julian finished, as though nothing could be simpler; BlackAgumon only had a moment or two to blink. He didn't even get a word out before Velocimon kicked off and broke into a run, streaking down the hillside and towards the growing pool of lava.
Behind him, he didn't notice that PicoDaemon was finally retaliating.
"Daemon Disease," he said plainly, bowing his head; a red mist was created in the air around him, and he used his wings to disperse it towards the group.
"Cover your noses and mouths!" Nimbimon cried; the humans wasted no time doing so; they and Deekamon seemed to avoid breathing it in, but their partners couldn't.
The sheep's warning was all that could be gotten out before the partner digimon were howling in pain, and that did go noticed. Julian looked over his shoulder and frowned.
Okay, so he had a bit less time than he was anticipating. He could deal. They'd just have to go a bit faster.
Squashing down every protesting thought in his head, he clung tight as Velocimon launched himself off the hillside and took a great leap onto a cooled patch of rock and landing as lightly as he could.
"Get to the volcano," Julian instructed, holding tight to his partner's mane. "Quicker is better."
The digimon back up on the hill were temporarily blinded, feeling as though their odies were burning from the inside out. By the time it dissipated, Deekamon was himself flitting around, his body -- tiny without his clothes -- proving to be an even harder target than PicoDaemon himself.
This was a good thing-- because PicoDaemon was absolutely not holding back with the others incapacitated and staying out of his way. His voice was more of a snarl than they had ever heard it -- more, in fact, than his fellow Reapers had ever heard -- as he called out attack after attack.
"Cross Nail! Cross Nail!"
He slashed his arms through the air, sending red whips of energy at the little black head that was Deekamon; Deekamon did not strike back, only dodging away-- and trying to draw the attacks away from the kids and their partners.
HebiDramon groaned, writhing her long body to try and shake away the nausea and pain. Though she didn't entirely, her vision was returning; she growled, rearing her back up.
"Needle Cannon!" she called, the hair on her back starting to stiffen up and clump into needles. They shone brightly for a second before a spray of them fired at PicoDaemon.
The needles smashed into the little demon's back, sinking in; he snarled, turning on the snake-dragon with constricted pupils.
"Cross Nail," he hissed low, slashing his claws through the air again, this time aimed at HebiDramon. She let out a roar of her own, thrown impressively backwards; she was only saved from skidding halfway back down the hill by digging her claws into the ground. Even as she did, however, her body began to glow. She repressed it, clenching her jaw and focusing; soon, the glow died down, and she remained in HebiDramon form.
Luke, needless to say, immediately ran to inspect his partner.
"Hey," Deekamon said, flexing his fingers and glaring at the Reaper-- and a smirk was on his face. "Focus on the one you're after, right? I mean, it's not like you haven't wanted to rip my face off for a long time, and now you finally have the chance and all that..."
"He's going to kill you if you let him!" HebiDramon cried, cutting over his casual banter. The dragon cringed, clenching her eyes tight as she pulled herself upright.
That was right-- even if Era's goons weren't going to try and kill the kids, there was absolutely nothing stopping them from going after Deekamon himself.
"Well, I think you know what this means, yeom," MetalShayumon said, clenching her fists. "Deekamon, get out of here. We've got this."
Deekamon looked up at the cyborg shark, before he grinned as he dove for his purple hoodie and stockings again. A moment later, his form rose up, the clothes once more psychically animated.
"I'm proud to call you my charges," Deekamon said, bowing his head. "I will find you once you are done here. If you get any eggs, I'm going to want to see them," he added, audibly smirking, before he suddenly took off running towards the volcano.
PicoDaemon looked like was about to follow, but Ospreymon flew right into his path, yellow eyes glaring and wings beating hard.
"I wouldn't reccomend it, laddie."
PicoDaemon growled, then grinned lopsidedly as his claws began to glow.
Velocimon, with Julian lying low and clinging to his back, had reached the foot of the volcano; he was throwing himself around its base with long strides, careful to dodge this way and the next to avoid the gooey, burning-hot strands of lava that were oozing their way down the mountainside.
(Even if anywhere within a few yards of the lava failed to spell fatal burning, neither Julian nor Velocimon wanted to see if actually stepping in it would have a realistic effect.)
It was, completely unsurprisingly, sweltering hot; he shrugged his vest off and held it with one hand, gripping tight to Velocimon with his free hand and his legs.
At the bottom of the volcano as they turned to a certain point, they could see their two allies on the approach-- and their two enemies already darting up a rugged path.
"Nice of you to join us," ImperialBaghamon said, looking at Julian and Velocimon, mostly the latter, "and all ready to fight, too."
"Nice of you to catch up with them," Velocimon replied with no small amount of sarcasm, but he was smirking just a tad, his tail thrashing.
"And can we get on following? Like, now?" Kisekimon said, and didn't wait for a reaction before he began to dash up the path, drawing both swords as he did. The other two -- or, rather, three, if one counted Julian on his partner's back -- wasted no time in following.
For as tall as the mountain was, between the fact that they were all able to move a great deal faster than they ordinarily would have and the sheer urgency of the matter, it felt like it took no time at all for them to scale it, tromping up the rugged rocky path.
This likely wasn't helped by the fact that all of them -- Reaper and Virtue Warrior alike -- were often simply leaping and climbing up, skipping parts of the path entirely.
Julian very nearly dropped his vest as Velocimon decided the best way to ascend in a narrow area was to wall-kick. ImperialBaghamon waited on the path, waiting to grab Velocimon's small arms and help drag him up-- and helped to stabilize Julian.
"You owe me one, dino-boy," the lion had remarked, smirking.
This was quickly forgotten as before long, they had reached a flat area-- not quite to the crater, but the crater itself within view.
It was here that Javermon and Epidemon had stopped. Javermon was once again his bestial form, hunched over on all four limbs and breathing heavily, while Epidemon stood beside him, rusted metal wings and bottle-brush feathery tail twitching.
"I hope you don't think you can stop us now," Epidemon said, not turning to look upon them. Instead, he looked to the sky, searching for something.
"Well, too bad, since your hopes'd be wrong," Kisekimon replied, his ears twitching.
Further conversation was cut off by an ear-splitting keen from entirely too close above.
"Well, too bad, since your hopes'd be wrong," Kisekimon replied, his ears twitching.
Further conversation was cut off by an ear-splitting keen from entirely too close above.
(Notable is while they heard the attack being called, much like Azulongmon's voice before it, it didn't seem to truly be audible-- it was a projection of a voice within their minds.)
Everything got even more blistering hot than it had been as a spiral of flame smashed into the flat shelf they were positioned on with impressive force.
All of them leapt backwards; both ImperialBaghamon and Kisekimon helped to drag Velocimon and his partner out of the way, while they couldn't see the Reapers through the swirling flames.
However, they could hear.
"Where the heck is he!?" Epidemon squawked, his voice grating and annoying above all else.
Javermon, meanwhile, responded only with a long, echoing howl; they could see him, back arched like a bow as he released the unearthly wail into the ash-obscured sky.
"Now's your chance," Julian said, very quietly, looking pointedly, though sidelong, at Kisekimon.
"Rush Hit!" Kisekimon called, wasting no time; the second the flames had faded away enough for him to rush through, fist glowing white as he launched himself at Javermon.
Javermon, even though he looked like a big dumb animal in this form, was having none of it. As fast as Kisekimon could move, Javermon was quick to respond.
"Chain of Command!" he snarled, low and rumbly and barely recognizable as words. He twirled the length of chain wrapped around his arm and then cracked it like a whip. It smashed Kisekimon head-on-- and sent him reeling, crashing to the ground on his back.
"I have had enough of chains!" the samurai yelled, pushing himself up.
Any further conversation was cut short quickly by a dark shape dropping into their little battlefield.
PicoDaemon had returned-- and looked as well as ever, having plowed through the perfect-levels with little trouble. (Even little BlackAgumon had put forth a valiant effort-- it was only HebiDramon's protection that had saved the little black dinosaur from a grisly fate. Well, that, and the fact that PicoDaemon had better things to do with his time.)
"Nice of you to show up, Pickles," Epidemon sneered; ImperialBaghamon stifled a snicker by slapping one of his hands over his muzzle at the indignant look that PicoDaemon shot the plague doctor.
"I was..." the little demon said, looking at ImperialBaghamon, Kisekimon, and Velocimon with Julian still on-board; he focused on the last. "Preoccupied."
"Well puppydog is getting torqued, and I'd like to get moving. It's hard wearing a heavy coat in this weather," Epidemon griped, effortlessly side-stepping as ImperialBaghamon rushed at him with a cry of:
Javermon snarled, bowing his head, before he dug his claws into the rock -- the solid rock, mind-- and began to scale the mountain towards the crater. Epidemon and PicoDaemon were quick to follow, but a keening cry made them at least stop to look over their shoulders.
This was not the cry of Zhuqiaomon -- no, it was Ospreymon, with the human children and BlackAgumon riding on his back. He spread his wings wide as he alighted. Rushing up the hill after him were the others-- MetalShayumon came galumphing up first, followed by Nimbimon on her cloud, with HebiDramon bringing up the back. The late arrivals looked more than a little bit harried, a bit scuffled up, but nonetheless prepared to do what they could.
"Great," Julian mumbled, only half-sincere, but he nodded his head. Okay. Good. The more the merrier. But this means more people to look after, some part of his mind nagged. Faris, and the kid, too-- have to add that into whatever plan I'm pretending I have.
Quite clearly, he hadn't quite finished with his little occupation from back in the Dark Woods.
... okay, maybe this wasn't do-able.
It was at this moment that Zhuqiaomon himself descended from the flames and landed on the rim of the crater. The eruption of the volcano settled down, the flames dying out; the ashes blocking the sky were beginning to thin, very slowly, allowing more of the last vestiges of the sunset to reach here near the volcano's peak.
It was clearer to see him, now; bold crimson, his wings (all four of them) and back were marked up with yellow and orange flame-like markings. Huge black claws adorned only one set of wings, the lower 'front' half. His neck was adorned with black feathers, matching the black lower half of his beak; yellow feathers poked out from the back of his face, underneath the mask-like structure covering said face.
A total of twelve red digicores hovered around his body -- six around his neck and six at his tail. His very presence made the temperature rise exponentially, to the point where even ImperialBaghamon was starting to feel a bit toasty.
He was one unhappy bird, four red eyes glaring viciously down at the three Reapers.
I will not fall to the likes of you, Zhuqiaomon's voice boomed, nor do I need protection at the hands of Deekamon's charges.
I suggest you vacate, the bird's voice from above boomed, adding to his previous statement. Apparently, only to the children and their partners, as Javermon and his cohorts didn't seem to notice this remark. Do not misunderstand; your efforts are appreciated, but it is not here that you must concern yourself.
PicoDaemon, not hearing the words, obviously did not pay them any mind-- as he flapped his wings and began to surge towards the bird.
It was Velocimon who immediately surged upwards, despite his massive level difference-- and Julian still clung to his back as the dinosaur leapt up off the slope and smashed his legs into PicoDaemon, forcing the Mega crashing to the ground some distance away from the group, down the mountain.
Behind them, they could hear all heck break loose as the two Megas of the team launched themselves at the two Reapers left behind-- and their Perfect-level teammates rushing in to help.
PicoDaemon merely growled up at Velocimon, flapping his wings and releasing a swarm of black insects the second they hit the ground. "Dark Swarm," he said in an even voice.
The pitch-black bugs swarmed over Velocimon and Julian alike -- or they would have, had Velocimon not suddenly bucked his partner off of his back to take the full brunt of the attack. He let loose a roar before immediately smash-degenerating to his Child form, crumpled on the ground.
Okay. This was okay. This was still do-able.
Julian's mind repeated those words, but truth be told, he had no idea what he was really trying to do by saying as such to himself, even as he stumbled towards his partner, laying face-first on the ground and unmoving.
"When I am on the side that's losing," PicoDaemon said, voice simultaneously smooth and rough, "I change sides."
"I really hope you're not trying to give me a join the dark side speech," Julian couldn't help but deadpan, not looking up-- not looking away from his partner.
PicoDaemon shook his head-- body. Whatever. "Simply a wonder that you -- adaptability. Change. And yet you cling to a plainly losing side. I find it amusing. I switch sides; you call it opportunitism, I call it adaptability." PicoDaemon looked up, above, to where his two comrades were.
"I have no particular loyalty to them, you realize."
This was the most that Iguamon and Julian -- or possibly anyone -- had heard PicoDaemon talk at once. Though they didn't know as much, that? A definite sign that the little demon's cool had been one hundred percent lost.
"I stay with them because they're going to win. Era is, that is," PicoDaemon continued, his hazy blue eyes returning their gaze to the boy and dinosaur. "Me, I don't care. I just play to the winning side. If you started to win, I'd start fighting on your side."
PicoDaemon smiled then, and it was a nasty, nasty expression. "But that's not the case, is it?" He paused, looking at the dinosaur on the ground. "Cross Nail," he said, nonchalantly, slashing one hand through the air.
This time it was Julian that huddled himself over Iguamon to protect his partner.
The second the dinosaur realized what was happening, his red eyes shot open, staring at the human boy. To say that his expression was pained was not even half of it-- he had just taken the full brunt of a Mega's attack, that was to be expected.
But that wasn't what caused Iguamon to snap his eyes open.
It was after it-- when Julian was shaking from the exertion of keeping his body propped up over his partner, that he cocked his head up, eyes shut, and yelled out:
"Guys! Gimme a hand!"
And with that, something happened. Those two words, that simple concession of a need for help, caused Iguamon to begin to shine bright.
Julian himself followed suit.
True warrior of the Virtue of Adaptability; this is your genesis.
Iguamon's red eyes began to shine brilliant green, and as Julian opened his eyes his were much the same; as it had for the two before him, the shine began to engulf the pair before it expanded. This time, the light formed a brilliantly-shining crystalline structure, across which shadowy shapes flickered only temporarily.
"Iguamon, genesis digivolve to..."
The rumbling sound grew deafening as a heavy, strange weight of sorts fell around Julian's consciousness. It was warm as their shapes melded together, the third digimon in a row becoming tall and humanoid; much like ImperialBaghamon before him, however, his face and body retained quite a few features of his dinosaur origins, covered in scales, armed with sharp claws, and a long thrashing tail-- plus, of course, the flat, broad snout.
A skull mask once more formed, covering the top of his head; from behind it, the long shaggy mane of hair (blue, changing to red nearer the tips) grew, reaching his upper back at its longest points. Three bony spikes grew on each side of his face, behind the jawbone.
Silvery armor with blue accents fell into place, covering his torso; a skin-tight black shirt was underneath, visibly only by the fact that its sleeves continued past the shoulders of the armor, ringed in yellow at the ends. Similar garments appeared around his forearms, existing to pad his arms as skulls snapped on to act as gauntlets, lashed on by black bands -- a quick look would confirm them, by the markings across their snouts, as smaller versions of the skull masks on Triassimon's heads.
Bits of armor covered his thighs and shins -- red for the upper armor, blue and black for the lower, all edged in gold -- while a blue loincoth fell into place around his waist.
Where Kisekimon had his swords and ImperialBaghamon had his sabers, a long spear formed in his hands. The rod of it was metal, but both tips -- the smaller, more ornamental one at the bottom, and the larger tip with additional spikes at the forefront -- looked to be made of bone. He swung his polearm in a manner both graceful and savage, to smash apart the crystalline-shaped energy around him. He twirled it one last time, shifting it into one hand as he stepped forward.
Neither Julian nor the newly-formed Mega didn't notice that the kids watching from above -- not their digimon, as they were understandably a tad preoccupied -- were, indeed, watching, witnessing the digivolution.
"Whoa," Toby said quietly, lost under the sound of Faris cheering very loudly. (Note that Faris was holding his brother's vest in one hand -- it had been dropped when Velocimon had jump-tackled the Mega.)
No, they were more focused on the surreal feeling coursing through them-- heart and core pulsing in sync, feeling solid and immovable.
The big difference between these partners and those two that genesis digivolved before them? They had no need to say anything to their opponent, nor eachother. Their wordless understanding of eachother was at its peak.
"Armor Breaker!" WarTriassimon roared, his spear glowing as he thrust its point towards PicoDaemon, the movement simple and straightforward-- and hitting its mark, sending the little demon reeling backwards.
PicoDaemon, in return, saw no need to quip or remark; he closed his eyes and concentrated, a flurry of black fire engulfing his body. "Inferno Typhoon," he growled, flapping backwards as the fire shot forward. Much more fire was sent at the dinosaur than had surrounded the little Mega, surging in a wave towards him.
WarTriassimon growled, throwing his arms up to cover his face as the fire licked away at his flesh, accentuating the already searing temperatures to unbearable levels. He snarled, whipping his body fiercely to dispel the flames, which leapt off of him and dissipated.
"Triple Threat!" he spat, throwing himself forward to all but tackle PicoDaemon, his hands and feet glowing as he began to tear viciously at his enemy.
"Daemon Disease," PicoDaemon said coolly, once more creating a red mist around his body; it was unnecessary for him to flap his wings to blow it at the dinosaur, as he was already quite in the demon's personal space already.
WarTriassimon growled and spat, reeling backwards as the attack's effects seeped in-- it was hard to fight, after all, when consumed by the feeling that your internal organs were being burned away.
PicoDaemon wasted no time, following up with another attack: "Cross Nail," he hissed, the red slashes of light were faintly visible even through the dinosaur's mostly-sightless (for the time being) eyes. The whips of energy wrapped themselves around his arms, smashing him backwards into and holding him fast to the rock face behind him.
It was at this moment that feet suddenly touched down alongside WarTriassimon-- four of them, actually, as Kisekimon and WarBaghamon stood alongside their ally, weapons drawn.
Perhaps WarTriassimon would have ceased his growls of pain for long enough to ask what they were doing, why they were abandoning their efforts to stop the other two Reapers, but a booming voice from above answered his question:
That, followed by a call of attacks from the four Perfect-level digimon still waiting above-- there was at least an effort to stall them if naught else. Javermon's snarls of pain and Epidemon's undignitified squawks of surprise were a good enough sign.
"Now, come on, that's no good," Kisekimon said, poised and prepared to strike; his voice had a tinge of not quite serious to it, though not outright sarcasm. "You don't play fair."
"Sorry about the delay on the getting to your aide, scales," ImperialBaghamon said, smriking as WarTriassimon wrenched himself to stand upright, blinking rapidly as his vision returned.
Something in Julian welled up to say that clearly he had it under control, new digivolution and such, but he squashed it down.
WarTriassimon smiled, though whether it was in response to the tiger, to his partner residing within his core, or a mixture of the two, was left uncertain.
PicoDaemon frowned, snorting. "I am a Reaper," he intoned, closing his eyes. "I hope you understand what you're getting into."
"I think we do," WarTriassimon said simply, gripping his spear with both hands.
"A fight with a coward?" ImperialBaghamon provided, sardonic and wry.
"Something like that," Kisekimon concurred, before he charged forward. "Nova Blade!"
"Dark Swarm," PicoDaemon said, spreading his wings wide to release a flurry of dark insects.
"Fire Wave!" ImperialBaghamon cut in; Kisekimon leapt out of the way with no time to spare. The flames, while they couldn't burn insects that weren't truly made of living matter (data?), did cancel out the attack, as both flame and faux-bug dissipated when they contacted eachother.
It was while PicoDaemon was shielding his face from the embers that WarTriassimon leapt forward. He looked to be poised to pounce upon the Reaper, but instead, he stopped short, smashing his spear point-first into the rock.
From the tip of his spear spread a crack through the ground, until it suddenly split apart underneath PicoDaemon's feet, surging sharpened rocks up through the ground and into his target's body.
"Inferno Typhoon!" PicoDaemon returned, finally raising his voice; once more, he surged with black fire before it fired at the dinosaur, sending him jumping back to his allies.
Above, another blast of flame heated the battlefield; they could hear the Perfect-levels clattering around to avoid being hit by the phoenix god's blast of fire.
"I'm going to say we should speed this up-- call it a hunch," Kisekimon said, looking up to the crater.
"No kidding," ImperialBaghamon grumbled back. WarTriassimon only nodded, prompting the cat to remark, out of the corner of his mouth, to Kisekimon "Doesn't talk a lot, does he? ... less than usual, at least."
WarTriassimon merely looked sidelong at ImperialBaghamon-- and smirked.
Without another moment of hesitation, it was Kisekimon that led the charge towards PicoDaemon, sheathing his swords in one smooth motion. "Blast Burst!" he cried, holding his now-empty hands out in front of him as blasts of white energy were fired therefrom.
PicoDaemon quickly darted out of the way, though one of the shots of energy grazed him; in return, he merely growled. "Cross Nail!" he spat, and within seconds Kisekimon found himself pinned to the ground by the red lashes of energy.
"God Fists!" ImperialBaghamon cried, fire leaping from his outstretched fists and towards PicoDaemon.
The little Reaper couldn't flit out of the way fast enough, and so found himself taking the full brunt of the fiery attack. "Inferno Typhoon!" he snarled, sending a wave of fire right back at the lion.
"Armor Breaker!" WarTriassimon yelled in return, rushing in and smashing his spear into PicoDaemon-- humorously enough, he swung his weapon like a baseball bat, with the little Mega serving as a makeshift baseball.
This sent PicoDaemon flying into the wall of rock. He immediately sunk his talon-like claws into it and kicked off again, hurtling towards the dinosaur. He didn't even call an attack, he merely threw himself claws-first at WarTriassimon, attempting to unceremoniously rip his face off.
ImperialBaghamon wasted no time in slashing down with the blades held in his two left hands, knocking PicoDaemon out of the air and away from his ally.
Kisekimon, meanwhile, wrenched himself to his feet, rubbing at his wrists before he drew his swords. He stepped over near his allies, looking down at PicoDaemon on the ground.
And then the little demon let out a laugh -- hacking, almost rotten, and decidedly mocking.
"You're not so bad," he said roughly, pushing himself up. "I'd almost consider joining up with you at this rate. What you say?"
"Never," ImperialBaghamon was the first to respond, growling.
"You are a bully," Kisekimon said, gripping his swords.
"A coward," ImperialBaghamon continued, his hands tightening around the grips of his sabres.
"And an opportunist," finished WarTriassimon. "You've hurt our allies and our friends. We've no room for you in war."
PicoDaemon smirked, flapping his wings to rise off the ground. "So be it, then. "Dark Swarm!" he cried, but his attack was swiftly cut off.
"Fossil Storm!" WarTriassimon roared, smashing his spear into the ground once more. This time, instead of a crack in the ground, from within the rocks rose... skeletons.
Familiar skeletons. The forms of Gekomon and Otamamon, of even a SkullSatamon or two, rose up from the ground, all bleached, clattering bones.
PicoDaemon's pupils constricted as the black insects of his Dark Swarm attack dissipated harmlessly against the bones, and they rushed forward at him, scratching and tearing.
When the skeletons dissipated, disintigrating into dust when their attack was done, PicoDaemon was standing on the ground, his stance wavering. His body was flickering-- data beginning to show.
And even so...
"Dark Swarm!" he yelled again, flapping his wings to send the swarm of insects towards the trio.
If they could have said it was intentional, it would have been nice, but what followed was a coincidence of the three acting in sync:
All three of the Virtue Warriors' weapons connected with PicoDaemon at once, slashing through the swarm of insects to strike true.
PicoDaemon began to laugh, a nasty cackle, as he dissipated into data, leaving only an egg behind.
There was no time to celebrate, however, as they heard a laugh from up above. They turned to look; the dog and the bird-faced digimon had reached the top.
And then some.
Javermon was once more in his bipedal form, instead of the bestial one. With one arm shining brightly, he was running towards Zhuqiaomon. Epidemon kept the Perfect-levels of the team (and even BlackAgumon, who was firing little balls of fire -- fruitlessly, mind, but still bravely-- at him) at bay nigh-effortlessly.
"Grab the egg!" Emily called down, cupping her hands over her mouth in order to be heard; ImperialBaghamon nodded once and scooped PicoDaemon's egg into one hand before he suddenly hurled himself towards the wall, climbing with his three spare hands. Within seconds, he reached where the kids were standing.
Quick to follow were Kisekimon -- who merely had to leap to make his way back up-- and WarTriassimon, who seemed to climb as naturally as he breathed. ImperialBaghamon handed the egg to Emily, before all three Megas surged up the slope towards the two remaining Reapers.
They did not make it fast enough. Just when the three Megas reached the front lines, standing near Epidemon, their -- as well as everyone's -- ears were split by an earth-shaking keen.
They all looked; they all wished they hadn't.
Javermon, the bright light engulfing his left arm and seeping into his chest, was throwing himself straight into the giant red bird, throwing the shining arm ahead. When he touched Zhuqiaomon... the arm sank in.
As if it were nothing, Javermon then planted his feet against the bird's breast, kicking backwards.
And then they couldn't hear the sound of their own thoughts for how loud the cry Zhuqiaomon made was. There was something bright and shining in Javermon's own hand as the shine began to fade from his limb proper; Zhuqiaomon himself was beginning to shine, data swirling around his body.
"Zhuqiaomon!" Kisekimon screamed -- in fact, most of the digimon did the same, but he was the first to speak.
Not that it was audible over the sounds around them.
"Go!" Javermon snarled to Epidemon as he landed alongside his ally, and they went-- fast, blindingly fast. Javermon hunched over and howled as he shifted into his quadrupedal form; Epidemon leapt on and hitched a ride on his co-worker's back. Javermon shifted the glowing orb smoothly into his mouth, gripping it with his jaws and freeing his limbs up to carry the two away with long strides.
It was a long way back to Era's castle.
The three Megas could no longer hold their forms-- three flashes of light later and there once again stood Simon, Andrea, and Julian, each holding their respective Baby II-level partners in their arms-- and unable to do much more than stare.
Go, the voice of Zhuqiaomon -- sounding strained -- was in the ears of the children and their partners. Baihumon is in the Metal City. Beat them to it.
That was the last the bird said before he fell, backwards, into his own volcano, with one final keen. The earth began to shake; the volcano began to bubble and boil, clearly on the verge of eruption.
"Get on my back! Now!" Ospreymon cawed, and the children were quick to obey. Nimbimon, Hebidramon, and MetalShayumon quickly fell back down to their Child forms, accompanying their partners onto the big bird's back.
Toby helped to pull BlackAgumon up; when Ospreymon took off, he was just in time, as a burst of lava was flowing down to where they had been standing a second before.
If they looked down, they could see the ground below them begin to crumble away and fall into an abyss opening up beneath them.
Ash still hung in the air when the group, on Ospreymon's back, finally reached the western edge of the crumbling Crater Valley. The sun had set by this point, leaving the sky dark even beyond the volcanic cloud slowly settling.
They could see, below them, digimon fleeing; the crumbling was spreading from the volcano out. Behind them, they could see the great volcano itself sinking into the ground, less than half its original height and somewhat lopsided as it fell into the darkness threatneing to swallow it up.
"I can't believe it," Cindemon grumbled from his place still in Andrea's arms. "He took down a sovereign like it was nothing."
Efudemon, in Simon's arms, was uncharacteristically quiet and solemn; Iguamon was characteristically so-- so they were in roughly the same sort of mood, which was a bit bizarre to behold.
Down on the ground, they could see the shapes of digimon fleeing; BlackAgumon was watching as they did, peering carefully over the side of the bird's back.
"Are you going to be okay?" Lammon said gently, looking at the little black dinosaur; he was visibly distraught even as he nodded.
This was the first any of them had actually seen the proceedings of an Area's fall-- Ebonwumon they had been having an out-of-world experience, and Azulongmon had been behind closed doors within his temple.
This was more real-- more concrete.
This was something that the kids were having trouble wrapping their heads around.
This was something that for all their lives, the digimon had thought impossible-- even knowing of Era, of the lengths Deekamon said he would go to, they never thought for a moment that the death of a sovereign could really happen.
Especially not so easily.
Ospreymon landed on the crest of the mountains, and the group looked out before them; they could see nothing, all of the land before them obscured by opaque, foggy clouds.
As soon as his passengers disembarked, Ospreymon returned to Kamomon with a flash, stretching his arms out and sighing. He looked up at the egg that Emily held in her arms, and nodded his head, saying nothing.
"I'm going to say it's quitting time for the night," Andrea said, stretching her arms out; the agreement rippled through the group, shoulders relaxing and remembering the leaden feeling in their limbs.
"If it's okay with you," BlackAgumon said, looking up and around and the kids and their partners. "I'd like to stay with you for the night," he said. "Just the night-- once morning comes I'll start looking for... refugees," the dino continued, and his voice broke noticably on the last word.
"Absolutely," Simon said immediately; the others nodded their assent.
All of them were tired-- the digimon worn out from their fighting, three of the kids worn out from being a part of said fighting, and the others just plain emotionally drained.
Not wishing yet to move, they looked around for anywhere that would serve as a suitable resting place. Finding none that would truly allow them to be hidden, they resigned themselves onto a shelf of rock mere paces from where they stood now.
The group settled, hunkering down as best they could, knowing that on just the other side of these mountains, the area was crumbling apart at the seams-- and knowing they were helpless to stop it.
Faris was sitting up-- he was on watch, had volunteered for it; a few hours ago his brother had nudged Faris awake, wanting to go to sleep. It was the middle of the night, and occasionally the heat still lingering in the Crater Valley would blow over the mountain and linger for a moment.
Faris breathed out heavily; Delfinimon looked over at him.
"What's up, yeom?" she asked, dragging herself over to her partner and placing her head unceremoniously in his lap.
Faris smirked and placed a hand on the dolphin's head, before pulling her goggles down further onto her forehead. Delfinimon huffed mock-indignantly, having to maneuver a bit with her flippers to re-adjust them.
"What's on your mind, County Far'?" the dolphin re-phrased herself, before snickering at her own cheesy nickname for him.
"A lot of crap," Faris said, sitting back and leaning on his hands.
Delfinimon tilted her head, looking at her human partner quizzically. She wanted to ask a certain question. She knew that least part of it was what the boy had (almost certainly) overheard a few nights ago... But, judging by his behavior after the SkullSatamon incident...
The boy was in a river in Egypt, so to speak. (That is to say: big, fat, stinking denial.)
"If you got a problem, you're totally welcome to talk to me, yeom. I won't even make fun of you... too much. Promise," the dolphin offered instead, once more placing her head down on Faris' lap.
"Aw, not with the sap," Faris said with a smile. He sighed again, looking out to the horizon. "It just, feels a lot more real, you know?" Delfinimon looked up at him expectantly, and so he continued.
"I mean... I donno. I don't mean to sound like a total jerk here, but... some part of me was clingin' to the idea that it was like, some kind of game. Y'know, I played a lot of video games when I was younger," Faris said, smiling as he thought back. "Jules did too. He'll never admit it, but he totally did. It just... felt like that, kinda?"
Delfinimon nodded, even though she didn't fully grasp it; she understood the point, and that was what mattered.
"But ever since the thing with Azulongmon... and, heck, especially now with Zhuqiaomon, we just saw it... It's more concrete, you know?"
"Been hit with it like a sack full of beans to the face," Delfinimon summed up, nodding her head.
"Even so, though," Faris said after a moment, sitting up straight. His voice was quieter, now. "I... I donno. I kinda don't wanna go home, you know? It's like the real world... doesn't exist here." He smiled at Delfinimon. "I mean, you actually think I'm funny."
Delfinimon smiled and nodded back. "Even though your jokes are terrible." She knew, could tell, that the smile on her partner's face was hiding sadness, but she knew better than to try and pry any further for now.
He'd tell her when he was ready. Even if she had to tail-slap him until he was ready, now wasn't the time.
Faris rolled his eyes, picking Delfinimon up to sit on his lap proper. "And even though you make me carry you everywhere."
Delfinimon stuck her tongue out and smirked. "Only 'cos you keep letting me get away with it. This one is totally on you, yeom."
Any further conversation was cut short by Luke's voice: "I hope I'm not interrupting anything," the blond boy said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "But you can go to sleep now, if you like. I'll take over."
Sampamon, slithering along alongside him, yawned, but nodded her confirmation of her partner's statement.
"Nah, it's cool," Faris said, smiling and nodding. He threaded his arms underneath Delfinimon's flipper-fins and hoisted her up as he stood up.
"Just scream if we get attacked in the night, yeom," Delfinimon said, grinning.
"Scream louder than you think you need to-- she sleeps like the dead," Faris said to Luke, rolling his eyes; Delfinimon made an indignant squeak, while Luke merely smiled as he sat down where Faris had been sitting a moment before.