The caves continued on for what seemed like an eternity.
As they walked, however, the partner digimon gabbered incessantly. Lammon, Kamomon, and Delfinimon, and ruminated over what they would be like when they digivolved; Iguamon, Rajamon, and Egakumon were asked to explain the feeling again and again. Kamomon explained to the children more about what they meant when it was said that they were made of data. Gotsumon led, chuckling and reacting to the talk behind him but not actively participating.
"So I don't get it," Simon said after a while. "Why do you guys need us? All we've done is follow you guys around while you get big and kick things' butts."
"We need you guys," Egakumon replied, smiling. "We couldn't get big and 'kick their butts', like y'said, if you guys weren't here to share your energy with us."
"We could," Lammon added quickly, "it would just take years and years for us to get that big."
Egakumon nodded in agreement, before he continued. "So we need your Virtues. Those things in your D-GEAR units, yeah? We can't activate them alone."
"But that's what Deekamon always told us, at least," Rajamon finished, shrugging as best he could.
"Wasn't aware you ever listened to him," Delfinimon remarked; Rajamon shot her a look out of the corner of his eye.
"So what I mean is that it might not be true," the tiger said offhandedly, before he paused and craned his neck to look up at Andrea. He smiled. "But I think we can deal with it."
"If you don't like having a partner, you're free to leave," Iguamon said flatly, walking up beside Rajamon. Rajamon blinked and reared his head back a bit in surprise.
"Geeze, grow a sense of humor..."
"Can we please go ten minutes without fighting?" Lammon asked, shaking her head.
"I know how," Toby said all of a sudden, hands in his pockets. When the others looked at him, he was yawning and stretching his arms out. "I'm tired," he said; that simple announcement seemed to spur something in the others. Like a lead weight on their shoulders, digimon and humans alike seemed to slump down.
"Y'know, come to think..."
"It's been a freakin' long day."
"We can't fight if we're trying not to konk out, yeom."
Gotsumon looked thoughtful, then paused. The rocky digimon cast a look towards one of the little side-tunnels that led off the path down which he was leading the kids. "Wait here, yes," he said, and darted into it. The kids cast looks at eachother; before a minute had passed, however, Gotsumon popped back out. "Just like I thought, yes!" With one hand he beckoned them in.
They followed him in; it was narrow, only wide enough for them to enter in single-file. It led for about ten meters, before it opened up into a small dead-end cavern, about the size of a medium-sized living-room. Three red lights were fixed to the walls-- one on either the left and right, and one straight ahead. It was, aside from that, completely empty, with a domed ceiling.
"We're going to sleep here?" Andrea asked, raising her eyebrows.
"I can live with that," Emily said, stretching her arms out. "We've been walking and being attacked enough that anything sounds good."
"So how can we be sure we won't be attacked here?" Julian asked, looking at Gotsumon. The digimon smiled.
"I have slept in these caves before, yes. The solution is simple." Gotsumon carefully set down the egg that had once been Drimogemon, and beckoned to Iguamon; he whispered something to the dinosaur. Together, the two set off back up the path.
If one were to follow and watch, they would see the two digimon building up a wall of rocks in the entrance; it wasn't the fastest going, though, so for ten minutes, while the two built a makeshift wall, those remaining settled down, sliding down against the wall and making themselves as at-home as they could.
"This place is nuts," Faris remarked, scooting down into a sitting position next to a wall, while Delfinimon draped her body over her partner's lap.
"And you're a good pillow," she said, grinning.
"And if we get woken up in the middle of the night, and I can't run because my legs have had the circulation totally cut off, and so I die, it's your fault," Faris remarked with a grin; Delfinimon rolled her eyes and scooted off.
"Fiiiine. But just 'cuz I haven't digivolved yet, and I wanna see what I'll be, yeom."
Toby looked over at Lammon, pulling his knees up to his chest. "Lammon?" he asked, looking over at the egg that had been formed from Drimogemon. "Why did you guys not turn into eggs when Drimogemon attacked you?"
Lammon looked up at him, before she laid down gingerly next to him. "Agents tend to fight eachother," she said, "and holdouts, too. We only have to deal with Agents, but they deal with other digimon, too." She sighed, and shook her head. "Agents usually win. But it tires them out more."
"That's why we told Egakumon and Rajamon to stay back," Kamomon said, looking up from preening a few of his feathers. "If they had been hit hard enough to make them de-digivolve, then..." The bird shrugged. Aside from general chatter, they fell quiet again.
Within a few minutes, Iguamon and Gotsumon returned from the tunnel. Iguamon walked over to where Julian sat, and slumped down.
"Secured up," he said, and yawned.
Gotsumon picked up Drimogemon's egg again, and carried it with him. He sat near the tunnel, cradled the egg on his lap, and almost instantly fell asleep.
"A good idea, that," Egakumon said, reclining on the wall. His big blue eyes slid shut, and within a moment he had drifted off. The digimon were quick to do the same-- and it was hard to blame them.
"This is insane," Simon said, unclipping his D-GEAR unit from his belt. He looked at the device, tilted it this way and that, and looked at it closely as best he could in the red light. The kids followed suit, looking at the curious devices.
Andrea poked buttons for a moment until the holographic map was generated again. Indeed, the little point of light was flashing over the general area of the proxy area. "And we're supposed to find some seventh kid like this?" she asked, idly rotating the little holographic planet with one finger. "... gotta admit this thing is kind of cool, though. Better than my phone."
"Yeah, if only it could make calls," Faris remarked. "... wonder how that weird hoodie monster thing is doing. Hope he hasn't been, I donno, eaten by wolves since we left... this morning." The way he said it betrayed his thoughts-- it seemed to have been far, far longer than a single day. He looked at the dozing little dolphin beside him.
She even made little 'yeom' noises in her sleep.
"She has to be doing that on purpose."
"So, man, I didn't just hit my head after my phone went off, did I?" Emily asked, looking around the little cavern.
"Not unless I did, too," Toby chimed in.
Simon picked up a rock that sat near him, and turned it over in his hand. He cast a look over at the sleeping Gotsumon, and up the tunnel. "Hope that thing holds," he said off-handedly.
"Try to be optimistic," Julian remarked, breathing out heavily. "If it doesn't, we'll probably just be killed in our sleep, so it's no biggie."
The kids were between laughing and staring; Faris chuckled. "And you say that I need to learn when not to crack jokes, Jules."
That said, it didn't take long for the humans to drift off into slumber, even with that thought in mind.
Much to the surprise of the pessimists and cynics in the group, the morning (one assumed-- it was hard to tell from inside a cave) came about uneventfully. No wall broken in, no loud noises, no attacks by rampaging digimon.
"Well colour me surprised," Andrea remarked, standing and stretching her legs out as the inhabitents of the make-shift bedroom began to stir to wakefulness. "We're still in one piece."
"Have a little faith," Kamomon remarked from where he sat next to Emily, smiling a little. He shuffled a bit and stood up, stretching his wings above his head. "So, I take it Iguamon and Gotsumon will get us back out?" he said, but Emily was looking around.
"Uh," she said, choosing her words carefully, "where is Gotsumon?"
A quick look around revealed, indeed, that there was no little rocky digimon to be found in the little cave. "Oh, this bodes well," Simon remarked quietly and with no small amount of sarcasm; even as he spoke, Egakumon darted into the hallway; a few seconds later, he popped his head back out and shook it.
"All blocked up still," he said, then beckoned to the digimon-- particularly, Lammon, Kamomon, and Iguamon. The four retreated into the hall again; the kids (and Rajamon and Delfinimon) watched, eyebrows cocked, until they heard a muddled collection of yells:
There was the dull thud of attacks hitting wall-- but no sound of wall coming down.
Until there was the sound of running footsteps and then a resounding crash, and finally, a yell of "I am never doing that again" in Iguamon's voice.
"I think that only works when you're digivolved," Lammon's voice carried in, but then it was her who trotted back into the room proper. She tilted her head. "Wall's down."
Those remaining in the room filed out, a bit hectically; Delfinimon once again made Faris carry her, and the partners who went ahead backtracked a bit messily to be alongside their partners again.
"We are going to need to, uh, organize this a bit better," Andrea remarked from the back of the pack, waiting for the congested hallway to open up. She and Rajamon stepped out after the rest had, stretching out.
"So," Toby said, looking around. "... what do we do?"
"Panic?" Emily said in jest, smiling a little despite herself.
"Well, we don't know which way to go, so that's about as good an option as we've got," Kamomon said with a shrug, shaking his head.
Rajamon looked one way, then the next, and breathed out heavily through his nose. "I don't even know which way we came from," he grumbled, his tail twitching in irritation. "Where'd that little rocky weirdo go?"
"I'm serious," Toby said, a tinge of irritation inching into his voice. "Are we just gonna sit here?"
"No," Julian said, almost before the younger boy finished talking.
"We'll just, uh, figure it out, I guess," Simon said, rubbing the back of his head. He adjusted his goggles as a sort of nervous tic, and rolled his head as though to get a kink out of ihs neck.
"Here meaning 'get lost', yeom," Delfinimon remarked.
"Pretty much!" Simon agreed, shrugging. "We can at least try to find Gotsumon. Maybe."
"This way," Iguamon cut in, pointing down to the group's left. "We were going that way, if nothing else."
Trusting the dinosaur's judgement, the group proceeded down the tunnel uneasily-- warily, as though each step took them further away from their goal. To their relief, the path was mostly linear-- a few offshoots led to little caves like the ones they had stayed in, but they walked for perhaps ten minutes without a fork in the path.
"If we hear rumbling again, I say we book it," Faris said at one point, adjusting Delfinimon in his arms.
"Try to be optimistic," Emily replied. "It might be friendly for once."
"And the chances of that are...?" Andrea muttered, sighing and shaking her head. "Outside of that Deekamon weirdo, just about everything we've encountered except these guys," and she jerked a thumb at Rajamon, to indicate their partners, "has wanted to kill us. I'm surprised Gotsumon didn't just get us while we sle--"
"Gotsumon's a good guy," Lammon cut her off, her brows furrowing.
"Well it's true. For all we know, Gotsumon could have run off to find an Agent to lead back to us," Andrea resumed, shrugging. "Just sayin'."
"I don't think he'd do that," Rajamon said after a moment, shaking his head. "Lammon's, y'know, kind of a wuss..." He cast a look at the sheep; if she had heard, she didn't seem to take offense. "... but if Lammon says he wouldn't, then I believe her." He sounded like he almost didn't want to be saying it.
"Likewise," Egakumon chimed in; Kamomon gave an 'mmm' of concurrance, Iguamon nodded once, and Delfinimon nodded enthusiastically. Andrea sighed, and nodded after a moment.
"You'd know," she admitted, but looked forward. "... but that doesn't give us any clue of where to go."
They looked; right ahead of them was a notable fork in the path. "Great," Julian sighed. "What, are we going to flip a coin?" Egakumon stuck his snout in the air and sniffed a few times. "... I got nothin'," he surmised after a second, shrugging apologetically.
Almost on-cue, however, from the darkness down the left path, a yellow nose poked forth into sight. They barely had a chance to note a pair of shining green eyes before the owner of the nose and eyes turned tail and darted. It yelled, and its voice echoed back: "They're coming! They're coming!"
"... that can't be good," Faris remarked, looking at the dolphin digimon he held.
"Follow him!" Simon barked, and took off, with Egakumon at his side; if only to keep him from getting himself mauled, the others exchanged looks and moved to follow. A patter of feet later, the digimon and their human partners were after the yellow creature. It was dark, and the lights seemed sparcer-placed than usual.
It didn't take long-- this path was completeley linear, though dimly lit, and the footsteps of the digimon ahead of them were bouncing about in the narrow tunnel.
They suddenly spilled into a far larger cavern -- the size of a fancy house's grand foyer, but flat all around. The ceiling was high, and the lights were almost startlingly bright (though they were still quite dim, it was simply more than they had become accustomed to in the caves).
All around were yellow creatures, which were clearly the same as the digimon they chased in; they were, as stated, yellow. They had what appeared to be hard shells on their backs and up onto their heads, and feather-like protrusions from their cheeks. Their undersides were purple, and each of their feet ended in silver claws.
It might be worth noting that there were a good fifteen of them gathered around.
There was a slight groan as their D-GEAR units lit up.
Armadillomon. Child-level mammal digimon. Its back is covered with a hard shell, but it can sometimes get carried away and hurt itself. It attacks by rolling into a ball with its Diamond Shell attack and rushing its enemies.
"Something tells me this isn't a tea party," Rajamon growled, rearing down as though ready to attack-- until he caught sight of a figure across the room, and he snarled. "Gotsumon!"
They looked-- indeed, the little rock digimon sat near the far wall, looking quite battered but still holding fast to the egg that held what had been Drimogemon. If they cared to look around, they'd notice the masses of armadillomon turning their attention to watch what was going to happen.
Gotsumon looked up and yelped, nearly dropping the egg he held. "Ah, it is-- you, yes," he said, hardly audible from the distance. He set the egg down, got to shaky feet, and began to approach; almost instantly, Egakumon, Kamomon, and Iguamon rushed in front of the group, glaring hard.
"Care to explain?" Iguamon said, his tail whipping back and forth.
Gotsumon threw his hands up, then began to wring them.
"It is a very long story," he said in a truly wishy-washy manner, laughing nervously. "But, um... they..." he motioned around to the armadillomon, "... I left the cave in the night, y-yes? Wandered up the cave a little. To make sure I knew where I was going, yes. And... well..."
"There are three of us that can digivolve," Rajamon whispered as he walked forward to join the digimon holding guard, keeping his eyes forward. "About six each, counting Gotsumon... Think we can handle it?"
Egakumon nodded. "Of course we ca--"
He found himself cut off, however, as Lammon broke through the line, no malice in her movement at all.
"What do you want?" she asked-- not of Gotsumon, but looking around at the armadillomon.
"Drimogemon said you would come," the one nearest her said, growling, "and we don't want you here."
"We're trying to get out," Toby said, then motioned to Gotsumon, "but you've, uh, kidnapped our tour guide."
"That is not what we mean," the Armadillomon snapped back. "You're enemies of Era. Nobody wants you in the Digital World!"
The kids looked at eachother helplesslly; it was Emily that spoke next. "To be honest, we don't really want to be here either," she said with a shrug. "It, uh, kind of wasn't a choice."
"So leave!" the spokes-mon replied. "Gotsumon is a traitor, but he knew where you were."
"Or he could have been working for you the entire time," Kamomon said under his breath.
"But now, you can't get out," another armadillomon said, smirking. As he said that, there was a great rumbling, but this was unlike when Drimogemon appeared. Rather, it was like something with great, heavy feet was approaching through the tunnel.
That was, in fact, exactly the case. The group turned around just in time to see what it was.
It was huge. It looked profoundly like the armadillomon, but with spikes protruding from all over its body -- particularly a ridge of black ones down its back and on its sides. Curved, horn-like structures protruded from each side of its face, which was notably rounder than that of the armadillomon. Spiked bracelets adorned each limb, and at the end of its tail was now a spiked, mace-like ball-- which smashed into the sides of the tunnel, bringing down huge chunks of rock.
For the second time in such a short time, the D-GEAR units sprang to life.
Ankylomon, adult-level dinosaur digimon. The evolved from of Armadillomon. While brave, it is not reckless. It can use its size to attack with its Megaton Press, or put its tail to use with its Tail Hammer attack.
"Let me guess, we have to fight that, yeom," Delfinimon remarked, looking up at Faris and nodding; he set her down on the ground.
"If you can do that-- get bigger thing," Julian said quickly, in a low tone, "do that. One of you go for the big thing, everyone else keep the little ones at bay."
There was a quick nod of assent-- and with no time to waste.
Tail Hammer!" Ankylomon bellowed, swinging his tail hard at the wall-- rocks began to fall, and the entrance (and exit) of the wall was quickly consumed by the debris.
"We're doomed," Faris blurted.
"Stay back!" Egakumon yelled; the kids did so. Almost as one, Simon, Andrea, and Julian's D-GEAR units began to glow-- as did their partners.
"Egakumon kickstart digivolve to Shokunimon!"
"Rajamon kickstart digivolve to Baghamon!"
"Iguamon kickstart digivolve to Velocimon!"
Three adult-level digimon, three child-level digimon flanking them, and a good sixteen or so known hostiles at every turn.
A few Armadillomon leapt at Lammon and Delfinimon; with a "DolFin!" and a "Lamb Kick!", they got beaned solidly in the face by (respectively) the dolphin's tailfin and the sheep's hind legs.
Kamomon didn't even wait to be attacked; he yelled out "Seagull Strike!" at the nearest Armadillomon, threading his feathery fingers together and smacking an armadillomon square on its nose as though his clenched hands were a hammer.
Baghamon and Velocimon came to their aid; Velocimon went so far as to throw them with his head.
Shokunimon, meanwhile, was tasked with Ankylomon-- it would be hardest to hit him, they figured, and if nothing else his paint would have the best chance of getting through the ankylosaur's armor.
"Paint Blast!" he yelled, spewing the corrosive paint, shot after shot, at his opponent.
What nobody noticed was Toby slinking away from the others towards Gotsumon, using the fact that the armadillomon were occupied to reach him.
"Are you okay?" he said quickly to the rock digimon, who was staying very far back, flush against the wall. He almost didn't seen to notice the approach of the boy.
"I am fine, yes," Gotsumon replied nervously, clutching the egg tight. "I am sorry that..."
"We seem to be doing fine," the human said, smiling a little-- the armadillomon were proving disorganized at best, and though Shokunimon seemed to be making no progress whatsoever on the front of defeating ankylomon, he at least kept him cornered. "... and I think we'd just get more lost without you."
It was now that Andrea noticed Toby; she darted over as quickly as she could. "What are you doing?" she said, brow furrowed.
"Well, we can't get out without him," the boy reasoned, a determined, defiant expression on his face. "And Lammon said he was a good digimon."
Speaking of Lammon... she was knocked backwards by an armadillomon; she groaned, pushing herself back up. She cast a look over at Toby with Gotsumon, however -- simply for the way in which she reoriented herself-- and smiled.
She turned away before she noticed that Toby's D-GEAR unit was starting to glow. Only when she was hit with the light that shot therefrom did she notice.
Kickstart digivolution, begin.
"Lammon, kickstart digivolve to..." her long, smoky ponytail merged into her body-- and smoke took the place of her legs. A silver ring snapped in place near the end, as though a material thing could contain the smoke and keep it compacted. More smoky hair appeared on her head, mostly parted to once side; she grew greatly in size, and her eyes were now wide and pure purple. "Ariamon!"
Toby turned to look-- and grinned widely.
"Four out of six," Shokunimon grunted-- and looking away, was bucked on Ankylomon's head and thrown into the masses of Armadillomon. He recovered quickly, almost with a breakdancing-esque swirl of his legs to get armadillomon away from him.
"Lammo-- Ariamon!" he called, kicking an armadillomon from a growing-weary Kamomon. "Its armor-- Paint Blast!" He was cut off by having to attack.
The sheep leapt in where Shokunimon had been a minute before-- quite literally leapt, as she seemed to be almost weightless. She landed lightly, and paced back and forth before the ankylosaur.
Ankylomon threw himself -- really, surprising for his bulk -- up into the air, on a crash-course on his way down to Ariamon. Her eyes widened for a split second, before she called an attack of her own.
She did just as one might imagine-- suddenly, only a puff of smoke hung in the air where Ariamon stood a moment before. Ankylomon landed a second later-- suddenly, smashing straight into his face at point-blank range, Ariamon appeared again, smashing her head into his. Her opponent snarled with pain.
She didn't wait-- she yelled out "Smokescreen!", and then suddenly waved her body back and forth, releasing smoke as she did so. Ankylomon began to cough-- and then yelped, as the smoke itself seemed to be hurting him.
He began to wave his tail again, but Ariamon simply smashed her head into him again.
That seemed to have been all it took-- suddenly, the dinosaur was engulfed in bright glowing code. However, there was something different; instead of an egg being left behind when the code cleared, there was a very battered-looking armadillomon.
"Aughhh, my head hurts," he groaned, holding his head with both hands.
Ariamon looked around herself; the other five digimon had managed to keep the armadillomon at bay, though Toby was hiding halfway behind Gotsumon.
She smiled and bowed her head; she began to glow white once more, and in her place once more stood Lammon. The same happened for Velocimon, Baghamon, and Shokunimon-- back to child stage they went, some of them breathing quite heavily.
"Way to go," Simon said, grinning, to the little lamb, who smiled modestly up at him. He then gave a high-five to his rabbit partner. "And you held your own, boyo. What do you expect with paint?"
"Ah, shyaddap," Egakumon said, putting his hands on his hips, but a grin was splayed across his face.
The once-Ankylomon groaned, which cut off more conversation, and lifted his head. He spoke to the nearest person-- Julian, in this case.
"I am sorry," he said in a hoarse voice.
"After attacking us for being enemies of Era," Andrea pointed out, folding her arms. However, Iguamon shook his head.
"We can listen," he said, looking at the armadillomon that lay before them. "Continue?"
"We do not have a choice," the Armadillomon said, shaking his head and coughing. "We just wanted to be left alone, but..."
"But that doesn't really happen," another Armadillomon, this one better off than the apparent leader, chimed in, coming forth to try and help the other up. "Era took over, and we thought that if maybe we defeated you--"
"He'd leave us alone," the leader picked up.
Emily frowned, and tilted her head. "That's... kinda bleak, yeah?" she said, looking at Kamomon. The bird nodded, sighing.
"It makes sense," he admitted, shaking his head. "Deekamon said that many Digimon under Era just take the path of least resistance."
"I do not blame you for fighting back," the armadillomon rasped, and slowly seemed to be gaining his voice. "... but now we cannot say we did not try. We... will not tell Era where you went. You are going towards the Great Ocean, I assume?"
A nod passed around; at that, the armadillomon smiled a bit. "Gotsumon has led you well. You are very close. Return to the main path -- before you came down here -- and it should only be a few minutes along, yet. Down the other fork."
"Oh, well-- thank you," Rajamon said, a bit taken aback. "... if you're telling the truth," he added, so as not to be too out of character.
"Thank you, Gotsumon," Faris was the first to say, smiling.
"Yeah, thanks, yeom!" Delfinimon chirruped.
"We'd be lost in here still, I bet, without you," Emily chuckled.
So it went-- for a minute or two, goodbyes and pleasantries were exchanged. They watched as Gotsumon turned and walked back into the labyrinth of caves. They waited until he was completely out of sight, and then Simon looked up the hill.
"One step closer to that wisemon dude," he said, and they began up.
It was a steep, steep climb to be sure of it-- it only seemed to become moreso as it went on, but onward they pressed. Kamomon flew a bit, but eventually the ceiling was low enough that it ceased to be an option; Delfinimon, not wishing to make her partner carry her up, lolloped along at a good-enough pace-- clumsy, but not slow.
At last, the twelve reached the top. They stepped into the light, and were nearly blinded by the sudden change. In honesty, it lasted good couple minutes-- minutes of yelping and covering their eyes, shading them with their hands to help themselves adjust.
It was overcast and grey, but surprisingly clear to look around, and smelled heavily of salt. Once they began to take looks around themselves, straight ahead was a vast expanse of steel-blue water. They were on a rocky outcropping in relatively shallow water.
It was when they turned around that they got a surprise.
Turning around from the way they came out into open air was a vast, dark, dank mini-city, right smack dab after the beach-- it didn't appear to be that large at all. On a human scale, perhaps a few thousand people could have lived there; it only stretched a mile or two up the beach, its ends very well in sight. Dark clouds of smoke spewed out at regular intervals, and a menagerie of mechanical sounds drifted out.
"Well, we weren't told that that was here," Lammon remarked.