Everything was a good deal darker than it should have been, even when Luke opened his eyes. He was looking up into a night sky mottled with clouds. A large moon shone through the cloud cover, a pinkish-orange colour; dark, spindly trees framed the view of the sky.
They were definitely back in the Digital World.
Sampamon was -- aside from being, indeed, Sampamon, thus being once more at child level -- draped across his midsection, looking around. Luke pushed himself up to a sitting position, placing a hand on the snake's forehead.
"You okay?" were the first words he said; she turned her head and nodded, closing her eyes with a faint smile.
"And you are, as well?"
"Not dead yet," he surmised, shrugging, and he breathed out heavily.
"Ever the optimist," Sampamon said, smiling faintly.
Luke scanned his surroundings as best he could. It was... dark. That was about the size of it. They appeared to be alone-- somehow, he couldn't bring himself to be surprised by this fact. The last thing he could remember before looking up at the sky was something -- a digimon? -- colliding with the group, throwing them apart.
They were situated in a small clearing of trees, a cliff face to one side and a vast expanse of what seemed to be a leafless forest of trees in all others.
He sighed and pulled his D-GEAR out of his pocket -- it was once again in full working condition. Sampamon reared up to peer at the screen upside-down as the boy brought up the map.
There was no signal from the others' D-GEARs.
Once more he could not bring himself to be surprised.
"Come on," he mumbled, picking Sampamon up and allowing her to slither onto his shoulders.
"I'm going to take this to mean that we're going to be looking for the others for a while," the snake said conversationally; Luke lifted a hand and set it on the jewel on the serpent's forehead.
"Right as usual."
They did not know -- had no way of knowing, thanks to the limited range of the D-GEAR unit for detecting its fellows, that across the area -- flung to each of its corners -- was another small group; however, these stories will be given their fair focus in due time.
With such limited knowledge, the best bet that Luke had was to pick a direction and begin walking. He walked parallel to the cliff face, into the trees a bit; he kept his D-GEAR in front of him-- not just for the map, but to provide some light. All the light around them seemed to be absorbed uselessly into the trees and the dark soil, ensuring that the surroundings stayed dark. Sampamon kept her eyes forward, nudging her partner with her head whenever he was about to walk smack into a tree. Occasionally she could see glowing eyes peer out of the brambly brush, suspicious of these new intruders, but they slunk back into the dark as quickly as they had come, clearly wanting no trouble.
It was like this for several hours-- the lighting conditions never changed, even as the moon began to sink, its glow faintly visible through the thick cloud cover. Sampamon narrowed her eyes as they walked, watching what they had assumed was the moon. Why weren't there more of them?
"I think that was the sun," Sampamon said slowly, after a while, looking backwards.
"Hmm?" Luke said, snapping out of the minor trance he had been in-- and nearly running into a tree, without Sampamon to signal to him. He looked at her on his shoulders, waiting patiently for her to continue speaking.
"I can see the moons -- plural -- behind us," she responded, then furrowed her brow. "I think Deekamon said something to us once. An area where the sun is only bright as a moon-- the Dark Woods?" She was speaking as though she were trying very hard to recall, and was not quite sure.
Luke paused, leaning against a tree-trunk. "So..." he sighed, folding his arms. "We're gonna be stumbling around in the dark for a while, I take it?"
"I'm afraid so-- if I'm correct," Sampamon said with a nod of her head, sighing as well.
"Do you want to find somewhere to stop?" Luke asked, looking around. "If light isn't going to be an issue..." he breathed out heavily. "And it's been a long day." The snake nodded her head, nudging her nose against Luke's cheek and squeezing a little around his shoulders-- a snake-hug of sorts. He smiled faintly, nodding his thanks, taking a turn towards the cliff-- there was likely to be some form of outcropping there, if nothing else, under which they could find shelter.
It was quite a ways down the length of the rocky face until they found something suitable: a small cave, just about ten feet wide, five deep, and perhaps seven high, with no visible paths in or out. It was Sampamon who spotted it in the low light; she seemed to be seeing a lot better than the human boy.
It was nothing fancy, but it was dry and sheltered, and they could hide behind the lip of the little cave to have a bit more of a proper hiding-spot.
Sitting within their temporary shelter, the two were... Well. While they enjoyed the others' company, and had every intention of finding them as soon as was humanly (or digimonly) possible, they were both more solitary types by nature, and they felt more at ease. This was tempered by the fact that they -- of all of them -- knew what was going on, what was at stake, and the rush, but... panicking wouldn't do anything for them. It would only attract digimon with less than charitable intentions.
"So how do you guys know about all these Areas?" Luke asked, pulling his knees up to his chest while Sampamon coiled up on the floor of the cave.
Sampamon bowed her head. "Deekamon... told us many things. To prepare us for what we were created to do-- learning the Areas of our world was one of the most elementary."
Luke looked at her for a minute, then nodded. "There's... a lot he didn't tell you guys, isn't there?"
The serpent paused, before looking up and nodding. "But there is much he told us, too. Of our purpose, our mission, the world we live in." She looked out, into their dim surroundings. "He told us that we are the Sovereigns' last line of defense-- that they had tried everything else they could until they created us." She smiled faintly. "And summoned you to us."
He nodded his head, thinking. He pulled his legs closer to his body. "At the end of it all..." he sighed, then smiled, himself. "I... guess I'm glad. Not... that I'd wish anything bad on your world. Just, that..." he trailed off, looking up at the ceiling. Sampamon understood, and slithered closer, laying her head on his lap.
"I believe we all are. Human and digimon alike. We are grateful for you, for without you we'd not exist; you are grateful for us, and eachother, because you were all lacking something."
Luke said nothing beyond a hummed "mm-hmm", nodding his agreement. He lay his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
He was asleep before either could really get another word out. Sampamon smiled, shifting her entire body into the boy's lap, laying her head down on his chest before she too drifted to sleep.
Luke's dreams were... less than pleasant. A tall, gangly shape played in and out at the edge of his mind, dancing through the film of his dreams. It sprouted black wings, dissolved into black mist, crushed digimon with its hands like they were nothing and left no trace behind.
The humanoid was replaced by a strange black shape, trails of smoke left in its wake, danced about on all-fours, chasing any trace of light and devouring it. It turned, an eyeless face covered in bandages. It opened its mouth, strained, as yellow eyes began to force their way through the bandages, sprouting all over its body, a dozen -- then a hundred -- wicked black slits of pupils focused on Luke. He could feel a scream ripping its way out of his throat, but no sound came out; he could see the sound itself absorbed by the black digimon.
The more he tried to cry out, the more the shape of the digimon changed. It became like a dragon or a serpent, with only two legs and a brilliant plume of feathers on its head, made entirely of black save for two shining yellow eyes, no pupils at all, glossed and fogged over as though it were blind. The dark snake began to hiss, before suddenly lurching forward, jaw unhinged like a rattlesnake's, primed to devour, and then--
Luke awoke in a cold sweat, his eyes flying open; the weight of Sampamon on his lap and chest was a comfort. However, his sudden jerky motion stirred the real snake as well. For a moment, when he looked at her, his breath hitched, but he was quick to calm from that momentary fright. The image of the tremendous snake wouldn't fade, however.
"Are you alright?" Sampamon said, looking up at him with an expression of concern on her face.
And then Luke looked up, and his heart leapt into his throat when he saw yellow eyes glowing in the darkness.
Sitting in front of the pair, hidden by shadows but very close, was an Ichimon. Even though it was half-invisible in the dark, it had the smoky body, the slitted eye in the middle of its forehead between two slanted, "normal" eyes, the chains wrapped around its arms and midsection -- it was unmistakable. Sampamon began hissing low, her eyes narrowed and the plumage on her head pinning back. Luke, meanwhile, was halfway to paralyzed.
"Don't mean harm," the black digimon said, throwing his -- for the voice was quiet but masculine -- hands up and backing away none too gracefully. "Were sleeping odd. Wanted to make sure okay."
Perhaps understandably, Sampamon was not entirely convinced. She slithered off of her partner's lap, keeping her eyes on the dark digimon. She looked at him, scrutinizing, but said nothing.
"Name is Ichimon," Ichimon said with a little bow of his head; Luke couldn't help but chuckle nervously-- they knew, of course, very well. He said nothing, however; Ichimon tilted his head, but looked between the boy and snake. "You are?"
With a bit of trepidation, boy and snake gave their names; the little black digimon before them held itself entirely differently from... the one with which they had prior experience. He had all the air of any other friendly digimon they had encountered -- though perhaps a bit more quiet and composed, even with the slightly broken speech pattern.
The Ichimon tilted his head in response to the names, as though running them over his mind-- had he heard them before? With bated breath they awaited his response; however, their worry was for nothing, as after a minute, they could almost see the lightbulb go on over the little digimon's head, and his face lit up in kind.
"Virtue Warrior!" he said, beaming and looking positively honored to be in their presence. A good sign.
Luke heaved a gentle sigh, relaxing -- just slightly -- as he nodded. "I assume," he said, "you are from around here?"
Ichimon nodded in earnest, and looked a bit... sheepish. ... a sheepish Ichimon. This was not, by any means, easy to get used to-- try as they might they could not dissociate the digimon's appearance from the one with which they had had a... personal investment.
"You sleep in my cave-- or, alcove," he said, breaking through the duo's thoughts. "My home, what I mean. I don't think you notice me, but you not bother me. It not a problem. Is good to stay hidden."
"Is this area controlled by Era?" Luke asked, bringing his knees to his chest.
Ichimon nodded his head. "But that usually not problem. This place been under Era control for many years..." he looked out of the cave. "Not much left that Era worry about. Few agents, usually. But..." He took a deep breath. "There a strong digimon here, past few days. Many friends of mine..." His voice trailed off. With a heavy sigh, he closed his eyes (all three of them), and without their faint light, only his faint dark silhouette was visible in the darkness of the alcove.
There was a heady silence, before Sampamon bowed her head, eyes closed. "Our sympathies," she said, rearing her head back.
Ichimon looked at the serpent and nodded his head.
"Uhm, if it's not too much to ask," Luke said, slowly, "what kind of digimon is it? That is, what should we be on the lookout for?"
"Tall," Ichimon said, after a moment of thought. "Two feet, two arms. Long tail. I sorry-- not seen much of him. Only in shadows, sometimes stories."
With a sort of heavy sigh and nod, Luke brought himself to his feet. "We'll... be on the lookout," he said, kneeling to pick Sampamon up. The snake slithered up his arms and onto his shoulders, settling in comfortably. "We have to find some friends of our own, actually."
Ichimon tilted his head.
"I come with?" he said, suddenly, blinking a couple times. Luke's eyebrows shot up, and he looked to the serpent curled around his shoulders.
Sampamon, had she shoulders of her own, would have shrugged; she did not, hownsideever, and so merely nodded her head, after a moment of consideration. The boy nodded.
"... but I'm afraid I can't give you a shoulder ride," he remarked, a bit dryly.
"Seat's taken," Sampamon said with a smile.
Ichimon nodded his head, and was close to the human boy's ankles as he began to walk out of the cave and into the forest once more. Luke once more took out his D-GEAR to provide at least some form of light-- and in hopes that perhaps it would, by some stroke of genius luck, provide any clues to the locations of the others.
It was hard to tell the difference between any two portions of the forest-- it was all black gnarled trees and dark skies. It was nice, they realized, to have a guide who was familiar with the terrain; Ichimon soon took the lead. He was, of course, almost impossible to actually see in the eye-strainingly low light, but he guided with his soft voice more than anything.
Between his leading the way and Sampamon keeping her eyes ahead, Luke actually didn't run into any trees-- a feat in and of itself, something to be proud of. As they walked, glowing eyes peered out of the darkness and vanished with a rustle into the brush.
In fact, aside from that rustling and Ichimon's voice, it was disconcertingly still and quiet. It was almost... lifeless.
They walked for some time -- much of (what they could only assume was) the day was spent on walking-- and making little headway. They walked along the base of the cliff for a ways, before Ichimon led them further into the trees.
As they went, they talked; Ichimon talked of friends of his that had been defeated, while Luke and Sampamon spoke of their own friends -- the rest of the team -- that they were trying to re-join, in turn.
The further they walked, the more the trees seemed to thin out, perhaps nearing the edge of the forest -- or a clearing, such as it was.
"If you are going to meet friends," Ichimon said, leading them into the clearing, "it be here. This the heart of the Area." It was... well, there were fewer trees, and it almost seemed to be a bit lighter, though the very earth beneath them still seemed to absorb light down into it.
The silence was less lifeless, here-- it was more serene, if anything.
They sat near a tree at the edge of the area; Ichimon actually skittered off into the dark once, returning with a terrafruit in each hand. (Where he had found them was a mystery, seeing as the trees all seemed to be dead on a good day, but they weren't going to complain.)
Boy and snake could not shake the feeling of needing to find the rest of the group, but for a while, they relaxed. Sampamon slithered onto the ground, off of Luke's shoulders. Ichimon talked about locations in the Area that their friends might be -- or might be drawn to -- and what directions they were in, should they want to leave here and look for them later.
He was a helpful little guy.
It was some time later that the serenity was broken -- quite impressively.
Across the clearing, a dark shape silently emerged from between the trees; it was the first movement in a while, and so it immediately caught the eyes of Luke, Sampamon, and Ichimon.
Luke's heart sank, and Sampamon began to hiss -- almost involuntarily. Ichimon, for his part, suddenly dove behind Luke and clung to his shoulders, trembling.
The shape was entirely too familiar, even in the darkness.
It was tall, and human-like. Mismatched arms hung heavy at its sides, a thick tail thrashing behind it. Tattered, fabric-like wings twitched awkwardly on its back. A metal mask was settled around its face, framed by wild hair.
Or, a Forbidramon, or--
"Been a while, hasn't it?" the Forbidramon sneered-- the smile on its face was not visible in the darkness, but the tone betrayed every little bit of the expression. After all, Luke had felt it spread across his face more than enough times to have its form etched into his mind.
Luke's hands clenched involuntarily, knuckles going white, as the low hiss of Sampamon echoed in his ears emptily. He got to his feet, tense; Ichimon was all but curled around Luke's legs, quivering.
The perfect-level digimon began to laugh.
"I know what you're thinking!" the Forbidramon said, that sneer still so audible in every word that came from his mouth. "You must be thinking, why, whatever is this? Some trick played by our lord Era? Has he found some new core to render you obsolete? Or do I just have a really fantastic sense of humor?"
Luke said nothing. It felt like he was rooted to the spot, unable to move any of his limbs -- or his mouth, for that matter. None of these questions were what was on his mind; what was ran closer to the lines of a litany of 'god, why'.
The Forbidramon stepped closer, a few long-strided steps bringing him closer than might be considered comfortable to the boy, the snake down on the ground, and the black digimon around his legs. "I'll get to that, worry not, kiddo."
They could see the smile on his face now.
It was painful in its familiarity.
"But for now, I have a point of my own to make."
Before he was even done speaking, Sampamon had reared herself back, hissing her contempt; her pupils were narrowed to slits. Luke's D-GEAR began to shine brightly, as did the snake herself.
"Sampamon, Kickstart Digivolve to... Serpemon!"
As the light dissipated, the larger snake formed a wall between the large digimon and her human partner. Ichimon scrambled up onto Luke's shoulders, peering over from behind the boy's head silently.
"Cute," Forbidramon drawled, raising an eyebrow underneath his mask, a smirk playing on his lips. "But I think you may have forgotten something important, here." He thrust his red hand forward, grabbing Serpemon around the throat. He dragged her closer, effortlessly, until he was face to face with her.
Her eyes were slitted, her hiss was almost a snarl. "If you're trying to be intimidating, it's not working."
"Perfect level." He gestured to himself with his mechanical hand. "Adult level." He gstured to Serpemon.
"I do pray you don't need that much explained to you. After all," and Forbidramon looked to Luke. "You partner was always a bit on the rebellious side. Was rather annoying, no?"
He laughed, throwing the snake towards her partner almost effortlessly; Luke had to dart to get out of the way, lest he be bowled over by the tremendous serpent's body tumbling backwards. Forbidramon used the opportunity to take another step forward, waiting for the boy to speak; he never did, and thus Forbidramon continued.
"The only reason," Forbidramon said to the still-mute Luke, "that any of your new little friends were able to defeat us -- you and me -- was because she rebelled. Six perfect levels couldn't defeat us."
No response ever came. He seemed to be getting exasperated with the lack of reaction.
"So! I'm here to make an offer to you."
"Something tells me," Luke said, quiet, almost through clenched teeth, "that I'm not going to like it."
"Oh, good, you can speak!" Forbidramon remarked, smirking. "Was almost thinking I was doing all the speaking during our time together Freakin' mute or something. But you ought to hear me out. To do otherwise is rude."
Serpemon -- straightening herself out -- once more placed herself between Forbidramon and Luke. "I don't think you're in much of a place to talk about rude," Serpemon remarked, surprisingly even of tone.
"Oh, but hear me out," Forbidramon said, spreading his hands wide. "The second that Lord Era defeats the Sovereigns, he will no longer need to worry about you or your... friends. I use the term loosely." He shrugged his shoulders, smiling nastily.
"But you've been such a tremendous help to him! Or rather, we were-- I'm not going to let you take the credit for everything."
"You talk too much," Luke mumbled, closing his eyes.
"If you must be so impatient," Forbidramon mumbled, shrugging his shoulders. "You can re-join us. Your partner is welcome to, as well, though there may be a few more... alterations. To prevent the previous from happening again. It's your chance for survival!"
The boy breathed out, shaking his head, but saying nothing.
"Perhaps you don't understand." Almost effortlessly, Forbidramon outright threw Serpemon to the side and closed the distance between Luke and himself. He towered over the boy, but even so Luke did not look up to look him in the eye.
"Your options are to re-join with us, and once more become a member of Era's army, regain that power that you tasted-- or you and your partner will die as soon as the sovereigns fall. It's your choice, kiddo."
Luke smiled faintly, and finally looked up, meeting the dragon-like digimon's gaze. His voice was calm, surprisingly even.
"Can I get something straight?"
Forbidramon glared, but said nothing, so Luke continued.
"You're the Forbidramon that Era binded to me, right? Just given a new form? New core? Something like that? I don't put it past Era."
Forbidramon smirked. "Smart kid."
"Then the only reason you were as strong as you were in the first place was because of me. Because he decided to use me as a core. Because we absorbed the cores. Without that, you're just another Perfect-level digimon. He took that extra data away from us when he decided that he didn't need me to do the job anymore, right? Just like the Virtue?"
Ichimon furrowed his brow, looking at Luke; he was going to have to ask for an explanation after the fact. However, he almost yelped and leapt off, because Forbidramon suddenly lurched forward.
The perfect-level growled, and suddenly he was holding Luke aloft with his red hand, his grip almost suffocating.
"You don't listen well," Forbidramon mumbled.
"You can't kill me, though," Luke remarked, as conversationally as Forbidramon ever was. "Right? So can we cut to the chase?"
He could see the digimon's pupils constrict behind the mask.
Forbidramon was blindsided by Serpemon suddenly throwing her body at him from the side. He released the boy, who fell to the ground without much in the way of dignity. He got to his feet; Ichimon ran up to him and carefully tapped his nose into the boy.
"Okay?" the black digimon said, tilting his head.
Luke sighed deeply-- for a moment, he was apart from the world.
There was nothing to be gained from this, was there?
There was no un-doing what had been done. The Forbidramon... was nothing more than a distraction. An effigy. An attempt to derail him, to keep Sampamon and Luke from finding the other kids-- it was a ploy to buy Era more time.
He knew Era well enough to know that.
Era wouldn't -- couldn't -- kill the kids.
Not yet, at least.
He would only stall them.
"More or less," Luke mumbled back to Ichimon. Forbidramon snarled, getting back up, but Serpemon slithered right up, baring her fangs at him. A frown twitched at Luke's mouth for just a fraction of a second, but he brought himself to his feet. He picked Ichimon up, into his arms.
"I'm gonna assume, then, that this is the digimon that got to your friends?" he asked; Ichimon nodded his head.
"All friends child-level," Ichimon provided. Luke nodded right back.
"Somehow, I'm not surprised." He sighed, and looked back at Forbidramon with a sort of sad smile. "You're a perfect level, being intimidated by an adult-level," and Serpemon hissed here as though to emphasize the point, "who picks on child-levels. Gonna be honest, here, to me it seems like without me you don't have much in the way of weight to throw around."
Forbidramon snarled, eyes narrowing, but Luke kept on.
"Gotta ask-- you been demoted, ever since you got re-made? A regular agent, now? I mean, now that he's got the Reapers running around, he really need you to boss around agents?"
This time it was Luke's turn not to get a reply.
Forbidramon snarled, after a moment of silence, and threw Serpemon aside. "Can't kill you," he snarled, before grabbing Ichimon by the head, lifting him up. Before the flash of light could accompany Ichimon's destruction, another light broke out.
Luke's D-GEAR was shaking violently, engulfed in white light. A starburst of light burst forward, engulfing Sampamon as the symbol of Luke's virtue in vibrant magenta sank into her chest.
Virtuous Digivolution, begin.
"Serpemon, virtuous digivolve to..."
Her body thrashed about, the small amounts of fur on her body bursting forth into brilliantly coloured ridges of mane, The gem on her forehead sank into her forehead and was replaced with a golden face-plate. A matching golden necklace snapped into place, as her face became less streamlined, more draconic, more distinctly featured. Another golden ring hovered around the end of her tail, but what was most important: two arms formed, golden bracelets snapping around her wrists as shocks of hair grew around her elbows. She opened her mouth and roared, rattlesnake-like fangs bared.
She reared her head back, releasing a blast of black energy as the white light dissipated; she opened eyes, slitted red pupils set in yellow irises with paler-yellow sclera.
Luke froze, his own pupils constricting for a second -- part from surprise, part from the images from his dream flashing in front of his eyes, part from something approaching happiiness.
"Holy crap," he blurted.
Forbidramon, for his part, froze as well -- and likewise, his pupils constricted. He dropped Ichimon, who tumbled head-over-tail when he hit the ground. Without a second of further hesitation, Forbidramon thrust out his metal arm, releasing a black pulse of energy.
It hit the dragon-snake, sending her skidding back; Hebidramon dug her claws into the dark earth to stable herself. She reared her head back in turn, opening her mouth wide.
For a couple of seconds, everything went absolutely pitch black -- even the faint light around them was gone. As colour and light rushed back into their eyes, a concussive beam of black energy shot out of Hebidramon's mouth.
It sent Forbidramon stumbling backwards, hitting him square in the chest. He curled his lip and growled, feral. The tattered wings on his back flared out.
"Nightfall!" he barked, kicking off the ground hard. Though it was hard to see, he was encased in a black aura, and he smashed back down to earth in front of the dragon. The aura burst, knocking Hebidramon backwards with a roar.
"Why are you fighting," she asked after she regained her composure, shaking her mane free of dirt. "What have you to gain? We will not join you; this much should be obvious. You cannot kill us; that is by Era's order. So why do you fight?"
The more humanoid dragon hissed with rage, teeth clenched and eyes wild.
"Not going to lose again!" he spat, charging forward with his red hand outstretched. "Claw Crusher!"
Hebidramon twisted her body avoided the attack, tripping Forbidramon up with her long tail, and pinning him to the ground with one clawed hand. He hissed and spat like a cornered animal.
"He's afraid," Luke said with sudden clarity, and Forbidramon froze. Hebidramon nodded her head, understanding immediately, but Ichimon blinked and tilted his head. "He..." Luke sighed. "We have a history with him. Our friends defeated him, and he doesn't take defeat well. To say the least."
Forbidramon was afraid. Of what would await him returning to Era. Of the consequences of his failure.
... Luke couldn't help but feel a bit bad, knowing Era.
"Is it true?" Hebidramon muttered, looking down, scrutinizing, at Forbidramon.
He only snarled.
That was a yes.
Slowly, Hebidramon lifted her claw and stepped back.
Forbidramon got to his feet, but did nothing, only breathed heavily. After a moment, the human-like digimon smiled. Not a sneer, not a smirk, a sort of resigned smile. He spread his arms out wide. An invitatation.
Hebidramon sighed, bowing her head. She looked at Luke; he nodded, but sighed. He turned his head away.
Hebidramon backed up a couple of steps, putting distance between herself and her target, before she threw herself forward. She was encased in a black aura of her own-- it took the form of a chinese dragon, all black except for shining red eyes.
She skidded to a stop, but the energy continued on, taking on a life of its own. It reared back, jaws opened wide, before it slammed into its target.
Forbidramon's red eyes shifted to yellow, the blond hair faded away, and the black wings were torn into scraps of fabric and dissipated in the air.
He smirked, before he was engulfed by a burst of white light that blazed into the dark sky, leaving nothing but a purple egg in his wake.
Luke stepped forward, his legs feeling a bit weak, and he picked up the egg.
He breathed out heavily.
"This is a crappy form of absolution."
Hebidramon nuzzled her nose against her partner's side.
Not long after, Sampamon was... well, Sampamon, once again. She sat on Luke's lap, curled over Forbidramon's egg, as the three -- herself, Luke, and Ichimon -- sat under the tree once again.
"I think we'll have to try and find our friends ourselves-- no need to get you involved in it," Luke said, but smiled at Ichimon. "But we'll look the places you suggested. I have to thank you for your help."
"Led you to danger," Ichimon mumbled guiltily, bowing his head.
"Sometimes good things can come of it," Sampamon provided with a small smile.
Ichimon still looked dejected, however; Luke frowned and tilted his head. "I have something you can do to make up for it," he said after a minute, and dislodged Forbidramon's egg.
"Can you take care of this for me until he hatches, and protect him once he does?" he said, holding the egg forward towards the little smoky digimon.
He blinked a few times, confused, but he broke into a smile. "I can!"
They said their goodbyes after that; Ichimon took hold of the egg and gave his thanks and well-wishings for the two -- to succeed on their mission, and more directly, to find their friends again. Luke waved goodbye, and even Sampamon waved her tail in farewell.
The journey was far from over, but... there was at least one thing out of the way.
[Chapter 32: End]
[Chapter 32: End]