Episode 39: Follow in Your Flightsteps

It had been a good day's worth of wandering since the fight with Plesiomon, and the group had managed to make their way further into the cave in (ultimately vain) hopes of making any progress in getting out. They had, however, made impressive progress on aimlessly moving in a given direction. At present, they were standing at a fork of sorts, two vast paths leading in two opposing directions. Their surroundings had changed, yes, but to the untrained eye (read: all of their eyes), it looked almost the same; it was a bunch of glowing rocks, a bunch of non-glowing rocks, and a bunch of water.

And a bunch of digimon making attempts on their lives, which was more-of-the-same, but in another way.

They watched as a large digimon, made of stone -- the D-GEARs had said it was called a Golemon -- scurried off down a sloping path towards the water, nursing whatever wounds a creature made entirely of rock could be said to have.

"What I wish we could get a better understanding of," Julian remarked from on Velocimon's back, placing one hand on the dinosaur's skull helmet, "is what's going on here." To the side, Serpemon bowed her head as Luke placed a hand on the side of the tremendous snake's neck.

The issue on his mind, and on the minds of much of the group: all of the digimon that had been of a mind to speak to them had said they'd not been with Era, if prompted. Most, mind, just responded to any questions with roars and snarls and attacks, leaving little to the way of actual conversation to be had. Still, those that had spoke maintained the same pattern. In fact, they had seemed downright offended at the insinuation.
It was a curiosity, if nothing else.

"What's that?"
Emily's voice cut through the haze of thought; while the others were looking at the ground or eachother, some merely zoned out, she was looking ahead. The group's eyes followed the direction she was pointing.
Down one of the paths was... well, much of the same that they had been wandering through. The other path, however, continued for a while before a light -- quite a bit brighter than the curious minerals that illuminated the caverns -- was visible at the end, shining out like a beacon of sorts. The light more than twinkled-- it might even have been said to pulsate.

"Option one: a way out," Simon surmised, putting his hands in his pockets, "or, at least something similar."

"Option two: a shiny dead end," Andrea said, one hand on her hip as she flipped a bit of her hair over her shoulder with the other hand, "or option three: a trap."

"More of a lead than we have for anything else," Egakumon added, his expression thoughtful. (Or, as close to thoughtful as the little hot-blooded rabbit's expression ever got.)

"Upwards and onwards, then," Rajamon said, shrugging his shoulders and looking up-- before being immediately plowed past by Velocimon. Julian, on his partner's back still, had to fist his hands into the dinosaur's mane of hair to avoid being flung off by the sudden movement. For their parts, Simon and Egakumon seemed downright insulted that they had had their moment of headstrong run-forward heroism stolen from underneath them, and immediately bounded afterwards. Rajamon snorted and followed the rabbit -- though at a more leisurely, unhurried pace --, with Andrea close behind.

"How many of the things we get into, I wonder," Luke mused quietly, casting a sidelong glance at the nearby Toby, as those left 'behind' began to move, "are caused primarily by members of the group charging headlong into things." As he spoke, Serpemon returned to her Sampamon form, and Luke picked her up and helped to deposit her onto her favored position around his shoulders.

"Quite a few," Toby conceded, smiling faintly. "But I think it works out, more or less."

"And if it doesn't, we make it work out," Emily provided; Kamomon smiled and nodded up at his partner.

To this, Faris added, "And failing that, that's why we bring up the back-- to pick up the pieces!" Finmon, held under one arm, squeaked her agreement.
A short ways ahead, Velocimon had stopped and turned, waiting for the rest to catch up to him (and for Julian to climb off long enough for the dinosaur to return to his child form). They wasted no time in closing the distance; they could hear a rumbling behind them, and if it was another digimon out for their skins, they'd rather avoid it.

***

The brightness of the light ahead of them proved to fool them into mistaking the distance; it was further than it looked. And yet, on they went, occasionally having to leap from one "island" to the next, helping one other if they landed off-balance, to keep them from tumbling back-first into the dark water below. (Faris, to wit, was still soggy, even hours later, as the air was stagnant and cool -- not terribly conducive to drying him off. The others had decided they wanted to avoid his drippy fate.)

They drew closer, edging closer to the light, and yet none of them were terrifically surprised when they heard a deep and low rumbling.

"Of freaking course,," Andrea drawled, digging her heels into the rocks below her feet and bracing herself.

Silhouetted against the shining light behind it, a huge shape dropped from the ceiling-- if they were to look up, the broken remains of a tower was wedged in the ceiling, hanging open at the bottom, thus granting the new digimon a perch from which to drop. It was tremendous in size, kicking up a flurry of dust and debris when it landed.

The digimon was tremendous, and quadrupedial in form. It looked like it had been put together from a mishmash of creatures; its forelegs were like great talons and its head like an eagle's (though with a metal mask covering the face), but its body was furry and striped like a tiger's. Behind it, a tail thrashed, tipped in the grinning face of a snake. Its wings, like a bat's, folded onto its back, as its harsh yellow eyes looked down at the humans and digimon, so small compared to itself.

The partner digimon bristled and prepared themselves for a fight... but perhaps tellingly, their D-GEARs did not go off; the strange little devices did not detect hostile intent. This did nothing to decrease how imposing and threatening the tremendous chimeric digimon looked, but it did not move to attack.
"You find yourselves lost, do you not, small ones?" it rumbled, suddenly.

Unsure how to respond, the humans looked at one another. Faris looked quite pointedly at Simon, raising his eyebrows, expecting the be-hatted boy to be the first to speak -- as he so often was.

Simon looked as though he was going to, but he was beaten to the punch by the avian member of the team.

"You could, ah, say that, yes," Kamomon said, stroking the chin of his beak and looking to the ground below his feet.

"Are you a friend?" Egakumon said after a moment, gripping his brush tightly (just in case).

"I am Gryphonmon, servant to the guardian of the Relic Desert," the large digimon replied; it did not go over their heads, not even Egakumon's, that that wasn't much of an answer to the question presented. "If you are lost, I will take you to him for guidance."

"Chances of this being a trap are rapidly approaching 'one'," Andrea remarked under her breath to nobody in particular, as Rajamon curled defensively in front of her legs. Julian nodded imperceptibly in agreement, but did not take his eyes off of the tremendous beast.
And yet... none of them were particularly willing to go against the new digimon at the moment. He had the advantage of size -- he could probably smack them, with one big claw, into the water before any of those who could could reach Mega form-- or even for any of the digimon to reach Perfect. Again: trying to avoid a soggy fate.

"We'll, be fine, I think," Simon said, measuring his words; he might have been a bit on the headstrong side, but not even he was going to run into this offer head-first.

Egakumon -- and the rest of the digimon in the group at large -- immediately leapt forward, and Simon -- and the rest of the humans in the group at large -- leapt backwards, as one of Gryphonmon's fore-feet raised and smashed down, much closer to them than it had been before. "You misunderstand. It was not meant as a request," the beast rumbled fiercely, his tremendous talons digging effortlessly into the solid rock. The digimon bristled once more, raring to fight, even if they were outmatched, but before they could, Gryphonmon's composure was gained once more. He lifted his foot and once more stood straight, looking impassively at the ragtag group.

He received no further complaints, and so the chimeric digimon reared his head back and let loose a terrific keening noise. The digimon and their partners had to cover their ears as the sound rang off the walls of the cavern and reverberated at a downright ear-splitting volume.
Rajamon used the cover of the sound to quickly mouth words to the others, digimon and human alike: be prepared to fight.

They did not need to be told twice-- or even the once, as even the trusting Toby and Lammon felt the lump of apprehension and dread sinking into the pits of their stomachs.

***

There was one thing to be said; walking behind Gryphonmon, they did not feel like they were going to be attacked by any outside parties. Faris and Finmon entertained themselves by pulling faces at the eyeless snake-head at the end of Gryphonmon's tail, even when Emily suggested that they maybe shouldn't, on the off-chance that the gryphon could tell. (Stranger things had happened, she was sure, regarding digimon.)

As they walked, the entire group talked -- in hushed tones, betwixt themselves (and admittedly some more than others, but all seven humans and digimon took part) -- about what they could or would do if this did end up being a trap. They were not optimistic enough to think that simply because the tremendous beast did not react to them meant he could not hear them.
The closer they drew to the light, the more evident its source; it was an absolutely monstrously-sized hunk of the glowing crystal, large enough to dwarf even the bus-sized Gryphonmon by comparison. The closer they drew, the less intense the light seemed-- which made no logical sense, were it simply less intense at close range (Julian, to his credit, did not comment). It did not seem that it was so; rather, the light was actively dimming. A look around them, that the shadows it cast slowly faded away and the light bouncing off the cave, from where they were all the way back, was less intense -- proved this theory right.

Before he smacked face-first into the rock, Gryphonmon turned to them, fixing his harsh gaze on the fourteen individuals following him.

"Feel free to follow once you have sufficiently decided how to react if you still fear I am going to attempt to murder you," he rumbled (well, that answered the question of whether he could hear them, though he didn't sound particularly offended-- more matter-of-fact). "It will remain open until such a time as you all follow. I suggest you hurry."
With that, he turned, and-- walked face-first into the rock. The humans of the group could not muster the energy to really be surprised as they watched Gryphonmon phase through the solid crystal like it was air; they watched the data visibly distort around him, shining bright like it did when a digimon was defeated, but the moment he passed, it healed itself right up, looking as though he had never been there.

The digital world, ladies and gentlemen.

"What are we supposed to do?" Toby said, tugging at the hood nestled around his neck and lower face as sort of a nervous gesture.

"Do what he said to do, I suppose," was the answer that Simon gave, looking after the gryphon and attempting to see through the tremendous crystal (to no avail).

"And if it's a trap?" Lammon prodded, frowning slightly.

"Kick some righteous behind," Egakumon said, shooting the sheep a toothy grin.

Before any more conversation could take place, a deep rumbling echoed off the walls, a low noise -- loud enough to shake the walls -- coming from the direction from whence they had come. Chances are: some digimon that was very, very put out, if the dark shapes in the distance were any indication.
"Moving rapidly along!" Simon said in a sort of faux-chipper tone, looking down at Egakumon; the rabbit nodded, and the two were the first to phase through the mass of crystal. As with Gryphonmon, they passed through and then it was as though they had never disturbed the structure. One by one (or, rather, in human and digimon pairs, two by two-- but wasn't that so Noah's ark to say?), they passed through. Emily and Kamomon were the last, looking over their shoulders at the shapes in the distance, before they too stepped over the barrier through the glowing rock.

It was blindingly bright for a split second, and then they stepped through.

"Whoa," Kamomon could not hold back, craning his neck to look up. Everything was bright as day, as the majority of the walls were covered in the luminescent mineral. Tiny patches of grey rock underneath it peaked out from the gaps, but the entire chamber was coated in it. Above them, the ceiling shot skywards; it was tremendous, this one room looking as though it were carved out of the inside of a mountain.
Needless to say, it was big.

"D'you think this is the same sort of stuff that Wisemon's castle was made of?" Toby could be heard mumbling to Lammon; the sheep nodded once in thoughtful agreement.

"Perhaps."

The kids and digimon alike were taken aback by the scale of this chamber, but they didn't have much time to take it in; a low rumbling sound reminded them of Gryphonmon's presence. They looked, and the great beast was laid on the ground a short ways ahead of them, flexing his claws idly into the dust below his feet. Looking as they were at the tremendous beast, they did not notice the tall golden object he sat around as though he was guarding it-- until its lid opened towards them like a door.

It was a sarcophagus, gold and adorned with a red streak across the chest, with blue gems set therein; atop it, a figure of a snake was carved from gold, twisted into a figure eight and eating its own tail. From within the sarcophagus, a digimon stepped out; its face, they could see, was similar to the one carved onto its 'container', bearing a striking resemblance to the burial mask of Tutankhamun. It was, unsurprisingly enough, a pharaoh-like figure; a body of solid gold that shone in the light, a long white cape laying around his shoulders, while a similar length of cloth was fastened around his waist, and purple braces lay around his ankles and wrists.

The group hesitated, tensed; then, the being before them bowed, one hand behind his back and making a sweeping motion with the other.
"I am Pharaohmon," the golden digimon said, "guardian of the Relic Desert, under the mountain. Welcome, Virtue Warriors. I have been waiting for you; I have much that needs to be said."

The introductions were curt and a bit tired; not terrifically grandiose, in summation. As they gave names and greetings, the group did not notice that the rock behind them had once more become solid until they heard a loud thunk and the sound of claws on rock from behind.

"Oh, the heck was that," Simon blurted, whipping around as though preparing for a fight. Beyond the translucent glowing material, he could see a faint dark shape that was clawing fruitlessly at the crystal.

"Of no problem to us," Pharaoahmon replied, his voice calm. "It would take more force than all the digimon in the Area could muster to break the barrier."

"Why do I not find this encouraging?" Faris remarked to Emily out of the corner of his mouth.

***

To Pharaohmon's credit, he allowed the visiting children and digimon a goodly amount of time in which to settle down and rest. They could not relax, not fully, but they formed a motley semicircle of sorts around the golden digimon's sarcophagus. They were offered Terrafruit, an offer they could not refuse (and also not help but wonder but from whence it was procured, but this wasn't enough to deter them from promptly stuffing their faces with the fruit, even managing to ignore some of the more bizarre flavors thereof should it fall into their hands), and allowed time to talk amongst themselves. Pharaohmon and Gryphonmon stayed quite nearby, not speaking but very likely listening close.

"So, what was this about talking?" Emily said, pulling her knees to her chest once she and her comrades had sated what appetite they had.

Pharaohmon lifted his head and nodded once, turning himself to stand before the sitting group. "I understand it that you have been attacked by a great many of the residents of my own domain."

"You could say that," Rajamon said, folding his paws and trying his best not to sound too abrasive. "If by 'have been attacked' you mean 'have had attempts on our lives made', and by 'many of the residents of your domain' you mean 'every ten minutes'." (He was not doing so well at keeping his tone neutral.)

"An explanation for that'd be a great start," Andrea finished, sitting back and putting one hand on Rajamon's back, smoothing down the fur there.

Pharoahmon nodded his head once, the rest of his body not moving.
"Times are desperate. Era has claimed three of the four cardinal sovereigns; only Baihumon and the dragon of the center remain." They knew this; where was he going with this? "The soldiers of Era do not allow you to be killed; to do so would interfere with Era's plans. Deactivate the virtue, and stop his plan in its tracks. Is it any wonder, then, that some of us choose to take matters into our own hands, where Agents and Reapers alike cannot disturb the act?"

Okay, this boded very ill.

The digimon instantly rose to their feet, bristling and preparing for a fight, but what followed was quick. Gryphonmon's eyes narrowed and he roared, but not at the children-- it was a sound of dismay, as Pharaohmon threw his hands out. Around him there formed a black mist-- they had had enough of mists, fogs, and smokes, and so digimon and human alike immediately moved to cover any orifices before the attack was even called.
"Necromist!"

What they were were not anticipating was the fact that... first of all, it began to burn at skin, even from the outside, as it settled in the air around them. The second was that instead of knocking them out, it merely felt like a weight on their spirits and mind was settling down-- not an inability to move, but merely the total lack of will to. It was like a thousand-pound weight, completely sapping any drive that the digimon had to move. (The humans, meanwhile, were immune to the latter-- no, they were merely treated to feeling like they were being misted with acid.)

As the attack settled in around them, their D-GEARs began to chirp. Nice belated reaction there. (Well, they did only activate when a hostile was detected...)
Pharaohmon. Mega-level demon man digimon. It once held absolute power over parts of the Digital World at its genesis. The mysterious ruins that dot the landscape of the areas it inhabits were buildings raised within days, a testament to its control. If its Necromist attack does not suffice in sapping its opponents will and burning their flesh, it will attack with its Fist of Nile.

Well, that was helpful.

The mist obscured vision in more than one way-- it burned their eyes if they opened them, human and digimon alike, and it helped block out what light they could see. Therefore, it was hard to tell that one of their company was moving, stumbling to his feet with a mighty concentration of effort. It was not Egakumon, nor Rajamon, nor even Lammon; no, standing up and getting to his feet slowly was Kamomon. He opened his mouth, despite the mist seeping in to burn his throat and sap away at the will that was standing him up now, he reared his head back.
"Ocean Blast!"

He fired a jet of water out of his mouth, which absorbed the mist it passed through until it was dark and cloudy; the liquid impacted Pharaohmon to absolutely no effect, but even so Kamomon lurched (clumsily) forward out of the mist, breathing heavy.

"Fist of N--!" Pharaohmon began, pulling his fist back to strike the comparatively tiny bird, but he was cut off.

"Legendary Claw!" Gryphonmon roared, rearing one of his talon-like forearms back and slashing at Pharaohmon with sword-like claws. His claws raked over the golden body, leaving no scratch or mark in their wake, but it was enough to knock Pharaohmon out of the way and disrupt his attack. The great beast turned his head, and with a flap of his wings, dispersed the mist from around the chosen children and their partners. "Run," he boomed, gesturing his head away from the door. "The door is closed to you, but there is more than one way out."

The group didn't have time to respond, still dealing with shaking away the effects of the Necromist attack, before Gryphonmon roared, rearing down as Pharaohmon pushed himself to his feet. "Now!" he repeated.

"We can't just r--" Simon began, Egakumon cheering on his words, before Julian unceremoniously cut him off.

"Drop the stupid, Simon!" the older boy barked. "We're being given an out!"

It didn't take much convincing for Simon and Egakumon to be shaken out of their knee-jerk reaction-- after all, there was no heroism to be done here. They were being graciously given an out by Gryphonmon-- and considering the implications of Pharaohmon's words, they had darned best take it.
They herded themselves quickly out of the way, taking advantage of the time they were granted by the beast taking on the pharaoh, using Gryphonmon's cover to run like heck further into the cavern.

Well... most of them ran like heck.

It is not to say that Emily nor Kamomon stayed behind by any means -- they had no particular death wish. However, Emily gradually slowed her pace, and Kamomon -- running with his wings held out and swept back behind him -- only continued on for a short while more before turning to notice his partner's hesitation. The distance between them and the group grew as, behind the relative shelter of an outcropping of rock sticking up from the floor, the pair drew to a complete stop.

"What's the matter?" Kamomon said, rubbing at and above his beak-- a bit of the mist was still lingering in his sinuses and throat, it seemed. He looked up at his partner, brow furrowed, trying to determine if something was the matter with Emily.

"We should go back," she said slowly, frowning and leaning against the mass of crystal they hid behind. Her mind was all over-- Gryphonmon seemed surprised when Pharaohmon had attacked them. He didn't seem to want to have to fight the digimon he called himself the servant of, and the thoughts were nagging at the back of her mind. She said none of this, however.

Kamomon said nothing, for his own part; he only looked up at her and nodded once, solemnly, a faint smile finding its way onto his beak. "Okay."

Hidden as they could be, Kamomon digivolved as quickly as he could -- momentarily, Kaizokumon stood where Kamomon's feet were a second ago, and then the D-GEAR began to glow and shake, propelling him to Perfect form. The newly-formed Ospreymon bowed his head and turned, allowing Emily to shamble onto his back (taking care not to pull on his feathers).

(Ahead, the rest of the group had not noticed the dropping out of one of their members-- none except Sampamon, who silently craned her neck as she sat around Luke's shoulders, her eyes catching the tail-end of the second flash of digivolution light. She drew her lips back in a contemplative expression, but said nothing as she watched Ospreymon's form kick and rise into the air, flying silently despite his size.)

Emily clung tight to Ospreymon's back; ahead of them, they could see Pharaohmon and Gryphonmon locked in combat, with Pharaohmon -- even at the distance -- quite plainly having the upper hand. Emily's suspicions were confirmed when the duo heard him rumble:
"Don't make me fight you!"

Pharoahmon replied to this with a snarl and a growl, very feral considering his humanoid appearance. "You're the one who places a pipe dream over a certain thing-- don't blame me because you decided now was a good time to disobey me!"

"You're gonna wanna hold tight, lass," Ospreymon said quietly. Emily nodded, barely having the time to fist her hands in her partner's back before the big bird swooped downwards towards the pharaoh, talons beginning to glow. "Seagull Dive!" he cried loudly, smashing feet-first into the golden digimon and wrapping his claws around Pharaomon's torso. The Mega was caught off-guard, but not for long; while Ospreymon attempted to carry him higher into the air, he wrested his way out of the bird's grip. The rocky floor shook when his feet connected, and Gryphonmon was craning his neck to look up to the avian.

This was, clearly, a poor move, as Pharaohmon wasted no time in striking out at his servant digimon. "Fist of Nile!"

The glowing golden fist connected, hard, with Gryphonmon's cheek, sending the tremendous beast skidding to the floor on his side. Ospreymon keened, dropping closer to the ground, standing (or, flapping in place) between Pharaohmon and the temporarily-downed Gryphonmon. The bird flapped powerfully, building a whirlwind in front of him. "Gale Storm!" he cawed, spraying a blast of snow and shards of ice into the whipping wind before, with a final flap of his wings, send the mini-tornado at Pharaohmon.

Though it pushed him back a bit, the ice was no match for the solid metal of Pharaohmon's body, and he only looked stoically at the girl and the bird, his gold face unreadable, as he stepped closer. He did not seem to mind the attack at all as he reared his hand back once more.
"Fist of Nile!"

Ospreymon squawked, far from dignified, as he was knocked backwards, and Emily was sent flying off of the bird's back in turn. The girl quickly gathered herself up, and despite landing awkwardly, she forced herself to her feet, running to place a hand on the large bird's neck.

"Are you okay?" she said, her voice close to breaking.

"I'll be fine," Ospreymon replied, his voice a bit squawky and his gaze not yet entirely focused, but he smiled lopsidedly.

Emily barely had time to feel relieved before she heard the booming voice of Pharaohmon calling an attack once more. "Necromist!"

And this time, it was Gryphonmon that lurched forward, taking the entire brunt of the attack.

"Well, that works, too," they could hear the pharaoh say from beyond the beast.

"What does he mean by that?" Ospreymon said, hushed, hurried, but as the mist seeped into Gryphonmon, the one digimon taking the brunt of the entire attack, began to rumble low. The mist sunk into his body, and then Pharaohmon whispered something in a language they did not understand, and a nefarious black aura began to absorb the light around Gryphonmon.
When the beast began to turn, they could see a distinct difference-- his eyes seemed clouded over, and his teeth were bared as a low snarl escaped him.

Emily's D-GEAR, the voice lonely and almost tinny without the other devices nearby, chirped up.
Gryphonmon. Mega-level mythical animal digimon. A digimon of great power and keen movement, it is difficult to defeat a gryphonmon. For this reason, they tend to protect important places within the Digital World. Its Solo Roar attack can disrupt an opponent's data with sound alone.

"What did you do!?" Emily said as Ospreymon got to his feet, fluffing his feathers up.

"Well, there's got to be a way for a pharaoh to keep his subjects in the afterlife," Pharaohmon's voice said nonchalantly, though they couldn't see him, as Gryphonmon formed a wall between the duo and the pharaoh.

"He used the mist to take away Gryphonmon's will to resist," Ospreymon whispered as they backed up blindly, not taking his eyes off of the chimera-like digimon, "and then... some sort of magic. That's my guess."

"Very observant!" Apparently, Pharaohmon had heard him. "Not that it will help you to know as such. Attack."

"Climb on!" Ospreymon cawed immediately, and Emily followed the request; she heaved herself onto Ospreymon's back as quickly as she could. The bird immediately kicked off the ground, lifting into the air as quickly as he could-- just in enough time to avoid the slashing claws of the gryphon.

It was abundantly clear to both that attempting to fight was absolutely futile, but giving up now was out of the question-- Emily couldn't shake the feeling that this was their fault, a nagging thought in the back of her head. She pushed it back, clinging tight to Ospreymon's back. The bird was heading towards the sides of the cavern, hoping to find a place to hide, recuperate, and recover for a moment. The choice was taken out of the matter when, from below, Gryphonmon bellowed out an attack.

"Solo Roar!"

Though it had no physical appearance, the sound that Gryphonmon let out was more than a roar-- it shook the very air, and Ospreymon keened loudly as he began to flicker with light. He quickly adjusted, trying not to crash with his partner as passenger; he dropped as gracefully as he could, the shine of de-digivolving beginning to overtake his body, into a crevice between the masses of crystal lining the wall.
Once they were near the crack, Ospreymon could no longer maintain his form, and they dropped down into the small chamber-- it was almost like a bottle, a small hole opening up into what felt like a container made of the glowing mineral.

Almost immediately, they heard the thudding and scraping of Gryphonmon's claws on the outward-facing face of the rock, but... to no avail. As Pharaohmon had said-- it would take far more energy than the digimon of the Area could muster to break.
Well... this was their chance to recuperate, with a tremendous monster battering fruitlessly but ominously at the layer of rock that was all that separated them.

"Oh, god, what do we do?" Emily said after a moment, a bit breathlessly, half-frozen to where she knelt on the ground.

"We'll find a way out," Kamomon reassured, trying to place a wing on his partner's shoulder, but she shook him off. He frowned, looking down at the ground. "Emily, what's wrong?"

At the question, Emily shook her head, forcing herself to her feet, wavering a bit as she did. "It's nothing, we need to find a way--"

"Don't give me that!" Kamomon said suddenly, a bit more forcefully than was his wont, and it him got an appropriately surprised look from his partner. The bird's face softened, then. "Or have you forgotten what our Virtue is? Dedication. We're gonna find a way out-- giving up's not what we do!"

He meant this to be a heartening statement, but Emily's face fell. Another hard, but still ineffectual, smack against the rock by the half-mindless brainwashed Gryphonmon shook their little chamber, but even so she slid down to the ground as she leaned against the wall opposite the one the gryphon was wailing on.

"Oh, birdseed," Kamomon mumbled dejectedly, kicking into the air and flapping his wings a bit frantically-- he needed to work out his jitters through physical exertion. "Emily, talk to me," he said, a bit louder, not yet touching ground. "This isn't like you."

"This wouldn't have happened if we had just followed them," the girl said after a moment, once more pulling her knees to her chest as she tended to do. "We just messed it up."

"Don't say that," the bird said, landing and placing a hand-wing on his partner's knee.

"But it's true, Gyphonmon took the attack for us, and--"

"And Pharaohmon probably would have done it to him anyway," the seagull countered. "He disobeyed to protect us."

Emily sighed, putting her head down onto her knees. "I bet that Simon or Andrea or one of the others could have done it," she said, quietly, more to herself than anything. At this, Kamomon was taken aback, and he lifted his wing off of his partner's leg, and instead moved to sit down beside her.

"What makes you so sure of that?"

"They're the big heroes, you know?" Emily said, her voice clearly sounding dejected. "They're the ones who can always take care of it when something goes wrong. Even Faris, when the rest of us were in danger, he dove in to help his partner." She looked at the bird, and shook her head. "Us -- or, no, let's be real here, me -- I'm just kind of there. Dedication, yeah, that's my virtue. Big deal. Everyone on the team is dedicated. It's not like I'm special."

"Don't talk like that!" Kamomon said, frowning and shaking his head, but Emily kept talking.

"I mean... don't you think it feels like half the time, everyone forgets I'm even here? I mean, it's not like that's anything different from how it's always been, but--"

"No!" Kamomon squawked, again raising his voice, and standing up defiantly. "We don't have to be the big heroes to be important, you know that. You're choosing to ignore what you mean to the team!" He frowned, now, and bowed his head. "And to me. I'd follow you to the ends of the earth, Emily."

"I don't know why you'd do that, though," she said-- it seemed to all be coming out now, these feelings that had been building up in silence. "There's nothing I do a lot better than anyone else, I don't even have that strong a personality."

Kamomon fixed her with a look, and shook his head. "It's true, we're not the ones who always have to run in and make a big fuss, but we'll be there until the end. I'll follow you because I know your heart's good. Just because you're not screaming from the mountaintop doesn't mean you're not important. Sometimes, the fact that you're willing to be the quiet backbone means a lot, you know?"
His voice was breaking, tears forming in the corners of his eyes-- and he was trying to hide it. "I don't know where this is coming from, or why you've never talked to anyone -- let alone me-- about it, but..." his voice broke entirely here, as he merely looked at his partner, trying to let the silence do the talking for him.

In response, Emily merely reached forward and pulled the bird to her chest, smiling faintly. "Thank you, Kamomon."

"It's what I'm here to do," the bird replied, sniffling a bit (undignified as ever).

Pressed into the hug they were, they did not notice immediately that Emily's D-GEAR began to glow, the light seeping from the device into the body of both girl and bird.

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

Outside, though they could not see it, they could hear it-- Gryphonmon roared and slashed at the crystal again, and this time, a loud crack sounded through the rock. Both Emily and Kamomon's eyes snapped open, and like all those before them, instead of their usual they were glowing bright blue, while the white glow crept up until it covered the both of them. The light shone brightly enough to make the glowing crystal around them look pale for the comparison, the effect only increasing as it expanded into a sphere, snow and ice made entirely of the light swirling around them like a blizzard.

"Kamomon, genesis digivolve to..."

The light only grew bigger as the combined form within the light grew, creating a shape that outclassed even Galeomon before them. All around them, it felt freezing cold as the rushing sound surrounded them, but they felt as though the cold could not reach their skin, which grew comfortably warm despite it all. The rushing sound that had been present for all before made itself known, but this time it was combined with the howling of a bitter cold wind.

Kamomon grew tremendous with Emily's lent energy. The form was that of a tremendous bird of prey, growing so large that without much trouble at all it smashed the crystalline room apart as it grew. Snow-white contour feathers lay coarse and close to the majority of his tremendous body, laying over a thick layer of down. His underside was covered in black feathers, while his wings were a deep blue (though on the back of each wing, a white insignia -- the symbol of their virtue -- was emblazoned). Long feathers tipped in the same colour decorated around his chest and the back of his head, while three tremendously long, thick feathers formed his tail, in oh-so-slightly varying shades of blue. A crest of blue feathers created eyebrows of sorts, while shocks of black feathers edged his eyes (which themselves were vivid yellow, their sclera turning black). His beak grew sharp and wicked, though still banded with black and tipped in grey as his beak was in Kamomon form.

Golden rings snapped around his neck as it grew, more long and graceful though not wholly so; one fastened around near the base of his head, the other where the neck met the body. A necklace of sorts, made of thick rope, adorned with tremendous shark teeth and blue beads, lay loose around his neck. Golden rings fell into place, as well, around the base of his tail, and around each pale-blue, featherless foot. Said feet were equipped with talons of tremendous size, black as onyx.

With a long keen -- long, and as loud as any roar that Gryphonmon could muster-- as he threw his head back, the new digimon opened his wings to disperse the light around him. It did, indeed, disperse, like powder snow blown away by a wind. Around his feet lay the shattered remains of the crystal his sudden and rapid increase in size had broken.

"Rocmon!"

A roc versus a gryphon. Okay, then; mythical creature showdown.

Though of course, a few big hero moments wouldn't hurt, aye? Rocmon's new voice echoed throughout Emily's consciousness. His accent was now inescapably Scottish, almost to the point of being hard to pick up a few words.

However, all Emily could think to say, half-dazed as she was and still attempting to recuperate from her mini-breakdown: "... it feels weird not to have any hands." Rocmon chuckled deep, both within Emily's mind and in the external world around them. Gryphonmon, to his credit (or whatever it could be called-- being savvy, perhaps), did not in fact wait for his target to prepare.
"Legendary Claw!" The gryphon still had the dark aura around him, and it seeped into the energy gracing his claws when he attacked, turning their glow black as well.

Rocmon, however, moved surprisingly gracefully for a bird of his size, kicking off hard into the air and flapping his tremendous wings to stay aloft, causing Gryphonmon's attack to slice thin air. The force of the air he moved, alone, was enough to force Gryphonmon a few feet back, but the beast merely growled and spread his own wings, leaping upwards as well. He did not move as gracefully as the bird, but it did not make him any less of a threat.

Thus, Rocmon decided not to waste any time, either. "Roc Claw!" the bird yelled, his claws glowing with icy energy as he struck out with his talons at the beast, striking true and slashing across the digimon's chest. The wound it ripped into Gryphonmon began to ice over, causing the victim to snarl in pain.

Thus, in return, the gryphon promptly threw himself forward, latching his jaws onto Rocmon's throat. "Mbius Bite!"

Understandably, Rocmon was less than fond of this, and so ended it as best he could-- by wrenching his neck back and forth, until Gryphonmon was actually thrown off and into a rock wall. The chimera digimon got back up very quickly, and reared his head back to release another sonic attack. "Solo Roar!" he bellowed, and the shaking air threw Rocmon himself to the ground, forced out of the air.

Rocmon glared, however, and refused to be kept down-- and so leapt towards Gryphonmon. "Heaven Strike!" within seconds grabbed the other digimon around his midsection within his massive talons. From here he shot into the air (one got the impression he'd be faster if he wasn't towing along a tremendous digimon), digging his glowing claws into the gryphon's body and snapping down with his beak as they rose. Before long, however, Gryphonmon wrenched himself out of the bird's grip-- but did not have the time to spread his wings, and so crashed to the ground and from there did not move.

The bird let loose a long breath as he lowered himself to the ground, keeping an eye on Gryphonmon. His enemy did not go up in the light of a de-digivolution or a return to egg, but breathed heavy, remaining still. It was understandable-- he was a bit more weakened by the onslaught Pharaohmon had unleashed on him not long before.
So that made it clear what the target was from here.

Rocmon lifted into the air, then, to close the distance between himself and Pharaohmon.
Of note, however, was at this point, the other children and their digimon could no longer ignore the happenings-- and were just now arriving in time to see the giant bird glare down Pharaohmon, unnoticed by the combattants.

It seemed that Pharaohmon was a tad less enthused about fighting a digimon of similar level, and much increased size, than he was about beating up on his servant or the ultimate-level bird. This was clear because he tried to retreat into his sarcophagus, but Rocmon landed, now, and smashed a foot down into the golden box before the pharaoh could reatreat into it, crumpling it like it was made of foil.

"You make an attempt on the lives of those meant to save your world, abuse a digimon loyal to you, and then you attempt to hide from the consequences?" the tremendous bird rumbled, glaring down.

Pharaohmon made no coherent reply, only reared his fist back to strike out. "Fist of Nile!" He leapt up as he threw the punch, so as to deliver the attack to Rocmon's chest, instead of his knees.
Despite the disparity in size, the blow was powerful enoguh to send the bird tumbling backwards, but not enough to put him out of commission by any stretch of the imagination.

"Glacial Crush!" Rocmon called, getting to his feet, and his entire body began to glow. From the ground in front of him, towards Pharaohmon, a mass of ice lifted and, moving as fast as water despite its solid nature, moved at the pharaoh like a wave to -- indeed -- crush him.

Pharaohmon retaliated with another thrown Fist of Nile, which shattered the ice-- but not all of it, and the remaining bits continued their collision course with him, smacking him backwards and doing some hefty damage. Before Rocmon could act, Pharaohmon threw out his hands once more.
"Necromist!"

The black mist spread around the bird, and while it burned at his eyes and his throat, there was no weight on his mind-- not even a bit.

"It will do nothing against me," Rocmon rumbled. "If it could not fully subdue me even at Child level, what makes you think it will have effect now?"

Pharaomon growled deep -- again, surprisingly feral for his appearance -- and reared both hands back this time for a double-fisted Fist of Nile; Rocmon's reaction to this, after digging his claws into solid rock to prevent himself from skidding back too far, was to retaliate with an attack of his own.
He kicked into the air, and slashed both feet down through the air, glowing with icy energy. "Roc Claw!"

His claws actually had the force to tear open the metal casing around Pharaohmon's body-- or, as it was, his body proper, as he seemed to be wholly hollow within. As the torn metal began to freeze over, Rocmon merely bowed his head and spread his wings wide. "Bitter Hailstorm!" he called, and from within his wings shot a thousand tiny blades of ice, hailing down on the golden pharaoh. It was enough-- the last blades of ice did not even contact him, merely sinking into the ground and melting, as a flash of light reduced the pharaoh -- and his sarcophagus, oddly enough -- to a shining golden egg.

The bird cast a look to the side, looking to Gryphonmon; the beast was lifting himself to his feet, the dark aura gone from his body. However, Rocmon's attention was more drawn by the fact that the group of the other children and their digimon were standing close by, shouting their congratulations and audulations.

Within Rocmon, Emily couldn't help but laugh as she could feel Rocmon's face grow warm-- were his skin visible below his feathers, the gigantic bird of prey would be blushing something fierce.

"Good going! Even bigger than me, yeom," Finmon said from where Faris was holding her, her voice chirpy and happy as ever, while Faris himself threw a thumbs-up.

"Five out of seven, and we're all hardcore! We're on a roll!" Egakumon cheered, punching the air victoriously.

"Ach, thank you," the bird said, bowing his head humbly. He looked up, however, when a rumbling sound came from behind the children-- indeed, the gathered group turned to look. Gryphonmon had gotten to his feet, and was limping towards the group.

"Uhm... hello again," Toby said, smiling a bit sheepishly; Lammon did the same, much more literally on the 'sheepish' bit.

Gryphonmon nodded his acknowledgement of the other children, but then looked to Rocmon specifically. "I owe you a great deal," he said, and then lowered himself so he was kneeling on his front legs-- a bow, as best a quadruped could manage one. He straightened himself up again in time to notice that Rocmon was returning the gesture, except a bit more awkwardly, as he was, in fact, a bird. Gryphonmon smiled at this, then looked down at the gathered children and digimon. "The least I can do is help you out. You are headed to the Metal City, correct?"

"Aye-aye, captain," Simon said with a thumbs-up.

"Climb on board," Rocmon said, bowing as best he could and extending a wing to act as a bridge. The children and digimon alike clambered up, as atop Rocmon's massive back there was more than enough room for all of them to ride comfortably. "And hold tightly."

Once they were all organized and in minimal danger of falling off, Gryphonmon took off into the air, and Rocmon followed suit after the beast. They flew for quite a while, even despite their size; this cavern seemed to comprise the inside of not just a mountain, but a ridge of mountains, going on for some distance. Eventually -- very eventually-- they reached a dead-end, made entirely of crystal -- as all the other walls were. They were not surprised, particularly, when Gryphonmon flew straight through it, phasing through it as though it were air. Rocmon, thus, did not hesitate, and did much the same, and they were treated to a sky full of stars when they emerged on the other side.

The sky was crystal-clear, the moons shining bright and full amongst the stars-- and yet, ahead of them lay an expanse of pure urban sprawl, pristine and shining in the starlight. They were still, for their own parts, up on the ridge of a mountain; behind them lay the desert, whose expanse they had crossed in underground and roundabout ways.
They landed, Gryphonmon and Rocmon side by side; once his passengers had departed, Rocmon began to glow and devolved, and then there stood Emily with Mismon nestled in her arms.

"I figured," Mismon explained, "that even if I could fly us to wherever Baihumon is -- wherever he is -- I'd have trouble landing without breaking something or hurting you."

"Thank you, Gryphonmon," Emily said, looking up at the tremendous mix-and-matched monster. He bowed his head again.

"I owe you a debt and apology."

"Eh, debts aren't really our style," Andrea said, putting her hands on her hips. "Don't worry about it."

"What are you going to do?" Lammon inquired, sitting down on the rock and looking up at the Mega.

Gryphonmon considered for a moment. "I will return to guard over Pharaohmon's egg for when it hatches once more, and pray that in revival he will have learned the errors of his ways. It is my duty to serve the guardian of the Relic Desert, and its guardian he has been and shall be evermore." He paused, then smirked. "At least, if I have anything to do with it." Mismon looked up at Emily and smiled.

They understood, or at least tried to; they bid their goodbyes, but the gryphon was not a particularly wordy nor sentimental digimon. Before long, Gryphonmon faded through the rock face once more. When Simon placed a hand on it, it was solid, and then he looked out into the twinkling lights of the urban sprawl.

"So... where do we go from here? Straight into the city?" Toby said; Julian nodded his head.

"But we have to be careful. If Pharaohmon's words can't be trusted, his behavior can," the eldest boy murmured.

"We'll have to treat any friendly digimon as a potential foe, then?" Luke said, sounding a bit defeated, as though he had his sneaking suspicions that this would end up being the case. Julian turned and nodded.

"For now."

"But for now, I'm proposing we go the heck to sleep," Simon said, stretching his arms above his head, and nobody could really complain at that.

[Chapter 39: End]