It took an hour or so before everyone had told their sides of the stories to satisfaction-- after, of course, the initial shock and thrill of everyone finally being back together took its course. Slightly cramped as they were, sitting in a circle in the little room they had, they all sat in silence save those speaking, humans alongside their digimon, and listened.
Not a soul was left not confused when Rajamon explained how he had returned to Child form.
"You're sure you're not gonna, like, go wonky or anything, yeom?" Delfinimon asked with a silly grin on her face.
"For the luvva... I'm fine!" Rajamon said, batting the dolphin's bottle-nose with one big paw.
"She's just makin' sure. You never know, what with senor psycho," Faris said, twirling a finger around his ear in the 'crazy' motion.
"Mm." Julian nodded. "You realize how lucky you are that you got away from him?"
Andrea sighed, leaning back on her hands. She looked up to the sky, many of the branches overhead having been broken from Emily and Faris' arrival here earlier. "It's weird, though."
"What's weird?" Simon asked, sitting up a little straighter.
Egakumon tugged on his sleeve. "Well, pro'lly that she's run into him twice and got away unscathed, y'know?" the rabbit said, a bit hushed. Of course, she hadn't gotten out unscathed of the Narakamon incident -- not mentally, at least -- but...
At the back of everyone's minds there was that thought-- what on earth was Forbidramon up to? He hadn't even physically attacked them in almost any of their previous encounters, even though he likely could easily have taken care of them without a second thought. He had helped Andrea when Rajamon turned into the monster; he helped put Rajamon back at child level; and yet he seemed to be completely devoted to Era.
"The point is that we're all back together, right?" Emily cut in, diffusing what she felt could turn into a rather unpleasant situation. Kamomon nodded, giving a little 'mm' of assent.
"We've never been apart that long, I don't believe," he said with a flourish of one wing-hand, and it was true.
"We're a team," Lammon said, bowing her head. "Bound by Yggdrasil and the Sovereigns. To be apart would intrinsically seem wrong."
She looked back up, and every one of those assembled knew exactly what was on her mind: Sampamon.
What followed was a moment of contemplative silence. The digimon felt like something was missing from their group on a deep and primal level; the humans, as they sat, felt a sort of understanding.
They had no idea where the seventh child was, or what had become of him; but they felt a quiet kinship. They were the only humans in this world, and at least the group had one another (even if they didn't always get along that great). He and Sampamon... ... well... who knew what had happened to them? What if Forbidramon had been telling the truth?
With such an uncertain fate for both the kid and his digimon... an invisible, spiritual weight fell around the group. If they didn't find him, then what would become of this group?
"So are we going to keep looking?" Julian said from where he sat, piercing the silence with that small question.
Another pause fell over them. Looks were exchanged, and a silent consensus was formed:
As if it were even a question.
What followed was an entire three days of walking. It carried them through a number of locales in the jungle area: a small village of pink birds; a waterfall into a small pool near a cliffside; but almost nothing conclusive, nothing that lead them any closer to any kind of answer. Koromon awoke about a day after the group re-joined; she made a few loud complaints about where these new buffoons came from, but she seemed as though she had absolutely no memory of her time as SkullGreymon.
"I just remember that red-armed wacko coming back and then I was here," she had said dismissively, before giving a begrudging thanks to those who protected her and then hopped off on her way.
Well, at least it solved that.
Not that it was heartening-- it meant that Forbidramon was using that ability.
They didn't even run into Forbidramon again, nor any rampaging digimon-- and by the end of the third full day since the reunion, they were almost getting paranoid. Any sudden sound caused at least one or two of the number to jump at any given time, even if it turned out to be so little as a little digimon passing by, undisturbed by the group and going about their own business.
Far, far away from the children and their partners, Forbidramon stood on top of the cliffside he had stood upon a few days ago, overlooking the entirety of the Deep Jungle as the first rays of the sun spread their fingers over it. Deep below him, the low thrum of the eastern Deep Jungle hive in their caverns almost vibrated the solid rock. It was the dawn of the fourth day since the kids had reunited. The daytime life of the jungle was beginning to stir, and the night-dwellers settling down for the day.
Forbidramon was getting impatient.
A black cloud of smoke appeared beside him, slowly solidifying into the familiar shape of Nimon astride him.
"Forbidramon?" it said in its silky low voice. Forbidramon didn't respond, so it continued. "Is something wrong?"
Keeping his eyes focused outwards, his mismatched arms folded, Forbidramon waited for a few moments before speaking. Whether he was just pausing for effect or actually searching for words was ambiguous. "Nimon," he said in an airy voice, "why does Lord Era keep giving me commands not to attack them?"
"Lord Era knows best," Nimon said back, echoing words its partner had said too many times to count.
"Lord Era is setting himself up for failure," Forbidramon almost snarled back, his eyes glinting. "I couldn't let myself live if I allowed those brats to get powerful enough to overthrow Lord Era."
"I don't mean to disobey our Lord Era, of course." He clenched his red hand into a fist, growling, his eyes narrowed.
"But I don't understand it."
Nimon looked up at him, and slowly moved towards him. It nudged its head against his robotic hand, staying silent.
There was a long silence.
"You will follow me no matter what I do, right?"
"Even if it goes against Lord Era's orders, for Lord Era's own good?"
There was absolutely no hesitation. "Yes."
Forbidramon lifted his metal hand and placed it on Nimon's head, like a person would place a hand on a cat's head.
"Are you ready for this?" he said quietly, his pupils narrowing.
Forbidramon turned, the virtue symbol on his red hand beginning to glow bright-white. He placed it down on Nimon's head, and its black body was engulfed by an eye-searingly bright white light. Its mouth forced the bandages around its mouth to snap like rubber bands as it let loose an ear-shattering, piercing howl as it began to change form.
"Did you guys hear something?" Simon said, looking around him. He, Faris, and their respective partners were sitting watch, and from far, far away, they heard a noise. Faris turned his head, and furrowed his brow. As quickly as the sound had come about, it was gone again.
"What was..." Egakumon mumbled, frowning, as a small flock of bird-like digimon fluttered away and out of the trees above.
"I'd say I had imagined it if it didn't seem like you guys heard it too, yeom," Delfinimon said, looking around. "'Least I'm not goin' nuts."
"It sounded like a banshee getting run over by a semi truck, whatever it was," Faris remarked in a low voice; Egakumon and Simon snickered; it was an accurate description, with all of Faris' usual delivery.
And yet... they waited. Nothing else happened.
It went silent.
The rest of the morning was quiet-- to use a cliche, too quiet. Simon and Faris chose not to mention the odd sound, and as such the morning began like those before it. It had almost become routine; slowly, one by one, the members of the team would begin to wake up; before heading out, they would dig into their supply of Terrafruit; there would be much discussion and complaining as they slowly brought themselves to full function after sleep.
Today, the middle portion of this routine would be interrupted. The entire earth began to shake, just so faintly; and then...
"Warriors!" squawked a familiar, urgent voice, followed by frantic flapping. The group looked around; it was Kamomon who first saw it, and he squawked right back in reply.
The word sent a shuffle of noise and murmur through the team; but lo, nearly falling to the ground as he flapped his way down to ground level, was a distinctly familiar little green bird, a familiar face from their time back in the Great Ocean. He had apparently gotten to a new home safe and sound... ... or, er, until now.
Loromon squawked weakly as he landed and could barely keep himself standing up straight; Iguamon and Kamomon rushed forward to support him, draping one wing around each of their shoulders to keep him up upright.
"Holy crap, birdyguy," Egakumon blurted, cringing, "you look like you got put through a grain thresher."
It was an accurate description; his feathers were all out of place; the ear-like feather that had once held an earring was torn and the earring gone, as if the jewelery had been ripped out; he was covered in grime and blood, the latter presumably his; the tip of his beak was bent inward just so slightly.
"It is nothing," the parrot rasped, tears starting to form in the corners of his big blue eyes. "I am just glad I was able to find you again."
"It's not nothing," Toby said quietly, frowning; Lammon used her nose to gently push a piece of terrafruit at their avian ally. Loromon coughed once or twice and smiled weakly, pecking at it-- and then gobbling it down with alarming speed.
"What's the deal?" Rajamon said, pawing at the ground. "I mean-- what th'heck is going on?"
"Rogue digimon," Loromon replied, almost cutting the tiger off, barely having time to swallow his mouthful of fruit. "Perfect levels-- lost control."
"Forbidramon," Iguamon mumbled immediately, staring into the ground as it began to shake harder.
"You'll have to explain more," Kamomon said gently, adjusting Loromon's wing around him. The other bird was speaking very quickly and in such short fragments-- while it was easy to see what had happened (as far as they could surmise), this much wouldn't suffice.
The excitable green bird took a deep breath, and nodded his head.
"This morning. There was this... noise." Simon exchanged a look with Egakumon, and Faris with Delfinimon. Nobody else noticed this, focused on Loromon, who did not pause. "After that... attacks began. Digimon suddenly forced to Adult and Perfect levels. Going berserker."
In the distance, there was a deep roar. Loromon looked in that direction pointedly, and kept talking.
"I've heard from fellow... escapees, that a beautiful white digimon and a furious demon digimon precede the changes."
"Demon... Forbidramon," Andrea reasoned, but... a beautiful white digimon?
"Nimon-- or whatever its perfect form is named?" Rajamon said quietly, all but reading his partner's mind. She nodded, tight-lipped.
"I, ah, haven't seen them, myself," Loromon admitted, sighing. "But I don't believe I want to. I barely escaped from one that attacked me-- ah, a DoruGreymon I believe... but, ah, that's not important. No, he was... he was an animal. No mind at all, no keeping itself hidden-- just rage and instinct and chanting the name 'Era'."
The humans and the digimon exchanged looks-- each expression was one of concern, or confusion, or of preparation for an inevitable fight.
"I came to warn you-- but I saw another digimon coming this way," Loromon finished, gingerly removing his wings from around the dinosaur's and the seagull's shoulders. "You'll need to be on your gua--"
Before he could finish the word, there was a brilliant flash of light from all around; where once stood the child-level partners, instead stood adult-levels, prepared for a battle.
There was a slight hesitation, however, before they reached their full numbers.
Rajamon took a deep breath, breathing out through his teeth as he looked at the others. This would be his first voluntary digivolution after...
He turned to nod at Andrea; she hesitated for just a moment, before she held up her D-GEAR.
"Rajamon, kickstart digivolve to... Baghamon!"
There was an air of solemnity about the six Adult-levels; the humans could feel it, Loromon could feel it. Slowly, one at a time, the humans got to their feet, stepping back from their partners. Loromon all but hobbled, shuffling towards them, as everything fell dead silent.
"Good luck," Loromon said quietly.
And then it came.
It broke through head-first. ... Heads-first. Smashing his way through the jungle was a snake of tremendous size, a bouquet of seven white, metallic heads surrounding a central black with a red underside, all sprouting from a mass of fur, connecting them to the tremendous black snake body. To say it was huge would be to say that an ocean is a tiny bit damp; so much as one of its heads matched size with Shayumon or Baghamon.
The D-GEAR units began their chorus.
Orochimon. Perfect-level Dark Dragon digimon. A digimon that has posed a threat to the Digital World since ancient times. Though only the black head is real, all eight heads can attack with its Inferno Blast.
In a low voice, the snake's center head was indeed chanting:
"Era. Era. Era. Era. Era. Era."
"Perfect level. Great," Simon said, smirking just a little bit, and he held up his D-GEAR. "We can take this overgrown garden snake, yeah?"
"Like it's even a question," Shokunimon said from alongside his partner, smiling.
One by one, the others followed suit in holding up their D-GEAR units; first Julian, then Emily, followed by Toby, and Faris was last. Their devices began to shake like the earth had done, before beams of light erupted from each and into their respective digimon.
"Shokunimon, virtuous digivolve to... StarShokunimon!"
"Velocimon, virtuous digivolve to... Triassimon!"
"Kaizokumon, virtuous digivolve to... Ospreymon!"
"Ariamon, virtuous digivolve to... Nimbimon!"
"Shayumon, virtuous digivolve to... MetalShayumon!"
It was a sight to see-- for the first time, five of the partner digimon were standing side by side, all in Perfect form. For some of the children -- and their partners-- this was the first they had seen of some of them. There was no time to ogle, however. The light faded away from each in turn, and for just a moment, they faced Orochimon, and he faced right back.
Orochimon reared back all eight heads and let out a hissing roar-- and moreover...
From all of its mouths poured a burning cloud of... energy? Fire? It was difficult to tell. The smell itself was burning and acrid, and the partner digimon each had to throw up their arms to protect their faces as the blast hit them.
And then it was no holds barred.
"Astral Bolt!" StarShokunimon called, leaping high into the air; while he did, MetalShayumon joined in:
"Charge Wave!" And the cyborg shark released a pulse of electric energy from its body, straight to Orochimon; as it hit, so rang true StarShokunimon's two-footed kick from above, straight into... one of Orochimon's dummy heads.
"Twin Flare!" from Triassimon and an "Orb Bomb!" from Nimbimon; again, Orochimon moved his real head out of the line of fire and instead opted to let a dummy head take the heat.
Ospreymon, for his part, flew up high to try and get the drop on the snake, but was stopped by another spewing attack from Orochimon.
The five attacked and attacked as best they could; Orochimon thrashed his body and heads around, almost effortlessly keeping pace. Any time they got a hit in, it would return with a strike in kind, either another Inferno Blast or by thrashing out with his massive body and tail, covering all of his bases.
"We're screwed if those nimrods can't figure out how to get at its real head," Andrea said quietly from where she was, Baghamon by her side. The tiger and the girl watched their teammates while they themselves hung back-- uncharacteristically enough.
Baghamon looked at her, and nodded his head, but he was all but saying:
But what can we do about it?
But what he did say, and it sounded choked and forced, even begrudging: "I'm sure they'll handle it."
It was hard, Andrea realized. For the past week and more, she had been completely unable to make an impact with the group-- and she felt, for once, in no place to make comments about it.
She hated feeling so helpless. She always had, and now -- when it was more than personal issues, when it was about giant monsters fighting each-other or they would die... well, needless to say, she wasn't the happiest camper. She looked at the D-GEAR in her hand, and looking at its dim screen, for a moment she forgot where she was-- even as their digimon were waging battle on Orochimon entirely too close for comfort.
She very well couldn't just ride into battle-- or let Baghamon just ride into battle -- with how well it had worked last time. But how the heck was she supposed to get this stupid thing to activate, otherwise?
She clutched at the little device in her hands and clenched her eyes shut, trying to force back the inevitable.
Oh, no you don't. You're staying in.
She could not stop the first signs of tears from forming at the corner of her eyes, and so she turned away from the fight. She turned on her heel and began to walk. They'll handle it.
Baghamon did not notice at first, but the second his partner brushed past his tail, he whipped his head around.
Staring intently at the battle before them and yelling encouragement to his rabbity partner, Simon's ears pricked up. He turned to look-- and saw Baghamon's tail-end retreating into the trees, following the girl.
The be-hat-ed boy cast a look at the fight, and cupped his hands over his mouth:
"Kick its face in, buddy!"
And with those words of wisdom, Simon turned on his heel and followed after Baghamon, quietly as he could.
After walking a short distance, Andrea suddenly reared back like a baseball pitcher, and...
Chucked her digivice as hard as she could muster into the nearest tree. It hit the wood with a thud and fell into a large fern nestled in between the roots, looking completely unharmed. She stared at it for a second, walked up to the tree... and smashed her knuckles into the trunk as well, hanging her head, letting her hair fall in front of her face like a curtain.
"You're going to hurt yourself like that, Andrea," Baghamon's voice said from behind her with uncharacteristic gentleness, and she whipped around incredibly quickly-- like a reflex. She was losing the battle with her emotions, and tears had welled up in the corners of her eyes. How much of this was due to her smashing her fist full-force into a solid tree trunk was unsure-- but it wasn't much, Baghamon knew.
There were just some things that partners know.
"Figured I may as well do something productive," Andrea said right back, trying to put on her usual tough-girl air, with limited success.
At this point was when Simon walked into earshot, and... decided to hide behind the nearest tree in the time-honored tradition of eavesdropping. He didn't want to interrupt a moment, after all.
"I'm just as frustrated as you about letting those bozos do all the work, too," the tiger said, smiling a little, "but I'm not gonna go bash my head into trees or anything. You know. Teamwork and all that."
Andrea folded her arms, casting a bitter glance at the D-GEAR on the ground. "But..."
"But it's my fault you haven't reached Perfect yet," she said, hugging her arms closer to herself. "Or, I mean... not the right one. So it's my fault if those idiots can't beat that snake thing because we couldn't help." Simon, from his hiding spot, had his eyebrows shoot up through the roof-- metaphorically.
Baghamon said nothing, but stepped towards his partner, and pressed his head against her.
She pulled away.
"And it's my fault that you turned into Narakamon in the first place!" she said, her voice raising in volume and pitch, "so it's my fault that this happened in the first place!"
Simon couldn't stop himself, now; he stepped out from behind the tree, before even Baghamon could say something. "None of us blame you, y'know." Andrea froze, her body going stiff.
"Go away," she growled, clenching her fists. "I didn't ask for your namby-pamby boyscout input."
"You're the only person that blames you!" Simon said right over her, spreading his hands out at his sides. "You don't need to-- take responsibility for everything, or whatever!"
"Yes I do! If you idiots get yourself killed because I screwed up again, it's on my head!" Andrea yelled back before she could stop herself.
And there it was.
Simon blinked a couple times, looking at the girl in front of him.
"Go back to the others," Baghamon cut him off, stepping between Simon and Andrea. The boy faced off with the tiger for a second, before:
"No. I'm not going back 'less you guys are coming with."
Behind them raged the sounds of battle, the acrid smell of Orochimon's attack reaching even this far.
Andrea frowned, looking between Simon and her partner. There. It was out in the air, Simon knew it, her partner knew it, and...
"Let's go," she said shortly, stepping over to her D-GEAR on the ground, picking it up, and climbing onto Baghamon's back, and the tiger began to pad his way back to the battle.
They didn't see it, but Simon cracked a smile.
A good five of Orochimon's seven fake heads had been felled, but the battle continued; Orochimon raged on as ever, presumably thanks to the influx of data he had received. Those still there had no time to ponder where the three had gone, until they entered the site of battle once more.
StarShokunimon bounded his way alongside Simon, breathing heavy. "Progress ain't much, Si," the samurai rabbit said, sheathing his sword in his paintbrush scabbard. "We can't get at its head fast enough to--"
"We've got this," Andrea said quietly, hopping off of her partner's back. Baghamon stepped forward, Orochimon's center head glaring down at it. The cat was utterly dwarfed in comparison.
His expression was steely and even.
As if giving them a wide berth, the other combatants slowly backed away.
Baghamon did nothing, merely looked up at the snake.
Orochimon hissed, still keeping up its low chant of Era. Era. Era.
"We've got this," Andrea repeated quietly to herself.
Baghamon opened his mouth and roared; Andrea clutched her D-GEAR tight as it began to shake and glow bright white.
Like fire did the emblem imprint itself on Baghamon's chest as he was engulfed in the vivid light, and finally, he began to change.
Virtuous digivolution, begin.
"Baghamon, virtuous digivolve to..." He grew in size significantly, thirteen feet and someodd inches tall. Sharp horns grew from behind his ears, while huge saber-teeth began to protrude over his lips. Gauntlet-like armor, emblazoned with stylized images of the sun, snapped into place on his front limbs, while two golden rings appeared around each of his hind legs. His tail thrashed and split into two, each tail identical and with a golden ring near the tip. Tremendous red claws grew from each toe, and for a finishing touch...
He reared back and roared loudly, smashing his forepaws into the ground; when they touched the earth again, they suddenly were engulfed in flames, crackling and spitting out embers.
Andrea stopped and stared, able to do nothing else; it seems the others were of much the same mind.
A second later, Simon let out a celebratory yell; the others quickly followed suit.
Why, even Julian slowly clapped, a smile playing on his lips if anyone would care to see it.
"Think I've got a second wind, aye," Ospreymon said, breathing heavy from where he stood somewhere to Orochimon's left; StarShokunimon clenched his paintbrush scabbard as he drew his sword again, and Triassimon stretched out both of his necks. MetalShayumon's tail thrashed, and even Nimbimon pawed at the ground alongside her cloud.
The tense silence was broken -- even Orochimon seemed to stop to take this in.
"Let me," BurningBaghamon said evenly, casting a sideways glance at his teammates; at his word, they stepped back, giving him ample space.
Like a flash, the new form of the cat leapt at Orochimon's real head's neck, roaring:
His entire body lit up on fire, a snarl escaping both him and his target; for a split second, even in the daytime sun, he indeed looked like a very close comet until he smashed straight into Orochimon, hitting true, causing the snake to let out a mighty cry.
Orochimon snarled and whipped his remaining heads around, attempting to dislodge the tiger that was now clinging fast to its real neck; it couldn't move fast enough to attack as BurningBaghamon gave another attack.
His long fangs glowing, he opened his mouth wide and bit down hard. Orochimon, trying one last time to dislodge BurningBaghamon from its body, gave one last roar... and began to glow.
Into the sky, the stream of data shot, leaving an egg in its wake; BurningBaghamon stood, breathing heavily, and bowed his head.
And then the remainder of the team, digimon and human alike, began their cheer again.
Andrea ran up to her partner, and he sunk his head low enough to be on level with her; tears were gathered in her eyes again, but a smile -- a grin, even -- was on her face. BurningBaghamon smiled back.
There was no time to celebrate, however. No more than a couple of minutes after the snake was done for, there was a chill-- like a winter wind even in the humid jungle.
"Thanks for the signal light, kids," sneered a most familiar voice, and Forbidramon stepped out of the trees. Every digimon there snarled and tensed themselves, but they were stopped when another digimon entered the scene.
What moved slowly out of the trees and now stood before them then was a digimon that made them feel at incredible unease. It was not monstrous or scary-- no, the digimon before them was eerie.
She was humanoid in form -- for the most part -- but she stood eight-foot tall. Her skin was, for the most part, stark white-- so purely so it almost glowed, but with jagged dark-purple markings marring it. Her hair was the same colour as the marks, tied into a long ponytail and fading to fire-like smoke. Dark, long ears poked through her hair, her arms long and monstrous, her hands huge and black. There were three silver rings around each wrist, and one on each upper leg, and bandages covered her eyes and places that would be considered indecent to show. Chains wrapped around her upper arms. She had no feet to speak of, her legs fusing together at the mid-calves and fading into flickering smoke.
On the palm of each hand, and in the middle of her abdomen, staring yellow eyes were fixed, pupils swivelling to look at each digimon in turn.
She had an air of serenity, and despite her disfigurements, she was a beauty to behold.
... a beautiful white digimon...
Nimon's perfect form.
"Hold up, hold up, wait," Faris said, completely destroying the mood. "That thing was a girl!?"