Episode 16: What We Are in the Dark

While Faris took a rest (and MetalShayumon quickly degenerated down to Delfinimon again), Datamon introduced himself to the camp.

"Where'd you find this guy?" Simon asked with a cheeky grin, putting both hands behind his head, fingers threaded together. Faris looked at Delfinimon, who was sitting beside him, and smiled a bit sheepishly.

"He, uh, kinda tried to kill us," the green-haired boy said, and then quickly went on to explain-- where they had gone, and what had happened in the factory. He covered Delfinimon's digivolution and their own discovery of the proxy area entrance, and...

***

"What on earth was that?" Faris muttered, taking another ginger step towards Datamon. He immediately jumped backwards, however, as Datamon began to let loose a low whirring noise, pushing himself out of the indentation that his collision had caused. "Back off, yo!"
He had apparently forgotten that the robot's last spoken words had been in the tone that it had used when they met him.

"Unit Datamon thanks Farisyo-an-delfiniyeom," the robot said after it landed on the metal floor with a clang.

"What's your deal, yeom?" MetalShayumon asked, leaning way down to be at near-eye level with Datamon.

There was a pause, and then Datamon closed his eyes. "There have been issues. This unit has had its firmware modified by the entity known as Lordderrah." For a second, the giant shark and the boy exchanged looks, confused, until Faris mouthed: 'Era?' and MetalShayumon shrugged with a nod of assent-- or, as close as she could to a nod, as her head was on the ground to look at Datamon. The robot continued.

"The procedure did not reach completion. Unit Datamon has been overseeing this factory since."

"So... you're a friendly little guy?" MetalShayumon tried; Datamon paused, and then nodded again.

"Counting malfunctions as outliars in the equation, yes. What does Farisyo-an-delfiniyeom desire? Does Farisyo-an-delfiniyeom still require a," and here, it seemed to recall a voice clip, as it spoke back in Faris' voice, "'tour guide?'?

Faris chuckled, putting his hand in his pockets. "Just our luck," he remarked as an aside to his partner. After a second though, he looked thoughtful, and then, "... actually..."

***

"... and that's it," Delfinimon chirrupped, looking over at Datamon with a smile; the robot nodded once.

"And you're absolutely sure he's not going to go renegade and try to kill all of us, right?" Andrea said with her usual level of skepticism, holding Sinjmon in her arms as she got to her feet. She stood uneven, one of her hips jutting to the side in a defiant stance. If she weren't holding her currently-tiny partner close to her, her arms would probably have been folded or, on her hands would be on her hips.

Toby looked over at her, and gave the girl a sort of nervous smile. "It wouldn't hurt you to have a little faith, now and then," he tried. She didn't seem to hear him, though, as Emily stepped in to speak almost-over him.

"Cheer up, Andree," the younger girl said cheerfully, standing up next to her as though she were all but spring-loaded. Kamomon flapped his wings a few times to get himself upright and standing next to his partner, and he dusted himself off. "If anything goes wrong, we've got those two," Emily continued, gesturing at Simon, Faris, and their respective partners.

Andrea pulled one corner of her mouth back in a curious sort of expression, but she nodded, petting the tuft of fur on Sinjmon's head idly.

Like a long-inactive car groaning into motion, the group slowly lurched to their feet. They were still sore and tired, and things were moving too fast to really take in. It was boggling to think that less than a day had passed since... well, last night. Narakamon was still fresh on their minds, and now all of a sudden two of the six had achieved the next level.

... and they were still no closer at all to making contact with the seventh digimon or the seventh child. Though they were making progress with their digimon at a staggering pace, it almost felt like they were walking in circles-- to say nothing of their personal relationships with one another. On that front, they were still almost as shallow as they had been at the start... or so it felt to Toby.

"Are you okay?"

The shortest member of the party was jolted out of his train of thought by his partner's soft voice. "Huh?"

"You look like you're thinking about something," Lammon replied matter-of-factly, and stepped closer to her partner's leg, looking up at him. The boy smiled ack down at her, and nodded his head once, the lower part of his face being soundly buried in his large hood by the act.

"Just thinking," Toby said, and then nodded his head after the others' retreating backs to indicate that they should follow. Lammon looked up at him with a gentle yet inscrutiable face, and then nodded her agreement. They took off side-by-side, Lammon's smoky ponytail trailing behind them as they moved quickly to re-join with the group.

Once they did, Julian and Iguamon quickly took up the rear of the pack again, speaking very little; Andrea trailed back, as well, but if she spoke at all it was to the little fuzzball in her arms. Simon and Egakumon were chatting with Faris and Delfinimon, the latter pair of which walking closest to Datamon. As Toby and his partner were absorbed into the group mass, Kamomon was chattering with Emily, making great sweeping motions (presumbly) to emphasize points he was making. In fact, he almost accidentally back-handed Lammon this way as she approached, had she not ducked her head very quickly.

"Ummm... watch where you're waving those things?" Lammon asked in a quiet voice, smiling; though she didn't make it the way that, say, Delfinimon would have, there was just a hint of a joking tone in her voice, but it almost seemed as though she were unsure of how to jest. Kamomon, flustered, apologized quickly and profusely, until Emily put a hand on his feathered head to calm him down.

It wasn't much of a long walk until the horrible smell wafted into their noses again; it was no surprise that Faris and Delfinimon almost seamlessly covered their noses, while everyone else stopped to gag and air their complaints before doing so. Andrea, holding her partner, had to shift him to one arm to hold her nose with the other hand. Sinjmon himself had his cheeks comically puffed out as he held his breath.
Simon and Egakumon pointedly resisted the urge to comment; they seemed just a tad reluctant to admit that they had managed to go in exactly the wrong direction on their searches earlier that morning.

"Oh, that's foul," mumbled Julian, shaking his head as though the act would clear the smell away from around him.

"Don't worry, broski," Faris said back cheerfully, though from holding his nose he sounded as though he had a killer cold. "It just means we're close!"
Julian and Iguamon exchanged looks.

In fact, the only ones who seemed to be unaffected by the smell were Datamon (who seemed to have no sense of smell), and... Toby and Lammon. There was a gentle aroma drifting along with the wispy smoke drifting away from the sheep's ponytail, and subtle as it was, it seemed to completely cancel out the far stronger putrid smell, and thus by standing close to her, Toby managed to avoid noticing the smell at all.
He chose not to mention it, likely for fear of being trampled by the others trying to crowd around his partner.

The pleasant aroma from the factory, which the two who had been there before noted was stronger than before, was a motivator to pick up the pace; Datamon seemed confused, but he obliged with the change in travel speed, though he had to run quite awkwardly to keep in the lead.

Not long after they took up a run, the sight of the looming factory peeked into their view-- or rather, filled their view. It wasn't exactly a subtle building.
"So let's count architecture as another thing that Era's not great at," Egakumon said as he looked up at the ugly building, arms akimbo, twiddling with his paintbrush between a couple of his big claws.

There was little time for more commentary; a rustle in the trees behind them, whether it was anything to worry about or not, made them scurry around towards the front of the factory.

Unseen, a black shape solidified out of a mass of black smoke in the trees; one big yellow eye on its chest blinked, and then the creature was gone again.

***

It didn't take long thereafter for them to run around to the front of the factory, their collective breath held; the second they moved through the door and into the non-putrid air inside, they were taking huge gulping breaths of air.

"This place makes so much sense," Emily said with a little lilt in her voice, smiling. ".. s'kind of funny that we don't have to breathe like that after swimming, but we do after that..." she mused, looking up to the ceiling in thought.
She was still looking up, thinking, even as the others moved well past her. Kamomon tugged at her wrist, and they quickly re-joined with the mass that was the group as they passed through the door and into the bulk of the factory.

The sound of the machinery had roared back to life since Faris and Delfinimon had walked away, and so they devolved to communicating by mime; Datamon led them exclusively, now, taking off into the jungle of technological oddities. Ducking their way under strange protruding structures and over pipes, they were immediately grateful that Datamon was leading the way-- there were a hundred diferent ways to turn, little tunnels, and some of the path would hardly have been readily obvious.

That said, one incredibly winding path later, and Datamon stepped to the side as the humans and their partners tumbled out of a tunnel-like, cramped hallway; it was like a small room, barely large enough to accomodate them comfortably. In the center of the floor was a fixture that reminded the humans of a manhole cover-- for that was what it was.
Datamon gingerly prodded his way past the kids, and stuck his hand into it, his fingers slotting nicely into four small holes on the cover. There was a clicking and a whirring noise, and he pulled it open.

"So you're sure this is it?" Simon said, looking around at the others-- but particularly the digimon, who seemed to be quite at-attention.

"Certain," Egakumon said, nodding; his tail was swaying back and forth, the long fur at the end of it practically sticking up.

Delfinimon nodded. "No doubt about it, yeom!"

Sinjmon looked conflicted for a moment, then turned his big coal-black eyes to Datamon. "... thanks," the little furball muttered.

"Farisyo-an-delfiniyeom and allies are welcome," the robot said with a bow.

There was a brief pause.
"... well, last one in's a rotten egg!" Egakumon cheered, and leapt into the hole unceremoniously. They looked down; it was pitch-black, and the rabbit was almost immediately out of sight.
From about fifteen feet below, a second later, they heard the rabbit again: "Ow."

The others chose to use the ladder. Once again, Toby and Lammon were the last to lower themselves down, watching as Andrea descended while holding Sinjmon under her arm. Toby seemed... apprehensive, or so it seemed to Lammon. She looked up at him, and tilted her head.

"It's, uhm, dark," Toby mumbled, twiddling his index fingers.

The lamb tilted her head, a sort of worried expression on her face. "The other Proxy Area was, too, but you didn't--" she spoke gently, and quickly silenced herself when Toby spoke over her.

"Yeah but there were always those, um, lantern-things!" he said about a half-step louder than normal (not that it was loud, by any means-- his normal voice was quite soft, so taking it up a bit didn't do much), going slightly pink in the face. He quickly got quiet again. "And it doesn't look like there's any down there. 'Least not near the entrance."
Lammon frowned a bit, and nuzzled her head against her partner's side.

"It will be okay," she reassured, smiling just barely.

Toby shuddered, sinking his face deeper into his hood. He hesitantly put a hand on Lammon's head, and nodded. That said, he was still significantly less than enthusiastic as he shakily took a hold of the ladder and began his descent.
Lammon waited for him to get sufficiently down the ladder before she, somewhat awkwardly, climbed down herself, having to hook her hoof-like appendages around each rung in the absence of proper hands. Eventually, however, all six humans and all six Digimon were on the landing, maneuvering themselves around in the scant light that came down like a shaft from the opening above them.

"Unit Datamon wishes you good luck!" came a metallic voice from above, and then a thunk as the cover was returned to its place.
It was then very, very dark, except for a pinprick of light from one direction.

Perhaps they would have mobilized towards it, if they weren't falling over eachother.

"Ow!"
"That's my foot!"
"OKAY, WHO GRABBED MY HAT."
"Waugh!"

This continued for a little while, stumbling and stepping on feet and tails and everything else, until Iguamon's voice rose above the clamor:
"Julian, don't your D-GEAR units have lights?"

A moment later, there was a small eruption of blue-white lights from screens-- hardly enough to see much around them, but enough to orient themselves and get off of eachother's feet.
And also enough for the group at large to notice that there were only five lights, as opposed to six D-GEAR units; a quick scan around, facing their digivices around to light, showed Toby, putting his arms up around his head as though to protect him from some unseen assailant.

"Uhhh," Simon said, raising his eyebrows and his eyes sliding half-shut, "you gonna be okay there, Tobes?"

Toby cracked open an eye and 'harumphed', bringing his arms down. "I'm fine."

Simon scrutinized the younger boy for a moment, before nodding as though he were satisfied with his observations, and he pointed towards the faint light. "Light at the end of the tunnel! Onwards!" With the hand not holding his D-GEAR, he pointed dramatically.

"'Onwards'?" Julian muttered out of the side of his mouth, speaking to his standing-nearby brother. "He think he's some kind of video-game hero or something?"

"Let the man have his delusions, Jules. Not everyone can be a Sea Green Ranger," Faris replied; it wasn't visible, due to his pointing his light away from his face, but he was grinning regardless.

With many a stumble and a trip, the twelve began their movement towards the light. It was distant and dim, but each step forward was a step closer. Slowly but steadily, the light grew closer.
If any of the children or digimon would look around with the aids of their digivices, they would notice the actual appearance of their surroundings. A hard-packed dirt floor, with a rather low, curved ceiling set the stage. While the floor was dry, were they to place hands on the walls, they would notice what seemed to be sprawling amounts of ivy and gnarled roots and moss, and grooves carved into the rock walls below.

It took well more than a good thirty minutes of walking; Faris and Emily were engaged in a curiously emphatic discussion of improvisational humor, Simon was chatting with a number of the digimon about the Digital World, while -- to both party's surprise -- Julian and Andrea were having a surprisingly civil discussion, mostly on the subject of the group's experiences thus far and how to avoid a terrible death in the future. Iguamon was listening intently, while Sinjmon stuck in comments here and there; Toby and Lammon, for their part, were conversing quietly, commenting on the activity around them.

One long, dark walk later, they could actually see a foot in front of their faces without the aid of the D-GEAR units' light; they were becoming aware of the walls around them. Once they could see properly, they stopped, just for a moment.

"Nasty," Emily remarked, sticking her tongue out; it wasn't hard to see why. The vegetation trailing down the walls looked slimy, not helped in the slightest by the fact that water was seeping down alongside it.
Irrelevant of his partner's remark, Kamomon trotted right on up to the nearest wall of the tunnel, placing his wing right on it.

"It's just ocean-water seeping down," he surmised, looking over his shoulder at his travel companions. "We are under the Great Ocean, after all."

"Which reminds me," Andrea said, looking around, still holding Sinjmon close. "Where, exactly, are we going to?"

"Good question," her tiny partner said, having to jerk his body around a little bit so as not to get a mouthful of Andrea's arm when he tried to speak. He looked around, and furrowed his brow, as best he could.

"Maybe it will be more apparent when we're, y'know, not standing in a soggy tunnel, yeom," Delfinimon said; there was a murmur of assent.
A moment or two of walking brought the group into the brightly-lit room; it wasn't a tremendously large room at all, perhaps twenty square feet across in any direction, in the form of a circular chamber. The domed ceiling was about fifteen, twenty feet high, itself; in the dead center of the ceiling was a large glowing orb, presumably the source of the light. The walls were made of a sandstone-like material, and the ground was mixed between hard-packed dirt and scrub-like plants. There was only one more tunnel on the opposite side of the room, for all the world looking like the one they had entered through, down to the lack of apparent lighting.
It wasn't very impressive, but after the long, straight-ahead trek through the tunnel, there were very few complaints to be had.

"I'm freakin' tired," Egakumon groaned, stretching out his arms, almost dropping his paintbrush.

"We've been walking for quite a way," Iguamon said in his usual impassive tone, but he was taking a look at the room around them. There was almost nothing on the floor, aside from a few chunks of rock and puddles of pooling water. The dinosaur looked at his human partner.
"Julian, check your D-GEAR unit."

"Get a reading on where we are," Julian murmured, nodding. He lifted his D-GEAR, and tapped at the buttons to bring up the holographic map.
The little globe flickered to life, and Julian tapped it until he located the small flashing conglomeration of dots.

"The Deep Jungle," Iguamon said as he popped his head up alongside, nodding.

"What, is that where we're headed to?" Simon asked, blinking a couple times and adjusting his goggles, seemingly out of reflex. Egakumon nodded, but he placed a couple claws on his chin.

"Guess so," the rabbit said, but he looked deep in thought. "But... I don't think we were ever told anything about that place, though. Is it, like, even an Era area?"

"Let's err on the side of 'yes'," Kamomon said evenly, holding out his hands with hands up, as though he were trying to determine the relative weight of two held objects. Lammon walked over, for the first time in a while stepping from Toby.

"Well... Deekamon said there were still places that had held out from Era," she reasoned slowly. "Maybe that was one of them." The digimon looked at eachother and almost as one, they shrugged.

Faris breathed out through his nose, putting his hands in his pockets. "Guess we won't know 'til we get there?"

That was all they really needed; though they were grateful for the light, it wasn't the point. The sooner they continued moving on, the sooner they could get out -- and moreover, there was absolutely nothing to be seen in the room.
In the moments after, they mobilized themselves back into the tunnel, even though Lammon had to gently prod her partner forward with her head.

They shuffled down the tunnel; to Toby's great pleasure, the faint little glowing red orbs that served as lanterns started to dot the walls, providing a faint but at least existant lighting, keeping them from stumbling in the dark. This was a blessing-- there was no pinpoint of light to head towards, now, and the tunnel was starting to weave and turn.

This came to a head when they reached a fork in the trail. A quick look revealed that neither ended in a dead-end anytime soon-- at least, not visibly. One to the right and one to the left, they looked entirely like eachother.

"Ah, crap," Egakumon drawled, groaning and putting his hands to his face.

"... and we don't have a Gotsumon to save our rears this time," said Simon, making a very similar gesture, sighing. "... so, what do we do? Pick a path and hope we're right?"

"Sounds about right, yeom!" Delfinimon said from Faris' arms; her partner unceremoniously dropped her on the floor, smirking. The dolphin rubbed her head and looked up at Faris, looking jokingly put out. She looked up, watching as the others began to talk.

"We split up, obviously," Andrea said as though it were the simplest thing in the world, shrugging. "Go ahead a little bit, see what happens, come back in ten minutes, see who looked most promising."
The group at large looked at eachother; it seemed like a sound-enough idea... or at least, the best idea they had.

Iguamon, before the question could even be risen, spoke: "Put Egakumon and Simon on one team. Faris and Delfinimon on the other." When it wasn't immediately cottoned on as to what he meant, the dinosaur continued. "So we have at least one Perfect-level on each side if something happens."
It was, again, as good an idea as they were going to get.

A moment or two of discussion later, and they were split into groups. Emily, Andrea, Simon, and their partners would take the left path; Faris, Julian, Iguamon, and Delfinimon would go to the right.

"What about Toby?" Emily asked, looking over at the short boy and the lamb.

"I'll wait here," Toby replied in a quiet voice, twiddling his index fingers again.

"... really?" Simon asked, blinking a couple times. "You're, uh, gonna be okay?"

"Yes!" the youngest member of the team snapped back, a bit too fast; he realized this, quickly, and went pink in the face again. "Um. ... yeah, I'll be okay. If anything happens..."

"He's got me," Lammon cut in in her usual gentle way, smiling up at Toby. "I can help him get away, if it comes to that," she added, predicting a comment from one of her teammates; Delfinimon and Egakumon both stopped with their mouths open, looked at eachother.

"If we're not back in ten minutes," Faris said cheerfully as he and his brother turned to the tunnel, "just wait long--"

"Too cheap a line, Fare," said both Delfinimon and Julian at once. The two stopped and looked at eachother, blinking. Regardless, there wasn't much more of a delay. The ten not waiting behind took off quickly; Toby stood and waited, putting his hands in his pockets, waiting until both groups were out of sight.

Lammon looked up at her partner, but she didn't say a word. Perhaps five seconds passed before Toby looked back down at her. He tilted his head, and only then she spoke.
"Why did you want to stay behind?" she asked, sitting down.

There was a notable hesitation before she got a response.

"Do you get the feeling at all that they're kind of ignoring us?"

"They're not trying to, Toby," Lammon said softly, nuzzling her head against Toby's hand. He sighed, though, and almost moved his hand away. The sheep looked at him curiously, and then ventured as far as to say, "what's on your mind?"

Only after what seemed to be a bit of an internal struggle did Toby speak again, and he was pointedly not looking at his partner initialy.
"It feels like, I don't know. Nobody in this group really likes eachother much, 'cept maybe Faris and Julian. ... guess Emily and Andrea kinda seem friendly, too, but..." He breathed out heavily. "Feels like I still don't know anyone, even though we've been, y'know... uhm, going around fighting monsters together."

Lammon looked up at him, and paused. Toby took this as a chance to continue.
"And... I don't know. When I said I'd stay, it seemed like... like you didn't think they'd think you could manage it?" he tried, struggling to find the words. Just the mention of the idea made his eyes drop to the floor, and he leaned against the wall, barely minding that it was getting the back of his hoodie soggy.

The sheep smiled. "I'm not a fighter, Toby. And neither are you. And I think they all know that. They didn't mean anything by it."

Toby looked at his partner, and breathed out again. "I guess."

Any further conversation was cut short by a deep rumbling-- at the most inopportune moment. A rattling sound, followed by creaking and the sound of wind echoing in the tunnel; Toby grabbed his D-GEAR almost instinctively.
Almost as he did so, Lammon began to glow and grow.

"Lammon, kickstart digivolve to... Ariamon!"

It was unknown how much good it would do-- in fact, the second they caught sight of what was causing the noise, Toby's breath caught momentarily.

Forcing its way through a tunnel too small for it to fit through comfortably, a skeletal creature surrounded by an ethereal black glow forced its way towards the boy and sheep. Huge incisor teeth complemented huge spikes running along its back and huge curved horns on either side of its skull; bony wings were awkwardly held down to its body to allow it to move. Bones were laid over nebulous black matter, cut across with barely perceptible white lines where not covered with silvery-blue bones.
Red eyes glowed, bright as beacons, in the dark, as parts of its body, mostly around the core, glowed faint red in kind.

The D-GEAR began to speak.

SkullBaluchimon. Perfect-level Undead digimon. A digimon created from the data of fossils, it has no emotions or mind. It works entirely on instinct. Its Grave Bone attack uses its mighty claws to trample its opponents, but beware most of all its Deadly Fear.

"Great," Toby mumbled, lowering his eyes.

"We'll be fine," Ariamon said quietly; her wispy body moved back and forth in a nervous motion; the skeletal monster could not advance very quickly, being too large to move quickly. This was not a plus; heavy breathing combined with the slow, heavy cracking and grinding of movement past stone came together for a deeply unsettling visual.
Toby took a few steps back, looking quickly between the two paths that his teammates had gone down; for a brief, split second, he considered taking off down one, catch them before they went too far.

But he didn't. Ariamon looked over at him; he nodded, a bit apprehensively. The smoky sheep breathed out heavily, and steeled her nerves, before...
"Vanish Strike!" she called out, fading into a wisp of smoke. She reappeared again near SkullBaluchimon, far too close for comfort, and tried to ram her head into his chest.
It didn't work very well; really, there was almost no effect. In fact, the great beast simply swiped at her with one massive bony forepaw before she could respond. With her light body, she was thrown back almost immediately all the way backwards to her partner.

"Are you okay?" Toby yelped almost immediately. Ariamon nodded, forcing herself to her feet, putting herself between her partner and their opponent. Both the sheep's and the boy's eyes grew a bit wider when, with a great lurch and grinding noise, SkullBaluchimon forced itself forward, sliding its way in the least elegant way possible closer to them.

"Deadly Fear," the skeletal monster hissed, rearing down; its tail swayed, smashing into the wall, as the ethereal black glow around it began to seep further out of its body, creeping towards Ariamon like shadowy tendrils.
They reached her faster than she could back away, wrapping around her; she cried out, closing her eyes and trying to resist.

And then the already-faint lights suddenly cut out, leaving the entire battle in the dark.

"Ariamon!" Toby cried out frantically, reaching out to where the sheep had been a second before-- his hands passed through nothing. "Ariamon!"

"I'm fine, Toby," the sheep replied, her voice sounding weak; he realized, feeling a sort of pressure behind his back, that she was wrapping herself around him, and his hands had simply phased through the smoky part of her body.

He could feel otherwise; there was a feeling in the air, a cold feeling of dread permeating through... ... though, really, it was probably just the darkness.
Or maybe it was the sudden flash of SkullBaluchimon's red eyes far too close for comfort, the monster having lurched even further forward.

Toby backed up for a second, running straight into Ariamon-- almost as though to remind himself that she was there.

His D-GEAR began to glow, then shake. Like the two before him, the rattling of his D-GEAR was almost too much to handle, the light growing more and more intense, until it shot straight out of the D-GEAR unit and into Ariamon. She began to glow vivid white, lighting up a length of the tunnel; SkullBaluchimon actually reared back and hissed, just slightly. The symbol of Trust paradoxically shined in jet-black as it joined with her body.

Virtous Digivolution, begin.

"Ariamon, virtuous digivolve to..."
The sheep grew in size significantly, though not quite as large as their opponent-- she could still move freely in the tunnel, even if it was now significantly more cramped. She re-formed her hind legs, the smoke relegating itself to her hair and her tail. Silver rings snapped into place around her neck and the base of her tail, whilst a metal armor faceplate formed to cover part of her head. Glowing blue orbs formed, floating around her neck. What was interesting, though, was that she rose into the air, floating-- and beneath her, a puffy, oddly-solid cloud formed. She lowered herself onto it, folding her legs beneath her.

She reared her head back, letting loose a soft, soothing, melodic cry, before:
"Nimbimon!"

Toby was in awe for a moment-- he didn't even notice that as the light cleared away from his partner's new form, the red lights flickered back to life.

"I may not be a fighter," Nimbimon said quietly to her partner, "but that doesn't mean I can't." Toby nodded once, looking from her to the skeletal monster before them.
"Orb Bomb!" Nimbimon yelled; the orbs floating around her neck began to glow bright white, and very quickly the orbs themselves flew at SkullBaluchimon. When they contacted its body, they exploded into light on impact, and the beast roared. The sound was so loud, it shook the tunnel.

"Grave Bone," it snarled, lifting its huge foreclaws up and smashing them back down onto Nimbimon. The attack rung true, and the sheep cried out as she was knocked off of her cloud and pinned down to the floor.
She growled, and with her refound hind feet, she kicked hard at SkullBeluchimon's ribs, the orbs around her neck starting to glow again. Instead, though, she called a new attack:

"Downpour!"
Over SkullBaluchimon, black, crackling clouds formed; from them poured shining drops of rain that, when they contacted it, seemed to cause it great pain, as it flinched backwards. Nimbimon took the chance to leap back onto her cloud, breathing heavily.

SkullBaluchimon snarled, its blank red eyes glowing fierce. It hissed out: "Deadly Fear..."

Immediately in response, as the darkness began to spread, Nimbimon returned with another call of "Orb Bomb!"; the white orbs contacted the dark tendrils, and the two seemed to cancel eachother out. Or, rather, the latter attack seemed to cancel the first-- and kept going, smashing into SkullBaluchimon again.

It roared, and began to glow with data; streams of information swirled around it, and as they had grown accustomed to, the swirling data left naught but an egg behind.

Toby may have commented were it not for the fact that behind them, from both forks in the tunnel, he heard yells and cries from behind.

"What's going on here?" Julian asked, the first to draw near-- he, Faris, and their partners were just in time to see the last flash of data. The remaining three partnerships didn't arrive for another couple seconds.
They, meanwhile, were just in time to see Nimbimon look between all the gathered, bow her head with a serene smile, and glow white. The light dissipated, and all that was left was Lammon-- still with a smile and bowed head.

***

"I, uh, guess we missed something, yeah?" Simon murmured, rubbing the back of his head.

"Umm... you could say that," Toby said modestly -- sheepishly, even -- rubbing his arm with a little smile.

"What did you find?" Lammon said, cutting off further discussion-- though the other digimon, she could tell, were chomping at the bit to ask questions and give congratulations. Perhaps that was why she did it.

"Oh!" Kamomon was the first to respond, flapping his wings. "... ours led to a dead-end of sorts," the bird explained, chuckling. "Or, it came to a little... loop."

"But then we heard commotion!" Emily continued, splaying her hands wide.

"I suppose that makes it easy, then," Julian said, looking at the other 'party'. "Ours kept going as far as we could tell."

Toby smiled. "I suppose it was a, um, success?"

"In a manner of speaking," Iguamon said with a single nod.

"So not far to go!" Egakumon said with a cheer, and then ammended: "... I assume. How long are we, yet?" He looked expectantly around at the humans, as though they had a good answer.

Julian paused, and he picked up his D-GEAR once more. A button push or two later, and the little globe was up again. He looked at Iguamon for an answer, holding the D-GEAR more down to the dino's level. Iguamon scanned his eyes over it, estimating the distance on the map... and then suddenly his eyes got uncharacteristically wide.
This did not go unnoticed by Julian, who turned his attention to his partner. He almost asked a question, before he fell victim to the same expression. His jaw fell slightly slack.

"Holy crap, that thing must have just told him where the Holy Grail is," Faris said, peering over at his brother. He didn't have time to register, though, before Julian snapped back in an unusually emotional voice.

"Check your D-GEARs!"

The five other children did as the oldest of their number suggested, and almost immediately, the entire room was echoing with yells and exclamations from child and digimon alike.

 

 

 

 

There was a seventh dot blinking at the end of the tunnel near the Deep Jungle.

[Chapter 16: End]